Thursday, March 10, 2011

 

Warnings to the Wicked--Psalm 50::16-21

Psalm 50:16 But God says to the wicked:

"What right do you have to recite My statutes and to take My covenant on your lips?

17 You hate instruction and turn your back on My words.

18 When you see a thief, you make friends with him, and you associate with adulterers.

19 You unleash your mouth for evil and harness your tongue for deceit.

20 You sit, maligning your brother, slandering your mother's son.

21 You have done these things, and I kept silent; you thought I was just like you. But I will rebuke you and lay out the case before you."


Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

 

Confidence Before God: How Our Hearts are Reassured, 1 John 3:19-24, Theology Matters Series

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline for our meetings on February 20-27, 2011. A while back we started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." This lesson looks at 1 John 3:19-24 and discusses the idea that our hearts can have confidence before God because of God's character and the things his Spirit has done in and through us. When we think rightly about God and love others as he commands, we find assurance for our hearts and minds. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

Confidence Before God
How Our Hearts Are Reassured

1 John 3:19-24
Theology Matters Series

Introduction
Questions
1. What comes to mind when you think of the terms “assurance” or “confidence”?
2. Describe what you think a confident person is like
3. When do you lack confidence?
4. When do you feel confident?

Contrary to appearances, I am not a very self-confident person
I constantly ask my wife (and others) for reassurance
I seem to think I am continually lacking confidence

Many of you can identify with my personal struggles, while others think that these things are a bit strange

Our passage today focuses on the issue of the confidence a Christian can have before God

In 1 John 3:19-24, John lists three ways we can be confident before God
1. Our knowledge gives us confidence/assurance
2. Our kinship with God gives us confidence/assurance
3. God’s commandments are a source of confidence/assurance

God’s character is our confidence

1. Knowledge
1 John 3:19-20, 24b

When I read this passage, I was struck by the repetition of the phrase “by this we . . . know” in verses 19 and 24.

Verse 19—”By this” refers to the information just above this verse—1 John 3:18
John is saying here that we will know (it is future) that we are in the truth (i.e., children of God) if we love in deed and in truth (i.e., we practice the kind of selfless love Jesus exhibited)

Verse 24b—”By this” refers back to the verses just before (vv. 23-24a) and to the end of verse 24

John is saying here that we know (it is present tense) that we abide in Christ if we keep his commandments—the command is to believe in Christ and to love one another (more on these later)

John is also saying that we know we abide in Christ by the Spirit he gave us
The reference to the Spirit here is not necessarily only a reference to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:15-17), but may also refer to the presence of the Spirit in our lives as the One who empowers us to believe in Christ and to love one another

The Spirit here is a reference to God’s character and God’s presence as a means to obey God’s commands

2 Peter 1:3-4

John seems to be saying that our changed behavior is evidence (i.e., something we can know) that should give us confidence

The knowledge that God has changed us is a source of assurance/confidence
But our actions are not based on our own abilities, our changed lives flow from the character of God

In verses 19-20, John brings up the idea of our hearts (or consciences) and the possibility of condemnation

“Whenever our hearts condemn us” speaks to those times when we feel condemned or less than confident in our relationship to God

John assumes that the people to whom he writes have struggled with their confidence, they have felt condemned

Perhaps your heart/conscience has condemned you in the past
a. You aren’t good enough, you can’t live up to God’s standard
b. You don’t do the things you should
c. Why would God choose you?

John responds by noting that we can “reassure” our hearts before God because “God is greater than our hearts and knows everything”

What does John mean by this reference?

When John says that God is greater than our hearts/consciences, he seems to be referring to God’s character –a source of confidence for us is the knowledge of God’s character

God’s character is greater than our conscience—he is the one who redeems us (and as shown in v. 24) who puts his Spirit in us

James Boice states “… whatever our hearts may say, God knows us better than even we ourselves do and, nevertheless, has acquitted us. Therefore, we should reassure ourselves by His judgment, which alone is trustworthy, and refuse to trust our own.”

God knows the change he has made in us if we have indeed come to know him through Christ

God judges us not by our conscience but by his justification of us in Christ (Rom. 8:31-39)

When we face condemnation, we can look at two things to reassure ourselves—God’s enduring love and character, and the actions his Spirit has worked out of our changed lives as we obey his command to love

God’s character is our confidence

2. Kinship
1 John 3:21-22—in the previous section, John told us that we can “know” confidence by knowing how we love others and by knowing God’s character. In these verses he introduces the idea that we can be confident before God because we have relationship with him—we are God’s kin

This relationship is shown by two things—answered prayer and God’s abiding Spirit (vv. 23-24)

B. F. Westcott states, “The thought here is of the boldness with which the son appears before the Father, and not of that with which the accused appears before the Judge.”

The Christian has boldness in God’s presence because he or she is a child of God—the child of the emperor has privileges with the king that simple subjects do not have (Rom. 8:16-17; Gal. 4:31-5:1; John 1:9-13)

This family relationship should produce confidence and assurance

John continues this idea by talking about the blessing of answered prayer

What John does NOT mean
a. God is not a cosmic Santa Claus who simply gives you whatever you ask
b. God will not answer all of your requests with “Yes”

What John means
a. God loves to respond to his children
b. God’s children love to respond to their Father
c. When we obey God, we have freedom to come into his presence
d. Of course, when we obey God, we will ask primarily for those things that will give God the most pleasure (i.e., our praying will not be selfish but will be “according to his will”)

God’s character is our confidence

3. Commandment
1 John 3:23-24—John now returns to the idea that our confidence/assurance before God is evidenced by what we believe and by how we live

What “pleases God” (v. 23) is two fold
a. My theology—what I believe about God and Jesus Christ
b. My ethical practice—how I act in response to theology

In fact, theology should drive ethics—right living should flow from right doctrine

John gets very specific here about the commandment
a. We must believe in the name of God’s Son Jesus
b. We must love one another

This commandment is similar to Jesus’ response in Matthew 22:37-40
The call of every Christ follower is to love God and to love others

Believing in the name of Christ refers to the ground of our salvation—it is only in what Christ has accomplished that we can be saved or brought into proper relationship with God

We cannot love God without Christ’s sacrificial love

Our confidence is grounded on what God has done in Jesus

Loving one another is the practical result of our salvation—we show the love God gave in Christ by loving others

This action is not the foundation of our confidence, it is the evidence of it

The gauge of our relationship with God is how we love others

Obedience to God’s command is the manifestation of God’s love poured into our lives (1 John 4:12-17)

Abiding in Jesus is shown by obedience to Jesus

God’s character is our confidence
Our obedient response is the evidence that we have come to know him

Application
The foundation of our assurance or confidence before God is always and only faith in the person and work of Jesus—Jesus is our Rock, our Cornerstone, and our Foundation
Any attempt to have boldness before God without faith in Christ will end in shame
Faith alone in Christ alone is the only means of security before God

Once we have that settled, however, there is room for obedience, and that obedience is also a source of assurance

This week, find ways to obey the word John gives
1. Spend time cultivating your relationship with God—this week set aside an extra 10 minutes a day to get into God’s presence, to pray, to read his Scripture—your confidence is in that relationship

2. Spend time cultivating your relationships with others—this week make time to love one another—be creative, but be purposeful—make a plan to show Christ’s love and follow through—where can you serve this week in a way that would make Christ’s love know?

God’s character is our confidence
What can we do this week that will reveal God’s character to others?


Thanks for reading!

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