Archive for May, 2010

May 28, 2010

Examples to Imitate

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Isaiah 29, 3 John 1

Imitate to Inherit

Paul told the Ephesians to “be imitators of God” [1], the Philippians to have the same “attitude [] which was also in Christ Jesus” [2], and the Corinthians to “[b]e imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” [3].

The writer of Hebrews commended a reason for such imitation: “ … show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” [4].

But not everyone should be imitated.  John warned, “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.  The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God” [5].  How do we distinguish, however, between “what is good” and “what is evil”?

What Is Good: Gaius

Gaius is an example of “what is good” because he walked “in the truth” [6], “act[ed] faithfully” [7], and loved the church, “especially when they [were] strangers” [8].  He evidenced his love for these brethren-strangers by showing them hospitality.  At the time, since hotels were nonexistent, it was traditional for hosts to accompany their guests on their first day’s journey.  Thus, John exhorted Gaius to practice this tradition “in a manner worthy of God” [9] and gave three reasons for doing so: (a) because they were working “for the sake of the Name” [10], (b) because only Christians would support their work of advancing the gospel [11], and (c) because supporting their work enabled them to be partners [12].

What Is Evil: Diotrephes

Diotrephes, however, constitutes a foil to Gaius.  He “love[d] to be first” and “[did] not accept” the message of the apostles [13] – even “unjustly accusing [John and his coworkers] with wicked words” [14].  Unlike Gaius, Diotrephes did “not receive the brethren” – even forbidding others from doing so under threat of ex-communication [15].

Standard of Measurement: Jesus

Unlike Diotrephes, Gaius is an example of “what is good” because he imitates the love and hospitality of our Lord.  Jesus does not love us because we are attractive, successful, popular or insiders.  Rather, He loves us “while we [are] yet sinners” [16].  He shows hospitality by welcoming “the least of these” and exhorts us to do likewise [17].

What kind of example are you imitating?  And what kind of example are you becoming?

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[1] Ephesians 5:1 NASB  |  [2] Philippians 2:5 NASB  |  [3] 1 Corinthians 11:1 NASB  |  [4] Hebrews 6:11-12 NASB, see also Hebrews 11:1ff  |  [5] 3 John 11 NASB  |  [6] 3 John 4 NASB  |  [7] 3 John 5 NASB  |  [8] 3 John 6 NASB  |  [9] 2 John 6 NASB  |  [10] 3 John 7 NASB  |  [11] Id. |  [12] 3 John 8 NASB  |  [13] 3 John 9 NASB  |  [14] 3 John 10 NASB  |  [15] 3 John 10 NASB  |  [16] Romans 5:8 NASB  |  [17] Matthew 25:31-46 NASB

May 27, 2010

Truth and Love: A Match Made in Heaven

by Perryn Pettus

Love and Truth Together

We often think of truth and love as diametrically opposed entities.  Truth often seems aggressive, haughty and prideful, while love brings thoughts of agreeableness and happiness.  Yet, truth and love do not act independently while only occasionally joining forces.  For the Christian, truth and love coexist all the time – truth tells us what we’re aiming for and love gives us the motivation to reach the goal.

One Without the Other

In fact, truth is like a map that directs our driving route and love is like the gasoline that enables the car to be driven.  A map without gasoline is useless and gasoline without a map is useless [1]. Specifically, truth without love merely serves as a way to gain power and love without truth is cowardice.  As we grow in Christ, not only are we commanded to speak the truth in love [2], we are also told to be cautious of those who do not speak the truth of Christ lest we share in their wicked ways [3].

Uniting the Two

How, then, do we reconcile these two together so that they begin to coexist in our hearts and lives?  On the one hand, God commands that we walk in love: “Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another” [4].  On the other hand, obeying His commands is love: “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments” [5].  The cyclical nature of love and commands provides an inherent bond between truth and love, as they exist together in Christianity.  If our hearts and minds are focused on loving God and demonstrating that love by obeying His commands, truth and love will form our hearts and lives as they are joined perfectly together.

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Written by guest author Perryn Pettus

[1] Analogy taken from Mark Dever, sermon overview on 2 John  |  [2] Ephesians 4:15  |  [3] 2 John 7-11 |  [4] 2 John 5 NASB, see also John 13:34  |  [5] 2 John 6 NASB

May 26, 2010

Why does it matter that Jesus is fully God?

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Isaiah 27, 1 John 5

Not only is Jesus the Son of Man …

As we have seen this week, Jesus came in spirit and in flesh.  As the Son of Man, he offered Himself as a perfect and spotless sacrifice to atone for our sins.  Demonstrating His acceptance of this sacrifice, God raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at His right hand [1].

… He is also the Son of God …

Yet, Jesus was not merely the Son of Man; He was also the Son of God.  In fact, John wrote an entire gospel account for us to believe this: “ … these [signs that Jesus performed] have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” [2].

… and, as such, He possesses the family resemblance.

Jesus is everything that God is.  He is omniscient [3], omnipresent [4] and omnipotent [5].  He has authority to forgive sins [6] and, as the Creator [7], He rules over all [8] and is not dependent on anything for life [9].  He has always existed and will always exist: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am’” [10] [11].

This is a hard truth …

Although John walked alongside our Lord in intimate circles for three years, he didn’t understand Christ’s deity until His resurrection.  This is why he wrote his gospel account of Christ’s life (John) and recorded his apocalyptic vision of Christ’s reign (Revelation) – he doesn’t want his readers to be as confused as he was about the person of Jesus.  Thus, as he neared the end of his life, he wrote this letter to stamp out any false teaching that Jesus was anything other than fully God and fully man.

… but it is life-changing.

To the extent that we believe in Jesus’ deity and present reign, we are able to endure the present age and maintain our hope and joy for one to come [12].  Since He sits as our mediator at God’s right hand [13], we have confidence before Him that “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” [14].

In your prayers, do you have confidence before God, knowing that Jesus is fully God and serves as your advocate?

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[1] Ephesians 1:1-23  |  [2] John 20:30-31 NASB  |  [3] Matthew 18:20, 28:20; Acts 18:10  |  [4] Matthew 16:21; Luke 11:17; John 4:29  |  [5] Matthew 8:26-27, 28:18; John 11:38-44; Luke 7:14-15; Revelation 1:8  |  [6] Mark 2:5-13  |  [7] Colossians 1:16  |  [8] Matthew 28:18, Revelation 19:16, 1:5  |  [9] John 1:4, 14:6, 8:58  |  [10] John 8:58 NASB  |  [11] Hebrews 1:2 NASB  |  [12] Titus 2:12-14  |  [13] 1 Timothy 2:5 NASB  |  [14] 1 John 5:14-15 NASB

May 25, 2010

Why does it matter that Jesus is fully man?

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Isaiah 26, 1 John 4

The doctrinal test …

As we saw yesterday, false teachers were proclaiming that Christians could separate their physical lives from their spiritual ones.  This belief, however, was only the tip of the iceberg.  Their deep doctrinal error was their belief that Jesus came only in spirit, not flesh.  According to John, however, believing that Jesus came in the flesh is the doctrinal test of first importance for the Christian:  “By this you know the Spirit of God:  every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God … ” [1].

… is Jesus in the flesh …

Jesus has a human body: “And the Word became flesh” [2].  He was born [3] and grew up [4].  He got tired [5], thirsty [6] and hungry [7].  He died [8] and was resurrected: “See My hands and My feet … touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” [9].

Moreover, He experiences human emotions.  He “wept” when His friend died [10], offered prayers “with loud crying and tears” [11] and, as He faced crucifixion, he was “deeply grieved, to the point of death” [12].

Jesus has a human mind and will.  He “increased in wisdom” [13] and sought His Father’s will, not His own: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” [14].

… as atonement for our sins.

Jesus’ sinless human life is not a mere ideal or model.  He was not a mere moral teacher.  He was “spotless” so that He could be a legally acceptable sacrifice for our sins [15].

When Jesus offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world, He became our High Priest and satisfied Levitical law.  He was sinless in every way that we were not so that He could redeem us in every way – body, heart, mind and will:  “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” [16].

Today, as you experience moments of sin in thought or deed, how can you praise Jesus in those moments for his perfect, sinless human life that He lived for you? [17]

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[1] 1 John 4:1-3 NASB  |  [2] John 1:14 NASB  |  [3] Luke 2:7  |  [4] Luke 2:40, 52  |  [5] John 4:6  |  [6] John 19:28  |  [7] Matthew 4:2  |  [8] Luke 23:46; Mark 15:37  |  [9] Luke 24:39 NASB, see also John 20:20, 27  |  [10] John 11:35 NASB  |  [11] Hebrews 5:7 NASB  |  [12] Matthew 26:38 NASB  |  [13] Luke 2:52 NASB  |  [14] John 6:38 NASB, see also Matthew 26:39 |  [15] 1 Peter 1:18-19 NASB  |  [16] Hebrews 2:17 NASB, see also Hebrews 4:15 [17] If you struggle with the humanity of Jesus (as many of us do), then I commend reading the gospel of Mark, The Person of Christ by Donald MacLeod, Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion,  Book II, Ch. XIV, “How Two Natures Constitute the Person of the Mediator.”

May 24, 2010

Being and Doing

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Isaiah 25, 1 John 3

An Absent Boss

Imagine that you set up a company.  You incorporate, solicit investors, appoint officers and hire staff.  Then you go on a business trip.  You leave someone in charge (“Mr. Number Two”) and give him instructions about how to manage the company in your absence.  When you return, you discover that none of your instructions have been followed and the business is in shambles.  You ask Mr. Number Two, “What happened? Did you get my letter?” He responds, “Yes, I got it and it was amazing!  In fact, your letter was so good that I made copies of it and distributed it to everyone.  We had small group letter studies and even memorized parts” [6].

An Ever-Present Lord

False teachers were living among the Christians to whom John was writing.  They were teaching that it was possible to be righteous without practicing righteousness: “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” [1] [2].

A Born-Again Obedience

John is saying that we can’t be like Mr. Number Two, who marvels at the beauty of letters from a physically absent chief without doing what they say.  We can’t sit in Bible studies and consider the truth of the Word of our Lord without being changed by it.

God won’t let us.  If you are a Christian, then you have been “born again, not of seed which is perishable but imperishable” [3].  This seed is incompatible with sinful behavior: “No one born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” [4].  God does not make peace with sinful behavior.

John tells us of the connection between being and doing because he wants us to be assured of our salvation:  “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” [5].  Whether we increasingly obey His commands evidences whether we have eternal life and have been born again by an imperishable seed.

If you lack confidence in your salvation, to what extent is your lack of confidence a reflection of a disconnect in your life between your being and your doing?

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[1] 1 John 3:7 NASB  |  [2] See also 1 John 1:6; 2:4, 29  |  [3] 1 Peter 2:23 NASB  |  [4] 1 John 3:9 NASB  |  [5] 1 John 5:13 NASB  |  [6] Analogy inspired by Mark Dever, overview sermon on 1 John.

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