Love In Action

This Wednesday (April 29, 2015) instead of our typical gathering to study at the Patriarch Project office, we will be meeting at a local restaurant to enjoy a time of fellowship and share a meal. Most importantly, we will be sharing our lives with the owner of the restaurant and his staff. Why?

Starting any new business is difficult. In the first year especially, it is a lonely struggle to attract your customers, provide products and services for their needs, and work out the ‘kinks’ along the way. The job description for an entrepreneur reads fairly simply…a little knowledge about your industry combined with a lot of hard work. Most of us never think about what it takes to serve good food at a price we are willing to pay.

What would it mean to a struggling restaurant owner to have a group of folks show up for dinner and order lots of food, have a great time, tip over the top, and let him and his staff know how much they appreciate the restaurant being a part of the community? Well, Wednesday night we are going to find out. For that’s exactly what we are going to do.

So are we saying it’s a party or evangelism? It is simply another dining out experience or proclaiming the Gospel? YES! I can promise you there won’t be any soapboxes or Bible thumping. We haven’t purchased a box containing an evangelism kit or learned a method or memorized a script to lead someone to the Lord. If everything in life should bring glory to God, and we believe that is true, then there is no such thing as a wall in life that separates sacred from secular. As a matter of fact, if all of life is all for Jesus, then there is no such thing as secular. If the Gospel truly applies to ALL of life, eating in a restaurant has no different purpose than going to Bible study.

When Jesus said, “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20), one can’t see it as a simple act of handing out Gospel tracts or knocking on a stranger’s door and asking a question. The Great Commission looks more like a life long relationship. After all, Jesus said to ‘baptize’ these disciples. As a pastor I’ve baptized a number of people. By the time we arrived at the baptismal event I knew them fairly well. After all, one must spend a fair amount of time together in the Word of God to teach the why’s and how’s of baptism. But the disciple making process in the Great Commission does’t stop at baptism. Jesus also said , “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”. This sounds to me like making disciples includes a lot of training. How long does it take to learn to observe all that Jesus in His Word commands? I would say a lifetime. Living a Gospel life must include intentional relationship building.

Of course, salvation is God’s work. We don’t ‘save’ anyone. However, He chooses to include us in the process. (That’s the disciple making part) If Christians are asked to define what it is to make disciples, I wonder what their answer would be. Since Jesus gave us the command to make disciples, I think it would be wise to live a disciple making life. One of the best definitions of a disciple maker’s role in life I have ever heard is this: to know that all of life is all for Jesus, and to constantly create a space in every relationship for the Holy Spirit to work.

In a very real way, that’s what I pray happens at the dinner table Wednesday night. As we enter the restaurant we will not see ourselves as demanding consumers. Wednesday night, and every night, we will see ourselves as disciple makers, demanded by our King to share His love.

Living a Balanced Life Week 16 (Teaching Outline)

Living a Balanced Life

(An In-Depth Study of First John)

Week 16

Commentary

Testimony

1 John 5:6-13

 Outline

What do you believe? This question is common. It is nearly always asked during every religious conversation. Whether the question is focused on the existence of God, or what really matters about a relationship with God, or how God fits in popular culture, people are curious about your opinion. In every case, you give testimony regarding what you believe to be true. Most Christians I know are eager to share the Gospel just as we are instructed by the Great Commission.

However, receiving the opinion of fellow humans should only be valued by the limited knowledge from which they were formed. Case in point: My grandson is four. He loves trucks. He can tell you a great many facts about trucks. He spends a great deal of his time each day at play with a whole fleet of them; fire trucks, dump trucks, semi trucks, and many, many more. He knows what they are used for and what type of people drive them. If I were going to start a construction company and wanted to purchase an excavator, I wouldn’t ask my grandson’s opinion as to which excavator to buy. He has no ‘real’ experience with excavators. His opinion will most likely be based on very limited and bias facts.

I think it is safe to say that most opinions about God held by those around us, of which we ask opinion of, are nearly as limited and bias as my grandson’s opinion of excavators. That being said, I think a better question than… “What do you believe?” …would be… “What does God say about Himself?”  An exciting thought about responding to a friend’s inquiry about God is the fact that God does give testimony about Himself. In our text, John records the testimony of God regarding His Son. There is not only one witness regarding Jesus, but three; the Water, the Blood, and the Spirit. These three witnesses are not only completely reliable but they are in total agreement.

As a Christian, this understanding of God’s testimony about His Son enables me to give the best answer possible to the question “what do you believe?” After all, I never need rely on my opinion. I never have to answer that question by beginning, “I think”…  The point of our text is to give every Christian the proper testimony about God and His Son. God loves us and has revealed Himself to us through His Word. God states clearly and to the point about having a proper relationship with Him (the Father) through Jesus (the Son).

John has again stressed the importance of believing in Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah. Eternal life is not possible apart from such belief. The words of Jesus once again ring true, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Testimony Concerning the Son of God (vs 6-8)

Water – Jesus’ Baptism (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, John 1:32)

Blood – Jesus’ Crucifixion (Matthew 27:50-54)

Spirit – Pentecost (Acts 2:22-33)

Testimony of Men and God (vs 9-10)

  • Testimony of God is greater
  • Testimony of God is the only truth
  • To accept another testimony is to call God a liar

Eternal Life (vs 11-13)

  • God’s testimony is eternal life through the Son
  • One way of Redemption (Salvation) (John 14:6)
  • God’s testimony offers assurance

LIFE APPLICATION

God testifies for Himself perfectly, no need for “I think” attitude

Our assurance rests on the testimony of God the Father toward the Son of God

Goal of the Son of God:

Liberate His people

Glorify His name

Living a Balanced Life Week 15 (Teaching Outline)

Living a Balanced Life

(An In-Depth Study of First John)

Week 15

Commentary

The Commands of God are not a Burden

1 John 5:1-5

 Outline

I have two wonderful grandsons. One is four years old, the other two. One of my favorite times together is “the walk”. Together we walk through the neighborhood, along sidewalks and lakeside paths, in a process of discovery. The world is a fascinating place for toddlers. Both are finally past the stage of exploring everything with their mouth. However, nothing escapes their watchful eye. Consequently, everything the eye sees the hand wants to touch.

The world is filled with thorn and thistle, claws and fangs. My neighborhood is no different. As you can imagine, I spend a majority of our time along the journey barking out commands. “Don’t get too close”, “that’s very sharp, don’t touch”, “that duck will bite you!”; well, you get the idea. My love for them is so intense that allowing them to get hurt is unthinkable. However, not even ‘Grandpap’ is perfect.

My youngest grandson fell in the lake. After countless dissertations regarding water safety, a thousand instructions on how to hold tight and not get too close, my grandson, with all the skill of a gymnast, unlocked from my hand with a leap into a perfect hand stand and performed an Olympic style half gainer right into the lake. Only inches from his diving platform, I was able to quickly fish him out. But not before he was completely submersed and completely soaked. The air was cool that day and the water much cooler. Needless to say, he emerged screaming at the top of his lungs. Being submersed in that cold “ucky” water was not his idea of a good time. Several weeks have pasted since the “incident”, and my grandson still blames me for the whole ordeal.

One thing has changed; my grandson no longer sees my commands to stay away from the lake’s edge a burden. As a matter of fact, he rarely leaves the sidewalk while exploring the lake area. He remembers what it is like to be soaked and scared. He now understands my commands as loving and safe. (at least as far as the lake is concerned)

John begins to unfold a new idea for his readers. Loving God is about keeping His commands. That thought is nothing new. However, John now states that keeping the commands of God is not a burden for those of have been born of God and are people of faith. There is something about commands and love that cause those who know God to see them in perfect harmony; perfect balance. John teaches his readers that ‘love-prompted’ obedience to God’s commands is not a burden to His child. Simply stated, the commands of God draw us near to the Father and cause us to live like Christ. None of the commands are meaningless laws that do not affect the heart.

The Test of Genuine Love (vs 1)

If you love God, you must love your brother (4:20-21)

Born of God (those who believe Jesus is the Christ) (vs 1)

If you love the Father you love the Children of the Father (vs 1)

A New Look at Love (vs 2-3)

How can you know if your love is genuine toward people?

By loving God:

  • Keep commandments
  • Commandments are not a burden

Overcoming the World (vs 4-5)

What kind of person doesn’t consider God’s commands a burden?

  • Born of God
  • Victory by faith
  • Truth regarding Jesus

LIFE APPLICATION

True love never departs from the commands of God

To love someone is to move them closer to the commands of God

The commands of God are never a burden, and we are never found apologizing for them

Living a Balanced Life Week 14 (Teaching Outline)

Living a Balanced Life

(An In-Depth Study of First John)

Week 14

Commentary

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

1 John 4:13-21

 Outline

Today’s text deals with a subject that is relevant to every person on planet earth. I have never spoken with anyone who has even remotely said something like this; “I want to have more anxiety and less confidence in my life.” As a matter of fact, at least one of the reasons given by most people for going to college or technical training is to achieve confidence in what they do. Most believe deeply that proper education and training will drastically reduce anxiety and give bold confidence in the workplace. In other words, what you have learned will manifest itself in your occupation. When having a degree in accounting proves itself, in real corporate life, by accomplishing the balancing of the books, one would describe that as an education becoming complete. Once you have experienced education manifesting itself in the workplace and successfully accomplishing its intended goal, fear is gone. You know that next month you will be able to do the same great job with the books. You have confidence!

Everyone wants to have confidence. Everyone wants to be rid of fear. The Apostle John wants the same things for all his readers. John offers everyone confidence on the ‘day of judgment’ in whom love is perfected. Of course, John is not speaking of sinless perfection; that would contradict previous chapters. The word John uses best fits our understanding of ‘complete’ or ‘accomplished’. In other words, John is stating the fact that everyone who abides in God does so by God’s Spirit, and it is by the Spirit that love is perfected in our lives. So love is perfected when it’s not just talk. Love is perfected when love moves into action. When love reaches its goal, which is to love the children of God, John says it’s complete or perfect. A proper way to summarize verse 17 from our text would be: “When you love someone with more than just talk, when the love of God manifests itself in action, you will experience an unshakable confidence before God.”

Christ-likeness is the result of abiding in God, and God in us, by the Spirit. Our text, in a way, asks the following rhetorical question: “Who would lack confidence or be in fear of judgment when we look very much like the Son of God?” Of course, compared to Jesus, all fall short. However, John states that everyone who has forgiveness of sins by the Blood of Jesus will be found walking in the light. (1 John 1:7) The Blood of Jesus atones for our sins, AND experiencing a certain “walk”, namely love in action, confirms the genuineness of our faith.  John is calling all his readers that have placed their faith in Christ alone and are experiencing the love of God manifesting itself by God’s Spirit toward others to rejoice with confidence and cast out fear.

The Spirit in us (vs 13)

  • We know we abide in God by perfected love (vs 12)
  • We testify the Son of Son is Savior (vs 14-15)
  • We know the love of God (vs 16)

What abiding does (Vs 17)

Perfected Love

  • When love reaches its goal (mission accomplished)
  • From internal and subjective to external and objective

Confidence for the day of judgment

  • Love not in word or speech but in deed and truth (3:18-19)
  • Theme of John’s letter (3:14)

Christ-likeness

  • Having the Spirit of Jesus
  • God doesn’t condemn His Son or those like Him

He first loved us (vs 19)

  • We don’t love our way into God’s favor

We rest in God’s favor and then we love

  • No confidence from being good enough

But confidence in abiding in God

LIFE APPLICATION

Our normal lifestyle is always more than just talk

Living a life of love we never consider punishment

The only way to cast fear from life is to love

Working out a lifestyle of comfort always makes one fear