Three Comforts

Pastor Jay continues the series on War of the World – A Training Manual for “My Little Children”, with this week’s sermon “Three Comforts” from 1 John 2:12-14.

1 John 2:12-14 (ESV)

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 write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

God speaks comfort to believers in every stage of our spiritual lives.

  • Stage 1. He speaks comfort to children in the faith.
    • Your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
    • You know the Father.
  • Stage 2. He speaks comfort to fathers in the faith.
    • You know him who is from the beginning.
  • Stage 3. He speaks comfort to the young men in the faith.
    • You are strong.
    • God’s word abides in you.
    • You have overcome the evil one.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What three groups in John talking to in our text?
  • How long does it take a Christian to receive forgiveness for his sins?
  • What does it mean to have God’s word abiding in you?
  • At what age is a Christian strong? What makes her so?

New City Catechism – Week 44

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Q44: What is baptism?

A44: Baptism is the washing with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; it signifies and seals our adoption into Christ, our cleansing from sin, and our commitment to belong to the Lord and to his church.

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus fleshed out the task of making disciples of all nations in two main activities: baptism and instruction. It’s easy in the church today to focus mostly on the latter. That’s largely because our Western mindsets have conditioned us to see education as the primary solution to any problem. Give someone the right information, and they will be able to make the right decision.

However, we cannot forget that the fundamental problem fallen humans face is not a lack of education, but our rebellion against a righteous God. No amount of education can fix this, only a fundamental change of our nature. The turning point comes at the moment of our salvation. Through a miraculous work of God’s grace, we are delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13). The transformation is so radical that Jesus calls it being “born again” (John 3:3).

What does this have to do with baptism? Much. Because baptism symbolizes that change in a new believer. In Christ, the “old man” has died, and what has emerged is forever transformed (Romans 6:4). To be clear: there is nothing in the act of baptism that adds to or “completes” our salvation—we are saved only by God’s grace apart from works (Ephesians 2:8-9). This should not, however, diminish the importance of baptism.

Let’s briefly consider three aspects of baptism in the believer’s life. First, baptism is an act of obedience. It obeys not only Jesus’ command in the Great Commission, but also the consistent teaching (Acts 2:48) and witness of the New Testament (Acts 8:12, Acts 16:15, Galatians 3:27), that baptism is the first step for a new believer following salvation.

Secondly, baptism is a public identification with Christ. When a new believer is baptized, he is publicly declaring his faith and his change of allegiance—his identity is now in Christ. He is giving witness that he now wears the team colors of “Christian,” and he is not ashamed of the gospel which saved him (Romans 1:16).

Finally, baptism identifies believers with the church, the body of Christ. In the New Testament, baptism is the means through which new believers enter the fellowship of the ekklesia, the “called-out ones” (Acts 2:41ff). It is an act of a local church which recognizes a person’s faith and welcomes them into that church.

Far from being a secondary issue, the ordinance of baptism is of great significance to the church and to each believer. May our own baptism prompt us to consider our identity in Christ, our willingness to obey his commands, and our commitment to belong to a local church.

-Pastor Jonathan

Beloved Love

Pastor Jay continues the series on War of the World – A Training Manual for “My Little Children”, with this week’s sermon “Beloved Love” from 1 John 2:7-11.

1 John 2:7-11 (ESV)

The New Commandment

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Beloved love.

  • Five Reasons:
    • Because this is an old commandment.
    • Because this is a new commandment.
    • Because this is true in him.
    • Because this is true in us.
    • Because the light is breaking.
  • Five Conclusions:
    • So those who hate their fellow believers are still in the darkness.
    • So those who love their fellow believers are in the light.
    • So those who hate their fellow believers walk in darkness.
    • So those who hate their fellow believers don’t know where they are going.
    • So those who hate their fellow believers are blinded by the darkness.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Why does God’s love move us to love fellow believers?
  • How has love always been the key to God’s commandments?
  • How are we to see “true” or genuine love in us as a church family?
  • What does it mean that “the light is already shining?”
  • How is hatred a kind of darkness? How does it blind us?

New City Catechism – Week 43

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Q43: What are the sacraments or ordinances?

A43: The sacraments or ordinances given by God and instituted by Christ, namely baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are visible signs and seals that we are bound together as a community of faith by his death and resurrection. By our use of them the Holy Spirit more fully declares and seals the promises of the gospel to us.

Sacraments v. Ordinances

Some churches use the term “sacraments”, whereas others use the term “ordinances” to refer to the two key observances of the Christian church. Christ commanded his followers to baptize believers in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). He also commanded us to take the Lord’s Supper “in remembrance of [Him] me” (Luke 22:19)

When Christians use the term “sacraments” they generally mean that the grace of God in Christ is somehow communicated through their celebration. Those who use the term “ordinance” tend to shy away from this formula, and instead, emphasize the command and obedience in the practice.

If by “sacrament” we mean that either baptism or the Lord’s Supper save us, then we would reject the term. We are saved by the grace of God in the gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

But “sacrament” need not mean that and is not meant so in the catechism. If we mean that both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are God-ordained, Christ-commanded observances that declare the gospel to our hearts we are on solid biblical grounds. The catechism rightly points to the rich way that the Holy Spirit applies the gospel to us through these ordinances.  The Spirit more fully “declares and seals” the promises.

Here is what our denomination, the Evangelical Free Church of America affirms in our ten-point statement of faith.

“The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.”

J.I. Packer puts it this way. Sacraments function as means of grace on the principle that, literally, seeing is (i.e., leads to) believing.  (Concise Theology, J.I.Packer, Tyndale, p. 211)

-Pastor Jay

It’s Personal – Or it Isn’t

Pastor Jay continues the series on War of the World – A Training Manual for “My Little Children”, with this week’s sermon “It’s Personal – Or it Isn’t ” from 1 John 2:3-6.

1 John 2:3-6 (ESV)

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

  • If you keep His commandments you know Him.
  • If you do not keep his commandments you lie about knowing Him.
  • If you keep His word, God’s love is perfected in you.
  • If you walk in the way He walked you are in Him.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What are Christ’s commandments?
  • Why should we keep his commandments?
  • Do we keep his commandments in order to be saved?
  • What does it mean to “keep his commandments”?
  • If someone says he knows Jesus but does not obey Him, what does that mean?
  • What would you expect to see when you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

New City Catechism – Week 42

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Q42: How is the Word of God to be read and heard?

A42: With diligence, preparation, and prayer; so that we may accept it with faith, store it in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.

Men have a “funny” way of not utilizing the owners manual for a newly acquired device, piece of furniture, or pretty much anything that comes with a manual. Admittedly, I sometimes fall in this category. Unless something goes wrong or I can’t figure something out, I’m not looking at the manual. Most things are pretty self-explanatory. At my age, I can either figure it out based on past experience, or I’ll just muscle my way and figure it out through using the product.

This approach has some obvious flaws. The biggest one being that I never truly understand the intricacies of the product. How many times has someone showed you something about a product in your house which you’ve had for a while and you never knew it was able to do that?

I think we approach the Bible at times like that. Either we’ve read it and don’t feel compelled to review what we’ve already read. Or we assume we know what it already means. This isn’t a new issue. People have felt this way about the Bible throughout the years. I imagine that’s one of the reasons Paul wrote of the Bible’s power to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:16,17.

I had a professor in college who used to say, “The Bible is like any other book [in that it tells history and is a great read], but it’s also unlike any other book [it’s life-changing].” Have we lost a little of that life-changing power of God’s words to us? Do we prepare ourselves when we read it personally or when we are worshipping corporately on Sundays?

I can be guilty of this. My heart isn’t always in the right place when I spend time in the Word. I don’t always set aside distractions as I read and often miss some important concepts. I had a friend post a question on social media the other day: what movie did you not like/understand the first time you watched it but developed a liking for it the next time you watched it? Such a great question to ask about the Bible.

What are we missing out on by not approaching our time with the Bible “With diligence, preparation, and prayer; so that we may accept it with faith, store it in our hearts, and practice it in our lives”?

-Pastor Jon

New City Catechism – Week 41

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Q41: What is the Lord’s Prayer?

A41: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

This model prayer, given by Jesus to teach his disciples how to pray, has been repeated by Christians for centuries. Found in Matthew 6:9-13, the Lord’s Prayer is indeed a rich storehouse of instruction for Christians on the topic of prayer.

Unfortunately, some have turned this model prayer into something of a magical formula, to simply be repeated word-for-word. While using Jesus’ exact words in our prayers may sometimes be helpful, we will experience a greater benefit by looking at the structure and substance of his model prayer and applying it to our own prayer life.

Volumes of commentary have been written on the Lord’s prayer. I do not have time or space to examine each section of the prayer, but I would like to make three observations.

First of all, when we come to God in prayer we are coming to him as a Father. We can trust his intentions for us, even when he leads us through difficult circumstances that we would not choose for ourselves. Charles Spurgeon once wrote we should remember that “had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.”

Next, notice that praise and submission to God take the primary location in the prayer. Immediately the Lord’s prayer begins with three requests: that God’s name be hallowed (that is, honored and revered), his kingdom come, and his will be done. Again, these requests are putting our requests and our will in their proper place of submission to God. We acknowledge that our perspective is limited, and that our ultimate desire is for all things to come under God’s good rule.

A final observation is that it is right to come to God with our needs. It recognizes the fact of our dependence on him. Our needs are not met by our own toil or accomplishment, but out of God’s gracious provision.

Let’s come to God with thankfulness, submission and humble expectation. Those attitudes in prayer will conform us to his will, just as Jesus taught us to pray.

-Pastor Jonathan

Then and Now – Gospel Transformation and the Creation of “One New Man”

Pastor Jonathan brings a message this week from Ephesians 2:11-22 entitled “Then and Now – Gospel Transformation and the Creation of ‘One New Man.'”

Ephesians 2:11-22 (ESV)

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The gospel brings radical transformation.

  • Before the gospel, our status was based on our flesh.
    • We were outside of God’s promises.
    • We were without hope and without God.
  • In the gospel, our status is based on Christ’s work.
    • Gospel transformation is both radical and reconciling.
    • Christ creates one new man.
    • We have equal access to God.
    • We are God’s household.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What are some of the things that divide people today?
  • What does it mean to be without hope?
  • What does it mean that our status is based on Christ’s work?
  • What would be different if you thought of other Christians like your family?

Big Sinner – Big Savior

Pastor Jay continues the series on War of the World – A Training Manual for “My Little Children”, with this week’s sermon “Big Sinner – Bog Savior” from 1 John 2:1-2.

1 John 2:1-2 (ESV)

Christ Our Advocate

My little children, I am writing these things to you so 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, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Our biggest comfort when we sin is our bigger savior, Jesus Christ.

  • Jesus is the one who makes you God’s child.
  • Jesus is our advocate with the Father.
  • Jesus is “Jesus Christ the Righteous“.
  • Jesus is our propitiation.
  • Jesus is a world-size savior.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • How do you know you are a child of God?
  • What is an advocate? How is Jesus our advocate?
  • What are we saying about Jesus when we call him, “Jesus Christ” the righteous?
  • Does God have punishing anger toward sin? Is God loving?
  • What is a propitiation?