Saturday, May 19, 2007

1 John 5:1 – 5
What is a Christian?

My concerns: 1.) Christianity out of balance due to theological emphasis or practice. 2.) Christian church in America takes the minimum as sufficient [Benjamin Waite]. 3.) Christian church allowing non-believers to define Christianity.

Four necessary, inter-related parts: the mind (“I believe”), the heart (“I feel”), the will (“I choose”), the behavior (“I do”). All are necessary for salvation and the Christian life. All are responses to God’s initiative.

I. I believe

A. Believe in the existence of God.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” [Hebrews 11:6]

1. Atheism is a religious system that denies the existence of any God. (Religion does not need a “god” only a spiritual belief/system.)

a. The real issue is “faith” not “proof.” If you can prove the existence of something (such as Europe) then it is not faith.

b. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” [Hebrews 11:1]

2. Many people are what C. S. Lewis (“Chronicles of Narnia”) called “Practical Atheists.”

a. The existence of God is not the issue... They may or many not believe or practice a religious system.

b. The “practical atheist” lives like there is no God.

B. Believe in Jesus.

“They replied, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household.” [Acts 16:31]

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” [1 John 5:13]

1. Jesus claimed that this was “exclusive.” [Jesus only, not Jesus plus ...]

a. “Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [John 14:6]

b. This is the intellectual stumbling block. People love a generic “god.” but will not accept Jesus as the only way.

c. The reason Jesus is “exclusive” is because of the idea of sin (another unacceptable concept in this modern world).

“But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.” [Galatians 3:22]

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.” [John 3:16 – 18]

2. The disciples claimed the belief in Jesus was “exclusive.”

a. (John) “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” [John 20:31]

b. (Paul) “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” [1 Timothy 1:16]

c. (Peter and others) “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12]

d. (First church council) “No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” [Acts 15:11]

C. The “problem” with belief.

1. It is not enough to only believe.

a. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” [James 2:9]

1.) The demons know who Jesus is. “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, [24] "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!” [Mark 1:23 – 24]

2.) The fact is this (correct) knowledge/belief did not change their (the "evil spirit"/demon's) loyalty or behavior.

b. Belief by itself has no root or long term value.

1.) “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. [12] Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. [13] Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” [Luke 8:11 – 13]

2.) Jesus was talking about people who “believe for a while.” In other words, they do not allow their belief to create a long term change (“they have no root.”)

3.) “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” [Hebrews 10:39]

2. Belief cannot be disconnected from life.

a. “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.... As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” [James 2:24, 26]

b. We have harsh words for those who disconnect belief from actions: such as “hypocrite.”

c. The struggle with unbelief is a key component of belief: “Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” [Mark 9:24]

*** This struggle translates into real life battles, bruises, and victories.

II. I feel

“Jesus replied: " `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' [38] This is the first and greatest commandment.” [Matthew 22:37 – 38]

A. The role of the heart.

1. The heart is often portrayed in the Bible as the human component that motivates a choice.

a. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” [2 Corinthians 9:7]

1.) Giving is an emotional choice. You give based on how you feel.

2.) Yet it is also an “decision” (and act of the will... “I chose” will be covered later.)

b. (Jesus rebuking two followers on the road to Emmaus) “He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” [Luke 24:25]

1.) Jesus speaks to their mind (foolish: “I believe”) and their heart (slow).

2.) The witness to/about Jesus has been established but the heart can be blinded.

2. The heart has a strong emotional component. (“I feel”)

a. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” [Romans 9:2]

1.) Paul is agonizing over the eternal destiny of unbelievers of his “own race.” (The Jews)

2.) He uses this emotional anguish as vital to his theology (belief) and motivation for his actions (“I do”).

b. “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?” [Acts 2:37]

1.) This was the emotional response to Peter’s preaching on the Day of Pentecost.

2.) This emotional response motivated people to action.

B. The heart (emotions) is necessary in salvation/defining Christianity.

1. It can make us choose for or against Christ.

a. FOR: “That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10] For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” [Romans 10:9 – 10]

1.) Here is action (confession), belief, and emotion (heart) at work in justification/salvation

2.) Notice the Bible says, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified.” There is a emotional quality to knowledge.

b. AGAINST: “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” [Romans 2:5]

1.) Stubbornness is a serious problem... the prophet Jeremiah addresses the stubbornness of the “evil hearts” seven times as an explanation of why people refuse to obey God.

2.) Stubbornness is refusing to change course or attitude.

2. It is the heart that shows us most clearly who we are.

a. “Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” [Matthew 15:19] And again He said, “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” [Matthew 12:34]

1.) The reason we do rotten things is because we are motivated by our emotions to do rotten things.

2.) Emotions are the hardest thing to pretend. They are difficult to control.

3.) Here’s the problem for the believer: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” [Hebrews 3:12]

a.) Eventually the heart can turn us away from God.

b.) Which is why in “evangelism” we tell people not to trust how they “feel” at moments of doubt.

b. “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” [1 Timothy 1:5]

III. I chose

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” [John1:12]

A. The “will” has been a topic of heated theological debate.

1. God tells us to choose: “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” [Joshua 24:15a]

a. Choosing is an Old Testament concept, so is faith or love.

b. Choosing is an act of the will on the part of an individual who is responding to God’s initiative.

2. The New Testament translates the concept of choosing as receiving: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” [1 Peter 2:10]

a. God’s offer must be received (as a choice)... in other words, it can be rejected (as a choice).

b. We are warned “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” [Hebrews 4:7] (We get hung up on specific examples like Pharaoh and Judas... but these were individuals who’s hearts were hardened for a specific purpose, not a general rule.)

B. At some point, there is a choice.

1. “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. [2] As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. [3] For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” [1 Peter 4:1 – 3]

a. When we were/are without Christ we “choose” to live a certain way. The contrast is that when we are in Christ we choose to be “done with sin” and “evil human desires.”

b. Notice that a huge part of the choice here is “attitude.”

2. “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. [12] Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. [13] Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” [Romans 6:11 – 13]

a. The word translated “count” is in the continual sense and is often translated “reckon.” (It’s an accounting term that means to take an inventory... “fearless moral inventory.”)

b. Who you obey is your master. (You will obey sin and “its evil desires” or obey God.) Who you obey will be who you allow to rule your body.

IV. I do

“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. [4] The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. [5] But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: [6] Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” [1 John 2:3 – 6]

A. Obedience is the proof of our relationship with God.

1. “Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. [24] He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” [John 14:23 – 24]

a. Obedience results in God moving in with us. John used the word “home” to describe this relationship.

b. Obedience is a result of loving Jesus. Typically we do not “hang out” around people we do not like. Certainly we will not obey someone we do not love/respect on our own free will.

2. “And, once made perfect, he (Jesus) became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” [Hebrews 5:9]

a. If Jesus is the source, it makes sense that our behavior would align with what He expects of us.

b. If we have eternal salvation, it makes sense that our behavior would align with the source and pattern of that salvation. (Ill. A tuning fork.)

B. Obedience lives up to our standing and responsibilities.

1. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. [10] If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.” [John 15:9]

a. Jesus demonstrated His relationship to God the Father through His obedience. In other words, He lived up to the relationship....

b. Through obedience we stay tuned to God and His love. Disobedience weakens us and weakens our relationship with God.

2. “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” [2 Corinthians 7:1]

a. Responsibility to do our part, participate with God’s kindness and work in our lives to remove contaminates.

b. If we do not then we expose ourselves to judgement (“For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17).

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