Tag Archives: 1 John 2

The 3 Focal Points of Temptation

I guess I’m normal, but sometimes I feel like I’m all alone in some areas of my Christian walk.  One of those areas is temptation. I’ve heard the sermons and done studies over it, but I still end up feeling helpless and like I’m the only person in the history of Christianity that has ever dealt with temptations.  Part of it is that I have given in to temptations so often that I feel like a failure.

But today I have to offer praise to God, who knows my inner thoughts and understands how I’m feeling. Because today, He showed me that His Word contains everything I need for godly living, and He showed me that He actively intervenes in my life, often times in the most subtle of ways.  Allow me to explain…

Yesterday I was listening to a lecture over the beginning of Genesis in my Old Testament Introduction class that I’m taking.  Dr. Gibson, the instructor, was talking about Genesis 3, and the temptation in the Garden of Eden.  In his discussion of this passage, he brought up a verse from 1 John 2:16:

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.

In this passage, John lists the 3 “focal points,” if you will, of temptation:

  1. Lust of the flesh
  2. Lust of the eyes
  3. Pride of Life

Dr. Gibson compared these to the way Satan tempted Eve in the Garden, described in Genesis 3:6:

Lust of the flesh – “Good for food…”
Lust of the eyes – “Pleasing to the eye…”
Pride of Life – “Desirable for gaining wisdom…”

He then went on to describe how these same focal points of temptation were used when Satan attempted to tempt Jesus in the wilderness (see Luke 4:1-13):

Lust of the flesh – Stones to bread…
Lust of the eyes – Kingdoms of the earth…
Pride of Life – Pinnacle of the Temple…

This is an interesting teaching, and one that deserves some real thought.  There are all kinds of ways we can apply this to our lives…

The thing that amazed me today, though, is that my normal morning Bible study – the course I am going through on the Online Bible College – was over temptation!  And even more amazing was the fact that it taught this exact same truth, about the 3 focal points of temptation listed in 1 John 2:16!  It used the same examples from the temptation of Eve in the Garden, and Jesus in the wilderness, too!  I love that God speaks to me through His Word, and that just when I need to experience Him, to see a tangible way that He is working in my life, He offers it.  Some may say that it’s just coincidence that I received teaching over a specific topic for the first time, from 2 separate sources, right at the same time. But I can’t help but think that God ordained that this would happen, right at this point in my life.  Perhaps I need this teaching right now more than ever. Only time will tell.

So what are some of the ways we can apply this to our lives?  My study this morning offered these ideas:

  1. Understand temptation and the devil’s schemes (but don’t focus on them)
    • Know that our old selves, the person we were before Christ changed us, still pops it dead little head up now and then (or daily for some of us). That old self attempts to tell us that this world has something to offer, that honor and recognition in this world is something to attain, and that we should make ourselves comfortable in this world and its ways.
  2. Know the victory is already won
    • Colossians 2:13-15 says “…God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”  Jesus has already defeated Satan on the Cross – the victory is won!
  3. Walk in the Spirit
    • Galatians 5:16 says “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”  Here, Paul explains that if we focus on Jesus and doing the things that will draw us closer to Him (studying His Word, prayer, ministering to others), we won’t have time to give in to the temptations that surround us.
  4. Avoid areas of obvious temptation
    • Andy Stanley preached a series  titled “Guardrails” (click the link…I highly recommend it!), where he talks about setting up boundaries in our lives so that we don’t fall into the traps that the devil has set for us.  The best thing we can do for ourselves is to keep ourselves from entering in to areas of known temptation.  If you’re a recovering alcoholic, don’t go to bars. It’s easier said than done, but it’s a very practical way to avoid temptation and therefore avoid the sin and guilt that goes along with it.

**Some material today quoted from Lesson 104-13: Temptation, from the course Essential Truths I – Living with God, from the Online Bible College


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Once Saved, Always Saved?

I’m not usually one to comment on controversial topics – my self-esteem is way too low to do that. As soon as someone proves my argument to be wrong, I fall apart thinking that my whole identity is crushed along with that argument. But after the events of the last year or so in my family’s life, and after reading articles and blog posts by multiple authors, I have come to the point where I am needing to summarize my thoughts on a very debatable topic – the answer to the question of, once we are saved, is it possible to fall out of salvation? Are there things we can do after accepting Christ as our savior that mean we are no longer saved, and are bound for hell?

For as long as I can remember, I have believed that salvation was permanent. Of course, I was raised in a Baptist church, where the teaching of once saved, always saved is probably most prevalent, so it’s no wonder where I picked this belief up. But as I got older, I was exposed to other denominations and other Christian belief systems that didn’t necessarily agree with the once saved, always saved philosophy. And like any person with low self-esteem, as soon as I came across someone with different beliefs, I started questioning my own. But now, with a few years of faith under my belt and perhaps a bit more self-confidence than I once had, I have come to firmly believe that salvation is permanent. Here are my biggest reasons why:

  • No one is perfect, not even after we accept Christ. Though some people hold a belief in sinless perfectionism that comes after salvation, where a Christian is no longer capable of sinning, if this were true I wouldn’t be able to consider myself a Christian. I still sin, believe it or not, and I cannot for the life of me think of another Christian who doesn’t. The Apostle Paul still sinned after his conversion, too. In Romans 7:14-25 he wrote

    We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

    Randy Alcorn, in his blog post over sinless perfectionism, points out that Paul is speaking here about his Christian life. He has “a desire to do what is good” and in his inner being he “delights in God’s law” – a non-believer wouldn’t say these things (especially that they delight in God’s law). Yet even though he believed, even though he trusted in Christ for his salvation, he still had to wage war against his sinful nature. He still sinned. If we, as believers, still sin, and it is sin that causes us to lose our salvation, then no one is saved. Not even the Apostle Paul. That is not in line with what the Bible teaches at all.

  • It’s illogical. If we still sin after conversion, where is the line drawn?  How big of a sin must we commit before we are no longer saved? Logic tells me that any sin we commit would put us back into the unsaved category (just as any sin we committed prior to our conversion put us at enmity with God to begin with). But then we must factor in repentance. If we repent of our sins, we’re no longer guilty of them, right? So as long as there has been repentance of all sin, we’re safe. This brings up another problem – what if someone dies before repenting? They sin, but before realizing they needed to repent, they were killed in a horrific golf cart accident. Do they go to hell, all because of bad timing? I don’t believe they do. If the thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus lived a life of sin, yet Jesus could tell him that due to one moment of faith prior to his death he would spend eternity in Paradise (Luke 23:43), then I can’t see how one unrepented sin in the life of a long-time believer would cancel out his or her salvation. I’m not going to argue that everything in the Christian faith is logical. We know that salvation by grace is not logical – the fact that there is nothing we can do to get into heaven beyond faith in Christ is mind boggling and doesn’t seem to make sense at all. But I will argue that, from a Biblical perspective, everything in the Christian faith is reasonable. And the fact that someone could lose their salvation because of one sin is not reasonable, when taken into perspective of everything the Bible teaches.
  • It’s not Biblical. More importantly than the fact that it’s not logical, losing our salvation isn’t even biblical. In Romans 8:38-39, Paul said “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (emphasis added). That includes me. Not even I can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ. There’s nothing I can do bad enough that God would unforgive me. And in John 10:37-40, Jesus says “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” It’s obvious that Jesus is saying that, first of all, we have eternal life – not life-until-we-screw-up. And second of all, no one can snatch us out of His hand. Not even ourselves. There is nothing we can do to lose our salvation.

This will obviously cause some to ask about the person who blatantly turns their back on Christ – someone like Charles Templeton, who traveled with Billy Graham early on in his evangelistic ministry and was interviewed by Lee Strobel in his book A Case for Faith. Can a person who had a strong conversion, worked in the ministry and in evangelism, but then rejects his faith still be considered saved? Can a person who returns to a life of selfish pleasure (I’m not saying that Templeton did…), completely forsaking the Gospel and the kingdom of God, still be saved? Do they lose their salvation, or were they saved to begin with? I really don’t know. I know 1 John 2:19 says “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” This would seem to say that when a person rejects the faith, he is showing himself to have never really been saved to begin with. And Jesus did tell the parable of the seed that was sowed in shallow soil (in Matthew 13) – He said it represented a person who at first hears the Gospel, but “…since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.” (v. 21). Perhaps this was the person Jesus was speaking of.

To conclude, I will concede that I understand where people who believe in conditional security (the opposite of once saved, always saved) come from. Passages like Hebrews 6:4-6 are hard to understand, but I also believe that you have to take the entire message of the Bible to form a sound doctrine about anything. I believe the Bible as a whole teaches that salvation is secure for eternity. Yes, we’ll screw up in our Christian lives, and if we are truly following Christ, we’ll feel bad about it and quickly repent. This is part of becoming more like Christ every day. Randy Alcorn sums this up the best:

…there are three tenses of salvation: we have been saved, we are being sanctified, and we will be glorified. Glorification still awaits us, when we enter the presence of God. When glorification happens, there will be complete sinlessness. But until that time, we are still sinners. Sanctification is very real, but it is not the same as glorification. Sanctification means having great progress and victory in our battles with sin. But it does not mean sinless perfectionism. That is reserved for glorification, which awaits us in Christ’s presence, but is not the state we are in now.

We have something to look forward to in our glorified bodies. Until then, we can rest assured that we are held tightly in the firm grip of Christ.

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Genesis 48: Walking With God…

In continuing with my study on Genesis 48, I want to spend some time looking at a concept that my study had me look into fairly in depth.  That is the concept of walking with God.

In Genesis 48, Joseph is summoned to Jacob’s bed because he is ill and is presumably dying. Joseph brings his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim with him. When they arrive at Jacob’s bedside, Jacob gets up and proceeds to bless them. This blessing appears to be a common thing when a family patriarch is on his deathbed, as I looked at earlier in the blessing of Jacob and Esau by their father Isaac. During his blessing of Joseph and his sons, Jacob says “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm—may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth.” (v. 15-16, emphasis added). What did Jacob mean when he claimed that his forefathers, Abraham and Isaac, walked before God?  What does it mean to walk before God or to walk with God? After looking up many verses as outlined by my study, I believe the following points can be drawn about walking before the Lord.

  1. Walking before/with God is a way of life. The term walking as used here means “to conduct oneself in a particular manner” or  to “pursue a particular course of life” (Dictionary.com: walk). In other words, instead of physically walking with God by their side, those who are said to have walked with God lived in such a way as if God really was walking by their side – they lived openly and transparently to God, trying to please him with how lived. Many are said to have walked with God throughout the Bible. The first was Enoch – in Genesis 5:21-24, it briefly mentions Enoch and that he “walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” I’m not sure if this means Enoch didn’t die but was just taken off to heaven without tasting death, but the wording is definitely an anomaly compared to that around it.  Later, in Genesis 6:9, it mentions Noah and says that he walked with God, and in Genesis 17:1, God tells Abraham to “walk before him and be blameless…” In Deuteronomy 30:16, God commands that we walk in His ways, and in Micah 6:8 it says that the Lord requires us to walk humbly with Him. Looking at these examples and the commands laid out by God, I think we can conclude that to walk with Him, it requires that we make it a lifestyle, as opposed to perhaps a once-a-week visit to our local church.
  2. Walking with God requires certain things of us. To be considered to have “walked with God” in your life, you must display certain characteristics.  In the account of Noah mentioned above, before it says that he walked with God, it said that “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time…” When God commanded Abraham to walk before Him in Genesis 17, he didn’t just say walk before Him, but to “walk before [Him] and be blameless…” So the first trait we can assume is necessary is to be righteous and blameless – which for those in Christ means that we place our belief and trust in Him. Other traits that are mentioned in relation to walking with God include
    • obedience (Deuteronomy 30:16 – “For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess”).
    • Act justly, mercifully, humbly (Micah 6:8 – “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”).
    • Be humble, gentle, patient, and a peacemaker (Ephesians 4:2-3 – “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”).

    These are only a fraction of what is listed in the Bible as commands for living before our God. I was sure to list the verses with humility in them twice for emphasis – the man who probably walked the closest to God in all of scripture was Moses, and the Bible says that “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3).

  3. The best way to walk with God is to imitate Him. What better way to get closer to someone than to be like them or share similar interests? The same applies to our relationship with God. Ephesians 5:1-2 says “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” To me, this is saying that we should be like God, specifically in how Christ was willing to love us sacrificially. 1 John 2:5-6 says “This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” So here, we have the same metaphor of walking as a way of living, but in this case it should be a way of living that imitates Jesus.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am no expert when it comes to walking with God. For me, it is only by His grace that I am even allowed to be called His child. But as His child, I do want to please Him, and living in such a way that pleases Him is on my priority list. This study was a great reminder of what those priorities should be.

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The Beauty of the Bible, Part 1

I have been reading through these mini-courses provided for free by a website called Online Bible College (www.onlinebiblecollege.com), and I have really enjoyed what I have learned regarding the Bible’s structure and unity. I have been reading these for several days now, but I am just now writing about what I am learning from them, so I will probably make several posts over the next few days to get caught up. And of course, I won’t be writing about every little thing that is written in them – only the things that I believe God is teaching me from them. I highly recommend checking them out if you’re interested.

Reading the Bible is probably my favorite spiritual activity – it’s at least tied with singing during worship. I love God’s word, and I have always enjoyed studying it, even before I was saved (though it was mainly an academic exercise back then). Thanks to a lot of pushing from my wife, I have gotten into a good habit of doing some kind of Bible study in the mornings. Right now I am doing the Precept Upon Precept study over the life of Joseph and the end of the book of Genesis, and I have been posting what I am learning through that study (and my previous one) on my blog here for a couple of weeks.

The Bible As An Open Book

The first thing the Online Bible College (I’ll write OBC from now on) talks about is how the Bible is a popular book – “the world’s undisputed bestseller, topping the charts every single year” – but that for most people it is a closed book. In Luke 8:1-15, Jesus tells the parable of the farmer who sowed seed – some fell on the path and was eaten up by the birds, some fell on the rocks and when they grew up withered because they had no moisture, some fell among thorns and when they grew up were choked out by the thorny plants, and finally, some fell on good soil and came up and yielded a crop. Of course, Jesus goes on to explain that the 4 areas where the seed fell were actually describing 4 kinds of hearts, and the OBC outlines it this way:

  • The path – a calloused heart: hardened against God’s word
  • The rocks – a shallow heart: with little depth for God’s word to take root
  • The thorns – a distracted heart: torn away by desires or worries of the world
  • The good soil – an open heart: a heart receptive and responsive to God’s word

They go on to say that the only way you can get the Bible to be an open book for you is to have an open heart. And to have an open heart, you must hunger for God’s word and be obedient to it.

A Hunger For God’s Word

I was baptized when I was 8, and for much of the time after that I believed I was saved. But in hindsight, there was no real change in my heart to show that I had been saved – I only went through the motions because that’s what I saw others doing and that’s what I was influenced to do. As a young teenager, there were times when I would read the Bible out of curiosity and interest (mainly just the stories), but that is all I was doing – reading stories. I had no hunger for God to reveal Himself in His word. In order for the Bible to become an open book, I have to have an longing to see more than just the words on the page. Proverbs 2:1-6 says

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

In other words, if I want to make the Bible more than just text, I should call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding. I must ask God to make His word more than just words; I need to ask Him to give me the “knowledge of God.”

Obedience to God’s Word

The biggest evidence that I was not saved as a young teenager was my actions – I still lived however I wished. As a believer, if I am to really get anything meaningful from the Bible, I must take action on what I read. James 1:22 says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” And 1 John 2:3-6 says

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

These verses say a person must be a person of action and obedience in order to get anything out of the Word of God and to be able to be “in” Christ.

Having the Right Attitude

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it is to have the right attitude toward God. God is holy and righteous, and because of that we must not take Him lightly – the Bible is full of stories of people who paid the consequences of acting irreverently towards God (see my post on the holiness of God here). In Isaiah 66:2, God says “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” We have to have a reverent fear for God’s Word, or as the OBC writes, “We should never treat the Word of God casually. If we disregard God’s Word for our lives, we will experience the penalties of a life not aligned to God. This is no light matter.”

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