Living for Christ

November 2009 Daily Devotion Archive

November 1: How Long Did People Live Back Then?

For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground. - Genesis 2:5b-6

Did the people discussed in early parts of the Bible really live to be hundreds of years old? Many non-Christians immediately dismiss that idea, and you may have wondered about it yourself. I believe it happened, because I believe the words of the Bible came directly from God. How did it happen? I don't think we can know for sure, but I believe these verses can help to explain it. Prior to the flood, it had never rained on the earth. Instead, there was some type of moisture blanket in the atmosphere. I believe those atmospheric conditions, vastly different from the way things are set up today, likely provide at least part of the answer to that question. The world was purer, disease hadn't really started to enter into the picture yet, and the atmospheric differences could have all combined to allow people to live much longer than we do today.

November 2: The Bible Is True

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. - 2 Peter 1:16-18

Some people will try to tell you that the Bible itself is among these "cunningly devised fables." But it isn't. Peter and the other 39 authors all wrote firsthand accounts of what they saw. How do we know this for sure? There is quite a bit of historical evidence to back it up. There is logical evidence, too: There is no way 40 authors over a 1500-year period would have such consistency without a divine hand at work. A measure of faith also is needed as well--the ability to see beyond this world, beyond what one can see with eyes alone. Do you struggle with any of these things and therefore have a hard time believing in the Bible?

November 3: Peter's Warning

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. - 2 Peter 2:1-3

Be very careful of false prophets, and be on the lookout for them at all times. There are several such warnings throughout the Bible, and Peter writes his warning in these verses. False prophets can be hard to spot, just as Satan himself was described as a beautiful angel. But there is always one way to tell: A false prophet (or teacher) is anyone who tries to lead you away from the truth that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died and rose again for our sins. Anyone who denies this truth or tries to avoid it is clearly not of God and is someone that you should not be following.

November 4: Our Just God, Part 1 of 2

...and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, [God] condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked--then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment. - 2 Peter 2:6-7, 9

This example shows how just and fair God is on both ends of the spectrum. On one hand, He destroyed these two cities because of how completely engulfed in sin they both were. On the other, He saved the one semi-righteous man (Lot) who lived there, warning him to flee before the destruction came. Combined, these two acts show how perfectly just our God is. He punished those who were sinning (more about that tomorrow) but He provided an escape for the one who was righteous.

November 5: Our Just God, Part 2 of 2

...and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, [God] condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked--then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment. - 2 Peter 2:6-7, 9

Some people would ask, how can a loving God destroy entire cities? But God's form of love doesn't mean that He accepts what everyone is doing, whether or not it's sinful. Instead, He loves us enough to want to keep us (His children) on the right path, just as good parents do for their children. While I'm sure He wishes all of the people who lived in those two cities could join Him in heaven, He also knew that was not going to happen based on their lifestyles. Instead, by destroying them, He showed the rest of the world what happens when a society falls into a life of sin, perhaps saving other people as a result of that act.

November 6: Worldly Freedom Isn't Free

For when they [false teachers] speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. - 2 Peter 2:18-19

In these two verses Peter writes about an idea that seems to be more prevalent today than ever before. Many non-Christians who are living around us seem to have the idea that they are living free, liberated lives. In their minds, they don't have to do anything silly like submitting to God; they are free to do whatever they want. However, they miss a very important piece of the puzzle. They think they are free to fulfill all their desires, but in reality, they become trapped by those sinful desires, becoming "slaves of corruption" by giving into their desires so much that they become controlled by them. They completely miss the point that true freedom only comes from a relationship with Jesus, because He is the one who can remove those chains of bondage.

November 7: The Second Coming: Longsuffering

...scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? ... But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. - 2 Peter 3:3b-4a, 8-9

Make no mistake about it, Jesus is coming back. The fact that it's been 2,000 years since He walked on this earth would seem to make it more likely that He will return soon, not less likely as some would have you believe. Keep in mind that God views time much differently than we do. He is longsuffering, as Peter writes here, wanting to give us more time so that as many people as possible can be saved and join Him in heaven. But one thing we can count on is that Jesus will definitely return, and I believe He will return soon. We should live every day with that thought in our minds.

November 8: The Second Coming: Materialism

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness? - 2 Peter 3:10-11

How many material things that you own will be burned up and dissolved after Jesus returns and this earth passes away? All of them--every single thing you own. How often do you take time to think about that? Now, that certainly doesn't mean that we shouldn't own anything. However, it does tell us where our focus should be, and that it should not be on gaining material possessions. That's just something to keep in the back of your mind the next time you're thinking about buying something. Could you put that money to better use for God's kingdom instead of spending it on something that has no eternal value?

November 9: Walking in the Light

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. - 1 John 1:5-7

The ideas of light and darkness paint a vivid picture of the battle between good and evil throughout the Bible which John reminds us of here. God is perfect light. In Him is absolutely no darkness--no sin or evil thoughts whatsoever. We should constantly strive to be more like Him. Of course, we are imperfect humans and we will never quite reach that point, but consistently living in truth and light is the best way to show other people that there is something different about you, and that may ultimately lead some of them to seek out a relationship with Christ.

November 10: The Reality of Sin

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. - 1 John 1:8-10

Many non-Christians will tell you that we are not sinners and that it is silly to restrain ourselves; we should do whatever we want because there is no absolute right or wrong. Some weak Christians may even go along with that idea if they are trying to please worldly people. But if we say that, as John writes, "we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." There is an absolute right or wrong and we are all sinners. If we weren't, why would we be tempted to do evil things? Never make the mistake of comparing yourself with other people and deciding that you must be "good enough" for God based on your lifestyle. In the end, we're all compared to Jesus, and no one can measure up on his or her own, which is why Jesus came and died for us.

November 11: The Effects of Hypocrisy

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. - 1 John 2:3-6

We can't afford to be hypocrites if we expect to have any kind of meaningful impact on the world around us. That's a big problem today--non-believers see some of the negative things that Christians do and are turned off to Christianity because of what they have seen. We need to follow Jesus' example for ourselves, to grow closer to God and follow His plans, but also for others, because they are watching. If we simply blend into the world and they can see no difference in us, why would they be interested in Christianity? But if we are noticeably different, showing love and compassion at unexpected times and trying to follow Jesus' example, we stand a much better chance of impacting the world for Christ.

November 12: Hatred Only Harms Yourself

He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. - 1 John 2:9-11

I believe that, for a person who has a strong, close relationship with Christ, it is impossible to truly hate another person. God is love. At His core we find pure, unconditional love. When we enter into a relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit begins to dwell inside the body, that pure love comes along as well. Therefore, how can a person who is filled with God's love show such hatred toward another person? I don't think it's possible. If you find yourself feeling hatred toward another person today, it is vital that you let go of those feelings. You aren't doing anything to hurt the other person by feeling that way; you're only harming yourself and your witness to the rest of the world. Forgive "one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)

November 13: Don't Love the World

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. - 1 John 2:15-17

For the last few years this has been my favorite passage in the Bible because John so precisely writes about the problems associated with worldliness. Of course he isn't telling us not to love other people in the world, but rather to not love the things of the world--everything from money and material things to lust, pride, and sinful behavior. Christians must live apart from the world if we ever hope to make a meaningful difference in it. Non-believers have to see that there is something different about us, and they can't see that if we just blend in with everyone else! The world is passing away and the things that exist in it will not last forever, but anyone who accepts Jesus as Savior will live forever in Him.

November 14: Do Other Religions Share Our God?

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. - 1 John 2:22-23

These two verses somewhat indirectly address a question that a lot of people seem to have. This can be applied to other religions as well, but for this example I will use Islam. Is the God of Islam (Allah) the same God we serve? I do believe both originated from the same place, back in the days of Abraham. However, when Islam splintered off and went its own way (with the birth of Ishmael, I believe, though that is not proven), they ceased to worship the same God. To them, he was still the same, but they altered their perception of him. In effect, we are continuing to follow the one true God while they are worshipping a different version of him that is not real. To look at it another way, anyone who denies Jesus as the Son of God does not worship the same God we do because we know that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all exist as One in the Holy Trinity.

November 15: Don't Be Ashamed

And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. - 1 John 2:28-29

There is an older song by the Newsboys called "I'm Not Ashamed" that I was reminded of when reading these two verses. One verse goes like this: "What are we sneaking around for? Who are we trying to please? Shrugging off sin, apologizing like we're spreading some kind of disease." Are you ashamed of believing in Jesus? Don't answer "no" right away; take a moment to carefully think about it first. Some Christians do appear to be ashamed, backing down instead of standing up when confronted about their beliefs. That shame may also show through in less obvious ways, like blending in with the secular world while taking part in work or other regular activities. But we have to remember that there is only One that we need to please. Pleasing the people around us doesn't accomplish anything, at least from God's eternal perspective.

November 16: Taking God for Granted

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! - 1 John 3:1a

The first half of this verse is the attitude we need to have! Look how excited John is at being called a child of God--so excited that he even uses an exclamation point to end his thought. Sadly, I think we take too much for granted today. Think about in the Old Testament days, when people had to make sacrifices to atone for all their sins. Now all we have to do is believe that Jesus is our Savior and all is forgiven. I'm thankful that God made it easier, but at the same time, I can understand why He tried to do things the other way first. This way is almost too easy, and therefore it is easy for us to take our relationship with God for granted. Be on guard and try to keep yourself from falling into that trap. Yes, God is all-loving and all-forgiving, but does that mean we should take advantage of those traits and try to get away with doing all sorts of sinful things?

November 17: The World Does Not Understand

Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. - 1 John 3:1b

Many people living in the secular world apart from God do not understand us; they can't grasp why we believe the way that we do. Most often that is caused by self-centeredness or a desire to remain in control, and it was no different when Jesus Himself walked on this earth. Most of these people won't listen with an open mind if we just start reading the Bible to them or trying to teach them about Jesus. That is why our lives themselves must be witnesses to Him. I write about this fairly often but I do that because it is so critically important and because, as I look around in the world today, so many Christians just blend in with everybody else. If we want to have an impact on the world, we must live apart from it. Love people when they expect hate. Show compassion and generosity in abundance. If we stand out, then non-believers may start to become interested in what Christianity has to offer.

November 18: Look for Love

In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous. - 1 John 3:10-12

Love is the best way to tell whether or not a person has Christ in his or her heart. People who have accepted Jesus as Savior and have truly committed their lives to Him should generally have a spirit of love flowing through them. On the other hand, people who live apart from God do not understand that kind of unconditional love. If you're a Christian but you feel like you're more in the second group than the first, what message are you sending to the world? God is love, and that is the message we need to share to those who are lost.

November 19: Love and Hate

Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. - 1 John 3:13-15

As a Christian, you know the truth. If some people in the world choose to hate you or make fun of you for what you believe, keep in mind that what they think about you really is irrelevant. Cling to your faith and stay close to God because His opinion of you is the only one that really matters. The second part of this passage reinforces the idea of unconditional love that John writes about so often throughout his gospel and letters. Keeping hatred toward anyone in your heart will severely hinder your relationship with God. Love is the most important part of being a Christian and living a Christ-like life.

November 20: Helping the Needy

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? - 1 John 3:16-17

These are two verses that I personally believe a lot of today's Christians need to hear and follow. Whether it's your true neighbor who is in need or someone across the world that you could help with a donation to a charity, God calls us to give freely to those in need. So many people want to keep most or all of what they have. Perhaps you're afraid of what the future may bring--an understandable concern given the way the economy looks today. But if you don't give freely to others, not only are you not following God's commands, but you're also telling Him that you don't trust Him to provide for you. Give to those in need and trust God. He will always provide for His children.

November 21: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. - 1 John 3:18-21

God doesn't want you to merely tell others that you love them, although that's certainly a good place to start. He wants you to show the world the love you have through Jesus. You can do this by helping those in need (as we discussed yesterday), showing compassion to those who are hurting, by being people of truth and integrity, or in numerous other ways. The second part of this passage is a reminder to listen to your conscience or the Holy Spirit inside of you, which is what I believe John is referring to here. Remain in the truth by following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

November 22: More About Love

And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. - 1 John 3:22-23

Obviously believing in Jesus as the Son of God is what defines a Christian, but look closely at what else John wrote in that very same sentence: We are to love one another. It seems to be that John wrote about love quite a bit, but perhaps it's because, through God's wisdom, he knew we would have problems in that area. To put it bluntly, many Christians today simply do not love as Jesus wants us to, or as He Himself did. He gave His life for us, and yet many of us can't even seem to get along with one another within the church! We must unconditionally love those around us, both Christians and non-Christians. Without love, we will never be able to get very much accomplished in Jesus' name.

November 23: The Relationship

Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. - 1 John 3:24

Isn't it amazing to think that God abides in you (if you're a Christian) through the Holy Spirit? That's one big thing that sets Christianity apart from all other religions. No other religion focuses on that personal relationship. Of course, they are false, so you can't have a personal relationship with a "god" who doesn't exist. It is indeed a wonderful part of being a Christian that the world simply doesn't understand. But there are two sides to this story. Do you ever think about the Holy Spirit dwelling within you when you are committing some kind of sin? Chances are you don't, but if you try to start doing that, you may find that you sin less often. Remember that not only is God always watching you, but his Holy Spirit is also inside of you.

November 24: The Test

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. - 1 John 4:1-3

This is the single best way to test people if you're trying to determine whether or not they worship the same God that we do--the one and only true God. Most people do believe that Jesus existed and that He was a good teacher. (Although that itself is illogical; if He was merely a good teacher, then He lied about being the Son of God, and how could someone who lied throughout His life be a good teacher?) However, only Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Just ask a person who Jesus is, and that will immediately tell you whether or not that person follows the Christian faith.

November 25: Set Apart From the World

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. - 1 John 4:4-6

Two important things can be learned from these three verses. First, God has set us apart from the world and we need to live in such a way that the difference is apparent to others. They may not understand, but if they do notice a distinct difference, it might be just enough to get them interested in what Christianity has to offer. If you believe you have a relationship with Christ but there is no difference between you and the rest of the world, your relationship with Him may not be what you think it is. Second, based on the last part of this passage, we should be able to tell whether or not a person has the spirit of truth by whether or not that person hears and understands us when we talk about God.

November 26: Give Thanks to the Lord!

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses. And He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city for a dwelling place. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. - Psalm 107:1-9

November 30: Jesus' Sacrifice For Us

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. - 1 John 4:7-11

God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins. We all know that as Christians--in fact, I wonder if we know it too well and take it for granted. Take a moment to think about the magnitude of Jesus' sacrifice for us. He suffered and died just for us and, knowing the magnitude of the suffering that was to come, He even prayed and asked God to do things another way if He possibly could (Matthew 26:39). But to God there was no other way. We need to be grateful and thankful for Jesus' sacrifice every day and not take it for granted.