1 John 1 v 8
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Here is John’s third conditional (“if”) statement in a row. There are five such “if” statements in this passage. First, he refers to those who claim fellowship with Christ while living in sin (1 John 1:6). Second, John addresses those who truly live according to Christ’s commands (1 John 1:7). Here, in verse 8, John refers to those who claim to have no sin whatsoever.

John’s pattern of alternating positive and negative “if” statements clues the reader in to upcoming ideas. Here, it sets up the reader to expect a negative “if” statement. Saying we have no sin is considered negative and simply impossible only God is completely without sin (Hebrews 4:15). So, anyone who claims to be without sin is self-deceived.

John teaches that those who claim to be without sin do not have the truth in them. This lack of truth applies to the saved believer who claims to have been freed from all sin in their present life. A believer should recognize his or her sinfulness and need of forgiveness through Christ. Even the most devout, clean-living Christian still contends with sin, in some way, shape, or form. Forgetting that we have sin makes us insensitive to things we ought to confess to God. As stated in verse 7, we don’t lose hope, but we trust in Christ to forgive us.

While it’s not necessary to have perfect knowledge in order to be saved—justified before God—a core aspect of the gospel is a recognition of our sin. Therefore, anyone who claims to have never sinned is denying the gospel. By definition, such a person is an unbeliever. And, any believer who concludes that they no longer sin needs to be corrected.

Note that verses 8, 9, and 10 cover past, present, and future sins. Believers still have the choice of whether or not to submit to Christ at any given time. If this was not possible, the Bible would not warn Christians so often about the consequences of sin. Even the believer is still fallible.

Who is God to You??

Revelation 4:9-11

In our culture, God’s name is often mentioned with little reverence. In fact, many people actually use it as a curse. Even among those who love Him, it is far too common to use His name casually, without taking time to ponder who He is. When you say a blessing at mealtimes, for instance, do you realize that you are talking to the almighty God who created and rules over all things?

Our view of the Lord impacts three areas of life. First, it affects our prayers. As we come to know Him better and better, our desires will start to look like His goals for us, and our petitions will align more closely with His purposes. What’s more, as we recognize His greatness and power, we’ll become more confident that He can accomplish mighty things—and we will venture to ‘pray big’ (Eph. 3:20; James 4:2).

Second, our understanding of His righteousness and goodness influences our behavior: If God has these attributes, surely it’s in our best interest to obey gladly. And as we, too, desire righteousness, we’ll be quick to repent of sin.

Third, our faith is impacted. Grasping that Jesus is holy, good, and powerful grows our trust in Him. Knowing our awesome God and remembering His great works will further build our confidence in Him.

God wants you to seek Him with all your heart, and He promises that when you do, you will find Him (Jer. 29:13).

So, the next time you’re feeling a need to be better understood, turn to the One who understands you perfectly. Even more importantly, ask the Lord to help you know Him better.

Finding Wholeness

Romans 8:33-39

Modern society has many ‘solutions’ for unhappiness. For example, a lot of people turn to prestige, love, or various substances to counteract emotional emptiness, but the happiness these things offer soon drains out again. Only God’s transforming power can change someone with a broken spirit into a content Christ follower who understands his or her value.

To find wholeness, a person must start by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior—the sin that stands between him and God has to be removed. Then, with the Holy Spirit’s strength, he will be able to find the courage to confront past disappointments, hurts, and sins that may have contributed to his feeling unworthy of the Lord’s love. Someone with a sense of wholeness feels satisfied with life. He knows he is loved, which leads to a good self-image and the ability to love others. Hardship is inevitable in this world, but it doesn’t devastate him or cause him to grumble or cast blame. Why?

Because the born-again believer knows that God has promised to work everything out for his good (Rom. 8:28). In contrast, someone who feels fragmented or empty often has the opposite experience. He may look okay on the outside while struggling within. This can even be the case with Christians who haven’t learned to experience God’s love.

The truth is that only a relationship with Jesus Christ can make a person whole. From Him comes living water that quenches thirst forever. This means He meets our every need in this life.

In a world marred by sin, we will not have a perfect existence, but through Christ, we can expect to live with a sense of deep satisfaction.

I am rejoicing

1 Peter 1 v 6
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,”

Through faith in Christ, we have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved!

Peter makes an assumption about our response to this reality. He says that we are to rejoice in this. Do we? It’s important here to separate the word “rejoice” from the idea of feeling only positive emotions. To “rejoice,” here, does not necessarily mean to “be happy,” as we understand the terms today. While rejoicing may include positive feelings, the New Testament often communicates that rejoicing is a choice about how we think about our lives (James 1:2; Philippians 4:4).

Peter quickly acknowledges that his readers may be grieved or distressed by various trials in the present moment. He realizes they may be experiencing negative emotions because of their negative circumstances and yet, he still assumes they are rejoicing in the reality of their eternal circumstances in Christ.

We must conclude that this “rejoicing” is less about feelings and more about faith. It is less about maintaining some perfect emotional state and more about a declaration: “My life is worth rejoicing over because of what God is doing for me right now. I am provided for. My future is secure. Nothing can change that. I am rejoicing!”

Deeper Relationship with God

Psalm 25

Apply the Word of God to daily living. As you put into practice ‘the perfect law that gives freedom’ (James 1:25 NIV), your conscience will grow stronger because you know God’s heart better. Arrive at decisions through prayer. Instead of choosing something merely because it looks, sounds, or feels good, bring every issue before the Lord in prayer.

Agree to obey God. When you strongly desire to function God’s way, you will consistently ask, What does He want me to do?

This practice will enable you to discern and follow the Spirit’s lead. Acquire a deeper sensitivity to the Spirit’s conviction. As believers, we are no longer condemned (Rom. 8:1), so we must recognize the difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and condemnation from the enemy.

The Spirit always shows us exactly what needs repentance—He doesn’t give us a sense of vague guilt. His conviction has the purpose of turning us back to Him.

Abandon yourself to the perfect will of God. If you recommit daily to be a ‘living sacrifice’ for the Father alone, your inner compass will steer you closer to the Lord. Then, as you refuse to conform to this world´s pattern and instead renew your thinking according to the mind of Jesus Christ, you will be able to ‘test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will’ (Rom. 12:1-2 NIV).

How does a person become acceptable to God?

The path to redemption begins not with the decision to live a better life or to stop doing something wrong, but with the realization that we cannot correct our sinful nature. To find favor with the Lord, we must grasp that it’s impossible to make ourselves righteous. Instead, we need to depend on the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf.

When we trust in Christ as our Savior, God the Father applies the benefit of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice to our sin debt, thereby making us saved—that is, acceptable in His eyes.

Dealing With Guilt

1 John 1:5-9

For some of us, guilt is a steady companion. We live under the weight of past mistakes and the fear of future wrongdoing. Even if we try to move forward, self-reproach tags along.

Not all guilty emotions are based in fact, but those that result from breaking biblical or civil law are legitimate: When we transgress, the Holy Spirit points out what is wrong and how to correct it. Then, in response to our confession, God offers us forgiveness and cleansing from guilt every single time (Ps. 32:5). Where does false guilt originate?

There are several answers. For one thing, Satan uses it to harass believers. Through lies and accusations, the enemy seeks to replace inner peace with turmoil, and joy with discouragement. Another source of guilt is legalism, the judging of conduct according to a precise standard. God´s Word establishes the way we are to live, but some Christians and churches impose additional rules. And failure to follow man-made regulations can produce shame.

Childhood experiences can also bring out the negative emotion of guilt. Whether this stems from the aftermath of traumatic events or the feeling that we didn’t meet parental expectations, a memory can prompt us to judge ourselves harshly as adults. Living under severe criticism can have this effect, too, as can perfectionistic tendencies—which tell us we can always ‘do more’ and ‘do better.’

Legalism, painful childhood experiences, perfectionism, and hurtful comments are fertile soil for guilt.

If you struggle with self-condemnation, be sure to check the legitimacy of the source.

Effective Prayer

James 5:16-18

When you face a problem, is prayer your first response, or do you spring into action mode?

God works powerfully through prayer, yet too often we look at it as a last resort: After we are at the end of our rope, then we start praying.

Using the example of Elijah, James reminds us what the effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish. In today’s passage, the subject is healing, but that’s not the only prayer God will answer. Every aspect of life can be impacted by the power of prayer.

Temptation. Jesus told His disciples, ‘Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation’ (Mark 14:38).

Praise. After being beaten and thrown into prison, Paul and Silas prayed and praised God, even in the midst of their pain (Acts 16:25).

Spiritual Warfare. Paul teaches us to access God’s power by ‘pray[ing] without ceasing’ (1 Thess. 5:17).

Anxiety. We aren’t at the mercy of fear if we pray about everything (Phil. 4:6).

Transformation. When we pray according to God’s desires, He transforms our mind, attitudes, character, and actions (Col. 1:9-12).

Witness. Through prayer, we ask that the Lord open doors for us to spread His Word (2 Thess. 3:1).

Protection. God is faithful to answer requests that He strengthen and protect us from the evil one (2 Thess. 3:2-3).

The next time you face a challenging situation, remember that prayer is more powerful than all your self-efforts. Pray, and watch God work.

Living By Faith

Genesis 12:1-9

Following God requires living by faith. That means: trusting the Holy Spirit to guide us when we don´t see how all the pieces fit together (John 16:13); believing that God always works for our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28); and desiring to please our Father. Will you be ready when He calls?

Faith can be lulled to sleep when we are focused on our own comfort rather than God’s plan. Abraham did not fall into this trap. He traded the familiar for the unknown and received many blessings.

Living by faith is the right answer when God calls you to move forward. His call can come to us at any age and in any situation. Abraham was 75 when he began his journey. David was a shepherd boy when he was anointed to be king (1 Samuel 16:11-13).

Paul encountered the Lord on his way to arrest Jewish believers in Damascus; after his conversion, he became the Lord´s representative to the Gentiles (Acts 9:1-6; Acts 22:21).

Our call may not be so dramatic, but it will always involve moving forward by faith. Following God will also include times of testing. Abraham, like all of us, had some successes and some failures. The initial call to leave his country was met with strong belief and immediate action.

As a result, the Lord promised a great blessing for him and his descendants. But encountering a famine brought a different response from Abraham—a sojourn to Egypt, deception about his relationship with Sarah, and chastisement from Pharaoh. Our response to God´s commands really matters. Through our actions, we can bring blessing or heartache.

Obeying the Lord can be uncomfortable. Those close to us may question our motives or disagree with our decisions. And we may not want to do what God asks.

But faith will keep us moving forward in obedience. It helps us stay the course and experience the blessings found in a relationship with Christ.

Dealing With Discouragement

Habakkuk 1:2

Do you ever feel stuck in discouragement? If so, you are not alone. At some point, everyone experiences dashed hopes. Disappointment—an emotional response to a failed expectation—is the normal initial reaction. But allowed to linger, it can turn into discouragement, which hovers like a dense cloud. When that’s the case, there is no sense of joy or contentment, regardless of what you do.

The circumstances that trigger these emotions may be unavoidable, but how we respond is a choice. Either we can let sadness overwhelm our soul or we can face the situation with courage and bring it before the One who can help.

Living in discouragement will divide the mind, making it hard to focus on anything besides our pain. Then as anger becomes habitual, we’ll look for someone to blame—whether God, people around us, or ourselves.

Frustration that isn’t handled well may develop into despair, which in turn can estrange us from others—people do not enjoy the company of someone who’s bitter and defeated. This isolation leads to low self-esteem.

Finally, in a fog of discouragement, we can make poor decisions based on crushed emotions instead of truth. Obviously, choosing this self-destructive path is not God’s best for us.

Though we all face disappointment from time to time, believers are not to wallow in it. Instead, God wants us to trust Him with everything—even unmet expectations and deep sadnesses.

Remember, there is divine purpose for everything He allows to touch His children’s lives (Rom. 8:28).