#DailyDevotion Can I Get A Witness?
1 John 5:6-8 6This is He Who came by water and blood — Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit is telling the truth because the Spirit is the Truth. 7There are three who bring us the truth: 8the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three have one purpose.
So we may be wondering what is John talking about here. Jesus is easy enough. But what does it mean that he came by water and the blood? Well it is probably easier than we think. Jesus came by water. He came by water when he was baptized. When Jesus was baptized he was identified as God’s Son, not only from all eternity but as Israel. Matthew concerning Jesus flight into Egypt and then back to Nazareth tells us this trip fulfills the word, “Our of Egypt I called my son.” The son in that passage being Israel. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan river. Israel passed through the waters of the Jordan entering the Promised Land. Jesus passes through the water to go into the wilderness to do what Israel did not, remain faithful to God despite the temptations of the evil one.
Jesus came by blood. This also seems simple enough. Jesus shed his blood on the cross giving his life for the world. The life is in the blood. Having given up his life, the Roman centurian cries out, “Surely this is the Son of God!” John wrote at the beginning of the epistle, “and the blood of Jesus, His Son, washes us clean from every sin.” Only the blood of the Son of God could cleanse humanity of their sins. Regular humanity has its own sins to atone for and it cannot do that. Hebrews reminds us the blood of bulls and goats could never really atone for our sins. They only point to the blood of Jesus.
The Spirit then tells us the truth about Jesus through the water and the blood. When Jesus was baptized John the Baptist recognized Jesus as the Messiah. He was told, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and stay on Him. 33I didn’t know Who He was, but He Who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘When you see the Spirit come down on Someone and stay on Him, He is the One Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34I saw it and testified, ‘This is the Son of God.’” So we get a two for one in Jesus’ baptism, the water and the Spirit. When Jesus dies on the cross at his glorification, he breaths out the Spirit giving his life.
So we have these three witnesses, the Spirit, the water and the blood. They are one. They point to the Savior of the world. They have one purpose which is to make us children of God. The Spirit’s witnes in the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name and baptism are used to give us faith, make us born of the Father’s will, born from above, regenerate us, make us alive and forgive us our sins as the blood of Christ is sprinkled upon us to give us a good conscience before God. It is the purpose of God by these three witnesses to give us eternal life so we may be resurrected on the Last Day and enter into God’s kingdom. We are further strengthened and preserved in the faith through the hearing of the Word (which is always accompanied by the Spirit), absolution, the Lord’s Supper and Christians encouraging one another with the same word they have received.
Heavenly Father, ever provide for us your witness concerning your Son Jesus Christ by the Spirit, water and blood so we may have everlasting life and live in your kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
#DailyDevotion Are We God’s Children?
1 John 5:1–5 Everyone who believes Jesus is the Christ is God’s child. And everyone who loves the Father loves the Father’s child. 2We know we love God’s children when we love God and do what He orders us to do. 3Loving God means we keep His commandments. And what He orders is no burden. 4Every child of God conquers the world. Our faith is the victory over the world. 5Who conquers the world but he who believes Jesus is God’s Son?
John writes here that everyone who believes Jesus is the Christ is God’s child. Well this passage seems easier than the other passages in John’s letter about being God’s child. Elsewhere in the letter he writes, “Everyone who is God’s child refuses to sin,” “everyone who loves is God’s child and knows God.” “Anyone who doesn’t do right or love his brother isn’t God’s child.” “Anyone who knows God listens to us.” So in this place and other passages God’s children refuse to sin, love one another, do right and listen to the apostles.
John has high expectations for the children of God. Since this is God’s word and not John’s word then we should have this expectation of ourselves. He is describing you. Perhaps we don’t reach this pinnacle all the time. When we don’t we have the word at the beginning of the letter, “If anyone sins, we have One to plead for us with the Father — Jesus Christ, Who is righteous. He is the payment for our sins, and not for ours only but for the whole world.”
So we as children of God love the Father and love his children. Loving God means we keep his commandments and his commandments aren’t burdensome. Now when he says we keep the commandments he isn’t referring to the Ten Commandments. He has told us elsewhere in this letter, “He orders us to believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and to love one another as He has ordered us to do.” It appears to me by Jesus reaction to the Pharisees and his sermons “on the mount” and “on the plain” that Jesus has a different Spirit concerning the 10 Commandments. When we go to the upper room and Jesus gives his disciples “a new command” that they are to love one another what does that mean there? For what that means there is what it means here.
To love one another as Jesus commanded his disciples in the upper room is to wash one another’s feet as he washed his disciples’ feet. Did Jesus mean to just wash feet? No. He is our Master and he took on the form of a servant. We too, bearing his image and likeness are to not think of ourselves as masters of others but rather we are our brothers’ servants and to act accordingly. When we serve them and not ourselves we love as he commands us. To serve one another for the other’s sake and not out own is the love Jesus has for us and we for one another. Loving this way is not a burden. We don’t need long laundry lists of things to. Just as we come across one another during the day and we have opportunity to be of service to others, we serve them.
Finally we have here that as God’s children we conquer the world. Our faith in Jesus, that he is God’s Son and has shown his love toward us by his service for us on the cross overcomes the world. If this is your faith then you have this victory.
Heavenly Father, by your will you cause us to be born from above and give us your Holy Spirit through the Word and Sacraments. May your Holy Spirit so move us to believe in Jesus and to love one another that it may be manifest we have overcome the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
#DailyDevotion The LORD Really Wants All People To Be Saved
Acts 10:44-48 44While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came down on all who heard the Word. 45All the Jewish believers who had come with Peter were surprised the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out also on people who were not Jews. 46They heard them speaking in other languages and praising God. 47Then Peter asked, “Surely no one can refuse water and keep them from being baptized, can he? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we did.” 48And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Truly the Holy Spirit works through means and not through men’s outward or inward preparations. It was through the laying on of hands the Samaritans had received the Holy Spirit after they had been baptized, now the Gentiles had received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Later disciples of John the Baptist who had received John’s baptism were baptized into Jesus and they became filled with the Holy Spirit. In all these outward manifestations of the Spirit, the Lord was revealing the Gospel is for all men. God desires all men to repent of their sins, believe in Jesus Christ and be saved.
The Jews who were with Peter were surprised the Spirit came upon people who were not Jews. It’s as if they didn’t hear when Peter quotes Joel 2:28, 29 on Pentecost, “I will pour out My Spirit on all people, and your sons and your daughters will speak My Word. Your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. And even on men and women who are slaves, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” Did they think Peter or the LORD meant only Israelite flesh? Did Peter himself not understand this at the time? Apparently not.
But Peter most certainly understood it now. Now Peter says, “Surely no one can refuse water and keep them from being baptized, can he? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we did.” What does this mean? It means the Holy Spirit normally would have been given with baptism into Jesus. The outward pouring of the Spirit without baptism was a sign the people were accepted by God. The reception of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by the Apostles was a sign of their authority. The normal course of the Spirit’s work would be to give the Holy Spirit when a person was baptized into Christ.
Since this was the case, and the LORD Jesus Christ commanded the Church to make disciples of all nations baptizing and teaching them everything he had commanded them, since these Gentile already received the gift the Holy Spirit, they still should baptized as Jesus desired of all his disciples so they would be joined to him and have the guarantee of all his promises he wanted them to have. We should realize from these extraordinary circumstances God may choose do things as he pleases and when he does, we should accept that but also return to the ordinary means he has given us and expect him to act as he normally would. So it is the Church ordinary action in making disciples that they would be baptized into Christ and by this baptism believe the Lord of Life has joined them to himself and given them his Holy Spirit, received the forgiveness of their sins and been made children of God.
Heavenly Father, ever through your Word and Sacraments, give us your Holy Spirit that we may believe in Jesus Christ, be born of your will from above and live out our lives according to your good will and purpose. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
#DailyDevotion Which Camp Will You Be In? The Living Or The Dead?
Acts 10:34–43 34Then Peter spoke: “Now I really understand that God doesn’t favor one person over another. 35It doesn’t matter what people you belong to; if you fear Him and do what’s right, He accepts you. 36He sent His Word to the people of Israel to bring the news of peace in Jesus Christ — He is Lord of all!… 40But God raised Him on the third day and showed Him to us — 41not to all our people but to us whom God has chosen to be witnesses and who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. 42He ordered us to preach to the people and warn them that God has appointed Him to judge the living and the dead. 43All the prophets declare that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness for his sins.”
Peter had been called by God to go and share the good news of Jesus Christ with Cornelius, a Roman soldier, someone who is not a Samaritan or a Jew. The LORD Jesus had to break him down a bit through a vision. Somehow, the message of the prophets that God would draw the nations to himself never got understood by them. Now Peter sees and gets it. Cornelius was a God fearer. That meant he worshipped the God of Israel and contributed to the people of God but he never got circumcised, he had not fully converted to Judaism. Now Peter sees, “36He sent His Word to the people of Israel to bring the news of peace in Jesus Christ.” Israel was to bring the news of peace in Jesus Christ to the world. Jesus is Lord of all, all people, all nations, all tongues and all tribes.
Peter reviews for them what they already know about Jesus because they in Caesarea and would have heard about Jesus of Nazareth. He lets them know the good he did, his healings, his freeing people from the tyranny of the devil it was because God was with him and he had the anointing of the Holy Spirit. They knew Jesus was crucified by the Jews. But now he gives them some news, something he and five hundred disciples had witnessed, Jesus was raised from the dead whole and complete. They even ate and drank with him. He conquered death.
Now Jesus had ordered them to preach to the nations, God has appointed Jesus to be the judge of the living and the dead and that through his name everyone who believes in him receives the forgiveness of sins. Now I would like the break that down a bit. Jesus is the judge the living and the dead. This is mentioned a number of times in the New Testament. What does this mean? He will judge those who still walk the earth (the living) and those who passed (the dead)? I don’t think so. At his coming every human being will be raised from the dead and given an immortal body. Everyone will be standing before him “alive.” What does this mean then? For one, the moment Adam decided to eat the fruit he died. His soul died. All his descendents inherit this death. St. Paul says, “you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” On the other hand, as soon as we have faith in Jesus we have eternal life. Jesus says, 24“I tell you the truth, if you listen to what I say and believe Him Who sent Me, you have everlasting life, and you will not be judged, but you have come from death to life.”(John 5) So the living are those who have faith in Jesus and the dead are those who do not. If you believe in Jesus, i.e., put your trust in him for forgiveness and salvation you are the living. If you don’t, you are the dead. What group will you be in on that day? I suggest you put your trust in Jesus and be in the living camp.
Heavenly Father, in your great mercy you sent your son Jesus Christ to die for our sins and raised him so we may be justified before you and have eternal life. Grant us this faith that on the day of judgment we are declared innocent and enter into your eternal kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
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#DailyDevotion Jesus Is The True Vine (Israel) In Whom We Bear Fruit
John 15:1–8 “I am the true Vine, and My Father takes care of the vineyard. He cuts away any branch of Mine that bears no fruit, and He trims any branch that bears fruit to make it bear more fruit. 3“What I have said to you has already made you clean. 4Stay in Me, and I will stay in you. A branch can’t bear any fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine. Neither can you if you don’t stay in Me. 5I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you stay in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone doesn’t stay in Me, he’s thrown away like a branch and dries up. Such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you stay in Me and My words stay in you, ask for anything you want, and it will be done for you. 8You glorify My Father when you bear much fruit and show yourselves to be My disciples.
When Jesus says he is the true Vine, He is identifying himself as the true Israel. It is said in Psa 80:8 “You plucked up a vine from Egypt, drove out nations, and planted it.” Matthew tells us when Jesus went into Egypt and returned as an infant he fulfilled the scripture, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Psalm 80 in one sense refers to God’s planting the people of Israel in Canaan. But what happened? The LORD said, Jer 2:21 “But when I planted you, you were a noble vine and a pure seed in every way. How then could you turn into weedy shoots of a foreign vine for Me?” Israel failed in her mission. As the LORD once told Moses he was going to wipe out the lot of them in the wilderness and start over with Moses but relents at Moses’ pleading, the LORD does start over with his son Jesus Christ of Nazareth. All of Israel’s sins are placed on him and he makes atonement for them. He then fulfills in his flesh all the Father wanted Israel to do. As Israel is baptized into Jesus they are made Israel again. As Gentiles are baptized into Christ Jesus they are made one with Israel.
Jesus calls us to abide in him. He tells us something terrifying and comforting, “My Father takes care of the vineyard. He cuts away any branch of Mine that bears no fruit, and He trims any branch that bears fruit to make it bear more fruit.” Not that bearing fruit saves us however should we not bear fruit it is because we are not abiding in Christ, in his word. So the Father trims those branches which bears no fruit because they are not abiding in Christ, in his word. On top of that, even when we bear fruit the Father prunes us. This isn’t always pleasant. Every fall a local shopping center prunes its trees down to the thickest branches. I always wonder how on earth they survive that. Every spring those same trees come to life and bear a lot of new branches. When the Father prunes us, we may feel like those trees and wonder what’s next. But at the right time we will bear fruit for the LORD.
To abide in Christ is to abide in his word. We abide in his word when we gather for Word and Sacrament. We abide in his word when we do daily devotions. Most especially though we abide in his word when we trust what we have received and were told by the word. We put that word into practice in our lives. What does that look like? We forgive those who sin against us. We are merciful to those before us who need mercy. We love our fellow Christians by taking care of them. Such things is bearing the fruit Christ produces in and through us and glorifies the Father. We can only do such works pleasing to God when we abide in Christ, i.e. receive his word, trust it and let it have its way with us.
Heavenly Father, grant that we may always have the word of your Son Jesus Christ so we may be clean, abide in him and bear much fruit to your eternal glory. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
#DailyDevotion Is God’s Love Having It’s Way With Us?
1 John 4:17-21 17His love has accomplished what He wants when we can look ahead confidently to the day of judgment because we are what He is in this world. 18Such love isn’t terrified, but the finest love throws out terror. We are terrified by punishment, and if we’re terrified, our love isn’t at its best. 19We love because He first loved us. 20If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he’s a liar. If anyone doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen, he can’t love God Whom he hasn’t seen. 21And this is the order He gave us: If you love God, love your brother.
On the one hand, John’s epistle gives us great comfort in the promises about what God had done for us and his great love for us. On the other hand, his epistle at times make us doubt our faith because of the signs he gives concerning those who believe in those promises. It is hard to escape the fact that when we look into the mirror of God’s law we cannot but see our flaws and shortcomings.
Yet in this section I think and I hope you also think that you can look at verse seventeen here as something you can say, “Yes, the faith I have is reflected in this statement.” When we look to Jesus and what he has done for us on the cross, shedding his blood for us for the forgiveness of sins, I hope “we can look ahead confidently to the day of judgment because we are what He is in this world.” His love accomplishes this in us. If God so loves us he sends his son to be the atoning sacrifice for us we should be confident on the day of judgment before the throne of God. Such faith makes us children of God and people of the love, light and life of God in this world. His love cast out our fear. If we do fear punishment then our love isn’t at its best. That is to say our love isn’t coming from trusting in his love for us. We must always we casting ourselves upon the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Verses 19-21 give us pause again to look into the mirror of God’s love and law. “We love because he first loved us.” His love starts with us being unlovable, sinners and enemies of God. His love sacrifices his son Jesus for us. When faith believes this then it should be reflected back into the world as the moon reflects the sun’s rays upon the earth. So John then gives us this test. If we say we love God but hate our fellow Christian we are liars. Why is that? Because our brother, our fellow Christian is made in the image and likeness of God. You can’t see God but you can see his image in those whom he has created and saved. How you treat them is how you treat God. You can say love God whom you cannot see but the proof is in the pudding as the saying goes. Don’t deceive yourselves. How you treat others, particularly your fellow Christ is in direct proportion of how you love God and your love for God is in direct proportion as you believe how much your sins are forgiven you as Jesus told Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7, 47“That’s why I tell you her sins are forgiven, many as they are. You see, she has loved much. Of course, he to whom little is forgiven loves only a little.” We who have been loved so great by Jesus, who gained such great forgiveness by the multitude of our sins should take his commandment to heart to love our brother, our fellow Christian for whom he died. This not to say we shouldn’t also love others, especially our enemies, but we should especially show the love of God to those whom we are on in Spirit in the body of Christ. They too have experienced the love of God and are partakers of his Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Father, grant us such faith that your love is perfected in us so we do not fear the day of judgment and live our lives loving those whom you are joined to us in the waters of baptism. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
#DailyDevotion Where Does The Power To Love Originate?
1 John 4:7-16 7Dear friends, let us love one another because love comes from God and everyone who loves is God’s child and knows God. 8He who doesn’t love hasn’t learned to know God, because God is Love. 9God has shown us His love by sending His only begotten Son into the world for us to live through Him. 10This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the payment for our sins. 11Dear friends, if that’s how God loved us, then we should love one another. 12No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God lives in us, and His love has accomplished in us what He wants. 13This is how we know we live in Him and He in us: He has given us His Spirit. 14We have seen and can tell the truth that the Father sent His Son to save the world. 15If you confess Jesus is God’s Son, God lives in you and you in God. 16And we have come to know and believe the love God has for us. God is Love, and if you live in love, you live in God, and God lives in you.
Where does our love for one another begin? It begins in God. John’s epistles talks a lot about loving one another. No doubt, Jesus’ words to his disciples on the night he was betrayed had a lot of effect upon him. John 13, 34“I’m giving you a new commandment: Love one another! Love one another as I have loved you. 35By your loving one another everyone will know you’re My disciples.” John tells us to “love one another because love comes from God and everyone who loves is God’s child and knows God.” We have been made God’s children by the Father through his will. He has revealed his love for us. If we believe God loves us for Christ’s sake then we know God. If we know God and his love then it follows we will love our fellow Christians who also know God’s love.
Where does the power to one another come from? “9God has shown us His love by sending His only begotten Son into the world for us to live through Him. 10This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the payment for our sins.” We do not love God by our own power, reason or strength. We do not love one another from our own power, reason or strength. God loves us. We see this by his sending his son to die for our sins. That he would sacrifice Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins, to cover them so God’s holiness would not consume us show us much he loves us. The Holy Spirit uses this message of love to convert us from darkness to light, from death to life, from fear and hatred to love.
Our confession of faith, Jesus is God’s son, shows us we have the Holy Spirit because no one can confess Jesus is LORD (YHWH) without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God and if he brings out this confession from your heart and lips then God lives in you and you in God. When John says, “and if you live in love, you live in God, and God lives in you,” he is saying the same thing when the Scripture says, “Be holy because I am holy” and “Be perfect because your Father in heaven is perfect.” What is this to mean then? I do not believe God is talking about moral perfection here, though our morals most certainly will change. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. When you believe God the Father loves you for the sake of the son then that love is going to have its way for you. You will not only love your fellow Christian but you will start loving your enemies and those who persecute you. You were God’s enemies before you receive his love. Now you are his friends. You have received his forgiveness. You will forgive others. God lives his life through you now.
Heavenly Father, may the love you have given us overcome all our sin and iniquities that we may love as you love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
#DailyDevotion How To Tell From Whom You Learn Spiritual Things
1 John 4:1-6 Dear friends, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God. Many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize God’s Spirit: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. 3And any spirit who doesn’t confess this Jesus isn’t from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist which you heard is coming, and here it is already in the world. 4Children, you are God’s family, and you have won a victory over these men because He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5These men belong to the world. That is why they speak the thoughts of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are God’s children. Anyone who knows God listens to us. Anyone who is not God’s child will not listen to us. In this way we can tell what is the spirit of truth and what is the spirit of error.
There is a meme going around these days, “When you tell me you are spiritual you’ll have to be more specific. Demons are spirits.” There’s a lot of truth to that. Way too many people just accept anything that claims to be spiritual and they don’t test the spirits. Are they from God or from the evil one. Already in John’s day false prophets had gone out from the Church: People who either driven by jealousy or lust of money pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ to make it more palatable.
John gives a clue here. Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. Now even here we need to be careful. For what and who do we mean by Jesus Christ. On the one hand there were Gnostics in that day (even in our day) who hate creation, who think and teach all that is material is evil. They do not believe Jesus truly became man but only appeared as a man. If you don’t believe Jesus is truly human you are of another spirit than John and the Church. On the other hand some teach that Jesus is only human and maybe he was filled with the ‘spirit of Christ.’ Again, they are denying Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Still some confirm that Jesus is truly God and truly man but deny the work he accomplished in the flesh saying it wasn’t enough. You must contribute to your own salvation. These people too are the spirit of antichrist for they blaspheme the complete, full, perfect work of Jesus Christ in his flesh for the salvation of the world. We need not fear the antichrists that are in the world. In Christ, we have the victory over these people. They cannot drag us away from our Jesus who promises us, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” John reminds us, “He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” That would be Jesus. That would be the Holy Spirit. Even the Father has made our hearts his dwelling.
We often fear for the people of the world because they reject our message, the message of the Church, the message of Jesus. They prefer the darkness to Light. It doesn’t make sense to them God would sacrifice his son and raise him from the dead to give us the free gift of eternal life, justify us by his grace and make us inheritors of his kingdom purely for Jesus Christ’s sake. They are of this world. It what they do just as a scorpion stings the frog carrying it to the other side of the river. So we can tell those who are of the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Those who accept our giving them the free gift of life in Jesus are of God. Those who reject it are not of God right now (they may still repent later). Be discerning. Be judgmental of spiritual talk. Is it of God or of the world? Who is glorified?
Heavenly Father, give us a discerning spirit that can test the spirit so we know whether they are of you or the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.