LORD’S DAY 34, 2019.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will display the 52 devotionals taken from the Heidelberg Catechism which are structured in the form of questions posed and answers given.

The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written in 1563. It originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well.

Along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt, it forms what is collectively referred to as the Three Forms of Unity.

The devotional for LORD’S DAY 34 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer. This morning’s devotional addresses The Ten Commandments.

Q. What is God’s law?

A. God spoke all these words:

THE FIRST COMMANDMENT.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.”

THE SECOND COMMANDMENT.

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

THE THIRD COMMANDMENT.

“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.”

THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT.

“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day;
therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.”

THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving to you.”

THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT.

“You shall not murder.”

THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT.

“You shall not commit adultery.”

THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT.

“You shall not steal.”

THE NINTH COMMANDMENT.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

THE TENTH COMMANDMENT.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”1

1 Exodus 20:1-17Deuteronomy 5:6-21

Q. How are these commandments divided?

A. Into two tables. The first has four commandments, teaching us how we ought to live in relation to God. The second has six commandments, teaching us what we owe our neighbor.1

1 Matthew 22:37-39

Q. What does the Lord require in the first commandment?

A. That I, not wanting to endanger my own salvation, avoid and shun all idolatry,1sorcery, superstitious rites,2 and prayer to saints or to other creatures.3

That I rightly know the only true God, 4 trust him alone, 5 and look to God for every good thing6 humbly7 and patiently, 8 and love, 9 fear, 10 and honor11 God with all my heart. In short, that I give up anything rather than go against God’s will in any way.12

1 1 Corinthians 6:9-1010:5-141 John 5:21.
2 Leviticus 19:31Deuteronomy 18:9-12.
3 Matthew 4:10Revelation 19:1022:8-9.
4 John 17:3.
5 Jeremiah 17:5, 7.
6 Psalm 104:27-28James 1:17.
7 1 Peter 5:5-6.
8 Colossians 1:11Hebrews 10:36.
9 Matthew 22:37 (Deuteronomy 6:5).
10 Proverbs 9:101 Peter 1:17.
11 Matthew 4:10 (Deuteronomy 6:13).
12 Matthew 5:29-3010:37-39.

Q. What is idolatry?

A. Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in the Word.1

1 1 Chronicles 16:26Galatians 4:8-9Ephesians 5:5Philippians 3:19.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

I John: Beloved, Let Us Love One Another.

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

I really love this next section from I John. I John 4:7-11 is a paragraph of Scripture that I’ve committed to memory and quote frequently when I preach and teach on the love of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, this section contains my favorite word in the Bible: propitiation.

I John 4; 7 sets the scene and tone for what is to follow. It contains propositional truth along with personal promises from God.

The verse begins with the Apostle John’s frequent term of endearment to those to whom he is writing: “Beloved.” How fitting to write about the love of God to those who have received and who God has graced with His love.

Immediately following this term of endearment, John says, “let us love one another.” This is a present active plea from an apostle to a congregation of believers. It is not a command but rather a fervent request that from their hearts they would display a self-sacrificial love of the will towards fellow believers in Christ.

Why are believers to love in such a fashion? John gives us the reason when he writes, “for love is from God.” The reason John gives us for loving in such a way is because self-sacrificial love of the will originates from and is sourced solely in the Lord.

John then gives us two promises based upon the preceding premise of loving fellow believers with God’s love: “and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” Whoever loves in a self-sacrificial way gives testimony and evidence that God has regenerated their souls through the preaching of the Gospel and by the work of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, they give evidence that they personally know God.

Dr. Don Carson writes that, “John reinforces let us love one another with the reminder that love comes from God. Love, as Christians understand it, is not a human achievement; it is divine in origin, a gift from God. If anyone loves in this sense it shows that that person has been born of God and knows God.”

Do you love others in the way described in I John 4:7? If so, this is an evidence that you are a believer in Jesus Christ. If not, then examine whether you truly know the Lord Jesus as your Savior.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

I John: Who Belongs to Whom?

They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (I John 4:5-6)

In reading the Bible, believers in Christ must read observantly. This means that the student of Scripture must be attentive, alert, watchful and perceptive to each word and how it is used in a particular text.

For example, in today’s text the word “world” (κόσμου; kosmou) occurs three times in vs. 5 alone. This is the same word which John used in 2:15-17. It refers to the fallen world system which is disobedient to and rebellious against God.

John says here that the many antichrists belong to and are from the fallen world system. Their state of being and existence is of the world. This is evidenced by the fact that they presently and actively communicate or speak the world’s values and philosophies because it is their values and philosophies. Therefore, the fallen world’s followers believe, positively responds to and accepts the speech of the antichrists. They are in sync with each other.

By contrast, the follower of Christ belongs to and is from God. Those who belong to God believes, positively responds to and accepts the speech of apostolic teaching and preaching. Those who do not belong to God reject biblical teaching and preaching.

There are those within the church, and the culture, who say they are followers of Christ but their speech and lifestyle says otherwise. Their foundational authority is not the Scriptures but rather their own belief system as to what is right and wrong. In short, they are Atheistic Humanists in their worldview.

John says that this is how one can evaluate those who belong to Christ and those who do not. In other words, those who belong to Christ and those who belong to the world.

Dr. Don Carson says, Once again John repeats a word for emphasis; world is the last word in v 4 and it occurs three times in this verse. It is with the world that his opponents are associated: they are from it, they speak from its viewpoint, and it forms their audience. Christians should not be surprised if such people do not listen to them. They are of the wrong party. But Christians do have their hearers. We is emphatic and sets those who are from God in strong contrast with others. There is also a contrast in the hearers; those who are from God are set over against whoever is not from God. Since this is the way the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood (Brown translates, ‘Spirit of Deceit’) are known it is a fair inference that these spirits live in the people previously indicated.”

These many spirits of antichrist which lived in John’s day live in our own. It is important to take note of them and to reject their teaching and philosophy.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

I John: Greater is He!

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4)

The Apostle John’s reference to his readers as “little children” should not be taken as he saying his readers are physically immature or little kids. Rather, the phrase refers to a special relationship or endearment or association with people of any age. I can relate in that I just completed a conversation with a young man, a husband and father who is also a successful attorney who was in our children’s department in church some 40 years ago. I still view him as one of my “kids.”

With this special and heartfelt relationship John has with these believers, he says that they belong to God. They also have overcome the many antichrists that have sought to undermine their faith. They are victors and ones who have prevailed over the evil one.

How is this victory possible? It is possible only because within each believer in Christ is the person of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). This is what John means when he writes, “for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “Up to now, the writer assured his dear children (teknia;), the readers, that they had overcome these antichrists. The readers had successfully resisted the antichrists (false prophets) by means of the One who is in them (no doubt another reference to the Spirit; cf. 3:24; 4:2). Reliance on God is the secret of all victory whether over heresy or any other snare. The indwelling One—the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer (3:24; 4:13; Rom. 8:9) and is thus “the One who is in you”—is mightier than the one who is in the world, namely, Satan (cf. 1 John 5:19). He is called “the prince of this world” (John 12:31); “the god of this Age” (2 Cor. 4:4); and “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph. 2:2).”

Dr. Don Carson explains that, “There is no need for Christians to be fearful. The word “you” is emphatic; believers are set in strong contrast to the antichrists. Believers are from God, and they have overcome. This short letter has the verb ‘to overcome’ six times, which is more than any other NT book other than Revelation (seventeen times); the note of victory is unusually prominent. Here the verb is in the perfect tense, which shows that the victory is more than a passing phase; it is decisive and continuing. It comes about because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. The first one could be any member of the Godhead; all that we can say is that it is a divine person. The second cannot be any other than the devil. John is saying that God is more powerful by far than the devil and that those in whom God dwells accordingly overcome evil.”

How has the indwelling Holy Spirit been helping you to overcome the evil one recently? How has He helped you regarding your thought life, your words and speech along with your behavior? Take time today to thank the Lord for the Comforter (John 14:26) who dwells within you and who is greater.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

I John: Knowing the Truth.

2 “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” (I John 4:2-3)

Biblical Christianity is just that: it is biblical. It is rooted and grounded in the inerrant and inspired Word of God. This is the believer’s only standard for faith and truth. Everything, and I mean everything, which the believer encounters in life and living must be evaluated by the Scriptures.

Biblical Christianity is also historical. The Gospel is rooted and grounded not only in the truth that God Exists, Sin and Salvation Exists, but also that only one Savior Exists and that Savior is Jesus Christ. Jesus entered into this world’s history, lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death and bodily rose from the grave. Any attempt by anyone, or any church, to downplay or eliminate the historical facts of Jesus Christ’s person and work is clearly not of God.

The Apostle John sets forth a clear litmus test to discern between false teaching which is not from God and truth which is from God. The apostle writes, “2 “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” Verse two places the Jesus question in the positive while the first part of vs. 3 places it in the negative. However, both verses say the same thing.

Commentator Daniel Akin writes, “Once again John makes it plain that Christianity is rooted and grounded in the Christological question: ‘What do you believe about Jesus?’ If He is just another enlightened religious teacher, He is permitted and tolerated as one opinion, one option, among many. If, however, He is the very incarnation of God, then the gospel and only the gospel is true and He is the only viable option for salvation amid the multitude of imposters.”

The Apostle John then adds this statement in the latter part of vs. 3: “This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” This statement regarding the spirit of the antichrist parallels what John has previously stated in I John 2:18-27.

Remember, the spirit of antichrist is the perspective that Jesus Christ was not virgin born, that He did not live a sinless life, that He did not die a substitutionary death on the cross on behalf of sinners, that He was not buried, that He did not rise from the dead, that He did not ascend to heaven and that He is not coming back in power, might and glory.

Consider this question: “Is your Jesus the real and biblical Jesus?”

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

 

 

 

I John: Test the Spirits.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (I John 4:1)

Identifying false teachings and teachers is neither fun nor popular. However, identifying false teachings and teachers is biblical and necessary. It is also important for every generation within the church to undertake.

In I John 4:1, the Apostle John begins with his familiar address to his readers: “Beloved.” It is a term of deep affection and endearment by a pastor for his parishioners. John is reminding his readers that he has their best interests in mind.

The apostle balances this term of endearment with a command for obedience: “Do not believe every spirit.” True love is not shy from warning the beloved of the dangers in life and the responsibilities in living for Christ. John warns his readers to not trust in, commit to, depend upon and honor and worship any and every spirit they encounter. In other words, believers are to be discerning when they encounter teachers and philosophies which are clearly unbiblical.

Not only are believers in Christ to stop believing every spirit but also we are to “test the spirits.” This too is a present active command. To test means to thoroughly examine and to evaluate the genuineness of something.

Why does John issue these two commands? The purpose of not believing every spirit but rather to test the spirits is “to see if they are from God.” One of the tasks of the church, and individual believers, is to evaluate whether teachings are from God and are biblical or are they from another source, spirit or worldview.

Remember the basic two worldviews? First, there is Biblical Theism which teaches that God Exists, that He has determined what is right or wrong, and has also indicated what man’s purpose is which is to honor and glorify the One, True God. The alternative worldview is Atheistic Humanism which teaches the exact opposite of Biblical Theism.

Therefore, the child of God is to be constantly examining what people are communicating to them and to the church in order to evaluate whether they, and what they teach, is truly biblical and from the Lord.

John then gives a decisive reasoning for these two commands: “For many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Jesus had warned people against false prophets (Matt. 7:15; 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22; Luke 6:26). The
Apostle Paul warned us (Acts 20:28-30; I Thessalonians 5:20-21). The Apostle Peter warned us 2 Peter 2:1-22). Jude warned us (Jude 4-19).

In the current culture in which tolerance for everything is applauded, the one thing false teachers cannot tolerate is truth and the one thing the church must not tolerate is false teaching and false teachers.

We are commanded to evaluate the message and the messenger by the Word of God.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

                                                                                    

I John: Reciprocity!

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.” (I John 3:24)

Reciprocity. What does this word mean?

Reciprocity means a mutuality, and exchange, a tradeoff or an interchange. Therefore, reciprocity can pertain to politics, finances, and even agreements between members of one’s family.

For example, reciprocity may refer to an agreement a father makes with his son: “You mow the lawn and take out the garbage and do your chores without anyone reminding you to do so and you may borrow my car Saturday night.” In this agreement, both sides keep their side of the agreement. The son does his chores and the father allows his son to borrow the car on Saturday night.

In the case of our relationship with God by grace alone, through faith alone through the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, reciprocity takes the form of a familiar and ongoing theme with the Epistle of I John.

God abides in the believer. This abiding began by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit in the soul of the dead sinner through the preaching of the gospel. The Holy Spirit not only generates new life within the sinner but also faith (Ephesians 2:1-9). The sinner is born again in order to believe (John 3:1-3). In other words, regeneration precedes faith. The result of regeneration is conversion.

When conversion occurs, which not only involves faith in Christ but also repentance from one’s sin, the sinner begins the journey of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). This journey and growth is evidenced by an increasing obedience to the Word of God. This obedience is not born by a desire to become a child of God but rather as an indication that the individual in question is a child of God.

John says “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God.” This is a simple truth with significant implications. This is John’s keynote theme. The reciprocity is that not only does the believer abide in God but also God abides in the believer. Additionally, we also know and understand that God abides in us by the Holy Spirit who the Father has given to us.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “Two themes appear in this verse. The first theme is the epistle’s first reference to God, or Christ, abiding in each obedient believer. Those who obey His commands (cf. 2:3; 3:23; 5:2–3) live (menei, “abide”) in Him, and He in them. That the abiding life involves this mutuality (reciprocity) is made plain in the Parable of the Vine and the Branches (John 15:4–5, 7). The second idea is the epistle’s first of six explicit references to the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 John 4:2, 6, 13; 5:6, 8; cf. “the Holy One” in 2:20). The way a believer can verify that God lives (menei, “abides”) in him is by the operation of God’s Spirit in his life. John then showed that God’s Spirit is the Spirit of both faith (4:1–6) and love (4:7–16)—the two aspects of the two-part “command” given in 3:23.”

What evidence is there that the Holy Spirit is working in your life? Are you obeying God’s commandments? Are you displaying the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)? Are you mortifying your sin (Romans 8:13)? If these are true in your life, rejoice that you are a child of God. If not, repent of your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

LORD’S DAY 33, 2019.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will display the 52 devotionals taken from the Heidelberg Catechism which are structured in the form of questions posed and answers given.

The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written in 1563. It originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well.

Along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt, it forms what is collectively referred to as the Three Forms of Unity.

The devotional for LORD’S DAY 32 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer. This morning’s devotional, like last week’s, addresses the subject of the believer’s gratitude to God for their salvation.

Q. What is involved in genuine repentance or conversion?

A. Two things: the dying-away of the old self, and the rising-to-life of the new.1

1 Romans 6:1-112 Corinthians 5:17Ephesians 4:22-24Colossians 3:5-10.

Q. What is the dying-away of the old self?

A. To be genuinely sorry for sin and more and more to hate and run away from it.1

1 Psalm 51:3-4, 17Joel 2:12-13Romans 8:12-132 Corinthians 7:10.

Q. What is the rising-to-life of the new self?

A. Wholehearted joy in God through Christ1 and a love and delight to live according to the will of God by doing every kind of good work.2

1 Psalm 51:8, 12Isaiah 57:15Romans 5:114:17; Romans 6:10-11Galatians 2:20.

Q. What are good works?

A. Only those which are done out of true faith,1 conform to God’s law,2 and are done for God’s glory;3 and not those based on our own opinion or human tradition.4

1 John 15:5Hebrews 11:6; 2 Leviticus 18:41 Samuel 15:22Ephesians 2:10.
3 1 Corinthians 10:31.
4 Deuteronomy 12:32Isaiah 29:13Ezekiel. 20:18-19Matthew 15:7-9.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

I John: Justification and Sanctification.

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.” (I John 3:23)

I  John 3:23 shows us the relationship between justification and sanctification. Justification and sanctification may be distinguished but they must not be separated.

Justification is the act by which God the Father declares elect sinners righteous before Him on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. This right standing before the Father is on the basis of grace alone, through God given faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Justification occurs in a moment when the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the Gospel, monergistically regenerates the sinner thereby giving them the ability to place their faith in Christ. The sinner is born again in order to believe and be justified. This differs from the common perspective by many Christians that one believes in order to be born again and be justified.

Sanctification is the process by which the believer grows in holiness and becomes more like Jesus Christ in thought, word and behavior. Sanctification, unlike justification, does not happen in a singular moment but rather throughout the believer’s lifetime. Sanctification ultimately concludes when the believer physically dies and goes to be with the Lord in heaven.

I John 3:23 shares that God commands us to believe in the name of Jesus Christ. To believe in Christ means to trust, commit, depend and worship Christ alone as Savior and Lord. This is synonymous with justification.

Today’s text also shares that God commands that following our conversion, we are to obey the Lord by loving one another. This love for fellow Christians is one example, of many, of how our conversion in Christ is to influence our commitment to live for Christ.

I John 3:23 provides us with not only a doctrinal test regarding the validity of our faith but also a moral test. Both are important but notice the order. One’s belief in Christ is the reason one is to love one another. In other words, we do not love another person in order to become a Christian. Rather, we believe in Christ which therefore is the impetus to love a fellow believer.

Dr. John MacArthur helpfully adds that, “These verses again repeat the three features of this epistle—believing, loving, and obeying—which are the major evidences of true salvation.”

Pastor John Piper concludes that, “The one embracing commandment of this letter is that we believe and that we love. These are the foundations of our assurance because these are the evidence of God’s work; they are the testimony of His Spirit.”

Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? Do you evidence this belief by loving other believers?

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

I John: Confidence in Prayer.

21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” (I John 3:21-22)

John begins vs. 21 with the familiar term of endearment “beloved.”  The apostle reminds the reader of his fond affection for his fellow believers in Christ.

As he continues, John wants his fellow Christians to understand that as we strive to live holy lives and pursue obedience to God’s commands, God’s Word and the Holy Spirit will confirm our right standing before God. From the human perspective, this means that our thinking, our feelings and our decisions in this life will not say to us that we have done something wrong. Remember, this understanding of what is right or wrong is based upon our thinking, feelings and decisions in relationship to the Word of God as our source of authority.

Dr, John Walvoord does lend a note of caution when he writes, John does not mean that all whose hearts do not condemn them, are therefore safe before God; for some have their conscience seared, others are ignorant of the truth. Therefore, it is not only sincerity, but sincerity in the truth which can save men. Christians are those meant here: knowing Christ’s precepts and testing themselves by them.”

With this in mind, the believer in Christ has confidence in God in prayer. We may approach God and receive what we ask of Him knowing that we have asked with right and biblical motives. In other words, we are praying while at the same time we are keeping God’s commandments and therefore doing what pleases Him.

Well over 20 years ago, a man approached me and told me that he was going to divorce his wife. He gave me his reasons for this decision, none of which were biblical, and then proceeded to tell me that he had prayed about it and that it was okay. While his heart did not condemn him for this decision, the Word of God indeed did in light of the fact that he was carrying on an affair with a mutual friend of he and his wife.

We must not believe that our prayers have no relationship with God’s Word. Rather, our prayers must be shaped and honed by the Scriptures.

Charles Spurgeon writes, “He who has a clear conscience comes to God (in prayer) 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 it he had not learned this confidence. The man of obedience is the man whom God will hear, because his obedient heart leads him to pray humbly, and with submission.”

A committed heart of obedience to the Lord will result in a confident heart of prayer before the Lord.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!