Saturday, December 31, 2016

The numbers do not Lie

Read Revelation 11.

The first half of this chapter completes the judgments of the 6th trumpet, the 2nd of the 3 Woes, that began in chapter 9.  Many exact details are revealed here that cannot be spiritualized and dismissed.  They are very specific.  Note the several numbers that are prophesied.  You can count on God's Word to be true!

The Temple-(vv.1-3)
The Apostle John is told to measure a Temple in Jerusalem.  This writing took place in the A.D. 90's after the Temple of the New Testament was destroyed and John was exiled on Patmos.  So, this Temple refers to one to be rebuilt in the city "where their Lord was crucified" (v.8).  That site is currently occupied by the Dome of the Rock.  John is also tasked with counting those who worship there.  For this to be a reality, the Jews must reinstitute the Old Testament priesthood and sacrificial system.

The Time-(v.2)
But the time of this seeming peace in Israel, when such re-establishments will take place, won't last.  The nations of the world will "trample" Jerusalem for 42 months, 1260 days, or 3 1/2 years.  The book of Daniel explains that there will be a 7-year agreement of peace made with Israel.  But halfway through it the satanically energized earthly ruler at the time will change his mind.  Israel will again become the target of world derision.

The Two Witnesses-(4-14)
In response, God will send two powerful evangelists to Jerusalem.  These two will not only preach but they will stand against those who oppose the Lord.  When their mission is complete, Satan will be allowed to kill them.  The unbelieving world will celebrate for 3 1/2 days until God resurrects them and calls them to "Come up here!".  This is akin to what believers in Jesus will experience in the catching away described in 1 Thessalonians 4 and what John heard in Revelation 4:1.

With the world watching this resurrection and ascension to heaven, people will no longer be able to deny God's place and power.  After 7,000 die in the earthquake, "the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven."

7th Trumpet-(vv.15-19)
These verses only introduce this judgment.  We are not given the details until chapter 16.  Verse 15 indicates that this 7th judgment will lead right to the time of Christ's return and His earthly reign.  Praise and worship breaks out!  "Joy to the world.  The Lord has come.  Let earth receive her king."  Though sung at Christmas time, that is truly the message of the 2nd coming of Christ.

In 1741, George Frideric Handel wrote the music to the lyrics by Charles Jennens entitled, The Messiah.  The famed Hallelujah Chorus is based upon Revelation 11:5.  "And he shall reign forever and ever."

Friday, December 30, 2016

Consuming and communicating God's Word

Read Revelation 10.

The Bible refers to this period of earthly judgments as the Great Tribulation.  It started in chapter 6, when Jesus will begin unsealing God's judicial document.  At no time has the world seen such devastation as described here.  The events remain in the future.

Seven trumpets will each take turns announcing the next judgment.  The first part of chapter 10 continues the 6th trumpet's call for earthly punishment upon those who have rejected Jesus.

Another Mighty Angel-(vv.1-7)
The Apostle John sees a powerful angel standing on earth with one foot on land and the other in the sea.  He has "a little scroll" (not to be confused with the large scroll in the hand of Jesus).  This is more of a booklet and it is already opened.  The angel made a sound like the roar of a lion and 7 thunderous voices responded.  Each of these voices had a message to deliver but John is prohibited from writing down what they said.  This is the opposite of John's assigned task to record what he saw (1:19).

The angel raised his right hand, as if to take a solemn oath.  The oath is based upon the fact that God is eternal and the Creator (not merely the initiator) of all things.  He swears that the waiting time is over and there will be no more delay.  Like solving any good mystery, one must put together the clues to the puzzle provided over time.  The Old Testament Prophets wrote of things they did not fully understand concerning the Messiah and future events.  But when Jesus appeared, the mystery began to make sense more than ever.

" reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2:2-3)  In other words, the more we know Jesus and the Scriptures the more we will understand what God has done, is doing, and will do.  Ignoring God and His word leaves people to make up their own "plausible arguments" (Colossians 2:4).

Eating the Little Scroll-(vv.8-11)
John is told to consume the written message of this judgment to come. Then, he is told to communicate it to people throughout the world.  Such a figure of speech is used several times in the Bible.  See Psalm 19:9-10, Jeremiah 15:16, Ezekiel 3:1-3.  The truth of the Scriptures is sweet to believers, but to unbelievers it may be bitter and rejected.  The task of writing this prophecy for the entire world to read fulfills verse 11 for John.

It the responsibility of Bible preachers, teachers, and all believers to communicate the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and not just our favorite hot topics.  Sadly, most churches never address prophetic subjects, coming judgments, or present this last book of God's word.  Little wonder there is such a lack of the fear of God in our culture.  Yet, it is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What will it take to bring people to Repentance?

Read Revelation 9.

In chapter 8, a series of seven trumpets began to sound sequential alarms of judgment.  The first four were aimed at the natural world and affected humans indirectly.  The last three will target people and are referred to as three "woes" (8:13).

Trumpet #5, the first Woe-(vv.1-12)
This bottomless pit is either Hades or certainly related to it.  Once this shaft is opened, smoke will pollute the air and darken what light is left emanating from the sun.  These demonic, flying, stinging pests will create great misery upon all those who have not turned to Jesus to be saved.  Would not any sane person realize God's power and repent by now?  But Satan is a deceiver.  He makes even his most hideous and repulsive works seem somehow attractive to an unbeliever.

Trumpet #6, the second Woe-(vv.13-19)
The voice is probably Jesus Himself.  These special angels are being kept at this very moment in that location, waiting for "the hour, the day, the month, and the year" when they will be release to kill 1/3 of mankind (v.15).  An army, 200 million strong, will be mobilized to conduct this slaughter.

Now, will the remaining 2/3 of mankind repent?

The last two verses foretell the sad response of the hardness of the human heart.  After all God has provided in the way of escape, after all God has unleashed to demonstrate His absolute power, they "did not repent".  In their rebellion, they will refuse to turn to the only hope they have no matter what.

They refused to repent of their false worship, choosing instead to have faith in demonic spirits and things they made up with their own minds and hands.  They refused to repent of their personal sins, including murders, so-called magical practices, sexual immorality, and taking things that do not belong to them.

But we see this same insanity present now in this day of grace.  Jesus offers forgiveness of sin and a sure escape from the coming wrath of God.  "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." (John 3:36).  Choose life!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The God of justice and Mercy

Read Revelation 8.

These middle chapters describe the long prophesied Great Tribulation.  Not since the worldwide flood in Noah's day has God administered such judgment upon the earth.  This time it will be by fire (2 Peter 3:7).  Jesus will take the seven-part document and unseal its judgments one by one.  Chapter 7 provides a parenthesis in the narrative with a glimpse of other things God will be doing at the same time.  Here in chapter 8, the last of the seven seals is opened.

First, there is dead silence.  The myriad of people in heaven who have been praising God will stop.  It is the lull before the storm.  Then, we are told that "the prayers of all the saints" will be offered before the throne of God.  These prayers calling for justice are made hot with fire from the altar before being inflicted upon the earth.

The last seal also has seven parts, each with its own blast of declaration, called "trumpets".  In John's day when a trumpet blew it was an announcement (fanfare) or a signal (military charge or alarm).  When this seventh seal is opened, seven alarms will be going off, one by one.  The devastation presented here is unimaginable.

Trumpet #1 (v.7)
Hail, fire, and blood will be thrown on the earth.  The result: 1/3 of the earth, 1/3 of the trees, and 1/3 of the grass (vegetation) will be burned up.  God has done such things before.  He rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah.  This is reminiscent somewhat of Egypt's experience in the book of Exodus.  The difference here is that it will be worldwide.

Trumpet #2 (vv.8-9)
Could this be a meteorite or asteroid?  The result: 1/3 of the sea creatures will die and 1/3 of the ships destroyed.

Trumpet #3 (vv.10-11)
A great star will fall and hit the earth.  The result: 1/3 of the fresh water will be turned bitter causing death.

Trumpet #4 (v.12)
The sun will lose 1/3 of its illumination.  The moon and stars merely reflect the sun's light.  The result: The earth will experience cold and darkness.

But there are three more trumpet alarms to sound.  Why will God stall in order to send this messenger to announce more judgment is coming?  He is a merciful God.  These disasters upon humans are designed to give every opportunity for people to acknowledge His power and repent of their sin.  If they do not, they will be without excuse.

"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Will anyone be saved during the Great Tribulation?

Read Revelation 7.

This chapter answers the question, "Will anyone be saved during the Great Tribulation?"  Two groups are mentioned.  Some bizarre teachings have come from those who try to spiritualize chapter seven or to take it out of its sequential context.  There is absolutely no justification for treating this passage in any way other than a literal one.  The language is very specific.

1. Group One
God will sovereignly set apart 144,000 Jews; 12,000 from each tribe.  We are not told how or why these 144,000 were selected.  One thing is for sure, the 12 tribes of Israel are not lost.  God knows who and where they are.  Not one Gentile is included among these earthly servants of God during the Great Tribulation.

2. Group Two
Meanwhile, back in heaven, another song breaks out.  This will be an innumerable multitude from every people group on earth, Gentiles and Jews not in the 144,000.  The timing is significant in that "these are the ones coming out of the great tribulation" (v.14).  Even as God's judgment is being unleashed on the world, He will make known the message of escape through faith in Jesus.  With loud voices they will declare, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"  And, because they were martyred for their faith, this also would indicate that the hatred of Christians will be like the world has never seen.

In this revelation of things to come, the Apostle John had a brief conversation with one of the 24 elders.  In the closing verses, this unnamed elder delivered a gracious and tender message about this vast number of people and about Jesus.  Jesus will be their--

Whether during the days of the Old Testament, during this present time, and in the midst of the Great Tribulation, the good news remains the same.  Forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven comes by one means.  "They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."  Only by personal faith in that singular price that was paid on the cross may we join this family of God.

Monday, December 26, 2016

When there is no place to Hide

Read Revelation 6.

"He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him." (John 1:11)  There is coming a day when all will know Him and every knee will bow in submission to Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11).  In preparation of the appearance of the Creator and Owner of this world, there will be some painful days for those who rebel against Him.

The Lamb of God alone is worthy to take the scroll and unleash judgments upon the world.    The scroll has seven sections and each one is separately sealed.  With the breaking of the first seal, the time referred to as The Great Tribulation will begin.  While all nations shall experience His wrath, a primary target of this seven-year period is to bring Israel to accept Jesus as their Messiah.  "Alas!  That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it." (Jeremiah 30:7)

The first four seals release what is often called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  The rider on a white horse appears to be a good and powerful ruler.  But instead of bringing peace, this one will only be out to conquer.  The second rider will throw the world into unimaginable war and death.  The rider of the black horse follows the war with world-wide famine.  The fourth will bring death by "pestilence and wild beasts" to kill 25% of the world's population.

Meanwhile, what good thing will God be doing?  Though the word "church" does not appear after chapter three, in some manner people will be receiving the good news of Jesus.  Many will die as martyrs for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.  Once killed, their spirits will ascend to the throne of God to cry out for justice.  But verse 11 indicates that there will be even more martyrs to come.

The sixth seal needs little explanation.  The prophets (Joel 2:30-31, Isaiah 13:9-11) predicted these events centuries before Christ was born.  Those unbelievers remaining on earth would rather die than face anymore of the wrath of God.  The question at the end of the chapter says it all.  "Who can stand" against almighty God and His judgments?  The answer is "No one."

That is why faith in Jesus is called good news.  Those who personally receive Jesus as their Savior and Lord need never fear the wrath of God.  He saves us from our sin and the judgment to come.  He is our hiding place of safety against that day.  "Enter into the rock and hide in the dust from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty.  The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day." (Isaiah 2:10-11)

Friday, December 23, 2016

O Come Let Us Adore Him

Read Revelation 5.

The stage is set.  God, the Father is on the throne in heaven.  Jesus, the one and only Son of God is at His right hand.  In addition, John saw a scroll.  The document had been written on both sides and rolled up in seven sections.  Each was sealed for the recipient or the one with proper authority to open the sealed document.

An angel cried out, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?"  The search throughout heaven and earth proved to be in vain.  Since the Apostle John was being given information to write down "the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this" (1:19), the news broke his heart.  But then, one of the 24 elders spoke up and pointed to Jesus.

The book of Revelation reveals who Jesus is and what He has planned for the future.  The unnamed elder, provided several descriptions of the identity of the One seated at the right hand.
1. He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. (Genesis 49:9-10)  Jacob promised that such a powerful ruler would come from Judah's family tribe.
2. He is the Root of David.  (Matthew 1:1)  Jesus was born into the family of Joseph who "was of the house and lineage of David" (Luke 2:4).  
These are the human credentials for Jesus' right to the throne of Israel and to one day rule as the King of Kings over all the earth (Revelation 19).
3. He is the Conqueror.  What did He conquer at this point in history?   First came the eternal spiritual victory "by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to his cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him." (Colossians 2:14-15)

At the mention of those declarations of identity, something else was revealed about Jesus.
4. He is the Lamb of God.  That was how Isaiah prophesied the Messiah in Isaiah 53:7.  John, the Baptist, identified Jesus as God's Lamb in John 1:29.  This Lamb was slain on the cross and "the precious blood of Christ" paid our sin debt (1 Peter 18-19).  But there is more.  This is not the meek and mild Jesus, as some would have Him to be.  In preparation for His second coming, Jesus is pictured here as the most unusually powerful ram that anyone has ever seen.  With seven horns, the Lamb of God has perfect strength to put down any and every foe.

5. He is the Judge of the Universe.  Only Jesus is worthy to open the multi-part document containing the predetermined judgments to come.  ''The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father." (John 5:22-23).

The response to these declarations overwhelmed everyone.  With an attitude of prayer and the representation of the prayers of believers in Jesus (v.8), spontaneous and humble worship broke out.  It is good for us to read verses 9-14 aloud, while picturing this scene.  In doing so, we may join them in this worship experience.  To Jesus be the glory!  "O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What does heaven look like?

Read Revelation 4.

The Apostle John was caught up into the very throne room of heaven.  Isaiah and Ezekiel were given similar experiences.  What John saw and heard sets the stage for chapter five.  This truly awesome view of the Lord sets the tone for the rest of this book.

1. The calling. (v.1)
It was a personal, commanding voice from heaven that sounded like a trumpet blast.  According to 1 Thessalonians 4, one day all who have placed personal faith in Christ will hear the real one and be caught up "to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord."

2. The Throne. (vv.2-3)
The appearance of the King of Kings was visually breathtaking.  The rainbow of vivid colors alone would cause one to stand in absolute awe.

3. The 24 Elders. (v.4)
We are not told in this passage who these 24 are.  The strongest answer seems to be found in Revelation 21:10-14.  The New Jerusalem will have 12 gates for the 12 tribes of Israel and 12 foundation stones for the 12 Apostles.  These then would represent the leadership of both the Old and New Testaments.

4. The Spirit. (v.5) The person of the Holy Spirit is often described in terms of His various empowerments.  He is one person of the Godhead, yet He manifests Himself in different ways.  Isaiah 11:2 foretells of His multiple ministry to Jesus.  This also is consistent with Revelation 1:4 and 5:6.

5. The Living Creatures. (vv.6-8a)
These unusual heavenly beings resemble what was seen before in the visions of Ezekiel 1:1-14 and Isaiah 6:1-3.  "Day and night they never cease to say, 'Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!'"

6. The Response. (vv.9-11)
With such a glorious presentation of sight and sound, there could only be one acceptable response.  They fell down in humility to worship the One on the throne.  He alone is worthy.  We are given two eternally valid reasons for such worship and worthiness of Jesus.  The first is here and the second is in chapter five.

He is worthy of universal worship because He created all things.  Those who relegate creation to an argument of process in Genesis 1, fail to deal with the truth.  It is not a process but a person.  Jesus is the Creator (Colossians 1:15-17).  And, in Revelation 21, He will reveal a new heaven and a new earth.  In this glimpse of heaven, acknowledging His power, glory and honor in creation is the first act of worshipping Jesus.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

More from Jesus' church Attendance

Read Revelation 3.

Jesus continued His evaluation of these seven actual congregations in Asia Minor.  It reveals to us that the very omniscient and omnipresent Son of God is also omnipotent.  He is in full and firm control of the future.

To Sardis. (3:1-6)
This church was alive and active with lots going on.  It was the place to be.  But in their busyness they were dead spiritually.  Using the symbol of the church being a lamp stand (1:20), shining forth the light of the gospel, Jesus said, "Your light went out."  His admonition was to "Wake up!" and get back to completing their reason for being as a church.

To Philadelphia. (3:7-13)
As the One who ultimately controls opportunities, Jesus gave this church the mission of reaching their city with the gospel.  In doing so, they faced satanic opposition and persecution.  There are no words here of correction to them.  Instead, Jesus made two promises.  First, they would one day see their antagonists humble themselves to the truth of the message preached by this congregation Philippians 2:10-11).  Second, Jesus promised that they would be spared from the world-wide tribulation to come.  In the meantime, they are told to "hold fast" to their faith.

To Laodicea. (3:14-22)
Like a cup of hot coffee left to sit, these believers had become spiritually lukewarm.  They were planted there with the mission of setting the city on fire with their faith in Jesus.  Instead, they sat and adapted to their environment as a church.  What made the situation even worse was the sense they were prospering, while spiritually they were bankrupt (v.17).  Strong words from Jesus followed this assessment.  It is interesting to note that He was harsh with them because He loved them.  This was the disciplinary correction of a committed parent.  If they would listen and respond to Him their fellowship with God could be restored.

So, how am I and how is my local church doing in comparison to these seven messages from Jesus.  Am I and are we actively implementing our gospel mission or are we just busy?
Am I and are we, while living in an opposing culture, encouraged by our faith and the guaranteed promises of Jesus?
Am I and are we fired up about our personal relationship with Jesus and the ministry reason we are here?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Jesus goes to Church

Read Revelation 2.

As the book is provided to us to reveal Jesus Christ (1:1), chapters two and three reveal the very presence of Jesus in local congregations.  The best interpreter of the Bible is the Scripture itself.  Revelation 1:20 clears up the imagery concerning these seven actual churches that were extant in modern day Turkey.

The format of these seven messages follows a simple pattern.  Dr. Henry Morris in his classic book on Revelation outlines them in the following manner.
1. The Salutation.  The specific address from Jesus to them.
2. The Identification.  The specific description of Jesus from chapter one.
3. The Assertion.  The specific knowledge of Jesus about that local church.
4. The Exhortation.  The specific words of comment to that church.
5. The Expectation.  The specific words of warning of promise to that church.
6. The Admonition.  The specific action Jesus wanted them to take.
7. The Culmination.  The specific reward for faithfulness from Jesus.

To Ephesus (2:1-7)
While they were commended for a list of good things-good works, hard work, enduring, and doctrinal purity-something was missing.  They no longer practiced a personal, love relationship with Jesus.  In simple terms, they were told to remember, repent, and return to their "first love".

To Smyrna ((2:8-11)
These folks stood strong against the persecution of their faith.  But even more severe suffering was to come.  Jesus urged them not to fear and to brace themselves.  All suffering, even martyrdom, is temporary.  Real life and the Crown of Life await.

To Pergamum (2:12-17)
The culture in which they lived was Satanic.  Evil influenced everything and everyone around them.  False teaching and immorality had even crept into the congregation.  The single word from Jesus was to repent.

To Thyatira (2:18-29)
Their faith, their service, their patient endurance were all acknowledged.  But, at the same time, the church people tolerated a sinful influencer among them who reminded Jesus of Jezebel.  This was an ungodly woman, who had been allowed to teach, spouting false doctrine and leading people into sexual immorality.  Note that Jesus gave her plenty of time to repent and she refused.  Judgment is coming on her and her followers.

In reading about these historic churches, we must use these messages to examine our own lives and congregations.  Is our affection for Jesus better than ever?  Is our perspective on this life overcome by our perspective of eternity?  Are we seeking to influence our culture or is our culture influencing us?  Does our local congregation tolerate teaching contrary to the Bible and immoral behavior among its members?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

6 keys to understanding Revelation

Read Revelation 1.

1. Many have shied away from this book thinking that it was full of hidden truth and too hard to understand.  The opposite is true.  Revelation means to reveal, to expose, or to unveil.  The title is "The Revelation", singular.  When someone adds an "s" on the end of the title, it is because they view the book as being about events.  

2.  The focus is of the book is found in the opening five words: "The revelation of Jesus Christ".  While reading and studying The Revelation, we should never lose sight of who Jesus is, what is He doing, and what He will be doing in the future.

3. John wrote down what "God gave him", "by sending his angel" "to bear witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ."  These chapters and their descriptions are not the Apostle's opinions but the very word of God.  People who ignore this book do so at their own peril.

4. It is the only one of the sixty-six books of the Bible to promise a blessing for "the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy" to others in preaching or teaching.  In addition, it also promises a blessing to those who listen and take heed to what is written.

How many Christians and churches have missed out on these blessings for failing to read and study this book!

5. While seeking to understand these 22 chapters, one must maintain consistency in Biblical interpretation.
-Every passage has a historical context.  John received this content about 95 A.D.  The initial readers were seven actual churches of Asia Minor listed in chapters 2 and 3.
-The people, places, and future events are to be taken literally.  Jesus is real.  The seven churches were real congregations.  The things that John was allowed to see in the future will literally take place.  The promise of Jesus to return is guaranteed.
-Grammar is crucial to understanding Revelation.  Words have meaning.  God does not waste words.  John's descriptions of what he saw was written in the best way he could, given his first century context.  In chapter one, he used comparative words to describe the appearance of Jesus.  That does not diminish the literal facts at all.  And, how would a person in John's day communicate seeing a jet plane and missiles in a world war?
- Error and much false teaching has resulted from lifting verses out of context and trying to spiritualize or even dismiss what the word of God states.  

6. The point of the book is this: God has a plan for this world and He will fulfill His plan.  Revelation is not a separate book but a culmination of the Bible.  Jesus will return to put down all His enemies and establish His earthly kingdom.  There will be rewards for those who faithfully follow Jesus.  There will be accountability and eternal judgment for those who reject Jesus.  One day, "every knee should bow and, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-11)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Biblical response to a revisionist Culture

Read Jude.

Jude wanted to write a letter of encouragement concerning "our common salvation".  Instead, the Holy Spirit guided him to a message of exhortation.  Why?  Because it was "necessary".

Faith in God's word and the belief in the Biblical Jesus were being challenged by pretenders.  They "crept in" among Christians and began compromising, distorting, and even denying the Scriptures.  Many true followers of Christ tended to go along with these apostates in order to keep peace.  Doubters were influenced to embrace compromise for a false sense of unity.

What was true in Jude's day is true today.  We see and hear of those who discount the Bible's relevance, even wanting to revise it.  Marchers and protesters have come against those who seek to maintain their faith in Jesus.  Denominations have caved-in to accommodate them rather than condemn them.
What characterized these false believers?
-"sensuality"  They used the fact that God accepts sinners as an excuse to justify their flagrant and shameless sin.
-"denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."  They refused to submit themselves to Jesus in either word or deed.  In their rebellion, they only obey their own selfish, sinful desires.
Jude goes on to describe them in numerous and graphic terms so no one would be in doubt.
Instead of a sense of shame, "These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage" (v.16)

What consequences do these false believers face?
Refusing to accept God authority over their sinful lifestyles and selfish beliefs will only result in His judgment.  Jude provides historic example after example in these short verses to show God's judgment upon such people.  The price is heavy, not only in this life, but in the eternal "fire" (v.23) to come.  There will be no boasting then.

What are true followers of Jesus to be doing?
1. "Contend for the faith." (v.3)  Contend means "to struggle" as one who enters a ring to fight and engage in conflict; not for a draw but for a victory!  Failure to stand for God's word or avoiding dealing with such spiritual cancer is disobedience and sin in itself.

2. "...building yourselves up in your most holy faith..." (v.20a)  The number one reason good people are caught up in compromise and error is that they do not know their Bible and its clear teachings.  The greatest defense against false teaching is to read and know the truth of God's word.

3. "...and praying in the Holy Spirit..." (v.20b)  In our personal conversations with the Lord we are to submit our wills to His.  It is to be a time of worship and adoration for who God is and what He has done, not just for what we want from Him.  When we surrender to Him in prayer, the Holy Spirit can then guide us into living out His will for our lives.  That is the essence of a daily faith.

4. "...keep yourselves in the love of God." (v.21a)  We are to contend for the faith, but we are not allowed to be contentious.  Loving God and loving people is our command.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit will empower us to do this.

5. "...waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus..." (v.21b)  In the battle, we must keep our heads up and look forward to our Lord's deliverance from this temporal world.  We are to live with eager anticipation of that day.

6. Extend God's mercy upon others where they are spiritually. (v.22-23)
Some among us have legitimate doubts and we are to help them.  Some are enslaved by their sin and we must go and rescue them.  As we do, we need to be careful of ourselves so we do not become defiled or influenced by their sin.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A model of a God-like Man

Read 3 John.

This is short letter to say the least.  The reason for its brevity seems to be that John planned a personal visit (vv.13-15) and soon.  He addressed three men for three very different reasons.
Commendation of Demetrius. (vv.11-12)
Condemnation of Diotrephes. (vv.9-10)
Celebration of Gaius (vv.1-8)

1. How John prayed for his friend.  (vv.1-3)
Gaius was a believer in Jesus, a church leader, and a godly man.  The mark of his personal reputation was that he lived out the truth of God's word.  The men who reported back to John, and prompted this letter, said this about Gaius after being with him for a stay.  In response to this man's spiritual health, John prayed that his physical well-being would be just as healthy.

2. Why John rejoiced about his friend. (v.4)
Possibly, John introduced Gaius to faith in Jesus and he certainly had taught Gaius.  John referred to him as one of his spiritual children.  Nothing brings greater joy in the Christian life than to see a person transformed by the Gospel.  It is part of the spiritual legacy that all those who are faithful in sharing their faith get to enjoy both here and for eternity.

3. What his friend did that was God-like. (vv.5-8)
Gaius put into practice what he learned from John.  "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son" on the cross that we may know forgiveness of sin and have eternal life (John 3:16).  "If God so love us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:11).  The more a person learns about God the more generous they become.  A godly person is a giver and "worthy of God".

Gaius' generosity became well-known.  He practiced hospitality for travelers who ministered in the name of Jesus, whether he personally knew them or not.  His heart and his hand were open to support the ministry of others.  In doing so, he not only encouraged them in their work, but by his investment in them, he became a ministry partner, a fellow worker.  As their ministry impacted others, Gaius shared in the eternal rewards with them.

What a model of a spiritually healthy, hospitable, and generous man for all believers to follow!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Love and truth but watch Out

Read 2 John.

In this second letter from the Apostle John, he underscores again two of his notable themes: love and truth.  Those are not choices of either/or but are both/and.  Trying to love without truth is permissiveness and will lead to the acceptance of sin.  Holding to truth without love will ruin relationships and stifle opportunities for ministry.  But, a life that practices those two things at the same time is beautiful and attractive, even to those who may disagree.

It is this mutual commitment to love and truth that draws followers of Jesus together in a local Bible believing church, as expressed in the opening two verses.  We share a common faith and a partnership in the Gospel that John refers to as fellowship.  Having established that fact, John issued two warnings for the church.

1. Watch yourselves. (vv.8-9)
We must be alert all the time that we do not make a sinful choice and lose out on all God has stored up for those who faithfully serve Him.  The evidence of a genuine faith is when a believer does sin, they quickly confess and repent (1 John 1:9).  Continuing in sin is evidence of one who does not know Jesus.

2. Watch out for deceivers. (vv.7, 10-11)
The evaluators of genuine Christianity are found in the answers to two questions:
A. What is the Bible?
B. Who is Jesus?

The correct answer to the first question is, "The Bible is the written word of God".
God's truth is written down for us.  "All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16)

The correct answer to the second question is, "Jesus is the living word of God."
God's Son was sent down for us.  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)

If there is a true commitment to those two things, we may have Biblical fellowship with anyone.  If not, we are forbidden to join in ministry partnership together with them.  To fail to be discriminating of those with whom we partner in ministry will bring the guilt of false teaching on ourselves.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Well, what do you Know?

Read 1 John 5.

The Apostle John wrote this book to followers of Jesus to reassure them.  He addressed several issues that are prone to cause one to question their faith.  These include personal sin, false teachers, and the lack of demonstrated love for other believers.

Multiple times in each chapter the word "know" is used to remind and reinforce what the original readers had already been taught and what they already possessed in Christ.  Here, in this last chapter, no less than seven times does John undergird our faith with what we may know for certain.  One does not have to guess about their relationship with God.  There is no valid reason for one to live in doubt.  We may live with absolute confidence.

The one overriding qualification is personal faith in Jesus.  If that is true, then...
1. We know we are born of God.
"Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son does not have life." (v.12)  The mistake of Nicodemus in John 3 is the error of many today.  Physical birth does not equate to being a child of God.  One must experience a new birth by faith in Jesus in order to have eternal life.  "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life." (v.13)

2. We know our prayers are heard.
God takes pleasure or delights in our sincere prayers.  "...the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him." (Proverbs 15:8)  Sin and selfishness will cause us to doubt not only the power of prayer but whether God is even listening.  But when "we love God and obey" Him (v.2), we have confidence in our relationship with Him.  "And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him." (v.15)

3. We know we do not have to keep on sinning.
"We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." (v.19)  Those apart from Jesus live only under the influence of the devil and their own personal desires.  Those who have given themselves to Christ have the power and protection of God available to live in ways that please Him. (vv.18-19)

4. We know the truth and understand spiritual things.
Without Jesus, one's hope is only in this life, this world, and natural thinking.  But the believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit who reassures us of our faith, comforts us in our difficulties, and illuminates our understanding.  He turns the light on in our minds so that when we read the Bible, or hear God's word taught, we not only get it but we begin to see applications of the truth in daily life.

"Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God." (1 Corinthians 2:12)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

3 tests of the spirit of Antichrist

Read 1 John 4.

Throughout the teachings of Jesus and the writings of the Apostles, there was great concern about false teachers, phony apostles, and heresies.  John, the so-called Apostle of Love, drew lines between those who are true believers and mere pretenders in every chapter of this book.

-"If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and the truth is not in us." (1:10)
-"Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come." (2:18)
-"Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning." (3:8)
-"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God., for many false prophets have gone out into the world." (4:1)
-"Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (5:5)

So, how can we "test the spirits" to know if someone is of God or not?  Three tests are mentioned in this chapter.
1. Do they confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh? (vv.2-3)
This is the true Christmas story.  Everything else is commercialism.  "'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us)."  Without the Son of God taking on human flesh in order to die on the cross for our sins, there is no Christ-mas!  "And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God." (vv.14-15)

2. How do they respond to God's word? (vv.5-6)
When they hear that Jesus is the only way to heaven, what is their response?  Do they believe and live by the philosophies and theories of this world?  Or, do they discipline their thinking and their lives by the Scriptures?  Learning from the Bible and submitting oneself to be taught by true preachers of the Scriptures is a key indicator of abiding in Christ.

3. Do they demonstrate genuine affection for the followers of Jesus? (vv.7-12)
In 3:18, the admonition to believers is to love "in deed and in truth".  How a person connects with, involves themselves with, and seeks to meet the needs of other Christians is a test of a true faith.  Avoidance of meeting with other believers and isolating oneself from the needs of people are opposites of true Christianity.  "And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." (v.21)