This is episode two in our series on the book of Judges. It’s entitled “Our Standard Achievement Test” and covers chapters two and three. These two chapters serve as a kind of preface for the rest of the book, providing a backdrop against which to evaluate all that will take place in the subsequent chapters. In chapter two, God reminds the people of Israel that it was He who brought them out of captivity in Egypt and delivered them to the land of Canaan. But He also reminded them that they had been disobedient and had failed to follow His commands. Rather than rid the land of its pagan inhabitants, they had chosen to make alliances with them. And before long they found themselves worshiping the false gods of these very same nations. Chapter two also records the death of Joshua, their God-appointed leader. This led to the various tribes scattering to their own territories to live out their lives separately and independently from one another. There was no king or central government. And on top of that, we’re given the not-so-good news:
“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work he had done for Israel.” – Judges 2:10 ESV
And then chapter two tells us that the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They worshiped false gods instead of the one true God. So, God was forced to discipline them and test them. But He wasn’t just punishing them. He was preparing them
This is episode one in a new series on the Old Testament book of Judges. Over the next 20 weeks, we’ll be unpacking this remarkable book one chapter at a time and looking at any and all lessons to be learned from this historical account of the nation of Israel, the children of God. The book of Judges provides us with a unique glimpse into the lives of God’s people during a time when they were supposed to be experiencing God’s blessings, but instead, they were struggling with unfaithfulness and disobedience to the one who had delivered them from captivity in Egypt and given them the land of Canaan as their possession. During their years of wandering in the wilderness, they had been led by Moses, but when it came time to enter the land, they were under the leadership of Joshua. He got them into the land, but they had failed to obey God fully and remove the inhabitants of the land. This would lead to all kinds of problems, including idolatry and a rejection of God as their King. The book of Judges is a no-holds-barred, warts-and-all portrayal of God’s people, revealing their inconsistency as His followers and their ungratefulness for all He had done for them. I think you’ll find their story more than ancient history. At times, it will provide a much-needed and somewhat uncomfortable reminder of our own struggle as the children of God. We too can find ourselves wrestling with our status as citizens of God’s kingdom, and longing to fit into a world in which we don’t really belong. To get the most out of each episode, be sure and read the accompanying chapter.
This is the seventh episode on 1 John, chapter five, verses 13-21 and the our very last session on the book of 1 John. I’ve entitled this lesson, “The Privilege of Knowing God” because when all is said and done and as John wraps up his letter, what John really wants his readers to know is God Himself. That is the whole point of His letter. Because of what Jesus Christ has accomplished on our behalf, we have the unique and totally remarkable privilege of coming to know God the Father intimately and personally. That is the essence of eternal life. It is all about knowing God. It is about relationship, not religion. We were created to have fellowship with God, but that fellowship was disrupted by sin. And there was nothing we could do to fix the problem because we were slaves to sin. Our very nature was sinful, separating us from the One who created us. So, God stepped in and did what only He could do. He sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, as a man, to live a sinless life and die a sinner’s death on the cross. All as payment for the sin debt owed by mankind to a holy, righteous God. Because of Jesus, our sins have been forgiven and our broken relationship with God has been restored. And we can know Him, the one true God.
This is the sixth episode on 1 John, chapter five, verses 13-21 and is entitled, “American Idols.” We live in a day when idols are everywhere. No, they’re not the kind of idols we see described in the Old Testament. Ours are much more sophisticated and less blatant in terms of their role as false gods in our lives. Our idols take the form of material goods, entertainment, popularity, pleasure, money, success and our own happiness. But they are false gods nonetheless. Why? Because we worship them. We shower these things with our attention, and place on them our hopes for the future and depend upon them for our needs for the present. But John warns us to be on the alert and to recognize the danger of these God-substitutes. They are everywhere and ever-present. They’re alluring and always subtle in their ability to distract us from the one true God. As Christians, we can even make idols out of worship, Bible study, doctrine, and our own spiritual accomplishments. We can easily find ourselves worshiping the wrong things, giving precedence to those things that were intended to draw us nearer to God, not to replace Him as God. So John warns us to keep ourselves from idols.
This is episode five on 1 John, chapter five, verses 13-21 and is entitled, “Knowing God.” In our day and age, and most certainly within the church community, we hear a lot about coming to know Christ. And rightfully so, because that is the essence of the gospel. It is essential that those who are lost come to a saving knowledge of who Jesus Christ was and what He has done on their behalf by providing Himself as a substitute payment for their sin penalty. But one of the things that seems to get left out is why Jesus died. He didn’t just give His life so that we might have eternal life. He sacrificed Himself so that sinful men and women might be restored to a right relationship with God the Father. Sin had broken that relationship. Sin separated men and women from God. Their sinfulness and His holiness could not coexist. So, God sent His Son to pay the penalty for the sins of men, and to offer a means by which humanity could find themselves back in a right relationship with God. Knowing God is the key to our salvation. And Jesus made it possible. But how well do we know God? How intimate is our relationship with Him? Knowing God and His Son is what eternal life is all about.
This is our fourth episode on 1 John, chapter five, verses 13-21 and is entitled, “Divine Protection.” One of the things John wants us to understand as he begins the wrap-up of his letter, is the reality of God’s loving protection over His children. While we remain in this world after conversion, and find ourselves surrounded by hostile forces and subject to the attacks of the enemy, we are not alone. In fact, John would have us remember that, because of our faith in Christ, Satan, the evil one, cannot touch us. He is held at bay by God Himself. And not only that, because of our relationship with Christ, we have a new capacity to say no to sin. We no longer have to sin. We now have a Spirit-empowered option to do what is right in the eyes of God and live righteously, no longer enslaved to our old sin nature. Oh, it’s still there and it will raise its ugly head and attempt to force its will on us, but because of Jesus, we do not have to keep on sinning like we once did. We are new creations. We have been born again. We are God’s children and enjoy His protection and access to His power to love godly lives. In this life and according to His will.
This is episode three on 1 John, chapter five, verses 13-21. It’s entitled, “Practical Prayer” and deals with a matter that each of us as believers should take to heart: Our prayers on behalf of a sinning brother or sister in Christ. Not only are we to take sin seriously in our own lives, we are to care deeply about the sin that we see in one another’s lives. And John tells us we are to pray. We are to lift up our fellow believer to the throne of God, asking that God will give them life. In essence, we are to pray for their restoration to fellowship with God. Sin breaks that fellowship. It puts a barrier between God and the one who has unrepentant sin in their life. We are to ask God to open their eyes to the reality of their sin so that they might confess it and be forgiven by God and restored to a right relationship with Him. Sin in the body of Christ is dangerous. It can spread like a cancer, eventually infecting all those with whom it comes into contact. That is why we are to pray. Prayer is an expression of our love for the one in sin. This does not mean we are free from having to confront the sins in one another. We have an obligation to speak truth into one another’s lives, and that includes lovingly pointing out the sins that we see being committed by those we call our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This is part two in our look at 1 John, chapter five, verses 13-21. This episode is entitled, “Whatever We Ask.” In today’s verses, John is going to deal with the subject of prayer, but specifically our prayers of petition, where we ask for things from God. It would seem that some of us believe that we can ask God for anything and He is obligated to give us whatever we want. This is not only a gross misunderstanding of prayer, it reveals a serious deficiency regarding the nature of God. God does not exist for our pleasure. He is not at our beck and call, somehow required to fulfill our every wish and make all our dreams come true. We exist for God. We serve Him. Not the other way around. And while we are fully free and even commanded to come to God with our prayers and petitions, we are to do so within His will. We are to pray according to His will and in keeping with His desires for us. But to do so requires that we know what God wants. We have to know His will in order to pray according to it. Prayer is a lot less about getting stuff from God than getting to know Him, so that we can pray to Him reverently and powerfully.
This is episode one on 1 John, chapter five, verses 13-21 and I’ve entitled it, “Jesus=Life.” As John begins to wrap up his letter, he appears to be stressing the life made available to those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior. The eternal life to which he refers is far more than just a synonym for heaven. While heaven is a significant part of our future, it is not the end-all. A location or destination is not the point of our salvation, but a restored relationship with God the Father and God the Son. It is not so much where we are going to spend eternity, but who we will be spending it with. We will experience unbroken fellowship with Jesus Christ and His Father, free from sin and no longer plagued by the threat of death. But the truth is, we have that unbroken fellowship right now, on this earth. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. He will never leave us or forsake us. We are His adopted children, His heirs – and nothing will ever change that. We have life because we have Jesus. Our eternity is secured because we have accepted Jesus in the present. Our eternal life doesn’t start in heaven. It began when we placed our faith in Jesus.
This is our sixth episode on 1 John, chapter five, verses 6-12 and I’ve entitled it simply, “Life.” Jesus spoke of eternal life and abundant life. He spoke of a future life to come and the present life in which we live. By accepting Jesus as our Savior, we receive life – not just at some, as-yet-to-be-revealed date, but right here, right now. We are provided with new life in Christ. As Jesus told Nicodemus, we are born again. And as Paul put it, “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV). Before Christ, we were dead in our sins. But because of Christ and our faith in His sacrificial death on the cross, we have been made new – given new life and a new relationship with God the Father. Jesus said that He was the way, the truth, and the life. And a relationship with Him assures us of abundant life in the here and now, not just the hereafter. But abundant life does not mean wealth, health, a lack of troubles or a sin-free life on this planet. It is a guarantee of God’s presence, provision, mercy, and unfailing love until the day we die or His Son returns for us.
This is our fifth episode on 1 John, chapter five, verses 6-12 and it’s entitled, “The Blood.” Sometimes, as modern believers, we see the sacrificial system ordained by God in the Old Testament as somewhat barbaric. We have a difficult time understanding why God would require the deaths of so many innocent animals. The very idea of blood atonement is hard for us to comprehend. And there are many today, who view the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as the work of a bloodthirsty and vengeful God. They cannot comprehend how God the Father would willingly call for the death of His own Son. It seems to be anything but loving. And yet, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus Christ’s death was an expression of the love of God for mankind. Reconciling God’s wrath against sin and His love for man is not easy. Fully appreciating the grace and mercy as evidenced by His Son’s sacrificial death is made difficult by all the talk of God’s anger against sin and the need for a payment to satisfy His just and holy requirements. But the love and wrath of God meet at the cross.
This fourth episode on 1 John, chapter five, verses 6-12 is an important one. It is called, “Present-Tense Belief” and deals with a problem I think most of us face as believers. The tendency to see our testimony as something in the past. We have been trained to think of our faith story as having taken place at a singular point in time. But John would seem to differ from that perspective. He would see our faith as ever-evolving and expanding, growing in depth and confidence. It is never stagnant or stationary. The faith to believe should become the faith to keep on believing. Saving faith should become sanctifying faith. If we find ourselves thinking that placing our faith in Christ was a one-time event that occurred sometime in the past, we are missing the point. There is no doubt that the moment we place our faith in Jesus as our Savior, we are immediately declared positionally righteous by God. But he is out to make us practically righteous – by transforming our thoughts and behavior – as we continue to place our faith in Him.
This is the third episode on 1 John, chapter five, verses 6-12 and its’ called, “Internal Evidence”. As John continues to litigate Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God and the long-awaited Messiah, he will call the Holy Spirit as witness. And because each and every believer in Jesus Christ has the Spirit of God living within him, this testimony is internal, not external. We have living proof, living inside us. The indwelling Spirit of God provides us with daily, irrefutable evidence that Christ was exactly who He claimed to be. His Spirit within us testifies directly to us. As John says, “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself” (1 John 5:10). We don’t have to go far. We don’t even have to look outside of ourselves. We have the transformative power of God residing within us. And that could only mean one thing. Jesus was the Son of God and the Savior of the world. And when He promised to give us the Spirit to live within us, He had meant it and delivered on it.
This is the second episode on 1 John, chapter five, verses 6-12 and its’ called, “God’s Testimony”. There are all kinds of opinions and testimonies concerning Jesus out there. And the truth is, there’s nothing new under the sun. The denials of Jesus’ deity and even the claims that He never even existed have been around since the days just after His death. Denying Jesus is one of the oldest sports known to mankind. But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what men think. We should worry a lot more about what God has to say on the issue. And, according to John, God the Father has a lot to say about His Son. The naysayers, doubters, critics and postmodern deconstructionists can shout all they want. They can pontificate and posture, presenting the claims of the bible concerning Jesus as nothing more than fantasy, but God’s word supersedes theirs. His opinion is the only one that really matters. It was King David who said, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1 ESV). And the same fool would say there is no Son of God. But John would side with David and have God as an expert witness.
As has been our custom throughout the book of John, this will be the first of seven episodes on 1 John, chapter five, verses 6-12. I’ve entitled this first one, “Can I Get A Witness?” The fact is, John had more than enough witnesses to support His assertion that Jesus was the Son of God. And in these verses he is going to point out three of them. It really didn’t matter what others said or taught. They could deny the deity of Jesus, but it didn’t change anything. There was more than enough proof to support Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God and the Savior of the world. And John will begin with the Holy Spirit Himself. The very fact that He existed and had come to indwell each and every believer was more than enough proof that Jesus had been who He claimed to be. He had promised the Holy Spirit would come after He returned to have, and the Holy Spirit had come – in power, at Pentecost. But there were two other witnesses to Jesus deity. His baptism and crucifixion. At the first, God confirmed Jesus as His Son. At the second, God sacrificed Jesus as His sinless Son. The only sacrifice that would do.
This is our final episode on 1 John, chapter five, verses 1-5, and it’s called, “New Birth = New Life.” You see, for John, our new birth was to result in a new way of life. As believers, we have been born of God and, as a result, we should reflect the very nature of our heavenly Father. We should bear His likeness is all that we do. We should be chips off the old block, so to speak. God has made it possible for us to emulate the character of His Son. But much more than this, He has made it possible for us to be transformed into His very likeness. We don’t just mimic Jesus, we become Christ-like in our speech and conduct because we are being made into His image from one degree of glory to another. While we live on this earth, we are going through a God-ordained transformation. And just like our salvation, it is the work of God. Left to our own devices, we could no more copy the character of Jesus than we could fly like a bird without the help of a plane, parachute, glider or some other outside aid. Our new life in Christ is made possible by God. But never forget. It IS possible.
This is episode six on 1 John, chapter five, verses 1-5, and it’s simply called, “Faith.” You’re familiar with the word. And while faith is usually associated with, well, people of faith, it is something every living human being utilizes each and every day of their lives. So, what’s the difference between the faith of the average man on the street and that of a follower of Christ? The answer is the last word at the end of the previous sentence: Christ. It’s the object of our faith that makes the difference. It is who or what we are placing our faith, hope or trust in. Everyone has faith in something or someone. We all live by faith. But sometimes our faith ends up disappointed because the object of our faith fails to come through for us. But for those who place their faith in Christ, that’s never a possibility. Oh, we can still find ourselves worrying that He will come through for us, but it will prove to be a waste of our time. Because He is faithful. And it is because He is faithful that our faith in Him is always well-placed and never disappointed.
This is our fifth episode on 1 John, chapter five, verses 1-5, and I’ve called it, “Nike.” Long before that word became a household name and a ubiquitous presence in virtually every household around the world, it was a common Greek word. One that John liked to use. And in our verse for today, he will use it to describe believers are overcomers. As we saw in the previous episode, we have been born from above and, as a result, we are intended to be victorious, those who overcome the world. But what does that really mean? And how are we supposed to pull it off. It all goes back to that little Greek word. But John isn’t going to tell us to strap on the latest pair of running shoes or trainers. He isn’t going to encourage us to hit the treadmill or the gym wearing the latest workout fashions made with dry-wick fabric. In fact, our victory has little to do with us. Instead, it has everything to do with what Christ has done for us. Our ultimate victory over this world is dependent upon the work of Christ and our faith in what He has accomplished for us.
This is episode four on 1 John, chapter five, verses 1-5, and it’s entitled, “Unfinished Business.” You see, John is going to call us to remain obedient – until the end. God expects faithfulness from His people and He has provided everything they need to pull it off. He has placed His Spirit within us, placed us within the body of Christ, and provided us with the Word of God as a constant source of teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. We have all we need to be all we need to be. And God is at work, behind the scenes, working on our lives in ways that are oftentimes invisible to us. He is molding and perfecting us, out of love, into the likeness of His Son. And one of the main ways we show our love to God is by obeying His commands. By allowing His Spirit to lead and direct us. By not only reading His Word, but doing what it says and applying it to our lives. When Jesus gave the great commission to His disciples, He told them to go and make more disciples, but He added a line that we too often overlook: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
In this, our third episode on 1 John, chapter five, verses 1-5, we’ll be taking a look at what John means when he says we have been born of God. He is not talking about creation or our status as human beings. In fact, John uses the term “born of God” to refer exclusively to believers. It is a term of differentiation, used to set us apart from the rest of humanity. We are born from above. In other words, it is the work of God. It is not a physical event, like the one we experienced at birth. It is spiritual in nature. And it is only possible through belief in Jesus Christ. Our new birth is made available to us by the grace of God and through faith in His Son. That faith not only results in our new birth, but our subsequent victory over sin and death. We move from living under the control and dominion of Satan into a relationship with God Himself. We become His sons and daughters, with all the rights and privileges that come with being His heirs. We become, as John puts it, overcomers. Victors in Christ because of what He has done for us.
This is the second episode on 1 John, chapter five, verses 1-5 and it’s entitled, “Do We Really Love?”. Sometimes we can think we’re loving another individual, while, in fact, we are simply going through the motions. Externally, it may appear as if we are loving, but in reality, our actions are lacking in compassion and love. We look like we’re doing the right thing, but our hearts are not in it. And without love, Paul would say our best actions on our best day, backed by our best intentions, are nothing to brag about. We tend to see love as a list of actions to be taken or commands to be followed. But if our heart isn’t in it, our efforts become little more than legalism, or an attempt to win favor with God. I can give money to the poor, but if I don’t love them while I am doing it, my actions are hollow and empty. And when I love others the way God has loved me, I am actually showing love to Him. And to be able to love others even when I see their flaws and failings, is to love as I have been loved.
This is the first of seven episodes on 1 John, chapter five, verses 1-5. This first one is called, “Proof Positive” and will deal with a topic that should be of concern for each and every Christ-follower: The assurance of our salvation. While that is not necessarily the primary thought John was trying to get across in these verses, it comes out loud and clear. The real issue is that of belief. Belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior, sent by God to die for the sins of men. It is our belief in Him that provides us with assurance of our salvation. Not only that, John writes in his gospel, “that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” If we believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior, we can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we are saved. And when we find ourselves loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are doubly assured, because that capacity to love comes from God. It is His Spirit living within us, made possible by Christ’s death on the cross, that allows us to love selflessly and sacrificially. And to know that we are sons and daughters of God.
This is our seventh episode on 1 John, chapter four, verses 7-21. It’s called, “Love Like God Loves” and in it, we will attempt to differentiate what John means when he says we are to love as we have been loved. The standard for our love is heavenly, not earthly. It is not of this world. And we don’t get to determine what that love looks like or how we get to express it. God’s brand of love is different than ours. His love is eternal, not temporal. It doesn’t fade with time or fluctuate based on the actions of the one being loved. God’s love is transformative in nature. It is out to change the one being loved. To improve their life. To give them eternal life. God’s kind of love is redemptive and restorative. And ours should be as well. Our love, like His, should have the best interest of others in mind. We love them, not so they will love us in return, but so that they might know the love of God through us. We want them to know what it feels like to be loved by God as we have been loved by Him. Selflessly, sacrificially, and sanctifyingly.
This is episode six on 1 John, chapter four, verses 7-21. I’ve entitled it, “Love Is of God” because, once again, John is going to stress love as an outflow of the very character of God. Love is not some arbitrary, subjective feeling we conjure up. We don’t even get to define the nature of love. Because as John has already told us, God is love. He is the ultimate definition or expression of love. And John makes it quite clear that we will never fully understand who God is until we come to grips with just how much God loved us – in spite of us. God’s love is directly tied to His holiness and justice. These qualities are not in conflict with one another within the nature of God. He can be loving and just at the same time. He can discipline in love. He can judge sin in love. And nowhere is this better expressed than at the cross. The crucifixion was the focal point on which the love and wrath of God met. He sent His Son to die for us, as an expression of His love. He crucified Christ as an expression of His hatred for sin. The love and wrath of God met at the cross. And had it not happened, we would all be lost.
This is our fifth episode on 1 John, chapter four, verses 7-21 and is entitled, “God Loved.” The love of God is an oft misunderstood topic. Part of the problem is that we bring our own definitions of love to the equation, attempting to force on God our preconceived notions of what it means to show and receive love. But the Bible tells us that God is love. In other words, it is God who gets to define love and it is His very nature that provides the meaning. If God is love, then all that He does is done in love. Love is the permeating quality behind all His actions, whether we see it or not. So, when God tells us to love one another as He has loved us, we need to stop and think about what He is saying. How did He love us? What was the primary way in which He expressed His love to us? God sent His Son to die for us. And while that may appear to us to be a strange way of expressing love, it does not change the fact love is exactly what it was. As John wrote in His gospel, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” God loved. Sacrificially. Selflessly. And redemptively.