I John 5

Vs. 5, “Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”  What a great rallying call!  Question: Who are Christians?  We are Disciples of Christ!  We are people who love & obey God’s commands (Vs. 1-5).  Most people in this world do not know who Christians are.  As Christians, we know who we are, because the Spirit testifies to it (vs. 6-13).  We have that very testimony in our hearts (Vs. 10).  How much more than should we testify who Jesus is to the world?  We can pray to God and approach Him with confidence (Vs. 14-17).  When we know God’s testimony, we can pray with boldness!  We know how Christians should live (vs. 18) and we cannot ever deny that we don’t know the truth (Vs. 20)…for God has given it to us.  We are without excuse for God has given us this wonderful knowledge!

Regarding application…Burdensome.  Vs. 3, “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”  Question: Why?  From the world’s point of view…it can be a very burdensome thing to be a Christian.  As Christians we shouldn’t do that and we shouldn’t do this (a big book of rules).  No one likes rules.  But ask a parent if working hard so their children can have a good education and wonderful opportunties…and there job is never burdensome…Why? Because they love them.  God’s laws and commands should never be burdensome.  Yet many Christians fall into the trap that Adam & Eve fell into from the very beginning.  Satan challenges us to think that God’s laws are burdensome and too hard to handle.  Therefore, we break them and not follow them because life is easier.  But a Christian who looks to God’s commands as burdensome is a person who does not know the meaning of love.  Love is not selfish, but it is selfless.  Re-read I Cor. 13 or remember that when we follow Jesus, He gives us rest from this weary world (Matthew 11:28-30).  We follow & obey God because we love Him.  That is why this world is not a burdensome place to live in.

I John 4

Vs. 19, “We love because he first loved us.”  True believers will love each other…it’s that simple folks.  John goes on to mention about testing spirits….remember that the New Testament had not yet been completeted…so these young Christians would know if someone was false by what they claimed regarding Jesus.  But the true sheep will recoginze the loving voice of their Shepherd.  John also reminds us of the fact that we should never forget…Jesus died for us (vs. 9-11).  When we remember this fact,God’s Holy Spirit can reside in us and His love fills us (Vs. 12-16).  And when we live this kind of love, we need to never fear the final day of judgment…because love drives out fear (Vs. 18-19).

Regarding application…Loving Others = Command.  Vs. 21, “And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”  This is not God pleading or hoping that we love.  God is not politely asking us to love others.  God is commanding us to love.  It is shameful to bear the name of Christ in our lives if we are discriminately choosing who we love and who we ignore or even hate in our lives.  People may say, “I tried…I just can’t love him or her because of what they did to me.”  And the key word to that comment is “I”.  When we try to love, it is impossible to love others.  But when we surrender our lives over to the Lord, His love is so powerful and great that it will overflow in our lives.  If Jesus thought the same way so many of us have…then none of us would be alive today.  Question: Who do you need to show God’s love to?  Go forth and love deeply in the name of Jesus!

1 John 3

Vs. 1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are…”  What an appropriate verse to remind us of Father’s Day!   Love is indeed is one of the greatest motivations in this world!  If we love & understand God’s love for us…then we cannot help but desire to obey.  One day Jesus will return, and that is all the more reason we should live as if He will today (Vs. 2-3).  As Christans we have the “new nature”, the Holy Spirit guiding us in our lives.  Jesus set the perfect example and as He died for us, we ought to be willing to die for others too (Vs. 16)…what a powerful verse!  But our hearts and the Holy Spirit can and does condemn us (Vs. 19-20) when we have failed to love others.  We can come before God with confidence (Vs. 21), God is able to show the full extent of His love in our lives because of the Holy Spirit He gave us (Vs. 24).

Regarding application…Deliberately Sinning.  Vs. 9, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.”  When we abide in Christ, we will not consciencely make an effor to deliberately sin.  Of course we fall short of the glory of God…and we sometimes choose to willingly disobey the Lord.  But what John is getting at is this: No true Christan will continue to repeatedly time and time again deliberately sin on and on with no remorse.  This is a very serious topic and one that is not easy to discuss.  Take the prodigal son…He did repeatedly sin, but in his heart of hearts…he was still a son.  He realized he did not belong with the pigs…he belonged with his Father.  Deep down in the deepest recesses of our hearts is the desire to please the Lord.  We only have that because when the Holy Spirit came into our lives, a new nature formed in our hardened hearts.

Question: Is it possible to deliberately sin and still go to Heaven?  Yes, because perhaps you are a procrastinator and in your heart of hearts, you meant to turn back to the Lord but maybe you died before you had the chance in a car wreck.  For the prodigal son, if he had died before turning back to his father, he still would have been a part of that family.  But, sadly…it is not and should not ever be our desire to deliberately sin.  It is like saying, “God, I have no remorse about what I am doing and I don’t care if it hurts you and others.”  Many times, we as children of God will disobey Him, but we do it with guilt and remorse.  However, it is God’s will that we turn from the sinful nature and strive to live holy all the days of our lives.

I John 2

Vs. 15, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  I like John’s style of explaining things…this chapter focuses now on our relationship with Christ.  There are many things that can keep us from the Love of Christ…the hatred of others, the love of the world, the false teachings of others, the denial of God in our life…  Jesus is our advocate, Jesus is our example and Jesus is our commander.  He helps us against our enemies and Jesus is the source of our hope!

Regarding application…Walking.  Vs. 6, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”  Before there were planes, trains & automobiles =)…there was walking.  It still is the main source of how we get from point “A” to point “B”.  Think of people who are in wheelchairs their whole life…we take walking for granted.  Yet, I believe we take the our Spiritual walk for granted even more.  For Christians…there is no denying it…We claim to be “In Christ!”  Yet..talking the talk vs. walking the walk are two very different things.  Why is it that Christians complain and cry out “Woe is me” when trials and tough times come?  Why is that these trials make us question God’s love?  Because…we don’t know God’s word!  If we did…we would realize that the walk Jesus took was filled with joys & trials.

Remember the movie “Forrest Gump”?  There was a time in the life of Forrest that he could not walk well…and as he got older and went back home…he decided to not only start walking but jogging across America.  It became a phenomon in the movie as many followers began to run with Forrest.  But when asked where he was going or why he was doing it…Forrest didn’t really have an answer…he just did it.  But we don’t just walk for no reason.  We walk with deliberation and conviction.  We are called to go down the path less traveled.  We must walk with Jesus.  You must walk with Jesus.  Why?  Because He lives in us!

Introduction – I John

This letter was composed sometime around 85-90 A.D. with the intent to remove doubts and resssure young Christians about who Jesus was.  John is the same author who wrote the Gospel of John…and he was older now and perhaps the only surviving apostle at this time.  This is the same John that would walk & talk with Jesus, watch Jesus die, met Jesus after He rose from the dead and saw Jesus go up to Heaven.  It’s safe to say that John knew who the Lord was…and that love would convey itself in this letter.  John also wrote this letter to counter false teachers.

I Peter 5

Vs. 8, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  As Peter closes this letter, we see that he wants us all to remember our battle is not against flesh & blood.  No matter what transpires or what suffering we may have, we are called to remain faithful to the work God has given us (Vs. 1-5).  We are also reminded to be humble and think of others as better than ourselves (Vs. 5-7).  And lastly, we need to be ever watchful of the enemy and be alert like a shepherd in the night with his sheep (Vs. 8-11).  And the culminating factor will be that as we endure to do these exhortations, one day we will eternally be with our Lord & Savior!

Regarding application…Legalism Vs. Willing Heart.  Vs. 2, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be...”  While Peter is addressing the official leaders in the church, I absolutely believe this admonishment applies to us all!  God doesn’t call us to serve the church and then see our heartless attitude.  What if you asked a favor from a friend and were really hoping they could help you…and their response is, “Okay, I guess…” and their shoulders sulk and their attitude of their face & actions show they really would rather do something else.  Question: How would you feel?  First off, not much of a friend…you would probably feel bad for asking them to do that favor…and maybe remember not to ask them again in the future.  We should never do things simply because God has commanded it….we should do it because of a willing heart.  When we begin to complain or have that bad attitude…simply look to the cross and remember the blood that was shed for you.  If that isn’t inspiration enough…than nothing in this life will ever be.

I Peter 4

Vs. 1, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”  Peter has already addressed everyday suffering, but now he tells of specific persecution & suffering to come.  We are reminded that when we suffer it really is a road to purification (Vs. 1-6)  But another real plus to suffering that it most definitely will unite a church who seeks to do His will (Vs. 7-11).  But the greatest factor of suffering is the fact that when we suffer, Christ is glorified.  Christ is Glorified = We suffer.  We suffer = Christ is glorified.  This should be a stark lesson on why we should never complain when we suffer.

Regarding application…Loving Covers Sins.  Vs. 8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  What a wonderful verse!  This is one of my favorite reminders about love in the Bible!  Fact #1 – No one is righteous…in other words…no one is ever going to be perfect.  Everyone is going to hurt you at some point in your life.  Fact #2 – We are to love with the love of Christ.  Not our own ability to love, but to love through the eyes & heart of Christ.  Love still loves no matter what.  If this were truly practiced…there should never ever be a divorce between believers.  If this were to happen…people would stop holding grudges and sins against each other. Upon completeing our “Dealing with Conflict” series recently, this is a great reminder to apply it now to our lives!

I Peter 3

Vs. 15, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”  AMEN!  This is one of the many reasons why we read His Word…so that we always have a response to give with love & gentleness.  Christian women should remember that beauty comes from the inside, not the exterior (Vs. 2-4).  Christian men should treat their wives with gentle love and honor (Vs. 7).  We also are reminded of the word we don’t like to hear, but it is one all Christians must come to grip with…”suffering.”  Anybody can suffer for doing wrong, but Christians must learn to suffer for doing what is right. Of course, Jesus is the example for us to follow.

Regarding application…Responding To Insults.  Vs. 9, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  Peter encourages Christians to act and respond like Jesus.  He endured suffering and ridicule without a vindicative response.  There is a contrast between our natural tendency as human beings, to get even when we are offended versus with the way we should act as believers.  Now…for a little “context” lesson…who are those whom Peter is admonishing us not to repay evil with evil?  Look no further than Vs. 8…Peter was not addressing some evil Roman pagan empire or the false prophets and teachers…Peter was addressing those who belonged to the family of God.  Christians were paying evil for evil towards each other…the ramifications are obvious.  If the outside world saw Christians treating each other like this…than what would be the point of church if they act just like the rest of the world?  Unfortunately, this same exhortation exists for us today.  Most of us have probably been a part of a church split or seeing congregations get rid of Pastors etc…  It’s moments like these that we see the church not practicing true love from Christ.  Let us throw off that attitude like we deserve something and remember that if Jesus the very Son of God could humble himself before His own creation…than we could surely humble ourselves with each other.

I Peter 2

Vs. 24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”  Suffering.  Not a very pleasant word to think about, huh?  Yet, Peter would address this topic and show us that we are not the only ones who would suffer…Jesus set the example for us.  We must desire to grow and the only way to do that is taking the spiritual food so that we can endure the sufferings in this world (Vs. 2-3).  We are also reminded as Peter quotes both Isaiah & Pslams how Jesus is our conerstone (Vs. 4-8).  As Christians, we may think that the only one we need to obey is God, but Peter reminds us as people who bear Jesus’ name, it our duty to respect and obey the law of the land that we live in.  If we don’t we could lose our testimony…so long as it does not go directly against the Bible (example: Sharing Christ).

Regarding application…Declaring God.  Vs. 9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you maydeclare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  Question: How do we delcare the praises of Him?  By being a living “testimony” of how God worked and works and will work in your life!  When we obey & show our testimony of living for Jesus, we can teach someone by how we live in a very effective & perhaps even faster way if they simply just learned about God on their own.  The power of declaring God and what He has done for us can change peoples lives!  You are all teachers for God simply by the way you live for Him!

Introduction – I Peter

Peter the apostle wrote this letter and it was intended to encourage the Roman Christians who were dealing with terrible persecution from Nero.  Paul was believed to be in Spain at the time, so Peter took it upon himself to care for the suffering Christians.  Also, remember…Peter was fulfilling Jesus’ command to continue to “feed my sheep” (John 21).  Though the Christians in Rome had endured much, Peter was writing them to warn them of impending future persecutions to come.  And it may suprise us to see the theme of I Peter focuses on the grace of God…even through trials.