The Vision of the Son (Revelation 1:9-20)

Max Phillips is one of my favorite people. I have never met anyone like him. He joined Park Baptist Church in 1936 when he was 14 years old. He has been a member of Park Baptist Church for 81 years. Max never pays for food at Red’s Grill (Rock Hill’s longest continuous restaurant) because the owner saw Max’s love and tender care for his wife, Molly and decided his money was no good there. Max goes out to eat regularly with his Dentist. He visits the Bank simply to talk to all the young ladies who work the counters. Max is never slow with encouragement, but he is also never slow with his opinion. Max is 95 years old and does his best to get to church as much as he is able given his ailing back. Max has seen this church through many different seasons and different pastors. Park Baptist Church celebrates its 110 year anniversary today and Max has experienced almost 75% of the church’s total ministry.

            God has been incredibly kind to Max. At 95 years old, his mind is as sharp as ever. My relationship with Max has helped me understand John’s relationship to the seven churches in Asia. Max is the elder statesman of our congregation. He knows the history of this congregation better than almost anyone. He has lived through tremendous change in our country, but has remained faithful to Jesus Christ. The greatest thing about Max Phillips is his love for and his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Max knows his time on earth is near an end, but he does not fear death. He knows Jesus Christ. His faith in the Lord Jesus, like many others throughout the last 110 years in this church, is the reason this church has kept her faithful witness. We come to celebrate today what God has done in our church over the last 110 years. We come to give Jesus Christ praise, honor and glory for he loves this church and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom and priests to his God and Father.

            The church in John’s day was beginning to face growing persecution so God sent a vision through his 90 plus year old servant to remain steadfast to the faith in Jesus once and for all delivered to the saints. God has sustained this church for 110 years and as persecution and hostility grow toward the church in America, I pray that you will hear this word and remain steadfast in the hope of our great and glorious Savior.

The Setting of the Vision

            John was a well-respected leader in the church. He was the last living apostle who walked with Jesus. He writes, Revelation 1:9-11,

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

John identifies with the churches as a brother and a partner. Of course, being a brother is connecting him to the Christian faith in general. He is a brother in the faith, but it is far more than a mere connection to the larger big “C” Church. John is intimately connected to these churches as a member of their family.

            One of the most consistent and clearest pictures of the Christian life in the New Testament is being part of a family. When one comes to Christ, they become part of a new family, the family of God, and are called to live out their faith in Jesus in that family. There may be some of you here who have not officially stepped out in obedience to Jesus and joined the family by becoming a member of the church. Can I challenge you to consider identifying yourself as Christians have identified themselves for 2,000 years as brothers and sisters of the family of God? Do not be a spiritual orphan, but in obedience God and his Word tether yourself to his church.

            It was the obedience to God’s Word that led John to his exile on the island of Patmos. Patmos was a small island off what is modern day Greece in the Aegean Sea. John was sent there instead of being killed probably because of the respect he had among Christians and his death may have caused outrage among the people. John’s exile was on account of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. John was in exile because of the gospel of Christ. Therefore, he could not only identify himself as a brother but a partner in tribulation, the kingdom and the patient endurance that is in Jesus.

            John was experiencing the same kind of persecution of the churches. There is something that binds people together who share common trials. When Ken Tedder was battling his cancer, he often shared how much comfort he received by talking to others who were facing his same battle. Shared common experience helps to deepen friendship and trust. I say often to those walking through trial in our congregation, I may not know what you are dealing but I do know there are people in our body who have walked that same road. Share your burdens with the body.

            John also is a partner in the kingdom of God. He desires the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ is fill the earth. He wants people to come to King Jesus and serve him as Lord. Brothers and sisters, we have been made a kingdom of priests by the Lord Jesus. Let us faithfully exercise the keys of the kingdom by testifying to the gospel and inviting people to receive Jesus as Lord. Praise be to God in how our congregation is growing in evangelistic zeal. I am grateful that God has brought us Grant Hinson and his family. They model a consistent and faithful kingdom witness in the neighborhood and our city. If you want to grow in your own evangelism, may I encourage you to spend time with Hinsons.

            One of the exhortations that fills the pages of this prophecy is to patiently endure with Jesus Christ. If you desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, you will face persecution. You will face weariness in obedience. You will have opposition to the gospel. You will be afflicted in every way, but not crushed. You will be perplexed, but not driven to despair. You will be persecuted, but not forsaken. You will be struck down but not destroyed. Jesus Christ will hold you fast. When the tempter would prevail, He will hold you fast. When your love is often cold, Christ will hold you fast. The Revelation of Jesus Christ is to encourage you to patiently endure with Jesus. If your interpretation of this book does not lead you to persevere with Jesus, then you may have missed its main point.

            John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day most likely referring to Sunday, the first day of the week, which Christian set aside to worship God. Long before Christians received Sunday off for worship, Christians would rise early in the morning to gather before they had to work remember the resurrection of Christ. Christians set aside Sunday as the Lord’s Day; to gather with the saints, to hear the Word of God and to sing the praise of the Savior. God has given us the Lord’s Day to help us patiently endure a fallen world in the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We may have a lot of frustrated discouraged drifting Christians in the West, because of their neglect of the Lord’s Day.

            As John was in worship, he was commanded to write down what he saw and share it with the churches in Asia. These seven churches were probably seven cities on a postal route making distribution of the “book” easy, but these seven churches are also representative of all churches throughout the ages. The number seven is used strategically in Revelation to communicate wholeness and completeness. This vision was to be given to and for the whole church.

The Son of the Vision

            After understanding more of the setting, let us turn our attention to the actual vision. It is important to note that although John saw the vision, we are simply hearing it. We do not live in the age of the eye, but the age of the ear. We are commanded to hear and obey. Blessed is the one who hears the words of this prophecy and who keeps what is written in it. Revelation 1:12-16,

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

 

It is hard for us to fully appreciate and understand this vision as it is full of Old Testament imagery. The first century church would have heard this vision in light of the prophecy of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Zechariah. It is not meant to be taken literally as if Jesus physically appears like this now, but rather it is meant to communicate who Jesus is in his character and his role in our redemption and judgment.

            First, Jesus is in the church’s midst. The voice of the one speaking was in the midst of the lampstand. Jesus is our Immanuel, God with us. Jesus promised that he will be with us always even to the end of the age. Jesus has not abandoned his church, but he is in our midst. How comforting would it be for the early persecuted, marginalized church to know that Jesus is in the midst? How about you? Are you comforted to know that Jesus is in your midst? He has not left you. He has not left his church. We will prevail.

            Second, he is in our midst as our Messiah. Jesus is one like a son of man. John is clearly drawing on the Daniel’s well-known prophecy that the Messiah would be one like a son of man. He is not communicating that Jesus is merely like us as a human, but is the long-awaited Messiah who would become like us to free us from our sin with his blood. This would not have been lost on the first-century audience.

            Third, this Messianic, Son of Man, was clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The long robe and sash is properly communicating two specific ideas. First, that Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth. We see the kingship of Jesus established early in Revelation 1. The vision is to show that Jesus is ruler above all earthly powers. Caesar is not God. There is only One God.  Second, Jesus is our high priest. The high priest was identified in Exodus as wearing a sash around his chest (Exodus 39:39). Jesus is both our king and our high priest. (He is in the order of Melchizedek; Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 7-9). Hebrews 2:17-18,

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus is in our midst as our high priest. He suffered and died to pay for the sins of the church, to all who would repent and believe in Him. There cannot be a more encouraging picture. The Elder John and our elder Max do not fear death because One has paid for their sins. We do not have to fear because our debt is paid because our high priest is in our midst interceding for us. And because of his intercession we can patiently endure the tribulation of this world. Pope Francis recently stated, “The Lord does not leave us orphans: we have a Mother, the same one as Jesus. Mary takes care of us and always defends us.” The Bible does not show Mary as the one who cares for us and defends us, but the faithful witness Jesus Christ. Jesus is our Advocate who ever lives to intercede for us.

            Fourth, Jesus is pure. His hair being white like wool, like snow should draw our minds back to Daniel 7:9 and Isaiah 1:18. Jesus is pure. His purity should encourage us in two ways. His purity should cause us to rejoice because his sacrifice pure meaning that we can be freed from our sins. The righteous, pure One paid the penalty for the unrighteous and impure ones; Jesus for us. His purity should also resolve us to fight sin. We now belong to the pure one so we should fight for purity.

            Fifth, his eyes were like a flame of fire. His gaze is penetrating. He sees and knows all; nothing is hidden from his sight. Jesus is the only Sovereign who sees and knows all. He knows all history and he knows all your history. There is a Latin term, coram deo, which means before the face of God. We always live before the face of God. He sees what is done in secret. He sees who you pray tireless of others. He sees how you labor in your Word to know Him. He knows your burden for the lost in your family. He also sees your lust and greed, impatience and bitterness, your indifference and discontent. When we stand before the face of God at the end of history, his judgment will be perfect. Let us live, coram deo, now; before his face as we know that one day we will stand face to face and the secrets of men will be exposed by Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16).

            Sixth, his feet were burnished bronze, refined in a furnace. This is to communicate strength and power. In the ancient world, one’s feet were a sign of strength especially in regard to battle. Good footwear was essential for success in battle due to long marches over vast terrain. The army with the best shoes was often victorious. The enemies that stand against God and His people will face his strength and power.

            Seventh, his voice was like the roar of many waters showing the power of his Word. We see his word being a like a trumpet and hear like the roar of many waters. When God speaks, He commands attention. His Word will pierce and disclose all like a sharp, two-edged sword. Hebrews 4:12-13,

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

This same image is used again in Revelation 19 when his Word will strike down the nations. We remember 2 Thessalonians where it says the breath of the Lord will destroy the Anti-Christ. There is power in his Word.

            Eighth, he holds seven stars in his right hand. He will look at the stars more next week, but merely see that he is the one who is in control. The right hand of God is to communicate power and control. He is the only Sovereign.

            Lastly, his face was like the sun shining in full strength. He was brilliant and majestic and powerful. This should bring back the transfiguration when the inner three saw Jesus dazzling white. It is impossible to stare at the sun in full strength, we must look away.

            The vision would have been easily understood by its first-century audience and it was meant to show the power and majesty of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, above and over all earthly powers. There would have been an emotive effect when they heard this vision. Sometimes in our efforts to understand the prophecy of Revelation, we miss the emotion and the purpose to our hearts. Jesus is in our midst. Our King and High Priest is in our midst with purity, power and piercing perception. Who can stand before him?

 

The Sentiment of the Vision

            There is no casualness in John’s approach to Jesus here. He sees God and falls down before him as though dead. Like Isaiah, Joshua, and Ezekiel before him, when John is face to face with the awesomeness of God, he falls as though dead. I believe it is instructive for us in how saints approached God. There is a casualty in our day that obscures the reality of the holy and awesome nature of God almighty. God is in our midst, but he is also God and should be honored as such. And yet, this awesome God is a kind and gracious God. Revelation 1:17-20,

 

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Jesus laid his right hand on John in a loving, tender touch saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last.” This is a direct quote from Isaiah 41:4, “I, the Lord, the first and with the last; I am he.” Isaiah continues with great verse which is the favorite of many here, Isaiah 41:10;13-14,

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…For I, the Lord you God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’ Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel, I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

He with us and we are in his right hand. The God of the Universe, then only one who can condemn says, “Fear not.” You no longer have to fear death, because Jesus is the Living One. He died and Behold he is alive forevermore and holds the keys to Death and Hades.”

 

            Christian, does it give you hope that our Jesus died you and rose for you? He is alive forevermore and as he is so you shall be. Oh beloved, let the gospel of Jesus give your heart courage to patiently endure with him. Yes, life can be challenging. We will face many trials and tribulations to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:23). And yet, we have a faithful high priest who died for us to pay our debt. We have a Sovereign King that commands us to, “Fear Not.” Jesus lives. He lives forevermore. We can face tomorrow because we know he lives today.

            Non-Christian, please know that the tender touch of God and his kind words of acceptance that are spoken here are only for those who trust in Christ. They are offered to you freely and without charge. Jesus died for whosoever would believe, but only for those who would believe. If the Bible is true, one day you will stand before this awesome God and fall on your face as though dead and one of two things will happen: He will either reach out his hand and say, “Fear not. Welcome home,” or he will say, “As you have denied me, so I deny you. Depart from me.” Friend, this vision was given to you as a warning. When you stand before the face of God, where will you place your hope? Turn to Jesus Christ. He is the Living One. There is no other God. He is our only hope. He is a kind Savior and a fierce Judge. I pray that you embrace him as Savior so you will not experience him as Judge.

             Park Baptist Church has held out the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for 110 years. This church has helped many find Jesus Christ. Max Phillips heard the gospel and believed and has been patiently enduring with Jesus for over 76 years (joining at 14 but truly repenting and believing at 18). There have been scores and scores of people who have heard and believed in the gospel through the ministry of this church. As our church, like the first century church, continues to face growing hostility to the gospel, I pray that we would partner together in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus for we belong to the first and the last, the living one. We have an awesome and glorious Savior who is in our midst. Beloved, fear not our Savior has prepared a place for you and he is coming with clouds to bring us home. One day the trump will resound and the Lord will descend, even so, it is well with our souls.

My Hope and Joy

“For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)

Beloved,

There are many days that I sit and pray and long to be in the presence of the Lord Jesus. I meditate about seeing our glorious Savior in all his glory. I long for his loving embrace and words of welcome into his eternal kingdom. It is humbling to know that my hope, my joy and my crown of boasting before the Lord Jesus Christ on that day is you. It is an incredible gift to shepherd and serve you as your pastor. I feel an incredible joy and thankfulness that God has given me the pleasure of pastoring the Park Baptist Church. The love that my family and I consistently feel from this congregation is truly overwhelming. I believe that I am the best loved pastor in all of Rock Hill.

I am not only overwhelmed because of your love for me, but your love for the Lord Jesus Christ, your passion for the Word of God, your desire to serve each other as brothers and sisters of the same family, and your passion for the glory of God to be manifested across the earth. Your hope, your joy and your faith is my hope and joy and crown of boasting before Christ. I am so incredibly proud to be your pastor. You have been taught by God to love one another and I exhort you to do so more and more. Your love for Christ and his church will draw many others to receive the kingdom of God through receiving Jesus as Lord as we manifest God wisdom in living as a radical transformed redeemed family of God. I am so glad that I am part of this family of God.

            Although God has given me the joy of serving as an under-shepherd of this church for 5 years, Jesus Christ has served as the Chief Shepherd of Park Baptist Church for 110 years. The good work that God has begun in Park Baptist Church, he will carry to completion on the Day of Christ Jesus. Let us pause and thank God for this faithfulness to this Park Baptist Church. Praise God for the warm heartedness of our congregation. Praise God for the spiritual fervor. Praise God for his ever-present faithfulness. Praise God for his steadfast love. Let us not merely remember what God has done in and through Park on Homecoming, but let us share all month long of God’s kindness to us in Christ.

            May the God of hope fill us with all hope and joy as we continue to trust in Him so that we may overflow with hope in the power of the Holy Spirit. God has been kind to Park Baptist Church for 110 years. God has been kind to me these past 5 years by making you my hope, my joy and my crown of boasting at the coming of Christ. May God give us many more anniversaries and Homecomings together.

Member Profile - Paige Kisker

1.)    What is your vocation?

I believe the Lord has called me to do international missions. I am working on a Biblical Counseling degree from Southeastern, and I have a passion for loving and counseling women, especially teenagers that struggle with self-confidence and self-worth issues.

2.)    Tell us about your family:

 

My mom, dad, and little sister, Hannah, mean the world to me. My parents have always loved and encouraged me to the best of their ability. Like every family, we have our differences, but I have never doubted my family's love for me. 

3.)    Who was the main human influence that led you to a relationship with Christ?

Mary Courtney was my Younglife leader in high school. I believe she definitely planted the seed, but I did not grow and mature in my faith until I came to Winthrop. She taught me how we were designed to be in a relationship with Jesus. I believe my friends I made freshmen watered the seeds if you may. My community truly exemplifies what brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ looks like, and they are continuing to grow and challenge me in my walk with the Lord.   

 

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse?

2nd Corinthians 5:17 

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months?

The Lord has been teaching me how to more genuinely and consistently rely on Him in my current season of transition. He is humbling me, showing me how I do not handle change as well I thought I did. During this new and challenging time in my life, I am learning that He is my true rock to lean on, not my worldly circumstances or even my close friends and family. This world is only temporary, but God, His promises, and His redeeming love are everlasting. 

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you?

I find it oddly satisfying to cross things off my "to-do" list. Embarrassingly enough, I sometimes will make a silly, unnecessary list just so I can scratch things off throughout the day. :) 

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests?

Please pray that I am able to glorify the Lord through my new teaching job at Providence Classical School. Sometimes, I feel very anxious and a sense of inadequacy. I just pray that He works through my insecurities, and I am able to love and grow those children I have been entrusted with. 

The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1-8)

    In June of 2017, three friends Nick, Ian and Arman, were hired to paint the home of a prominent Muslim citizen in Marawi Philippines. This routine job turned into a nightmare when ISIS went on a door to door “cleansing” of the city. Christians and Muslims have long lived side by side in peace in Marawi, but the spread of Islamic extremists had finally arrived in their city. On May 23, a group of militants declared their intent to make an Islamic caliphate in the Philippines. As the persecution and violence intensified against Christians, these three believers were forced to cower and hide in the basement for weeks. Imagine the thoughts of these three young men sitting in that Philippine basement wondering what would be their future? Would the constant barrage of gunfire fall upon their heads? Would they survive to see their families again?

            After weeks of worrying and praying for their survival, they decided to escape. They ran throughout the city hiding in thick shrubs before making to the river. As they approached the water, they heard bullets fired by nearby snipers whizzing over their heads. They dove into the rushing water and eventually climbed out on the other side safe from harm. They recalled their thoughts to a NY Times reporter saying,

We said we’d try to get rescue for them if we made it out. We also told ourselves that our fate was with the Lord. We told each other, whatever happens, happens. If we get hit and die, that’s our fate. But we had to escape. Or at least die trying.[1]

            For years these men lived at peace with Muslims friends and coworkers, but persecution had come. Their fate was with the Lord. Now imagine if I this didn’t happen in the Philippines, but in Columbia, SC. How would it change your perspective of hearing the story? Our ears usually perk up if we believe that what is being said is relevant to our life and our situation. Many of our brothers and sisters face intense persecution for their faith. This story happened only a few months over this summer in 2017. Persecution and violence against Christians may be closer than we think. What would the Lord say to encourage and strengthen the resolve of persecuted believers who were in constant fear of their future? We do not have to wonder because God has already spoken. The book of Revelation was written to strengthen and encourage the hearts of believers facing intense persecution in the first century.

            Revelation can be an enigma for Christians. There are some who are fascinated by the prophecy and symbolism in Revelation and spend most of their Bible study trying to discover the hidden meaning of the book. There are others that ignore the book altogether because it of mystery that lies in its message and how confusing and challenging the message appears. Most pastors are terrified to preach through it because there are so many different interpretations and incredibly strong convictions of the book. And yet, God wants us to read and study and meditate on this book because it is part of his holy, precious, perfect Word. As we approach this book, let us understand that this book was written to encourage and strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. I pray as we study through Revelation that you will understand more of the prophecy and that your heart would be resolved to follow hard after Christ.

The Definite Future Reality

            One of the main purposes of the book of Revelation is to show that there is only One who is in control of the future. Our fate is in the hands of the Lord. Revelation 1:1-2,

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the Word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

The book begins with its title “revelation” from the Greek word “apocalypse.” The use of the word is to communicate the unveiling of things that have been previously hidden. Many approach Revelation as mysterious, but the intent of the book to “reveal” the things that must soon take place.

            The source of the prophecy is Jesus Christ himself. God the Father gave this word to Jesus who then gave it to his servants through his angel. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, received this word and bore witness of this word to the church. (John’s other writings will be important to help us interpret this book.) The revelation is from Jesus and about Jesus. We know that all Scripture is ultimately about the person and work of Jesus Christ. On the road to Emmaus Jesus said, “that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44) Revelation is both from Jesus and about Jesus. The full of title of Jesus Christ is found three times in the prologue and does not appear in the rest of book, but simply the name Jesus.

            John writes that this revelation was to show us, “the things that must soon take place.” Soon could be interpreted in the sense of suddenly or without delay. It could also be interpreted from of standpoint of certainty of the events in the book. Many scholars view the idea of soon from the perspective of the Lord. 2 Peter 3:8, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Others believe that the events that must soon take place were the coming persecution of the church which indeed happened quickly from the completion of this book. The most compelling perspective is to place the concept of time in a prophetic outlook. In prophecy, the end is always imminent. This is a common theme through the New Testament. Jesus said that he would give justice speedily in Luke 18:8 and Paul writes that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. If we approach the idea that the end is imminent we will be ready for that day. Jesus wants us to be ready for his return. Are you ready? Are you obeying Jesus today as you look forward to that day?

The Blessed Obedience

            There are seven blessings in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, 22:14). The number seven is an important number in the Bible and especially this book as it communicates wholeness and completeness. The seven blessings of the book point to the complete and comprehensive blessing of God for his people. We would do well to pay attention to these blessings, Revelation 1:3,

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

This blessing is very familiar with word Jesus in the gospels about the blessed of both hearing and obeying the Word of God. The concept of the blessing of obedience should show us that the book is not merely meant to teach prophecy, but to provide moral instruction and practical implications for our daily life. Revelation is not meant to only be read as we look into the future, but it is relevant to our lives today.

            Are you obeying Jesus today? Do you desire to hear the Word of God and obey? What areas of your life are in contrast to the word of God? Blessed can be translated happy. Do you want to be happy? Obey Jesus. Your struggle with happiness and joy today may be a result of living in a fallen world, but it also may result from a lack of obedience to Jesus. The concept of hearing and obeying the word of God is a theme that is prevalent throughout Revelation. The letters to the churches end with the repeated admonition, “Let the one who has an ear hear what the Spirit says.” Keeping and/or observing God’s commands are found ten times in the book (Rev. 1:3, 2:26, 3:3, 3:8, 3:10, 12:17, 14:12, 16:15, 22:7, 22:9). As one scholar notes the purpose of the book, “is not merely to outline the future intervention of God or to portray the people of God symbolically in the light of divine reality but to call the saints to accountability on that basis. This is a prophetic book of warning as well as comfort to the church.”

            Allow this book to affect your heart. Are you comforted with the truth that you will be blessed as you are obeying the Lord Jesus? Or are you convicted with your lack of obedience? Beloved, the time is near. Be ready. We are only blessed when we hear the Word AND when we obey the Word.

The Trinitarian Promise

            Revelation is written to the seven churches that are in Asia. The seven churches are listed in chapters 2 and 3. These aren’t the only churches in Asia but represent groups of churches. John strategically again uses the number 7 to communicate that this book is not only written to these seven churches but to all the church of Jesus Christ. John begins the body of his letter with a Trinitarian Promise. The word "Trinity" is not found in the Bible, but the concept is found woven throughout the Scripture. Revelation 1:4-5,

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him whom is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before the throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings of the earth.

The blessing of this salutation is that the triune God offers grace and peace. Grace and peace only come from God. Grace is always first because it is only through grace that we are brought peace.

John begins by establishing the absolute sovereignty over time of God the Father. God is and was and is to come. A church that is struggling with persecution and violence is encouraged when they are reminded that God is in control of all history. “An uncertain future calls for One who by virtue of his eternal existence exercises sovereign control over the course of history.” John is giving the people courage as they face uncertainty by reminding them that God is one without a beginning or an end. He is in control, he always was in control and he always will be in control. John modifies does not say, “who will be,” but rather draws out the central theme of the book by saying, “who is to come.” Our minds are drawn consistently and repeatedly to the One who is to come and give his church final victory over evil.

The seven spirits who are before the throne is a reference to the Holy Spirit. There are some scholars who are unsure if this points to the Holy Spirit, but I believe it does for several reasons. First, grace and peace only come from God because God is the only one who can give grace and peace. The seven spirits are giving grace and peace, therefore, must be God. And we know the Holy Spirit is God through John’s Gospel. Second, John uses the number seven to communicate wholeness as we have already seen in this book. John is showing the wholeness and perfection of the Holy Spirit in using a specific, symbolic name for Him. Third, Isaiah 11:2 references the Spirit of the Lord using seven descriptions, “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” Lastly, Zechariah 4 mentions a prophecy of seven lamps and seven lips and the angel in clarifying the meaning says, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” The perfect victory over evil described in Revelation is done by the Spirit of the Lord. The use of seven spirits is found also in Revelation 3:1, 4:5, and 5:6 that we will look at in the coming weeks.

John ends the Trinitarian promise of grace and peace with Jesus Christ. The normal trinitarian blessing is the Father, then the Son, and then the Holy Spirit. The order is changed here most likely because of the doxology that flows from the description of Jesus Christ. Jesus is defined as the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. First, Jesus is the faithful witness. Witness is taken from the Greek word (martys) where we get our English word martyr. Jesus was the faithful one who was willing to die. John uses the word throughout the book to show the penalty of death that results from a firm and constant witness (2:13, 11:3, 17:6). As the church in Asia was facing intense pressure of violence, they needed to be reminded that their plight was no different than that of their master. Jesus was the faithful witness unto death, but he was also the faithful witness of the testimony of God. Jesus said before Pilate, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37) Let us be the ones who hear Christ’s voice and bear witness to it in our lives. For to us, to live is Christ and die is gain.

Jesus is also the firstborn from the dead. Colossians 1:18 says, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Jesus was not the first one who was resurrected, but his resurrection gave him priority and sovereignty as the messianic king. Psalm 89:27 states, “And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” The position of the firstborn was the place of authority and inheritance. Jesus was placed in the highest place and given the name that is above every name.

Therefore, Jesus is not only the firstborn from the dead but the ruler of the kings of the earth. John foreshadows of the unfolding of the prophecy when we will see Jesus declared the Lord of lords and King of kings in Revelation 17:14 and 19:6. Jesus will give ultimate victory for his church should that not encourage you to remain faithful to him. Do not chase after lesser things. Do not run after the idols of our day. Hold fast to Christ. Only he is the supreme King of kings.

            The description of Jesus is an unfolding of the gospel. Jesus was the faithful witness unto death on the cross. Jesus was declared to be the preeminent firstborn from the dead in his resurrection. Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God given all authority in heaven and earth. The most important aspects of Jesus ministry were his death, his resurrection, and his ascension. And when we think of the gospel, we should exalt in praise. This is exactly what John does as moves to a hymn of worship of Jesus.

The Blood-Bought Kingdom

            Jesus deserves to be worshiped by his people for how he has loved us and how he has rescued from sin. Revelation 1:5b-6,

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Notice the verb tenses. Jesus loves us. This is not past tense, although Jesus has loved us. This is not future tense, although Jesus will love us. No, this is present tense, Jesus loves us. Know this beloved, Jesus loves you. He has set his love upon you. Do not let anything rob of the joy of knowing the love of Jesus, the sweet, sweet love of Jesus. But also notice the past tense of the second phrase, Jesus, “has freed us from our sin by his blood.” We are forgiven. We are cleansed. Our ransom has been paid. His blood has brought us peace. Believer, know of Christ love and the redemption in his blood.

            Non-believer, can challenge you to consider the reasons why Christians give glory, honor, and praise to God? Christians are not perfect, but rather recognize how imperfect we are. We are often more aware of our sins and conscious of our faults. What separates a Christian and non-Christian, is that Christians recognize there is nothing we can do to change our sin. We realize that we cannot overcome our sin with good works and good words, but we need a Savior. We need someone to pay for our mistakes. We realize we need Jesus and his cleansing, freeing blood. I hope that you would consider your need yourself. How will you overcome your sins without Jesus?

            Another reason to glorify Jesus is that he made us a kingdom and priest to the Father. God has given the church responsibilities on earth. We have been given the keys of the kingdom of God. We invite people to bow their knee to King Jesus through the proclamation of the gospel. We are reigning with Christ through the preached Word. We have already been made a kingdom. We are also priests who offer our lives a spiritual sacrifice unto the Lord. We have given a responsibility to mediate Christ’s royal and priestly authority to the world. We have been restored in the new Adam to exercise dominion through his reconciling gospel now and will one day soon exercise that dominion with him forever and ever.

The Coming King

            John ends the introduction of this book by drawing our eyes to the past and to the future. He begins Behold. John uses this in all his writing to focus our attention,

Behold, he is coming with the clouds and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

This first is full of Old Testament imagery. Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah promised in Daniel 7:13-14,

I saw in the night visions and behold, with clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he to the Ancient of Days and was present before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all people, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away.

Notice he does not come on the clouds, but with the clouds. It is a clear picture of his divine authority. The prophecy of Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah are important for us as we interpret Revelation.

            The second and third phrases, “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.” are alluding to Zechariah 12:10. John quotes Zechariah 12:10 in John 19:37, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” Zechariah speaks of the repentance that will come to Israel when they realize that the one whom they pierced was the Messiah. Israel will mourn over their sin and accept the humble piercing on their behalf. And yet here in Revelation, John does not reference Israel wailing, but all the tribes of the earth. John is reminding us of God’s great promises to Abraham that all the families of the earth will be blessed through his offspring. The people will not only include Israel but all tribes of the earth. God is bringing his salvation to all people. The victory of Jesus Christ will bring the nation, Israel, and the nations to repentance.

            Of course, this end-time victory will also produce wailing of another kind. Those who do not know Christ as Savior will experience his judgment. They will weep because the time has passed for them to be saved. Friends, these things must soon take place. The time is near. Are you ready? Do you fear his coming or long for it? One day we all will stand before the Lord Almighty. He is the Alpha and the Omega.  He is and was and is to come.

            He has fixed day for his return. He is coming but is demonstrating his patience because he desires that any should perish, but all should reach repentance. Friend, Jesus is a glorious, merciful, kind Savior, but he will soon come as a glorious, powerful, victorious Warrior. You can experience his love now and be cleansed of your sin and brought into his kingdom by repenting of your sins and calling him Lord.

            Beloved, we cannot predict the future. We do not know what persecutions lie ahead for the church, but we know who sits on the throne. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. He has bought us peace with his blood. Let us, therefore, live as priests to God our Father sacrificing our lives for the cause of the gospel of Christ. He is worthy of our lives. He is worthy of worship. He is worthy because He is and He was and He is to come.

           

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/17/world/asia/marawi-philippines-islamic-state-christians.html?mcubz=1 accessed on 9.10.17

           

 

Member Profile - Weston Beck

1.)    What is your vocation?

I am an Inside Sales & Service Representative at Continental Tire. I have been working for Continental since October 2016.

 

2.)    Tell us about your family:

I have 3 brothers and 7 nephews/nieces.... and counting.

 

3.)    Who was the main human influence that lead you to a relationship with Christ?

The main human influence that lead me to a relationship with Christ was my oldest brother, Travis. I looked up to him a lot. He invited me to what I thought was a beach trip 7 years ago, but turned out to be a Youth Retreat at his church. I rededicated my life to Christ at that retreat. Since then, one of the most influential brothers in Christ I have had is John Whiteaker. He has helped and continually encourages me tremendously in scripture.

 

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse?

My favorite Bible verse is John 16:33, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months?

The Lord has been teaching me patience and to trust in His Will.

 

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you?

Most people don't know that I was a 3x state champion in wrestling in high school and planted a career record of 235-9. Seth and I, along with my other 2 brothers, were inducted into the Rock Hill High School Wrestling Circle of Champions this past year.

Member Profile - Ashley Porterfield

What is your vocation? My vocation at this time is a student

Tell us about your family: Sharon Jackson birthed me and my older brother with help from Albert Porterfield, they separate when I was younger. My mother lives in Blythewood and is a receptionist for the Radiologist department at Moncrief Army Clinic, formally a hospital. My father lives in Montgomery, Alabama with his wife Letitia Porterfieldand her two children, Zechariah and Destiny. My father works for a company who send medical history to different hospitals. My brother, from my mother and my father, isArmonte and is 9 months older than I am.

 

Who was the main influence that led you to a relationship with Christ? I believe my father was my main influence, when I was younger he would read my children’s stories about stories in the Bible. Back then I didn’t know what he was doing and mostly saw it as a chore, so I didn’t really enjoy it. After that a teacher in high school really showed me that Christians don’t have to be perfect. I remember vividly of him coming in late one day and explaining to us that his wife’s car broken down, so he had to take her to work and their baby to daycare. But he wasn’t anger or upset he was calm and knew that God would make a way like he always did. He would also read scriptures to us in class and teach us about really life things that helped me out in my future.

 

 

What is your favorite bible verse?

 Philippians 4:11-12 NIV “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstance. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whetherwell fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  

 

 

What has the Lord has been teaching you over the last 6 months? I believe that God is teaching to “Just Do It”. Join that Bible study, talk to that person, post all about how Jesus being the light in the dark world and that we can be the light too and not to being afraid to hanging out with that group of saints I don’t know that well. Be that positive person in that long Wal-mart lines that just happy I get to see other people. Along with the last example God had taught me that every single person is on the same level and we all deserve love.

  

 

Do you have any specific prayer requests? That I get a job, so I can have a real vocation. That my mother seeks him face and her heart is changed. That I can get through this Anatomy and Physiology class I am taking.

Member Profile - Elizabeth Litchford

1.)    What is your vocation?

 

I am a junior at Winthrop University studying Middle Level Education. I would like to teach either math or social studies once I graduate.

 

2.)    Tell us about your family:

 

My parents live in Blythewood, South Carolina, about an hour south of here. My dad is a home builder and my mom just started her first year as a women’s counselor. I have a younger sister, Anna Lee, who is going to be a junior at Blythewood High School this year. I also have an older brother, David, who is living in Charleston and going to culinary school.

 

3.)    Who was the main human influence that led you to a relationship with Christ?

 

I have definitely had too many important influences in my life to count, specifically the people that I have met here at Park, but the one that sticks out the most is my mom. She has always set a wonderful example of how to live a Christian life and how to make my decisions not based off of my own desires, but off of God’s will. Without her, I would never have had the confidence to be a Christian.

 

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse?

 

Gosh, it’s a struggle for me to pick one verse, but I always seem to focus on James 1:2. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Simple, but such a good reminder of the joy we can find in Christ.

 

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months?

 

I feel like God is always teaching me things, and then when I fail or forget what I’ve learned, He teaches me the same thing over again. So recently, I have definitely been learning, and relearning, that my relationship with God must be consistent. I can’t just pick it up when I want to and stop whenever it becomes inconvenient for me.

 

6.)    What is something most people don't know about you?

 

I love hamburgers and fries, maybe a little too much. Most people actually probably already know that… but it’s true!

 

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests?

 

This school year is going to be a little harder than the past two years. Prayer for a good attitude and good work ethic. Also, the ability to prioritize all of the different aspects of my life in the best way possible.

Member Profile Sarah Survance

1.)    What is your vocation? Political science student at Winthrop University. 

2.)    Tell us about your family: I have two great parents, an older sister,  and two younger brothers. My dad is a small business owner and my mom homeschools my youngest brother. My older sister just graduated from Clemson. One of my brothers is a senior in high school and the other is an 8th grader. 

3.)    Who was the main human influence that led you to a relationship with Christ? My parents. They taught me the gospel and emphasized the importance of scripture, the church, and godly friends. 

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse? Recently it has been Colossians 2:13-15 

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months? How special it is to be a part of a loving, Christian community. He's been showing me how important relationships should be in the life of a  Christian. 

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you? Once I was a an extra for a movie filmed in the Utah desert. 

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests? That I can prioritize the things in life that have eternal significance. And that God will use me to minister to younger girls. 

Member Profile - Gross Family

What is your vocation?

 

Chris -  Works for Chick-fil-A on Cherry Road as a cook and inventory supervisor

 

Jenn – Works for HMSHost at Charlotte Douglas International Airport and completing an associate degree this summer.

 

 

 

Tell us about your family:

 

We are a family of 3 with a furry large dog named Bailey.  We work hard (all 3 of us… David is a weekend / summer time turkey farmer) and as such we enjoy vacationing together in the mountains, at the beach, and even and adventure on a cruise ship.  We have been at Park for 4 years and have come to cherish our family here.

 

 

 

Who was the main influence that led you to a relationship with Christ?

 

Chris – I would have to say many members of my family tried to lead me to Christ, but my wife, Jenn, is the one who got me there.  As a family we wanted to raise David as a Christian and found Park and Pastor Dave.  It was pastor Dave that soften my heart one Sunday night and I have never looked back.

 

Jenn – My grandmother is and has always been the strong and steadfast anchor in my walk with Christ.  She has always led by example; I have watched her over the years struggle with the everyday ups and downs of life.  As a wife, mother to eight, grandmother to 16, great-grandmother to 15 (and counting), and friend to many, she has as seen and experienced God’s blessings and lessons never once wavering in her faith.

 

 

 

What is your favorite bible verse?

 

Chris – And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.  1st Thessalonians 4:11-12

 

Jenn – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your path.  Proverbs 3:5-6

 

 

 

What has the Lord has been teaching you over the last 6 months?

 

Chris – To reprioritize my life putting God and family first

 

Jenn – That with God I will, and do have the patience, strength, and determination to conquer my days.

 

 

 

What is something most people don’t know about you?

 

Chris – I am half Canadian.

 

Jenn- I have PCOS and David is our gift from God.

 

 

 

Do you have any specific prayer requests?

 

Chris – That we will better coordinate our work life and home life, making the time spent as a  family quality time  .

 

Jenn – Please keep me in prayers as I finish school and begin looking for a job / career.

 

David – Navigating life as a child in today’s world isn’t easy and fostering friendships for an only child of 2 working parents is hard.

Member Profile - Jamie and John Whiteaker

1.)    What is your vocation? I am about to graduate from Winthrop University with a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education. I will beginning teaching third grade in August at Hickory Grove Sharon Elementary School in York. Whit: I work at Resifence. Its a company that does residential fencing. I have been doing it off and on for 3 years.

2.)    Tell us about your family: Well, Whit and I have been married for almost a year this month, so that has been a very exciting and sanctifying journey for us both. I grew up an only child in Newberry, SC, which is were my dad and my grandparents live. My dad is getting ready to retire from SCDOT and is getting married next month. My grandfather is a LAN Administrator at Georgia Pacific and is also getting ready to retire. Both of my grandmothers stay at home and are excellent cooks. My mother passed away when I was in high school from a rare stomach disease called Gastroparesis. She was very dear to me. Whit: I am married to Jamie Whiteaker. Our 1 year anniversary will be at the end of the month. I have a mother, brother, and sister in law that lives in Rock Hill.

3.)    Who was the main human influence that lead you to a relationship with Christ? My Young Life leader, Cindy Long, played a huge impact in my relationship with Christ when I was in high school. She walked me through scripture and consistently pointed me to Christ during some of the darkest moments of my life. Whit: The person that led me to Christ was Casey Espich. I was in high school. He had some guys read the bible. As I read the gospels I was saved.

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse? 2 Corinthians 4 Whit: That's a difficult question. I feel it changes. It was for awhile Jeremiah 20:9-11. I would have to say now its Habakkuk 3:16-19. 1 Peter chapter 1 is always good. Ok I'm going to stop now.

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months? The Lord has been reminding me and teaching me about His sovereignty when I look back and see all of the ways He has led me down paths that at the time did not make sense. However, now when I look back, I can see His hand moving throughout my life, especially in my college experience with bringing me to Winthrop and then to Park Baptist and the community that he has blessed me with here. Whit: The Lord has been encouraging me to work hard for my relationship with him. I feel the conviction more to spend time in prayer, and in the Word. While discipline some young believers God has been showing me ways to make things simple for others to understand it. I love things simple. Anyone can speak over someone's head, but to put them in terms for everyone, and lets your heart feed on it...well that's just great.

6.)    What is something most people don't know about you? I was a competitive clogger (dancer) throughout high school and was also Valedictorian of my graduating class in high school.  Whit: Something people may not know is I use to be wild. I'm a very weird and wild person. My friends like to bring up all of the weird things I use to do. So if you have any crazy stories, I would love to hear them. No judgement here.

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests? As I graduate and begin teaching in the public school system, I ask that you pray that the light of Christ will shine through me in the school and in my own classroom and that the Lord would use me in the way that He sees fit to reach the lost as an educator. Whit: I have a lot of prayer request. I love people praying for me. I feel weird sometimes asking for prayers because sometimes I think people think you are in trouble if you ask, but I could always use prayers because I'm always in need of God. So prayer for marriage, loving my wife. A good attitude at work. Patience, and energy for a busy summer. Prayers that the Lord would help more to find joy and a willingness to spend time in the Word and prayer. I do struggle with quiet times.

 

 

Standing in the Truth - 3 John

On April 18th, 1521 Martin Luther was brought before the Diet of Worms to be challenged on his view of Scripture. When asked if he wanted to retract any ideas in his writings, he replied,

Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God's word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.[1]

Luther Biographer, Roland H. Bainton, noted that in that moment, “the past and the future were met.” Luther defended his written attacks against the papacy and challenged their authority to determine right from wrong. Luther stood steadfast in his trust and interpretation in the Holy Scripture. Luther was bound by the Word of God. God’s Word constrained his conscience.

            Luther’s stand that salvation was revealed in Scripture alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone was the catalyst that burned the gospel into the hearts of Europe spreading the Reformation and recovery of the gospel across Europe. It took courage for Luther to stand against false doctrine. It could have ended his life. Luther stood for truth. His courage has inspired countless thousands over the last 500 years.

The courage it takes to stand for truth inspires hearts. The stand of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., William Tyndale, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, and William Wilberforce inspired courage of their contemporaries and the following generations. Each not knowing in the moment what would become of their lives. And yet, the stood for truth. When the moment comes, will you stand for truth? When your coworker asks about your faith, will you stand? When your family questions your decision to go overseas, will you stand? When you see a brother drifting towards sin, will you stand? When you are tempted by the evil one, will you stand? Your moment may not inspire millions, but it will be seen by your Father in heaven. And he who sees that is done in secret will reward you.

            We all face moments of truth every day and we must decide beforehand, “Will we stand in the truth?” The Apostle John, the elder of the ancient church, wrote to his dear friend Gaius and the beloved church to encourage them to stand in the truth. I pray that when your moment comes, you will stand in the truth.

 

Standing in the Truth in Prayer

John loves the truth. The Apostle John is responsible for 5 books of the New Testament: His gospel, 3 letters, and the book of Revelation. Truth is one of the major themes in all his writings. And as he begins his brief letter, we see his love for truth in the opening words, “The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.” Gaius was a common name in the 1st century. The name appears three other times in the New Testament. There is Gaius of Corinth (Rom 16:23), Gaius of Macedonia (Acts 19:29), and Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4).[2] It probably unlikely that John addresses any of these men, but he addresses a man that he loves dearly. John addresses Gaius as his beloved or dear friend 4 times throughout this letter.

            One of the first keys of standing in the truth is the importance of prayer. We do not have the ability to stand without the power of God. John writes, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” Body and soul together. The thrust of John’s prayer is not only in a healthy body, but a healthy soul. How quick are we to pray for our ailing bodies while we neglect our ailing souls? We are quick to offer a prayer for the sick in body but slow to offer a prayer for the sick in soul? Friends, we must call upon heaven to pray for those cannot faithfully sing, “It is well with my soul.”

            And yet, John prays for his friend’s body. Beloved, we should always focus on the primacy of one’s soul over the body, but we must never ignore how the body affects our soul. God made us to be embodied souls. It is unwise and unloving not to care for the needs of our physical bodies as it is unwise not to tend to the care of our souls. If a son fell into a pit and was in physical harm, which parent would not do all they could to help the body of their son? Sickness and pain affects us all. We must pray to God for his kindness in bringing good health. John cared, both in body and in soul, for his friend Gaius. We should do the same.

            Gaius’ ability to stand in the truth was sustained through the prayers of the saints. Paul writes of his confidence to stand in his moment in a Roman prison because of the saints. Philippians 1:19-21,

[F]or I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Paul’s courage came through the prayers of the saints. God commands us to prayer for one another. Beloved, how sweet have our prayers been on Wednesday night!! We come together and stand in and for the truth in prayer. Let us continue to pray for the saints so that like John for Gaius, the Philippians for Paul, that we would pray for each other so that we would be of full courage so that Christ would be honored in our bodies, by life or by death.

 

Standing in the Truth in Praise

John writes his letter as an old man. As he begins this letter, we see his his greatest joy and passion in his life. John rejoices not in the health of his own soul, but in the health of soul of others.

For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Gaius is walking with God and standing in the truth. He John’s words, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

            Janice has been challenged our young ladies to memorize Scripture every week for our Wednesday night class. This past week, my daughter memorized Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I have personally memorized a lot of Scripture, but hearing my daughter recite and write God’s precious Word on her heart brings far more joy rather any scripture I have memorized. My child is walking in the truth.

            Gaius is most likely not John’s biological child, but his child in the faith. John either led Gaius to the Lord or disciple him in the faith. There is wonderful joy when you see people grow in Christ whom you disciple. I have experienced so much joy looking at the men and women in this congregation that I have had the privilege to walk with over the last 5 years. Can I encourage you to pour life into others? I would love for you to experience a glimpse of what John is speaking about here. It is marvelous.

            John could stand in truth because he lived a life of praise to God. His glory was not his main concern, but the glory of Christ. He wanted Christ to be magnified in people’s lives. His outpouring of the glory of Christ fueled his own growth as well as Gaius. Our ability to stand transcends our own individuals walk with God. God places us in a body so we have other joints and ligaments working together so we may grow into maturity (Eph. 4:11-16). Is your greatest joy to hear that others in our church are walking in the truth?

 

Standing in the Truth in Support

After the greeting John continues to rejoice in how Gaius and the church are responding to traveling missionaries who have gone out for the name of Christ. 3 John 5-8,

Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

There are two main ways Gaius is supporting these missionaries. The first Gaius has welcomed strangers into his home. These traveling Christians came to Gaius needing a place to stay and Gaius opened his home. In the first century, inns were not very safe or godly places to stay. When Christians traveled, they depended upon the hospitality of the saints. People opened their homes.

            Two years ago, I made an announcement that we needed families to open their homes for college students over the summer. As I made the announcement, my son whispered to my wife, “I’ll give up my bed.” Praise God for a youthful zeal to obey the Lord Jesus. My son has given up his bed countless times for brothers and sisters who needed a place to stay. There are many others in the church who have done the same. I pray that Christian hospitality continues to be a mark of our congregation. We expressed a home of that hospitality in opening our doors to the homeless over the winter. If you have not heard the testimonies of the men who served the shelter, can I encourage you to go online and watch what God did in and through them.

            Besides opening his home, Gaius sent the missionaries out with financial and material resources to continue the mission. John commends that it is right and good to send missionaries out in a manner worthy of God. Think about those words!! We should send out people from our church on mission to the nations as if we were sending out Jesus Christ himself. How we treat others reflects how we love God. The reason we should send them out is because they are bringing the most important message in the world. They have gone out for the sake of the name.

            Friend, if you are here with us today and are not a follow of Jesus, let me explain what it means that they had gone out for the sake of the name. The Bible says in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” We read that verse we should ask, “Why do we need salvation?” The Bible teaches, and your own heart bears witness, that we are sinners. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our sin brings us under condemnation with God. Our sin blocks us from heaven’s perfection. We cannot earn our own salvation. We will never be justified or made right with God by what we do. This is why Luther stood up against the pope. Roman Catholicism believes that we can earn salvation through our works and receiving the sacraments. Luther saw that the Bible says, Romans 3:20,“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” When we realize God’s standard of perfection, it is very clear that we fall short of his glory. We need salvation by God from God.

            The reason the missionaries went out in John’s day was because they and we believe that there is salvation in no other name under heaven than Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth as a man. He lived a perfect life. He committed no sin. He was innocent. He perfectly lived for God’s glory, but was punished as sinner. He died as a substitute for all who would turn and trust in him. After his death for sinners, God raised Jesus from the dead. In the resurrection of Jesus, God the Father publicly declared that salvation is available through Christ. If anyone would turn from their sin and call upon Jesus Christ as Lord, they will be saved.

            This message was so great that people have been leaving their homes for 2,000 years with nothing to tell others about the name. 3 John 7, “For they have gone out for the sake of the name accepting nothing from the Gentiles.” Friend, if Jesus Christ isn’t God, why would thousands upon thousands upon thousands leave their families and friends with nothing but a message that says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Consider the history of Christian mission, but more importantly, I pray you consider the name and the person Jesus Christ. He came to seek and to save that which is lost. He came not for the healthy, but for the sick. He came not to be served, but to serve to give his life as a ransom for many.

            Beloved, if God has given us the only way of salvation, we ought to support people who go out for the sake of the name. What a joy and a privilege that God would send out our brothers and sisters with the gospel of Christ. When our brothers and sisters go to the nations through our prayers and our resources, we are fellow workers in the truth. We stand in the truth when we support the work of gospel proclamation here in our church and across the world.

 

Standing in the Truth in Submission

Not every person believed in supporting and welcoming those who have gone out for the name of Jesus. There were some that did not want to submit to the apostles teaching. 3 John 9-10,

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.  So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 

Diotrephes was not acknowledging the authority of the apostles, refusing to welcome fellow believers into the fellowship, hindering the ministry of others, and putting people out of the church. He was stifling the gospel ministry in the church. There are many reasons one could be doing these things, but notice John’s reason, Diotrephes, “likes to put himself first.”

            When we put ourselves first, the body of Christ suffers. How do you put yourself first? Love does not insist on its own way and its own preferences, but lays down its preferences for the sake of the body. The one who puts himself first is not putting Christ first.

One of the most disturbing trends in evangelicalism is a disregard for authority. Of course, there are and have been many abuses of pastoral authority which people have a right to speak against. That being said, the faithful church member should not be like Diotrephes who rejected the authority of the apostles, but one who humbly submits and followers their leaders. A rejection of authority has become a culture norm. Personal autonomy and one’s sovereign right over every decision they make dominates the western lanscape. Have you fallen to the spirit of the age and been infected by personal autonomy?

Authority has been given and instituted by God. Children submit to their parents’ authority, citizens submit to their governments authority, and church members submit to their elders’ authority. It may seem self-serving for an elder, like myself, to encourage submission, but God’s word is clear. Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.”

How are you responding to your leaders? Do you pray for them? Is your heart open to them (2 Cor 6:11-13)? Diotrephes hurt the church because he put himself first and did not submit to authority. I pray you will not follow his example, but stand in the truth.

 

Standing in the Truth in Imitation

John encourages his beloved friend to walk not in the way of Diotrephes, but to imitate good. He writes,

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.

Humans learn from imitation. Our children learn to talk and walk by following our examples. It is natural to become like who you follow. It is one of the reasons the Bible puts so much stock in the character of its leaders. Paul provides a pretty comprehensive list in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 on the character of elders and deacons. The reason is clear. The congregation is called to follow and imitate their leaders. It is daunting, yet natural. Imitation is a common theme in the word of God,

1 Corinthians 4:16 – “I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Ephesians 5:1 – “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Philippians 3:17 – “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us”. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 – “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” 2 Thessalonians 3:7 – “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,” 2 Thessalonians 3:9 – “It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.” Hebrews 6:12 – “so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 13:7 – “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

The biblical pattern is the church has godly (not perfect) leaders who love and follow Christ and reflect how to live and follow Him.

            Future elders and deacons, I pray you see the importance of living a godly life. Mothers and fathers, I pray you see the importance of living a godly life. Beloved, people will imitate our behavior so let our lives be full of Christ.

Ultimately, leader is simple one who follow the ultimate leader. Jesus Christ is our example. The goal of our lives is that we would be transformed into the image of the Son, mature in Him, lacking in nothing. We all know how to walk and live because Christ came and lived perfectly. And now, Christ lives in us by the power of his Spirit. Let us hold fast to what is good and right and reflect our great and glorious Savior. Let us stand as a reflection of him to our world.

 

Standing in the Truth in Intimacy

John closes his brief letter with showing his intimacy with Gaius and the rest of the church. He writes,

I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.

I love how John ends this letter. John desires to great friends each by name. Friendship is a powerful thing. John loved his dear friend Gaius. Gaius loved his dear friend John. I pray that we would have many dear friends in the life of the church. True friendship takes sacrifice. True friendship take time. True friendship is a gift from God.

One of the best ways to build and sustain friendship is around the table. Table fellowship is a wonderful picture of intimacy and closeness. Jesus said,

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:13-15)

Jesus laid down his life for his friends. He bled and died and rose again so we would have friendship with him. He died so we would be intimately connected with him. And now he continues to invite us into that friendship through table fellowship. He invites to his table.

Every time we come to the Lord’s table, we stand in the intimacy of Christ. We remember that Jesus laid down his life for us. He died that we may live. This meal is a meal for the friends of Christ. It is an open invitation for all who believe that there is salvation in no one else, for there is other name under heaven which men can be saved. All baptized believers who are members in good standing of a church of like faith and order are welcome to the table. If you have not accepted the friendship of Jesus Christ and salvation in his name, allow the bread and the cup to pass and as they pass I pray you would consider how much God offers you in the name of Jesus Christ. We all must stand for something, I pray you would stand behind Christ, for Christ and not against Christ. As we prepare the table, allow us to prepare our own hearts for this intimate table of friendship.

 

[1] http://www-personal.ksu.edu/~lyman/english233/Luther-Diet_of_Worms.htm accessed 4.29.17

[2] Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38, p. 239). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Member Profile - Jasmyn Acree

1.)    What is your vocation?

 I'm a student (soon to be graduate) at Winthrop. 

2.)    Tell us about your family:

 My family lives in my hometown of Walhalla, SC. My mom is a teacher and my step-dad owns his own business. I have a younger brother who is 17 and an older step-brother who is 25.

3.)    Who was the main human influence that lead you to a relationship with Christ?

 Honestly the biggest influence on my relationship with Christ has been the church and my community of friends. Coming to Park Baptist 2 years ago sparked the desire to grow in Christ and my friends constantly push me and sharpen me! 

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse?

 Romans 8:38-39 

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months?

The last 6 months have been full of God showing me his faithfulness. I've been blown away by how the Lord has provided for me in these past few months and it's just been a great reminder of His power and love for us. 

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you?

I guess something people don't know about me is that I once killed a bear with nothing but a small fishing hook and a bouncy ball. Just kidding. But I did hear a mountain lion one time while camping. 

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests?

 I'm in need of prayers as I go over seas this summer to Bulgaria. I've never been that far away from home and the language is so hard to pick up! So lots of prayers for this summer.

Member Profile - Steven Brazzells

1.)    What is your vocation? Steven: Technically I lead Ally Financial's Enterprise Data Governance team, but I really like working with good people and helping people visualize information. Rachel:Homemaker and fellow-discipler of our children

2.)    Tell us about your family:  Steven and I are both from Louisiana.  We met and became friends our freshman year in college in a Christian ministry on LSU's campus.  We started dating in 2002 and got married in 2004.  We now have 1 silly Chocolate Lab and 5 children, who each are a blessing and bring something unique and special to our family (except for the dog).  We enjoy being together:  creating, exploring, discovering, reading, working, learning, and playing.  We also have chickens and rabbits but we haven't named them all because we may end up eating some. One of our hens is named Wilson (Elisa named her before she fully understood they were girls).

3.)    Who was the main human influence that lead you to a relationship with Christ? Steven: My friend Andy in high school became a Christian and encouraged me to go to church with him.  I had nothing else to do on those Sunday and Wednesday nights any more because he was no longer available to play computer games over the modems (remember those things?)  I eventually heard the gospel enough and physically felt the pull of the Holy Spirit enough that I gave in, and because the walk. Rachel: My pawpaw was a major influence.  He embraced the Lord late in life after much searching, and he was very passionate about evangelism and deep study of the scriptures.  I spent a lot of time living life with and learning from him when I was younger.

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse?  Steven: Col. 1:15-17 "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."  This is my favorite scripture for most clearly describing Christ as God, and dispelling any questions to the contrary. Rachel: All of Rom 8, but particularly verses 28 through 39.

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months? Steven: Patience towards my children and the people I work with.  Rachel: Studying 1 John is deepening my understanding of abiding in Christ, going through some of "Total Truth" with Steven has helped further trust in God and His sovereignty, and then the 1689 Baptist Confession with others in small group at the Flucks has been so encouraging and helpful to have a greater understanding of God's overall mission and our part in it.

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you? Steven: Cooking gives me immediate joy, as well as shooting firearms.  One day I'll have to do both simultaneously. Rachel: My mom was born in San Salvador, El Salvador, and she moved to Louisiana when she was 3.  My paternal grandfather worked on some of the Apollo missions, as an aerospace engineer.

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests?  Steven: To show more grace and strength to my wife and kids.  Rachel: To find full satisfaction in Christ alone and to live out the plan and be the person God has created.

Walking in the Truth

“David, can we take a walk?” Those words caused my teenage heart to drop. My grandmother was staying with us for a few days as my parents were out of town and she only wanted to take a walk if something was wrong. And I knew exactly what she wanted to talk about. The day before I was home with some friends and a phone call came in for my dad. To make my friends and brother laugh, I pretended to be my father so I told this eager telemarketer to hold for one moment, before getting back on the phone in my deepest voice, “Doug Kiehn here.”

I did not know it was a telemarketer because I did not know what a telemarketer was or why she wanted to talk to my dad. She asked me to take a survey where I could win a set of Ginsu Knives. She asked me questions for 15 minutes, “Are you a Ford or a Chevy man?” “Chevy, I am like a rock?” The questions kept coming and I kept firing answers. My answers apparently won the knives, but it started getting serious when she wanted me to speak to her manager. I got nervous and made up an excuse for an abrupt departure. As I hung up the phone, I knew that I was going to regret that phone call.

            “David, can we take a walk?” My grandmother began, “I received a call today from a company that said one “Doug Kiehn had ordered some magazine subscriptions. And since your father was gone, I have a suspicion it was not your father who made the order. Apparently, your order was one of the biggest orders that they had ever received. You ordered $2,000 a month of magazines.” My heart sank even deeper into my chest. I knew I was it trouble. I was caught in the truth. My grandmother smiled and said, “I canceled the orders, but please do not pretend to be your father again.” My grandmother and I have laughed over that a few times. It was our walk in the truth.

            Walking in the truth is a great picture of the Christian life. A walk allows for conversation, contemplation and unhurried focus on the one you are with. My wife and I have always enjoying taking walks together. One of the reasons we love to walk is because it gave us time to talk and build our relationship together. We walk together. The Christian life is a walk in the truth with God. When we spend time with God in prayer, studying his word, or in obedience we build our relationship with him. When God calls us to follow him, he says, “Do you want to take a walk?” It is an invitation to a relationship with him. The Christian life is a walk. It is a lifelong journey to discover and live by the truth.

            The truth is the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the way to the Father. Our sin has blocked our way to the father. Each one of us has chosen to walk a different path. We all have walked in the way of the wicked. Our turning to our own way separated us from God and broke our fellowship with him. Have you ever had a friend break fellowship with you? Recently, someone told me how a close friend chose an organization over their friendship. In deciding whether to confront him, he said, “I don’t want friends in my life like that.” Translation, he did not want to walk through life as friends with someone who chose to allow an organization to become in the middle of their friendship.

We all have chosen to allow our own pride and selfishness to break our friendship with God. The Apostle James writes, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship of the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God?” (James 4:4) We all have chosen to walk with the world away from God. Which is the gospel is such good news! The Father reaches out to us through his only Son, Jesus, to invite us back in relationship with Him. Jesus came to walk for us. He walked with God. He lived a perfect life, but was punished as a sinner. He suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God. He became the way, the truth and the life. We now have a way to God. God invites us to walk with him.

We no longer have to walk alone. We no longer have to walk our own way. We now can walk with God through Jesus Christ because Jesus suffered, died, and was raised to new life. Jesus overcame the grave and ascended to the right hand of God and sends the Holy Spirit to all who walk with Him. God invites us to take a walk with him, but it is a walk in the truth. We must walk in the way in which Jesus walked. We must walk in the truth.

The Apostle John encourages believers to walk in the truth. He shares in his brief, “postcard” epistle 4 elements that will result when Christians walk in the truth.

 

Walking in the Truth brings Community

John is an old man and at the time of the writing of this epistle is probably the last living apostle. Everyone knew who he was so the simple title of, “the elder” was the only name needed to identify himself. He opens the letter, 2 John 1:1-3,

The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

John address the elect lady or the church, the bride of Christ, who live in truth and love. This letter weds those two essential elements of the faith together. One must walk in the truth. Truth being all the knowledge revealed to by the person and work of Jesus Christ. One also must love. It is not enough to merely know the truth, but one must walk by the truth in love. At the same time, one cannot merely love without the truth. We know how to love because of the truth.

            Walking in the truth creates community. John is writing to the elect lady and her children. He is writing to a community that has been formed by truth. The truth is not only for John but for all who know the truth because the truth abides in all true followers of Christ and the truth will abide and unite all followers forever. We are united not because we meet in the same geographical place every week, but because we have committed to walk in the truth and love together. God’s invitation to walk is never and invitation to walk alone, but to walk with community of the saints.

            The greatest thing that unites the church is the gospel of Christ. We all have experienced grace, mercy and peace. As Danny Akin notes,

Grace is God doing for us what we do not deserve, mercy is his not doing to us what we do deserve, and peace is God giving us what we need based upon his grace and mercy.[1]

The grace, mercy and peace of God brings us into God’s community. We are the gathering, the ekklesia, the called-out ones, the holy nation, the temple, the flock, the royal priesthood, and people of who walk in truth. The images of the church are always corporate because the truth will create community. Are you walking in the truth with others? Have you become a sheep in a flock; a brick in a building, a member of the body? If you have not joined a body, I invite you to walk with us. Walk with us as we walk with Christ.

 

Walking in the Truth brings Celebration

When people accept the invitation to walk with God, there is much celebration and joy. As John aged, we see his greatest joy was to see his children, the saints, walk in the truth. (3 John 1:4).

I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. (2 John 1:4-6)

John had received word that the saints were walking according to the truth. Notice again how John does not differentiate between obeying the truth and loving one another. Truth and love are always connected in the Bible. This is an essential element that must be recovered in our day.

            There is a false dichotomy that has developed with in the modern Western church. We have put truth against love and love against truth. There are churches who desire to be loving community by accepting people who live against the truth. And there are churches who desire to be about truth and are not very loving. The people of truth should always be loving. Love is obedience to God’s Word. It is unloving to allow people to remain in sin. And it is untruthful to allow people to be unloved. Truth and love should be connected. 1 John 4:10-11, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” We love because he first loved us. We love because God sent Jesus to die for us. For John, the gospel of the cross is the root and the fruit of love. Another way of saying it is, the gospel of truth springs from love and love is empowered by truth.

            We cannot allow the culture to dictate what is and is not loving. We must recapture a healthy balance of truth and love. One we can recover this balance is by rejoicing when we see people walking in truth. How? We affirm people’s obedience to Jesus. We shine a light when people walk according to the truth. Here are a few ways I have rejoiced in our body over the last week:

Kyle and Andy went to Ms. Helen’s house to cut down a tree for her. After they worked in her yard, they called and asked if they could put a sign up sheet in the back to offer their services to anyone who has work in their yard that they can’t complete themselves. I rejoice when the saints walk in the truth.

Rich needed a ride to the doctor and called Stephen to drive him to Charlotte. They spent the morning together talking about the word and church. I rejoice when the saints walk in the truth.

Robert and Heather organized and prepared a float in the Come See Me parade. Heather was intentional in inviting a cross-section of our church to reflect to the community. All who attended were greatly encouraged. I rejoice when the saints walk in the truth.

During our women’s fellowship event on Friday night, many of our women brought their daughters with them to further connect with to the church and to intentional disciple them. I rejoice when the saints walk in the truth.

Not to mention the Bible studies with our seniors on Tuesday morning and our college students on Tuesday night, our evangelism at Rock Hill High, our partnership with BCM, a friend asking for counsel, conversation with members on how to faithfully live for the Lord in the public schools, encouraging text message to press on in the ministry, visiting and praying for the homebound and so many other examples that I could share.

Beloved, rejoice when the saints walk in the truth. Celebrate how God is working in the lives of those around us.

 

Walking in the Truth brings Challenges

John rejoices when he sees the saints walking the truth because there is an adversary challenging truth. Truth is always under attack. It can be subtle deflection, “Did God actually say?” or it can be direct denial, “You will not surely die. For God knows…?” There are two imperatives in this letter and both deal with how the church should respond to false teachers. 2 John 7-11,

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

John defines the heresy as one who denies that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. There were some that were denying the “fleshiness” of the faith.

 Heresies fall in two general camps. They either question Jesus’ divinity or they question his humanity. John was addressing those who were denying the humanity of Christ. Jesus came in the flesh to redeem those of the flesh. One who denies the incarnation of Christ is a deceiver and follows the spirit of the antichrist. The command is in verse 8 when John writes, “Watch yourselves.” Notice he does not say watch others, but warns for one to watch out for themselves. There is a clear implication that we all have capacity to drift from the truth. The goal is not to walk with Christ for a time, but until the end. Well begun is not enough. We want to finish the race. We want to keep the faith. We want to walk with God forever.

      It appears that John is poking at the false teachers in verse 9 implying that those who go ahead or beyond the apostles teaching do not have God. The heresy of the Gnostic, which is probably in seed form when John wrote this letter, implies that salvation came through special knowledge separate from the written Word. We do not need a special secret knowledge, but we must abide in the teaching of the Father and the Son. We must remain in the gospel. We never move on from the gospel.

The first command is to watch out for false teaching and the second is to not participate with false teaching. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” John is not saying that you cannot have people into your home for discussion on the truth. It would be fine to invite a Mormon or a Jehovah’s witness into your home to discuss Christianity, but it would be against God’s word to support and affirm their teaching in any way. Christians were not to provide a place to stay or money to any false teachers in the area.

We must be very wise in who and how we partner with different organizations. There are many organizations and churches that desire to do good, but there is often an element in their teaching that denies Christ or how one is saved. We should read the fine print of what people believe. False teachers often dress in sheep’s clothing. They weaseled their way into people’s home and invited people to walk in the way of sinners.

One of the greatest ways to protect ourselves from heresy is to know the truth. Historically, churches and families practiced catechesis to protect the saints and their children from false teaching. Catechesis is a process of systematically walking through simple questions and answers to teach the faith. Question: “What is our only hope in life and death?” Answer: “That we are not our own, but belong both in body and soul, in life and death to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.”

Last year, I asked a group of pastors what they needed most in their churches, they all said, “We need our people to understand the basics of the faith.” Catechism would solve that problem. There are great resources out there that can help add your fight against heresy. And as a friend told me yesterday in a text, “Our kids deserve to be confident with the Word of God because I have little doubt that the day of testing for them will come from inside the church.” The dual natures of Christ, the propitiation of sins, the sufficiency of Scripture, a defense of the resurrection, the right understanding of the ordinances, church discipline and polity should all be understood. We should not leave complex theology to only the elders. We all should be equipped with the truth. There are some great resources out there that can help protect us from the inevitability of false teachers.

 

Walking in the Truth brings Completion

John had much to say to the church, but his goal was not mere written communication. John wanted to see the saints face to face so that their joy would be complete. He writes, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” (2 John 2:12) Face to face fellowship in the truth brings a completion of joy. John’s goal was the same as the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to see us face to face so that our joy may be complete. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully know.” (1 Cor 13:12) Beloved, we are looking forward to the day when we shall behold the face of Christ. I love songs that end with that hope. A song we often sing here, I Will Glory in My Redeemer, ends this way:

I will glory in my Redeemer / Who waits for me at gates of gold / And when He calls me, it will be paradise / His face forever to behold / I will glory in my Redeemer / Who waits for me at gates of gold / And when He calls me, it will be paradise / His face forever to behold / His face forever to behold.

There is coming day when we shall see Christ. And until that day God invites us to walk with him. Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” God invites you to come and walk with him. What great love!! God invites sinners to come and take the water of life without price.

            God calls us walk in love, but also calls us to walk in truth. John warns us about those who try to add or take away from the Bible. He writes in Revelation 22:18-20,

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 

Friend, walk in the truth. Walk in love. God invites you to come and walk with him,

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, / The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; / The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, / Even so, it is well with my soul.

Take joy, beloved. One day our joy will be complete. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

 

[1] Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38, p. 222). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Member Spotlight - Joe Greene

1.)    What is your vocation?  I am retired from the Rock Hill School System after 39 years.   I taught US history for much of that time and ended my career for the last 15 years working with the Gifted and Talented Program.

2.)    Tell us about your family:  I am the youngest of five.  Only my sister and I are remaining but I have several nieces and nephews and many friends that I consider family.

3.)    Who was the main human influence that lead you to a relationship with Christ?  My mother.  I was brought to Park Church by my parents since I was an infant. 

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse? Matthew 25:35-36: " For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came and visited me."  I am proud to be part of a Christian community who heard these words and have acted upon them.   I feel strongly that this is our mission as Christians. 

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months?  With the death of my brother and other family members in the last few months I am learning that I am not alone and that there is comfort in His presence. 

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you?  I spent one summer in China and one in Indonesia studying under a Fulbright Scholarship.   I focused on social rites and rituals attending weddings and burials and other issues of their society. 

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests?   That grace and mercy be poured down upon those who are hungry and who are homeless and who are abused.  

Abiding in the Knowledge of the Resurrection

There is a rite of passage for fifteen-year-olds in the United States of America. These aspiring young men and women are allowed the precious gift of a driver’s learning permit. It is a terrifying and an exhilarating experience for a family. I remember teaching a teenager to drive a few years ago. We got into my car and she looked at me and said, “Which one is the brake again?” I realized she did not have the necessary knowledge to get behind the wheel. We had a long way to go before she was ready to take the wheel. One of the most important and yet often rarely taught pieces of knowledge is car maintenance.

Every new driver needs to understand the importance of regularly changing the oil in their car. Oil is the lifeblood of an engine. The oil lubricates the engine maximizing its efficiency and allowing the car to run smoothly. If the oil is not changed regularly, the engine will eventually shut down. Of course, the car will work for a while before any problems are seen. Fuel costs will start to increase as the engine has to work harder. There will begin to be odd noises and the car will become sluggish. Eventually, if one does not abide in the knowledge of regular oil changes, the engine will die. It is only a matter of time.

            As oil is an engine, the abiding knowledge of God is essential for our spiritual vitality. We may be able to run a long term without abiding with God, but eventually our spiritual engine will shut down. We must abide in the knowledge of God. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ provides essential knowledge which we must live our lives by. If we do not abide in the knowledge of the resurrection, we will eventually shut down. Amos 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” In Apostle John’s first epistle to the church, he exhorts the church to abide in the knowledge of Christ. Almost half of the uses of the abide in the New Testament, are used in the book of 1 John. Abide means to remain, stay with or continue. John encourages the people to remain in the knowledge of the gospel. To remain or abide is not some mystical idea, but to govern one’s life on the knowledge of God. A car owner should abide in the knowledge of the importance of oil changes as a Christian should abide in the knowledge of the resurrection of Christ. There are five aspects of knowledge that John encourages the church to abide in through his epistle.

 

Abide in the Knowledge that the Resurrection Shows Eternal Light

One of the key themes in 1 John is the use of light and darkness. The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows that He is the divine light of the world. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) God manifested his light through the Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him, and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” Again in 1 John 1:7, “But 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.” Later, in 1 John 2:7, “At the same time, a new commandment I give to you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” In the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Son, we know that Jesus Christ is the eternal light of the world.

            Jesus being the light of the world always gives us a clear example of which to follow. If we are ever confused on how to live, all we must do is look to Christ. How much confusion could be avoided if we simply looked to Christ? Without light, we cannot know where to go. Have you ever had to get up early and didn’t want to wake anyone in the house up so while you tried to get ready in the dark? It may work once or even twice, but eventually you are going to hurt yourself. We need light. We cannot properly function in the darkness. The light of Jesus shows us how to live, but it does not show us merely how to live, but how to live eternally. “Jesus is the true God and eternal life.” 1 John 5:20

 

Abide in the Knowledge that the Resurrection Supplies Eternal Life

We must also abide in the knowledge that God sent the Son to supply us eternal life. Jesus was sent to save us. 1 John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin, but if anyone does sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, but not ours only, but the sins of the whole world.” Again in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. And later in 1 John 4:14, “We have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the World.

            We are sinners and sinners have no claim on eternal life. Our sin has separated us from God. Our sin deserves to be punished and must be punished if God is just. All human beings are under God’s wrath. And yet, the Father sent the Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Propitiation means an atoning sacrifice or an act of appeasement to God. God anger is appeased or satisfied or placated. God’s anger no longer rests on us because it was taken on by Christ. The act of propitiation changes God from being at enmity with us to being for us[1]. We have moved from an enemy to a beloved child. The Son is the Savior of sinners by being numbered as a sinner for our salvation.

In World War 2, Ernest Gordon was a British captive in a Japanese prison camp by the River Kwai in Burma, where the POWs were forced to build a 'railroad of death' for transporting Japanese troops to the battlefront. They were tortured, starved, and worked to the point of exhaustion. Nearly 16,000 died.

 

Gordon survived the horrors of that experience and wrote about….one occasion when, at the end of a workday, the tools were being counted before the prisoners returned to their quarters. A guard declared that a shovel was missing. He began to rant and rave, demanding to know which prisoner had stolen it. Working himself into a paranoid fury, he ordered whoever was guilty to step forward and take his punishment. No one did. 'All die!' the guard shrieked. 'All die!" He cocked his rifle and aimed it at the prisoners. At that moment, one man stepped forward. Standing at attention he calmly declared, 'I did it.’ The Japanese guard at once clubbed the man to death. As his friends carried away his lifeless body, the shovels in the tool shed were recounted--only to reveal that there was no missing shovel.[2]

 

The men survived because the guard’s wrath was appeased. The soldier became the propitiation that moves satisfied the guard’s anger to the rest could go free. The reason we have hope this morning because there was a death sentence against us. The sentence was clear, “All die.” Unlike the guard, who had no basis for his anger, God was perfectly just in his sentence. God chose to send his Son as our Advocate and say, “I did it,” taking the place of those who deserved to die. Jesus Christ stepped forward and gave up his life to satisfy God’s wrath and to save us. God has supplied eternal life through the Son.   

The Father sent Jesus to save us and now Jesus sends us to help save us. John 20:21, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” You abide in the knowledge of the resurrection when you savor the sacrifice of Christ and share him with others. If you never share Jesus, how can others have fellowship with us? “that which we have seen, and heard, we proclaim also to you so that you may have fellowship with us and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3) When was the last time you proclaimed the eternal life so that others may have forgiveness of sin and fellowship with Father through the Son?

 

Abide in the Knowledge that the Resurrection Secures Eternal Life

Jesus Christ did not only supply the means of eternal life with his death, but secured it in his resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is the promise of our future resurrection. Romans 8:29 says that Jesus, “was the firstborn among many brothers.” Jesus secured our eternal life in his resurrection from the dead. Paul later writes in 1 Corinthians, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” Jesus was the first, but there shall be others.

            The goal of 1 John is so that we would know that we have eternal life. 1 John 5:11-13, “And this is the testimony, God gave us eternal life, and this life is in the Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I am writing these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know you have eternal life.” The resurrection proved that Jesus was the Son of God. His resurrection is now proof for us that we will also have life. What a sweet and sure hope!

            Do you ever doubt that you are saved? Do you ever wonder if God’s resurrection power is applied to you? Beloved, you are not alone. This letter was written to comfort and encourage a people who doubted the goodness and power of God in salvation. 1 John 2:12-14,

 

I am writing to you little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. I am writing to you fathers because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I am writing to you children because you know the father. I am writing to you fathers because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you young men, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

There are so many places in this short letter where John reminds the people of the victory they have in Christ. Abide in the knowledge of our victory in Christ,

1 John 2:20, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” 1 John 2:24-25, “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.” 1 John 4:4, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 5:4-5, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:20, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”

 

            Do not let condemnation govern your life. For there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We live in the sure hope of our future resurrection.

 

Abide in the Knowledge that the Resurrection Supplies Eternal Living

The people of God should look different than the world. We show our faith through our deeds. As Calvin said, “It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone.[3]” Christians have always been marked by righteousness. “Whoever says they abide in Christ, ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:6) If Jesus is our example and our teacher, we should desire to live a life like him. Our lives are a clear sign if we belong to God. John speaks of believers walking in the light as Jesus is in the light. He speaks of believers practicing righteousness as Jesus is righteous.

            After my wife came to the Lord, the first passage of Scripture I encouraged her to memorized was 1 John 2:15-17. It was an important paragraph in 2003 and maybe even more so today,

 

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. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

 

            It is piercing passage of Scripture that provides a powerful perspective. The church of the living God should not look like the world, but should reflect the love of the Father. And sadly, more and more churches are desiring to become like world to reach the world. Friends, we are called to reach the world through the our good works and God’s good word. Let us never try to win the world through worldly means for world is temporary, but we who do the will of God will abide forever.

John increases the weight of his exhortation to godliness in the main body of the letter. His longest explicit admonishment is in 1 John 3:4-10,

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

 

Notice how John both gives words of encouragement to the saints and warning to those are not living up to their faith. The one who practices righteousness (right living) should have confidence he belongs to God. The one who makes a practice of sinning should have no confidence before God. They should have no security of their eternal life. The one who has been born again lives in righteous.

This does not mean we will never fall to sin, because even as we heard earlier, we are all sinners and have an Advocate before the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. We do not rest in our righteousness but in the righteousness of Christ. And yet, our lives should look more like Jesus than less like him. “And now little children, abide in him so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink back in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” (1 John 2:28-29)

Fifty years ago, this Easter, one of our faithful members repented of her sins and trust in Christ as her Savior. She has never regretted that decision since. Maybe you need to draw a line in the sand today. Maybe you need to turn from your sins and trust in Christ to save you. Who knows, maybe fifty years from now you will think back to today when Christ changed your life forever. Friend, do not be deceived. Followers of Christ will look like Christ.

Come to the light. If you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Do not stay in darkness. Come to the light. Everyone who trusts in Jesus purifies himself as he is pure. Allow Jesus to cleanse you from all your sin. The Father sent the Son to satisfy his wrath and to fill your need. Come to the light.

Beloved, if you are striving to live righteously, take comfort today that the Lord is pleased with you. There are always days that we can live better, but we should not always live feeling like we do nothing right. God is pleased when we keep his commandments. God is pleased when we live to please him. This side of heaven our good deeds will never be perfect, but that does not mean God is not pleased with us. Take heart, you are God’s children. You belong to him and he loves you.

 

Abide in the Knowledge that the Resurrection Shapes Eternal Love

Lastly, we abide in the knowledge of the resurrection when we love our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we are born of God, we will love with his eternal love. Our love should no longer be marked by self-interest and self-glorification, but self-sacrifice. There is no book in the New Testament that is so focused on loving the family of God. It is powerful reminder of what God has done for us in Christ. Jesus died on the cross, was buried, was raised from the dead, seated on the right hand of God, and sent his Spirit so that we can live through him. When we love our brothers and sisters in the faith, we are manifesting his love to the world. Hear the Elder John’s exhortation to love each other,

1 John 2:10, “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 1 John 3:11, “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” 1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.” 1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1 John 3:23, “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

The sheer volume of exhortations to love one another is so striking when you read the book in one sitting. The most concentration paragraph is 1 John 4:7-12,

 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 

 

Love is a badge of the redeemed. As love identifies the saints, hate is a marker of the world. John warns of the hate towards the brothers almost as much as he encourages love. One of the clearest warning he makes is referring to those who leave the fellowship of the saints as those who are anti-Christs. 1 John 2:18-19,

 

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 

 

            It would have been shocking to John for someone to say they had fellowship with Jesus and not gather with the saints. The communion with the saints was a mark of having communion with God.

            Praise God for how often I have witnessed the eternal love of God through how you care for each other. How you sacrifice time with your families to visit the sick. How you open your homes to fellowship around the Word of God. How you wake up early and stay up late to study the Bible together. How you pray tirelessly for each other. How you check up on each other when we are gone. How you love to spend time together after services talking about what God is doing with each other. How often I hear of you sharing meals together. I pray that we would be known more and more for how we love one another.

            Abiding in the knowledge of the resurrection is essential for our spiritual lives. Beholding and marveling at the beauty of gospel of the glorious resurrection of the Savior is something we do not do once a year, but every day. We must grow closer to Christ. Puritan John Flavel writes of how abiding Christ only magnifies his beauty,

When the saints shall have fed their eyes upon [Christ] in heaven, thousands and millions of years, he shall be as fresh, beautiful, and orient as at the beginning. Others beauties have their prime, and their fading time; but Christ abides eternally. Our delight in creatures is often most at first acquaintance; when we come nearer to them, and see more of them, the edge of our delight is abated: but the longer you know Christ, and the nearer you come to him, still the more do you see of his glory. Every farther prospect of Christ entertains the mind with a fresh delight. He is as it were a new Christ everyday, and yet the same Christ still.[4]

 

Beloved, we never outgrow our need for Christ but his beauty only widens and deepens in time.[5] Let us abide with him because He is our Light, our Love, the true God, our eternal life, our propitiation and the Savior of the world. Behold all the many angles of Christ and feast on His majesty.

 

[1] RC Sproul, What do expiation and Propitiation mean? http://www.ligonier.org/blog/two-important-words-good-friday-expiation-and-propitiation/ accessed 4.15.17

[2] http://sermons.logos.com/submissions/119200-All-Die-#content=/submissions/119200

[3] John Calvin's Antidote to the Council of Trent (1547). Answering Cannon 11 of the Council of Trent.

[4] Flavel, J. (1820). The Whole Works of the Reverend John Flavel (Vol. 1, p. 270). London; Edinburgh; Dublin: W. Baynes and Son; Waugh and Innes; M. Keene.

[5] Modified quote from Spurgeon.

Are we ever too Far Gone?

On June 14, 2013 the US Department of Justice charged Edward Snowden with two counts of violating the Espionage Act and for stealing classified documents. Snowden took thousands of classified documents while working for an NSA contract and leaked those documents to various media outlets. Some have viewed his theft and leaking classified documents as heroically exposing the reach of the United States government. While some praise him for his exposure, others view him as a traitor who should be punished up to the full extent of the law. Snowden has been given asylum by Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. As of today, he is not welcomed to return to the United States without facing severe criminal charges.

            Edward Snowden’s case has sparked national and worldwide debate on mass surveillance and government secrecy, but it has also sparked a worldwide debate of forgiveness. Should Edward Snowden be pardoned for his crimes? Should he be allowed to return to the United States? Or are his crimes so egregious and such a violation of the US government that he should be banned for life? It is easy for us to debate Snowden’s case, because we are detached from his crimes. It would be harder to discuss with any sort of objectivity if someone’s crimes were against us. When my wife reported for jury duty, she was asked if she or if anyone she knew had been a victim of a crime. She answered yes and was immediately dismissed from the jury. The lawyers did not feel that she would have been able to have been objective in trying the case.

            When others sin against us, it is hard to keep our objectivity. We are embodied souls so our emotions affect our judgment. When we experience awful sin against us, it is very difficult to forgive. And usually when we are sinned against, the last thing we want to do is to be around the person who has hurt us. We do not want them to return to us, but we want them to be punished. It is much easier to break the relationship and move on, than to open one’s arms and to invite them to return to us. But what if you are the sinner? What if you are the one who has wronged someone else? Maybe you are the person who feels that your sin is so bad that no one could love you and no one would want you back? Maybe you have felt that way in your relationship with God?

            We know from the Bible that all sin is ultimately against God. David says after he sinned with Bathsheba and against Uriah,

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. (Psalm 51:3-4)

Our sin is ultimately against God. And maybe we feel that our sin is so bad in the eyes of God that He doesn’t want us. And maybe this is how Christians feel after falling back into certain sins that they thought they had long conquered. Do we ever get to a point when God no longer wants us back? And how should sinners repent?

            We turn to answer this question from the longest Minor Prophet Zechariah. Zechariah is not only the longest Minor Prophet, but is probably the most difficult one to easily comprehend. Zechariah began his prophecy in the fall of 520 B.C. Zechariah 1:1, “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo.” As we have seen in all these Minor Prophets, Zechariah was the spokesman, but the prophetic word came from the Lord. The Lord gives a very sweet and precious word to His people.

 

Sinners Repent in Submission to the Sovereign Lord

Zechariah opens his prophecy with the anger of the Lord against his people. Zechariah 1:2-6,

The LORD was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, Thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the LORD. Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented and said, ‘As the LORD of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.’

 

The Lord looks at His sinful and rebellious people and says, “Return to me.” Think of how encouraging it was to hear those precious words from God. They had rejected God and lost their homeland in Jerusalem. The temple was destroyed and they were carried into exile. How many times did they think sitting in pagan Babylon that they were too far gone? God would never want us back. And yet, God said, “Return to me.”

            We should follow the Lord’s example in calling sinners back to God and to His people. There are some people who believe that because of their past sins that they will never be welcomed back into the body of Christ. They feel that no one would want them to be part of the community. And we as God’s people must say to them “Return to us.” All repentant sinners are welcome in the body of Christ. We all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. God has called to us return to Him, but that does not mean He expects us to stay the same. He expects us to return to Him and in our returning to Him we will be turning away from other things. The call of God is leave everything and follow Him. The only thing that excludes us from the body of Christ is a lack of repentance. Repentance is the road that should always lead to restoration and reconciliation to God and His people.

            After this first invitation, Zechariah shares 8 different visions. The ESV breaks down these visions as follows:

A Vision of a Horseman 1:7-17, A Vision of Horns and Craftsman 1:18-21, A Vision of a Man with a Measuring Unit 2:1-13, A Vision of Joshua and the High Priest 3:1-10, A Vision of the Golden Lampstand 4:1-14, A Vision of the Flying Scroll 5:1-4, A Vision of a Woman in a Basket 5:5-11, A Vision of Four Chariots 6:1-8

The visions can be confusing, but all of them point to the peaceful rule of the Messiah. As Mark Dever notes, “The eight visions present a picture of the whole world at peace under the rule of God’s anointed priest and king.[i]” It is looking ahead to the worldwide peace that will come ultimately through Christ.

            We know from the book of Hebrews that Jesus Christ is both the King coming from the tribe of Judah and the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was both king and priest providing a shadow to the reality of the future Messianic King and Priest. Jesus Christ became our high priest through His own blood and was crowned with honor and majesty seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High. The only way that people would be able to return to God is the promise fulfilled in Christ. He has made peace with God through His blood for all that would repent of their sin and trust in God.

The visions may be confusing, but their aim is clear. Their aim is to give the people hope that God wants them to return to Him as they await His promised salvation through the promised Messiah, the coming Priest-King. And how sweet that promise is!!! God has promised us forgiveness in the Messiah if we repent and return to Him. So whoever returns to God in faith receives the blessing of the promise: forgiveness from sin and full redemption into God’s family as adopted sons and daughters of God.

 

Sinners Repent in Submission to the Sovereign Word

After the visions, Zechariah gives two sermons to the people. The first sermon is a reflection and interpretation on why the Jews were brought into exile and the second sermon looks ahead to the future deliverance that God will give His people. The reason God sent the people into exile was they rejected His Word. Zechariah 7:8-13,

And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts. “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the LORD of hosts. (Zechariah 7:8-13)

They refused to pay attention to God’s Word, but chose to live their own way. And because they did not listen to God when He called, He did not listen to them when they called.

            A new study conducted by lifeway research discovered how Americans view the Bible:

About half of Americans (48 percent) believe the Bible is the Word of God. Four in 10 (43 percent) say the Bible is 100 percent accurate, while a similar share of Americans (41 percent) say it’s helpful but not literally true. Evangelicals (76 percent) and Black Protestants (67 percent) are most likely to say the Bible is accurate. Mainline Protestants (50 percent) and Catholics (49 percent) lean toward the Bible being helpful but not literally true.[ii]

One out of two people do not believe the Bible is the Word of God. People may believe it is helpful, but not completely true. If people do not believe the Bible to be true, they why would they want to follow it? And if they do not want to follow it, they may end up under the condemnation of God like the Jews who refused to pay attention to His Word. How are you hearing and responding to God’s Word? Are you refusing to pay attention to God? Do you believe it is true or only helpful for life? God wants us to return to Him through His Word.

            The second sermon is how God plans to deal with his people as they move back from exile and to give them a glimpse of his coming peace. Zechariah 8:11-13,

But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, declares the LORD of hosts. For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong.” (Zechariah 8:11-13)

The people were not too far gone. God will make His people who had become a curse word among the nations, a blessing to all the nations of the earth. God promises that He will save them and He will make them a blessing. And yet, He still expects them to live differently than before, Zechariah 8:14-17,

For thus says the Lord of hosts: “As I purposed to bring disaster to you when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the Lord of hosts, so again have I purposed in these days to bring good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not. These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD…. Therefore, love truth and peace.” (Zechariah 8:14-17;20)

God’s people are called to live unto Him. Their character reflects the character of God.

            The Israelites were sent to exile because of their sin. They did not obey God’s Word, but now as they have returned from exile they were called to remove their former manner of life and live in the Spirit. This is an Old Testament picture of the New Testament principle of “putting off the old and putting on the new.” Paul writes in Ephesians 4:20-25,

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 

The community of believers should always reflect our relationship with Christ. We have put off the old life and on the new. Sinners demonstrate their repentance in pursuing the new life of the Spirit. The new life of the Spirit is a heaven-like community of believers living in and for the glory of the Lord. Our submission to Christ is never only personal, but always corporate.

            In the return to Jerusalem, Israel had another opportunity to be a light to the nations. God has now given that opportunity to the church. Beloved, let the world see how we love each other and how we speak the truth in that love to one another so that they may glorify the Father through Son in the power of the Spirit.

Sinners Repent in Submission to the Sovereign Shepherd

The last 5 chapters of Zechariah (9-14) speak about the promised Warrior King who was coming to deliver His people. We see this King will enter Jerusalem mounted on a donkey,

 

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)

 

This prophecy is clearly fulfilled as Jesus triumphantly enters into Jerusalem as the Blessed King who comes in the name of the Lord.

            We also see Jesus fulfilling another prophecy from Zechariah. This one is not of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but of His triumphal victory over death. Zechariah 12:10,

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)

 

The Apostle John quotes this passage at the end of the crucifixion of Jesus. John 19:33-37,

But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

God’s Word interprets God’s Word for us. Zechariah was prophesying of the Christ. Now look again at this prophecy and notice the verb tenses, “When they look (present tense), on him whom they have pierced (past tense).” The Messiah was one whom they had pierced implying that He died, but they were looking on Him, after he was pierced, as if he was alive. If we read it carefully, we can see they were looking forward to a day when the Messiah, would be pierced and die, and then rise again. And because the Warrior King would be pierced and raised, God can say in Zechariah 12:7-8,

And the LORD will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah. On that day the LORD will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, going before them.

 The Lord will give salvation and that salvation only comes to us through the Christ.

            The people of Israel rejected God’s Word, defied his decrees, experienced punishment, and yet, God still saves. He will give salvation to repentant sinners. He can give salvation because He sent His Son to be pierced and rise again. The cross answers our question. We are never too far gone. God always wants us back. He wants us so much that He was willing to die for us. God wants us. Jesus came for sinners.

            The prodigal son was starving and alone sitting in a pig pen when he decided to return to his father. He had squandered his inheritance and turned his back on his father. He committed all sorts of grievous and disgusting sin. He had little hope to be accepted as a servant let alone a son. The Bible says that he “came to himself,” meaning that finally realized how he sinned against God. Imagine that long walk from a foreign land and all the things he ran through his head. I am sure there would have been moments that he wanted to turn around, but he came returning home. And in Luke 15:20, we see the heart of God,

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:20-24)

You, like this sinful son, is never too far gone for the sinless Son has made a way for you to come home. God delights when sinners return to him. All sinners are welcome with the Father, if and only if, the come through the Good Shepherd. Jesus laid down his life for the sheep to show the Father’s heart towards sinners.

            Beloved, it is a gracious gift of God that he calls sinners to come to him. We have often turned our back on God, but he calls us to return to him.

 

Return to Me

Do you feel the weight of sin,

Guilt loaded down within?

Do you think I want you no more,

That your sin has finally closed the door?

Return to me, my wayward son

Return to me, thy sin is done.

 

For my Son was pierced and raised,

The Priest King to be praised.

Do not let the tempter accuse to tears,

The tomb is empty, conquering all fears.

Return to me, my wayward son,

Return to me, thy sin is done.

 

Be overcome no more with shame,

For Another came to take your blame.

God will freely welcome you back,

Turn to Christ who fills your lack.

Return to me, thy wayward son,

Return to me, thy sin is done.

 

Repent, return to your Priest King,

 Turn from your all sin and sing.

Sing of the Lamb who was slain,

Who was Worthy to take all thy pain.

Return to me thy wayward son,

Return to me, thy sin is done.

Beloved, the cross of Christ shows God’s love for sinners. Let us turn from our sin and live as true, faithful sons and daughters of our Priest-King.  

 

[i] Dever, Mark. Promises Made: The Message of the Old Testament. Pg. 908

[ii] http://www.lifewayresearch.com/2014/10/28/americans-believe-in-heaven-hell-and-a-little-bit-of-heresy/ accessed on 10.29.14

Member Spotlight - Landreths

Adam and Ellen Landreth (Adeline & Lorelai-coming soon)
 

1.)    What is your vocation? Adam:I'm the Director of Online Programs for the Bryan School of Business & Economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Ellen: I am a stay at home momma to Adeline, our one year old. I also keep two sweet kids during the week.

2.)    Tell us about your family: Ellen is born and raised in Rock Hill---Adam is a transplant from the Winston Salem, NC area.  He moved here for love in 2014 after we met on Christian Mingle (yes--it does work!).  We're growing! Adeline is 13 months old and Lorelai is due to join us on June 30th, 2017.  We have two standard poodles, Zoey and Chloe.  

3.)    Who was the main human influence that lead you to a relationship with Christ? Adam:My old youth pastor, Tim Hicks, during my 20+ years at Gospel Light Baptist Church in Walkertown, NC. Ellen: My parents were them main influences in my life growing up. Taking us to church regularly, teaching in Bible drill, and and instilling Christian values in our lives. I also grew up swing my mom read her bible in the mornings, which also had a big impact on me.

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse(s)? Adam: Matthew 5:16, Nahum 1:7, Psalm 37:4 Ellen: The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zeph 3:17

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months?Adam:Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust, reliance, and acknowledgement of Him. Ellen: God has been revealing more ways that I am in need of following Him. Through more consistent Bible study and fellowship with a couple friends as we walk through scripture together, God is reminding me of His grace and love in my weaknesses. 

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you? Adam: I love to cook.  The kitchen is my favorite room in the house.  I own Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and read it for fun...but I could eat pizza and sushi for nearly every meal and be perfectly content.  I've traveled to about 25 countries and think Filipino food is a way underappreciated Asian cuisine. Ellen: I was born with 3 kidneys. But I'm perfectly normal now! 

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests? Adam: For Ellen in her last couple months of pregnancy and my brother's salvation.Ellen: That God would give us wisdom as we raise Adeline and soon Lorelai. That we will show them the love of our Lord in everything we do and they'll come to know Him as their personal Lord and Savior. 

Member Spotlight - Shellenbergers

Bobby and Jennie Shellenberger

1.)    What is your vocation?

        Bobby:  I am a 9th grade math teacher at Rock Hill High School

        Jennie: I am a stay at home mom.

2.)    Tell us about your family:

         We are a family of 6 kids (Tess is 11, Timothy is 10, Taralyn is 7, Toby is 5, Tori is 3, and Titus is 1), 4 chickens, 1 parakeet, and 1 bearded dragon. In other words, a zoo.

3.)    Who was the main human influence that lead you to a relationship with Christ?

        Bobby:  My youth pastor, Mark Nicholson, had the greatest impact upon me. He walked the words he preached to us youth, and mentored me.

        Jennie:  My parents were the greatest Christian influence on me as a child. Through their faithfulness, I became a believer at 12 years old.

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse?

        Bobby: Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

        Jennie: Hosea 2:21-23"And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, 'You are my people'; and he shall say, 'You are my God.'"

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months?

         Bobby: The Lord has been teaching me that the Christian life is much more than just having correct beliefs.  It is also about having strong, true affections for the Lord.

         Jennie:  So much! That I must rest in Him when parenting these children He has given us. That I must start my day with my focus upon Him and His Word. That I am nothing in this grand scheme, and He is everything. Now... putting all that into practice is a whole other story. But I am a work in progress, degree by degree (2 Corinthians 3:18).  

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you?

         Bobby:  In high school I drove a white 1976 Ford Granada. My nickname for it was "The Ford Countach".

          Jennie:  Before I was married and had kids, I was quite the adventurer: legit mountain biking, white water rafting, rock climbing, bridge rappelling, kayaking, biked down Pikes Peak in Colorado, camping in the snow, and more. Now, I have a near heart attack if the kids jump off the 4th step in the house or don't have their helmets on while riding their tricycles around the sidewalk. What has happened to me?! 

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests?

        Pray that we as parents will have wisdom in teaching, and displaying for our kids what it means to follow Christ and love him.

Can Opinions be Wrong?

During my second year of marriage I cut my hand while during the dishes. I was not paying attention at my task, because I was angry at my wife. She disagreed with one of my opinions and I was quietly stewed while I was doing the dishes. The gash from the kitchen knife was right on my knuckle and required me to go to the emergency room for stiches. Instead of being humble enough to admit that not everyone had to agree with my opinions, I was angry that my beloved wife had the audacity to consider one of my opinions wrong. I no longer remember which opinion she disagreed with, but I do remember learning the painful importance of the pride in my heart and my need for humility.

            As I was sitting in the emergency room at George Washington hospital, I remember thinking how foolish I was to think that only my opinions mattered. When I went back to get stitched up, I struck up a conversation about God with my nurse. She told me that she did not like to talk about issues of faith, because she believed it was a personal matter. Yet the interesting thing was after she made the disclaimer that faith was personal, she started to talk about her own views of faith. Her faith could not have been characterized by any one recognizable faith, but rather it was the common view of spirituality where it was impossible to disagree. Her faith was her opinion and therefore she believed no one had a right to challenger her.

            Many individuals hold a view of personal faith which they believe can never be challenged. They say, “It’s just my opinion.” Personal autonomy is the idol of our age.  In a January 2, 2012 article Mike Gershon says,

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion" – a refrain commonly heard in our society. We value free speech and the rights of the individual. The private preferences we keep, as long as they do not interfere with the rights and freedoms of others, are ours to do with as we wish. Children learn this central tenet early on and soon become adept at deploying it to suit their own purposes. The phrase "well it's just my opinion" can act as a get-out clause which avoids further questioning or the need to give an explanation. A student, when faced with the prospect of concerted thinking, may well prefer to put up a brick wall and so dodge the difficult task of providing a justification for their perspective. They know the sacred position freedom of speech holds for all of us; they know how to confound a questioner by calling this keystone to their defense; and they know the taboo around challenging the opinions of others when they do not impact adversely on anyone else.[i]

People no longer are thoughtful or consider the various arguments related to an issue, but simply have to spout, “It’s just my opinion,” for no politically correct sane 21st century mind would dare say their opinion was wrong.

            Can opinions be wrong? Does the simple fact that individuals can make statements mean that they are true? Another possible way to formulate the question is to say, “Is there truth?” If opinions can be wrong, they must be wrong based on what is right. In an effort to accept everyone’s opinion, we have lost the ability to articulate the justification for our opinions. On April 8th, 1966, Time Magazine ran the iconic cover, “Is God Dead?” The cover sent shockwaves throughout the nation because at the time 97% of Americans believed in God. The cover proved to be prophetic as America has arrived in secular “Godless” age. On April 3rd, 2017, Time reprised their iconic cover with the words, “Is Truth Dead?” Many scholars say we live in a post-truth era following the postmodern age fueled by a secular academic elite. Postmodernism is a movement that intellectually presented the argument that either objective truth does not exist or that it is unknowable[1]. After questioning objective truth for years, modern scholars are becoming honest that a world without truth is impossible. By asking the question, “Is truth dead?” they are admitting the very importance of truth. People may state, “It’s just my opinion,” implying no one has the right to judge their views, but truth is not dead and the God of truth will judge every opinion of man.

We will answer this question regarding truth through the last book in the Old Testament, the prophet of Malachi. Malachi prophesied after the return from Babylon and after the temple had been completed under the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah. Several years following Zechariah, the devotion to God started to wane so God spoke to His people through Malachi, which simply means “messenger.” God spoke through Malachi to show the people that their opinions were wrong. They were not living in truth. God helped expose and correct the people’s wrong opinions about the world. I pray that as we study God’s Word spoken through Malachi, our wrong opinions would be exposed and corrected.

 

A Wrong Opinion of God

Malachi begins his prophecy exposing the false truth that the people had about God. Malachi 1:2-5,

“I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob's brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”

The people did not see the Lord’s love for them. The Lord declared that He has loved them, but they are saying, “How have you loved us?” The Lord uses questions like these to show how their opinions were wrong and oblivious they were to the truth. Just because the people were saying that the Lord had not demonstrated His love, did not make their words true. The Lord clearly had loved them, but tells them that in the future they shall see with their own eyes and say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”

            The Bible believes in truth. God is the arbiter of what is true and what is false. One’s opinion of God is only true if it is proven in God’s Word. As Israel was corrected with a false view of God, we also should help challenge people to justify their opinions. As much as we hate to admit it, human beings are not the center of the universe. There is only One who is always true. Romans 3:4,

Let God be true though everyone were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

God is right and will be justified with His words. A wrong opinion of God will lead people to wrong opinions of a host of other issues.

 

A Wrong Opinion of Worship

As the nation did not understand God’s gracious and merciful love, they did not value the appropriate worship of God. God cares how his people approach him. The people were bringing sick and lame animals for the sacrifices. Instead of bringing their best animals, pure and unblemished, they were bringing the leftovers to God’s House. Malachi 1:6-8,

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD's table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1:6-8)

No one would enter the president’s house with a half-eaten snickers bar as a gift. When one enters a house of an honored and respected leader, one brings their best. The people were not bringing their best, showing their lack of honor and respect for God. They effort in worship revealed that they did not value Him. 

            We do not have to worry about bringing God our best animals for the sacrifice, but we should still be bringing God our best. We should make God and God’s people our number one priority. It is amazing how easy it is to make an excuse to miss the gathering of the saints. On a recent Sunday at the church I was speaking with a young man’s mother about the church. And his mother was talking about an upcoming trip that should require an overnight visit, but the young man said that he was not planning on spending the night so that he would not miss being with his church. It did my heart good to see the sacrifice a young man was willing to make to bring God his best.

In my time at my church, I have seen countless examples of extreme sacrifice not to miss the gathering of the Lord. There will always be those who are quick to miss, but I pray that we would be like those who make God and the gathering of God’s people the number one priority in our life. Do not have the wrong opinion about worship. Bring God the best for His Name is Great, Malachi 1:11;14

For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts…Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

The Lord is not pleased with those who make great vows with little sacrifice. The Lord is the great King and deserves nothing, but the best. Are you giving God and his people your best? Now take a moment and ask, “Would God agree with that opinion?”

            Our worship of God is revealed in how we love and serve the saints. Do we love one another? Malachi asks, in 2:10, “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” The one God created everyone and became the one Father of all therefore, Malachi asks, “Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?” The people did not apply their theology of God to the community. The vertical relationship with God should always affect the horizontal relationship with people. What would our care for each other reveal about our relationship with God?

            Beloved, your sacrifice and love for one another shines a spotlight on God’s goodness. We do not love each other so we will be seen as loving, but we love because God first loved us. Our love magnifies his love. John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Let us magnify God’s love to the world by loving one another.

 

A Wrong Opinion of the Clergy     

The Lord established the tribe of Levi to bring true instruction to the people regarding God’s law so that they would stand in fear and reverence before the Lord. God sent His condemnation on the clergy for they were not doing as they ought. Malachi 2:7-9,

For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”

The priests were not standing strong before the Lord, but started to shift to give the people instruction that corrupted God’s Word.

            Let me encourage you always to pray for your pastor to stand boldly behind God’s Word. And one of the best ways you can encourage boldness in the Word ministry is to humbly receive his counsel. If pastors consistently face criticism, they will be tempted to bend the Word to meet people’s desires. Paul warns Timothy,

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

People need the pure word of God, but they often desire teachers who suit their own passions. I try to make the main message of the text, the main message of the sermon. And it is interesting because I can almost pinpoint which people are going to respond favorably to the message based on the text that is preached. It is not that they do not want to endure sound teaching, but that they love when their passions are addressed. Pray for your pastor to cherish and love God’s Word more than the praise of men. Discover your passions and make sure they do not lead you away from the truth.

 

A Wrong Opinion of Giving

The Lord does not only address the leaders of the people, but He addresses the people themselves. They were not faithful to the Lord in their giving,

“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Malachi 3:6-10)

It is a very interesting way to look at giving. If you do not give what God asks of you, you are stealing from Him. And in not giving, you are showing you do not trust God to provide for you. You cannot serve both God and Money.

            Do you have the wrong opinion of your money? Do you view your money as yours or as God’s? Are you giving what God requires? Do you trust God’s provision? Do you trust God’s Word that it is more blessed to give than to receive? If we have the wrong opinion about money, we may be thieves. Not many people would break into someone’s house to take their things, but in withholding your money you are entering God’s house as a thief.

 

A Wrong Opinion of Marriage

Malachi continues to display how the people are living with the wrong opinions. He then attacks their handling of their marriages, Malachi 2:14b-16,

The LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Godly offspring is a direct result of a godly marriage. The people were not guarding their spouses in faithfulness and thus they were not protecting their legacy with godliness. Marriage is very important in the eyes of God. Even Jesus say,

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:6-9)

There is nothing new under the sun. Marriage is important. Do you have the right or the wrong opinions on marriage? Guard yourself in your spirit, so that none of you are faithless towards your spouse.

 

A Wrong Opinion of Justice

People were seeing the wicked prosper and therefore questioned God’s justice. They were lying and giving the wrong opinions of reality. Malachi 2:17,

You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

People were seeing the wicked prosper and therefore questioned God’s justice.They were seeing wickedness rewarded and therefore interpreted that God was pleased with their actions. They were wrongly interpreting inaction as no action. The Lord was going to bring his justice, Malachi 3:1-2,

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. (Malachi 3:1-2)

God was preparing to bring justice. We can only rightly interpret current events in light of future events promised by God’s Word. God will send his messenger to prepare the way for the Messiah.

            Malachi ends his prophecy with a promise. The great and awesome day of the Lord is going to come, but before it does God is going to give people a chance to return to Him. Malachi 4:5-6,

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6)

And with those words the Old Testament ends. The Old Testament does not end in despair, but hope. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Messiah calling people to repentance. We know from Jesus that the one who came like Elijah was John the Baptist (Matthew 17:10-12). His ministry was so powerful in turning the hearts of the people back to God that some thought he could have been the Messiah, but, this was the testimony of John when they asked, “Who are you?” John 1:20-30,

He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’

John the Baptist came to prepare for the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus Christ who knew no sin came to be sin so we may become the righteousness of God. Malachi shows the people’s sin and deceived hearts. Christ came to give new hearts so that he people would worship him in spirit and in truth. Justice was given in the cross. Sin was paid, now hope is offered.

Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit and fire purifying their desires and giving them a new heart to love God. This new life was only possible after Jesus was first baptized into death. Jesus said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50) Jesus was baptized into death buried in the earth, but God raised him from the dead. The lamb of God took the sins of the world on the cross therefore God exalted him the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name. And Jesus sent his Spirit so that his people would live not in word and talk, but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

I love this hopeful end to the Old Testament, but I love even more the words of God telling us the reason for the Messiah to come. Malachi 3:16-18,

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (Malachi 3:16-18)

The ones who esteem the name of the Lord and have the right opinion about Him (or who have the truth), God will make them His treasured possession. We shall be His. He will be our God and we will be His people. Do you know the truth? Do you fear the Lord? Do you honor his name? Only those who know the truth and live by the truth will be adopted as his children.

 As the Old Testament closes, the great promise of God continues. Opinions matter. They matter to God and they matter to us. If we have the right opinion about God, we will be one of His treasured possessions. When we stand before God on the great and awesome day of the Lord, “It was just my opinion,” won’t cut it. Opinions can be wrong. Truth is not dead. God’s opinion is the only one that ultimately matters. He has given you His word to correct your false opinions. Jesus Christ died and rose again and promised eternal life to all who would trust in Him. So what is your opinion about Jesus Christ? Ultimately, that opinion is all that matters.

 

[1] http://www.albertmohler.com/2017/03/24/briefing-03-24-17/ accessed 4.8.2017

 

[i] http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2012/jan/02/opinion-argument-free-speech accessed 11.3.2014