Sunday – October 26, 2014 1st John 3:19-24 “Blessed Assurance”

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1 John 3:19-22
“We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.”

Every child has a basic need to feel assured of his parents’ love. It should be obvious that if parents verbally or physically abuse a child, that child will not feel loved by his parents. Eventually, he will distance himself from them through withdrawal or rebellion. So even when a child disobeys and must be disciplined; it is important for parents to affirm their love for him. Assurance of love is essential for close relationships.

The same is true spiritually. Even though the heavenly Father disciplines us for our good, that we might share His holiness, He does it out of love. He wants us, as His children, to be assured of His great love for us. John begins chapter 3 by exclaiming (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.” God wants His children to feel His arms of love around them, even when they go through difficult trials.

The enemy of our souls knows that we will not feel close to God if we doubt our standing before Him as beloved children. So he accuses us in an attempt to drive a wedge between us and God. In addition, at times our conscience condemns us as we compare ourselves with the holy standards of God’s Word. We know that we should love others, but in our hearts, we struggle with anger or bitterness or hatred toward those who have wronged us. We know that we should pray for God to bless this difficult person with His salvation, but inwardly, we’d rather see him punished. When we have those thoughts, either our guilty conscience or the enemy comes in and says, “A true Christian can’t have thoughts like that! You’re not even saved!”

The first anchor for assurance is always faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. If your trust is in Christ, God has promised you eternal life and He has promised never to allow you to be snatched out of His hand. A man once told D. L. Moody that he was worried because he didn’t feel saved. Moody asked, “Was Noah safe in the ark?” “Certainly he was,” the man replied. “Well, what made him safe, his feeling or the ark?” The point is, if you’re in Christ, it’s not your feelings that save you from God’s judgment. It’s Christ who saves! Faith puts you on the ark! Make sure you’re on board!

Sunday – October 19, 2014 1st John 3:11-18 “Love or Hate – One or the Other”

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1 John 3:11-12
“For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.”

If loving others were only as easy as giving a hug to someone you don’t like, we all could excel in love. Just hug them and move on. But, love is a bit more difficult than that. It requires continual effort, because at the heart of loving others is putting the other person ahead of yourself, and that is always a huge battle. For this reason, the New Testament as a whole and the apostle John in this letter never tire of exhorting us to love one another.

John had seen the love of Christ demonstrated that night in the Upper Room, when Jesus took the basin of water and washed the disciples’ feet. He then heard Jesus say in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Then John saw the supreme demonstration of Christ’s love when He willingly went to the cross and died for our sins. And so the “son of thunder” became known as the “apostle of love.” John has already reminded his little children of this old-new commandment of Jesus.  He will yet devote the major part of Chapter 4 (verses 7-21) to this same theme. In fact, six times in 1 John and 2 John, he refers directly to the command by Jesus  that we love one another.

If we get weary of hearing over and over about the need to love one another, we should remember that John wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who knows our hearts. We need to examine ourselves constantly because our default mode is to revert to selfishness, not to love. In our text, John again gets out his black and white paint and does not mix them into shades of gray. He wants to expose the errors of the heretics in the plainest of terms.

John says, “This is the message which you have heard from the beginning.” He means, from the beginning of your Christian life you were taught to love one another. It’s a basic truth that you should start to learn and practice from the first day of your Christian experience. God’s love flowing through us to one another should so mark the church that it draws a sharp contrast between us and the world.

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

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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 – October 5, 2014 1st Peter 1:5-7 “Rejoicing in Life”

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Ken McAuley 1st Peter from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.


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1 Peter 1:5-7
“……protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Are you one of those who are frustrated with wanting to be forward about sharing the Gospel but not knowing how to start? I think I have found a solution. It’s not the only way, but it’s about The Way. REJOICE! Be joyful! Have a smile on your face even in the midst of severe difficulties. People will wonder what’s wrong with you and what you are up to. And then you can share with them the Hope that is in you. In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter says in his letter to Believers, “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” Rejoicing at all times means that we have to keep our Lord Jesus Christ in our thoughts continually. If spending time with Him is a bore or seemingly unproductive, you are not paying attention. He has something He wants to share with you that you can receive in no other way. Open your Bible and see what you can learn about Jesus. He will show you marvelous things about life in Him, about Him, and with Him. It’s impossible to keep Him in your thoughts if your thoughts are never about Him. The cares of this world and what you can do about them on your own, without Him, are very distracting. We need to seek His wisdom and understanding because He knows all about them.

So, how serious are you about sharing the Truth? Spontaneity is important otherwise it seems like you are preaching, when you just want to meet people where they are. If you want to share your Hope with them, it has to mean something to you, not just something you have memorized, cold and impersonal. Jesus wants to share His life with you. Spend some time with Him. You will be glad you did. He will remind you of reasons to REJOICE!

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

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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”

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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?”

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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”

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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”

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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 – July 27, 2014 Signs in the Heavens Part 2

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Signs in the Heavens Part 2

Romans 1:20 
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

Paul is reminding us that no one has an excuse for not responding to God. It reminds me of students who claim they did not know an assignment was due even though the teacher put it on the board, reminded the class orally and even covered specifically elements to be included in the assignment.   The student may claim, “I didn’t hear you say anything about the assignment. Nobody told me personally. I had an ear problem so I didn’t hear what you said.” Those of you who are teachers or know teachers have probably heard many more excuses.

When it comes to the things of God, people have the same kinds of excuses. I can imagine the Great White throne judgment where those on trial will claim many excuses to justify their name not being in the Book of Life. I think the major excuse will be “no one told me.” While it is the purpose of every believer to share the good news of reconciliation to the living God for everyone through Christ’s payment for sin on the cross and relationship with Him; the Lord has revealed Himself exquisitely through the things He has made. One cannot look at the complexities of the human body or the intricacy of the universe without recognizing someone with the creative power far beyond man-made all things.

So why do we have a problem with recognizing and then seeking a true relationship with Him? Just like the students, we do not “hear” because we choose to put our attention on ourselves, what we want, and when we want it.   Our society reinforces our self-centeredness. How many commercials say ‘get this because you deserve it.” How many times a day do we hear ‘it is my right to have …’, you fill in the blank. Our government has decided people “need” certain things, so we give, for example, free cell phones and service – because everyone has the right to a cell phone.

The message who God is and His desire for relationship with people is still available today through the Bible, people, and radio and TV programs that proclaim the true gospel. Even if the government/society succeeds in outlawing Christian teaching or expression in any form, the things that God has made continue to reveal who He is so that there will be no excuse for not responding to Him.