…fellowship… (four times in 1 John 1:3, 6, 7)

The word “fellowship” is the Greek word koinonia. It means intimacy of relationship.

All of the apostle John’s books carry this key theme: Jesus loves us so this is how we should live differently because of that love. 

Koinonia means giving all I’ve got to someone else, and graciously receiving all they have to give to me. This creates a… 

  • … oneness
  • … togetherness
  • … with-ness

Our with-ness creates a visible witness of God’s love. 

John says that fellowship with God can’t help but be expressed in fellowship with others. And then fellowship with others stimulates us to a deeper relationship with God. This love dance is itself a picture of the Ultimate Koinonia of the Trinity—“I am in You, Father, and You are in Me. These followers of Us are in Me and I in them,” said Jesus.

Don’t try to pursue a relationship with Jesus on your own, but find people that you can be in fellowship with and then watch how that deepens your fellowship with God!


…we cannot deny it (Acts 4:16)

The healing of a 40-year-old man who has been lame from birth is truly undeniable! But the Sadducees (the truly religious elite) took issue with the fact that Peter and John were then telling people about God’s resurrection power (which they did not believe).

It was undeniable that…

  • … the lame man was healed
  • … Peter spoke boldly with the help of the Holy Spirit
  • … Peter and John’s eloquence in spiritual matters was not bookish learning but divine illumination
  • … Peter and John had been with Jesus
  • … Peter and John could not be silenced by threats
  • … the admiration of the crowd following the healing and Peter’s sermon
  • … God was glorified

So what did the church do? They prayed for more “undeniableness” to be demonstrated by God through their lives!

They knew none of these threats took God by surprise, but they all happened as God had “determined before to be done” (v. 28). So they said, “We are Your servants in this—do more undeniable things through us. Enable us to speak Your Word boldly, and empower us to do signs and wonders in the name of Jesus” (vv. 29, 30).

And God answered that prayer!

What about us? Are we willing to pray that prayer today? Will we allow God to do undeniable things through us? Persecution may follow, but so will God’s glory, and saved souls, and healed people!

Horatius Bonar On The Last Days

Horatius Bonar“Evil has not diminished; the human heart has not improved; sin has not been dried up; evil men and seducers wax worse and worse; and the last days are the worst. Errors multiply; infidelity is leavening society, and working its way into the Church of God. The Bible is assailed; the gospel is denied; the Cross is ridiculed; the blood is repudiated; the authority of Christ—Prophet, Priest, and King—is disowned. satan, too, still works death still triumphs; pain and disease are still at large, working woe and havoc in God’s creation. Does not this look like weakness? Does it seem as if evil had got the upper hand entirely? Yet, in spite of all these strange phenomena in Christ’s own history and that of His Church, the apostle declares, ‘He is not weak;’ He is not weak in Himself; He is not weak to us. Whatever may be the cause of these anomalies, it is not weakness, and never has been so. The weakness is only in appearance; and even that appearance is but temporary.

“Yes, says the apostle, He is mighty. Whatever appearances may say; whatever we might be tempted to infer from the power of the world and the weakness of the church; from the prevalence of evil and the scantiness of good; from the depression of His friends, and the elevation of His enemies—He is mighty—mighty in Himself, and in all things pertaining to Him. His Word is mighty; His gospel is mighty; His purposes are mighty; the arm with which He wields the world’s scepter, and holds satan’s bridle, is mighty. He is mighty over the world, and in the world; mighty over the church and in the church, and in behalf of the church; so mighty, that no weapon forged against her, or against one saint, shall prosper; so mighty, that she is entirely safe—secure in the midst of danger, and wiles, and power. All His strength is ours; it belongs to the Church; it belongs also to each member of His body. We are strong in the Lord.” —Horatius Bonar, in Light And Truth: Revelation

Misbehaving Government

Misbehaving governmentChristians are to have an “alien” response to earthly governments. Simply stated: the Bible says we should not rail against governing authorities the way Earthlings do. Christians should respond with proper submission (check this out).

But what if those earthly governors are misbehaving? What then?

We can still be in God-honoring submission to them in the way we call out their misbehavior. 

Look at some examples—

  • Daniel asked permission to go against the king’s wishes (Daniel 1:8), proposed an alternative plan (v. 12), but ultimately agreed to submit to the authority’s decision (v. 13).
  • Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t argue with King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:16-18), but respectfully took their stance for God (notice the use of the phrase “O king” as a title of respect).
  • Peter and John simply stated, “We must obey God rather than human authority” (Acts 5:29).

This is exactly what Jesus told us to do when He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Luke 20:25). Jesus said something very similar to Pilate, when that governor said, “Don’t you realize I have the power to set You free?” Jesus said, “You would have no authority over Me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:10-11).

So how do we respond to misbehaving governors?

[1] With respect to their office.

[2] With reverent fear of God (see 1 Peter 2:17). “Because we reverence God as the Lord of history, we see beyond the fear and intimidation of the moment.” —James W. Thompson

[3] Leaving the results to GodDaniel 3:26-29, 6:16-27; Acts 5:40-42.

[4] With lots of prayer1 Timothy 2:1-4.

Throughout history, Christians have always had the opportunity to confront ungodly governors. HOW they did it is what set them apart from the Earthling response, and what brought glory to God.

Here’s the video of my full message on this topic—

Next Sunday, November 8, is a day of prayer for those facing persecution for their Christian faith around the world. Join us in a time of prayer for them.

13 Quotes From Jerry Bridges In “Transforming Grace”

Transforming GraceI think Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges is one of the best books about God’s grace I have ever read! You can read my full book review by clicking here. There are way too many quotes for me to share from this book, so here are a few that really zero-in on grace (I’ll be posting more quotes soon).

“I think most of us actually declared temporary bankruptcy. Having trusted in Christ alone for our salvation, we have subtly and unconsciously reverted to a works relationship with God in our Christian lives. We recognize that even our best efforts cannot get us into heaven, but we do think they earn God’s blessings in our daily lives.” 

“It was because of His grace that God the Father sent His only Son to die in our place. To say it another way, Christ’s death was the result of God’s grace; grace is not the result of Christ’s death.”

“The gospel is addressed to those who have no money or good works. It invites us to come and ‘buy’ salvation without money and without cost [Isaiah 55:1]. But note the invitation to come is addressed to those who have no money—not to those who don’t have enough. Grace is not a matter of God’s making up the difference, but of God’s providing all the ‘cost’ of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.” 

“We can never rightly understand God’s grace until we understand our place as those who need His grace.”

“We were dead in our transgressions, but God intervened. We were in bondage to sin, but God intervened. We were objects of wrath, but God intervened. God Who is rich in mercy intervened. Because of His great love for us, God intervened and made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our transgressions and sins. All this is summed up in one succinct statement: ‘it is by grace you have been saved.’ Our condition was hopeless, but God intervened in grace.” 

“God’s grace, then, does not supplement our good works. Instead, His grace overcomes our bad works, which are our sins. God did this by placing our sins on Christ and by letting fall on Him the wrath we so richly deserved. … That’s the way His grace operates. It looks not to our sins or even to our good deeds but only to the merit of Christ.”

“The apostle John wrote that Jesus was ‘full of grace and truth,’ and ‘from the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another’ (John 1:14, 16). The idea portrayed in verse 16 is analogous to the ocean waves crashing upon the beach. One wave has hardly disappeared before another arrives. They just keep coming from an inexhaustible supply. So it is with the grace of God through Christ. He is full of grace and truth, and it is from His inexhaustible fullness that we received one blessing after another.” 

“God often does bless people who seem to us to be quite unworthy. But that is what grace is all about, because we are all unworthy.”

“We all want grace, but we cannot enjoy grace when there is an attitude of comparing.” 

“Under a sense of legalism, obedience is done with a view to meriting salvation or God’s blessing on our lives. Under grace, obedience is a loving response to salvation already provided in Christ, and the assurance that, having provided salvation, God will also through Christ provide all else that we need.”

“All Christians look to Christ alone for their justification, but not nearly as many also look to Him for their perfect holiness before God. … Holiness should be an objective for your daily life. But to live by grace, you must never, never look to the work of the Holy Spirit in you as the basis for your relationship with God. You must always look outside of yourself to Christ. You will never be holy enough through your own efforts to come before God. You are holy only through Christ.” 

“When our Father looks at us, He does not see our miserable performance. Instead, He sees the perfect performance of Jesus.”

“We died to the observance of the law as a requirement for attaining righteousness before God. We died to the curse and condemnation that resulted from our inability to perfectly keep the law. … Being under law implies the wrath of God, whereas grace implies forgiveness and favor. Law implies a broken relationship with God, whereas grace implies a restored relationship with Him. So when Paul said we died to the law, he meant we died to that entire state of condemnation, curse, and alienation from God.” 

11 Quotes From “Pleasure & Profit In Bible Study”

Pleasure & ProfitD.L. Moody’s book Pleasure & Profit In Bible Study is a Bible study rejuvenator for both the novice and experienced reader of the Bible. You can read my full book review by clicking here. Below are some of the quotes I especially appreciated in this book.

“The more you love the Scriptures, the firmer will be your faith. There is little backsliding when people love the Scriptures.” 

“I believe we should know better how to pray if we knew our Bibles better. … And if we feed on the Word, it will be so easy then to speak to others; and not only that, but we shall be growing in grace all the while, and others will take notice of our walk and conversation.”

“It is a very interesting fact that of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, it is recorded that our Lord made quotations from no less than twenty-two. … About 850 passages in the Old Testament are quoted or alluded to in the New…. In the Gospel by Matthew there are over a hundred quotations from twenty of the books in the Old Testament. In the Gospel of Mark there are fifteen quotations taken from thirteen of the books. In the Gospel of Luke there are thirty-four quotations from thirteen books. In the Gospel of John there are eleven quotations from six books. In the four Gospels alone there are more than 160 quotations from the Old Testament. … In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians there are fifty-three quotations from the Old Testament; sometimes he takes whole paragraphs from it. In Hebrews there are eighty-five quotations, in that one book of thirteen chapters. In Galatians, sixteen quotations. In the book of Revelation alone, there are 245 quotations and allusions.”

“It is very important that every Christian should not only know what the Old Testament teaches, but he should accept its truths, because it is upon this that truth is based. Peter said the Scriptures are not given for any private interpretation, and in speaking of the Scriptures, referred to the Old Testament and not to the New. … If the Old Testament Scriptures are not true, do you think Christ would have so often referred to them, and said the Scriptures must be fulfilled? When told by the tempter that He might call down the angels from heaven to interpose in His behalf, he said: ‘Thus it is written.’ Christ gave Himself up as a sacrifice that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. Was it not said that He was numbered with the transgressors? And when He talked with two of His disciples by the way journeying to Emmaus, after His resurrection, did He not say: ‘Ought not these things to be? am I not to suffer?’ And beginning at Moses He explained unto them in all the Scriptures concerning Himself, for the one theme of the Old Testament is the Messiah. … Christ referred to the Scriptures and their fulfillment in Him, not only after He arose from the dead, but in the book of Revelation He used them in Heaven. He spoke to John of them on the Isle of Patmos, and used the very things in them that men are trying to cast out. He never found fault with or rejected them.”

“Prophecy is history unfulfilled, and history is prophecy fulfilled. … Between 500 and 600 hundred Old Testament prophecies have been remarkably and literally fulfilled, and 200 in regard to Jesus Christ alone. Not a thing happened to Jesus Christ that was not prophesied from 1700 to 400 years before He was born.”

“Someone has said that there are four things necessary in studying the Bible: Admit, submit, commit and transmit. First, admit its truth; second, submit to its teachings; third, commit it to memory; and fourth, transmit it. If the Christian life is a good thing for you, pass it on to some one else.”

“Application to the Word will tend to its growth within and its multiplication without.”

“We learn that Christ prayed when he was baptized, and nearly every great event in His ministry was preceded by prayer. If you want to hear from Heaven you must seek it on your knees.”

“If you want to reach people that do not agree with you, do not take a club to knock them down and then try to pick them up. When Jesus Christ dealt with the erring and the sinners, He was as tender with them as a mother is with her sick child.” 

“Let us go to the Bible and see what that old Book teaches. Let us believe it, and go and act as if we believed it, too.”

“But we can not be ready if we do not study the Bible. So whenever you hear a good thing, just put it down, because if it is good for you it will be good for somebody else; and we should pass the coin of heaven around just as we do the coin of the realm.”

The Domineering Pastor

ArroganceI wrote to the church, but Diotrephes who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. (3 John 9)

The King James Versions says that Diotrephes loveth to have the preeminence. He loved his title, his position of authority, and having everything in the church flow through him.

He wanted not only to approve who spoke in the church, but even with whom church people could socialize outside of church. He wielded his positional authority like a sword and cut off people from the fellowship of the church if they didn’t join lockstep with him.

He used fear and intimidation to demand people follow him, and wouldn’t receive a loving letter from the Apostle John. To counteract any who would question him, Diotrephes engaged in gossip and character assassination of any he perceived to be a threat to his position as pastor.

For shame! 

This type of attitude has no place in the Body of Christ, especially among the pastorate! Jesus came to serve, and taught us to do likewise. Jesus didn’t snuff out the smoldering wick or stomp on the bruised reed, but ministered lovingly to all. Peter told shepherds to never use their position to lord it over others.

My fellow pastor, having the title of pastor doesn’t mean I’m the smartest person in the room, or that I have all the answers. I am one member of the Body of Christ. Each member of the Body needs all the other members of the Body. I should humbly serve, never demanding allegiance to me or blind obedience to my wishes. I should never try to hide behind my title, but be the most transparent, the most willing to admit my mistakes, and the first to forgive and to ask forgiveness.

Lord, guard my heart against the spirit of Diotrephes!!

No Conspiracies Here

Burning heartsCould it really be this simple? Could it be that Jesus died and rose again just like the Bible says? Or does it need to be more complicated than that? Are there other theories that seem to fit the facts?

At the feast of Pentecost where Jewish people from all over the world convened in Jerusalem just 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter stood up to address them:

  • Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem… (Acts 2:14). He addressed locals and guests.
  • Jesus of Nazareth was a Man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you, as you yourselves know (v. 22). No one shouted Peter down or disputed this claim. Quite possibly because there were those in this audience who had personally seen or experienced one of Jesus’ miracles.
  • God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact (v. 32). Anyone could have easily refuted this claim because the tomb of Jesus was within walking distance, and yet no one did dispute what Peter said.

A short time later, healing a lame man outside the temple, Peter and John were hauled before the Sanhedrin (rulers and elders of the people [Acts 4:8]). This was the very group who convinced the Roman governor Pilate to have Jesus crucified.

  • It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Whom you crucified but Whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed (v. 10). They didn’t dispute this, but they just told them to stop preaching in this name (v. 17).

Paul was a devout member of the Jewish religious leadership until he had a personal encounter with Jesus. It became awfully difficult for Paul to argue Jesus was dead, when he had seen Him and talked with Him! Paul’s former colleagues had him arrested by the Romans. The Roman governor Festus noted that the claims of the Jews against Paul was about a dead man named Jesus Who Paul claimed was alive (Acts 25:19). This is nearly 30 years after the resurrection of Jesus occurred. King Agrippa didn’t scoff this off. In fact, Paul said he was glad to talk to the king since “the king is familiar with these things…. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). Again, Agrippa didn’t dispute the claim of Jesus’ resurrection, but simply accused Paul of trying to convert him to Christianity.

There is something in our hearts that wants the resurrection to be true.

  • We don’t want to work all our lives for nothing.
  • We don’t want to invest in relationships, only to have them end when one person dies.
  • We want there to be something more. We want there to be something that makes sense of the world.
  • Only the resurrection helps us make sense. Only the resurrection gives us lasting hope. 

An old song by the band Kansas says:

Deep within the hardest heart

There is something there that knows

There’s a hunger life can never fill

Til you face the One Who rose

There were two followers of Jesus that were out for a walk later in the day after the resurrection. They, too, were trying to figure out if the news reports they heard about Jesus’ resurrection was fact or fiction. Jesus met them on the road (although they didn’t recognize Him) and He walked and talked with them. He explained how all of the things in the Bible pointed to these facts: a Savior would come, a Savior would die, and a Savior would be raised to life again. As Jesus sat down to eat with them, they recognized Who He was, and then He disappeared from their sight. As they hurried back to tell the other disciples, they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked” (Luke 24:32).

Does it take faith to believe the biblical resurrection story? Yes!

Does it take faith to believe the conspiracy theories? Yes!

But I believe not only is the resurrection account more plausible, but it’s more satisfying too. The resurrection of Jesus rings true because IT IS TRUE, and because you were created by God to believe this truth so you can be in a relationship with Him.

Love The Sinner

Love the sinnerIf anyone sees his brother commit a sin… he should pray…. (1 John 5:16, NIV)

The King James Version says this a little more poetically, “If any man see his brother sin a sin.” The Greek does not have the indefinite “a” in front of sin, and the verb tense makes this an ongoing process, so it’s probably more accurate to say it like this: “If anyone sees his brother sinning sins.”

The Apostle John is head-over-heels in love with Jesus. So time and time again his counsel is for us also to fall more in love with God, and to demonstrate this by loving others. There is no more loving thing we can do for someone sinning sins than to pray for them (see also Galatians 6:1 and James 5:19-20).

John doesn’t ask us to catalogue their sins; otherwise he would have said “a sin” or even “their sinS.” We are not to be the sin police trying to document each and every infraction! Instead, when we see a brother or sister with a lifestyle that is separated from the love of God, we need to pray for them.

I think John might ask us to pray that they would see the love of God so clearly that the love of sin would become cold and pale and unattractive.

Catch ‘Em Doing Right

Ken Blanchard was right: we spend way too much time trying to catch someone doing something wrong (or worry that they’re going to do something wrong), and not enough time trying to catch them doing something right.

Good job…if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things…. (Philippians 4:8)

…love rejoices in the truth…. (1 Corinthians 13:6)

I should be praying for and looking for praiseworthy things. Why? People generally live up to someone’s expectations (they live down to their expectations too)—especially someone who has demonstrated they care about them.

Listen to John’s right-catching statement:

It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 3-4)

“The truth” is sometimes taught in a Christian home or in a church, or maybe it’s caught there. The child or the churchgoer has heard the truth, but then do we honestly believe the truth—along with God’s Spirit reminding them of that truth—somehow becomes ineffectual?

We often act like that. We’re more willing to believe the negative reports than the positive reports. Perhaps, like John, I need to be more ready to catch others doing right. Perhaps I need to be more ready to rejoice in the success stories. Perhaps I need to pray for greater discernment to see the positive changes the truth is making in those I love.

If we pray, God will help us catch others doing right.

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