Thursday, November 29, 2012

Homosexuality

Got your attention, didn't I?

The subject of homosexuality has always been a hot-button topic, but I've noticed that things have changed in the last few years so that it's almost impossible to talk about it well.

There are so many important things to say and to say carefully; it's difficult even to start (I've started this blog post at least five times since October and am just getting around to posting it today).

Many are so pro-homosexual today that they can't hear any words against homosexual lust and behavior as anything but antiquated ravings.

Many are so anti-homosexual that they become haters and use ugly words to hurt others (and they can't hear any words of grace or mercy for practicing homosexuals).

I have friends who are in homosexual relationships--some of you are probably reading this post (Hi! Please know that I continue to love you--even if I believe what you are doing is wrong, unhealthy, and dangerous for you in both time and eternity.)--which complicates my feelings on the subject and feeds my desire to speak the truth in love.  Of course, I also have friends who have been freed from homosexual sin and are probably reading this post (Hi! Please know that I love you and share in both your joy and prayerfully continuing struggles.).

The culture we live in is awash in pro-homosexuality. (See this article about how mainstream and normal homosexuality is in this Fall's T.V. line-up.)  One of my favorite old T.V. Shows, Dr. Who, now seems to have a pro-homosexual character or moment in every single episode!

There is rampant confusion about the topic among young people. Lady Gaga is coming to our local concert venue soon with her "Born This Way" tour.  Sadly, many are excited about this. What seems to me like clear-cut overwhelmingly sickening sin is celebrated by even many Christian teens.

So, it's hard to talk about, but we must do so for the good of people and of our society. 

Starting with this post, I'm going to begin a new series on the topic that points readers to some of the best resources that I'm seeing out there. I'm going to call the series "Hope for Homosexuals" because I don't want to err on either the side of condemnation nor acceptance.  True change is required but also possible through Christ.

I'll start this series with this old sermon of mine that lays out a biblically-informed and balanced view of homosexuality: The Surprising Truth About Homosexuality.

Note: I'm open to your comments and a true discussion, but if things get too heated or out of control, I'll be shutting them down. This blog is a place for Hot Orthodoxy and for truth in love.

I'm also available to talk one-on-one for people in my sphere of influence. This blog is not a place to work out your sexuality in public. I'll also help you find someone near you to talk to, if I can't help you personally.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"A Bad Day Hunting..."

This week is the first week of deer season with rifles. I was out yesterday most of the day looking for a big ole buck.

I'm not sure I really enjoy hunting--for me it's really more like "sitting" or "wishing" than "hunting," but the prospect of bringing home a big one is very motivating. 

While I was sitting there staring at the trees, looking for any signs of a white-tail, I had this thought--"I love my job! Many men think that 'A bad day hunting is better than good day in the office,' but that's not how I think at all.  I love what I do in my pastor's office--I am truly blessed."

(Though I'm pretty sure that a good day hunting might be better than a bad day in the office!)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Blogs I Read: Luke Gilkerson and the Breaking Free Blog from Covenant Eyes

I use Covenant Eyes--the online safety and integrity program.

It works in the background of my computer, keeping track of all of the websites I visit and sending a weekly report to my accountability partner.

Seeing the little open eye in my desktop tray reminds me not only that I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl (Job 31:1) but that the eyes of the Lord are everywhere keeping watch on the wicked and the good (Prov 15:3).

As a pastor, I'm also constantly on the alert for good resources to help people (especially men) to navigate the dangerous waters of the Internet.

The Breaking Free Blog (primarily written and edited by Luke Gilkerson) helps me to do that.  Luke and his team scour the Internet and bring the best content for "honest discussion about Internet temptations."

They say this about their blog:
What you do online impacts your life offline. Breaking Free is about empowering you with knowledge and resources to change the way you use the Internet.

There are many online temptations: pornography and other sensual images, opportunities for inappropriate conversations, too much time spent online, and a host of other “gray areas.” This blog exposes those dangers and concerns to help you surf the Web safely.
Breaking Free doesn't just address unhealthy sexuality but also other Internet threats.  Last week, they ran a great short article on "Is This True?" Deciphering Internet Scams from Worthy Causes Online.

I'll be sending that one to family and friends--because the Internet is a terrific and dangerous place.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "If You Love, You Live in the Light"


“If You Love, You Live in the Light”
Essential Christianity: 1 John
November 25, 2012
1 John 2:7-11

Our series is called “Essential Christianity” because 1 John is all about the essence of what it means to be a Christian–what is essential to be and to believe to truly be a follower of Jesus Christ. Essential Christianity.

And two messages ago, we learned that one way to get at the essence of Christianity is to say, “God is light, in him there is no darkness at all.”  God is light!  That’s essential.

And if we claim to have a relationship with the God Who is light, then we ourselves will “walk in the light, as he is in the light.”

But that can’t just be talk!  Last time we were in 1 John, we were reminded of what is on the cover of our bulletins–there must be a match between our TALK and our WALK.

It’s not good enough to just talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.

John said (v.6), “Whoever claims (talks) to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

Now in this next paragraph, John is going to build on those two ideas.

God is light so we must walk in the light.
And we must walk as Jesus did.

And how did Jesus walk?

He walked in LOVE.

The Lord Jesus Christ walked in love.

Here’s our title for this morning, “If You Love, You Live in the Light.”

Do you remember two weeks ago when I said that John will circle around these three areas over the five chapters of his letter?

Moral, Social, Doctrinal?

These are areas of essential Christianity.

True Christ-followers will follow Christ in moral directions. They will walk in the light, they will do what is right, they will walk as Jesus did.

True Christ-followers will follow Christ in social directions. They will love their brothers in Christ.

True Christ-followers will follow Christ in doctrinal directions. They will believe the truth about Jesus Christ and not follow false doctrine.

Which one of these three is our passage about today?

Social, right?  Love.  It’s also about moral, because love is the right thing to do. It is to walk as Jesus did.

But it’s more about love than anything else.

If you love, you live in the light.

The whole applicational point of these five verses could be summarized with this sentence: “Beloved, Love Your Brother.”

I get that word “beloved” from v.7, “Dear friends...”

The word translated in the NIV, “dear friends” is agapatoi which literally means, “those who are loved.”  Or the old word that we don’t use much anymore “beloved.”

Those who are loved.

John loved these people. And Jesus loved these people.

And John says if you are those who are loved then you should love your brothers.

“Beloved, Love Your Brother.”

That’s the command that John is talking about in these verses.

Love your brother.
Love your fellow Christians.
Love your fellow church members.
Love those who are loved by Christ.

...Is that an easy thing to do?

Sure, sometimes.

Other times, not so much.

Other Christians are not always so lovable.

Apparently, the false teachers who had left the church that John was writing to had sowed the seed of false teaching that says that love for other Christians is not essential to Christianity.

It’s no big deal to hate your Christian brother.

What really matters is secret spiritual knowledge.  Who cares if you truly love your brothers and sister in Christ?  What really matters is secret spiritual knowledge.

What we called last time a creeping proto-gnosticism. 

Who cares if you truly love your brothers and sister in Christ?  What really matters is secret spiritual knowledge.

But John insists that that is not true.

Love for other Christians is essential to essential Christianty.

Beloved, Love Your Brother.

He gives three reasons.

Love your brother #1. BECAUSE THIS IS AN OLD COMMAND.  V.7

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.”

John insists that this command to love your Christian brother is not a new thing.

It’s an old thing. An old command.

Why is that important?

Well, my guess is that those John is writing against were claiming that John was always introducing something new and trying to change the rules on you.

“I see. All of a sudden, it’s important to love other Christians? When did that start?  I thought it was important to walk in the light. I thought it was important that Jesus died for us. Which is it?  When did this command come along?”

Now, in our culture, we love things that are new. Our motto is “The newest and the latest is the greatest.”

But in that culture, there was lots of respect for old things and old people.

It was important to show that this command was something old and not just a FAD.

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.”

This isn’t new to Christianity. It’s as old the world.

And it’s the direct word of our Savior. The Lord Jesus Christ gave this command.

And John had passed it on faithfully.

These Christians had heard this message of loving each other time and again since the beginning of their Christian life.

Raise your hand today if you knew that Christians are supposed to love one another.

I’m assuming that everyone here knows that.

Because it’s nothing new. It’s old.

Beloved, love your brother because this is an old command.

Number two.

Love your brother #2. BECAUSE THIS IS A NEW COMMAND.  V.8

“Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”

Is this a contradiction. No way.

John is saying that there is a way in which this old command is new.

It’s new because there is a new era dawning.

A new era, the dawning of the age of Christ, and the age of the Spirit. V.8 again.

“Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him [Christ] and you [Christ-followers], because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”

Trick question. This should be an easy one. But it is a trick question.

Has Jesus’ kingdom come?

Yes and No.

It has come but it is still coming.

It has already come and it is not yet here in its fullness.

Has the light come?

Yes, the light has come. God is light, and He has come in Jesus Christ.

And the darkness is passing.

But the darkness is also still hanging around.

It’s on the way out, but it is still lingering here.

Here’s what’s new: the kingdom of light has dawned!

And the King of Light says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

That’s in the gospel of John chapter 13, verses 34 and 35.

Jesus called this “A new command: love one another.”  And here’s what’s new about it.  Jesus has shown how to do it. Sacrificially.

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

The kingdom of love has dawned.  That’s new.

So, we’ve got love our brothers. Because this is a new command.  One that goes with the new kingdom.  

We’ve got to...or we’re lying. V.9

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.”

We’re back to TALK and WALK, aren’t we?

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.”

Still stuck back in the old way before joining the kingdom of Christ.

It’s not good enough to just say that we are in the light, we must love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Because Number Three:

#3. BECAUSE IF YOU LOVE, YOU LIVE IN THE LIGHT. V.10

“Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.”

Doesn’t that sound good?

That’s a verse to memorize. Let’s say it together.

“Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.”

God is light, and to live in the light, we love our brothers.

Now, again and again, that doesn’t mean that if we love our brothers, we will EARN living in the light.

It just means that if we have been loved by God so that we are in the light, we will naturally and supernaturally walk in the light and love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The two go perfectly hand in hand.

“Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.”

V.11

“But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.”

How many of you still have some scouting to do this afternoon for tomorrow?

I do. I’m planning to go out again tomorrow and take the gun for a walk.

Those of you who go out, have you ever noticed how different the woods are on early, early Monday morning compared to Sunday afternoon?

It’s not hard to find your place on Sunday afternoon.

But if you’re smart, you’re marking the path really well because tomorrow morning at 5:30 or 6:00am, everything looks differently.

Was this where we turned?

Where is that tree that I saw yesterday?

Where is that path that I saw yesterday?

Where are those deer that I saw yesterday?

The darkness blinds. And it causes us to stumble.

There is a very clear path between our chicken coop and our back door. I walk it twice a day.

In the morning there is light.

In the evening, the darkness has come.

And, there is a spot between the two apple trees on the way to the chicken coop that if I’m not using a flashlight, I stumble on every time.

And if I know where it is and steer clear, I run into a apple tree branch.

I’m sure that I’m hilarious to watch walk back from the chicken coop every night.

What do I need?

I need a light.

If don’t have a light, I stumble. And if I was leading someone else, I’d cause them to stumble!

And that’s what it’s like if we choose to live in hatred for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

If hatred marks our walk, we will stumble in the darkness and we will make our brothers and sisters stumble, as well.

Do you want to stumble around in the darkness?

Of course not!

And the answer is to love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

That’s not always easy.

Some Christians are harder to love than nonChristians!

And sometimes, hate is not obvious. Sometimes we hate our brothers and sisters by not confronting them in their sin.  Love confronts.

Love is not just a warm-fuzzy feeling. Love is an active thing–seeking the best for someone else, often as a personal cost.

Love is not always easy to do.


“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

That’s love, and it’s not always easy to do.

But we must do it.

How can we?

First off, by trusting in Jesus.

Jesus said this in John 12:

“You are going to have the light just a little while longer. [That’s Jesus Himself.] Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. [Sound familiar?] Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.”

So the first step in loving is to put your trust in the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

Have you done that?

Jesus died on the Cross to pay for the darkness inside of you and me.

And with His resurrection, He brings a new light into our lives so that we can be light and share light and walk in the light as He is in the light.  

We can be sons of light!

And sons of light have the power to love one another.

Jesus gives us the power to love the most unlovable Christian.

And when we do, we LIVE in the light.

“Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.”



*************

Messages about Essential Christianity


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

An Introduction to the Biblical Counseling Movement

Long term readers of this blog have noticed that I talk a lot about "biblical counseling," and some have wondered what exactly I mean by that term.  How is it different from Christian counseling in general?  Or is it just another way of saying the same thing?

Just this week, I was telling another pastor friend about the "Biblical Counseling movement" and offered to send him some resources to orient him to this counseling model's ideas and practices.

Here are some lightly edited excerpts from my follow-up email:

***********

You've asked for some basic reading on Biblical Counseling to understand the movement that I've embraced. So, I thought I'd write out a few orienting thoughts and point you to some foundational resources.

As I've said before, the Biblical Counseling Movement is a large and varied thing.  There isn't just one stream; some of it is simply Bible-band-aids of the "take 2 Bible verses and call me in the morning" variety.  For some folks everything is sin, sin, sin, and the answer is stop, stop, stop.

But the best of the BCM is a richly biblical wholistic approach to helping people and giving them hope for real change.  It is our high view of the Bible applied to people's lives: a biblical anthropology, a biblical ecclessiology, and progressive sanctification overlayed on daily living.

1. CCEF

The best BC organization, in my opinion, is CCEF.  They are a kind of "think tank" for biblical counseling.  These are the guys who I studied under for my doctorate and the conference I went to last month.

Their three best known thinkers/writers are David Powlison, Ed Welch, and Paul Tripp.  (Tripp has moved on from being part of the faculty but is still associated with CCEF.)

I'd like to suggest a book or two by each for you to consider reading in time:

I think this is the best book to read to get the "Biblical Counseling Movement." It is really a collection of Powlison's editorial articles from the Journal of Biblical Counseling.  It really shows their approach to counseling and to evaluating the other models out there--but does it in a winsome, not dogmatic, way.  There are other places you could start, but you'll really get a feel for the best of biblical counseling by reading this. (By the way, Powlison's book on Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare is an excellent illustration of how the BCM sees spiritual warfare and interacts with the different models for that issue out there.)
Ed Welch

Blame It On the Brain: Distinguishing Chemical Imbalances, Brain Disorders, and Disobedience
This is the book that lays out our approach to the relationship to body/soul issues and gets at the things we call "psychiatric problems."  It shows how nuanced (and helpful) biblical counseling has become.  I highly recommend everything that Ed writes whether it's on depression, anxiety, addictions, or the fear of others. So much wisdom there.
Paul David Tripp

Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change
Tripp is the most "preacherish" of them so his book is perhaps the most practical.  This book is basically a class on counseling: how to help others change. The four major "steps" of the model are LOVE, KNOW, SPEAK, and DO.  This is a book to go through with other leaders to grow in shepherding others.  I recommend it for getting a sense of how biblical counseling works out in practice. Our elders did it together.  (Also helpful for that very thing is Michael Emlet's CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet.  Emlet takes you deep into his thought process for using scripture in counseling and gives very helpful case-studies.)
[By the way, CCEF was founded by Jay Adams, but has moved beyond his narrower, less nuanced approach.  If you want to read the history of this movement, the two books are The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context by David Powlison and The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams by Heath Lambert]


As I said above, CCEF is not the only BC organization out there (just the best, in my opinion).  Recently the leading BCM organizations (including CCEF) have joined together to form the Biblical Counseling Coalition.  They are trying to work together, not against each other, and listen to one another where they differ.

Aside from their helpful blog and their growing book section to which I have begun adding reviews, I think the most helpful thing they have is The Biblical Counseling Confessional Statement which lays out their vision for what biblical counseling is, in essence.  I think, if you read that, you'll get a quick feel for what we care about.

Hope that helps!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving


"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever."


Hopefully, your Thanksgiving doesn't include any of these lines from Mark Altrogge.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ya Gotta Serve Somebody

On Sunday, I had the fairly rare privilege of being in our own home church but not preaching. 

Instead, I got to take in a powerful (and funny) sermon by my friend, Alex Ielase, the founding pastor of Redeemer on the Mount Church in Mt. Washington, PA (up the incline plane in Pittsburgh).


One of the things he said that has lingered with me these last couple of days is that Satan dangles tempting reminders of our past sinful lives in front of us tantalizing us with how much fun and pleasurable the good times were (like Israel being tempted to go back to Egypt). 

"But," Alex said, "he never mentions the chains."

No, Satan never reminds us of how enslaved we were before. I wonder why...


Listen to Alex's message "Ya Gotta Serve Somebody" here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Blogs I Read: Of First Importance

I get gospel-amnesia. Even though I talk about it a lot, I need to be regularly reminded of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Of First Importance is a daily quote blog that sends a reminder to me every 24 hours of the goodness of the good news.

It doesn't take up your day, it just makes your day (if you believe it!).

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Review: The Deep Things of God


Here's how it begins:
Is it possible that there is something more glorious than the gospel of grace?
Biola professor, Fred Sanders, thinks that there is one thing greater than the gospel itself, and that is the Triune God of the gospel. In his book, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, Sanders argues that gospel-centered Christians should embrace and cherish the doctrine of the Trinity because the biblical gospel is thoroughly Trinitarian.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pastor, Be a Good Dad

Barnabas Piper (son of John and son of encouragement) reminds us some of what our pastors' kids need from their dads.

I need these kinds of reminders.  They may have lots of pastors in their lives over the years, but only one dad.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

One Week Later: Helpful Post-Election Links

As I've said before, you won't hear much about politics at Hot Orthodoxy (for a variety of reasons that I won't go into now).

But I do want to help believers to process what they experience in their world.

So, here are a few of the articles that are helping me to think about last week's big event, especially those who don't get as much attention as they deserve:

Tim Stafford: I'm Thankful for America.




T.J. Addington: A Prayer for Election Day
I resonate with much of what I read here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Blogs I Read: John Piper and Others at the Desiring God Blog



John Piper doesn't need me to introduce him, but I don't know if all of my readers read the Desiring God Blog.

It's actually a group-blog with multiple authors, some from within the DG ministry, and many from outside friends.

Piper tends to write something about weekly, and they post his sermons, too, but there is normally something new from others at least once per day.  (One of my favorites is Jon Bloom.)

The content is doctrinaly meaty and yet liveably practical.  I am normally encouraged or challenged (or both) by at least one post per week.

For example, last week, my former professor of preaching Mike Bullmore posted a meditation on training up the next generation.

In it, he opens up about his own temptations to just finish well on his own and in his own generation but not to think beyond his generation, and then he ends with some short but to-the-point applications:

Invest in the Next Gospel Generation

What will this look like? Let me suggest four possibilities. First, devote yourself to faithful gospel ministry, especially the ministry of the word. The best way to train men to faithfully preach the gospel is to faithfully preach the gospel. William Perkins wrote, “So, let every minister both in his teaching and in his conversation work in such a way that he honors his calling, so that he may attract others to share his love for it.”
Second, pay attention to the young men of various ages in your congregation. Notice how they receive your preaching. Notice how they process your preaching. Notice any deepening affections for God and his word. Keep your eyes open. 
Third, create contexts for the young men who catch your eye to practice and grow in their handling of the word.
Fourth, and this must not go unsaid, pray very specifically for God to raise up the next generation of gospel ministers. Pray for your replacement, but pray also for more than that. Pray with an eye, and a heart, toward the future and the continuing success of the gospel in the world, until Christ comes.
This is the kind of thing to expect on the DG blog.  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "Talk & Walk"

“Talk & Walk”
Essential Christianity: 1 John
November 11, 2012
1 John 2:3-6

Our series is called “Essential Christianity” because 1 John is all about the essence of what it means to be a Christian–what is essential to be and to believe to truly be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Last week, we learned that one way to get at the essence of Christianity is say that “God is Light!”  In Him, there is no darkness at all.

And if we are going to claim a relationship with the God who is light, then we have to walk in the light as He is in the light.

We will not do that perfectly because we are still sinners. We are simultaneously righteous and sinners.  Simul justus et peccator, right?

But! We have been and continue to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. He is our Advocate who speaks in our defense because He is the propitiation, the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

And that makes all of the difference. ...  At least, it should.

It does make all the difference, if we are for real.

But John has already pointed out that some people claim to belong to the Lord Jesus, but they really don’t.

Today’s message is titled, “Talk & Walk.”

Have you ever heard this proverbial sentence?

It’s not good enough to just talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.

I think that the Apostle John would love that sentence.

It’s not good enough to just talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.

We’re only going to read four verses this morning–chapter 2, verses 3-6.

And if I could summarize it in one sentence it would be this:

It’s not good enough to just talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.

It’s not good enough to just CLAIM to be a Christian, you have to live like one.

It’s not good enough to just talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.

Now, let’s walk down through these four verses in 1 John and see exactly how John says it.

I’ve got four points of application for us this morning to think about, one for each verse.

Here’s the first one.

#1. YOU CAN KNOW THAT YOU KNOW THE LORD. v.3

“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.”  The “him” goes back to verses 1&2, and it refers to Jesus.  Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.”

The first thing I want us to see is that there is something here to be known.

One of the purposes of 1 John is to assure Christ-followers that they truly are Christ-followers.

That true believers are assured that they are saved.

That they are for real.

Remember when we had the “Real Christian” sermon series a few years ago?

1 John is like the book of Real Christians. How to know that you are for real.

Because you might be worried.

You might not know.

There are many who are not sure. They do not know.

And John comes to our rescue.

He says that you can know that you know the Lord.

“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.”

Now, we see here that we know that we’ve come to know if we obey Jesus’ commands.

We’re going to hear John say that and things like that again and again through this short book.

He’s also going to say other things, other ways of knowing that we know the Lord.

There are three areas that John will circle back on again and again in his book.

The moral, the social, and the doctrinal.

This is the moral: obedience, acting Christlike.
Next will be the social: love, especially love for other Christians.
And the last is the doctrinal: believing that Jesus is God in the flesh.

John will circle back around these three areas again and again to bring assurance to Christians.

If they obey Jesus, if they love Jesus’ people, and if they believe the truth about Jesus, then they can know that they know Jesus.

Today, we’re focusing on the first of those: the moral.

But right this second, I just want you to catch this fact: you can know that you know the Lord.

You don’t have worry or wonder or wish.

You can know that you know the Lord.

It can be a certainty in your life, something you can count on.

I remember when that hit home for me the first time. It was when I memorized 1 John 5:13.  It’ll be awhile until we get there, I just jump there right now.

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God [that’s the doctrinal] so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

I memorized that for a class at Moody Bible Institute and you memorize by just repeating it over and over again in your mind.

“...so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
“...so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
“...so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

And all of a sudden, I realized that it meant that I could know that I have eternal life.

Do you know that you have eternal life?

Do you know that you know the Lord?

I want you to know this like you know your own name!

Now, some people read verse 3 and get nervous.

But it’s not supposed to make you nervous but to give you assurance.

“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.”

If you do the things that Jesus says to do, then you can have assurance that you know Jesus as your own Lord and Savior.

You can know that you know the Lord.

If you walk the walk.

#2. IT’S LYING TO TALK THE TALK WITHOUT WALKING THE WALK. V.4

“The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Here’s somebody who talks the talk, “I know him!” but does not walk to the walk.

And John has a name for guys like that, “Liar.”

It’s not enough to just say, “I know Jesus. I’m a Christian.”

Your life has to back that up.

Here’s another way of saying it, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be any evidence to convict you?”  Of course, you would say, “Yes, your honor, I am a Christian,” but “words are tested by works” (John Stott, pg. 90).

Is your money where your mouth is?

Do your actions match your claims?

“The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Now, I’m sure that we can all think of the name of, at least, one of these liars.

Somebody we know who says they are a Christ-follower but their life does not match up with that claim.

But before we point fingers, we should examine ourselves.

Are we liars? Am I a liar?

Do I claim to know Christ but don’t do what He commands?

Now, my guess is that the people who should be worried right now aren’t worried enough.

And the people who shouldn’t be worried are biting their nails right now.

I was once told that my job as a pastor is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

I think that’s what John is trying to do.

John does NOT mean that all Christ-followers follow Jesus perfectly.

We KNOW he doesn’t because of what we saw last week.  He expects us to sin sometimes. Chapter 1, verse 8, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

So, this is not saying that if you have sinned, then you are a liar.

If you have sinned, then obey Jesus’ command and confess it, and He who is faithful and just will forgive it and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.

But it is saying that if say you’re a Christian, but your regular lifestyle says something different, then you are lying to yourself and to others. There is no truth in you.

It’s lying to talk the talk without walking the walk.

And if that’s you, then there is no assurance for you that you truly are a Christian.

I know people who think that they can just IGNORE Jesus’ commands and still be considered Christ-followers.

And I want to ask, “What part of ‘follower,’ don’t you understand?”

“Oh, I prayed a pray to ask Jesus into my heart when I was 4.”

That’s great! But: “The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Let me give you another $5 word for your vocabulary lesson this week.

“Gnosticism.”

Some of you may know that word, but many don’t.

Gnosticism was a false teaching that infiltrated the church, especially in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

A full-blown Gnosticism didn’t come along until later, but John was probably dealing with the roots of it that started even in the first century when the church was just getting off the ground.

“Gnosis” means “knowledge.”

So the Gnostics were people who claimed a secret, spiritual knowledge and that this knowledge was everything.  If you have the secret, spiritual knowledge then you didn’t need anything else including a God who comes in the flesh or obedience in your own flesh, your body.

I think that was part of what was going on in v.4.

Some guys were claiming “knowledge” of the Lord but living like the devil.

And John says, “No way, no how. That’s not how it works.”

It’s lying to talk the talk without walking the walk.

The two go together.  Here’s why.

#3. WALKING THE WALK SHOWS THAT GOD’S LOVE IS CHANGING YOU. V. 5

“But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him...”

It’s the opposite of lying! Obedience is demonstrating to the world that God’s love is “made complete in him.”

What does that mean?

Well, it could mean that love for God is made complete in the obedient Christian.

That’s one way of taking it. And that would be true.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will do what I command,” so we can infer that if you do what Jesus commanded, then you love Him.

But I think the 1984 NIV has it right, “God’s love is truly made complete in him.”

God’s love demonstrated in the cross is having it’s full effect on the believer.

How do we know?  The believer obeys Jesus.

Now, that’s very important.

Because we can make the mistake in verse 3, of falling into the trap of the Pharisees.

“I want to know that I know the Lord.”

So, I get busy obeying commands.

Obey, obey, obey, obey.
Work, work, work, work.

How many commands until I know that I’m saved?

Give me a number!

That’s not what we’re talking about.

It’s not about earning your salvation.

It’s not about working your way there through obedience.

This is not Pharisee-ism. This is assurance that comes from fruit.

This obedience is blood bought. This obedience is built on the blood of Jesus.

This is a believer who has come to trust in the Cross of Christ, has come to know that he or she is LOVED with an incredible love.

And that love has an effect on you.

You want to obey.
You want to please Jesus.
You want your life to count for His glory.

Walking the walk is not an exercise in Pharisee-ism.

Waking the walk shows that God’s love is changing you.

Have you made changes in your life because God loves you?

Are you making changes in your life (little course corrections) because God loves you?

That’s how you know that you know Him!

A changed life.

Not a perfect life.

But a changed one.

A life aimed in Godward direction.

Waking the walk shows that God’s love is changing you.

If it isn’t, then you aren’t!

Because #4. IF YOU TALK THE TALK, YOU’VE GOT TO WALK THE WALK.

That’s how it works. V.6

“This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

Must!

The two must go together.

And if you claim to live in him, but walk your life in an opposite manner, then you aren’t real.

And I can give you no assurance that you will spend eternity with the Lord no matter what religious experiences you have had. If you talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.

That’s how it works.

So, do it.

Walk the walk.

Walk as Jesus did.

Remember the bracelets that had these letters on them? They were all the rage about a decade ago.

WWJD?

What would Jesus do?

Now, you can do that all wrong and say:

“Well, Jesus walked on water, so should I.”
“Jesus turned over tables in the temple, so should I.”
“Jesus didn’t get married, so I should stay single all of my life.”

That’s a bad way of doing WWJD.

But, I think we know enough about the Lord Jesus to see what things we can and should follow and try, by faith, to live our lives walking as Jesus did.

Right?

What would Jesus do?

And...What would Jesus have me do?

That’s waking as Jesus did.

What situations are you facing right now where you need to ask yourself the question, “What would Jesus do in this situation?” or “What would Jesus have me do in this situation?”

And once you know that, you need to do it.

The application of today’s message is simple obedience.

Obey.

Do it.

Don’t say you will and then not.

Do it.

Obey.

“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

That’s the application.

If you talk the talk, you’ve GOT TO walk the walk.

Do it.

Not perfectly, not without messing up, not without a struggle.

But truly. Growingly. Because God’s love is changing you.

Walk the walk.


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Messages about Essential Christianity


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Friday, November 09, 2012

And The Winners Are...

Congratulations go to Chris Thompson, Marta Rieger, and Jim Schaubroeck!

You three have all won a free copy of Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives from New Growth Press.

I realized last night that I actually had 3 copies to give away, and I am happy to do so.

(I will need a mailing address from each of you. Please send me an email to my gmail address: pastormattmitchell. You can also send me an email by clicking on the green mail icon at the top of the page.)

Thanks, everyone, for playing!

If you didn't win a book today, I recommend that you go buy one (or buy two, one to read and one to give away).

[Read my (unsurprisingly glowing) review of this book.]

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Smith on Freedom: An Excerpt from "Heart of the Matter"

Winston Smith was my advisor throughout my doctoral project. He was always very encouraging and kept his comments short and grace-filled. Therefore, on those few occasions when he had a word of correction or something to suggest that I add, I always took it seriously. Winston has a way of perceiving things that isn't stereotyped, usual, or status quo.

In this excerpt from Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives, Winston encourages us to get a mental picture of the freedom and rest that Jesus experiences and that we can share in.


FREEDOM
Hebrews 10:1–14
Feel the futility of it. In the Old Testament, the priests of Israel were required to offer daily sacrifices to atone for sins. Hebrews points out that the fact these sacrifices had to be performed over and over for hundreds of years shows that they were ineffective in removing sin (Hebrews 10:1–2). Let the language of these tasks being “endless” and being required “year after year” make you tired.
But when Jesus comes, acting as our high priest, he makes a sacrifice of his own life and body that pays the debt once and for all. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). Jesus, unlike any other priest, completed his work and was able to sit down. Like his Father in Genesis 1, Jesus sits because his labor for us is perfect and complete. In other words,

“It was very good.” Because Jesus rests, you can rest.
Jesus’ death and resurrection embody the promises of Sabbath. His work is perfect; complete. He has redeemed us from our sin. By trusting him and obeying his words and his Spirit within us, we are no longer slaves to our corrupted nature. We are free to be God’s children. His resurrection is a picture and promise of the new life we have now and will have forever when Jesus returns and we are resurrected as well.
Winston T. Smith, Reading for April 17, 108

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This post is a part of the Heart of the Matter blog tour.  Are you taking part in our contest for a free copy?

Tune in tomorrow to find out who the winners are.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Book Review: Wrestling with an Angel by Greg Lucas


My review of Wrestling with an Angel by Greg Lucas has just been posted at the Biblical Counseling Coalition book review site.

This is how it begins:
“Gut-wrenching grace.”  That was my three-word-reaction to reading Wrestling with an Angel by Greg Lucas. This book is drenched in grace but was forged in suffering.
Wrestling with an Angel is a practical-theological reflection on lessons one dad has learned through fathering a severely disabled son.
It is both easy and hard to read. It’s easy to read because it is fast-paced and filled to the brim with vivid stories. The chapters are short, tersely written, and come right out of the experiences of the author, a down-to-earth police officer. It’s easy to relate to Lucas and his family.
And that’s the hard part–because Lucas’s family has dealt with severe suffering as they’ve seen Greg’s son Jacob grow from a tiny toddler enduring unexplained seizures to a difficult-to-manage young man. And it doesn’t necessarily grow any easier.
It is hard to read because it is so real. I kept thinking, “This is what it is like.” Blood, guts, and feces all make an appropriate but dismally authentic appearance in the course of the story.I found myself sobbing as I read it. Now, I’m a “softie,” but I don’t normally cry when just reading a book. This book is evocative while not being at all sentimental.  Lucas also finds humor in unlikely places. I didn’t just cry–I laughed and nodded through my tears.
The author will be speaking this weekend at the Desiring God conference on disability.  He also writes a great blog--the latest post brought tears to my eyes again.

Highly recommended.

Read my full review here.

Powlison on Anger: An Excerpt from "Heart of the Matter"

David Powlison knows about anger. Not that he is an exceptionally angry person. No, that's not his personality at all. In person, he appears to be a very peace-filled and joyful man.

But Powlison seems to know the inside and out of what anger is. His articles in the Journal of Biblical Counseling on anger have totally re-shaped my conception of anger.

In today's excerpt from Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives, Powlison encourages us to understand God's anger better and to change ours. 

ANGER
Galatians 5:16–26 
How does God respond when something important in his world is wrong? He responds redemptively. Is God angry when people act like their own god? Yes. But how did he express that anger? By sending his own Son to this broken world to be broken on the cross. He sacrificed his Son so his people can be forgiven, transformed, and restored to a right relationship with him and others.
Your anger can also result in redemption. When you come to God and find forgiveness for Jesus’ sake, you will be filled with God’s Spirit. Because you are filled with his Spirit, it will be possible for you also to respond redemptively when you are angry.
Being filled with the Spirit means everything about you will start to resemble God. Instead of responding with sinful anger to unimportant things, you will start to see your life from God’s perspective. You will begin to care about things that truly matter, instead of overreacting to relatively unimportant things. When Jesus was on earth, he was not a stoic. No one cared more than he did about the things that were wrong in this world. He cared so much that he gave his life to right those wrongs. But his upset was driven by faith and love, not by pettiness, hostility, and aggression. Becoming like God means that you will care about the things Jesus cares about—the things that truly matter in God’s world.
- David Powlison, Reading for June 23, p 175

*****

This post is a part of the Heart of the Matter blog tour.  Are you taking part in our contest for a free copy?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Win a FREE Copy of "Heart of the Matter"

All this week at Hot Orthodoxy, we're taking part in the "blog tour" of for Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives.

Yesterday, I posted my unsurprisingly glowing review.  (If you were looking for a harsh critique, you came to wrong blog.)

Today, I'm happy to announce a contest to win a free copy of Heart of the Matter.

I've been given 2 copies to hand off, and here's all you have to do to win:

1. Leave a comment on this post (either here, at Google+, or on Facebook) with your name on it.

2. Wait to see if you win. I'll be drawing the names out of a hat.  (It's that easy!)

You can increase your chances of winning by posting about this contest on your social media page (FB, Twitter, Blog). Just send me an email or leave a comment with the link so that I know that you've expanded the reach of the contest.  For each time you link to the contest, you get your name added to the hat one more time (limit of 5, contest ends at 7pm EST on Thursday night).

We'll announce the winners on Friday.

This is fun!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Book Review: Heart of the Matter by CCEF


I call myself a “CCEF Junkie.”

I’m “addicted” to the writings of the leaders of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, a kind of “think-tank” for biblical counseling based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I’m “addicted” because they’ve been so helpful to me! Over the last fifteen years, I’ve learned more about growth in godliness, how people change, and how to help others to change from CCEF than from any other one source.

It started with reading their Journal of Biblical Counseling, then I started attending seminars and reading their books (and blogs). And then, I found out that they offered doctoral-level seminary classes that fit my schedule. How could I pass that up?!

Honestly, I’m an unashamed addict. I read everything that CCEF produces. I think that they have a lot of wisdom to offer the Church today.

So, when I heard that there was a new devotional based upon the writings of the CCEF faculty, I knew in advance that it would be good. Unsurprisingly, Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives is very good. 

I had already read all of the books that are quoted within Heart of the Matter, so I didn’t need to read every page to know that the content was going to be valuable. But I also liked the format. It’s a compilation book with multiple authors, divided up into 366 daily readings. You get a “bite-sized” chunk of wisdom for each day of the year.  For a junkie like me, I get a daily “fix.”

I recommend getting  Heart of the Matter for just about any Christian who likes to read and wants to grow in godliness.  It is accessible, readable, and focused on short bursts of wisdom for change. The main theme is "change." Readings cover areas such as love, hope, grace, redemption, faith, contentment, conflict, relationships, prayer, fear, patience, humility, and anger. It would be no substitute for reading one of the works the excerpts come from, but it might be a good introduction to any and all of them.

Of course, by reading Heart of the Matter, you might whet an appetite for more and more CCEF. You have been warned: this stuff is addicting!

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Tune in tomorrow for details of a fun little contest to win your own free copy.

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Disclaimer: I got a free book from New Growth Press to participate in this "blog tour," but that didn't unduly influence me to write this glowing review. I just love this stuff!