Sunday – February 22, 2015 Jude Verses 5 to 7

February 22, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship

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Jude 5-7
Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

Apostasy (or falling away) always begins in the mind. These spirits are “deceitful” and they teach doctrines that sound biblical but are just slightly off. They are out to fool you in your thinking. But God’s people believe and know the truth. We need to be careful here. On one extreme, there is a wide movement in the American church that minimizes truth. This side says, “They will know we are Christians by our love,” and so they adopt a “peace at any cost” position that dilutes and ultimately destroys essential Christian truth. They emphasize tolerance and doctrinal diversity. If you speak out against error, this side accuses you of being unloving and divisive. But if you go down that road, you end up with the unbiblical view that truth doesn’t matter and that there is no such thing as sound doctrine.

On the other extreme, we can be so zealous for the truth that we shred relationships and end up falling into spiritual pride because we hold to “The Truth.” I get a newsletter from a man who attacks and separates himself from many well-known evangelicals because he finds errors in statements they have made in print or in taped messages. If you go far enough down that road, you end up in a church of one member, because you’ll never find another person who agrees with you on every minor point of doctrine. So you have to determine how serious a matter is and what the consequences will be if people follow this teaching.

You must be especially careful to guard yourself from wrong thinking when you’re going through a difficult trial. Satan comes along and sows doubts about God’s goodness: “If He were really good, He wouldn’t let this happen to you. It’s okay to be angry at God; He wasn’t faithful to you by letting this happen.” It’s in the context of trials that Peter tells us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and then says, “Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Pet. 5:8-9). So, Satan is out to influence your thinking. Spiritual warfare involves the mind. But it never stops there.

To avoid falling away, we must persevere in God’s truth with thankful hearts. It’s not always easy, but even in times of trial, we need to affirm God’s goodness and thank Him for His many blessings.

Sunday – February 15, 2015 Jude verse 3

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Jude 3-4
“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

C.S. Lewis, more than anyone else in the 20th century, lived out the admonition of our passage today. Never before in my lifetime has this verse been more important for Christians to hear, consider, and heed. Note three elements in this verse that are essential to Jude’s entreaty. First, Jude makes reference to a specific message with specific content, the “faith once and for all delivered”—the foundation of “our common salvation.” Second is the admonition to “contend earnestly” for that faith—to proclaim it, guard it, and defend it. Finally, Jude reminds us that it had been “delivered” to the saints—passed on from the disciples to the next generation in the church.

Currently, the Christian worldview is facing assault on multiple fronts. In the midst of this academic attack, there is an increasingly pervasive godlessness and a militant relativism in the culture. The 21st century began as an era of radical skepticism, especially in the area of morality and religion. As a result, the moral rulebook is being rewritten. Right has become wrong and wrong right.

In addition, there is an increasing hostility towards those who take Jesus seriously regarding the Great Commission. Jesus said he came, “To seek to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), and “to call sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). That was the way He described His own mission. Yet when we proclaim this message—Jesus’ central message—we court conflict. Indeed, to be faithful to Jesus’ claim that He is the only Savior is increasingly considered an example of “spreading hate.”

The key to contending for the faith—to surviving the spiritual onslaught of the 21st century—is to guard the Gospel. The key to that is found in two simple phrases. One, contend earnestly for that faith. That means we need to go back to the basics. Back to the Word as it has been entrusted to us; back to the faith once delivered by the Apostles. And two, entrust it to faithful disciples who will be able to teach others also. Guard the Gospel by continuing in the truth already revealed, then pass the baton. Proclaim the truth faithfully, guard it diligently, and pass it on carefully. That is how we contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Sunday – February 8, 2015 Jude verses 1 & 2

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Jude 1-2
“Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”

There is a familiar story about three men who were working on a stone pile at a construction site. A curious passerby asked the first worker, “What are you doing?” He tersely replied, “Chiseling stone.” Hoping for a better answer, he asked the second worker, “What are you doing?” “Bringing home a paycheck.” Still wondering what was going on, he asked the third man, “Sir, what are you doing?” The man dropped his sledge hammer, stood erect, and his face brightened as he waved toward the site and exclaimed, “I’m building a great cathedral!” All three men were doing the same job, but only the third man had the proper vision to make his job meaningful and to put his heart into it.

Our calling is not on what we do for God, but rather on what God has done for us. The basis for any service for Christ is that God has effectually called us to belong to Christ, He has set His love on us, and He has set us apart unto Himself, bestowing His grace and peace on us. Throughout Scripture, God the Father is the one who calls us to salvation. For example, in 1 Corinthians 1:9 Paul writes, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here Jude tells us God calls us to belong to Jesus Christ.

“Called” in the New Testament epistles always refers to God’s effectual call to salvation. It is not merely an ‘invitation,’ but the powerful and irresistible reaching out of God in grace to bring people into his kingdom.” Paul makes this clear in Romans 8:30, “and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” The entire chain of salvation is God’s doing, so that no one may boast in himself, but rather, only in the Lord.

To be a Christian means that God has intervened in your life, calling you out of darkness and into His kingdom of light, where you now belong to Christ and have fellowship with Him. Paul often refers to our new standing as being “in Christ.” We are totally identified with Him. This implies a fundamental break with the world, where we no longer love the world and live for the same things that the world lives for. We now are those who have been called to belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday – February 1, 2015 New Study in the Book of Jude “Introduction to Jude”

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1 Timothy 3:14-15
I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”

The view that there is no absolute truth pervades our society. A recent Gallup poll conducted for Americans United for Life found nearly 70 percent agree with the statement: “There are few moral absolutes; what is right or wrong usually varies from situation to situation.” Only 27 percent disagreed. And while 50 percent were troubled about the influence of religious fundamentalism, only 36 percent expressed concern about secular humanism’s influence.

The church today has minimized biblical truth in favor of whatever works to draw people in. To do this, the church has adopted a marketing approach, where you give the customer what he wants and tiptoe around difficult issues such as sin, hell, judgment, and other politically incorrect topics. The measure of success in the local church has become “is the church growing?” rather than “is the church faithful to the truth?”

The goal, of course, is a good one: To bring people to know Christ and to become a part of His church. The theologically liberal modernists of 100 years ago had exactly the same goal. The modernists didn’t set out to deny the faith. They were afraid that if they didn’t make the gospel message “relevant” to their culture, they would lose people. Even so, the church growth movement today is seeking to make the faith relevant to baby boomers and others who have been turned off. To do this, they use modern marketing and management strategies and offer short, uplifting, psychologized sermons that play down truth or doctrine, with the goal of making people feel good. But the end result is the same: By minimizing biblical truth, you end up selling out the heart of the faith.

I am driven by a passion for knowing and proclaiming God’s truth. That truth cuts against not only the grain of our culture, but also of much modern evangelicalism. We live in an age of deception. If we want to avoid being swept downstream, if we want to stand as the pillar and support of God’s truth, we must become people of the truth. Without it, our Christianity will crumble under the pressures of the modern world.

Sunday – January 25, 2015 3rd John Verses 1 to 15 “True Prosperity”

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3 John 2-4
“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”

As in all of John’s writings, truth is a central concept in 3 John. He mentions it six times in these thirteen verses, plus the world “true” in verse 12. As we’ve seen, John’s greatest joy was to hear of his spiritual children walking in the truth. Why did the aged apostle hammer on the truth so often? One reason was that he was the last living apostle, and he saw numerous errors creeping into the churches. Also, the Lord Jesus had repeatedly emphasized the truth in His earthly ministry.

In John 1:14, John testified that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” In John 3:21, “he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” In John 4:23, Jesus explained that the Father seeks those who “worship in spirit and truth.” In John 8:32, Jesus said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” In John 14:6, Jesus claimed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth”. He prayed in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” Jesus told the skeptical Pilate in John 18:37, “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

The huge emphasis on truth in John’s writings teaches us that truth matters! How a person thinks about God, man, salvation, and life determines how that person lives. A person with false concepts in these areas will live differently than the person with a biblical view in these important matters. Since Jesus Himself is the truth and since God’s Word is truth, Satan works overtime to undermine the truth about the person and work of Christ and the truth of God’s inerrant Word.

So truth was a huge emphasis in Jesus’ ministry, and therefore, too, in the life and ministry of the apostle John. Contrary to the current postmodern philosophy that denies absolute truth in the spiritual realm, the Bible clearly affirms that there is theological and moral truth and error. This truth centers in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Since God is the author of truth, whereas Satan is the author of spiritual lies, God’s people must know and obey the truth as revealed in God’s Word. Then it may be said of you, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” And your pastor will have great joy to hear that you are walking in the truth.

Sunday – January 18, 2015 2nd John Verse 7 to 13 “Prescription for a Healthy Church Pt 2”

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2 John 7-8
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.”

The word heresy sounds outdated these days. It just smacks of arrogance, because to accuse someone of heresy implies that I am right and not just that he is wrong, but seriously wrong. It also assumes that there is such a thing as definable truth and error in the spiritual realm. But in our day, spiritual “truth” is subjective and relative. If it’s true for you, that’s cool. But I have my own spiritual “truths” that work for me. So who are you to accuse me of heresy?

But before we put heresy in the museum as a relic from the past, we need to think carefully. There is one huge factor that renders heresy a valid concept, namely, the fact that God is and that He has revealed Himself to us through His written Word. If God exists, not as a projection of men’s minds, but as the eternal Sovereign Creator of the universe, then He is the ultimate and final standard of truth. And if He has spoken to us in His Word, then as Jesus said, His Word is truth (John 17:17). Either Jesus was mistaken or lying, or God’s Word is truth. Any deviation from His Word on core matters, such as the person and work of Jesus Christ or the way of salvation, is heresy.

Before we think to ourselves that we could never fall prey to heresy, we need to remember our own weakness to desire what we want instead of what God has provided. We are all susceptible to heretical teachings because in one form or another, they nurture and reflect the way we would have it be rather than the way God has provided, which is infinitely better for us. The whispers of prosperity and blessing from God as our divine right lead us into the blind alleys of self-indulgence and escape from life. Heresies in all their forms pander to the most unworthy tendencies of the human heart.

As we have seen, there is an inseparable connection between truth and love. Biblical love seeks the highest good of the one loved. If a false teacher is actively involved in deceiving people about the truth so that they go to eternal condemnation, then we are not acting in love to do anything to encourage such teachers in their misleading deeds. John Stott observes, “If John’s instruction still seems harsh, it is perhaps because his concern for the glory of the Son and the good of men’s souls is greater than ours, and because ‘the tolerance on which we pride ourselves’ is in reality an ‘indifference to truth.’”

Sunday – January 11, 2015 2nd John Verses 1 to 6 “Prescription for a Healthy Church”

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 2 John 4-6
“I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.”

John is obviously concerned about the truth. He uses that word five times in the first four verses (19 times in his three letters!). For John, the concept of truth centers on the person of Jesus Christ. The heretics were deceiving people about the person of Christ, saying either that He did not have a real human body, or that “the Christ” came upon the man Jesus at His baptism and left just prior to His crucifixion. These errors went against the person of Jesus that John had seen, heard, and touched as we learned in 1 John 1:1-4. Wrong views of the person of Christ invariably spill over into wrong views on His work on the cross. If you deny the true humanity of Jesus, then He could not be the substitute for the sins of humans. So it is essential to hold to sound doctrine on the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Christianity is not based on the religious speculations of philosophers but rather upon the revelation of God in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. The apostles spent three years with Jesus and they bear witness in the New Testament to His life, teachings, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. They make it clear that He is God in human flesh. The church of Jesus Christ is, therefore, a community of those who “have come to know the truth.” John personifies truth with reference to Jesus Himself, who claimed to be the truth in John 14:6. John says the truth “abides in us and will be with us forever.”

Contrary to the current postmodern thinking, the New Testament affirms that truth is both absolute and knowable. The truth centers in all that the Old and New Testaments affirm about Jesus Christ. To know Him personally is to be in the truth. This does not mean that you must become a theologian to be saved. To be saved, you simply must recognize that you are a sinner in need of a Savior and that Jesus is that Savior. Trust in Him and He will save you. But it does mean that as a believer, you should grow in your understanding of the truth about Jesus Christ and salvation. Sound doctrine on these matters is crucial. What makes those who are truly saved different from the rest of the world is the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ. When John talks about “some of your children walking in truth,” the word walk implies that truth is something that every believer must continually grow in over time.

Sunday – January 4, 2015 1st John 5 verses 18 to 21

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 1 John 5:21
“Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”

John throws a final fastball right by us in 1 John 5:21. You stand there flat-footed, thinking, “Where did that come from?” He hasn’t been saying anything about idolatry. He hasn’t mentioned it in the entire book. So, at first glance, it seems out of context. But as you think about it, it sums up his entire message. Idolatry is making up your own god as a substitute for the one true God, who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. The false teachers were doing just that. They were offering a false god of speculation, not the one true God of revelation. So John’s final words are a warning against adopting the errors of man-made religion.

We may think that this warning had a special application in Ephesus, where John sent this letter. The Temple of Diana (or Artemis) was there and the silversmiths made a good living making statues of this pagan goddess (Acts 19:23-41). If you travel today in the Far East or in primitive tribal areas, you see many shrines to idols. But Americans, we say to ourselves, do not have a problem with bowing down before statues of imagined gods. But that is not the case. Our idols may not be of stone, gold or precious stones, but we Americans still bow down to them.

In the most basic sense, an idol is anything that takes the rightful place of God in your life. Paul equated covetousness or greed with idolatry (Eph. 5:5). Your career, your pursuit of money, your possessions, excessive devotion to leisure and recreation, or even putting a human relationship ahead of your relationship with God, may all become idols. Putting your intellect above God’s revelation, just as Nicodemus did in John 3, is idolatry. Watching hours of inane or immoral TV shows each week or spending hours playing computer games, while not having time to spend with God or serve Him, is idolatry.

John tells us to “guard” ourselves from idols, which implies that we have something valuable that the enemy is trying to steal. Charles Spurgeon, a 19th century British preacher, points out that if a man has a box and he’s not sure what’s in it, he won’t be very careful about guarding it. But if he knows that it contains a rare and valuable treasure, he will be diligent to guard it carefully. John is saying that if you know the true God and His Son Jesus Christ, you have a treasure. Guard it so that you don’t drift into one of the many forms of idolatry.

Sunday – December 28, 2014 1st John 5 verses 14 to 17 “Confidence in Prayer”

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1 John 5:14-15
“This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”

Over the years, I have to admit my “prayer batting average” is pretty low. I have prayed for the salvation of people who have not gotten saved. I have prayed for the restoration of sinning Christians, who have not repented and been restored. I have prayed for the reconciliation of many Christian marriages that have broken up. Many people have tried to encourage me by telling me, “God gives people free will.” But if God cannot subdue a sinful person’s will, then He can’t do anything! That means that sinful man, not God, is sovereign! If God promises to answer our prayers, then He has the power to answer them!

Many who do not know God pray, but they are not seeking God’s will in prayer. Rather, they are trying to use Him (whoever they conceive Him to be) to get what they want. But biblical prayer is not trying to talk God into giving us what we want. Rather, it is submitting our will to His will. It is praying, as Jesus instructed the disciples in Matthew 6:10, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

It would be the height of stupidity to pray for your will to be done as opposed to God’s will. Yet we do that very thing when we “command” God to give us what we think will make us happy or to take away painful things in our lives. For one thing, it would mean that you know better than God what is best for your life. But He knows everything and He has assured us that He loves us far more than the best earthly father loves his children. So it only makes sense to submit to and pray for His will for your life and for others.

But, the difficulty is, how do we determine what God’s will is so that we pray in line with it? Are we talking about His will of decree or His will of desire? God’s will of decree is what He has determined to do. In this sense, God “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). Here’s the difficulty when it comes to praying for God’s will: It is God’s will of desire that all men be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). Yet, we know that in His decree, God has willed to save only His elect (Rom. 9:9-24). So it would be going against God’s will of decree to pray, “God, save everyone in the world.” But, we should pray, “God, save my loved one,” and, “Save my neighbor.” The problem is, I cannot know in advance whether or not He will do it, because I do not know His will of decree. So I ask, but I have to say, “Not my will, but Yours, be done.”

Sunday – December 21, 2014 Christmas Message

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Hebrews 10:5-7
Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME; IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND SACRIFICES FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE. THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’”

One does not need to be a sociologist or a theologian to realize our society is doing everything it can to take Christ out of Christmas. Christmas is clearly under attack, both from within and without. It is no longer legal, or at least fashionable, to display a nativity scene on public property. Say things like, “Merry Christmas” and you will find people at best replying “Happy holidays.” Christmas vacation is now more obliquely called a “winter holiday” and will likely soon to be downgraded to a solstice celebration. What’s left of Christmas is less about the Newborn Babe and more about a chubby old man in a red suit.

While I am concerned about how the world views Christmas, I am more deeply troubled that all too many Christians fail to fully grasp the importance and implications of the incarnation. And beyond this, that many are willing to allow the celebration of the incarnation to be restricted to one day a year. I believe the importance of the incarnation is worthy of our attention in any season, but even more during this season lest the outgoing tide of culture pull us further away from the significance of God taking on human flesh. If we grasp the significance of the incarnation as we should, then we will also conclude that the annual celebration of Christmas is inadequate, and that our celebration of our Lord’s first coming must result in worship like the shepherds at the manger.

The incarnation was necessary in order for men to see God, and to behold how God’s perfections manifest themselves in humanity. God was unseen in the Old Testament, and because no man-made image (idol) or created thing could accurately reveal God’s likeness, their worship was forbidden by God. With the incarnation of our Lord in human form, God was now manifest in human flesh, so that men could see and touch Him. In the words of Scripture, Jesus was “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). The incarnation is an essential part of the gospel, by which men are saved as Peter told the crowds in Acts 2:22-25. Belief in the incarnation is essential, so much so that embracing it is a test of orthodoxy as we have seen in our study of John’s first epistle (1 John 4:1-3).

The incarnation of our Lord is to be celebrated on a regular basis, every time we observe communion. The incarnation is to be celebrated in the context of the saving work of our Lord. Thus, communion is a proclamation of the fundamental truths of the gospel, truths which we dare not forget, and truths which those who are lost must embrace. Christ Jesus came to earth in sinless, human flesh, to live a life of complete obedience to the Father, and ultimately to die in the sinner’s place, bearing God’s wrath, so that all who accept His work may be saved.