1 John 1:9

Verse of the Day: 1John 1:9

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

None of us are perfect, no matter what we think. However, as true Christians this should be our desire. Speaking for myself, there are times when I fail to do what God has commanded me to do, or I do what God has commanded me not to do.  Even the Apostle Paul struggled with this. And if we are honest, we all do.  The verse prior to our focus verse says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Notice his wording, ‘If we say we have no sin’, present tense. Paul was clear in his letter to the Church in Rome that no one can say they have no sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Romans 3:23.

What John is saying is as Christians we are to walk with God and devote ourselves totally to Him. We are to live a life that honors Christ, that is a perfect life. However, in our fleshly weakness we often do things we know are wrong. Paul put it like this regarding his own struggle, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” Romans 7:18-19. Paul understood that he was far from perfect. He knew that he did not always live in a way that honored God. In fact, he states that no one does. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12. And to say that we have no sin puts us in a dangerous place because God’s grace and mercy is extended to sinners, not to those who see these as mistakes, or who say, “I’m only human”. We need to realize the victory and forgiveness that comes from praying, “I am a sinner, even a great sinner, but I have a Savior who cleanses me from all sin.

And this is laid out in our focus verse. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. Though sin is present, it need not remain a hindrance to our relationship with God, we will find cleansing from all unrighteousness as we confess our sins. By confessing our sins, we are willing to say and believe the same thing about our sin that God says about it. The one who confesses his sin is the one who agrees with God about how bad he was. And if we deny the presence of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and are denying God’s Word. “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:10. And though sin is always present, so is its remedy, so sin need never be a hindrance to our relationship with God. We need to confess all sins to God, and this confession should be with the idea of knowing what you did was sin, hating having done it and desiring never to do it again but wanting to honor God in everything. In this, He is “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

Philippians 4:13

Verse of the Day: Philippians 4:13

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

Of all people here on earth, we Christians have the most excellent reason to rejoice.  Paul, in this letter to the Philippians lays out what that reason is. “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked an opportunity to act.” Philippians 4:10. Paul understood that all good comes from God. This could either be immediately from God’s providence or from his grace and therefore, the apostle gives thanks to God for the kindness directed to him, for it was God that gave them the power and desire that directed their hearts to him. There is nothing quite so cheerful and optimistic to the weary soul as an unexpected visit from an old friend. No wonder as Paul turns to express gratitude for their gift, he starts by telling them that he did then what he has been urging them to do throughout: “I rejoiced” greatly in the Lord. The reason for his great joy is expressed with a botanical metaphor, meaning to “blossom again”, like perennials or the spring shoots of deciduous trees and bushes. After a period of dormancy in the matter of giving and receiving, the Philippians were able to renew this part of their friendship with Paul.

Now in verse 11 we see that Paul, who was very well educated, had learned something very important to help him in the life he was currently living. He was very content. “Not that I speak from need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Philippians 4:11. This was probably something that took time for him to grasp. If he was ever in the Mamertine, that being a Roman prison for those condemned to die, he would confess that it would take a deal of grace to make us content to be there. And if he was shut up in the prison of the Palatine hill, in the barracks near the morass, it was, to say the least, that it was not a desirable place to be in. A soldier chained to your hand day and night, however good a fellow he may be, does not always make the most delightful company for you, nor you for him, and it takes some time to learn to be content with such a companion. But, says Paul, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Philippians 4:10b.

Contentment in all states is not natural to us. As weeds grow in soil; covetousness, discontentment, and murmuring are things that can  grow in us. And as there is no need to sow thistles and weeds because  they come up naturally, we have no need to teach others to complain or be discontent for these also come up naturally. But the precious things of the earth must be cultivated. If we want wheat, we must plough the ground and sow the wheat seeds. if we want flowers, there must be the garden, and all the gardener’s care. Contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated. It will not grow in us naturally; it is the new nature alone that can produce it, and even then we must be especially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace that God has sown in it. Paul says, “I have learned to be content,” which says he was not content before he learned to be.

Now Paul adds to this thought. “I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” Philippians 4:12. Paul here says he has learned how to live with very little, as he does now, and to live with an abundance of things, as he did prior to his conversion. A Christian, who had been rich, when he was asked how he could bear his reduced state so happily, put his answer to this question so beautifully, and it has been called the ‘secret to contentment.’ “When I was rich, I had God in everything, and now I am poor I have everything in God.” We must always remember that no matter our situation, God is always with us. He will bring us through any difficulty. We must honor Him in every situation. Here is an interesting quote from Charles Spurgeon regarding this issue. “How many Christians have I seen grandly glorifying God in sickness and poverty when they have come down in the world, and how often have I seen other Christians dishonoring God when they have grown rich, or when they have risen to a position of influence among their fellow men! These two lessons grace alone can fully teach us.

Now we come to our focus verse. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. There is no boasting in this statement. Paul only spoke truth here. The former part of the sentence would be a piece of impudent daring without the latter part to interpret it. This passage is not about having financial abundance. Some teach a prosperity gospel that says God will bless us financially if we are faithful. In contrast, Paul taught that the believer would endure suffering but can be content in any circumstance, given Christ’s strength. Just as He faithfully endured the suffering forced upon Him on the cross, His followers can faithfully endure the problems they face. Christ can give contentment during times of plenty and of poverty. He can help us do all things through His strength. In Paul’s case, it was the strength to spread the gospel even though  he was experiencing intense suffering. In our lives, this same strength is available during our times of trials. Whether we serve in another country or help someone in our own community, Christ’s power can enable us to stand firm on His promises and endure the most difficult of life’s challenges.

I want to encourage us all to stand firm in the Lord no matter our situation. Note the wording in our focus verse. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.“ Philippians 4:13. Not just some things, but all things. If God calls us to do a work, He will not leave us alone, but will work through us to make it happen. We must trust Him completely in all we do. He will never let us down. This pertains to all who love and follow Him. So, do all you can and let the Lord help you through the rest.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

Jude 1:23

Verse of the Day: Jude 23

“save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” – Jude 23

The book of Jude is the shortest book in the Bible, but says a lot about what we, as Christians, need to do as well as be careful of. He wanted to write about their ‘common salvation’, which was a very positive idea, but he felt compelled, by God, to encourage his brothers and sisters to stand firm in the faith. “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude 1:3. This was important because people were sneaking in to speak against what the Christian faith was all about. “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4. These are dangerous people who have secretly entered the Church fellowship with the purpose of deceiving believers to believe the same ungodly things they did.

Jude then uses a term that fully explains what he meant. Licentiousness or lewdness is not a sign of weakness but one of willful disobedience. Licentious people do things that are really wild. Some look upon God’s grace and kindness as an excuse to sin, saying, in effect, His kindness does away with law, so we are free to do as we please. Essentially, they suppose that, somehow or other, the more they practice sin, the more grace they will receive. And they also deny Christ. It is not that they say Christ never existed or is not the Savior. It is that everything they say and do, everything they believe, contradicts God’s way. If one denies a statement, he is contradicting the person who says it. Jude is using “deny” in this sense. The false teachers contradict Jesus Christ in all things. They can appear to be doing what they are supposed to, but inside deny the truth of God.

However, Jude knew this was happening. Therefore, instead of writing, at this time, about their ‘common salvation’ he felt it important to help them contend for the faith, to come against what the false teachers were teaching, and remind them of the truth of the Gospel. He was not saying to speak against the false teachers, but their teachings. He gave several examples of similar actions; the angels including Lucifer, the unbelievers in Sodom and Gomorrah, and those who were rescued out of Egypt and denied God, the one who rescued them. Jude then tells them “It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.” Jude 1:14-15.

Then Jude encourages them to keep themselves in a manner that is pleasing to God. “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’ These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.” Jude 1:17-19. He is telling his readers that these activities described above were prophesied by Jesus’s apostles. It simply means they foretold it before it came to pass. In essence, it was inevitable. Paul was quoted by Luke in the Book of Acts, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves’ men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Acts 20:29-30. But he told them to keep themselves in God’s love. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” Jude 1:20-21. Jude has finished what he had to say about the ungodly, and now turns to more positive teaching. For the second time he calls them dear friends, and on each occasion, it is in contrast to the false teachers. He encourages them to build up the faith they have in Christ, pray in the Holy Spirit, and wait anxiously for Christ’s mercy and the eternal life He has promised.

But he also reminds them of their mission here. “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Jude 1:22-23. Having exhorted his readers on how to behave in general and encouraging them as to their hope, Jude now turns back to the issue of the false teachers and their followers. How should they treat these people? Are they to be hated, fought, feared, or simply shunned? Jude implicitly rejects all of these approaches toward teaching considered to be false and thus misleading many Christians. But also, as said so clearly in our focus verse, we are to rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives, but loving those trapped in those beliefs and practices. While the doubters may not have been sure who was right and thus may have held back from committing to either set of practices, some were already getting involved with the practices of the teachers Jude is opposing. Jude’s counsel is to “snatch” them ‘from the fire’ and ‘save them.’

This is what we are called to do, help the doubters understand the truth and accept it, and declare the reality of what they are doing to those who are purposefully practicing what is wrong, knowing that it is wrong, so they can stop their sinful practices. Chuck Smith wrote this regarding this idea. “You can’t witness the same way to everybody. People are different, people have different temperaments. Some you’ve got to scare the hell out of them. Others are drawn by love. Some with compassion, making a difference, others, by fear, pulling them out of the fire. I mean, what does that mean? Now, it means that we have got to be led by the Spirit as we deal with people, hating even the garment that has been spotted by the flesh, pull them out of the fire. But hate the garment spotted by the flesh.

Our purpose is to bring people into the faith of God and help them to grow such that they can then do the same. We are not called to simply do the do’s and not do the don’ts. We are called to help people become believers, and believers that spread the truth of the Christian life, helping others to grow in the faith.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

Ephesians 4:17

Verse of the Day: Ephesians 4:17

“So I say this, and affirm in the Lord, that you are to no longer walk just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their minds.” – Ephesians 4:17

The letter to the Ephesians was written, by Paul, to the saints who resided in Ephesus. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:1-2.

We see in chapters one through three he writes to them regarding the spiritual blessings that come to those who accept Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” Ephesians 1:3. He continually gives thanks to God for their faith as he prays for them. He encourages them, saying they have received grace from God, though Christ. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.  And then in chapter three, he tells them that he prays for them that they will become and remain strong in the faith. “For this reason I bend my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19. He encourages them to be in unity with all the saints. “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, being diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3.

Now because of this Paul tells them, as we see in our focus verse, to no longer live in a worldly way as the non-believers in Ephesus lived but rather in the new life provided to them by Christ when they were saved. “So, I say this, and affirm in the Lord, that you are to no longer walk just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their minds.” Ephesians 4:17. Now, as I proceed, I will be speaking not only of the unsaved Ephesians whom Paul was referring to, but also the unsaved today. There are several specific areas Paul focuses on which we need to be on the watch for in our lives as well.

First is that the unbelievers had hardened their hearts to the truth. “being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” Ephesians 4:18. Many people then, and today as well, are hardening their hearts against the truth because it goes against what they desire. He is stressing their deliberate choices to reject God and His ways, not necessarily accidental. In a sense sin has caused them to lose their minds. Their thinking process has been tainted by the dark forces of evil, called “the powers of this dark world. “And you were dead in your offenses and sins, in which you previously walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Ephesians 2:2. In essence, they separated themselves from the life of God. And this is a dangerous ignorance, for it is the result not of a lack of knowledge but of a deliberate denial of the knowledge God has made available to them. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Romans. “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20. God has made clear his ‘eternal power and divine nature,’ but because of their darkened understanding, depraved humanity has rejected that knowledge and chosen ignorance. Although the world was created by Christ, the world refused to know him. As John put it, “He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, and yet the world did not know Him.” John 1:10. Thus they, as the theologian Grant Osborne put it, ‘lost all sensitivity’. Grant then explains what he meant, ‘Ignorance leads to hardness, which in turn leads to callousness, the inability to feel pain; here it refers to the inability to feel shame or guilt in the presence of abiding evil.’  And this becomes even more prevalent when friends and family push you to join them in these wrong activities. “In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them in the same excesses of debauchery, and they slander you; but they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” 1 Peter 4:4-5. In essence, they have become greedy, never satisfied with what they have and do. In Colossians we read, “Therefore, treat the parts of your earthly body as dead to sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Colossians 3:5.

We who are Christians, followers of Christ, need to take heed of what are focus verse is saying. “So, this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,” Ephesians 4:17.  Paul states farther down, “if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.” Ephesians 4:21-25. It is essential that we put aside our old nature, ignore it’s desires, and put on our new self which is given to us, and which is pleasing to God. The cure for a life of sin and excess is to reject the old lies the world told us and to embrace the eternal truths of Christ. This is what we have learned about Him. Since we have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, we should live accordingly. To live in any other way is against what Christ requires.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

The resurrection of Christ and His ascension

The Resurrection of Jesus and His ascension.

Less than a week earlier Jesus Christ, the Son of God, fulfilled His purpose for coming here, which was to die for the sins of the world. He was hated and despised by the Jewish and Roman leadership who were in control over the area where Jesus traveled. For the most part, the Jews hated Him because He called them out for their sins.  John in his gospel lays this out very clearly in this interplay between Jesus and the leaders. “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you are seeking to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak of the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore, you also do the things which you heard from your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born as a result of sexual immorality; we have one Father: God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came forth from God and am here; for I have not even come on My own, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:37-44.

Now it is the first day of the week, which we call Sunday. Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James came to the tomb to look at the place Jesus was buried. However, when they arrived, they were shocked to find the stone that covered the entrance rolled away. Confused, they walked in, finding that the body of Jesus was no longer there. And then. “While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in gleaming clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, Why are you seeking the living One among the dead?  He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise from the dead.” Luke 24:4-7. When they heard this, they then remembered what Jesus had said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and be raised on the third day.” Luke 9:22. Now, when the ladies returned from the tomb, they told all who were there, including the remaining eleven disciples (Judas having already hung himself) what they had seen at the tomb. However, they did not believe them. “But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe the women. Nevertheless, Peter got up and ran to the tomb; and when he leaned over and looked in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.” Luke 24:12.

On the same day, two of Christ’s disciples were going to the village of Emmaus, which was approximately seven miles from Jerusalem. And as they were walking, they were discussing all the things that had recently taken place. Now, as they were discussing these matters, Jesus joined them. However, they did not recognize who He was because “But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” Luke 24:16. Then Jesus asks them a question. “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are  walking?” Luke 24:17.  And looking sad, one of the disciples, Cleopas, asked Jesus, “Are You possibly the only one living near Jerusalem who does not know about the things that happened here in these days?” Luke 24:18. Then Jesus asked them what they meant, and they answered, “Those about Jesus the Nazarene, who proved to be a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers handed Him over to be sentenced to death and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. But also, some women among us left us bewildered. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. And so, some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” Luke 24:19b-24. Then Jesus rebukes them. “And then He said to them, You foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to come into His glory?” Luke 24:25-26. Remember, these were disciples of Christ, not just two random individuals walking down the road. Then He explained to them from the Word, our Old Testament, where the prophecies of the Messiah were written. “Then beginning with Moses and with all the Prophets, He explained to them the things written about Himself in all the Scriptures.” Luke 24:27.

As they approached the village where they were going, they strongly urged Him to stay with them for it was getting late. So, He did and went and stayed with them. “And it came about, when He had reclined at the table with them, that He took the bread and blessed it, and He broke it and began giving it to them. And then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.” Luke 24:30-31. This surprised the people there. “They said to one another, Were our hearts not burning within us when He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32. They finally realized what had happened, so they immediately got up and returned to Jerusalem and found the eleven disciples. And when they arrived, they told them, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon!

So, while they were telling these events, Jesus Himself suddenly appeared and stood in their midst, saying, “Peace be with you.” They were afraid, thinking this was some spirit that revealed itself to them. He then asked them, “Why are you frightened, and why are doubts arising in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you plainly see that I have.” Luke 24:38-39. He then showed them His hands and feet with the wounds that would have come because of crucifixion. Because they still could not believe it was Him, he asked, “Have you anything here to eat?” Luke 24:41. They gave Him some broiled fish and He ate it in front of them. After this He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things that are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Luke 24:44. After this, He opened their minds to understand and said to them, “So it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:46-49. This power noted in the previous verse refer to Jesus’ words as recorded in Acts chapter One. “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8. He then leads them to Bethany where He ascended up into Heaven. “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.” Luke 24:50-53.

Now, prior to His ascension into Heaven, Jesus gave the great commission to His disciples, and ultimately to us. “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20. He came here to pay the penalty for our sins: living a life free from any sin and thus paying for our sins through His cruel death on the cross. Since He never sinned, not even once, His death could pay for ours instead. This is the reason He came here. And now our job is to spread the good news of what Christ did for us, to a world who has never heard it or accepted it. This is the commission He has given to us who are believers. To help others be believers. And how do we do that? Matthew put it like this. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the house. Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16. Let us live fully this Christian life so that our light will shine forth and help others accept Christ and shine their light as well. This is our calling from God.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

1 John 2:15

Verse of the Day: 1 John 2:15

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” – 1 John 2:15  

Our focus verse here has a lot to say about where many are heading in this world today. To start with, John wrote this epistle to help the Christians of that time be filled with joy. “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:4-5. This is the same message Jesus gave His disciples. “If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:10-11. This is what God wants for us, to be filled by His joy. Charles Spurgeon put it this way. “What an evidence of our Savior’s deep attachment to His people that He is not content with having made their ultimate salvation sure, but He is anxious concerning their present state of mind! He delights that His people should not only be safe, but happy; not merely saved, but rejoicing in His salvation. Hear this, people of God! The object of the revelation of Jesus Christ is that you may have joy, indeed, that you may have a heart full of joy, and that you may know what full joy means.

Moving to chapter two, John speaks of Christ as the Christian’s advocate. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments.” 1 John 2:1-3. John is encouraging the readers not to sin, but if they do, Christ will be their advocate before the Father. He, as advocate for us, stands there on our behalf, pleading our case. And because of this, He is able to save completely all who will come to God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for us. And we know these are Christians regarding verses that follow. “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you on account of His name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God remains in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” 1 John 2:12-14.

Now we come to our focus verse. “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15. This is a very strong statement, for what he is telling them is if they love the things of the world, they cannot love God, for the ways of the world and God are contrary to each other. The same idea is found in Matthew where Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24. Pastor Chuck Smith put it this way. “You cannot, not you should not, you cannot. And wealth, of course, refers to worldly materialistic things, the monetary system of the world. You can’t serve them both.

Next, John defines for us what he is meaning by ‘the world.’ First, he is not referring here to the physical world, creation. He is referring to the world system itself. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” 1 John 2:16. John proceeds to explain more fully why love for the world is incompatible with love for God. It is because everything in the world is not from God but from the world itself. Its origin lies in the world, viewed as a system in opposition to God. Let us look at these three worldly ways. First, let us look in Genesis where these ideas are first exhibited. “The serpent said to the woman, you certainly will not die! For God knows that on the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will become like God, knowing good and evil. When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:4-6. Eve here was tempted by the serpent to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. She coveted the fruit in three ways. First, it was appealing to her appetite. This John refers to as the ‘lust of the flesh,’ Next, the fruit was also pleasing or delightful to the eye, that which we see and desire to own or possess. This John referred to as the ‘lust of the eyes.’ And lastly, Eve saw that the fruit would make her wise, giving her a wisdom beyond her own. Part of Satan’s lie was that eating the fruit would make her ‘like God, knowing good and evil.’ This was also tempting to her, which is referred to as the ‘pride of life.’

Christians have and will always be lured by the same three temptations Eve and Jesus experienced. Satan doesn’t change his methods; he doesn’t have to because they continue to be successful. He tempts us with the lust of the flesh; sexual gratification, gluttony, excessive alcohol consumption, and drugs, both legal and illegal, as well as the “deeds of the flesh” about which Paul warned the Galatians, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21. He tempts us with the lust of the eyes—the endless accumulation of “stuff” with which we fill our homes and garages and the insatiable desire for more, better, and newer possessions, which ensnares us and hardens our hearts to the things of God. It is also lusts that go beyond things but includes sinful behaviors.

But perhaps his most evil temptation is the pride of life, the very sin that resulted in Satan’s expulsion from heaven. He desired to be God, not to be a servant of God. See Isaiah 14:12-15. The arrogant boasting which constitutes the pride of life motivates the other two lusts as it seeks to elevate itself above all others and fulfill all personal desires. It is the root cause of strife in families, churches, and nations. It exalts the self in direct contradiction to Jesus’ statement that those who would follow Him must take up their cross and deny themselves. The pride of life stands in our way if we truly seek to be servants of God. It is the arrogance that separates us from others and limits our effectiveness in the kingdom.

These three things, lust of the flesh and eyes, plus the pride of life comes not from the Father, but from the world. And, as such, it is passing away with the world, but those who resist and overcome the temptations listed above do the will of God, and the person who does the will of God lives forever. As I said in the beginning, many are accepting what the world offers, which automatically rejects God and what He offers. It is important that we shine the light of truth on those who do not see it, for the time is close for Jesus’ return, and if they continue to deny God’s ways, then it will be too late..

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

James 2:18

Verse of the Day Devotion. James 2:18

“But someone may well say, you have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” – James 2:18

James here, in our focus verse, is linking the ideas of faith and works with the purpose of laying out what real faith is. In the first chapter we read, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.” James 1:22-24. It is so easy to have an exalted opinion of ourselves. To think, I am a good person because I got to Church and bible studies, and I spend time in memorizing scriptures. Yes, these are good things, but are we doing what it says? The act of hearing the word without doing what it says is a way of deceiving ourselves. We think we are in better shape than we really are. We are  not acknowledging the truth about ourselves. And so, we need to be the doers of the word. Paul made this clear when he said, “for it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the Law who will be justified.” Romans 2:13. And that was the mistake that the Jewish people were making. They thought, ‘well, we have the law of Moses.’ Paul said, No, that isn’t enough. You have to keep the law of Moses.

Now, we come to chapter two. In this section, many think Paul and James are in conflict regarding their teachings. Paul teaches that salvation is through faith, faith alone. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10. Then James asks, can faith save? The answer is yes, faith can save. But it takes a true faith. We must ensure the faith we have is real. For when we do it will be manifested by our works. In other words, to just say you have faith is not enough, for faith on its own is useless because it is a dead faith. “In the same way, faith also, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” James 2:17. No one is really walking in faith if there are no works associated with it. If we are truly walking in faith, our works are going to be manifested to the world, showing our faith to be alive and real.

James then gives an example of what he was telling them. “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? In the same way, faith also, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” James 2:15-17. What profit is there if a man says he has faith, and he doesn’t have works? Can that kind of faith save him? No, it can’t. If a brother or sister is naked, or is destitute of daily food, and you say to them, depart in peace, be warmed, and filled; but yet you don’t give them any clothes or food; what good are our words? They can’t make themselves warm or take away their hunger. Under these examples of nakedness and hunger, he comprehends all the calamities of human life, which may be relieved by the help of others as food and raiment contain all the ordinary supports and comforts of life. How many people today will only be casual friends, where the most you can get out of them are, ‘God bless you, Christ help you.’ They can’t fill their stomach without works, for words only are useless. Just as faith without works are useless.

Now we come to our focus verse. “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’ James 2:18. It isn’t only the declaration of our faith. It’s the declaration of our faith that has something behind it. And the proof behind it is the works we do. Again, the works don’t save us. They only prove that we have true faith, and this does save us. And if we don’t have works that are corresponding to what we are declaring, then we do not have saving faith, just the declaration.  Simply verbal affirmation is not enough, and it never will be.

Pastor Chuck Smith, who founded Calvary Chapel before his death in 2013, put it this way. “Now a lot of people made mistakes, going forward, and saying the sinner’s prayer and then going away and living the same kind of life doing the same kind of thing. They say, “Oh yeah, I was saved. I went forward and I said the sinner’s prayer.” No, no, the sinner’s prayer isn’t going to save you. It is a living faith in Jesus Christ that brings about actual changes in your life and the proof is in the works, the proof of your faith. Your works have to be in accordance, in harmony with what you are declaring to be true.

Now, I want to encourage us all to examine our lives and see if there is any time we profess faith without works, which is the validation of our faith. If you find this, then pray that God will help you make the changes needed to make it right. God loves us and is ready to help us through this. The question that is most relevant is, are we ready to change?

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, President and Founder of True Devotion Ministries.

John 14:6

Verse of the Day: John 14:6 

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” – John 14:6

It is important that we grasp this truth so that we can counter the belief that there are many roads that lead to God.  Jesus said He was the only way to the Father.  Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” Romans 10:9.  This counter’s the ideas of the post-Modernists who believes there is no absolute truth, but that everyone has their own truth which they must follow.

We must stand strong in the reality that Jesus is the only way to salvation and any relationship with God; not to argue in anger but to speak in love.  They may try to convince you they are on a path to God, but a different one.  However, the truth is there is no other way.  It is our job to live our lives as though we see this as absolute truth so they can see that light in us and desire it themselves. This is our role as Christians here.  To lead people to the true God via the only path available, that being through the shed blood of Christ and all that entails.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

Philippians 2:13

Verse of the Day: Philippians 2:13

“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13

Have you ever felt that God seems to require more than you are able to do?  When I first received Christ, I read the scriptures for hours every day.  I learned a lot, but I would ask myself, how can I do all that is asked of me?

It is so important for us to obey His word and the calling He has given us.  Pray, hear His voice.  He will not ask more of us than we can do.  Today’s verse tells us two things we need to understand.  First, He will work through us to work His good pleasure.  We just submit to Him and let His Spirit lead and guide us.  But more importantly, He will give us the desire to do it.  It says He will work through us first to will, then to do.  He will give us the desire to do His good pleasure, then the power to do it.  Our love for Him will lead us to submit to anything He asks of us.  Then He will work through us to make it happen.

What a beautiful relationship we have with God.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

Jude 22

Verse of the Day: Jude 22

“And have mercy on some, who are doubting.” – Jude 22

When we go out to share the love of God and introduce people to Christ, we are going to find various type of people.  One group we tend to mis-understand are those who have doubts about the gospel message.  I have seen Christians who speak with them about Christ and when they express their doubts, they walk away to another who may accept the message more readily.  This is easy to do, but not the right thing to do.

Now you will come across those who are hostile to the gospel.  However, these are not the ones I am referring to.  I am referring to those who express doubts, are asking legitimate questions and show they really want to know.  They are not hostile; they just do not understand.  Have mercy on them.  We do not know their past and what they have gone through.  Take the time to answer their questions.  Be patient with them.  Give them the time they need.  God brought them to you to help them.  If you need to, introduce them to someone who can help you answer their questions.

It is important to be prepared for any questions about Christianity.  Paul wrote the following to Timothy, 2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”  Let’s all study to be prepared for what/who God brings our way.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.