Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Great Worship

The worship of God must be a great thing because the Lord is a great God, and it must be suitable to his greatness. 

Jeremiah Burroughs 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

THE LETTERS OF JOHN - 1 John 1:1-10


We believe the letters of John, known as 1, 2, and 3 John were written by John the Apostle, who wrote the Gospel of John, and was one of the Twelve. It appears that John left Jerusalem before Rome attacked and destroyed the city in 70 A.D. He moved to Ephesus and ministered there. This is the same city in which Paul stayed and ministered for three years.

This letter we call First John was likely written from Ephesus to churches in the area. It is addressed to no specific person or church, so it may have been a circular letter to several churches in the area that held to the gospel as John presented it. It was written after the Gospel of John, around A.D. 85-90.

John’s purpose in writing the letter is to refute the false teachings of some who have left the churches.

The Word of Life

The beginning of this letter should remind you of the beginning, or prologue, of John’s Gospel. If you will read that before you read these four verses, you will see the similarities.

As he did in his gospel, John used the introduction to this letter both to describe Jesus and to stress John’s first hand knowledge of Jesus and his teaching.

So he began with “that which was from the beginning” to stress the divinity and eternal existence of Jesus. (1) In John 1:1, John wrote “in the beginning was the Word” to say the same thing. He reflected back to Genesis 1:1, which says “in the beginning, God…”

Jesus is not a created being, he is God. He is the second person of the Trinity. He has always existed.

John referred to Jesus in verse 1 as “the word of life”. This is again similar to John 1:1, when he wrote “in the begging was the Word”.

Next, John stressed his personal knowledge of Jesus. Jesus was that…which we have heard, which we have seen…and have touched”. (1) John personally heard Jesus teach, he saw him with his own eyes, and he touched him with his own hands”. We can trust the teaching of John because he was a witness to Jesus’s life, death, burial, and resurrection, and because he heard him teach.

John went on to say that Jesus was made manifest. He existed before taking on human flesh when born to Mary, but was largely hidden. He was with the Father in heaven. (2)

But, God the Father sent him to the world. (John 3:16) Beginning with his birth, he was seen. God manifested him, or made him visible and obvious. He was seen by Mary and Joseph, by the shepherds and by the wise men. He grew up and was seen by many, including the disciples. John was one of those disciples.

John he proclaimed what he and the other disciples saw and heard. They preached was Jesus preached and told of what they saw him do. (3) That is what Jesus commissioned the disciples to do: to make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them all that Jesus taught. (Matthew 28:18-20).

John’s motive for doing this teaching and writing, in addition to simple obedience to Christ, was to lead them to believe so those to whom he wrote could come into the fellowship of the Father and Son and the fellow believers. (3) Those who believe and follow Christ, have fellowship with him and the Father, and with all those who believe. John had that fellowship and wanted others to have it too.

Having this fellowship in Christ would bring joy both to John and to those who believed the message. (4) You may have experienced this fellowship and joy. Have you ever met someone new and found an instant rapport in conversation, then found they were also a believer? That is fellowship in Christ. That rapport and that joy should continue forever.

The fact that we can have fellowship with the Father means we can know him. Jesus, in fact, said “And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. (John 17:3) That eternal life begins when we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. We know him and, therefore have fellowship with him. This is only for believers. Jesus said No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)

So, we see, God is knowable. He is not, however, comprehensible. That is, no finite being can fully understand God or know all there is to know about him. The Psalmist wrote “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” (Psalm 145:3) He went on to write that his understanding is beyond measure.” (145:5) We can know God, but we cannot fully comprehend him for he is God and we are not.

Fellowship with God

How do we stay (walk) in fellowship with God? It flows from the character of God. God is light. Light is a metaphor for God’s holiness and purity. He is completely holy.

God is separated from sin. John wrote “in him is no darkness at all”. (5)  He is devoted to his own glory and honor. The seraphim around his throne cry out “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; thew hole art is full of his glory”. (Isaiah 6:3)

Since God is holy, those who would have fellowship with him must be holy. God said “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy”. (Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16) That is why John wrote “if we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth”. (6)

This certainly struck at the heart of false teachers who said they were God’s men, but lived sinful lives, as Peter noted in his letters. It also strikes to the core of every man and woman who claims be believe but lives in continual sin. They do not practice the truth. You cannot walk in darkness and light at the same time. Further, since those people do not have fellowship with the Father and the Son, they do not have fellowship with other believers.

If we do walk in the light, striving to be holy and to avoid sin, because God is holy (“as he is in the light”), we have fellowship with each other, with fellow believers. We also have cleansing from sin through the blood of Jesus. If we did not, we could not begin to come into the presence and fellowship of the Father. Our sins would disqualify us.

We cannot say we have no sin. (8) That would be deceiving ourselves, as well as others. The Bible says all have sinned. (Romans 3:23) Therefore, to say we have not sinned, is to make God a liar and show that his word is not in us. (10)

Believers sin. Hopefully, we sin less as we mature and grow in Christ. But we sin. The concept of perfectionism is false. No one on earth lives without sinning, except Jesus.

Because we sin, we confess our sins. When we do, God forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.   Since we want to stay in close fellowship with the both the Father and Son, we should continually repent of our sin and confess it to God. Martin Luther’s first thesis was “When our Lord and Master said “Repent”, he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”

We come to Christ in repentance of sin. (Mark 1:14-15). We continue to live in repentance. Ours sins do not cause us to lose our salvation, but they distance us from God and hinder our fellowship with him. Therefore, we confess. If we do not, we risk having our hearts hardened so that we become more distant from the Father.

The more quickly we confess, the more quickly he forgives and we are restored to full fellowship with him. He will always forgive and cleanse, for he is faithful. (9) He will also forgive because he is just and will not deny forgiveness and cleansing because the blood of Jesus earned it.

Further, the more quickly we confess and move back into fellowship with God, the less we will be tempted to sin more and act contrary to his will and his heart.

Sunday, May 05, 2019


Final Words
2 Peter 3

Be Prepared for Scoffers

Peter reminded his readers that this was the second letter he had written them. The first letter is what we call 1st Peter. He wrote to stir up their memory of the predictions of the prophets and the command of Jesus for holy living as taught by the Apostles concerning the return of Christ. (v.1) He wanted them to remember what they had been taught and not be misled by false teachers.

Peter warned them that there would be scoffers in the last days who do not believe in the return of Jesus. The “last days” is the time between the ascension of Jesus and his return.

They will scoff because it has been a long time and God had not intervened in human affairs. In fact, things had basically gone on the same ever since creation. They would basically say everything is going on as it always has, so there is nothing to indicate Jesus is returning. And, if Jesus is not returning, neither will there be a final judgment.

Because they did not believe Jesus, they did not see an accountability for sins, and followed their sinful desires. (3) We often find that, underlying a person’s refusal to believe is a sin that they do not want to give up or be held accountable for.

Peter rebutted that thought by pointing out a flaw in their thinking, namely that God had historically intervened in history. First, creation itself was God’s intervention. He created the heavens and earth where there were none. He created it from nothing. He created it by his word.

Creation is a new work of God. Plus, he further intervened by bringing order to a world that was in chaos, without form and void. God formed it in a way that made it habitable for humanity.
Second, God deluged the earth with water so that the world perished. (6) “World” here means not the earth, which remained, but all life on it. It did not include the heavens.

And the people of Noah’s day also thought everything was going along as it always had, nothing would ever change, and they would not be held accountable for their sins. The destruction of the flood was a type of the final judgment.

God brought about this destruction by his word. By that same word he will destroy the ungodly on the day of judgment, when Jesus returns. (7) At any time, God can speak the word and the event of the end will occur, including the judgment.

So, God intervened at creation and at the flood and he will again when Jesus returns. The destruction or transformation at the end of the age will be like creation in that it will include both heavens and earth. It will be like creation and the flood because it will be accomplished by his word.

Peter also pointed out that, although 30 years seemed like a long time to mankind, it did not seem like a long time to God. Time with God is different than with us. (8) Peter said one day with the Lord is as a thousand years and vice versa. He may have had in mind Psalm 90:4, which says “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night”.

Some people today use the first part of that saying literally to calculate days differently, but the point is that the Eternal God is not bound by time in the way we are. He transcends time. He is eternal, but our lives on earth are short.

Additionally, his delay does not come from slowness, but from patience. Out of his grace in patience, he allows time for others to come to repentance. (9)

But when the day of the Lord does come, it will come unexpectedly (like a thief). (10) I was once awakened by a thief trying to break into my house at 3 a.m. He set off the alarm system. I was startled because I did not expect it. It will be similar when Jesus returns. One minute we will think it is just another day like all other days and in the next minute he will appear and set into motion the events of the end.

Peter described the end of the age in graphic terms. He said the heavens will pass away with a roar and the heavenly bodies will burned up and dissolved. Psalm 102:25-28 says something similar:

Of old you laid the foundations of the earth,
  and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
  they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
  but you are the same, and your years have no end.
The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
  their offspring shall be established before you.

We also studied previously in Revelation that there will be a new heaven and new earth. John wrote that the first heaven and the first earth passed away and the sea was no more. (Revelation 21:1) God said he would make all things new. (Revelation 21:5)

There is a debate among theologians about whether the earth will be destroyed or transformed. Although the language of burning up is used by Peter, it seems that somehow the existing creation will be transformed into the perfect place for redeemed humanity to live.

All of the works done on earth will be exposed. This is speaking of the judgment. (10) Sin will be brought out and punished. The false teachers can say what they want, but Peter assures us that Jesus will return and sin will be accounted for.

That being true, Peter asked a rhetorical question: what sort of people should we be as we wait for the day of the Lord? We should live lives of holiness and godliness as we wait. It will be good practice for us. The new earth will be one where righteousness dwells. (13) There will be no sin or evil.

Final Instructions

Peter closed his letter with some short bursts of final instructions. He repeated that we should be diligent to be found living righteously when Jesus returns. (14) We should be patient, knowing the Lord waits graciously to save others. (15) Peter said Paul also wrote about this. Notice he refers to Paul’s writings as Scripture. (16)

We should be aware of false teachers, including those who try to twist the meaning of Paul’s words and other Scripture. We cannot let ourselves be swept away by these people.

Instead, we grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord. Day by day we should become more full of grace and more knowledgeable of the Lord. That kind of life will please the Lord and bring honor to him.

The final word is one of doxology: to Jesus be glory now and throughout eternity.