Overcoming Faith

Believers in Jesus Christ should expect changed lives and victory over the world.

Today’s reading: Daniel 7-8; 1 John 5

14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.                                                                       Daniel 7:14

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?           1 John 5:3-5

Daniel recorded here his visions of what was to come. He found them troubling because they were not easy to understand. We have the advantage of history and can draw some lines between the things he saw and what later occurred. The vision of the beasts seems to refer to the kingdoms of Nebuchadnezzar (Babylonia), Medo Persia, and Alexander the Great. The fourth is not so clear, but some believe it to be the Roman Empire.

What was clear was that none of these kingdoms would endure. The Ancient of Days gives the everlasting kingdom to the son of man, which clearly points to Jesus Christ. His kingdom will not pass away.

John the Apostle knew the Son of Man, his and our Lord Jesus Christ. John wrote that He was the propitiation for our sins ( 1 John 2:2;4:10). In Him we are given light and have fellowship with God and with all His people who also walk in the light with God (I John 1:7). This fellowship with God results in a changed life. This changed life includes: faith in Jesus Christ, love for God, and obedience to His commandments. Those changes demonstrate a new birth and results in victory over the world.

Should we settle for a hum-drum spiritual life? No. Not according to John. We should expect substantial changes. No, not perfection. We will always be going to Him to confess our sins and to be cleansed (1 John 1:9). If you do not see evidence in yourself of a new birth, call upon Him for mercy and grace to grant you overcoming faith.

Safe in the Lions’ Den

God shows His power in the apparently impossible and hopeless crises of His faithful children who have even been found safe in the lions’ den.

Today’s reading: Daniel 5-6; 1 John 4

26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God,
enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”

28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.                                                                                                   Daniel 6:26-28

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.                                                                      1 John 4:4

God’s people down through history have been tested and oppressed by evil forces in this world as was predicted in Genesis 3:15. They are not always delivered from those trials, but, by God’s grace and power, they remain faithful to Him and are never overcome by them. [See also The Grand Narrative].

Daniel was set up by political opponents to be trapped in a dilemma. He resolved not to compromise his faith but to trust God to see him through the consequences of maintaining his practice of prayer. He was protected through a night in the lions’ den. King Darius saw the power of God and decreed that all should tremble and fear before Him.

John’s readers in the first century and beyond were reassured of God’s power in the face of opposing spiritual forces in the world. He called them “little children” perhaps because of his tender love for them but, probably, also because they were not spiritual giants. Nevertheless, he said they had overcome the false prophets, also called the spirit of antichrist and the spirit of error.  Unlike those in the world, these little children did not listen to the false spirits.

Daniel prospered under the pagan kings. Those John addressed were victorious against the forces of spiritual darkness. Not all who are faithful prosper in this world, but all who are faithful know God’s faithfulness and the ultimate deliverance of what Darius called the kingdom that shall never be destroyed. Stay faithful and confident. You are safe in the lions’ den.

Everyday Persecution

God’s people, living in a fallen world, must not be surprised if they are unrecognized, at best, and targeted for persecution and death, at worst.

Today’s reading: Daniel 3-4; 1 John 3

28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.                                                                          Daniel 3:28

The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1b

The Jews living in captivity in Babylon faced serious trials. Their faith and practice got them into trouble at times but the message of Daniel is that God always saw them through vindicating their faith and His power.

Nebuchadnezzar needed repeated evidence that the God of Israel was the God Most High. When he mandated worship of an idol, the three friends of Daniel refused to bow. They were given one more chance. Once more they stood their ground and were thrown into the fiery furnace. Yet even that fire could not destroy them. They came forth without so much as the smell of smoke. Nebuchadnezzar was forced to honor God and reward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

The Apostle John instructs his readers about the life of one who has fellowship with God. There will necessarily be a qualitative difference in the person who loves God. It affects his relationships with others and his attitudes toward the trinkets of this world. He practices righteousness and loves his brother. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you, he tells them” (vs. 13). Why? Because the world did not know God.

Daniel and his friends experienced severe tests of their faith. They were prepared not to be vindicated, although they were, quite rapidly (Daniel 3:18).  Others, like John, may not have seen vindication in this world but were prepared to endure until they saw Him “as he is.” Be ready for everyday persecution, but also expect to be transformed by Him when you see Him.

It’s All Gonna Burn

Disciples of Jesus Christ must live in this world but never forget that this world will ultimately pass away.

Today’s reading: Daniel 1-2; 1 John 2

44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” Daniel 2:44

17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17

Daniel, a young Jew in the time of the Babylonian Captivity, was taken to Nebuchadnezzar’s palace and given special training to assist the king. He was not among the “starting lineup” on the royal advisory team so he heard about his death sentence without knowing the reason. By God’s grace and mercy, Daniel was able to save his life and that of other wise men by telling the king what his dream was and what it meant. No one else could do that. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar learned that his kingdom would one day be replaced by another, and that one by still another. Ultimately, none of those kingdoms would last because the God of heaven would set up an indestructible kingdom and crush all the opposing kingdoms of the earth.

To his credit, Nebuchadnezzar accepted the interpretation and honored Daniel with gifts and a promotion. Most importantly, he recognized the God of gods and Lord of kings of which Daniel had informed him. Even the most powerful king of Daniel’s day bowed to the sovereign God of Israel.

John in writing his letter urges his readers to reject the love of this world and the things of this world. He tells them plainly that the world is passing away along with its desires. It’s all gonna burn! What will last? “Whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

To abide forever we must do the will of God.  But how do we know the will of God? We need to know God’s word to know His will. Once a crowd asked the Lord, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6:28-29. Our first duty is to believe in the One God sent to reveal the Father to us, and to be the propitiation (sacrificial offering to satisfy the wrath of God) for our sins. God looks for faith in His Son. That is what pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6). Be sure you are trusting Him and nothing in this world. It’s all gonna burn.

Fellowship with God

Whatever else we may say about salvation and the eternal state of believers, it centers around fellowship with God.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 47-48; 1 John 1

And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.” Ezekiel 48:35b

3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, 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

Ezekiel concludes the long description of the temple, the city, and the land with redistributed territories for the twelve tribes with the simple words, “And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.” What more can anyone desire than that the Lord should be there? Knowing that God is with us gives confidence in the face of huge danger and the threat of death itself (Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Joshua 1:4-6; Psalm 23). Several Old Testament figures learned the devastating impact of being abandoned by God (Exodus 33:3, 15; 1 Samuel 4:21-22; Judges 16:20). Not that they could actually ever be totally away from His presence, but they could be, and sometimes were, under His wrath and judgment and without His blessing and favor (Psalm 139:7-12).

The Apostle John also refers to the blessing of fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. God came to dwell among us, he says, and we saw Him. We touched Him. He came to give us eternal life and fellowship with the Father and the Son.[See also John 1:14-17;17:3].

To know Him in truth and to be forgiven and accepted, that is what eternal life is about. The city which Ezekiel described points to that heavenly city, the New Jerusalem where God dwells and where His people live with Him. As John would write later:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3).

So whatever else we may say about the eternal state of believers, it will be unclouded, undiminished fellowship with God. Be faithful as you wait for His coming.

Being Certain of Eternal Life

Today’s reading:1 John 3:11-3 John 15

My selection: I John 5:11-12

11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

My reflections: Death is the great universal problem of mankind.  No one escapes death, although most people long for life that is unending, full of love, peace, and joy (Romans 5:12).

But there is one way out, through Jesus Christ, the Word of God Who became flesh, dwelt among us, and in Whom is life (John 1:1-4,14-18).  The New Testament describes this salvation from death through Christ as being in Christ (Romans 8:1; I Corinthians 1:30; 15:22)  or, as John terms it here, having Christ. He is essential to salvation.

So we may say, the saved, those who have eternal life, are in Christ or have Christ.  These are not the only metaphors used to describe this relationship, but the conclusion is always that the relationship with Christ saves and without Him there is no salvation.

My challenge: Do you trust in Christ for your salvation?  Do you rejoice in the certainty of eternal life that is promised to you in Him?  Resist the temptation to rely on any other thing, such as your accomplishments, your church affiliation, your theological knowledge, for your certainty of eternal life.  As Augustus Toplady’s great hymn, “Rock of Ages”, says it:

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress;

Helpless, look to Thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Tomorrow’s reading:  Jude 1-Revelation 3:13

A Truly Merry Christmas

Today’s reading: 2 Peter 2:1-1 John 3:10

My selection:  I John 1:7-9

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

My reflections: As we celebrate the birth of the Light of the World, Jesus, (John 8:12) notice some of the benefits of “walking in the light.”

1.  Nearness to God.  God is in the light (vs. 5) so walking in the light results, first of all, in living close to Him.

2.  Cleansing from all sin.  As light reveals sin, so it facilitates confession of sin which results in forgiveness and cleansing from sin.

3.  Fellowship with others. There is no fellowship to compare with the fellowship of those who are walking in the light. Nothing is hidden in the light, including our sin. Yet this makes for relationships which are open and honest, without hypocrisy or facades.

My challenge: As you celebrate the birth of Jesus today, remember He came to save His people from their sin (Matthew 1:21).  If you believe in Him, you will want to live a life that reflects what He has done for you in taking your punishment on the cross and freeing you from the guilt of sin.  Make a conscious effort to walk in the light, because, naturally, we love darkness rather than light (John 3: 19-21).  Walk in the light today, though your flesh resists it.  Hear God’s word. Trust Him. Obey Him.  Confess sin.  Be cleansed by Him.  Enjoy Him and all those who walk with you in the light. May your Christmas be truly merry as you walk in the light and grow nearer to Christ.

Tomorrow’s reading:  1 John 3:11-III John 15

 

Saved by Grace; Assured by Fruit

Today’s reading:1 Peter 2:13-2 Peter 1:21

My selection:  2 Peter 1:9-11

For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My reflections: As a young Christian, I was taught to trust in the promises of the Bible, that salvation is by grace through faith, for my assurance of salvation.  Yet as I read this passage, it seems clear that while salvation is by grace through faith and not at all based on the character or works of the believer, assurance of salvation comes, at least in part, by a fruitful, changed life that is the result of that salvation.  An unchanged, unfruitful, stagnant believer in Jesus Christ is a contradiction of terms.

In this one paragraph, there is reference to calling and election, God’s choosing those whom He would save and calling them effectually to Himself, and a reference to the need to practice the qualities listed, character traits of one who has been forgiven and given the promises of God to partake of the divine nature.

My challenge: Are you trusting in God’s grace alone for your salvation?  Do you see the necessity of bearing fruit as an evidence of your salvation?  Do not be passive in seeking the Lord, in abiding in Christ, and in bearing the fruit of a redeemed life.  Seek to grow in the virtues of knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.  Make your calling and election sure.  A rich entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ awaits you.

Tomorrow’s reading: 2 Peter 2:1-1 John 3:10