Monday, February 28, 2011

Something Old, Something New

Something Old, Something New

Intro.: Sometimes life does not make sense.

  1. We think we have something figured out – but then when when we put it to a test - “OUCH”

  2. I remember more than one math class where I was certain I understood all the concepts. But then came the test. Nothing would work and when the paper was corrected, it was clear that I had missed something.

  3. Or, most of you followed my wife's illness last fall. Test after test came back with no results – other than she was okay. It did not make any sense.

  4. Sometimes, life does not make sense.

  5. Sometimes even scripture does not seem to make sense. For example, lets look at today's passage.

Read: I John 2:7-11


Trans: The focus of this passage is found in the verses that precede it and that follow it.

  1. Love – the mark of the Christian

  2. It is the glue that holds Old and the New together.

  3. It is what sit here, each of us from very different backgrounds, and worship God.

  4. It is what ties us to the believers that lived before us and that will live in the future.

  5. It is love that allows John to say that what he is writing is both an Old Commandment and a New Commandment.

T.S. John makes it clear why he is saying to his listeners is both Old and New – lets take a few minutes to examine this concept.

  1. As we study the words of John, we have realize that he is giving his listeners something they have heard all their lives.

    1. At some point we know what God expects of us.

    2. As young people, we may have asked questions such as, “What is God's will for my life?”

    3. For John the answer is very simple – whether the decision to follow Jesus is recent or whether it was made years ago - “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard.”

    4. And it may not be you – it may be a family member, a grand child or a great grand child. Or it may be a high school student or a college student who happens to cross your path. Or you may face the decision yourself as you consider the future – it is a good question, “What does God want me to do?”

    5. The surprise for most people is that we know most of His will – read the 10 Commandments, read the book of Mark, read the book of James. What God wants from us will be very clear.

(Ill.) During the first half of the 20th century Dr. George W. Truett was considered one of the great preachers of the day. He served as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention during some of that time. For 37 years he had the annual practice of taking several weeks off to work with the cowboys who lived in western Texas – taking the Grace of God to men who had no pastor, who had no place to call home and hence no church home. Dr. Truett understood the will of God – as he preached you could often hear him give his congregation “To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge. To do the will of God is the greatest achievement. The will of God is not always easy, but it is always right.”

    1. It is true for others – but it is also true for you and me.

  1. As we study the words of John, we have realize that he is giving his listeners something they have never heard.

    1. The question then becomes – what is new. I mean, you have just said it is OLD – now you are saying it is new – what gives?

    2. Let me suggest two things.

      1. Like John, every preacher is faced with a similar truth. Each generation has to rediscover the truth of God's message for themselves.

        1. As I prepare a message, I consult a number of resources. Some are relative new, others are very old. But in some sense they serve no purpose at all; For, unless, God's word has meaning my life, it has no meaning at all.

        2. I cannot rely on someone else's understanding of scripture to be the foundation of my life. When scripture begins to shape my life, it becomes new again. As scripture begin to shape me, it begins to change my world.

      2. Though the truth is old – it also has a new foundation – the foundation of Jesus Christ. The newness comes not in the content of the message – but in its purpose. That new purpose is the light of the world – Jesus Christ.

    (Ill.) A number of years ago I would make fairly regular visits to Dayton, OH, for three and four day courses at the University of Dayton designed for those of us who taught Computer Science at the college level. Dayton, OH, was the home of the Wright brothers When the Wright brothers first began experimenting with flying machines, they accepted as fact the data and conclusions that were available in the theory of aviation. As they experimented, however, their own experience provided different conclusions. They began by doubting nothing, yet grew to disbelieve everything about accepted aviation theory. Finally, disregarding all they had learned, they relearned through personal investigation. This led them to build man-carrying gliders in which they spent hundreds of hours over Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. In their Dayton bike shop they built a custom wind tunnel and tested over two hundred different wing surfaces. With minor refinements, their wind tunnel became the prototype of the one used today, and the control system they devised is still used on fixed-wing aircraft. So many people accept the word of another for the reality of Christ, or for a teaching that is supposed to be in the Bible. In reality, they base their faith on the faith of another—which might be real and true; but again, it might not. The only way to know that you are seeing Jesus personally, Jesus really, and Jesus alone, is to have a personally investigated faith. Study his word—let God speak for himself. His Word deals with the intellect and with morality, with the brains and the emotions, with thoughts and behavior.2



1Hobbs, Herschel H. My Favorite Illustrations. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1990.

2Hurley, V. (2000). Speaker's sourcebook of new illustrations (electronic ed.) (52–53). Dallas: Word Publishers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

How Deep Is Your Faith?

How Deep Is Your Faith?

Intro.: We are always measuring something:

  1. If you were to run a marathon – we would measure your speed

  2. If you were a baseball player, we would measure your RBI's (if you were a hitter) or your ERA (if you were a pitcher)

  3. If you go to the doctor, he takes you blood pressure, your weight, and your pulse.

  4. We are always measuring something.

  5. I would like to read a passage this afternoon, that helps us to measure our spiritual lives.

Read: I John 2:3-6


Trans:Before I start, let me say this

  1. If you keep track of what I am preaching, you will notice that I skipped over verse 2.

  2. I want to save verse 2 for Easter Sunday.

  3. I am skipping it for now – but we will return to it in a few weeks

T.S. For now, I want to look at two tests in I John 2:3-6 that allow us to measure our faith.

  1. The first test is this – do we keep His commandments.

    1. I doubt this one will raise many concerns – we expect believers to live holy lives. We expect their behavior to stand out.

(Ill.) Somebody once wrote, “Behavior is the mirror in which everyone show their image.”i

    1. It, of course, echoes John's own words, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.”

    2. It is not hard to understand that Jesus has expectations for us.

(Ill.) Do you remember the story of the woman caught in adultery. The crowd of men sought to trap Jesus – but getting him to either condemn the woman to death, a capital offence; or to ignore her offense, and break God's law. Instead Jesus takes the middle ground – he tells the men who have thrown the woman at Him to stone her - “He who is without sin cast the first sin.” Of course there is no man standing there that can claim to be without sin and they slowly walk away, one by one. Jesus is left alone with the woman and as the scene comes to a close, His asks a simple question, “Where are those those who condemn you?” And the woman replys, “No one, Lord.” Jesus ends with words of grace, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

    1. Jesus' response to the woman caught in adultery is the same He has for us – he recognizes that sin is real; but, at the same time, he can tell us “go and sin no more.”

    2. There is one danger in recognizing that our behavior is a, is one, measure of our faith. That danger is called “legalism”

    3. Legalism is the imposition of a set of rules or requirements on a person.

    4. Legalism can come in many forms -

      1. For some it is self-imposed – we expect so much of ourselves that we can and will never live up to them.

      2. For others it is imposed by a church – a group of believers are so certain that they know God's expectations, that they impose it on others.

      3. It may even be denominational – the rules of a denomination may be just as stifling as that imposed by a local church.

      4. Someone has even defined theological legalism – where someone will so define God that his expectations are self-serving.ii

    5. The legalist's rules, whether we create them ourselves or are created by others, force us into a mold that is not of God's choosing. It is a mold into which we cannot fit – Why? Because we were not made for it.

(Ill.) This last summer we had our deck remodeled. I am not sure why, but when we first had it installed, Bo Dandy thought he had to stay on the deck – even though there was a perfectly good set of stairs to move into the backyard. His brain was hardwired to keep within the 8' x 8' deck. Eventually he let go of the rules that constrained him – he found he had freedom when he moved into the 60' x 60' backyard. Too often, we let our rules confine us – and it is only when we let go of the legalism that constrains us that we truly find freedom in Christ.

    1. As believers, we are called to obedience without legalism. It is not always easy to find the difference – but maybe the second test for faith that John gives us may help us to better understand that difference.

  1. The second test is this – we walk like He walked.

    1. I suppose we could interpret this as meaning we are all expected to move to Israel – then we can walk – no, that's not right – if we all moved to Israel, we could all walk where He walked, not like He walked.

    2. What does it mean to walk like He walked? Let me suggest three ways

      1. Obedience – We have already discussed this, but one thing remains to be said. Obedience is what we are to be – because it was what Jesus was like. He was obedient in a way that we cannot be. He was perfect, without flaw. As for us, I think Michaelangelo said it well, “The true work of art is but a shadow of divine perfection.iii It is true of art, it is also, at best, true for us.

      2. Faith – To walk like He walked is to have faith. Faith whatever the circumstances, faith when life gets tough, faith as we face life's blessings and life's difficulties. Jesus did not always like what what God wanted for him – do you remember that last night in Gethsemane - And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” The next few hours would be difficult – but his first choice was God's will, not His own.

(Ill.) The story has been told of a man who was crossing a desert in the days of the pioneers. He ran into trouble and was dying of thirst when he spotted a pump near an abandoned shack. He had no water to prime the pump, but he noticed a jug of water near the pump with a note attached. It read: “There is just enough water in this jug to prime the pump, but not if you drink some first. This well has never gone dry, even in the worst of times. Pour the water in the top of the pump and pump the handle quickly. After you have had a drink, refill this jug for the next man who comes along.” What would the man dying of thirst do? To follow the instructions and prime the pump without first taking a drink would be an exercise of the kind of belief the Bible speaks of. Biblical belief requires that one stake his life on the truth of the promise. If the man follows the instructions, he takes the chance of pouring out all the water and getting none to drink if the pump fails. So he must trust that the message is right. He must act in belief, without first receiving, and must trust in the truth of the promise.iv

        To walk like Jesus walked, is to live a life of faith.

      1. Love – Francis Shaeffer called Love “the mark of a Christian”. What was it that Christ loved? Let me suggest three foci of Jesus' love:

        1. First of all there was a love of God – here was the focus of his life. Here is what he put first, above all else. Do you want walk like Jesus walked – learn to love God.

        2. Above all, Jesus loved mankind. The first Bible verse most of us learned as a child, and the one verse we still remember, is John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

        3. Jesus also loved himself. Not to the point of pride, but with the realization that he had the job of loving all that God loved – and God loved Jesus. The same is true for us – God love us, you and me, how can we not love something that God loves.

(Ill.) St Bernard of Clairvaux once suggested that there are four stages in Christian maturity:

          • Love of self for self's sake – a selfish love

          • Love of God for self's sake – What can God give me

          • Love of God for God's sake – I love God for who God is

          • Love of self for God's sake – I love myself, because God loves mev

          Do you want to learn to love like Jesus loved? Learn to love yourself as Jesus loves you.

Conclusion: Two tests –

  • Do we obey God

  • Do we walk like Jesus walked.

I won't do the measuring, but I hope that, this week, you and God will take time to sit down and see how well you measure up:

  • Do you obey God

  • Do you walk like Jesus walked


iWater, Mark. The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations. Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd, 2000.

iiOlford, Stephen F. and David L. Olford. Anointed Expository Preaching. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.

iiiMichaelangelo quoted in Larson, Craig Brian and Brian Lowery. 1001 Quotations That Connect: Timeless Wisdom for Preaching, Teaching, and Writing. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2009.

ivGreen, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

vSt. Bernard of Clairvaux as quoted in Larson, Craig Brian and Brian Lowery. 1001 Quotations That Connect: Timeless Wisdom for Preaching, Teaching, and Writing. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2009.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

To Sin Or Not To Sin

God Is Light, So What

Intro.: I want to ask a question – before I answer it, I want to make clear I don't really expect you to answer – I want to ask the question to make a point.

  1. Here is the question - “Why do you come here week after week?”

  2. I can think of several reasons why you are here:

          1. You like the people who are here

          2. You like the preacher

          3. I really hope it is because you love Jesus and you want to express that love.

  3. I could ask the same question of me – Why am I here?

          1. I am called to preach

          2. I really like you guys

          3. I hope I am here, you should hope I am here, because I really love Jesus

  4. As you can see there are several reasons for what we do.

  5. Let me read a short passage in which John discusses why he wrote this short letter.

Read: I John 2:1-6


Trans: Look at the following:

  1. v 3

  2. v 4

  3. and now 2:1

T.S. Lets look more closely at why John has written this letter. The first verse of chapter 2 lists one reason – with two parts.

  1. John writes, first, to let the recipients of this letter know they do not need to sin.

    1. I don't think any one of us would be surprised if John had written, “Do not sin.”

    2. But listen again to what John writes, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.”

    3. Did you hear it? – he is writing so that they will not sin.

    4. Let me point two things out from this short sentence.

    5. First, John address his readers as children – no to put them down or to be critical in any way – but he address them as children because he cares for them.

(Ill.) mou teknia – my little children. He is showing his love and concern for the believers. It is the same term that a father might use with his children “mou teknia“– my little children.

    1. But there is a more important message here – and by calling his readers “Children” he is saying it as gently as he can.

    2. That other message is that the do not need to sin – he is writing so that they “may not sin.”

(Ill.) You know, or most of you know, that my training and theology is that of Methodism and its founder John Wesley. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the theology that has come out of Methodism and John Wesley is a unique characteristic of sin. As Wesleyans read the scriptures, we become very convinced that sin is a choice. We are faced with choices every day – we can do this or we can do that. I can choose a behavior that, to the best of my ability, imitate that of Christ. Or I can choose a behavior that more closely follows what I want – regardless of what God wants. Hopefully those two – what God wants and what I want – are becoming more and more aligned. But I always have a choice. Though, historically, it is mentioned more often by those who follow in the footsteps of John Wesley, there are others groups that also have similar teachings – that Nazarenes, Catholicsi (as best I can discern), some baptists, and whatever our background, many individuals live their lives knowing that “sin” is choosing what I want, rather than what God wants.

    1. It would seem to me that this is how John understands sin as he writes – that we do have choices.

(Ill.) All of humankind is torn between choices for good or evil. The Apostle Paul grappled with this dichotomy, this being torn between good and evil, superior and inferior. He cried out, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.… I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me” (Rom. 7:15, 19–20, RSV).ii

    1. And if I understand John correctly, his point is that given every choice we are faced with each day, we can chose to not sin.

    2. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.”

  1. John also writes to let the recipients of this letter know that God has made provision for them if they do sin.

(Ill.) A few minutes ago I mentioned how John Wesley understood sin. Another great Christian defined sin differently – John Calvin defined sin as any violation of God's will either through act, voice, or state. Those who accept this definition will point out the root meaning of the Greek word for sin, 'amartia, is to miss the mark. It is like an archer aiming at a target – his goal is to hit the target dead center. And any shot that hits anything other than dead center is a miss, he “missed the mark.” Wesley's definition of “a voluntary choice to violate a known law of God” and Calvin; definition, “any violation of God's will either through act, voice, or state” seem to stand apart from each other – let me suggest the answer is that it is not a case of either/or but a simple case of both/and – both definitions are valid.

    1. John seems to use this second definition as he finishes writing his thoughts. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

    2. John writes that his readers will not sin – he know that they will. And God has provided a solution.

    3. That solution is Jesus Christ. A very wise friend of mine wrote the other day that we need to realize that “the gospel is not 'you do' but 'Jesus did'.”iii

    4. If, as John wrote earlier, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” Here we have a God that is holy – who has no connection to sin, to darkness. But His people do sin – they do miss the mark. It sounds like bad news. But then God steps in and gives us an advocate – Jesus Christ, the righteous.

(Ill.) Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “If you take Christ out of Christianity, Christianity is dead. If you remove grace out of the gospel, the gospel is gone.”iv

(Ill.) A lady had a very important lawsuit on hand for which she needed the services of an advocate. She was strongly urged to secure the help of a very prominent and well-known lawyer, but she could not make up her mind to entrust her case to anyone. Time passed on, and at last she was compelled to take steps to secure an advocate, and called upon the great lawyer who had been mentioned to her. He listened while she expressed her wish to engage his help, but in a few minutes he said with a grave face: “Madam, you are too late; had you come to me before, I would gladly have been your advocate, but now I have been called to the bench, and am a judge, and all I can do is to pass judgment upon your case.” Now is the day of grace, and the Lord Jesus Christ is our Advocate, ever pleading the merits of His precious blood, but the day will come when He will be the Judge of sinners, and must pass sentence upon them.v

    1. I guess it comes down to another choice – will we meat Jesus as advocate or as judge. It is a choice we each will have to make.

iCatechism of the Catholic Church. Viewed online on February 12, 2011 at

iiJones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (8). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

iiiSweet, Leonard. Quoting Ed Stetzer on Facebook February 11, 2011.

ivWater, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (195). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

vAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

God Is Light, So What

God Is Light, So What

Intro.: When I was younger, I liked to play with playdough.

  1. When I was younger, I remember my mother making homemade playdough.

  2. Now, I am not going to make it here, but Playdough requires that you mix two very different ingredients – water and oil. They don't go together very well. But that is what the recipe calls for.

  3. When I think of mixing water and oil, I am reminded of the passage that we looked at last week – I John 1:5: This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

  4. Light and Darkness go together like water and oil.

Read: I John 1:5-10


Trans:As we continue our march through I John, remember

  1. John is writing from the island of Patmos, where he has been exiled by the Romans because of faith in Jesus Christ.

  2. He is the last of the original 12 disciples to be alive – thus, as he speaks, he in some way is speaking for all of them.

  3. And he is sharing that which he does not want Jesus followers to forget as they move into the first century nobody around to speak from their direct experience with Jesus.

T.S. During the next few minutes, I want to look at three conclusions that John draws from the fact that “God is light”:

  1. The first conclusion is that one cannot claim to be a friend of God and live a life of sin.

    1. John says it this way, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

    2. If we claim to be a believer in this God who is light and in whom is no darkness at all, and we live a life that disrespects Him, live a life that gives no place for Him, then we are liars. That is John's word, not mine.

    3. Need to be careful – John is not saying that Christians do not sin – they do, we do. But a believer does not, will not, be living a live characterized by sin.

    4. If John stopped there – he would be delivering a dark message. But he adds something – something encouraging. It's in the next verse: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

(Ill.) Man calls sin an accident; God calls it an abomination. Man calls sin a blunder; God calls it blindness. Man calls sin a chance; God call it a choice. Man calls sin a defect; God calls it a disease. Man calls sin an error; God calls it enmity. Man calls sin fascination; God calls it fatality. Man calls sin infirmity; God calls it fatality. Man calls sin infirmity; God calls it iniquity. Man calls sin luxury; God calls it lawlessness. Man calls sin a trifle; God calls it tragedy. Man calls sin a mistake; God calls it madness. Man calls sin a weakness; God calls it willfulness.

There is only one remedy for sin—the precious blood of Christ, which was shed for the remission of sins on Calvary’s Cross.i

    1. Listen again to the words of “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

    2. Whatever we call it, whatever God calls it – He is willing to take care of it when we place ourselves in the hands of Jesus.

  1. The second conclusion that John comes to is that we cannot say we have no sin.

    1. I would really like to think I am sinless. I mean, if I were, there would be no arguments – after all, I would always be right. Boy would my life be easier. I suppose Sandra's life would not be so great if I was sinless.

    2. But I cannot say it. Both because I know me and because John makes it clear that it is true - “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

    3. Sadly, there are people around us that will deny their sin. We may even fall into that trap ourselves at times.

    4. But like before, there is still good news. Look at the next verse: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

(Ill.) A college freshman went to the dorm laundry room with his dirty clothes bundled into an old sweatshirt. But he was so embarrassed by how dirty his clothes were that he never opened the bundle. He merely pushed it into a washing machine and when the machine stopped pushed the bundle into a dryer and finally took the still-unopened bundle back to his room. He discovered, of course, that the clothes had gotten wet and then dry, but not clean.

God says, “Don’t keep your sins in a safe little bundle. I want to do a thorough cleansing in your life—all the dirty laundry of your life.”ii

    1. Like the college student, we cannot cover up our sins and hope that they are hidden. God knows our sins – they cannot be hidden. But it is only when we come to the point of being honest with God, when we get to the point of confession, that God promises His forgiveness.

    2. What are you trying to hide from God? I do not know, but God does. Are you willing to be honest with Him today?

  1. The final conclusion that John comes to is that we cannot deny that we have ever sinned.

    1. If we say we are believers, but walk in sin, we are liars.

    2. If we say that we do not sin, we deceive ourselves

    3. Listen to verse 10: “But if we say that we have never sinned, we make God a liar: If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

    4. James Boice claims that the statement that we have never sinned is the most dangerous of all the three concerns John has shared.

(Ill.) Let give one example of how this has played out in one person's life. Pete Rose has finally admitted that he bet on baseball games while employed as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, an infraction that produced a lifetime ban from the sport in 1989. Rose’s admission of guilt in his autobiography in 2004 came after almost fifteen years of denying wrongdoing.

He has not stopped confessing. In September 2006, Rose began using his website to personally apologize to each fan he had failed or offended. For only $299 (plus $4.95 for shipping and handling), Pete Rose will send you an autographed baseball that reads, “I’m sorry I bet on baseball.”

The marketing copy on the website says: “Now you can get the baseball collectible everyone’s talking about—Pete Rose’s personal apology for betting on baseball, newly inscribed on an actual baseball—at a fantastic price.”iii

    1. Pete Rose apologized, but it went something like this, “I apologize, but it will cost you.” That was the headline that appeared with this story back in 2006. He wanted his fans to pay the price for his wrong – rather than taking responsibility for himself.

    2. My hope, my dream, my prayer is that you will take time this week to come before God and lay before Him the sins that moved you away from Him.

    3. Rather than saying, I have not sinned – come this week before God and say, “Here is how I sinned.”



iAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

iiGreen, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

iiiAssociated Press, “Rose Says ‘Sorry,’ but It’ll Cost You,” Houston Chronicle (September 20, 2006) quoted in Larson, C. B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect (491). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.