Friday, July 10, 2015

The Cost of Love

One passage that has caused confusion among believers is 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” The usual way people interpret this passage is: don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance, and don’t play cards. The list of don’ts could be anything the legalist sets his or her mind on.

Is this what John meant when he wrote the phrase… “Do not love the world?”

John describes the world view in three ways:

The desires of the flesh

The desires of the eyes

The pride in possessions

First, John is not necessarily addressing a list of do's and don'ts, but a system. A world system can be different for each generation and culture. The world is the culture or system that opposes God and the gospel.

So, what about our culture? For starters, we are a very self-centered, self-focused (hey, we invented the selfie), self- absorbed culture. Every one of us has to fight the mindset of being focused only on ourselves. Yet, the world mindset goes even deeper.

How does the world system oppose the gospel? What are world systems in our culture that tempt us with our flesh, our eyes, and our pride in possessions? The list in my culture could include but not limited to: money, the sexual revolution, and works based religion.

Take money or the American dream for example.

Simply, the flesh craves it. Then the eyes see the big house with the white picket fence, the nice car with leather seats, and the fat 401K. After the flesh wants it and the eyes see it; the work begins. The sacrifice. The lust for more; the greed for more. Then envy of others who have more creeps in. You push to gain it all at all costs. For some the cost is heavy: their marriage, their reputation, even not knowing their children. Once the material is obtained, then pride in possessions takes hold. In the Greek “pride of possessions” reads – parading our possessions. We drive our cars around as if we have arrived at that final culture club. “Look at my possessions.”  Then you are hooked, and you need more and more stuff.

The world bombards us with messages that oppose the gospel anywhere and everywhere. The believer is to decipher then recognize the parts of culture that oppose the gospel and sound doctrine. Recognizing the world system helps you in your fight against it and sin. John says the believer cannot love the world and love Jesus. Our actions indicate what and who we love.

Take a moment to ask yourself these questions:

Can you list the areas in your culture that oppose the gospel or sound doctrine?

What word system entices you the most?

What desires of the eye do you struggle with?

What possessions do you parade around to show everyone? 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Big IF

As a parent of four children I often find myself using the word “if.” “If you don’t clean your room this morning you will not play the Wii for a week.” Or, “If you don’t stop aggravating your brother you will go to bed at 6:00 PM!” The key word to my kids is… IF. When I use the word if, I give my kids a condition.  If you chose to obey my command, you will escape my discipline. For example, “If you clean your room you get to play the Wii.” The word if is not only a conditional clause in my parenting (for good or bad) but the word if is critical to understanding the gospel.

The apostle John uses the word if six times in 1 John 1:5–2:6 to contrast between true believers and those who just profess to believe. The brief letter of 1 John clearly explains the gospel by using the two letter word… if. John’s letter may explain the gospel better than any other New Testament book, by using the word if. Have you ever wondered if you were truly a believer? Have you ever thought, “I wonder if my friend is really a believer?” If you are searching for an answer, then John’s letter is for you. His concise note to believers helps in evangelism and discipleship. It is worth your time to dive deep into John’s letter and specifically the conditional clauses he chooses to use. Listed below are the six times John uses the word if to explain the gospel:

1.) 1:6 – “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (ESV).”

2.) 1:7 – “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 (ESV).”

3.) 1:8 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (ESV).”

4.) 1:9 –“ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (ESV).”

5.) 1:10 – “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us (ESV).”

6.) 2:3 – “And by this we know that we have come to Him, if we keep His commandments (ESV).”

The apostle Paul exhorts the church at Corinth to test themselves to see if they are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). John’s description of the gospel mirrors the same self examination. Do you pass the IF test?

Two aspects are true from these six verses and can be used to test ourselves against them. First, believers recognize their condition before God. God is light, holy, and righteous. Contrasted to us… we are sinful. The world (unbelievers) lighten the blow of sin, cover up sin, excuse sin, call sin good, applaud sin, lighten the weight of sin, and take pride in sin. This is just one reason John writes that we cannot love the world and love Jesus. Believers understand the sin in our lives. Unbelievers buy into that some people are bad, but they themselves are not that evil. Unbelievers think, “With a little bit of Jesus and a lot of my effort, God will accept me.” Believers have been set free from the bondage of sin and now believers are slaves (bondservants) to Jesus. Do you pass the first test?

Second, how is your walk? The word walk represents your lifestyle or how you live your daily life. How would others characterize your walk? To walk in the light means your lifestyle bears fruit for Jesus. You love and obey Christ’s law (His commandments). The evidence that you are a real believer is seen by others and recognized by your walk. Is your lifestyle, or walk, characterized by indulging in sin? Do you fight sin? Do you hate sin? If John examined your life, would he say you walk in light or in darkness? Do you pass the second test?

Two little letters – if – are a matter of life and death.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Persevere and Enter the Land

“For the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath” – Matthew 12:8

Rest is a theme throughout the Scriptures, found in both the old and new testaments. It starts with creation, extends to the old covenant with Israel finding rest in a physical land, and reaches its fulfillment in the gospel and the new covenant. The picture of rest in the old covenant is fulfilled in the new covenant? But how? What is rest? What is the Sabbath? Let’s dig in:

Genesis 2:1-3
Six days of speaking creation into existence and one day of rest. But, did God get tired? Was He exhausted? Does God need sleep? NO! God is not created, only created beings need rest. God does not sleep. Isaiah 40:28 states that “God does not faint or grow tired.” So what does the Scripture mean when it reads, “He rested?” It means God was done creating the world and then He marveled and took glory in what He had created.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
God commands the nation of Israel to observe a day of rest called the Sabbath. They were to do no work on that day. The purpose of the Sabbath was to remember who they were and how God physically redeemed them from being enslaved to Egypt. God was serious about this. Exodus 31:12-18 states anyone who worked on the Sabbath had to be killed. So, there was no playing football on Sunday or going out to eat at after church if you lived under the Old Covenant. Yet, it pointed to something greater. Jesus and Paul both address the Sabbath. Paul says in Colossians 2:16-17, “Let no one pass judgment on you in question to food, or drink….or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” The Sabbath was a picture and pointed to something greater, Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 4
Rest, the Sabbath, was a picture of something greater. Because of the nation of Israel’s disobedience under Moses, they did not enter the “rest” of the promise land. After that generation, Joshua led the nation of Israel into the promise land (Joshua 23:1). They entered the rest.  But like Israel, rest in the promise land was a picture of greater things to come. Under the new Covenant the picture becomes clear reality. Salvation is resting in the gracious act of Christ (Matthew 11:25-30). We can’t earn, gain, or produce good works to gain salvation. The old covenant never could change hearts. The final fulfillment of rest (Promised Land) for the believer is Heaven. The context of Hebrews is perseverance in the faith. This is another example of now, not yet. IF you hold fast till the end, you will enter the rest, Heaven. IF you do not hold fast your confession of Christ, you will be like the Israelites under Moses and not enter the rest, Heaven.

As you read and study, questions for reflection:

1. What was rest or the Sabbath a picture of in the Old Covenant?

2. Did God actually get physically tired after He created the world? If not, why does He say "He rested?"

3. What does it mean when Jesus says, "Come to me and I will give you rest"?

4. How does the gospel give rest?

5. According to Hebrews 4, what was the promise land a picture of?

6. In what ways are you not resting in the gospel? 

7. Remember the context of Hebrews 3 and 4. How is perseverance as believers tied to the fulfillment of our rest? In other words, in context of Hebrews, what happens to those individuals who turn their backs on the gospel? Do they get to enter the rest?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Notes From Hebrews 2: The Incarnation, The Gospel Explained

Hebrews 2: 5-18

The Incarnation, The Gospel Explained

Review:                What are the major themes of Hebrews?
                                What is the topic of Hebrews chapter one and two?
                                How does the writer make Jesus glorious in chapter one and two?

It should be noted that Hebrews is written from a human point of view or from a human perspective. For example in Hebrews 2:8 the Scriptures are clear that Jesus is in control of everything. Not a molecule or a cell is outside of His sovereign hand. Yet, from a human point of view, it looks like Jesus is not in control. Life happens. When your husband is laid off his job, the financial trouble life brings, the troubled child, the troubled teen, material conflict, the unexpected happens; all seems that God is not in control…BUT Everything is in subjection to Jesus, even if it does not seem like it. That is walking by faith, trusting God, and living out the gospel.

God becomes like us
1.       Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. But how? Why is this important? If you do not believe this you do not believe in Christianity. Jesus is relational, therefor Christianity is relational. Christ identifies with us in every way.

Read 1:3 and read 2:14
·         Which words are relational in verses 2:10-18
·         Why is it biblically important that Jesus became like us?
·         Is temptation sin?
·         What are your biggest temptations right now?

2.       Christ becomes like us when He was born from a womb and when He died. Death. Everyone dies. Our culture does a great job masking the pain of death. The hectic lifestyle, the background noise in life, and the tech toys null us to reality of death. Our culture is good at downplaying the fact that they will die. From a human perspective it seems that Satan controls death. BUT.. Through Jesus’ death; death is defeated. The Bible compares believers being set free from death the same way slaves are set free. Jesus delivers us!

•     How are we slaves to death?
•     How should believers view death?
•     Explain, the biblical view of death?

3.       A better gospel presentation.

The Bible explains the Gospel plan in verse 10 and 17 better than most gospel tracts. American evangelicalism often does a poor job explaining the gospel. Hebrews helps; it answers questions like: What is the purpose of Christ death? What is the purpose of the gospel: “To bring many sons to glory” v.10 WOW! That is us…to bring us to glory.

Breaking down verse 17:

·         Jesus had to leave His throne in Heaven to become like us.
·         Jesus is a merciful and faithful high priest
·         Jesus makes propitiation for the sins of the people

The gospel is looking back and forward. Through the teaching of the New Testament, we understand the purpose of the Old Testament by looking back and allowing the New Testament writers (by the Holy Spirit) interpret the Old.The Old Covenant points to Christ. The old is a picture, not the reality. Damage is done by teachers and pastors who do not understand the purpose of the Old Covenant and then teach it as if is still applies to believers today. We are not under the Old Covenant! We are under the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21 & Galatians 6:2).The original hearers knew and understood the function of a high priest. Jesus is better. His covenant, the new covenant, actually does something that the old covenant could not with Israel. That is create a people that loves Him, worships Him, and are His beloved. Those that are His have their sins forgiven, are part of His family, and are part of the New Covenant family. Hebrews will continue to unpack this for us throughout the rest of the book.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Jesus and the new covenant

I am starting to teach through the book of Hebrews. This book of Bible explains the purpose of the cross, the advantage of the new covenant, the passing of the old covenant, and exalts Jesus above everyone and everything. 

The major themes of Hebrews:
Jesus is better than angels, Moses, Joshua, and all the old covenant system (including the sacrifices, and the Ten Commandments).
  Jesus ushers in a covenant that is better than the old covenant. The old covenant could not produce a real people of God. The old covenant was a type, a picture, and a shadow of the better covenant: The new covenant. The new covenant, which is secured through Jesus, produces real belief, real forgiveness of sins, a real changed life, and a real people of God which is the church. See Luke 22:20.
As you can see the word better is a theme of Hebrews.
Hebrews is both a warning and a comfort for believers. The warning is strong. If someone who professes decides to go back and live under the Law of Moses, he is turning his back on Jesus. Some Hebrew believers were wanting to go back under what is inferior to that which is superior. They wanted the picture not the fulfillment, which is Jesus. The old could never take away sins, never.  
Believers need to take comfort in the cross. Only with the new covenant between Jesus and His church does forgiveness of sins, a changed heart, and the reality of the types and shadows found in the old covenant find its true fulfillment.
The church that received this letter was suffering persecution for their faith in Christ. The author of Hebrews encourages them to stand firm in the cross and what Jesus accomplished in the face of persecution.

The book of Hebrews connects the dots of the old covenant to the gospel. God had a reason for giving the old covenant with all of its laws, promises, and demands. It pointed to someone greater. All the types and shadows found in the old covenant point to Jesus and His new covenant realities. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Jesus is better than Moses

This article by Douglas Moo will be helpful in understanding the relationship between the law and sanctification.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Interesting Article on Legalism

Found this article today titled Legalism or Obedience by Fred Zaspel. I found it helpful and thought I would pass it along.