Monday, October 31, 2011

1 John 3:11-12

For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous.

From the beginning the message of the gospel was one of love.  Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). 

If we are in Christ then when our sins are revealed through the Holy Spirit our hearts turn toward God and repentance. The flesh nature, like that revealed in Cain, leads people to blame others for mistakes, point the finger at people with “worse” sins, and even attack the righteous in an attempt to assuage their own guilty conscience. Cain was envious that his own offering was not accepted but his brother's was. We must guard ourselves from envy of those who seem favored by the Lord and strive to love all our Christian brothers and sisters (even the ones that within our flesh we find annoying or uncomfortable to be around). Just as Cain resented Abel's righteousness, so the world will resent our righteousness.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I John 3:1-10 - Sermon Snippets

Taken from sermons by MacArthur (1234), Piper, and Cole (12)

“Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us!” This great love should amaze us. Cole preached, “Some things grow commonplace over time… Maybe at first, when it was new, an idea or experience affected us. But over the years, the effect grows weaker and weaker, until finally it’s just a far-distant memory. But the Father’s great love for us is the kind of experience that should grow stronger and stronger over the years, until it totally dominates every aspect of our lives. It should consume our thoughts and control our behavior. It should motivate us to serve God and to live holy lives. It should give us comfort in all our trials. It should fill us with the eager hope of being with Him in heaven. It should fill us with awe and worship, that He, the holy sovereign of the universe, would set His love on a sinful, self-willed rebel like me.”

“Everyone who has this hope fixed on [being made like] Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Our hope is not in men. It is in the unchanging God who has spoken and cannot speak anything other than the truth. “Psalm 43:5 says this, ‘Why are you in despair, O my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God.’ Things aren't what they should be. Things aren't what you'd like them to be. Things aren't the way you would plan them if you were in charge. And so you become despairing and you become disturbed and the psalmist says, ‘Stop that and hope in God.’ Remember that God is your help… Our hope then comes from God... because God has made promises of care and concern and protection and guidance and direction and sustenance that we can trust Him for a better tomorrow” (MacArthur).

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Our hope comes from God by grace and is dispensed to us in the Scriptures. “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts always ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you. Give this with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pt. 3:15). Paul wrote in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Hope is more than a good feeling; it is a defense against Satan when he hammers you with doubt. “Our hope also… is confirmed through trials… We have as a helmet the hope of salvation… Therefore encourage one another and build up one another just as you're also doing… in the middle of a trial when you're pounded by doubt, you go back, you re-grip the Scripture, you are reminded that God has not destined us for wrath, but rather has given us through Christ the salvation that is ours that has been obtained for us through Christ. And by that you encourage one another. You build up one another so that even through the struggle of doubt, even through the trial itself you come out stronger.

“A person who walks in the light... sees sin the way God does and agrees with God. He hates sin, he is sorry for sin, he turns and flees from known sin. When sin is pointed out in his life, he does not bristle with self-righteousness; he confesses, admits, repents” (MacArthur).

Cole teaches that “John [hits] at the truth that sin, at its core, is much worse than an outward breaking of a commandment. To practice sin is to be in open rebellion against God Himself. The modern American church has fallen into serious deception on this crucial matter of sin. The popular view is that there are two options for the Christian life. 'Plan A' is for the really committed: you trust Jesus as Savior and Lord. This is tough. You have to obey Jesus totally, repenting of all your sins. It means giving up the right to spend your money as you choose, because you yield it to Jesus and manage it as His steward. It means following Jesus as His servant. He may call you to go to the mission field or even die as a martyr. But, you will have rewards in heaven. If that’s too difficult, you may want to try 'Plan B.' In this option, you accept Jesus as Savior, but you don’t need to follow Him as Lord. With this plan, you will go to heaven when you die, but you just don’t get as many rewards. But, you can enjoy the pleasures of sin now and at least get in the door of heaven later. But the truth of the Bible, the truth that John emphasizes here is, 'There is no Plan B!' Plan A is the only plan for eternal life. Christ calls you to follow Him as Savior and Lord. You cannot do this by your own strength or willpower, but only if He imparts new life to you, causing you to be born of God. If you have been born of God, it will be obvious. The new life in you will produce a life of righteousness. ‘Little children, make sure no one deceives you!’”

“We're still asking people to raise their hand, walk an aisle, sign a card, pray a prayer and then affirming to them that they're Christians no matter what happens... The correct view [is that the true] Christian does not, cannot habitually and persistently sin. He will sin sometimes. He will sin willfully. But he will not sin habitually, persistently and relentlessly… The whole direction of your life is now toward God. The direction of your life is toward holiness. Your mind is set on the Spirit (Rom 8:6). Your mind is set on things above (Col 3:2). You are disconnected from earthly things (Phil 3:19). And so we can say although the believer sometimes sins, yet the ruling principle of his life is opposition to sin so that he hates the sin that he sees in his own life.

“Lawlessness is an attitude. It is not so much the transgression of the Law, as the indifference to the Law... It's living as if there is no Law. It's living as if there is no law-giver… The believer and sin are incompatible because of the Law of God. We are now dominated by the Law of God, whereas before we were dominated by lawlessness. We hated God. We hated His Law. Now we love Him and we love His Law… Habitual sin then is incompatible with the Law of God.

"If any man be in Christ he is a new creation," (2 Cor 5:17)... You can't be connected to the person and work of Christ and not have your relationship to sins dramatically changed. Your attitude toward the Law of God is dramatically changed because you're made new on the inside. Your conduct is dramatically changed because of that new life on the inside so that sin is lifted… No one who abides in Him, no one connected to Christ like that, no one who possesses His life and is the recipient of His grace sins. No one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.

“So the simple principle is this. True believers have a pattern of righteousness in their life. The pop gospel is void of this truth. It only wants to acknowledge an emotional moment, an event, and affirm people's salvation on the basis of that event, that prayer, that moment rather than on life transformation” (MacArthur).

Piper taught, "’No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature… abides in him and he cannot sin because he is born of God.’ Now anybody can sin who wants to sin. So when John says that a person born of God cannot sin, he must mean that a person born of God has new wants, new desires. It's like a birth; something new has come into existence. Paul calls it a new creation (Eph 2:10; 4:24). Jeremiah calls it a new heart (24:7). Ezekiel calls it a new spirit (36:26). Being born of God is being changed by God so that the dominion of sin is broken… No one can be born of God and be content to continue sinning.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

1 John 3:9-10

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

No true believer can continue in sin without feeling the weight of the conviction of the Holy Spirit heavy on their hearts. Sin may be is ever active, but it no longer reigns. There is a seed placed within us when we become believers which will prevent us from sinning – not that we will never sin, but that sin will not grow roots in our lives. We water the seed through prayer, fertilize it by abiding in the word of God, and God Himself provides the light to make the seed grow. Fellowship and accountability with other believers pollinates to help the fruit of righteousness grow in our life. Although at times a weed of sin will sprout up from our old nature, we will desire to completely uproot it with the sword of the Spirit from the garden of our life.

Verse 10 echoes Jesus’ statement regarding the greatest commandment. If we are of God we will practice his righteousness and love our brother as ourselves. The fact that we cannot achieve perfection in either goal should not discourage us from pursuing the prize. A child of God will be always ready to perform acts of kindness for the comfort, relief, and support of any human being, especially fellow believers.

Matthew Henry write, “To be born of God is to be inwardly renewed by the power of the Spirit of God. Renewing grace is an abiding principle. Religion is not an art, a matter of dexterity and skill, but a new nature. And the regenerate person cannot sin as he did before he was born of God, and as others do who are not born again. There is that light in his mind, which shows him the evil and malignity of sin. There is that bias upon his heart, which disposes him to loathe and hate sin. There is the spiritual principle that opposes sinful acts. And there is repentance for sin, if committed. It goes against him to sin with forethought.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

1 John 3:7-8

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

Sin attracts sin. Our own consciences are soothed with a false balm when others participate in our wrongdoing. We can justify our disobedience when it seems like "everyone is doing it." Practicing righteousness grows holiness in one's life, but practicing sin leads one further into spiritual darkness. John has been clear that only the righteous are true believers. And such a believer will always feel that his claim to be regarded as a righteous man is not to be traced to what he is in himself, but to what he owes to the grace of God. As God spoke to the Israelites, "You must be holy because I, the LORD, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own" (Lev. 20:26). Under the New Covenant we have a model for this holiness in the life of Jesus Christ.

Our human flesh has an innate propensity to sin, and when we sin we resemble the devil rather than reflecting the glory of God. Jesus' purpose on this earth was to destroy sin, both through his death and resurrection which give us the power to enter eternal life fully justified and through his teachings and Spirit which daily work to destroy sin in our lives on earth. Will you draw your inspiration today from the works of the devil or the teachings of the triune God?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

1 John 3:4-6

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.

Through Christian history some have held that all that is needed to constitute true religion is to embrace the doctrines of Christian orthodoxy, not expecting that people could truly become holy in this life. Therefore sin is permissible and expected, arguing that is was freedom in Christ. But God has given His Law to conform our conduct to His expectations, and whatever departs in any way from that Law is sin. The law determines what we should love or not love, when our passions should be restrained or indulged, our motives and aims in living, and how we should act toward God and toward people – loving God with all our being and our neighbors as ourselves. Whenever the requirements of the Law are not complied with, there is sin.

Christ saw sin to be so great an evil that he came into our world and gave himself to the bitter sorrows of death on the cross in order to redeem us from it, doing what the blood of bulls and goats, sacrifices and moral performances could never do. This should be a great deterrent from sinful living.

“Abide” (μένων menōn)  also means to remain or continue. Usually the word was used to describe people permanently dwelling in a place. We are to dwell in Christ. I can’t help but think of the state of my home when I ignore it. The filth quickly accumulates. Likewise when I ignore prayer and Scripture the filth creeps into my life speck by speck until one day I am shocked by the stains on my heart.

“Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is” (NLT). Matthew Henry wrote, “The sons of God know that their Lord is of purer eyes than to allow anything unholy and impure to dwell with him. It is the hope of hypocrites, not of the sons of God, that makes allowance for gratifying impure desires and lusts. May we be followers of him as his dear children, thus show our sense of his unspeakable mercy, and express that obedient, grateful, humble mind which becomes us.”

Monday, October 24, 2011

1 John 3:1-3

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Behold what manner of love! God could bestow nothing more valuable than that we should be adopted into His family and permitted to regard Him as our Father. When we remember how insignificant we are as creatures, and how ungrateful, rebellious, and vile we have been as sinners, we may well be amazed at the love which would regard us as the children of the Most High. Matthew Henry writes, “Little does the world know of the happiness of the real followers of Christ. Little does the world think that these poor, humble, despised ones, are favourites of God, and will dwell in heaven. Let the followers of Christ be content with hard fare here, since they are in a land of strangers, where their Lord was so badly treated before them. The sons of God must walk by faith, and live by hope.”

John witnessed a glimpse of Christ’s true glory at the transfiguration, although surely the full glory was slightly obscured for the disciples to bear the sight. He had more knowledge than anyone alive of what purity and holiness would exist when his readers would be made like Christ. And yet he admonishes them to live as purely as Christ. “So all people who have this confidence in Christ keep themselves pure, as Christ is pure” (GNT). Of our own power we cannot keep ourselves pure, but the power of the Spirit in us transforms us daily into the image of Christ. If we walk with God, He will not allow anything unholy to continue in our lives.

So many times we live in a manner according to the world, at times even justifying our actions as making us more available to share the gospel. But if we are truly living as Christ, the world will notice there is something different about us. Unbelievers will not understand our source of joy, our moral standards, and the reasons behind our conduct. At times people may not react in a positive manner and may regard us as fanatics – giving up worldy pleasures for some imaginary future gain. Bur our hope is not in worldly praise. We look towards full sanctification – being made fully like him when at last we see him. And while we wait we purify ourselves daily, asking for cleansing forgiveness when needed and striving to become perfect as He is perfect.

Friday, October 21, 2011

1 John 2:18-29 - Sermon Snippets

Thoughts taken from sermons by McArthur (1, 234), Piper, and Spurgeon

This section of John contrasts Christians with antichrists. This is the first time the word “antichrists” appears in the Bible, and it only appears in John’s epistles. However the theology behind an Antichrist is in both the Old and New Testament. Most Christians today hear the ominous word and imagine a larger than life figure who commands the attention of the world leading up to the final battle of Armageddon. The end of time “Antichrist” will appear good initially but will eventually turn against Christ and anyone who follows him. As with all eschatology there is much debate over what he will really be like and what will happen, but there is no need to get into that with this particular passage.

Some find reason to disbelieve the Bible in the fact that John wrote that we were in the last hour around two thousand years ago, and Jesus still has not returned. MacArthur explains that the last hour began when Jesus arrived. The two ages outlined in the New Testament are the present age and the age to come. The present age is an evil age (Gal. 1:4), stretching from the beginning to the end of evil. “The age to come is the Kingdom when righteousness will prevail in the world and Christ will rule with a rod of iron, the great Millennial Kingdom, the thousand-year reign of Christ that's promised in the Old Testament, promised in the New Testament and described for us in the end of the book of Revelation…  John says it is the last hour of this present evil age... in which we live… because the Messiah [had] come.”

Throughout the history of the church there has been speculation about who that Antichrist might be. But the key to these verses is that this future man is not the only antichrist. He is just the final one. The broader term “antichrists” refers to those following any “principle of evil that is hostile and opposed to God” (MacArthur). One reason people of every generation have put forth suppositions of who the “Antichrist” might be is because evil men in opposition have existed in every generation, either blatantly opposing God like Antiochus Epiphanies or subtly attempting to replace the truth of God with their own deceptions like Vladimir Lenin.

An antichrist can mean someone who is an adversary of Christ or someone who is a false representation of Christ.To make it very simple, Jesus said this in Matthew 12:30, ‘He who is not with Me, is against Me.’ And there isn't any middle ground. You're either with Him, or you're against Him, that's it. You're either a Christian, or an antichrist. Kind of hard to think about the fact that antichrist wait on you in the restaurant, check you out of the market, but they do. Anybody who does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, who does not embrace Him as Messiah, King, as God, as Man is guilty of the spirit of antichrist. You are either for Him, or you're anti-Christ” (MacArthur).

“To John, ‘antichrists’ is another word for false teachers. The Lord gave fair warning to the church about them. He said, ‘False Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect’ (Mk. 13:22). There will be a proliferation of antichrists in the last days – and that is true today. Jesus also said, ‘Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many’ (Mk 13:6). Paul warned the Ephesian elders, saying, ‘After my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things’ (Acts 20:29-30). Wherever there are Christians, there will be opposition to Christ” (MacArthur).

It is not possible for the elect to be ultimately deceived from following Christ (Mt. 24:24), but it is certainly possible for them to be confused. John speaks specifically to spiritual babies about false teachers because those mature in their faith are unlikely to be victimized by false doctrine since the true word of God abides in them (1 Jn 2:14). Piper said, “What strikes me is the ease with which many people are deceived. Two things account for this: a lack of grounding in the Word of God and a lack of life in the Holy Spirit. Or to put it another way, when people have no theological depth and no vital experience of the Holy Spirit they are sitting ducks for the deceiver and the antichrist.”

McArthur preached, “In some cases true believers drift away from the fellowship for a little while, but they are drawn back. There may even be some believers who drift away and die before they come back. God may have had to discipline them--He alone knows whether they're genuine or not. But the majority who depart from the fellowship were never believers to begin with. What about you? Are you a phony who will depart some day? Or are you a genuine Christian who has been secured by the Spirit and is continuing in the faith?”

The church suffers more from attacks originating from the inside than from the outside. Antichrists originate in the church and then depart from it. MacArthur taught that God allows false teachers to come into a church and pull out the people who aren't genuine in order purge the church. He said, “Some may fall into heresy and apostasy, and that manifests they never were saved. True believers will never fall into apostasy because the Holy Spirit is the Christian's built-in lie detector.” I have personally experienced false teaching in my life, and something within me went off like an alarm, warning me that something wasn’t quite right.

When John wrote that believers do not need anyone to teach them of course he did not mean that no one needs spirit filled human teachers or fellowship with other believers. However we are not to be dependent on any human, no matter how gifted a teacher, but on the wisdom of personally reading God’s Word and applying it to our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. And any teaching encounter must be filtered through the standards and teachings of Scripture.

The last verse commands us to abide in Him. Spurgeon preached, “He is that good ship into which you have entered that He may bear you safely to the desired haven.  Abide in the vessel—neither venture to walk on the water, like Peter—nor think to swim by your own strength. ‘Abide in Him,’ and you shall weather every storm… If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone that does righteousness is born of Him. What your Lord bids you, continue to do. Call no man Master, but in all things, submit your thoughts, your words, and your acts to the rule of the Lord Jesus. Obey Him by whose obedience you are justified. Be precise and prompt in your execution of His commands. If others reckon you morbidly conscientious, heed not their opinion but, ‘Abide in Him.’ Cling to the Lord Jesus in your feebleness, in your fickleness, in your nothingness. And abidingly take Him to be everything to you. Abide in the rifts of the Rock of Ages and let nothing tempt you to quit your stronghold.”

Whatever you do - whether vacuuming the floor, leading a Bible Study, watching television, whatever you do – do it to the glory of God. Then you never need fear that you would “shrink away at His coming.”  In the words of Spurgeon, “Glory awaits us and nothing but glory, if we abide in Christ. Therefore, keep your garments unspotted, your loins girt, your lamps trimmed, and your lights burning—and you, yourselves, as men and women that look for your Lord—when He comes, you may have confidence and not shame.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

1 John 2:28-29

Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.

Again like a kind patriarch John addresses his readers as “little children,” reminding his readers to abide in Christ. The Greek word for “confidence” (Παρρησίαν parrēsian) implies boldness and freedom of speech (or plain speaking). So it’s not some touchy-feely high self esteem that we feel, but confidence in our own salvation because our lives match up with the evidence about which John has written, having courage to share the truth of it with others as well. We are confident that in the face of conflicting religious belief systems surrounding us today that we have the Truth.

We have confidence because we have practiced His righteousness despite occasionally stumbling, and we have confidence in knowing Christ is our defender who has already paid for our transgressions. At his second coming when all pretenses are stripped away our character will be shown to be what we professed it to be, not having lived a double life but having abided in Him.

Anyone truly acquainted with God will be certain that he is a righteous Being. So it follows that only those who are truly righteous can regard themselves as begotten of Him. No matter how soon Jesus may appear, or how solemn and overwhelming the scenes which close the world, we will not be ashamed but will hail him as our Savior. Ocumenius wrote "God is righteous, and therefore the source of righteousness; when then a man doeth righteousness, we know that the source of his righteousness is God, that consequently he has acquired by new birth from God that righteousness which he had not by nature. We argue from his doing righteousness, to his being born of God. The error… is to conclude that doing righteousness is a condition of becoming a child of God." If we are righteous, doing that which is right toward God and toward people, to ourselves, to our families, to our neighbors, to the world at large, and to the Savior who died for us, then we are true Christians. But we must always remember that our righteousness comes from Him, not from our righteous acts which are but "filthy rags."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

1 John 2:24-27

As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.

This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life. These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

That which is from the beginning should abide in us, so what was taught from the beginning? The apostles taught the truth of the gospel – Jesus’ incarnation, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension – things they personally experienced, not their own philosophical ideas and opinions. In maintaining these truths John’s readers have the promise of eternal life; in departing from them they had none. Other religions teach people to strive to do good works, follow certain tenets, meditate, and maybe… just maybe… they will reach some sort of enlightenment or positive escape from this world. Thankfully we must but believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be eternally saved!

Some versions translate “deceive you” (πλανώντωνn) as “seduce you.” Like the fruit in the garden, things not of God often look and sound appealing on the surface. But beneath the surface resides the rottenness of lies.

The influence on your heart and life, resulting from the fact that you are anointed of God, permanently abides with you and will keep you from dangerous error. True Christians will not fall away from the faith despite the corruptions in their hearts, the pollutions of the world, and the temptations of Satan. But danger lies in the worldliness of modern American Christians. No matter in what age we live we tend to conform to society, taking on its strengths and weaknesses. Most Christians today bear little difference from their unbelieving counterparts in either the media they consume or their lifestyle. Often the only difference is church attendance, and sometimes not even that distinction applies. How can we be salt and light when we have the same flavor and appearance as the world?

But what a comfort to know that as we abide in Him and He in us that His anointing will teach us about all things! The key is that we continue in prayer and grow in the knowledge of Scripture – the test against which all true teaching will pass.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

1 John 2:20-23

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.

What a comfort that if we have the Holy Spirit and seek His guidance that we will discern the difference between religious truth and error. No matter how smooth the erroneous speaker’s tongue we will feel unease in our spirit when we are steeped in God’s Word and communing with his Spirit. The word translated “anointing” or “unction” suggests an image of a priest or king being inaugurated or coronated. We as believers are a royal priesthood, and if we walk in the Light as believers we will be able to identify darkness when we encounter it.

In fact John is clear that he isn’t writing the letter because his readers do not know the truth, but because they do know it! Erroneous teaching exists today under the guise of Christianity. Much of it uses Scripture to back itself up. Error often appears plausible. Doctrines such as “health and wealth gospels” may attract vast followers who may for a time find joy in religion. But however plausible false doctrine may seem, error can have no foundation in truth and cannot stand up when the light shines on it.

John was likely speaking of people who admitted that Jesus lived, but who denied that he was the true Messiah. Many in our culture deny that Jesus was the Christ, the only way to salvation, although they may affirm that he was a good teacher. But to deny the Son is to not have the Father. There is but one Way, one Truth, and one Life. No one may approach the Father except through Him.

Monday, October 17, 2011

1 John 2:18-19

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

Many of us today have been so influenced by Christian fiction and movies that the word “antichrist” immediately brings to mind an end of time world dominating figure. But take careful note that John warns his readers that many antichrists have appeared. Break the word down – “anti” + “Christ” = anyone against Christ, not simply those like David Koresh who literally claim to be Christ. Verse 18 indicates that John speaks of people who were once members of the believers and had left the fellowship, presumably following some false doctrine. Augustine’s comments on the antichrists of this verse are very direct: "They are like bad humors in the body of Christ, the Church: when they are vomited out, then the body is relieved; the body of Christ is now still under treatment, and has not yet attained the perfect soundness which it shall have only at the resurrection."

Larger than life figures appear every few generations, and many immediately think of “the” Antichrist. Men from Nero to Charlemagne to Hitler to several Popes have been thought to be this end of time figure. Emails and speculation even circled that Obama might be the antichrist before his election! Although I would never downplay the evil done by Hitler and others, the false teaching espoused by “antichrists” in religious circles can do far more damage. Satan is in the business of religion. Our flesh drives us to sin – we need little help in that arena. Antichrists today exist in false religion, cults, and even in Christianity – twisting the truth of Scripture just enough that what is false seems true. Many will be satisfied with a small amount of truth and will be kept from true saving knowledge in Christ. Every person who opposes the spirit of the Gospel, and every teacher and writer who endeavors to lower the Gospel standard to the spirit and taste of the world is a genuine antichrist, no matter where or among whom he is found.

Friday, October 14, 2011

1 John 2:12-17 - Sermon Snippets

Based on sermons from Piper (1, 2), MacArthur (1, 2), and Spurgeon

Piper summarizes the first verses thusly: “You are forgiven! You know Christ! You have conquered the devil! So be encouraged! Abide in Christ! Use his truth and power to avoid error and to defeat the temptation to sin.” Spurgeon notes that little children need only to know the Father, and rejoice in his love; in the days of their strength, young men overcome the wicked one who would easily have overcome them if left to fight in their own strength; knowing him that is from the beginning is all that even the fathers need to know or can know, for this knowledge includes all other that is worth knowing. These verses give us hope and courage to fight evil – we have overcome the darkness; we can keep God’s commandments; we can love each other with a divine love so great that the world will notice and glorify God! And the weapon that defeats evil is the Word of God abiding in us.

Growth is evidence of life, both in the physical and spiritual realm. Becoming like Christ is the goal and the objective of the process of spiritual maturity. You are sanctified when you are saved and set apart from sin, but you will be fully sanctified when you enter into heaven’s glory and eternally separated from sin. Between these times we should be daily becoming more like Christ.

MacArthur says, “Now there are a number of ways in which the Bible defines spiritual growth. It calls it ‘following after righteousness,’ (1 Tim. 6:11). It calls it ‘being transformed by the renewing of your mind,’ (Rom. 12:2). It calls it ‘perfecting holiness in the fear of God,’ (2 Cor. 7:1)... it calls it ‘pressing toward the mark’ (Phil. 3:14). Colossians 2:7 says, ‘It's being built up in the faith.’ Paul at the very end of his life [said], ‘I'm the chief sinner.’ Because as you mature there's a decreasing frequency of sin but there's an increasing hatred of sin that makes less sin seem worse.”

Jesus taught the first and great commandment as “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Love for the world pushes out love for God, and love for God pushes out love for the world. Jesus also said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). Piper says, “Not only is the world passing away, but also the lusts of it. If you share the desires of the world, you will pass away. You will not only lose your treasure. You will lose your life. If you love the world, it will pass away and take you with it.” In John 5:44 Jesus confronts the unbelieving Jewish leaders with these words, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from... God?” They loved the world (the glory of men) not the glory of God.

“Anything in this world that is not God can rob your heart of the love of God. Anything that is not God can draw your heart away from God. If you don't have it, it can fill you with passion to get it. If you get it, it can fill you with pride that you've got it” (Piper). Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Col. 3:17). Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Strive to say as Paul wrote, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but σκύβαλον (garbage, filth, animal excrement) in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you” (NLT). Of course it is not forbidden to love creation as the work or God or to love people living in this world. In fact the previous verses instructed us to love people! But we are not to focus on material things, the lusts of the flesh and eyes, and the ungodly principles surrounding us in our culture today. We are not to love this world as if it were our true home, but as pilgrims dwelling here with heaven as our destination. We love the people of the world, but we do not love the sinful attitudes and values they may embrace. The Father and the things of this world cannot truly be loved at the same time. “Friendship with the world is hatred toward God” (Js. 4:4).

Although I rarely think of myself as materialistic, I certainly enjoy all the creature comforts modern American life provides. And I spend most of my days distracted my chores to do, places to go, and children to raise. Precious few of my moments are spent truly loving the Father. If we were as concerned with the cleanness of our hearts are we are with our outer appearance, clothing, and dwelling places we would truly be showing our love for the Father. The things of this world pass away, decay, and are forgotten. Only what is done for God’s kingdom will last.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

1 John 2:14

I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

The statement to fathers is a repetition of the previous statement, emphasizing the idea. But even those mature believers were written to; none are too old to continue learning. John wrote to young men were strong - qualified for active and useful service in the cause of the Christ. They had showed that they could be relied on and depended on to advocate and live out the great principles of Christianity. As believers we must all put on the armor of God daily to defend our faith and perform our responsibilities with all the strength we have in Christ. We must also have wisdom to discern what around us is of God and what is of the evil one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

1 John 2:13

I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.

The age distinctions referred to in this verse could refer as easily to spiritual maturity as to chronological age. Either way “fathers” would indicate mature believers. These elders had been long acquainted with the principles of the faith and understood well its doctrines and duties. Some readers of John’s age may have even heard the teachings from Jesus himself! Mature believers then and now possess a special responsibility to maintain true doctrine in the face of false teaching.

“Young men” usually referred to 20-40 year olds but could indicate those strong in their faith and no longer spiritual children. They were well-grounded in the truth and had been engaged in Christian warfare, overcoming the wicked one. Those with strength to fight the assaults of evil from within and without the body of believers must do so.

“Little children,” though young either in chronological age or in the faith, were acquainted with the principles of the faith and understood well its doctrines and duties. If all they could do was but to cry out to their Abba Father their sins were forgiven as they began their journey of faith. Wherever we are in our Christian walks, it is our responsibility to grow in Christ, fight against evil, and train those younger in the faith.

Monday, October 10, 2011

1 John 2:12

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake.

You may notice right away that this verse is nearly identical to verse one, indicating John’s emphasis of the idea presented. Some commentators believe “little children” applies to all those to whom John considered himself to be a spiritual father. But the use of “τεκνία” rendered “little children” may refer to those under 20, as John goes on to address young and older adults. Children and youth are important in the fellowship of the church body and need training in theology. The hopes of a church are in them. Their minds are susceptible to impression. The character of the piety in the next age will depend on their views of religion. All that there is of value in the church and the world will soon pass into their hands. It is important that all of us, not just parents, grandparents, and children/youth leaders, train them in the way they should walk. It isn’t enough to just get them into the building through fun and exciting activities.

“Your sins have been forgiven you.” The precept certainly applies to us all. The fact that our past sins are blotted out furnishes a strong reason why we should be holy. Our lives should have a different appearance than others “of this world”. Does yours?

Friday, October 7, 2011

1 John 2:1-11 - Sermon Snippets

Points taken from sermons by MacArthur (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), Piper (1, 2), and Spurgeon (1, 2, 3)

"There is only one thing God wants of us, and that is our unconditional surrender."
- Oswald Chambers

Our Only Defense
In his epistle John sets the standard of perfect holiness, righteousness, and love then graciously introduces Jesus Christ is introduced as our Advocate (parakletos), the one who comes alongside to help, in this case a defender. As McArthur says, “There are surely lawyers in heaven, but only one practicing.” He also teaches, “There is more to our salvation than elements of love and grace and kindness and mercy. There is the matter of divine justice since God cannot ever disregard His own perfect, holy Law and justice... But both love and justice are equally satisfied in God's salvation plan. God's love did not overpower His Law, His mercy did not overwhelm His wrath, His compassion did not conquer His justice, but rather they worked together in perfect harmony.” Under the terms of the New Covenant God accepts our sincere obedience despite its defects because all the defects have been paid for by the death of His Son. And as we abide in Him like a branch on a vine, we draw strength from him to walk in the manner in which he walked.

“The Lord God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness. Yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished" (Ex. 34:6-7). He is both merciful and just. "The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but He will by no means clear the guilty" (Num. 14:18). Jesus Christ the righteous became the propitiation for our sins. Propitiation (hilasmos) means an appeasement. He provided satisfaction for the justice of God. “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21).  Mercy and justice kissed each other at the cross.

A Satisfying Sacrifice
When the Tabernacle and Jewish Temple were operating it was a bloody business every day. But the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was special. Inside the Most Holy Place the high priest entered the Most Holy Place where God met his people, approaching the Mercy Seat atop of the Ark of the Covenant which contained the Law of Moses. (Think Indiana Jones.) Once a year, after offering sacrifices to cleanse his own sins, the priest would go in and sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat to appease God. But none of the Old Testament sacrifices truly appeased God, they only pointed to the sacrifice that would. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23) We are therefore under the just condemnation of God. No matter how religious we are, no matter how many sacrifices we may offer, we cannot propitiate God or appease God. Verse 24 comes to our rescue, "We are then justified as a gift by His grace."

Assurance of Salvation
John Calvin taught that assurance is of the essence of faith, but can we truly have assurance of our salvation? Peter wrote, "Be diligent to make sure about God's calling and choosing you" (2 Pet. 1:10). Many in contemporary Christianity teach that if you pray a certain prayer or are baptized you are saved without question. Any doubt comes from Satan or poor self-esteem. Other Christians follow the Puritan train of thought that you can lose your salvation, so it’s better to be always nervous about your salvation.

MacArthur says, “Roman Catholicism denies in its theology that anyone can have the assurance of salvation because salvation is a joint effort between God and the sinner. God will always do His part, but the sinner might not always do his part. So no one can be assured of their salvation until they finally get to heaven. [Others teach that] you really can't be sure of your salvation… you might have it now, lose it tomorrow… you don't know how it's going to end up when you die.”

So some have false assurance and some have no assurance, but the middle (and biblical) ground is to consistently examine yourself in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5) while maintaining confidence in Christ. “The Bible encourages true believers with the promise of eternal salvation and does not teach that true salvation can be lost… Scripture encourages believers [to] live a life that makes their calling and election sure. At the same time the Bible also makes false Christians insecure by demanding that they examine themselves, never settling for an event kind of salvation without a transformation” (MacArthur).

MacArthur defines Christians as those “who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the people who believe that He is God, that He is the Savior, who repent from their sin and ask Him to save them by grace through faith alone... He has paid the price for their sin on the cross and risen from the dead... Anybody who believes that and comes before the Lord and asks for salvation is a Christian, anyone else is not.”

There is in faith itself a component of assurance. When you put your trust in Jesus Christ, you experience it. Your heart is awakened to its sinful condition. Then as you walk in the faith you will see the Spirit of God directing your life through ministry and life circumstances, and you will grow in spiritual gifts and the fruit of the Spirit. You keep His commandments and walk as he walked.
Persistence in the Faith
Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sower that some will respond to the gospel, but in the end – under pressure, under the deceitfulness of riches, under the cares of this world, under the influences of sin – they deny their faith. 1 John teaches that if a person forsakes the faith, that person was never really part of the flock. Piper teaches, “Judas knew Christ. Lots of unbelieving scholars today know more about Christ than many Christians. There must be a different kind of knowledge than this merely factual knowledge... There can't be knowledge of God where there is persistence in sin.”

Difficulty arises because professing Christians can be hypocritical or for a time show blatant disregard for God’s commands. Piper reasons that “Sin says to Christ, ‘I do not regard your suffering as sufficient incentive to keep me back from this act. You may have died to prevent me from doing this, but I'm going to do it anyway.’”

As Piper says, “When God commands you to do something and you ignore it or go against it, John can only conclude one thing: You don't believe that God is love. And therefore you don't know him. For if you believed that God is love then you would believe that all his commandments were the very best thing for you. And you would follow them. When you turn away from the commandments of God, you say in effect, a loving God wouldn't command me to do that. And so our disobedience displays our lack of trust in the love God has for us. And it shows that we do not know God.”

"By this we know we've come to know Him if we keep His commandments." The word “keep” stresses the idea of observant, watchful obedience – to guard daily the precepts of Christ. When Jesus Christ is truly Lord and Savior, His authority is gladly embraced. His authority becomes precious. And if He is truly loved there is this guardianship of His truth and His precepts that causes us to love it in our hearts and long to manifest it in our lives. Spurgeon preached, “Is God so good?—then I will not grieve Him. Is He so ready to forgive my transgressions?—then I will love Him, by His Grace, and offend no more. Gratitude has bands which are stronger than iron, although softer than silk.  Sinners go to their sins as children to their own father’s orchard, but Believers slink away like thieves when they have been stealing forbidden fruit. Shame and sin are always in close company in a Christian... His heart is broken within him, and when he has sinned he goes with sore bones for many and many a day... A Christian always sins worse than other men. If the sin is not in itself so bad as other men’s, it is worse in you. For a king’s favorite to play the traitor is villainy, indeed. “

Obedience and Love
Knowing Christ necessarily produces obedience. "The one who loves his brother abides in the light.” Christianity is more than a philosophy. You can't live any way you want to live. If you've really been changed and regenerated, you're going to obey God and you're going to love other Christians.

This apostle once called Boanerges, a son of thunder, once wanted to call down fire from heaven to incinerate a whole village of people. He became known as the apostle of love because he had been tenderized by the mighty work of God in His life.  John witnessed firsthand the perfect love exhibited by Christ and it forever changed  him.

"The one who says he's in the light yet hates his brother is still in the darkness until this moment." McArthur says, “If you hate, you're not in this kingdom. If you… don't see people the way God sees them then He's not in control of your heart. Rather our hearts go out in love to them… You're going to want to serve those around you, not demand from them. You're going to want to help those around you, not harm them. You're going to want to come to the aid of those around you, to lift them up not to step on them.”

As Spurgeon preached, “Only in proportion as Divine Grace makes you obedient will Divine Grace make you an assured Christian. Your holiness and your confidence will keep pace together if your confidence is worth having... Depend upon it, if you want to kill your doubts and fears, you must kill your sins, by God’s Grace, by exterminating disobedience… Sin promised freedom, and brought us bondage; grace now binds us, and ensures us liberty.”

Thursday, October 6, 2011

1 John 2:9-10

The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

In John 13:35 Jesus enjoined his followers to live this out by saying, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” People fall into two classes, those who are in fellowship with God, and therefore walk in light and love, and those who are not in fellowship with God, and therefore walk in darkness and hatred. A disobedient life shows there is neither religion nor honesty in the person, no matter what faith they claim.

Christian love teaches us to value our brother's soul and to dread everything hurtful to his purity and peace. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). The world translated “stumbling” (σκανδαλον) could also be translated as “stumbling block.” As we walk in the light we see the stumbling blocks in our path and can avoid falling into the snares of Satan. We will not easily take offense at what is said or done to us, for love is patient, kind and not jealous (1 Cor. 13:4).

How often do those in the world look at Christians and see infighting, church splits, and other signs of “hating” our brothers? Why would they want to be a part of such darkness? But what a witness it is when they see the light of Christ within us – bearing each other’s burdens, forgiving transgressions, and doing good in the world. How much better our lives and relationships will be as we learn to live in this truth!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

1 John 2:7-8

Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.

Although John was combating new heresies, he was teaching the same system of doctrines which his readers had received since they became Christians. It was also a part of the original Jewish law handed down to Moses – walking in the holiness of God, caring for others, etc. But this commandment was renewed by Christ with a greater meaning and clarification as well as grace to observe it. So it is an old commandment which was from the beginning of time as well as being a new commandment illustrated and clarified by Christ’s teachings and life – the idea of loving one another enough to even lay down one’s life. As people are changed into new creations by the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining although it will not be completely perfected until the second coming.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

1 John 2:3-6

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

Our lives and actions reveal whether or not we really know Jesus. And what are His commandments? He said the greatest was to love the Lord with all our hearts, soul, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. I imagine we all have room for improvement. But our lives should reveal that we are growing in the fruit of the Spirit and striving to walk as Christ would walk.

John blatantly calls any who would profess Christianity without “walking the walk” liars. Imagine if we (in love) held each other to this standard – the church as a body would look far different! Some might be offended and leave, but hopefully we would admit our shortcomings and strive to grow in Christ. There can be no true religion where one does not obey the law of God.

It is by keeping God’s commandments that his love is made perfect in us. The passage does not speak of sinless perfection but affirms that if true love exists in the heart it will manifest itself in obedience. A tree is known by its fruit. If we take seriously the commands of God and desire to keep them, we can be sure we know God. If we profess to be united with Christ, we must live our lives in the way that he would live our lives. Would he have the same priorities? Would he spend time on the things on which we spend time? How would your life change if you and Christ had a “Freaky Friday” experience and he controlled your body for a day?

1 John 2:1-2

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

John makes it clear that it is not proper or right to sin. But with corrupt hearts living amid the temptations of this world all are liable to sin. And when we are conscious of sin our minds should not yield to despair. The atonement made by the Redeemer covers all kinds of sin, and under the deepest consciousness of guilt and of personal unworthiness we may be assured that we have an advocate on high.

This is not like an earthly advocate who either claims his client’s innocence or makes excuse for the behavior. Christ admits the guilt of those for whom he becomes the advocate, to the full extent charged on them by the law of God. He does not attempt to hide or conceal it. He makes no apology for it. But being completely just he must also ensure that no wrong be charged to the character of God if we are not punished as we deserve and are instead pardoned. His sufferings and death on behalf of sinners have done as much to honor the law and maintain the truth and justice of God as if the offenders themselves had suffered the full penalty of the law.

Propitiation basically means “atoning sacrifice”. The mercy seat of the Tabernacle where God met man was called the propitiation. Christ is our mercy seat, where God meets us in mercy and forgiveness. The idea is that there is anger or wrath, and sacrifice is needed to turn away that wrath. We see this pictured in the blood offerings carried out in the Jewish scriptures. Only blood would turn away wrath for sins, but there was no full atonement until the sacrifice of Christ. All previous sacrifices before were temporary atonement.

The phrase "the whole world" embraces all people, not only the elect. His propitiation extends as widely as sin extends. This cannot be correctly interpreted to mean that all will be forgiven, but that forgiveness is available to all. Gratitude for our own forgiveness should propel us to share the same knowledge with the world!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

1 John 5-10 - Sermon Snippets

Many thoughts below taken from sermons by Mcarthur  Piper, and Spurgeon (1 & 2)

God is light; God is truth. When you draw near to God, you do not find a dark and foreboding truth. Light is painful to eyes long accustomed to darkness, but soon the Light brings the promise of freedom, hope, and joy. When the Light truly shines on your life you cannot help but see the glaring blemishes on your soul; you cannot help but see the path illumed which you should be walking.

John lays out a test by which you can measure someone's claim to be a Christian in true "Son of Thunder" fashion. He has already indicated that no one can hope to have eternal life and enter into heaven unless they have a proper understanding of Jesus Christ. The second test measures true spiritual condition – the sin test. We live in a society that does not want to recognize the singularity of Jesus Christ as the only Savior or its guilt before God for violation of His Law. But true believers understand their sinfulness.

Proverbs 28:13 says, "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion." It takes confession and repentance to receive God’s mercy. Many today do not fully acknowledge their sin although they may admit occasional mistakes or bad choices. Some even preach that the love of God would not condemn man to Hell, but this powerless gospel is not good news. A gospel that only wins lip service is no different than all the other philosophies of the world. Such a gospel produces a Christianity that encourages lukewarm church-goers that they are safe from God's wrath because of some inherited mental assent to the love of God. Such a gospel accounts for how 40 million people can claim to be born again in America at the same time that our moral condition is an all time low of corruption inside and outside the church.

True Christians, on the other hand, are people who confess as their conscience brings sin to mind, slowing down their self-destruction. David said, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long." The man who covers his sin in this life heaps upon himself a severe and painful burden. The man who covers his sin in this life will also have it uncovered in the next life. There will be no secrets.

You can't claim to be in the light while you're walking in darkness. It's amazing how many within the framework of Christianity - even religious leaders - claim to know God, but when you look at their daily lives you see a walk of death, of sin and untruth. Anyone who would twist the Scriptures and force his own meaning on them is not in the Light - however learned a philosopher he may be! A Christian can never walk comfortably in darkness.

John is not saying we will never sin. He is saying that is not the pattern of our lives. No one can deny sin and claim fellowship with God. If you're really walking in the Light, you're going to be overwhelmed with the sin that is there. Every man who, however limpingly, is walking in this Light is being transformed into the very image of Christ. Jesus himself said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” If we take anything short of absolute perfection as our model of life we shall certainly fall short of the Glory of God!