This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday October 13th, 2019.
For the past five weeks we have been going through the epistle 1 John. Today continue our study as we dig into chapter 2:28 – 3:10. If you recall, this short letter was written to a church in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) who was going through a hard time as they had recently faced a church split or a division that was caused by false teaching and bad doctrine. Up to this point in the letter the apostle John has written to warn this church to stay away from these false teachers and their heretical doctrine. He also wrote to exhort his readers to stay faithful and grounded in the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. He spends some time writing about the conduct of a believer in order to show who he/she belongs to by living in obedience to God, thus he should live a God-honoring life. The faithfulness and obedience of the believer to God is foundational because according to the Apostle they were living in the last hour, and this would result in people being deceived.
Last week we I talked about the four pathways to deception which were apathy, deceit, confusion, and temptation. I then talked about the two ways we can safeguard ourselves so that we do not fall into the deception of the last hour. We are to be rooted in the Word of God by reading, studying and even memorizing it and by also allowing the Holy Spirit to be our teacher and guide.
Now John changes course in his letter as he directs his readers to know the privilege they have in being children of God and this should bring them confidence in God and His promises.
1 John 2:28 – 3:10
Vs 28: “So now little children…” John continues this train of thought… He writes specifically to the Christians (little children) in the church “since we are living in the last hour it is important for you to remain, continue, or abide in Jesus. John is referencing the second coming of Jesus Christ. He is encouraging believers to continue living in obedience and love to Jesus. Remaining faithful and obedient will give confidence to the believer when Jesus does come back.
In regards to the second-coming of Jesus The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 14:10b – 11, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” There will be a day when we stand before the throne of God and those who have believed on the name of Jesus and remained in Him will stand in confidence before the throne. However, we will not stand in our own confidence (proud or boastful because we were able to live a disciplined and holy life), we will stand in the confidence of what Jesus has done for us. Believers can and will have confidence at his second coming. We are not in danger of losing our salvation (they/we are his children; we belong to Jesus Christ already.) This will be a glorious day for us who believe and a horrible day for those who do not.
There will be two reactions at Christ’s appearance
Justification means that we are declared innocent before God. This is grace in action. Romans 8:30 says, “And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.” Now, keep your attention on this passage as I will be talking about glorification a little later. If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ you can have confidence in the truth that God has predestined (chose) you to be his, thus he has called you to himself, and since he called you to be his child, you have been justified. When you responded to God’s call in your life through faith in Jesus Christ you were justified in the presence of God. Through him you are declared innocent (you are no longer declared guilty because of your sins) because through the shed blood of Jesus Christ you are justified. So, your righteousness (doing what is right, obedient, following Jesus, justification) is evidence of your rebirth. Note, your righteousness is not why you have been given new life, it is the evidence of new life.
Vs 3:1: Do you understand how much God loves you? Since you have been justified, you are not only declared innocent, you are now declared a child of God. This is a privilege we all have through grace. We do not deserve to be sons and daughters of God, but because of God’s great love and grace for us he has adopted us as his children. The idea of being adopted sons and daughters is spoken of by the Apostle Paul who paints a beautiful picture of what it means to be adopted, listen and let this truth sink in as I read Ephesians 1:4 – 6, “For He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy, blameless in love before him. He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.” Through God’s grace we have become adopted sons and daughters of Jesus Christ. We belong to him and since we belong to him we have the right and privilege to be called his children.
“See what great love the Father has given to us that we should be called God’s children – and we are!” I love this final declaration… “And we are!” We can see John’s excitement in his declaration, and this should excite us as well. Commentator I. Howard Marshall says that this (exclamation) is an act of “legitimation” and Gary Burge says, “This is an act of legitimation in which the father names his child and thereby makes a permanent claim to identity and ownership. Hence it is not in the child’s hands! Rather, this identity is entirely in the Father’s hands, so that the child’s security is assured.”
Now, as Christians or children of God we are commanded to not love or be influenced by the world. Since we do not love the world, the world does not and cannot know us because we are God’s children and the world does not know our Father.
Verse 2: We are God’s children and we know our Father; however, we do not fully know everything about the Father, and about what we will be like at the second coming of Jesus Christ. Stephen S. Smalley writes in his commentary of 1 John, “The Christians knowledge of heaven, and indeed of God himself, is bound to be incomplete during our earthly pilgrimage. We shall only ‘know fully as we are fully known’ when we see the Lord ‘face to face’, Meanwhile a humble confession of our ignorance about the ultimate truth of God, and the salvation in Christ which makes possible, is a desirable attitude for the Christian to take.” Even though we do not have the specific details and full knowledge of God, we do know that when we stand before the Lord at the end we will be like Him.
Glorification: The end of this chapter describes a theological term that is the final step in the soteriological process. Now, this is a big way of saying that glorification is the final step in the act of God redeeming us. Glorification is what we become when die and stand in the presence of God. The doctrine of glorification describes what the Christian will become once he has died and is resurrected in the presence of the Father. It is the state where we will be given new bodies, all our unrighteous deeds and acts will be burned away like chaff, and we will be made fully holy and righteous.
Verse 3: This gives us hope. We have hope because we have been purified and one day we will be glorified. Our hope lies in the truth that we are currently children of God, and one day we will be glorified in the presence of God. This hope is both present and future. We have hope today because Jesus died for our sins and we have been justified before God and our hope is future because one day we will stand before the Lord and receive new bodies and made holy and righteous.
Verse 4: John now turns his discussion from justification and glorification to the tension or pull between sin and righteousness. John writes, “Everyone who commits sin practices lawlessness and sin is lawlessness.” In this passage we have a clear and concise definition of sin… sin is lawlessness. He is declaring that sinners break the law. The law is considered the rule or word given by God and when one has disregard for the law and pays no heed to it and does as they please, they commit sin. Christians are called to live lives of obedience to God’s Word and commands, and antichrists live lives of disobedience and rebellion to His Word and commands.
Verse 5: Jesus came and died so that sin may be defeated. He gave his life so that anyone who believes in Him is called, justified and ultimately glorified. He was the perfect sacrifice because Jesus is sinless.
Verse 6: If we go back 1 John 2:28 we know that we are called to abide or remain in Jesus. Those who abide in Jesus do not live in sin (we do not run to sin, allow sin to rule in their lives… willful, ongoing sin). We need to be careful that we do not misunderstand what John is saying. He is not saying that the Christian can aspire to live a holy and sin free life here on earth. He is speaking specifically to those who live in willful sin and they are not from God. We must also be careful to not misunderstand that since we are Christians, we do sin and since God is in the forgiving business it is ok to remain in sin. The Apostle Paul confronted people who tried to justify sinful living and being a Christian. In Romans 6:1 – 3a he writes, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” John and Paul both agree that those who belong to Jesus cannot live in willful disobedience and sin. Truth be told, we are sinners saved by grace and we all struggle with sin in some capacity in our lives. Sometimes we give in to our sins and often, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can refrain from sin. I do not believe that this is the sin Paul and John are talking about… I believe they are confronting those who are living openly and unashamedly in sin, all the while calling themselves Christians.
Even though this passage can be a bit confusing I do not believe John is indicating that one can reach a state of sinless perfection, nor does God require it from his children. We are, however, to pursue holiness in our lives, but we will not be perfected until the day we stand before the Father in glorification.
Verses 8 – 10: If one remains in sin and continues living in sin is from the devil. The devil has been in the sin business since he was kicked out of heaven. The sole purpose in Jesus coming to the earth was to destroy the devils work and to glorify God.
So, if you are born of God (a true believer in Jesus Christ) then you will not live in sin. But the one who continues and abides in sin is of the devil. If you only hear one thing today I want you to hear this… The life you live reveals who you serve. How you conduct your daily lives speaks volumes about who you serve. If you continually live in willful sin and disobedience, then you serve the devil. However, if you live in obedience to God’s Word and His commands then you serve your Jesus. So, if you consider yourself a born-again believer in Jesus Christ then know you are an ambassador of Christ. According to 2 Corinthians 5:20, we are ambassadors of Jesus Christ and since we are ambassadors, we represent our Father, so we must live our lives to honor and glorify his name.
 Marshall, I Howard. The Epistles of John, Eerdmans Books, Grand Rapids. 19978 Page 170 - 171
 Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: The Letters of John. Zondervan Books, Grand Rapids. 1996. Page 146
 Smalley, Stephen S. Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 51 – 1, 2, 3 John. Word Books, Waco. 1984. Page 145
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday October 6th, 2019.
We are continuing our series through John’s first Epistle. Last week I talked about loving God, and not the world. I talked about how the world has nothing for you that is of eternal value. The world may offer what falsely looks to be a promise of fun, excitement, and freedom but the end results in the shackles of evil, emptiness, and estrangement from God.
Today we will be looking at 1 John 1:18 – 27 and we will see how we are living in the last hour and in this last hour we are susceptible to being deceived by those who oppose Jesus. In our time together we will look at ways we can be deceived and look at the safeguards we can take to protect us from deception.
Verse 18: Once again, John is talking specifically to the believers in this church and he is informing them that it is the last (final, lowest) hour (season or specific time).The last hour refers specifically to the time between Jesus’ ascension and his imminent second coming. John is talking about an undetermined time for all of God’s promises to be fulfilled. According to Gary Burge in his commentary on 1 John, “Sometimes the ‘last hour’ refers to a short period; sometimes its length is longer. Peter warns that God’s measuring of time is not like ours, for to the Lord a thousand years is like a day. God is above time. But when the end does come – and here the New Testament writers are in one accord – it will surprise everyone, including Christians. It will be seen by unbelievers as an unexpected catastrophe.” Since Jesus’ Second Coming has not happened yet, it is safe to say that we are still living in the last hour, so this warning also applies to us today.
Apparently, the teaching of Antichrist was common knowledge among the people. Antichrist(s) are those who are adversary/opponent of the Messiah. Broadly, the term antichrist is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ. However, John speaks of a person (who has been spoken of as coming) who will be a representative of “the evil one” of whom Jesus spoke of in his prayer, plus he speaks of the many antichrists or adversaries of Jesus who had already come during this time and these antichrist’s have continued throughout history and these are who John refers to as antichrists. With the rise of the opposition to Jesus (antichrists) this is evidence that they/we are in fact living in the last hour.
Verse 19: These present and past antichrists or adversaries of Jesus Christ or more specifically the false teachers had left the church and they did not continue in the ways of Jesus. They continued to teach and spread a false gospel and caused many to stray from the true faith of Jesus Christ. John tells the readers that these adversaries were not of God for if they had been true to the Gospel then they would have stayed in the Church. Their departure was evidence of their evil ways and anti-Christian teachings, and they were never part of the church in the first place.
Verse 20: However, those who have remained in the church are faithful and they have been anointed by the Holy Spirit. These are the true believers and those who have true faith in Jesus Christ. I will speak more directly on this in verse 27.
Verse 21: John is writing to this church because they know the truth, since they know the truth, they should not be susceptible the deceit and lies of those who teach them. This congregation has been equipped through the anointing of the Holy Spirit and thus have the Spirit of truth in them
Verse 22: Antichrist defined – The antichrist is a liar and he is one who denies or rejects God and Jesus Christ. One who is unregenerate and has refused the Gospel in their life. They are liars and there is no truth in them. If you look ahead to 1 John 4:2 – 3 it says, “This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is from God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus in not from God. This is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world.”
Verse 23: John now shows the oneness of Jesus Christ and God. He states if you deny one then you deny the other. On the other hand, if you confess the Son then the Father is present in your life.
Verse 24: John encourages his readers to stay true (and not stray from the false teachings) to what they heard from the beginning because this is the true authentic Gospel Message of Jesus Christ (life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus). If they hold to the truth of the Gospel, then Jesus Christ will abide in God the Father and Jesus the Son. What happens when we stray from the truth of the Gospel? We are deceived by those who oppose Jesus Christ.
Verse 25: The Gospel message contains a promise… “Those who believe in Jesus, confess their sins and abide in Jesus Christ will have eternal life (which begins here on earth).
Verse 26: The letter is written so that the believers would not be deceived. Unfortunately, there are some in the church who are trying to deceive the believers and John is telling them to be on guard. Deception comes in various forms and it is very subtle, and I believe it is important to identify how we can be led down the pat of deception. Here are four ways… These are by no means the only four pathways to deception.
Four Pathways to Deception
Verse 27: The anointing – anything smeared or poured on. The Holy Spirit has been smeared or poured out on us (unction) and is continually present in us. John tells his readers since the Holy Spirit dwells in them then the Holy Spirit is their teacher and they have no need for other teachers who claim to have the Spirit in them and teach them. This is true for us. Ultimately the Holy Spirit is our guide and teacher in this life.
John is not saying that biblical teachers are unnecessary; he is saying that teachers who come claiming a new Gospel are not from God. One author wrote, “It is no contradiction that we should listen receptively to other believers, especially when they admonish and instruct us. They also have the same Spirit, and the confusion generated by false teaching is a real danger.” The Holy Spirit is our teacher and He will reveal the truth to us when we abide in Him (Christ), however, God does empower and use men and women who are anointed by the Spirit to teach us the truths of God and Scripture.
We are living in the last/final hour, so we need to be ready, prepared and on guard because there are people in the world who are teaching false Gospels. These people are working against Jesus. They promote a false message that is deceptive and give a false sense of security. There are teachers teaching a false messages of prosperity Gospel, or one that tells you that God’s main concern is your health, wealth and happiness. They teach that you are the center of God’s universe and if you are faithful to Him (and the pastor preaching the message) you will be blessed with an abundance of wealth, a life free from sickness, and a happiness that is rooted in possessions. To the unfaithful they will not receive God’s blessing thus being unhealthy, poor, and miserable. We know this is to untrue. The Gospel is not based on you and your happiness. It is grounded in Jesus and what He has done and the promise he made to all who believe. These false teachers are working against Jesus and the Kingdom and therefore they are called antichrists.
Unfortunately, a plethora of people are beings deceived on regular basis. They are deceived primarily by the four pathways that I spoke of earlier. So, how do safeguard ourselves from deception? Well, I believe the answer is found in this passage. Here are
2 safeguards from deception found in vss. 24 – 28
 Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: The Letters of John. Zondervan Books, Grand Rapids. 1996. Page 127
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday Sept. 29th, 2019.
Love God, Not the World
1 John 2:12 - 17
We are continuing our series through John’s first Epistle. Last week I talked about the importance of obedient love. I challenged you to ask yourself a core question regarding your relationship with God and it was, “What is the motivating factor in your relationship with God?”
Outline of the text
This week we will continue in 1 John 2 as I will talk about verses 12 – 17. These seven verses are divided into two sections.
Now, if you went ahead and read these passages and you are a bit confused, don’t worry because even theologians are a but mystified by verses 12, 13, and 14. One commentator writes, “If we have been following John’s argument thus far, the present text, particularly verses 12 – 14, seems to fuel the observation of many interpreters that portions of the letter lack logical coherence.” What he is saying is that up to this point John seems to have a logical train of thought in writing this letter, but now his thought process seems to take a slight diversion… but he continues, “However, these verses are a parenthesis, a pause, designed to reassure, John’s readers about their own relationship to God and, as (John) Stott says,’ to rob counterfeit Christians of their false assurance’.”
What makes these verses difficult to interpret is that uncertainty of who John is speaking to (children, fathers, young men… I will speak to this in a moment) and the repetition in his writing (He repeats himself in these verses).
However, in verses 15 – 17 John resumes his thought process as he issues a warning about being mindful that we do not allow our affections for the world exceed our love for the Father.
(Read 1 John 2:12 – 17)
Little Children, Fathers, and Young Men
Verses 12 - 14
As I mention before, the first problem in interpreting this passage is determining who John is writing to. Some take the literal approach where they say that John is talking to the children, fathers, and young men of the church. On the other hand, some say that John is talking to people at various stages of their spiritual walk or development (i.e. children = new converts… your sins are forgiven, fathers = established in faith… you have known God from the beginning, and young men = those still growing in faith… you have conquered the evil one). The third is similar to the second one and shows that John is speaking to the church as a whole (little children: If you recall at the beginning of the chapter John refers to the people of this church he is writing as “My little children”). And then he addresses the fathers as those who are the spiritual leaders of the church (i.e. church officers…elders, presbyters). The young men refer to those who are more hands on in ministry (i.e. deacons or servants).
Regardless, John is writing to these individuals to let them know their sins are forgiven, they know the Father intimately and they have overcome evil because of Jesus Christ. This is true for us today. The body of Christ, the Church, those who have believed on the name of Jesus and have received him as Lord and Savior have been forgiven (Romans 10:9 - 10). Those of you who are mature or maturing in your faith belong to Jesus you now know the Father (1 Corinthians 8:3), you love the Father (1 John 4:19), and you obey the Father (1 John 2:3). Thus, we can know for certain that we have overcome the evil one (Romans 12:21).
Do Not Love the World
Everyone (whether we know it or not) has a choice to make in life. Will you live your life for the glory of God the Father (obedience), or will you invest your life in the world? In the second half of chapter two in John’s he pleads with this hurting group of believers to keep their affections for God.
John begins by saying “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” He implores them to not devote their lives serving and seeking approval from the godless world system.
The word love in verse fifteen in the Greek is Agapeo which means affection, to love dearly, to welcome and be fond of. The world he speaks of is translated as the order, government, whole mass of men that is alienated from God, or World affairs. It speaks of the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc., which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce people from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ.
John tells his readers “Do not welcome or have fond affection towards the world system (which is godless) that stirs up ungodly desires in our hearts. These desires may be fulfilling for a moment, but they are short lived, insubstantial, and ultimately they seduce people from following God. This world system does not promote or line up with the foundation for living a life that Jesus has established through his teaching, his death and resurrection.
This is a portion of scripture we need to take to heart. The pleasures of this world are passing and momentary. Anything or anyone that becomes a substitute for God in your lifes, or anyone who has a deeper love for earthly or material pleasures and possessions has, indeed, a greater love for the world and the love of the God is not present in them.
At this point we can ask some questions pertaining to our separation from the world. Is John talking about not loving the physical world or earth? Is he talking about not loving the ungodly or unbelievers? Is he telling us to have nothing to do with governments or world affairs? Should we just put up our Christian bubbles around us and live in them without having anything to do with the world outside? We will see in verse 16 what this world looks like.
John gives us the answer to these questions in verse 16. He writes that all that is in the world are the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions. In a nutshell this is what the godless world is at its core. It is a promotion of self and selfish gratification. The world John talks about has NOTHING to do with God and promoting His agenda.
Lust of the flesh – This is a craving, longing or lusting after the sensuous nature of man. The flesh represents the animal nature of humanity which leads to cravings to sin. It is our mere human nature, apart from divine nature (God); therefore, it inclined to sin and to oppose God. The lust or desire of the flesh is the craving or longing to allow the animal or human nature (the nature opposed to God) to be fulfilled. It is a shortsighted and selfish desire to fulfill our base and animalistic needs. William Barclay writes, “It is to live a life which is dominated by the senses. It is to be gluttonous in food; effeminate in luxury; slavish in pleasure; lustful and lax in morals; selfish in the use of possessions; regardless of all spiritual values; extravagant in the gratification of worldly, earthly and material desires. The flesh’s desire is forgetful of, blind to, or regardless of the commandments of God.” When people allow the lust of the flesh to rule their bodies and lives, they live a life that is contrary to God’s divine call. The lives they live are selfish, self-indulgent lives that goes against God’s Word.
Lust of the eyes – The eye(s) are a metaphor for sinful passions which lead to corruption. This refers to the act of coveting or desiring something that is not yours or for you. It is longing for or lustful looking at someone or something that stirs up sinful desires. Jesus addressed this in the Gospels when he said the act of immorality is not always committed in the physical act itself. He said that if you look upon someone with lust then you are just as guilty of committing the act of immorality. The lust of the eyes can also refer a delight in being seen in a grand and magnificent way. The lust of the eyes was/is still something people (Christian and non) struggle with. We live in a hyper-sexualized culture and lust has become a product that people capitalize from. One needs to watch any television show, read many magazines or books, and see commercials to see what I mean. Sex is a multi-billion-dollar business, and many are profiting from this ungodly means of income. However, lust of the eyes (sexual desires, adultery, etc.) is not just a modern day problem (it is just more accessible) but even Job admitted to his weakness in this area as he wrote in Job 31:1, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how could I gaze at a virgin?”
Pride of one’s lifestyle – This is boastful braggart talking. It means to trust in one’s self, and self-dependence. Many times, it is someone who is pretentious or as I call them “big talkers” or narcissists. These people love to tell stories that are modified to make themselves look better than they really are. They are the tall tale tellers who want all the attention focused on them. I have often found with these individuals they always have to one up you or have a more extreme story to tell or a possession that is better than anyone else. It is a self-reliance that makes one think he/she has no need for God or others.
The world and its lusts/or passions are not from God. It doesn’t take much to see how the world outside of Christ has a deep love and fondness for sexual gratification, an obsession with making something look so attractive that you “have to have it” , and it preys on the false teaching that the more you have and the excess indulges you partake in the better your life will be. Worldly thinking goes against God, thus as followers of Him we must not have any fondness or affection for a system that pushes us away from Him.
All that is associated with the world and its system (what we just looked at) are momentary and passing away. I have yet to meet someone who has lived a self-centered life full of indulging in the pleasures of the world without boundaries that is truly and completely satisfied and happy for an extended time. Investing in this world and its godless ways are futile and empty. However, when you invest in doing what God wants you to do (Having a Kingdom perspective) you will be continually walking in his ways and you will ultimately know true joy happiness and satisfaction that is grounded in Him.
So, what is our takeaway for today? Children of God, those who believe and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, know that your sins are forgiven. You know God and He knows you. You are loved, you are blessed, and you have overcome evil. Sin does not need to run rampant in your life. Since this is the case you should not love the world and all that it has to offer. The world will try to pull you into it’s talons and push you away from God. But know and understand this… The world has nothing for you that is of eternal value. The world may offer what falsely looks to be a promise of fun, excitement, and freedom but the end results in shackles. Shackles of evil, emptiness, and estrangement from God. My friends, do not love the world, or the things of the world because a life dedicated to the world is a life separated from God.
 Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: The Letters of John. Zondervan Books, Grand Rapids. 1996. Page 110
Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G2889). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday Sept. 22nd, 2019.
Last week we began our series in the epistle I John entitled “Love Letter”. Throughout the next couple of months, we will go through this short epistle and look closely at the purpose of John in writing this letter. In the introduction last week, I gave some background as to why John had written this letter. He was writing to a church that had recently split as a result of bad doctrine and false teaching. Apparently, some influential leaders were teaching a false Gospel and refuting John’s Gospel he preached. These false teachings were an early form of what became popularized in the second century as Gnosticism. Gnosticism is a system of false teachings that existed during the early centuries of Christianity. Its name came from gnosis, the Greek word for knowledge. The Gnostics believed that knowledge was the way to salvation. For this reason, Gnosticism was condemned as false and heretical by several writers of the New Testament. These leaders arose and introduced doctrines that were unbiblical and went against the true teachings of Jesus Christ. According to the Gnostics, the aim of salvation is for the spirit to be awakened by knowledge so the inner person can be released from the earthly dungeon and return to the realm of light where the soul becomes reunited with God. As the soul ascends, however, it needs to penetrate the cosmic spheres that separate it from its heavenly destiny. This is accomplished by knowledge. One must understand certain formulas that are revealed only to the initiated. In a nutshell, Gnostic teachings are based on knowledge. They believe that salvation is attained by acquiring knowledge of God. They often taught that actions or outward words didn’t matter because a true relationship with Jesus is attained by knowledge.
Today, we will continue to look at chapter 2, starting with verse 3. Most of this chapter talks about the Christian walk and how obedience is reflective of the Christian life. He writes concerning the lifestyle a believer in Christ will live if he is truly a believer.
This chapter is a great introduction to how a believer should conduct his/her life for the glory of God. This passage gets to the core question we must all ask ourselves, “What is the motivating factor in your relationship with God?”
1 JOHN 2:3 - 11
In chapter 1 John spends a lot of time establishing the fact that all humans have the common denominator of sin. However, since Jesus Christ came as the manifested Word of God and willingly laid his life down for you and me, we can be cleansed from our sins and made right with God, if only we confess our sins and believe in faith. This does not mean we are no longer subject to sin, it simply means we now have the power and the will to say “no” to sin and it no longer has dominion in our lives.
Verse 3 – So how does one know if they are truly a believer? How does one have assurance that he/she has a relationship with God? Simple, the fruit (or life) we bear.
Jesus says in Matthew 7:15 – 20: “Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.
If you keep his commandments (or we are obedient to him), then you will know you are known by Him. This becomes a little sticky for some people because they can take this to mean that all one must do is follow the rules and this will reserve a spot in heaven for them. This isn’t what John is writing at all. He is writing that the life you live will be the evidence of your relationship with Jesus. I know of some people who are Christians, but they model their lives based upon “doing what is right” so they don’t get punished in the end. This is a fear-based relationship. Now I believe a little healthy fear is needed in the presence of a holy God; but your relationship cannot be based on fear. Fear-based Christians remind me of the kid in school who was always good and pleasant to be around when the teacher was in the room, but as soon as the teacher turned their back or left the room… WATCH OUT! All pandemonium breaks out. These people aren’t model students, nor do they respect the teacher, they just don’t want to get in trouble because if they do then they will be punished, and they don’t like punishment.
John is not talking about having this kind of relationship with God. He is talking about keeping the commandments of the Father because you love, respect, and honor the Father. Your obedience is motivated by love for Him, not consequences.
Verse 4 – 5 - Your actions need to match your profession of faith. If you call yourself a believer in Jesus Christ, but do not live your life in obedience to the Father, then there really is no relationship and you are living a lie. You are living a life of hypocrisy.
But if we live our lives fully committed and obedient to the teachings of Jesus Christ, then God’s love is complete in us. Ultimately, our knowledge (not just intellectual) of God and who He is should lead us to a life of obedience.
Jesus says in John 13:34 – 35, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”
Verse 6 – 8 - If you say you are a believer in Jesus Christ then you must walk in the ways He walked. According to Gary Burge, “To (abide) in him’ goes beyond merely imitating Christ in lifestyle or ‘living as Jesus lived.’ The verb generally describes the indwelling of the Christian in God. It may even depict God dwelling in us.”
Verse 9 -11 – This new/old commandment John speaks of in verse 7 deals with Jesus’ great commandment to love God and to love others. Anyone who calls himself a believer should be clothed in love. If one claims Christ and harbors hatred toward anyone then this person is still walking in the darkness. When we love one another, we are fulfilling God’s commandment by shining the light of Jesus’ love for all to see. When we love we do not give others permission to call us hypocrites or cause others to stumble. Love and hatred cannot co-exist. We cannot truly love if we harbor hatred, bitterness and darkness in our hearts.
One of the number one problems people have with Christians is that we promote love, but we do not necessarily practice it. Unfortunately, there are many who profess Christ yet when they are away from their place of worship or other Christian friends their life and conduct is no different from the rest of the worlds. One of the key indicators of being a Christian is shown in how we love one another and how we love those who are unlovely. Burge writes, “Love becomes a genuine value only when it is tested, only when we must reach beyond ourselves and love someone we do not wish to love. This is the caliber of love John has in mind.”
What does this kind of love look like? Goes against Gnostic teaching (it is more than intellectual… It is spiritual and physical.
3.Does not envy
4.Is not boastful
5.Is not arrogant
6.Is not rude
8.Is not irritable
9.Does not keep records of wrong doings
10.Rejoices in truth
11.Bears all things, believes all things, hopes in all things, endures in all things.
So, in these 8 verses we see the characteristics or qualities of a Christian life. The evidence of our faith is rooted our obedience to commands of the Father. Our obedience does not save us, tour obedience reflects our commitment to Jesus Christ. We are introduced the three claims found in verses 4, 6, 9.
We can sum up Verse 4, 6, 9 as follows.
The whole idea of Christian love verses the worlds love is amazing to me. I feel bad for people who have not experienced true love in the way God intended. So many of us think of love as this feeling we get when we have this overwhelming emotion that overtakes us. Yet the love Jesus displays, and shows is far greater than a feeling. Love is truly an action. This action is the evidence of affection we have towards something or someone (in this case it is God). When we truly love God, we will want to live our lives in obedience and not in fear. Our obedience is not our salvation. Obedience and love are the end result of our salvation. Take some time today and this week and reflect on the love God has shown to humanity. I leave you with a question this morning…, “What is the motivation behind your relationship with God?” Is it fear or is it love? Are you obedient only because you do not want to spend an eternity is torment, hellfire and brimstone? Or, are you obedient because you love Jesus, and His Word and you want to live your life for Him because He is your everything? Stephen Smalley writes, “To obey God necessarily involves Christlikeness and also love, which is the summation of God’ moral law.”
 Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
 Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
 Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: The Letters of John. Zondervan Books, Grand Rapids. 1996. Page 99
 Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: The Letters of John. Zondervan Books, Grand Rapids. 1996. Page 101
 Smalley, Stephen S. WORD BIBLICAL COMMENTARY: Volume 5 – 1, 2, 3 John. Word Books, Waco, Texas. 1984. Page 46
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday Sept. 15th, 2019.
Today we are beginning an 11-week series that will take us through the book of first John. This is the first of three Epistles written by the Apostle John (He is also the author of the Gospel of John, and Revelation). If you were to read through this first epistle, you would find that love is the central theme, so naturally love will be the theme of this series, hence the title “Love Letter”. Throughout the next couple of months we will look at God’s love shown to us through Jesus Christ; at ways we can love God; how we are called to love one another; loving the truth; Gods love; and having confidence that we are loved because God has given us assurance of eternal life. My prayer for this series is for you is grasp and understand the importance of love in the Christian community (which is local church and the body of Christ at large). I pray that we can all know that when we show love to one another not only are we building community, but we are fulfilling Jesus’ great command to love.
BACKGROUND TO 1 JOHN
Before we get into our message for today, I would like to give some background information for this letter and why it was written. Since the overall picture of John is love, we can better understand how this letter can be applied to our lives today.
After the ascension of Jesus Christ and the disciples disbanded to go their way to fulfill the Great Commission, the Apostle John planted churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). This letter is probably directed to these churches or a specific church in general. We are not sure what happened with the church He is writing, but it is assumed that this once very healthy church (or Churches) were experiencing some troubling times. It is believed this church(es) he is writing to recently had a significant split and eventually divided. It is commonly believed that they were divided over bad doctrine. Some theologians believe a very early form of Gnosticism had begun to take root in this church and was the cause of this great uproar.
Gnosticism was a religious movement in early church history that plagiarized Christian themes by spreading false ideas of salvation. Gnostics taught salvation was attained through acquiring knowledge and not through faith in Jesus Christ. They also taught that salvation was attained through acknowledging or affirming the divine light that is already present in the human soul. (If you are interested in learning a little more about Gnosticism you can Google the topic and there are scores of articles written about the Gnostics.). The Gnostic movement was not popularized until the late second century (well after the Apostles were gone) but John was probably facing an early form of Gnosticism that was beginning to surface and take root.
John’s purpose in writing this letter was to set his readers/the church straight on the basics of Christianity, Christian love and unity. According to the notes in the ESV Study Bible, “(1 John) is not a letter of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’. It is rather a manifesto of ‘DONE’… (It) highlights what God the Father has ‘done’ in sending Christ the Son.”
John was an eyewitness to the accounts, words and works of Jesus Christ. He was present with Jesus when he was alive and after his death and resurrection thus this establishes him as an authority of the Gospel which had been so badly misinterpreted or changed. One of the churched John planted in Ephesus was made up of men and women who lived alongside Greeks and knew little to nothing about the O.T. or the ways of Judaism. They were not a group of believers who were caught up in rules and regulations, but instead had a firm dedication to Jesus Christ first and foremost. The church(es) had experienced great fellowship and community in its early stages. In the latter years they began to experience divisions and were being torn apart. Dissenters or rebellious individuals began to emerge in leadership who were very familiar with John’s Gospel account; however, they claimed to have a greater knowledge of God. They claimed to be inspired by God and challenged John’s Gospel message. A modern-day example would be synonymous to someone claiming, “The Gospel is no longer relevant for today. The message of sin, hell, crucifixion, and redemption is archaic. We are living in 2019 and nobody wants to hear this message anymore. People want to be encouraged, lifted up and assured eternal life because they are ultimately good at the core and do good things for in society.” Whenever the Gospel message is changed or perverted, we start seeing heretical teachings or bad theology proclaimed. These leaders in Asia Minor were basically saying, regardless of John’s eyewitness account and life spent with Jesus, his message is not really the message God wanted proclaimed or is not relevant for today. The leaders said, “regardless of what John said God spoke to us and told us that His message is wrong, irrelevant and outdated. What we have to say is actually the truth.” These people caused a great raucous in the church. People began to listen to these leaders while others declared them heretics and thus the fellowship was broken.
In response to this division John writes a letter in hopes of setting the church straight (doctrinally), and promoting love, unity and fellowship. His letter places great emphasis on Christian community and fellowship. The essential message is… “If you understand God’s love (through the teaching of Christ) then you will love God, you will love your brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, and you will love the truth.” Love originates from God and we can love the way He loves because He has given us His Spirit. Gary M. Burge writes in his commentary on the Letters of John, “God loves us, we love Him, and this love spills over to those near us.”
1 JOHN 1:1 – 10
John begins with a very complex and sometimes confusing opening paragraph. According to many commentaries this opening paragraph is a grammatical mess. It appears John had a lot on his mind that he wanted to say, and he just poured everything out on the paper in this first paragraph. He puts everything out there and decides to work out what he has just written throughout the letter. So basically, there is no outline, structure or organization to his letter.
Verse 1: This first verse refers to Jesus. The Word of Life = Jesus Christ. Since the beginning of His ministry John has been with Jesus. He was an eyewitness to all Jesus had said and done. He heard Jesus’ words with his own ears. He saw Jesus with his own eyes. He physically touched Jesus, ate with him, walked with him and he even rested on the chest of Jesus.
Verse 2 & 3: All John saw and heard from Jesus (his teachings) was for the distinct purpose of fellowship. He had fellowship with the Father, with the Apostles and the Apostles with the Father. The purpose of God’s incarnation through Jesus Christ was to reveal Himself to humanity. The revelation of himself to humanity was intended so we could have true fellowship with Him. We can have a relationship with God ONLY because He made himself available to us through Jesus Christ.
Verse 4: The purpose of this letter is intended for encouragement so the readers could experience the full joy of Christ.
Verse 5: The central message of Jesus was to proclaim God is essence of all that is good. He is perfect, pure and complete in all ways. His power, wisdom, mercy, judgment, love, grace & etc. are all perfect and complete. He is lacking nothing in any of these areas. God is the only one who is perfect and without sin. He has nothing to do with darkness or sin whatsoever.
Verse 6: Since we are followers of Jesus Christ, we have fellowship with God. Our lives should be modeled around our commitment to Him. If we have fellowship with God, then we should not pursue or walk in sin/darkness. Christian living = The pursuit holiness through the empowering of the Spirit. We determine to live a life that is distanced from sin. Sin should repulse us, and we should desire to cling to all that is good (God). In a Christians life light and darkness cannot coexist.
Verse 7: When we walk in the light of Jesus Christ, we can then truly experience fellowship with other believers. True Christian fellowship can be attained by walking in the light of Christ. When we walk in Jesus, we experience the ongoing joy of forgiveness of sin. When you have a relationship with Jesus Christ you have been washed in the blood of Jesus. The shed blood of Jesus is what cleanses us from sin and puts us in a right relationship with God.
(What is sin?) Verse 8 & 9: However, for you to become cleansed from sin, you must confess your sins and God is faithful to forgive you of your sins. The first step to living in the light of Christ is coming to terms with the fact that you are a sinner. It is imperative for all of us to know and accept that we are sinners. Since we are sinful, we are out of relation with God, so we must confess and repent from this state of being and seek the forgiveness of God. Without Jesus we cannot be cleansed and without being cleansed we cannot walk in the light.
If one believes he has no sin in his life and is at the core of his being a good person, then he is being fooled and is fed a lie. This lie is where the Gnostic teachings are taken head on. The Gnostic tell an individual she is a good person and has a divine aspect to them thus the issue of sin need not be acknowledged. I know some people are tired of hearing they are sinful and wish to only hear about the good things of Christianity. My friends, there are no good things to Christianity if you are unwilling to admit you are a sinner, we need to come to terms with this reality and seek the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ.
Verse 1 – John affectionately refers to his readers as “My little children” and this reference exemplifies the deep love he has for the people of this church. This love and affection is equivalent a father’s love shown to his own children and it is a term generally used by teachers as they address their disciples. So, John is lovingly writing this letter to his disciples (who are like children to him) so they do not sin.
The word sin means to miss the mark, to be led astray or wander from the path of truth and go the wrong direction. It means to violate God’s law. John knew the impact these heretical leaders had on some of the reader’s faith and he was encouraging them to remain faithful to the true Gospel. He is writing so they would keep themselves from being led astray or wandering down the path of destruction. John was also reminding them that contrary to the false teachings of these leaders God still desires the believer to live a holy life.
He gives assurance to them that if they have already sinned or if they do sin that they do an advocate with God, who is Jesus Christ. The word “advocate” means one who pleads another’s cause with a judge. One who is a legal assistant. Interestingly this is the same word used to translate the word Jesus used when he talked about God sending another “Helper” when He was gone. We come to know this “helper” to be the Holy Spirit. We see this advocate is also Jesus Christ (this can show that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one in the same) who is perfect, upright, faultless, guiltless, approved of God and acceptable by God.
Verse 2 – Not only is Jesus our advocate but he is also the propitiation for our sins. This means Jesus is the appeasement, the source of our forgiveness before God; thus, His life and sacrifice is the new covenant. God’s anger with humanity has been appeased through Jesus giving his life for all humanity. Now some read this end verse to mean that Jesus’ sacrifice was universal and that everybody regardless of the life they live will have eternal life. I think it certainly means eternal life is available to all who accept it or who have “confessed their sins”. However, in chapter one John clearly notes that not everyone in the world will have eternal life. Salvation is only available to those who confess their sins and believe in their heart.
Some of you may have heard or even said yourself that you don’t really care about theology or doctrine; you only care about serving and loving Jesus. I say amen to that. However, I do think right or proper theology (the study of God) and good doctrine are important to the Christian faith. I do not think it is imperative to have a deep intellectual understanding of God we just need a proper understanding of God. As Christians we need to hold firmly to the truth of the Gospel, and we need to hold on to good theology. God loves us. We know this is true because He sent Jesus to die on the cross for you and me. Why did he do this? Because we are all sinful and at one time were separate from God. We can be made right with God when we believe in Jesus, confess our sins and devote our lives to living for His glory and honor.
As we see in the case of John and the church(es) of Asia Minor humans have the tendency to change and pervert the truth of God. In the remainder of this series I pray we can know, grasp and understand the true Gospel message (which I briefly shared with you a moment ago) and gain a better understanding of God through Jesus Christ. May we be on guard to preserve the Gospel message and hold it in our hearts so that we do not become like many who have chosen to believe a false message of Jesus Christ and ultimately miss out on the truth of Jesus Christ.
 The Holy Bible: ESV Study Bible. 2008. Wheaton: Crossway Bibles p. 2426
 Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: The Letters of John. Zondervan Books, Grand Rapids. 1996. Page 37
On Sunday August 11th, 2019 I preached at Soutside Baptist Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Last week we began looking at the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation (or Apocalypse) written by the Apostle John from the isolated island of Patmos. We are looking at the letters from both the historical perspective (What Jesus said to the actual historical church), a modern perspective (What does this letter say to the Church today) and a personal perspective (How can this apply to you personally). The structure of the all seven letters are very similar as they follow a consistent pattern; each letter begins with an address “To the angel of the church of [the city].…” They are always followed by the identification of Jesus Christ as the sender of the letter. In the seven letters, three of the churches receive commendation and criticism from Jesus. Two receive only praise from Jesus and two receive only criticism.
Last week I talked about the Letter to the Church in Ephesus. In this letter Jesus commends the church for not tolerating false teaching (especially the teachings of the Nicolaitans) and for persevering and enduring during times of trials and persecution. However, He did criticize the church because they had lost their first love. Jesus encourages them to remember where they had fallen, repent from their sins and return to Him so that presence of Jesus would remain in their church. This was also our takeaway for ourselves and as a congregation.
Today I want to go all the way to the final letter of revelation as we look at the words Jesus spoke to the Church of Laodicea.
City of Laodicea
Laodicea was also located in Asia Minor and it was a prosperous city; probably the wealthiest in the area due in part to the banking industry which was one of the features of the city. Their wealth was so great that it has been recorded that after an earthquake in 607 AD the city rebuilt without any financial assistance from Rome. Another contributing factor to the city’s wealth was that the countryside was perfect for raising sheep and they gained great wealth from the sale of the soft black wool from their sheep.
There was also a well-known medical school established in Laodicea and physicians followed the teachings of Herophilos who believed compound diseases require compound medicines. He would create mixtures of medicines including ointment for ears, and an eye salve made from a mixture of power and oil.
The city was located in an area where there were not many natural resources, so they had to bring water to the city from springs about six miles away through a system of stone pipes. During dry seasons it was not uncommon for the city to be left in a vulnerable and dangerous state.
The Letter to the Church of Laodicea
The Church of Laodicea, like the Church of Sardis, receives no word of praise or commendation from Jesus.
Verse 14: “The words of the Amen…” – This is a reference to Jesus.
Amen – So be it, trustworthy, firm. It is an expression of absolute confidence and trust. When used at the beginning of a discourse it means “truly, truly or of truth”. At the end means, “So be it, so it is, may it be fulfilled.” When we use this word (generally at the conclusion) in our prayers we are declaring that we put absolute trust and confidence in the one we are praying to. The word is almost identical to Hebrew word that means “believe” or “faithful”.
“the faithful and true witness” – This is a reference to Revelation 1:5 where it declares Jesus as the faithful witness.
“the beginning of God’s creation” – (The Alpha) – This is a reference to Colossians 1:15, 18 where Paul writes that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation and He is the Beginning. In Revelation 22:13 Jesus declares, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, beginning and the end.” Jesus is beginning and He is end and he is the absolute trustworthy, faithful and true witness. Nothing exists before him and nothing can exist after him and nothing is more trustworthy or deserving of trust than Jesus. He is all… He is eternal.
Verse 15: “I know your works…” Once again Jesus declares (as with the letters to all the churches) that he is familiar with their works. He is actively watching their deeds. Unfortunately, in Laodicea’s case their works are not pleasing to Jesus at all. In fact, they are repulsive as we will soon see.
“you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!” The Church of Laodicea was an ineffective church at best. They didn’t do anything for the continuation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were seemingly just a church in name only. They were neither hot nor cold. Both hot and cold water can be useful, but lukewarm water rarely is.
Verse 16: Lukewarm – Tepid or ineffective. Since the city got its water from springs nearly six miles away the water of Laodicea was usually tepid and gross. So, the Laodiceans knew what Jesus was saying in his words. It is certainly symbolic to the faith of the Laodicean church. The lukewarm water was essentially ineffective as it came out of the pipes and Jesus states that the church is ineffective as well because of their lukewarm state.
“The adjectives “hot”, and “cold” are not necessarily to be taken as describing spiritual fervor (or lack of it) of the people.” The contrast is between the hot medicinal waters of Heiropolis and the cold, pure waters of Colosse. However, the church in Laodicea was ‘providing neither refreshment for the spiritually weary, nor healing for the spiritually sick.’”
Because they were lukewarm Jesus’ response is much like ours when we partake of something that is lukewarm (especially when you are expecting a hot or cold item).
“I will spit you out of my mouth” - Spew, vomit or throw up. Their sluggish and ineffective faith made Jesus want to vomit. These are very graphic words (and a very vivid). Because they were spiritually ineffective this was repulsive to Jesus and it made him sick.
Verse 17: (Their perception) “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing” – Since the Church was in a prosperous city it is believed that the church was probably a wealthy church. Unfortunately, the people thought that since they were experiencing prosperity that God was ok with them (a common fallacy even today), maybe even blessing them. They believed he was blessing them, and they weren’t even seeking the counsel of God at all. This seems all to true of people and churches of great financial wealth today. So many churches believe that all is good, and God is ok with them or maybe even blessing them because of their prosperity. They all but forget about God and their attitude becomes more like this, “He doesn’t need to be active here because there are so many other churches that are struggling and need his assistance. Don’t bother with us Jesus we got everything under control.”
(The reality) However Jesus was telling them different. “not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” In their prosperity they failed to see the truth… “We are not all we thought we were. We may be rich financially, but Jesus isn’t pleased with us at all. In fact, we are making him sick.”
Verse 18: (What the Church needs to do) “buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich.” Because of their spiritual depravity Jesus counsels, them to take their eyes off of their physical wealth and invest in Spiritual wealth. The purchase, so to speak, is to be made from Jesus himself because only he can provide the true wealth and health they need. If they do this then they will become truly rich.
“and white garments so you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen.” Certainly, the individuals were well dressed because of their wealth. This may have given the illusion that they had everything together spiritually. However, Jesus says they are naked and pitiful. The white robes symbolize righteousness and the covering of their nakedness is symbolic of judgment. Jesus tells them to invest in these garments of white so they will be clothed in righteousness and escape judgment.
“and salve to anoint your eyes.” This is a reference to the school of medicine and Herophilos. The Laodicean church is spiritually blind. They cannot see the spiritual state they are in. Jesus counsels them to get eye salve from him and anoint their eyes. Quit trusting in the remedies of man and trust Jesus. When this happens then you will truly see.
Verse 19: Jesus is not turning his back on this church. He loves the Church of Laodicea; yes, he is not pleased with them, but he tells them, “I am telling you to do this because I love you. You may think I am being harsh and mean, but I am telling you this for your own good.” Overall, Jesus is admonishing the Church of Laodicea to wake up from their spiritually dead and ineffective state and seek him so they may be a church that is pleasing to Him and who will share in his glory. He tells them to be zealous (desire earnestly or strive after) for Him and repent.
Verse 20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door; I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Jesus is addressing the believers in this congregation. The text suggests that Jesus has been at the door for some time. It also implies that he is continually knocking, patiently waiting to be invited in. He is at the threshold of their lives and church calling for them to open the door of repentance so that he may come in and have true fellowship with them once again.
“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.” If the believers at Laodicea will heed to his knocking he will then enter once again and sit at the table of fellowship. Jesus will be the guest and not the host. In the Middle Eastern culture eating a meal together is a sign of intimacy and trust. I believe the main idea behind this passage is Jesus’ desires to restore fellowship with the Laodicean believers and him. This can only happen through repentance, heeding to the call and responding to the knocking of Jesus that would ultimately lead to them being effective followers of Jesus Christ and of his Kingdom.
Verse 21, 22: The continued promise to those who conquer or are victorious as they participate with Jesus in his sovereign rule. This is the promise given to all the churches (and individuals) who heed the words of Jesus in the letters to these churches.
The Church of Laodicea for Us Today
The one thing a church does not want to be known for is their ineffectiveness and spiritual poverty. The Church has a glorious calling to be the light of the world, to represent Jesus to the nations and to be the hands and feet of Christ. For a church to be considered tepid or ineffective by Jesus should be cause for concern not only for the Church of Laodicea but should be a wakeup call for many churches today. As a Church body I feel it is necessary to evaluate where we stand in the eyes of Jesus according to this letter. Are we cool waters that bring refreshment to the spiritually weary? Are we hot medicinal waters that bring about spiritual healing? Are we warm tepid water that is essentially useless and ineffective and infected with germs that cause harmful results?
How about you personally? How would you evaluate your personal relationship with Jesus in comparison to his words to the Church of Laodicea? Are you under the false impression that you have everything you need when in fact you are blind, poor, wretched and naked? Are you spiritually bankrupt? Is Jesus standing at the threshold of your life calling you back to fellowship with him? Bring your spiritual destitution to Jesus be zealous and repent. Personally, I believe Jesus stands at the threshold of our lives and desires to come and dine and fellowship with him. He wants intimacy with you. He desires for you to commune and converse with him. The fact is Jesus loves you and wants to restore or resume fellowship with you once again. He desires to sit and sup with you at the table of fellowship. As a follower of Jesus, how will you respond to his knocking?
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 125
On August 4th, 2019 I preached at Soutside Baptist Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Revelation is an extremely difficult book to understand. I will admit if it weren’t true it would make for great science fiction reading. It is a difficult book to understand because it is heavy in symbolism and there are also many ways people have interpreted it. Regardless it is a wonderful book and a general reading may confuse the average reader, but the gist of the story is clear “God wins”! Today I would like to look at a small portion of the Revelation of John as He encounters Jesus in His full glory.
The word Greek word for Revelation is translated as Apocalypse. When you hear this word, you may think of the end of the world. It is thought as the conclusion of all things. However, the word itself simply means “unveiling of something hidden.” Revelation is a letter to seven churches that unveils God’s plan for history and His Church.
Revelation is written by the Apostle John from the island of Patmos. This was a rocky island located in the Aegean Sea. It was an exile island where people were sent who banished for religious or political reasons. The Apostle John was sent there for preaching the Gospel.
In the vision described in chapter one John is commanded to write down all that he sees and is told and then send the scroll to the churches in these seven cities.
The Seven Churches - The cities/churches mentioned were both postal and administrative centers. It is believed that the highest concentration of Christians was in these cities.
The Seven Letters of Revelation
In the next few weeks we are going to look at several of the letters sent to the churches of Revelation and we will look at how they can apply to us individually and to the church today. We will look at them first from a historical point of view (What was Jesus saying to this church at this time in history) and from a modern point of view (What does this letter say to the Church today).
The structure of the all seven letters are very similar as they follow a consistent pattern, beginning with the address, which is always “To the angel of the church of [the city].…” This is always followed by the identification of Jesus Christ as the sender of the letter, usually (though not in every case) describing him in some of the terms drawn from the vision of chapter one.
Jesus’ first message to each church is acknowledging their works: “I know your works.” The churches’ works are sometimes commendable, sometimes requiring chastising and sometimes both
Three of the churches have commendation and criticism. Two churches have only praise and two have only criticism.
Ephesus – The City
Today we will look at the letter to the Church of Ephesus.
The city of Ephesus was one of the largest and most important cities in the Roman province of Asia. It was a main import and export center for Asia. There were believed to have been about 250,000 people living in this area. The temple of Artemis (Diana) is one of the Seven Wonders of the World was in Ephesus. She was originally a fertility goddess, and under the influence of Greek culture she had become the focus of an extensive religious cult. It is also a city of great political importance. It had been granted by Rome the right to self-government. 
Ephesus – The Church
It is believed the Christian faith came to Ephesus with Aquila and Priscilla around AD 52. The church was planted in Ephesus by the Apostle Paul and he ministered there for two years. Some amazing things happened in Ephesus during his time one of which was a riot that Paul unintentionally instigated as a result of his preaching (Acts 19:21 – 41). Timothy (the one Paul wrote both 1 and 2 Timothy) was a resident of Ephesus and tradition states that he may have either been an elder or the Pastor of the church of Ephesus when Paul wrote his Epistles to him. According to some traditions the Apostle John and Mary the mother of Jesus resided in Ephesus. Mary may have died in Ephesus and it is believed John lived in Ephesus up to the point where he was banished to Patmos.
Ephesus – The Letter
Verse 2: Jesus acknowledges that he is familiar with the works of the church of Ephesus. He commends the church because they had been faithful in enduring hardships, they did not tolerated people who have an evil agenda and they exposed false teachers and Apostles. The false teachers Jesus speaks of are probably the Nicolaitans as He references them by name in verse 6.
The Church of Ephesus maintained integrity by denouncing and exposing the heretical teachings of the Nicolaitans. This is commended by Jesus.
Verse 3: Jesus also commends the church of Ephesus as they patiently endure for the sake of Jesus. The Ephesians not only turned away and exposed false teachers but they also patiently endured persecution and opposition. They did not grow weary and walk away from the faith during their trials and persecutions, instead they stayed true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Verses 4 – 5: However, Jesus did have something against the Church of Ephesus… They had abandoned their first love. Jesus is not specific in detailing what this first love was, but it was probably their lack of loving one another and/or their lack of loving God. Ultimately the two are directly related. Lacking love for God eventually leads to lacking love for others. The command of Jesus has always been very specific “Love God and love one another” and apparently the Ephesians had forgotten this, and they had abandoned their first love.
All is not lost though… Jesus gives them a remedy to fix this abandoning love problem…the Ephesians are to remember, repent and return. Jesus tells the Ephesians to heed his warning but if they do not do as he instructs then He will come and remove his lamp stand (His Spirit) from their midst. This means that if things don’t change soon the church will die; which unfortunately it did. The Church of Ephesus no longer exists today. This should remind us that a loveless Church is a Christless church and a Christless church is a dead church.
Verse 7: The promise – To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God. To those who endure persecution and remain faithful they will be given permission to eat of the tree of life which means eternal life and ultimate victory over death.
Church of Ephesus Today
As I mentioned before there is no Church of Ephesus today, but this does not mean the letter has no relevance for us today. This letter does speak to us today just as it did to the Ephesians nearly 2000 years ago.
Good works cannot save us. The Gospel explicitly states that those who are believe are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the truth of the Gospel. Jesus provided salvation to us through his death and resurrection. We have eternal life all because of the Gospel. However, this does not mean our good works do not matter. What we do individually AND collectively as a Church matters greatly to God. Our works are an evidence of Jesus Christ in us. Our works do not save us, but they do reveal the Jesus we serve. God has called the Body of Christ to be the Light of the world. I think it is important for us to use this passage as a score card of sorts for the church of Jesus Christ and more so for Southside Baptist today. These are questions we should be asking…
If you are feeling hopeless, conflicted or convicted at this moment that is good because God is at work in your heart. As I was preparing for this message, I felt all three. However, I am encouraged because verse 4 doesn’t end with the problem. Jesus gives us a solution…
The key here is you cannot return if you skip steps 1 and 2. Remembering and repentance is necessary for you to return to the place where God desires for you to be. We all have ears and we must hear what the Spirit is saying. May God have mercy on us, and may we be faithful in responding.
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: A parallel commentary (Re 1:20). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 86
On July 7th, 2019 I preached at Soutside Baptist Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Today I will be talking about praise and worship, or more precisely praising God through music. The word “Psalm” actually means “song” and there are 150 songs placed smack dab in the middle of your Bible that are musical forms of expression of personal and corporate praise and worship directed towards Almighty God. Personally, I believe the time believers spend together corporately singing praises to God is a vital, beautiful and holy time because this is the one time where we can truly open our hearts to God and proclaim freely how great, mighty and awesome He is.
We refer to praise and worship as the time where we worship God through music and music is a vital part of the church service. We can see this is true because so many churches pour a lot of their resources into the worship and music ministries. Why is that? I believe the answer to that is because music is a form of expression and a way of communicating in ways we don’t naturally communicate. This is made perfectly clear throughout the Psalms. This brings up a valid question…if praise and worship (or the music aspect of a church service) is such a vital part of the assembling of believers, then why is it such a point of contention in the church today? This seems ridiculous to me since praise and worship is intended to unify the body of Christ but has been a major force of division in the church today. While I will admit it is not necessarily the act of praise and worship that the root of division, but the dividing factor is generally a result of personal preference.
Every person in this room has a personal preference for the style of music they enjoy. I love listening to rock music, but I DO NOT like country and western music. Does this mean that one cannot praise God in country and western music? Yes, it does! I am kidding of course. No, we can praise God with any style of music… even country and western. Just because I do not like one type of music does not mean that people can’t use that style of music to praise God. The Psalms are clear in setting guidelines for praise and worship and I have found these to be true…
Unfortunately, I see less and less praise and worship done this way. As a pastor and a participant in church settings I sometimes wonder if there is any joy in praising God at all. So, to help us understand how we can praise God the way the Bible shows we will look at Psalm 98 and hopefully we will glean something from it as pertains to our hearts and attitude towards praising and worshiping God through song.
Psalm 98 (original intent)
Today’s Psalm is one of celebration of the Kingship of God through music. You may or may not know that this Psalm was the inspiration behind Sir Isaac Watts hymn “Joy to the World”. According to C. Michael Hall in his article “History of Hymns: ‘Joy to the World’”, “Joy to the world” was taken from the second part of the paraphrase (Psalm 98:4-9), entitled ‘The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom. ‘Watts, commenting on his paraphrase of the psalm, notes: ‘In these two hymns I have formed out of the 98th Psalm I have fully express what I esteem to be the first and chief Sense of the Holy.
Psalm 98 is broken down into three parts
1. God’s people singing praise to God for salvation.
2. Inviting the world to join in on the praise.
3. Creation joins in on praise for the righteous judgment of God.
Vs 1a: “Sing to the Lord a new song” … The part of this verse invites the people of God to sing. They are not called to only sing but we are called to sing a new song. This does not necessarily imply that the song needs to be a fresh composition, but it may mean that we are to sing a song in response to an experience of God’s grace. We are to sing with a new heart.
Vs 1b: “For he has done marvelous things…” The second part of this verse tells us why we should sing a new song because God has done marvelous things. God always does marvelous (extraordinary, far surpassing, great acts) things and should continually be praised for them.
In this song, God is to be praised for his “right hand and holy arm.” This is symbolic of God’s salvation. The right arm represents God’s strength and power and his holy arm represents His intervention. Through God’s almighty power and intervention, salvation is attained. In the OT salvation generally refers to God intervening in battle and thus saving, delivering or bringing victory to the Israelites. God saves His people from their enemies.
In the NT salvation means victory over spiritual powers. God has wonderfully intervened on our behalf through Jesus Christ and He has given us victory over death and evil. Our salvation is a great reason for us to sing about and celebrate God. Our salvation is not received by human means, or in an ordinary way. Salvation is through an unprecedented manner… Putting your faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead for our justification and who ascended to the right hand of the Father for our righteousness.
Vs. 2 -3: “For the LORD has made know his salvation;” God has revealed or uncovered his salvation for all to experience. He has done this for his righteous namesake. He showed his power in salvation to the Israelites and then He made his divine power of salvation known to the Gentiles. By God’s mercy (steadfast love) He brought salvation to Israel. He made a promise to the nation that He would be their God and they would be His people and God always remembers and fulfills His promise. As a result of God’s faithfulness, the nations have seen this marvelous work of salvation.
Vs. 4 – 6: “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.” The response is an invitation for all of humanity to join in singing a song of celebration. However, they are not called to sing as they are called to joyfully make a noise to the Lord. “Joyful Noise” – shout war cry, a shout of triumph, to shout in applause - to the Lord.
“Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre… (and) With trumpets.” The Psalmist encourages the use of instruments in praising God. He instructs the people to play their instruments with heartfelt joy and complete praise to God. The use of instruments in music is not intended to be a time for the musician to show off his talents, but they are to genuinely play with all he has to the LORD with joy. We are to perform for an audience of ONE.
Vs. 7 – 9: “Let the sea roar,” Israel is singing about Gods salvation, humanity is joyously making a noise because of salvation and now creation joins in with the beautiful song of praise and adoration to God. Creation is rejoicing at the coming of God to righteously judge and rule the earth and thus set all things right. Creation rejoices because God is a fair and He is just judge and this time will be a wonderful time of renewal.
Psalm 98 (For us today)
Christians are called to sing to the Lord in praise and adoration of the marvelous and divine works God has done. We are invited to join with all of creation in singing about the greatness of our God and the salvation He has given to us. I have a hard time understanding how individuals do not get excited about salvation. I am blown away when I talk to individuals who say they have a relationship with Jesus and yet they have no apparent joy in the Lord and their commitment to God seems to be more of a burden than it does as an act of worship to a God who has given literally everything to us for our enjoyment and His glory.
Maybe I am naïve, but I do not understand how singing praises to God can be a dividing factor within the body of Christ. Sure, we all have preferences of styles of music, but we often look past the message of a song or hymn and base our worship experience on whether we prefer a certain style or not. I admittedly confessed that I do not like country western music, but I also am not so narrow-minded that I think that God cannot be glorified through the STYLE of country western music. If I went to a backwoods country western church and they broke out the banjo, washboard, upright bass and 50-gallon cowboy hats and led the congregation in God-glorifying praise then I would join with them and worship God joyfully. The same goes for organ music, rock music, acoustic, etc.
I so often hear people talk about the old hymns and refer to them as funeral dirges or irrelevant songs that are wordy and confusing. This is just as narrow-minded as mine is pertaining to country western praise. With hymns like “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Martin Luther is a hymn so filled with praise, inspiration, and joy that I cannot sing that song without being brought into the presence of God.
I recently read in an article entitled “Complaining About Worship” and the author writes, “Someone complained to pastor and author Francis Chan once and said that they didn’t think that the worship service was very good. He said that that was okay because “we weren’t worshiping you.” We must remember that worship is not for us, it is for God. We do not sing songs of praise for the sake of nostalgia or to make us feel better, it is intended solely for God and God alone.
If we can step back for a moment and look at how Psalm 98 and how it can apply to us today, I would like to ask and respond to three relevant questions.
My prayer today is that all of us see the value in worshiping God through song. I remind you that singing is not the only means to worshiping God. We can worship God in all sorts of ways and through various means. However, I think it is important to know that worship through music is valid, it is important, and it has been used throughout the centuries. In closing I ask wherever you are in your walk with God and what your views are concerning worship music, pray that the Lord gives you the right heart to come into His presence and give Him the proper worship He deserves and that you would open your heart to the joy of celebrating the salvation He has made available to all of us.
On June 30, 2019 I preached at Soutside Baptist Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Psalms 46 is a song of celebration for Jerusalem as the special city of God; or as some call it a “hymn of Zion” or a “Zion Song”. This is another very familiar Psalm for many people especially those brought up in the Lutheran denomination. It was the inspiration behind Martin Luther’s timeless hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” which was written in 1529. It became known as the “Battle Hymn” of the Reformation as it was the song that helped gathered support for the cause of the Reformation.
Not only is this Psalm the inspiration behind the beloved hymn of Luther but is also one that has been held dear to many believers throughout history. I actually was surprised as to how many people told me this was one of their favorite Psalms of all time. I guess it should be no surprise it is held in such high regard after reading through these 11 inspiring verses as they show the reader how great, mighty and trustworthy our God is.
Psalm 46 resembles in content and structure Psalms 48; 76; 87; and 122 as they too are called “Zion Songs”. The song is broken down into three sections and are as follows
1.God is our security and might
2.God protects with His presence
3.Peace comes from God
This is a hymn written by the choirmaster for the chief musicians (Sons of Korah) of the Temple. “According to Alamoth” is probably a musical term and was intended to be for the female or soprano voice. We are not precisely sure what the occasion for writing this Psalm was but some believe it was written after Jerusalem was spared from imminent destruction from the Assyrians under the guidance of Sennacherib. You can read the account in 1 Chronicles 32 but the short story is God sending an angel to destroy all the warriors, commanders and officers of the Assyrian army thus saving Jerusalem.
Verse 1a – “God is our refuge and strength” = YHWH was Israel’s source of power, and security. Over the centuries they had witnessed God’s hand and favor for them in battle and they had absolute faith in God. They were secure in the fact that He would keep Israel safe and would be their source of victory in battle.
Verse 1b – “Present help in trouble” – When times got tumultuous, tense and dangerous God was present and made his presence known. He was a help that could be found when He was sought after.
Summary of Verse 1
God is not only a refuge and strength for Israel but is also our source of security and power. In this world we need to a place of safety and a source of strength to live the life of a believer and God is that source. As believers we must have an absolute trust and faith in God to be our strength, our provider, our deliverer etc. Do you trust God? Is He your source of strength? Is He your place of solace?
Verse 2 – 3: Since God is the refuge and strength and his presence was with the Israelites in the hard times they had no need to be afraid. Their confidence was in God and God alone. Their confidence was in Him when they were faced with attacks from their enemies, they were confident when natural disasters hit them, they were even confident when they were faced with what seemed to be impending death.
Summary of Verses 2 – 3
Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his inaugural speech, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Yet as Christians we can respond by saying we have no one and no thing to fear period. I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, perfect love casts out all fear.” Jesus Christ is our perfect love and in him there is no fear. Through his death, resurrection and ascension he has set us free from fear. We are no longer to have a paralyzing fear of anything that man; beast, nature or spiritual being can do to us.
Verses 4 – 7: God Protects With His Presence
Israel’s confidence and lack of fear came in the fact that the Temple “the holy habitation” was in Jerusalem. The Temple was a symbol of God’s presence among the people. Because Jerusalem was God’s special city He was expected to protect her. As the Israelites looked to the Temple, they felt secure because they were reminded that God was there among them, dwelling in their midst. There was a wall around the city that was built for protection but the people of Jerusalem didn’t put their complete trust and faith in the wall, they instead put their absolute faith and trust in God.
However the Temple was not always the symbol of God’s presence because as time passes on people began to place a false sense of security in the Temple. They began to view the Temple as their source of power and favor and placed it above the presence of God. They worshiped the created thing and not the Creator. The Bible is pretty clear telling us God will not take the back seat to anything or anyone including the Temple. The irony here is the people began to worship the Temple and not the God of the Temple. This edifice became the God and soon it went from being a Holy dwelling of God to a place of abhorrent evil and idolatry. Read Ezekiel 8 and 10 to see how God viewed the Temple at that time… The evil practices and idolatry that was going on in the Temple resulted in God’s presence “leaving the building” and eventually the Israelites are led into captivity.
Verses 4 – 7 refers to Jerusalem but also reference the New Jerusalem of Revelation. We know this because there is no river that flows through Jerusalem today, but Revelation 22:1 speaks of a river that runs from the throne of God that is the abundant life giving water that flows through the streets. Plus Jerusalem did fall to the Babylonians and the New Jerusalem will never fall and the presence of God will never leave.
Summary of verses 4 – 7
We do well to understand that God is still a protector of His people. However His favored nation is not one specific location. His favor lies in His people... believers. As Western Christians we sometimes place our future and current security in having a mighty army, a strong nation, and at times a decent and fairly stable economy. Thus we can begin to have a false sense of security in these things. We must realize that our protection and security comes from God and God alone. He is here among us we do not have a physical Temple that is made with hands where God dwells on this earth. Jesus tells us that the physical dwelling place for God has passed; we are now His temple. Corinthians tells us our bodies are now the Temple of the Holy Spirit. He is present in us we are protected from any powers, principalities and eternal death. We can take great strength and comfort in this.
Let me also note (as a side note) since God is present in His children let us not fall under the false precepts of the church edifice as the Holy place of God. Sure the church building can serve as a reminder that God is with us but it is not THE place where you go to be in God’s presence. It is the place you come to be with other people who have Christ in them. Certainly his presence is here because we are here. This building is just a shell. It is a shelter from the terrain. It’s a place of memories and history but it is not the dwelling place of God.
I need to make myself very clear right here and right now. Attending this place Sunday after Sunday (or even on occasion) does not save you. I don’t care if you have come here or another church your whole life or just started… church attendance is not your salvation. It is not the place where God is and you go to meet him. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to be assured an abundant life here and in eternity. You will get no brownie points from God for being present at church. Then why attend? I will leave that for another sermon but let me tell you this, it is good when God’s people do assemble together to worship in one place in one mind and in one body.
Verses 8 – 11: Peace comes from God
God is a God of peace. The song invites the people to see that God is the God of peace. He brings peace by destroying the tools of destruction… “”he breaks the bow and shatters the spear…” The Jews sought peace in all areas of their lives. They knew with all the death, destruction and war around them that peace was only able to come if God was the initiator of it.
The Psalmist then writes… “Be still and know that I am God.” I know many of us take this to mean, “calm down, relax and trust God”; which it does in the English rendition. However the original language suggests this is synonymous to “Cease and desist!” or “STOP what you are doing”, it is the referee whistle to put to end the turmoil around and pay attention. Only when they do this is when they can realize that God is God and He will be exalted or lifted up among the nations and in all the earth. True peace cannot happen until we stop, listen and acknowledge God as God.
Summary of verses 8 - 11
We are really no different than the ancient Israelites, we still want peace and we want to see wars ended. This cannot happen without God being the initiator. On a personal level we basically want peace in our own lives. None of us desire to be in constant turmoil and conflict. We often get caught up in trying to right wrongs, seeking justice or accusing someone of hurting us and we try to mend things in our own power. We can learn a great deal from looking at the context of Psalm 46:10 and stop trying to do things in our own strength. This verse doesn’t necessarily mean to be quiet or calm as much as it means “stop meddling and relax. Allow God to do his work.”
When we are faced with, turmoil, anxiety, despair, worry and etc let us take comfort in these words… “Be still and know I am God.” Jesus tells us in the gospels that worry and anxiety do nothing to help us so “relax (this is really what the words “be still” literally mean), stop doing what you are doing and trust me to take care of this.”
As we close today may this also be a Psalm of celebration for us as believers. May we celebrate and rejoice in the fact that God is our source of power and security; God is our protector from evil; and He is our peace. Let us take great comfort and security in this Psalm and know that God is God and He is worthy of all our praise. So let us trust Him as our God to be all of these things to us.
On June 9, 2019 I preached at Soutside Baptist Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Introduction to the Psalms
The book of Psalms is broken down into 5 books and consists of 150 Psalms written by dozens of authors written over a 1,000-year span. Contrary to popular belief David did not write all the Psalms, but He did write the majority. Many note the author at the beginning of each Psalm. The Psalms are songs, prayers or poems offered to God that express a wide range in not the full range of human emotions. For example, there are Psalms that express joy, faith, happiness, anger, frustration, thankfulness, despair, loneliness, fear, grief and the list goes on and on. They represent a list of emotions that vary from the positive to the negative and they are unified by one element; the one and only God.
John Calvin articulated well when he wrote, “I may truly call this book an anatomy of all the parts of the soul, for no one can feel a moment of the spirit which is not reflected in the mirror. All sorrows, troubles, fears, doubts, hopes, pain, perplexities and stormy outbreaks by which the hearts of men are tossed have been depicted here to the very life.” C.S. Lewis writes, “Most emphatically the Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all incense and all formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than the logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry.” What both men are saying is the Psalms are meant to speak to the heart more than the brain. We are not merely meant to read them as intellectual observations as much as we are to see the raw emotion as they speak to our heart and souls. Many Psalms leave little doubt as to how the writer is feeling at that moment.
There are five types of Psalms represented in the Bible.
These Psalms do reflect or stir a certain emotion and can be easily applicable in our lives today. However, we do need to be careful in reading, interpreting and applying certain Psalms to our everyday life (allowing our emotions to get the best of us). We need to pay attention regarding imprecatory Psalms which call down curses on the wicked because many of them were written specifically for the Jews and were appropriate only for the Jews but were not intended for believers of this Church age.
With this background, we now turn our attention to Psalm 8.
Introduction to Psalm 8
Is there something that has literally taken your breath away? Has something ever left you completely speechless when you encounter it? Have these things ever caused you to sit back and truly ponder the awe-inspiring things of this life? There are several things that come to mind for me… Sitting at the falls of Niagara I am reminded of the majesty of creation. Standing atop the multicolored formations of the Badlands in South Dakota I am awestruck at the beauty of God’s creation. Traveling along “The Rim of the World highway” in California and looking down the mountains into the valley literally takes my breath away.
I remember one evening shortly after I moved to the country in Wisconsin I went outside of our townhouse and looked up at the night sky. My jaw dropped as I gazed up into the sky and saw what seemed like an infinite array of stars that spanned the heavens for as far as the naked eye could see. I stared at the sky and I was reminded of how small I am in comparison to the massive universe that we live in.
I imagine that what I experienced this evening was like the thoughts and insights of a shepherd boy named David, the Psalmist for today’s passage, as he sat in the fields at night and pondered God, the universe (the heavens) and the meaning of life. I am convinced his words mirror the thoughts of millions of people as they search and ponder the purpose of life and seek answers to life’s most puzzling questions.
I can imagine this young shepherd David had many nights to watch over his flock to stargaze and ponder the questions of life. I would imagine that even as the King of Israel David was even more amazed at the mighty hand of God and his infinite glory as He kept watch over him and the nation of Israel. I wouldn’t be surprised if David asked God, “Why me? Why did you choose me of all people to be the leader of your nation? Who am I that you would choose me?” There were probably times when he asked God, “Why do you even bother with humanity? We keep letting you down and yet, you remain faithful.” His list of questions, I am sure, was lengthy at best.
Today we are going to look at one of those questions David had as we look at Psalm 8. It is uncertain when this Psalm was written, some speculate it was after David slew the giant Goliath, others say it was penned as he was in the fields watching his flock at night. Truth be told we have no clue as to when it was written, all do know is this is a hymn or Psalm of praise and adoration to God. It was intended to be a song that would help humanity celebrate the privileged place God has given to us in the created order. It is a Psalm that expresses wonder and awe at the majestic and magnificent nature of God.
The Psalm opens with “O LORD, our Lord” and this is a proclamation of the majesty of God's name and his authority over his life and over the nation of Israel.
LORD – YHWH (Yehovah) All capital letters is the proper name for God. In God’s name, his nature is revealed. In Exodus 3:13 -14, Moses meets the LORD on Mt. Sinai and says, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ What should I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God’s name is who He is; the Existing One; the One without beginning or end; the One who was not created, but has always been; the One who is I AM.
Lord – (awdone) – Capital “L” and lower-case letters is a reference to God’s position. Sovereign Master, general recognition of superior, king.
So, another way to read this first verse is “O Eternal One (YHWH) our sovereign master (Lord)…”
“how majestic” – (adeer) – Famous, great, excellent, glorious. The response of the psalmist to God is adoration and awe. To one who does not believe or know God His name instills fear and trepidation. His name is a power that is visible and is on display for everyone to see.
“is your name” – reputation, glory, fame. The name of God is an extension of himself.
David acknowledges that God’s fame and reputation are visible for all to see throughout creation. Even in Romans 1:20 the Apostle Paul acknowledges the visible glory of God for all to see. The glory and splendor of the invisible God can be seen throughout creation. God has revealed himself to us through creation, this is called general revelation. When we look around, we don’t see creation as God, but we see God and his attributes in creation.
“You have set your glory…” – Splendor (magnificence), majesty, vigor (strength)
The planets, the stars, the seemingly limitless universe give only a partial view of how very great God really is. Yet sophisticated men shrug off the evidence as if it didn’t exist. God is exalted above them all and to know his glory is to know him as he really is at the core of his being.
As the psalmist looks up into the sky he is in awe of the beauty of God’s creation. He looks at the night sky and is in wonder of the creative work of God’s hand. They all belong to God and are a result of God’s handiwork. He gives God credit for all that is around him. The beauty that surrounds us is authored by God and to give anything other than Him credit is plagiarism.
David realizes the “smallness” of man in comparison to the expanse of the universe. He is in awe to know that in our “smallness” God still remembers us. He is not a distant God who is far off. God doesn’t just acknowledge us, but we are on his mind and He thinks about us.
No branch of science proclaims God’s greatness and man’s insignificance more eloquently than astronomy. The simple fact that distances must be reckoned in light-years (the distance that light travels in a year) illustrates the point. Light travels 186,000 miles per second, and there are 31.5 million seconds in a year, so light travels roughly six trillion miles in a single year! Yet some stars are billions of light-years from the earth. No wonder we call such computation astronomical.
One would almost imagine that God is too busy running the universe that he would have the time to take part in any of our lives. Sometimes we have the tendency to think of Him as a busy and distant father who is so involved in his work of running the “big things” that he has little time for His family (children). David knows better though; God is not too busy for us. We are always on his mind.
“son of man” – emphasizes the frail mortality of the human. David’s question is, “Why does an infinite God even care about mortal man?” The answer is found in Jesus… Jesus referred to himself as the son of man. In fact, this term is Jesus' favorite self-designation, and it indicates the true meaning of his identity and ministry:
“care for him” – This means pay attention, to visit, to look after. God cares so much for humanity that he became human, the lowest of humans and gave his life as a ransom so we could forever be in fellowship with our loving Creator.
“You have made him…” Talking about humanity. We are created by God. We are not an afterthought or an accident of nature, but we are a beautifully crafted creation of God. (Genesis 1:26-27)
“a little lower” … in the created order we are created a little lower than the divine beings. This is a position of distinction and honor. God has placed humanity in the highest position of honor over all earthly creatures. We are a little lower than heavenly beings, but God has put us in a place of honor. If we are not in awe of the fact that God cares for humanity, then certainly it is awe-inspiring to know that we are exalted to a place of honor.
“crowned with glory and honor” … God has placed on our heads the right to be his Kingly representatives. We have the honor of bearing the image of God since we are made in his likeness. We represent God… Let that sink in a bit. I would imagine this would help you determine how you live your life here on earth.
“You have given him dominion…” God has appointed humanity to have authority and rule over His creation. This does not mean abusive, careless and dictatorial authority but as one who is lovingly and carefully tending for someone else’s belongings. (Genesis 1:26-28)
If it wasn’t enough to be thought of and cared for by God, and placed in a position of honor, we are also given charge to care for His creation. He has entrusted us with all He has created.
I am truly amazed by God and this Psalm reflects my heart. In the scope of the eternity, the universe and even this small sphere we live on called earth we may seem so small and insignificant. Regardless of how we may feel God doesn’t see us as this way. He sees us as His beautiful children, whom He has loved so much that He sent His son Jesus to the earth to redeem us from the shackles of sin, and as a result, He has entrusted everything to us. He has done this not because we are worthy, but because He is good.
On the many evenings when going outside and looked up at the sky and saw a full moon with millions of stars spread across the sky and my only thought was, or sit at an evening sunset at the beach this Psalm comes to mind... “When I consider your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” I am constantly in awe when I consider God and his handiwork. I am blown away when I think about how the God of this universe and all of creation has you and me on his mind and He has invested everything in us because we are His children. When I think of these things, I can’t help but respond in praise and worship as David does at the beginning and the end of this Psalm… “O LORD our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
My challenge to you today is to take some time this week and go out in the evening and look up to the heavens and consider how great our God is! Thank Him, praise Him and give Him the worship He deserves because He has entrusted you with his wonderful creation and He has crowned you with glory and honor because you belong to Him.
 MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (Ps 8:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (Ps 8:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Preview or buy my books
I live in Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with 20 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.