Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mirror: Who Do You Look Like

Intro.: I have said it before, I am not an expert in how God will bring this world to an end.

  1. I believe he will – scripture leaves no doubt about that fact.

  2. I also think that those who claim to have it all figured out, are trying too hard to make sense of something that God intends to handle in His own way and in His own way.

  3. But the fact that God has plans underway cannot be denied.

  4. Today's passage will remind us that there is a plan – and it is underway.

  5. Listen to John ...

Read: 1 John 2:18-27


T.S. As we read 1 John 2:18-27, we will see two very different people described.

  1. The first, Antichrists, look like this:

    1. Important to realize that we are not immune.

    2. The word “Antichrist” is used in only one book of the Bible – 1 John

(Ill.) Though the word only appears in one book, the concept occurs throughout scripture. There is one coming that will oppose Christ – but John has another perspective. To John, anyone who stands in opposition to Christ is an Antichrist. And we are not immune.

    1. And because the Antichrists have started to appear, John is convinced that “we are in the last hour.” Let's remember, that we need to leave it in God's hands.

    2. It should not surprise us that Christ has enemies – we live in a world that, at the very list, denies the deity of Christ.

    3. But not only Christ, but God Himself.

(Appl.) But there is another danger – that of living as if Christ does not matter, living as if God does not exist. Dallas Willard has pointed out that “the sentence 'The lord is my shepherd' is written on more tombstones than on hearts.”

    1. Not only do they deny Christ, they also are liars in general. As we will see in a few minutes, we will learn that believers know the truth.

    2. Christ's enemies may know the truth, but they do not talk about it. Instead, they feed us lies – “more is better”, “price is important”, “prestige is more important than truth.” You see, the further we get from Christ the we buy into the lies that others present. Rather than listening to God's word, we let the world set our standards.

(Ill.) When I think of coloring the world, I usually think of green. However, Christo and Jeanne-Claude are artist and they think of orange and pink. They take huge rolls of cloth and line the ocean front, or bridges, or rivers, or lots of other things – with cloth. There purpose is not so much to change the world, but to change how we see the world. Though it takes hundreds of people – everything from engineers to seamstresses to common lay people – You may have seen examples of their work in an occasional TV commercial – they stream clothe everywhere. It is blowing in the wind, waving, colorful, eye-catching. And then at the end of the week, at the end of the month, they take their art all apart. In some way it all looks and works the same. The artists say that when they come back to visit a year or two later, something has changed., It just never looks the same – something is different. And it is not the earth, it is how they look at the spots where their art was hung. They now see the world differently. I suppose Jesus should work the same way for us – once we have allowed him into our lives, we will see the world as it really is. I guess it is a decision we each to make – will we let the world color us or will we let Jesus color how we see the world.1

    1. The Antichrists, the enemies of God, will do their best to let the world lead us astray

    2. Will we let it?

  1. But Christians look like this:

    1. John give's details about the Antichrists – he also details a number of characteristics of believers.

    2. A number of words stand out to me as John discusses believers. The first a clear statement by John, “But you are anointed.” He says it three times.

    3. Now there is a piece of me that says – yeah, I know it, after all I have been ordained. That anointing was very publicly pointed out in a worship service.

    4. But there is a problem – John is not writing to specifically to church leaders – he is writing to the church. He is writing those sitting in the pews (or in the case of the 1st century church, sitting on benches) - “you have been anointed.”

    5. What is this thing called anointing – The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible says “was meant to endow the anointed one with the quality of the deity involved.”2 As believers we are being made into the image of Christ. It may take a lifetime for the process to be completed, but God is doing it. You are anointed.

    6. But as John describes the believers he is writing to, there is another word that catches my attention – abide.
    7. It seems to work two ways – we are to let what we have learned from our faith is to abide in us. But the today's passage concludes with a command for us to “abide in Him.”
    8. What does it mean to abide in Him?
    9. Jesus first used the term. It was the evening of His arrest – they have finished dinner and he is sharing some final thoughts. It will be a hectic night before much time passes Jesus will be arrested and tried. On Friday morning, He will be nailed to the cross. It will be an agonizing three days as the disciples relive the events of that night – until they begin to hear the news, “He's alive.” It was after dinner – Jesus was sharing some final thoughts and He encourages the disciples by telling them, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” But at the same time He tells them “abide in me.”
    1. John was there that night – and he echos Jesus, “Abide in Him.”

(Ill.) Oswald Chamber puts it this way in his classic devotional My Utmost For His Highest, “The Spirit of Jesus is put into me by the Atonement, then I have to construct with patience the way of thinking that is exactly in accordance with my Lord. God will not make me think like Jesus, I have to do it myself; I have to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. “Abide in Me”—in intellectual matters, in money matters, in every one of the matters that make human life what it is.” Abide in Him – how? In every single area of life. Abide in Him!3

Conclusion: These two words help us to understand our relationship to Jesus

  1. We are anointed.

  2. We are to abide in Him.


1 Larson, Craig Brian and Phyllis Ten Elshof. 1001 Illustrations That Connect. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008.

2 Elwell, Walter A. and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988.

3 Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year. NIV edition. Westwood, NJ: Barbour and Co., 1993.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Love the World? NOT!

What Do You Love?

Read: I John 2:15-17 Pray

Trans: “Love,” they say, “is a many splendored thing.”

  1. We don't really understand that in English – with a single word “love” to mean so many things. “I love this pen” is said as easily as “I love this book” or “I love chicken baked in French fried onions” or “I love my dog” or “I love my wife.”

  2. One of the things I like about Greek is they have at least three words for “love”. Some of you have been a member of the church for many years and may have heard this before, but others may not be familiar with the various words meaning “love” in the Greek.

    1. The first is easy “eros” - human, physical love. It is never used in scripture.

    2. The second is “phileo” - friendship, sibling love. We see the word in the name of a city in Eastern Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.

    3. The last word is the most important Greek word for love, “agape” - it is the only word used to describe the kind of love that God has for us.

    4. A good illustration of how these two words are found in a conversation Jesus has with Peter after the resurrection. You will remember that Peter denied Jesus three times on the day of his crucifixion. During the 40 days that Jesus lives here after His resurrection he pulls Peter aside and has a conversation. In English, the conversation seems odd – but it takes on other meanings. (John 21:15-19)

T.S. John begins today's selection with a very clear command: Do not love the world. Within the three verses John provides us three reasons that for doing just that.

  1. The first reason is that the believer cannot love God and the World a the same time.

    1. Jesus had said it 50 years earlier, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matt. 6:24)

    2. John says almost the same thing, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (I John 2:15)

    3. Something does seem weird – for many of us, our favorite verse is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world ...” Wait a minute, were we not just commanded, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.

    4. Jesus, shortly before his crucifixion, reminded his disciples that though they were in the world, they were not of the world – in fact the world would hate them.

    5. Our call is to love God, to love the world that God created, and to love the people that God has created. But we are not to love the world or the things of the world. We cannot love the world and love God at the same time.

(Ill.) It was a young college student who had come to Jesus on campus who noted that there was a difference of one letter. She was speaking to a friend and politely told her, “You love love the world, but I love the word. It is only different by one letter, but that one letter, makes a grand difference in whom we love.”

    1. The world can be thought of as many things – it could be our community, it could be our family, it could be our church – but if we love any of it more than God, then our lives are out of balance.

    2. But to John the meaning is something else altogether – for John world does not refer to people; rather, it refers to the philosophy, the mentality, the outlook, of the people among whom we love. And, even then, we cannot love those attitudes and behaviors more than we love God.

  1. The second reason Christians are not to love the world is that the world is not God's realm.

    1. We have no problem understanding that Heaven will be our home. But that is only because it is also God's home.

    2. Listen again to the words of John, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

    3. John gives us three key symptoms of being in love with the world:

      1. The desires of the flesh – other translations put it as, “cravings or the flesh”. John's words refer to the desire, the cravings that we as humans have for much that the world has to offer. It might be a better car, it might be tastier food, it might be more influential friends.

(Ill.) One group of people that greately influenced John Wesley as when he first began to understand the meaning of faith was the Moravians – The Moravians have a prayer that helps us to understand what John was getting at, “From the desire of being great, good Lord deliver us!”2

(Ill.) God also said it 1100 years earlier as he carved the 10 Commandments into stone for Moses - “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

      1. The desires of the eyes – Someone has said, “The eyes are the gateway to a man's soul.” It becomes easy to see something and we want it. TV ad men know this. We see an ad on TV – we have got to have it. Doesn't matter if it is a new car or a cleaning product or some new toy for the kids. Yesterday, Wesley was over at the house and he picked up a catalog of clearning products that comes in the mail. His first response was boy these look neat. Our eyes can direct our minds – and the extent to which that happens, it is a measure of our love of the world.

      1. Pride in possessions – I brag about some of my stuff. I brag about my 300 coffee cups – without drinking any coffee. I brag about my wife. I brag about our dog. But when those things get in the way of my relationship with God, then I am off kilter – I need to get back on track and reconnect with God. I doubt if I am alone.

      2. I doubt if this list is exaustive – I expect there are other symptoms of putting the world before God. But if we start with this list, we will have a good tool for measuring whether we are putting God first or whether we are putting the world first.

    1. And God is not in these things. And that is why having a love for the world and its ways is not what God wants from us.

  1. The third reason we are not to love the world is that it will all pass away.

    1. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (I John 2:17)

    2. The world will pass away. Its desires will pass away.

(Ill.) In Physics there is a law that says everything naturally decays. It's called the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. We see it all the time – our clothes wear out, fruits and vegitables go bad, our bodies wear down. In nature it may be erosion, or land slides, or earthquakes. Everything eventually decays. We see in practice the very principle that John is talking about.3

    1. Wouldn't you rather love something that will not change. And that which does not change is that which is God's.

    2. And that is what we are called to truely love.

Conclusion: Pray


1Tan, Paul Lee. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996.

2Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Commending the Family

Commending the Family

Intro.: We live in a culture where “family” can mean many things.

  1. For some here at Royal Gardens, the closest thing there is to family is the community here at Royal Gardens.

  2. For some it may be their work.
  3. or their church.
  4. For others it may be just their children.
  5. Regardless, family is important.

I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God, I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His Blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I'm part of the family, The Family of God

    You will notice we say "brother and sister" 'round here, It's because we're a family and these are so near; When one has a heartache, we all share the tears, And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear. From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King, No longer an outcast, a new song I sing; From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong, I'm not worthy to be here, but PRAISE GOD! I belong!

Read: I John 2:12-14 Pray

T.S. John writes to three audiences in I John 2:12-14

  1. John writes to the “dear Children”

    1. At one level – it sounds like John is writing to a family. He is – the family of God – the church.

    2. Fourteen times in this short book John addresses the church as children. John is writing to all those who have placed their faith, their lives, into the hands of Jesus.

    3. We are the children that John was writing to – we are the church that he was concerned about, even though we are living nearly 2000 years after he wrote – the same truths that he wrote then, apply to us today.

    4. And what does he say?

    5. He reminds them “Your sins are forgiven.” The secret to receiving forgiveness is to realize we are in need of forgiveness.

(Ill.) Jesus plainly stated that he came to save sinners. The man who refuses to be called a sinner puts himself beyond the possibility of salvation. A wealthy industrialist was traveling in California in search of better health; while spending a few days in an inland town, he learned that in this village there resided a man who owed him a large sum of money. The young man had come here after an unsuccessful career in the East, and was beginning to prosper in a small way. “The young man seems to have been trying to help himself,’ said the rich man, “and I am going to destroy the note I hold against him.” The note, however, was miles away among his papers, and he realized that he might not live to return. Not knowing the exact amount of the note, he sent his private secretary to the young man, to make inquiry concerning it, and to offer to give the debtor a receipt against it; thus protecting him from proceedings that might in future be entered against him, should the capitalist die before he reached home. To the surprise of the secretary, the young businessman put on an indignant manner and denied the debt. “When I owe your employer it will be time enough for you to be talking to me about forgiveness,” he said. The debt remained unforgiven and the heirs of the rich man insisted upon the collection of the note. This was done, to the ruin of the man who remained unforgiven because he was not willing to admit that there was anything to forgive.1

    1. He also reminds them that they know the Father – another characteristic of all believers. As a member of the Family of God, we do know the Father.

    2. The children's sins are forgiven – and they know the Father.

  1. John writes to the Fathers

    1. Which sounds very much like the comments John makes about the fathers – the fathers “know Him who is from the beginning.

    2. The children knew The Father, but the fathers knew Him even longer.

    3. I have no way of knowing, bu tI suspect that there were a group of people that knew or had met Jesus before his crucifixion. They may have heard him preach the Sermon on the Mount, or maybe they were in the crowd when Jesus fed the 4000 or 5000. They may have been in Jerusalem that Friday when Jesus was put onto the cross. Or maybe they had caught a glimpse of Him during the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension. I don't know for sure – but they had known “Him from the beginning.

    4. Their faith had grown from what they had seen, heard, and experienced.

    5. They were the kind of leaders we want in the church – men and women who have lived with Jesus. Those who “know” Jesus – not just about Him, but who have taken time to let Him teach them and mold them into what He wants them to be.

    6. They were the kind of people we should all strive to be -

  2. John writes to the Young Men

    1. Finally, John writes to the Young Men. These are not new believers, but they have not had the privilege of having spent significant time with Jesus. But what they will be is the next generation of leaders within the church.

    2. They are in a battle – a spiritual battle. A battle that John recognizes that is being won as they spend time in the Word of God.

    3. Listen again to John words, “You have overcome the evil one, you are strong, the word of God abides in you.

    4. There are some things that challenged me early in my Christian life – I struggled when believers talked about being healed – after all it was doctors and hospitals that provided medical care. I struggled when people spoke about answered prayer – after all coincidences occur all the time. And then, there were times that people spoke about spiritual warfare – and I took it all with a grain of salt. After all, we all have difficult times.

    5. Maybe you have some of the same issues – when other speak of answered prayer or healing or spiritual warfare, you shudder just a little. Maybe it makes you feel a little uncomfortable.

    6. Two things contributed toward my becoming more accepting of God working in miraculous ways in peoples lives:

      1. The first was my firm conviction in the authority of God's word – if God said it, it had to be true.

      2. The second was what God's word said. It spoke of answered prayer, it spoke of healing, and it spoke, like today's passage does, of spiritual warfare.

    7. If I were to believe God's word, then I had to believe that God worked in people's lives in ways that I could not explain.

(Ill.) St. Ignatius once said, “Let fire and cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings … let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the evil torments of the Devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.”2

One of the subjects you study in seminary is Church History. Dr. David F. Wells was one of my professors. He writes, “Petitionary prayer … is rebellion—rebellion against the world in its fallenness, the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively abnormal.”3

Conclusion: Pray

1 AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000. Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

2 Larson, C. B., & Lowery, B. (2009). 1001 quotations that connect: Timeless wisdom for preaching, teaching, and writing (104). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

3 Larson, C. B., & Lowery, B. (2009). 1001 quotations that connect: Timeless wisdom for preaching, teaching, and writing (234). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Enlightened Love

Enlightened Love

Intro.: I want to preach about love this morning.

  1. One obvious choice for a text would be John 3:16.

  2. Martin Luther called John 3:16 “the heart of the Bible – the Gospel in miniature.”

  3. But there is problem – G. Campbell Morgan, an early 20th century Congregational pastor, once said, “... this is a text I never attempted to preach on, though I have gone around it and around it. It is too big. When I have read it, and there is nothing else to say. If we only knew how to read it, so as to produce a sense of it in the ears of people, there would be nothing to preach about.”

  4. Henry Morehouse claimed to have 600 outlines based on John 3:16. As an evangelist, it was the one text that he used as he preached.1

  5. So, rather than using John 3:16, as you might expect, I will return to I John.

Read: I John 2:9-11 Pray

Trans: As we continue to think about love, I was reminded this week of a conversation that Jesus had with a young lawyer.

What is the greatest commandment?’ the young lawyer asked the Master.

And Jesus said, ‘How do you read it?’

Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul and mind and strength,’ the lawyer answered.

That’s it,’ Jesus said. ‘And the second is like unto it: Love thy neighbor as thyself’ (Matthew 22:36–39).

T.S. John uses two examples to help us better understand the relationship between Love and God.

  1. The first example shows that claiming to be a member of the family of God yet hating a fellow believer means we are actually walking in darkness.

    1. At one level this is obvious – if we cannot love another believer, then something is out of whack in our relationship with God.

    2. Yet it does get confusing.

    3. It was confusing for the people to whom John wrote. In the first century after Christ's death, there were a group of false teachers that claimed that how one lived was not important – what was important was to be enlightened - having the right knowledge.

    4. John's response to these false teachers was – if you claim to live in the light, yet do not love your brother, your Christian brother, you are still walking in darkness.

    5. We live in a culture that confuses light and darkness. It becomes easy to say, “What I do is what God wants, I live in the light.”

(Ill.) Bill and Gloria Gaither describe the time in which they wrote one of their favorite songs, “Because He Lives”: We wrote “Because He Lives” after a period of time when we had had a kind of dry spell and hadn’t written any songs for a while.... Also at the end of the 1960’s, when our country was going through some great turmoil with the height of the drug culture and the whole “God Is Dead” theory which was running wild in our country and also at the peak of the Vietnam War, our little son was born,—Benjy—at least Gloria was expecting him. And I can remember at the time we thought, “Brother, this is really a poor time to bring a child into the world.” At times we were even quite discouraged by the whole thing. And then Benjy did come. We had two little girls whom we love very much, but this was our first son, and so that lyric came to us, “How sweet to hold our new-born baby and feel the pride and joy he gives, but better still the calm assurance that this child can face uncertain days because Christ lives.” And it gave us the courage to say “Because Christ lives we can face tomorrow” and keep our heads high, and hopefully that could be of meaning to other people.3

    1. The standard is not what I do, the standard is not what you do. The standard is what God wants. And God says I am to love my brother.

  1. The second example clearly shows that one who loves his brother does abide in the light.

    1. The first example was negative – it focused on a person who would not love his or brother.

    2. This next example is much more positive – one who does love his or her brother.

    3. Have you asked yourself what abiding in the light really means? Let me suggest three things:

      1. It means we see where I have been. Each of us have events in our past – events that we would just as soon forget. But when God makes us aware of them, when God illuminates the truth, those events are bathed in His grace. We can know His forgiveness – the past is now in Gods hands not ours. We can let it go and leave it with God.

      2. It means we really see things as they are. Not only do we see things as they are, but we see things as God sees them. We can see the broken world that God sees. We see our neighbors as God sees them - with their joys and pains. And we see ourselves as God sees us – we know that we are broken people, broken people loved by God.

      3. Light also more clearly shows me where we are going. One of Sandra's favorite verses in scripture is Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

    4. The last part of these verses reminds us that when we live in darkness, we are in reality blinded.

    5. And, John says, when we are in the light, he mentions a blessing: for the person who walks in the light, “...there is no cause for stumbling.

      1. We will not cause others to stumble. In Romans, Paul says, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”

(Ill.) Both Paul and John use the same word – the Greek word is the one from which we get our English word scandalous. We do not want to be a stumbling block – we do not want to bring scandal into someone else's life.

      1. But we also “have no cause for stumbling.” As a believer, God will direct us, will allow us to see where we are going. And so, if we live in the light, it means we will be where God wants us to be!

(Ill.) Stumble is really too light a word. Let me put it into perspective. I remember the first time I actually fell. I was attending a workshop in the midwest – and we were on our way to lunch. The quickest way to get to the area restaurants we had to walk down a grass berm to reach a side walk. I made that trips many times – but for whatever reason, I tripped and went down. I stumbled! Though nothing seemed seriously wrong, I was sore. It was that stumble and a numbness in my feet that sent me in for my first MRI, and a second, which eventually led to my diagnosis of MS. It changed my life – not as much as some, but different none-the-less. The stumble had nothing to do with the MS, but it began a process that would slow me down in many ways.

To “have no cause for stumbling” is to live a life that is full of God's power, full of God's grace.



1Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

2Courson, J. (2003). A Day's Journey : 365 Daily Meditations from the Word. Santa Ana, CA: Calvary Chapel Publishing.

3Osbeck, Kenneth W. 101 More Hymn Stories. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1985.