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Christianity is Rational and Reasonable

Contrary to popular opinion, one does not need to check one’s brain at the door to believe in God. Rather, the truth of the gospel can be known and understood. That is the argument presented by the apostle John in his first letter. Throughout 1 John, the apostle uses two Greek words for knowing to emphasize that the true knowledge of God is available to all.

1 John

Text

Commentary

2:3 This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands. There is no assurance apart from obedience.
2:4 The one who says, “I know him,” and does not keep his commands is a liar, and the truth is not in them. There is no true knowledge of God apart from obedience.
2:5-6 This is how we know that we are in him: the one who says, “I remain in him,” ought also himself to walk just as that One walked. There is no true knowledge of God apart from discipleship.
2:13 Fathers, I am writing to you because you do know the One who is from the beginning. Christian maturity entails personal knowledge of the eternal God.
2:14 Little children, yes, I write to you because you have known the Father. Fathers, yes, I write to you because you have known the One who is from the beginning. To be a child of God and to become a mature Christian means to know God truly.
2:18 Children … even now many have become antichrists, and so we know that it is the last hour. Knowledge of God provides discernment.
2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you know also that everyone who lives righteously has been born of him. True knowledge of God is the basis for Christian ethics.
3:1 For this reason, the world does not know us, because it did not know him. “The world” is all those who do not know Jesus.
3:6 Everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him. True knowledge of God requires obedience.
3:16 In this way we have known love, because that One laid down his life on our behalf. True knowledge of God allows true love.
3:19 This is how we will know that we are of the truth. Assurance requires true knowledge of God—that One “belongs to the truth.”
3:20 … whenever our heart convicts us. For God is greater than our hearts, and knows everything. True knowledge of God allows us to put our guilt to rest.
3:24 In this way we know that he remains in us: from the Sprit, whom he gave to us. True knowledge of God requires the Spirit.
4:2 In this way you know the Spirit of God. True knowledge of God requires true knowledge of the Spirit.
4:6 We are of God; the one who knows God hears us, [but] whoever is not of God does not hear us. True knowledge of God means accepting the teaching of his apostles.
4:7 Everyone who loves has been begotten of God and … knows God. True knowledge of God motivates love.
4:8 The one who does not love does not know God. True knowledge of God motivates love.
4:13 In this way we know that in him we live and he in us: because he has given to us of his Spirit. Assurance requires the Spirit.
4:16 And we have known and have trusted the love that God has for us. True knowledge of God means we know God loves us.
5:2 So this is how we know that we love the children of God. Assurance requires love.
5:20 We know that the Son of God has come and he has given understanding to us to that we might know the True One. We cannot know God truly apart from knowing the Son of God.

Chart taken from Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: 1, 2, & 3 John. By Karen H. Jobes. Grand Rapids, MI: 2014, p.239-240.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in 1 John, Quotes, Scripture, Theology

 

Are heaven and hell real?

Book Review: Answering the Toughest Questions about Heaven and Hell, by Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz

What happens when we die? Are heaven and hell real places? If God is loving, how could he send anyone to hell? Have you ever wrestled with questions like these? Have you ever wondered where to find the answers to these and other questions about the afterlife?

Authors Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz encourage their readers to ask tough questions and wrestle with doubts. In this volume, Answering the Toughest Questions about Heaven and Hell, they asked the young adults from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA, to articulate their most important questions about heaven and hell. They then grouped the questions into broad categories which provided the ten chapters and four appendices for this book.

  • Is there an afterlife?
  • What happens when you die?
  • Are heaven and hell for real?
  • Can I believe what the Bible says about the end of the world?
  • Do all roads lead to heaven?
  • If God is loving, how could he send anyone to hell?
  • Is hell a divine torture chamber?
  • How do you get into heaven?
  • What will heaven be like?
  • How can I be sure about heaven?
  • Will there be animals in heaven?
  • Can my loved ones in heaven see me?
  • Will there be rewards in heaven?
  • Are near-death experiences for real?

In answering the questions, the authors combine humor, illustrations, real-life stories, and philosophical arguments. After exploring the questions from various angles, they always ask, “What does the Bible say about this question?” The result is a practical, helpful, biblical exploration of some very real questions.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Bethany House through the Bethany House Blogger Review Program http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/bethanyhouse/bookreviewers. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Books, Heaven, Scripture, Theology

 

Awana Crazy Hair Night – 5/17/17

Once a month, the Awana program at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, has a theme night. Tonight was Crazy Hair Night. While not as many kids and leaders dressed up as in previous months, there were still some very creative color schemes and hairdos. Another fun evening.

 
 

FCBC at the bat

The spring 2017 interchurch softball season is underway. After one month, First Central Bible Church is 4-2 with one rainout. The team is a mix of young guns and ageless veterans. It’s always a fun evening of fellowship, conversation, competition, and friendship.

 

 

Handle Scripture with Care

Book Review: The Most Misused Stories in the Bible: Surprising ways popular Bible stories are misunderstood, by Eric J. Bargerhuff

Have you ever heard someone say the story of David and Goliath is about facing your fears? Have you ever used the story of the woman caught in adultery to justify that Jesus teaches that no one is perfect? Has someone ever told you that the account of Judas betraying Jesus means that you can lose your salvation? Have you ever heard any of these ideas and wondered, “Is that what Scripture really teaches?”

Author and professor Eric J. Bargerhuff has written a book, The Most Misused Stories in the Bible,: Surprising ways popular Bible stories are misunderstood, in which he teaches how to sort through modern-day distortions of well-known Bible stories to discover their true meaning. While explaining 14 specific biblical stories including the ones mentioning above, what the author is really doing is teaching how to interpret the Scriptures using a literal-grammatical-historical hermeneutic. He is illustrating how to avoid 10 specific errors in interpreting the Bible.

  • Ignoring the context
  • Misunderstanding the main point
  • Reading modern-day biases into the text
  • Dismissing discovered truth that goes against what we already believe or think
  • Allowing tradition to cloud the facts
  • Reading into parables what is not really there
  • Ignoring what the Bible teaches elsewhere on any given topic
  • Giving new meaning to words and ideas that are not consistent with God’s Word
  • Missing the plain-sense meaning of a text or ignoring figurative language
  • Taking a man-centered approach instead of seeing God and his glory as the central focus of Scripture

The book is designed for those who desire to grow in their understanding of Scripture but don’t know how to do so. A short, but helpful volume for those who are young in their faith or unskilled in Bible study principles.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Bethany House through the Bethany House Blogger Review Program http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/bethanyhouse/bookreviewers. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Bible Study, Books

 

A Faith You Can Believe

Several years ago, I served on a jury hearing a case involving shoplifting at a hardware store. The prosecution’s case rested on a plain clothed security guard who followed the suspect through the store. After deliberations, the result was a hung jury. Half of the jury believed one credible witness was enough to convict while the other half thought the prosecution needed a stronger case.

One or more credible witnesses can change the outcome of a court case. It shifts the evidence from circumstantial to verifiable. It makes the difference between a weak case and a strong case, from the jury having doubts to developing settled convictions.

In 1 John 5, the apostle John teaches about putting our faith in Jesus Christ. In verses 1-5, he speaks of the experience of faith, while in verses 6-12 he focuses on the object and content of our faith. His argument rests on the evidence produced by key witnesses. It is so important that he uses the noun or verb form of the word “witness,” “testify,” or “testimony” nine times in verses 6-12. John’s point is that when it comes to Jesus Christ, the evidence is overwhelming. We must believe the evidence if we want to enjoy eternal life.

The witnesses all agree: There is more than enough evidence to believe (6-9). John explains that there are three witnesses to the identity of Jesus—the water, the blood, and the Spirit. Over the years, there have been three primary theories as to what John meant by “the water and the blood.” Reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin thought it referred to the ordinances or sacraments of the church—baptism and the Lord’s Supper. However, John is talking about a completed event, not an ongoing practice. Augustine believed it referred to Christ’s death when blood and water came out of Jesus’ side when he was pierced by a spear (John 19:34). However, this reverses the word order. The most likely explanation was offered by the early church fathers such as Tertullian who believed it pointed to Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River and his death on the cross. These two events at the beginning and end of his earthly ministry point out that the same man was involved in both. They sum up the totality of Jesus’s ministry on earth.

If one credible witness can change the outcome of a court case, and two witnesses can prove a fact, how much more can three witnesses do? Deuteronomy 19:15 explains that two or three witnesses can establish a charge against someone. As John asks, if we take the word of earthly witnesses, how much more should we believe God when he provides three reliable witnesses?

Those who believe the testimony enjoy eternal life (10-12). The purpose of John’s letter is not to win an argument. Rather, he is trying to promote fellowship and joy. He wants to encourage people to believe the message, not merely be convinced it is true. John explains that eternal life is not possible apart from true belief that Jesus is the Son of God (10a). To reject the testimony is to impugn God’s character and call him a liar (10b).

There are three primary ways to reject God, all of which reveal attitudes of pride:

  • “I can handle this myself.”
  • “Why would he do this for me? I’m nobody.”
  • “He better not ask me to do something stupid, because I won’t do it!”

We must believe the testimony about Jesus in order to enjoy eternal life (11-12). We either believe the message or we reject it. We either have Jesus or we don’t. We either enjoy eternal life or suffer eternal punishment. There is no middle ground.

After examining the overwhelming evidence, how will you respond? Are you a sinner? Do you want forgiveness of sins? Do you believe Jesus died on the cross for you and rose again? Are you willing to surrender yourself to Christ? Are you ready to invite Jesus into your life? Believe the evidence and enjoy eternal life.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on May 14, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Jack Gilbert, M.Div.

Earlier today, Jack Gilbert, intern at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity (M.Div.). Some 30 of his family and friends were on hand to cheer his accomplishment. Well done, Jack!