1 John 3 • Devotion #2: The Rule of Love

“Be home by ten.”

“Tell the truth.”

“Finish your chores before playing outside.”

You may have heard these growing up. We all had rules to follow. These rules were made because our parents, or those caring for us, were looking out for our best interest. They either tried to save us from negative consequences, or they tried to instill values in us. They hoped that the rules they gave us would shape our decision making.

In a similar way, our Heavenly Father is trying to save us, and look out for us. Through the Word of God, we are warned of sin and taught rules or laws to follow. He has done this because of His incredible love for us. He wants to protect us. He wants us to make decisions and act in a way that is loving and not hateful.

We have been given the freedom to choose. We can choose to know Him, follow Him, live a life honoring Him, or practice lawlessness.

In 1 John 3:4-6, we read, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.”

Jesus never sinned, yet He died to wash us clean of our sins. He has provided us with the opportunity to live free and spend our eternity in Heaven with Him. He has provided us with the opportunity to be saved once and for all from what we actually deserve. When we ask for forgiveness of our sins and make Him our Savior, we are given a new life. In living this new life, one of the ways we grow in our relationship with Him is to read His Word. In reading His Word, we are fed with wisdom to no longer continue a life of sin. While we still have the freedom to make our own decisions, relying on the Lord and His Word will help us to follow Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Acknowledge Him.

Trust Him to direct you. 

There is worth in His Word, and love in His “rules.”

1 John 3 • Devotion #1: Children of God

Christians are referred to as “children of God,” but how do we become God’s child?

We are His children through the free gift of salvation, which God provides. We can display our decision through baptism. This act of obedience shows the world we are a follower of Jesus, thus a child of God.

As a child of God, He is now our Father. We are able to talk to God and relate to Him as a good and loving Father.

 In the song Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin, the chorus is:

“You’re a good good father. 

It’s who You are; it’s who You are, it’s who You are.
And I’m loved by you. 

It’s who I am; it’s who I am, it’s who I am.”

As God’s child, we can easily take for granted and abuse the endless love, mercy, and grace that God shows us. Parents also find that their children do the same, yet we too forgive and love them.

God disciplines us, His children. Parents show their deep love through discipline, as God does.

Life is full of trials and tests; it takes prayer and perseverance to endure all that life throws at us. Oftentimes, it seems like our prayers are not answered. God does not always answer our prayers the way we think He should. We do not always understand His timing. Sometimes, it is not for us to know why; the Bible says that God’s ways are not our ways.

In 1 John 3:1, we read, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”  

The world has its eyes closed to the Heavenly Father. If they would open their hearts to Jesus, the world could then see the Father and love and accept the Son.

John continues, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

God’s love is righteous, and His love is never-ending. He is such a loving and wondrous Father. One day He will appear, and we who are called children of God will be like Him!

I am so blessed to be a child of God!

1 John 2 • Devotion #6: You Heard It Here First!

It is so hard to imagine life in the early church, and probably even harder to imagine life in a gentile city. As a gentile, you were not raised with the hope of a coming Messiah. You likely worshipped a Greek god or goddess at the local temple. All of a sudden, a disciple, or maybe even the Apostle John himself, comes to town and proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ to you. From that moment, you receive the free gift of salvation. You are radically changed and are ready to take the next steps. You sit under John’s teaching for as long as he is in town, but the time comes for him to leave. 

What is next? You try to spread the Gospel yourself, and it does not go as smoothly as you hoped. You just do not have the words right, as John did. The questions are confusing, and you do not know how to answer them. You cannot hop online and find out, you cannot get John on the telephone over in Ephesus, and unless you have one of the few, if not the only, hard copies of the Book of John in town, there is no obvious way to figure out what is what. False teaching, Gnosticism (knowledge-seeking), and other heresies are attempting to chip away at the foundations of your faith. 

This is what John is writing about in 1 John 2:24-29, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”

Who has been teaching you lately? Who are you letting speak into your life? Often times, we look for the answers we want to hear or the answers that make sense to us at the time. We will try to fix things on our own, in our own power. If we develop this mindset, we can so easily deceive ourselves into thinking that, on our own, we can earn or maintain our salvation. We must always remember that it is a “free gift” (Romans 6:23). Eternal life is the promise of God that John points out in these verses. Paul also stated this in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

When you first heard the Gospel, and you responded to it, you then received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). John says that we abide in the Spirit so “that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” Have the confidence that only comes when you abide in the Holy Spirit today!

1 John 2 • Devotion #5: What is the Truth?

I have been blessed with the opportunity to take teams into prisons to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with inmates and staff alike for the sole reason that it is the only thing that changes people’s lives. I have encountered many people that can be placed in one of three categories: belief, disbelief, or unbelief. I have seen God move miraculously in all three, but one in the “unbelief” category stands out in my mind.

We were in Warren Correctional, London, Ohio, for one of our trips. We went in early in the morning with motorcycles, a band, and a comedian who is also a magician as a means of getting inmates around us so we could have as many as possible with whom to share the Gospel. The team did a great job setting everything up and getting ready to be in front of the inmates. We normally set up a receiving line of sorts to welcome the guys as they enter. We start shaking hands, smiling, sharing a few words of encouragement, then we attempt to find a few guys to connect on a deeper level. I will never forget the first three guys through the gate on this day.

When they came through the gate, there was no one else around the three of them. Tattooed on all exposed skin, including their shaved heads, they declared their unbelief and denial of who Jesus and God are, and many of the symbols proclaimed something darker. They were giving off a “strong stay away from me” vibe with their demeanor and lack of eye contact. One or more of our team attempted to greet and make them welcome, only to be ignored. One of our team actually had his hand slapped away and was told, “Get out of here with that Jesus #*&$! We don’t need it here!”

As I stood by the chaplain, he explained to me that they were Aryan Brotherhood Satanists. That is quite a combination. It is hate upon hate. The Apostle John states in 1 John 2:22, “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.” They have been deceived by lies and have been convinced that they have no need for Jesus. As self-proclaimed Satanists, they are declaring that they have bought into the sales pitch of the Father of Lies (John 8:44)! 

Many people walk around in that same state. They may not proclaim that they are Satanists, but they also do not profess Jesus as their Savior. They have been fed lies that if they are good enough, moral enough, kind enough, giving enough, or forgiving enough, that will be enough to get them to Heaven. By not acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord, they, by default, deny who He is, and are at enmity with God! In 1 John 2:23, it states: “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” It is the confession of who Jesus is, redeemer, forgiver, and Savior that gives us the restored relationship with God the Father.

As I watched the three of them actually listen to the Gospel as it was presented, I was nudged by the Holy Spirit to go give them one of the books we hand out to all those who want one. I was very hesitant, seeing that not one other inmate would even talk to them, but I grabbed three books, told some team members to tell my wife I love her and headed towards them. I walked up to them and asked the apparent leader if he wanted a book. He paused for what seemed to be hours, but was actually only seconds, and then replied, “Sure.” After I picked my jaw up from the ground, I asked the other two as well, and they both took a book. Some small talk commenced with them; then, they asked what the tattoo was on my arm. I told them it was “Solus Christus,” which in Latin means “Christ Alone.” You could have heard a pin drop until the leader replied: “That’s cool.” Over the next few minutes, I was able to share the Gospel with them, and then the horn sounded for them to go to count. I quickly asked if I could pray with them, to which they replied, “No, thanks.” Not giving up yet, I asked if I could pray for them every time I told the story of how I met them because I would never forget it, and they said, “Sure.”

In 1 John 2:20-21, it says, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.” As Christians, because of our restored relationship with God, through the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross, we have been anointed by the Holy One, and we have knowledge of the truth that the world needs to hear. We just need to have the boldness to proclaim the truth.

I would love to tell you that the three guys rejected the Father of Lies, and came to a relationship through our sharing of the truth, but I do not know that to be true. What I do know are these two things. One, they have now heard the truth, and it is up to them what they do with it, and that I continue to do what I promised to pray for them (even now as I write this devotion).  Secondly, on the way out, the guy whose hand they slapped away, they actually shook his hand and thanked him for coming in that day. I believe the truth, Jesus, was already at work. “Soli Deo Gloria” (Glory to God alone)!

1 John 2 • Devotion #4: Buying What They Are Selling

Every year, American companies spend $205 billion on advertising and marketing. It is their sincere hope that through brand exposure and coercion, they will garner business growing their company and expanding profits. Each person is in some way targeted by these ads. We see them every day on TV, on the road, and on our phones. Whether we like it or not, these ads are influencing us and our buying process. In this climate, self-indulgence seems natural and expected. However, if we are not careful, we can fall in love with the world and all it has to offer.

John warns us in 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

The world is easy to love because it is all about us and what we want. It is natural to want to get the car of your dreams, go on the vacation of a lifetime, eat at the coolest new restaurants, or buy the freshest new clothes. These things make a person feel great at the moment. Pursuing our wants always makes us feel full for a time, but the things of the Earth are fleeting. They are here today and gone tomorrow. Where does that leave us? We are left broken, alone, and hurting. God never designed us to be self-serving; instead, we are to love God and others enough to be a servant. As we learn to lay down our own desires and pursue God, we will be filled up by God’s will and purpose that will last forever.

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