Glorious Examples of God’s Love – October 21, 2022

How can we love the unlovable? How can we overcome bitterness and anger? How can we see relationships mended, marriages repaired, and broken families set right again? The answer is God’s love. Last week we began to examine 1 John 4:7-21. This text contains one of the most famous passages of Scripture, “God is love.” Last week we examined what this famous text means. This week, we want to explore the demonstrations of God’s love. In this text, John brings again to our attention the three great demonstrations of God’s love: Christ’s coming in the flesh, Christ’s propitiation (or satisfaction) for our sin, and the Holy Spirit. We are motivated and empowered to love others through these three examples of God’s love.

God first expressed his love to us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, in the flesh. Boice comments, “God gave the best there was to give. Nothing could be greater than this. Nothing that can possibly be imagined can exceed this gift, for this is that indescribable gift for which Paul can only give thanks as he writes to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 9:15 –  Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!).” John states that the expression of love is God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him.

The English translators have translated it as only begotten. Still, the emphasis of the phrase is not on the begotten part (For as God, Christ has no beginning), but on the only part. Thus some have rightly chosen to translate it as one and only. God did not send something he had in abundance. God made the ultimate sacrifice and sent his one and only Son. God could have started over when humanity sinned. Instead, he sacrificed on our behalf with the ultimate sacrifice possible. This is God’s love toward you. God cared so much for you that He gave up His Son (His one and only Son) for you!

Diamonds have value because they are rare. River rock does not have much value because it is readily available. When I proposed to Heather, I presented her with a ring. It meant much because, as a poor college student, I saved my pennies and sacrificed to purchase a ring containing a rare stone set in a ring of rare metal (a diamond set in gold). It was a demonstration of how much I love her. I sacrificed and gave something rare and valuable. If I had knelt to ask her to marry me, opening the ring box revealing a ring with a pebble set in wood, she would have rightly questioned how much I cared for her. We know God’s love for us because of what he sacrificed.

If God had only sent His one and only Son as an example, that would have been wonderful. However, the standard would have been unattainable. If God had sent His one and only Son as a way to free us from trouble now and give us our best life now, that would have been kind. However, it would not have freed us from the wrath to come and would most certainly have meant our best life now because the afterlife would then be eternal torment. But God did not do this. Take a moment to read 1 John 4:10.

Our relationship with God is not really about how much we love God but about how much God loves us! Kruse comments, “The demonstration of God’s love was not a mere sending of his one and only son into the world, it was the sending of his son into the world that we might live through him.”

Romans 5 is one of the most amazing and passionate sections of Scripture. Paul begins with the declaration of peace we have with God. He states that we can rejoice in trials because we understand God’s love. This month we have heard stories of those who sacrificed to save lives in Hurricane Ian. We heard of those who left their homes to wade through the floodwaters to rescue stranded people. We saw the image of the man saving the kitten sitting atop an air conditioner. We observed the hundreds of people who drove their fishing boats to Florida to do all they could to help. But consider what Paul is saying here. He is stating something even more spectacular than that. Paul states that Christ died for us while we were still His enemies.

This would be like an individual who lost their entire family in the tragedy of 9/11 jumping in front of the marine’s bullet and dying in Osama Bin Laden’s place. This would be like a father volunteering to go to the electric chair in the place of a man who molested and killed his little daughter. This would be like President George Washington voluntarily being hanged in place of Benedict Arnold. This is insanity. But this is the amazing love of God for you.

Paul uses the word propitiation in this text. It is a vital word for salvation. It is a word meaning satisfaction. It is a word that emphasizes that God’s justice was met in Christ. It means that the punishment for our sins was satisfied in Christ. Again Boice comments, “Who are those for whom Christ died? Not lovely people by God’s reckoning, but sinners, those who had rebelled against God and hated him. Indeed, they were those who would crucify his Son out of hatred for him. And such are we all. Consequently, the measure of God’s love is seen in the fact that he gave his Son to die for such as ourselves.” God sent his one and only Son to die for us, who did not deserve love but wrath. “How can a loving God send anyone to Hell?” is entirely the wrong question. Instead, the question should be, “How is it possible that God could be so loving He would sacrifice His one and only Son so that anyone could go to heaven?”

But God did not stop there. He continued and gave us His Spirit. John states this in verse 13. The knowledge of this indwelling of the Holy Spirit provides the believer with an assurance of his membership in the family of God. Romans 8:16 states, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

When you question God’s love for you, consider that Christ came in the flesh, that Christ took your place on the cross, and that God sealed you with His Holy Spirit. He will surely take care of you in the challenges you face. When you struggle, look to the cross!

God is Love – October 14, 2022

Love is a topic with which our culture is fascinated. The concept of free love dominated the 60s and 70s. Songs longing for love filled the 80s and 90s. The struggle to define what love is in the battle over the sexual revolution has dominated the past two decades. The church should be where love can be clearly defined and demonstrated. Still, it is often a place where bitterness, wrath, and anger are found in abundance. One song states that all we need is love, while a quick observation of the world demonstrates the fallacy of that thinking. Disney taught us as children that we would one day fall in love and live happily ever after. Yet, adulthood quickly revealed the ignorance of that philosophy. So, what in the world is love, and how do the church and how do Christians rightly demonstrate it? John returns to this topic in today’s text, 1 John 4:7-21.

As we work through the book of 1 John, you may notice a unique writing pattern that John employs. He circles three topics and drives deeper every time he hits them like a corkscrew spinning and driving deeper into the cork. These three topics are the moral test, which is righteousness; the social test, which is love; and the doctrinal test, which is the test of truth of belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as God incarnate.

In this text, John returns to the commandment to love one another. This is the third time he approaches this social test of life to determine if you are an authentic Christian and if we are a faithful church. The first time John addresses this concept was found in 1 John 2, where John reminds us that loving one another is a command we should obey out of compulsion. The second time John addresses this topic is found in 1 John 3, where he reminds us that we should love one another by action, not words. Up to this point, love for others has been seen as a Christian duty. We begin this new section in which we will be challenged to love one another because of God’s love and nature. (Note especially verses 7-8).

In our text today, John states that if we love one another, we demonstrate that we are Christians. Those who love are Christians. But if this is the case, how can John state what he states? If love comes from God, how can unregenerate people demonstrate love the way they do? As we saw headlines coming out of Florida following Hurricane Ian, stories of heroism and love for people quickly emerged. How can this be possible if love is from God and some of these people are obviously unregenerate? The commentator Marshall notes, “A theological answer to the question would be phrased in terms of the doctrines of creation and common grace. It is because men are created in the image of God, an image which has been defaced but not destroyed by the fall, but they still have the capacity to love.”

Yet, this should give the believer a distinct advantage, for he has been made complete in Christ. He has not only common grace (grace shown to all mankind) but particular grace (saving grace granted to the believer at salvation). And so we have the Spirit of God in us. This is why John states that we ought to love one another. And as we demonstrate this love of God, we show that we are born of God. If your life is not marked by love for others but is instead marked by bitterness, anger, and meanness, then you frankly ought to question whether you are indeed born of God. We see once again that John is a very black-and-white person. He states that the one who does not love does not know God.

John then makes the most significant statement about love in the entire epistle at the end of verse 8, “God is love.” What does it mean that God is love? Notice John did not state that God is loving. He says that God is love (ο θεος αγαπη εστιν). Love flows from or out of God and has God as its spring or source. There can be no explanation or definition of true love, which does not start from God’s love. Yet, this concept is constantly misunderstood. Humanity tends to impose on God their conception of love. They ask questions like, “How can a loving God send anyone to Hell?” and make statements like, “I could never believe in a God who would keep a man from loving someone in a mutual relationship, even if it is with another man.” But these statements demonstrate a false view of love and project these views on God. People constantly impose on God a human view of love, but he transcends any such human limitations.

As a result, any proper definition of love must come from a proper understanding of God. Your view of God will dictate your view of life. With this in mind, we must note that the statement cannot be reversed. It is not a mutually equal statement. God is love, but love is not God. Love is not an all-encompassing statement of God. We see in Scripture that God is holy (1 Peter 1:16), God is righteous (Is. 45:21), and so on, with all of who God is. In short, God is the sum of all of his attributes. God is loving, and God is just. God is holy, and God is merciful. God’s attributes must work in concert with one another. When we state that God is love, it means that God defines and is the source of all love. Next week we will consider some important practical ramifications of this reality.

Stand Confidently in the Truth – October 7, 2022

A couple of days ago, a supposed scandal hit a team in the Australian Football League. The team hired Andrew Thorburn as the club’s new CEO. However, just 24 hours later, they forced him to resign. What terrible crime did Mr. Thorburn commit to result in such a rapid firing? He dared to hold to a Christian worldview regarding the LGBTQ movement and serves on the board of his church which holds to Biblical Christianity.[1] Christians must stand confidently in the truth in a world that moves further from morality by the day.

In 1 John 4, the Apostle John instructs the believer to test every message to ensure it is from God. As we do this, we must stand confidently in the truth. Yet, we must also understand that while we stand confidently in the truth, the world will not listen to us. John Stott notes, “The world recognizes its own people and listens to their message, which originates in its own circle and reflects its own perspectives. This explains their popularity.”

Don’t be shocked when sinful people do sinful things and reject the morality and message of the Word of God. They have latched onto the message of the world that they can determine truth for themselves and that they must create their happiness. The statement that God defines truth and that there is absolute morality encroaches on this happiness and freedom. Therefore they must react with anger and malice against it and seek to defeat it. This is also why false teachers can grow massive churches while Bible-preaching churches will constantly battle. We refuse to scratch itching ears. We will speak the truth even when it is not popular.

But we can have confidence because God is greater than the world. Danny Akin notes, “[John] reminds them of the true source and secret of their victory. They are not necessarily more intelligent or more skilled than the false prophets, but they are possessed and indwelt by one who is, the Holy Spirit. As believers yield themselves to the one who lives within them, they experience continual victory in their daily battles with the forces of evil.”

We have the Holy Spirit, who is greater than the world. This means two things: First, we can overcome sin daily. We will overcome evil as we yield to the Spirit of God and Walk in the Spirit. Second, it means that we need not fear rejection by the world. As the world becomes increasingly hostile, we can become increasingly bolder. If they reject us, it does not matter because they are already rejecting us. Every day, we have the opportunity to magnify Christ and share the Gospel. If they persecute us, what is the worst they can do? Kill us? That means eternity with God. Let us live? That means more days to glorify God and proclaim the Gospel. So stand firm in the truth, Don’t shrink in shame or embarrassment.


They Say That They are Christians, but Don’t Believe Them! – September 30, 2022

Greek mythology contains the account of a ten-year siege of the city of Troy. The Greeks (from the rival city of Sparta) grew weary of the siege and devised a plan to fool the Trojans into opening their gates. Over three days, the Greeks built a giant horse to gift the Trojans. On the night of completion, the Greeks pretended to sail away in defeat. On the horse, they inscribed, “For their return home, the Greeks give this gift.” Yet, the gift was not as it seemed. It was a false gift. Inside the cavernous body of the horse, a remnant of the Greek army hid. Believing they had won, the happy Trojans opened the gates and pulled the giant horse into their city. However, mythology also claims that some in the town warned against this as a trap. However, their warnings were ignored.

That night, when the city fell to sleep, the Greek army hidden in the horse exited their hiding place, opened the gates to the rest of the military (who had not sailed away), and defeated the city of Troy. From this mythology, we get the idea of the Trojan Horse. Something that appears lovely but is a falsehood and a trap. It is the same lesson John presents as he begins 1 John 4. John reminds us that not everyone who claims to speak the truth on behalf of God does indeed speak the truth on behalf of God.

Whenever we come across a sermon, message, book, video, or music which claims to be Christian, we cannot simply take it at face value. Satan loves to counterfeit the things of God. Just because the word “Lord” or “Jesus” appears does not make it righteous. For this reason, John wisely instructs us: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. The idea of testing the spirits is to try them by a trial. Put them to the test to see if they are true.

Just because someone says that they claim to speak for God does not mean that indeed they speak for God. Just because a preacher is famous or a best seller does not mean that he speaks for God. Often, if the World loves that preacher, your warning bells should go off. We must be cautious about what we listen to because Satan constantly attempts to infiltrate the church.

The test of truth is the Word of God. If an individual’s message proves to be faithful to the Word of God, then that person is speaking for God. The only reliable way to test any teaching is to measure it against God’s revelation in his infallible, written Word. Peter agrees with John in 2 Peter 1:19. In this text, Peter was speaking out against those who would claim that they had some new Word from God. These individuals claimed they were modern progressive minds with a better message. Peter taught the church that the most important message was fidelity to the Word. Today, in an ongoing effort to be relevant to the world around us, we are tempted to put our eggs in the basket of modern worship or updated inclusive beliefs. However, Peter and John challenge us not to worry about relevance but instead to worry about fidelity (faithfulness) to the Word of God.

On the other hand, any message that is not faithful to the Word of Truth proves that the message is not from God. Unfaithfulness to the Word of Truth disproves a message. From the beginning, Satan sought to distort the Word of God. Why? Because the Word of God contains the power of God for humanity. John MacArthur notes,

Satan’s basic strategy for attacking the truth first became evident in the garden of Eden, where he mounted a three-pronged assault on God’s word. First, he cast doubt on what God had said about eating the fruit of the tree of life. Second, he denied outright what God had sent to Adam. Finally, he added a distortion to what God had specifically told Adam.

As a result, John gives us three tests to see if the message is from God. First, the message must confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. This is more than simply stating that Jesus existed. This is saying that Jesus is the Messiah, the Lord of all, and that he came as flesh for all eternity. As a result, this Lord has all rights to my life and demands absolute fidelity. Second, the messenger must manifest evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. John states that these false messengers are from the world. This phrase indicates that they act like the world. There is no difference in their lives. This lack of difference demonstrates that they are false. Finally, the messenger must be committed to the Word of God. John continues that they speak from the world. Worldly philosophy fills their message. God’s Word does not fill their message.

Sadly, much that claims to be Christian today is not Christian. Observing the lives and messages of the various false teachers reveals that they are not God’s children. From the scandals at Hillsong and Bethel to the foolishness in the books surrounding “girlfriend theology” to the prevalence of “Christian nationalism” to the moralistic diddy presented by pastors, many Christians are being led away from God in the name of God. We cannot afford to be naïve in the world today. We must test everything against God’s Word to stand firmly on the truth. Become people of the Word!

Love Assures Us – September 23, 2022

Many have experienced intense pain due to people who were supposed to love them. Sometimes, the people we love say hurtful things, mistreat, or even abuse us. Some walk away. Others slowly drift apart from us. Our experiences with love cause us, at times, to question God’s love for us. As we recognize our insufficiency and sin before God, we begin to question whether or not God will walk away as well.

As John closes out 1 John chapter 3, he gives us a great gift in the form of assurance that God’s love towards us will never cease or fail. Often, when we struggle with our confidence and contentment towards Christ, we pull away from the church and others. We begin to draw inwards and question if the church is for us. However, this is a mistake, for John informs us that our love and service for others brings assurance that our relationship with God is genuine. He is not saying that we are saved by love, but that love is the evidence of salvation.

Love assures us of our relationship with God in two ways. First, love assures us that God will not throw us aside. In essence, John says that we can persuade our hearts that God is content with us when our hearts condemn us. Romans 8:1 reminds us that God will not condemn us because Christ’s blood covers our sins. As you struggle with sin, and as this sin begins to cause you to question your salvation, you can have confidence that God will not throw you out.

Second, this love gives assurance for us to keep his commandments. John states that we keep his commandments and then boils it down to the one commandment that guarantees our salvation: Believe in the name of the Son of God, Jesus. This causes us to love others. Love God, and love others. You cannot love God without loving others. And God’s love grants us the power to love others. This is important because we all have those we struggle to love. Yet because God’s love never fails, we can love others as His love empowers us.

As you question God’s love for you, it is vital that you not pull away from others but reengage. As you demonstrate love for others through God’s power, this action assures your heart of God’s love for you. Service for others is not optional because this is how we demonstrate God’s love to others and ourselves. So, how are you serving others?

Love Like Christ – September 16, 2022

Last week we noted that this world has a faulty view of love. We often think of love as a feeling that we get when we are with or think about another person. However, as we have observed, this faulty view of love results in disaster. In the next section of 1 John 3, we are challenged to love instead as Christ loves. True Christianity is founded on true love. Love is not selfish lust. Love is selfless action. True love can be defined as self-sacrificial, others motivated, and Christlike.

John begins with the observation that we know what true love is because we see it demonstrated by Christ. To love others is the great command given by Christ in John 15:12-14. While Cain sacrificed Abel’s life for himself, Christ sacrificed his own for us. This sacrifice, in turn, motivates us to sacrifice for others. True Christlike love is sacrificial. We are not to love with words or beautiful speeches but with tangible action. F. F. Bruce notes, “When John speaks of love, it is no sentimental emotion that he has in mind, but something intensely practical.” James states in James 2 that the only true love is love that meets others’ needs.

Love must be prepared to meet the needs of others, whatever the cost and self-sacrifice. The world’s need is not for heroic acts of martyrdom but heroic acts of material sacrifice. Often, we describe our church as a friendly church or a church filled with love. But in doing so, we must remember that love is an action. True love acts toward others with tangible acts of kindness. It does not simply state that it loves. It works (often sacrificially) for the good of the other. If you are not tangibly serving your fellow members in ways you can, you cannot say that you genuinely love them.

But how can we do this? Self-sacrifice for others is not natural. If I give up my time, I will not have any time of my own. If I give up my finances, I may not be financially stable. If I give up my abilities, I may be taken advantage of. To which the answer is yes. This is true. But we must recognize two critical passages. First, Galatians 2:20 indicates that the power to love others comes because we are no longer living for ourselves but for Christ. At salvation, we gave our lives to God; they now belong to him, not us. Life is not about pleasure or comfort but God’s kingdom. Second, Matthew 6:25-33 informs us that God will supply all our needs when we seek Christ’s Kingdom.

Authentic believers love one another: not selfishly but selflessly. So they will hunger for Christian fellowship. They do not give up meeting together but love to worship, pray, and talk about spiritual topics. They love to serve one another in tangible ways. The commentator Burge states, “This entire section suggests that the church is to become a life-giving community. It should be a place where men, women, and children are healed, not hurt; where the rich take genuine responsibility for the poor; where lives flourish both spiritually and materially. Conflict, struggle, rejection, community fragmentation – all can lead to despair and doubt.”

Now, what does this tangibly look like? First, We must constantly seek to serve those in our body in need. This may be simple or complex. As we become aware of needs in our body, we should rally to meet them: Working on homes or cars, providing childcare, helping financially or with meals, and so on.

Second, If you have a need, you must let us know. We cannot actively love you if we don’t learn how to love you actively. Often, we suffer in silence because we don’t want to put anyone else out. After all, is this not the American way? And while there is the truth that we ought to work with our own hands and care for ourselves, there are times in life when the burden and need are too great for us. In these times, God has given you a family in Christ to help. So please let us know.

Third, we must give! You are not your own, and it begins with your finances. Everything you have is from God and for God. As a result, you ought to obey God and give regularly. When you fail to give your tithes (a minimum of 10%), you are stealing from God and missing out on his blessing. But when you recognize that everything you have is from God and for God, and you acknowledge that life is for God, and you recognize that God will supply your need, you tangibly love others by giving to the church so that we might serve others. I don’t know who gives what, and I don’t want to know. But I know that if we all gave as we were commanded, we could have an incredible impact on the community around us as we love by using those funds.

Do you love like Christ? Or do you love like Cain? Is your love selfish and all about your comfort? Or is your love self-sacrificial, others-motivated, Christlike love? This is Christ’s command that we love one another.

Don’t Love Like Cain – September 9, 2022

What is love? Today our society emphasizes the idea that love is feeling. Disney’s princess movies drive home this concept as the prince and princess see each other across the room, the birds sing, the music plays, and we conclude that they are in love. However, one must not live long to realize that these stories are aptly labeled fairy tales. Unfortunately, our society buys into this feeling concept more subtly. We speak of people falling in and out of love. As long as I get warm fuzzy feelings when I think of the person I love, I love them back. When that stops, the love is gone.

However, God points to a better way. In 1 John 3:15-24, the Apostle John informs us that love is more than a feeling. It is an action. Love sacrifices for others. Further, true love for others marks genuine Christians. Christ’s message is that we should love one another. John then informs us of the characteristics of Biblical love. Over the next few weeks, we will examine these characteristics of Biblical love found here in 1 John 3.

First, John informs us that love is not selfish. This concept is a concept that flies in the face of how our culture defines love. Today, culture tells us that love is a feeling. You fall in love, and you fall out of love. The relationships you enter into are about your fulfillment. They must meet your needs and desires. And you simply leave the relationship if they are not doing it for you. Love is a chemical reaction in your biology that results in wonderful feelings. But, biblically, love is defined very differently. John begins by illustrating that our view of love is skewed so that we define as love something very different, hate.

John takes us back to Genesis 4 and the narrative of Cain and Abel. The narrative of Cain and Abel provides us with the heart issues behind true Christian love. Cain and Abel brought their sacrifices to God. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but rejected Cain’s. Abel’s righteous acts provoked Cain’s jealousy, which strayed into hatred and eventually murder. Abel no longer brought Cain the joy he desired, and so Cain ceased to “love” Abel. Cain’s relationship with Abel grew out of a desire for others to meet his own needs. Hate is inherently selfish. Love is inherently selfless.

Yet today, we define love as the feelings we get when someone makes us feel good. We confuse love with lust. Love gives, lust takes. This idea takes us back to 1 John 2:15-17, where we discover that the world’s system centers on lust: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. James 4 tells us that selfish lust is the source of all conflict. Sinful conflict ensues when someone is not getting what they want or think they deserve. However, the selfish fulfillment of one’s desires is not love but hate.

There are several essential applications we ought to note. Biblical love should mark our speech. We often ridicule, mock, or demean others that don’t meet the standards we set for them. They disappoint us, so we respond with hateful speech. Biblical love should mark our familial relationships. Too many marriages fail because the individuals seek their own pleasure rather than their spouses’ pleasure. We become short-tempered, angry, and demanding when our spouse fails to follow our desire or plan. However, God calls us to serve and sacrifice for our spouse. Often parents damage their children because they respond with anger when the child inconveniences them. Finally, Biblical love should mark the church. Too many follow today’s trend and view the church as a consumer product. We falsely believe that the church exists to meet my needs and provide a way for me to gain notoriety. Yet, God calls us to serve one another in the church without thinking of return. Christ informs us that if we do acts of service so that others will notice, that is all the reward we will get. Don’t come to church seeking what you can get out of it. Instead, come to church seeking what you can put into it. Christians, don’t love like Cain, love like Christ!

Responsibility of God’s Children – September 2, 2022

Many Americans have a strange fascination with British Royalty. If you have followed the royal family in the last few years, the news exposed you to the expectations of the royal family. Recently a young American lady married into the family and quickly came face to face with those expectations. It does not seem to have gone well. The British people and Queen Elizabeth hold specific standards for the royal family simply because they are royalty.

Last week we examined the reality that we have been adopted into God’s family. However, as the Apostle John continues the discussion in 1 John 3, he quickly points to the fact that God expects specific standards from his family. F. F. Bruce notes, “Behavior is of unsurpassed importance in the Christian way. Believers are indeed justified before God by his grace, which they accept by faith; but those who have been justified will show it by their behavior. Righteousness is as constant with the character of Christ – since he is righteous – as soon as constant with the character of the Devil, who has been sinning, rebelling against God, ever since the beginning.” God expects his children to hate sin and live righteously.

First, God’s children should see sin for what it is. John informs us that sin is lawlessness. Sin makes us criminals against God. One need not sin egregiously to stand guilty. James 2:10 tells us that breaking God’s Law in a single way makes us guilty as if we broke all the laws. Further, sin is of the Devil. When we sin, we act following Satan’s desires. God’s children should never seek to live in Satan’s ways.

Instead, God’s children should remember Christ’s work on the Cross. Christ died for our sins. When we sin, the price is Christ’s life. While my boys were little, my wife and I sought to drive this idea home in their hearts. As we sat on their bed to discuss why they were in trouble, we always asked a series of questions. “Why are you in trouble?” Through this question, we wanted them to identify their sin. “What does God call that?” The answer to this question is always sin. Through this question, we wanted them to be honest about sin. And then, most importantly, “What happened because you sinned?” And the answer is that Jesus died. Suddenly my angry retort to my sibling takes on a more profound impact. We must all come to the place where we understand that our sin cost Christ his life.

But he did not die and rise simply to do it. Instead, through these actions, he makes us righteous. “John is not suggesting that the child of God will not commit a single act of sin. Instead, John is describing a way of life, character, and prevailing lifestyle. Here the present tense verb contextually depicts linear, continual action. In other words, the believer will not live a life characterized by sin (Danny Akin).” So as God’s children, we must seek to flee sin and live righteous lives.  

We Are God’s Children – August 26, 2022

Big Mike grew up in a very troubled home. A child of drug addicts, Mike quickly ended up in foster care. However, with every new family, he was placed with, Mike ran away, usually ending up on the couch of some friend. As Mike got into Jr High, both his parents died. Over time a family took notice of Mike, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. Over time they began to take care of Mike until, finally, one night over dinner, they asked him an important question. Would he like to become a part of their family? They wanted to adopt him. They wanted to make him their son.

Similarly, 1 John 3 reminds us that we have also been adopted. However, the family into which we have been adopted is far greater. For, we have been made children of God. Verses one and two inform us that we are privileged to be God’s children. This fact should stir a sense of awe, wonder, and excitement within the believer’s heart. Danny Akin notes, “God’s love is foreign to humankind in that we cannot understand the magnitude of such love. It astonishes, amazes, and creates wonder within those who properly reflect upon it.” This ought to engender these reactions because of what is accomplished through this privilege.

First, through the adoption by God, we have a different family. Adoption gives the child all the rights of a natural-born offspring. We have all the rights of God’s children through God’s adoption. Further, we have been made a family together with all God has adopted. Thus the church becomes more than a social gathering; it is now a family reunion. Adoption also means that we have been removed from the world’s family. It is no wonder the world does not know or understand us. We are no longer in their family.

Second, through the adoption by God, we have a different future. When we were saved, our futures were radically changed as well. Ephesians 2 states that we were children of wrath, destined for eternal hell. We are children of God, destined for a new heaven and earth. This future is something that we cannot even begin to comprehend. 1 Corinthians 2:9 informs us that man’s heart could never imagine the glory in store for us. Charles Wesley stated it well, “And if our fellowship below in Jesus be so sweet, what heights of rapture shall we know when round his throne we meet.” As a result, death loses its sting (1 Corinthians 15). Before salvation, we had nothing to live for but were scared of dying. Now we have everything to live for, but we welcome death.

As you live each day, consider the glory of your family. You are now the child of God, the Creator of the Universe. And one day, you will live with him for all eternity in perfection if you have placed your faith in Christ.

The Holy Spirit’s Ministry to the Believer – August 19, 2022

Suppose you ask any believer what role the Holy Spirit plays in the believer’s life. In that case, you will undoubtedly get a variety of answers. Some will be pretty exciting. In response to the Pentecostal excesses, many Christians swing to the other end of the spectrum and ignore the Holy Spirit. Yet, the Apostle John informs us that the Holy Spirit’s evident work in the believer’s life is a sign of spiritual life. In 1 John 2:20, John states, But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. He further elaborates on this statement in verse 27, where he states, But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

To understand the Holy Spirit’s work, we must first understand what this anointing means. John here is not speaking about something that happens in the future after salvation, but rather what has already happened. Scripture teaches us that at redemption, you are anointed, indwelled, and sealed by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:4, 13; 6:19; 2 Cor. 1:20-21).

What then does John state happens as a result of this anointing? Let’s begin with the phrase to which your eyes were probably naturally drawn. John here states that they (and we) do not need anyone to teach us. What in the world is he saying? After all, is teaching not what John has been doing throughout the book and even now with this statement? So what could this possibly mean? Danny Akin comments, “John is not denying the importance in place of human teachers. The mere fact that he wrote this letter is sufficient proof. This claim that they have no need of someone to teach them echoes the promises that Jesus made in the gospel that the Paraclete would lead them into all truth (John 14:16-17, 26; 16:13). The ministry of the Spirit works through the apostles (not the heretics) to bring the message of salvation that is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Here was the reliable truth that they were taught. Additional revelation was not needed; indeed, it could be deadly.”[1]

If someone comes claiming special revelation from God, they are to be rejected. We have the Holy Spirit who illuminates us. The Baptist concepts of the Priesthood of the Believers and Individual Soul Liberty relate to the idea that we don’t need anyone to teach us. The idea of the Priesthood of the believer is that all believers have equal access to God. We do not need to go through a human priest to approach God. When Jesus died, the temple’s veil was torn so that, according to Hebrews 4:16, all believers may come boldly into the Holy Place. The idea of individual soul liberty is that every person has the right in matters of religion to choose what his conscience says is right, and he answers only to God. In other words, you do not need some person with secret knowledge. You need the Bible. The sufficiency of Scripture builds on the concept that we looked at last week that any authority a pastor, preacher, or teacher has is derived from the Word of God.

John then says that the anointing means the Holy Spirit teaches us. This is the concept of the illumination of the Spirit. What the Spirit caused to be written, he will inform us as to what it means (Jn 14:16, 26; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19). Jesus promised to send another (the Spirit) who would help us remember what God has taught us. He would illumine us and bring the Word of God to our minds when we need it (Jn. 16:13-14). However, not only does the Spirit bring the Word to mind, but he also teaches what the Word means and how it applies to us. He guides us in all truth. When we need to speak the gospel and defend our Christian beliefs, the Holy Spirit will help us know what we have to say (Lk. 12:12; 1 Cor. 2:12-15; Eph. 1:17-19).

John further expounds that the Spirit taught us that we abide in him. I believe that this is referring to the Spirit’s sealing work. When you are saved and place your faith and trust in Christ alone for salvation, the Holy Spirit seals you. The concept is that of an ancient letter. The seal of the sender or the ruler was placed on the letter and only the one authorized to open it could. Today we might relate this to the idea of branding cattle. Scripture writers use this to illustrate what the Holy Spirit does for us. The Holy Spirit marks us out for God so that we cannot lose our salvation but are guaranteed to persevere to the end (Eph 1:13-14; 4:30; 2 Cor 1:20-22). This sealing is God’s authentic mark on the believer. It means that we are genuinely his, and nothing can change that. Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:35-39).

We have been challenged to abide in Christ for the past two weeks. First, we must remember that truth matters. We must value Biblical beliefs. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in some Christian circles to minimize truth and to substitute it for either ethical demands or subjective experiences or simply the obligation to love in place of truth. We must know why we believe what we believe and why we do what we do. And it must be founded in the Word. This takes work and effort.

Second, we must rejoice and dwell in the fact that we have the Holy Spirit. This Spirit teaches us what we need to know from the Word. And the Spirit seals us so we can never lose our salvation but keeps us until Christ returns.

Finally, there are the means by which every Christian should achieve victory over any error in life: the Word of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Both are necessary. Without the Spirit, knowledge of the Word becomes but empty religion. Without the Word, the experience of the Spirit can lead to the most unjustified and damaging of excesses. A love for the Word and evidence of the Spirit’s work marks the true believer’s life. 

[1] Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John. The New American Commentary. vol. 38. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holdman Publishers, 2001), 125.