|December 2009 Daily Devotion Archive|
December 1: God Works Through Love
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. - 1 John 4:15-16
If you don't show love toward someone, how can God abide in you and use you the way He wants? He'll still be with you, of course, if you have made that confession. But if you don't have a loving heart, how much good work can He do through you? If you feel hatred or even things such as envy or bitterness toward your neighbor, can you have a good influence on him or her for Christ? If you treat people harshly, will they see Christ's love in you? We must show love to the world, just as God loves us unconditionally. Love is the single most powerful tool we have to try to help lead people to Christ. Many people won't listen to logical arguments or Biblical debates--but do something that shows love and compassion, and they very well may stop and think that there may be something special about Christianity after all.
December 2: Fear
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. - 1 John 4:17-19
Are you afraid of anything? I don't mean a simple fear of some type of animal that many people have, but rather an intense fear of something. For some of you, that great fear may be of death. But God doesn't want you to be afraid of that or anything else, and if you have complete trust in Him, you won't be. So ask yourself, "Is there something that I am seriously afraid of?" If there is, then you are lacking that complete trust in God because if you do trust Him completely to take care of you and carry out His will in your life, then you will have absolutely no reason to fear anything. That may sound a little idealistic to some of you, but it's the way God wanted things to be. He wants us to trust Him completely, not live in fear.
December 3: Hatred Shouldn't Be Possible
If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? - 1 John 4:20
As we have seen, John talks about love quite a bit throughout this letter--much more than I even realized, to be honest. However in these two verses he takes it up a notch, calling anyone who loves God but hates his or her brother a liar. Why is that? I believe that once a person has truly formed a relationship with Christ, the unconditional love of God pours into that person and he or she is no longer capable of hate. Sure, you may get annoyed or frustrated with people at times, but once God's perfect love has entered into you, I don't think you are capable of truly hating another person. If you believe you are a Christian but you have feelings of hatred, it may be a good idea to reevaluate your relationship with Christ because it may not be what you think it is (Matthew 7:21), and it's better to find that out now while you can still do something about it.
December 4: It's No Burden
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? - 1 John 5:3-5
"His commandments are not burdensome." I really like the way John worded that sentence. Whether intentional or not, some people act as if God's commands are too difficult to live by. In reality, those people are just being self-centered (harsh, perhaps, but true). God asks us to love one another above all else; how difficult should that really be? It certainly is not a burden. What is a burden, though, is a lifestyle of sin. People who live in that type of lifestyle believe they are free to do what they want, but they have actually become slaves to their sinful desires without even realizing it. That is the true burden, and God gives us freedom. This world is an evil, sinful place, but we can rest peacefully because He has overcome the world!
December 7: John's Description of the Trinity
This is He who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. - 1 John 5:6-8
Shifting his focus off of the subject of love, John provides several different analogies of the Holy Trinity in these three verses. Jesus was not only the "living water" but also contained blood just like any other human, and of course He shed that blood for us on the cross. He then details the three parts of the Trinity and I find it interesting that He identifies Jesus not as the Son but as the Word, as Jesus was indeed the Word brought to life. He also clearly states that these three agree as one; they are not three separate beings but are one Holy Trinity.
December 8: Pray According to His Will
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. - 1 John 5:14-15
Do these two verses say that we will receive whatever we ask God for? Not quite. There are four words in here that many people seem to forget when praying. Those four words are, "according to His will." If you pray for material things or anything that is not in God's will, you will most likely not receive what you have asked for. That isn't a bad thing, though; God knows what is best for each of us, so you should be grateful that He is looking out for you if He doesn't give you something you've asked for, just like a parent who doesn't give a child something that the parent knows could harm the child. We can be certain He had a good reason for His decision. Let the Holy Spirit guide you when you pray; if you open yourself up to Him, He will speak to you or at least lead you in the right direction.
December 9: True Salvation
We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. - 1 John 5:18-20
The first phrase here must refer to a lifestyle of habitual sin, since obviously we all sin from time to time. However, a person who has truly been born again in God through His Son Jesus should not be able to live in a lifestyle of sin. (If you believe you have been saved but are living a life of sin, it is quite possible that you just said some words but didn't speak from the heart and therefore were not really saved. Sadly, I believe quite a few people may be in that position.) When you are truly saved and you completely commit yourself to the Lord, I believe that you will no longer be able to live a sinful lifestyle.
December 10: Modern Idolatry
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. - 1 John 5:21
I find it very interesting that John only mentions the word "idols" once during this entire letter, and he does so in the final, closing sentence. We've seen that his primary focus is on love, but perhaps he knew that an idol is one major thing that could pull people away from God's perfect love. I believe idolatry is a much more serious problem today than it appears to be. We don't have many people worshipping statues anymore, so it's easy to think that it isn't a problem. But the idols in our society are much more subtle than that and can include anything from money and material possessions to movie stars and politicians. Anything or anyone that becomes more important than God in your life could be considered an idol and is clearly damaging your relationship with God. I encourage you to take a careful look at yourself and make sure you are not putting anything or anyone up on that pedestal above God.
December 11: Walking in Truth and Love
I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. - 2 John 4-6
It appears likely that John is writing this letter to some particular church or group of believers, whom he refers to as "lady." Why is John rejoicing so greatly that he found just some of these people walking in truth? It seems that at this time there were many false teachers, attempting to lead early Christians astray by proclaiming that Jesus was not quite who He said He was. He also encourages the Christians who do continue to walk in truth to follow the ultimate commandment and show love to one another. We can heed the same advice today: We have a multitude of false teachers, but there is still nothing more powerful than love.
December 14: More About False Teachers
Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. - 2 John 9-11
John remains concerned about the many false teachers who were trying to distort the truth at this time. Finding out if a person believes in and lives by the "doctrine of Christ" remains the best way to determine whether or not a person is following Christ or if that person is instead a false teacher. False teachers can be very convincing and seem very similar to Christians, but if they contradict the Bible, then they are not fellow believers. John warns believers to stay away from such people, not because we shouldn't love them but because he is concerned about the impact those false teachings could have. Be careful not to let yourself be led astray by a teaching that sounds similar to Christianity but is just a little off.
December 15: Helping Others
Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, because they went forth for His name's sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. - 3 John 5-7
John wrote this during a time when there were a lot of missionaries trying to spread God's Word throughout the region and at a time when those missionaries depended a great deal on help from local people because they didn't have much of their own. Even though those things aren't quite the same in this country today, the principle remains unchanged: We are called to do whatever we can to help those who need our help, especially fellow believers. Taking care of each other during times of need is a great act of love, and God expects nothing less from us.
December 16: A Good Lifestyle or an Evil Lifestyle?
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. - 3 John 11
It's hard to get much more straightforward than this! People who do good are of God, and people who do evil are not. Of course, that doesn't mean anyone who sins is not of God because we all sin, but John is referring to a lifestyle filled with ongoing evil and sinful behavior. I believe that a person who truly loves God and truly understands everything that God has done and continues to do for us is a person who will do what is good and right in God's eyes on a regular basis. God cares for us, protects us, loves us, and even sent His own Son to die for our sins--and all He asks in return is for us to follow Him and do what is right. Is that the kind of lifestyle you try to have?
December 17: God's Perfect Love
But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. - Jude 5-7
What do we see shining through these three verses? We see God's perfect love. He looks after His people, saving them from the Egyptians, and He punishes those who are evil. It's hard for some people to grasp how a loving God can punish people, but punishment is part of complete, perfect love. Just as a loving parent punishes a child for doing something wrong (and that is the best way to raise a child, despite some modern parents' reluctance to punish), God punishes us when we need correction.
December 18: The Sin-Filled Last Days
These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. - Jude 16-19
This definitely sounds like an accurate description of our society today! We have some of these sinful people who seem to enjoy complaining against Christianity despite how silly and ridiculous those complaints usually are. Many of our political leaders and other people in positions of power and leadership have used those flattering words to gain an advantage. But Jude gives us hope--God knew this would happen, He's still in control, and hopefully it won't be long before Jesus returns!
December 21: Stand Up For God
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. - Jude 20-23
Jude's advice to us is clear. Under the umbrella of keeping ourselves in God's love, we should have compassion on people as well as help save those who have fallen into sin. Hate the sin and the effects it can have but love the person and do whatever you can to save that person. We don't need to tolerate sin in order to feel more accepted by those around us who are non-believers. Their opinions are irrelevant, and we're doing them no eternal favors anyway if we don't share the truth. We need to passionately stand up against sinful behavior and stand up for our God!
December 22: Give Glory to God
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen. - Jude 24-25
Aside from Revelation which is obviously the most unique book in the Bible, these are the last words based on the way our Bible is arranged. This also concludes this series of Daily Devotionals (after a couple of special Christmas devotionals, there will be a brief break and then they will return with a new and exciting format on January 3). Jude takes the opportunity to remind us of what all God does for us--a reminder many of us need to hear on a daily basis so we don't take Him for granted. He cares for us and loves us enough to keep us from stumbling, or to pick us back up and forgive when we do. Beyond that, we are presented as faultless before God because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, despite the fact that we have many faults. Follow God closely, with all your heart, and give Him all the glory!
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. - Luke 2:1-7
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. - Luke 2:8-14
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. - Luke 2:15-20