(Outline of devotional given to the Men’s Group of Ikthus East – Bacolod City last July 6, 2019)
1 John 2:24-27 ESV
 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.  And this is the promise that he made to us-eternal life.  I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.  But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie-just as it has taught you, abide in him. Continue reading “Remaining in the Truth”
“Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:13-14) Continue reading “What does God seek?”
(A devotional given to the Men’s group of Ikthus East Bacolod.)
TEXT: 1 John 2:18-26
The apostle John wants us to distinguish between those who are truly God’s children and those who aren’t. At the same time he wants to protect us from false teachers. God’s children have received an anointing from the Holy Spirit: spiritual discernment. They are able to taste and see spiritual truth. Continue reading “Anointed by the Holy One”
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
Judgment is indeed according to works. On the day of judgment the books will be opened and we shall be judged according to all that we’ve done. But in that case we’re all doomed because what we’ve done is deserving of eternal death. We can do nothing but sin (Luther). All our good works are filthy rags, since they are not animated by perfect love for God and neighbour. And even if our good deeds outweigh or outnumber our bad, “one sin outweighs much good.” One does not escape punishment by pleading that he has kept all the commandments save one. It is precisely because he has broken that one that he is being punished, even if he has kept all the rest.
Left to ourselves we are doomed. But Christ did for us what we could not do for ourselves. His work swallows up all our works, good and bad. Our sins are but a drop in the ocean of his righteousness. His righteousness covers all our unrighteousness. His work and his righteousness are imputed to us and are ours if we put our faith in him. Christ himself is our righteousness. And on judgment day, when called to account, we present to God our work, although it is not ours but his, but ours nevertheless because it was done for us and imputed to us. In fact, even now judgment has been rendered in advance regarding us. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. He who believes in me shall not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.” The future judgment will be nothing more than a public confirmation of the favourable judgment which has already been passed upon us by virtue of what Christ has done for us.
Does this mean that “fearing God” and “keeping his commandments” no longer have any place in our lives? Far from it. On the contrary, all the more they have become an essential part of our every waking moment, because those who put their faith in Christ alone and are saved by faith alone are children of God, and to his children God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son, and the Spirit’s work is to instil the fear of (i.e., reverence for) God in the hearts of God’s children, and to move them to keep his commandments out of love and not out of servile fear. In fact, he inscribes God’s laws upon our hearts.
The conclusion of the matter is: Fear God and keep his commandments. How shall we obey this? By believing in his Son Jesus Christ and receiving him into our hearts as our Lord and Saviour. “This is the work of God that you believe in him whom he has sent.” And if you have already done so then go and keep the commandments with all your might, for you are not powerless to do so. As God’s child you have the Holy Spirit who will empower you to do God’s will from the heart, not in order to be saved, but out of love and gratitude to him who has saved you by grace alone through faith alone. Amen.
Don’t merely live under the sun. Live under the Son!
 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?  Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”  So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.  For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”  Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”  But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”-  so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Continue reading “How are we justified before God?”
“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-30) Continue reading “God Chose”
“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:3-5)
Everyday God’s people are doing mighty things in and for the world: They pray.
God hears and gathers their prayers, fashions these into a thunderbolt, and strikes the earth with it.
The earth shakes. Lives are changed, the sick are healed, blind eyes are opened, lepers are cleansed, the prisoners are set free, the hungry are fed, and the poor are enriched. Storms are stilled, light shines in the darkness, life bursts forth from the tombs, and dead bones now live!
“Prayer reenters history with incalculable effect. Our earth is shaken daily by it.” (Eugene Peterson)
“Following Jesus is not a skill we acquire so that we can be useful to the kingdom (the Essene way). Following Jesus is not a privilege we are let into so that the kingdom can be useful to us (the Caiaphas way). It is obedience (‘my Lord!’). And it is worship (‘my God!’).”
– Eugene Peterson, THE JESUS WAY, p. 242
There are those who follow Christ in order to get blessings from God. Of course, they stop following once tragedy strikes or the blessing doesn’t arrive as expected.
Then there are those who adopt a managerial approach to following Christ. Their goal is to become productive and successful in the Christian life. So they focus on discipleship trainings, various church programs and activities, and formulas and strategies on how to pray so as to get your prayers answered, how to be victorious in this or that area of your life, how to study the Bible for maximum profit, etc. Results are what is important and finding and utilizing the right spiritual techniques is the key to getting results.
Then there’s the Jesus way, which is simply following where Jesus leads without overthinking and over-managing it. Peterson says, “When Jesus says, ‘Follow me’ and we follow, we don’t know where we will go next or what we will do next. That is why we follow the one who does know.”
But Jesus himself says it best:
“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)
“In proportion as the sanctification of a believer advances, his real happiness advances with it” (Octavius Winslow)
“Man’s holiness is now his greatest happiness, and in heaven man’s greatest happiness will be his perfect holiness.” (Thomas Brooks)
We pursue happiness in the wrong way. We run after success, money, fame and pleasure, and once we have these they turn into ashes in our hands.
Holiness, on the other hand, carries with it a peculiar enjoyment – the kind only heaven can give. Pursue holiness and you gain joy that thrives even in the midst of affliction. Mere happiness cannot do this; it wilts at the first whiff of unfortunate circumstances.