July 28: Faith Tests

Read 1 John 2:1-29

The aged apostle John’s writing style is simple and yet different from other letters of the New Testament.  Rather than starting with a traditional greeting, acknowledgement of relationship, and with a prayer for their growth, John seems to jump right into the meat of what he wants to communicate. He is writing this letter to give us as readers the right kind of confidence about our faith.  And this letter also especially deals with the first-century false teaching of Gnosticism, wherein people considered the flesh to be bad and the spirit, good.  This mindset could lead to extreme legalism in an attempt to control the body or to extreme liberty in discounting the actions of the body.

Chapter 1 ended with a reality check about sin.  Don’t pridefully think that you are immune to it.  Instead readily acknowledge that you are guilty of it and need forgiveness.  In fact, we must recognize that Jesus is our Advocate with the Father.  He satisfied the Father’s wrath created by our sin and represents us before Him.  Take advantage of His advocacy in confession, while at the same time allowing your life to be marked by obedience.  While confession and obedience may seem to be at odds with each other, they really aren’t.  Obedience acknowledges God’s right to place expectations on us.  In fact, believers will be characterized by obedience.  Meanwhile, confession acknowledges the fact that we will not achieve perfection in this life.

It is as if John is giving us standards, by which we can test ourselves to see if we are truly in the faith.  The first test was that of confession.  Do we regularly and readily admit our sin to God and seek His forgiveness?  The second test was that of obedience.  Is our heart inclination one of doing what God asks of us?

But there is also a third test introduced in this chapter and repeated throughout the remainder of the book.  It is the test of love.  John put it like this:  “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.” (v. 9)  Although he will visit this idea often in the days ahead, it merits asking today…Is your love for others consistent with your claim to be a Christ follower?

sbk

Posted in 1 John

July 27: Confidence

Read 1 John 1:1-10

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”  (1 John 1:1)

At the time the apostle John wrote this letter, he was the only remaining apostle.  All others had died…many as a result of martyrdom.  And now, having already written a gospel outlining the life and ministry of Jesus, the aged apostle known for his love for Christ recorded three letters.  The first of these letters he wrote with a backdrop of false teaching and for the purpose of confidence.  He wanted his readers to be able to assess themselves in doctrine and practice in order to assess whether they were truly Jesus followers.

How confident are you?

The apostle begins his letter in the “beginning.”  As a companion of Christ during His ministry on earth, John is able to remind us that he both saw and touched Christ.  Contrary to some aberrant theological premises out there even today, Jesus, the Divine, took on human flesh.  Both His divinity and His humanity were essential aspects of His ministry.

But God is also holy.  “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (v. 5b) This is more than a doctrinal reality to be embraced by Christ followers.  This truth has tentacles that reach into the statements and conducts of our daily lives.  You see, those surrendered to Christ passionately pursue the same kind of purity and holiness.  “Pursue” is the operative word there.  John acknowledges that we, in this life, will never attain perfection.  In fact, to claim sinless is a self-deceiving lie!

Instead, genuine believers seek to live obedient lives in the power of the Holy Spirit.  They look for the “way of escape” in the face of temptation (1 Cor. 10:13).  But when they sin (and they will) they are quick to “own their sin” by confessing it to God as wrong and, as a result of His grace, they receive forgiveness in return.

Let’s close today by asking, “Are you pursuing the same kind of purity and holiness that Jesus Himself possesses?”

sbk

Posted in 1 John

July 26: High Mountain of Revelation

Read Revelation 21:1-22:21

I love going to the mountains!  I love the view of the mountains and the view from the mountains.  The view of the mountains is always majestic as they tower above my valley vantage point.  And the view from the mountains is always exciting as I view things below from a different angle.

John’s perspective of the future New Jerusalem was a view from the mountain.  He was “carried away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high” (21:10).  And from that elevation, he was able to view the grandeur of what God has prepared for His people for eternity.  The city was aglow with the glory of God.  It was 1,400 miles in each direction and surrounded by a high wall.  Gates made out of pearls and bearing the names of Jacob’s twelve songs punctuated the walls.  And the walls themselves were laid on twelve foundations composed of precious and semiprecious stones that bear the names of the twelve apostles.  Of course the description of John’s incredible view extends well beyond the few things mentioned in these lines.

But there is still another perspective that we gain from his mountaintop vantage point that may be less obvious.  From John’s view, we also gain a panoramic view of God’s plan.

  1. His plan started with a beautiful garden and a tree of life, and it will end with beauty and a tree of life as well.  The tree of life had been available for Adam and Eve.  But then, after they ate from the wrong tree, angels brandishing fiery swords prevented them from eating and living forever in their sinfulness.  In eternity, that tree will be accessible, bearing a different fruit every month.  Even its leaves will provide healing.
  2. His plan that included patriarchs, tribes, and apostles was not random.  All of it led to the provision of Abraham’s offspring and his seed of Jesus.  All of it led to the spread of blessing to all nations.  That incredible plan, that may have seemed puzzling at times, fits together beautifully and is wondrously portrayed in the foundation and walls of the city.

Praise God for His incredible plan and our hope-filled future!

sbk

Posted in Mountaintops, Revelation

July 25: Mount Calvary

Read John 19:1-42

If you go in search of “Mount Calvary,” you may find it difficult!  To find it in the Bible is noCalvary simple task.  Actually, it only appears once in the Bible…and then only in the King James Version (Luke 23:33 KJV), where the original translators chose to use a transcription of the Latin word “Calvariae” rather than translate it.  In other translations, “Golgotha” or “place of the skull” is used.

Similarly, if you go in search of Calvary’s actual geographic location, you may be challenged.  There is a traditional site, where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built.  Meanwhile, recent arguments point to the possibility of another location.

Regardless of our present-day challenge of locating “Calvary,” let there neither be question of its existence nor of its significance.  Whether we refer to it as Calvary or as Golgotha, it is the location of the crucifixion.  Whether we believe it to have taken place at a traditional site or another location, the crucifixion really happened.

Mount Calvary was the place where Jesus was nailed to the cross.  It was the place where the cross was placed upright.  It was the location where Jesus bore our sins and nails bore His body.  It was the site where some spectators ridiculed while a handful of ladies and John mourned.  It was the spot where His clothes were divided.  It was there that He died and His side was pierced.

Arguably, no other location on the face of the earth has greater significance than this.  It was at Calvary, that the price of punishment for sins was once and for all paid through the sacrificial death of Jesus.  And because of that one act, forgiveness and hope are available to all!

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
At Calvary!

Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary.  (By William R. Newell)

sbk

Posted in John, Mountaintops

July 24: Mount of Olives Part 2

Read Matthew 24:1-25:46

Olives 2Along with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the Upper Room Discourse (John 14-16), the passage you read today is one of the longest “sermons” or “instructions” that Jesus gave.  Spoken to His disciples while on the Mount of Olives (24:3), these two chapters are often referred to as the Olivet Discourse.  Their subject matter?  Jesus responded to an often-asked question about the timing of His return and the end of the age (24:3).

As much as we could wish for a specific date on a calendar, Christ’s bottom line answer was that the exact timing is unknowable (24:42-25:13).  That is not to say that there will not be some clear warning signs along the way.

  • There will be wars and rumors of wars (24:6).  Let’s face it…that has been the case from the time of Christ until today.  Jesus clearly says, “that is not yet the end.”
  • There will be apostasy and false teaching (24:10, 11).  Again, although different in degree, there has been an unending series of people antagonistic to Christ and teaching contrary to His.
  • There will be the “abomination of desolation” (24:15; Dan. 9:27; 2 Thess. 2:3, 4).  Midway through the Tribulation, the antichrist will position himself in the restored temple to be worshiped.  Jesus says this act should capture the attention of those on the earth.
  • There will be a number of people claiming to be “Christ” or to have seen Him (24:23-28).  This is no reason to think that a person has missed out on the event of His return.

Although the actual date is unknowable, Christ’s coming will be glorious and obvious (24:29-31).  There will be no mistaking its happening.  There will be no question, “Was that it?”

Interestingly enough, the Mount of Olives not only provided the setting for Christ’s instruction about His return.  It was also the location from which He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9-12).  And it will also be the location to which Jesus will initially return at the end of the tribulation (Zech. 14:1-4).

But don’t ignore one of the major thrusts of Christ’s teaching that day on the Mount.  Are you ready?  Are you living life in strategic anticipation of that day?

sbk

Posted in Matthew, Mountaintops

July 23: Mount of Olives Part 1

Read Luke 19:28-44

Joyful praise and mournful weeping…What a contrast of emotions.  But both ends of the emotional spectrum were represented on the Mount of Olives on that day.

The joyful celebration was a fulfillment of prophecies made centuries before.  Zechariah Oliveshad described a day when the King of Israel would triumphantly enter Jerusalem (Zech. 9:9).  That day had arrived.  With Jesus on a young donkey being ridden for the first time, the crowd paved the road with their garments and palm branches.  Other branches they waved.  As they reflected on Christ’s many miracles, they lauded Him as the King who had come in the name of the Lord (cf. Ps. 118:26).

There is no question that Jesus is/was worth celebrating.  But did those gathered really understand what they were doing?  Where were these people a few days later as Christ was sentenced and executed?  Were they looking for one who would be the King of their hearts to save them from their sin and from themselves?  Or were they merely anticipating a king who would rescue them from the Roman government that tolerated them at best?  Yes, they voiced joyful praise to Christ, but did they really grasp Christ’s identity and purpose?

At least part of the answer is given a few moments later as Jesus rounded a curve in his descent from the mount.  With the city in full view before Him, Christ, the One who had just been lauded by many, began to weep.  The city had been visited.  The Jews as a whole had seen or heard about the very One the Old Testament prophets had promised, but they failed to recognize Him as such.  Jesus was emotionally broken as He thought not only about His rejection but also about the judgment that would come upon the beloved city of Jerusalem.  From His vantage point there on the mount, He clearly prophesied of a day less than four decades into the future when much of Jerusalem would be destroyed.

If only.  If only the people had recognized Christ for who He truly is.  But, you know, that “if only” is not only true of people then.  I hope you recognize the “if only” people in and around your life.  It is not too late for them.  You can pray and share so that they can experience salvation.

sbk

Posted in Luke, Mountaintops

July 22: Mount of Transfiguration

Read Matthew 17:1-9

Peter, James and John witnessed their Master transformed before their eyes. Jesus was standing radiantly with two Old Testament heroes, Abraham and Elijah. Peter, feeling the need to say something as usual, offers some classic Jewish hospitality to the glorious guests. It’s cMount Hermonlear that Peter and the rest had no idea what was really happening here. I find it somewhat humorous that Peter’s talking is interrupted by the thundering voice of God which seemingly ignores Peter’s offer of hospitality.

After being calmed down from being scared out of their minds, the disciples headed back down the mountain with Jesus. No doubt Peter was thinking, “Andrew is gonna flip when I tell Him what happened!” But Jesus told His disciples not to tell anyone what they saw. Why?

The key is that Jesus said not to tell until He is resurrected.[1] In Mark’s description, the disciples were confused at this and discussed with each other what Jesus rising from the dead might mean. They did not get it. A lot of what the disciples witnessed in Jesus’ ministry went right over their heads at the time. John mentions in his Gospel that they did not understand things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, they remembered everything that was said and comprehended with new eyes.

Jesus appearing with Abraham and Elijah was reassurance that the Old Testament promises of a saving Messiah were coming true. Most believed that the Messiah would be a fierce warrior, though, who would come to conquer Rome and set up a kingdom for Israel. If the disciples told people of the experience they had, this would have just heightened the madness and misunderstanding of what Jesus came to do. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He was not a political activist; His kingdom is not of this world. He came to die for the world and in so doing conquered death itself.

What misconceptions of Jesus do we entertain in our minds? We may not say it, but we may feel like Jesus is obligated to bless us. We may not say it, but we may act like Jesus needs us to contribute to our salvation. We may not say it, but we may believe that Jesus is uninvolved or ineffective in our lives.

Stamp out the lies Satan tells you with truth from God’s Word!

Nathan Harley

 

[1] Robert L. Thomas and Stanley N. Gundry, A Harmony of the Gospels

 

Posted in Matthew, Mountaintops