While it would stifle discussion, it might make business meeting more lively. 😉
Rather than be consumed with worry, Christ followers are to practice the advice given by Jesus during his Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6:25–34, he said,
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Life is uncertain with few guarantees and little that can be depended on. Health, employment, investments, and relationships can all change in an instant. We purchase life, health, auto, and homeowners insurance to try to protect us in case of illness, accidents, and damage. In a world of uncertainty, we long for security and stability.
In his first letter, the apostle John encourages his readers and us to build our lives on truth. As he closes this letter (5:13-21), he gives four foundational principles that can give us a solid foundation. He also adds one final warning that will keep the foundation strong. To give us a sense of foundational certainty, John uses the phrase “you know” or “we know” six times in nine verses. We can have confidence about our salvation (13), prayer (14-17), victory over sin (18), and our identity in Christ (19-20). We need to guard our hearts against anything that tries to take God’s rightful place (21).
Our salvation is secure (13). John is writing “…that you may know you have eternal life.” The word “know” points to a settled and absolute conviction. The word “have” points to a present reality. Salvation is secure because it rests on God’s promises, not our performance; God’s faithfulness, not our faithlessness; God’s Word, not our works. Salvation is secure because it rests solely on God, not on us. David Smith stated, “Our security is not our grip on Christ but his grip on us.”
God answers prayer (14-15). When we pray, we can have confidence that God hears and answers our prayers. We can come boldly into his presence and present our requests to him. If our prayers are unanswered, it may be due to unconfessed sin (Psalm 66:18), strained relationships (1 Peter 3:7), lack of prayer (James 4:2), selfish requests (James 4:3), disobedience (1 John 3:22), or it is not in God’s will (1 John 5:14).
Intercession makes a difference (16-17). John gives a specific encouragement to pray that God would restore a fellow believer who is sinning. We’re puzzled by the “sin that leads to death.” It could be a specific deadly sin, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, total rejection of the gospel, or the premature death of a sinning believer. Rather than get hung up in debating the meaning, John’s point is to pray for those who are straying from God. We should pray for believers whose marriage is in trouble, for those who are becoming hard hearted towards God, for those who are impatient, for those who are becoming increasingly materialistic, and for those who are discouraged and ready to give up.
We can enjoy victory over sin (18). While we will never become sinless in this life, we should sin less. Sin should not be the predominant pattern or practice of our lives. Victory is possible because God protects us. Satan cannot touch us without God’s permission.
We are part of God’s family (19). While the world system resides under the control of Satan, we are free from its power. Having put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we are one of God’s children.
Jesus came so that we might know God (20). Being “in Christ” is the means by which we can enjoy fellowship with God. We can know God intimately and can abide in him and in his Son.
Stay away from anything that takes God’s rightful place (21). It is all too easy to “forget” God’s benefits and chase after shiny things. Work, bank accounts, happiness, comfort, family, retirement, leisure, personal preferences, and the desire for control can all become idols if we are not careful. We must be vigilant to guard our hearts.
Build your life on truth. Know that our salvation is secure. Know that God answers prayer. Know that we can enjoy victory over sin. Know that we belong to Jesus. Don’t let anyone or anything take God’s rightful place in your life.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on May 21, 2017. It is part of a series on The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
Book Review: Start with Amen: How I Learned to Surrender by Keeping the End in Mind, by Beth Guckenberger
If you asked a person about the word, “Amen,” most would respond by explaining it is a word you tack onto the end of a prayer. Most people think of it a form of punctuation. In contrast, author Beth Guckenberger views it as posture of life, or an attitude of the heart.
This is amen: hands raised, faces bowed, hearts at peace. There our metaphorical spiritual buckets get filled, and there is plenty to offer each other. Unity is felt among the church, and communion is a reality. Here, in this posture, I am always surprised by what God has for me.
If I could pray no other word ever again, I would be okay. Amen speaks affirmation and commitment. It says yes to a lifestyle where he is to be trusted and I can rest in him.
When I talk to God, I start with amen, and, with it, we communicate intimacy and a sense of knowing.
I know he’s got this.
He’s knows I’m letting him have this, whatever in the moment “this” may be.
As the author explains in the acknowledgements, her style is storytelling. Thus, it naturally follows that the book is a collection of stories loosely tied together to illustrate a principle. She weaves in personal stories, examples, principles, and biblical stories into her presentation.
While I appreciate and agree with the concept that we need to submit all the parts of our life to God, it felt like proof texting to base that principle on one word. While her stories were entertaining and encouraging, I didn’t really see how they were tied together. It felt a bit like stream-of-consciousness writing. This is not to say the book is a bad one. It just did not appeal to me.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Contrary to popular opinion, one does not need to check one’s brain at the door to believe in God. Rather, the truth of the gospel can be known and understood. That is the argument presented by the apostle John in his first letter. Throughout 1 John, the apostle uses two Greek words for knowing to emphasize that the true knowledge of God is available to all.
|2:3||This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands.||There is no assurance apart from obedience.|
|2:4||The one who says, “I know him,” and does not keep his commands is a liar, and the truth is not in them.||There is no true knowledge of God apart from obedience.|
|2:5-6||This is how we know that we are in him: the one who says, “I remain in him,” ought also himself to walk just as that One walked.||There is no true knowledge of God apart from discipleship.|
|2:13||Fathers, I am writing to you because you do know the One who is from the beginning.||Christian maturity entails personal knowledge of the eternal God.|
|2:14||Little children, yes, I write to you because you have known the Father. Fathers, yes, I write to you because you have known the One who is from the beginning.||To be a child of God and to become a mature Christian means to know God truly.|
|2:18||Children … even now many have become antichrists, and so we know that it is the last hour.||Knowledge of God provides discernment.|
|2:29||If you know that he is righteous, you know also that everyone who lives righteously has been born of him.||True knowledge of God is the basis for Christian ethics.|
|3:1||For this reason, the world does not know us, because it did not know him.||“The world” is all those who do not know Jesus.|
|3:6||Everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him.||True knowledge of God requires obedience.|
|3:16||In this way we have known love, because that One laid down his life on our behalf.||True knowledge of God allows true love.|
|3:19||This is how we will know that we are of the truth.||Assurance requires true knowledge of God—that One “belongs to the truth.”|
|3:20||… whenever our heart convicts us. For God is greater than our hearts, and knows everything.||True knowledge of God allows us to put our guilt to rest.|
|3:24||In this way we know that he remains in us: from the Sprit, whom he gave to us.||True knowledge of God requires the Spirit.|
|4:2||In this way you know the Spirit of God.||True knowledge of God requires true knowledge of the Spirit.|
|4:6||We are of God; the one who knows God hears us, [but] whoever is not of God does not hear us.||True knowledge of God means accepting the teaching of his apostles.|
|4:7||Everyone who loves has been begotten of God and … knows God.||True knowledge of God motivates love.|
|4:8||The one who does not love does not know God.||True knowledge of God motivates love.|
|4:13||In this way we know that in him we live and he in us: because he has given to us of his Spirit.||Assurance requires the Spirit.|
|4:16||And we have known and have trusted the love that God has for us.||True knowledge of God means we know God loves us.|
|5:2||So this is how we know that we love the children of God.||Assurance requires love.|
|5:20||We know that the Son of God has come and he has given understanding to us to that we might know the True One.||We cannot know God truly apart from knowing the Son of God.|
Chart taken from Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: 1, 2, & 3 John. By Karen H. Jobes. Grand Rapids, MI: 2014, p.239-240.
Book Review: Answering the Toughest Questions about Heaven and Hell, by Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz
What happens when we die? Are heaven and hell real places? If God is loving, how could he send anyone to hell? Have you ever wrestled with questions like these? Have you ever wondered where to find the answers to these and other questions about the afterlife?
Authors Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz encourage their readers to ask tough questions and wrestle with doubts. In this volume, Answering the Toughest Questions about Heaven and Hell, they asked the young adults from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA, to articulate their most important questions about heaven and hell. They then grouped the questions into broad categories which provided the ten chapters and four appendices for this book.
- Is there an afterlife?
- What happens when you die?
- Are heaven and hell for real?
- Can I believe what the Bible says about the end of the world?
- Do all roads lead to heaven?
- If God is loving, how could he send anyone to hell?
- Is hell a divine torture chamber?
- How do you get into heaven?
- What will heaven be like?
- How can I be sure about heaven?
- Will there be animals in heaven?
- Can my loved ones in heaven see me?
- Will there be rewards in heaven?
- Are near-death experiences for real?
In answering the questions, the authors combine humor, illustrations, real-life stories, and philosophical arguments. After exploring the questions from various angles, they always ask, “What does the Bible say about this question?” The result is a practical, helpful, biblical exploration of some very real questions.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Bethany House through the Bethany House Blogger Review Program http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/bethanyhouse/bookreviewers. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.