Thursday, January 31, 2013

TobyMac's "Speak Life" and Gossip

Our family has been enjoying the latest album from TobyMac (who my kids have a hard time believing is nearly a decade older than their dad!).

His song, Speak Life, (embedded below) talks about the power of our words.  In every conversation, we have the opportunity to lift up or tear down. (Hear Toby talk about the story behind this song.)

Gossip drains life from people, but as Christians, we can choose to speak life (Eph 4:29).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Stories of Same-Sex Attraction and Change


One of the strongest ministries out there right now for gospel-centered change for sexual brokenness is Harvest USA.

I am currently reading their excellent little book Sexual Sanity for Men: Re-Creating Your Mind in a Crazy Culture. I got the meet the author, David White, at the CCEF Conference this last Fall.


This second book is written by Ellen Dykas, the women's ministry coordinator for Harvest USA.

Last month, she gave us a set of four encouraging stories of women whose hearts, lives, and identities have been changed by the gospel.




Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Big Writing Day

Today is a big day.

I am finishing the manuscript of Resisting Gossip to turn in to my editor at CLC Publications!

Only 3 items remain on my checklist until I can press "send," and I hope to have them all done by the day's end.

I know that there are many more steps to take to get to holding a finished book in my hand, but this feels like a significant one. I've been working on this book for at least 3 years. It's gone through several revisions, been read by an international team of 25 critical readers, passed a doctoral committee and a professional proofreader.  Now, it's going to a managing editor who will help me to take it to the next level and get it into the hands of readers. That's exciting!

One of the best things about it is that I still like the book. As I've spent the last few weeks with the manuscript, I've got to read it again carefully, and thankfully, I have been very happy with its content. I feel that the Lord has blessed me with a measure of biblical wisdom that could be genuinely helpful to people. (I even believe that my goal of getting into the nitty-gritty and not be namby pamby has been met.)

Thank you, anyone who reads this who has been praying for me. I haven't enjoyed every minute, but it has been an adventure that I am glad to be on. And I'm excited to see where the Lord leads us on this journey.

Ok, I'll get back to writing...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Blogs I Read: Brian Croft's "Practical Shepherding"

My favorite blog about how to do gospel-centered pastoral ministry is Brian Croft's Practical Shepherding.

Brian has the ability to take a complicated pastoral duty and give a concise, bite-sized, helpful, imminently practical bullet-point-ish list of things to do to...catch this... keep the main thing the main thing in that pastoral duty whether it be funerals, visitation, leadership development or whatever.

Brian is very responsive, too. A couple of years ago I sent him a question about a problem I was facing in ministry.  Within a day or so, he had replied with a typically thoughtful and helpful answer which I am still applying to my ministry.

I highly recommend Practical Shepherding.

Just last week, Brian re-posted my favorite of his article ever. It's my favorite because it perfectly captures my life and ministry partner's ministry to me.


Hint: Her picture is on this page.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Love Your Brother"

“Love Your Brother”
Essential Christianity: 1 John
January 27, 2013
1 John 3:11-18

The sermon title today is on the back of your bulletin. It is “Love Your Brother” which is the whole point of today’s message.

So Dads and Moms, today at the Sunday Dinner Table, you should ask your kids what was the point of today’s message?  And kids, you should be able to answer, “Love Your Brother.”

And, hopefully, you will be able to give 3 good reasons to love your brother based upon 1 John 3:11-18.

Three good reasons to love your brother.

Now, when I say brother, I mean, your fellow Christian. It isn’t talking only about our siblings. It isn’t only addressing the men or the boys.  It is talking about our Christian brothers and sisters.

Love Your Brother and Sister in Christ.

That doesn’t mean that we aren’t supposed to love our siblings, too, but this is specifically talking about spiritual siblings.

Love Your Spiritual Siblings.

That sounds really good, but it can be really hard, can’t it?

Because not all Christian brothers and sisters are very lovable.

I know that I am not always lovable.

I know that you are not always lovable.

Our spiritual siblings are not always easy to love.

But John says that we must do it.  Love Your Brother.

We’re picking right where we left off last week. John has this habit of introducing new ideas at the tail end of old ideas.

The last two weeks, we were talking about being the Children of God. Amazingly, that is what we are!  The Children of God.

Never stop marveling that that is what we are–the Children of God.

And in verse 10 John how we know that we are the children of God. V.10

“This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”

Last week, we talked about doing what is right. The Children of God purify themselves.

This week, we picked up on that last phrase. “Anyone is not a child of God...who does not love his brother.”

The Children of God Love Their Spiritual Siblings.

Love Your Brother.

Easy or hard, love your brother.

One of the hardest parts of writing a sermon on a passage like today’s is that the point is so clear just in reading the passage.

All I have to do is read the passage, and you get the point.

Kids, what was the point of today’s sermon?  “Love Your Brother.”

The Children of God Love Their Spiritual Siblings.

So, what else do I say about it?

Well, John says a lot here.  And I think he gives us at least three good reasons to love our brothers and sister in Christ.

They aren’t the only reasons out there, but they are good ones.  Ones we need to hear.

And, if we take them to heart, it will help us to love those we need to love whether that’s easy or not.

So, let’s go through them. Here’s number one.

Love Your Brother:

#1. BECAUSE LOVE IS ESSENTIAL TO CHRISTIANITY.

V.11 again.

“This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”

Anything ring a familiar bell from that verse?

John loves to use that phrase, “from the beginning.”

“From the beginning.”

It was in his very first sentence in this letter.  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”

And what we said was that whenever John uses that phrase, he’s saying this is the fundamental stuff of Christianity.

Our whole series is called “Essential Christianity.”

The essence of what we need to be and to believe to be a real Christian.

And John says that this was part of the gospel message you heard right from the gitgo.

We should love one another.

Love is essential to Christianity.

In fact, we know who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil based upon whether or not they love their brothers and sisters in Christ.

That’s how essential love is to Christianity.

This is basic stuff.

It’s not a new message. It’s not a strange new teaching that gets added on to the gospel.

It is part of the gospel.  Christians (who have been loved by God through Christ) love each other.  We should love one another.

Love Your Brother.  It’s essential.

And I think that Christians need reminded of this.  We all agree with it (who would  disagree with “love one another?”), but do we practice it?

And do we excuse ourselves from it?

“I don’t have to love that guy.”

Yeah, I’m a Christian, and he’s a Christian, but it’s not that big a deal if I...fill in the blank...am rude to him, or unkind, or impatient, or keep a record of his wrongs, or whatever.

No, this is essential. This is bedrock foundational.

“This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”

Love Your Brother!

Why?

#2. BECAUSE YOUR LOVE OR YOUR HATE WILL REVEAL YOUR HEART.  V.12

“Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous.”

Remember that story from the book of Genesis?

First two brothers.

First sibling rivalry.

First murderer.

Murder is the ultimate in hate, isn’t it?

The Lord Jesus taught us that murder starts in the heart.

And that’s what John is saying.

“Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous.”

Cain’s heart was bad. It was full of sin and full of unbelief.

And Abel’s heart was good. It was full of faith and trust and his offering was righteous.

And that steamed Cain. He was jealous Abel and his favor with the Lord.

And he allowed that to eat him up so that he killed his brother.

Nobody becomes a murderer out of neutrality.

They have hate in their heart and it comes out in murder.  V.13

“Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.”

Now, that verse seems to come out of nowhere, but I think he’s tying it back to Cain and Abel. Abel was probably surprised that his brother lured him out into the field and struck him down.

But that’s what we can expect from the world.

We can expect hate.

If we get anything else, it’s the grace of God.

Let me just say this. I believe that we are heading into a season in American society when Christianity will be increasingly hated.

I don’t think that church is ready for that. The evangelical church has had a extremely long run of having a favored position in our society, and we’ve grown used to people liking us.  Even unbelievers have liked us.

But that has not always been the case and will not always be the case.

In fact, it’s an anomaly.  Jesus said to expect people to hate us.

He said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

And His disciple John says, “Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.”

Church, we need to get ready for that.

And what we need to get ready to do about is not to whine and complain and demand our rights.

It is to love our enemies and to love our spiritual siblings.

If it advances the gospel, we can certainly use our rights. The Apostle did as we saw last year in the Book of Acts.

But Christians need to prepare ourselves to be hated.  And not hate back.

And all the while love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Why?

Because, like Cain, our love or our hate will reveal our hearts. V.14

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”

Do you want to know if you have passed from death to life?

One way is to ask if you believe in Jesus Christ.

Jesus said “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

Believe in Jesus and you have crossed over from death to life.

Do you want to know if you have passed from death to life?

Here’s another way to tell.

Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Because if you don’t, you haven’t.

Don’t tell me that you believe in Jesus but you don’t love Jesus’ people.

Don’t tell me that you belong to Jesus but you can’t stand other Christians.

Don’t tell me that you have faith when you don’t have love.

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”

Now, again, don’t take the wrong lesson home from this.

It doesn’t mean that if you have murdered someone, you can’t be forgiven and can’t go to heaven.

The apostle Paul thought of himself as former murderer, but he was forgiven and set free and is with the Lord today.

And it’s not saying that if you hated someone recently then it’s the exact same thing as if you killed him.

It’s close! Because murder starts in the heart. The same murderous seed is in you if you hate your brother.

But it is actually worse if you actually kill him!

The point is that Real Christians Really Love Other Christians.

They don’t hate them!

And how we treat other Christians REVEALS what’s truly in our hearts.

If Jesus has truly saved us, then we will have love in our hearts for our brothers and sisters.

If we are fakes, then we will not.

Which are you?
Do you love other Christians or do you hate them?

Yes, I know that it’s not always as black and white as that in the nitty gritty of everyday life, but those are the basic two choices: love and hate.

Life and death.

And what we choose to do reveals our hearts.

Love Your Brother!

Because (Number Three).

#3. BECAUSE YOUR SAVIOR LAID DOWN HIS LIFE FOR YOU.

How opposite is this?

Cain murdered his brother.

But Jesus allowed himself to be murdered for his enemies.  V.16

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

Let there be no mistake.

We know what true love is.

Jesus Christ laid down his life for us when He went to the Cross.

That’s love!

The greatest love.

Love for your enemy, because that’s what we were.

And if Jesus can do that for us, then we OUGHT to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now, I don’t think that most of time that means that we literally need to be crucified like Jesus was for our spiritual siblings.

But it does mean to be sacrificial, doesn’t it?

A love that doesn’t cost us anything is much of a love.

Jesus’ love cost Him everything.

Love your brother sacrificially.  V.17

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

The ESV says, “if he closes his heart” to him how can have the love of god in him?

If you have a brother or a sister in Christ that has a genuine need and it doesn’t do anything inside of you when you see it, then that forces the question do you have the love of God in you?

Now, again, just by feeling something for someone in need doesn’t make you a Christian.

Faith in Christ makes you a Christian.

But that faith in Christ will change your heart so that you care.

So that you REALLY care.

And we know if we really care when we DO something about it.

Your Savior Laid Down His Life For You.

So, you should love your brother.  In actions and in the truth.  V.18

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Here’s where the rubber meets the road.

Not, do you talk the talk, but do you walk the walk?

Our love cannot be just theoretical. It must be actual.

It must be in actions and in truth. Meaning, real.

The real thing.

Now, the application of this message is going to look differently for different people.

We all have different spiritual siblings crossing our paths.

But the principle is the same no matter who we are.

Love Your Brother
Love Your Brother
Love Your Brother

Because Love Is Essential to Christianity.

It’s the message we heard from the beginning. Basic Christianity.

Love Your Spiritual Siblings.

Because Your Love or Your Hate Will Reveal Your Heart.

Are you like Cain or like Christ?

That’s the question!

Are you like Cain or like Christ?

If you choose hate, you’ll REVEAL yourself to be like the world, like Cain and full of death.

If you choose love, you’ll REVEAL yourself to be like Christ.

Love Your Brother

Because Your Savior Laid Down His Life For You

You Ought to Lay Down Your Life for Your Brother.

Love Your Brother in actions (not just words) and in truth.

Love Your Brother.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

My Annual Pastoral Report for Lanse Free Church

Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God
by bringing people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ
through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.

The Annual Pastoral Report
Pastor Matt Mitchell
Year in Review: 2012

Dear Church Family,

I love being your pastor! So many times this year I was struck by the thought of what a joy it is to serve you in preaching, equipping, and shepherding. Thank you for the privilege of pastoring this flock this last year. Thank you for praying for me and my family, for generously supporting us financially, and for encouraging us in our shared ministry.

This year, we celebrated our 120th birthday as a church! In February, we enjoyed birthday cake together and looked back over twelve decades of God’s faithfulness to us–four buildings, two languages, over twenty pastors, and countless lives touched by the ministry of LEFC.

Just because we’re old, doesn’t mean that we’ve slowed down! 2012 was a year full of rich ministry to people. As a church family, we worked together to reach out to our community and world, to make disciples for the Lord Jesus Christ, to worship Him in spirit and in truth, and to care for one another in love.

Growth

Our church family is growing. The average attendance at worship on Sundays in 2012 was 145 people. That is a 4.3% increase over the previous year (with Resurrection Sunday being the biggest - 230 people), but the last two months of 2012 saw an even more dramatic increase (November - 171, December - 161). We need to work hard at making the new folks feel welcome and enfold them into our family.

Our membership is growing, too.  Ten people joined our membership in 2012: Tim & Kelly Beck, Cody & Holly Crumrine, Roper & Lita Houston, Curtis & Stephanie Quick, Velma Francisko, and Andy Dobash. Welcome!

The over-arching theme in 2012 was “Tell Your Story.”  We had several men and women share their personal testimonies in church including Lucinda Socoski who was baptized on Resurrection Sunday.  We invited the community to hear the Moody Men’s Collegiate Choir. We held our first ever “Good News Cruise” and had a fabulous turnout among the community.  And, a true highlight, we sent six of our own people to Serbia on a missions trip. It is so encouraging to pastor a church that wants to reach beyond our four walls with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pastoral Ministry

I get to minister in three main areas: preaching, equipping, and shepherding.

Preach the Word

In 2012, we finished our series on the book of Acts entitled “From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania,” and then dove into the often depressing but always relevant book of Judges in “The Downward Spiral.” We ended the year by beginning John’s first epistle, “Essential Christianity” which we are still in today.

I also preached at Miracle Mountain Ranch for their Winter Youth Conference, to the residents at Windy Hill Nursing Home, and three times to our sister church, Core Community Church in Shelby, Ohio, as they are without a pastor right now.

When I was out of the pulpit, we were well served by Matt Cox, Tim McGill, Jeff Powell, Phil Alessi, Zeke Magill, and Spencer Folmar.

Equip the Saints

Each year, I get to enjoy working alongside our ministry teams. Please take some time to read the other reports in this volume. They give a snapshot picture of a very full year of effective ministry. Note especially new ministry coordinators reporting in:  Cody Crumrine with the youth and Tim Beck in men’s ministry. It’s great to see our ministry team growing.

I continued to be active in the EFCA in 2012. Nationally, I served as the book review coordinator for EFCA Today. In our district, I lead our Constitutions and Credentials Board and a new regional pastors group for Central Pennsylvania. I also began writing book reviews for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.

Shepherd the Flock

My favorite part of pastoring is relating to people.  I get to visit, counsel, and pray with you! It’s exciting to have a front row seat to watch people grow and change because of the work of the Holy Spirit in their life.

It was my sad privilege to preside over six funerals in 2012: Andy Dobash, Sr., Gerald Gulich, Gilbert Shimmel, Wally Kerlin, Orvis Gulich, and Ann Kyler.

I am thankful for the opportunity to be in your lives.

Personal Highlights and Thanks

This was a particularly big year for me. In March, I successfully defended my 300 page doctoral project. In May, I graduated with my Doctor of Ministry degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. (Thanks for the big and funny surprise party!) In December, I entered into an agreement with CLC Publications to publish Resisting Gossip to the world.

I am so thankful for all of your strong support in these endeavors.  Special thanks go to the Elder Board (Bob Gisewhite, John Forcey, George Leathers, Blair Murray, and Keith Folmar, chairman) for their wisdom and aid.

I am also thankful for our dedicated support staff–for Cindy Green cheerfully keeping our building clean, for Holly Crumrine and her ministry of details (including a total revamp of lansefree.org), and for Marilynn Kristofits who started her ministry of administration this Summer and is doing a great job of keeping us all connected.

My thanks also must be expressed to the Pastoral Prayer Team (and everyone else who prays for us). Twice in 2012, Heather got very sick and lost her voice for multiple months.  We could not have had the year we had without your prayers. Thank you!

Vision for 2013

“Expand” is the word for 2013.

- As a church, we have expanded our missionary force by taking on three new missionary units.

- We will expand our district involvement by hosting the Allegheny District Conference in April.

- We are remodeling the conference room into a family/handicap restroom for expanded accessibility.

- We are expanding the arsenal of scripture in our hearts through the “Hide the Word” campaign on Sunday mornings.

- Each of our many ministries will be praying about how the Lord might expand their effectiveness in worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.

- As the Lord blesses, we will continue and expand in our focus on bringing people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ.

Onward and Upward!

In His Grip,
Pastor Matt

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Blogs I Read: ReachStudents Blog


Shane Stacey and his team at ReachStudents Blog (the student ministries of the EFCA), have a good little group blog going that encourages those who are trying make Christian disciples of the next generation of students.


Yesterday's post caught my eye. It wasn't an original post full of scintillating content (they do that, too).  But it was a provocative post pointing student ministers to a very helpful resource on students and cell phone use by David Murray.

Murray contends, "Apart from giving them the Gospel, the single best thing we can do for our kids’ college, career, and marriage prospects is to train them to be self-disciplined in their cell phone use."

As one who has been trying to think Christianly about our life online, I wholeheartedly agree. (And I think that training them in can and should be part of our giving them the Gospel.)

I'm thankful that there are folks like ReachStudents who are encouraging us to think about this sort of thing.  Check them out.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Robert Gagnon on Homosexuality and the Modern Church

One of the key speakers next week, at the EFCA Theology conference, will be Robert Gagnon, a leading Christian scholar on the topic of homosexuality.

Last Fall, DesiringGod posted an interview with Gagnon answering some significant questions on the topic:

The Church in a Homosexual Culture: An Interview with Robert Gagnon” (32 minutes): 
  • What are the biblical and the structural prerequisites for a sexual union that magnifies God and honors his created design?
  • From that, what constitutes sinful sexual practices?
  • Does the Bible say anything about gender reassignment surgery?
  • Is homosexuality a modern phenomenon? Just how pervasive was homosexuality in the Greco-Roman world of the Apostle Paul?
  • By voting yes to the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, are Christians oppressing the freedoms of the gay and lesbian community? Why or why not?
  • What advice do you have for churches seeking to preach against the sin of homosexuality, and make sure the church doors are wide open and welcoming to all those in the homosexual community?
Same-Sex Temptations in the Church: An Interview with Robert Gagnon (30 minutes):
  • What role does the Church play in demythologizing sexuality in modern culture?
  • In the life of a professing Christian, what makes homosexual practice “an act of unbelief”?
  • Should we be okay with a professing believer who self-identifies as “a celibate gay Christian”?
  • What advice do you have for Christian parents who are fearful that their children will experience same-sex attraction in the teen years?
  • What are churches doing well in engaging those who struggle with same-sex attraction? What are churches doing poorly?
  • What guiding principles will help us to love and reach out to our homosexual neighbors?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Waiting for Your Reputation to Be Cleared

Have you been gossiped about?

We all have at one time or another--some much worse than others.  (And often we don't know it's happening.)

It hurts, doesn't it?

George Whitefield, the 18th century preacher, was often the subject of gossip and slander.  He tried, when he could, to clear up misconceptions of his gospel work.

But, in the end, he knew that he couldn't control his reputation. He had to entrust it to the One knows the truth.

Whitefield said, "I am content to wait till the judgement day for the clearing up of my reputation; and after I am dead I desire no other epitaph than this, 'Here lies G.W. What sort of man he was the great day will discover.'"

That's not easy to do, but it's very freeing.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jesus' Surprising Kingdom

Good news:  Apparently, a number of people are interested knowing more about Jesus' surprising kingdom.

The third most clicked-on post here at this blog is: Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom (from August 2010).

It seems that most people reach it by googling "mustard seed."

However they get there, I hope that people stop to read about Jesus' kingdom that:

- starts small but grows huge,
- has a narrow and closing door,
- and is astonishingly broad and joyful!

I love belonging to King Jesus.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Children of God (Part Two)"


“Children of God: Part Two”
Essential Christianity: 1 John ::  January 20, 2013
1 John 3:4-10

Last week, we marveled with the apostle John that we are the children of God.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

Astonishingly, we are God’s children!

Did you marvel at that this past week?

Anybody remind themselves of that when they brushed their teeth in the mornings?

I am a child of God.
I will be like Jesus when I see Him.

I am a child of God.
I will be like Jesus when I see Him.

And what was the last one?

I am a child of God.
I will be like Jesus when I see Him.
Because of that, I will purify myself right now.

That’s where we left off with John. V.2

“We know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

THE CHILDREN OF GOD PURIFY THEMSELVES.

The children of God purify their lives.
They purify their hearts.

They put away sin.
They make a break with sin.
They fight with sin.
They win against sin.

They change.

The children of God are transformed from sinful to righteous.

The children of God purify themselves.

That’s where John is headed.

And John says that everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself. Everyone! 

The children of God live purified lives. Every one of them.

That’s part of what it means to be a child of God.

That’s the point of this next passage–verses 4 through 10.

Don’t miss that as I read it. There are some pretty alarming statements in these seven verses.  

And they need to be taken very seriously.  But not taken out of context.

And here’s the context again.  “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”
Now, verses 4-10:  Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
The Children of God Purify Themselves.

I think that’s the point of this section of holy Scripture.

There is a lot here, but I think that’s the point.

The Children of God Purify Themselves.

So whatever else you get from this message, make this application this week.

The Children of God Purify Themselves:

#1. BECAUSE JESUS CHRIST CAME TO TAKE AWAY OUR SINS.

After John says that the children of God purify themselves, he talks about how terrible sin is.

Sin is not just a little mistake. Sin is lawlessness. V.4

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.”

That’s what sin is. Sin is lawbreaking. 

Sin is not just a mistake, a blunder, a slip up, a bad choice.

Sin is breaking God’s law, and that has dire consequences.  The Bible says that the wages of sin is death.

Sin is lawlessness, and God takes His law very seriously.

Therefore, real Christians hate their sin.

And they purify themselves.

Are you purifying yourself?

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” v.5

“But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.”

Sin is bad, yes, but Jesus has done something about sin.

He appeared, He came so that he might take it away from us.

Remember what John the Baptist said in the Gospel of John chapter 1?

He pointed his finger at Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who...” what?

“...takes away the sin of the world.”

How did He do that?  V.5, “And in him is no sin.”

Jesus became sin for us to take away our sin.

That’s what happened on the cross.

Our sin was laid upon His shoulders.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

“He appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.”

May we never get used to that thought!

And may this spur us on to purity.

Because Jesus took on and then took away the guilt and shame of our sin!

So the children of God purify themselves. V.6

“No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”

Now don’t get too confused by those words.

It sounds even worse in the King James.

“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.”

It almost makes it sound like Real Christians are sinless.  

Does John believe that?  No way. Remember chapter 1?  V.8?

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

Chapter 1, verse 10. “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”

John knows better than to think that the children of God are sinless.

But He knows that the children of God purify themselves.

“No one who lives in him [Jesus] keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”

If Jesus has taken away your sins, then you stop sinning.

You don’t keep on going with your sin as if nothing has happened.

You purify yourself.

That means that you receive the forgiveness Jesus offers, and you lean on the grace that Jesus gives to have some victory over sin.

And if you don’t, then, apparently, you haven’t seen Jesus or truly known Him.

Because Jesus came to take away our sins!

And that makes a difference to how we live.

I know people, and I sure you do, too, who claim to be Christians, who claim to be the children of God, but they don’t act like it.

There has been no change in their lives.

I know parents who reassure themselves that their son or daughter once prayed a sincere prayer involving Jesus but now live like the world and don’t fight sin in lives and don’t purify themselves.

John is speaking to people like that. He says, “No one who lives in [Jesus] keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”

He’s not saying that the children of God never sin. It’s that they don’t continue to lose to sin. They don’t give up and live in sin. They don’t turn their back on Christ and embrace sin.

One Christian said, “A child of God might fall into sin, but he won’t walk in it.”

Beware of false teachers who say that sin is no big deal. V.7

“Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.”

That last phrase sounds like v.3, doesn’t it?  “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”  “He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.”

This is important.

The Children of God live righteous lives. They do what is right.

Not all of the time. They are not perfect.

But they are forgiven; and they are empowered to live differently!

“Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.”  There are people out there who will tell you that you cannot change.

You cannot become righteous.
You cannot become someone else.

A worrier is just the way you are.
A liar is just the way you are.
A porn addict is just the way you.
A gossip is just the way you are.
An angry man is just the way you are.
A homosexual is just the way you are.
A fearful woman is just the way you are.
A greedy man is just the way you are.
A glutton is just the way you are.

You were born that way, and you cannot change.

That’s a lie.

“Dear children [of God!] do not let anyone lead you astray.”

Jesus Christ came to take away our sins, and He will not leave us the same.

So, we purify ourselves:

#2. BECAUSE JESUS CHRIST CAME TO DESTROY THE DEVIL’S WORK.

V.8  “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.”

First, the bad news: when you sin, you are taking the devil’s side.

He has been sinning from the beginning. Sin is lawlessness, and Satan is an old hand.

But here’s the good news: The very reason the Son of God came to Earth was to destroy the devil’s work!

That’s my favorite verse for today.

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

That was one of our advent candles this year.

The reason for Christmas was the devil needed defeated!

So God sent His Son to put a beat down on the devil.

What is “the devil’s work?”

We tend to think about demonic possession and oppression and other wild and weird stuff when we think about the devil.

But his deepest work is lying to us to tempt us into sin and then to accuse us so that we wallow in our sin and guilt and shame.

Are you feeling your sin and guilt and shame today?

The Son of God appeared to destroy, DESTROY!, the devil’s work.

Therefore: purify yourself.

You can do it.

You can live a cleaned up life.

Not on your own. Not out of your goodness.

But out of Jesus’s devil-defeating work.

It won’t be easy to defeat worry, despondency, lust, rage, greed.

But is possible because of Jesus.

It. Is. Possible.

More than that–it is probable!

It is doable.

It must be done!

Here’s why.

Number three.

The Children of God Purify Themselves:

#3. BECAUSE JESUS CHRIST CAME TO GIVE US A NEW FATHER.  V.9

“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”

Who is your Daddy?

John says that it is obvious who the children of God are.

They are not the ones who live like the devil.

Who is your Daddy?

“Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”

We’re going to talk about loving your brother next week.

This week, “Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God.”

Now, again, that doesn’t mean that the children of God do right all of the time every time. 

John knows that we’re still sinners.

And it also doesn’t mean that unbelievers who are morally upright and often do the right things are the children of God.

The Pharisees were often obedient the law but were not the children of God.

We’ve seen again and again and we’ll see again and again that we must believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God to become a child of God.

But John IS saying that the children of God act like their new Father.

They have a new birth, so they have a new way of living. V.9 again.

“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.”

There is a work of God in all true believers so that they hate sin and want to stop and even do.

Not perfectly. Not comprehensively.

But truly.

Because the new birth gives us a new life.

“God’s seed remains in” us so that we cannot just continue live like the devil.

We must stop.

Not because we physically can’t sin any longer.

But because something wonderful has happened to us to change our insides so that we don’t want to sin any more.  Sin is not the deepest, truest part of us.

It’s still there and it rears its ugly head.

But it is a defeated enemy.
And that means that we can defeat it.

The Children of God Purify Themselves.

Are you a child of God?

My guess is that now you’ve heard this passage some of you are worried that you are not.

Some of you with tender consciences are worried that because you have sinned this past week, this past hour, this past minute, you are not a child of God.

But this passage is not saying that to you.

If you have sinned, 1 John 1:9 tells you what to do.

Confess your sins to God, and He will be faithful and just to forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.

Put your faith in His promises.

But some of our consciences have not been tender.

Some of us have been willfully continuing in sin–abusing the grace of God and presuming upon it and living like the devil.

“Oh, God will forgive. That’s His job!”

“This is just the way I am. I was born this way, and I cannot change.”

“And I will not change.”

“No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”

If that is you, I cannot give you any assurance that you are a genuine child of God.

The Children of God purify themselves. Just as He is pure.

Because Jesus Christ Came to Take Away Our Sins.

He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.

Because Jesus Christ Came to Destroy the Devil’s Work.

And greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world!

And Because Jesus Christ Came to Give Us a New Father

So we should bear the family resemblance and begin to look like our Heaven Daddy.

The Children of God Purify Themselves.

Let’s get started.


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Saturday, January 19, 2013