Assurance of Our Salvation

1 John 5:1-13

Do you ever wonder if you are truly saved? John wrote his first letter to give believers assurance of salvation by describing characteristics of those who have been born again (1 John 5:13). God wants us to know we are safe and secure in Him through the salvation provided at the cross to all who come to Christ in faith. A three-fold test can help you assess whether you’ve experienced spiritual rebirth.

What does the Word of God say? The best way to know about salvation is through the Bible’s teaching. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

What is the witness of the Spirit? When we by faith receive Jesus Christ as Lord, the Father sets His Holy Spirit within us. Romans 8:16 tells us, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” His internal witness assures us that we are saved—regardless of how our feelings ebb and flow.

What is the desire of my heart? When the Holy Spirit takes up residence within the human heart, powerful changes occur. We are given new desires to know God and His Word and to live in obedience to Him. We now have the capacity to hate the sin we once loved and to quickly repent when we feel the Spirit’s conviction. 

If you’ve trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and can see the changes God’s Spirit has made in your life, then rejoice today as a saved and secure child of God.

Overcoming the Flesh

Romans 8:1-11

Sin is often frightfully deceptive. We can be diligently serving the Lord without realizing that we’re actually doing so for selfish reasons such as recognition, affirmation, or achieving our own goals. Or maybe our external behavior doesn’t match what’s really going on within our heart. We could be doing all the right things outwardly while at the same time holding a grudge, finding fault, or grumbling in our heart. 

These problems flow from our flesh and its sinful desires, which are part of the condition in which we were born. The only cure for a self-focused life is what Galatians 5:16 calls “walking by the Spirit.”

First, we must realize that we cannot live a godly life apart from the Holy Spirit. Remember, the flesh cannot be changed or tamed but must be replaced with dependence on the Holy Spirit. He alone can overcome the pull of sin because His power is unlimited.

Second, we must surrender to the Holy Spirit rather than yield to our fleshly desires. In other words, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom. 13:14).  

Third, we must trust the Lord. We can’t fully surrender to Him until we confidently believe both that His Word is true and that He keeps His promises. Then, as our thoughts, decisions, and actions align with the truths of Scripture, we are empowered to stand firm against temptation.

God wants you to live in the fullness of His Spirit. So lay your flesh down at the cross today, and let the Spirit lead you into a fruitful, abundant life.

Fleshly Struggles

Galatians 5:16-26

One of the most misunderstood concepts in the Christian life is that of “the flesh.” So, what is it? In today’s passage, flesh refers not simply to the physical body but also to the inner being, which is still subject to sin even though believers have a new nature given to them by God’s Spirit. Therefore, flesh refers to our entrenched habits of sinful thoughts, desires, and attitudes—which often lead to ungodly behaviors. 

Paul presents, in a painfully honest way, the results of living according to the flesh: deeds including immorality, impurity, idolatry, anger, strife, dissensions, and other destructive attitudes and actions. In contrast, a life led by the Holy Spirit produces the rich spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).

Why do so many people who desire a godly, self-controlled life repeatedly fall to fleshly sin? Paul says the determining factor is whether or not they are being led by the Spirit. If Christians try to overcome sin on their own without submitting to the Spirit’s reproof and guidance, they will fail.

The flesh cannot be disciplined, rehabilitated, or improved. Instead, it must be put to death (Rom. 6:11). Then, through the power of the Spirit, we do not have to yield to sinful impulses but can instead present ourselves to God for obedience to His desires (Rom. 6:12-14).

Walking by the Spirit means submitting to the Lord when you feel tempted to follow your flesh. With His help, you can see your desires give way to obedience that pleases your heavenly Father.

Turning Losses Into Gains

We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

PEOPLE SAY love stinks. Well, loneliness stinks worse.

You might wonder if anything good can come from losing a relationship. Sure, you get reminded that Jesus never leaves you. But is there anything else to learn? Try hard to think about these four pluses when your life seems like a pile of minuses:

  1. You learn that losses are a fact of life you have to deal with. When you realize you can’t escape change, you learn how to cope in a positive way. If you don’t, your next loss will further bang up your unhealed heart. And you find out that God truly can use your losses to help you grow.
  2. You learn that grief is a normal feeling when you lose a family member or friend. You might think you only grieve when someone dies-and grief sure fits there. But grief also happens when separation slices off a special friend. It’s still a painful loss. Grief is natural. You just need to learn how to let the grieving process happen in a healthy way. Sometimes grief will throw you into such an emotional spin that you can’t think straight. Sometimes you might come to warped conclusions like “God is punishing me!” or “I must be a bad person for this to happen to me.” One way to kick that wrong thinking out of your head is to find someone to offer you support and advice while you’re hurting and uncer­tain. Look for someone compassionate, wise, and patient -a church leader, a family member, or an older Christian friend.
  3. You learn the wisdom of having several Christian friends, not just one or two. If you only have one friend, you’re left alone and lonely if that rela­tionship ends. Having more friends means you have others who can fill that gap. Making friends outside your age group-like having solid friend­ships with a couple of older adults-means you gain support and input from people who see things from a different perspective.
  4. You learn that God can turn each loss into a gain. It’s possible that a pain­ful situation will take you somewhere better. Some questions to ponder: Do you depend too much on that one friend? Have you been looking to that person to meet needs only God can meet? Is there someone new that you need to reach out to?

REFLECT: What can you learn from any of the changing friendships in your life?

PRAY: Ask God to help you look on the positive side of each negative situation.

Fulfillment for the Thirsty Soul

1 Peter 2:1-2

Think about a time you experienced unbearable thirst. You probably would have traded anything for a drink. When you finally got your wish, there was nothing that could have tasted better than that cold, refreshing glass of water.

Compare this physical need to spiritual thirst. The Lord knows our deep need for fulfillment, and only He can truly satisfy.

Isn’t it interesting, then, that we live in a society where most people feel dissatisfied? In Christ, we have everything necessary to be complete, content, and fulfilled. Yet our world deceptively tells us to seek after wealth, glory, and other empty dreams. These seem to work only for a short time, if at all. Yet we often do not recognize our actual needs. The enemy continues to deceive by telling us that his poor substitutes will satisfy the craving inside us.

Our triune God, on the other hand, is all we need. Let’s take a look at several passages from Scripture. Jesus called Himself “the bread of life” and “living water”—the sustenance our souls require to survive and thrive (John 6:34-35; John 7:37-38). God’s Word is alive, able to teach, convict, and redirect us toward a godly path (Heb. 4:12). Biblical truth, which is compared to milk, provides the nourishment our souls need (1 Peter 2:2).

All of us have an emptiness within—a longing for something more. What are you attempting to use to satisfy it? Our hearts are like a jigsaw puzzle. No matter how hard you try to force a wrong piece, it will never fit correctly. Turn to Jesus, and trust that He knows how to fulfill you. 

Conquering Jealousy

Psalm 37:1-4

Envy can damage the life of a Christian. A feeling of displeasure about someone else’s good fortune can also harm a believer’s witness, since it often causes people to act out of hostility and bitterness. And the jealous person suffers far more than his or her target.

Before we can rid ourselves of envious feelings, we must be willing to confess we have them in our heart. Like greed, jealousy is an emotion we don’t like to admit we feel, but the Lord already knows. We also must realize that harboring envy is the same as objecting to God’s blessing upon someone else’s life. Regardless of how we try to rationalize such feelings, we are in conflict with the Lord—a person cannot be simultaneously jealous and right with Him.

The surest way to strip away resentment is through prayer. After we’ve confessed to the Lord that we have jealous feelings, we must begin to pray for the other person. Our petition should contain two elements: first, an offering of thanksgiving for the blessings in his or her life, and second, a request that God will place love for the individual in our heart. Initially, praying in this way will no doubt be difficult, but as love grows—and it will—you’ll find the words come more easily and joyfully.

Envy is inappropriate for followers of Christ since it distracts us from the Lord. We have the promise that if we delight in our heavenly Father, He will give us the desires of our heart. So we need to refocus our attention upon Him and what He is doing in our own life.

The Struggle With Envy

1 Samuel 18:5-16

Jealousy is a treacherous emotion. It’s poison to the believer because it opens the heart to a host of other sinful emotions and attitudes. Consequently, envy must be dealt with quickly—before it has the opportunity to take root.

 King Saul’s jealousy so warped his thinking that he eventually became an embittered fool and destroyed his relationship with David. The problem began when the people praised David more highly than the king, saying, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). The king became suspicious and began watching for signs that David might be trying to undermine his royal position. Though Saul never found any actual evidence, his clouded thinking mistook any success in the young soldier’s life as reason for resentment.

Bitterness and fear festered until he was willing to take David’s life just to put his mind at ease. We could never go as far as Saul did, right? Don’t be so sure. Jealousy is a powerful emotion, and one cannot say what he or she might do if given free rein. That’s why it’s important to deal with jealousy as soon as we’re aware of it. First, we each need to examine our heart and determine if there’s anyone who elicits feelings of suspicion, bitterness, hostility, or resentment. Then, we must prayerfully submit those feelings to the heavenly Father.

Jealousy and resentment are poisonous emotions that simply do not fit who we are as children of God. Even a little venom can be dangerous, and harboring such attitudes for any period of time is too long.

Live According To The Spirit

Romans 8:12-17

Do you ever find yourself thinking other Christians have learned a secret that you don’t know about living the Christian life? Perhaps it seems as if they’ve solved the mystery of rejoicing in suffering, forgiving the unforgivable, conquering sin, or showing love in ways you haven’t yet discovered.

What you are seeing in these believers is not a secret reserved only for those who have gained a certain level of enlightenment, but a life lived according to the Spirit. He’s the one who is producing this amazing fruit in those who are being led by Him rather than by their own fleshly desires and efforts.

Spirit-filled living is not reserved for a select few Christians. On the contrary, it’s available to every believer who yields his or her life to the leadership of God’s Spirit. As a member of the Trinity, He has all the power, wisdom, and love of almighty God. We can rely on Him to teach us truth (John 16:13), help us in our weakness (Rom. 8:26), intercede for us according to God’s will (Rom. 8:27), and give us victory over sin (Gal. 5:16).

The Holy Spirit is a person whom we can know intimately and who continually works to transform us into Christ’s image (2 Corinthians 3:18). Like God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son, the Spirit of God loves, comforts, guides, and protects us. He is a friend like no other and will reveal Himself to us through the Scriptures.

Considering all this, we should gladly acknowledge our obligation to live according to the Spirit and delight in submitting to His leadership.

Keep Your Focus On God

“Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”

1 Corinthians 8:6

Today’s Scripture says, “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” Most of us understand that God uses hardships to improve our character, remove sinful habits, make us heaven-hearted, and instill compassion in us toward others. But refined faith should never be an end in itself—it should all lead back to God Himself. Stronger character isn’t made muscular for its own sake, but for God’s. A livelier hope isn’t focused on “things getting better,” but on God. It’s all about glorifying Him. To forget this is to tarnish faith, weaken character, and deflate hope. The Bible never calls us to keep our eyes on suffering—or even suffering’s benefits. Only on God, the One “from whom all things came,” including suffering. Consider the good benefits surrounding the hardships in your life. Let’s take our stand with the apostle Paul, who wrote, “I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8-9).

Lord Jesus, keep my focus off not only my hardships, but also even whatever benefits might come from those hardships. May my focus always and only be on You, especially today.

Worthless Distractions

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.”

Psalm 25:15

It’s difficult enough trying to grab a quiet few minutes with God and His Word. But sometimes it feels like you’re running through an obstacle course of distractions to get there. You head toward your Bible or the Bible app on your iPad, but find yourself checking Facebook first. Or the headlines. Or the latest sports scores. Or something totally unrelated to anything! Or maybe you think a cup of coffee will help your concentration, which leads to a snack—and before you know it, the time has flown and you have to move into your day without seeking the Lord.

Life has always been full of distractions. But we truly need to connect with the Lord and His Word every day. That’s why today’s Scripture gives such an effective reminder when distractions keep sidetracking us: “My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” If we keep our eyes on Him, He won’t allow us to become tripped up or entangled in trivialities.

Amen, Lord! I have spent too much time filling my mind with worthless distractions and the empty ways of this temporary world. Turn my heart! Draw my attention. Rule my heart. I need to spend time in Your presence, feeling Your nearness, listening for Your voice.