Have you ever had questions about the Bible, but were afraid to ask? We're here to help -- below are some questions that came in from our teaching series "No Fear in Love" a 13-week journey through the letter of 1 John.
Pastors Travis Jarrett & Mark Schory took some time to answer these questions last Sunday in our latest "Ask Anything - Live!" service. Click here to listen to their answers to your questions.
1. [1:1-4] - What would John say to someone who believes the historical Jesus is not Christ?
2. Should I have friends who aren’t Christians?
3. What would John say about hybrid religions (Christianity+“X”)?
4. What would John say to someone who thinks the supernatural/spiritual world isn’t involved with the natural/physical world? [Eph. 6:12 “Not against flesh & blood”]
5. [1:6-7] - I have a hard time loving God – what can I do about that?
6. What happens if I don’t spend time with God?
7. I struggle with doubt in my faith – what can I do about that?
8. [5:13] - What would John say about eternal security? How do I know I have eternal life?
1. [1:8-10] - Can a person with a persistent/compulsives in (gossip, alcoholism, pride, lust) still be a Christian if they confess their sin? What if they repeat it again & again?
2. [Eph. 1:6-8] - Why do we need to confess our sins if they have already been forgiven? [Positional vs. Relational forgiveness]
3. [Matt. 18:15-20] What should a church do if a member sins? [1 Cor. 5:1-13 / 2 Cor. 2:5-11]
4. [2:19] - What would John say to people who leave churches, denominations, or Christianity? [1 Cor. 5:9-13]
1. [4:8, 20-21, 5:1] - What does it mean to “hate your brother?”
2. [3:14-15] - What if I don’t hate a person, but don’t love them either?
3. [3:17, 4:19] - Am I responsible to help if someone brings their problems on themselves?
4. [3:22-23] - Will God answer my prayers if I don’t obey/follow him? What if I am obeying him and he still doesn’t answer?
5. [5:16] – Are there some people we shouldn’t pray for?
This is a picture of the first pumpkin to come out of my garden this year; actually, it's the first pumpkin I've ever grown, period. I'm sorta proud of it... but I could've been happier with my results. Why?
Because I'm a rookie at the whole gardening thing, and so I ran into a problem that most amateurs will encounter at some point: ignorance.
Basically, that pumpkin is as big'n'orange as it's ever going to get - and while it's not bad, it's not going to meet the standard for a full-grown pumpkin. See, what I didn't know (until my neighbor pointed it out) is that there is a moth that loves to lay its eggs in the vine of the pumpkin. Once they hatch, the larvae continue to live in the vine, eating away at it and boring holes in the vine walls until, inevitably, the vine collapses and any growing fruit fall off. But watching the pumpkin alone, the results would be telling me that everything is a-ok when in reality, it's a dying vine and nothing more will ever grow on it.In 1 John 4, the Apostle gives us a similar scenario when it comes to our faith. He reminds us that fear is the enemy of faith; fear will eat away at the walls of our faith, boring holes until our faith collapses and the works of our faith die away.LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE ONLINE
Let's be clear: fear is a natural reaction to what we perceive as a threat against our well-being, and in the right context, fear can be healthy - it could be the correct response for protecting oneself or someone else from danger. But groundless fear produces needless worry - that is harmful, not healthy - and more often than not, our energy gets put into living in fear. It might be a fear of sin. Maybe of failure. Maybe we're just afraid to live life itself (don't worry, if that's you join us next week - we’ll be dealing with these areas!)[Prov. 24:16] “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he gets back up again.”
What does that mean? It means that fear can't keep us down! If we are part of God's kingdom, then we have the ability to overcome fear. This is important to remember: Faith is the spiritual force that drives God’s Kingdom; fear is the spiritual force of Satan’s kingdom. We are saved, healed, changed, equipped, fulfilled -- all by faith. Which means that for our faith to be strong, we have to deal with the fears that would attempt to bore in and undermine that faith. That's why John makes this powerful statement:"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." [1 John 4:18]So how do we find this "perfect love" in our lives?
The Apostle John reminds us of three important factors when it comes to matters of God's love at work in our faith:1. PERFECT LOVE IS SUPPLIED BY GOD AND GOSPEL FOCUSED
[I John 4:7-11]
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 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.
2. PERFECT LOVE IS EMPOWERED BY GOD AND MISSION PURPOSED
[1 John 4:12-16]
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
3. PERFECT LOVE IS PROMISED BY GOD AND KINGDOM MINDED
[1 John 4:17-18]
By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
This summer, NewSong is going through the first letter from the Apostle John.
John wrote his letter to all believers, in all places, for all times. His motivation was twofold: 1) he wrote to protect the early church against heresy, specifically the false teaching of Gnosticism; 2) he's writing to instruct the believers and the Church in the doctrines and practices of the Christian faith. Like his Gospel, John’s letter emphasizes one of the essential truths for all believers: that disciples of Jesus believe in and follow him as God.
As we read this letter, we'll be seeking to identify and apply a Kingdom-mindset and a discipleship lifestyle in three key areas of our life:
1. Spiritual – how do I relate to God in my life?
2. Moral – how can I live in a way that demonstrates Jesus is my God?
3. Social – how do I live in community with God, His people, and others?
"Not yet has thy life become perfectly light, as sins are still in thee,
but yet thou hast already begun to be illuminated, because
there is in thee confession of sins" [AUGUSTINE]
Last Sunday, John began to deal with some of these areas of our lives, but before he examines our problems, he backs us up and introduces us to God. As he does this, John figuratively and literally connects the source of our life - spiritual and physical - to God.
[1 John 1:5]
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
He uses the metaphor of light to begin the introduction and points out three things:
1. God is the source & starting point of all things light
2. This is the message & nature of Jesus, the Light of the world
3. There is no darkness found in the Light
This is John’s correct understanding of God: that he is Light without darkness; that he is good and pure and undefiled; that he is different from us. And he proceeds from that correct understanding into the reality of our lives - in other words, before we can start examining ourselves and begin working on our problems, we need the correct standard and environment by which to proceed. John teaches that Jesus is the light against which our lives are examined, evaluated and weighed out.
But John also knows that our human nature resists evaluation, that our pride resists judgment; no one really likes to be tested and examined, especially in areas we deem too personal, too private, too secret. John knows this, and so he lays out three responses to this Spirit-driven process and warns us against be fooled into claiming them:
Claim #1 -- I can be a Christian who openly & intentionally sins.
[1 John 1:6-7]
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
- "If we have fellowship with Jesus" -- this is the essence of the Christian life. We cannot have fellowship with Christ if we are walking a completely different path than he is. Jesus is the Light; either we are walking & living in the light or we are on our own.
- Walking in the Light means that we are living under Jesus' authority, in submission to his teachings and direction. It means that we are living with our sins forgiven, not indulged.
- It means that our lives have been cleansed and that we have been changed.
Claim #2 -- As a Christian, I don’t have a problem with sin anymore
[1 John 1:8-9]
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- Sin here refers not to an individual action/inaction, but to our state of being which is corrupt, tainted by sin, and given over to our human nature
- In Christ, we are being sanctified and made righteous and holy by the Spirit, and our objective is to be free from sin, to be holy – John mentions this in ch.2 - but that does not mean we are immune from our corrupted, sinful nature
- When we sin in action, word, thought – that sin flows from the “old nature” still in us
Claim #3 -- I’ve never had a problem with sin – I’m a good person
[1 John 1:10] If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
- This is when we convince ourselves that we are good people, with good lives, and we start to think that what we can offer God is actually good enough - righteous, holy and pure enough - to be acceptable to God.
- But our best life, our best offering, is exposed as flawed and speckled with darkness when examined in the light of God. The author of Ecclesiastes said it best, "Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins." (7:20)
Apostle John would tell us that these are the claims of those who fancy themselves gods, sinless and perfect; these are foolish boasts of the arrogant, of the ignorant, of those who walk in darkness; that to make these claims is to deny Christ, his Cross & his resurrection
But there is hope. There is always hope.
John offers a response to those caught in the arrogance of pride and the ignorance of deception: his response to Jesus' Light shining down on our lives is one of integrity and humility; his response is found in the confession of sin.
That confession can come corporately in the fellowship of God’s people
It can come privately in your prayers and conversations with God
It acknowledges our sinful nature and our struggle with sinful action & thought.
It leads us to the humility and the unity of being in fellowship with God's people.
It allows the Holy Spirit to convict us, to work in us, to transform us.
Confession leads us back to Jesus is God.
Last week we started our teaching series through the letter from the Apostle John to all believers. Following our teaching series on discipleship, we're turning to John's first letter to discover how we live in a missional, Kingdom-mindset.
John's letter hangs on his statement to all believers and disciples: "This is how love is made complete among us: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love." In this series, we are seeking to live more like Jesus in this world, so that we can - without fear - be loved and be loving in order to lead more people to Christ.
"This is how love is made complete among us:
In this world we are like Jesus.
There is no fear in love."
Last Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday together with Matthews Memorial Church.
Pastors Ryan Reveley and Travis Jarrett co-preached on the events leading up to Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, focusing on Judas,
Peter & Jesus.
:: Heart Matters - Judas
Judas is an easy target when we want to pin a "bad guy" label on someone; let's face it, how much worse can you get than the guy who betrayed his Master to face trial at the hands of the religious leaders and crucifixion at the hands of the Roman government?
We love stories that tell us about "the good within"
- but our "good" is meaningless if we are
disconnected from the heart of Jesus.
What was really in the heart of Judas? Is there anything redeemable, restorable within his story? John 12:6 gives us some insight into the heart of Judas - "... [Judas] did not care about the poor, because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Judas had a hard heart; even though he was working with Jesus, the heart of Judas was far from the person and mission of Jesus, it was disconnected from the heart of Jesus.
:: 5 Ways a Heart Grows Hard
If Jesus had addressed Judas' heart and actions directly, I think he would have said this: "Judas, your heart is hard because..."
1. You have selfish motivations
-- nothing says, "I'm selfish" like the label "thief"
-- when we sit above the desires of God and the needs of others, then we know we have a "self" problem
2. You have an unwillingness to be inconvenienced
-- Judas watched as another washed Jesus' feet without any motivation to share in that service to bring honor to his Master
-- Jesus' life and ministry modeled a willingness to be inconvenienced in order to minister to the needs of others
3. You are misusing the gifts & blessings you've been given
-- Judas' responsibility was stewardship over the moneybag
-- He took advantage of that trust, using what was given to God for his own benefit
-- Our heart hardens when we are poor stewards of God's blessings
4. You have misconceptions & false expectations about God's plan
-- Judas' heart-hardening was probably subtle and progressive
-- The more Jesus spoke of his death, the more the truth of Jesus failed to line up with Judas' expectations & image of a Messiah, the more distant he became, until finally he plots against Jesus while still sitting with him
5. You think that your secret sins are unknown because you look "good"--- This was the final stage of Judas' heart-hardening; there is nothing more deceitful than the lie that says, "I'm fine" while living disconnected from the heart, life and mission of Jesus Christ
-- Judas had forgotten God's earlier warning to his people: "...your sin will find you out."
"A hard heart becomes completely disconnected from Christ;
our solution, then, is to confess our sin, allowing the Holy Spirit
to transform our hardened heart into hearts of soft, new flesh,
and then to receive forgiveness and grace from Christ,
that we may walk fully in new life with Him."
CALL TO WORSHIP:
Last Sunday, we continued our Lenten teaching series as Pastor Travis preached from Mark 9:2-9.
In this passage we find Jesus leading Peter, James and John up a mountain. While on the mountain, Jesus is transfigured, his Divine glory visibly seen by his disciples. Peter, not knowing what to say, shouts out, "Lord, let us build three tents - one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah!"
Immediately, a cloud overshadows them and the voice of God the Father is heard saying, "This is my beloved Son - listen to Him!"
Last Sunday we wrapped up our teaching series, "4 Ways to Live Like Jesus."If you missed a week of the series or want to review a teaching, click here to listen to the podcast.Over the past few weeks, we've shared that living like Jesus requires:1. Courageous, faith-driven obedience with the resources you have2. Existing for the mission of Jesus to seek and save those who are lost3. Living in a sharing community where your life, faith and mission are relationally and spiritually connected to othersThis week we examined our fourth area: the public ministry of Jesus.Life in the public eye is stressful and oppressive - and those negative elements can create negative responses in us such as fear of people, paranoia and anxiety concerning other's agendas/interests, and even situations where those close to us fail us or betray us. How did Jesus deal with all that in his public ministry?
1. Jesus put his trust in the love and approval of the Father:* He began his ministry hearing the Father's words, "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased." When we begin to fear and panic, it is important to remember that God the Father is pleased with us and supports us.2. Jesus knew that people were not the real enemy:* Throughout the Gospels, Jesus encountered opposition - and He knew the hearts and motivations of those opposing him. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we do not fight against "flesh and blood" but against the "powers of the air."
3. Jesus stayed connected to community and to the Father:* Opposition and pressure can often cause us to isolate ourselves; they can trigger our self-preservation mechanisms. Jesus - knowing that he would be betrayed - connected himself to his friends at the Last Supper and to His Father in the Garden of Gethsamene.
Music from Sunday was led by Chris Donahue and Travis Jarrett
Last Sunday we celebrated the second week of Advent; during this forty-day period, we turn our focus and our spiritual rhythm to the incarnation of Christ and we prepare for an encounter with Jesus.
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way" - "a voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
John comes, speaking of a Messiah, a Savior, who is to come... and while many respond in hope, there are still those in the crowds who must have thought, "I've heard this one before."
Our nature is prone to disillusionment; we hate to be let down and disappointed.
Our lives seem to tell story after story of times and people that have done just that. So we are left, jaded and numb, questioning and skeptical.
But then Jesus steps in.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, "This is the one I spoke about when I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'")
1. As the Word, Christ was God become vocal. Through Christ, God speaks His great and glorious message - that salvation is here - in a new and living language of life in Christ.
2. As the Word, Christ was God become visible. Jesus portrays the mind and heart of God, reminding us that God loved the world so much, He gave Jesus so that all could believe, all could be forgiven, all could enter into life.
We should ask ourselves, "What difference does the incarnation make in my life?" As people who have been brought from darkness into light, who have heard the Word of God and responded to it, we are to make known the glorious name of Christ, the one who came to live among us and die for us.
- This is the Word of God – have we become jaded with it?
- This is the Unexpected Word who came to an unexpecting world to save us in a most unexpected way – have we taken it for-granted?
- This is the message of Christmas – are we bored with it?
- This is the message of the Logos, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh – are we connected to Him?
Last Sunday began one of my favorite times of year - Advent, the celebration of the Incarnation of the Christ. Over the next 40 days, we will turn our focus and spiritual rhythm to the anticipation of Jesus' coming.
This anticipation and celebration is often elusive to us; we so hate to be let down and disappointed. So often we would rather keep the promise of God - with all of its uncertainty - at an arm's length rather than embrace it fully, which demands our trust and faith. But if we are to truly engage in the real depth and meaning of Advent, it begins with the understanding and belief that God keeps his promises.
On Sunday we said it like this:
The promises of God are inevitable,
yet often unexpected.
And so when Paul talks about the return of Jesus (while referencing a prophecy of the coming of Christ) he writes,"For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.
[1 Thess. 5:2]
What we see here is:
1. We can be unaware or unconcerned about Jesus' coming
"As it was in Noah's day, so will it be when the Son of man comes. For in those days before the Flood people were eating, drinking, taking wives, taking husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and they suspected nothing till the Flood came and swept them all away. This is what it will be like when the Son of man comes." [Matthew 24:37-39]
2. We can be filled with guilt, fear, and shame at Jesus' coming
"What sorrow awaits you who say, “If only the day of the Lord were here!” You have no idea what you are wishing for. That day will bring darkness, not light. Yes, the day of the Lord will be dark and hopeless, without a ray of joy or hope." [Amos 5:18, 20]
3. Or we can put our faith and hope in Christ, and be filled with joy and celebration that the day of the Lord has come
"But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night."
[1 Thessalonians 5:4-5]
Paul's directive then is that those who believe in Jesus should be:
1) Awake and aware of what God is doing; 2) Clearheaded and have a proper perspective on this life and the next; 3) Prepared and equipped for the unexpected day and work of God.
What difference will the incarnation make in
your life this Advent season?
Prayer for the First Week of Advent
“Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; that in the last day, when He comes again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to eternal life; through him who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
Last Sunday we welcomed Mark and Deb Schory to NewSong. The Schory's will be spending the next few weeks at NewSong as they reacquaint themselves with the greater Boston area and seek God's leading for ministry and church-planting opportunities in New England.Mark joined me in teaching this week from 1 Thessalonians 4 -- if you have missed a Sunday or want to listen to a previous message, you can find the message podcast here. Last Sunday, we walked through chapter 4 and discussed some of Paul's teaching in light of our big idea: that we begin to live for God fully when we are captivated by the story of what He has done for us.This means that many of us find ourselves in an awkward situation - we realize that the Gospel has not really captured our heart and life, and we discover that we are not really living for God, we are merely imitating a life of faith. And we're not alone in this; one of the early churches faced this same situation:
"[The Lord says], 'I know all the things you do,
and that you have a reputation for being alive -
but you are dead." [Revelations 3:1]
1 Thessalonians 4 gives us first, some pulse checks - ways to verify that we are alive - and second, some growth points to ensure that we continue to live and develop. We can evaluate our pulse and our growth as we:
++ Manage our relationship with GOD ++
"We urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you
to do so even more." [1 Thess. 4:1]
++ Manage our relationship with OTHERS ++
"God himself has taught you to love one another... indeed, you already
show your love for all the believers... we urge you to love them even more."
[1 Thess. 4:9-10]
++ Manage our SELVES & our LIFESTYLE ++
"Make it your goal to live a quiet life..." [1 Thess. 4:11]
++ Manage our DIRECTION ++
"For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever." [1 Thess. 4:14, 17]
Jesus continually challenged his disciples and his audience not to let their lives and their faith become imitations - he wanted us to be full and overflowing with life! As he said, "I have come so that you can have life, and have it abundantly!"To go deeper into 1 Thessalonians 4, listen to the message.