Refresh & Restore – March 4, 2021

24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

28 And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming.[1]

1 John 2:24-28

Greetings, Sojourner!

It is Thursday again. I do not know about you, but I need a little refreshing and restoring this week. There is something about time in the Word that gives comfort and rest for one’s weary spirit.

If you live in Mississippi like I do, you have likely heard about, talked about, or at least have an opinion about our governor lifting the mask mandate. Some are relieved. Some are grieved. But I find myself thinking about the church in 1 John.

Over the past few weeks, we have been walking through 1 John 2:18-27 and how antichrists – false teachers with anti-gospel messages – had infiltrated the church of John’s early audience and were seeking to tear the church down from the inside. Jesus described these false prophets as coming to His people “in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15) and warned those He preached to then – and us today – that we would be able to “recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). As we celebrate or mourn our faces being free of masks or continue wearing them for work or school, let us contemplate the way that Jesus pulls the wool off of our eyes in regard to the antichrists who mask themselves as preachers and would lead us away from Christ.

As we walked through this part of 1 John, we have seen the differences between the Church and these antichrists – at the difference between the Holy Spirit working in us and the anti-Jesus spirit that is at work in them. Then, last week, we broke down their attack and looked at how it affects the Church and the differences between the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the way their anti-gospel works against it.

This has been disconcerting to some but let me assure you again that this is not meant to cause fear. The Holy Spirit did not inspire John to write these words so that his original audience or us today should be afraid of these antichrists. No, he wrote this that, just as Jesus said in the verse cited above, we should be able to “recognize them by their fruits” – that we should be able to see them for who they are and trust in the Jesus from the Bible who, as King of kings and Lord of lords has already conquered, is conquering, and will conquer them!

Since we have that assurance, I want to shift our focus from the attack of the antichrists and their false gospel messages to how God has already equipped His church to withstand them. To see this, we need to look at the word that shows up five times in today’s passage: abide.

The idea of abiding is not new to John. It shows up fourteen times in his gospel, and eleven of those are in the same chapter (John 5:38; 6:56; 8:3; John 15:4-7, 9-10, 16)! This word means to “remain, stay (i.e., lodge) with”, giving off a sense of dwelling or living. It can refer to something that has been set up or established that will continue standing and existing for a long time. Let us look at how this works out in today’s passage.

God’s Teachings Abide in His People

In verse 24, John tells his audience that they need to let what they “heard from the beginning abide in [them]”. This basically repeats the language we have seen already in 1 John (1:1, 1:3, 1:5, 2:7, 2:13-14) where he reminds that Jesus is “from the beginning” (v. 1:1) and that His teachings are what “you had from the beginning” (v. 2:7). The good news here is that John tells us that those who “confess the Son” (v. 2:23) have His Word – His teachings – abiding in us.

You see, learning and studying God’s Word is different than all other types of teaching and learning. It is not based on intelligence or wisdom. Instead, it occurs through the “anointing that you received from Him” (v. 27). Depending on our church background, we may have different views on anointing. Here, we can use the literal translation of the word – coating, glazing, or “anything smeared on” – to understand that the knowledge of Christ comes from Him through the preaching of His Word (Romans 10:17) and who, through His Spirit, will “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

If His Spirit Abides in You, “You Too Will Abide” in Him

John continues in verse 24 to explain that those who have the teachings from the beginning abiding within them will “abide in the Son and in the Father”. This is good news because it tells us that we will not be like the antichrists who “went out from us” because they “were not of us” (v. 19). No, those who have trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior have His Spirit, and it is through His Spirit that we understand the teaching of the Word. It is through the Spirit’s illumination of the Word that it comes to abide in our hearts and minds.

One of the most famous verses of all time are from Jesus quoting John about this very same assurance: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Those who believe and trust in Him will not perish like the antichrists but, instead, abide with God continually in eternal life.

His Promise is for His People to Abide with Him Forever

The good news continues in verse 25: “And this is the promise that He made to us – eternal life”. We have already looked at this promise in John 3:16, but I do not think that we can truly grasp the magnitude of what this means. Our point of view is too limited – too small to grasp the scope of eternity with Christ. I do not possess the writing ability to describe it to you adequately, but thankfully, John shares a picture with us in Revelation 21:3-4 that gives us a glimpse of eternal life:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Forever and ever, amen. All of the pain and turmoil caused by sin and death will give way to dwelling with Christ in worship forevermore.

He is the Truth, and His Abiding Spirit Guides Us Away from the Antichrists’ Lies

John shifts his attention back to the antichrists in verse 26, reminding us that he wants to make sure that we know about “those who are trying to deceive [us]”. He does this to explain something about the “anointing that you received” (v. 27). Here, John clarifies that, because we have the Holy Spirit, we “have no need that anyone should teach you” because the Spirit “teaches you about everything”.

This does not mean that we do not need to be taught or preached to by Bible teachers and preachers (1 Timothy 4:11; 2 Timothy 2:2, 24; Titus 2:1, 3; Hebrews 5:12). The Bible very clearly points to God calling and equipping people to do that very thing – and to do it for our good and His glory (1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11)! What this means is that His Spirit – His “anointing” – helps us to discern what “is true, and is no lie – just as it [was] taught [in His Word]” (v. 27). His Spirit brings to mind what we have studied in His Word (John 14:26) to help us see the lies of false teachers and antichrists and not be led astray.

Because of What He is Done, We Abide with Him in Confidence Instead of Shame

I originally planned on ending this section with verse 27, but I think that verse 28 brings us to a good place to transition into the rest of the book of 1 John.

Some lies are easier to believe that others, and there is no being in this world more suited to lie or better at lying than Satan. He, after all, is the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and the being who gives direction for these antichrists to tear down and seek to destroy. Satan has been twisting the words of God from the very beginning (Genesis 3:1), and he would like nothing more than to bring the same destruction and death to us today as he did long ago in the garden. Unfortunately, the result of the twisting of God’s Word is the removal of hope.

Satan, also known as the accuser (Revelation 12:10), would like nothing more than for the church to lose hope in Christ, for us to not continue to put our hope and trust in Him so that we stop telling others what He has done for us and can do for them. Without salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, God in flesh, we are left in our sin and shame.

But this is the beauty of verse 28 capping off this section. Here, John reminds his “little children” that if they/we “abide in [Christ]…we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming”. This is good news! Rather than believing anti-Christ lies, we can remember that “if we confess our sins, [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness” (v. 1:9). Rather than allowing the Word of God to be twisted and falling further into sin, the Spirit help us to remember that “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” who is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (vv. 2:1-2). Rather than be shifted from hope to fear, we can just abide – rest, dwell, remain – in Him and in His love, and nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). So, fear not, beloved sojourner. If you are in Christ, no spirit of antichrist has any power over you. Rest in the fact that you can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace”, the throne around which the Church will one day gather in worship – the throne of the risen Lamb and resurrected King Jesus, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

[1] The Holy Bible: ESV (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 2:24–28.

Refresh & Restore — February 25, 2021

18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 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 it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.[1]

1 John 2:18-27

Greetings, Sojourner!

We have – hopefully – survived Snowmaggedon 2021 here in central Mississippi. I am continuing to pray for those still recovering from the worst of the icy terror in Texas and other places. And I am glad for warm weather. However, this warm weather has not been enough to completely melt the ice.

While Mississippians have taken advantage of this shorts-and-flip-flops turn of temperature, there is still a lot of ice! There are large mounds of ice leftover from parking lots being cleared. There are even patches and mounds of ice around people’s houses, namely mine.

I say this to confess that I have had to live out Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Many people fell and slipped and slid on the ice this past week, but I – due mostly to abstaining from winter shenanigans – was proud that I made it through the entire spell of inclement weather without falling. I gave my father and brother a hard time after their hard falls. Haughty might be mild compared to the joking I threw their way.

But, lo and behold, Tuesday morning found me literally face-planted on my driveway, glasses thrown asunder and wrist awkwardly bent beneath the full weight of my body. I was humbled. And I was angry. I yelled and fussed and made quite a big deal about my fall. Thankfully, it appears that my wrist is only sprained, leaving my pride to be the only thing truly and rightfully broken.

You may be wondering how this relates to antichrists and 1 John, but I assure you they are wedded together in my mind today.

Last week, we began our study of 1 John 2:18-27 and saw that it was more than we could cover in a single devotion. Our first look at this passage helped us see the difference between the church in 1 John and the antichrists that were attacking it. In it, we looked at how God helps His Church to persevere through being attacked and how the those aligned with a spirit that is literally anti-Jesus-Christ will fall away after inflicting their anti-gospel message.

This week, we are going to shift to look at the attack of the antichrists and the effects of the attack on the church in vv. 22-23.

To do this, I again remind you of the truth of the gospel. In last week’s devotion, we looked at several verses (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Titus 3:4-5, 1 Peter 1:3-5) that lay out the foundation for the gospel clearly. I would like to shift to a definition of the gospel written by a preacher so that we can compare the false message of the antichrists with the true message of the gospel proclaimed through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the Word. David Platt defines the gospel thusly:

“The gospel is the good news that God, the loving Creator, sovereign King, and holy Judge of all, has looked upon men and women wonderfully and uniquely made in His image who have rebelled against Him, are separated from Him, and deserve death before Him, and He has sent His Son, Jesus, God in the flesh, the long-awaited King, to live a perfect and powerful life, to die a sacrificial and substitutionary death, and to rise from the grave in victory over sin, Satan, and death. The gospel is a summons from God for all people in all nations to repent and believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, turning from all idols to declare allegiance to Jesus alone as King and trust in Jesus alone as Lord. All who turn from Jesus will experience everlasting, horrifying suffering in hell, while all who trust in Jesus will experience everlasting, satisfying communion with God in heaven.”[2]

Look at how he speaks about God. He describes Him as “Creator, sovereign King, and holy Judge” (Genesis 1:1, Colossians 1:16-17, Revelation 17:14, Isaiah 33:22). He emphasizes the Bible’s teaching that Jesus is “God in the flesh, the long-awaited King” (John 1:14, Isaiah 9:6)and that His “sacrificial and substitutionary death” (2 Corinthians 5:21, Colossians 1:19-20) and resurrection from “the grave in victory over sin, Satan, and death” (John 11:25-26, 1 Corinthians 15:54-57) as being necessary for anyone to be saved. He explains that salvation occurs when people “repent and believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, turning from all idols to declare allegiance to Jesus alone as King and trust in Jesus alone as Lord” (Mark 1:15, Romans 10:9-10). All the language that Platt uses to talk about the gospel speaks of God and the salvation He offers in a way that is consistent with Scripture. This, like all true Bible teaching, is pro-Christ.

Look at the contradiction we see in 1 John 2:22. The antichrists are liars who deny “that Jesus is the Christ”, going even further to deny “the Father and the Son”. Let me say that again. They are proclaiming that Jesus is not the Messiah. They are proclaiming that He is not God. They are proclaiming that God the Father is not who He claims to be in His Word. They are proclaiming that God the Son is not who the Bible says that He is.

Everything that comes from the mouth of these antichrists – and will ultimately come from the Antichrist – is designed to turn you away from the truth of the gospel. It is more dangerous than you can imagine. This false gospel is designed to stir up doubt and division in local churches. Remember, that “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:9), meaning that his goal is to devour – to devote to destruction – by whatever means he can. But, just as he is known to be “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44) and “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9), he lives up to that and spews his anti-gospel lies through his antichrists.

We have seen a few weeks ago that Satan has knowledge of Scripture, so he knows that the Bible shows his sure doom. I can think of nothing more dangerous than an angry supernatural being with delusions of grandeur and a nothing-to-lose, take-the-ship-down-with-me attitude. Yet I remind you, “Lo! His doom is sure!”[3]

Revelation 20:10 shows a different picture of Satan: “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever”. The King of kings and Lord of lords will reign victorious, and hell will forever be occupied by Satan and his antichrists. But how many other occupants will be led astray by his lies and false gospel?

We do not have to be susceptible to fall into his trap to “walk in darkness” and “not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). No, “if we walk in the light, as [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

We need to follow the warning of the psalmist and seek that God may “turn [our] eyes from looking at worthless things; and give [us] life in [His] ways” (Psalm 119:37). We need to heed the invitation of Jesus Himself who said, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14).

To do this, we need to be careful. Verse 23 clearly states that those who deny the Son do not have the Father – they cannot be saved because they have no part in Christ or His death and resurrection. But verse 23 also gives hope: “Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” We need to be on our guard. We need to be like the believers in Berea who “were more noble than those in Thessalonica” because they “received the Word with eagerness” but made sure they were “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). We need to do the same. We trust preachers only when their gospel lines up with Scripture. And we can tell antichrists by the same token; if they wrongly proclaim Christ, they have no gospel – plain and simple.

The issue with the false gospel is that they begin with just enough truth to be familiar to their hearers to get their attention and trap them. In the case of the church in 1 John, the antichrists preached in the name of Jesus; the problem was their Jesus was neither the Christ nor God incarnate. They preached a different Jesus. These antichrists come looking like prophets and preachers – they masquerade as sheep “but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). They come up from “among the people” and seek to “secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1). Their entire goal is to “distort the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:7). If you add anything to or take anything away from the gospel – if you preach a different Christ, you have no hope and no salvation.

While this is a dire warning, it is not meant to cause fear. Remember that, if you are in Christ, “you have been anointed by the Holy One” (v. 20). He has left you a His Spirit, and the “Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). And His Spirit will help you discern the truth from the lies (v. 27).

I told you earlier that I fell and busted my wrist, face, and pride on the ice Tuesday. What I did not tell you was that I knowingly was standing on ice. I knew that others had fallen but felt that I could stand on my own two feet – until those feet were following my body to the ground. What I did not tell you was that I fell again this very morning. I was more careful today to avoid the ice, but I did not look as closely as I should have, stepped on black ice on my sidewalk, and busted my pride once more. Let us be on better guard against antichrists and their false gospel. We are foolish to stand in its midst and always – always – need to stand on the sure foundation of “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness” (Titus 2:13-14). He alone can save. Let us trust in Him alone.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 2:18–27.

[2] David Platt, “Gospel Foundations”, Secret Church 20: God, Government, and the Gospel – Study Guide (Radical, Inc., 2020), 37.

[3] Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” (Public Domain)

Refresh & Restore — February 18, 2021

18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 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 it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. [1]

1 John 2:18=27

Greetings, Sojourner!

I hope this week’s devotion finds you warm in the midst of all this…winter. I remember the ice storms that hit Mississippi in 1994 and Christmas 1998. I remember that it was cold – and sometimes dark. And I also remember that everything eventually thawed out and got back to whatever normal is. In the midst of ever-changing weather patterns and virtual work and school, I am thankful for the Word of God that will remain forever (Isaiah 40:8) and that the God it proclaims will never change (James 1:17).

The Word of God contains everything that can be known about God. It is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It discerns “the thoughts and intentions of the heart”, laying our motivations and the truth of our allegiances – everything we may want to hide from Him – bare before God (Hebrews 4:12-13). And it is in the Word that we find Life and salvation (Psalm 119:25, Ephesians 2:4-5, John 3:16-17, Romans 10:17).

This week’s passage draws on all of that. It is in this section that John begins to discuss the issues that were plaguing his original audience and their churches, and it is easily seen that the same issues attack us and our churches today. To study this, we are going to break the passage up into three parts and study them over the coming weeks: 1) the difference between the Church and its attackers (vv. 18-21), 2) the qualities and effects of the attack (vv. 22-23), and 3) the protection that those in Christ already possess to stand against the attacks (vv. 24-27).

In today’s section, we see that John uses specific language to describe the Church. He calls them “children” (v. 18) – used other places in 1 John as a term of love – to remind of the fact that they have been adopted through salvation into the family of God (Galatians 4:5, Titus 3:6, Romans 8:15). He describes them as having continued in faith to the end (v. 19). He reminds them that they have been “anointed by the Holy One” and possess “knowledge” that comes from Him through His Spirit (v. 20). And, finally, he reminds them of what he has already said in this letter about the truth and what it means to walk in it (v. 21).

On the other hand, he describes those who attack the Church as antichrists. I want to briefly pause here and talk about the word antichrist. It is one of the few words that, rather than translating, just has English letters replace the original Greek ones (ἀντίχριστος – antichristos – antichrist). It literally means “against Christ” or “in place of Christ”.[2] It shows up in the Old Testament (Daniel 7-8; 9:26-27; 11; Zechariah 11:16-17) and the New (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7; cf. Matthew 24:15-25; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Revelation 6:2; 16:13; 19:20).

Several of the references listed above refer to the Antichrist who, based on the prophecies of Daniel, will be a “human leader, satanically energized, who will come to Jerusalem, enforce his will, exalt himself above all other people and gods, and wreak havoc and slaughter”[3]. While the Antichrist is a real figure prophesied in Scripture, we should note that 1) King Jesus’ victory has already been recorded (Revelation 19), and 2) he is not who John is talking about here.

The antichrists that John talks about here are those whose message is anti-Christ and anti-gospel. These are figures who come into the church and distort the gospel from within. They are pretenders. They make believe that they are part of the church and seek to tear it down from the inside. They are similar to the “false christs” and “false prophets” that Jesus warned about in Matthew 24:24 and Mark 13:22. Their goal is to use any means at their disposal, even demonic “signs and wonders”, to “lead astray” as many as they can – if possible, even those who are saved and know the truth. The specific message of the antichrists attacking the church in 1 John was related to denying that “Jesus is the Christ” (v. 22); they were preaching and proclaiming a different/false gospel.

Rather than trying to explain the true gospel to you in my own words, let me show you a primary difference between those who seek to glorify God through His gospel and those who seek to distort it. The gospel does not require explanation since it is shown plainly in Scripture:

  • For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
  • For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-6)
  • Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

That should be a quality of all preachers/gospel teachers who say that they are “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) – they must actually present the Word and use it in the correct context.

John emphasizes twice in v. 19 that these antichrists “went out from us” because “they were not of us” to make it “plain that they all are not of us”. The antiChrist nature of the antichrist’s gospel cannot abide in the Church. And their leaving – either by their own choice or by being removed – shows that they are not of us. This is important to understand because it helps us see that we can know we are in Christ – that we are His.

We looked a few weeks ago at the importance of understanding that “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (ch. 2:1). That shows that we do not look to be sinless and perfect to show we are saved because it is not possible. We look to Christ, “the propitiation of our sins”, for salvation (ch. 2:2). We look to what He did and trust in that rather than our own actions. It is important that we grasp this truth in order to move on here. Salvation comes from Christ and His grace, “not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

When it says that the antichrists left because they were not of us, John emphasizes the eternal nature of salvation[4] – those who are saved by Christ will continue in Him to the end. He, in describing how those who are “not of us” leave the church, emphasizes the same thing that Paul does in Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”. If God has saved you, you are saved. He will not quit on His children nor forsake them (Hebrews 13:5). But those who masquerade as “church members” while not being a part or member of the body of Christ will eventually be exposed. Rather than worrying over this or allowing our natural doubts to bloom into fear, let us take hold of the advice that Paul gave to the church in Philippi – to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”, making sure that it is “God who works in you” and not you working to earn salvation by your own actions (Philippians 2:12-13). The language in this verse is interesting and fits perfectly with the context of 1 John 2:18-21.

The word translated “work out” here does not mean that we make our salvation happen or earn it somehow. It was a word that would have been familiar to farmers of the period, similar to our word “cultivate”. In this case, God has planted the seed of His gospel in our hearts and is growing it up in us to bear fruit (John 15:4, Colossians 1:10). He has done all the work in our salvation; we merely continue in that beautifully simple command and invitation from Jesus that is the same for us as it was for Peter, John, and their brothers all those years ago: “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19-21). And, despite the false teaching of the antichrists around us, we – like sheep – know the voice of the Good Shepherd (John 10:14-16).

It has been my hope that this study of 1 John could be a tool to help you better understand the Word of God so that you can know Him better. But some passages are just plain meaty and need to be chewed and chewed until the bites can be swallowed. Know that you are prayed for and loved and that – should you want to talk about anything you read here or need specific prayer – you can always feel free to reach out and contact me.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 2:18–27.

[2] Daniel I. Morrison, “Antichrist,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[3] John MacArthur, “Antichrists and Christians”, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1-3 John (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007), 96.

[4] The issue of the eternal nature of salvation (sometimes called the perseverance of the saints or, too simply, once-saved-always-saved) is debated by some. Rather than debate that here, I have compiled a list of Scriptures that deal with it in the “Bible Study Notes” section of the website.

Refresh & Restore — February 10, 2021

15 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. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.[1] 

1 John 2:15-17

Greetings, Sojourner!

I am glad to be back at our 1 John study after a bit of a mental break. Instead of writing a devotion last week, I took the opportunity to get some extra time in the Word – reading and listening, not to study but to spend time with the Lord. Those who support me closely in writing these were relieved and glad I took the break; I am, too.

I was all geared up to write this devotion last week, so it has been simmering in my thoughts longer than usual. Time and again, my thoughts returned to Demas.

If you have no idea who Demas is, do not feel bad. He is typically limited to random Bible trivia since his name only shows up three times in the Bible. The first two times mention him being with Paul on one of his missionary journeys and sending his regards to the Colossian church and Philemon (Colossians 4:14, Philemon 24). The final reference tells us that Paul was alone at the end of his life, partly because “Demas, in love with this present world…, deserted [him and went] to Thessalonica” (2 Timothy 4:10).

That is all the information we have about him. He was with Paul until the world came calling. Then he left.

Demas’ story fits well with today’s passage. Here, John transitions from reminding us to love one another to warning us to “not love the world or the things in the world” (v. 15a). When he talks about the world here, he is not talking about the earth and caring for it as a part of God’s creation. He is talking about the ways of the world – the ways of the flesh. It is similar to Paul’s words in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The ways of the world are contrary to the Way, that is Christ (John 14:6). We are to conform to Christ and imitate Him – not the world.

John continues his warning in verse 15 by explaining that “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”. There is a firm line drawn here. One cannot give their love – their allegiance, faith, and trust – fully to two things. The Way and the world – the Father and the flesh – are polar opposites. Jesus explained that no one can “serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Luke 16:13). James asks his original audience (and us), “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4)? What could be more serious than finding oneself on the opposite side of God Most High? Do we love Him or the world? Depending on our answer, we are either a friend of God or His enemy. There is no middle ground.

At this point, you may be wondering where the refreshing and restoring has gone. My answer is simple: nowhere. These truths are tough, but needed. This is not a stepping-on-toes moment. No, this is a soul-evaluation moment. This has been a call for me to look at my own life and evaluate my priorities – to evaluate my worship. I have had to repent of my worldly focus in some areas. You may need to also.

Thankfully, John does not just spiritually sucker punch us and move on; he helps us to see what it looks like to love the world. Danny Akin has written that verse 16 “is one of the most important verses in the Bible”[2] because it “identifies in vivid terms the weapons the world uses to seduce men and women into joining its side.” This is good news for us because it shows us areas to look at so repentance can occur – so refreshment and restoration can occur.

Perhaps the scariest thing for me about verse 16 is that all those weapons of the world reside inside of me – “desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life”. They originate in my sinful heart. And they are in yours as well.

The Bible gives us clear examples to see how these weapons have defeated people in the past and how God Himself overcame them.

These weapons were first used on the very first people. Genesis 3:6 shows how all three of these weapons were used to bring sin and death to Adam and Eve: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (desires of the flesh) and that it was a delight to the eyes (desires of the eyes) and that the tree was desired to make one wise (pride of life), she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was there with her, and he ate.”

Satan, in the form of the Serpent (Revelation 12:9), came and helped the first humans bring sin and death into the world. He twisted the Word of God, and Adam and Eve let him. But Satan cannot bear the blame. James 1:14-15 makes it quite clear what happened to them and to us:

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

Sin and death continued from that point onward.

If we were left to Adam and Eve to save us, we would have no hope. The way that temptation and a love for the flesh worked in their lives is the same way it works in our own. Thankfully, we have a better example in the way that Jesus handled the same temptations.

In Luke 4:1-13, we see Jesus being tempted by Satan. He had been in the wilderness, eating nothing, for forty days. Luke 4:2 tells us Jesus was “hungry”. Satan told Jesus that He should “command this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3), appealing to the desire of Jesus’ flesh. But Jesus reminded him of what the Word of God says in Deuteronomy 8:3 – and did not sin.

Next, Satan “showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time”, offering to give Jesus “authority” and “glory” if He would only bow down in worship (Luke 4:5-6). But Jesus reminded him of what the Word of God says in Deuteronomy 6:13 – and did not sin.

Finally, he took Jesus to the highest point on the temple and tempted Jesus to jump (Luke 4:9). He even quoted some Scripture himself, reminding Jesus that Psalm 91:11-12 promise that no harm would come to Him – that angles will “guard” Him and keep even His foot from striking “against a stone”. But Jesus reminded him of what the Word of God says in Deuteronomy 6:16. He did not sin.

It is in Christ’s handling of temptation that we find hope. We are all very susceptible to fail because of the desires of our flesh and eyes and our pride. Jesus is not.

The desires of our flesh are powerful because they come from what we want deep down in our hearts. But, if we are in Christ, we do not have to fear our sinful hearts because “He also put His seal on us and [has] given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:22). And, remember, “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1)!

The desires of our eyes are powerful, too, because it is through them that we find many opportunities for sin. Rather than spying out opportunities for sin, we should be “looking to Jesus, the founder and protector of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and seeking “the things that are above, where Christ is” (Colossians 3:1). Then, we may see God answer the cry of the psalmist in our own lives: “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (Psalm 119:37).

The pride of life is powerful, too. It also hits a bit harder than the first two. This is the part of us that thinks that we can do some things better than God. It is when we think too highly of our own power and possessions and position. It is when we want to receive worship and glory that is only due to God. And, just as God gives us a way out of the first two temptations, He takes care of us here as well. Let us look at the last verse that Jesus quoted to Satan – the one that made him tuck tail and run away: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test…” (Deuteronomy 6:16).

I draw your attention to this command because it reminds us that hope in Jesus is eternal when this world is “passing away along with its desires” (v. 17). You see, Satan was reminded of something that scared him and should give us courage. He was reminded that Jesus is God and is not to be trifled with or tested! And so long as we trust Christ as Savior and Lord – so long as we love and worship Him, Satan and the desires of our flesh will be kept in check!

We looked at some tough words from James 4 earlier. Let us look now at the good news he brings later in that same passage:

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”

James 4:7-8a

You and I do not have to meet the same end as Demas. Our story need not end with us “in love with this present world” having deserted Christ. He is “rich in mercy” and loves us with a great love (Ephesians 2:4). The world cares only for itself. Jesus “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The world brings only the wages of my sin – death (Romans 6:23).

I pray that this reminder finds you looking to Christ as your hope and away from the world – and that repentance is granted where we need it (2 Timothy 2:25).

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 2:15–17.

[2] Daniel L. Akin et al., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2014).

Refresh & Restore — January 28, 2021

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.[1] 

1 John 2:7-11

Greetings, Sojourner – “Beloved”!

I am struck by the way that John writes to his original audience. He refers to them often as “little children” (2:1, 12, 18, 28; 3:7, 18); now, he calls them “beloved” (2:7; 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11). He loves them, and it shows. But this word we see as “beloved” is more than a regular term for someone you care about. The love in it is the word agape – God’s never-ending, unfailing love. “Beloved” is a word that is unique to the Church. It is rooted in His love for us. It refers to those who love God and worship Him. And it is a greeting specific to the family of God – those united by their adoption through faith in Christ (John 1:12, Galatians 4:5-6).

I greet you the same today, beloved Sojourner, knowing that as we journey through this world that we are loved by God. That love is at the heart of John’s writing. It is one of the themes that we loop through over and over: life, light, and love, all of which we will see in today’s passage.

Before we get too far, I want to address the issue of following/keeping commandments. So far in 1 John, we have seen the importance of walking in the same way that Jesus walked (2:6) and how we should keep His commandments (2:3), His Word (2:4), and abide in Him through all of that (2:5). It is easy to get legalistic when we talk about being obedient and keeping commandments. So, I would like to revisit a statement from the end of last week’s devotion:

“We follow Him, learning from Him, and keep His commandments. We do not keep His commandments to earn our freedom but because of our freedom, in love and gratitude for what He has done for us.”

It is important that we do not fall back into trying to keep the Law (Galatians 5:1; Romans 6:14-18). Any reference to keeping commandments here speaks to following Christ and imitating Him (Ephesians 5:1) because He loves us and gave Himself up for us (Ephesians 5:2). We obey because we love Him (4:19) and trust that His Way is better than ours (John 14:6, Isaiah 55:9). To keep His commandments is not to earn salvation but to see that salvation has taken root in our hearts and lives (Colossians 2:6-7).

The commandment that John talks about here mirrors Jesus’ exact teaching:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35

This was no doubt unforgettable for John as it was part of Jesus’ last supper with His disciples on the night before He was arrested, the day before He was crucified. That night would impact the rest of John’s life (1:1-3). It was that same “new commandment”, given straight from the mouth of God, that John references here: love others as Christ loved us.

You have no doubt heard this commandment before. It was Jesus’ upgraded version of the commandment found in Leviticus 19:18 – “You shall not take vengeance or bear grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself” – which has been a feature of many Sunday School lessons and sermons. Yet Jesus’ command, especially the way it is referenced in 1 John, is not based out of loving like we love ourselves or treating others how we would like to be treated. No, this is no “golden rule”; this is a heart overflowing with the love we receive from Christ.

Jesus’ love for us in salvation should impact the way that we interact with other people. Having received grace, we should be gracious. Having received mercy, we should be merciful. Having experienced the love of God, we should love others. But, as simple as that sounds, it is extremely difficult.

Part of the reason that this is difficult is because it requires more than just lip-service. Here where I live in the American South, “I love you” and “love” are thrown about casually. The love that Jesus commands of us is anything but casual. His love is a “greater love” (John 15:13). He loved us “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8). It is because God is “rich in mercy” and out of the “great love with which He loved us” that we have Life at all (Ephesians 2:4)! I speak from experience when I say that the true difficulty lies in acknowledging how difficult I am to love and how amazing the love of God is that He could ever love and save a “wretch like me”.

This is the reason that love becomes the defining characteristic of what it is to be a Christian. Just like Jesus told His original disciples that they would be known by their love for one another, the standard is the same for us. How we love God and share that love with others shows whether we are in darkness or light (2:7-8). In fact, hating our “brother” is an indicator that we live and stumble in the darkness (2:9-10).

Darkness is most definitely of Satan and not of God, but it also comes from our own sinful hearts. If we allow our hatred of someone – especially one close enough to be considered a brother in Christ (we will study more on this in the future) – to blind us, the darkness comes from that hatred; our own sinful hearts and desires have clouded our judgment and led us astray (Jeremiah 17:9).

If you are like me, this is where you start justifying your hatred. No, I do not know what they did to you. No, I have not experienced what you have. But God has (Hebrews 4:14-16)! He has experienced how I have sinned against Him (Psalm 51:4). His heart has been grieved time and again (Genesis 6:6, Ephesians 4:30).

And it is at the feet of the One who would be righteous to cast us out that we learn to love and forgive instead. Or, if our love for ourselves and hatred for others makes us unable (or unwilling) to forgive and let go of hate, we find that we truly abide in darkness and have not experienced the love of Christ at all (2:9, Matthew 6:14-15).

Rather than rationalizing your hatred, beloved, I urge you to repent – to not “abandon the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). The beauty of repentance is that it is always met with love. Always.

If you look at today’s passage and feel more than a little inadequate, you are not alone. I remind you that we are incapable of following Christ’s commandments perfectly. Remember, when we sin we have an Advocate (2:2) to meet us where we are and carry us through. I believe that John included this next section (2:12-14) to illustrate that, no matter where we are in our walk with Christ, none of us have arrived:

12  I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
13  I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
     I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
     I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
14  I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
     I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.[2]

John pauses here to give a special word to Christ-followers in every stage of walking with Him: “little children” who are just starting out with Him, “fathers” who have walked with Him for many years, and “young men” who are actively (and often through error and trials) seeking to serve the Lord.

To the children, he reminds them that they have been forgiven of their sins (2:12) and adopted by the Father into the family of God (2:13). When we sin and stumble, these things are easy to forget and necessary to remember to continue following Christ.

To the fathers (and mothers) in the faith, he reminds them that their relationship is grounded in “Him who is from the beginning” (2:13-14) – both the beginning of all things and the beginning of their walk when they were but children in their faith.

And to the young men (and women) who are in the midst of spiritual warfare and service of the Lord – not yet mature in their faith but actively walking with Christ, he reminds them that the evil one has already been overcome (2:13) and that the strength to win the battle comes from the Lord as found and taught from His Word (2:14).

Wherever you are on your journey – baby or an elder – Christ still has something for you. Rest assured, that His same new commandment still applies. Go out and find ways to “love one another” today.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 2:7–11.

[2] ESV, 1 Jn 2:12–14.

Refresh & Restore — January 21, 2021

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.[1]   

1 John 2:1-6

Greetings, Sojourner!

I absolutely love this week’s passage. It shows us so much of Christ’s heart for us and introduces us to some unique aspects of His character. It also shows us John’s heart for his original audience and, I hope, it shows a bit of mine for you.

Remember that the passage that we look at each week comes out of the larger whole of 1 John. So far, we have seen that what John writes in this letter flows out of his personal experience and testimony with Jesus (1:1-4). We have also seen that, to “walk in the light” (1:7), we must repent consistently of our sin and trust in Christ – that how we see and talk about our sin matters (1:5-10). And it is the seriousness of our sin that brings us into today’s verses.

John starts this paragraph with “my little children” (2:1). This shows that he cares about them. The fact that he calls them that in this paragraph shows that what he is talking to them about is serious. It reflects how parents talk to their children in times of extreme danger or importance. Speaking from experience, I find that when my children are terrified that I remind them to “listen to Daddy” and my tone is the same as it was when I spoke to them as infants cradled in my arms. John is talking to his spiritual children about sin.

In fact, he expands his purpose for writing to include “so [they/we] may not sin” (2:1). I want to clarify that this does not point to personal, human perfection. It is unattainable on earth. This is not a cop out; it is merely the truth. It is in our nature to sin and our sin nature continually wages war against the Spirit of God in us (Romans 6:23, 7:15-20; Galatians 5:16-17). But even though this is true, we have to be careful in how we talk about sin. Knowing that we will always struggle with sin does not give us an excuse to sin (Galatians 5:1). Sometimes, even knowing that there is forgiveness to be had can tempt us to sin more and more (Romans 6:1-2).

Just as John showed us in last week’s passage, we must have an appropriate view of sin. If we deny our sinfulness, we are liars who have no part in Christ (1:8). But, if we confess our sins to him in repentance and faith in Christ, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). I do not know about you, but I struggle with the reality of my sin. I long for the day when I will see Jesus face-to-face and no longer struggle with sin. But I would be a fool to think that I had arrived at perfection before I kneel before perfection Himself in glory.

So, how does the reality of my continued sin fit with John’s purpose of writing “that [I] may not sin”? John acknowledges the reality of sin in verse 2: “But if anyone does sin”.

The picture that we see unfold in verse 2 is that of a courtroom. Our sin deserves death and hell (Romans 6:23, Revelation 21:8), and we are very clearly guilty (Romans 3:10, 23). As we saw last week, to plead innocent would be a lie and show that we are not in Christ (1:8). To plead guilty would be the truth. And, standing before the righteous Judge (Psalm 50:6, 75:7; 1 Corinthians 5:13; 2 Corinthians 5:10), we would be as aware of our sins as Isaiah was when he stood in the presence of God:

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Isaiah 6:5

As in any criminal trial, there is a prosecutor – an accuser. His name is Satan (which literally translates as “the accuser”). Revelation 12:10 describes him as “the accuser of our brothers” and actively accusing them “day and night before our God”. He will have plenty of evidence against us – all we have said and done. And, if we are honest, we know we are guilty of everything he accuses us of and that we have sinned against God (Psalm 51:4). In fact, if we look in the Word, we know that God already knows everything (and so much more, including our thoughts, desires, and motivations) that Satan brings before the court (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Do you yet grasp the gravity of our situation? Surely you know how this works. We have seen enough courtroom dramas to know when a prosecutor has nailed the proverbial coffin shut with evidence. Yet this is exactly where John begins: “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (2:1).

The word advocate is used only a handful of times in the New Testament, and most of those times it is translated as Helper or Comforter and refers to the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; 16:17). It paints the picture of one who shows up on behalf of another. In the case of the Holy Spirit, it refers to Jesus leaving His Spirit with His people once He ascended back into heaven. In the case of our advocate, Jesus Himself appears on our behalf – defense attorney, key witness, evidence, and Divine plea bargain.

Let me be clear that this is the point where our earthly legal dramas fail to picture what is going on here. Much of what we see on television (and assume happens often in the real-world) centers around someone “getting off” instead of being found guilty. As I said earlier, we are most assuredly guilty. Again, I remind you that everything the accuser says about us is true – all the evidence is genuine. The sin is ours, and we willfully committed each sin.

Our advocate is “Jesus Christ the righteous”. Were He to try to get the charges merely thrown out, He would not be righteous. There is “a record of debt” and “legal demands” that come with our sin (Colossians 2:14). The Judge cannot allow the debt to remain unpaid. But every penny – every good deed – that we have ever been capable of is not a drop in the bucket compared to the sin debt we owe.

Our accuser no doubt delights in this. What prosecutor could keep from delighting in a sure win? Yet our advocate steps forward and enters Himself into evidence. He is not just advocate but also propitiation (2:2).

Please, do not let the size of these words intimidate you. They are not fancy, academic words. They are Bible words that are important to our understanding of what Christ has done for us. The word propitiation means a sacrifice that trades wrath for favor, anger for gladness, Christ’s sinlessness for the punishment our sin deserves (Isaiah 53:5).

As our propitiation, Jesus covers our sin and shame. He decides to fully bear our punishment and gives us the favor He has as the Son of God, so, now, when the Judge looks out, He does not see our sin but His Son. How does Jesus do this? He does it “by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” by “set[ting] it aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). He – the sinless Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:19) – took on our sin so that “we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Rather than judgment, we find mercy. Instead of being condemned, we find grace. Since the Judge sees a son in the place of a sinner, we gain eternal life rather than the death sentence we deserve. And the accuser’s cries go unheard like those of a bug meeting the heel of a boot (Genesis 3:15). And we can rejoice that “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

What do we do with this freedom?

We follow Him, learning from Him, and keep His commandments (2:3-4). We do not keep His commandments to earn our freedom but because of our freedom, in love and gratitude for what He has done for us (Matthew 11:29).

We see the love that He showed us through His death and resurrection (Romans 5:8) show up in our own lives (2:5). We love Him because He loves us (4:19). And we show that love to others for the same reason (4:11, Matthew 22:38-39).

We reflect His Light and Life (2:6) like the moon does the sun – a pale reflection but pointing to Him, nevertheless. And, hopefully, just as the moon pulls the tides toward it, people will be drawn to our Savior because they see Him in us.

I do not have to ask if you are struggling with sin. But I ask that when you do, you run to the advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous. “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Now, that is good news!

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 2:1–6.

Refresh & Restore — January 14, 2021

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we 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 his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say 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. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.[1]

1 John 1:5-10

Greetings, Sojourner!

What a privilege it is to get to spend time together in the Word of God. When turmoil, confusion, and fear seem to be the norm, it is good to see the eternal perspective of God found in His Word. And, especially in the context of 1 John 1, we get to see the same hope that was promised in Christ long ago by the prophet Isaiah:

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.

Isaiah 9:2

This is part of what John wanted to show in his first letter. No matter how dark the darkness seems – whether in the world or in our own hearts – there is hope because “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (v. 5). Let us dive into today’s passage, and may the Word of God shine into our lives today.

Since we are going through a book of the Bible together, it is important that we see how each week’s passage flows as part of the larger text – sentences into paragraphs into sections into chapters into the whole book. This week’s passage flows out of the introduction last week by John getting specific about the message that he “heard” and “proclaim[ed]” (vv. 1, 3) – a message directly from God and not man.

The message he writes here either sums up or elaborates on what he wrote previously in his gospel. This is cool because 1) he has already shared specifically what he “heard” directly from Jesus, and 2) the Word of God is the best commentary for itself (i.e., the verses that are cited in this devotion clear up the meaning of the word and bear more weight than any of the other words). Here are some of the verses from the gospel of John that are drawn on in today’s passage:

  • In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (1:4-5)
  • The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. (1:9)
  • But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (3:21)
  • Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I Am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (8:12)
  • So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (12:35-36)
  • I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. (12:46)

John wanted his original readers – and us – to look at the way that Christ – the Light– shines despite the darkness – that it is His shining that ultimately drives the darkness away because it cannot contend with Him. And, just like it is the nature of light to shine, Jesus revealed/manifested Himself to us (v. 2) and shines his “glory…full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This is good news. It also carries with it some bad news.

The problem with light shining into darkness is that everything is revealed – good and bad. My wife and I were so excited to buy “daylight” bright light bulbs for our formerly dark bathroom. Now, we face the stark reality of each day that we age. The bags under my eyes are darker and deeper there. My pores seem magnified. Scars, wrinkles, and blemishes look like chasms in my face. And Candice remains beautiful.

The rest of today’s passage deals with what is found and exposed in the light – how we walk in either light or darkness exposes the state of our hearts and our fellowship (or lack of it) with Christ. It is important here that we note that all of the verses that we are looking at today have “we” as the subject. John is not pointing fingers but showing how everyone, everywhere, for all time who takes these positions (including himself) is included. He does this by making “if” statements that can help diagnose our relationship with Christ with each statement building on the others to help us understand what it means to “walk in the light, as He is in the light” (v. 7).

The first “if” statement is in verse 6: “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness”. Fellowship with God – that relationship that flows out of the grace of God in salvation – does not dwell in darkness. We saw in John 1:5 earlier that the darkness will never overcome the light, and, if we have fellowship with God, we live in the light. Let us check our own hearts. Do we claim to have fellowship with God? Are we walking (living/behaving/participating) in darkness? James 4:4 tells us the question we need to ask regarding our walk with Christ: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”

The next “if” statement shifts to the brightness of the light and is given in a positive tone (emphasis added): “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light”. Jesus – the Light – is always the contrast to darkness. Walking (again living/behaving/participating) with Him is the opposite of walking in darkness. If we walk with Him, we have fellowship with God (v. 6) and that fellowship extends to our brothers and sisters in Christ because of the shared experience of having been cleansed from sin by “the blood of Jesus” (v. 7). That fellowship will extend to heaven where it will be sung, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…” (Revelation 5:9). And, in heaven, all will “walk in the light” because it “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23).

Verse 8’s “if” statement shifts back to the darkness: “if we say we have no sin”. The Bible is clear on this subject. Not one single person is righteous in their own works (Romans 3:10); in fact, “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). Every, single human being from Adam to Kingdom come (except Christ) is a sinner. And, if we convince ourselves that we are not, we “deceive ourselves”. I like the way that Charles Spurgeon put it:

“He who cannot find water in the sea is not more foolish than the man who cannot perceive sin in his members. As the salt flavors every drop in the Atlantic, so does every sin affect every atom of our nature.”

The word “deceive” there means to “lead astray”. So, by saying that we have no sin, we are causing ourselves to stumble. And we are revealing that the Truth (Jesus Himself is the Truth – John 14:6) is “not in us”. Hear me, beloved Sojourner, how we react to our sin matters – whether we choose to conceal it or confess it matters. We might be able to convince ourselves that we are sinless and perfect. We may even be able to convince other people. But the Light recognizes the darkness, and nothing is hidden from Him (Hebrews 4:13).

The final positive “if” statement is where we need to be in our walk with Christ: “if we confess our sins” (v. 9). This is the appropriate attitude for a Christ-follower regarding sin. We should not deny it but admit it and receive the forgiveness that Christ promises (Proverbs 28:13, Psalm 32:5). When we confess our sin and “draw near to the throne of grace” where Christ is seated, “we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). You see, Christ does not just do away with sin. Verse 9 makes it clear that he is “faithful” and “just” in his forgiveness. He is faithful in His forgiveness because He does what He has said He would do for those who have confessed and believed in Him (Romans 10:9). He is just because He paid the penalty for our sin (Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21). So, I ask again, are we walking in darkness or light? Do we deny and excuse our sin, or do we confess our need for the Savior? Our answers to these questions make all the difference in this world and the next.

John’s last “if” statement shows why all of these questions matter: “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us” (v. 10). We simply cannot have it both ways. No lie can be the Truth, nor can darkness be Light. And, since it is His voice that created this universe, His Word goes. And by the Word – Christ Himself – we are either saved or left to the death we earn ourselves through sin (Romans 6:23).

He does not ask for perfection from us. He provides that for us. He asks only that we repent and believe.

Do you?

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 1:5–10.

Refresh & Restore — January 7, 2021

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.[1]

1 John 1:1-4

Greetings, Sojourner!

Here we are in our first Refresh & Restore of 2021, and I find myself both excited and nervous. I am excited because getting to open the Word and journey through it with you brings me great joy and is a special time for me each week. But I find myself anxious at how small I am compared to the massive task of “rightly handling the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). But I trust in the power of the Word (2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12) more than I fear my own inadequacies. As Augustine said, “Where Scripture speaks, God speaks”; and we so desperately need to hear Him.

What we are setting out to do in this new year – seeking to walk through whole books and sections of the Bible, to genuinely understand it – is not a new task. We will break it down like Isaiah had to in his time: “precept upon precept” and “line upon line” (Isaiah 28:10). We will join in with the likes of Ezra and Nehemiah who, upon returning home from exile, “read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8).

So, today, let us set out to read and understand John’s first epistle (letter) and look at the Life, Light, and Love that comes only from walking with Christ – the Word of God.

The first thing we see is how he opens 1 John and how it fits with the gospel of John. He started his gospel by describing how Jesus is eternal and God:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John 1:1

Where the other gospels begin with the birth of Christ and/or the work of John the Baptist, John’s gospel goes back before the beginning and shows that Jesus has always been and always been God. 1 John begins by showing us how we can know Him through the experience of those who knew Him as the God who saved them from their sins and the divine Man who was their friend on earth.

John was writing here as he and Peter said in Acts 4:20: “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard”. He is bringing Jesus, who “was from the beginning” (v. 1), into focus, showing us how He became knowable. Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and lived a fully human life; He could be “heard”, “seen”, “looked upon”, and “touched”. He was not some abstract being or god. He is neither myth nor legend. He is real.

John is relaying his first-hand experience with Jesus so that we can know Him. He does this so that when he talks about the “Word of Life” it is not some idea to be thought about but, rather, a Person to be known. Back when John was writing, there were people who were trying to convince others that God did not “become flesh”. They wanted to challenge that truth and replace it with theories and ideas (because theories and ideas can be ignored or changed as needed). But John shows that there was more to Jesus.

He was not only the “Word of Life” but the Life (John 14:6). And because He came – was born, lived, died in our place, and rose from the dead – the Life was “made manifest” (v. 2). We do not typically use language like this, so it may be a bit hard to wrap our minds around. But the word translated “made manifest” literally means “to make visible”, “to cause to be seen”, or “to make known”. That is exactly what happened. God, in Jesus, was “born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7); He became a man to make Himself known to us. “And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8) so that, by knowing, believing, and trusting in Him we might become “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

This is literally what John is doing here in this letter: He is sharing the Life with us. He wants us to know that he has “seen it”. He wants to “testify to it” so that we can believe it. And he wants to “proclaim” it – “the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest” (v. 2) so that we can have it too.

We have already talked about how John wrote his gospel to show us Christ and his first letter so that we can know Him. Now, we see how he goes from showing how to have eternal life in his gospel – “whosoever believes in Him shall have eternal life” (John 3:16) – to showing in 1 John how we can know we have eternal life.

Those who have eternal life have “fellowship” with John, all believers, and – especially – with “the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (v. 3). The word fellowship has a lot of (pardon the made-up word) churchiness associated with it. Where I live in the Southern US, the word fellowship could be associated with the awkward, pre-Covid greeting time at some churches, but it is most often associated with eating (I can almost taste fried chicken as I type this) meals at church gatherings. But the type of fellowship – the very concept that is at the heart of what John is saying here – is so much more than a shared meal, a handshake, or even a hug. It is not a way of life or even a part of life. It is a result of having eternal life – of associating with the Life.

The word here translated “fellowship” is a special word. It could translate as a “close association”, “community”, or “a close, mutual relationship”, but all those things can exist outside of eternal life. They are too regular to communicate what John is talking about here. The “fellowship” he refers to comes out of the shared experience flowing from the grace of God in salvation. It is community built upon the foundation of the gospel – that we are all sinners and are only saved by the grace of God in Christ alone.

The closest earthly example that I can relate it to would be a group of people who survived some tragedy. They would have a bond based on their shared experience of having lived through something together. But that is where the illustration falls apart. The fellowship with God that comes from salvation produces our fellowship with one another. And we do not share the experience of living through something; we share the experience of the Life. We can celebrate the fact that, despite the “wages of [our] sin [being] death”, we have received the “free gift of God…eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We are family – “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:7). This is a bond like no other.

Through knowing Christ in this way – the way that John knew Him, John shares with us the same thing that Jesus gave to him: complete joy. Here in verse 4, John echoes the promise that Jesus made to him – a promise he heard with his own ears. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

Joy means the reason for or object of gladness and delight. When we receive Christ, when we are fully known and loved by Him, He becomes the object of our delight and the reason that our hearts can be glad. He has already taken our sin upon Himself on the cross and defeated death, and He is willing to exchange our sorrows for joy. What better news could there be? For that reason, John tells his original readers and us today that he is “writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (v. 4).

I am immensely thankful for the testimony of John – that He would share all that he had heard and seen of His friend Jesus with us. I am even more thankful that Jesus – the Word of Life – came that we “may have Life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Have you experienced the eternal life that comes only from Jesus? All it takes to have eternal life is the same as with any gift – to receive it, to receive Christ because “to all who…receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). It is my prayer that – if you have not repented and believed in Jesus Christ – you do just that. He promises that “whoever comes to [Him] will never [be] cast out” (John 6:37). He will never – never – cast you out but instead make sure that your joy is completely full forever.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 1:1–4.