By Bob Cowles 23 Jun, 2017

Hebrews 5 :11- 6:20


 The first priority in understanding Scripture is that it be read by paragraphs and chapters, not one verse at a time. This entire midsection of Hebrews should be read and reread with a view to the message overall. If we read over it sev­eral times, perhaps we can begin to see the distinctive fea­tures of this section. They may be outlined as follows: Exhortation: on to mature teaching (5:11-6:20)

Solid Food (5:11 -14 )

The first readers of this letter had been Christians for a considerable period of time, long enough for them to be able to receive "advanced" instruction. This is what the author refers to when he says that by now, "you ought to be teachers." He is not saying that each and every one of them was expected to be a teacher. Instead, he is using "teachers" to stand for those who think and act maturely. In other words, he says that they are acting not as adults but as infants. They need to be taught all over again "the elementary truths of God's word." They need a diet of milk.

On the other hand, "solid food" is for grownups. While an infant is "unskilled" or "inexperienced" in the "word of righteousness" (God's word which leads to right conduct), "solid food is for the mature" (v 14). Who are the mature? "Those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil."

Pressing on to Maturity (6:1- 3 )

The next few verses, indeed down through 6:8, con­nect directly with the foregoing. Verse 1 involves a twofold exhortation: "Let us leave ... and go on." That is, let us leave behind the elementary teachings pertaining to Christ, and let us go on to more advanced teaching con­cerning his priesthood. If the readers will truly under­stand the meaning of Christ's priesthood and his atoning sacrifice, this will be enough to keep them from apostasy. Once and for all, they must decide. The author lists six items as examples of basics that need no further emphasis.

1. Repentance from "dead works." Repentance is much more than sorrow for sin. It is a turning from the "dead works" of sin (cf. 9:14), a renunciation of the former life that leads to death (cf. Rom. 6:23).

2. Faith in God. In Hebrews, faith is always active, as demonstrated in chapter 11. It is not enough to leave the dead works of sin, but there must be the positive turning to God in faith.

3. Baptisms. The term is plural and is the general word for "washings" (cf. 9:10; Mark 7:4). Jewish and pagan washings would need to be distinguished from Christian baptism, and so the author uses the general instead of the specific term for baptism.

4. Laying on of hands. This was essentially a Jewish custom, generally either to appoint someone to a task (Acts 6:6; 13:3), or to confer a blessing (Matt. 19:15), including that of healing (Mark 5:23) or of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17; 19:6).

5. Resurrection of the dead. Jesus and the apostles taught the resurrection of all the dead (John 5:28-29; Acts 4:2), a basic truth that the author's readers readily acknowledged.

6. Eternal judgment. The preaching of the resurrection also involved the preaching of impending judgment (Acts 17:31) with its lasting consequences.

This list of elementary truths is not a complete list, but the author is anxious to move his readers on to more mature teaching "if God permits."

A Warning against Apostasy (6:4-8)

This is by no means the first warning in Hebrews, but it is (together with 10:26-31) the most startling and severe. The warning is stated in a long, impressive sentence beginning with the words, "For it is impossible ... " "For" connects with that which precedes: if the readers do not go forward in their understanding of Christ, the alternative is to fall back, presumably to their prior Judaism, and commit apostasy.

The author goes on to set forth the hardened condi­tion of apostates: they "crucify the Son of God all over again" (NIV) and "hold him up to contempt." This is why it is impossible to restore them. They abuse him who is "the Son of God." They nail him to the cross again and publicly shame him. They do not simply dis­believe him, but they denounce and disgrace him before the world.

It needs to be emphasized that the subject of the passage is apos­tasy. Such a person cannot be saved because he is no longer able to repent.

A Word of Encouragement (6: 9-12)

Later, the author will return to the subject of apostasy, especially in 10:26-31 and in 12:12-29. That he has dealt with the topic previously and will do so again clearly shows apostasy to be possible for his readers. Never­theless, he hastens to add here that in their case he is quite confident of "better things ... that accompany salvation" (NIV). He wants to en­courage them.

Standing on God's Promises (6:13-20)

In the paragraph before us, the author establishes the certainty of these promises and their self­-evident basis for hope. Truly, the Christian stands on the promises of God. "He who promised is faithful" (10:23). Of all those who "inherit the promises," the name of Abraham is distinctive. "When God made a promise to Abraham, . . . he swore by himself, saying, `Surely I will bless you and multiply you."' To swear by God is the strongest oath possible, and so God swore by himself. The occasion referred to is that of the offering of Isaac, when God promised that Abraham's offspring would be as numberless as "the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore" (Gen. 22:17). We see the working out of God's promise when Christ came (11:13; 11:39-40).

By Bob Cowles 16 Jun, 2017

(Hebrews 4:14-5:10)


The writer of Hebrews had an exalted view of Christ. He is superior to angels, greater than Moses, and far above Joshua. He is, after all, God’s own Son who made purification for sins and is now seated at the right hand of God (1:1-3). He is a merciful and faithful high priest who made atonement for the sins of the people in service to God and has the ability to help us in our trials (2:17-18). He is the faithful Son over all God’s house (3:6). He is the one alone who can give God’s Sabbath-rest to those who believe in him (4:9-10).

Hebrews (4:14-16). The role of the high priest in the Old Testament is impressive. He intercedes with Yahweh on behalf of the nation. He wears special robes. He functions with great ceremony and solemnity. So we can be sure that God wants us to come to his throne of grace. He is our Father! And by the good offices of his one perfect Son, our prayers will be made effective and powerful. As our high priest, Jesus has carried blood – not that of a sacrificial animal but his very own – to the mercy seat. He has presented himself in the very presence of God on our behalf to plead our case. He understands our case because he has lived our weaknesses and experienced the same trials and temptations we face. Our high priest is a real human being, our friend, our kinsman – yet without sin.


The Credentials of Our High Priest

One cannot take the role of high priest to himself. It must be conferred. So the writer of Hebrews moves quickly to make it clear that the One seated on the throne has himself credentialed and ordained Jesus to his unique high priesthood. When he ascended “through the heavens” after his bodily resurrection, he was paving the way for us. He was not only opening heaven’s door but was being declared in his very person “The Way” (cf. John 14:6). Because this is so, we do not have to face down Satan ourselves. We simply “hold firmly to the faith we profess” in the Christ who has already defeated him for our sake.

Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, (5:1-6).

Just as Aaron was selected and called to his role as Israel’s first high priest, so Jesus was selected and call to his high-priestly function. Yet, just as Jesus is greater than angels, Moses, and Joshua, he is also a greater high priest than Aaron. His priesthood is “in the order of Melchizedek” – a phrase that occurs no less than five times in Hebrews and so must be important. It is such an important fact that our preacher will treat the issue at some length later. For now, he simply tantalizes his readers-hearers by dropping the mysterious name. For now, he only hints at the “forever” significance to Christ’s high priesthood in this special order.


So Why the Distress?

Hebrews (5:7-10). on that horrible night Jesus ended his intense prayer three times – so intense that sweat poured off his body as though he were bleeding – with reverent submission. By saying “ Not my will but yours be done ,” he was essentially committing to obey the Father even if his obedience meant still more anguish and suffering. And it did! Gethsemane gave way to Calvary. If we go back to Hebrews 2:14-18 for a moment, the same thing has already been said in slightly different words. In his oneness with God’s creatures who have flesh and blood, he faced the devil’s ultimate threat to human beings – the fear of death. Like us, he trembled. Like us, he cried out for relief. Unlike some of us, however, he knew that the death of the body was reversible. He knew that his Father could raise him from the dead and restore his life.

He knew full well that “ Not my will but yours be done ” entailed the payment of the death penalty for sin that would bring anguish to his soul beyond anything that could be done to his fleshly body. Cf. Matt. 10:28.] God “heard” the cries of Jesus – both from Gethsemane’s garden and from Golgotha’s tree – and delivered him from the stranglehold of death. By raising his body from the tomb on Sunday morning, heaven signaled that the human race need never again live as captives “held in slavery by their fear of death.”

Jesus learned obedience by trusting the Father to see him through that ordeal. His reverent submission perfected him for his role as trail-blazer for us. In his perfection, he has become the source of eternal salvation for all who ever follow him on the obedient path of reverent submission. Follow Jesus with the same reverent submission he showed the Father, and you will experience the same outcome. Just as his faithful obedience under trial was part of the process that perfected him within God’s greater plan, so is our faithful obedience under trial part of the process of purification and refinement for our faith.


“Because [Jesus] himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (2:18 ). So why would the first-century hearers try to face their temptations in their own human strength? With their high priest identified, ordained, and forever at their disposal, why would they struggle with their personal stresses or external tormentors without his aid? He was able to help them!

By Bob Cowles 10 Jun, 2017

Hebrews 4:12-13


The Bible is always relevant and always applicable. We must always be in awe of God and the power of his Word. Our communities of faith need to be places of real worship, reverence, and radical openness to that Word. The truth God communicated to men and women contained the power of God to transform and empower their lives. The power of his words is explained this way in Scripture.

We must cling to the joyous truth that the Word of God is powerful. When we teach it with authority and expectation, it will achieve the result God has ordained. These words were written to a tired church. They came at a crucial point in the appeal of the author of Hebrews to his weary com­munity. After he urged his readers to remain faith­ful in the midst of the temptation to drop out, he told his tired community that their greatest need is to be challenged by the word of God.


  God says to Jeremiah. “ Is not my word like fire. . . and like a hammer which breaks a rock in pieces” (Jer. 23:29 ). Their commit­ments may be meaningless, but God’s word is last­ing. “ The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our Lord abides forever” (Isa. 40:8).

The story of the Bible concerns people who sometimes had nothing to sustain them but a prom­ise. They often seemed on the brink of collapse. But the promise was not extinguished. It looked that way, even at Calvary, but God brought hope out of despair. As Paul told the Corinthians, “ All the promises of God find their yes in him”, (2 Cor.1:20 ).


A Happy Ending

The Bible is not a book of thousands of isolated verses. It concerns the God whose word is “ living and active ,” who offers our lives a promise. The Book of Hebrews reminds them that it is the challenge of Scripture, which stimulates and encourages. The God who once made a promise to Abraham and Moses holds out the same promise to His church today. We may share the frustrations of Elijah or Sarah, but Scripture reminds us that God’s word “is living and active.”

In the Bible things do turn out well. And people who are inundated with the message of hopeless­ness need to be refreshed by the word of hope that comes in Scripture. We need to hear about the Bible’s happy ending.

Paul’s letter to the Romans speaks of the hope, which Scripture provides. “For whatever was written in former days was written

for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Hopelessness and chaos do not have the last word in the Bible. That is probably why the church may be one community that has not lost its hope in a society where we are showered by words of de­spair. In Scripture we discover the God whose word is “living and active.”

Early Christians were sustained largely by the conviction that the thread running through the Bible was the word of promise. They recalled that God had made promises to Abraham (Gen. 12:2) and David (2 Sam. 7: 10-17). In the coming of Jesus Christ they recognized that God had kept his promise. Paul told his listeners in one speech, “ We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their chil­dren by raising Jesus” (Acts 13:32-33 ). The good news was the word that was “ promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures” (Rom. 1:2 ). The Scripture was “living and active,” for it demonstrated that God keeps His word.

By Bob Cowles 27 May, 2017

Hebrews 3:1-19


It is difficult to overstate the importance of Moses to people of Jewish background. No life is more intriguing and no ministry had more impact than Moses. But he merely set the stage for the one whose life and ministry are for us. There is a better story than the one about Moses. This text draws an analogy between the present experience of the preacher’s audience and the past experience of the children of Israel in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses. The preacher brings the events of Numbers 14 (as reflected in Psalm 95) into analogy with the present experience of discouraged believers in his day.  

Israel followed Moses into the wilderness. While Moses was faithful, Israel was not. The church follows Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus was faithful, but the question remains whether the church will be faithful. Will the church follow Jesus or will they follow the example of Israel in the wilderness?

1. Hebrews 3:1-6 . This section is fundamentally exhortation. It begins with the most basic exhortation and most foundational exhortation of the sermon: “fix your thoughts on Jesus.” Because Jesus is the exalted Son who is greater than the angels but made himself lower than the angels, focus your attention on him. He is God’s faithful Son. He is further identified as an “apostle” as well as a “high priest.” The idea of “one who was sent” (apostle) is closely connected to the “champion” or “leader” (2:10) where those who are sent are leaders in Numbers 13:2. The Son was sent as a leader, a champion among God’s people, among his brothers.

2. Hebrew 3:7-19 . This section is an exhortation based upon Psalm 95:7b-11. The text is quoted in Hebrews 3:7b-11 and Hebrews 3:15. After each citation, the Hebrew writer exhorts his readers in Hebrews 3:12-14 and Hebrews 3:16-19. Thus, we have the pattern of Scripture followed by exhortation.

The Hebrew writer sees that the potential problem among his hearers is “unbelief.” The first exhortation begins with “See…that no one among you has an evil heart of unbelief” (3:12) and ends with “We see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief” (3:19). The issue is faith or the lack thereof. The question of Numbers 14:11 rings in the background: “How long will they refuse to believe me?” The “unbelief” here is a refusal to believe God’s promises and trust that he will accomplish them. It is not a weakness of faith, but a rebellious rejection.

The rebellion to which Hebrews 3:16-19 alludes is found in Numbers 14. It was a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, but ultimately against God as well. The connection here with Hebrews 3:1-6 is obvious. If they refused to believe God’s promise through Moses and thus could not enter the rest, how much will the fail to enter the rest if they reject God’s promise through Jesus who is God’s faithful son.

It is important to understand the nature of this “unbelief” in Hebrews 3. This is not a temporary lack of faith, or trust. It is not a moment of weakness. It is, rather, a willful rejection of God’s promise. It is rebellion. The rebellious cannot enter God’s rest.

We have an exhortation against disbelieving God’s word. The warning comes from the past, when Israel, in its desert wanderings comes from the past, when Israel, it its desert wanderings, stubbornly refused to listen to God. Israel, God’s people in the past, did not continue in faith; and the same fear of faithlessness runs through the mind of the author with respect to God’s present people.


However, he encourages believers who are struggling with their weaknesses to continue their journey. Every community of faith lives with the reality that some in their midst give up their faith, reject God’s promises and refuse to obey. The Hebrew writer encourages us not to be one of those people, but to claim the work of Christ for ourselves and embrace the promise of God’s rest. He encourages us to persevere in faith.


The key to the survival of the church may lie in its response to frustration and disappointment. Disappointment has been a part of the life of faith from the days of Israel until now. A church that knows its history is aware of both the tragedy of failing to endure and the motivating power of God’s promise.

By Bob Cowles 20 May, 2017

Hebrews 1:5-14

Let all God's angels worship him. Hebrews 1:6


When people in the Bible see angels, they don't say, "How sweet." Instead, they fall on the ground with fear and trembling. Zechariah sees the angel Gabriel and is terrified and overwhelmed with fear (Luke 1:12). Tough Roman soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus see an angel and are so afraid of him they faint dead away (Matthew 28:4). Cherubs in scripture are not baby angels, but terrifying creatures who guard the very throne of God (see Ezekiel 10; Isaiah 37:16). Angels in the Bible are powerful and scary. After all, they come from the presence of the Almighty God.


Greater Than Angels

The readers of Hebrews were also tempted to forget the one who is more than an angel: the only Son of God. Having praised the Son as creator, sustainer, and redeemer, the writer of Hebrews lists three reasons why Jesus is superior to angels.


  1. He has a superior name .  So it is significant that Jesus is given a name that is superior to the angels. What is that name? The name is Son.


For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son;

today I have become your Father?" Or again,

"I will be his Father, and he will be my Son?"

(Hebrews 1:5)


These quotations are from Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14. The obvious answer to the questions is, "God never called the angels “sons.’” However, there are several Old Testament passages that do call the angels "sons of God" (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Psalms 29:1; 89:6). Is this a contradiction? No. Angels are called sons of God, and Christians are also called children of God. But neither we nor angels are sons in the same way that Jesus is Son. Jesus is uniquely the "one and only Son" (John 3:16). As the writer of Hebrews has already said, Jesus the Son is the exact representation of God's being. He is God himself. This makes the Son infinitely superior to the angels. He is God; they are not. He is Creator; they are creations. Angels are glorious super-human beings, but they don't hold a candle to the glory of the Son. His name is obviously superior.


  1. The angels worship the Son . The second indicator that Jesus is superior to angels is that they worship him.


And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,

"Let all God's angels worship him."

(Hebrews 1:6)


When Jesus is born, the heavenly host of angels rejoice and praise God (Luke 2:13-14). This may be the worship the writer of Hebrews has in mind. However, it is more likely that the phrase "when God brings his firstborn into the world" refers not to the birth of the incarnate Son but to the Son's entry into "the world to come" (Hebrews 2:5). The Son has entered the world of glory. Now seated on the right hand of the Father, he receives glory and honor from the angels in heaven.


Either on earth or in heaven, the point remains the same: the angels worship Jesus. Lower beings always worship higher ones. Thus, Jesus the Son is superior to the angels. They themselves recognize his superiority by bowing before him in worship.


  1. The Son reigns, but angels serve. Two verses speak of the role of angels as servants:


In speaking of the angels he says,

"He makes his angels winds,

his servants flames of fire."

 (Hebrews 1:7)


Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

(Hebrews 1:14)


Angels are servants by nature. They were created by God to serve him. What's more, angels even serve human beings, "those who will inherit salvation." It makes no sense to give too much glory to angels, because they are sent by God to serve us.


It also makes no sense to glorify them more than or as much as we glorify the Son. While they were created to serve, the Son is himself the Creator (Hebrews 1:10­12). They serve but he reigns eternally (Hebrews 1:8). As the servant is not above his master (Matthew 10:24), so angels cannot be superior to Jesus the Son.

By Bob Cowles 12 May, 2017

Hebrews 1:1-4

In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son... Hebrews 1:2


God Has Spoken

Hebrews begins with the good news: there is real truth. God has not left us in the confusion of a myriad of voices, but he has spoken a clear word to us through his Son:


In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son....

(Hebrews 1:1-2)


There are three central points I want to emphasize throughout this series that stand out in bold relief in the opening lines of this “word of exhortation” to Christians both ancient and modern. God is at work in this world. How does God work in our world? Through Jesus! Jesus is the final and unanswerable proof that God not only knows about our human plight but cares for us with love that knows no boundaries. the central issue: Is Jesus the Son of God or is he not? the third point we are going to try to make ring in your ears from Hebrews: God is still at work in his church today .


1. Hebrews 1:1-2a.

The writer of Hebrews is thinking of the whole continuity of God’s revelation of himself from creation up to the present. In many ways (theopanies, dreams, visions, miracles, etc.), at many times (through the whole history of the world and Israel) and through many people [prophets] (Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.), God spoke to those who preceded us. However, now—in these last days—God has spoken through his Son.

The “last days” is another way of saying “the final age.” Jesus appeared at the “consummation of the ages” (9:26), and a new age has dawned. We look to Jesus because God has spoken through him. Consequently, there is an implied finality and completeness of this revelation through the Son. It is final because it is God’s climatic revelation in the “last days.” It is complete because of who the Son is (which is the topic of Hebrews 1:2b-3)

2. Hebrews 1:2b-3a.

When the author of Hebrews names the “Son” in verse 2, he follows it with four descriptive phrases that reflect language that was common among Hellenistic Jews. The language described is applied to the Son.

First, the Son was appointed the heir of all things (cf. Psalm 2:8 as a background).
Second, the Son was the agent of creation. Jesus is the divine Son (wisdom) through whom God created the world (cf. John 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16). This affirms the pre-existence of the Son. He is before creation and the agent of God’s creative work. The Son is unlike any human prophet.

Third, the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his nature. This language identifies the Son with God. “Glory” and “nature” refer to the same point—divine glory is divine nature.

Fourth, the Son sustains the cosmos by his powerful word. The Son is God’s providential agent in the world. He maintains the universe by his power. The Son is not only the agent of creation, but is also at work within the cosmos to sustain it. The cosmic work of the Son is ongoing.

3. Hebrews 1:3b-4

The Son is exaltation because he is humiliated, that is, the Son is exalted because through his incarnation as a human being he became a high priest who was both priest and victim. He is exalted because he shared the human experience even though he was a participant in the divine reality.



Theological Substance

Essentially this text portrays the Son in three specific ways. Three theological points, therefore, emerge out the fundamental declaration that God has spoken through his Son: (1) The finality of God’s revelation through the Son; (2) the shared reality of the Son with God; and (3) the shared reality of the Son with humanity. Or, the Son, who is both divine and human, is God’s final and complete revelation of himself.

By Bob Cowles 29 Apr, 2017

1 John 5:13-21


1. What do we know for sure?   We seem to live in a world filled with unclear messages.

2. In this day and age, sometimes it is difficult to know what is true and what is false.

3. This passage is written to dispel our doubts. In fact, in v.13 John says you can "know that you have eternal life."

I.   We Can Know Our Salvation Is Certain. 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

A.John says that he “writes these things to you who believe.”

B.Notice how the Bible speaks of our salvation.

1.Consider what Jesus said about our salvation.  

2.Note what Paul wrote about our salvation.

3.These are the words John used on our text.

II.   We Know Our Prayers Are Certain. 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.”

A.We can know God hears our prayers (v.14).

1. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”Hebrews 4:16

2. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

B.We can know God will answer our prayers (v.15) .

1. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

III.   Why Is It So Important To Have Assurance?

A.Assurance of our salvation brings joy to our lives.

B.Assurance of our salvation brings reality to our testimony.

1. John 1:43

C.Salvation without assurance is not reality.

1. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scripture to us?”   Luke 24:32

D.Fourth, salvation without assurance gives little motivation to fight Satan.

1. “Resist the devil, and he will free from you.” James 4:7

IV. Know the Destructiveness of Sin.

1 John 5:16-17, “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.”

A.The nature of sin is that it leads to death.

B.Some sins lead to death.

C.Some Sins do not lead to Death.


V. Avoid the Grasps of the Enemy. 1 John 5:18-19, “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”  

A.Our new nature gives us victory over the flesh. (v.18).

B.The world is in Satan’s grasp (v.19).


VI. Grow in the Understanding of Christ (v.20).

A.In this next-to-last verse, John reaffirms the consistent theme of his letter, "We know that the Son of God has come."

B.We also "know" that He "has given us an understanding that we may know Him who is true."

VII. Determine to Worship God Only (v.21).

A.John concludes with a final note of intimacy as he calls us "little children."

B.The real threat was an “idolatry of the mind” that made those antichrists who had left the community do so because they thought they were smarter and more enlightened than the rest.

By Bob Cowles 22 Apr, 2017

(1 John 5:1-12)

In the first twelve verses of 1 John 5, the disciple John names four things about Christian behavior that demonstrate and verify true faith. In reading them together today, we must test our own hearts. We must review our claims to believe against these objective criteria for faith.

Love for the Father’s Other Children

The first and perhaps most fundamental measure of Christian faith in John’s “to-do list for believers” is love for God great enough to cause believers to love one another.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome . . . (5:1-3 ).


Victory Over the World

The second thing John names in which true faith produces a true outcome is in conquering this world and its foreign-to-God powers.

. . . for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (5:4-5).


John has already warned us in chapter 2 that “the world and its desire are passing away.” More fundamentally, he has warned Christians against loving this world because of its incompatibility with God. “The love of the Father is not in those who love the world” (2:15a). To conquer this world is to rise above it so that its money, sex, and power games no longer determine who we are. Be careful, though, how you hear that statement. It is not a moralistic statement. It is gospel proclamation.

Embracing the Truth About Jesus

So John makes even more explicit now what has been the guiding theme in the first five verses. Authentic faith is that which embraces and acknowledges the truth about Jesus Christ and all he has done, is doing, and will do for those who believe in him. At verse 1, John has said, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” Now he expands the meaning of what it is to “believe that Jesus is the Christ” by tracing out a three-fold testimony about the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree. If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son (5:6-9).


It was their faith in Jesus as the Christ that brought about their birth from above and made them members of the family of God, the community of Christ. The dynamic power of that faith at work in them to transform and renew had made them victors over the world. So they owed everything to Christ. He was their everything. And it was critical for John that his readers be reinforced in their faith – against the false view of Jesus that was being circulated then.

Eternal Life

The fourth criterion for authenticity in the faith for John is the exhibition of what he calls “eternal life” by those living in holy community with Christ and one another.

Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (5:10-12).


For our author, the ultimate legitimacy and power of the Christian faith was not in theology, historical events, or personal experiences. Theology was important, all right, for it was heresy to fail to confess Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. Historical events were important, of course, for the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ achieved the fulfillment of heaven’s purpose to redeem humankind. And the personal experiences by means of which we testify to Christ in preaching, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper are certainly valuable. But all these were means to the experience of transforming the people of God to exhibit “eternal life” in community.

By Bob Cowles 13 Apr, 2017

(Genesis 37-50)


What message does the story of Joseph have for us? We have a tragic tale of a boy away from home. We have the ups-and-downs of a Hebrew slave from Palestine. What direction for life do we get from this story? How could any of this relate to the confusion and lack of direction we feel?  

Three times Genesis tells us the point of this story. The first group of texts appears in Genesis 39.  

Five times in twenty-two action-packed verses, we are told what happens: "The Lord was with Joseph and he became a successful man" (39:2); "His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that Joseph did to prosper in his hands" (39:3); "The Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had, in house and field" (39:5); "The Lord was with Joseph and showed his steadfast love, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison" (39:21); "Because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper" (39:23).  

God worked! Providence provided! The Almighty moved! At its fundamental level, this story tells us that God works. He lives! He acts! God works for us.  

The second group of texts which confirm the point of this story comes in Genesis 45. After years of separation, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. Joseph recognizes that behind all the pits and prisons, behind all the missed family times and living in a foreign land, God worked without their knowledge .  

Joseph speaks to his brothers: "For God sent me before you to preserve life" (45:5); "And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant" (45:7); "It was not you who sent me here, but God" (45:8); "God has made me Lord of all Egypt" (45:9).  

God worked behind the scenes.  

The third text comes in Genesis 50. With father Jacob safely entombed in Palestine, the eleven sons come bowing before Joseph, fearing his power, wondering about the fulfillment of the boyhood dream, seeking his pardon for their sin. In response, Joseph makes one of the clearest theological state­ments in the thirteen chapters: "Don't fear me. Am I in the place of God?"  

The frightened brothers think that Joseph controls their world. The brothers who thought they understood their little brother's dream in Genesis 37 now do not understand at all. Only Joseph comprehends the lesson: "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." He was saying, "You thought you were selling me into slavery. I thought it was the end of my dream. You thought it was the end of me. I thought it was the end of you. But God used it all to keep us alive ." God worked in spite of what they did.  

The brothers miss the point. Burdened with guilt, trembling in fear, they have no idea who arranged the last thirteen chap­ters. Joseph knew. God controls . The story tells us that behind the scenes of life, in the pits and in the prisons, in the dreams and in the famines, from king to slave, from family to master, another power backstage has ultimate control. The brothers had freedom. They used it for evil. Mrs. Potiphar had free will. She used it for sin. Joseph had control. But every scene rests in the controlling hand of a powerful God .

By Bob Cowles 07 Apr, 2017

1 John 4:7-21

Why is loving each other such a significant part of Life in the Light? I want us to take a look at why loving relationships are so high on God’s priority list. We are going to see five reasons why loving other Christians is so important to our spiritual journey of following Jesus Christ.

I. Life in God’s Community - Love Shows That We Are Truly God’s Children. 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” This is the fifth time in this letter we are told us to love each other as Christians. John himself has introduced the light metaphor for God at 1:5 when he wrote: “ God is light and in him there is no darkness at all .” Darkness does not originate with God. Sin does not have its origin in him. Neglect, abuse, and hatred are not part of his nature. God can only act in ways that are consistent with his nature, and God’s nature is love. So a community that does not live in, affirm, and share love does not belong to him. “ Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (4:8) .

II. God Accomplishes His Purpose Through Love. 1 John 4:9-12, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

John encourages us to love each other through the example of the cross.   (4:12) No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  In v. 12, John says that God’s love is made complete in us when we love each other. That word "made complete" means "to be completely successful in accomplishing a goal" . In other words, God’s love accomplishes the purpose for which it was given when it empowers us to love each other.

III. Our Love For One Another Is A Witness To Our World. 1 John 4:13-15 “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (14)

Jesus told his followers, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35).

Do we really believe that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world? “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. (15)

IV. Love Frees Us From Fear. 1 John 4:16-18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (18) Once again John calls us back to God’s love as our basis for loving each other. The basis, Verse 16, “God is love.”

V. We Show God’s Love By Loving Others. 1 John 4:19-21, “We love because he first loved us.”

Our capacity to love is directly tied to the fact that God has first loved us. Our business is reaching lost people and helping them grow into followers of Jesus Christ through the love of God. Doing what John is talking about here strikes at the heart of why we exist, to reach people with the message of Jesus Christ and to introduce them to a God of love who can transform them into people who love each other. We have a "commandment" from God that says, "He who loves God must love his brother also."
By Bob Cowles 01 Apr, 2017

1 John 4:1-6


It’s important to test our beliefs to determine the truth of what we believe? Satan is a deceiver. We must know the truth!

I want to show you three ways that will verify the truth of what you believe. We should examine our faith by each of these tests.


I. The Command to Test the Spirits. 1 John 4:1, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

A.Why is it so important that we test the spirits?

1.John begins with a sobering warning to not be gullible people when it comes to claims about truth. That word "test" means "to try to learn the genuineness of something by close examination."

2.Before we trust any teacher, we must "test the spirits."

3.Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.”

4.Jesus warned in Matthew 7:15-16, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them.”

B.What does it mean to test the spirits? “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God.”

That phrase "Jesus Christ come in the flesh" is referring to the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The word "Jesus" describes his full humanity, and "Christ" describes his full divinity, and "in the flesh " describes how in the person of Jesus Christ both Godhood and humanity are perfectly joined together. The incarnation, God himself revealed in human flesh, is the test John is giving us.

1.Don’t trust every spiritual experience, religious leader or religious organization.

2.Don’t just believe me, but test everything I say and this church teaches against the clear teaching of the Bible, against that core of Christianity. We can get and keep our bearings by developing doctrinal judgment.


II. The Criteria for Testing the Spirits.  1 John 4:2-3, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”

A.How do they view the Son of God? (vv.2-3). The first test is the acknowledgement of the historical incarnation of Jesus, that "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh." Believers are to test for truth based on a teacher’s attitude concerning the person and work of Jesus. The first question is always "What do they believe about Jesus?" because if you are wrong about Jesus you are wrong about God. Jesus was the Son of God. He has always existed. He was incarnated, came "in the flesh" to be our Savior. Jesus was fully God and fully man. Many religions seek to honor Jesus as a great man or a great teacher but do not recognize Him for who He is.

B.Are we in harmony with the Word of God? 1 John 4:4-5 “They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.”

1.When John says, "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.” verse 6


2.We have the Word of God before us and the Spirit of God within us. Let us "test the spirits" and the teaching of anyone who claims to speak for God.

By Bob Cowles 24 Mar, 2017

1 John 3:11-3:24


1. Love is in great demands these days. No other word is misused and misunderstood than love. The words, "I love you" invoke powerful warm feelings.

2. John teaches that there is a level of love known by believers that is not available to the world.

a. Jesus Christ gave his followers very specific instructions on how to demonstrate their Christian faith. Jesus spoke these words: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-36).

3. Today we’re going to see three ways our relationships with each other demonstrates our faith.


I. We Are To Demonstrate Love To The World. 1 John 3:11-15, “This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” (v.11)

A.Love is the foundation of the Christian faith.

1. “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”1 Thess. 4:9

2. the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5

B.John contrast the love of believers with those of the world. “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.” (3:12)

1. “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain...” Jude 11


II. We Are To Demonstrate Love For The Church. 1 John 3:16-17, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (3:16)

A.What does this love look like?

B.Laying down our lives for other followers of Jesus Christ means helping them in very practical ways.

1. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” 1 John 3:17

2. “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18


III. We Are To Demonstrate Our Love For God. 1 John 3:19-24, “This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” 1 John 3:19-20

A.Now at first vv. 19-24 seem to change topics entirely.

B.So here we find another way our love for others demonstrates our faith.

By Bob Cowles 18 Mar, 2017

1 John 3:1-10


1.Where is this spiritual journey of following Jesus Christ headed, what is the final destination? The Bible teaches that we are heading toward the end of history, when Jesus Christ returns.

2. Yet, Christians have been obsessed with figuring out all the details and making predictions.

3. Today we’re going to see three ways focusing Christ’s second coming can help us in our spiritual journey.


I. Seeing Ourselves Accurately. 1 John 3:1-2, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 

A.Focusing on our final destination helps us see ourselves accurately.

1. Galatians 3:26 says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

B.God has not revealed all that we shall be. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.” (2:2)  


II. Conducting Our Lives Correctly. 1 John 3:3-6, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”  

A.Focusing on the final destination helps us conduct our lives correctly.

B. “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” (3:4)

C.The only solution to the problem of lawlessness is Jesus Christ. “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.” (3:5)


III. Overcoming Obstacles Persistently. 1 John 3:7-10, “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.”

A.John is saying, don’t let people deceive you and get you off track.

B.John tells us that the purpose of Jesus coming was to destroy the works of the devil. “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.” (3:8)

Don’t deny your new nature.   “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him;” (3:9) 
By Bob Cowles 11 Mar, 2017

Romans 12:1-2


1. If you were to evaluate your spirituality and your closeness to God, how would you rate it?

            There are a number of ways to respond to that question.

2. Most of us have never really been tested in our faith. We’ve never been persecuted like Christians are persecuted as in other times and different countries.

3. Turn with me to Romans 12:1-2 , and listen to these words from the Apostle Paul. Paul gives us three ways to fully express our surrender to God:


I.   We Are To Offer Our Bodies As Living Sacrifices.   (Rom. 12:1)  

A.We are urged “to offer our bodies as living sacrifices.”

1.This word “offer” is a term used to describe the bringing of an animal for sacrifice on an altar.

B.God is not longer interested in dead animals, He’s looking believers who will be committed to Him.

1.He wants us to be living sacrifices, not dead offerings.

C.Paul continues by saying that our life offering is to be “holy and pleasing to God.”

1.Sacrifices were to be without blemish or defect.


II.   We Are To Transform Our Minds. (Rom. 12: 2)

A.First, we are challenged to change our mind about God. Vs. 1 says, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy…”

1.How do you perceive God?  (1 John 4:7, 9, 11).

B.Second, we need to change our mind about our body.

1.In Romans 12:1 Paul continues by saying, “I urge you…to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God...”

C.Third, change your mind about the world. Vs. 2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,...”


III.   We Are To Test And Approve God’s Will.   (Rom. 12:2)

A.The third part of this change is changing our hearts to match God’s Will.

1.You see, if we change our minds and don’t change our hearts, then it won’t work.

B.So the important question is: “How do we get a new heart?” Here are 4 steps:

1.First, “Humble yourselves before God.”

2.Second, decide to obey God.

3.Third, do what’s right regardless of how you feel.

4.Fourth, expect progress, but not perfection.

By Bob Cowles 04 Mar, 2017

1 John 2:18-2:27


1. There is much talk today about whether or not we are living in the end times. This speculation has been on the rise for the last fifty plus years.

2. The question about whether or not we are living in the end times is very easy to answer. The answer is yes.


I. John Identifies The Signs of the Times. 1 John 2:18-19), “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”

A.John’s dear children needed a warning (v.18a).

B.As John writes to his " little children ," he tells them that they live in " the last hour ."

1. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”Hebrews 1:1-2

2. “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.1 Peter 1:20

C.John says that one of the characteristics of the last days are the false teachers.

1. 1 John 2:22

2. 1 John 4:3


II. God Gives Us Much Needed Resources. 1 John 2:20-23, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.”  

A.John wanted his readers to know that they were not just left to fend for themselves.

B.John first resource given to us is God’s anointing.

1. “God set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”2 Corinthians 1:21

C.The second resource we have is God’s truth.


III. We Are To Remain in Jesus. 1 John 2:24-25, “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.”

A.Abiding in truth is an individual, personal responsibility.

B.When someone we love and trust walks away from Christ it can devastate us.


IV. Live Today Like There’s No Tomorrow. 1 John 2:28-29, “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”

A.John tells us to “continue” in Jesus because He is coming back.

B.When “He appears” we will have “confidence and unashamed.”

By Bob Cowles 18 Feb, 2017

1 John 2:15-17


1. Very soon after you become a Christian you discover that the Christian life is not a playground, it is a battleground.

2. These verses focus on the world and Bible. The Bible says clearly that we are not to love the world.

3. The central theme of our passage is that the love of the world and the love of God are

incompatible. If we try to negotiate with the world, we will always lose. Remember the Bible

says in 1 Pet.5:8, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about

like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."

4. This sermon is not about adding more do’s and don’ts to anyone’s list.


I. A Word of Exhortation. 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

A.This exhortation is a command, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.”

B.Let’s move from definition to John’s description (v. 15).

C.The principle is that one cannot love the world and God.

1." If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

2. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Matthew 6:24


II. A Word of Explanation. 1 John 2:16, “For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.”

A.The “lust of the flesh.”

B.The “lust of the eyes.”

C.The “pride of life.”

1. “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.” 3 John 9

2. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”1 Corinthians 8:1


III. A Word of Exclamation. 1 John 2:17, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

A. “The world and its desires pass away...

B.The reward of obedience is eternal.

By Bob Cowles 10 Feb, 2017

1 John 2:3-11


If you were asked, "Do you love God?" How would you answer? I think most of us would answer, "Why, yes. I love God."

2 Corinthians 13:5. Paul is writing to the church at Corinth, to people who claim to love God but who are having a lot of problems getting along with each other, and he says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test?” I don’t want to fail that test. I don’t want to come to the end of my life and discover that I’m not “in the faith.” I certainly don’t want to be one of whom Jesus spoke when he said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21) He said next, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you…!’” (Matthew 7:22-23)

That passage really bothers many because Jesus is saying that on Judgment Day. There will be people claiming to be Christians who will hear Him say, “I never knew you.”

Today we’re going to look at three tests so that we can determine whether our spiritual walk is pleasing to God.

  I. Test One: Loving Obedience. 1 John 2:3-6, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

A.The authentic believer keeps God’s commandments (v.3). John says " We know that we have come to know him ."  What is the mark? How can we know? "… if we keep His commandments ." Our obedience to God proves our authentic faith in God. Faith always comes first but faith is always validated by our obedience. Jesus said in Jn.14:15 , "If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” In 14:21, He amplifies, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.”

B.The counterfeit believer ignores God’s commandments (v.4) . John says that the counterfeit Christian says, "I know Him" but "does not do what he commands is a liar.”

C.The authentic believer is being changed (v.5). Not only "keep His commands" but "keep [obey] His Word." This refers to the general content of God’s Word. Basically, the genuine Christian has a desire to know and do God’s will. John also says, "God’s love is made complete in him.”

  II. Test Two: A Commitment to Truth. 1 John 2:7-8, “Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.”

A.John thinks about the greatest command, the command to love each other. John 13:34-35“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 15:12 -- “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

B.This leads John to discuss the spiritual darkness of this world. 1 John 2:8 “Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”

III. Test Three: Sacrificial Love. “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.” 1 John 2:9-11

A.Now talking about this command to love brings John to the third test in vv. 9-11 . It seems to us that John is speaking in extreme terms here, opposites of love and hate, light and darkness.  Our love for our fellow Christian is evidence that we’re walking in God’s light. 1 John 2:10 “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.”  

B.The churches John was writing to were being torn apart by division and controversy. Some of the former members were now denying that Jesus was truly God’s Son, but now those who remained in the churches were fighting and criticizing each other.

C.John’s setting is not unlike many today, in which difficult relationships within the church have paralyzed the church’s mission.


 Take sin seriously- it is open rebellion against the Lord. There is a hardening effect on the heart because of sin (Heb 3:13; Matt 13:22). We are not to play at sin or take it lightly. Do you truly love God? Do you really? Well if you do, these results will be a part of your life.

To obey is to exhibit Christ-like love.
By Bob Cowles 04 Feb, 2017

I.   God’s Nature: He is Light. 1 John 1:5 “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”

Jesus’ life was a message. Jesus’ life was a message. John tells us “this is the message we have heard from Him.”   The message is stated specifically in the last half of v.5, “God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all.” That’s what Jesus came to tell us.


John says that "the message" was not his or the other disciples’ creation. Rather, they "heard" it "from Him." They could "declare" it with confidence because it came from Jesus.  Since God is light, Jesus in bringing god to us has brought light, divine light.


John summarizes "the message" in one simple statement, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.”  This statement is very similar to what John wrote in John 1:4-5 “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”  Jesus declared this message about Himself in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”   John 3:19 , “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”


II.   Our Nature: Walking or Stumbling in the Dark. 1 John 1:6 “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”

We maintain our fellowship by walking in the light. John seems to be appealing to a slogan used by his opponents, since in the next five verses he will cite them precisely. John is confronting three false ideas, possibly three slogans. There are six (if) clauses in (1:6-2:1).


(1) 1:6 If we say, we have fellowship with him, yet walk in the darkness - 1:7 But if we walk in the light as he is in the light; (2) If we say we have no sin - 1:9 But if we confess our sins... (3) 1:10 If we say, “We have not sinned - 2:1 But if anybody does sin...


Many people in John’s day believed that God was detached from the material world, that his holiness and purity set him above the common stuff of our existence. This explains why his opponents had such a difficult time with incarnation theology. 1 Jn. 5:12 clearly states, "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."


III.   The Right Goal: Walking in the Light. 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Walking in the light builds fellowship with God. When we "walk in the light as He is in the light" we have fellowship. Walking in the light allows us to maneuver through this world without the problems that people who live in darkness experience.


In verse 7 John’s point is if we walk in the light with God, we have the purification from our sins .  As the Christian strives to live in conformity with what God has said in the Bible then the blood of Jesus--which is a way of describing the significance of his death--washes away the stain caused by our continual struggle with sin. That is the life that leads to a life of joy. So John assures us we have nothing to fear by walking in the light because Christ’s death on the cross will cleanse us from what might otherwise be exposed by that light.


Have you come in contact with the blood of Jesus?

By Bob Cowles 28 Jan, 2017

1 John 1:1-4

John’s letter is an invitation to fellowship. We have an understanding of fellowship. We minister to each other. We meet each other’s needs. We also offer an invitation for others to come and be part of us. John invites us in v.3 to “have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” The purpose of John’s letter is fellowship.


John’s letter is also meant to correct error. Most likely he wrote this letter from Ephesus at a time in which the early church was rapidly expanding. At this same time there was a growing error known as Gnosticism. From the Greek word gnosis meaning "knowledge." The Gnostics claimed to have special knowledge ordinary Christians lacked. They believed that the material world, including the human body was evil and that spiritual world was pure and good. So they could do with their body what they wanted and keep their spirit pure. They denied the Incarnation and Atonement of Jesus. They believed the ordinary Christian were uninformed, backwards and superstitious.


John’s emphasis tells me that he is writing a community where there is considerable disunity. Factions have broken out and severe theological disagreements have undercut the church’s vitality.


From 1:1-4 and 4:1-3 it is clear that the Incarnation is under siege. Jesus’ incarnation is the central doctrine of Christian faith.


I. Our Fellowship is Eternal. 1 John 1:1a, “That which was from the beginning,”


II. Our Fellowship is Historical. 1 John 1:1b, “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--”


III. Our Fellowship is to be Proclaimed. 1 John 1:2, “The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.”


IV. Our Fellowship is Intimate. 1 John 1:3, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”


V. Our Fellowship is Joyful. 1 John 1:4, “We write this to make our joy complete.”


A. The purpose of the writing is now given.


B. What makes our joy complete? It is our life lived in the light, in Jesus.


C. John recorded Jesus’ word in John 15:11, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”


D. Peter wrote, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9

By Bob Cowles 21 Jan, 2017

Psalm 73: When Evil Seems to Flourish


Faith is frequently taken to the edge in this world. Stress, heartache, loss, problems that appear to have no solution — these things challenge a believer’s faith at a very personal, very practical level.

The Psalmist’s Problem : In Psalm 73, a writer named Asaph writes of his own struggle with the problem of human suffering. It is the first of eleven psalms attributed to this man about whom we know practically nothing. But he was troubled. He was deeply offended by the suffering of saints and the success of sinners. Where was the justice in it? Why did God allow it?

The serious depth of Asaph’s concern over this unsettling problem is indicated in these words:

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (vs. 2-3).

Realizing that Asaph is writing this psalm well after a personal crisis during which he almost "slipped" and "lost my footing" on the cliff-hanging edge of faith, he tells us the two factors that almost drove him over the edge: (1) a skewed emotional reaction and (2) a limited, time-bounded understanding of how issues of injustice will be resolved.


The Writer’s Resolution

Asaph found his personal resolution to the problem of evil in an experience of worship . Oh, he had been tempted to give up the whole business of God and worship ( vs.13-14 ). The thing that had kept him from going over the edge was his sense of place within the community of faith. He would have "betrayed [God’s] children" ( v.15 ), if he had given vent to all his frustrations and unreconciled conflicts. So he made an all-important decision to turn outward from his self-pity and confusion to God himself! It was when he "entered the sanctuary of God" ( v.17a ) that things began to come clear for him.

Like Isaiah ’s experience (cf. Isa. 6:1ff), a glimpse of God in his majestic splendor and sovereignty put some other things in perspective for Asaph. It was in an experience of worship that Asaph realized these things: (vs.21-26).

This great statement of personal faith in verses 23-26 is one of the high points of the entire Psalter. His second reason for his change of attitude is that he knows a fellowship with God that the wicked do not enjoy. It in­cludes God's intimate care, counsel, glory, and strength.

[25] Material things no longer make him envious as be­fore. Nothing upon earth (and perhaps no pagan deity) can win his heart. He who has God has all else, save rebellion. Aspah’s condition did not change, but Asaph changed his attitude.


Now there’s "heaven" for you! It is constant nearness to God. " I am always with you ," " you hold me by my right hand ," and " afterward you take me into glory ." What else could Asaph want? "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." What the New Testament describes to us is simply an attempt to fill in some of the gaps of this idea with more word pictures and metaphors. Here is a case where going back to the older Spirit-given writings actually may shed light on the newer ones. For myself, I’ll take being with God on a rainy day in a tight, musty tent than to be in a 60-room mansion without him and cut off from access to him!

The fate of those who are cut off from the Lord is certain and inevitable:

Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds (vs.27-28).

By Bob Cowles 14 Jan, 2017

Philippians 4:11-13


You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor (Exodus 20:17).


What is "coveting"? The meaning of the word used in the text is simply "a desire," and it was originally morally neutral. People have always had desires, of course, and the behavior we choose to call coveting has a great deal to do with the general thought within our culture on the appropriateness of desires. The root of coveting is dissatisfaction with God's allotment of things.


The Consequence of Covetousness


Did you notice that the tenth principle is more than just four words long? It doesn't just say, "You shall not covet"; it says, “You shall not covet your neighbor's” property. Coveting comes between us and the people God wants us to love and serve. James analyzes the problem quite concisely:


What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures ( James 4:1-3 ).


Why are there wars in the world? Why are there so many fights in the world? Why is there so much violence, tension, and discord in the world? Why so many divorces? Why so many fractured families and friendships? James says the answer is quite simple: we want what we can't have; so, we fight and quarrel about it.

But not only does coveting distance us from others, it puts a gulf between us and God as well. Coveting turns goods into gods. Look at what Paul writes: "Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" ( Ephesians 5:5 , RSV).  Or look at Paul's warning to "put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming" ( Colossians 3:5, 6 , RSV).

Covetousness is idolatry because it places a substitute for God, a false god, in our hearts. So, once again, we come back to that foundation of God's principles: Put God first.


Defeating Covetousness and Learning to Be Content


The only way the Bible teaches to remove resentment is to cultivate contentment. Paul wrote to Timothy, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" ( 1 Timothy 6:6-8 ). Godliness is what we strive for when we seek to live by principles one through nine. Contentment, however, is what we are shooting for in number ten. The Bible says that the formula for living a truly rich life-a life of character-is to walk consistently by God's pattern and his power, accompanied by an attitude of inner satisfaction with his will for our lives.

Paul said, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" ( Philippians 4:11-13 ). If we want to live that kind of life, we must set ourselves on a course of learning to live it.

What is the cure for coveting? Contentment. The key to defeating the disease is learning to be satisfied with what God has given us and not needing more than that to be happy.

By Bob Cowles 07 Jan, 2017

Exodus 20:16 Colossians 3:9, 10  Proverbs 6:16­-19 teaches:


There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes,  feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.


Exodus 20:16 says: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Now, the specific application in the instruction refers to speaking the truth in legal matters. Of course, prohibiting perjury is essential, for no community can hope to maintain any standard of justice for its people if its courts cannot determine the truth.


But the under girding principle is that in all areas of our lives God de­mands honesty. God never intended his people to be involved with deceit and dishonesty. In our words, just like in every other aspect of our lives, God wants his people of character to model them­selves after him. And God Almighty never lies.


Proverbs teaches, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips" (Prov­erbs 4:23, 24). Also, "The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value" (10:20). And, "The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly" (15:14).


The apostle Paul gives us good advice when he says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:29, 30).


Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us, "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." What's the first thing that happens when the Holy Spirit changes our natures? Verse 25 explains, "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body."


Paul repeats this idea of exchanging the old de­ceitful nature that belonged to Satan for the new truthful one that belongs to God. He says, "Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator" (Colossians 3:9, 10).


People of character reflect God's character. And part of his very essence is truth. Only when we reflect his truth can we build communities and families where re­spect and trust abound.