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Category Archives: First Central Bible Church

The Mark of the Christian

In 1 John 2:28, the apostle John challenges his readers with the statement, “Abide in him.” That leads a thinking person to ask the question, “How can I know for sure if I am abiding in Christ?” John answers that question in 2:28-3:10 by explaining that one who abides in Christ will practice righteousness. Rather than continuing in a lifestyle of sinful habits, a Christ follower will develop habits and a lifestyle that pleases God.

In 3:11-24, John adds that how we treat other people will also reveal whether or not we are following Christ. A Christ follower will obey the command, “Love one another.” In 3:11-18, John says that we do this because of what Christ did for us on the cross. Because Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for us, we should demonstrate our love for one another.

John’s thesis statement in found in verse 11, “Love one another.” As he explains, this was something Jesus taught during his ministry on earth. It is part of the gospel (John 13:34). It proves that we are Christians (1 John 3:14). It proves we follow Jesus (John 13:35). It proves that Jesus was sent by God (John 17:21).

Love is one of those concepts where we all assume we know what we are talking about. In reality, we often have different definitions. Before describing what love is, John states what love is not.

Love is not murder (12). In contrast with love, hate destroys and kills. John mentions Cain killing his brother, Abel, without any details or qualifications. He simply says he belonged to the devil and that he murdered his brother.

Love is not hatred (13-15). John moves from an individual example to a corporate example. In the same way that Cain killed his brother because he was righteous, sometimes the world hates Christ followers for the same reason. Anyone who lacks love has a heart filled with hate. There is no middle ground. And hatred eventually ends in murder, as Cain proved.

Love is not indifference (17). While we may not have the opportunity to die in someone’s place, we can do the next best thing by helping others during a time of need. When we have resources but close our hearts towards others, we demonstrate we are self-centered.

After saying what love is not, John now defines what love is. Love is self-sacrifice (16). John points to the supreme example of love, namely, Jesus Christ. We know what love is because we have heard the message of the gospel.

Self-sacrificial love means a readiness to do anything for other people. It might involve giving up our—money, time, agenda, preferences, control, possessions, listening ear, vacation, desire to be right, desire to be liked—in order to meet the needs of others.

Ultimately, love is action (18). Love is not words or talk, but rather deeds and truth. Love is not merely a verbal profession, it is a vital performance.

Because Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for us, we should demonstrate our love for one another.

“Father, help me to see ___________ as you do. Help me to be willing to give up my __________ for others.”

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 12, 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.

 

Does Practice Make Perfect?

My teachers lied to me. For years, I was told, “Practice makes perfect.” However, the more I practiced—piano, trumpet, French horn, tennis, spelling, typing—I worse I got. I discovered that practice does not make perfect. Only PERFECT practice makes perfect.

It matters greatly what you are practicing. The apostle John addresses this issue in 1 John 3:4-10 by posing the question, “Do you practice sin, or do you practice righteousness?” What you practice will determine your outcome.

The apostle John begins this section of his letter with the instruction, “Abide in him” (2:28). In 2:28-3:3, he encourages his readers to look forward to the return of Christ. “Because Christ is coming soon,” he argues, “we should avoid sin so we are ready to meet him.” In 3:4-10, John encourages his readers to look backwards to the death of Christ. “Because of what Christ did on the cross,” he says, “we should avoid sin and practice righteousness.”

John warns his readers not to be deceived about sin (7). On the one hand, some false teachers were saying you could achieve sinless perfection. On the other hand, there were those who taught sin wasn’t real. As the various options below indicate, some of those beliefs are still held today. (The list is adapted from How to Be a Christian Without Being Perfect, by Fritz Ridenour. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1986, p.119-120.)

  • Option #1: Real Christians do not sin, period. (Held by perfectionists.)
  • Option #2: Real Christians might commit minor sin, but nothing major like murder. (Similar to Roman Catholic doctrine.)
  • Option #3: Real Christians don’t sin because God has a different standard for them than he has for unbelievers. (Gnostics held that their “secret knowledge” put them “beyond sin.”)
  • Option #4: Real Christians don’t sin in their “new nature” although their old nature might slip up from time to time. (It’s the idea that the “born-again” spirit cannot sin, but the body still does.)
  • Option #5: Real Christians sin in reality but have an ideal goal or standard not to sin. (Possibly fits in with 3:1-2.)
  • Option #6: The real Christian does not commit habitual, consistent sin as he did before salvation. (Knowing Christ doesn’t make one perfect, but there is a definite difference. This position makes the most sense.)

The main idea John wants to communicate in this passage is that Christ followers should avoid sin and practice righteousness because Jesus died on the cross for our sins. John repeats himself twice in presenting his case. The following chart helps us understand the flow of John’s argument. (The chart is adapted from The Epistles of John, by John R. W. Stott. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1960, p,121.)

Verses 4-7

Verses 8-10

The introductory phrase “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning” (4) “Whoever makes a practice of sinning” (8)
The theme The nature of sin is lawlessness (4) The origin of sin is the devil (8)
The purpose of Christ’s appearing “…he appeared to take away sins” (5) “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (8)
The logical conclusion “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning” (6) “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning” (9)

John’s point is that the practice or habit of sin is incompatible with the child of God. He gives four reasons to strengthen his argument: (1) Sin is not merely a mistake. Sin is a criminal act against God’s law. (2) Sin is incompatible with the Christian walk because of the nature of Christ’s person and work. (3) Sin is incompatible because of its source. Sin originates with Satan. (4) Not only is sin incompatible, it is impossible for the child of God. The habitual practice of sin should cause one to question whether their salvation is real or not.

How should a believer handle sin? Thus far, the apostle John has provided four helpful guidelines on how to deal with sin:

  • Pursue holiness, but don’t expect perfection (1:8)
  • Acknowledge your sin quickly (1:9)
  • Remember that you have an Advocate (2:1)
  • Remember that Christ died for your sins (2:2)

The only question that remains is, “What will you practice this week? Will you practice … Sin? … Righteousness?”

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 5, 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.

 

Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human

Last night, I taught the Awana T&T lesson at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. The theme was “Jesus is fully man.” The main idea of the lesson is that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human. When he lived on earth, Jesus experienced the same kind of struggles that we do, but he never sinned. Jesus became human to save us from our sins.

To help the kids grasp the idea, I had them do a Scripture search. We read a number of passages and then talked about whether the verses described Jesus as God or as human. As we went through the lesson, we put the information into the following chart.

Jesus Christ

Fully God

Fully Human

Jesus came from God; Jesus knows all things

(John 16:27-30)

Jesus was hungry

(Mark 11:12-13)

Jesus cast out demons

(Mark 1:21-28)

Jesus was tired and fell asleep

(Mark 4:38)

Jesus forgave sins

(Luke 7:44-50)

Jesus felt sadness; Jesus cried

(John 11:33-35)

Jesus healed a man’s hand

(Mark 3:5)

Jesus was thirsty

(John 19:28-29)

Jesus did things that only God could do

Jesus experienced the same emotions and physical needs that we do

We could have added many more verses, but our time was limited. Why don’t you take the chart and add more examples for the deity and humanity of Jesus?

 

Is Fellowship With God That Important?

When the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons in overtime in Super Bowl LI three weeks ago, Carol and I watched the game in a pub in Wanaka, New Zealand. Since New Zealand Daylight Time is 18 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, the game came on during lunch time on Monday, February 6.

We were in Wanaka for our youngest daughter’s wedding. On that Monday, the guys went one direction for a bachelor party; the girls another direction for a bachelorette party; and the parents went on a safari of the region. Since our tour ended by 1PM, Carol and I found a pub to watch the Super Bowl.

We learned later that the bachelor party started out at a pub watching the game. Thinking the game would only last 3.5 hours, the host scheduled several adventure activities like jetboating and off-road racing. As it turned out, it meant that the guys left the Super Bowl with five minutes remaining in regulation. Consequently, they missed the Patriots tying the game in regulation and winning in overtime.

Some people view a relationship with God in the same fashion. It is simply one of many good activities and options in their life. As long as heaven is secure, how important is fellowship with God on a daily basis?

That is a question the apostle John addresses in 1 John 2:28-3:3. Using one of his favorite terms, John encourages his readers to abide in Christ. He explains that abiding demonstrates one is part of God’s family and will prepare a person for Christ’s return. Those who abide in Christ will be prepared to meet him when he returns.

Q: Why should I abide in Christ? (2:28a). A professor in grad school was fond of saying, “Until you answer the why question, the price is always too high.” John seems to anticipate that question. After telling his readers, “abide in him,” John goes on to give several reasons after the phrase, “… so that …”

A1: You will be prepared for Christ’s return (2:28b). The return of Jesus Christ will be more than a Sunday School awards banquet. We will stand before God and answer for how we lived our lives. No one wants to be embarrassed because they are unprepared. We want to be able to enter his presence boldly rather than cower in shame in a corner.

A2: Abiding reveals whose family you belong to (2:29). In the same way that a child has their parents’ eyes or nose, so righteous living is the family trait of those who are part of God’s family.

A3: Abiding reveals your attitude about God’s grace (3:1). Rather than view God’s love in a “ho, hum” manner, John expresses a sense of amazement. “Look at that! We are called God’s children. Unbelievable!” Our sense of security comes from recognizing what God has done for us.

A4: Abiding allows God to transform you (3:2). John explains that God is in the process of transforming us from “then” to “now” to “not yet.” One day, we will be like Christ. As great as our experience with Christ is right now, it is only the tip of the iceberg compared to what it will be later.

A5: You will stay prepared for Christ’s return (3:3). John comes full circle when he explains that the hope of heaven produces purity on earth. We are to engage in a continual process of moral purification.

When I became an instructor with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries some 30 years ago, I had to promise not to teach a WTB event with sin in my life. Each time the faculty gathers, there is a ceremony where we are asked to recommit to that promise. Next week, I will be in Georgia where Phil Tuttle, the president of Walk Thru, will ask me if my life is pure. I want to make certain of my answer so that I am not ashamed when the question comes.

In the same way, the one who abides in Christ will be prepared to meet him when he returns. Abide in Christ. Be prepared when he comes back.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 26, 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.

 

Commissioning of Elders, Deacons, & Deaconesses – 2017

During First Central Bible Church‘s annual meeting on January 29, 2017, the congregation affirmed those who would serve as elders, deacons, and deaconesses in the coming year. On Sunday, February 19, we commissioned these leaders. The following was an insert in the bulletin to guide each group and their response during the commissioning. The ceremony served a twofold purpose–(1) It affirmed and commissioned those who serve in these positions of leadership and service; and (2) It reminded the participants and the congregation as to the high calling and the task of each position.

******************

ELDERS

Doug Dolbow, Stan Kulig, Joe Martin, Doug McVeigh, Pastor Mark Wheeler

The elders serve as shepherds and overseers of the church. They work together to feed, lead, guard, care, and model Christlike character for the flock.

Pastor Elders
Will you strive to meet the character qualities specified for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? We will.
Will you willingly shepherd the flock God has entrusted to your care? We will.
Will you teach biblical truth and sound doctrine? We will.
Will you help equip people for service? We will.
Will you lead the church as overseers, supervising and managing the church well, ensuring that all things are done with integrity? We will.
Will you guard the flock against false teachers? We will.
Will you pray for the sick? We will.
Will you serve as examples of Christlike character for the church? We will.
Will you serve together as a team, sharing responsibility for leadership and oversight? We will.
Will you work together to keep the church focused on achieving the purpose God has called us to? We will.
DEACONS

Dan Darcy, Sid Floyd, Dave Johnson (new), Cliff Moran, J Noyes, Joe Trevathan

While the elders have a fixed job description, the deacons have a flexible one. They follow the direction of the elders and serve alongside the deaconesses wherever needed to help meet the practical needs of the church. This allows the elders to focus on the ministries of teaching and prayer.

Pastor Deacons
Will you strive to meet the character qualities specified for deacons in 1 Timothy 3? We will.
Will you follow the direction of the elders and assist them wherever needed? We will.
Will you help the elders in caring for the practical needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deaconesses to help care for the needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deaconesses to manage the benevolence fund with integrity and compassion? We will.
DEACONESSES

Lynn Anderson (new), Lois Darcy, Rose Eldridge, Janet Laroche, Karen Martin, Marion Moran, Connie Noyes, Carol Sumler

While the elders have a fixed job description, the deaconesses have a flexible one. They follow the direction of the elders and serve alongside the deacons wherever needed to help meet the practical needs of the church. This allows the elders to focus on the ministries of teaching and prayer.

Pastor Deaconesses
Will you strive to meet the character qualities specified for deaconesses in 1 Timothy 3? We will.
Will you follow the direction of the elders and assist them wherever needed? We will.
Will you help the elders in caring for the practical needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deacons to help care for the needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deacons to manage the benevolence fund with integrity and compassion? We will.
CONGREGATION

The congregation is responsible to respect their leaders and submit to their authority. They are to honor those who serve well.

Pastor Congregation
Will you honor the deacons & deaconesses for their service and grant them good standing among you? We will.
Will you obey the elders and joyfully submit to their leadership? We will.
Will you treat the elders with honor and respect since they watch over your souls? We will.
Will you pray that God grants your elders, deacons, & deaconesses a sense of joy as they serve Christ? We will.
 

Defending Against Deception

A knock on the door. A young, well-dressed couple offers you some literature. They ask questions about your spiritual beliefs. They explain things about Jesus that you haven’t heard before.

How do you know if what they say is true? How do you defend yourself against deception? In 1 John 2:18-27, the apostle John explains that those who love God must reject false teachers and embrace the truth.

John expresses his pastoral concern with the affectionate term, “children.” 10 days ago, I stood before my youngest daughter and her husband-to-be on their wedding day. As I took part in the ceremony, I said, “I have some dad things to say and some pastor things to say.” I understand John’s pastoral, fatherly concern and the desire to prepare his flock for what is to come.

John’s statement, “it is the last hour,” raises the question, “Is he talking about chronological time or theological time?” From other passages of Scripture, we understand he is referring to a theological concept. Hebrews 1:1-2 states that the last days began with Jesus. In Acts 2:16-17, Peter said the last days started with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. John now adds a third characteristic to the last days—the rise of opposition. The fact that the church is under attack indicates it is later than we think.

While The Antichrist will come during the period of The Tribulation, John explains that there are many antichrists present today. These folks left the fellowship (18-19), deny the faith (22), and seek to deceive the faithful (26).

John explains that God has given us the Holy Spirit (20) and the Scriptures (21) to keep us on the right path. The Holy Spirit is assigned a teaching role and enables Christ followers to perceive the truth and distinguish truth from error.

John is primarily concerned about warning his readers about one lie in particular—the denial of the deity and/or the humanity of Jesus Christ (22). In John’s day, there were three individuals or groups whose errors he was combating. Gnosticism, Docetism, and a teacher named Cerinthus.

Gnosticism

Docetism

Cerinthus

Spiritual is good; material is evil

Go deeper through “special knowledge”

Jesus did not have a human body; only an illusion Jesus was a man; the divine Christ came at his baptism and left before the crucifixion

Today, we face similar errors taught by Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Christian Science. Of all the world’s religions, Christianity is the only one that affirms both the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ.

Cults & World Religions

 

Jesus

Salvation

Islam A true prophet

Jesus did not die, but ascended into heaven

Salvation is by Allah’s grace and man’s works
Jehovah’s Witnesses A created being

Michael the archangel who became man

Salvation is by keeping the commandments and being part of the church
Mormons A created being

The elder brother of men and spirit beings

Salvation is by doing good works
Christian Science A man in tune with the divine consciousness Salvation is by correct thinking
Christianity Fully God & fully man

Co-equal & co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit

Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone

As John explains, you cannot “have God” without believing in Jesus. If you deny one, you deny the other.

It is not enough, however, to merely reject false teaching. You must also embrace the truth. In verses 24-27, John gives one command, abide, which he repeats twice. We must abide in the truth (24) and we must abide in the Spirit (27). We must ensure that the Bible and the Holy Spirit are welcome in our lives.

We demonstrate the Scriptures are welcome in our lives when we read, study, memorize, meditate, and commit ourselves to obey what it says. We demonstrate the Holy Spirit is welcome in our lives when we are filled with the Spirit and manifest the fruit of the Spirit.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 19, 2017. It is part of series in The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Mismatch Night in Awana

Tonight was Mismatch Night in Awana at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. There were some colorful, fun costumes as a result. During the Christmas season, our Sparks group sent Christmas cards to some of our military troops serving in Iraq. They in turn sent the kids a flag and a certificate. It was pretty special to receive the gift.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in Awana, First Central Bible Church