God Is Closer Than You Think #8 – What Does it Mean to Become a Christian?

Dr. Jeff Arthurs, Guest Speaker

1. Most of us are trying to save ourselves (“I think I can, I think I can”).

2. But we tend to overestimate our goodness and underestimate our badness. The Bible says that spiritually we are: lost, strangers, guilty, dead, and enemies.

“For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” –Titus 3:3

3. Therefore God, who is rich in mercy, sent Jesus to absorb our sins. Jesus is the “sin eater.”

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” –Titus 3:4-7

4. Our responsibility is to “believe.”

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  –John 3:16

5. We do good deeds, not in order to EARN salvation, but because we ARE saved. We do not work FOR salvation, we work FROM it.

“This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.” –Titus 3:8

1 John 5:6-13 (#13)

I.  INTRO – Assurance of Eternal Life

Review:

Where we are as a church – and where we’re headed.  We’ll start at 30,000 feet and then land in our 1 John passage for today.

As a church we are “rebooting” theologically.  What does that mean?

First of all, it does NOT mean we are changing our doctrinal statement.

What it DOES mean is that we intend to be Christ-centered, or gospel-centered, in all our preaching and teaching.[1]  There are two basic reasons for this:

  1. Not only is the gospel of Jesus Christ necessary for our salvation, but the gospel is also essential for our growth (or sanctification) in Christ.[2]
  2. (How does that happen?) A Christ-centered, or gospel-centered approach will focus more on what Christ has done, than on what we should do.

We believe that the Westminster Assembly got it right in 1646 with the Westminster Shorter Confession of Faith when they determined the “chief end of [humankind] is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  Or, as John Piper has said, “to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.”

Where we’re headed (See the bulletin insert):

3 Summits scheduled 6-weeks apart to reaffirm values, mission, and vision in preparation for calling a permanent pastor.

The first one is Sat, Jan 14th from 9am-1pm.  A working lunch and childcare will be provided.

If you’re 13+, we’d like for you to be there.  Sign-ups start today.

Sign-up sheet – or email Beth in the office.

**The more we accomplish in the next 6-7 months, the higher caliber pastor we will attract to SBF.

Next week in the bulletin we will provide you with a calendar of the significant events for Jan-Jun of 2012.  This will include:

  1. The 3 Summits
  2. At least 3 Concerts of Prayer where we will gather as a congregation – both to learn more about prayer and to pray.  These will also include extended times of worship.
  3. And regular Sunday morning updates to keep everyone informed on what is happening (twice a month).

In Sept we embarked on a study of 1 John.  Today marks our 13th week.

Why study 1st John?  As we have been saying – the gospel of John was written that we might believe while 1 John we written that we might know.

Assurance is the key theme of 1 John.  There are two parts to this assurance:

1.  The first is an objective assurance that Jesus (and Christianity) are true.  Jesus claimed to be God.

  • Jn 14:9 – Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
  • Jn 10:33 – We’re stoning you “for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
  • Mark 14:61b-62   [61b] – “Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’  [62] ‘I am,’ said Jesus.”
  •  Luke 22:66-70  [66] – “At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them…[70] They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’  He replied, ‘You are right in saying I am.’”
  • In 1 John 1:1 he reminds his readers that he was an eye-witness of Jesus – he beheld Him with his eyes and touched Him with his hands and refers to Jesus as “the Word of Life.”
  • Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or He was telling the truth (trillema).  John is asserting in this letter that Jesus and Christianity are true (objective assurance).

2.  The second aspect of assurance John is speaking to is the subjective assurance of our own standing in Christ.

To use John’s language of what it means to be a Christian…

  • To have been born of God
  • To know God
  • To live in God
  • To enjoy an intimate personal communion with Him – which John says, is eternal life.

On Thur we sent out an eNEWS that quoted 19th century British theologian and pastor J.C. Ryle, who said:

Another way to describe assurance is assured hope.

  • A person may have saving faith in Christ, and yet never enjoy an assured hope.
  • To believe and have a glimmering hope of acceptance is one thing, to have delight and joy and peace in our believing — and to abound in hope, is quite another!
  • S/He that has faith does well.  But s/he that has assurance does far better — sees more, feels more, knows more, enjoys more.[3]

Last week (Gene) taught from 1 Jn 4:17-5:5 and made three excellent points:

  1. (vs. 4:17-18) Being perfected in love is a process.
  2. (vs. 4:19-21) People are in your life for a purpose (i.e., conflict can be redemptive).
  3. (vs. 5:1-5) Passion for God’s presence prepares the heart to obey.

Today we will look at the most difficult passage in 1 John – 5:6-13…

II.  BODY

John draws some very clear lines in this passage (as he has throughout the letter): v.12 – “S/He who has the Son has the life; s/he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” John is saying that it is infinitely important for us to know if we have the Son. (We would do well to remember Ryle’s point: A person may have saving faith in Christ, and yet never enjoy assurance.)

Then in v.13 John writes, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.” (2-fold assurance)

There are two words I’d like to look at more closely today from v.13, asking the questions, 1) What does it mean to believe? And 2) What does it mean to know?

1.  What does it mean to believe?

  • The Greek word is the verb pisteuō (from the same root as the word for faith) and occurs about 250 times in the NT. Matthew uses the word 10 times, Mark 10, Luke 9, John’s Gospel 99 times – and 9 times in 1 John.
  • Now I have both bad news and good news for you…
    • The bad news is that not all belief is saving belief.
    • Look with me at John 2:23-25: Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.
    • There is evidently a belief that does not save us.
    • James 2:19 – …the demons also believe…
    • Paul exhorts the church in Corinth to, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5).
    • This is the kind of examination that John is referring to in 1 John 5:12-13.

In 1859 a French tightrope walker named Charles Blondin, became the first person to cross 160 feet above Niagara Falls on a tightrope.  He walked several times – back and forth. The large crowd gathered and a buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the riverbank. The crowd “Oooohed!” and “Aaaaahed!” as Blondin carefully walked across one dangerous step after another.  One trip across he was blindfolded and pushing a wheel-barrow. Upon reaching the other side, it’s said that the crowd’s applause was louder than the roar of the falls! Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?” The crowd enthusiastically shouted, “Yes, yes, yes. You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. You can do anything!” “Okay,” said Blondin, “Who will get in the wheelbarrow??”  No-one did!

    • To merely give intellectual assent does NOT save us.
  • So, what’s the good news?  The good news is that there is a belief that does save.
    • To “believe” means the active acceptance of the message about Jesus.
    • This means there is a surrender, or active ongoing submission to Jesus…
    • This is the kind of belief, or faith, that 1 Jn 5:5 is speaking about: “Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (He who gets in the wheelbarrow.)

2.  What does it mean to know? (1 Jn 5:13 John writes, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”)

  • The Greek word is echō.  It speaks of a joining – like a marriage.
  • This question takes us back to 1 Jn 5:7-8: “For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”
  • These are the verses that have confounded biblical scholars… Theologians refer to this verse as the “Johannine Comma.” And most commentators agree that it is some form of Trinitarian reference.  Matthew Henry, the 18th century devotional commentator, simply refers to this verse as, “a trinity of heavenly witnesses.”

Let’s consider each one:

  1. The (Holy) Spirit testifies.
  • Turn to Roms 8.  This chapter is about life in the power of the HS.
  • Let’s begin in v.15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
  • Here’s a test/quiz to see if you know…
    • What grip does fear have on your life?
    • When you suffer, do you turn TO God, or AWAY from God?  Do you turn TO God’s people, or turn AWAY from God’s people?
    • Prov 18:1 – “S/He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom.”

2.  What is the “water and the blood”?

  • Some scholars think the water is a reference to the birth of Jesus and the blood is a reference to His death on the cross.
  • Look at John 19:34-35: “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he [John] who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.”
    • Jesus suffered from hypovolemic shock (low blood volume) during his beatings – and when he fell while carrying the cross…
    • This hypovolemic shock causes fluid to gather in the sack around the heart and around the lungs.
  • Others have speculated that the water and blood are references to the sacraments of baptism and communion.

III.  CONCLUSION

  1. What’s the bottom line?  Is your belief a saving belief?  Have you gotten in the wheelbarrow?  This is the objective response that John is looking for.
  2. To use Paul’s language from Romans 8:15-16, is there a “spirit of adoption” resident in your heart?  Has, “the Spirit Himself testified with your spirit that you are a child of God”?  This is the subjective response that John is looking for.

This is how the gospel works for our sanctification…We are well aware of our depravity AND we have a growing witness and testimony of our Heavenly Father’s sovereign call ON our lives and transforming presence IN our lives.


[1] Someone has said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

[2] Justification (declared righteousness) and Sanctification (growing in righteousness), the process of sanctification must flow out of the reality of justification.

[3] Adapted from the essay Faith and Assurance by J. C. Ryle.

1 John 4:1-6 (#9)

I.      INTRO

  1. An overview of 1 John (Remember, the Gospel of John was written that we might believe. The Letters of John were written to churches/believers and were written that we might know – as in assurance.)
    1. Knowing Authentic Fellowship – 1 John 1:1 – 2:17
    2. Knowing Gospel Truth -1 John 2:18 – 2:28
    3. Knowing Our Gift of Righteousness – 1 John 2:29 – 3:10
    4. Knowing Sacrificial Love – 1 John 3:11 – 4:21
    5. Knowing Gospel Assurance – 1 John 5:1 – 5:21
  2. Last week Gene spoke of 3 spiritual bullies from 1 John 3:11-24:
    1. Breaking The Spirit of CainBreak free of legalism and judgment…
    2. Passionless of loveless ChristianityChrist’s passion for us becomes our passion for Him and each other.
    3. Condemning Heart – God knows everything about your heart and He still died for you and forgave your sins then why are you condemning yourself?
  3. Our passage this week: 1 John 4:1-61 Beloved, 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. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

II.    BODY

  1. Our passage today describes two distinct groupings of people…
    1. V. 5 – Those who are from the world-system (kosmos). We must distinguish between the people of the world and the world system. God loves the people (Jn 3:16) and hates the world system that perpetuates greed, abuse of every kind, racism, revenge, hostility, peacekeeping instead of peacemaking…
    2. V. 6 – Those who are from God.  Also in v. 6 John further identifies this distinction as the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.  Everyone one the planet falls into one of these two groups.  It’s yes or no, it’s in or out.
  2. Spirit of TRUTH vs. the spirit of ERROR (v. 6)
    1. TRUTH – (alētheia) Objective truth: That which is true no matter what we believe.  What if you said, “I don’t believe in gravity…”  This word speaks of reality as opposed to illusion.
    2. ERROR – (planē) This word means to wander, or to stray. The word contains the idea of being deluded (mistaken or deceived).
      1. Humanism (which dates back to 6th-century BC pre-Socratic Greek philosophers – and back to 1000 BC in India) is human-centered philosophy, or worldview that rejects the supernatural and focuses on human values and concerns.  Humanism rejects truth in favor of what is tangible.
      2. Humanism merged into the Enlightenment in 18th-century Europe, to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge.
      3. The Enlightenment merged into Modernism, which in part rejected the existence of a compassionate, all-powerful Creator God.
      4. Finally, we have Modernism merging into Postmodernism, which is inherently suspicious towards a global meta-narrative (a unifying truth that totalizes the world).
      5. Each of these philosophies, or world-views is, in some way, a reaction to the previous one.  And each, at its core is focused on humankind – and not God.  They are human-centered and not God-centered.
      6. THIS is what John is speaking about in our 1 John passage today.  It reflects what John refers to as from the world (v. 5), or the spirit of error (v. 6).
      7. Now, is the totality of Humanism, The Enlightenment, Modernism, and Postmodernism wrong or evil? No, in fact each worldview, or philosophy, has benefited humanity in many ways – and, it should be noted, each have generated valuable critiques of the Church along the way.
      8. What I am saying is that at their core they are human-centered and not God-centered.  And they each reflect what John is saying in today’s passage in that they have caused humankind to wander, or to stray. At their core they are mistaken and deceived.
  3. So, we must ask: What is the spirit of truth?  What is the essential, bottom-line foundation of all objective truth?
    1. We see it in 1 Jn 4:2 – “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.”
      1. It is the perfect intersection of God’s mandate for perfect holiness and God’s sacrificial love (4:1 the word Beloved is agapētos and speaks of the fact that John’s readers are loved with God’s sacrificial love.)
      2. This is THE central, objective truth of all time.  Our western calendar reflects this truth when it divides history into B.C. and A.D (Anno Domini — Latin, which means, In the year of the Lord).
      3. This is the essence of the gospel – Jesus Christ, the Second person of the Trinity, became The Suffering Servant of all humanity – and condescended to come to earth and live the life we should have lived (i.e., perfect holiness) – and died the death we should have died.
      4. Here is how John said it in his opening words of his Gospel narrative (vs. 1-2): 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
      5. 1 Jn 4:2 – “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Again, this is THE central objective Truth of all time.
    2. Now, let’s turn our attention to the word confesses in 4:2.  What does it mean to confess(v 2)?
      1. To confess is not simply to speak the words, to confess means that our affections (or feelings) have been stirred.  There are (at least) three accompanying affections that contribute to our confession: 1) Heartfelt Reverence, 2) Conviction, and 3) Submission
      2. The difference between decisions and affections.  Decisions do not require transformation.
      3. John is saying that a sincere and genuine confession of Christ is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work.
      4. Mere doctrinal words, no matter how true, don’t prove anything about the spirit or person behind them, unless the words come with heartfelt reverence, and heartfelt conviction, and heartfelt submission to Christ.
    3. Here’s what pastor, theologian and author John Piper says: My conclusion is that what verse 2 means is this: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which sincerely confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and which has a corresponding disposition of loving reverence and submission to Jesus Christ, is of God.” So the sign of the Spirit’s reality is not merely the truth of the words, but also the disposition corresponding to that truth [which is heartfelt reverence, and heartfelt conviction, and heartfelt submission to Christ].
    4. We must ask the question:  Has the downside of humanism, the enlightenment, modernism, and postmodernism crept into the Church?
      1. YES it has.
      2. How?  We, in the Church, have a tendency to want to view God’s Word as about us – and not about God.
      3. If we read the Bible with the lens of humanism (spirit of error) we tend to see it as a rulebook – what must we do to please God?
      4. The goal of God is God.  God is about promoting His own glory, not ours.
      5. If we read the Bible with the lens of the spirit of truth – that the Book is about God, we will begin to see (in new ways) what God has done for us!
      6. The Westminster Confession got it right with the statement, The chief end of humankind is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (Or, as John Piper would say, to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.)

III.   CONCLUSION

  1. I’d like to conclude today with some thoughts regarding spiritual discernment.
  2. What is spiritual discernment?
    1. First and foremost spiritual discernment is the result, or fruit, of viewing all things through the foundational objective Truth, which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [and] is from God (1 Jn 4:2).
    2. Second, spiritual discernment is learning to see and evaluate all things from this perspective. (We must all repent of allowing a humanistic perspective to affect and infect our perspective.)
  3. As we wind down, let’s look at 1 John 4:4: [Grandpa Pastor John reminds the people in the church’s he’s writing to:] You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
  4. Consider the magnitude of these verses: 1 Cor 2:9-11 (emphasis added) :

9 but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” [from Is. 64, 65]

10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.

5.  When conversion breaks in upon our souls the same Holy Spirit who searches the depths of God comes to live inside us. Wisdom and spiritual discernment are freshly and abundantly available to us through the abiding Holy Spirit. (Now THAT is good news!!) This is an amazing truth and opportunity for us to live joyful, abundant, wise, and discerning lives.