Sunday – October 12, 2014 1st John 3:4-10 “What is Sin to a Christian?”

Sunday – October 12, 2014 – Read the Word on Worship

1st John 3 verses 4 to 10 from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.


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1 John 3:7-9
“Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”

John divides all people into two camps: those who practice righteousness (3:7) and those who practice sin (3:8). There is no third camp for those who do not believe in Jesus, but are decent, good people who never hurt anyone. You may protest, “Surely, my grandmother who was sweet towards everyone and who believed in the basic goodness of human nature, was not of the devil!” The Bible offers no comfort to those who base their righteousness on good deeds, clean living or gentleness of spirit. _

The key to understanding John’s meaning lies in his next phrase, “for the devil sins [lit.] from the beginning.” This points us back to the original fall of Satan. God created Satan and all the angels as good, but Satan sinned against God and led a rebellion of other angels, who became demons. Isaiah 14:12-14, on one level describes a taunt against the king of Babylon, is also a description of Satan’s fall: “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of the assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Notice that five times the devil said, “I will,” in opposition to God. He was not content with where God had created him. He wanted his own way. As we saw in verse 4, which is parallel to verse 8, the essence of sin is rebellion against God. The sinner says, “I will! I want my way! I will not submit to the Most High God.” This attitude originated in Satan and is the defining attribute of all who stand in opposition to the grace and mercy of God who provides His righteousness to all who trust in the work of His Son on the cross of Calvary.

So whenever a person acts in line with his own will, without submitting to God’s will, he is committing the original sin of the devil. Whether it manifests itself as the humanly respectable, “I will be nice to others, so that people will think highly of me,” or as the reprehensible, “I will kill others to get what I want,” it all comes from the same source: the devil. Any action that originates in the human will that is not in submission to God is devilish, even if outwardly it is a nice, humanitarian, seemingly “good” action.

Sunday – September 28, 2014 1John 3:2-3 “The Purifying Hope”

Sunday – September 28, 2014 – Read the Word on Worship

1st John 3 verses 2 to 3 from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.


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1 John 3:2-3
“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

For better or worse, the families into which we are born have a huge impact on how we grow up and live. Some grow up in unloving, abusive homes where anger flares up every day. The world spews its lifestyle into our homes and the family wallows in it, laughing at the shameful antics. The Bible is never read and moral training, if it exists at all, consists of, “Make sure that you have safe sex.” A child growing up in that kind of home is bound to be damaged by it, unless the grace of God through the gospel lays hold of him.

Other children grow up in godly homes, where love and kindness are the daily fare. The husband treats his wife with gentleness and respect, and the wife submits to and speaks well of her husband. The children are instructed in the ways of the Lord and they see it modeled in front of them every day. The Bible is read in the home and they worship with God’s people on Sundays. Growing up in that kind of home will have a far different impact on the children. Their position as children in that kind of home greatly affects how they think and live.

Perhaps you lament that you did not enjoy a godly upbringing. But, if you have been born again by the Holy Spirit, you now are in such a godly family – the family of God. You can rightly call the holy God, “Father.” You are His beloved child, more precious to Him than any child is to his earthly father. As a child of God, you are an heir to a vast fortune. Paul puts it this way in Romans 8:16-17, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” That new position of being a child of God in the family of God should shape how you think, how you live, and how you relate to the many temptations in this evil world.

If we begin to see the truth of who we are and allow it to shape our identity, it will change how we face the temptations of this life. You are tempted to engage in some sin but you think, “I can’t do that because I’m a child of God and it would disgrace the name of my heavenly Father.” Or, you’re reading the Bible and it convicts you that some of your behavior is not godly. When Scripture confronts you, you think, “I’m now a child of God. I can’t do that as a member of His family.” Your new identity motivates you to grow in holiness.

Sunday – September 21, 2014 1John 3:1 “The Father’s Great Love”

Sunday – September 21, 2014 – Read the Word on Worship

1st John 3 verse 1 from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.


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1 John 3:1
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”

The heart of every pastor desires to strengthen the spiritual stamina of his flock. This is particularly the case when, as in John’s church, opponents are seen standing outside the door. But the question that roams my heart and mind is what strategy is best for our church to reinforce Christian discipleship? John can often raise more questions than answers, which allows for us to wrestle with the Holy Spirit to find application in our lives. John tells us we are the children of God. And all of this is the result of God’s love that He initiated on our behalf. If that does not cause you to stand up and praise God, look to John and his example of rejoicing in this truth.

When John tells us our status is as “God’s children” it is proclaimed as an absolute, unyielding decision initiated by God. That is why John exclaims, “How great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God.” It is a part of a divine choice, an unmerited adoption, where we are brought into the family of God. It is only in this framework that we see our security with God is completely out of our hands and firmly in His. Only then does assurance of salvation move from an intellectual construct to a concrete reality. Our confidence comes from finding out God is the One who holds us secure.

I am continually amazed at the number of church-going people who intellectually understand they are God’s children and cannot be un-adopted, and yet their hearts are filled with insecurity. Caught up in their feelings of the moment, they wonder how they can be children of God if they don’t “feel” like they are children of God. Or others who look upon their personal struggle with sin and question if they ever were in the family of God. This may be a common experience of many today. But if my confidence is based on what I feel in my Christian walk, then confidence is frail indeed.

Experience is an important part of our Christian walk. Christ told us we must be born again, walk in obedience to His commands and live holy and righteous lives. While these experiences are important, the measure of our assurance is not the magnitude of the experience of the past, which often fade as we become older. Rather, through the atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ and with it the payment of our sin by our faith, God makes known to us His immeasurable love and makes our assurance steadfast.

Sunday – September 14, 2014 1John 2:28-29 “Are You Ready for His Coming?”

Sunday – September 14, 2014 – Read the Word on Worship

1st John 3 verses 28-29 from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.


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1 John 2:28-29
“Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.”

Dealing with conflict paralyzes most of us. We know that if we confront people about their misbehavior it may cause a relationship and even whole communities to fracture. But we are equally aware of the warnings John has already given us about those who practice unrighteousness in the Body of Christ. So we often choose doing nothing in order to maintain unity rather than gentle correction and restoration. John is writing to a church going through this very struggle. But rather than seeing a church paralyzed by the conflict, John offers counsel on how to address it by developing a biblical eschatological climate.

Throughout the history of the church, Christians have tried to interpret their history with the return of Jesus Christ in view. When signs of persecution and trouble appear, instead of finding hope and being warned, we often hear messages of fear urging an apocalyptic message that the end is near. The Apostle John would have the church develop a climate that heightens our awareness of the last days (Eschatology) so that when troubles overwhelm us. Instead of proudly predicting the arrival of the end, we should say we are in a time that demonstrates features of the end and thus we must watch and pray to be ready. Alertness to the time is the best preparation for dealing with possible conflict in the Church.

Our Lord told us in passages such as Mark 13 that the end will be characterized by suffering such as this. While it may not be today, one day such suffering will be greeted by the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. But as we wait, we need to be equipped so that we are not discouraged when severe troubles and persecutions erupt. Having the proper eschatological readiness helps dispel the despair that accompanies turmoil. It teaches us to watch for changes in history, to be aware of “antichrists” and to be alert when history betrays elements of the return of our Savior.

The New Testament does not warn us about eschatological zeal as much as it does about losing our vision of the last days. Be ready, Jesus urges, for the end will come like a thief in the night. John reminds us of the confidence we are to have at the second coming of Jesus Christ, but he reminds us that righteousness is the defining characteristic of those who are born of Him. Our challenge is to promote a biblical eschatological worldview without inspiring doomsday apocalypticism.

Sunday – September 7, 2014 1John 2:24-27 “Avoiding Deception Part 2”

Sunday – September 7, 2014 – Read the Word on Worship

1st John 2 verses 24 to 27 “Avoiding Spiritual Deception Part 2″ from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.


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1 John 2:24-25
As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.

From the earliest days, while the apostles were still living, the enemy has sown confusion in the churches about the gospel. In his last letter before his death, Paul warned Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:13, “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” He goes on to exhort Timothy to continue (the same Greek word that is translated abide in John) in the Word, which is able to bring us to salvation. If Satan can cause confusion about the gospel, everything else is affected. It is the domino that causes all the others to fall. By the way, as John Calvin notes, it is the duty of a godly pastor to drive away the wolves and to warn the flock about those who pervert the gospel. I would not be a faithful pastor if I only spoke to you about positive, heartwarming matters, but did not also warn you of these insidious errors.

Take the error that believing in Christ for salvation does not include repenting of sin or submitting to Jesus as Lord. As a result of this teaching, there are thousands in evangelical churches who claim to be born again, but they habitually live in sin. They’ve been assured that because they received Christ, they are going to heaven. But as Paul describes such people in Titus 1:16, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” They will be shocked when they stand before the Lord and hear Him say, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matt 7:23)

Or, take the error of the seeker churches. They take surveys to determine what people want from a church. Those who have been turned off by legalism or by guilt-producing, fire and brimstone sermons, have said, “We would like a church that is upbeat and positive. We want modern music. We want to feel good about ourselves when we leave. We want help with how to succeed in our families and our careers. But keep it light and on the short side.”

So, the church marketers have gone back to the drawing boards. They’ve devised a church service that only lasts an hour. The music is contemporary and not too heavy on doctrine. There are skits or other entertaining acts. The messages avoid controversial or difficult subjects like sin, judgment, or righteousness. The “gospel” is packaged as, “If you’ve got problems, try Jesus. He will help you become all that you’ve ever wanted to be.” But, where is the message of Scripture, that our sins have alienated us from a holy God, and that we must repent? Where is any careful, verse-by-verse exposition of Scripture? It’s not there.

 

Sunday – August 31, 2014 1st John 2:18-23 “Avoiding Spiritual Deception”

Sunday – August 31, 2014 – Read the Word on Worship

1st John 2 verses 18 to 23 from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.


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1 John 2:18-20
“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

When I read the denials of historic biblical Christianity (the atoning death of Jesus for our sins, the omniscience and sovereignty of God, the second coming of the Lord in glory) – what strikes me is the ease with which many people are deceived. Two things account for this: a lack of grounding in the Word of God and a lack of life in the Holy Spirit. Or to put it another way, when people have no theological depth and no vital experience of the Holy Spirit, they are easy marks for any deceiver and ultimately the antichrist.

1 John is written for an age like ours, and the two things John strives for are a deeper rooting in the Word of God and a deeper experience of the Spirit of God. These are two of the greatest needs of the Church today. The Word of God and the Spirit of God are our only hope for stability in a world filled with antichrists. Yet spiritual maturity and depth are rarely seen in the pulpits, much less the pews of the local church body.

John’s view of the end-times seems to be that there is a singular antichrist coming but that the spirit of antichrist is already in the world and that it produces many preliminary lesser forms of the antichrist. The essence of the antichrist spirit is to deny that Jesus was the Christ or to deny that the Christ was fully incarnate in Jesus. The spirit of antichrist does whatever it can to diminish Christ and substitute other views or other persons for the true incarnate Son of God. Consider the following texts where John refers to the antichrist. (These are the only places in the whole New Testament where the term antichrist occurs.)

John is very concerned that the church be alert to what he calls “the liar” or “deceivers.” Many such deceivers have gone out into the world. We live in a period of time where God in His sovereignty allows deception to spread. In 5:19 John says, “The whole world is in the power of the evil one.” We live in the last hours of this deception. This will be my prayer for all of us here at Sunrise Community Church – that the Word abides in us and that we abide in the Spirit. I pray that Sunrise loves the Word, and continues to gather Sunday after Sunday to worship in the Spirit and in the truth. For the Lord seeks those who will worship him in Spirit and in truth.

Sunday – August 24, 2014 1st John 2:15-17 “Do Not Love the World”

Sunday – August 24, 2014 – Read the Word on Worship

1st John 2 verses 15 to 17 from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.


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1 John 2:15-17
“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

We have been well taught that we are saved by FAITH! “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!” (Acts 16:31). But we have not been as well taught what saving faith is. For example, how often do we discuss the relationship between trusting Christ and loving Christ? Can you trust Him as Savior and not love Him? Evidently John doesn’t think so, because the issue in this text is whether you love God or love the world, and the result is whether you die with the world or have eternal life with God. But John knows that eternal life comes through faith.

John tells us later in 1 John 5:13, “I write this to you who BELIEVE in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” Eternal life depends on believing in the Christ. So we go out to the world talking about the need to believe in Jesus Christ. But what is believing? If we let John speak for himself, his letter fills out what he means. When he says that not loving the world but loving God so much that we do his will is what leads to eternal life, we learn that saving faith and love for God are inseparable. Both are the path to eternal life because saving faith and love for God are the same path.

In John 5:42–44 Jesus confronts the Jewish leaders who do not believe on Him with these words, “I know that you have not the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name and you do not receive me … How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” In other words the reason they do not receive or believe on Jesus is that they do not love God. They love the world – the glory of men – not the glory of God. So Jesus taught his apostles that where there is no love for God, there can be no saving faith.

What should we say then concerning love for God and faith in Christ? The path of victory that overcomes the world and leads to eternal life is the one path of faith toward Christ and love for God. Saving faith is part of love for God and love for God is part of saving faith. There are not two ways to heaven. There is one narrow way – the way of faith which loves God and the way of love which trusts God.

Sunday – August 17, 2014 1st John 2:12-14 “Even the Strong Need Strength”

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1st John 2 verses 12 to 14 from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.


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1 John 2:12-13
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.”

From the time of John’s letters to today there has been a clash between factions in the church about our view of the world. One camp would say there is the world outside of the church is an environment that is intrinsically opposed to God though thoroughly loved by Him. Those who follow Christ need to be aware of the temptations and threats of this world and equip ourselves so we do not fall prey to them. In the other camps are those who want to see the world in the church – whether for the purpose of being inclusive or to make the world comfortable so it may hear and contemplate the message of the gospel.

The further you go into John’s letters the more he emphasizes the boundary that separates the church from the world. John is very aware subtle theological distortions give way to true perversions of doctrine. A world that seems to be only indifferent to God reveals itself to be a world completely opposed to Him. People who appear to be fence sitters in John’s words, worldly Christians we might say, reveal their true colors as provocateurs and teachers of error and thus become lieutenants of the enemy. John argues for a separatist doctrine of the church and paints a portrait of the church as a community under siege. But are such boundaries good? Should the church welcome in the world in an attempt to get its message out? Don’t those who rebel against God need hear the message of God’s love?

The heart of the issue comes down to our worldview. Many evangelicals see the world as benign. So any discussion of boundaries seems inappropriate because they do not see how the world, its policies and social life are opposed to the teaching of Jesus. When Norma McCorvey – the Jane Roe of the famous 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortions legal – came to faith in Jesus Christ and publicly spoke of the sin that abortion is, she was called emotionally troubled and a pawn of the “Christian right” by the world. The world is seriously hostile to the advance of the kingdom of God.

What is needed in the church is a new worldview. Unless we develop a God-centered worldview based on what the Scriptures teach, the world’s offensiveness, aggressiveness and rejection of the truth will seem irrelevant. Developing a God-centered worldview will cause us to ask difficult questions about how we live. This discussion may begin with these verses in John’s letter but must continue through the entirety of the book. Clearly John’s focus is on managing these boundaries to maintain a strong community of believers in a world of spiritual dangers and pitfalls for those who are unaware of the deceit that abounds in the world.

Sunday – August 10, 2014 1John 2:7-11″The One Who Lives in the Light”

Sunday – August 10, 2014 – Read the Word on Worship

1st John 2 verses 7 to 11 from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.


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1 John 3:9-10
“No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.”

John raises many questions to those who would follow after Jesus. Churches across America are filled on Sunday morning with those whose faith is fit only for bumper stickers – “I know Him, live in Him and am in the light!” But they have never stopped and examined themselves to ask how often they reflect the character of Jesus Christ. Are they known as obedient and loving or simply as religious? John challenges all of us in where we stand today.

Many of us recoil at the word obedience. We have heard the messages on obedience and righteousness and we push them aside because they seem suffocating. We say, God loves me and I want to simply enjoy Him and live my life. I often wonder if the doctrines of grace have sabotaged the call to personal holiness. The Scriptures are not a battle between law and grace nor are its teachings a debate between Moses and Jesus. Jesus endorsed no compromise to the believer’s pursuit of righteousness. Thankfully we are saved by faith alone, but never forget the Christian life must display good works which God has prepared in advance for us to accomplish. This paradox is the tension in our life and in the Scripture.

John is absolute in his proclamation of obedience. If we disobey we are liars and walk in darkness. Can the absence of obedience truly disqualify us from being a Christian? I find the conclusion of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount to be very sobering. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt 7:21) This is then followed by our Lord’s teaching about building our homes upon the rock. Hearing the words of Jesus and doing His words compares with a person whose house has an unmovable foundation.

Jesus said our righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees if we want to see the kingdom of heaven. And yet for all the critical statements Jesus made about the behavior of the Pharisees, He also said believers are to take note of what they said. “Therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.” (Matt 23:3) This is the defining paradox for those who follow after Christ: Personal righteousness and obedience are an essential component to our faith and yet do not form the basis of our salvation. Hear the call to be vigilant, but do not sacrifice the loving character of God in our lives.

Sunday – July 20, 2014 1st John 2:1-2 “The Key to Holiness”

Sunday – July 20, 2014 – Read the Word on Worship

1 John 2 verses 1 and 2 from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.


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1 John 2:1-2
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

The Apostle John has spent the first chapter of his letter exhorting us to live in the light as God is in the light. As a person who wants to please God, I find these to be some of the hardest words in Scripture. I want to please Him and yet I know how far short of this simple command I live every day of my life. Then John graciously adds, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father.” In other words, don’t despair when you sin; there is hope in Jesus Christ.

You may ask why John would say this if his aim was that we not sin. It’s as if he has just succeeded in creating such an impression of the seriousness of sin that we begin to flee from it the way we should, and then he blows it, by giving us an out when we do sin. Instead of calling his wisdom into question, we should humble ourselves and learn from him. The strugglers among us might wish that John had never said in 1:7, “If we walk in the light . . . the blood of Jesus cleanses from sin.” And the strong among us might wish that John had never said in 2:1, “But if you do sin, we have an advocate with the Father.” The struggler may feel John makes the ongoing experience of forgiveness dependent on walking in the light, so the gospel is conditional and leaves them in despair. The strong person may feel that when he stresses the advocacy of Christ to Christians who sin, he cheapens the gospel and turns it into license to sin.

So let the struggler and the strong learn from John. For the way of God is not either-or. It is both-and. We must walk in the light if we are to go on experiencing the cleansing of Jesus. And if we sin, we do indeed have an advocate with the Father. There is sin that is unto death and there is sin that is not unto death. And the reason there can be sin that is not unto death is because we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. But not only that, we need to include the first half of Verse 2 in order to understand why we should not despair. “He is the propitiation for our sins.” More literally: He is the payment for our sins.

John’s message to us today is clearly, don’t sin! It is tremendously and terribly serious, causing great pain and hurt in your life and the life of the Church. But if you do sin, don’t despair because your attorney is the Son of the Judge. He is righteous and he makes his case for you not on the basis of your perfection but on his propitiation. Be of good courage, don’t hog Jesus for yourself alone, go and make disciples and tell them the good news – Jesus Christ lives!