1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,
3 and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already.
4 Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
5 They are of the world, therefore what they say is of the world, and the world listens to them.
6 We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. RSV
Do not believe every spirit
Test the spirits
Many false prophets have gone out into the world
Every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,
Every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God.
This is the spirit of antichrist,
you heard that it was coming
now it is in the world already.
You are of God, and have overcome them
They are of the world, therefore what they say is of the world
the world listens to them.
for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
Whoever knows God listens to us,
he who is not of God does not listen to us.
I John 3
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
17 But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
18 Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him
20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. RSV
He laid down his life for us.
By this we know love.
We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Loving in deed and in truth
reassures our hearts before Him,
we are of the truth.
God is greater than our hearts
whenever our hearts condemn us!
I John 3:1 Behold, what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the sons of God! For this reason, this world does not know you: because it does not know Him. 2 Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God. But what we shall be is yet to be revealed. And we know that when He shall be revealed, we shall be like Him. For we shall see Him as He is. RGT [Revised Geneva Translationa]
You may remember a simple chorus sung as a round based on these specific words of I John 3:1. You may still mentally hear the music. If it’s unfamiliar take a minute to listen here. It’s a very basic two-sentence structure that repeats and overlaps as each side sings their part to complete the Word to the other.
Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us,
Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us,
That we should be called the sons of God,
That we should be called the sons of God.
Reading those words triggered the memory of the music that goes with them. The testimony of truth is when music and the Word are combined, the two halves of the human brain are uniquely engaged in a lasting way. Behold! Reading Words on a page has the power to stimulate the music of our memory and remind our heart that the Father has given His love is to His children [of any age] for this purpose: our hope “that when He shall be revealed, we shall be like Him. For we shall see Him as He is.”
aThe Geneva Bible is specifically designed to be SPOKEN and HEARD, repeatedly, and is built on the premise that a crucial key to revival in the present can be found in one simple practice from the past—speaking God’s Word back to each other in community.
John 19:10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin. 12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free.”
…19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” NIV
Some power is real and some is illusion. Mostly human nature seems to respond more to the power of illusion because it makes us think we are able to control life and circumstances. The illusion of power was clearly behind Pilate’s question: “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus answers Pilate in two sentences that tell him his power is only an illusion, that he has no real power at all, AND at the same time offers him something that seems designed to ease his guilty conscience. Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
And look at Pilate’s response to Jesus! “From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free”…and finally his response to the chief priests and Jews when they complained about his notice posted to the cross – “Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews.”
Something real happened in that interchange with Jesus that affected Pilate. Isn’t that just like Jesus to clearly remind where the source of real power lies AND then to create a small grace space in a reprimand so that truth would be revealed even without faith when “Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. [NLT]
It’s almost a month since my husband was killed. I have been so blessed and comforted by my family. They have buffered the reality of my loss with their presence. They’ve flown in from around the country to help me navigate the unthinkable reality of death with the basics of life; food, activity and the practical and legal details that are now a part of my life. What was previously “normal” activity has now become a reminder of being alone but they have been the hands-on proof of God’s assurance that is not the case. One by one they’ve returned to their own homes and this week I finally have to face learning to live alone in mine.
It’s scary because I’ve realized I have never actually lived “alone” before. I moved from my parents home to my marital home nearly 63 years ago. I chose this book of John to read and ponder in these next weeks because it was important to my husband and the book of John is where my life of faith began long ago. I wasn’t physically alone then, but it was the place I first read the words that revealed Jesus gives life that spans all time, circumstances and relationships. What was true then is still truth now. “The Word already existed…with God… The Word gave life to everything…and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
John 18 NIV
28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” 30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected.
This is the story of a power struggle between legalism and truth. The thing that shocked me most in this passage was the phrase “to avoid ceremonial uncleanness.” The goal of the Jewish leaders was the execution of Jesus through manipulating the power systems in place, not justice or truth. The grim reality of their legalism is their shockingly clear response to Pilate’s question – “What charges are you bringing against this man?” – “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected.” The proof of their legalism was Pilate could achieve their goal to get rid of Jesus so they could avoid ceremonial uncleanness. It was their choice to justify hearts that had found a way to work around God’s truth; “Thou shall not kill.”
I admit it, I have rules! The whole purpose of rules is to regulate behavior and exert influence. Neither of those is necessarily bad…until…they replace the truth that life with Jesus is how we are justified, not rules. Have you even thought about “ceremonial uncleanness” in terms of your own behavior? I certainly hadn’t, but I know I’m guilty of having used rules to justify my motivations and behaviors. Legalism is believing rules or personal motivations can help you avoid ceremonial uncleanness. The truth of the Grace of God in Jesus is that the “the life I now lived in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”a
a Part of Galatians 2:20
Psalm 119 Taw
169 May my cry come before you, Lord; give me understanding according to your word.
170 May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise.
171 May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees.
172 May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.
173 May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation,Lord, and your law gives me delight.
175 Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.
176 I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.
These twenty two sections of Psalm 119 and their relationship to the Hebrew letter the Psalmist chose to “mark” each of them have challenged my thinking from mid November through Advent, Christmas and into this new year, 2021. Transposing sentences has been a way to pay homage to the Hebrew method of reading Right to Left. These last eight “right to left” verses were organized with that in mind but with a twist; writing all the right phrases, one after another, and then stringing all the left phrases together after them. My intent is for them to be read as a whole that gives these important old words a new expression and then consider why the Psalmist marked them with last letter of the Hebrew Aleph-bet, “Taw.”
The image of the ancient letter, Taw, was used like a signature mark to verify the truth of what was said. Taw is pictured by two sticks crossed but I don’t see two sticks. I see a cross! It’s amazing to consider the Psalmist purposefully chose a mark all those centuries ago to verify the truth of his words and become a recognizable sign of the cross, chosen by God, to verify our future. Read on please…
– Psalm 119:169-176 All Right then All Left –
Give me understanding according to your word. Deliver me according to your promise, for you teach me your decrees. All your commands are righteous for I have chosen your precepts. Your law gives me delight and may your laws sustain me. Seek your servant for I have not forgotten your commands. May my cry come before you, Lord; may my supplication come before you. May my lips overflow with praise; may my tongue sing of your word. May your hand be ready to help me. I long for your salvation, Lord. Let me live that I may praise you. I have strayed like a lost sheep.
–––∞ My Thoughts ∞–––
Jesus IS the Word! That’s the understanding of God we need. God’s promise to us lives in Jesus Christ; the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s precepts, laws and commands and He will remove the condemnation of those same laws from those who place their life in Him. Jesus has completed everything God required to sustain us. He is our reminder that the truth we now have can hold us firmly while our lips learn to overflow with praise and our tongues find words to sing the song of salvation for lost sheep; being crucified with Christ. I long for your salvation, Lord. Let me live that I may praise You, glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
65 Do good to your servant according to your word, Lord.
66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.
68 You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.
69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees
72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
There is a “before and after” story here in Teth that relates to affliction; where it comes from and how does it relate to a serpent/snake? Teth is a not-so-subtle reminder of an old “before” story; there really was a serpent hiding in the garden whose purpose was to call into question the absolute truth God had spoken. Affliction might be the mask of temptation that serpent wears today as he repeats his original question asked long before the Psalmist wrote: “did God really say…?”
The Psalmist’s words are obviously written to let God know he’s aware there has been a “before and after” in his life. “Before” I was afflicted I went astray…The “after” is “It was good for me to be afflicted…so that I might learn your decrees…but now I obey your word.” The Psalmist has shown us the imagery of an “after” we can recognize. God has built a house [us] and filled it with light [the Word], protected by a strong door [Jesus]and a hedge [the Holy Spirit] around it. A place where affliction and even the possibility of a serpent hiding in the garden no longer has the power to silence the absolute truth of what God really did say.
Each of the twenty-two sections of Psalm 119 follows the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. What’s unique is each verse in each section begins with the same Hebrew letter. It wasn’t until I decided to verify that for myself and found this image that I realized Hebrew is read from right to left. I wondered if the verses from the ESV version might be read as normal and then read again from right to left [sort of] as a way to ponder the fullness of truth works both ways. You decide.
1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!
OR 1 The Lord is the law of the walk of those whose way is blameless and are blessed
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
OR 2 Whole hearts who keep his testimonies and seek him are blessed
3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
OR 3 who walk in his ways and also do no wrong
4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
OR 4 Diligently keeping your precepts is your command
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
OR 5 Keeping your statutes keeps my ways steadfast
6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
OR 6 You fix my eyes on your commandments so I shall not be shamed
7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules
OR 7 Your righteous rules are how I learn to praise you with an upright heart
8 I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!
OR 8 Do not utterly forsake me, I WILL keep your or statutes.
2 Corinthians 3:Are we beginning to praise ourselves again? Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation, or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf? Surely not! 2 The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our[your] hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. 3 Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. NLT
Stone is so enduringly permanent it’s surprising the truth of those letters carved on tablets of stone is lost. But is it?
The recent pandemic has tragically highlighted just how vulnerable life can be. That makes it equally surprising that God has now chosen to write the permanence of His truth in human hearts. The letters of eternity and permanence no longer lie in impenetrable stone. God has rewritten His own truth in our/your heart. That truth rewrites the story of a stubborn, stony hearta being replaced with a tender, responsive one able to feel, think, grow and replicate God’s own heart one to another. “Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.”
aAnd I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. [Ezekiel 36:26]