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Category Archives: Scripture

It All Comes Down To Love

Sometimes, the simplest commands are often the hardest to obey. Three times in his first letter, the apostle John instructs his readers to “love one another” (2:7-11; 3:11-18; 4:7-21). It is a simple, straightforward command. Yet, it is difficult to practice in daily life.

Instead of showing love by listening, we monopolize the conversation. We criticize instead of affirming. We believe the universe revolves around us. We demonstrate indifference, respond in anger, and are unwilling to forgive. All of these work to destroy relationships.

In 1 John 4:7-21, John makes the argument that Because God loves us and lives in us, we are to love one another. John instructs Christ followers to love one another three times in the passage with a fourth time as an implication.

We are to love others because God loves us (7-10). John’s exhortation to love one another is based on the fact of God and his love. He relates our responsibility back to God’s character and example. Our responsibility to love is rooted in God’s character (7, 8). The proof of God’s love for people is that he sent his only Son to provide eternal life for us (9-10). When we love others, it identifies us as followers of Jesus (7). If we don’t love others, we really do not know God (8)

We are to love others because God lives in us (11-16). The demonstration of love by God is our model for showing love to others. As God manifested love in us then by sending Jesus Christ, so he manifests his love among us now as we love one another. The unseen God reveals himself through the visible love of his followers (12). No one has seen God in his pure essence without some kind of filter. Whenever we love one another we make it possible for God to “abide” in close fellowship with us. Furthermore God’s love reaches a fullness and depth in us that is possible only when we love one another. When we put our trust in Christ, God comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit (13-15). If we don’t love others, God is not in our life (16)

We are to love others because God’s love is perfected with us (17-21). The demonstration of love by God is our model for showing love to others. As God manifested love in us then by sending Jesus Christ, so he manifests his love among us now as we love one another. Full grown love produces confidence (17-18). Our love becomes complete in the sense that we can now have confidence as we anticipate our day of judgment. We need not fear the judgment seat of Christ if we have demonstrated love to others. God took the initiative to love us and we responded to him (19). Our ability to love and our practice of love come from God’s love for us. We are to love the members of God’s family (20-21). Love for the unseen God will find expression in love for our brothers and sisters whom we can see. It is easier to love someone we can see than it is to love someone we cannot see. If we don’t love others, we are lying about our relationship with God and have reason to fear the Day of Judgment (17, 20)

Because God loves us, we are to love one another. Because God lives in us, we are to love one another. Because God’s love is perfected in us, we are to love one another. How can you demonstrate love this week?

During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound. The soldier’s fiancé had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell’s heart was touched and he said, “Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. Curfew shall not ring tonight!”

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 30, 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.

 

The Good News of the Gospel

Book Review: The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teaching, by John MacArthur

“Salvation is a creative work of God, not a do-it-yourself project for sinners.” While that quote sums up John Macarthur’s perspective on 2 Corinthians 5, it could summarize the message of his latest book, The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teaching.

The approach of the book is to use

some of the principle evangelistic texts from Paul’s New Testament epistles, we will survey the gospel as Paul proclaimed it. We’ll consider several important questions, including: What is the gospel? What are the essential elements of the message? How can we be certain we have it right? How should Christians be proclaiming the good news to the world?

As Dr. Macarthur explains in the introduction,

My design in this book is to explain the most important gospel texts from Paul’s epistles as clearly and as thoroughly as possible. I hope to underscore (as Paul did) the eternal importance of gospel doctrine and the absolute necessity of getting it right.

In Chapter 1, “Things of First Importance,” Dr. Macarthur uses 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 to lay out the basics of the gospel, including the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In Chapter 2, “First, the Bad News,” he uses Romans 3 to stress that all have sinned and no one seeks God. Chapter 3, “How can a Person Be Right with God?” uses a question posed by Job to illustrate the dilemma we all face. Chapter 4, “Sola Fide” explains that we are saved by faith, not by works. Chapter 5, “The Great Exchange” deals with the doctrine of substitionary atonement. Chapter 6, “Alive Together With Christ” describes the power and results of the resurrection. Chapter 7, “The Lessons of Grace” compares grace and legalism. In the appendices, Dr. Macarthur includes four sermons preached on these topics along with a glossary of terms.

For those who are concerned that Dr. Macarthur overemphasizes Calvinism, he offers an explanation and a balance.

We have stressed the sovereignty of God in salvation because that doctrine stands out prominently on the face of this text (2 Corinthians 5:21). It’s an amazing and counterintuitive truth. After all, God is the offended deity. But reconciliation for sinners comes at His instigation, through an atonement that He sovereignly provides. (p. 91)

God’s sovereignty does not eliminate human responsibility. God holds us responsible for what we do and don’t do, and it is perfectly just for Him to do so. He doesn’t control human actions by constraint. (p.92)

Just as God’s sovereignty doesn’t eliminate the sinner’s responsibility, likewise the plea for sinners to “be reconciled to God” poses no actual contradiction to the fact that God is the One who sovereignly draws those who do respond to the plea. (p. 93)

…the point to grasp here is that no one is compelled by force or coercion to reject the gospel message. They do it freely, by their own choice. Those who turn away in unbelief are therefore wholly responsible for putting themselves under God’s condemnation. (p.94)

The book will stretch your thinking on the topic and give you a much better understanding of the doctrine of salvation.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Books, Scripture, Theology

 
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1 John 4:19

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in 1 John, Scripture

 

Don’t Settle 4 Fool’s Gold

Eureka! This simple Greek word—meaning “I have found it!”—became the life slogan for thousands of California gold prospectors in the mid-1800s. It summed up every treasure hunter’s dream and expressed the thrill of striking pay dirt. For James Marshall (the first to discover the precious metal in 1848) and the “forty-niners” who followed him, the term meant instant riches, early retirement, and a life of carefree ease.

However, world-be prospectors quickly learned that not everything that glittered was indeed gold. Riverbeds and rock quarries could be full of golden specks that were entirely worthless. This “fool’s gold” was iron pyrite, and miners had to be careful to distinguish it from the real thing.

In the same way, Christians must learn how to distinguish teaching which is biblical and sound from that which is not. We need to be wary of spiritual fool’s gold. That is the subject that the apostle John addresses in 1 John 4:1-6.

Don’t believe every teacher who comes along (1). Some of John’s readers were being swept away by false teachers. John is telling them to take the time to test and see if what they are being taught is true.

Some theology being taught today is the equivalent of eating a candy bar. It is sweet, tasty, and filling, but it has absolutely no nutritional value. In fact, it can blunt your appetite for healthier fare. Rather than blindly consuming everything we hear, we need to put it to the test and see if it is true or not. John provides two tests we can use.

Test #1: What do they say about Jesus? (2-3). In the same way you can identify a follower of Christ by their works, you can identify a false teacher by their message. Rather than ask, “Do you believe in Jesus?” we should ask, “What do you believe about Jesus?” A false teacher will err on either the humanity or the deity of Christ.

Test #2: Who are they listening to? (4-6). John reminds his listeners that they are victors, that they have overcome. They are not necessarily more intelligent or more skilled than false teachers, but they possess the Holy Spirit. In contrast, the false teachers are listening to the world (4-5) rather than to the truth (6). A teacher’s doctrinal beliefs are often revealed by the character of their followers.

As Christ followers, we must practice discernment. Get into the Scriptures for yourself on a regular basis. Ask God for wisdom to know truth from error. Ask God to give you ears to hear and a heart to obey.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 23, 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.

 

The intersection of faith and life

Yesterday afternoon I had a difficult and disappointing phone conversation that was the culmination of five months of dialogue with an insurance company. I was angry about my perceived mistreatment. Why did they put me through a five month ordeal if this was going to be the outcome? Why did they make me jump through so many hoops if it was going to turn out this way? It’s not fair! I want justice!

I decided to blog about the encounter. I would catalog their many and varied sins, and broadcast my slights for all the world to read and heed. I would do my best to shame them.

Then I remembered I recently gave our church leaders a handout on how to deal with criticism and complaints. If I followed my own instructions regarding the guidelines of Matthew 18:15, I needed to deal with the company privately rather than publicly. I was also reminded of what I taught while in Russia last month. I explained to the pastors and leaders that Romans 12:19 instructs us not to seek revenge, but rather to leave it in God’s hands.

Rather than tell the world, I wrote a letter to the company expressing my frustration. Rather than attempt to publicly embarrass the company in a blog post, I wrote this post confessing my embarrassment at discovering I am still rather self-centered, selfish, proud, and ill-tempered when I don’t get my own way. SIGH!

Romans 7:15, 24-25 (ESV)    For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Character, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Handling Criticism – Lessons from Jesus

Last night, First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, held a joint meeting of our elders, deacons, and deaconesses. We meet together 3-4 times a year to touch base on shepherding issues. Towards the end of the meeting, I distributed two handouts on the subject of handling criticism. I explained that as we touch base with people, we may hear criticism and/or complaints about an individual, ministry, or other concern. I wanted to guide the folks in how to respond biblically.

One handout was “Handling Criticism: Lessons from Nehemiah.” (It was posted on my blog on May 5, 2016.) Rather than read the entire handout, I said the short version was that sometimes Nehemiah responded to criticism and sometimes he ignored it. Not every need is a mandate. Sometimes a need or a criticism is a distraction to ignore. We need discernment to know which ones to address and which ones to ignore.

The second handout was “Handling Criticism: Lessons from Jesus.”

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Handling Criticism: Lessons from Jesus

When someone wants to complain to you about a person, ministry, etc., follow the guidelines Jesus gave in Matthew 18:15-20.

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Ask the person, “Have you talked to _______ ?” (the person who offended them; the person in charge of the ministry they are concerned about, etc.)

If they say, “No,” then graciously stop the person and tell them to practice Mathew 18:15. Graciously tell them to stop gossiping, complaining, and/or venting to someone else.

If they say, “Yes, but the person didn’t listen,” then you can listen to their concern. Afterwards, go with the person to help them seek reconciliation and/or resolution, the second step in Matthew 18:16.

Remember that your role is not to serve as the complaint department or the problem solvers of the church.

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As leaders in the church, I wanted our team to understand that criticism comes with the territory. I shared that every time our church has started to move forward, we’ve been attacked. I’ve been criticized more in the past year than I have in many previous years. Part is due to my position and part to what we’ve been trying to do as a church. When criticism comes, and it will, I want us to respond in a biblical, godly manner.

 

What the Bible says about heaven & hell

Book Review: What Happens After You Die: A Biblical Guide to Paradise, Hell, and Life After Death, by Randy Frazee

If a friend on their death bed asked, “Is belief in Jesus enough to get me into heaven?” how would you respond? That question was posed to pastor and author Randy Frazee by his mother. While he answered his mother with a confident, “Yes,” the question bothered him enough to do a thorough study of the Scriptures. The results of his study are explained in his latest book, What Happens After You Die: A Biblical Guide to Paradise, Hell, and Life After Death.

Pastor Frazee deals with the five most important questions about life after death.

  • Is Jesus enough to get me into heaven?
  • What happens if I die without Christ?
  • What happens if I die with Christ?
  • What happens if I don’t know Christ when he returns?
  • What happens if I do know Christ when he returns?

In addition, he also answers questions such as:

  • Are there such things as ghosts?
  • Are our loved one in heaven watching over us?
  • Is there such a thing as purgatory or Limbo?
  • Are there different degrees of hell?
  • Can we earn wings?
  • Will rewards be given out?
  • Will there be pets in heaven?
  • Will we keep our memories or regrets from life now?
  • Will there be marriages and family in God’s new kingdom?
  • What will our resurrected bodies be like?
  • What will we eat?
  • What will a day in the life on the new earth be like?
  • Do we have guardian angels?
  • Is it okay to be cremated?
  • What about people making predictions about the return of Christ?
  • What about life-after-death and near-death experiences?

As Frazee explains in the opening chapter, the book was born out of a deeply personal search for truth after his mother’s death. Throughout the book, he attempts to separate what is simply cultural tradition from what is truly biblical. He explains not only the death Jesus came to save us from but also the life he came to save us for.

The book is very helpful and encouraging. It clearly explains what Scripture says about what happens after we die.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in Books, Heaven, Scripture, Theology