Category: General epistles-BibleTrekToday
Scripture reading for December 23rd: Jude
“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude3-4)
Jude was the half-brother of Jesus. He became a follower and disciple of Christ and understood the salvation that Jesus bought and paid for. It was not the cheap grace that was being peddled by some of the false teachers of his day and ours! Jude wanted the church to contend earnestly for the faith that brought true repentance and a changed life. This was the only kind of faith that could save and deliver a person from eternal condemnation.
The false teachers had come from the ranks of the church. They were evidently taking the wonderful message of God’s grace and forgiveness of sins and making that a license to continue living in sin. In doing so, they were actually denying Jesus Christ and His sacrifice of His own body and blood to deliver us from the power of sin. (Romans 6:11-14) Sin is no longer our master, but by His Spirit we can overcome sin’s grip! These false teachers were teaching believers that they could continue to live in sin and that God’s grace would cover their sins, thus dividing the church. Jude wrote that this lie would lead to eternal condemnation and separation from God!
Jude had a remedy: “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” (Jude 20-23) The fight of faith requires Spirit inspired prayer! This builds us up and keeps us in God’s river of love. It enables us to reach out to those who struggle and snatch them from the fire! Fight the good fight of faith!
Scripture reading for December 22nd: 3rd John
The shortest book of the New Testament was also written by John and addressed to his friend Gaius. This pastor and apostle loved to encourage and correct his people, preparing them for the coming of the Lord. He desired their prosperity and health in spirit, soul, and body. He knew that the key to this health was a prospering soul that walked in love and truth, and he prayed accordingly. (3 John 2)
John had great joy to hear of the faithfulness of Gaius to walk in the truth. In fact, no greater joy could be found by him than to hear of his children in the faith walking in truth. John encouraged Gaius to show hospitality to those who went out to preach the Gospel. Hospitality is love in action toward those who love the truth. It meets the needs that are there, providing what one has to be used to bless others.
Not everyone in the church was such a good example. “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.” (3rd John 9-10) Pride and love of position blinds people to truth. The devil can easily manipulate a prideful person because that was his own downfall! John promised to call attention to his evil deeds when he came in person. This person was also a leader in the church and was hindering the true work of God. We must be discerning about the character of those who lead. Those wanting to be first are not the ones to put in charge!
John closes with a commendation of Demetrius as a good example. He encourages Gaius to imitate what was good, not the evil example of Diotrephes. John would have much more to say in person when he came. We are all examples of one sort or another. Our lives and attitudes either reflect a relationship with Christ or we are living for the enemy of our soul. These examples were found inside the early church and remind us today to examine our own witness.
Scripture reading for December 21st: 2nd John
John wrote two shorter letters to those in the church that he loved. In this second letter, John writes to the elder, a chosen lady and her children. He writes to encourage them to walk in love and in the truth. John had written in his Gospel that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6) As the truth, Jesus embodied all truth and everything that was righteous. Satan was a liar, with no truth in him! (John 8:44) John also wrote that God is love and that He so loved the world that He gave His Son Jesus Christ to bring salvation to whoever would believe on Him. (John 3:16)
There is a balance between love and truth that believers must be aware of. God wants all His children to walk in love and to love each other. This does not mean that our love just naively accepts anyone who believes or teaches what is contrary to the truth. Our love must be tempered by truth. False teachers were trying to seduce some of the members of the early church that John had labored to build.
“Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. . . .If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.” (2nd John 7-8,10-11)
The false teachers were gnostics, people who did not believe that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. The were secretly introducing heresy into the church. Although God’s people are loving, we love in truth and cannot welcome those who are false teachers into our fellowship. This is a loving thing to do to protect the church and our own souls! John taught that when we welcome the false teacher or false apostle into our homes, we share in his or her wicked work and lose our own reward! That is serious teaching that should make us all cry out for discernment! The last days are marked by deception and false teaching! Check your own love and truth balance today as you re-read this short epistle!
Scripture reading for December 20th: 1st John 1-5
I find it interesting that so many of the Apostles who walked with Jesus wrote so often about Jesus’ return. They evidently heard something from the heart of Jesus that made a deep impression. They were willing to suffer and die, many of them martyred for preaching the Gospel. John the Apostle is another of Jesus’ inner circle who wrote about Jesus’ return and encouraged the church to be ready!
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1st John 3:1-3)
John is the apostle of love. He is always talking about the love of God and how God has lavished His love on us as human beings. Through Jesus Christ, we are now adopted into God’s family and have the privilege of being called His children. To the world, we look no different than anyone else. The people of the world don’t recognize us as children of God because they do not know Jesus.
But when Jesus returns, things will change in an instant. We will be instantly made to be like Him in His glorified body. We will see Him in all His glory and be transformed. Those who have faith in Christ, have this hope in their hearts and it causes a change in behavior and attitude. We separate ourselves from the sins of the world and the flesh and live a pure life by faith in Christ. We prepare for Christ’s sudden return and our transformation!
John stresses that those born of God will not continue to sin because God’s seed (sperm–the living word of God) dwells in him. (1st John 3:9-10) We who are born again love others and choose to do what is right according to God’s word. There are only two types of people in the world: those born of God and those who are children of the devil. Are you ready for His coming?
Scripture reading for December 19th: 2nd Peter 1-3
In the last days, people will mock and scoff at God, accusing Him of not being there at all. “God is dead” was popular some time back among the scoffers in America. Others claim to be agnostics, not sure if there is a God at all and skeptical that man can even know Him. Others, having the desire to completely eliminate God from their thinking, ignore history and the Bible and degrade anyone who would believe in the Creator and the prophetic warnings of coming judgment on those who refuse to believe.
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years , and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2nd Peter 3:8-9) God’s not hung up on time like we humans are. He has always been and will always be. Time for Him is not limited, but limitless! God is not slow in keeping His promise to come back for us, but He is patient with all mankind. He wants all to have opportunity to be saved. He knows that all who fail to repent will perish in the Lake of Fire. (Revelation 20:14-15)
God has great patience, even with those who are mocking Him and scoffing at His word. He is working out His plans, which are established forever. He has told mankind of His plans through the prophets of Old Testament time and in these last days through His own Son, Jesus Christ. We can trust the word of God and should be living as if what God has said will come to pass!
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people out you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” (2nd Peter 3:10-12) God’s patience will eventually give way to fulfillment of His promises. Will you be found ready and living for Him or among the scoffers?
Scripture reading for December 18th: 1st Peter 1-5
Peter was the leader of the band of apostles. He boasted of his faithfulness to the Lord and ended up denying Him three times. As he ended his life, he wrote about suffering and glory and how Christ would come again. He always encouraged believers to stay faithful. He was aware of suffering that came with following Christ but always kept his eyes on the goal of seeing Christ when He came again!
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and God rests on you.” (1st Peter 4:12-14) Suffering is a part of living for Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus Christ Himself suffered persecution, we are promised persecution because of the name of Jesus that we bear. We should not be surprised at this, but rejoice! An attitude of joy is the choice we are to make. Peter taught us that the Holy Spirit would rest on us and bring glory to God through our faithful and joyful endurance.
Peter had been an eyewitness of the sufferings and glory of Jesus Christ. He was there at the transfiguration as well as the crucifixion and then the resurrection. He was given a charge by Jesus to care for the lambs and feed His sheep. (John 21:15-19) In this light, Peter instructed the elders of the church to set a good example for the others in the church. They should not lord their authority over others, but serve willingly as shepherds of the flock of God. (1st Peter 5:1-4) The Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, would soon appear and those who served faithfully would receive a crown of glory which would never fade away!
“And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1st Peter 5:10-11) The call to share Christ’s glory is foremost in Peter’s mind! Let this word bring joy and encouragement today in your suffering or pain!
Scripture reading for December 17th: James 1-5
James was the half-brother of Jesus and the pastor at the church in Jerusalem. He was known as a man of prayer and this short letter shows his wisdom. James is the “Proverbs” of the New Testament with its many wise insights and words of instruction. James wrote to the Jewish believers of his day to encourage them to stand fast during the trials that they were facing because of false teachers and persecution from embracing Christ as Messiah.
Patience and perseverance are major themes of this book. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) Trials are something that Christians can embrace and walk through with faith. God wastes nothing, and He is building patience into us as we experience trials. In fact, we learn by experiencing trials that God supplies all of our needs and we lack nothing.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12) James says that God is not the author of trials, but uses them to help us. When we develop perseverance, we become mature. At the conclusion, we receive a crown of life! Eternal life is a great reward worth waiting for. God has promised this to those who love and obey Him. (John 3:16)
“Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:7-9) James kept up on the theme of patience. He felt strongly that Jesus Christ was coming soon. He knew that complaining and criticism would be judged and impatient people often use their mouths rashly. James warned them not to grumble but to remember Jesus the coming Judge! Instead, they should pray about their troubles and confess their sins. Good advice for us today as the Judge is closer than ever!
Scripture reading for January 19th: Genesis 50, Exodus 1-2, Matthew 15
Key Scriptures: Matthew 15:32-35 “Then Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to sen them away hungry, lest they faint on the way. And the disciples said, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, :How many loaves do you have?: The said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, He took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks He broke them and gave them to the disciples…”
We notice the compassion that motivated Jesus to take faith action. He saw the hungry crowds and knew they had need. He found all available resources and organized the crowd. He mobilized the disciples to take the bread He had blessed and broken. As they broke it to the crowd, a miracle happened and all were fed! Compassion motivated Pharaoh’s daughter as well!
Exodus 2:5-6, 10 “Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children. . . .”When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.””
Prayer: Lord, fill my heart with Your compassion for the needy, hurting and lost! Let me be flooded with Your love! In Jesus’ Name.
Scripture reading for December 21st: 3rd John
“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” 3rd John 2
John opens his letter with a greeting to his personal friend, Gaius, and a short prayer for him. Prayer should shape everything we do. It is an act of love coming from a soul that is healthy and focused on God’s will and His desire to love and bless others. This short prayer reveals John’s heart for his friend and blesses him and us today, as well!
“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.” 3rd John 3-4
Our reputation gets around in the church. If we are faithful and walk in the truth, everyone knows about it. Faithfulness brings great joy to God and to those in authority in the church. Those in authority have to give an account to the Lord for those they oversee. (Hebrews 13:17) When pastors talk to the Lord about those who are disobedient and unfaithful, it brings sorrow and painful intercession! Gaius had been walking in the truth and blessing visiting missionaries by providing for their needs. He demonstrated Christ’s love to those preaching the gospel and was commended!
“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.” (3rd John 9-10)
Diotrephes was one of those brothers that was causing pain to the Apostle and others in the body of Christ. A bad reputation also spreads around and must be dealt with. If the person will not change and repent after confrontation, others in the church must be warned so that they are not caught up in the sins. This letter shows how John was doing this. He wanted to come personally and deal with the situation, and would soon if he could.
This short letter shows us how our personal attitudes and actions affect others and are known in the body of Christ. Leaders must have a good reputation. When you love to be first like Diotrephes, this selfishness causes troubles and indicates that you are not from God. (3rd John 11) If you are a loving servant, like Gaius and Demetrius (3rd John 12), you show by your love that Christ’s love and truth is in you! It’s pretty simple really! There’s no greater joy for a pastor than to have God’s people walking in truth and love!