|December 2012 Daily Devotion Archive|
The Nature of True Faith: Avoidance of Discrimination
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. - James 2:8-13
If you show favoritism, you sin. It is as if you are guilty of all sin. Why are we selective in our obedience to God? The Law is the Law and God sees the Law as a whole. A murderer is equal to that of a liar, or a person who commits adultery. This Law is His will for us. To follow His commands is to love God. This should put our walk with God in a whole new perspective. Another thought: When you are wronged, do you show mercy? If we fail to show mercy to our neighbor, God will not show mercy to us at judgment.
The Nature of True Faith: Avoidance of Inactive Profession
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe-and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? - James 2:14-20 (Full passage: Read verses 14-26)
Faith and works are like cause and effect. You can't have one with our the other. The Nelson Study Bible commentary puts it this way: "Faith and works are not enemies. True faith and righteous works go hand in hand. They are two parts of God's work in us. Faith brings a person to salvation, and works bring that person to faithfulness. Faith is the cause, works are the effect."
The Nature of True Faith: Avoidance of Boastful Officiousness
Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. - James 3:5-12 (Full passage: Read verses 1-12)
Your tongue will determine your fate and the course of your life, or that of others. Watch carefully what comes out of your mouth. Not only in this, but watch also how you pray. Always let His will be done.
The Nature of True Wisdom: Wisdom Defined
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. - James 3:13-18
These are the characteristics of Godly wisdom. If you obtain it, you will have fruit to show for it: humility, meekness, calmness, and peace. Being willing to yield tells us this person is pliable to God, and can be used. Characteristics a believer should not have include: showing favoritism or being a hypocrite, a person who does not live outwardly for God, secretly envious, self-seeking, boastful, or a liar about God's truth.
The Nature of True Wisdom: Wisdom in Spiritual Life
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. - James 4:1-4
You want what you do not have, and will do anything to get it. When you pray, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, seeking worldly gain. What I am saying here is this: You are praying, asking for personal gain. He will not answer us contrary to His will. All our prayers will not change that; instead, we ought to conform our lives to His will.
The Nature of True Wisdom: Wisdom in Spiritual Life
Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. - James 4:1-10
There is a war within us, our sinful desires which lead to death and that of the Spirit of life and freedom. You see, having a friendship with the world is to be an enemy with God. The Holy Spirit in you is jealous for your complete devotion. When we are worldly, we move farther outside of His will for our lives. If we are not with God then we are against Him and He will fight against us. God does not give us more than we can handle, He gives us the Spirit to guide us out of the world's snare, and He gives us strength to live a life of devotion to Him. We first have the choice to walk away, but if we choose to follow Him, He will not fail us. We fail when we do not follow Him. Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you! Humble yourself and repent; stay in a right relationship with Him.
The Nature of True Wisdom: Wisdom in Legal Relationships
Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? - James 4:11-12
"Vengeance is the Lord's." He is our Righteous Judge. He is the judge and justifier of us all. We are not to judge, lest we be judged. He will use the same measure by which we judge others to judge us on Judgment Day.
The Nature of True Wisdom: Wisdom in Commercial Plans
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. - James 4:13-17
Recall Wednesday's devotion: Watch how you pray and watch what you say, for your words determine your fate. Pray to God, and speak, "If the Lord wills we shall do this or that." In the book of Proverbs, it says, "In the heart of a man, he plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps". Let Him determine your steps; do not jump ahead of His will for you. Pray for it and accept it: Whatever you do, whatever it may be, and wherever He takes you, follow Him all the way. How difficult this is when the doing is uncertain! But rest assured, He will not leave nor forsake you if you rest in Him and do as He leads. Faith is believing in what is unseen and uncertain. He is bigger than any circumstance you will ever face.
The Nature of True Wisdom: Wisdom in Labor Problems
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you. - James 5:1-6
At some point in time, we may have worked for unjust employers. The workload becomes more and the cost of living goes up, but there is no raise, no compensation, and no benefit in sight. All they are concerned about is making the next dollar. The Lord will judge them, and if you are in charge over people, He will judge you too!
The Nature of True Wisdom: Wisdom in Waiting for the Lord
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord--that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. - James 5:7-11
We are to be patient. God will judge the unjust. In Colossians, we are told to do EVERYTHING to the glory of God. That mean we must work under unjust circumstances, and do this to the glory of God. You see, this gains you treasure in Heaven. The Father will send Jesus soon, and all wrongs will be made right.
The Nature of True Wisdom: Wisdom in Language and Affection
But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgment. ... Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. - James 5:12, 16-18
God's name is holy; we should keep it holy, and also be honest in our speaking. God will hold us accountable for every word we say. The warning in the first verse is to watch what we say. If a person is healed it always comes from God. Prayer is effective, and can get great results. "If the Lord wills it, it will be done." Or "you will be healed." Faith is believing He can heal you. And the ultimate healing is from sin in our lives. Confession comes before the healing. Some illness is from sin. We are all sick with sin, this cancer of sin. He is the Great Physician, the Healer. Give Him your life and trust Him with it. Be persistent in your prayers!
The Cause of Divisions: Praising the Messengers Unduly
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. - 1 Corinthians 1:10 (Full passage: Read verses 10-18)
Paul is encouraging the believers to be united by what they believe, say, and stand for. The messengers of Jesus were getting great groups of followers of people, and the people were choosing sides, " I follow so-and-so" and "but I follow this so-and-so." What Paul is telling them is that they all follow Jesus! Stop causing unnecessary divisions. There is no division amongst the messengers--they all preach Christ, and Him crucified. Christ is not divided! Think about today, and how people associate and identify themselves with their religious title rather than with being a Christian. They say, "I am a Baptist", "I am a Methodist", "I am a Presbyterian", "I am a Nazarene", and so on." The Bible alone teaches you what your religion is; the Bible is your "religion". The Bible says, there are many flocks, and He will gather from them. You are simply a Christian; for you are a follower of Christ. Where is your Identity found? In your church, or in Christ and in being a Christian?
The Cause of Divisions: Perverting the Message Unwisely
For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. - 1 Corinthians 1:19-21 (Full passage: Read verses 19-31)
The Nelson Study Bible Commentary states, "Philosophers, scholars, teachers of the Law, Professionals in their fields, tried to solve every problem with logic and debate. The point of this passage is that all human efforts to find favor with God fall woefully short. Only through faith in Christ can we be saved from our sins." Think about this: To these men, eternal salvation could not possibly exclude them. Yet all the fame, power, or knowledge in the world cannot save them. Eternity is for the humble, the lowly in heart. Not the proud, or arrogant, who glory in their prestige or their standing. Only those who glory in the Lord can have eternal life with Him.
The Cure for the Divisions: Evaluating the Message Properly
Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. ... For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. ... For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. - 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, 9, 15-16 (Full passage: Read verses 1-21)
We are God's stewards, trustworthy of the message and the distribution of it, faithful to carry out this message through ministry. We are not to be judgmental, puffed up, or boastful. Paul lists the things he is and we too are a spectacle to the world, and they are watching for us to fall. They see us as fools--yes we are fools for Christ. We will become to the world as filth. Christ was viewed this way, Paul was viewed this way, and we too are, or will, be viewed in this way. Paul began this church, and the one who laid the foundation, Paul is like a father to them. He imitates Christ, and he urges this church to imitate him, because he imitates the Lord and the Spirit is in him.
Discipline in the Church: The Punishment of Sin
For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. - 1 Corinthians 5:3-5
Paul is saying to expel this man from the church that in doing so, he will be caused pain, forsaking his ways, and repent. You see, as Christians, you cannot live a double life. You cannot profess Christ and play in the devil's playground. Release the sinner that he may be brought low and return and repent! How does the church handle those who are in the church as members who profess Christ, and live in sin? Who do you know that has been cast out of the church? I cannot think of anyone I know. I wonder if Christians would walk a tighter line if they knew that, if they are committing sin, it would be made known to them and they would have no fellowship with the church.
Discipline in the Church: The People in Sin
I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person." - 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
This is still referring to the church and the people who are brothers and sisters in Christ. You see, we are to point out the sin to the Christian that is committing it. If they turn not from it, the church must cast them out. A little (one or just a few people) yeast (sin) mixed in the whole batch (the church) will corrupt the whole batch (the church). This sounds extreme, but think of how many churches divide or have people leave. What example are we setting? Does the testimony of the church mean nothing?
Desecration of the Body: The Danger of Human Convictions
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. - 1 Corinthians 6:12-13
When we are saved, we have freedom in Christ. Paul does not want the church to become enslaved by temptation, or use their freedom to sin. This church said that food pleases the stomach and sex pleases the craving; the point of all this is that they were indulgent to the point of sinning. Think about your own life. Are you a glutton? An adulterer? This is what Paul is talking about. It all can be taken too far. One must eat. A married man and woman should come together. But when one wants more and more, to the point that they are in another's bed or eating excessively, these are sins. Our bodies are to bring glory and honor to God. The church was justifying themselves because they were "free from the law". But we know Christ is the fulfillment of the law, and what they were justifying is sin.
Desecration of the Body: The Dignity of the Body
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. - 1 Corinthians 6:15-20
As Christians, we are joined with Christ in spirit. Just like the church is a "body" with many parts, we too are members of Christ. We are to flee from ALL sin. But here there is an emphasis on sexual sin, because that what this church was tempted with. You see, individually, the Holy Spirit dwells within each of us, and we are called the temple of God. He moved into our hearts, minds, actions, and reactions. That chair you sat on inside of yourself as ruler--He sits there now. He not only saved you, He is Lord over you; you are not your own! He died to purchase you. Paul says here, we are to glorify God in body and in spirit, which are both God's.
Duties in Regard to Marriage: The Propriety of Marriage
Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. - 1 Corinthians 7:1-5
In Paul's day, which I think we can relate to today as well, there was so much sexual immorality. He says here that it is better to marry than to live in sexual sin. The husband and wife are show sexual affections toward one another so that neither are tempted by Satan to have sexual relationships outside of marriage. A husband and wife are one, and have privilege over their spouse's body. If the other needs you, you are to come together. You are not to deprive one another unless it is mutually agreed upon to dedicate yourselves (together) to fasting and prayer about a matter. But then come back together so that you are not tempted by Satan to sin against each other.
The Regulation of Gifts: Unification of the Body
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. ... For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. - 1 Corinthians 12:4-5, 12 (Full passage: Read verses 1-31)
As Christians, we all have the indwelling Holy Spirit, which gives us our gifts. Spiritual gifts are diverse, and have different purposes. Every person in the church has been given one or more gifts; this is evidence that the Spirit is working in our lives. The gifts are to be used to build up and unify the church and other believers. We are not to use our gifts for selfish gain. We all do not have the same gifts; the Holy Spirit decides who gets which gifts. There is no favoritism among the gifts--they are all important and needed, one as much as the other, and equal before God. God has purpose for all gifts, just as each of our body parts has an intended purpose. A person who prophesies is not more important than a person whose gift is compassion. What seems to be the lesser is indispensible and should be given special honor in the church. For those who have what seems great do not need special honor. The best way to exercise these spiritual gifts, whatever they may be, is in love. Love is a fruit of the Spirit that all Christians should possess. And we are to do all in love.
The Plea for Timothy
And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do. Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren. - 1 Corinthians 16:10-11
Paul is telling the church that although he could not come, he is sending another to them and that they should receive Timothy, for he also does the Lord's work. Paul is also telling the church that they should be easy on him for he was shyer than Paul. Think about people in the church in leadership positions, who are shy and backward, though they get the job done. Are you too quick to judge them when they do not act the way you think they should in that position? Think about how Jesus would judge that person.
The Pattern of Conduct
Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love. I urge you, brethren-you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints--that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us. I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men. - 1 Corinthians 16:13-18
Watch: to have anticipation for something that is yet to come. Stand fast: to be strong in the faith; there was much false teaching among the Corinthians. Be brave: to be brave, mature in the Lord, and in your faith. Love: the glue of it all. The men mentioned are believed to be go-betweens for the church and Paul, whether for letters, or for news.
The Parting Words
The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. The salutation with my own hand--Paul's. If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. - 1 Corinthians 16:19-24
This couple made their home available to Paul and the meeting of the church. The custom of Christians in that day was a holy kiss, symbolizing unity, love, and forgiveness. Some churches still do this; some others I have been in will hug you, even if they do not know you. Paul finishes his letter with his own pen. He curses those who reject Christ, for to reject Christ is to be an enemy of God.
The Savior Is Coming
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." Therefore He shall give them up, until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; then the remnant of His brethren shall return to the children of Israel. And He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God; and they shall abide, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth; and this One shall be peace. - Micah 5:2-5a (This was written about 700 years before Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.)
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth." - Zechariah 9:9-10 (This was written over 500 years before Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.)
The Savior Has Arrived!
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!" - Luke 2:4-14
Light vs. Darkness
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all 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. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. - 1 John 1:5-10
God is pure and holy. No evil or sin is a part of who He is. His character is righteous. We cannot have fellowship with God as long as we walk a lie. Do you claim to be a Christian, yet your actions, words or deeds deny Him? If this is the truth about you, you do not know Him. Evaluate yourself to His standards and see if you measure up. Example: Do you think that a little white lie is harmless? God says in Revelation that ALL liars will have their place in the fires of Hell. Don't deceive yourself; if you claim to be His and do not walk in His way, by His standards, and live in His character, you are not His. But thanks be to God for He is faithful and just to forgive us. If we confess our sins and turn from them, He will save us from all unrighteousness.
The Father vs. the World
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. - 1 John 2:15-17
He tells us to not love the world or the things in it. Everywhere you look there are magazines and billboards with women and girls provocatively dressed--this is the lust of the flesh. The lust of the eyes includes anything you don't have and desire to have--to want what do not have. You envy your friend's relationship with their spouse and children because they look like the perfect family. You covet your neighbor's Ford Mustang--you think you'd be happier if you had a car like that. You think, "if I only had her body, then I'd be happy and confident." You see all that others have, and what you don't and wish you had it. Pride of life is your prestige, your level in society, and your work. All these will lure you away from loving God, He plans to destroy this world and everything in it. The only thing that will last is what is eternal: a saved soul walking in His Way and what is done for the Kingdom of God now. Do His Will, and live; don't, and you too will pass away with all the things of this world.
Christ vs. the Antichrist
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. ... But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.- 1 John 2:18-19, 27-28 (Full passage: Read verses 18-28)
Christ's return is close in coming. Life is short (as the Bible puts it, a vapor)--we are here one minute, and then gone. The Antichrist, the Devil spoken of in Revelation, is coming. There are many antichrists here in the world; these are men and women who are opposing Christ, His teachings, and those who follow Jesus. This also refers to those who are false teachers--think about the divisions in the churches today. Verse 19 says that these people were among the Christians acknowledging Christ, yet not of Him. Those who are of Him have the Holy Spirit, which teaches and reveals truths to you as you read and study the Word of God. Do not take anyone's word that what they say is true; instead, go and study and let the Spirit speak to you. Know from God His truths, and do not be ashamed.
Good works vs. Evil works
Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. - 1 John 3:4-9
Lawlessness IS sin. Jesus came to die to take our sin. If we continue to commit sins, we are not of Him. If we are His, by His grace and mercy, we are made righteous before God, and the slate is wiped clean. We are seen without sin, for we are born of God. There are antichrists who claim to know Him, yet live a lifestyle of sin; they deceive themselves. Which are you--the one actively living in sin, choosing to sin, or are you striving to conform to who Christ is and live in Him?
Three Men of the Church
For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. ... 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. ... I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. ... Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true. - 3 John 3, 6, 9-10a, 12
John is getting reports from the brethren about Gaius, how he is walking in God's truth and not in worldly ways. There is evidence in him that others can see! Could people say that of you? Not only is this man Gaius walking in the truth, he is affecting the lives of other people. And John is hearing about this through eye witnesses; of Gaius' walking in love and truth. The second man, Diotrephes, is controlling the church for his own purposes. He would not receive traveling missionaries. He is sinning, and John intends to "call him out" on it when he comes. Your lifestyle will show others if you are walking with God, and how closely. Finally, people could see the lifestyle of Demetrius, and the evidence that he walked with the Lord. How hard do you try to not have a tainted testimony? What do others see? Are you the same in the public eye as you are at home? What do your spouse and kids see?
The God-born vs. Others
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 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? ... 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. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. - 1 John 5:1-5, 20-21 (Full passage: Read verses 1-21)
In these final verses, John reiterates and summarizes everything that we have read in the book of 1 John. You know you are His if you believe that Jesus is the Christ, have the Holy Spirit, live in His character, have a changed life after salvation, no longer commit sin, love God and love people, test teachers, read His word, know the truth, live the truth, turn from worldly things, live for His kingdom, live according to His will, and finally, keep yourselves from idols (that is, ANYTHING which takes precedence over God in your life). Persevere, my friend; keep the faith, remain strong in the Lord--you are a victor!