Psalm 119:11

Psalm 119:11

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

This is so we are continually guided by the Lord’s precepts. Our default as humans is what we think is best, and that will always be self-serving. God’s word opposes our nature, which is why memorizing it is so helpful.

The meaning here of ‘stored’ means to conceal or treasure, much like someone would do with money or jewels. This really implies that the word of God is a treasure, which is absolutely true.

Work today to remind yourself of how valuable God’s word is. We cannot possible live in a way that glorifies Him without it. Humble yourself to recognize your need for His guidance, so you might not sin against Him.

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Psalm 119:7

The more we understand God’s word, the more praise we give Him.  His word shows us how great He is, and how desperately we need Him because of our sin.  Our hearts do become more upright, as conforming to His word changes our desires.

Are you depressed, worried, discouraged?  Have you thought about spending more time in God’s word as a remedy?  Have you had trouble with relationships, particularly with managing conflict and loving others?  Consider the bible as a playbook, and think about how hard it is to take the right steps independently.

We can’t grow if we don’t spend consistent time in His word.  This is a struggle for many, so ask those closest to you in your church to help.  Ask for accountability, and know yourself well enough to recognize the need for help.

Psalm 119:4

Psalm 119:4

In verse 4, the command is not only to keep the Lords precepts, but the keep them diligently. How do we do this? Well, first and foremost, we need to know what they are. We can’t possibly keep the Lord’s commands if we don’t know them, and the only way to know them is to study His word. For those who have been around church for years, some of these are no-brainers; love the Lord, love others, and refrain from killing and stealing.

However, did you know that there is a command in the bible that has to do with assembling together regularly with your local church? Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “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.” Habitual corporate worship is a command in the Bible, and the context here is so that we’d encourage each other to bear fruit because we’ll give an account for our lives to the Lord.

Men, are you leading your family to regularly attend your local church? Doing this diligently is your responsibility. Make 2015 the year where you don’t let other silly priorities (NFL playoffs, birthday parties, select sports, extra sleep, etc.) get in the way of obeying scripture.

Psalm 119:3

Psalm 119:3

Continuing on the theme of being blessed (i.e. content, satisfied, and secure in the Lord, not merely happy), the Psalmist says something which may seem unrealistic. He’s referring to those “who also do no wrong” as blessed. How is this possible?

Throughout scripture we see things which may on the surface seem contradictory. But if we want to be thoughtful and consistent, we’ll dig deeper. The bible says that all of us do wrong; “None is righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10) So how do we understand Psalm 119:3 in light of this truth? Well, we certainly want to strive for perfect obedience. Given the fact that we can’t be sinless this side of heaven, what does it mean to do no wrong?

I think our answer lies in Matthew 18. Jesus gave instructions on how to handle believers who were persistent and unrepentant in their sin. After gently and carefully walking alongside such a person (read more about biblical church discipline and membership here Continue reading

Psalm 119:2

Psalm 119:2

Those who keep the Lord’s testimonies are sure to seek after Him. If His word is precious, then the Lord Himself is even more so. This is a very important piece of following the Lord, because our reward in heaven will be fellowship with Him. So, if fellowship with Him now is not attractive to you, then you really aren’t going to like heaven very much.

If we really know the power of the gospel we must seek the God of the gospel. The further someone grows in spiritual maturity, the more spiritual their interests become. An outward walk is not good enough for the true believer. They know their own desires and thoughts, and recognize just how evil they are. Those who are saved will seek the Lord, and will love to have fellowship with Him. Our love for Him will never be consistent this side of heaven, but one day when we see Him, we’ll be able to perfectly reciprocate His perfect love for us.

Revelation Overview

Revelation Overview

The message of the book of Revelation is this: We are waiting for the sovereign God to come, execute his judgments, deliver us through the blood of the Lamb, and bring us into his presence forever. So this is where our trust must lie. Is this what you are waiting for?

There are certainly smaller things you are waiting for. Maybe you are waiting for retirement, or for a check to come in the mail. There are lots of things we anticipate. But in your heart, more than any anything else, are you waiting for the sovereign God to execute his judgments, save us through the blood of the Lamb, and bring us into his presence forever?

The future holds many things. For God’s people, it holds his coming above all else. If you are a Christian, you are not to spend your life worrying, but waiting. The future is not meaningless, anonymous, foreboding, and empty. No,
it is full and bright. It is a future with God! So the Christian is not afraid of the future; he is in love with it. When Jesus promises at the end of Revelation, “I am coming soon,” John responds, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (22:20). This is the ultimate desire of every saint. If you are waiting for anything else, here is a good question to ask yourself: Is your wait worth it? This is the hope we were made to run on.

If you are a non-Christian, you too are in this book. John addresses “Whoever is thirsty.” The whole verse reads, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (22:17). You are giving your life for something. You are waiting for something. What are you waiting for? Is it worth the wait? Whatever it is, will it last? Put your hope in Christ, for He is our only hope that will last beyond this life.

Jude Overview

Jude Overview

Like most of the other general epistles, the title of this little book takes its name from its author. Most scholars identify the writer as Jude the half-brother of Jesus for at least two reasons. First, he identified himself as the “brother of James” (Jude 1:1), meaning he was probably not the apostle named Jude, a man who was called “the son of James” (Luke 6:16). That the author of the book of Jude identified himself as the brother of James likely aligns him with the family of Jesus. (See “Who Wrote the Book” in the chapter on James for more information.) Second, Matthew 13:55 records the names of the brothers of Jesus as James and Judas. Whereas the gospels record his name as Judas, English translations shorten it to Jude—probably for the same reason no one in the present day wants to name a child Judas, because of the association it has with Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus.

Like his older brother James, Jude did not place his faith in Jesus while the Lord was still alive. Only after the crucifixion and resurrection did the scales fall from Jude’s eyes and he become a follower of his half-brother, Jesus. First Corinthians 9:5 offers a tantalizing piece of information, noting that the Lord’s brothers and their wives took missionary journeys. From this scant portrait, we begin to picture Jude as a man who lived in skepticism for a time but eventually came to a powerful faith in Jesus. And as he traveled on behalf of the gospel—telling the story in city after city with his name Judas butting up against that of Judas Iscariot—he would stand as a living example of faithfulness, a stark contrast to the betrayer.

The book of Jude is notoriously difficult to date, primarily because the Bible and tradition reveal so little about the personal details of its author while the book itself refrains from naming any particular individuals or places. The one clue available to present-day readers is the striking similarity between the books of Jude and 2 Peter. Assuming Peter wrote his letter first (AD 64–66), Jude probably wrote his epistle sometime between AD 67 and 80.

Jude’s edgy brevity communicates the urgency of his notion that false teachers needed to be condemned and removed from the church. Few words meant that Jude would not waste space dancing around the issue. He saw within the church people and practices that were worthy of condemnation, including rejecting authority and seeking to please themselves. In response to these errors, Jude marshaled much biblical imagery to make clear what he thought of it all—anything from Cain killing his brother Abel to the punishment of the sinful people who populated Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 1:7, 11).

Jude’s purpose in his letter was twofold: he wanted to expose the false teachers that had infiltrated the Christian community, and he wanted to encourage Christians to stand firm in the faith and fight for the truth. Jude recognized that false teachers often peddled their wares unnoticed by the faithful, so he worked to heighten the awareness of the believers by describing in vivid detail how terrible dissenters actually were. But more than simply raising awareness, Jude thought it important that believers stand against those working against Jesus Christ. Believers were to do this by remembering the teaching of the apostles, building each other up in the faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and keeping themselves in the love of God (Jude 1:17, 20–21).

Fight for the truth! Stand up against error! The book of Jude is the very definition of punchy and pithy proclamations—with its short commands and statements popping off the page. But in our day and age, punchy has become rude or unacceptable. In many circles the forcefulness of Jude will not be tolerated, the crowds preferring a softer and gentler side of the Christian faith. But Jude reminds us that there is a time and a place for the aggressive protection of the truth from those who would seek to tear it down.

3 John Overview

3 John Overview

The apostle John identified himself in 3 John only as “the elder” (3 John 1:1), the same as he did in 2 John. At the writing of this, his final epistle, John was nearing the end of his life, a life that had changed dramatically some six decades before, when Jesus had called John and his brother James out from their fishing boat. The boys had left their livelihood and their father Zebedee to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:21–22). While James was the first of the twelve disciples to die for his faith, John outlived all the others. John referred to himself in his gospel as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20), a title that highlights one of the great themes of all John’s biblical contributions, including 3 John—the love of God working itself out in the lives of human beings.

While we cannot pinpoint the date with certainty due to the lack of specific information in the letter, 3 John was probably written around AD 90 from the island of Patmos, where John was exiled at the time. John wrote his letter to Gaius, a leader of one or more churches in Asia Minor. The apostle had received a report of some difficulties caused by a man named Diotrephes, and John wrote to reinforce for Gaius the proper way to deal with the troubles.

While Gaius was dealing with certain troubles in his area, John wanted to direct him, not only in how to respond to the trials but also how to relate to those who proclaim the truth. John’s three epistles are largely concerned with the issue of fellowship—with God, with enemies of the gospel and, in the case of 3 John, with those who proclaim the truth. John wanted to ensure a warm welcome from the churches to those who traveled around preaching the gospel, offering them hospitality and a send-off “in a manner worthy of God” (3 John 1:6).

Troubles had come to the church in Asia. Diotrephes had taken control of one of the churches there and used his power to ban certain travelling missionaries from coming to the church at all. At one point, the church had seen something of a leadership quality in him and had placed him in charge, but now in the top spot, the power had gone to his head. He refused to welcome those traveling ministers of the gospel to preach and take rest with his church. And even worse, upon receiving an earlier correction from John, Diotrephes refused to listen (3 John 1:9).

This troubling situation prompted John to write to Gaius, commending the believers for holding fast to the truth and doing so with a loving attitude. These Christians strove to make the gospel a reality in their lives through the way they treated one another. And John, in response to this good report about the behavior of these “rank and file” Christians, encouraged them to continue to love and support those visiting believers who gave of themselves and ministered in the churches of Asia.

How do you show hospitality to other Christians, particularly those who serve you and others in your local church and at churches around the world? Showing hospitality to others—particularly strangers—requires a level of trust and acceptance that is not necessarily required of us in our everyday lives. It forces us to rely on a common bond in Jesus Christ, rather than a particular blood relationship or shared experience. It forces us out of our comfort zones and into a territory where we must place our trust in God.

John used words such as love and truth to describe this kind of living, and he used the negative example of Diotrephes to illustrate the dangers of going down a different path. We have a responsibility as Christians to live according to the truth we find in the life and ministry of Jesus, to care for and support those who serve God’s people. Our Lord was surrounded by people who took care of Him. Third John teaches us that we should do the same for those who carry on the teaching of Jesus in our own day.

2 John Overview

2 John Overview

John did not identify himself by name in this letter, but he did adopt the term “elder” for himself (2 John 1:1). There has been some debate about whether an author named John the Elder wrote this letter (as well as 3 John, which is addressed the same way) or if John the apostle was using a different title for himself. However, the earliest church tradition from the second century on testified in unison that this letter and its companion, 3 John, were written by the apostle, not by a mysterious and unknown elder. In fact, an apostle using the term “elder” for himself was not at all unprecedented—Peter did that very thing in his first epistle (1 Peter 5:1).

John offered little in the way of detail in the short letter we call 2 John. Nothing in the circumstances John discussed in the letter would lead a reader of the time to think that it did not go to the same churches that received 1 John. The apostle addressed the letter “to the chosen lady and her children,” a mysterious phrase that has been much debated (2 John 1:1). It either refers to an actual woman or serves as a metaphor for a church. In either case, whether to a smaller family group joined by blood or to a larger one joined by confession, the application of the letter should remain unchanged. With this letter’s thematic similarity to 1 John, it is best to suggest that John wrote from Patmos in about AD 90.

Second John makes clear what our position should be regarding the enemies of the truth. Whereas 1 John focuses on our fellowship with God, 2 John focuses on protecting our fellowship from those who teach falsehood. The apostle went so far as to warn his readers against inviting false teachers into the house or even offering them a greeting (2 John 1:10). Such practices align the believer with the evildoer, and John was keen on keeping the believers pure from the stain of falsehood and heresy.

John began his second epistle proclaiming his love for “the chosen lady and her children,” a love he shared with those who know the truth (2 John 1:1). From the reports he had received, he understood that these believers were following the teachings of Christ. He summed up this kind of lifestyle in the exhortation to “love one another” (1:5), a clear reference to the great commandments of Jesus—to love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36–40; John 13:34).

In other words, those who walk in the truth should be people who love others. But they should be cautious whom they love. Deceivers and false teachers had infiltrated the church—people who taught falsehoods about the person of Jesus, teaching that He was not truly a man but only appeared to be one. This early heresy, called Docetism, required the strongest possible response from John. So the apostle warned the true believers away from these false teachers. John’s encouragement, then, was not simply to love but to love others within the limits that truth allows.

John’s strong encouragement to the believers in 2 John involved loving one another. However, John did not leave love undefined but described it as walking “according to His commandments” (2 John 1:6). This echoes the teaching of Jesus in John’s gospel, where the Lord told His followers, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

Our love is dependent on our obedience. When we don’t obey, we don’t love. Often we get in the mind-set that our obedience to God affects only ourselves. But that simply is not true. Our actions, whether obedient or disobedient, have ripple effects far beyond our own limited vision of a circumstance.

Consider your own life. In what ways might your obedience or disobedience impact those in your immediate circle of relationships? Second John reminds us not only of the dangers of falling away from the truth but also of the importance of making obedience a priority in our lives—for ourselves and for those most important to us.

1 John Overview

1 John Overview

The author of this epistle never identified himself by name, but Christians since the beginning of the church have considered this letter authoritative, believing it was written by John the apostle. That group of witnesses includes Polycarp, an early second-century bishop who as a young man knew John personally. In addition, the author clearly places himself as part of a group of apostolic eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus, noting that “what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also” (1 John 1:3).

John did not specify the recipients of this letter, but given his addresses in Revelation 2–3 to seven churches in the immediate vicinity of Ephesus—the city where John ministered late in his life—he likely had those same churches in mind for this letter. The letter offers little in the way of specifics, so pinpointing the date of its composition can be difficult. However, its similarity with the gospel composed by John means it was probably written near the same time. A date of about AD 90, with John writing from his exile on Patmos, ends up being the best proposition.

The parallelisms in 1 John are striking for their simplicity: Christ vs. antichrists, light vs. darkness, truth vs. falsehood, righteousness vs. sin, love of the Father vs. love of the world, and the Spirit of God vs. the spirit of the Antichrist. While this is not a complete list, it reveals a letter that presents the world in an uncomplicated way—there is right and there is wrong, period. This emphasis by John, while striking, is not without love. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. John recognized that love comes from God, and he encouraged the believers to love one another (1 John 4:7). John’s first epistle teaches that while it is important to recognize the lines between truth and error, it must always be done in a spirit of love.

As he did in his gospel, John stated with clarity the purpose of his first letter. He proclaimed the good news about Jesus to the recipients of this letter, saying “so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Later, John added “so that you may not sin” (2:1) and “so that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13). John wanted his readers to experience true fellowship with God and with God’s people. But he knew that would not happen until the Christians set aside their own selfish desires in favor of the pursuits God had for them.

To help them attain that goal, John focused on three issues: the zeal of the believers, standing firm against false teachers, and reassuring the Christians that they have eternal life. John wrote to churches full of people who had struggled with discouragement—whether due to their own sinful failures or the presence of false teachers in their midst. The aging apostle hoped to ignite the zeal of these believers so that they might follow the Lord more closely and stand firm against those who meant to sow discord among the churches. In doing so, they would solidify their relationship with God and gain confidence in His work in their lives.

We all go through ups and downs in our Christian faith. Whatever the struggle—whether outside of us or inside—we often feel ourselves blown about by the winds of emotion or circumstances. Yet God calls us to lives of increasing consistency, with the evidence of our inner transformation becoming more and more apparent as the months and years pass by. How would you characterize your relationship with God—consistent and fruitful or sporadic and parched?

John knew that we would never find in ourselves the faithfulness God requires. Instead, we have to place complete trust in the work and grace of God, believing that He will certainly conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus. That sense of being grounded in God only comes when we set aside our sin in the pursuit of the one true God. Or, in the words of John, “if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).