God is Love

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“God is Love” is a fundamental statement about the nature of God.

AB Simpson on God is love, “God is not justice. God is not wisdom. God is not power. God has all these attributes but none of them is great enough to constitute His essence. But love is His very nature and in love all other attributes find their completeness.”

Satan will constantly attempt to twist the world’s understanding of the nature of God. The Bible says “God is love,” the world says, “love is love.” The world defines love as something that we possess and usually this is a selfish desire and sexual in nature. The world ignores the pure and essential nature of God as being the source of love.

This does not mean that only Christians are capable of love.  We must remember that we are created in the image of God and have His nature of love within us.  However, Satan has perverted it and twisted it into something selfish.

See what Jesus said in John 15:12-13. Love is a commandment, it is a commitment, it is not an optional extra driven by feelings.

1 John 4:7 reads, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

Real, authentic love has its source in God and gives evidence that we have been born again. This is not only loving people who love us in return, but also the ability to love those who are hurting us and annoying us, loving our enemies. This is the supernatural love of God that He displays on our behalf.

Verse 8 is a verse that should make us very uncomfortable, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” The verse doesn’t say, “anyone who does not love his friends…does not know God.”  No, anyone who doesn’t love, including those not displaying love to those who are unlovely, those who are oppressing us, those who might reject us and hurt us, does not know God.

The great news of the Gospel is that God made the first move simply because we are not capable of loving this way. Verse 9 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”

This is something we need to be reminded of. Do you know how much you are loved?

God loves you so much that He sent His only son to free us from the bondage and penalty of separation from God. We don’t even begin to understand the magnitude of the phrase, “God sent His son.

1 John 4:10 reads, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Jesus, the eternally existing, creator God, was sent to the earth by the Father. The Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit have always existed in perfect eternal communion and love. God doesn’t need us, but He loves us and made a way for us to be reconciled with Him. The only possible way to accomplish this was the spotless Lamb of God had to be sacrificed to atone for our sins. We were not looking for God, He reached out towards us. God took the initiative. God sent His son to die (Romans 5:8).

This was God’s plan from the beginning of time, and it was not a martyr dying in some horrible, cosmic mistake. Jesus willingly laid down his life, taking our place, and bearing the punishment that we deserved.

The word “propitiation” is a rich word that means, “An offering that turns away the wrath of God.

The holiness of God required that for us to be reconciled with Him, there needed to be a sacrifice for the penalty of our sins. We deserved punishment, but Jesus took the punishment that we deserved so that we can be saved.

Christian love is based on this. It is not simply excusing sin or allowing someone to do whatever they want. Christian love is standing in the gap, and it is in the shape of a cross.

Considering this great truth, we have been forgiven and set free, so how are we to respond?

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11.

Sadly, Christians are not known for their love of others. Many people outside the church only know the church for what we condemn, and not for our love for them. These may be people who oppose our message and even try to harm us and the church. What did Jesus say about these people? (See Matthew 5:44-45).

God does not show partiality in His love for people, and as children of God, neither can we.

Loving others is not simply an obligation that we have to perform out of duty. Rather, as we grow in our walk with the Lord and the Holy Spirit transforms us, we naturally begin to display the love of God for those around us.

Why does God call us to love others?  1 John 4:12 says, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”

By living out the love of God, we display the nature of God for others to see. This becomes a practical display of the Gospel. This will always cost us something, but this is the normal Christian life (see Romans 5:5).

Everyone faces crisis and loss in their lives, and pain has a way of cutting through the fluff of life and the image we want to portray. When the crisis comes, how do we love?

Will we love sacrificially and with endurance? It is usually in times of crisis that community is born and strengthened.

We need to remember that as we display the love of God, we display the nature of God. There are few things in life that can possibly be more rewarding or more important.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God…”

Boldness Through Faith

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How bold are your prayers?

What are you praying for right now that requires a supernatural move of God?

Prayer is an outflow of our relationship and a declaration of faith.

The boldness of our prayers must come from our faith in the statement, “God is love”, and that we are abiding, or are rooted in the promises of God’s Word.

The Bible frequently talks about the human heart. Our innermost being that is vulnerable, complex, and if properly aligned with God, our hearts are a blessing.

The world around us frequently tells us, “Trust your heart”, “go with what your gut is telling you”. But the Bible tells us in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Many people struggle with their heart and the feelings of self-condemnation. The apostle John recognized that as followers of Jesus, we still struggle with emotions, condemnation, and guilt. He also knew that the truth of God’s word provides healing and a re-alignment of our hearts.

Thus, the question, “How bold is your prayer life” might be preceded by the question, “How is your heart?”

1 John 3:19 says, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.”

And as children of God, we have confidence in His presence.

1 John 3:20 may seem confusing at first, “for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”

Even though we know the scriptures and have heard the Gospel hundreds of times, sometimes we experience condemnation and guilt as Satan brings back to mind past sins. When we experience condemnation, we must go back to the promises of 1 John 1:9 and Romans 8:1.

We must remember who we are, “in Christ”. We stand before the all-knowing God, our Father, covered in the righteousness of Christ. It is a heart issue, we can be misled by our emotions and feelings. That is why King David wrote this in Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts”.

Ask God to expose the lies in your life and begin to live by God’s promises.

Like the promises of verses 21-22, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”

When we have confidence in our standing before God, we can have confidence in our prayers.

Charles Spurgeon wrote, He who has a clear conscience comes to God with confidence, and that confidence of faith ensures to him the answer of his prayer. Childlike confidence makes us pray as none else can. It makes a man pray for great things, which he would never have asked for if he had not learned this confidence; and makes him pray for little things which a great many are afraid to ask for, because they have not yet felt towards God the confidence of children.… The man of obedience is the man whom God will hear, because his obedient heart leads him to pray humbly, and with submission, for he feels it to be his highest desire that the Lord’s will should be done. Hence it is that the man or obedient heart prays like an oracle; his prayers are prophecies. Is he not one with God? Doth he not desire and ask for exactly what God intends? How can a prayer shot from such a bow ever fail to reach its target?”

Sadly, many Christians are living command oriented Christian lives. We know God’s holy requirements and we are so committed to do the right thing, so that God will approve of us and answer our prayers.

God wants us to live by His promises, from a heart of pure relationship with Him, then we will live every day in the power of His spirit, leading us in obedience, out of relationship.

How are you living today? In fear and law or love and relationship?

Verse 23 says, there is one thing that we need to begin with. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

It all begins and ends with belief in Jesus Christ as Lord. A personal relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Believing that Jesus is the son of God, the eternal God, who became like one of his creation 2000 years ago. He lived a perfect sinless life and was crucified and died as a willing sacrifice for our sins. This same Jesus rose from the dead three days later and lives forever today, interceding for us at the Father’s right hand. Believing that Jesus is preparing a place for us and that he will one day return to take the Church to be with him in glory.

Finally looking at verse 24, “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”

King David knew his purpose in life, found in Psalm 27:4. David knew that the greatest goal in life was to abide in God’s presence.

The Spirit of God is given to us and by the Holy Spirit, we know that God abides with us and we with Him. There is an assurance that comes from abiding.

The presence of the Holy Spirit is not something that we can earn or merit by obedience.  As we abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit gives us the strength and the passion for obeying God. As we abide in God and He in us, we come to know God as our perfect Heavenly Father.

Prayer is an outflow of our relationship with God.

The more we abide in Him and He in us, the bolder our prayers will become, because we will know Him as a good and perfect heavenly Father, who is generous in His gifts.

How Bold is your prayer life?

Are you praying like a child who has absolute confidence in your father?

How is Your Love Life?

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Up to this point in the letter, John has focused on the theme, “God is Light” (1 John 1:5).

Now he shifts focus and introduces the theme, “God is love” (1 John 3:11).

It is essential that as Christians, we display God’s love, by loving one another. Jesus taught this in John 13:35.

John begins this section by using the first example we have in the Bible of hate, Cain murdering his brother Abel in Genesis 4 (1 John 3:12).

Why did God reject Cain’s offering? I believe it was the heart posture. Man looks at the outer things, but God looks at the heart. And God saw that Cain’s heart was not in his worship.

Love is at the heart of the Gospel, the phrase to “love one another” is found throughout the New Testament.  God thinks that our loving one another is really important.

We are called to love one another consistently and without favoritism. This is impossible in the natural realm, the love that we have for one another in Christ, is a supernatural love that comes from the Father. When we display love in the church, we display not only who we are, but we display who’s we are. We belong to our heavenly Father.

Verse 12 says that Cain murdered because he was of the evil one, he was a child of Satan. Jesus said the same thing in John 8:44.  

The truth is, you are either a child of God or you are a child of the devil. There is no third option.

The Bible makes it absolutely clear that only those who have been born again, who have given their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ, can be called Children of God.

If you have not been born again, you are a child of the devil (Matthew 5:21-22).

Hate is equivalent to murder, the only difference between the hate and murder is the actual taking of a life, the intent of the heart is the same.

This does not mean, of course, that hatred in the heart does the same amount of damage, or involves the same degree of guilt, as actual murder. But in God’s sight, hatred is the moral equivalent of murder, and if left unbridled it leads to murder.

One of the benefits of loving one another from the heart, is the assurance that we have been born again. We are given a supernatural love as the Holy Spirit fills us (1 John 3:14).

John doesn’t say that we are saved by our love for one another, rather we are saved by grace and the proof of our salvation is our love for one another.

On the opposite end, those whose lives are characterized by a lack of love and concern give evidence that they are not saved (1 John 3:15).

Love and hate cannot reside in the same heart at the same time. Real love is very practical, it is spoken, and it is demonstrated.

How do we really know what Holy Spirit fueled love really is? Here are two practical explanations of Christian love.

1: Love is displayed by dying for others.

God demonstrated his love for us on the cross and then calls us to lay down our lives for others. Does this mean that we run the risk of being used by other people? Yes, and if we struggle with that we need to go back to the cross. We need to keep going back to the cross until we grasp the depth of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.  

Jesus died the death that we should have died, because of love. Love at the core is about self-sacrifice and service. Jesus didn’t die as a martyr, he willingly laid down his life.

“Self-preservation” is the first law of physical life,

But

 “self-sacrifice” is the first law of spiritual life.

Warren Wiersbe

If we think about what has been given to us, we won’t feel obligated to be grateful, we will joyfully present our lives as a living sacrifice in worship.

2: Service to others always involves giving.

In verse 17 and 18, John gets practical.

In our modern cities, there are multiple social agencies that help people in need, and it is easy to simply refer people to an agency when the Lord has told us to step in. It is easy for Christians to forget their obligations (see Galatians 6:10).

Let us not confuse doing good, by simply writing a check or handing over a dollar bill. This doing good that Paul writes about includes giving of our time and physical help. There are many people in our church and community who simply need someone to show them love and concern.

Our lives are busy, and our schedules are full. Sadly people “pray about” getting involved, when really, they are thinking about how much it is going to cost them. The reality is that it will cost to live this lifestyle of love.

If it doesn’t cost us anything to love, is it really love?

It cost Jesus everything, why should we think we are exempt from showing practical love.

It takes faith. Giving our time, our finances, our energy, needs to come from a lifestyle of faith. At times, God calls us to give that which we don’t have and simply trust Him for the provision.

I think sometimes we need to be reminded of the abundance of the Kingdom of God. We cannot outgive God.

In verse 18, John concludes with the word, “truth”. John is addressing our motivation for giving. We are tempted to give to be noticed or even to manipulate, our motives are impure. God cares about our motives.

“What does it look like? It has hands to help others, feet to hasten to the poor and needy, eyes to see misery and want, ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” Augustine.

How is your love life?

Love One Another

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Church numerical growth has been a topic of study for decades. Many books have been written and seminars delivered. However, there is a very simple three-word prescription for church growth, “Love One Another”.

It might sound simplistic, but it is one of the most challenging things to do.

The apostle John is a succinct writer who simplifies the Christian life down to the essential elements, know Jesus, obey God, and love others.

John uses the term “beloved” six times in this letter. John makes the case that the love of God is essential for us to be able to love our brothers and sisters. We aren’t called to love out of duty or legalism, that would be hypocritical. What John is writing about is a supernatural love, seen and experienced in those who abide in Jesus. This is the love that is the fruit of the Spirit.

There is way more to this supernatural love than a mushy, warm and fuzzy experience, there is power in this love. As we see in verse 8, perfect love as revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has dealt a death blow to darkness. Darkness is on the run, and it cannot outrun the light. How we love one another gives evidence of all of this.

The love of Christ in us is not a shallow sentimental emotion. It is a matter of the will not of feelings. Christlike love is a determined decision to allow the love of God to reach others through you. Christlike love is the essential ingredient of true evangelism.

The best explanation of Christian love is found in 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter is not a text for weddings or valentine’s day messages, it is a day-to-day church passage. It is the prescription for how we are to live as the body of Christ.

The love of God is given to the church supernaturally for the building up of the church (Romans 5:5). God has poured his love into the hearts of everyone who has given their lives to the Lordship of Jesus.

John’s life was transformed by this supernatural love. He was not always loving, he and his brother James were known as the “sons of thunder”, because of their emotional outbursts. In Luke 9, James and John asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritan village who rejected Jesus. John was transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and he loved as Jesus loved.

And there is good reason why this love is supernatural, because it is a cosmic war between light and darkness. The world of light and love always go together (1 John 2:9-10).

The natural question that follows is, who is my brother? The Greek word used for brother here means a person who lives close by, literally my neighbor. Well, who is my neighbor? Jesus addressed this in Luke 10 by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus explained that our neighbor is the person in front of us right now. The person in need, the person we work with or the person we bump into while walking into the store. Are you aware of your neighbor? Those daily opportunities to love the way Jesus loved.

Verse 11 returns to those who are in darkness, “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

If you hate someone, you are walking blindly in continual darkness. This kind of darkness is spiritual death. Hatred is blinding people today and this happens in the church as little disagreements creep in, and relationships are broken.

This kind of blindness can creep into the church in many ways. It is not necessarily through arguments. Sometimes blindness can creep into the church in the form of doctrine and spiritual elitism. People have their favorite doctrine, theology, or experience and if they are not careful, they become critical of others who do not share the same view or experience. This kind of person thinks he is a spiritual giant, having it all figured out, but really, he is a spiritual babe, lacking the ability to discern what is important, loving one another. Some people are so in love with their doctrine and “rightness”, that they have lost their love for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

In recent years it seems that we have lost the ability to disagree and still love each other.

It is impossible to be in fellowship with the Father and out of fellowship with another Christian at the same time. The Christian life has two relationships: the vertical (Godward) and the horizontal (manward). We need both, which is why gathering for worship and fellowship on a Sunday morning is so vital to our spiritual health.

If you put a group of people in a room long enough, someone is going to get offended. So how do we respond?

The follower of Jesus who has been offended must understand two things;

1) I have no right to be offended. I gave up my rights when I asked Jesus to be Lord of my life.

2) Harboring unforgiveness only harms the offended person.

“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.”

Marianne Williamson

Loving one another in the church is very practical and essential for the health of the church.

Practically we love each other by:

  • Serving one another.  Stepping up and volunteering when there is a need.
  • Love one another through theological differences. Jesus was critical of the pharisees, not because of their doctrine, but because they didn’t care for the flock.
  • Love one another through joy and pain. Carry one another’s burdens, look for practical ways to care when someone is hurting.
  • Love one another on mission. Serving alongside each other as we share the Gospel in our community.  
  • Love one another by confronting sin. Do we love one another enough to call out a brother or sister who is living in sin?
  • Love one another to grow spiritually. Just as the fruits and flowers need sunshine, so God’s people need love if they are going to grow.

How are you loving each other today?

To Know and Obey Jesus.

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Is it possible to know God and to live like the Devil? Is it possible to truly know God and have no life change?

Obedience follows relationship. If there is no obedience – is there relationship at all?

Adrian Rogers wrote, “Study the Bible to know about God. Obey the Bible to really know God.”

This is the theme of 1 John 2. John’s goal is for the reader to know God rightly and have assurance of salvation, which leads to a life of joy in Jesus. To know God is to love God and to love God is to obey God.

Obedience to God reveals the genuineness of our faith. There is a huge difference between saying and doing. The true Gospel transforms us and leads to obedience. 1 John 2:3 reads, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments”.

The word “Keep”, means to guard, or protect like we would treat a precious treasure. And as we keep this treasure, our assurance in our salvation grows and we enjoy Jesus more. To obey His commands is never a burden, it is a blessing and a natural response to what He has done for me.

However we see in verse 4 that if we do not guard or keep the commands of the Lord, we are spiritual deceivers. We really don’t have a relationship with God.

Verse 5 gives is such a great promise, “but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him.”

Keeping the commands of God is not a condition of knowing God, but it is a clear sign and indication that we do know God.

The phrase, “the love of God”, refers to our love for God, and it is true that the more I know Him, the more I love Him, and the more I love Him, the more I know Him.

The same thing happens in a godly marriage. It should be that the more a husband and wife grow to know one another, the more they love one another. And the more love they share with each other, the more they will desire to know each other.

There is a tradition that on one occasion the apostle John, near the end of his life, was brought to the church on a pallet. All he said to the believing community was, “Love one another.” When he was asked why that was all he had to say, he responded, “Because it is enough.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

So how do we walk in the love of Christ? When we were saved it was so that we might be conformed in the image of His son (Romans 8:29). He saved us that we might “walk just as He walked.”

We have a moral obligation for our walk to match our talk. To truly abide in Christ means I will walk like Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1, 1 Peter 2:21).

Like Father, like Son. Like Savior, like saint. Christ’s life becomes my life, my example, my goal, and my pattern. And we must note that it is abiding in Him that enables me to live like Him. I don’t do it in my strength. I do it in His!

Looking back to verse 3, how can we tell if we “know” him?

What then does it mean to “know” Jesus? The Greek word used here, “ginosko”, means basically “grasping the full reality and nature of an object under consideration.”

John was writing to people who knew about Jesus but didn’t really know him personally. Today there are millions of people who know about Jesus, but don’t know him as Lord of their lives.

Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me”. Those who belong to Jesus are responsive to His voice.

John does not suggest that relationship with God is established by obedience; rather, that relationship is demonstrated by obedience.

Sometimes people claim to know God but are unresponsive to His Word and His way of life. Such a person may possess accurate information about God and may be able to debate the finer points of theology. I have met people who have a deep grasp of the Bible and doctrine, but their lives do not match their words. Relationship is demonstrated by walking “as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).

Jesus addressed this as he was speaking to the Jews, the scribes and the pharisees in John 8:44a, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”

The religious leaders, knew about God, they knew the Torah, they knew a lot of theology, but they didn’t know God Himself or else they would have recognized His son, Jesus. They were worshipping the law of Moses, but they weren’t hearing the word of God. Jesus continued in verse 47, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

So, my question today is, who are you listening to?

I always get discouraged when I talk to people who have not been in church for a long time and they say, “well, I am not in church, but I listen to Charles Stanley (or their favorite radio or TV teacher) each Sunday morning.” What they fail to realize is that they are neglecting to gather with his body, disobeying the word of God that calls us to commit to a fellowship of believers to grow together in love and unity.

Listening to good teaching is excellent, but the question is, are you listening to the words of God? Why do we run after the words of the created being, when we can sit at the feet of the creator?

Many Christians wrestle with decisions and they often say the same thing. “I am not getting a clear word from God.” My friends, it’s not that God doesn’t speak clearly, it’s that we don’t listen. It’s time to turn off the TV, YouTube, the cell phone and all the other noise surrounding us and open the Word of God. Make time to listen to the God who created you with the ability to hear His voice.

Are you abiding in Him, keeping his commandments?

Do you know Jesus?

Let God be True and Every Man a Liar

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The number one problem in the world today is that humanity has a sin problem, and it affects everyone. But not everyone agrees with this assertion.

Today, we don’t hear people call sin for what it is. Sin is labelled an error of judgment, a mistake, a bad decision, etc. In fact people go to great lengths to rationalize or hide their sin.

But we must understand this basic truth, to deny sin is to call God a liar and question His character. In this passage, John uses the word “sin” nine times, and two times he will use the word “darkness.” To think correctly about Jesus, we must think correctly about sin.

In verse 5 we are reminded that we have good news, and it is a message that the world needs. This message concerns Jesus Christ, “the Word of life”. When we meet Jesus as our savior, our assignment is to take this message to the whole world. According to the JoshuaProject.net there are 7,418 unreached people groups who are yet to hear the Gospel.

A key component of the Gospel message is to convey an understanding of the nature and character of God. This is a constant theme of John’s writing.For example, he teaches us that; God is light (1:5), God is love (4:8, 16), and God is true (5:20).

In 1 John the statement “God is light” means God has as His very nature and being the source of life. Martin Luther said, “There is no darkness in Him, not even the slightest”.

This is a message that we must passionately share with the world.

But our message must also include what God says about sin. The essence of sin is our attempting to take the place of God. We want to be in charge. And we want to provide our own definitions of what is right and wrong.

John is not interested in human opinions on the matter of sin. He uses three “if we say” statements to lead his readers to understand sin. He says we are prone to lie to others, lie to ourselves and ultimately call God a liar.

1: Do Not Lie to Others (1 John 1:6–7)

John writes in 1 John 1:6, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth”.

If we say we have fellowship with God, but are walking in spiritual darkness, we are lying. We say to others, “I know God,” but our beliefs and behavior contradict our words. We lie to others about who we are.

In contrast, verse 7 says that if we live our lives in the realm of light, as God is in the light, our fellowship with one another is authentic and the blood of Jesus, His Son, keeps on cleansing us from all sin.

2: Do Not Lie to Yourself (1 John 1:8–9)

 Verse 8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Those who live in death and darkness do not just lie to others, and eventually they lie to themselves. They lose their moral compass, and their conscience is seared (1 Timothy 4:2).  

If we claim to be sinless, a declaration that we are free from the guilt and penalty of sin, we are deceived, and the truth is not in us.  The truth is a person, if we say we have no sin, we really have no relationship with Jesus.

John then follows up with one of the greatest verses in the Bible, verse 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.

John writes that there are two kinds of people

  • There are some who cover and conceal their sin. They are liars.
  • There are also confessors who acknowledge and admit their sin. They are forgiven.

John is not saying that we need to be perfectly sinless as that is impossible. We need an advocate who can forgive us.

3: Do Not Lie about God (1 John 1:10)

John makes the case that we can lie to others about our sin, we will then lie to ourselves and ultimately, we will actually call God a liar. Verse 10, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

Moving on to 1 John 2 verses 1 and 2, the world must know what God says about Jesus.

Jesus Is Our Advocate (1 John 2:1)

John has made it clear that in this life we cannot be sinless. However, he does believe we can sin less because we are now in intimate fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

We all still sin, but we have the amazing promise of 1 John 1:9. In verse 1, John tells his readers to run to our savior, our advocate to the Father. This advocate is sinless, undefiled, and spotless in his nature and in all his actions. There is no one else like him.

The word “advocate” means helper, who comes alongside in a time of need. This helper is the cleanser of sin (1:7), the forgiver of sin (1:9), and the helper when we do sin.

We have this misconception that when we sin, Jesus turns away from us and leaves us because we have disappointed him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is drawn to us when we sin, he cares for us and knows that our sin leads to pain. He comes near to prevent us hurting ourselves further.

Jesus Is Our Atonement(1 John 2:2)

Jesus can be our advocate, because he has made propitiation, an atonement for our sins.

The word “propitiation” is a very important word that carries the idea of satisfaction. Jesus Christ, by His sacrifice on the cross, satisfied God’s holiness and turned away His righteous wrath from sinners.

The work of atonement accomplished by Christ on the cross is where God’s holiness and God’s love meet. (See Isaiah 53:10 and Philippians 2:9).

How do you stand before God today? Are you lying to those around you? Are you lying to yourself? Are you calling God a liar?

Jesus offers right standing before God, his forgiveness is instant and paid for.

Sermon, Sunday April 17, 2022

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In John 11, we read the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and in John 11 verse 25, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life…”

I want to make three observations from this amazing chapter.

First, why does God sometimes wait to answer our prayers?

In verse 6, we read that after receiving the news of his sick friend, Jesus decides to wait two days before travelling to Bethany. Jesus tells the messenger that Lazarus will not die.

From verse 5, we know that Jesus loved this family. The delay in responding to their prayers was not a denial of his love.

As we look at this account and apply it to our lives, we are the Mary’s and the Martha’s. We are praying for a miracle, and our Lazarus is something or someone that we hold dear and fear losing.

There are times in our lives when we cry out to God for a miracle, for a life situation that seems to be getting desperate, and we need God to save our Lazarus.

How often have you prayed asking God to intervene, but He did not respond immediately? We know God hears our prayers, but the answer is, “wait”.

Secondly, from John 11:20-27 and 32-37, it seems that sometimes God acts too late.  

Note the sequence of events. After receiving the message, Jesus waited for two days and then traveled to Bethany. When he arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. This means the messenger must have taken a day to travel to Jesus, Jesus took a      day to travel back to Bethany, and Lazarus must have died after the messenger left. So, when Jesus said, “This illness does not lead to death,” Lazarus was already dead! Did Jesus make a mistake? Or did Jesus mean something else?

The sisters noticed this (see John 11:21 and 32), and the people grieving with the family also noticed (see John 11:37). At times, this same tension exists in life. We are told that Jesus loves us. Yet we wrestle with unbelief when we don’t receive the relief from pain that we are asking for. And Satan loves to throw in seeds of doubt into our minds.

The Bible is full of accounts of men and women who suffered long after praying for a miracle. Why does God do this? Jesus said: for the glory of God! In John 11:4b Jesus said, “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Instead of answering their prayers, Jesus showed empathy and deep emotion for their pain. Jesus feels and understands our pain (see Hebrews 4:15-16).

At times it may look like God has failed you, but He will never leave or forsake you. He is faithful to minister to you.

Jesus knew that Lazarus would soon be raised, and that their grief would turn to joy. Yet he took time to grieve with them. Jesus wasn’t putting on a show of emotions, and in verse 33, we read that Jesus was “deeply moved”. The Greek word means “indignant” or “enraged.” Jesus hates death, and he was angry at the suffering and grief that it caused. Jesus hates the effect of sin in the world, and death was not part of God’s original plan. Jesus came to defeat death, and he knew this was his enemy.

Jesus said to them in verse 23, ‘Your brother will rise again.’” Remember earlier on he said, “This illness does not lead to death.” It must be hard to trust what he is saying or promising the second time.

From the declaration of Jesus in John 11:25-26, we know that those who believe in Jesus will receive the resurrection power and life that is in him. They may die in the flesh, but we know that eternal life is found in Jesus (John 5:24, ESV). Those who believe in Jesus have passed from death to life. We were spiritually dead, but in Christ we are made alive in the spirit.

In verse 26, Jesus asked Martha, “do you believe this?”. To which she responded, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”  What a powerful declaration! Do you believe this?

Finally, we read in verses 38 to 44, that Jesus always keeps his promises. Jesus arrived at the tomb and requested that the stone be removed. Martha protested, struggling to trust Jesus again.

Jesus called Lazarus, and he came out from the tomb alive! Martha and Mary’s faith was vindicated. They simply chose to trust Jesus again.

God keeps His promises, and we can trust Him even when we don’t understand. God will fulfill His promise in His timing and for His glory!

As followers of the one and only person who is the resurrection and the life, we don’t have to fear death. Eternal life starts the moment you give your life to Christ.

Maybe today, you have already made Jesus Lord of your life, but you are wrestling with your faith. You have asked for something, and he seems to be waiting.  Even though you have the faith that he is able, it seems that the miracle is still not coming.

And just maybe it seems too late, the miracle that you were praying for seems to be too late. I want to remind you today of Psalm 145:13,

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

 and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words
    and kind in all his works.”

God keeps His promises. He is never late, and we can trust Him with the outcome, even when we don’t understand it.

We serve a risen Savior, and one who always keeps his promises!

Sermon Sunday December 19, 2021 – Why Christmas part 3

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As I continue our series on the “why” of Christmas, we have two more questions today.

1: Why was he given the name of Jesus?

2: Why the Shepherds?

As Shakespeare once wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name?” We associate people or characteristics to names. Let’s face it, the reason we don’t like certain names is because we know someone by that name who by their actions or their personality, has marred the name for us.

But the name Jesus, is a name that means so much to us. Not because the letters themselves carry any sort of power in themselves, but because the man Jesus gives power to the name.

The name “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Joshua”, and means, “God Saves”. Now the name Jesus was a common name at the time of his birth. The name Jesus continued to be popular during the life of Jesus, but after he died and rose again, the name was not used much at all. Historians have found that after the 1st century, it seemed that the name “Jesus” simply vanished from use in the region. The name Jesus took on a much more controversial meaning. For early Christians, the name Jesus means so much that they felt that no child was worthy to carry the same name as the Messiah. For those who did not believe that Jesus was the promised messiah, they did not want their child to be associated with such a controversial character.

Jesus taking a common name shows us that he came to the earth as a common person. The people of Israel were looking for someone to come as a mighty warrior as their messiah, so they missed him because he came as a carpenter.

But now the name of Jesus means so much more to us. We call on the name of Jesus for our salvation and we pray in the name of Jesus (see 14:13-14 and Acts 4:12). The name of Jesus carries immeasurable power. There is no more powerful name in all the universe than Jesus, not because of the name itself, but because of the One, the Christ, who gives the name power.

Have you called on the name of Jesus?

Moving on to the next question, why did God announce the birth of Jesus to the Shepherds?

We read in Luke 2:9 that the shepherds were terrified as they encountered the glory of the Lord. It is hard for us to imagine the terror these men must have experienced as they were blinded by the light of the glory of the Lord.

While shepherds had once been held in high esteem among God’s people, they had become unwanted, left out, and pushed to the side. They smelled like sheep. They slept on the ground. Their jobs made them little or no money and as a result they came from the lower rungs of society.

So why did God choose to announce the birth of the Messiah to a group of shepherds before anyone else?

Interestingly, Jesus was born in the line of David, the shepherd boy that God made a king. In Jesus, God took a king and made him into the sacrificial lamb. God constantly turns the ideas of man upside down. He chose Bethlehem rather than a larger city. He chose Mary and Joseph rather than a wealthy, respected couple. God chose the downtrodden and small people of Israel to be the chosen nation to host the savior of the world. When God chose to announce the birth of the Christ, he didn’t choose the emperor or the governor, or even the high priest, that would be a good option. No, God chose the people that no one would listen to, the people at the bottom of the societal structure. These shepherds probably had little education and quite possibly didn’t use the best language or display acceptable morals.

It appears God was setting the tone for the life and the message of Jesus. God was reaching to the humble people of society because Jesus was born in a humble location to humble parents. God always invites humble people to a special seat at His table.

Jesus displayed this in his ministry. Jesus always had time to minister to the poor, the lepers, and other outcasts of society. Jesus taught his disciples that serving leads to greatness (Mark 10:43).

God elevated the humble shepherds and made them the first evangelists. They left their sheep and quickly went to Bethlehem. After seeing Jesus, they immediately went out and proclaimed the Good News of the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2:17-18). The shepherds didn’t have a position in the synagogue or any theological training, but they met the Lord and became evangelists, they were changed forever.

One of the primary reasons people don’t share their faith is that they have not had a real encounter with Jesus. If you have a life changing encounter with Jesus, no one will be able to stop you from sharing the Good News. Maybe this Christmas season, it is time for you to make Jesus Lord of your life and begin living for him.

Another significant reason that God called the shepherds to be His messengers is that God Himself is a shepherd (see, Psalm 23, Isaiah 40:11, Ezekiel 34:11-16 and John 10:1-18). God wants us to know that He knows us and cares for us and will never abandon us. When the glory of Jesus’ birth was announced, it was announced to shepherds to remind us of our Shepherd and how much He loves us. The Christmas story is a story about God’s grace and His love for you and me.

Jesus came for the poor and the humble. Never underestimate the power of God to use those that the world has dismissed as uneducated, soft-spoken, or poor (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-27).

You may be listening this morning and thinking that God will never use you, the world has overlooked you pr you feel downtrodden. (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).

Do you know the call of God on your life?

Sermon, Sunday November 28 2021, Compassion part 2

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This past week we celebrated Thanksgiving. Since moving to the United States in 2000, Debbie and I have so much to be thankful for. In particular, our church in Atlanta, Roswell Street Baptist church, played a significant role in helping us as immigrants. The church responded as the body of Christ and showed compassion.  

Compassion is a pillar of the church but does not stand alone. There needs to be a strong connection between compassion and mission, between compassion and worship and between compassion and the Word. James chapter 2 explains to us that faith without works is dead, rather we show our faith in God through our works of good deeds. The compassion of the church must always bring glory to the name above all names, and only his name. Acts of compassion done for the glory of God are in themselves acts of worship.

Compassion without the foundation of the Word of God, lacks true empathy and the power to change lives. only the word of God, coupled with the revelation of the Holy Spirit, has the power to change lives. Compassion is essential in the church, not because it is what good people do to help one another, but because it is the way the church points people to Jesus.

Jesus displayed compassion for the people around him as he walked the earth. Jesus’ compassion was not simply a good trait that Jesus displayed, it was the very core he is.

If we are not careful, we can easily fall into the trap of seeing Jesus as the compassionate part of the Trinity, and God the Father as the stern and judgmental one who needs to be appeased. Yes, it is true that God is perfectly holy and that we are only able to be in a right relationship with Him because of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. But that is the righteous holiness of God the Father. What does the Bible teach us about His character and His nature?

We know that the Bible is the revelation of Jesus. I think sometimes that we need to be reminded that the revelation of Jesus is a revelation of God. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus said in John 14:9, “…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” John’s Gospel begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

One of the passages in the Bible that is the greatest revelation of God the Father, is the encounter the God had with Moses and the Children of Israel on mount Sinai. In Exodus 34, Moses returns to the top of the mountain with new stone tablets after he smashed the previous ones in anger at the nation’s idolatry. In Exodus 34:6-7, God reveals himself in a way that is unlike anything else prior to the incarnation. Exodus 34:6, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

This is not simply God telling Moses some information about Himself. In the previous chapter, Moses courageously asks God to show him His glory, to which God responds by displaying and declaring His goodness. When I think about the glory of God, I always think of his incredible power and majesty. But God reveals that His glory is in His goodness. The glory of God is in his compassion. The first words that God uses to describe himself are, “merciful and gracious…

This is where we struggle to come to terms with the nature of the holiness of God. To be holy is to be set apart. The Hebrew word used for holy, means to be cut off, or separate from everything else. It means to be in a class of your own, distinct from anything that has ever existed or will ever exist.

Frequently in the Old Testament, we read that God was provoked to anger. The nation of Israel constantly provoked God to anger by their disobedience. God was provoked to anger, but here in Exodus 34, we read that God by nature is merciful and gracious, which is His character and nature. God is naturally compassionate but provoked to anger.

How about us? Depending on who you are, some of us are more prone to anger than others, but I don’t know anyone who struggles to get angry if the right set of circumstances presents themselves.

But how about compassion, love, and mercy? These attributes don’t come naturally to us, in our sinful nature. That is why the writer to the Hebrews says, And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” Hebrews 10:24. The writer encourages the readers to stir up, or provoke, love and good deeds in one another. We are sinful by nature, and we need to be provoked to be merciful.

How far we as beings created in the image of God have deviated from our original design because of the fall. When sin entered the world, our very core nature was disrupted and as a result we in turn view God through our own broken lenses. God is compassionate at His core.

The ultimate purpose of compassion is leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. True compassion is caring for someone’s eternal destination.

In Isaiah 58:6-8 God reveals that acts of compassion are true fasting, denying ourselves to focus on the will of God. Caring for the hurting, the poor, and the unlovely, with the purpose of showing and speaking the Gospel message to them. Notice the final line in verse 8, “…the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” What is the glory of God? It is his goodness on display. When we display the goodness of God, He is glorified.

The Gospel message is the ultimate display of compassion, John 3:16, “For God so loved…that He gave”. The ultimate purpose of compassion is leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. True compassion is caring for someone’s eternal destination.

Our strength and resources can at best provide some temporary relief to someone in need. However, our resources coupled with the power of the name of Jesus, will lead to life transformation and eternal salvation.

Sermon Sunday November 21, 2010 – Compassion part 1

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Compassion is integral to the church. Caring for the lost, caring for the hurting, caring for those who are experiencing loss and trauma. Pain is a very real part of the world around us.

Jesus entered the temple in Luke chapter 4 and began reading from the prophet Isaiah. As he finished, he declared that he was the fulfillment of this prophecy. Everything about this passage speaks to compassion. The call, and the heart of Jesus was deep compassion.

In Matthew 14 when Jesus had just been notified of John’s death, he separated from the crowds to be alone by boat. But the crowds followed his boat on foot along the shore and as soon as he landed, the crowds began to descend on his boat.

The more Jesus tried to get away, the more the crowds were drawn to him and particularly after the martyrdom of John, people were drawn to Jesus.

What does Jesus do? What would I do? If I were honest, I would get back in the boat and hope the wind was blowing in the other direction! But Jesus had compassion (Matthew 14:14). Matthew writes that Jesus was filled with compassion. It wasn’t simply an emotion that he showed once or twice, it was his character and nature to have compassion. Jesus was acting out of his true self.

We see the heart of Jesus for compassion in Matthew 2:2, Matthew 9:35-26, Matthew 15:32, Luke 7:13 and many more times recorded for us in the Gospels.

Compassion was not simply a good trait that Jesus displayed, it was his very core being. Yes, he was perfectly holy and had all authority, but he displayed his compassion most frequently.

It does not mean that Jesus overlooked sin and evil when he walked the earth. But he saw sin as the enemy and the people around him as fallen people who lived outside of their original design that he himself had given them. When Jesus saw fallen and broken people, his initial response was to be drawn to them and not repulsed by them, and he still does that today. Jesus hates sin, he died to destroy the works of Satan (1 John 3:8b).

Our sin causes us to suffer and when we suffer Jesus wants to see us holy and pure, set free from our sin. It is in the very moment of our sin that Jesus draws near to us to prevent us from enduring more pain and suffering.

The compassion of Jesus is on display when a sinner repents and yields to the power of the holy Spirit. When Jesus walked the earth and performed so many incredible miracles, he didn’t turn things upside down, he repaired what sin had broken.

Dane Ortlund puts it this way, “Jesus walked the earth rehumanizing the dehumanized and cleansing the unclean.”

The brokenness and sin of this world robs humanity of its original design, the purpose for which we have been created, to bring glory to God.

Jesus at his very core had compassion flowing from him like a fresh stream of water. Jesus completed his earthly mission and commissioned the church to be his body here on the earth. We are the body of Christ. We are his representatives, his ambassadors wherever he has placed us.

Do you realize that the presence of Jesus is closer to you now, as his follower, than he was to the people that he spoke with and touched two-thousand years ago? Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus embraces us by his spirit, and we are able to be comforted and comfort others. The church is called to be the heart of compassion in the earth.

But do we perfectly embody the compassion of Jesus?

Do we act appropriately when we see people in need? I know I don’t.

When we see someone in pain or in need, we are moved to compassion if the music is right or if the TV images are wrenching enough. And we might be moved to send some money or donate some canned goods. But the moment the images leave our screen, or we leave the meeting, our compassion begins to fade and we quickly forget those feelings of care and desire to help. We begin to reason our way out of the guilt we feel.

But every now and then there is a Holy Spirit tug on your heart to help someone. And as we follow those impulses of the Holy Spirit, we find out the strange interaction that takes place in the spirit, as we respond with compassion, we in turn are blessed. The reason we are blessed is that we are living out our designed purpose, to be the compassion of Jesus in the world. And the more we act like Christ, the more we will feel his joy and blessing on our lives.

In Matthew 9:36, we read that Jesus had compassion on the crowd and immediately he turns to his disciples and says, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38). Jesus, moved by compassion, as he sees the multitudes of people who are destined for an eternity in hell, tells his disciples to pray that God would multiply the work force.

The prayer for workers must be fueled by a heart of compassion. Immediately following this challenge, Jesus calls his disciples in Matthew 10 and empowers them to heal the sick and set people free from demonic powers. Jesus encourages his disciples to pray for workers, and then he sends them out in response to that prayer.

And as we pray that prayer, we need to realize that we are part of the solution.

A prayer of compassion does not excuse us from acts of compassion.

Will you make the most of the opportunities for compassion that come your way this week?