Devotions

FALSE TEACHERS

“Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”         1 John 2:18 NIV

 

John mentions that a distinguishing feature of this age is that the antichrist is coming and that even now many antichrists have appeared. John is the only New Testament writer to use this word, and it only occurs five times in four verses (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). But the concept of the antichrist is more frequent. Daniel 7 talks about the horn and Revelation 13 talks about the beast, both of which refer to the antichrist. Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12) mentions the person of lawlessness who will exalt himself and display himself as God. He will deceive many, who will perish. When John says that the antichrist is coming, he refers to this future evil leader. But when he says, “even now many antichrists have come”, he means that the evil spirit that will characterize the final antichrist is already working in these false teachers who have left the churches. The prefix, “anti” can mean either “instead of” or “in opposition to”. It may contain both ideas here. The false teacher may use the same label, “Jesus Christ” but will not be the same Jesus that is presented in the Bible. If a gullible person takes the bait, they will be led farther away until finally they are in total opposition to Christ. These false teachers, whom John labels antichrists, did not carry pitchforks and wear red suits with horns, rather, they arose in the churches. Paul warned the Ephesian elders, “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30).

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of Truth, teach us to be discerning.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of Truth, teach us to be discerning, especially in these days, so that we will know what is false and what is true. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Acts 9:10-18

 

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BE ALERT

“Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”       1 John 2:18 NIV

 

John contrasts the false teachers with true believers. He addresses all his readers as “children”, implying their vulnerability and the need to be on guard against these unprincipled people who were trying to deceive them. As a wise spiritual father, John is giving important counsel that will help us avoid being deceived. He says, “It is the last hour.” The way that we know it is the last hour is that “many antichrists have appeared.” Some have said that John mistakenly thought that Jesus would return in his lifetime. Such a view undermines the divine inspiration of Scripture. If you buy into it, you cannot trust anything that the apostles wrote. You become the judge of Scripture according to what strikes you as true. This view also challenges the intelligence of the apostles. John had heard Jesus say that no one knows the hour of His coming (Matthew 24:36). It is not reasonable to accuse him of being mistaken here about the time of the Second Coming. Rather, John is calling the entire period between Jesus’ ascension and His return “the last hour”. No one knows how long this period will last, but the phrase “the last hour” implies a sense of urgency in that Jesus may come at any moment. Jesus concludes His teaching on the end times with this application to the wise hearer: “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come” (Mark 13:33).

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, teach us to be on our guard and alert in these times.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord Jesus, by Your indwelling Holy Spirit, may we be alert and on our guard so that we will not be vulnerable to deception in these times in which we find ourselves. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Acts 8:26-40

 

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DECEIVERS

“Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”                1 John 2:18 NIV

 

It is traumatic when thieves steal your identity and your money, but there is something far more traumatic and tragic and that is when spiritual con artists, who claim to be Christians, deceive the unsuspecting. The stakes are much higher than one’s life savings. The eternal destiny of souls is at risk! Since the days of the New Testament, Satan has planted these deceivers in Christian churches where they prey on the ignorant or on those who are disgruntled. To avoid spiritual deception, we must develop biblical discernment and we must always be vigilant. But we live in a day and age when the whole idea of spiritual discernment is minimized because spiritual truth is minimized. Tolerance, unity and love are viewed as much more important than doctrinal truth, which often smacks of pride. It is highly significant that John, the apostle of love, who has just written that love is an essential mark of the true Christian (1 John 2:7-11), now calls these false teachers “antichrists” and “liars”! He doesn’t call them “brothers in Christ” who merely have different ways of understanding things. He makes it plain that they are trying to deceive the true Christians and that they are not Christian in any sense of the term. True biblical love is not divorced from an emphasis on biblical truth. To compromise the truth about the person and work of Jesus Christ is a very dangerous path to walk.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, give us spiritual discernment through the power of Your love.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, may Your love in us never be divorced from an emphasis on biblical truth. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, may our lives show grace and truth at all times. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Acts 6:1-8

 

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THE WILL OF THE FATHER

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”             1 John 2:17 NIV

 

To obey the Father is to maintain your love for Him. The opposite of loving the world is not only loving the Father, but also obeying Him – “doing the will of God”. “The will of God” here does not refer to following His direction in your life. It refers to obeying His commandments as revealed in His Word. As Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10). A key reason to obey God’s commandments is the transitory and temporary nature of this world and its lusts, as contrasted with the eternal promise of heaven. If we love the world or the things of the world, we will lose them all at death. Even if we have attained our worldly desires, what good are they to us? But, if we do God’s will, we will abide with Him in heaven throughout all eternity! In 1989, Tom Sine wrote some insightful words that apply just as much now as they did then (Christianity Today [3/17/89], p. 52): “Whatever commands our time, energy, and resources commands us. And if we are honest, we will admit that our lives really aren’t that different from those of our secular counterparts. I suspect that one of the reasons we are so ineffective in evangelism is that we are so much like the people around us that we have very little to which we can call them. We hang around church buildings a little more. We abstain from a few things. But we simply aren’t that different.” It makes one think!

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, may our lives truly reveal that we love You and that we are different.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, may our lives truly reveal that we love You and that we are different, as we obey You in every aspect of our daily living, through the power of Your indwelling Holy Spirit. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Matthew 16:13-20

 

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THE PRESENCE AND POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”       Acts 2:4 NIV

 

Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon those followers of Jesus who had gathered in Jerusalem. What happened on the first Pentecost continues to happen to Christians throughout the world today, though usually not in such a dramatic fashion. We rarely experience a heavenly wind or tongues of fire. Nevertheless, God pours out the Spirit upon all who put their faith in Jesus Christ and become His disciples. Christians, we are meant to live in the presence and power of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit helps us to confess Jesus as Lord, He empowers us to serve God with supernatural power, He binds us together as the body of Christ, He helps us to pray, and even intercedes for us. The Spirit guides us and helps us live like Jesus (Galatians 5:22-25). The personal implications are that Pentecost presents us with an opportunity to consider how we are living each day. Are we relying on the power of God’s Spirit? Are we an open channel for the Spirit’s gifts? Are we attentive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Is the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.) growing in our lives? Most Christians I know, including me, live in the presence and power of the Spirit, but only to a certain extent. We are limited by our fear, our sin, our low expectations, not to mention our tendency to be distracted from God’s work in us. Pentecost offers a chance to confess our failure to live by the Spirit and to ask the Lord to revive us afresh with His power.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord Jesus, revive us afresh with Your power on this day of Pentecost.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, we confess and repent that we are limited by our fear, our sin, our low expectations, not to mention our tendency to be distracted from Your work in us. Lord, this Pentecost, revive us afresh with Your power. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Acts 1:12-26

 

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THE PRIDE OF LIFE

“For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.”    1 John 2:16 NIV

 

While the lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes refer to the desire to have what we do not have, the boastful pride of life refers to sinful pride over what we do have. It is the desire to be better than others so that we can glory in ourselves and our accomplishments. There is a proper sense, of course, of doing our best at school, athletics, or at work, to be a good steward of God’s gifts and to bring glory to Him. But it is easy to forget that He gave us everything that we have (1 Corinthians 4:7), “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (NIV). It is easy to think like Nebuchadnezzar who said (Daniel 4:30), “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” God immediately drove him out into the fields to live as a wild beast until his heart was humbled! We all battle these temptations, and we often fail. But John’s point is, if we go on yielding to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life as a way of life, we are not maintaining love for the Father. Rather, we are maintaining love for the world. Worldly people wallow in these things; God’s children fight them continually. How do we maintain our love for the Father? By doing His will.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, as we maintain our love for You we will have victory over these lusts.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, as we maintain our love for You and do Your will, we will not wallow in our temptations, but rather we will fight them continually, being victorious through the power and ministry of Your Indwelling Holy Spirit. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Matthew 23:13-24

 

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THE LUST OF THE EYES

“For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.”      1 John 2:16 NIV

 

The eyes have to do with seeing and wanting to have what one sees. Again, there is nothing wrong with desiring what we see. Seeing and desiring is normal. It becomes wrong when we see and desire what is strictly forbidden by God. What are the sins of the eyes? There is the lust of the eyes for sex – Matthew 5:28, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NIV) There is the lust of the eyes for all kinds of evil – Matthew 6:23, “But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (NIV). There is the lust of the eyes after the things of other people – Luke 12:15, “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions’.” (NIV). It also refers to the desires that stem from false, superficial values. Through our eyes, the world appeals to us to find satisfaction in the superficial which can never satisfy us. “Buy this bigger, newer home and you will be happy”! “Find a beautiful woman or a handsome man and you will be satisfied”. “Get the perfect job and have plenty of money and your inner longings will be quenched”. As is evident from the lives of the rich and famous, none of these things deliver what they promise.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, I choose to keep my eyes on You, the Lord of all Life.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Through our eyes, the world appeals to us to find satisfaction in the superficial which never can satisfy. But, You, Lord Jesus, are the Bread of life and the fountain of Living water; only You can satisfy our needs. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Matthew 19:16-26

 

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THE LUST OF THE FLESH

“For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.”     1 John 2:16 NIV

 

When the Bible refers to “the flesh” it can mean one of two things. The first meaning of the word “flesh” pertains to living beings on earth such as animals, birds and people (1 Corinthians 15:39). But most often the Bible uses the word “flesh” to refer to the propensity to sin. Our sinful nature, dominated by sin and rebellion, is so closely tied to the physical aspect of being human that it is called “the flesh”. Every human being is born of the flesh, the union between a man and a woman. Desires that arise from being fleshly creatures in a fallen world can quickly become sinful lusts. We desire food, water, shelter, sex and comfort. God created us with those desires. However, we are born sinful, desiring to please ourselves, regardless of God’s moral law. When fleshly desires rule us, taking priority over God’s will, they cause us to violate God’s righteousness. They become lusts. For example, hunger propels us to find food. Eating is good. It is not sin. Jesus ate and drank when He was on the earth. But when hunger becomes a lust for food, it turns into gluttony which is a sin. This is also true when our natural sexual desires turn perverse. These are the lusts of the flesh. If we follow the lust of the flesh, we cannot do the will of God. But we can choose to consider ourselves “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20) so that we might live for the glory of God and not give in to the lusts of the flesh.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord Jesus, I chose to do Your will and not give in to the lust of the flesh.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, as we keep our desires and urges within Your limits and do not allow them to usurp Your rightful place in our hearts, our lives will bear the right fruit for Your Glory. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Matthew 3:1-10

 

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YIELDING TO LUST

“For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.”    1 John 2:16 NLT

 

“Lust” refers to a strong desire or impulse. It is almost always used in a negative sense in the New Testament. To yield to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life is to maintain love for the world. Today’s verse is explanatory of verse 15, with the use of the word “For” at the beginning of verse 16, showing how love for the things of the world do not come from the Father. Many have pointed out how the three aspects of temptation listed here parallel the way that Satan tempted Eve. She saw that the forbidden fruit was good for food (Genesis 3:6), which was an appeal to the lust of the flesh. She saw “that it was a delight to the eyes.” This appealed to the lust of the eyes. She also saw “that the tree was desirable to make one wise.” This appealed to the boastful pride of life. The same pattern occurs in Satan’s temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-12). Satan urged Jesus to turn the stones into bread – the lust of the flesh. He showed Him all the kingdoms of the earth, offering to give them to Him – the lust of the eyes. He encouraged Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple which could have been a source of pride in this miraculous accomplishment – the pride of life. We face these temptations in our everyday lives. With Jesus’ victory over these temptations, He has given us the empowerment, through His indwelling Holy Spirit, to be victorious too.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord Jesus, thank You for the victory we have in You.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, as we face the various temptations in our everyday lives, we rejoice in Your victory over the same kind of temptations. Thank You for giving us the empowerment, through Your indwelling Holy Spirit, to be victorious too. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Isaiah 60:1-6

 

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WE MUST CHOOSE

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you.”    1 John 2:15 NLT

 

We must choose our love and then maintain our choice. We love either the world or the Father, but not both. John is saying the same thing that Jesus said (Luke 16:13), “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other.” We must make a basic decision in life: Will we live to know God and His eternal love, or will we live for this world and its fleeting pleasures? We can’t take a little of both. Once we’ve made that decision, we must fight to maintain our choice against the strong current of this world. “Do not love” is a present imperative, indicating that it is an ongoing battle. The Greek word for “love” is agape, indicating that it is a commitment, not a feeling, that John is commanding. The only way that we can fight the love of the world is to maintain and grow in our love for the Father. What is “the world” or “worldliness”? The Greek word for “world” cosmos occurs 185 times in the New Testament. John uses it 105 times – 78 times in his Gospel, 24 times in his letters and 3 times in Revelation. It originally meant “order” and it came to refer to the universe as the well-ordered ornament of God. Our word “cosmetics” comes from the word. Applying cosmetics is an attempt to bring order! It may refer to the physical world or to the people of the world collectively. In those senses, there is nothing wrong with loving the world. We should enjoy God’s creation and we should love sinful people who need to know the Saviour.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord Jesus, let Your love reach those who are lost.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, as we enjoy the beauty of Your creation and love what You have created, give us a greater love for those who are lost and do not know the wonder of Your love in Jesus Christ. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Judges 7:9-14

 

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