Refresh & Restore — June 3, 2021

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

13 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.[1]       

1 John 5:6-13

Greetings, Sojourner!

As I sit and write to you today, I find my mind fixated on this past weekend spent at the Beautiful Feet ministry in Ft. Worth, TX. I could write to you about how jarring it is to see people living in such poverty-stricken conditions. I could write to you of the desperate situations that led many of the people that we met, talked to, and prayed for onto the streets, but, instead, I find myself thinking about John’s words in v. 13 of today’s passage: “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” – and that is what stands out in my mind about Beautiful Feet – the eternal life offered and the example of those who are now believers.

This was my second time to go and witness the work that God is doing through Beautiful Feet (the Feet), but there were two things that grabbed my attention this time: 1) the impact that being saved (truly brought from death in sin to eternal life in Christ) has on people, and 2) the beauty of the testimony that God Himself bears about His Son. I believe both fit hand-in-hand (or in-foot, as seems appropriate here) with this week’s passage.

As John continues bringing his letter to a close, he focuses in on the testimony concerning Jesus. We focused last week on how God molds the beliefs of those who are “born of God” (5:1) to share in His love (5:2) and exhibit that love in keeping His commandments (5:3). This week’s passage shows the three-part testimony of the Son (water, blood, and Spirit) through the Father and what it is like for Him to be the object of our faith!

The Testimony of Water – He Was Born

When it talks of water here, it is referencing Christ’s birth (think of a mother’s water breaking when it is time for a baby to be born). The birth of Christ is important, and more than a mere holiday, because it shows His humanity. Part of that testimony is that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). We see in these verses that Jesus’ birth was one of extremely specific timing and circumstances – at just the right time in human history, “foreknown before the foundation of the world but…made manifest in the last times for” our sake (1 Peter 1:20, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Because “sin came into the world through one man” (Romans 5:12), Adam, all men would inherit a sin nature and the struggles that come with it. None of the sacrifices of the Old Testament system could take away sin, they could only point to the One who could, Jesus. Sin produces death (Genesis 3, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:1-2), and, as we have seen earlier in 1 John 1:9, we need God “to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – to cancel “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” (Colossians 2:14). Our debt from sin needs to be paid, but everyone on earth is in debt just the same, unable to pay their own way much less anyone else’s.

The only acceptable payment would be via propitiation (2:1-2, 4:10), but no one on earth is worthy to make the sacrifice for us (Romans 3:10, 3:23). So, God Himself stepped down to sacrifice Himself (John 1:14) meaning that the eternal God willingly became mortal. He lived the life that no other human on earth was capable of living (1 John 1:8, 10) – sinless perfection (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15) as the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). And He, in the Person of God the Son – fully God and fully man – “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant…[and] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-7), which is the second testimony.

The Testimony of Blood – He Died (Yet Lives!)

Blood was an important part of the sacrificial system in the Old Testament. Just as we saw our need for salvation through our forefather Adam in the first section, we see that the first physical deaths (God taking the lives of animals in the garden for their skins) were to cover the shame of Adam and Eve’s nakedness (Genesis 3:21). In the same way, our sin – and its shame – can be covered and cleansed by the blood of Jesus (1:7).

Jesus’ death on behalf of sinners shows love like nothing else (John 15:13). As I write this, it is Memorial Day, and I cannot help but think of those who gave their lives for the United States where I live. The way of life that is celebrated in America is bound up in the sacrifice of those brave men and women who died for their country and the ideals it represents. Their sacrifice points to the greater sacrifice of Christ, and we should be moved by and appreciate what He has done for us.

Think of the magnitude of His dying in our place: the God of the universe, “who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it” (Isaiah 42:5), “shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Just as it was important that He was born “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4), we see that “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). He died the death that would provide cleansing of sins for all who trust (believe, have faith) in Him! Through His death, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, [makes] us alive together with Christ”, saving sinners by His grace (Ephesians 2:4-5). On the cross, He took the “record of debt that stood against us” because of our sin and “set it aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). The old hymn “It is Well” sums it up beautifully[2]:

“My sin – oh, the bliss of this glorious thought – my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more; praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh, my soul!”

We do not have to mourn His death – thanks be to God! Jesus did not stay dead, and we can rejoice with the angels who said, “He is not here, for He has risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:6)! The “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) was different than other sacrificial lambs – He is risen forevermore as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David”, the “Lamb standing as though it had been slain” on the throne (Revelation 5:5-6)! And through His death, and especially His resurrection, we see the victory that overcomes the world (5:4-5) and can echo Paul when He praises God for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” who is alive and well!

The Testimony of the Spirit
(and the Evidence of Eternal Life Where He Abides)

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are irrefutable evidence from heaven, but He shows Himself to be true here on earth because His “Spirit is truth” (v. 6). This is important because His Spirit dwelling in those who are born again is how God abides in His children (4:16). If we claim to have Christ, we have His Spirit. Now, this is difficult because many people treat the Spirit awkwardly by either keeping Him at a distance and calling it reverence or treating Him like parlor tricks and calling it charisma. This is where last weekend at Beautiful Feet challenged what we far too often are willing to accept regarding being filled with God’s Spirit.

Beautiful Feet is more than a ministry that feeds hungry and clothes the poor. If you read the history of their ministry, you see their motto “Sharing the Gospel, Serving the Poor”, which is the entire scope of their ministry – the heart that God Himself has given them for the least-of-these in Ft. Worth. They want to share Christ with people in equal portion to the physical needs that they meet. They want to bless those who cannot bless them in return by giving them everything that Christ has to offer (and food, clothing, medical care – which pale in comparison to the gift of His grace). The thing that was most striking to me is the number of people who 1) are born again because they found faith in Christ through His grace and mercy and 2) those who are saved, after being discipled in the Word and finding employment and housing (which they desperately needed), are seen returning to the Feet to share the gospel (and meet physical needs) with others who were like them.

The Spirit is evident in their lives because they live out the gospel. The Spirit is not a parlor trick for them because tricks do not save (2 Corinthians 4:2); fake does not fool those who have been turned out on the streets; and only the love of Christ transcends “word or talk” to live in “deed and in truth” when sharing His love with others (3:18). God blessed these disciples through the Feet and servants of God who had “the world’s goods”, saw their brother and sister in need and opened their hearts because of the love of God poured forth in their hearts by His Spirit. These servants shared that love by laying their own lives down as worship – in response to the Life God gave them (3:16-17). How sad it is that this seems so foreign among church-people today!

Paul quotes Isaiah 52:7 in Romans 10:15: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” This is more than a theme verse for this ministry – or evangelism in general; they literally seek to be God’s feet as part of the His body – the Church (1 Corinthians 12:12). And, in serving with them this weekend, I realized that my feet do not carry the gospel as readily as they should. Forgive the crude parallel here, but I need a bit of a spiritual pedicure – for Jesus to cleanse my gospel feet that I may have share with Him (John 13:8).

John says that “the Spirit and the water and the blood” testify to who Jesus is and agree (v. 8), but he tells us that the “testimony of God is greater” than that of men because “whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in Himself” (vv. 9-10). I have had to look at my life and ask whether it agrees with the testimony of God, and I am asking that He arrange my life so that it testifies more to Him than about me, that my feet can be about His business rather than shod in Sunday shoes in the comfort of a church building or propped up serving my own laziness. I ask that He help you to do the same in your own life and grant the repentance and cleansing to walk His gospel out in the community He has planted you.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 5:6–13.

[2] Horatio Spafford, “It is Well

Refresh & Restore — May 20, 2021

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.[1]


Greetings Sojourner,

The older I get, the clearer I see that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16). How else could words written so far in the past ring so true today? There is no literature that holds truth like the Word of God because the “sum of [God’s] Word is truth” (Psalm 119:160), specifically because God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6). That elevates the words on the pages of the Bible to more than mere literature, surpassing sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and books. We can read it and recognize the truth and beauty in the cry of the psalmist, “give me life according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:25), because that is exactly where we find Life – where we find Christ Himself!

In thinking about the way that today’s passage intersects with our present-day world, a call from the Lord to Israel comes to mind. Jeremiah 6:16 shows us how God called to Israel in the midst of their sin before disaster struck Jerusalem: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” He was calling them to repent – to change their ways – to turn away from their sin and back to Him. Yet their response to Him was simple: “We will not walk in it”.

As we have walked through 1 John verse-by-verse, we have seen how the Holy Spirit through John has pleaded with God’s people down through the ages to examine our lives and know whether or not we walk in the light (1:5, 7; 2:10; 3:10, 14), whether the truth is in us or the Truth shows us to be liars (1:6, 8, 10; 2:4, 9, 11, 22; 3:6, 10), and if we are God’s children with His Spirit abiding in us and us in Him (2:20, 24, 27-28; 3:6, 10, 24). The past two weeks (part 1 and part 2) looking at 1 John 4:7-21 feel like a Jeremiah 6:16 sort of crossroads. We see the ancient paths where the good way is (love), yet it is so easy to turn and follow sinful desires (hate, unforgiveness) in the wrong direction.

Our journey through this particular passage began as we looked at how the command to love one another flowed from Jesus’ original teaching (John 13:14), continued through the apostles into the early church (1:5, 2:24, 3:11), and suggested that it was intended to be lived out in the Church today (3:16-18). We then looked specifically at how the love that Christ showed the Church, His Bride, as “the propitiation for our sins” (v. 10), “and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (2:2). We continue today into the end of the passage, and it is tempting to pass over it, calling it merely repetitive because of similarities to other parts of 1 John. But the consequences could be eternally significant should we pass over these truths.

In today’s section, we see John revisiting the theme of assurance – the idea that we can truly know whether we or not we belong to God. We see v. 13 talk about it similarly to earlier in 1 John: “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” We can know we belong to Him because His Spirit is in us, and we know that His Spirit is in us because He bears fruit in those within whom He abides, specifically “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23)[2]. Those who do not bear this fruit – well, they bear fruit of their own sinful flesh (Galatians 5:19-21).

The difference between how John talks about assurance here than earlier in 1 John is how specifically he ties how we can know that we belong to God (are saved, born again, redeemed) to whether or not we love. In fact, one of the toughest and most alarming verses is the end of v. 20 where it clearly says “he who does not love His brother whom He has seen cannot love God whom He has not seen.” Cannot….

It seems here that he is revisiting v. 8 that showed us a lack of love shows a lack of God “because God is love” and v. 11 that shows “if God so loved us (specifically calling back to John 3:16), we also ought to love one another”. Guess what: he is revisiting it because we need to hear it again and again – because we are foolish and, in our selfishness, we forget (sometimes willingly). We do not want to hear again and again that hatred is evidence of not loving God, nor do we want to hear that a chronic lack of forgiveness and, let us call it what it is, blatant hatred of others is evidence of a spiritual problem. At its most severe, it can be evidence of lostness.

For a religion whose foundation is supposed to be love, there are people – individuals as well as groups – who have done great damage using the name of Christ while spreading and feeding their own hatred. I remember being shocked and dismayed when a coworker showed me a picture of Ku Klux Klansmen standing on the “altar” of a “church” (their sponsor, nonetheless), asking me how I could participate in a religion that condoned hatred and was actively evil. In fact, there are too many examples throughout “church” history of more of the same. But neither tradition nor history change the Word of God. The words of the Holy Spirit through John answer plainly: one cannot love God and participate in such things.

The most startling example perhaps is found in our own hearts – yes, mine as well as yours. Now, we would say that our hatred is different, but, then again, that is what we always say when the sin is our own. We have thought it out, rationalized and justified it. But the words of the Holy Spirit through John answer plainly: one cannot love God and participate in such things.

The word “cannot” sounds so final. That is because it is! What we see as a compound word in English is actually two separate words in the original language (not + a word describing ability or power through any means possible). This is significant because it carries much more weight than our simple “cannot”. The original context describes a situation in which there is absolutely no mindset, no set of circumstances, no ability, no power at all. Jesus uses this very same set of words in Matthew 7:18 to say “a healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit”, Mark 3:24 to say “if a kingdom is divided against itself [it] cannot stand”, Luke 14:26-27 to say that one whose ultimate love is not Christ “cannot be [His] disciple”, and John 3:3 to say that “unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God”. If Jesus is truly “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and “[n]o one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6), how can His cannot be wrong? Can cannot be as final as it sounds? Dear, Sojourner, when God’s Word says it, the answer can only be yes. He gets the final say-so because He is God.

We see here that we have reason to examine our lives, but this should lead us to repentance, not fear. This is why John tells us in this same passage that “perfect love casts out fear” (v. 18). He hails back to ch 2:4 when we see that in keeping and following the Word “truly the love of God is perfected”. If we genuinely believe that ALL “Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), we must not hold only to the teaching and training; we need to submit our beliefs to reproof (God’s Word realigning our beliefs to itself) and correction (of sinful actions or behaviors). If God’s Word is indeed His Word, it must change our lives or else we simply do not believe it. How can one believe that it contains Truth that gives Life if it is impotent to change behaviors in those who claim to follow its teachings?

We know our hearts and our sinful imperfections (Romans 3:10, 23). Sometimes, when confronted with our sinfulness, we find ourselves falling into fear. This is why He gave us v. 18. It is easy to say that “perfect love casts out fear” but another thing entirely to practice it. He goes on to explain that “fear has to do with punishment”. When we are confronted in the Word with sinfulness – specifically hatred in today’s passage, it is good for us to examine our lives. Furthermore, it is good for us to know that hatred is a spiritual problem! But, rather than it driving us to fear – if we say we belong to Christ, it should drive us to repentance. You see, it is when we learned the reality of our sin that we first came to the Savior! Being confronted with sin (again and again) as we spend time in God’s Word, we should be driven to Him more and more.

We do not have to fear punishment because Christ – as propitiation – has “bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Repentance – specifically turning from our hatred to His love and seeking to exhibit the forgiveness He shows His people – shows evidence of His Spirit (just as a lack of it shows the opposite). When confronted with hatred in my own heart recently, I realized that I first had to confess that sin to the Lord (1:9, Psalm 51:1), then confess the sin to brothers I trust to pray for me and hold me accountable (James 5:16), and genuinely seek the Lord for Him to soften my heart and grant repentance (2 Timothy 2:25).

What should we take from this?

First, we are sinners, and our sin is not to be taken lightly. The reality of Jesus being the propitiation for sin (v. 10) is heavy because that means He bore our sin because He had none of His own (2 Corinthians 5:21)! If you are His, that means His death was in the place of yours. And your Life is because of Him. In Him there is hope for us. We need to be thankful for mighty examples of repentance like we find in Psalm 51 so we can learn to seek after God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy and ask that He “create in [us] a clean heart…, and renew a right spirit with [us]” (Psalm 51:10). We need to be reminded that if “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and “if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10), we can love because He first loved us (v. 19) – that we can love others because “God is love” and He is in us and we are in Him (vv. 8, 13, 16, 21).

Second, there are those who have misused the name of Jesus. They have claimed His name and committed all sorts of evil, devastating the lives of people in the fall out. We do not need to ignore those sins nor should we believe that atrocities done in His name will be easily corrected or wounds quickly healed. The words of the Holy Spirit through John answer plainly: one cannot love God and participate in such things. And the true Jesus – as found in His Word, does not need us to defend Him or seek to fix errors that others have made. He has spoken for Himself through John and offers the same hope to all that we have found in His Word ourselves. Christ could have hated us and left us in our sin – and been justified in doing it! But, praise God, He chose grace and mercy “because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

If you are reading this and find yourself standing and the crossroads of love and hate and are offered the ancient paths, the good way of the love of Christ, may you respond in faith and repentance, not foolishly saying as those before us have: “We will not walk in it”.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 4:7–21.

[2] The English teacher in me would like to note that the lack of “and” at the end of what appears to be items in a series is not a typo. This list is known as the fruit (singular – not fruits) of the Spirit – one Spirit, these collectively are one fruit grown by Him in the lives of those who are born again.

Refresh & Restore — May 13, 2021

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.[1]

1 John 4:7-21

Greetings, Sojourner!

I do not know about you, but the last few days have really put my convictions to the test regarding last week’s devotion. Love is difficult. Sometimes, not hating is difficult. And, despite how hard we try to hide it, following Christ seems difficult, too.

I believe all these things are difficult – specifically loving (and not-hating) as He told us to in pursuit of Him – because we are forgetful. One of the truths that should be most foundational for us is that our salvation – and His continued work in us (a.k.a. sanctification) is not accomplished by us; they are not produced by our own strength. When Paul described great difficulties (“a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me”, 2 Corinthians 12:7), he revealed some good news told to him personally by Jesus: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9), a truth that led him to understand that his strength existed when Christ’s strength carried him through his own weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10-11, Philippians 4:13). The same good news is for us today.

When we talk about love, it is easy to talk with very unrealistic expectations and ideals. We view and talk about love like the old Beatles song: “All we need is love (bah-ba-da-da-duh)”. But it is easier to make a mess of love than to find oneself successful and fulfilled. Add to that how woefully inadequate our English language is having only one word to describe how we feel about steak and our children and our spouses and our favorite whatever. But I ask you today to remember the good news from 1 Corinthians 12: our weakness (in this case not-loving/hating) does not limit the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives because He is strong for us!

Last week laid out a heavy challenge for us in that how we love (or hate) shows whether we truly belong to Christ because He “is love” (vv. 7-8). Today’s section helps us see how He can state with such conviction that, because “God is love”, His children will be characterized by love by showing how He is love – by proving it.

John uses similar phrases to deliver this proof to us: “In this the love of God was made manifest” (v. 9) and “In this is love” (v. 10). The word translated “manifest” in verse 9 is used like an old-school snapshot (think Polaroid); it captures a specific moment in time when something is openly shown or made visible. It reminds me of a particular pose that has gained popularity in wedding photography where the happy couple have a picture to capture the moment when the groom saw his bride for the first time in her dress or capturing the groom’s reaction the moment the church doors open, seeing his bride. But, for us, it is the other way around! The “this” that manifests love – proves love to us is our heavenly Groom, King Jesus, humbling Himself and dying in our place to redeem His Bride from bondage to sin and death (Philippians 2:5-8; Ephesians 5:25-27, 32)! Keeping that imagery in mind, look back at verse 9 in the Amplified Bible: “By this the love of God was displayed in us, in that God has sent His [One and] only begotten Son [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind] into the world so that we might live through Him.” What a beautiful and life-changing truth!

We see this manifested in other passages of Scripture as well, John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Galatians 2:20 to name a few. When I look at this great display of love, I cannot help but ask “why”. Why would he do this for me? Love. What did I do to deserve this? Nothing. Why – just why? God is love. He loves us. And He wants us to have the opportunity to “live through Him”. This brings all of the themes in 1 John – Life, Light, Love – together and shows how all are manifested (shown) in the person and work of Jesus Christ!

Not only does He give us the opportunity to have life in Him but He shows us how He did it, showing just how much He loves us. Verse 10 builds on the “this” – Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf – from verse 9 by saying that “this” and “love” are one and the same: “In this is love”. So often, we take this part and turn it around and make it about us and put it from our perspective and from our own initiative. We begin saying things that seem to place salvation from our own doing. But, remember, Christ provides the strength; we provide weakness. We have “the wages of sin” but “the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). And, as a young man so eloquently put it as he was repenting and believing in Christ: “I did the sinning. He does the saving.” Our salvation lies not in “that we have loved Him” (v. 10); “we love because He first loved us” (v. 19). Our salvation lies by grace alone through faith alone in Him alone. Period.

Look at how John explains it: “not that we have loved God but that HE LOVED US and SENT HIS SON to be the PROPITIATION for our sins” (emphasis added). The key to this verse – the key to understanding His love – is in the word “propitiation”.

We looked at this word when we studied 1 John 2:1-2 where we see the reality of our sinfulness and the way that Christ is our “advocate with the Father” (2:1) when we fail and sin by being “the propitiation for our sins” (2:2). Now, we see that this is not some generic sacrifice that may possibly save some but, rather, a specific act of love to redeem His Bride! I do not want to get too technical here because I do not want to make this seem academic. I just want you to get as clear a picture as you can regarding what Christ has done to share His love with you.

The idea of propitiation is connected to payment and debt, kind of like the way that people refer to those getting released from jail have “paid their debt”. Our sin has consequences, namely death (see Romans 6:23 above). God is just (Romans 3:26) and cannot leave sin – a capital offense – unpunished. In love, He decided that for anyone who “believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And, in love, He decided that He would pay our sin debt Himself. When we were “dead in [our] trespasses”, He “made [us] alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands, [setting it] aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). He redeemed us from the curse of sin (Genesis 3) “by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13). And He gave us His righteousness in place of our unrighteousness – “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). In THIS is LOVE – in this Jesus!

See, propitiation is a sacrifice that trades wrath for favor, in our case the wrath of God that is rightly against sin traded for the favor of the Only Son of God. Propitiation trades unrighteousness for righteousness, our filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) for His glory (Romans 8:16-17). It is as if we owe a debt so huge that our creditor can not only garnish our wages or seize our property but take our lives and God in Christ steps in and trades bank accounts with us. He credits our account with more than the creditor could ever take, leaving us to live with Him in His house (John 14:1-3) and Him going down with ours. The only difference is that, if we were to go down for our sin debt, we would never recover. We would be forever damned as a consequence of our sin. But, as Peter preached at Pentecost:

“…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:23-24)!

In this is love. In this the love of God is made manifest. In this is Jesus! Not only that, He has provided His strength to fuel us and power us in accomplishing what He has called us to do and be. So, “if He has loved us, we also ought to love one another” (v. 11). Is this too much for people who have been loved like this? No, in the same way that Christ told Paul that His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 2:9), the Spirit tells us through John that our love for others shows that “God abides in us and His love is perfected in us” (v. 12). May we share His perfect love with others and see His Word – His love – shared through our own lives!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 4:7–21.

Refresh & Restore — May 6, 2021

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:7-21

Greetings, Sojourner!

I chuckle as I begin writing to you today because I have had a song running through my head; I have even caught myself singing it. If you have a church background, you may be trying to guess which glorious old hymn or praise song about God’s love I am singing. And, if so, you are about to be terribly disappointed (although I imagine many of you singing along as you read the lyrics). The song is from 1984 – Tina Turner’s classic, “What’s Love Got to Do with It”. Here is the chorus:

“What’s love got to do – got to do with it? 
What’s love but a secondhand emotion? 
What’s love got to do – got to do with it? 
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?”

To answer and apply Tina’s questions to today’s passage: EVERYTHING! Love has everything to do with today’s passage and everything to do with the lives of those who profess to know Christ. Over the next few weeks, we will be walking through this passage and find out just what it means for us and our lives.

At this point in John’s letter, he is beginning to wind down toward a close. The first half of the letter was devoted to making sure his readers (then and now) knew what it was to have life in Christ and walk in His light. Now, love is being treated similarly – both as an example of what He has given us and as a test to find out if we indeed do “walk in the light, as He is in the light” (1:7).

To some it may seem like John is repeating himself, but it is important to note that he is not merely writing a letter. First, this letter reflects his heart as an apostle and teacher of the Word to see his readers know Christ more fully and walk in Him. Second, this letter is “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16) through John, giving his audiences the Word they/we need to hear from the Lord. So, this is not John repeating himself but the Lord emphasizing truths He knows we need to hear again and again. With that in mind, we can see the importance of reflecting on past sections of 1 John:

  • (1:5) 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.
  • (2:2) He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the world.
  • (2:5) …but whoever keeps His Word, in Him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him….
  • (2:29) If you know that He is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.
  • (3:10-11) By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

It is easy to see how the Spirit builds these truths over the course of the letter, namely light, life, and love. Today’s passage begins the final build of the topic of love.

The teaching that we are supposed to “love one another” (v. 7) is not new. We have looked previously at how John’s message here comes directly from Jesus: “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” (John 13:34). The difference in John’s teachings on this in chapter 3 and our passage today is that John adds explanation to his earlier examples: “God is love”. Our lives cannot be characterized by hate and love at the same time any more than we can live lives that point to Christ while walking in darkness; we would be liars (1:5-7).

While v. 7 speaks positively to John’s “beloved”, what we find in v. 8 is tough love. A life that is absent of love is absent of God. I realize this sounds harsh, but the contrast is important. Just as you should love because “God is love”, hatred shows absence of God in one’s heart because “God is love”. This is meant to be tough because love, like we have seen throughout this letter (1:6, 1:8, 1:10, 2:4, 2:9, 2:11, 2:15-16, 3:6, 3:8, 3:10, 3:14, 3:17), is another means to test our lives. God very clearly wants us to know whether we are – or are not – His children (3:10), whether He does – or does not – abide in us (3:24). This is serious business and requires us to honestly check our lives.

On the subject of loving one another, it is important to see that John continues to emphasize this at the end of our passage. In v. 19, we see a bold statement that should give us pause: “we love because He first loved us”. This is reminding us of the love that Christ has shown us! And, while this is something that – if we have experienced it – we should not need to be reminded of, this is a common theme throughout Scripture. Throughout the Old Testament, God describes Himself as “abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6, Numbers 14:18). The Psalms remind us that God’s “steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136). The most widely known verse in the Bible proclaims it beautifully (John 3:16): For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 

That is a rare, unique love, so special that it multiplies in the hearts of those who receive it. Think back to how, earlier in this writing, we love others because “God is love” and our lack of love shows a lack of God. People do not like being presented with stark realities like that (think right/wrong, love/hate, etc.). In today’s world people want to blur the lines or add gray areas to soften hard truths we are not yet ready to face. But the Holy Spirit through John does not allow for softening this hard truth; look at v. 20: “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar”. That, dear Sojourner, is a stark reality. He continues, “for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” 

Look at that word “cannot” – can NOT. This word pains me because I struggle with loving people, struggle with hate in my own heart. It seems to say that hatred of a brother and love of God cannot both be in my heart at the same time. And, no matter how hard I try to rationalize – no matter how hard I try to make this fit in my justifications as to why what I feel is right, the Word of God says what it says. What does that mean for me?

It means I need to repent.

It means I need the love that Christ has shown me to impact my life. 

I need to remember that “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) – that He died for me knowing all my sin. At the same time, I need to remember how much that love has changed my life: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled shall we be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10). Basically, I need to remember that, in my sin, I was an enemy to God and that, while I was His enemy, He loved me enough that He lived for me, died for me, and rose again defeating death, hell, and the grave. If He could show His love for me while I was His enemy, what ground do I have to hate anyone, especially a brother.

“What’s love got to do – got to do with it?” Everything when it comes to knowing I am in Christ. I have to look at my life and test it according to the Word of God, and the Word of God says that hatred – again, especially for a brother (another belonging to Christ) – is evidence that I am not walking with Him. When faced with that fact, those who are not in Christ will make excuses and, ultimately, justify their behavior or decide that their will, their hatred, their sin trumps the Word of God. But, when one of God’s children is faced with the reality of their sin (hatred or otherwise), they are driven to repent and turn back to God.

Where does this leave you? Is your life characterized by love or hate? Do you love (v. 7) or not love (v. 8)? Do you say “I love God” while knowing full well the hatred in your heart (v. 20)? These are questions that I must answer for myself. And they are questions you need to answer on your own, and I pray that you do.

As usual, know that I love you and am praying for you. This week, I am praying specifically that the love of God is poured out on you and that, if necessary, God grants you “repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25).

Refresh & Restore — April 29, 2021

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish….

32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.[1]       


Greetings, Sojourner!

Have you ever had something on your mind so much that you cannot let it go? When that happens, it is like you feel like it shows up in everything you look at – commercials, conversations, stores. It even seems like it is all you can talk about. That is what the past few weeks have been like for me, and the topic that has been the epicenter of my focus has been church – not a church, my church, or your church: the Church.

I have preached on it several times during these weeks. Even as I studied and planned to write on 1 John 4:7-21 today, the Church has been on my mind. Verses like 1 John 4:11 (“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” and 4:20 (“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen”) have me thinking of the way that the Church is to share the love of God with each other and the world around them. In 1 John 4:9 when John says that “the love of God was made manifest”, that is the love that was shown to, and now through, the Church. And, when you read passages like ours in Ephesians 5, you see that love is to be at the center of everything in the Church because Christ loves His Church and calls her His Bride.

What a beautiful image that is – the Bride of Christ!

Look at how the voice (“of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder”) speaks of the Bride of Christ in the end times:

Let us rejoice and exult
and give Him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and His Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”…. (Rev. 19:6-8)

The picture I see painted in Scripture here is the arrival of Christ’s Church in Heaven to be a marriage celebration – His Bride will finally have arrived! I think back some fifteen years ago when I laid eyes on my bride when the back doors of the Church open. That moment is seared into my memory and is clear and fresh on my mind today; it is a watershed moment for me. But, the magnitude of that moment, is but a tremor compared to Christ receiving His Bride.

Yet many of us do not see the Church in the same light. When we think of the Church, we think of buildings or denominations or traditions or religion or someone who professes to be a member of a particular church who we think lives more like Hell than Heaven. I have heard people say that they do not have a problem with Jesus; their problem lies with the Church (or with a particular church they have in mind). How does that fit with the way God’s Word talks about His Bride?

In Ephesians 5, we see a passage that often appears only at weddings. It seems to talk about this ideal marriage where a husband loves his wife with this self-sacrificing love. It absolutely is! It lays out that husbands are supposed to give themselves up for their wives in the same way that Christ did for His (v. 25). It shows how husbands are supposed to set their wives apart, loving them with the same care that they give to their own bodies (v. 28). But, while it highlights the way that earthly husbands should absolutely love their wives, it does so by looking at the way that Christ loved/loves His – He died for her, but He also lived for her!

It seems so easy to look at the church as a building or a house of religion. It is another thing entirely to look at her as Christ’s bride. Take the example above where people say they have no problem with Jesus, just the Church. How would that work if said to an earthly husband (even a mediocre one)? “Hey, man, I like you well enough, but I cannot stand your wife!” Any husband worth his salt would at least have a salty retort, and, at most, feelings would not be all that get hurt!

Jesus loves His Bride. He gave Himself up for her, knowing full well her faults and all the difficulties that would come as He – through His Word and His Spirit – grows her, sanctifies her so that “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (v. 27). He knew her/our blemishes. He knew the wrinkles. He knew the sin. Yet “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

He gave us the example of Hosea who loved his wife even though she was a prostitute when he met her (Hosea 1:2-3) and had sold herself into physical bondage to another man. Just as Hosea went to that man and purchased his wife from him (Hosea 3:1-5), Jesus paid the price for us – His life – so that we could be free from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:6) and be His alone (1 Peter 2:9). Except in this scenario, the Church has a husband who loves her enough to die for her – but He LIVES for her despite death, “because it was not possible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24)!

What a beautiful image that is! Yet I find my heart hurting as I think about the Church more and more. You see, part of the reason that the Church has been on my mind is noticing that the more I study the Word and the closer I get to Christ, the more precious the Church becomes to me – the more precious getting to be part of the Church becomes. And, when I see how the Church is treated around the world, facing persecutions and distress and dire circumstances, it both breaks my heart and fills it with joy and hope.

It breaks my heart because I am afraid that I would fail and fall away if such treatment began here. I am afraid that I would care more for the safety and comfort of my family than I would being a part of Christ’s Church. As bad as I hate to say it, I am afraid.

I see how many churches have shuttered their doors, even before the onset of the pandemic. I hear of people citing the recommendations – yes, they were merely recommendations and not laws where I live in Mississippi – of our state government as reasons to shut the doors of our churches. Now, I realize that most of this was done out of an abundance of caution (the recommendations and the decisions), but I wonder what the cost has been. I also do not fault the government for recommending such things. Are we to expect worldly government to recommend biblical teaching? I do not fault churches who, out of caution for their members, made decisions to go virtual or meet outside or have church in the parking lot or gather in homes. The Church is not a building, remember?

There are churches like Grace Life in Alberta, Canada who, when it was genuinely against the law to gather and worship Christ in their location, kept gathering anyway. Even when their pastor was arrested and jailed and fences (yes, plural) were built around their building, the Church was not stopped because “the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands” (Acts 7:48). The same goes for His Bride.

Multiple churches in California faced similar situations and, pending legal appeals, face tens if not hundreds of thousands in fines even today.

I am trying to be careful and gracious when I talk about this, but I am reminded of Peter and John’s words when they faced something a bit stiffer than recommendations: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). If you keep reading, Peter and John did not heed the threats of the powers-that-be but kept preaching (Acts 4:23-31). And the result was more people added to the Church (Acts 4:32-37).

Where does that leave us today? I want to ask you where you stand regarding Christ. Do you belong to Him? Are you a part of His Bride, the Church?

Where I live in the Southern U.S., we have largely lost what it means to be a part of the Church or to be a part of a local church or congregation of believers. We use the word “member” like we would a member of a country club or a fraternity or sorority. But that is not the way the Bible uses it:

  • Ephesians 2:19: So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God….
  • Romans 12:4-5: For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:12: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

Are you a member (like a dues-paying, sort of part ownership), or are you a member (like an arm or a leg)?

Pardon the pun, but I feel like my message here is a bit disjointed. I do not want you to miss my heart. So I will speak plainly: the Church has been on my mind, and I am afraid that we treat her too casually. I fear we have grown complacent and comfortable, not realizing our playing around is dismembering Christ’s Bride.

There is a set of verses that often get quoted in this context. I have quoted them myself often and increasingly more recently, but I think there is a greater message here:

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

It is not hard to see why this verse seems so appropriate. But, I think I have been emphasizing the wrong part. I have been focusing on what “is the habit of some” and not why that is not good. Plain and simple, we need each other. No, we do not need bodies to fill roles and carry out programs and ministries. We do not need teachers and leaders. We need the members of the body of Christ – we need the members of His Bride – to “hold fast” to “He who promised” more than His promises. We need each other to “stir [us] up…to love and good works”. We need to be “encouraging one another” – and “the Day” is “drawing near”! We need the body of Christ to be whole once more.

I pray this helps whomever it is meant to. If you need help finding a church home, I would love to help you.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eph 5:25–32.

Refresh & Restore — March 25, 2021

11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.[1]

1 John 3:11-18

Greetings, Sojourner!

 As I have been studying this week’s passage and thinking about our setting off into the second half of 1 John, I have been amazed at the way John shows the difference between the children of God and those who follow after the world. The entire book deals with contrasts – life and death, light and dark, and, now in today’s passage love and hate.

I am struck with how different God’s children should be than the world. Paul describes the difference to the church of Philippi very clearly that we are to be “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…” (Philippians 2:15-16). Now, as we have talked about many times in our study of 1 John, we are not capable of sinless perfection. But, in our unfortunately sinful lives, we should be pointing to Him who is truly “a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:19) – Jesus Christ. This should be our ultimate goal: to live the Life that Jesus has given us through faith in Him and show others who are dead in their sins how to receive that very same Life.

This is where the second half of 1 John comes in. While we looked a lot in the first part about the difference between being in the Light (being in Christ) and walking in darkness, now we shift to how sharing the love of Christ illustrates the Life that comes only through Christ. Basically, this is where we leave the garages of our faith (our local churches and homes) and take our faith to the streets. This is the hardest part because it is easy to shine in a room full of lights, but it is another thing entirely to be a single candle amid overwhelming darkness. It is easy to love people who show you love, but it is terribly difficult to love when confronted with hatred.

I love the way that John introduces this to us (like he has throughout the letter – vv. 1:5, 2:24) by bringing everything back to the basics – back to the way that Jesus taught it. This is good to remember because we are not called to follow Christ in our own strength. John tells his original audience and us to remember “the message that you have heard from the beginning” because we need the reminder that Jesus taught that we should “love one another” (v. 11). This was important enough that Jesus said it was the second greatest commandment (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, Matthew 22:39) and took time to talk about it on the last night He spent with His disciples (“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another”, John 13:34).

Cain, Hatred, & Death

John shows us how important love is by showing us how dangerous hate can be. He takes us all the way back to the beginning with the first brothers – Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16). If you are unfamiliar with the story, Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve’s first kids. Both brought offerings to God. Cain brought “an offering of the fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3), but Abel brought “the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions” (Genesis 4:4). There are many opinions about why exactly God had “regard for Abel and his offering” (Genesis 4:4) but “had no regard” for Cain’s (Genesis 4:5). The only light the Bible sheds on it is found in Hebrews 11:4: “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.”

While we will never truly know what God’s issue with Cain’s sacrifice was[2], we know the end result. Cain was so angry because God considered Abel righteous that he killed him in cold blood (v. 12). Even before he was a murderer, the unrighteousness in Cain’s heart – the darkness and his being dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) – hated his brother to the point that he ended his life. The darkness and death in him hated the Life that was seen in his brother.

In Abel, we see Jesus. And, in Jesus “was Life, and the Life was the light of men” (John 1:4). People, like Cain, who walk in darkness hate the Light. Just as Abel’s righteous sacrifice highlighted Cain’s unrighteous one, “everyone who does wicked things hates the light because their works [are] evil” (John 3:20). In the same way, we should not “be surprised…that the world hates [us]” (v. 13). Jesus Himself said that “people loved darkness rather than light because their works are evil” (John 3:19), and, if you have received the gift of eternal life (John 3:16, Romans 6:23), you are a child of God (John 1:12-13) and cannot fit in the darkness of the world. Jesus, the Light of the world “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

Hatred is evidence of darkness – plain and simple. John says that “everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (v. 15), echoing Jesus’ own words in His Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment….” (Matthew 5:21-22)

My first instinct when reading these verses is to make excuses, but none of them will do any good. These verses are clear. Hatred in my heart is clear evidence that I love myself more than I love my brother, and, if I do not love my brother who I have seen, I cannot love God who I have not yet seen. It is plain and simple.

Jesus, Love, & Life

The plain and simple truth about hate and darkness does not have to be bad news. In fact, the fear that I feel when thinking about the sin in my own heart highlights just how good the good news of the gospel is! Verse 16 tells us how we hateful-hearted sinners can “know love” – because “He laid down His life for us”! 1 John 3:16 echoes John 3:16 where we find out that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”!

We do not have to go the way of Cain and let our hatred breed darkness and death in our lives. We believe in Christ, repenting of our sin and trusting in Him, and experience His love. It is a game-changer to understand that “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We do not have to give into our natural tendency toward hatred and sin but can say with Paul that “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20)!

We know that we have the love of Christ when that love begins to be spread to others. Just as Jesus laid down His life for us, we find that – if we have Life in Him – that our lives begin to be characterized by the same sort of selflessness. Does this change happen immediately? Unfortunately, no. But, through continuing to follow Christ and experiencing more and more of His love and grace, our lives begin to transform to be more like His. And the more we become like Him, the brighter His Light shines in the darkness around us.

This means that our faith will be practical. If we see a “brother in need”, we will be unable to close our hearts to him (v. 17). This means that we will give of what Christ has blessed us with. If we see people in need, we will share of what we have. Again, this is plain and simple. James 2:15-16 questions whether a faith sees someone who is “poorly clothed and lacking in daily food” but does not help meet that need is of any value. This convicts me heavily. God has blessed me with much – not so that I can horde it or show how “blessed and highly favored I am” but to be His hands and feet and share His love and Light in the darkness.

Concluding Thoughts

I leave you with the challenge of verse 18: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth”. Think about your life. Is it characterized by love or hate, light or dark, death or life? I do not ask any more of you than I have had to ask myself while studying and meditating on this passage. But I offer you a listening ear and a sympathetic heart should you need it. But, more importantly, I lift you up, dear Sojourner, to the God who is love and light and life.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 3:11–18.

[2] The only other context we have is in Jude 11 where Cain’s sin was compared to “Balaam’s error” (Numbers 22) and “Korah’s rebellion” (Numbers 16).

Scripture Resource — Perseverance of the Saints

There are some who believe that a Christian can fall away into sin and lose their salvation; while others believe that, once God saves someone and adopts them into His family, that individual will always be saved. I believe that this is a primary gospel issue and vitally important to one’s view of Christ and His gospel. However, I do not seek to argue or wrangle over words.

I believe firmly in God’s Word and its ability to teach, reprove, correct, and train God’s people to walk with Him (2 Timothy 3:16). For that reason, I present to you the following passages of Scripture and let God’s Word speak for itself.

If you would like to talk about this further, feel free to contact me. I cannot promise that we will come to a consensus, but I can promise that I will respond as lovingly and graciously as I can and would love to talk to anyone, especially about the gospel and the Word!


John 6:35-40 —

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”[1]

John 10:25-30 —

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”[2]

Romans 8:31-39 —

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

       “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.[3]

John 3:16-17 —

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.[4]

John 3:36 —

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.[5]

Romans 8:1 —

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[6]

Romans 8:28-30 —

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.[7]

Ephesians 1:13-14 —

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.[8]

1 Peter 1:3-5 —

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.[9]

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.[10]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 6:35–40.

[2] Bible, Jn 10:25–30.

[3] Bible, Ro 8:31–39.

[4] Bible, Jn 3:16–17.

[5] Bible, Jn 3:36.

[6] Bible, Ro 8:1.

[7] Bible, Ro 8:28–30.

[8] Bible, Eph 1:13–14.

[9] Bible, 1 Pe 1:3–5.

[10] Bible, Php 1:6.

Songs for Sunday, February 14, 2021

Well, Mississippi weather is staying true to its nature – ever changing and unpredictable. Sometimes in February we have warm or at the very least cool, but we seem to be heading toward single digit temperatures.

Within a few days time, I have been from sweater vest to sweating — from shorts and Chacos to my heaviest coat and gassing up my generator. I have heard it said that if you don’t like the weather in Mississippi, just wait a minute for it to change.

In some ways, our hearts are a lot like the weather patterns of the South. We can, sometimes, be as warm and loving as one could ever hope to be, and, a few minutes later, a cold front blows in prompting us to give others the cold shoulder. Our hearts are fickle and changing. Jeremiah 17:9 pegs it aptly: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

It is a very good thing that God’s heart is nothing like ours. Look at the way that God describes Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai:

“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Exodus 34:6-7

He could have described any of His attributes that He wanted. He could have expressed His anger at the Israelites for building an idol while He was giving His Law. But, no, He says He is “slow to anger”. He could have allowed Egypt to strike them once more as divine punishment. Instead, He emphasizes the fact that He chooses to be “merciful and gracious”. He would have been right and just to come down on them with justice and judgment, but He chose to show His heart for them.

This Sunday is Valentine’s Day and usually focuses on romantic love – or other feelings often confused with or traded for real love. If you research the history of “Saint Valentine”, you get a lot of legend, no shortage of confusion, and at least two origin stories. We need something more sure. We need something that will not change.

So, we are going to look at the “steadfast love” of our God because it is the opposite of all of that. It is true and abounding and never-failing and free. And that love — especially the Savior who shows us that love — is worth singing about!

Here are our songs:

  • Ephesians 2:1-7

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

  • Jude 20-21

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

  • Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26

1    Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
    Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
    Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

    to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
    to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
    to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
    to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
    the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
    the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

23    It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
24    and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
25    he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

26    Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

  • Romans 5:6-8

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

  • Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.


I hope to see you with us, whether you gather in person, in the parking lot via speaker, or on Facebook or YouTube live!

If gathering in person, please remember that masks are recommended and that we need to remain vigilant in our social distancing measures. Continue to pray for those who are sick – not just our members but all those around the world.

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.