Devotional Reading for December 3, 2022

1 John 2:3-27

We show we truly love and know God if we obey Him. We obey Him, in part, by walking as Jesus walked, and Jesus gave us a new commandment to follow. But it wasn’t really a new commandment, just a new way of understanding. In John 12:34, Jesus said:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

It’s really a reiteration of an old commandment:

Mark 12:28-31 “And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’

However, there is a new twist, and that twist is Jesus! Because of our relationship with Jesus, we can and should be able to love. No, it’s actually more than that. We must love. If we don’t love, we show that we are still in darkness. When we believe in Jesus we receive forgiveness, we enter into a relationship with God, and we experience victory over Satan! All that means we can now love our brothers and sisters in Christ! In contrast, we shouldn’t love the world or the things in the world. The things of this world don’t last.

Here is a great reminder: to know the Father you have to know the Son. If you deny the Son, you really are denying the Father. There are those in this world who want us to deny Jesus: they are called antichrists. Their presence is a sign we are in the last days. Some who are against Christ have actually been involved in the church, but they left and showed who they really served. Perseverance is a sign of true faith, and it’s the Spirit who keeps us in the straight and narrow and helps us to remain true. The Spirit is who reveals the true nature of the false teachers. That’s the context of “you have no need for anyone to teach you.” If we truly are believers, we obey, we love, and we persevere: we have the Spirit to thank for that!

Devotional Reading for December 2, 2022

1 John 1:1-2:2

(1:1-4) John wants to have fellowship with us, and he wants us to be able to enjoy fellowship with God. There is only one way that can happen: we need to believe in Jesus because it’s only through Him that we have eternal life. So John testifies to us about Jesus and assures us that we can trust his testimony because it’s firsthand. He and the other disciples walked with, talked with, and touched Jesus. Nothing will bring John more joy that others believing his testimony! Shouldn’t we have that same joy when others believe?

Luke 15:7 “I tell you, in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent.”

(1:5-2:2) This is the gospel: God is light (He is holy), and we are in darkness (we are sinners). When we confess our sins, we are forgiven and cleansed because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Once we are believers we behave differently, and John is writing these words to remind us to live holy lives and to enjoy fellowship with other Christians. But we aren’t perfect yet. We can still sin, but when we do, we recognize it and understand that it’s wrong. Confession at this point is relational, not salvific. When we first believe, the eternal consequence for our sin are removed. Later sin affects our day-to-day relationship with God. That’s why we need to continue to confess, even after salvation.

Devotional Reading for December 1, 2022

2 Peter 3

Even though Peter has been warning us about false teachers, there is another danger out there. The prophets and apostles taught about the second coming. However, we should be aware that scoffers will come who will deny that Jesus Christ is coming back. But that isn’t all they deny! They also deny the fact of creation, and they deny God’s judgment through the flood. Unfortunately, they will end up experiencing God’s judgment in the future. And even though Jesus hasn’t come back yet, there is a reason. He is delaying His coming so that more can come to know Him before the time of final judgment. Our job is to live peaceful and holy lives, to grow in grace and knowledge, and to not be led astray as we eagerly wait for the coming of the new heavens and the new earth!

Some additional notes:

  • While it may sound strange, the language used here regarding creation closely parallels Genesis 1:6-10.
  • And we’re reminded that God created all things by His Word! As we read in Genesis, “God said, ‘Let there be light'” (3:3). Isn’t it incredible that we have God’s Word written down for us? Do we give it the respect it deserves? Do we recognize the power it contains?
  • Peter treats the worldwide flood as a literal event (Genesis 6-8).
  • There are many days of the Lord. The “day of the Lord” refers to God intervening in human history during a time of judgment.
  • Peter uses apocalyptic language here, and apocalyptic language is very intense and descriptive when conveying concepts, without necessarily being strictly literal (for example, the moon isn’t literally turned to blood before the day of the Lord, as predicted in Joel 2:31 and quoted in Acts 2:20). That’s why some look for a fundamental transformation of the universe rather than complete destruction.
  • Peter recognizes Paul’s letters as Scripture here. That’s pretty incredible!
  • And, while I can sympathize with Peter’s viewpoint of Paul’s letters, some of Peter’s words have been hard to understand too!

Devotional Reading for November 30, 2022

2 Peter 2

False teachers have been and will continue to be a problem in the church. Peter uses some wondrously picturesque language to describe their teaching and its outcome: “these men are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm, for who the utter depths of darkness have been reserved.” These particular teachers appear to be Christians at first, even initially turning away from the lifestyle they lived before. But their true allegiance eventually shows, and they slander the name of Jesus by living lives of debauchery and greed. Their end is worse than it was before because of their dishonesty and duplicity, and Peter gives numerous examples from Genesis: fallen angels (Genesis 6:1-3), the ancient world (Genesis 6-8), Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), and Balaam (Numbers 22-24). Not only do we need to be careful not to be taken in by these fiends, but we also need to heed Peter’s warning: “for whatever a person succumbs to, to that he is enslaved.” We’re only supposed to be enslaved to one, and that is God!

Romans 6:22 “But now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life.

Devotional Reading for November 29, 2022

2 Peter 1

Peter believes that his time on earth is nearly over, and he wants to leave a word of encouragement and warning for other believers. He asserts that he is a reliable source, because he is an eyewitness to the majesty of Jesus Christ as displayed at the transfiguration. He is guided by the Spirit to proclaim the truth, just as the prophets of the Old Testament were. He wants us to remember the precious faith we have been given, because if we don’t, we are blind and will stumble back into sin. We need to remember that we are called, elected, and cleansed, and God has given us everything we need for godliness! We have become partakers of the divine nature through the Spirit, so now we can add excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, affection, and unselfish love to our faith. How do we do that? By yielding to the Spirit as He directs us to obey the Word!

Devotional Reading for November 28, 2022

1 Peter 5

Elders, pastors, and leaders need to behave in a certain way if they expect a special reward when Jesus returns:

  • They must care for and guide God’s people.
  • They must lead willingly and not grudgingly.
  • They must not be greedy.
  • They must be humble.
  • They must endeavor to be good examples.

And they deserve respect and obedience from those who are younger in the congregation. This respect is an act of humility, which we are all supposed to show towards one another anyway! We also show our humility by being willing to bring our burdens to God in prayer so that He can shoulder them. He cares for us! In addition to humility, we need to make sure that we are serious and watchful, because the devil is out there trying to get us to sin. He even uses our suffering to tempt us, but we can resist, knowing that what we are experiencing is no different than what others have endured. We can make it if they did! Thankfully our suffering is temporary, and God will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us. To Him belongs the power forever. Amen!

Peter ends the letter the way he starts it, with grace and peace.

Sermon outline for 11/27/22 (Radio broadcast 12/4/22) — “God’s Plan for the Ages”

God’s Plan for the Ages
Ephesians 1:3-14 (7-10)

I) Praise God for His ________________

II) Praise God for His ________________

III) Praise God for His _______________

IV) Praise God for His __________________

     A) God has a ___________

     B) He ____________ it to us

     B) He is going to ___________ all things in 
        Christ

          1) He will unite ____________ to Himself

          2) He will unite ________ and __________

          3) He will unite a broken ______________

     C) It will happen in His _____________

Devotional Reading for November 27, 2022

1 Peter 4

We all suffer for one reason or another, but suffering for the sake of Christ is special and different. When we suffer as Christians we are blessed and we should rejoice, because we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ, and suffering for the sake of Christ changes our perspective. We become more concerned about serving Him. We fully commit to standing up for our faith. We completely leave behind the way we were, and the unsaved world can’t understand why. They end up vilifying us, but God’s judgement on them is assured. After all, we all die and face the judgement. Judgement actually begins at the house of God, but we will be saved! The gospel was proclaimed is so that those who believe will end up in glory. Not so for those who refuse to believe.

So, we as believers should persevere, and we do that by:

  • Being self-controlled and sober minded so that we can be devoted to prayer.
  • Keeping our love for each other fervent, which means we will be willing to forgive.
  • Showing hospitality to each other without complaining.
  • Serving beside each other by using our spiritual gifts.
  • Speaking God’s truth.
  • Relying on God’s strength to care for each other, thereby glorifying Jesus Christ!

To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen!

Devotional Reading November 26, 2022

1 Peter 3

(1-7) Peter sees husbands as leaders in the home, and wives can have a big influence on them. It goes back to what he said earlier: “that they may see your good deeds and glorify God when He appears” (2:12). Being beautiful and pure on the inside is much more important than being beautiful on the outside, and that inner beauty helps draw others to God. Husbands are to act properly in marriage as well, recognizing as the stronger partner that they need to be gentle and caring. After all, husbands and wives are joint heirs of God and of equal worth in His sight! Either one acting improperly will affect their relationship with God.

(8-12) Peter uses Psalm 34:12-16 to remind us that God blesses those who obey Him. And He wants us to be harmonious, sympathetic, affectionate, compassionate, humble, and kind to others.

(13-16) We will be blessed if we do good, even if we experience earthly suffering for it. We are to put Christ first, and always be ready to tell others about Him in a way that is winsome. We should never give others the opportunity to slander us.

(17-22) And even if we suffer, it should be because we are doing good, not evil. Christ also suffered for doing good. He was put to death for our sins (not His own), and was raised to sit at the right hand of God the Father!

What about the phrase, “preached to the spirits in prison“? Peter already talked about the “Spirit of Christ” preaching through the Old Testament prophets, and also calls Noah a “herald of righteousness” in 2 Peter 2:5. It seems best to see Christ speaking though Noah to proclaim the truth, and the disobedient are now the “spirits in prison” because they would not listen. Only 8 souls were saved through the flood, and this flood becomes a precursor of baptism, which is physical representation of what happens spiritually when we are saved. We have our sins washed away and we now have the “pledge of a good conscience to God.” We couldn’t possibly be good before, but we now have the power to be good living inside of us through the Holy Spirit, and it’s the resurrection reveals that power!

Devotional Reading for November 25, 2022

1 Peter 2

The Word nourishes, and it helps us get rid of evil, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander in our lives!

Jesus is our cornerstone! He was rejected by men, but accepted by God. When we finally receive Him – when we believe – we experience God’s mercy and are adopted into His family. We are now like Jesus. We are chosen, we are priceless, we are priests, and we are citizens of another kingdom. We are building a spiritual house as we offer up the sacrifice of obedience:

  • By staying away from fleshly desires that do battle against the soul. What an indictment against the world that explains why so many are soul sick!
  • By living in such a way that non-Christians can’t complain about us!
  • By obeying and honoring human authority, even when recognizing God’s ultimate authority and fearing Him. But we shouldn’t use God’s authority as an excuse to be unruly and disobedient!
  • By honoring all, and especially remembering to love the family of faith.
  • By willingly obeying those over us, even when it brings hardship. As difficult as it is to understand, suffering injustice brings us into solidarity with Jesus, and finds favor with God.

How do we understand the last point? Do we see this as a new understanding as opposed to an old understanding (OT vs. NT)? Are there times when we should respond to the evil around us, and times when we shouldn’t?

  • We are on the safest ground when we are standing up for the rights of others, rather than ourselves.
  • Our default as believers should be to obey and get along with others, unless we have a clear understanding from Scripture that what we are being asked to do is wrong or in conflict with God.
  • We should always rely on the leading and guiding of God through His Word and the Spirit in all that we do.
  • Jesus is our greatest example to follow. He was humble, compassionate, obedient, and willing to suffer. If he wasn’t, then we wouldn’t be saved!

Isaiah 53:3-12 “He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant. But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed. All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the LORD caused the sin of all of us to attack him. He was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not even open his mouth. He was led away after an unjust trial— but who even cared? Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded. They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully. Though the LORD desired to crush him and make him ill, once restitution is made, he will see descendants and enjoy long life, and the LORD’s purpose will be accomplished through him. Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done. My servant will acquit many, for he carried their sins. So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes, he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful, because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels.