Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ 1 John 4

For further study on the book of 1 John, try my study, Am I Really Saved?: A First John Checkup, from which this lesson is excerpted.

1 John 4

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. What is the theme or purpose of the book of 1 John? What is the historical backdrop for the book of 1 John?

2. Which Spirit is controlling true Christian teachers? What spirit is controlling false teachers according to verse 3? True or false: If you’re following a false teacher, you’re following a demonic spirit. What does it mean to “test the spirits”? (v1) How did the noble Bereans test the spirits?

3. According to verses 7-8, who defines, originates, and is the embodiment of, love? How does this tell Christians Who and what is to motivate any love that we might feel or show to others? Is the “love” that non-Christians feel or show to others motivated by God or by other factors such as affection, selfishness, lust, etc.? Can you truly love others if you do not know God? In verses 9-10, what is the ultimate definition and demonstration (what action did God take) of the phrase “God is love”?

4. How do we know, according to verse 13, that we belong to Christ? How can we tell if we have the Spirit? In what ways do our actions show that we have the Holy Spirit?

5. What does our love (or lack of love) for others say about whether or not we truly know God? (20) What does verse 20 call people who claim to love God but do not love others? Are such people saved?

Bible Study

How to Study the Bible- and How Not To!

Originally published December 31, 2020

It’s almost the new year! Are you making a resolution to start having a personal, daily Bible study time? Would you like to improve on the way you study your Bible? Maybe you’re looking for a Bible reading plan, or maybe you’re just looking to change things up a little?

If that sounds like you, give a listen to this December 2020 episode of A Word Fitly Spoken:

How to Study the Bible – and How Not To!

Amy and I discuss what our own Bible study times look like, plus some other helpful methods and resources. We also discuss false doctrine and false teachers to avoid as you’re studying your Bible.

This episode is a great way to kick off the new year. And don’t forget to subscribe to A Word Fitly Spoken on your favorite podcast platform!

Additional Resources:

Bible Study Resources (how to study the Bible)
Bible Studies
Bible Reading Plans for the New Year- 2022

Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends

Bible Study

Bible Reading Plans for the New Year- 2022

Happy New Year! Do you make resolutions or set goals you’d like to accomplish during the new year? A lot of people resolve to read the Bible more often or read it through in a year. If that’s you but you’re not quite sure where to start, here are some awesome and unique reading plans that can help¹. (Click titles for links to each plan.)

1. The Chronological Plan

I cannot recommend this plan strongly enough. You’ll read through the entire Bible in a year, following the events as they happened chronologically. I have been through this plan several times (I even took my ladies’ Sunday school class through it in 2014). It is wonderful for helping you see the big picture of the Bible as well as how all the little pieces of the biblical puzzle fit together.

2. 5 Day Bible Narratives Reading Plan and Family Devotional

You can use this year long, 5 days a week plan individually or with the whole family. It “focuses only on the narratives [stories] of Scripture, along with all of the psalms and proverbs,” and includes a 52 week catechism, a weekly hymn, and a study guide for each day’s reading. You can access the plan online, in CSV format, in Google Calendar, and via daily email notifications.

3. The M’Cheyne Plan

How about reading through the Bible in a year with your spouse or family (you could also do this one individually)? With the M’Cheyne plan you’ll read through the Old Testament once, the New Testament and Psalms, twice. Each day, you’ll read an OT chapter and a NT chapter as a family and another OT chapter and NT chapter on your own (“in secret”). Free Daily Bible study offers suggestions for making this a two or three year plan if one year seems too daunting.

4. Getting Back to the Bible

This 9-week plan designed by John MacArthur is a weekly, rather than daily plan. You are given a block of Scripture at the beginning of each week, and you decide how to break it up into manageable daily chunks that fit your schedule. Readings alternate between the Old and New Testaments. In 9 weeks, you’ll read through Mark, Luke, John, Romans, Proverbs, and part of Psalms.

5. The 21-Day Challenge

New to daily Bible reading and don’t want to bite off more than you can chew? Try Back to the Bible’s 21-Day Challenge. Each day, you’ll read one chapter in the book of John, and in three weeks, you’ll be finished. It’s a great way to get your feet wet.

6. God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment Plan

“The God’s Glory In Salvation Through Judgment Bible Reading Plan will aid your study of Scripture by helping you see the gravitational center of Scripture, God’s glory in salvation through judgment. This Bible reading plan follows the order of the Hebrew Bible and the canonical order of the New Testament.” This one year plan is available in two printable formats and a Kindle format.

7. The 90 Day Challenge

Another great one for those who struggle with long term commitment. “The 90-day Bible reading plan integrates readings from Genesis, the foundational book of the Old Testament, with the three [synoptic] Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. On one side you’ll see God’s creative work and earliest interactions with His people; on the other, you’ll get to know Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us, fulfilling the promises made even in Genesis.”

8. Every Word in the Bible

Take time to slowly savor God’s word with this relaxed pace plan. Readings alternate between the Old and New Testament to keep you from getting bogged down in some of the more difficult sections. You’ll read through the whole Bible, one to two chapters per day, in three years.

9. Praying the Psalms

How about a two-fer: Bible study and prayer? From Don Whitney’s Praying the Bible, this is an undated 31 day schedule for praying through all of the Psalms, five psalms per day (except on the 31st day – Psalm 119 stands alone!). Try it for a month, do it every month for a year, or intersperse it with other short plans. The schedule also includes instructions and guidance for those new to praying Scripture.

10. John MacArthur’s Bible Reading Plan

If you like lots of flexibility and designing your own plan, this one’s for you. It’s really more of a guideline of how much of the Bible to consume and how to break it down. You handle the specifics. “Read through the Old Testament straight through at least once a year. About three chapters a day should get you there…When it comes to the New Testament…Read one book at a time repetitiously for a month or more.” Also includes Dr. MacArthur’s brief instructions on how to study the Bible.

11. The Five Day Bible Reading Program

“This special Bible reading system allows you to read the entire Bible (or just the New Testament) in one year while only reading five times a week. Five readings a week gives room to catch up or take a day off to focus on other Bible reading or spiritual disciplines, and makes daily Bible reading practical and do-able…The Old Testament readings [except Job] are placed as chronologically as possible.”

12. The Bible’s Grand Narrative

“Over the course of a month, follow along with a reading plan…comprised of twenty-eight readings, offering a selection of passages that follow the broad narrative of Scripture. This plan stretches from Genesis to Revelation, making important stops along the way.” Geared toward new Christians.

13. Bible Reading Plan for Beginners

“The Bible Reading Plan for Beginners takes into account the great number of people who do not have a strong background in the word of God. This plan gives you a stepping-stone so that you do not have to read straight through every word of Scripture the first time. It starts you with the basics. After you feel comfortable at this level, then you can go on to the entire Bible.

The Bible Reading Plan for Beginners is a plan for reading about 40% of the Bible in 170 days (about six months). In this plan, you will read much of the Old Testament story, every chapter in Psalms and Proverbs, the two gospels of Mark and John and several of the New Testament epistles (including Romans, Philippians, Titus and others). You will not read the details of the ceremonial law, lengthy genealogies or difficult prophecies.”

14. Chronologically Thematic Whole Bible Plan

The idea of this plan is to show you how the New Testament fulfills the Old. “Starting at Genesis 1, this plan moves chronologically through the Bible, but when a weighty person, place or theme is mentioned, other parts of Scripture are read alongside to go more in depth with the person, place or theme. Thus there are both Old Testament and New Testament passages all year, but they relate to each other thematically.” Unique to this plan are special readings for certain holidays, such as Easter, Christmas, Advent, and more. This is a six day per week plan if you wish to finish in a year, but it is undated, so you can set your own pace. Readings take approximately 30 minutes each.

15. The “How to Eat Your Bible” Plan

My friend, Pastor Nate Pickowicz’s latest book, How to Eat Your Bible, is a gem in the Bible study genre. This brief book is packed with great instruction on how to approach studying your Bible, and culminates with Nate’s seven year Bible reading plan, which you can customize.

16. Who’s Who of the Bible

A fascinating topical study. In 121 days you’ll learn how God works, teaches, and reveals Himself through people, including major characters of the Bible and not-so-major characters. Each day’s passage is linked so you can do your reading on site from the translation of your choice, or you can print out the chart to use with your regular Bible.

17. 4-Month Layered Bible Reading Plan

Can’t wait a whole year to get from Genesis to Revelation? Would four months work better for you? In this fast-track plan you’ll do three readings each day: one from Old Testament history, one from Old Testament poetry / prophets, and another from the New Testament. Each reading takes about 15-20 minutes.

18. 31 Days to Know God’s Plan for Us

Though it’s billed as a plan for new Christians (and it’s certainly an excellent plan for that), this would also be a wonderful plan to work through to help you present the gospel to others, or to suggest to a lost friend who’s open to learning the gospel. Day 1 starts with the Fall of Man. Then you’ll work your way through OT passages demonstrating our inability to keep the law, followed by NT passages from the gospels and epistles detailing what Christ did for us and how that applies to us for salvation and eternity.

19. The 6 Month Challenge

“Over six months, this plan takes you through the New Testament from Acts to Revelation. This plan also integrates the worship and wisdom of Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes on a daily basis, for a balanced diet of instruction and intimate time with God.”

20. Bible Reading Plan Generator

This handy dandy little algorithm allows you to design your own Bible reading plan. You choose the start date, the length of the plan, your language, your favorite format, which books of the Bible you want to read, which days of the week you want to read, and several other options, and the Bible Reading Plan Generator creates a custom designed plan just for you.

Bible Reading Plans for Children

(Need recommendations for children’s Bibles? Click here.)

Depending on the age and maturity of your child (especially teens), I would certainly recommend any of the plans above or in the “Collections” section below. Perhaps you would want to start off with one of the shorter plans or one of the plans designed for new Believers or those who are new to reading the Bible. That being said, here are a few plans that are billed as being designed specifically for children:

Through the Bible in 20 Days– “…intended to be a child’s first exposure to regular Bible reading…geared toward ages 8 to 10. It includes twenty days of reading to be spread over one month, with five readings done per week.”

Through the Bible in 60 Days– “…designed to be a child’s second exposure to regular Bible reading,” this plan builds on the 20 day plan (above). “…geared toward ages 11 to 13. It includes sixty days of reading. This could be spread over three months, with five readings done per week.”

100 Day Summer Reading Plan– Though dated for the summer of 2021, this plan could be used at any time of the year. It breaks down the main plot points of Scripture into seven sections in case your child needs a break between sections. More info. here. (Please note I have not vetted, and thus, am not recommending anything on this page except the reading plan. Zondervan’s theology has been sketchy at times.)

Children’s & Teens’ Bible Reading Plans– Dozens of plans of varying lengths that will take your child through various books of the Bible, Bible overviews, topics, etc. Several of the plans have a few reading comprehension style questions for your child to answer at the end of each day’s reading. I was not able to vet all of these due to the sheer number of plans, but the several I checked appeared to be doctrinally sound. There are also helpful hints for encouraging your child to habitually study the Word. Carefully vet any of the additional or supplementary resources recommended before using them. I am recommending the reading plans only.

Be sure to thoroughly vet (for sound doctrine) any plan or website before assigning it to your child.


Collections of Reading Plans

Need more suggestions? Check out these collections of Bible reading plans:

  • Ligonier– A wide variety of plans, most available in PDFs.
  • ReadingPlan– There are literally hundreds of plans to choose from (there was no way I could vet even a fraction of them, so be very discerning) in this great little app. Download the one you like (Settings>>Reading Plan>>View Available Plans), set your start date, link up your favorite online Bible, and start reading. You can even sync and share your progress and set a daily reminder for reading.
  • ESV Bible– Here, you’ll find several good, “no strings attached” plans available in PDF format for easy printing. But if you sign up for a free ESV/Crossway account, you’ll have access to more than twenty great reading plans, many of them only 5-7 days in length. You’ll be able to read the day’s text, take notes, and track your progress, all online.
  • Bible Study Tools– Some awesome “start any day you like” plans, ranging in length from ninety days to two years.
  • Bible Gateway– Several great plans, especially if your church uses the Revised Common Lectionary or the Book of Common Prayer and you want to follow along at home. Log in each day and the selected text is displayed on your screen, or subscribe to your plan via e-mail. (Note: I would not recommend the Daily Audio Bible plan. It uses several different “translations,” which is an interesting idea, but while some are accurate, reliable translations (ESV, HCSB), others are faulty paraphrases (The Message, The Voice). However, many translations on Bible Gateway have an audio option, so pick another plan with a good translation and listen away!)
  • Into Thy Word– A number of diverse plans, including one in large print, from 31 days to one year in length. Available in PDF or Microsoft Word formats.
  • Heartlight– Five different one year plans that will take you through all or parts of the Bible. Daily passages are linked so you can read online, but translations are limited, so you might want to use the printable PDF guides with your own Bible.
  • Blue Letter Bible– Several one and two year plans that cover the whole Bible. Available in PDF format.
  • Bible Plan– Yearly and monthly plans, one chapter per day plans, and a few miscellaneous plans. Sign up for daily reminders for your plan via e-mail. These plans are available in many different languages.


Additional Resources

The Mailbag: Which Bible Do You Recommend?

The Mailbag: I love the Bible, but I have to force myself to read it

Nine Helps for Starting and Sticking to Daily Bible Study

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

Rightly Dividing: 12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study

Bible Book Backgrounds: Why You Need Them and Where to Find Them

The Mailbag: As a newly doctrinally sound Christian, should I stop journaling? (Taking notes on the text of Scripture.)


Which plan looks most interesting to you?
Have a plan you love that isn’t listed? Please share!

Judges Bible Study

Judges ~ Lesson 18- Wrap Up

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Wrap Up

Questions to Consider

1. Was there anything new God taught you in this study that particularly impacted you? What was it, and why was it so significant?

2. How is your walk with the Lord different after this study than it was before?

3. What are the reasons for, and the consequences of, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes”? What are the implications of this mindset and posture of heart for God’s people, both individually and as the church, today?

4. What did you learn about idolatry and syncretism from this study, and how can you apply this to the church and Christian organizations?

5. What did this study teach you about trusting and obeying God?

6. Have there been any passages or concepts in this study that God used to convict you of disobedience and lead you to repentance? How will you walk differently in this area from now on?

7. What did this study teach you about the character of those who lead God’s people?

8. What have you learned about God and His nature and character from this study?


Homework

Spend some time in prayer this week asking God to show you how to put into practice one thing you learned from this study.

Recite all of your memory verses from this study. Which one is most meaningful to you right now?

Judges Bible Study

Judges ~ Lesson 17

Don’t forget to come back next week for our wrap up lesson!

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

Read Judges 21

Questions to Consider

1. Go back to lesson 3 (link above) and review your answer to the first part of question 5, Israel’s pattern of sin and repentance in 2:16-23. How does today’s passage fit this pattern? How does today’s passage fit the theme verse of Judges (21:25), “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”?

2. Chapter 21 is a continuation of the story that began in chapter 19. Briefly review lessons 15 & 16 (links above) to refresh your memory.

3. Read all of chapter 21.

4. Explain 1-15 in your own words. What is taking place in this passage? What transpired at Mizpah (1,18)? (hint: use your cross references) Why was there “one tribe lacking in Israel”? (3,6) Which tribe was it, and why was it “lacking”? (3,6, chapter 20) If there were no Benjaminite women left for the Benjaminite men to marry and none of the other Israelite tribes would give their daughters to the Benjaminite men for wives (7), what would have happened to Benjamin as a tribe? Why was it imperative that the Benjaminite men marry women from among the tribes of Israel? Why couldn’t they just marry a woman from a neighboring country?

5. In the law, God explained why He didn’t want Israel marrying foreign wives. What was His reason? Think about all the idolatry we’ve seen in the book of Judges. Which seemed to be more important to Israel in chapter 21, the letter of the law (the outward behavior of not marrying foreign wives), or the heart of the law (the inward heart condition of loving God and rejecting idolatry)?

Recall Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard it said that [letter of the law], but I say to you [heart of the law].” Was Jesus saying that obedience in our external behavior – such as (for the Israelites) obeying the command not to marry foreign wives – wasn’t important? Where does our outward obedience flow from? From God’s perspective (a perspective we should attain to), is mere outward, behavioral conformity to the law true obedience to Him?

Compare the Old Testament’s prohibition on God’s people marrying unbelievers to the New Testament’s prohibition on God’s people marrying (or closely yoking with) unbelievers.

6. We live in a very individualistic society. Old Testament Israel was a very corporate society. How does this impact and explain Israel’s grief and compassion (2,3,6,15) over the potential loss of the tribe of Benjamin, even though they had recently been at war with, and killing, the Benjaminites?

Compare the Old Testament corporate perspective in this passage with the New Testament corporate perspective of the church in 1 Corinthians 12. Make the connection between Judges 21:2,3,6,15 and 1 Corinthians 12:26. Why did God design His people to be interdependent – to need each other?

7. Explain in your own words what is happening in verses 16-25. What does verse 22 mean?

Did telling and allowing the Benjaminites to snatch the women (22) let Israel and Shiloh off the hook for the vow (18) since they weren’t technically “giving our daughters to them”? Were they truly keeping the vow, or was this yet another letter of the law versus heart of the law situation? What about the laws against coveting and stealing – were those laws being kept or broken in this situation?

When it comes to sin, does God ever let people off on a technicality? Is someone who looks for loopholes in God’s commands a person whose obedience is motivated by her love for the Lord, or someone who loves sin and wants to “get away with” as much of it as possible? Do you ever play games like this with God’s commands?

8. Do you notice anything in chapter 21 indicating that God instructed Israel to do any of the things they did, or that He approved of any of these things? Did Israel inquire of the Lord about the lack of wives for the Benjaminite men, or did they take matters into their own hands? Think about how Sarai took matters into her own hands to have a son, when God’s plan was for Him to provide her with a son. Could not the same God who miraculously provided an offspring for Abraham have also miraculously provided wives for Benjamin? How does taking matters into our own hands, especially by sinning, a) demonstrate a lack of trust in God and His ways, and b) never turn out as well as trusting God and His ways does?

9. How would you respond to this statement? “Living by doing what is right in your own eyes (25) gives you an inconsistent spiritual framework that puts you in the position of looking in moral indignation upon one sin while committing another to ‘correct’ it.”

Compare verse 4 to verse 25. Do our outward actions of worship (4) mean anything if our hearts aren’t right with God (25)?


Homework

Review your answers to question 5, above. Are there any areas of your life in which you are being externally, behaviorally obedient to God, but that outward conformity to the requirements of Scripture isn’t motivated by love for God or the heart of the law?

For example: Do you give your offerings or attend church reluctantly or resentfully rather than giving generously and cheerfully, or attending eagerly because you love the Lord and His people?

Think it over and repent of any areas in which your obedience is not a natural outflow of your heart. Choose one of these areas, and over the next week, do a deep dive into the Word on that particular issue. Why does God want you to do or not do that behavior? What should be the posture of your heart that leads to outward obedience on that issue? Ask God to change your heart so your outward behavior will be rightly motivated and will be a joy rather than a burden.


Suggested Memory Verse