Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Music has been part of God's plan for worship even before mankind was created. When God asked Job where he had been when the world was created, one of the things He highlighted was the role music played in the celebration of that great work. “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:7). God's people did not just bring solemn and silent sacrifices into His presence. Though there is a place for mourning and repentance, there is also a place for joy and song. “Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing” (Psalm 100:2). A heart filled with the Holy Spirit will find it easy to express a love for God in song.
Martin Luther wrote, “Music is the only art, next to theology, that can calm the agitations of the soul, which plainly shows that the devil, the source of anxiety and sadness, flees from the sound of music as he does from religious worship. That is why the Scriptures are full of psalms and hymns, in which praise is given to God. That is why, when we gather round God’s throne in heaven, we shall sing His glory. Music is the perfect way to express our love and devotion to God. It is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” Our responsibility is to make sure the music that we sing, hear and enjoy, whether by ourselves or in a church setting, is honoring to God and based on His Word.
Like every part of our lives, our music must honor and glorify and worship God.
And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
1 John 3:19
In his classic children's story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, author L. Frank Baum introduced the world to a character named Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs. Though he was actually a small and mild-mannered person, he presented a very different face to the world. As the ruler of the Emerald City, the “Great and Terrible Oz” uses technology to impress his visitors appearing as a huge beast with a deep voice. When Dorothy and her friends enter his presence, they are terrified by what they see and hear, so much so that they can barely speak. When Dorothy's dog Toto knocks over the screen that conceals him, they are shocked to see that he is not at all what they expected.
God is not a pretend character puffing Himself up to look more impressive than He actually is. He actually is mighty and powerful, the Creator of the universe and the ultimate Judge of all mankind. He is high and lifted up and perfectly holy. His glory is beyond human comprehension. Yet because we have been adopted into His family, we do not have to come before Him with fear and trembling. In fact, He invites and instructs us to come into His presence with joy and confidence, not because we are great, but because He is both great and good. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). There is great power in having confidence and assurance in our relationship with God. We do not have to be bound by fear and dread over whether we have done enough to merit His approval. We haven't. We can't. We don't have to. We stand before God in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and that is the source of our courage. We have assurance not because of anything we do or avoid, but because His grace placed us in His family.
The highly exalted God of the universe invites us to call Him Father and come boldly into His presence.
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
Being saved gives us the ability to resist sin that we did not have before, but it does not guarantee that we will make the right choice. All of us continue to sin even after we are saved. When we do sin, we cannot blame anyone else or say, “The devil made me do it.” While the devil is happy to use external temptations to lure us away from God, we only yield to those temptations because of what is already inside of us. The root of the problem is what we see when we look in the mirror, not in the outward temptations we face. James wrote, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15).
The choice that we make is guided by what we value most. The riches of Egypt don't compare to the treasure of God in the long term, but in the short term they offer more. Robert Murray McCheyne wrote, “Christ has a body such as I have, yet He never tasted one of the pleasures of sin. The redeemed, through all eternity, will never taste one of the pleasures of sin; yet their happiness is complete. Every sin is something away from my greatest enjoyment. The devil strives night and day to make me forget this or disbelieve it. He says, 'Why should you not enjoy this pleasure? You may go to Heaven also.' I am persuaded this is a lie—that my true happiness is to go and sin no more.”
Our response to temptation rests on what we decide is most important and what we value most.
Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
Almost all of us have had the experience of having a tire go flat while we are driving and having to pull over to the side of the road to change it. We have to go through the hassle of getting the spare out of the trunk, getting the jack in place, getting the lug nuts loose, and finally putting the new tire on so that we can continue on our way. Invariably this is a dirty job with grease and grime that gets all over your hands even if you try to avoid it. And it seems like no matter how carefully or thoroughly you try to wash afterward, there will always be a spot you missed that will transfer to something light colored, like a white shirt, that shows the stain for all to see. Dirt spreads rather than being contained and confined.
Sin has the same impact. No matter how hard a lost person tries, they cannot cleanse their lives of the stain of sin. Even things that should be innocent and pure are defiled when they come into contact with sin. No amount of good works or turning over a new leaf or trying to make things right with those we have harmed or offended removes the underlying problem. We are sinners both by choice and by nature, and we cannot change that. Our only hope is found in Jesus Christ Who took on our sins and made the payment God required for them on our behalf. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He alone is able to forgive and cleanse us of our sins, and remove the stains from our lives.
Only the blood of Jesus can take away the stain and defilement of our sin.
For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
1 John 3:20
All of us sin, even after we have been saved. The proper thing to do in such cases is not to claim innocence, blame others, or try to cover it up. Instead, we are instructed to quickly confess and forsake that sin. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). It is vital that we not only seek that forgiveness, but that we also accept it and believe it and live in it. Though there may be lasting consequences we will always regret, we need never live under a cloud of guilt for a sin from the past that we have dealt with.
Yet, even though we know this to be true, Satan still tries to remind us of past sins. Even our own heart condemns us at times. It is at these times that we can hold to God's promise of 1 John 3:20 and remember that God is greater than our heart. Our hearts may mislead us into feeling guilt, but God's forgiveness is greater than our own sense of condemnation. God gives us promises such as this because He desires for us to live in a sense of victory. If we continue to nurture a sense of guilt in our hearts for sin which we have already confessed, we are lingering in unbelief. And, we undermine our ability to resist sin in the future. The eighteenth-century English pastor William Romaine wrote, “No sin can be crucified either in heart or life, unless it be first pardoned in conscience, because there will be want of faith to receive the strength of Jesus, by whom alone it can be crucified. If it be not mortified in its guilt, it cannot be subdued in its power.”
If we go back to God in guilt for a past sin we have confessed, we are bringing up something that He has chosen to never bring up again. God graciously puts our sins under the blood of Jesus and views them as gone forever. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12). What God has forgiven and forgotten should never bring us into bondage to guilt.
If we do not fully accept God's forgiveness and continue to live in guilt, our spiritual growth will be stunted.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
The death of billionaire Howard Hughes in 1976 sparked a furious legal battle over the disposition of his estate. Since Hughes had not written a will, many people tried to take advantage of his great wealth. Several spurious “wills” were submitted but proven to be false. One woman came forward claiming to have been married to Hughes, but she had no evidence to support her claim. Eventually eleven of Hughes' cousins were identified and, based on the law. determined to be the rightful inheritors, but by the time all the legal battles had drug on for years, much of the estate was gone. The final disposition of the case did not take place until 2010—thirty-four years after Hughes died.
There is no question about the inheritance we will receive as children of God. Through His grace and our acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have been placed in His family. This is not a hope or a wish or an aspiration. This is a settled fact. It cannot be changed by any power in Heaven, Earth, or Hell. Once we are in God's family, He keeps us safe and secure. Jesus said, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand” (John 10:28-29). The fact that we have not yet received the promised inheritance as children of God in no way calls the certainty that we will into question.
God's gracious adoption of us into His family is certain and eternal.
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
One of the parables Jesus used to highlight the value of God's forgiveness and the importance of us extending it to others was a story of a man who owed a staggering debt. There was no hope he would ever be able to pay it off, yet he received mercy and his debt was wiped clean. This same man was owed a trivial amount of money, yet, sadly, he refused to let it go. He was not willing to do for others even a fraction what had been done for him.
None of us deserve to receive the mercy and forgiveness of God. We owe Him a debt that cannot ever be repaid. Yet He wiped the slate clean and marked out our debt as "paid in full" because of the sacrifice of Jesus. Paul wrote, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Salvation is the completely free gift of God's extravagant grace.
Yet, why is it that we who have experienced so great a measure of forgiveness struggle to forgive others? How is it that we do not readily show to others the mercy we ourselves have received? A. T. Pierson wrote, “[Mercy] is the forgiving spirit; it is the non-retaliating spirit; it is the spirit that gives up all attempt at self-vindication and would not return an injury for an injury, but rather good in the place of evil and love in the place of hatred. That is mercifulness. Mercy being received by the forgiven soul, that soul comes to appreciate the beauty of mercy, and yearns to exercise toward other offenders similar grace to that which is exercised towards one’s self.”
It is an insult to God's forgiveness toward us if we refuse to extend mercy to those who do us wrong.
Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
1 John 3:21
Our effectiveness in living and serving God is greatly improved by our level of confidence in our relationship with Him. When we are filled with doubts and uncertainty, it is hard for us to demonstrate His power in action to those around us. We did not join His family through anything that we did, but through His grace. We do not stay in His family by anything that we do or avoid doing. Everything relies on Him, not on us. Peter wrote, “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).
Because he knows how important our confidence is, the devil constantly works to undermine and question it. He tries to make us doubt what God has said and tries to steal the joy and confidence our relationship with God is meant to bring. Charles Spurgeon said, “It is a sweet compound of faith that knows God to be my Father, love that loves Him as my Father, joy that rejoices in Him as my Father, fear that trembles to disobey Him because He is my Father and a confident affection and trustfulness that relies upon Him, and casts itself wholly upon Him, because it knows by the infallible witness of the Holy Spirit, that Jehovah, the God of earth and heaven, is the Father of my heart.”
While we must not presume upon our relationship with our Father, we must also not allow the fact that we sometimes fail and fall short of what we should do to make us doubt that relationship. He is the one who invites us to come into His presence not in trembling, but as part of the family. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Our confidence toward God must be about Him and based on Him, not about us.
The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him. The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.
The world has a distorted view of God, and we must be careful not to allow our view of Him to be shaped by those around us rather than by His Word. God is not an absent-minded old man looking down from the sky. God is not an endless fountain of acceptance of anything and everything that we may wish to do. God is not blind to sin, nor has He changed in His hatred of it. God is holy and mighty. He does not always deal immediately with injustice and sin, but He does deal with it.
This truth is comforting for believers in two ways: First, we can be assured that God will right every wrong. Romans 12:19 admonishes and assures, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” In Genesis 18:25 Abraham asked the rhetorical question, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” He will.
Second, it’s comforting because we know that on that day when Christ judges all the sin of the world and those who don’t know Him flee before His anger, we are assured that we have found refuge in Christ. “He knoweth them that trust in Him.”
Meanwhile, we can rest confidently in God's goodness, even when it seems like the world is being turned upside down. He is our stability when everything around us is shaken. David declared, “He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved” (Psalm 62:6).
God is good and our sure place of refuge in whatever trouble we may be facing today.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.
There are some people who became famous in large measure because of their capacity to deceive others into thinking they were something they were not. We see this in the Bible where Judas was selected by the other disciples to handle their money. None of them realized he was a thief, or they certainly would never have trusted him with that responsibility. The name Benedict Arnold remains synonymous with treason nearly 250 years after his betrayal, but when he was entrusted with command of the fort at West Point, New York, that guarded the vital Hudson River access to the city, his colleagues and superiors thought he was loyal to the cause of American independence.
But the deceit of others pales in comparison to the deceit we are able to practice on ourselves. It is easy for us to convince ourselves that we are doing much better than we are—that we are strong spiritually and that we are worthy of the praise of others. We find the lies we tell ourselves easy to believe because we want them to be true. James wrote, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22). We must constantly be on guard, because Satan uses our deceptive hearts against us. This is not just a problem other people have—it is our problem. The English Puritan Richard Baxter wrote, “Self is the most treacherous enemy, and the most insinuating deceiver in the world. Of all other vices, it is both the hardest to find out, and the hardest to cure.”
The best way to guard against being led astray by our hearts is to rely on the truth of God's Word and respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
1 John 3:22
God has given us the great privilege of coming to Him in prayer regarding every part of our lives. The Bible is filled with promises regarding God's willingness to hear and answer our prayers. Again and again we are told that He will respond when we pray. Yet all of us have also had the experience of praying and not seeing an answer. While there are cases where this is simply a matter of timing and God knowing when the answer would be best, there are also times when the lack of a response is the direct result of sin in our lives. “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
We don't earn God's favor by doing good things or avoiding bad things. He places us in His family because of His grace alone. Yet just as a disobedient child does not stop being a child because of that disobedience, the relationship and fellowship with the parents is definitely impacted by behavior. John R. Rice wrote, “Every Christian certainly has a right to pray [about] matters about which God has declared in His Word that He is concerned, and which He is anxious to give us; and yet Christians often do not get the answer to their prayers. Why? The answer is that many a good prayers cannot be answered by a holy God because of sins in the life and heart of the one who prays.”
As we seek God's face and His help in prayer, we should consider the health of our relationship with Him. If we're living in disobedience to Him, we should repent and surrender. David, aware of God's knowledge of and care for him, prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). This is a good prayer for us as well.
When we live in obedience to God, it brings a confidence in our relationship with Him and thus a confidence in our prayers.
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
One of the challenges Californians have faced in recent years is summer power shortages. On hot days we may be asked not to use appliances during peak demand times or to set the thermostat higher so the air conditioners don't have to draw as much power. If voluntary cutbacks don't do enough to lighten the load, cities sometimes experience “brownouts” where the electricity is still on, but the voltage is reduced. The lights aren't as bright because they are not receiving full power. Other times there are “blackouts” where the power goes out completely. For as long as that lasts, users aren't able to do anything that requires electricity. During power shortages, people are reminded of just how valuable electricity is.
The Christian life cannot be lived without God's power. No matter how hard we try, our own strength, knowledge, wisdom, and effort are doomed to failure. Thankfully we do not have to rely on an old or out of date source of power. We have the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus promised. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Our problem is not a lack of supply of power, but our failure to surrender to the Holy Spirit and seek to serve in His power rather than our own.
God's power is essential to doing God's work.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus shared the Passover meal with His disciples. Despite all He had told them, they still did not really grasp that He was about to die. But the Lord knew what was coming, and He was preparing them for what would come next. Among the instructions He gave them, and which we are to follow as well, was the command to love each other the way that He loves us. Human love may be conditional, fickle or fleeting, but God's love is not like that. It is abiding, eternal, and unchanging. “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1)
God's love is also selfless and giving. God does not wait for us to prove we are worthy of His love. If He did, no one would ever be saved. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). When we love others the way God loves us, we take the first step to make things right. We take the initiative to meet their needs, even if it requires sacrifice on our part. We take responsibility for reaching out to help them in any way we can. This is the kind of love that builds a marriage, a family, and a church. This is the kind of love that reflects God to those around us.
Christ does not merely call us to love others, but to love others as He has loved us—with an abiding, sacrificial love.
And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
1 John 3:23
William Clark Martin was born in New Jersey just before the end of the Civil War. He was saved at an early age and answered the call to preach. After pastoring several Baptist churches in New England, he accepted the call from First Baptist Church of Fort Myers, Florida. During his ministry, he also wrote a number of hymns. He died suddenly at just forty-nine years of age, but left behind a body of work that reflected his love and devotion to God. The best known of his hymns is probably “The Name of Jesus.”
The name of Jesus is so sweet,
I love its music to repeat;
It makes my joys full and complete,
The precious name of Jesus.
“Jesus,” oh, how sweet the name!
“Jesus,” ev’ry day the same;
“Jesus,” let all saints proclaim
Its worthy praise forever.
No word of man can ever tell
How sweet the name I love so well;
Oh, let its praises ever swell,
Oh, praise the name of Jesus.
The name of Jesus is not just a word. It is a description of His character and purpose in coming to earth. The angel told Joseph before He was born, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus is the Savior of all those who believe in Him. His sacrificial death on the cross paid the price for our sins.
Jesus was not just a wonderful teacher. He was far more than just a good example. He was not a radical seeking to overthrow existing religious or political authorities. Jesus was the Lamb of God whose purpose in coming, established and planned even before the world was created, was to provide a way for us to come to God. His precious name is our hope for eternity.
The precious name of Jesus reveals His divine nature and His offer of salvation to all who believe.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
The Bible makes it clear that the Christian life is a battle. We are exhorted to be on guard, attentive, and prepared for the attacks of the enemy. We are warned of the dangers of overconfidence and thinking we are above being defeated. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). It is important to remember that our struggle is not merely defensive. In addition to putting on armor to protect us from spiritual attacks, we are called to take up a weapon to take the fight to the enemy, and that weapon is the Bible.
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “This weapon is good at all points, good for defense and for attack, to guard our whole person or to strike through the joints and marrow of the foe. Like the seraph’s sword at Eden’s gate, it turns every way. You cannot be in a condition that the Word of God has not provided. The Word has as many faces and eyes as providence itself. You will find it unfailing in all periods of your life, in all circumstances, in all companies, in all trials, and under all difficulties. Were it fallible, it would be useless in emergencies, but its unerring truth renders it precious beyond all price to the soldiers of the cross.”
Just as a soldier is put through training to become familiar with his weapon before being sent into battle, we need to be filling our hearts and minds with the Word of God. We need to know what it says, and know how it applies to the situations in which we find ourselves.
Knowing and using God's Word is the way to living in victory throughout the Christian life.
And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD.
1 Samuel 1:12-15
People often say, “Prayer changes things.” That is a true statement, but not everything that people call prayer changes things. The kind of prayer that changes things is intense, fervent, focused, and passionate. James wrote, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). Casual prayers from cold hearts don't have much impact. Routine, ritualistic prayers don't change us or our circumstances. The kind of praying God answers requires effort and commitment on our part.
One of the clearest examples of this in the Old Testament is Hannah. Because she had no children, Hannah knew great sorrow. She was mocked and humiliated for her barrenness, and nothing could take away that pain. Hannah's heartfelt desire for a son was so great that her prayers to God consumed and controlled her mind. She wasn't aware of the way she looked as she prayed, and afterward had to defend herself from the accusation of Eli that she was drunk. She cared about getting her prayer answered so much that everything else faded in comparison. She was even willing to give up the very thing for which she was praying because she wanted to see God work.
The best that we can produce in our own efforts will never be enough for what God has called us to do. We must have His help and His power and His guidance and His direction. The way that God has ordained for us to receive what we need is prayer, and we must pray with intensity and focus.
Effective prayer is not a ritual exercise but a passionate pouring out of our heart to God.
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
1 John 3:24
God has not left us to live in doubt, fear, and confusion as to whether we are part of His family or not. He intends for us to be certain and confident, not in ourselves, but in Him. As we walk in obedience to the guidance and control of His Holy Spirit, we will see evidences that we not only belong to God, but that we are in a close relationship with Him. The more that we see Him working in our lives, the stronger our faith grows. The more that we see His power displayed in answer to our prayers, the more our confidence and assurance increases.
John Newton said, “Assurance grows by repeated conflict, by our repeated experimental proof of the Lord’s power and goodness to save; when we have been brought very low and helped, sorely wounded and healed, cast down and raised again, have given up all hope, and been suddenly snatched from danger, and placed in safety; and when these things have been repeated to us and in us a thousand times over, we begin to learn to trust simply to the Word and power of God, beyond and against appearances: and this trust, when habitual and strong, bears the name of assurance; for even assurance has degrees.”
The Bible uses the metaphor of physical growth to illustrate what is supposed to happen in our spiritual life. Peter wrote, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). The more we take in God's Word and live as it says, the more mature we will become in our faith. We will never reach perfection in this life, but we should constantly be growing more and more like Jesus. As we do, we will walk in confidence and faith in our relationship with Him.
Doubt-filled living robs Christians of joy and effectiveness in service to God.
And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,
Paul's preaching often stirred up opposition in the cities where he preached. When he first arrived in Lystra, Paul healed a crippled man who had never been able to walk. The astonished people thought that their gods had come to earth, and wanted to make sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas. They restrained the people from doing that and instead preached the gospel to them, and many people were saved. This time the opposition came not from within the city of Lystra, but from those who followed Paul there to oppose his preaching. They stirred things up so much that Paul was stoned and left for dead. Yet after going on to minister in the nearby town of Derbe, Paul then immediately returned to Lystra and preached again.
God did not promise us that serving Him would be easy. When we face obstacles, difficulty, persecution and suffering, we can give up, using that as an excuse to stop working for God. Or we can recognize that the enemy will always do what he can to stop us from moving ahead and just keep on doing what is right. Bob Jones, Sr. said, “The door to the room of success always swings on the hinges of opposition.” If we are not facing some kind of opposition, it is probably an indicator that we are not doing much for God. Why would Satan need to try to stop someone who is not going forward? No matter what comes, we must continue to be faithful in our work for the Lord.
We must not let difficulties or opposition deter us from faithfully serving God.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
2 Peter 2:1-2
The legend behind the fairy tale der Rattenfänger von Hameln, or The Pied Piper of Hamelin, many of us heard when we were young dates back to the late 1200s. Like many of these early stories it has a dark lesson to teach. It tells of a village overrun by rats who hired a man to remove them. The piper walked through the streets playing his flute and the rats all came out to follow him. He led them down the nearby river where the rats all drowned. Despite his success, the townspeople refused to pay him the agreed upon price. In return the piper walked through town again playing his flute. This time he was followed by the town's children who he led away never to be seen again.
There are pipers roaming the earth today, seeking to get people to follow them. While there are some people who teach error because they are genuinely mistaken, Peter warns that there will be others who are teaching heresy on purpose. They are not leading people to truth and righteousness, but instead intentionally leading them toward destruction. The “music” they are playing may sound good, but that does not mean it is safe or right to follow them. We need to be alert to the attempts of the devil to lead us astray. He and his demonic minions do not appear in red suits holding pitchforks. Instead, they come as counterfeits of God's angelic messengers, appearing as good rather than evil. Paul wrote, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14).
Knowing that Satan uses false teachers to deceive us, we must be on guard to make sure what we are hearing is the truth.
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
1 John 4:1
In 1936 a startling historical find surfaced in California. It was a brass plaque with an English sixpence coin bearing the likeness of Queen Elizabeth I that claimed the land of “Nova Albion” for the English crown. It was thought to have been left there by Sir Francis Drake when he sailed the Golden Hind along the California coast in 1579 on his trip around the world. The plaque was taken to the University of California at Berkeley where Herbert Bolton, chair of the history department authenticated it. He called it “one of the world's long-lost historical treasures.” Photos of the plaque were featured in history textbooks as evidence of early English involvement on the west coast of the United States. However in 1977 the plaque was subjected to advanced chemical and metallurgical testing—and conclusively found to be a fake. After investigation it was learned that the brass plaque had in fact been made in 1917 by associates of Herbert Bolton.
Though sometimes the devil comes to attack us with outrageous lies, more often he uses deception and presents something that looks and sounds good and genuine on the surface. If we do not exercise discernment and good judgment, testing what seems to be legitimate against the unfailing standard of the Word of God, we are very susceptible to being led astray. Not every preacher on television is speaking the truth. Not every large church is truly pointing the way to Heaven. Just because something is popular does not make it right, and just because something seems to make senses when we first hear it does not mean it is true. Because we live in a fallen world, we must remain alert and vigilant. Jesus warned, “And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them” (Luke 21:8).
The more we fill our minds with God's truth, the easier it will be for us to spot Satan's attempts to lead us astray.
And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
It is a wonderful thing to experience God's blessing, but it comes with a risk. When we have received His favor, it is easy for us to begin to believe that we brought the good things in our lives to pass by our own power and knowledge. It is only a short step from there to the place where our ingratitude takes our hearts away from God. God blesses us because He is good, not because we are good. Apart from Him there is nothing good about us. Apart from Him, we would still be lost and headed for eternity in Hell. He deserves our praise and thanks, and those help us maintain our devotion to Him alone.
Ahaz grew up in Jerusalem surrounded by the worship of Jehovah. He had access to the law of Moses, and there were priests and scribes to help him understand anything about which he had questions. He could have been devoted to God, but instead he kept looking at the gods of other nations and wanting to copy their worship. “And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof” (2 Kings 16:10).
Remembering all that God has done for us helps protect our hearts from being drawn away from Him.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
The Holy Spirit who comes to live inside every believer at the moment of conversion plays many roles in our lives. He is a source of comfort and conviction and guidance and discernment. But the primary focus of His ministry to us is not about us at all, but about Jesus. The Holy Spirit always lifts up and exalts the Lord, and points our attention to Him. When Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the Mount of Transfiguration, they were impressed to see Moses and Elijah with Him. But the Father's focus was not on the great Old Testament heroes, but on His Son, and His voice from Heaven instructed the disciples to listen to Jesus alone: "And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him" (Mark 9:7).
The center of an effective ministry for God is not talents and programs. It is not our innate ability or our effort. Effective ministry flows from making Jesus the center of everything we do. When Paul summed up his ministry in the city of Corinth he said, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). We will always be tempted to shift the focus away from Jesus to ourselves. But apart from Him we have nothing to offer the world. Jesus is the beginning and end of everything. He must always be the center of our focus and praise. The more that we are yielded to the control of the Holy Spirit, the more we will talk about and live for Jesus.
If anything other than Jesus is the focus of our life and ministry, our priorities are out of place.
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
1 John 4:2
Pastor and noted hymn writer A. B. Simpson was greatly moved as he read the story of Christ's crucifixion one day. He was struck by the contrast between the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth, standing before a human ruler, being falsely accused and threatened with death. Pilate recognized that He was innocent, yet he was unwilling to stand up to the people and reject their cries to crucify Jesus. Simpson wrote:
Jesus is standing in Pilate’s hall,
Friendless, forsaken, betrayed by all;
Hearken! what meaneth the sudden call?
What will you do with Jesus?
What will you do with Jesus?
Neutral you cannot be;
Some day your heart will be asking,
“What will He do with me?”
The most important thing in all of life is our relationship with Jesus Christ. Those who acknowledge and accept Him as the Son of God and Savior who paid the price for sin are part of His family. Anyone who claims something else about Jesus is not truly a believer. Every one of us must answer the question that Jesus asked the Pharisees: “Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David” (Matthew 22:42). And the only right answer to that question is the one Peter gave. “And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ” (Mark 8:29).
This is not a decision anyone else can make for us. Each of us must answer the question. There is no way to escape our personal responsibility. Either Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be, the Son of God come into the world by becoming completely human while still being God, or He is a liar. He is not a liar. That means we must accept Him on His terms, or we cannot accept Him at all.
Our only hope for eternity is to recognize and fully trust Jesus as the Son of God and our Savior.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
In our day we have seen a number of things that were once correctly considered to be evil not just tolerated but actively promoted as being good. They aren't. No amount of social acceptance or popular support can change something God condemns into something He condones. The temptation presented to those who know the truth is to downplay the absolutes of God's Word and try to find a way to accommodate what is widely accepted. This approach is doomed to failure. We can never water down our standards enough to gain the approval of those who desire to escape God's control. They are not willing to live as God directs. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (Psalm 2:2-3).
This approach also fails because it brings the judgment of God on those who look for ways to approve what He abhors. God wants His people to stand out from the world. He wants us to be beacons of truth, shining in the darkness. Paul wrote, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;” (Philippians 2:15). While we should not be harsh or condescending to others, we should also not try to change the truth so that we will be more accepted by the world. God's truth never changes.
A compassionate but uncompromising stand for what is right is vital to our being lights in the darkness of the world around us.
And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart; And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.
1 Samuel 12:20-22
God's plan was not for the Israelites to have a king like the nations around them, but be under His direct rule. However, they insisted, even in the face of Samuel's warning of what things would be like when they had a king who would tax their lands and compel their children into his service. Then God instructed Samuel to anoint Saul from the tribe of Benjamin, which he did. But Samuel made it clear to the people that they had gone outside of God's plan, calling down a storm in the middle of the wheat harvest.
When they confessed their sin in terror at God's judgment, Samuel gave them encouragement as well as correction. He did not downplay or diminish what they had done. He did not try to make them feel better about themselves. Instead, he called it “wickedness.” However he did not stop there. He told the people that their failure in the past should not keep them from obeying God in the present. The devil delights in using guilt over past offenses to tell us that we might as well give up—that having sinned once there is no point in obedience going forward.
Sin in the past has nothing to do with obedience today. There may be consequences that do not go away even after we have repented and made things right to the best of our ability. But there is no excuse for allowing one failure to lead to another. Each new day brings a new opportunity to honor and serve the Lord, and we should not let anything deter or derail today's obedience.
Sin in the past does not mean that we cannot be obedient to God in the present.
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
1 John 4:3
In the final book of the Bible, John laid out the vision he had been given of a future in which a world leader would rise in opposition to God and be worshiped all around the world. Because he is directly opposed to everything of God, he is called the Antichrist. “And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?” (Revelation 13:3-4).
While there will be one person who fulfills that role during the Tribulation, John also points out that the spirit of opposition to God is already present in the world. It was true in the first century, and it is still true today. It should not take us by surprise when we see a growing rejection of the truth. Paul warned Timothy, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). We do not need to be discouraged or defeated because the world turns further away from God. It is expected, and it is part of His plan.
The final outcome of the battle has already been determined. We do not need to fear the power of the enemy. As long as we are living and walking in God's power, victory is certain. The groundwork that is being laid for opposition against God both now and in the future is simply the final thrashing of an already-defeated foe. The Antichrist is coming and the spirit of antichrist is here, but God was, and is and will be victorious.
We must be on guard against attacks from the enemy, but we should never fear the ultimate outcome of the battle.
Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Our attitude toward temptation is directly related to the way in which we view our relationship with God. If we view Him as the absolute owner of our lives, our bodies and everything we have, then our desires must be subject to His commands. If we recognize that the Holy Spirit is constantly with us, then we must behave in ways that will honor and please Him rather than bringing shame and sorrow. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). The price that Jesus paid to pay for our sins was high, and we must not live in a way that disrespects His sacrifice.
Scottish pastor Thomas Boston wrote, “In vain will ye fast, and pretend to be humbled for our sins, and make confession of them if our love of sin be not turned into hatred; our liking of it into loathing; and our cleaving to it, into a longing to be rid of it; with full purpose to resist the motions of it in our heart, and the outbreakings thereof in our life; and if we turn not unto God as our rightful Lord and Master, and return to our duty again.” The devil knows how to make sin look attractive to us, so we must keep our eyes fixed on God and our relationship with Him close and personal. The more we are like Him, the more we will hate sin, just as He does. The more we hate sin, the easier it will be for us to resist temptation.
A Christian who grasps God's ownership of every part of his life is a Christian prepared to defeat temptation.
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
During the Peninsular Campaign, the Duke of Wellington was leading the combined British and Spanish armies fighting against Napoleon. The French emperor had conquered much of Europe, and Wellington was struggling to push him out of Spain. After finding himself repeatedly hounded for a detailed and in-depth accounting of how the army was spending funds, Wellington dashed off a letter laying out and apologizing for a shortage of one shilling and nine pence in a petty cash fund. Then he wrote: “This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty's Government, so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability but I cannot do both: 1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountant and copy boys in London or, perchance, 2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.”
While we should always be diligent in all we do, it is easy for us to get so caught up in details that we lose sight of what is most important. Jesus said, “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Luke 11:42).
We must always maintain our focus on what is most important, and what is most important is our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
1 John 4:4
Probably the most famous individual battle in history is the one between David and Goliath. It has entered the culture to such an extent that even people who are not believers and know little if anything about the Bible immediately understand the reference. Looking at the combatants, it did not appear as if David had any chance. He was going to battle against a giant with years of military training. No one in either army expected David to win the fight. What they failed to take into account was that David was not going into battle alone. “David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee” (1 Samuel 17:37).
Having God on your side makes all the difference. There is no such thing as being outnumbered if God is with you. David's friend Jonathan knew this truth as well and was willing to go up against an entire Philistine outpost with just one other man. “And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6). We face real opposition in this world. The power of the world, the flesh and the devil is not an imaginary force. Yet the power of every enemy is insignificant next to the power of God which is available to us. God is not somewhere far away needing us to reach out and get His attention. The Holy Spirit lives within every child of God, always present and ready to help.
God has given us everything we need to live victoriously in this present world.
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4
For most of history, Christians have had to deal with governments that were at best indifferent and at worst hostile to their faith. Certainly in Paul's day with Nero in charge of the Roman Empire, being a Christian did not receive any support from the government. Instead Christians were persecuted and often killed for their faith. Yet despite that evil, Paul instructed believers to pray for their leaders. While we certainly prefer to live in a society that safeguards religious freedom, that is not guaranteed. And the respect and prayer we owe to our leaders is not dependent on their godliness, but on their position.
J. C. Ryle wrote, “It is easy to criticize and find fault with the conduct of kings, and write furious articles against them in newspapers, or make violent speeches about them on platforms. Any fool can rip and rend a costly garment, but not every man can cut out and make one. To expect perfection in kings, prime ministers, or rulers of any king, is senseless and unreasonable. We would exhibit more wisdom if we prayed for them more, and criticized less.”
Our second president, John Adams wrote to his wife: “ I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.” That quote is engraved above a fireplace in the White House. While that is a good prayer it is not guaranteed that we will have that kind of leadership. What is certain is that we should be praying for God to guide those who hold office.
Praying for our leaders, whether good or bad, is vital to living peaceful lives for God.
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
Though they had once been friends, by 1849 American actor Edwin Forrest and British actor William Macready were bitter enemies. Each had been proclaimed the greatest actor of his nation, famous for his performances in Shakespeare's plays. Each repeatedly toured the other's country, trying to upstage the other. Things came to a head on Macready's third trip to America. Political tension between England and America was higher at the time than they had been since the end of the War of 1812. Having the noted English actor perform in New York City was framed as a deliberate insult, and an unruly mob bought tickets to Macready's performance of Macbeth and brought the play to a halt by pelting the performers with eggs and shouting over them. When the mob rushed into the street, widespread violence broke out. By the time what came to be known as the Astor Place Riot was over, more than twenty people were dead and more than one hundred others injured.
The reasons people have conflict are varied, but the results of an unresolved issue spread beyond the original participants and affect the lives of others as well. Constantly criticizing and running down others tears apart any human group—whether a family or a church—and leaves behind wreckage and ruin. Our words have great power, It is crucial that we use them to build up and strengthen rather than tearing down others. Paul wrote, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). Every day we have the choice of being harsh and critical or being kind and loving, and we must make the right choice.
Knowing we will give account for our words and their impact should lead us to be kind and encouraging to others.
They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
1 John 4:5
If you went to a convention of soccer fans, you wouldn't expect the keynote speech to be on the latest developments in the field of macroeconomic theory. If you were surrounded by painters, you wouldn't expect them to be discussing the space program. If you attended a math symposium, it would be odd to hear a lecture on musical composition. People tend to talk about the things they are most interested in, and to enjoy listening to people who are talking about those things as well. There are few things that bring people together more quickly than a shared interest they can discuss. And there are few things that more quickly reveal what people care about most than what they talk about most.
It is not just the things we speak about but also the way we speak that tends to identify us. Peter discovered this after Jesus was arrested. He claimed not to be a disciple, but it was his speech that marked him in the minds of those who were questioning him. “And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto” (Mark 14:70). In Peter's case, this probably referred to a Galilean accent or vocabulary. But there is an application here in that we should expect for people to be able to tell that we are followers of Jesus Christ by the way we talk. Some churches have tried to sound and act more and more like the world in order to be accepted by the world, but that is a poor fit. The words of the world are not fitting for a believer, and our purpose is not to gain the world's approval. Jesus said, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19).
Our primary concern with our speech should be that it is pleasing to God, not that it is accepted by the world.
Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:1-5
Anyone who has ever been around a little baby knows that they are insistent when they think it is time to be fed. They don't care if it is the middle of the night, the middle of a meal, the middle of a conversation, or the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. They want food with an intense longing, and they want it right now. Everything else pales into insignificance until they get fed. That is how much we are to desire the Word of God. We should long to read it, to hear it preached and taught, and to hide it in our hearts. Whether we have been saved for weeks or years or decades, we should still be hungry.
One of the things that can easily derail a Christian, especially one who has been saved for a longer period of time, is the fallacy that we have reached the point where we no longer need to feed our hearts and minds with the Bible. Jesus warned about the danger of losing our appetite for the things of God and the Word of God. “Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25). We need to maintain the intensity of our appetite for the Bible. There are always new things to learn if we approach the Word of God seeking His direction and purpose for our lives.
A Christian who has lost desire for the Word of God is headed for spiritual disaster.
As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
1 Thessalonians 2:11-13
The Bible is God's Word. It is not a collection of histories and myths. It is not a record of the thoughts of ancient mystics. It was written under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and kept and preserved exactly as God first gave it. Peter wrote, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). The way we respond to the Bible is directly related to how we view it. If we take it seriously as God's Word, we will be apt to do what it commands and abstain from what it forbids. If we take it lightly, we will be apt to elevate our own judgment and opinions above it, and do as we please.
Taking the Bible seriously is essential to having it produce its intended effect in our lives. This attitude is the foundation for every part of the Christian life and vital to our spiritual growth. We must also not forget that how we view the Bible does not just impact our own lives. It heavily influences those who come after us as well. If we model the wrong approach for them, it will have devastating consequences. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hosea 4:6).
The authority of the Bible is not open to discussion or negotiation—it is absolute.
We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
1 John 4:6
The Greenhalgh family of England were greatly gifted artists. George and Olive, along with their son Sean, produced and sold paintings, sculptures, and artifacts that brought in about $11 million over nearly two decades. For many years no one knew who they were despite their artistic success. That is because they were forgers, creating works which were attributed to other people. Prestigious museums and famous art galleries were taken in by the deception. It was not until they were arrested by Scotland Yard in 2007 that the Greenhalgh family came to public attention. Their forgeries were so well done that they fooled many experts, but eventually someone saw through their deception and reported them to the police.
The devil is a counterfeiter, and has been ever since he tempted Eve with what he presented as an opportunity to be more like God. He has nothing in him or his kingdom that is good or beautiful or true, only false substitutes for the genuine things of God. Jesus said, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). The most effective and reliable means of determining the difference between truth and error is the Word of God. The more we read it and listen to it and study it, the more easily we will be able to detect the counterfeits Satan offers. The same is true for false teaching we encounter. While words may sound good on the surface, the true test is the Bible. Anything that contradicts what God said is intended by the enemy to deceive and lead us astray.
In a world filled with lies and deceit, the Word of God is an unchanging light of truth.
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him. Hear diligently my speech, and my declaration with your ears. Behold now, I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified.
It is not hard to trust God when things are going well. When we see and understand His purposes, we find it easy to be confident about the future. That will not always be the case. God did not promise to give us an easy life or pleasant circumstances every day. He did not tell us to expect to coast to Heaven on a smooth road without any potholes. In those moments when things go wrong, when we do not see how God could possibly work in what we are facing and feeling, our faith is put to the test. Strong, vibrant faith trusts God regardless of what is going on. Even in the face of disappointment, grief and pain, faith remains steadfast.
John Newton wrote, “Faith upholds a Christian under all trials, by assuring him that every painful dispensation is under the direction of his Lord; that chastisements are a token of His love; that the season, measure, and continuance of his sufferings, are appointed by Infinite Wisdom, and designed to work for his everlasting good; and that grace and strength shall be afforded him, according to his need.” Believing God does not stop storms from coming, but it gives us the means to endure and overcome. “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil” (Hebrews 6:19).
The confidence that we have in God, built on His unfailing promises, keeps us going through every trial. Life has been filled with pain and grief ever since the Fall, but we are not alone. We have a loving Father who never abandons us, and who can always be trusted.
We endure trials with faith when we remember that God is in control and works everything for good.
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:15-17
After training for the ministry at the University of Edinburgh, Walter Chalmers Smith spent most of his life pastoring in both Scotland and England. In addition to his preaching, he wrote a number of hymns. After two decades in ministry, he wrote what was probably his most famous work, a meditation on the awesome and exalted nature of God called, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.” The final stanza says,
Thou reignest in glory, thou dwellest in light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render; O help us to see
'Tis only the splendor of light hideth thee!
When Isaiah saw his vision of Heaven, he noted that the seraphim, angelic beings specially created to proclaim the holiness of God night and day, had extra wings to shield their eyes, because even they could not look directly at God's glory. “Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly” (Isaiah 6:2). God is far more glorious and exalted than we can imagine.
Yet because of His grace, we will one day spend eternity with Him. In that day, in the perfect and glorified bodies He will give us, we will be able to view His majesty directly. “And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads” (Revelation 22:4). Until we do see His face, we must worship and exalt Him, never forgetting that He alone is worthy of praise and glory.
When we view God correctly as being high and lifted up, our conduct will align with His commands.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
1 John 4:7
Relations between Jesus' disciples were strained on more than one occasion. There was tension over who was closest to Him and over who would have the greatest prominence in His kingdom. John's own mother had sparked indignant outrage among the other disciples with her request for her sons to take the chief spots. “Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom” (Matthew 20:20-21). One of the things that prompted Jesus to wash the feet of His disciples on the night before His crucifixion was the argument they had earlier that day over who would be greatest among them.
In contrast to seeking our own advantage and promotion, we are called and commanded to love others, and put their needs ahead of our own. Paul wrote, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:4). Love and selfishness cannot coexist. Love places self behind in its consideration. Just as God loves us, we are to love each other. Charles Spurgeon said, “Love is power. The Holy Spirit, for the most part, works by our affection. Love men to Christ; faith accomplishes much, but love is the actual instrument by which faith works out its desires in the Name of the Lord of love. And I am sure that, until we heartily love our work, and love the people with whom we are working, we shall not accomplish much.” No program or plan that we put in place can substitute for simply loving people and treating them as God would. We are most like God when we love as He does.
We will not serve God effectively unless we are motivated by love for others.
But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
Because of the miracles He was performing and the power of His preaching, it is no surprise that large crowds wanted to see and hear Jesus. Sometimes the throngs of people became overwhelming. Ministering to their needs was consuming all of the disciples' time and energy. In response, Jesus told them they would go away and rest for a time. But even that attempt to rest was thwarted. “And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him” (Mark 6:32-33).
Perhaps it was their frustration and disappointment at not getting the rest they had been looking forward to that sparked the response of the disciples. At the end of a long day of teaching and ministry, they came to Jesus with a plan for the crowd. “Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat” (Mark 6:36). They simply did not see the people as Jesus did. Where He saw a field ready for harvest, they only saw problems and obstacles.
Our passion to reach the lost is based on our ability to see the harvest. Rather than thinking it is something to happen later, the time for reaching others with the gospel is now. Jesus said, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).
All around us there are people who need the gospel, and we must reach them while there is still time.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Wanting to expand their market share, the Singer Sewing Machine Company came up with a unique idea to promote their flagship product. Knowing it was impractical to take a full sized sewing machine from door to door where much of the sale of home products took place, Singer starting making fully functional miniature sewing machines. Called “salesman's sample” machines, they were only seven inches tall and seven inches wide, but still able to sew. By demonstrating what the company's equipment was capable of doing, they more easily convinced potential customers to purchase a full size sewing machine for themselves.
One of the purposes for which God saved us was to be “samples” of what His grace can do in the life of someone who has trusted Jesus for salvation. A Christian who is no different from the world around him is not a good advertisement for the gospel. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). The Greek word for example is typos, which is easily recognizable as related to our English word type. We are to be a type or pattern to others. We are to be demonstrations—not just models but working models—of God's grace in action through a transformed life.
God's power gives us all we need to be transformed into the likeness of His Son. As we yield to the Holy Spirit and walk in wisdom, we will be an unmistakable message that God's grace truly changes lives. The effectiveness of our testimony springs from the extent to which our lives match our words.
The change God has made in our lives is a powerful witness to those around us, that the witness of our words for Christ are true.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
1 John 4:8
On his first trip to England, D. L. Moody met a preacher named Henry Moorhouse. Moorhouse had been a notorious drunkard and gambler, but after his conversion he became a powerful and effective preacher. Before Moody left, he invited Moorhouse to come to America and preach in Chicago. In February of 1866 Moorhouse arrived and preached to a large crowd at Farwell Hall from John 3:16. As Moody had to leave town unexpectedly, he asked Moorhouse to continue preaching for the rest of the week. On the final night Moody returned and found Moorhouse still preaching from the same text, which was the seventh night he had done so.
The crowds had grown over the week, and a large number of people were saved. The sermons on God's love had a great impact on believers as well. Moody later said, “I never knew up to that time that God loved us so much. This heart of mine began to thaw out; I could not keep back the tears. I just drank it in. So did the crowded congregation. I tell you there is one thing that draws above everything else in the world and that is love.” Our world is desperately seeking love. Many people are looking in the wrong places, trying to substitute for what only God can provide. We need to be faithful to share the good news that His love is the real satisfaction for the longing of the human heart.
Love is not something God does. Love is what God is. It is an essential and integral part of His nature and character. He cannot be anything but loving. That does not mean that He is not also holy and perfect in His hatred of sin, but that He loves us and has made provision for us to receive that love through Jesus Christ. Being like Him means that we will also love those around us and do our best to share His love with them.
The love God has given to us is the greatest need of the world around us.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
When we think about the death of Jesus on the cross, we may think about the intense physical suffering that He endured. We may consider the wonder of His precious blood being shed to pay the price for our sins. We may contemplate the vast love of God that put that plan in place. All of that is part of the story of the cross. But there is another part that sometimes we overlook: the cross shows the glory of Jesus Christ and His sinless nature. The cross declares that He was perfectly and completely righteous. Otherwise His death could not have atoned for our sins, for He would have had to pay for His own. Robert Murray McCheyne said, “The wounds of Christ were the greatest outlets of His glory that ever were. The divine glory shone more out of His wounds than out of all His life before.”
One of the purposes for which we are left in this world after we are saved is so that we can bring honor and glory to Jesus. Peter wrote, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). The best way that we can bring glory to God is to live in the righteousness which He credits to our account because of what Jesus did. We declare His righteousness when we imitate it. We live in a holy way not to earn salvation or bring credit to ourselves, but to honor and glorify our Savior.
We bring glory to Jesus when we live in the righteousness His death made possible for us.
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Of the seven churches Jesus Christ told John to pen letters from Him to, the church at Laodicea was by far in the worst shape. They were indifferent in their love and service to God. Even worse, they were arrogant, thinking that they already had everything they needed and were doing just fine. They received a stark warning from God to change their ways. Though the Bible does not tell us how they responded, it is interesting to note that archaeologists have found the remains of nearly two dozen churches and chapels in the ruins of Laodicea, which was destroyed by a massive earthquake almost six hundred years after John wrote Revelation. It may well be that they heeded the warning and changed their ways, spreading the gospel to others even in the face of persecution.
The Lord loves us too much to allow us to continue living in a sinful way without bringing chastening and rebuke into our lives. We may be tempted to think God is being harsh or cruel, but in reality His discipline is for our own good. And when He does He is offering us the opportunity to repent. He is knocking on the door, waiting for us to open it and restore our fellowship and close relationship with Him. God does not hold grudges, and while sometimes the consequences of a sin linger, the closeness of our relationship with Him is immediately restored when we repent, confess, and forsake our sin.
Be quick to respond to God's warning or correction. He is always ready to forgive and restore.
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
1 John 4:9
Because we had physical life before we were saved, we sometimes are tempted to lose sight of just how desperate our situation as a lost person really was. We were spiritually dead. Then Jesus came and everything changed. Paul wrote, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). We are made alive, not just in the sense that we will spend eternity in Heaven, but right now to live in this world in a new way. It is not our own life, but the life that we receive from Jesus that we are now to live. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
We have been given this life not for our benefit alone, but to use for the good of others. We only have one opportunity and one lifetime in which to serve the Savior Who bought us with His blood. We were saved to live, not merely to exist, and we must not waste this opportunity. On July 8, 1723, Jonathan Edwards wrote, “I frequently hear persons in old age, say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.”
The love of God is far too precious a treasure for us to keep for ourselves. Unlike earthly wealth or possessions, it is in no way diminished by sharing it with others. God never runs out of life or love, and as long as we are in this world, we are to be a reflection of His Son to those around us. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).
We should live every day displaying God's love that we received to those around us so that our lives are not wasted.
My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.
All of us go through times when we experience difficulty and discouragement. Things don't work out the way we wanted. People we trusted turn out to not be who we thought they were. The job promotion goes to someone else. The doctor says the cancer has come back. In these kinds of moments it is easy to feel like nothing will ever be right again—that we are trapped in a permanent state of misery and despair that will never change.
Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary lost their second son Eddie in 1850 when he was just three years old. That same year their third son Willie was born. His parents doted on him as a replacement for their loss. During the Civil War when Lincoln was President, Willie fell sick, probably with typhoid fever, and in February 1862 died at the White House. The grief his parents felt was overwhelming. At one point Lincoln said, “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel was equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not.”
In those moments when it seems like there is no help to be found on earth, those of us who know the Lord have another option. We can always look up. He never fails and never forgets His children. And when we look to Christ and saturate our hearts in His Word, we gain an eternal perspective that renews our spirits. It does not make our problems go away. But it enables us to see the larger reality of eternity. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).
There is always help and hope for those who look to God in the midst of their trials.
And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is. And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!
2 Samuel 18:32-33
Much of the blame for the revolt of Absalom against his father lies at David's feet. David failed to respond to the wicked sin of Amnon against Tamar, then when Absalom took justice into his own hands and had his brother killed, David refused to allow their relationship to be restored for years. Absalom's bitterness was not right, nor was his rebellion. But we can see where the seeds for them were sown by his father. When David sent his soldiers into battle he instructed them not to kill Absalom, but Joab wanted to make sure the revolt was ended for good, and Absalom died hanging in an oak tree. When David got the news, he was heartbroken and cried out in regret that he wished he had died instead. But it was too late for David to go back and change what he had done and failed to do.
The pain of regret is one most of us are familiar with. Whether it is things we have done that we should not have, or things we didn't do that we should have, we look back like David and say, “Would God I had.” The only way to avoid the regret of tomorrow is to do what we should today. John Greenleaf Whittier told the story of a rich judge and a poor country girl who briefly met but never saw each other again in his poem Maud Muller which includes the well-known line:
For of all sad words of tongue or pen
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”
A large measure of the regrets of tomorrow can be avoided by doing what we should today.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1 John 4:10
Without question the Taj Mahal in India is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. It is designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site. Built in the 1600s by the Mughul emperor Shah Jahan, it was constructed to be the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal who had died giving birth to their fourteenth child. The grieving ruler brought in the most skilled masons, stone-cutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome builders, and other artisans from across his empire and even from other countries in Central Asia. The massive building of white marble over a brick support system took more than fifteen years to complete. After his death, Jahan was laid to rest next to Mahal.
Extravagant gestures of love are common in our world, but not even the resources of an absolute ruler of a vast empire can do anything that compares to the expression of God's love for us in the gift of His Son. Jesus was not surprised by the cross. He knew from the beginning what the plan for our salvation would require. Despite that high cost, God thought us worth it—not because we are special, but because of His love. “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10). This sacrificial love is the foundation for our giving back of our lives to God and His work. Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). Such devotion is the only acceptable response to the great gift of love we have received.
God's love for us was so great and costly that nothing we are called to do for Him is too much.
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
Around 1900, a Sunday school teacher named Priscilla Owens wrote a hymn for her students called “Will Your Anchor Hold?” to encourage them to trust in God.
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.
Some ten years later, as the English hymn writer Mary Fawler Maude was dying, a group from her church came and sang this song outside her door. She told her nurse to go outside with this message: “Tell them that it does not fail—it holds!”
Jesus holds everything in the world together. “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:17). That is true in a general sense of the Creation, but it is also true in the much more specific context of our security in Him. The Lord is holding us rather than us holding Him. We do not ever need to fear that He will let go of us, or that anyone or anything can take us away from Him. Jesus said, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). He is our Anchor, and He never fails.
There is no cause for a Christian to ever fear that God will abandon us or let us go.
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
The birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ were guided and determined by the will and plan of God. In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter said, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23). All of those things happened just as God determined ahead of time. But there is another part of God's plan that those of us who are still living have not yet experienced. And though it has not yet happened, it is just as sure as what has already been done. The culmination of God's plan for us is to enter into His presence.
Those who die before Jesus returns will experience the resurrection. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Those who are still alive will be raptured. “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Christians do not need to fear the future. The end of our time on this earth simply brings us to the next step in God's plan for us. He will never fail to keep a promise, or to accomplish all that He sets out to do.
Every part of God's plan that has not yet happened is just as certain as the parts that are already done.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
1 John 4:11
Something went badly wrong on a summer night in Afghanistan in 2019 during a US Army Ranger raid on an enemy compound. As the soldiers neared the walls, a huge explosion injured three of them. They immediately came under fire from the buildings around them. Two of the Rangers were combat medics, and they set about treating the injuries of their fellow soldiers despite the incoming rounds. They used up all of the blood supply they had carried in, but after they ran out there was still a soldier rapidly losing blood. Their only option was to attempt what is known as ROLO Titre procedure, in which a volunteer transfers their own blood directly to the injured person on the battlefield. That had never been done in combat before, but the sacrifice paid off, and the medics were able to save the wounded soldier's life. At great risk and with great courage, they gave all they had to keep their fellow soldier alive.
Because of the love God has given us, we have a responsibility to love others. Often that requires us being willing to give a great deal. Love requires us to take the risk of being hurt. But love is always seen in action. Corrie ten Boom, who along with the other members of her family saved over 800 Jewish people from the Holocaust once said, “Love is not something you say, it's something you do.” If we love others as God loved us, it does not require them to be lovable. We certainly were not. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Loving others as God loves us simply requires us to have the same sacrificial, giving, compassionate view toward others as He did toward us. Not everyone responds to God's love, and there is no guarantee that loving someone in the right way will produce the result we want. We are to love anyway.
Love for others is a matter of obedience to the God we love, not an evaluation of other people's worthiness to receive our love.