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

God Is Closer Than You Think #3 – What Is The Trinity?

Dr. Jeff Arthurs, Guest Speaker

 Intro: The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the heart of our faith. It is found in the Apostles’ Creed.

Definition: One God existing from all eternity as three Persons.

We come to this doctrine, this revealed word, with humility and wonder. Why do we believe it? It has been revealed.

1. God is One.

 [Dt. 6:4; Is. 46:9]

 2. In three Persons

  • Implied in OT
    • Genesis 1:26, Let us make man in our own image.
    • Gen. 3:22,  Man has now become like one of us.
    • Gen. 11:3, And they said to each other, Come, let us go down and confuse their language.
    • Is. 9:6, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
    • Gen. 1:1-2, In the beginning God created…and the Spirit was hovering…
  • More explicit in the NT
    • Baptism (Matt. 3:16-17). Spirit descending and Father saying . . . .
    • Great Commission (Matt. 28:19). Baptize in the name of . . . .
    • Benediction (2 Cor. 13:14). Grace of the Lord Jesus, love of God, and fellowship of the Holy Spirit . . . .
    • High Priestly Prayer (John 14:16). I will ask the Father and he will give you the Spirit of Truth.
    • Deity of Christ (Romans 9:5). From them is traced the human ancestry of Christ who is God over all, forever praised, Amen.
  • Deity of Christ
    • Philippians 2:5-8.

 3. Illustrations:

  •  Roles/hats (father, husband, pastor). No—this is what the ancient church called “modalism.”
  • Egg (three parts of one). No—the three parts do not share the qualities of the other parts.
  • Water (same essence in three forms). Better, but only appearance is different.
  • Human psyche (we can hold conversation with self).
  • Three dimensions of space (height, width, depth).

 Note: the nature of reality is usually (always?) more complex than first glance reveals.  It will be at least as complex as physics.

4. Implications. This is the central reality of the universe. The grand dance of diversity within unity is a dance of mutual honor, love, and submission. That is the essence of reality—love.

  • Eternal life. By grace we are grafted into this life. We become by grace what Christ is by nature—sons of God. How does this occur? He shares it with us.

Ephesians 2: 4-6

  • Christian life.
    • Marriage. Unity and diversity. Equal standing, value, personhood, but distinct roles.

1 Cor. 11:3

    • Church. Diversity and unity.

Rev. 7:9

1 Cor. 12:12

    • Humility, submission, and love.John 15:9

Philippians 2:1-11

Fasting As A Form of Worship

The leaders at Southside Bible Fellowship are calling for a church-wide fast from (Monday) March 26th through our Concert of Prayer (4-6pm) on Sunday April 1st.  Directly after our Concert of Prayer we will collectively break our fast with a meal of soup and bread.  Please keep reading to consider your options…

“I humbled my soul with fasting”  (Psalm 35:13b)

In Psalm 35 King David is crying out in agonized intercession to be rescued from his enemies. Part of David’s prayer is that he has bowed-down his soul with fasting.  It is widely accepted that our soul consists of our intellect, will, and emotions.  According to Matthew 6, Isaiah 58, and Psalm 35 the overall objective of fasting is to humble our soul (or to cause our intellect, will, and emotions to bow down) so that the desires and the purposes of God can become more prominent!  When we deny our appetites and soulish longings and turn to the Lord through worship, Christian meditation, supplication, and intercession there is a supernatural grace released upon us to see God’s heart and will.  The idea is to set aside regular times during a fast in order to seek the Lord and cry out for His kingdom to increase and for His will to be done – IN us and THROUGH us.

Matthew 6 describes and instructs us in three primary spiritual disciplines.  The chapter opens by encouraging us not to practice our “acts of righteousness” publicly; and if we do, we shall have no reward from our Father in heaven.  The three spiritual disciplines are giving, prayer (we are to pray secretly, sincerely, and specifically), and fasting.

Isaiah 58 is probably the best and most concise instruction on the spiritual discipline of fasting in the Bible.  Verse six lists the four reasons for fasting:  “To loosen the bonds of wickedness,”  “To undo the bands of the yoke,”  “To let the oppressed go free,” and to “break every yoke.”  Verses 8-14 contain some amazing promises concerning the fruits, or benefits, of fasting.

A simple definition for fasting would be voluntary abstinence of our appetites and our soulish longings for spiritual reasons.  The Bible speaks of it not as an option but as an expected and regularly practiced spiritual discipline.  The following are some of the purposes for fasting; these also convey some of the benefits of fasting:

1.   Fasting will sharpen our focus in prayer.  (After we get beyond the initial discomfort caused by our various addictions such as coffee, sugar, etc.)

2.   Fasting will cause us to be more sensitive to God’s guidance in our lives.

3.   Fasting is a sign of humble repentance and expressing to God our desire to be responsively obedient to His will and direction for our lives – both individually and as a church.

4.   It was common in biblical times to fast when the need for protection and/or deliverance was great.  An excellent example is when Queen Esther called for her people to fast with her when she appealed to the king to spare the Jews (see Esther 4:16).

5.   As David articulated in Psalm 35, fasting can be an expression of simple humility before God.

6.   Fasting, or the servant-leaders calling for a fast, can be the result of God’s people seeing a need and expressing their concern.  When Nehemiah heard about the great distress, reproach, and the broken down walls in Jerusalem the Bible tells us that he sat down and wept and mourned for days, and then fasted and prayed until the Lord revealed His plans (see Nehemiah 1:3-4).

7.   When Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness after His baptism He was strengthened spiritually against the strong temptations of Satan.  In fact, in Luke 4:14 it says that, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit(emphasis added).

8.   Fasting can be simply an act of worship and adoration with no other purpose than to ascribe glory and honor to God.

There are many different ways to fast.  We can fast food and just drink water or juice, we can eat vegetables and/or fruit only (this has been called a “Daniel Fast,” see Daniel 1:8-17), we can choose not to eat any sugar or carbohydrates, we can fast one or two meals a day, we can fast from sun-up to sun-down.  Paul encourages married couples to occasionally fast sexual intercourse, “that you may devote yourselves to prayer…” (1 Corinthians 7:5).  We can fast television or the internet and pray instead!  Before we fast it is important to seek the Lord regarding what would be appropriate.

We are in a season of transition at Southside Bible Fellowship. There are several excellent reasons for us to embark on a corporate fast:  Over the last 2-3 years there has been relational tearing and woundedness. We want to fast and ask God to show us how to specifically engage in the ministry of reconciliation with those who have been hurt. We want to identify and “own” our past dysfunctions as a church — and repent and forsake them. We want to fast and ask God to once again visit us with salvations.  We want to fast for a fresh understanding of what it means to delight in God – as well as what it means for God to delight in us.  In addition, prayerfully consider any supplemental personal and family needs so that you will fast with a strong sense of God’s heart – asking for His “kingdom to come and His will to be done” IN you and THROUGH you.  May the Lord strengthen you and encourage you through a mighty demonstration of His power and might!!

A Generous Life #3 (of 6) 2 Cor 8:8-12

by Gene Heacock (Interim Teaching Pastor)

First The Gospel Then Giving

Focus on the new nature that we receive through conversion. I will preach the gospel in a different format and then return to the Macedonians.

The big idea: All giving is grace based (8:1), inspired by the sacrifice of Christ (8:9), and prompted by the Holy Spirit (8:10).

How do you and I learn something deeply, at our core? Albert Switzer said there are  3 ways: by example, by example, and by example.

And so it is with us by Christ’s sacrifice, by Christ’s sacrifice, and by Christ’s sacrifice.

The Gospel is not only about the forgiveness of sin but the heart of the gospel is that we are given a new heart.

What is the first two-letter word a child will say??  “NO!”  And the first four-letter word is usually, “MINE!!”

When we come to Christ our nature changes so not only do we have a new position with the Father but now we possess the nature of the Father.

  • The heart of the gospel is not just the forgiveness of sins
  • The heart of the gospel is that we might share His nature
  • The heart of the gospel is that we can have a new heart

Illustration – Forgiveness like sanitizing the kitchen. Our nature change is like having an impartation of a great chef’s DNA who now creates banquets for the benefit of others.

The Gospel in metaphor…

  • The Eternal flame and gasoline
  • International Terrorist and an Adoption Agency
  • Capitan Francesco Schettino and Jesus The Captain of our Souls
  • A High School Student Who Got it Right
  • Macedonians and The Manchesterians — you and I

Expound the metaphor as they unfold the nature of God, the work of Christ, and the impartation of our new nature.

Examine scripture that states we have a problem with actions-sins but much, much deeper is our nature (Eph:2:3).

The Lord Jesus Christ identified with our fallen nature and was consumed by God’s justice so that we did not have to endure the judgment of God and not only did He give us forgiveness but a brand new nature, His DNA – His heart of generosity

A High School Student who got it right – the story of John Cecil Rhodes…

Paul uses a Spirit-led strategy to build the case for giving through Christ’s sacrifice, the Macedonians example, and the Spirits leading.

2 Cor 8:8-12:

  • v8 not commanding but calling out your new nature to respond like others-beauty of example
  • v9 Christ gave His utmost and now we are related to Him follow the family line
  • v 10 Listen to the Spirit’s prompting
  • v 11 Allow generosity to flow out of your heart and trust that there is a provision of resurrection.
  • As the Spirit prompts so the Spirit provides
  • v 12 Consistency reflects the sacrifice of Christ staying on the Cross to accomplish the work, without faltering and with follow through

Summary: Their new Nature led the Macedonians.

  • They loved people they did not know
  • They loved people they could not see
  • They loved people that were not like them
  • They loved people that exceeded human limitations

Their act of giving transcended their circumstances. It was a Holy revolt against their horrible circumstances.

They gave to the one above their circumstances so as not to be controlled by their present pain.

Illustration Ann Marie Kurko – laughing at grace and her story of generosity hilarious 2 Cor 9:7

Taking it Home SBF questions from Pastor Gregg:

  1. How does the sacrifice of Christ effect your time, talents, and treasure?
  2. In what ways has God been generous to you? What does Paul mean that through 
Christ’s poverty we have become “rich”?
  3. How does generosity preach the gospel to those in need?
  4. What do your finances say about your theology?
  5. What sparks “desire”?
  6. Are you generous in proportion to your ability?
  7. Why or why not?
  8. How does our generosity reveal our heart and our idols[1]?


[1] Within the depravity of the human heart there is a need, a hunger to idolize. Tim Keller, in his book, Counterfeit Gods, explains that Scripture teaches the human heart is an “idol factory” (p. xiv). Idolatry quietly and subtly slips into our lives when we allow good things to become ultimate things. Another way to understand this is to think of idols as functional saviors (Jerry Bridges, The Bookends of the Christian Life, p 72).

 

A Generous Life #1 (of 6) 2 Cor 8:9

I. INTRO

Summit #1 is next Sat (01/14).  We are holding our first of three summits.  I want to invite everyone 13 years of age and older to come and participate in this process.

If you’re new to the church it’s a great time to jump in to help shape what SBF will become in the next season of fruitful ministry.  (My role is as a facilitator and coach – your role is to shape the future through prayerful dialogue with God and one another.)

Today we begin a 6-week series on A Generous Life.  (There are study guides available in the lobby and also available for download here at our blogsite.)  Why a series on A Generous Life?

The answer is both simple and profoundJesus Christ lived the most generous life ever lived.

The whole Bible – both the OT and NT, was written to point to Jesus.

We call this a Christ-centered, or gospel-centered view of the Bible.

Again, the whole Bible was written with God’s redemption through Jesus Christ in view.  The OT points to the coming of Jesus and the NT extols the coming of Jesus.  We want to see Jesus and worship Jesus in every text of Scripture.

Because of the generosity of Jesus Christ one of the gospel graces is generosity – and there is a connection between generosity and stewardship.  So this series will be about becoming generous stewards of God’s grace.  But the last thing we want to say is that Jesus lived a generous life and now you should too.

No, we want to explore the generosity of Jesus.  What we really want – and need – is to enter into His generosity.  It is the generosity of Jesus, by grace through faith, that changes us and empowers us to be generous.

Our passage for today, which was read, is 2 Cor 8:9.  This will be our foundational passage for the series.  Our aim is to engage in a gospel transformation of the soul in and through the sacrifice and provision of Jesus Christ.

Here’s the way pastor and author John Piper says it: “Seeing and savoring the supremacy of Christ frees us from the slavery of sin for the sacrifices of love.”

Living in and for the gospel is counterintuitive[1]…here is how pastor and author Tim Keller has said it: “Christ wins our salvation through losing, achieves power through weakness and service, comes to wealth via giving it all away.  And those who receive His salvation are not the strong and accomplished but those who admit they are weak and lost.”[2]

Each of us has three primary areas of stewardship in Christ: We’ll refer to them as our time, our talents, and our treasure.  There are other areas of stewardship that we are responsible for as well:  We are responsible for our primary relationships, our bodies, our sexuality, and to care for creation.

Again, it’s not about what we should do – the renegade Catholic priest, who initiated the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther speaks about a great exchange… “Learn Christ and Him crucified. Learn to sing to Him and, despairing of yourself, say, ‘Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness, just as I am Your sin. You have taken upon Yourself what is mine and have given me what is Yours.’”[3]

“For our sake [the Father] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

An overview of 2 Cor…

In 2 Cor 8-9 Paul is seeking to mobilize the Corinthian congregation to participate in an offering for the church members in Jerusalem…

You will notice that Paul never uses the word money, in 2 Cor 8-9, instead he calls it “grace,”  “generosity,” “blessing,” or “partnership.” He speaks of the “grace of giving” as one of the highest Christian virtues.

With this series we are not aiming at your wallet, we are aiming at your heart.

This series is NOT intended to ask you to give more – it’s intended to show you how.

Paul had quite a rocky relationship with the church at Corinth.  There were actually (at least) four letters that were written.  What has been canonized as Scripture are letters #2 and #4.  (#3 was, apparently, a letter of severe rebuke.)

Chapters 8 and 9 of this epistle concern the offering for the poor saints at Jerusalem.  It took between 8-10 years to accomplish; involved thousands of miles of travel; at least 10 collectors involved. An earthquake, crop failures, and persecution contributed to their needs at Jerusalem church.

II. BODY

With that in mind let’s dive into our passage for today – just one verse – 2 Cor 8:9, which is the foundational passage for our series on Generosity… For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

Today we want to ask and consider four questions:

  1. Do you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?
  2. How was Jesus rich?
  3. How did He become poor?
  4. How do we become rich?

Let’s look at them one at a time…

1.  Do you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?

What does it mean to know?

Ginōskōa knowledge grounded on personal experience.[4]

Paul is confident that the Corinthian church understood (i.e., was well-taught) in the area of the gospel of grace.  This is where the North American Church struggles today…

What is grace?  There are 10 ten occurrences of the word “grace” (charis) in chapters 8-9.

While there many facets of grace.  This morning I’d like to look at three types of grace:

A.  Common Grace refers to the grace of God that is common to all humankind. It is “common” because its benefits are experienced by the whole human race without distinction between one person and another. It is “grace” because it is undeserved and sovereignly bestowed by God. Mat 5:45b – [God] causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  The fact that you’re breathing this morning is an effect of common grace.

B.  Saving Grace, or justifying grace, redemptive grace – or regenerating grace is a momentary action of God to bring about salvation into a previously unregenerated person – it’s an act of quickening the spiritually dead.  In John 3 Jesus had a conversation with a Pharisee named Nicodemus and told him – “…unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 1 Peter 1:3“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

C.  Sanctifying Grace – Think of saving grace as birth (or regeneration) and sanctifying grace as growth.

Sanctification says the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q.35), is “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole [person] after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”

The concept is not of sin being totally eradicated, but of a divinely wrought [or, shaped] character change freeing us from sinful habits and forming in us Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues (J.I. Packer).[5]

With saving grace, God implants desires that were not there before: desire for God, for holiness, for worship; desire to pray, love, serve, honor, and please God; desire to show love and bring benefit to others. With sanctifying grace the Holy Spirit, “is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).

Here now is my favorite definition of grace – “All that God is, lavishly poured into you.”

U2 song Grace –

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace
It’s a name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

2.  How was Jesus rich?

Jesus preexisted in the context of a Holy Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This Godhead – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have dwelled together in infinite relational harmony for all eternity. Their mutual love is pure, infinite, and perfect.  Their love is never stained by conflict, or competition, or polluted by self-centeredness.

Authors and theologians, dating back to the 7th century (including C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller), have suggested that the Trinitarian relationship is like a dance, with each member deferring to and delighting in the other.[6]

3.  How did He become poor?

Jesus condescended to become a human.  One theologian said, “This humiliation had the effect of restoring the true human nature without degrading the divine nature…Majesty stepped into the mess.” [7]

Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase (called The Message) writes, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish” (John 1:14).

Jesus gave up the comforts and joys of Triune eternal companionship to enter into the messiness of living with sinful, broken humanity—the hypocrisy, violence, corruption, sickness, and greed. Jesus came to share a new vision, with new power for living with humility, compassion, mercy, and generosity.

Philippians 2:6-9 says “Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

4.  How do we become rich?

We become rich by being invited into the dance…

(Farewell Discourse) John 17:19-21 – 19 “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Here’s how one theologian sums up 2 Cor 8:9: “If this love of Christ, so magnanimous [generous] in its motive and so self-sacrificing in its execution, is an active force in the believer’s heart, how unnecessary, the apostle implies, any command to practice giving ought to be. What, without that love, might seem a cold moral duty has been transformed by it into a joyous privilege.”[8]

III. CONCLUSION

So 2 Cor 8:9, is the foundational passage for our series on Generosity/Stewardship… For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

We will build our series on this verse…

Over the next 5 weeks we will consider 10 Principles of Generosity (two per Sunday):

  1. Generosity is a work of Gods grace (2 Cor 8:1-6)
  2. Generosity is both a work of God’s grace and a choice (2 Cor 8:7)
  3. Generosity points us to the sacrifice of Christ (2 Cor 8:8-9)
  4. Generosity is measured proportionally (2 Cor 8:10-12)
  5. Generosity enables a holy equality (2 Cor 8:13-15)
  6. Generosity necessitates godly stewardship (2 Cor 8:16-24)
  7. Generosity begets generosity (2 Cor 9:1-5)
  8. Generosity is about sowing and reaping (2 Cor 9:6-12)
  9. Generosity is an evidence that someone is an active, intentional follower of Christ 
(2 Cor 9:13-14)
  10. Generosity promotes the worship of Jesus as God (2 Cor 9:15)

Finally, I want to share with you my verse for the year…Proverbs 1:23:

“Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.”

I am willing to ask for the Lord’s reproof in my life, so that He will pour out His Spirit on me and make His words known to me.  My prayer is that, as a church, Southside will do the same…


[1] I.e., contrary to what we expect.

[2] Gospel Christianity, Redeemer Pres NYC 2003.

[3] Treatise on Christian Liberty (The Freedom of a Christian), AE, Vo. 31.

[4] It’s also a Jewish idiom (not slang, but a stylistic expression) for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.

[5] J.I. Packer. Concise Theology.

[6] See Tim Keller, The Reason for God, pgs 214-222. See also C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity pg. pg. 152. The idea of the relationship of the Trinity as dance may also be traced back to a 7th century theologian named John of Damascus who described the Trinity as Perichoresis (the same word we get our English word “choreography” from).

[7] Douglas McCready. He Came Down From Heaven: The Preexistence of Christ and Christian Faith, IVP Academic 2005: 81.

[8] R.V.G. Tasker. 2 Corinthians, Tyndale NT Commentary, Eerdmans 1958: 116.

1 John 5:14-21 (#14) Finale!

I.  INTRO

We’re landing the plane today in our 1 John series – His Light, Our Delight

A week ago Wed I was on a plane from DC to Manchester.  Before we took off the Captain came on and told us the flight was going to be bumpy – and it was…

As we close out 1 John (and as we prepare our hearts for Christmas) I would like to begin our study today be reminding us of the human condition…And I should warn you that it may get a bit turbulent as we prepare to land the plane.

Last June reTURN/CRM conducted a diagnostic here at SBF.  (A 1-page version is available in the lobby.)  Well, Scripture has also conducted a diagnostic of the human heart and I would like to let the Word of God speak to us this morning regarding what has gone wrong with humanity.  It takes a humble courage to embrace the truth about ourselves…

Here is my thesis: We simply cannot fix what’s wrong with us.  With all of our advances in science, technology, and clinical therapies the human heart remains as Jeremiah said 17:9: “more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”

  • Ps 14:3 – They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt;
    There is no one who does good, not even one.
  • Prov 20:9 – Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin”?
  • Rom 3:9-12 — What then? Are we [Jews] better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,  “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; 12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”  All of us have one singular thing in common…our base commonality is that we are sinners incapable of righteousness.
  • Rom 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
  • Eph 2:1-3 – And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath…”

The NT authors invite us to bear in mind that God’s commands for us to be holy and love our neighbor, etc. are not there to show our ability, but to reveal our inability and to remind us of our continual dependence on the grace of God to do in us and through us what we cannot do (accomplish) on our own.

Before we move into our text for this morning I am going to say something very difficult to you.  I will say it because I love you and I want to be able to say at the end of my time here that, I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27).

The core issue with you and me is not that we sometimes DO the wrong things, the problem is we were born with something very wrong inside of us.  We are born in a corrupted state of being.  We were born with a sin infection.

If your default mode is that you’re basically a good person who occasionally does bad things then you have not understood the Bible – or the Gospel.

The greatest hindrance to your joy and happiness is you.  (Merry Christmas!)

Here is what I want to say as we move into our text for this morning:  There is good news…The gateway for ever increasing joy for you and for me is an understanding that surly we were brought forth into a state of inequity that surely we have a bent toward rebellion.  Our joy and delight begin with embracing our depravity.  The way to a sure hope is to embrace hopelessness…it seems counter-intuitive to us.  Another way to say it is – the unlikely route to joy is repentance (Dan Allender, The Wounded Heart).

Eph 2:4-5 – But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our [sin], made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”

Whether from the pen of Moses, Paul, or other biblical authors, “But God” appears in various forms hundreds of times in the Bible. To understand these two words as they are used in Scripture is to understand the gospel. James Montgomery Boice wrote, “May I put it quite simply? If you understand those two words—but God’—they will save your soul. If you recall them daily and live by them, they will transform your life completely.” “But God” marks God’s relentless, merciful interventions in human history. It teaches us that God does not wait for us to bring ourselves to him, but that he acts first to bring about our good. Without the “But God” statements in the Bible, the world would be completely lost in sin and under judgment.

God’s response to our rebellion is nothing short of spectacular, which takes us into our passage for today…

II.  BODY

There are three main points in these final eight verses.  In our remaining time, I’d like to go back and walk through them, viewing them in the light of the biblical truth – that we were brought forth in a state of rebellion and iniquity – and our only hope is God’s mercy and grace, which transforms us from the inside out.

1.  Verses 14-17 – God loves (or longs) to give us what we pray for

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. 16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.

So, the big picture assertion, or promise here is that God loves, or longs to provide what we pray for.  John is saying that if we know that He hears us, then we know we have the answer (assurance).  But did you notice a couple of elephants hanging around in those verses?

The elephants are found in verses 14 & 16: (v.14) IF we ask anything according to His will… and v. 16: There is a sin leading to death

Elephant #1 – V. 14 — This can be a troubling qualification because Scripture doesn’t speak a lot to the problem of unanswered prayer, though it does give us at least three clues, which I want to pass on to you…

  • 1 Peter 3:7 teaches that strained interpersonal relationships, especially between husband and wife, hinder prayer:  “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
  • James 4:3 teaches that prayers aimed at merely enhancing our own private pleasure will go unheardYou ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
  • 1 John 3:22 implies that if we are actively, willfully disobedient to God’s commandments, our prayers won’t be answered“and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” (The first work of obedience is to listen.)

Elephant #2 – V. 16 – There is a sin leading to death.” This verse has provoked widespread discussion.

This is where the Catholics affirm their concept of mortal[1] vs. venial sins.

However, it seems clear that the one who sins unto death is not a Christian (although s/he my think they are).  Here is what most scholars believe is the most likely interpretation: This is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

It is the deliberate, open-eyed rejection of known truth. Ascribing the mighty works of Jesus to the devil.  (John may have been referencing Christopher Hitchens types of their day…)

The Pharisees committed this sin.  And there are those whom John refers to earlier in 1 John as antichrists would also fall into this category.  They were children of the devil, not children of God (3:19).  Such sin, Jesus said would never be forgiven – in this life, or in the life to come.

  • Mark 3:29“but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
  • Mat 12:31-32“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” 

2.  Three Affirmations (“We knows”) John Stott calls them three clear, candid, bold, dogmatic certainties — which summarize the truths that have been shared in the earlier parts of the letter.

  • 1st Affirmation – (v. 18) – We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He [Jesus] who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.
    • The phrase “born of God” literally means “begotten” and indicates a new birth.
    • New birth results in new behavior.  John Stott writes, “Sin and the child of God are incompatible.  They may occasionally meet; [but] they cannot live together in harmony.”[2] (Besetting sins?)
    • If we have Christ, we have the power for deliverance from sin.
    • This is what we are praying when we say in the Lord’s Prayer: “deliver us from evil” (Mat 6:13b).
  • 2nd Affirmation – (v. 19) – We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
    • God remains the source of our spiritual life and being.
    • We should not attribute to the “evil one” too much power.  The word “lies” indicates that the “whole world” is but unconsciously asleep in the embrace of Satan.
    • John draws a very clear and dogmatic line here: We are either 1) awake and “of God” (or in God), or 2) we are slumbering in the arms of Satan.  There is no third category.
  • 3rd Affirmation – (v. 20) – We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
    • This final affirmation is the most fundamental.  Both redemption and revelation belong to God.
    • The gospel is not concerned merely with the truth that God has given us certain things, but that He has come. (“O come, O come Emmanuel – and ransom captive Israel…”)
    • And notice that the Christian is in Christ — sharing His very life.
    • John has told us that Jesus is light (1:5), He is love (4:8), and he is concluding his epistle by saying that Jesus is the only true source of life itself (see also Jn 5:26).

3.  The Concluding ExhortationGuard [NIV, KJ: keep] yourself from idols (5:21).

At first glance this concluding, or final, exhortation might seem a bit odd…

(And the NIV & KJ translations also make it a bit confusing[3]…There is a “keeping” (v.18) accomplished by Christ – and there is a “guarding” that we are responsible for.  The NIV & KJ translate the words the same, but they are different…)

  • Keeping (tēreō) – Expresses watchful care and is suggestive of present possession.  As in, Jesus Christ will – and is keeping us.
  • Guarding (phylassō) – A helpful synonym for this v.21 word may be: beware.  So, the NASB translation is a little clearer here.  “Guard yourselves, or beware, of idols.”  In other words, have a working knowledge or understanding (with accountability) of the areas where you attempt find comfort and joy in ways other than Jesus Christ.
  • So, God keeps – and our responsibility, through sanctifying grace, is to be on guard, or to beware of idolatry creeping into our lives.  In Christ we are empowered to find our joy, our comfort, our delight in Him.

One of the best definitions for idolatry is when we “make good things ultimate things” (Keller, Counterfeit Gods).  Another excellent descriptor is from Jerry Bridges book  Bookends of the Christian Life where he describes idols as our “functional saviors.”

Sometimes our surface sins are only symptoms of a deeper problem. Underneath every external sin is a heart idol—a false god that has eclipsed the true God in our thoughts or affections.  Some scholars would say we don’t really have a sin problem, we have a worship problem.  In this context all sin is idolatry.  And every time we choose sin we have chosen to find our comfort, joy, or delight in something (or someone) other than God.

III.  CONCLUSION

To sum-up: in our His Light, Our Delight study John leans in to an associated group of churches undergoing conflict to (re-) mold their concept of God and life within the church. By carefully describing salvation and its fruit in a Christian’s life, John brilliantly defines what a Christian is by clarifying the borders of our faith with the elements of light, truth, and love.  John, an eyewitness to the ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus –  as well as His most intimate earthly friend, enables us to discern where we are in our lives and carefully sets our focus on where we could and can be as we press in to wholeheartedly love God and one another.

A baseline for truth is seeking to understand the clearest concept of God, Jesus Christ, and humanity.  Love is the way we imitate Christ in sacrificially relating to one other.  His light is the reflection of holiness stemming from Christ dwelling in us through the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit – causing us to delight in what He has done.  We wouldn’t want a Christianity without these three elements as John has defined them.  It would no longer be what Jesus Christ taught and revealed to us.  Because of this, we are exhorted to surrender to God’s transforming love and to love one another in ways that are consistent with how Jesus Christ revealed Himself to us.


[1] From a Catholic perception a mortal sin is a grave sin that ruptures our link to God’s saving grace.

[2] Stott, John. The Letters of John, Tyndale NT Commentaries Vol. 19, IVP Accademic 1964 & 1988: 192.

[3] We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He [Jesus] who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

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.