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God’s Word on Wine: Scripture’s Handling of a Challenging Issue PDF

 

God’s Word on Wine:

Scripture’s Handling of a Challenging Issue

Our recent study of The Necessity of Truth and Love was a preamble to tonight’s message. It might at first cause you to think, “What does that have to do with the topic?” It actually has everything to do with it in how we apply the Scriptures to our times and to how we treat one another. Basically we looked at two great truths:

  • God has given us His revealed Truth. We are not a man-made religion. We are a practicing religion revealed by God. We have nothing else to go on but what He has revealed. The Scriptures are finished, and we seek to apply them to our times. We are dealing with an ancient document, but because it is the Word of God, it has application to all times, and there is a proper ways of building that bridge. God has given to us His revealed truth. Life by the Book is a slogan of ours, but it basically is seeking to capture the foundational truth of true gospel Christianity, and that is Scriptures are the rule of daily practice. Anything that competes with that you must watch out for. Truth and then love--
  • And He works in us by His Spirit to produce self-sacrificing love. This is the mark of those who are truly born-again. We have lots of ceremonies, lots of traditions, lots of new things and lots of ways of doing church, but when it comes to what marks those who are actually born-again and submitted to the Spirit of God, the dominant traits they have are that they love God and they love people even to a self-sacrificing degree.

In light of that love we went to Romans 14, and we saw seven Romans principles that are key to how we apply what we cover tonight.

Romans 14 Principles

  1. Do not be dismissive of (think down on) a Christian brother who has scruples about what you feel liberty to do (flaunting it in front of him or tempting him to violate his conscience).
  2. Do not be judgmental of a Christian brother who feels he has liberty to do what you have scruples about for yourself.
  3. Don’t destroy one another on the basis of food and drink. The kingdom of God is bigger than such material externals—it is rather righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
  4. Receive (welcome, embrace) one another as those who are living to honor God by what they do and don’t do.
  5. Pursue what makes for peace and building one another up.
  6. Don’t do anything that causes a brother to fall into sin.
  7. Don’t violate your own conscience in what you allow for yourself.

HPBC Pastoral Position on Alcohol Use

The pastors of Hampton Park Baptist Church do not encourage the church’s membership to drink alcohol as a beverage. While the Scriptures do not expressly forbid the consumption of alcohol, we recognize the destructive nature of alcohol use as portrayed in the Bible and recognize as well the human misery directly attributable to its use in the modern world. We base our position directly upon the following biblical teachings:

  1. Scripture must inform, shape, and direct our practices concerning all issues, including alcohol use.

2 Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We are working through the Bylaws with this foundational truth in view. Right now some important biblical material is missing from our Bylaws, along with extra-biblical material that is there, some of which must stay for practical reasons, but some of which belongs in other documents than our Bylaws. An example is a listing of deacon types of committees.

What I’m presenting tonight is not the Bylaws. Updates are still in process. What I’m presenting tonight is what we as pastors and the Pastoral Advisory Committee believe the Bible teaches on this subject. We have to start there.

We cannot improve on what God has written. We can apply it, but we must be careful not to twist it, cut it, or add to it. We strive to emphasize what the Scriptures emphasize, to minimize what they minimize. We have to deal with things the Scripture does not address at all, but we must be careful about binding consciences in ways the Bible does not. God does not need our help defining right and wrong.

On the issue at hand, we strive for the proportion we see in Scripture. We want to avoid license on the one hand and legalism on the other.

2.  Scripture clearly condemns drunkenness, and so do we.

Proverbs 23:20-21:

Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

Isaiah 5:11:

Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them!

5:22

Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink.

Titus 2:3

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine.

Romans 13:13

Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

1 Corinthians 6:10

Nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:21

(works of the flesh) Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Contrast fruit of the Spirit—verses 22fff.)

All these passages point to a lifestyle that is appetite driven and out of control rather than a lifestyle submitted to God and to the good of others. Even though from Shakespeare to Andy Griffith drunkenness is used for humor, God does not consider it funny, and neither should we. There is too much heartache, destruction, and connection with other flagrant sins.

TURN to Ephesians 5:17-18

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. (addressing one another with psalms, hymns, spiritual songs; singing to the Lord; giving thanks always for everything; submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ

3.  Scripture permits drinking wine and, within the context of the ancient world, even speaks of its availability as a blessing.

These passages created the challenge for us. On the one hand, we did not want to seem to be promoting something that could destroy people—so there was some feeling that we should just leave this part unsaid. On the other, we did not want to ignore what God has actually said on this side of the equation and be guilty of dishonesty. We cannot be more righteous than God. And we cannot improve on the Scriptures without usurping the authority of God Himself (Matthew 15).

Genesis 14:18

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)

Proverbs 3:9-10

Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats bursting with new wine.

1 Timothy 5:23

after “keep yourself pure” (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)

Deuteronomy 14:26

And spend money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.

Psalm 4:7

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.

Psalm 104:14-15

You cause the grass to grow for livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

Daniel 10:3

I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.

Isaiah 25:6

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

Cross Ref: TURN John 2:1-11

First miracle—water to wine. Note verse 10: Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.

Consider: Lord’s table

We use grape juice—fruit of the vine is called wine in the Bible; fresh juice did not stay fresh—had to be fermented to be preserved; also boiled down to a thick syrup and mixed with water; the wine that was fermented (alcohol content) was also usually mixed with water.

Even if unmixed, until the process of distillation was discovered around A.D. 700 about the most alcohol content you could get was 7%. With distillation the alcohol content can go up much further.

4.  But Scripture also gives strong warnings concerning wine due to how easy it is to fall prey to drunkenness.

Proverbs 20:1

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

TURN to Proverbs 23:29-35

29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
    Who has redness of eyes?
30 Those who tarry long over wine;
    those who go to try mixed wine.
31 Do not look at wine when it is red,
    when it sparkles in the cup
    and goes down smoothly.
32 In the end it bites like a serpent
    and stings like an adder.
33 Your eyes will see strange things,
    and your heart utter perverse things.
34 You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,like one who lies on the top of a mast.
35 “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt;they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake?
I must have another drink.”

Romans 14:21

It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.

5.  The Scriptures command that pastors and deacons not be given to wine, which is primarily a warning against drunkenness. (By-laws on pastors and deacons sections)

1 Timothy 3:3 (Qualifications of an overseer)

Not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

1 Timothy 3:8

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.

Proverbs 31:4-5

It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.

6. As pastors who deal with the aftermath of the widespread contribution of alcohol abuse to personal and societal ruin, we hold a general contempt for the alcohol industry in our culture. (The statistics of crime and abuse are overwhelmingly connected to alcohol. We reject our culture’s portrayal of alcohol use as a necessary ingredient for social interactions and personal pleasure.)

7. On the basis of Scripture, we cannot tolerate drunkenness. On the basis of wisdom and love, our teachers and leadership will practice abstinence from alcoholic beverages.

This was the focus of our discussion among the pastors and the pastoral advisory committee. Because 1 Timothy uses temperance language, was it legitimate for us to set down abstinence for pastors and deacons?

Romans 14:21

It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. (cf. Prov. 31:4-5)

The wider your circle of influence the more limits you put on the exercise of your rights because your private life tends to be publicly observed and you are striving to do nothing that would harm others in any way.

Historically speaking, alcoholism had become such a problem in our country in the late 1800’s that there arose strong temperance movements. Then later came prohibition. There were drives to have people take a vow of abstinence to help combat the problem. Christians voluntarily did so on Romans 14 grounds. It was so popular that some denominations and many churches wrote abstinence into their bylaw requirements rather than leaving it a voluntary choice. Most Southern Baptists and later the Independent Baptists did likewise. Historically that is how we got here. It was with the hope of reducing alcoholism among our congregations.

8. Being charged with the care of the people of the church, we will not sanction the use of alcohol at any church-related event. On the basis of wisdom and love, we encourage members to abstain as well but realize that biblical church discipline could be applied only in the case of drunkenness (ongoing and unrepented of drunkenness).

Galatians 5:21 (works of the flesh)

Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Corinthians 5:11

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

1 Corinthians 6:10

Nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

All kinds of people are in our church, and as we fulfill our mission better and better, more people will come to us who have all kinds of baggage with which they need loving help.

There is great fear among some that even talking about this issue will split the church. I certainly hope not. That would certainly dishonor Christ and harm one another. Such division is not from God. It is issues like this that can bring out our flesh rather than submission to the Spirit of God. It is not a new controversy, and the Scriptures are crystal clear how we are to treat one another when we strongly disagree about these kinds of issues.

Romans 14:

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.

Chapter 5

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

 

LifeGroup Questions

Teaching

What do these passages teach us about God?

What do these passages teach us about man?

Reproof

There are several "hot-button" topics which the Scriptures discuss (alcohol being one of them). Why is it so difficult for us to be willing to look at the overall teachings of the Scriptures in these important areas? What may be some of our fears? Why is it so hard for us to be willing to submit ourselves to the teachings of the Scriptures and truly live "life by the Book?"

Correction

How do we apply the gospel to our failures in the areas just discussed in the reproof section?

After considering the gospel, what are some practical ways to begin to apply the truths of these passages?

Training in righteousness

How must our thinking be renewed if we are to be transformed by these texts?

What must be put off from and put onto our lives if we are to be transformed by these texts?

Prayer

For what from these texts can we rejoice?

For what from these texts can we repent?

For what from these texts can we request, both for ourselves and others?

 

Pastor Drew Conley

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

September 7, 2014

 
Present Active God PDF

2 Samuel 5:6-25

The last time we were together to study in 2 Samuel we were looking at chapter 4 and the first part of chapter 5. We rejoiced that David came into the kingdom that God had promised him as a teenager. It had been a long time. David was around 37 years old, and God had finally brought the kingdom to pass.  There are a lot of parallels because there is a coming Kingdom – the Lord Jesus Christ.  We live in a kingdom that is already but not yet. The consummation is yet to come, and there is a long time in-between. There are many battles and set-backs, our sins and failures, and sometimes it seems that God will never bring to pass what He has promised, but the march of history teaches us that He is faithful to His word. Prophecy after prophecy has come true, and there is more yet to come. We saw as we looked at David’s situation a failing opposition (vs. 1-4) just as there is today. We saw rationalized treachery (vs. 5-8) as those who sought to find favor in His sight committed murder. Even today those who name the Name of Christ and claim they are honoring Him, do things that are treacherous and dishonest and seem to run at cross-purposes with Him. We saw clarifying justice (vs. 9-12) as David brought to bear clarity on what was right and wrong. There is a day coming when King Jesus will set everything right. He will judge things as they are and not as they appear to be. He will be the Prince of Peace and will rule with a rod of iron. One day beyond that will be the New Heaven and New Earth where righteousness dwells. We long for that clarifying justice and the promised coronation (vs. 1-5). David was crowned King, not just of Judah but of all Israel. One day Jesus will be proclaimed King by every knee. Every tongue will confess Him as Lord. Everything in Heaven and on Earth and under the Earth will give Him praise as the rightful Anointed One, the Messiah King Jesus, our Savior King.

What we see in David’s life is part of the marks of history toward Jesus, but it is also a microcosm of what the whole picture is as it is played out in our lives. We are part of the march of history. God is working on His plan, as He promised. He is calling out a people for His Name. If you are a believer in Jesus, He called you out. He is at work in your life, and your life is part of that history, but realize that your life is also a microcosm, a sampling of the way God does everything. He takes you through the trouble of the cross that leads you to a crown, just as the gospel teaches.

 Today we are looking at 2 Samuel 5 beginning in verse 6 where we see a Present Active God.

And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. And David said on that day, “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack ‘the lame and the blind,’ who are hated by David's soul.” Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.” And David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built the city all around from the Millo inward. 10 And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him. 11 And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also carpenters and masons who built David a house. 12 And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. 13 And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David. 14 And these are the names of those who were born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet. 17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. But David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. 19 And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.” 20 And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.” Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim. 21 And the Philistines left their idols there, and David and his men carried them away. 22 And the Philistines came up yet again and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. 23 And when David inquired of the Lord, he said, “You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come against them opposite the balsam trees. 24 And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” 25 And David did as the Lord commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer.

The Scripture records the historical events in this chapter along topical lines rather than chronological lines (in the order they happened). What God wants us to understand is not just the history per se, but the significance of the history, and the reason the events came to pass as they did. The same is true of your own history. You may have important dates recorded – birth date, graduation from high school and college, marriage date, dates of the birth of your children and maybe grandchildren. Those are significant dates for you, but they are not the story of your life. Those are milestones, but it only gives you benchmarks as to what is actually happening. You have memories of the times around those events, and you seek to find meaning to your life. “Why did I get that job?” “Why did I lose it?” “God, why did you bring this youngster into my home?” And maybe even, “Why did he die?” “God, what are you doing in my life, and what is the significance of it?” We want to know what is happening and why it is happening in our lives.

Because the Bible is God’s self-revelation to us, whenever we read narrative we want to look for God in the account. It is one of the easiest little keys to unlocking a passage. It is not difficult in this chapter.

10 And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

12 And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

19 And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.” 20 And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.”

The “secret” to David’s success is not David. David is an awesome character, but the secret to his success was Yahweh Himself. Yahweh, God of hosts (armies) is present with him (v. 10). Yahweh is active on his behalf. He establishes David as king, exalting his kingdom, speaking to David, breaking through his enemies. We see him here as a Present Active God.

This chapter also reveals how David, as the man after God’s own heart, responds to this present active God. He is aware of the Lord’s being with him, inquires of Him, praises Him, and obeys Him. Verses 13-16 stand out as different from the rest of the chapter. There is no reference to God; instead, we see behavior that does not match Scriptural command. In his marriages David follows ancient custom rather than God. The Scriptures do not whitewash even the heroes of the faith. We learn from David’s strengths and weaknesses.

I. God’s Gracious Action toward His People

God’s Mighty Presence

Stability and Honor

Direction

Victory

II. A Believer’s Trusting Response to His God

Be Aware of God.

Ask Counsel from God.

Praise God.

Obey God.

Beware Ignoring God.

I. God’s Gracious Action toward His People

David has a unique place in God’s plan, but the ways God worked in his life parallel what the Lord does for anyone who belongs to Him.

God’s Mighty Presence

10 And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

We have seen this description before. We saw it notably in Joseph’s life down in Egypt. God was with him, and because of that he prospered. The very name Yahweh is the covenant name of God. The God who is there, who enters into a covenant relationship with man. He is not only that God who is close and interactive in your life, but he is also God of hosts —host of stars and planets; host of angels; Israel’s armies.

This was the God who has everything at His disposal to fight His people’s battles and to protect them from the enemy (Elisha and his servant). After David had been on the run for several years, He was now king.

God was with David.

Overcoming the Jebusites and taking Jerusalem fulfilled a prophecy God made to Abraham centuries before. Genesis 15: To your offspring I give this land—the land of . . . the Jebusites.”

This is where Melchizedek met Abraham after rescuing Lot and many other captives from the 5 kings.

This is the area God provided a ram in Isaac’s place for sacrifice.

Our greatest comfort is that God is with us! (Emmanuel) God is intent that we clearly realize He is present with us. We are not alone. In fact, when He sent His Son to be our Savior He predicted 700 years before He was born He would be called Immanuel, God with us. God is with us even at this moment. Lo, I am with you all the days, even to the consummation of the age. I will not leave you orphans—the Comforter (indwelling Holy Spirit).

Stability and Honor

12 And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

Hiram of Tyre’s contribution of materials for David’s palace came later in David’s reign. The same king provided materials for the construction of Solomon’s temple years later. This is a foreshadowing of a kingdom for all nations. Think of it. Here is a king in the area where Jezebeel once ruled who is helping with the construction of David’s palace and Solomon’s temple. This is a foreshadowing of a kingdom that would be for all nations, all ethnicities. . It reminds us of a promise God gave to Abraham. Note that God’s blessing was not merely for David’s sake, but for the sake of God’s people Israel, through whom all the nation of the earth would be blessed.

God’s blessing on your life is never just for you, because your life touches so many other lives. He blesses you so that through you He may bless others. It is so hard for us to realize our lives are significant. Do you realize the impact you have by touching lives perhaps by talking with them at Starbucks or helping them out of a ditch? What makes us significant is that God is with us and He is working through us.

God established David—cause to be firm and stable

Exalted—the Lord lifts up whom He will.

Final stage of salvation—glorification. Entrance into the promised inheritance. Reigning with Him.

Direction

19 . . . And the Lord said to David [also v. 23), “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.”

What a privilege/advantage to have God’s direction on our lives!

Proverbs 1:7:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.

Proverbs 9:10:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Psalm 1:

-- the man who delights in the law of the LORD is like a flourishing tree by rivers of water….

Joshua 1

-- the courageous leader whose mouth, mind, and will are full of God’s book is the leader who succeeds and prospers

The Word of God the key to everything. It is religion revealed by God not created/imagined by man.

Victory

20 And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.” Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim. 21 And the Philistines left their idols there, and David and his men carried them away.

24 And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.”

It is likely that both these battles occurred before David took Jerusalem and built his citadel there.

The LORD broke through Philistine enemies.

The LORD went out before David to strike them down.

Nothing is as thrilling as when the LORD goes before you to fight your battles. The value of those difficulties and challenges that loom too large for you to handle. You have to trust the LORD to fight for you.

Gospel mission—impossible if the LORD does not lead the way and break down the resistance. Human skill is not enough.

II. A Believer’s Trusting Response to His God

Be Aware of God.

12 And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

Ask Counsel from God.

19 And David inquired of the Lord, (again in v. 23) “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?”

The first time God says go. The second time, God says no. Go around to the back and wait for My signal. Not every battle should be fought the same way.

Proverbs 3:5-6:

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 paths.

Praise God (give Him His rightful credit).

20 And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.” Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim.

Obey God.

25 And David did as the Lord commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer.

Beware Ignoring God.

13 And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David. 14 And these are the names of those who were born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet.

This is the only section with no direct reference to the LORD (except in the names).

Deuteronomy 17:15, 17

You may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you (note 2 Samuel 5:1-2 Behold, we are your bone and flesh . . . . . The LORD said to you, “You shall be shepherd of my people Israel.”) . . . . And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away.

The list of David’s children extends well beyond this initial phase of his reign. Note the names Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon. These are children of David and Bathsheba, reminding us of David’s sin of adultery and murder.

For whatever reason, David ignored God’s written command regarding taking multiple wives. He plowed the ground for coveting his neighbor’s wife, taking her for himself, and arranging her husband’s murder. These sins came a great price: severe pain to David, his family, and his nation. When you choose to ignore God’s commands, you never know how far doing so will take you or how much it will cost you. Sin always takes you further than you want to go and cost you more than you want to pay.

That said, David’s sons Nathan and Solomon remind us of God’s grace to David after he repented of his sin. Solomon’s name means peace and was so named because of the comfort he was to Bathsheba after her first child by David died. His nickname was Jedidiah—loved of the LORD—because the LORD loved him. The legal line of the Messiah comes through Solomon (Joseph—Matthew 1:16). The biological line of the Messiah comes, however, through Nathan (Mary—Luke 3:31), to avoid the curse on King Jeconiah’s offspring (Solomon’s line) that none of them would sit on the throne of David (Jeremiah 22:30). Jesus is the only one in human history who could fulfill the prophetic promises regarding Messiah’s lineage. The name Jesus means “Yahweh saves.” Jesus was so named because God sent Him to “save His people from their sins.”

Present Active God

I. God’s Gracious Action toward His People

God’s Mighty Presence

Stability and Honor

Direction

Victory

II. A Believer’s Trusting Response to His God

Be Aware of God.

Ask Counsel from God.

Praise God.

Obey God.

Beware Ignoring God.

LifeGroup Questions

Teaching

What does this passage teach us about God? What does it say about His sovereign ability to bring His will to pass?

What does this passage teach us about people?

Where does this passage fit into the overall gospel story?

Reproof

What are some past/present/future victories that God has promised to all of His children? How should each of these promises impact our daily responses to life?

What does it say about our hearts if these promises do not have that impact on us?

What are some evidences that you see in your own life that you may lack faith to some degree in the promised victories of God?

Correction

How do we apply the gospel to our failures in the areas just discussed in the reproof section?

After considering the gospel, what are some practical ways to begin to apply the truths of these passages?

Training in righteousness

How must our thinking be renewed if we are to be transformed by these texts?

What must be put off from and put onto our lives if we are to be transformed by these texts?

Prayer

For what from these texts can we rejoice?

For what from these texts can we repent?

For what from these texts can we request, both for ourselves and others?

 

Pastor Drew Conley

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

September 7, 2014

 

 
Self-Righteousness: the Great Enemy of the Gospel PDF

Luke 18:9-14

 

Let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke 18:9-14 and I will study and learn together with you:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

You have heard much talk over the last several months about building a culture of evangelism here at Hampton Park Baptist Church. I do honestly wonder if some of us really understand what we are asking for. One of the first steps to changing the culture of anything is to identify the obstacles that stand in the way of that desired culture. So what stands in the way of a culture of evangelism in a church? Potentially it could be many things:

  • A lack of burden for people who do not know Christ.
  • Fear of being rejected or persecuted in some way for sharing one’s faith.
  • Purposefully cloistering ourselves in safe, comfortable groups where we literally have to have little to no contact with the outside world.

How many unbelievers do we even know beyond some family members? How many unbelieving people have we truly pursued for the kingdom of Christ in the past year? How about the past decade? It is easy to live in Christian homes, work at Christian organizations, get together in Christian groups and feel very good about ourselves. But perhaps there is no greater enemy to a culture of evangelism than the sin that we see in our passage for this morning: self-righteousness.

As we look into our text, once again we find the Lord recounting a truly scandalous story, a shocking story. It is a story that would have gone against the religious sensibilities of His day and really any age. In it we find the radical difference between self-righteousness and spiritual humility. We find Luke providing the theme of the passage at the very outset of the text. It is about justification. It is about being in a right standing with God. It is about being a part of God’s kingdom. Look at Luke’s words in verse 9:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.

Although Christ’s audience was everyone who was listening to Him that day, His primary focus was upon people like the Pharisees. His spotlight was on those who literally, “trusted in themselves that they were justified.” They thought that their righteousness for justification came from themselves. They were justified before God because of their goodness, their acts of charity, their outstanding moral character, or their adherence to the law. Through all of their goodness, they have earned justification before God. They believed that God declared them righteous because they are worthy of that declaration. They are self-righteous people. And they despised others who are not considered to be as righteous as they are. Literally this word in the Greek means, “to make nothing of.” They considered the sinful as of little to no value. It was these people to whom Christ leveled His all-knowing gaze in this text.

He had a message for these people. A brutal message, actually. He tells it in the form of another parable. The parable begins in verse 10:

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

Two more mismatched men could not be found in Jewish society. The Pharisee was religious to the core. He was as externally righteous as they come. They were among the most respected people in their nation. The tax collector was the scum of the earth. They were treacherous and traitorous. They worked for the hated Roman government and took advantage of that position to extort money from their own people. They were among the most despised people in the nation. Jesus could not have chosen two more different people than these around which to tell a story. These two men went up to the temple to pray. This would not have been a surprise for the Pharisee. He was a regular. He would go there a couple of times a day to do so. The odd man out was the tax collector. Sinners such as himself were regularly thrown out of the temple. The passage opens by speaking about self-righteousness and it ends with humility. These two men are the face of these very different character traits. In their posture before God and in their prayers we see the pictures of self-righteousness and humility. Christ begins by sharing the story of the Pharisee and the evidences of self-righteousness. How do self-righteous people think? What do they believe? We find it in verses 11-12:

The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.

 

Evidences of self-righteousness:

  • Self-righteous people think and act as if they are worthy of Gods approval.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the religious leaders standing in places that were highly visible so that they would be seen while they were praying. They would often stand as close to the Holy Place as possible to show other people their close proximity to God. Undoubtedly that is what is taking place here in this parable, especially when you consider that this Pharisee is being contrasted to the tax collector who was standing a long way off as he prayed. The Pharisee believed in his heart that he deserved this position of closeness with God. He felt it was merited. He believed that he was worthy of acceptance with God because of all of the good things that he has done. And this will be true of all self-righteous people. This is the way they think. They may speak of God’s grace. They may use the very terms that we use. But their confidence, at least to some extent, is in their own accomplishments. They cannot envision that God would ever cast them away and condemn them. They have tried to be good. They are worthy of God’s grace and mercy.

  • Self-righteous people compare themselves to others and highlight the sins of others.

The Greek is interesting as the Pharisee begins his “prayer.” It literally could be translated as “he prayed toward or to himself.” He may have begun the prayer with “God” but this prayer was not about God at all. It was all about him. He begins by piously thanking God that he is not like other people. If the basis for justification was how one looked against the dregs of society, this Pharisee would have no problem at all. But it is not. The basis for our justification is perfection according to God’s standard. But self-righteous people do not understand this point. They have to make themselves look good and the only way to do that is by comparing themselves to others, usually the lowest of the low. The Pharisee was not like the sinners that surrounded him. He was not an extortioner or an adulterer or unjust. And in a show of obnoxious self-righteousness, he also points out that he is not like this tax collector. He was probably looking at the tax collector as he was beating upon his own breast and took comfort in knowing that he had never done such sinful things that warranted that kind of response. He shined a light on other people’s sins because it made him look better. It fed the belief that he was good enough to warrant God’s favor. Condemnation was not for righteous people like himself. It was for people like this tax collector. But amazingly, he goes on. They not only highlight other people’s sin...

  • Self-righteous people highlight their own spiritual goodness and accomplishments and are seemingly blind to their own sin.

There was no need for repentance here. Not for this Pharisee. This man probably knows that he has sinned somewhere along the way, but that is not what defined his life. He did not need to repent for sin. He was not in need of God’s grace, at least not nearly as much as others. He knew he was not perfect, but his sin was minimal, especially compared to others. What defined his life was goodness. It was accomplishment. It was going above and beyond for God. He fasted twice a week. There was only one fast required on the Jewish calendar (the Day of Atonement). But this Pharisee fasted twice a week. That is about 100 times more than what was required. Talk about giving your best for God. And he tithed on everything that he possessed. This also went beyond that which was required. Earlier in the book of Luke we see how the Pharisees would meticulously measure out their herbs to tithe. They not only followed the given law of God (at least in their minds), they followed the other man-made laws of the day. What an amazing man of God stood in the temple that day! How proud God must have been of his goodness. And his attitude of self-righteousness led him to an attitude of condescension.

  • Self-righteous people tend to be condescending toward those who do not measure up to them.

They may not verbalize their condescension, but they believe that they are better than others that they see. Maybe not better than everybody. But there are certainly many that they are better than. They are more faithful. They are more spiritually tuned-in. They do more for God. They care more about holiness and morality (at least their version of it).

Jesus turns from chronicling the prayer of the Pharisee and tells about the simple prayer of the tax collector. It was certainly not as verbose. It was not as polished. But it evidenced the heart of true spiritual humility. How do the humble think? What are some of the evidences of true spiritual humility? What do they believe? We find it in verse 13:

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!

 

Evidences of spiritual humility:

  • Spiritually humble people know that they are not worthy at all of Gods approval.

While the Pharisee is apparently as close as he can be, this tax collector stands far away. He knows that he is not worthy of being close to the presence of God. There is nothing good in him that would warrant God’s approval. He cannot even bear to lift his eyes to heaven. He was a spiritual beggar. He was not coming to offer God his goodness. He was coming to seek mercy for his wickedness. He, in no way, felt that he was worthy of God’s acceptance and grace. He knew that he deserved alienation and separation from a holy God.

  • Spiritually humble people clearly see the depths of their own sin and are broken about it.

He knew he was not worthy because he understood the depths of his own sin before God. He knew that he was wicked. His sin was so egregious in his sight that he could not imagine another person being more sinful than he was. Paul had this same outlook in 1 Timothy 1:15: “I am (present tense) the foremost of sinners.” And he was broken about it. Jesus tells us that this man beat his breast. This was a show of utter agony. This was not common, especially among men. This man was in agony over his sin. He felt great sorrow. He was like David in Psalm 51 as he repented of his sin with Bathsheba. Humble people are well aware of their sinful hearts. They are full of brokenness. They see the desperate need for repentance on a daily basis. They live lives of confession and repentance.

  • Spiritually humble people know they are in desperate need of Gods supernatural grace and mercy.

What a short, but powerful prayer by this sinful tax collector. The prayer by the Pharisee did not move the heart of God at all. But this prayer by the tax collector would have been music to His ears. “Be merciful to me.” This is not the typical Greek word for mercy. That would have been a wonderful prayer in and of itself. But the tax collector is asking for something very specific in this prayer. This word for mercy speaks of propitiation. He is praying that God would be propitious toward him. He knew that he did not deserve God’s approval. He deserved God’s wrath. He needed his sin covered, but he also needed for God’s wrath to be absorbed. This is what happened in the Old Testament sacrificial system. The sin of the person was symbolically transferred onto the animal and the animal took the punishment for the sin. That was propitiation. It satisfied God’s wrath against sin. And the tax collector knew that this was his biggest need. He needed God’s mercy and grace.

Jesus then makes a truly shocking statement in verse 14:

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.

It is hard to quantify the response this statement would have caused, and still causes today. The tendency of the natural mind is to consider the more externally righteous to be the justified one. This tax collector was truly sinful. We should not sugarcoat his depravity. But so was the Pharisee. God sees the heart. He knows the depravity that exists in all of our hearts. This despised, despicable tax collector was justified while the respected, externally holy Pharisee was not. It is hard to find words to describe how offensive this truth from Christ would have been to so many who heard it. It was not the Pharisee who would be exalted in the kingdom of God. It would be the tax collector. The Pharisee may have been justified in his own eyes. But the only one declared righteous by God in this story was the sinful tax collector.

Christ ends the parable with a profound truth, a truth that I wish we would all embrace with all of our hearts:

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

It is God who exalts. It is God who makes one worthy, not themselves. He exalts those who understand they have no business being exalted at all. He exalts the humble. There is no place in the kingdom for people filled with self-righteous and self-dependent hearts. Jesus states in Matthew that the poor in spirit will see the kingdom of God. The self-righteous think they are somehow worthy of God’s kingdom; the humble justified know they are not worthy at all. The self-righteous consider themselves to be good people; the humble justified know very well how sinful they are in reality. The self-righteous expect God’s approval because of their goodness; the humble justified seek His mercy and are thankful for God’s approval because that approval is found in Christ alone.

Turn with me quickly now back to Luke 5:27-32 as we see how this self-righteousness is an enemy of evangelism and the Gospel. Interestingly enough, the characters in play are once again a tax collector and the Pharisees.

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi (Matthew), sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

What a gathering this must have been! Not only were other tax collectors present, Luke tactfully adds that “others” were present as well. Those “others” undoubtedly included well-known sinners of all kinds. Matthew got it. He knew that by saving him and calling him to follow Him, Christ would save anybody who came to Him in repentance. There was no person so low, so sinful, that could not be touched by the Lord’s mercy. When Matthew experienced Christ’s mercy, his only thought was to expose others to that mercy. What a wonder is the mercy of the Lord! Those of us who have experienced that mercy realize that we were no better off than these despised tax collectors and sinners. We were in just as much need as they were. We were just as hopeless as they were. Matthew understood that. The truth of Christ’s mercy had a huge impact on Him.

The Pharisees were too blinded by their own self-righteousness to see the glory of this situation. They did not see the gospel making an inroad into the community. They wanted to know how in the world Jesus could eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners. There is also a good possibility that this was one of their man-made fast days that Jesus was violating. If that were so, it was one more evidence of their man-made traditions becoming an obstacle to the gospel. That is what self-righteousness does.

So how do we apply this passage?

If you are here this morning and you are trusting in any way in your own goodness for acceptance with God, then I implore you to repent of your self-righteousness and come to Christ in faith for the only righteousness that matters with God. Do not delay. You are not promised another minute much less another day.

For those who profess to know Christ - this is a story about self-righteousness versus humility in the context of justification, but the danger of self-righteousness and the difficulty of humility does not end at the moment of our conversion. There is an application for all of us in this story whether we are professing believers or not. Do you evidence self-righteousness? Do you think and act like you are worthy of Gods approval? As a believer I enjoy God’s approval, but I am no more worthy of it than the day that I got saved. The truth is, not one person present in this room this morning is more worthy of God’s approval than the vilest sinner you can think of. Not one of us is more worthy of God’s mercy or approval. Do you tend to compare yourselves with others and highlight their sins? Self-righteousness is the breeding ground for slander and gossip. Humility is the graveyard of slander and gossip. Do you highlight your own spiritual character and accomplishments and are seemingly blinded to your own sin? Self-righteous people see little need for repentance. In fact, they spend very little time in repentance. If the truth were known, self-righteous professing Christians sometimes go weeks and even months spending little to no time in repentance. They just do not see the need. If you have spent very little time in repentance this week, you need to examine your heart for self-righteousness. A life of self-righteousness kills repentance; a life of humility fosters it. Are you condescending to those whom you feel superior to spiritually? You may not verbalize it, but do you know it is true in your heart? There will be some this morning who will reject immediately the notion that they could be self-righteous at all. I want to encourage every person in this auditorium this morning to seek God this week and entreat Him to reveal evidences of self-righteousness in your own heart. Would you join me in doing that this week? It is a sin not restricted to one age group or profession or philosophy. Thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought is a sin that no knows no categories of people. We all struggle with it.

But the spiritually humble among us know that we can do nothing to gain God’s approval. Years of Christian service does not merit God’s approval. Adherence to rules does not merit God’s approval, even if they are Biblical. Only Jesus did that. Only the Perfect Sacrifice, Jesus, could absorb the wrath of God upon sin and provide forgiveness for sinful people. And if we are in Him, it is only then that we can enjoy the approval of God because we are wicked people. Can you honestly say with me, “I am more wicked and depraved than I can possibly imagine, but I am more loved, welcomed and forgiven in Christ than I could ever dream possible?” If you have a problem with admitting that you are more wicked and depraved than you can imagine, it is hard to imagine that you are a spiritually humble person. Do you see yourself in constant need of God’s supernatural grace and mercy, even as a believer? It is within a culture of spiritual humility that a culture of evangelism will take root. That’s when it begins to truly grow. Self-righteousness is the great enemy of the Gospel.

LifeGroup Questions

Teaching

What does this passage teach us about God the Father?

What does this passage teach us about Jesus?

What does this passage teach us about man?

What does this passage teach us about salvation? Where does it fit into the over gospel story of the Scriptures?

Reproof

What are some evidences of self-righteousness in your own life? Are there ways that your self-righteousness has actually been an obstacle to the gospel?

What are some evidences of spiritual humility in your life for which we can all rejoice for God's grace in your life?

Correction

How do we apply the gospel to our failures in the areas just discussed in the reproof section?

After considering the gospel, what are some practical ways to begin to apply the truths of this passage?

Training in righteousness

How must our thinking be renewed if we are to be transformed by this text?

What must be put off from and put onto our lives if we are to be transformed by this text?

Prayer

For what from this text can we rejoice?

For what from this text can we repent?

For what from this text can we request, both for ourselves and others?

 

Pastor Andy Henderson

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

August 31, 2014

 
Love: the Divine Identifier PDF

1 John 4:7-13; 17-21

Tonight we will look at 1 John 4 together. We will look at the background of the book, then once we understand that we will look at our passage to see the truths God reveals to us, then we will draw some applications from them.

John is writing to believers about the core of their faith in Christ. He is answering some huge questions like “What does a believer's life look like?”, “How do I know if a certain teaching is from God or not?”, “How do I know that I am indeed a child of God?”  In chapter 4 he will reveal some truths about the basis of our faith and we will discover that these verses, these truths are familiar to us. It is because they are so foundational to the faith we share in Christ. We memorized many of them as a children in Sunday school, and we often bring others to 1 John to help them better understand their faith. For example, we share verses like 1 John 1:9 that tells us of the faithfulness of Christ to forgive our sins when we confess them. And we understand all that pretty well. But despite the core subject matter, and the great familiar passages we've all memorized, we will find that this book is really hard to read. Have you ever sat down and read right through 1 John? It is really hard to get through—and it's only three pages in my Bible! You will find yourself reading and rereading the same passages over and over to try to follow what he is saying. It can be quite frustrating. Why is that?

What becomes apparent as you read is that John does not speak or write in any way close to what we are used to. In our culture we are used to a sort of linear progression of thoughts, one that we can easily outline and follow down to its intended point or conclusion. If I had to draw it, we like it when people talk in a straight line—with a definite starting point, a definite conclusion and all the stuff in the middle just to get from one to the other. In fact you can really see this illustrated if you have ever listened to a teacher or a preacher who just can't seem to stick to the outline. As they ramble on, jumping around the subject, getting off topic, we find ourselves wishing he could just come to the point already. What is he trying to teach us?

1 John kind of feels that way. He doesn't speak in a straight line. As you read it, it seems as if he is talking in circles or in a sort of spiral—one thought or truth leading to the next, leading to the next, leading to a reaffirmation of the starting truth. He hits the same themes over and over again. And if you read the commentaries, you will discover that no one seems to be able to agree on exactly how 1 John is structured. Some say the book spirals outward, touching on broader and broader truths each time it goes around. Some say the book spirals inward, going deeper and deeper into the truths each time it goes around.  This makes it hard for us to see where John finishes one thought and starts the next.

The trap that we fall into then, is the same one we fall into when we try to listen to that teacher who rambles on—we filter. We try to get just the important parts, right? We do this with teachers or husbands or wives, and we do this with the Bible too, don't we. We filter what we are reading, and we try pull out the “important” parts—the one-liners. The problem with that is that these words, all of these words, are breathed out by God, and He isn't rambling. We cannot read this book as if He is rambling, because what happens as we pull these passages out of their context is that we will lose the power the context gives the passage and possibly the intended meaning itself. As we study this book, we must understand these passages in their context as intended for us. What we will begin to discover is that the truths that God is revealing to us are so much greater than what we would have seen had we pulled the verses out of their context, and their application in our lives will be so much larger.

As we look at 1 John 4, we will begin in verse 7. John is starting here a new loop, if you will, in the subject matter, and he closes this loop at the end of the chapter in verse 21. In these verses John is going to address a key question—one that is so important to our faith. It is a question that, if you are a Christian, you have at some point thought through or wrestled with or struggled with, maybe even for a long time. Maybe you are still wrestling with it. His question is simply this: “How do I know I am a child of God?” If you are not a Christian, this question might interest you for a different reason. Lots of people say they are Christians, but they don't all act the same, do they? A lot of people will claim to have new life from God, but do they really? What would that look like?  Is there something about a Christian, about their life that really sets them apart from everyone else? Is there something that you could point to and know “that is from God. Their life is real!”? What is it that identifies you or me or anybody as true children of God?

John gives us the answer right away in verse 7:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

He tells us that the answer to that question, the one we wrestled with so long, is love. Specifically, it is love for others. That is the great identifier of whether or not you have true new life in Christ. But what about all the things that John could have said in answer to this question? What about faith? What about obedience to God's commands or any other thing that might fit in that blank? Maybe “love for others” is just one of many identifiers. Can't someone be a true Christian without it?

John continues in verse 8 by giving us the negative version of his previous statement and removing all other possibilities.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

And in case you are not sure if he really meant that, as John comes back around at the end of the chapter to close up this loop, he will say it again in a different way in verses 20 and 21:

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

He says it in black and white, backwards and forwards, no alternatives, no exceptions, no wiggle-room. The way you tell if you or I or anyone is truly a Believer is by their love for others.

But how can that be true? How can John say it so dogmatically and so exclusively? And what does he mean by “love” anyway? In the remainder of these verses, John reveals to us three truths about love that will clarify his statements.

For the first truth, John focuses on what love is. He tell us that...

  1. God's love is the measure of what real love is. (v. 9-10)

9 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.

If you are a Christian or if you've been around church for any length of time, you know what verse 9 means. You know what Christ did here on this earth. He was born as a man. He lived a perfect life and He died a brutal death on the cross so that he could take the punishment for our sin. He paid with His life, the debt that you and I incurred because of our sin. It is an infinite debt that we owe, payable only by eternal punishment. And only Jesus, fully God and fully man, could nail our sin to the cross as paid in full by His shed blood; and then crush death's power once and for all by rising from the dead. This is the kind of love that John communicates to us.

Romans 8 tells us that Jesus did what we could never do for ourselves because of our sinful flesh, He condemned sin. He killed it! He did all that for you and for me so that we could live. He offers us new life—eternal life—if we will take it. This is the depth of the love John is trying to communicate!

But John is not finished revealing to us what love is. He continues in verse 10.

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.    

God did all of this for you and me, and He knew that we didn't even love Him. In fact Romans describes us as His enemies. Have you ever tried to love someone who doesn't love you back, someone who doesn't even like you? Or more accurately as God describes it, someone who hates you? Maybe you have experienced this on some small level with one of your children, or another family member, or perhaps a neighbor or coworker. You try to give and give and love, and you receive nothing but spite in return. Even in such a small example, it hurts just to think about it. This is what real love is! Love is self-sacrificing for the good of another, even if they don't deserve it, even if they don't care, even if they don't want it. God's love is the measure of what real love is. God's love as displayed by sending His Son to die for you while you hated Him. His love – not our love, not what is convenient for us, not what everyone else is calling love – is the measure of what real love is.

John continues to talk about what love does now, and reveals to us the second truth that is tied closely to the first. And that is that...

  1. God's love is the source of our love for others. (vs. 11-13, 19)

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

19 We love because he first loved us.

Our reaction to reading these verses is probably, “Of course! If God loves me like that, how can I not love others!? How can anyone look at love like that and not be motivated to love others?” And that is certainly true. God's love should motivate us to love others. But if we yank verse 11 out of the passage, that is all we would be left with. God loves you greatly, so go do the right and honorable thing and love other people. But if we don't filter, and we read on in verses 12 and 13, John qualifies his statement in a way that reveals there is more to it. Look at verse 12:

12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

He says that if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love (the love that John just described to us) is “perfected” in us. That word “perfected” means “brought to its intended goal” or “brought to maturity.” In other words, your love for others is the product of God's love maturing in you. How in the world does that happen? How is God's love maturing in us? Read on in verse 13:

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

And now we start to piece together what John is really saying. It is God's Spirit in you that brings all this about. It is His Spirit in you that enables His love to mature in your life and your love for others to be produced.

So let's go back to our original question: How do I know I'm a Child of God, and John's point blank answer: love for others. How can that be true? Because it is the direct product of God's love and His Spirit working in you! Real, self-sacrificing love for others isn't just motivated by God's love, it is produced by it, and it is not something you can manufacture. And it doesn't matter if you are a Christian or not, if you have ever seen someone display love like this on a regular basis you know they are fundamentally different from most in this world. That real love sets them apart because God is in them making that happen.

Now I want you to think about your own life. What is your love like? When looking at God's standard, how does it measure up? If we are honest, we all fall woefully short. As we read this passage, we can think about God's love for us and all that it means for our lives, but on the flip side of that coin, John tells us we are supposed to love others like that. We are confronted with God’s standard. So it becomes apparent to us that these truths we have seen are not just amazing truths about God, they are condemning! How can my poor excuse for love ever compare to God's? How can my life ever compare to what He did for me? The truth is that we don't deserve His love, we deserve His justice. His punishment is rightly earned by our inability to measure up to His standards.

That is where truth number 3 comes in.

  1.  God's love is the basis of our standing before Him. (vs. 17-18)

In verse 17, John is talking about the mutual abiding from verse 12, 13 and 16 (God in us and we in God), and he says,

By this (mutual abiding) is love perfected (or brought to maturity) with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment,

How can I possibly have confidence in the day of judgment? I deserve God's punishment! He explains, because as He is, so are we in this world.

What does he mean by that? This is where we can take advantage of John's strange way of writing—the spiral. If he hits the same things over and over, we know that he may have touched on this before. And in chapter 3, verses 1 and 2, we can see that John says the same thing but in a slightly different way that will help us understand.

        See what kind of love the Father has given to us,

This is the love John describes in chapter 4 but here he focuses on the result of that love in us.

        That we should be called children of God; and so we are.

Then in the next phrase, he links us with Jesus as though we are together children of God.

        The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now.

So the result of God's great love brought to maturity in us is that we can have confidence before Him because we are as Christ is, Children of God. His love in you has so changed our identity. And we don't have to wait for it. We are God's children now, on this earth. Romans 8:16-17 says it a different way:        

“…the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, and fellow heirs with Christ.”

But our hearts tell us that we can't measure up! We can't meet His standard! John is telling us that it is not about that at all. His love is at work in us and that is what identifies us as His children.

Now in verse 18 John explains a little more about that confidence.

18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

He describes for us the opposite of confidence—fear. This fear of punishment is the punishment from God's judgment in the verse before. Have you ever thought of that moment when it's all over and you must stand before God to give an account. And you know what you deserve. What is our natural response to that? Fear. And that fear is rightly motivated. We do deserve punishment. But John is calling our attention to the true basis of our standing before Him—our identity as Children of God. This is an identity made possible by His great work of love and it is an identity clearly visible by the maturing of His love in us. If that is the basis of our standing, there is no room for fear. His perfect love displayed in Christ's death has erased all traces of punishment and the fear that comes with it. Romans 8 tells us this same truth:

There is no condemnation (no punishment) to those who are in Christ.

Why? Because Christ did what we could never do—He turned the tables—He killed Sin. This great act of God's love is the basis of our standing before Him: God’s love, God’s perfect work of love.

In verses 19 and 21 he brings the passage full circle before he jumps into chapter 5.

 

So we are left with these three truths:

  • God's love is the measure of what real love is.
  • God's love is the source of our love for others.
  • God's love is the basis of our standing before Him.

What do we do with the truths that we found here? Well at first glance we may be tempted to ignore them, they might be so familiar and so elementary to our Christian life that we would gloss over them in search for something “new” or different. But if we stop and understand what God is saying here, the applications are relevant, and poignant and they are many. In fact if you spend some time in this passage this week and talk it over in your LifeGroups or other prayer groups, you might find that God applied these truths in different ways to others than He did to you. We can only look at three of them here, but please study this for yourself, talk it over with your friends, don't stop here.

We can draw three applications from them. The first application is really for all of us, but primarily for those who are not Believers. Maybe you are new to all of this and none of what we talked about made any sense to you. Or maybe it did. Maybe you've heard it all before and you're tired of all the empty talk and hypocrisy.

This is the message from this passage that God wants you to hear tonight:

God loves you.

God loves you—deeply—more than anyone on this earth could ever love you. How do you know that? John says He has already shown you. He died to save you. He sacrificed Himself to pay your debt of sin that you can never pay. And you know what? It doesn't matter what you've done. God tells us the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. All of it. It doesn't even matter how you feel about Him. His love is not dependent on you. Remember? This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the payment for our sin. He invites you to accept His payment, and His gift of new life and to turn your life over to him. And as John says here, the change in your life will be real. It will be unmistakable Love.

The other two applications are more for believers as that is John's primary audience.

Go back to John's original question: “How do I know I am a Child of God?” Look at your own life. What would your life communicate to others as the answer to that question? In other words, if someone else were to analyze your life what would they see as the answer to that question. “I know he is a Christian because He (fill in the blank).” What does your life show? What did John tell us that identifying factor ought to be?

You see, as Christians, we often get things a bit mixed up, don't we. We try to answer that question in other ways—easier ways, maybe with things that we can do or measure. You might try to fill in that blank with a rule or guideline you have set up for yourself—“I know I am a Believer because I don’t______.” You might try to answer this question with a comparison, “I know I am a Believer because I’m not as bad as ______.” Maybe you try to answer the question with an affiliation with a certain church or movement or system of thought. Maybe you thought that Christian service was the identifying factor—being active in your church, visitation, small group etc. You know what it is. We could never say that out loud, but we know that we believe it because when we look at our lives, the love for others that John describes is cold at best. But we try to prove it to ourselves, don't we? We try to do more, and serve more, and be more, and we hold tighter to our guidelines and we resolve to do better or we seek out a new movement and say “Now this is what it means to be a Child of God!” But Paul tells us in I Corinthians that if we don't have love we are nothing, empty, abrasive and obnoxious like the noise from a loud crashing symbol. And we wonder why the world looks at professing Christians and finds nothing worth their time.

God's message to us tonight is clear:

Love is the true identifier of a Believer, and it doesn't come from you or me.

So stop trying to manufacture for yourself an answer to John's question, it only leads to emptiness. If you are truly a Believer, then God's love is being brought to maturity in you by His Spirit. And it will show itself unmistakably by a real, genuine love for others. So get back to the source. Stick close to God. Abide in Him. Make your relationship with Him right. Make that your priority, and then watch as God's love changes you.

The third application is the one I probably struggle with the most. Maybe you look at a passage like this and you are blown away by God's amazing love and by the understanding of what He did for you. But you also see the standard that God requires. Jesus says, Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. And you are scared. You wouldn't say that out loud either, but you think about it. You are scared that you can't measure up. And you are scared that you will get to the end of this life and you will have failed to be the loving friend, or father, or husband, or daughter, or mother, or teacher or pastor that God has called you to be.

God's message to us tonight is clear:

As a Child of God, I don't stand before God's judgment based on my own merits. But, through the demonstration of God's perfect love, I now stand based on the merits of His Son who took my place.

And when your sins and your failures stare you in the face; when the guilt and shame and fear of it all weighs you down, preach this truth to yourself: “I am a child of God now, as Christ Himself is! Not because of anything I could ever do but because of His perfect love!” And as His Spirit helps you understand that, your fears flee before His great love. God's love allows us to live a life of confidence—confidence in my Identity as His Child, Confidence in His love, Confidence in my standing before Him.

I hope you will take these truths and applications with you. Think about them, talk them over with your family and friends this week.

May God grow His love in our hearts as a result.

 

Peter Keew

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

August 31, 2014

 
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