Pastor Kirk

Notes from Scio Community Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan

God Is Life, 1 John 5, 14 June 2015

Big Idea: God is light, love, and life.

Scripture: 1 John 5

Introduction

Today we conclude our series on the first epistle or letter written by Jesus’ friend John to the first Christians. I have been overwhelmed by the rich content of this short book. We have titled this series “Love Illuminated” and we could say the theme of the first chapter is God is light. The theme of the next chapters is God is love. The final chapter’s theme is God is life.

Jesus said plainly to Thomas in John’s biography of Jesus, the Gospel or good news of John…

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Jesus is life.

As I have said previously, we could take months to dissect this short letter, yet it is just that—a letter. It’s not a painting needing endless interpretation, a song for us to learn to sing or dance, or an inner feeling requiring unpacking. It’s a rather straightforward letter, a letter we will finish reading today.

Victory over the world

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:1-5)

When you trust Jesus you trust what He did and who He is, His identity. If Jesus is LORD, you have been born of God, new birth. You’ve been born again. God becomes your Father, your Dad. Your Dad loves you, you love your Dad, and you love your siblings, brothers and sisters in Christ along with our big Brother, Jesus.

How do you know you’re a child of God?

  • You are righteous. You do what is right. (1 John 2:29)
  • You stop a lifestyle of sin. (1 John 3:9)
  • You love other Christians, your spiritual siblings. (1 John 4:7)
  • You believe in Jesus. (1 John 5:1)
  • You overcome the world. (1 John 5:4)
  • You keep yourself from satan. (1 John 5:18)

Love, obedience, and truth.

Loving God shows we are His children. Last week we said love is more than a feeling, but a verb; it’s action! If we love God we obey His commands. What are they?

Be filled with the Holy Spirit
Love your neighbor
Pray without ceasing
Encourage
Rejoice always
Give thanks in all circumstances
(and so many more; many are found in 1 Thessalonians 5)

How do we overcome the world? Faith. We’re in the world but not to be of the world.

This is the only time “victory” occurs in the New Testament.

Faith saves us.
Faith keeps us.

J. Vernon McGee says Canaan represents the world where we live today. We’re blessed with all spiritual blessings. Joshua led the people into the Promised Land, but there were battles. Jericho was the first battle (the world). Ai was the second (the flesh). The Gibeonites deceived Joshua (the devil). We overcome the world not by fighting but by faith. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down.

We cannot overcome the world by fighting it.

Assurance of Salvation

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:6-12)

Water and blood both came from the side of Jesus on the cross.

Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (John 19:34-35)

Water speaks of the living Word of God. We must be born of water, the Word.

Blood speaks of life and the death of Jesus.

We need the Holy Spirit.

Note: verse 7 may have been added later.

The Spirit, water (the Word) and blood agree Jesus is the Savior of the world because of His death and resurrection.

The witness or testimony of God is greater than that of humans.

The Holy Spirit is given to all followers of Jesus.

If you have Jesus, you have life. It doesn’t say who goes to church or reads the Bible. Is Jesus your Savior and LORD? Salvation and eternal life comes through trusting Jesus.

The next verse is very important.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:13-15)

We can have confidence and boldness in approaching God.

Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance but laying hold of His willingness.” - Martin Luther

We have a great Dad who will hear and answer.

Prayer may be one of the most misunderstood aspects of the faith, yet it might not be that complicated. I often relate it to talking with my son. I love my son and will do most anything for him…unless I’m unable—which God is not!—or I know it’s not in his best interest (which would be unloving).

John’s gospel records numerous statements from Jesus regarding prayer, talking with our heavenly Father.

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:13-14)

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:16)

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:23-24)

We are to pray in Jesus’ Name, not because it’s a secret password to miracles but because it states our desire to follow Him and seek the will of God. It means our will and His are the same. To accomplish this, we often must listen as well as speak. Prayer is a conversation, not a monologue. What is God saying to you? We can have confidence when we pray. The Father loves to give good gifts to His children, but prayer is not a formula to be followed guaranteeing our immediate desires. He is not our butler, but prayer is not wishful thinking, either. Daddy knows best. He can be trusted, even if He doesn’t make sense at this moment.

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. (1 John 5:16-17)

This refers to physical death. Not all sins are the same, though they all displease God.

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also 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 by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:18-20)

The new nature will never sin. It has a desire for God and righteousness.

Christianity is not a religion but a Person, Jesus.

Finally, we come to a short yet profound command, an interesting way to conclude the letter.

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

That’s it!

It occurs to me either

  • there’s more to the letter that has been lost
  • he had to get the letter in the mail because the mailman was coming!
  • these are his final words and he wants them to linger for emphasis

Keep yourselves from idols.

What is an idol? Anything we love more than God.

The Bible is filled with them. The Golden Calf may be the most infamous. It was common for religions to have physical idols, often statues believed to possess power.

This week I was reminded of the importance of wisdom…and the consequences of ignoring it. A few days ago in our daily One Story readings God says to Solomon

“As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’ (1 Kings 9:4-5)

Imagine God offering to establish your royal throne forever! Solomon was given one request, he asked for a heart of understanding, and God gave him wisdom, wealth, power, and everything this world can offer.

But he forgot God. He did not keep himself from idols, essentially the first two of the Ten Commandments.

The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’S command. So the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. (1 Kings 11:9-11)

John’s final words…

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

What are your idols? We all have them. Money? Career? Family? Friends? Pleasure? Sports? Education? Food? Religion?

Jesus is life. He is the way. The truth. The life. Is He your life?

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

God is Love, 1 John 3, 31 May 2015

Big Idea: We are in the midst of a battle fought with love and prayer.

What is your favorite book of the Bible? Why?

What is your favorite chapter in the Bible? This may be a less popular question.

As we continue our series “Love Illuminated” on the book of 1 John, we come to the fourth chapter of this essential letter from one of Jesus’ three best friends, John. While this may not be my favorite chapter in the Bible, few are loaded with more incredible, memorable verses. It’s packed with theology, challenge, encouragement, and insight.

Its overarching theme is a four-letter word which best summarizes the entire Bible.
It’s a four-letter word which best summarizes God.
It’s a four-letter word which best summarizes what we are called to be as followers of Jesus and as the Church, the Body of Christ. The word is…love.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (1 John 4:1-3)

There were and are false prophets, false teachers, false teachings. Test the spirits. Test me! The Bible is our authority. Jesus is our authority. The reason cults exist is people follow leaders that are not following Jesus.

The question isn’t do you believe in God, but what do you believe about God. What do you believe about Jesus? We note previously how there were those in John’s day—and ours—who believed Jesus to be human but not God or God but not human. He is uniquely fully God and fully human.

This the the third time John mentions antichrist (1 John 2:18, 22). We said antichrist can mean against Christ or instead of Christ. Jesus said many would come in His name and also there would be opposition. There are many antichrists but they are not the antichrist mentioned in Revelation.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because
the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. (1 John 4:4-6)

The spirit of antichrist is in the world. We are engaged in a real, cosmic battle between good and evil. Can I let you in on a little secret? We win!

The Holy Spirit is given to all believers. The Holy Spirit teaches through the Word of God, the Bible. Believers have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, but unless we surrender to God we can still sin and rebel against God. If, however, we remain or abide in Christ (John 15) and invite the Holy Spirit to fill and guide us, we will have the mind of Christ and act like Jesus, bearing fruit.

Imagine you’re in a bicycle race, hot and sweaty. You just happen to have a bottle of ice cold water, but never reach for it and drink it. Does it help you? No. Is it available? Yes. Would it be foolish to not take advantage of it? Absolutely! It’s not enough to have the Holy Spirit, which all believers do. We are to let the Spirit take control. Hands off! That’s hard for many of us who want to be in control. It’s not whether you have the Holy Spirit, but whether or not the Holy Spirit has you!

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

Believers are to love one another. This is not sentimental, sexual, or social love but supernatural, unconditional agape. It says, “I love you. Period.”

In 1984 the band Foreigner had a huge hit that said, “I Want To Know What Love Is.”

When I was in high school our youth leader told the story about proposing to his wife. He knew he had feelings for this woman but struggled to define love. He was reading 1 John 4 and saw this verse (and verse 16).

God is love.

One of my greatest fears for us is that we become so familiar with the
idea of love without actually receiving and/or giving it. We know about love, but do we love?

Love is not being nice.

Love is not avoiding conflict.

Love not the absence of hate. In fact some have said the opposite of love is indifference, not hate, since love and hate are both intense. How often are we indifferent?

Love is a verb. It requires action.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:9-12)

He is the propitiation for our sins. The word means mercy seat, the place where the priest met God in the Old Testament. The word atonement means to cover. Jesus is the mercy seat for our sins. He died. He conquered sin and death so we can come boldly into the presence of Almighty God.

Do you love?
Do you love believers?
Do you love unbelievers?
Do you love your enemies?

The question is not can you but do you. The test of our faith is not our knowledge but our love.

Don’t miss the last verse. No one has seen God but people can see God’s love in us, through us. This is what it means for us to shine, to reflect God’s love like the moon reflects the light of the sun.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. (1 John 4:13-16a)

This is not a human love. The fruit of the Spirit is love…Some believe love is the fruit and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit emerges from love.

Who is Jesus? This question is hugely important! He is the Son of God. If Jesus is not who He claimed to be, His death was useless. He was arrested and crucified for claiming to be God…and He proved it by the resurrection!

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:16b-18)

Here John says again, “God is love.” Love is made perfect or complete.

1 John 4:8 God is love
1 John 4:16 God is love

You can’t say God is mercy or grace or justice, but God is love. God reveals His love at the mercy set, Jesus.

I love the phrase, “Perfect love drives out fear,” but this is not any fear (although love probably has the capacity to drive out any fear). This is about fearing judgment, something we need not fear because Jesus died for us and showed us His love…in action.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:19-21)

God loved us first. He took the first step, made the first move. Our love for God and others is always a response to knowing and experiencing His love for us. If your love tank is empty, only God can fill it up. He has plenty to share, just ask!

How many claim to love God yet hate others?

Love is a command.

Do you love?

I confess

  • not loving my enemies
  • not loving my friends
  • making it about me and my name rather than the Name of Jesus
  • failing to share God’s love with the lost

Conclusion

Two weeks ago the Christian & Missionary Alliance held their General Council in Long Beach, California, a national gathering that occurs every other year. Viewing it online I heard President John Stumbo share for the first time as President his report, his state of the denomination address. His first word to us was simple: love.
I realize this isn’t fancy, complicated, or trendy, but Jesus loves you and, therefore, you are to love Jesus and people, those Jesus loves.

But what is love? God is love, but who is God? Love!

Twenty five years ago this past week I said “I do” to my bride, and she returned the favor! During our ceremony, we had a chapter of the Bible read aloud. It was not written for a wedding. It is not about romance. It does not discuss eros love. It’s a great description of agape, however.

These words were read that day:

  If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Children of God, 1 John 2:28-3:10, 24 May 2015

Big Idea: We are children of God…or children of the devil.

Scripture: 1 John 2:28-3:10

Introduction

My name is Kirk. Most people call me Kirk. Some call me Pastor Kirk. Three very special people call me Daddy or Dad. I love to hear that word. I have three adult children presently in three different states and I love being their daddy. I must admit in addition to great joy, there is great challenge involved in being a dad, not the least of which is calibrating invitation and challenge, encouragement and discipline, good cop and bad cop, warm love and tough love.

As we continue our examination of John’s first letter about twenty years following his biography of Jesus—the Gospel of John—we see John speaking like a dad, a shepherd, a pastor who has great concern for his sheep, his flock, his disciples. He showers them with confidence and challenge and provides for us an incredibly relevant message two thousand years later.

And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. (1 John 2:28)

John refers again to the “little born ones,” his precious followers, believers in Jesus. He echoes Jesus’ words in John 15 about the vine and the branches were Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Remain in Me. Abide in Me. Continue in Me.” The quality of fruit is directly related to the health of the branches and their connection to the vine and the roots. Good fruit cannot come from a dead tree.

Why remain and do life with Jesus? He’s returning and we want to be ready. We want Him to know us, to welcome us, to say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” This life matters. Our actions count. This is preparation for the future. When Jesus returns it will be both wonderful and woeful. If we know Him, it will be a wonderful reunion. If we have rejected Him—and I don’t just mean in our head, but with our life and deeds—great peril awaits.

We don’t know when He is coming but we know He is coming and we’ll all have to give an account for our lives. Are you ready?

If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. (1 John 2:29)

Children look like their Dad. Have you noticed? This is not only true physically but also in mannerisms, habits, and actions.

God is righteous. His kids are righteous. It’s one thing to know Jesus but another to act like Him. Righteousness runs in the family!

One feature of this passage is the subject “everyone who” which appears nine times.

everyone who acts righteously has been born of God

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. (1 John 3:1)

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Although the NIV translation omits it, may read, “Behold, what manner of love the Father has lavished on us.” Lavished!

We don’t expect to be God’s children, we don’t hope to be…we are His children! This is fantastic!

This love is great. It is special. It is unusual. This isn’t “I love ice cream” love or even “I’ll love you as long as you make me happy” love. It’s agape. It seeks nothing in return. It’s unconditional. It’s real! He proved His love by sending Jesus to die for us.

Keep in mind John is writing to believers, to children of God. He is inviting them into a deeper relationship with God. He is encouraging them. He is increasing their confidence in God and their adoption into His family in the midst of opposition, skepticism, and religion which says we’re saved by our works rather than the work of Jesus. Neither religion nor the world understands grace, unmerited favor. Our identity is given to us by God as we follow Jesus and are adopted into His family.

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. (1 John 3:2)

God sees what we will be. He knows the future. Jesus is returning and there will be a new heaven and a new earth, we will have new bodies like Christ’s body, and we will see the glorified Christ and be like him. These are encouraging words. If you’re a follower of Jesus today, you are a child of God. You can be confident and secure.

All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:3)

everyone who has this hope based on Jesus makes himself pure

Following Jesus is just that…following, imitating, becoming like Him. This requires action. It doesn’t say all who think purity is a good idea are pure. It doesn’t say if I pray a prayer to accept Jesus into my heart I’ll live a pure and righteous life. It means if we follow the pure One we will live increasingly pure lives that reflect Jesus.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4)

everyone who acts sinfully is really doing sin

This is a reference to habitual sins. Anything contrary to the will of God is sin. It’s serving our old nature. Sin will disrupt our relationship with God. Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, we have been battling the allure of sin. Isaiah said

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

We all sin and fall short of God’s glory, His purity, His perfect standard of holiness. We need Jesus not only to forgive us but also to model for us what it means to be human, what it means to be pure and righteous.

But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (1 John 3:5-6)

everyone who abides in Him does not commit sin
everyone who commits sin has never seen Him

Jesus came to take away our sins—plural. He never sinned. If we know Him, love Him, and follow Him we will not sin. This does not mean we will never sin, but it will be a regretful mistake rather than a prideful habit. If sin is rebellion against God, we can’t follow God and sin.

The believer who remains/abides does not practice sin. We do sin, and God can deliver us from sin. Jesus died to forgive us and allow us to be reconciled to our Dad.

When believers sin, there is sorry and remorse. If you keep on sinning and don’t feel guilt or conviction you’re in deep trouble!

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. (1 John 3:7)

God’s children look like God’s Son. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree!

Everyone who acts righteously is truly just

Now John gets clear. Crystal clear. He shifts from invitation to challenge, from encouragement to warning.

The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. (1 John 3:8)

everyone who acts sinfully belongs to the devil

These are strong words! You are either a child of God or a child of the devil. You can’t be both. Who’s your daddy?

Jesus died to take away the sin of the world, to put an end to sin and death and broken relationships. That was His mission, His purpose. I love what Paul wrote to the Colossians:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)

This discussion of sin is challenging because we do sin but we don’t want to sin when we are following Jesus. We have two natures, the old and new. They are in constant conflict. Paul described it this way:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:14-20)

That’s the definition of frustration, right there! He continues:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. (Romans 7:21-23)

John continues:


No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. (1 John 3:9)

everyone who has been born of God does not act sinfully

We must be born again! The new nature will not commit sin. The Prodigal Son left his life of sin and came home to his father.

This doesn’t mean we never sin but we don’t live in sin. Remember earlier John said

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

Have you been born of God?

J. Vernon McGee said he believed in the security of believers and the insecurity of make believers!

When we are helpless and hopeless, He’s able to take control. You can’t do it yourself. We need help. We need the Holy Spirit. We need God. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. We must remain/abide/be with Him if we want to emulate Him.

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. (1 John 3:10)

everyone who acts unrighteously does not belong to God

It’s pretty simple. We are children of God if we do what is right and children of the devil if we live in habitual sin and fail to love others.

What fruit are you bearing?
Do you do what is right?
Do you love your brother and sister?

So What?

Perhaps the great question is not do you sin but do you want to sin? Do you
want to do what is right and love you brother and sister. If so, call upon the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth and keep you from sin. God’s children are not perfect, but they are unconditionally loved, and with that love comes the Son and the Holy Spirit to offer salvation, forgiveness, sanctification, power, love, and hope.

If the world sees righteous Christians, they will see Jesus.

Followers of Jesus, be encouraged by God’s invitation for you to be His children, but also be challenged by the responsibility to follow Him, to look like Jesus, and to exhibit faith, hope and love…one day at a time.

Credits: some thoughts from Thru the Bible by J. Vernon McGee

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Antichrists, 1 John 2:18-27, 17 May 2015

Big Idea: We must know the Truth and avoid the lies.

Scripture: 1 John 2:18-27

  Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
  As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.
  I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

Introduction

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word…antichrist?

My mind races to the book of Revelation, end times movies, Christian persecution, and global chaos.

As we continue in our study of the book of 1 John—a letter written by one of Jesus’ best friends and the author of the Gospel of John—this word “antichrist” emerges.

To review last week’s text that precedes this week’s scripture, John writes

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

There’s a great contrast between God’s ways and the world’s ways, and that distinction will continue to be expressed in today’s passage.


Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18)

“Little children” is used again, speaking to the babies in the faith. John tells them it’s the last hour, which sounds like one of those end times movies again with earthquakes and people disappearing and chaos ensuing. You may have noticed it has been the last hour for quite some time! On the one hand, it’s tempting to dismiss You might not be around tomorrow.

Antichrist can mean against Christ or it can mean instead of Christ, a substitute.

There is going to be an antichrist but there were many in John’s day. They denied the deity of Christ, that Jesus was God. Many claimed to be Christ. Revelation 13 describes a wild beast that is called forth by satan, a political ruler against Christ and also a wolf in sheep’s clothing who pretends to be Christ, a religious ruler. Both can be called antichrist, one against and one instead of Jesus.

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:19)

Have you ever seen someone excited about something, only to lose their enthusiasm? In sports, we call these fair-weather fans. They’ll support a team as long as they’re winning, but when the championships end, they jump on the bandwagon of another team.

This happens frequently in the marketplace. A person will be passionate about their job until it gets difficult and they’ll quit or—worse—complain.

Faithfulness is never more evident than in relationships. The reason marriage is more than just a piece of paper is the commitment it records.

I have seen so-called followers of Jesus abandon the faith, and there is nothing more tragic. Eleven of the twelve disciples were faithful, but Judas did not remain with them.

A popular argument among Christians is whether or not you can lose your salvation. Some suggest if you can, you were never a Christian in the first place. I’m not here to debate the issue here, but Jesus said in Luke 8 that the Word of God is like seed, some of which falls on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and some on good soil that took root and persevered and produced a crop.

Are you truly a follower of Jesus? Are you a new creation? Why? Is it simply for what you can get from God? What if He fails to meet your “needs” and He disappoints you?

Paul said

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Three chapters later he added

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Does this describe your life? Are you standing firm in the faith? How do we do that? By filling our mind with God’s Word, our heart with prayer, and our hands with service to others. Simply, we know and follow Jesus.

John continues

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. (1 John 2:20)

We need the Holy Spirit. The Spirit helps us understand the truth.

I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:21-23)

They had the truth but lies are entering. Some see the world as the enemy, but the real enemy is inside the church.

Again, there are many antichrists, then and now, those who deny Jesus is the Messiah.

If Jesus is not God, we’re in trouble.
If Jesus is not human, we’re in trouble.

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. (1 John 2:24)

We must remain. We must abide. We must persevere. We must continue daily to follow Jesus…hourly…every moment!

This requires discipline. That’s not a popular word, but I heard a great definition of discipline this week:

doing what you don’t want to do so you can do what you want to do (Jeff Fisher)

Sometimes I don’t want to jog, but I overcome that objection by thinking about the reward of being physically fit.

Sometimes I don’t want to invest time in my relationship with God, but I overcome that objection by thinking about the reward of knowing Jesus.

Sometimes I don’t want to invest money in savings, but I overcome that objection by thinking about the reward of having an emergency fund or resources for the future.

In John 15, Jesus said if we abide/remain/persevere/invest our lives in Him we will bear fruit, but it doesn’t happen automatically or instantly.

What did they hear from the beginning?

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1)

And this is what he promised us—eternal life. (1 John 2:25)

God promised us eternal life. That’s a long time! It’s not just eternal but life! If we trust Jesus with our lives, eternal life is promised.

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:26-27)

Who’s trying to lead us astray? Anyone who is not teaching the Word of God. Do you know it well enough to know the truth from the lies? Never trust me over the Bible…and let me know if you ever hear a word that doesn’t align with the Bible.

I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m in process. The more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn!

My favorite theological quote is from Leonard Sweet who said, “20% of my theology is wrong. I just don’t what 20%”

He’s not saying we don’t need teachers, but we especially need the Holy Spirit.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)

So What?

There are many false teachings and false teachers. They perpetuate myths. Can you think of any? Here are some:

  • God wants you happy. God wants you rich.
  • God won’t give you more than you can handle.
  • It doesn’t matter what you do.
  • It doesn’t matter what you believe.
  • Praise God when things go well. Ignore Him when things go poorly.
  • Jesus was a good teacher but never died.
  • Jesus was a good teacher but never rose from the dead.
  • Jesus was not God.
  • Jesus was not human.
  • God helps those who help themselves.
  • All good people go to heaven.
  • Only good people go to heaven.
  • Success is always measured by numbers.
  • There is only one road you can take, one plan God has for your life.
  • If you’re not busy, you’re lazy.
  • God is not okay with doubt and questions
  • There are bad sins (abortion) and acceptable ones (gossip)
  • Your behavior affects God’s love for you
  • The church is a building or a gathering
  • All pastors are perfect, holy, and super spiritual
  • The Bible is all about rules
  • The Bible is boring

Finally, challenge what you hear from me, challenge what you read in the media, challenge what you see in our culture. Does it align with the Word of God? It’s so tempting to follow conventional wisdom or what is politically correct without wrestling with the scriptures. Yes, sometimes they’re difficult to understand. Some things are controversial, but we must humbly seek the truth, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us. This is why we have elders. This is why we have Life Groups. This is why we have a Facebook page and Q&A in sermons…to study, wrestle, and seek to understand the truth…both the words on the page and Jesus,
the Truth.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

The World, 1 John 2:15-17, 10 May 2015

Big Idea: We are not citizens of this world, but citizens of heaven on God's mission in our world.

Scripture: 1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Introduction

Do you like to travel? What’s the most fascinating place you’ve visited? Why?

There’s a common expression many make regarding a place. The phrase is…

“It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

There are various reasons people give for their statement, but interestingly enough virtually every visited place has people that live there!

In 1972 Christian music pioneer Larry Norman released an album called “Only Visiting This Planet.” More recently, t-shirts have proclaimed, “Don’t mind me, I’m just visiting this planet.”

Visitors and residents live very different lives, don’t they? I was with a friend from out of town last week during the election and they weren’t too concerned about whether or not Proposal 1 was going to pass. They don’t have to drive on our crater-filled roads each day!

Actually, it would be quite odd if they were deeply concerned about the election, aside from their interest in how it would affect me.

This past week I joined a group of people in downtown Ann Arbor for the National Day of Prayer observance, an annual half hour of prayer at the Federal Building flagpole. While I appreciated their concerns and prayers, I was struck by how opinionated their prayers were, certain of God’s will for the United States and ever so bold in telling God how politicians and leaders should vote, with hardly a word of thanks for the freedoms we enjoy, the progress we’ve made, or even worship for God simply being God. A day set aside for talking with our Dad turned into a laundry list of fear, angst, and pleas for power.

I’m quite sure I over-reacted to their prayers, but today’s passage from the first epistle of John reminds us not to be overly concerned with this world. I want to live in peace and freedom and smooth roads as much as the next guy, but we’re just visiting!

Do not love the world or anything in the world. (1 John 2:15a)

This is not a reference to creation or the planet. It’s not a reference to people in the world. It’s a reference to the world’s system, to worldly things, to temporary things.

Since sin was introduced to our world, evil has been present, causing death, pain, and destruction…all disguised beautifully in tempting forms…like chocolate covered poop!

Jesus spoke of this world. Although he created it, he has allowed satan and his demons to tempt and deceive, presenting us with daily choices to follow God or the world. Jesus called him the prince of this world (John 14:30; John 16:11).

I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, (John 14:30)

…and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:11)

In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul spoke of what it was like for people before they followed Jesus.

…in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 2:2)

Evil is real. Just watch the news! Every day we are bombarded with lies that suggest we will be truly satisfied when we have __________.

Fill in the blank: money, sex, power, the latest cell phone, the fastest car, the best clothes, the most Facebook friends, the most encounters with celebrities, the biggest paycheck, the most prestigious job, the best grades, the finest school, the most beautiful family…

Paul told the Galatians…

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

The cross and the world are in tension. Good and evil are in tension. God and satan are in tension.

Peter recognized the evil in our world.

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. (2 Peter 2:20)

John continues…

If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. (1 John 2:15b)

This is harsh, but true. Jesus said nobody can serve two masters.

Have you ever had two bosses?

A few years ago I found myself driving a fifteen passenger van in Los Angeles with three navigators! I finally had to tell two of them to put away their GPS devices so I could follow one person.

You can’t run with the devil during the week and run with the LORD on Sunday!

You can’t love sin and God. We are in the world but not of the world.

There is a perpetual conflict between our old sinful nature and our new, righteous nature given to us through Jesus.

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:16)

God gives us all desires. Those desires are not bad since they were from God, but we are often tempted to meet those desires in unhealthy, sinful ways.

It’s like running a marathon, wanting to finish, and then taking a taxi to the finish line.

The flesh, the eyes, and pride. Notice how these themes appear repeatedly in the Bible.

The lust of the flesh. Our bodies have cravings. Gluttony is a real temptation. Eve was tempted by satan to eat the forbidden fruit. It wasn’t that God said she couldn’t eat, but rather she couldn’t eat from just one tree in the garden.

Jesus was also tempted this way in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. He was hungry after fasting for forty days (duh!) and satan tempted him to turn stones into bread to inappropriately feed his flesh. He even misquoted scripture to lure Jesus into sin.

By the way, temptation is not sin. It’s what we do with the temptation that matters. Eve said yes and Jesus said no.

The lust of the eyes. Our eyes are drawn to attractive things. They are often the gateway to lust, pornography, or materialism. The tree looked good to Eve. The fruit looked good.

Jesus was also tempted this way. He was taken to a high place and satan showed him the kingdoms of this world, offering them to Jesus if he would only worship satan.

The pride of life. Eve was told if she ate the fruit she would be wise. It wasn’t simply an urge to eat something tasty, but a desire to be like God.

Jesus was also tempted this way. He was told to jump off the top of the Jerusalem temple and show his superiority by summoning angels to protect him. Jesus never performed a miracle to impress people.

The stomach, beauty, and even religion can be deadly and of the world when we give into sinful temptation. Here’s why:

The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:17)

The Roman Empire, Michael Jordan’s athleticism, the wealth of many who invested in Enron and Radio Shack, …

It All Goes Back In The Box

Author and pastor John Ortberg tells a great story about learning to play Monopoly from his grandmother. She repeatedly beat him and finally said John needed to risk it all, go for broke, buy every house and hotel possible and accumulate as much wealth as possible. She said, “One day you’ll learn to play the game.”

So he played with a neighbor all summer long, understanding money and possessions were the way to keep score. That fall he sat down to play with grandmother and ruthlessly beat her, taking every last dollar she had! She had one more thing to teach John. She said, “Now it all goes back in the box. All of the houses and hotels, railroads and utilities and money goes back in the box. None of it was really yours. It was here before you came along and it will be around after you’re gone.”

So What?

This world is not our home. No matter how exciting it can be to experience money, sex, power, fame, and comfort, the thrill will eventually wear off. Then what?

What really matters?

We are just visiting this planet.

As odd as that may sound, we’re not the only ones. Jesus made a visit, and He set for us a great example of how to live here while being citizens of heaven. He only visited for about 33 years. He said to give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s and to God what belongs to God. He never demonstrated fear, even when seemingly most of the world wanted him dead. There is no record of him campaigning for a candidate or even a political issue, though his sermons were loaded with radical commands and ideas no politician would dare utter.

Some Christians are so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good. We need to be involved in this world, but only to the extent that we’re on mission, that we are obediently following our assignment to make disciples, to love others, to lose our lives for God’s sake.

A growing trend in travel is eco tourism where people do more than visit and consume; they serve the residents, perhaps through digging a well or volunteering at a soup kitchen. They are on a mission, but permanent residency is not part of the arrangement. The tourists know they will eventually return home.

This world is not our home. We’re just visitors. Let’s live like it! In the meantime, let’s complete our mission and leave this world in better shape than we found it!

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast
here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

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