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Truth 1: Introducing Reflections on the believer and his relationship to sin from 1 John 3:7-15

Truth 1: No person is justified before God by doing any good works, making any commitments to stop any sin, or committing to follow the Lord.

While it is true, that God used many different men to give us His word, and that their life experiences and personalities are reflected to some degree in their writings, that does not change the fact that God is the ultimate source of every word in the scriptures. It is His “breath” passing through these instruments that is the ultimate source of every word. God’s Spirit guiding Paul cannot be in conflict with His guidance of John, therefore, we need to start with the basic conviction that this passage can be reconciled with every other passage in the Bible, and that when set side by side their complementary nature will be more clear, not less.

John is not teaching that we or any other person is justified before God in part or in total by doing good, committing to becoming good, or by staying good. The scriptures teach that no person is justified before God by doing any good works, making any commitments to stop any sin, or committing to follow the Lord. Let’s look at just a few of the many passages from which we draw this statement. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us: “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Four critical words of phrases should catch our attention. The word grace means, unmerited favor. If we have been saved by grace, then that salvation was not rooted in any part in something that we did are doing or will do. Justification before God is rooted entirely in the work and goodness of Christ, and not in the work or goodness of the one who has been justified. It is our union with Christ that gave us that righteous declaration. Next we see the phrase “through faith.” Faith is an interesting word, because it describes a condition of the heart that is the antithesis to self-reliance. Faith relies on the strength, work, and word of another. Faith is the disposition of humility and vulnerability, not arrogance. Next we see that our salvation is “not of yourselves.” There is nothing in us that makes us acceptable. It is all the work of God. Lastly we see that it is called the gift of God. Gifts are free to the recipient at the expense of the giver. The nature of our justification can be described as grace, a gift, not of ourselves, and through faith. We see a similar explanation in Titus 3:5 where it says; “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Again, all the work is done by God. Romans 3:20 “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” Again the law does not serve as a ladder to climb to God, but rather a lens to magnify our sinfulness and spiritual bankruptness.  And lastly, I mention Romans 4:4-6. It says: “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” No person is justified before God by doing any good works, making any commitments to stop any sin, or committing to follow the Lord. We are justified by faith alone in the finished work of Christ, and the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ, not our faith, our faithfulness to the law, or any other meritorious activity. John’s statement is not inconsistent with or in opposition to this Bible doctrine.

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Posted by on November 8, 2017 in 1 John Series

 

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Reflections on the believer and his relationship to sin: Introduction

Reflections on the believer and his relationship to sin: Introduction

 1 John 3:7-15 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.  Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

As I have worked verse by verse through 1 John with our church family, I have encounter passages that are not only hard hitting and practical, but also worthy of significant reflection and explanation. 1 John 3:7-15 is one of those many texts. Over the next several weeks, as time permits, I would like to share in blog format the content of our Sunday sermons on this passage. I hope that these posts will be an encouragement to you in your walk with the Lord, and a tool to help you better understand a critically important theological and practical concept namely the believer’s relationship to sin.

Let’s begin our study by focusing on John’s words in verse 5: “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil…”

When you read this text, what questions immediately come to mind? Here are some that came to mine: Is it possible for a Christian to sin? How many sins should bring one’s profession of faith into question? Are all sins on the table, or just significantly repulsive sins? What about sins of the heart like lust or hatred versus sins of the body like fornication or murder? How does this passage harmonize with John’s early statements in chapter 1 or Paul’s teaching on justification by faith alone? Let’s not be afraid to ask these questions nor be too lazy to study the scriptures diligently to understand the doctrines and practical implications packaged in this passage. Articulating Christian doctrine is no small task. It involves labor and precision. Let’s summarize the passage and then dig into explanation and application. Here is our summary: If I can hate another Christian, made in the image of God and sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and refuse to repent of this evil disposition and thinking as sin, I should have no confidence that I am a Christian. By implication, God wants us to know that this kind of hatred is such a serious sin, that it calls into question our profession of faith. Maybe you do not like the strength of those two statements, but I challenge you to take the passage literally and explain it any other way. Before we get into John’s point, let’s begin by reflecting on seven non-negotiable statements of truth regarding all people in Christ. By reminding ourselves of these seven truths, I think we will be better positioned to articulate John’s point correctly.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2017 in 1 John Series

 

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Spurgeon on Suffering and Faith

“Our heavenly Father sends us frequent troubles to try our faith. If our faith be worth anything, it will stand the test. Gilt is afraid of fire, but gold is not: the paste gem dreads to be touched by the diamond, but the true jewel fears no test. It is a poor faith which can only trust God when friends are true, the body full of health, and the business profitable; but that is true faith which holds by the Lord’s faithfulness when friends are gone, when the body is sick, when spirits are depressed, and the light of our Father’s countenance is hidden…The Lord afflicts his servants to glorify himself, for he is greatly glorified in the graces of his people, which are his own handiwork. When “tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope,” the Lord is honoured by these growing virtues…The wisdom and power of the great Workman are discovered by the trials through which his vessels of mercy are permitted to pass. Present afflictions tend also to heighten future joy. There must be shades in the picture to bring out the beauty of the lights. Could we be so supremely blessed in heaven, if we had not known the curse of sin and the sorrow of earth? Will not peace be sweeter after conflict, and rest more welcome after toil? Will not the recollection of past sufferings enhance the bliss of the glorified?”
 
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
 

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“Three Facts about the Future of This Church”

Occasion: Eight Anniversary Service Anchor Baptist Church Cape Coast, Ghana

Date: 27th August 2017

“Three Facts about the Future of This Church”

Text: Revelation 3:10-13 “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown…”

Introduction: If there is anything that I can present to this congregation on this special and happy occasion, it will be the contents that will follow in this message from God’s word. These facts are non-negotiables in the life and health of this local church. If we fail to put into practice the truths found in this message, we will one day cease to exist as a vibrant gospel preaching local church. The truths we will examine today require far more attention than the few minutes we will take to examine them this morning. If we correctly embrace this exhortation today, these facts will provide the framework for the life of our church and its members for the rest of their lives, and the lives of those who follow behind them till Christ returns. One day, we will all stand at Christ’s judgment seat, and as the text exhorted this dear Christians in Philadelphia, there is something to grasp with all our might today and there is something to be lost or gained on that day.

Fact 1: If this church will hold fast until Christ comes: we must be a doctrinally sound church

  • If we do not hold fast to sound doctrine, we will cease to be a church in the Biblical sense

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

2 Thessalonians 2:15 Stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

2 Timothy 1:13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

    • We must hold fast to the gospel: If we lose the gospel, we have lost the faith Jude 1:3 Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
    • We must hold fast to sound Christian doctrine Matthew 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
    • We must hold fast to preaching on personal holiness 1 Peter 1:14-15 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
    • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Fact 2: If this church will hold fast until Christ comes: we must be a Christ-like church

  • If we do not have Christ-like character, we will self destruct and undermine the message we are trying to proclaim.

Philippians 2:2-5 Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Colossian 3:12-15 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

Romans 12:2 Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

    • Humility: We must be gracious, teachable, and peaceable.
    • Compassion: We must genuinely care about the spiritual and physical wellbeing of others.
    • Conviction: We must know what is right, refuse to compromise, and purpose to do the will of God in all things.
    • Focus: We must not be distracted by the things of this world.

Fact 3: If this church will hold fast until Christ comes: we must be a reproducing church

  • If we do not reproduce ourselves, in one generation, there will be no church:
    • Our families: Evangelism and discipleship Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
    • Our neighbors: Evangelism and discipleship Acts 5:42 Daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
    • Our future leaders: Service and mentoring 2 Timothy 2:2 The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

Conclusion: My appeal to you from the word of God is simple to understand, yet may require you to put off certain attitudes, ideas, and habits and then to replace them with new attitudes, ideas, and habits. This message may cause your to face troubling and painful realities about the way you think and live on a daily basis, but that pain is for your good and Christ’s glory at His judgment seat. How will you respond to this exhortation? Will you embrace it as the words of a friend directing you to the words of your Creator and Lord? May God graciously grant us repentance as He transforms us through the renewing of our minds. May we have ears to hear, eyes to see, and a will to be moved and molded by the Spirit of God through His word.

 
 

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Question 1: 1 John 2:20-27

Are John’s statements in verse 20 “ye know all things” and his statement in verse 27 “ye need not that any man teach you…” meant to be understood as universal statements without limitation?

1 John 2:20-27 “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth…These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie…”

For those who may have missed our first post, consider reading Should Christians Hesitate to Use Bible Study Tools Like Commentaries and Studies Bibles Based on 1 John 2:20-27 and John 16:12-14? for context:

If the answer to our first question is yes, consider the implications of such a position. First, there would be no need for a believer to attend any kind of school even for a secular vocational training, he would have no need to sit under any pastoral or lay teaching for instruction in Christian doctrine, nor would he have any need to be discipled by an older more mature believer. In this view, the Holy Spirit would be his only teacher, and he would be wise to shut himself off from all opposing voices that could muddy the waters of what the Spirit is teaching him. In addition, there would be no need for mature spirit-filled believers to debate amongst themselves on doctrinal matters, because they would all believe essentially the same thing, seeing that they all are mature and guided by the same Holy Spirit. We would even expect to see the Great Commission and apostolic instruction in the epistles articulate a different paradigm then the one we find in the New Testament. Having stated these observations without much explanation, I will address these thoughts more thoroughly under question four: “How does the rest of Scripture relate to John’s statement in 1 John 2?”

On the other side, if the answer is no, then in what ways are the scope of these statements limited by the context of John’s epistle? Our next post will discuss that question: “What is the specific situation that John is addressing in this epistle?”

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2017 in 1 John Series

 

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Should Christians Hesitate to Use Bible Study Tools Like Commentaries and Studies Bibles Based on 1 John 2:20-27 and John 16:12-14?

Introduction

As a missionary and pastor, passages like 1 John 2:20-27 and John 16:12-14 have always demanded a significant time of personal reflection. There really are two reasons for this. One is that I have preached verse by verse through John and am currently working through 1 John, and secondly, I have seen first hand the devastating consequences to those who misapply Scripture to their own destruction.  We have all heard the statement “Practice makes perfect.” Really, this statement does not take into account the nature of the practice in which one is engaged. Practice does make permanent, but that permanent may in the long term prove to be detrimental to the person in training if his practice has firmly established detrimental habits. We all approach the Bible with certain biases and blind spots that often cloud the meaning of the text. Our culture, family situations, local church background, friends, fear, and pride all play a role in this subtle blurring of what should be very clear. Many times, our understanding of a passage like these two passages is not really built on careful observation of context and the author’s intent, but rather it is rooted in the status quo, what we have always heard. If we read the passage 5 times or we read the passage 100 times, our faulty understanding is never brought into question; rather it becomes more firmly rooted in our minds. This is why Paul commanded Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15 to be a diligent workman,“rightly dividing the word of truth.” Peter warned Christians in 2 Peter 3:16 to be careful of false teachers who are “unlearned and unstable” and “wrest” “the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.” We also see in Hebrews 5:13-14, we are warned that spiritually immature people are “unskillful in the word of righteousness” while those who are spiritually mature “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Rightly dividing the Word of Truth, is something that we grow in as we mature in the faith, and as we learn to establish good study habits that dig into the correct understanding of what “Paul or John” meant. It is not until we meet someone who rocks the boat for us that we for the first time carefully observe the text and understand it correctly. That person can come in many forms. It may be a person to whom we are trying to minister. It may be someone who flatly opposes our position. Who it is or the circumstances surrounding that confrontation are irrelevant. What really matters is that we step back, put aside our biases, and examine the details of the passage so the correct understanding can tear down our presuppositions. I want to invite you to look at these two passages more carefully, and consider the implications of your current position. Consider the following questions, and then let’s take them one by one:

  • Are John’s statements in verse 20 “ye know all things” and his statement in verse 27 “ye need not that any man teach you…” meant to be understood as universal statements without limitation?
  • What is the specific situation that John is addressing in this epistle?
  • How does this specific situation limit the scope of what John is saying?
  • How does the rest of Scripture relate to this statement?
  • How should we apply John’s statement?
 
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Posted by on August 19, 2017 in 1 John Series

 

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John’s Purpose John 1:1-4

 

When we consider the last post, we were reminded how easy it is to twist words when the whole conversation has not been considered.  Each part serves a particular aspect under-girding the writer’s main point, so I want us to begin our study of 1 John in that place, John’s main point. John writes in verses 1-4 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life…That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”

What captures your attention in the opening of John’s letter? Three thoughts come to my mind. First, John’s words in the opening of this epistle draw our attention to the opening words of two other books in the Bible, the gospel of John and Genesis. Notice the similarities between “That which was from the beginning…the Word of life…”, “In the beginning was the Word…”, and “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” All three passages emphasize the eternality of the central figure in these books, God. In Genesis, the central figure is Yahweh the Creator. In John’s gospel, the central figure is the Word, the Creator, and in 1 John again, we find the Word of Life. Secondly, John’s words draw our attention to the physical reality of the incarnation of Christ. He says: “that which we have heard, our hands have handled, and that which we have seen and heard we declare unto you…” John is writing as a witness of physical events that he personally experienced, and then he is going to relate those events to the spiritual well-being of his church congregation. Apart from the incarnation of Christ, there could be no eternal life. Thirdly, John is going to emphasize his main point for writing the epistle. He says “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us…And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” John’s purpose can be summarized generally with the following statement: John wrote the his epistle confronting false teaching concerning the person of Christ and the nature of the Christian life, because he wanted these Christians to have a vibrant Christian experience as they walk in fellowship with God. God wants you to have a vibrant Christian experience as you walk in fellowship with Him, as well; therefore He preserved these words for your growth as a Christian. In our next post, I would like to dig a little deeper into John’s purpose, a vibrant Christian experience.

 

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