Pursuit Of Holiness

Real Faith

(1 John 3:1-10)

 

INTRODUCTION

“The United States Treasury Department has a special group of men whose job it is to track down counterfeiters. ​​ Naturally, these men need to know a counterfeit bill when they see it.

 

How do they learn to identify fake bills?

 

Oddly enough, they are not trained by spending hours examining counterfeit money. ​​ Rather, they study the real thing. ​​ They become so familiar with authentic bills that they can spot a counterfeit by looking at it or, often, simply feeling it.”

 

[Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Volume 2, 503].

 

“The United States Treasury uses a number of sophisticated techniques to keep counterfeiters from reproducing the look of paper currency. ​​ The exact makeup of paper bills is a secret, but it is widely known that the paper is made of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen, with red and blue flecks of silk. ​​ In addition to the high quality of the paper, United States currency also has magnetic ink, an almost invisible ink on the left side of larger bills, and an engraved ‘United State of America’ around the face of the larger bills. ​​ The final feature that is impossible for anyone to replicate is that the paper is run through machines with high-pressure rollers that create a uniform thickness. ​​ Without these machines, this feature cannot be duplicated.

 

These sophisticated measures do not keep counterfeiters from trying, nevertheless, because they can get so close that many people cannot tell the difference. ​​ Deceit of course, is the whole point of counterfeiting. ​​ Someone who does not have the real thing wants someone else to believe he has. ​​ We must be aware, alert, on guard against deceit, in regard to money as well as other things in life.”

 

[Walls & Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary, I & II Peter, I, II, & III John, Jude, 187].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Bank training

        • Right out of college, I worked as a bank teller

        • After being hired, I had to go through several days of training, which included learning what real currency looked like

        • They trained us to identify the attributes and characteristics of real money before they ever tested us to see if we could identify counterfeit money

        • After working with money every day for months, I was able to tell when paper money didn’t feel right

    • Coins

        • One thing I also learned while working at the bank was that Canadian coins sounded different when dropped on the counter top or floor than American coins

        • I could tell when someone gave me a Canadian coin mixed in American coins without looking at it because of the sound that it made when dropped on the counter

 

  • WE

    • Counterfeit Detector Pens

        • How many of us have every used one of those counterfeit detector pens?

        • I did when I worked as a cashier at Walmart, many years ago

    • UV Counterfeit Detectors

        • Now they have UV counterfeit detectors

        • These detectors can be used for U.S. dollars and many other currencies

        • It can also be used to check credit cards, ID’s and passports

    • Carob instead of chocolate

        • How many of you know what carob is?

        • It’s basically a chocolate substitute made from a carob pod instead of cocoa pod

        • Carob is less bitter and has a roasted, naturally sweet flavor

        • Carob is caffeine-free and high in fiber

        • I remember the first time my Mom made carob brownies (I knew something was different, but I didn’t know what)

        • How many of us are able to tell when something has been substituted in our favorite foods? ​​ (we know what the original ingredient tastes like, so we know something’s different)

 

John was writing to reassure Christians, in several Gentile churches, to hold on to their faith and not be led astray by antichrists that had joined, not only the Ephesian church, but other churches as well. ​​ They were spiritual counterfeiters. ​​ In 1 John 3, “God reveals the characteristics of the bad currency and the good, so that his church can grasp the good” [Walls & Anders, 187]. ​​ John compares the characteristics of those who are children of God and those who are children of the devil. ​​ John wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.

 

Let’s pray

 

A faith that’s real is characterized by the pursuit of holiness

 

Warren Wiersbe says that “John gives three reasons for a holy life” [Wiersbe, 504]. ​​ Those are going to be our three points this morning.

 

  • GOD (1 John 3:1-10)

    • God the Father loves us (vv. 1-3)

        • What we are (v. 1)

          • We are loved

            • The NIV doesn’t translate the first Greek word in chapter 3, which is ὁράω (horaō) and means “behold” or “see” (most other translations have one or the other)

            • The Greek for “how great” means, “what kind/sort of or quality”

              • Wiersbe translates it this way, “Behold, what peculiar, out-of-this-world kind of love the Father has bestowed on us.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 504]

              • It’s an unconditional, never ending kind of love

              • Jeremiah 31:3, The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

              • Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

                • That’s unconditional love at its best

                • While we don’t want anything to do with God, He still loves us – no matter what!

                • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is love!

                  • That is one of God’s many attributes

                  • His attributes are qualities about Him that we can hold on to and have confidence in

                  • No matter how bad you think your sins are, God still loves you – unconditionally

                  • His love is so great that He is willing to adopt you into His forever family

              • When is the last time you’ve experienced that kind of love?

                • I would venture to say, that most of us have never experienced that kind or quality of love

                • We’ve experienced conditional love a lot

            • Perhaps children who have been adopted understand God’s unconditional love better than children who grew up in a biological family

            • God’s love for us is of such incredible quality that He calls us His children

          • We are children of God

            • NOTE: ​​ most manuscripts do not have “and that is what we are!

            • John tells us in his Gospel how we become children of God

            • John 1:12-13, Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

              • This isn’t a natural, biological birth that John is talking about

              • It’s a supernatural adoption that takes place by believing in Jesus name and receiving Him into our lives

              • We have to repent (turn from our sins) and begin to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior

              • Repentance is more than saying a prayer, it’s a lifestyle change that affects every area of our life

              • Application

                • Have you received Jesus into your life and believed in His name?

                • Have you turned from your sins and pursued a relationship with Jesus?

                • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Receive Jesus and believe in His name, so I can become a child of God.

            • When this transformation truly takes place in our lives, the world will not understand it

          • We are unknown by the world

            • “[The world] Does not understand our principles; the reasons of our conduct; the sources of our comforts and joys.” [Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 32512.]

              • The world has a hard time understanding how we can have a smile on our face and be optimistic when everything seems to be falling down around us

              • The hope that we have comes from the Lord

              • We understand that this world is not the end, that the difficulties we are currently experiencing are only temporary, and the glory we will experience will far exceed the hardships we are going through

              • We are in great company

              • John 15:18, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

            • The world won’t understand our transformation, because they don’t know the Lord

              • John 1:10, He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.

              • The world doesn’t know Jesus, because they have rejected Him

          • Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.

          • We know from verse 1 what we are, but verse 2 tells us what we will be

        • What we will be (v. 2)

          • Now we are children of God

            • The moment that we receive Jesus into our lives and believe in Him, is when we become children of God

            • It’s not something that happens later on

            • “The present possession of believers requires constant reaffirmation because of what daily life present them with, as seen in Calvin’s (1988: 266) memorable words: ‘Physically, we are dust and a shadow, and death is always before our eyes. ​​ We are exposed to a thousand miseries and our souls to innumerable evils, so that we always find a hell within us. ​​ The more necessary is it that our sense should be withdrawn from the view of present things, lest the miseries . . . should shake our trust in that happiness which as yet is hidden.’” ​​ [Yarbrough, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 1-3 John, 177]

            • What John is addressing here is the tension between the already and not yet that we see throughout Scripture

              • Already Romans 8:15, For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship [adoption]. ​​ And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

              • Not yetRomans 8:23, Not only so, be we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

              • [show figure B] [https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/already-not-yet]

          • What we will be has not yet been made known

            • John tells us a little about what we will be when he says that when Jesus appears, we will be like Him

            • Scripture helps us understand what Jesus is like now, so we know what we will be like

              • Colossians 3:4, When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

              • 2 Corinthians 3:18, And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

              • 2 Corinthians 4:6, For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

              • Philippians 3:20-21, But our citizenship is in heaven. ​​ And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

          • We know what we are and what we will be, which should affect what we should be

        • What we should be (v. 3)

          • Because we know that Jesus is returning again, we should strive for holiness (to keep our lives clean)

            • Paul expresses it this way to the Corinthian believers, Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (2 Corinthians 7:1)

            • James expresses it as standing firm (James 5:8)

            • Peter tells us to be self-controlled (1 Peter 1:13)

            • Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.

            • Application

              • Are you striving for holiness, purity, and self-control?

              • Are you struggling with habitual sin, right now?

              • Do you have someone to help hold you accountable?

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Strive for holiness as I wait, with hope, for Jesus to return.

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus is pure (holy)!

            • John tells us that our model, our guide, our standard of holiness is Jesus

            • “In every case Painter’s observation (2002: 228) holds true: ‘The use of this word [καθώς] suggests that Jesus is the source and mode of the believer’s righteousness.’” ​​ [Yarbrough, 179]

          • “A group of teenagers were enjoying a party, and someone suggested that they go to a certain restaurant for a good time. ​​ ‘I’d rather you took me home,’ Jan said to her date. ​​ ‘My parents don’t approve of that place.’ ​​ ‘Afraid your father will hurt you?’ one of the girls asked sarcastically. ​​ ‘No,’ Jan replied, ‘I’m not afraid my father will hurt me, but I am afraid I might hurt him.’ ​​ She understood the principle that a true child of God, who has experienced the love of God, has no desire to sin against that love.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 504-5]

        • God’s love for us is a great reason to live a holy life!

        • John gives us a second reason in verse 4-8

    • God the Son died for us (vv. 4-8)

        • In these verses we see that there were two reasons why Jesus died for us

          • To take away our sins (vv. 4-6)

            • John 1:29, The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

            • Sin

              • I like the NASB 1995 translation of verse 4, Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness

              • The tense (present), voice (active), and mood (participle) of the Greek word for “practices” helps us understand that it is a habit of doing sin and not occasionally sinning [Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2001), paragraph 7795]

              • Definitions of sin in the Bible

                • Lawlessness – breaking God’s laws (1 John 3:4)

                • Anything not from faith (Romans 14:23b, everything that does not come from faith is sin)

                • Thought of foolishness (Proverbs 24:9a, the schemes of folly are sin . . .)

                • Knowing to do good, but not doing it (James 4:17, Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins)

                • All unrighteousness (1 John 5:17a, All wrongdoing is sin . . .)

                • “Sin is basically a matter of the will. ​​ For us to assert our will against God’s will is rebellion, and rebellion is the root of sin.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 505]

                • We can fake holiness and purity on the outside, so that other people think we’re a good person

                • We can’t fake holiness and purity on the inside, and God is able to see both the inside and the outside – He knows the attitude of our hearts

                • “Little Judy was riding in the care with her father. ​​ She decided to stand up in the front seat. ​​ Her father commanded her to sit down and put on the seat belt, but she declined. ​​ He told her a second time, and again she refused. ​​ ‘If you don’t sit down immediately, I’ll pull over to the side of the road and spank you!’ ​​ Dad finally said, and at this the little girl obeyed. ​​ But in a few minutes she said quietly, ‘Daddy, I’m still standing up inside.’” ​​ [Wiersbe, 505]

              • We’re all born with a rebellious attitude toward God

                • Isaiah 53:6a, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; . . .

                • Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

              • We know that all human beings are sinners, but God had a plan to deal with our sin

            • Jesus came to take away our sins

              • Isaiah 53:6b, . . . and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

              • 1 Peter 3:18, For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. ​​ He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.

              • 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

            • He is the only One who can take away our sins, because He is perfect, without sin

              • PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus is pure (holy)!

              • He lived a sinless life while on earth

              • That’s why He was able to take away our sins when He died on the cross – He fulfilled God’s standard and required payment for sin

            • Real faith vs. counterfeit faith

              • John makes it clear that a genuine, real faith and relationship with Jesus Christ means that we will not keep on practicing habitual sin

                • To live in Jesus means to remain in Him, to abide in Him

                • John 15:5-6, “I am the vine; you are the branches. ​​ If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ​​ If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

                • PRINCIPLE #3 – God completely transforms those who live/abide in Jesus Christ.

              • The opposite is also true, that if we continue to practice habitual sin we have a counterfeit faith and we have neither seen or known Jesus

            • Jesus not only died to take away our sins, but to destroy the works of the devil

          • To destroy the works of the devil (vv. 7-8)

            • John knew that there were antichrists in the various churches trying to deceive and lead followers of Jesus Christ astray

            • Actions speak louder than words

              • Doing what is right

                • The same Greek word is used here as in verse 4 and means practices

                • Again, it means a habit of doing what is right

                • 1 John 3:7, Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous (NASB 1995).

              • Doing what is sinful

                • 1 John 3:8a, the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning (NASB 1995).

                • Those who follow the devil are the ones who habitually practice sin

              • Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.

            • Destruction of the devil’s work

              • When we think of the word “destroy” we usually think of something being completely taken away (annihilated), but we know that the devil is still active in our world today

              • So, what is John saying here about the purpose or reason why Jesus appeared

              • The Greek word can mean, “to loosen, release; melt” or “to loosen, undo, dissolve, anything bound, tied, or compacted together.”

              • We are tied up and bound by sin

              • Destroy, here, means ‘to render inoperative, to rob of power.’” ​​ [Wiersbe, 506]

                • Hebrews 2:14-15, Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

                • 2 Timothy 1:10, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

                • Acts 10:38, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

              • Jesus won over sin and death when He died on the cross, was buried, and came alive again the third day

          • I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful for all that Jesus has done for me

        • Because Jesus died for us, we should pursue holiness as His followers

        • John gives us one more reason to live a holy life

    • God the Holy Spirit lives in us (vv. 9-10)

        • “A person who can enjoy deliberate sin and who does not feel convicted or experience God’s chastening had better examine himself to see whether or not he is really born of God.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 506]

        • God’s seed remains in us (v. 9)

          • Chiastic structure [Kruse, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Letters of John, 125]
            a  ​​​​ No one who is born of God
             ​​ ​​​​ b  ​​​​ will continue to sin,
             ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ c ​​ 
            because God’s seed remains in him;
             ​​ ​​​​ b’ ​​ he cannot sin,
            a’ ​​ because he has been born of God.

          • Born of God

            • We already talked about this in verse 1

            • We are children of God

            • Everyone who receives Jesus and believes in His name is given the right to become a child of God – born of God (John 1:12-13)

          • Will continue to sin and cannot sin

            • What the NIV translates as “continue to sin,” the NASB translates as “practices sin”

              • The same Greek word is used here as in verses 4, 7, & 8

              • This is not talking about sinless perfection

              • It is talking about willful, habitual sin – being characterized as a sinner

            • As children of God we will not continue to sin or cannot sin, because God disciplines His children

            • Hebrews 12:4-6, In your struggle against sin, you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood. ​​ And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punished everyone he accepts as a son.”

            • In addition, we will not continue to practice sin, because we have a new nature – God’s nature living in us

          • God’s seed

            • When we become a child of God several incredible transformations take place [Wiersbe, 506]

              • Justification – a new standing before God (He sees us a righteous, through the blood of Jesus Christ)

              • Sanctification – a new position before God (this is the ongoing, continual growth to become more like Jesus)

              • Regeneration – a new nature (we have the Holy Spirit that lives within us to help us say “no” to sin and “yes” to righteousness)

              • 2 Peter 1:3-4, His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. ​​ Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

            • “Based on his readers’ divine parentage, John is confident that God’s true children, like those of the devil, ultimately cannot conceal their identity. ​​ The nature of their inner identity will be ‘evident’ (φανερά, phanera) from their actions.” [Yarbrough, 196]

            • Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.

          • In this final verse, John addresses the two families that humanity can be a part of

        • Who’s your Father?

          • Children of the devil

            • John states it in the negative as it pertains to children of the devil

            • Two characteristics

              • Anyone who does not practice righteousness (make a habit of doing what is right)

              • Anyone who does not love his brother

          • Children of God

            • The positive is also true as it pertains to children of God

            • Two characteristics

              • Anyone who practices righteousness

              • Anyone who loves his brother

            • People will know that we are children of God when we love God and others

            • “Augustine summarizes John’s counsel this way: ‘Love, and sin is undone’ (Bray 2000: 200).” ​​ [Yarbrough, 197]

 

  • YOU

    • Questions to contemplate [Wiersbe, 509]

        • “Do I have the divine nature within me or am I merely pretending to be a Christian?”

        • “Do I cultivate this divine nature by daily Bible reading and prayer?”

        • “Has any unconfessed sin defiled my inner man? ​​ Am I willing to confess and forsake it?”

        • “Do I allow my old nature to control my thoughts and desires, or does the divine nature rule me?”

        • “When temptation comes, do I ‘play with it’ or do I flee from it? ​​ Do I immediately yield to the divine nature within me?”

    • Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.

 

  • WE

    • As a body of believers here at Idaville Church, we should be characterized as people who practice righteousness

    • Our community, neighbors, coworkers, and family members should be able to tell that we are children of God

 

CONCLUSION

“You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one's holy Father.

If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.”

 

J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 182; submitted by Aaron Goerner, Utica, New York.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2004/april/15035.html]

13

 

Christmas Eve

The Star: ​​ A Journey to Christmas

 

INTRODUCTION

Welcome and Merry Christmas! ​​ Tomorrow is the big day, just in case anyone has forgotten that or your children have neglected to remind you since getting out of school for Christmas break. ​​ I’m excited that you’ve joined us this evening as we prepare for one of the greatest days all year. ​​ Tomorrow marks the culmination of a journey we’ve been taking together over the past four weeks. ​​ The four weeks leading up to Christmas are called Advent, which means “coming.” ​​ We’ve been learning about Jesus’ coming that very first Christmas. ​​ We have also been talking about His second coming, which will complete God’s ultimate work of redemption. ​​ We’ve used the star as our guiding light toward Jesus. ​​ This same star guided those wise seekers toward Jesus long ago.

 

How many of you love a good story. ​​ Si Robertson explains in his book, Si-Cology 1: ​​ Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty’s Favorite Uncle, he was taught never to lie. ​​ He says that he never lied, but the Robertson’s are good storytellers.

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Tradition

        • Growing up, my family had an Advent time after dinner every evening

        • My father made an advent wreath that had a place for a daily candle

        • There were the three purple and one pink candle for each Sunday, but we had white candles for the other days of the week

        • My father has written several daily Advent devotionals

    • Stories

        • Judy’s family has some pretty humorous stories that they’ve told multiple years, which I why I know them now

          • These stories are so funny that we’ll all start laughing and can’t stop

          • Judy’s Grandpa and Grandma Young would come to their house on Christmas Day to celebrate with them

            • One Christmas morning as they were driving down the country road to her house, they saw something on the road

            • Once they arrived, Judy’s Grandma told them that they saw something on the road and thought that Santa had dropped a package

            • The item on the road was a dead squirrel

            • Don’t ask me why that story is so funny, but it is

          • Another Christmas story from Judy’s family was about one of the dogs

            • Marvin was a mutt and he would do some pretty funny things

            • He would walk into a room, pass gas, and then walk out like he was disgusted

            • One Christmas morning, the family got up to find that Marvin had added something special to Judy’s father’s gift – a long, brown, log (poop!)

            • Again, when that story is told we all begin laughing and can’t stop

        • Electronic Rugby game

          • I don’t remember how the story got started, but one year leading up to Christmas my father kept telling me that I was going to get an electronic rugby game

          • This would have been in the 1970’s and some electronic games were already being produced (the old red football and basketball games)

          • I played soccer on an intramural team and baseball in the summer, but I had never played rugby

          • As Christmas morning arrived I opened all my gifts, but never got the electronic rugby game

          • They probably didn’t make an electronic rugby game

          • I wish I could remember what I got that Christmas, but all I remember was what I didn’t get

 

  • WE

    • Family stories

        • Perhaps each person here tonight has family stories that will be told tomorrow

        • It’s stories that have been told multiple times, but they make us laugh until we cry

        • We tell of God’s goodness and healing

    • Hunting and fishing stories

        • Those who hunt and fish can tell some pretty wild stories

        • They talk about the huge buck that got away, as they gather in the evening at the hunting cabin

        • They also tell the big fish stories without having any proof that the story is true

    • Black Friday shopping stories

        • Perhaps some of you ladies have some great stories of success while Black Friday shopping

        • You had your strategy all planned out for who was going to which stores and what they were supposed to get

        • Maybe you were standing in line and were the last person to get a particular item before the store ran out

 

Throughout the world, stories have been the means of preserving history, passing along beliefs and values, inspiring, entertaining, and motivating us. ​​ Stories move us. ​​ Shared stories connect us and link us to each other. ​​ They bring meaning to our lives and help make sense of our experiences. ​​ Good stories are messy, full of conflict, suspenseful and moving. ​​ They are filled with victory and defeat, struggle and triumph, fear and courage, conflict and love. ​​ They draw us into bigger and broader story lines and they make us curious about the storyteller.

 

As we think about stories, I’d like us to imagine that we’re outside, somewhere wild and open, maybe a mountaintop, maybe a sweeping meadow set against a flowing stream or rolling hillside. ​​ It’s a clear night long, long ago. ​​ We’re back at the very beginning. ​​ This is creation, and into the inky darkness above suddenly God is flinging stars into the sky. ​​ Where there was only darkness, now there is gleaming, glittering light.

 

The Creator knows each one of these lights. ​​ He knows which ones we’ll be able to see as human beings. ​​ He knows how long they will last before burning out. ​​ He also knows about one special star.

 

This star would pierce the darkness with a unique purpose. ​​ It would serve as a herald and a celestial marker. ​​ It would signal the birth of Christ, the coming of the long-promised Messiah, come to earth at last to change the course of eternity forever.

 

This star guided wise men. ​​ It lit the night for shepherds. ​​ It signaled the way of Immanuel, God with us. ​​ It announced the arrival of the bright Morning Star whose light shines brightest, calling us to see Him, drawing us to Himself to seek and find Him.

 

God’s story is ongoing. ​​ The Christmas story spans all of history from creation to Jesus born in Bethlehem to us gathered here tonight. ​​ It will continue into the future as we wait for Jesus’ return.

 

Tonight as we complete our journey to Christmas, we will be look at each of the four elements of the story. ​​ These are the four gifts that Jesus brought to us when He came from heaven to earth that Christmas. ​​ We will be lighting each Advent candle on our wreath as we talk about the four elements of hope, love, joy, and peace. ​​ We’ll also light the center candle, which is the Christ candle.

 

  • GOD

    • HOPE

        • We began Advent with a journey of hope

        • Through many years and centuries of history, hope burned for a Savior

          • The Israelites had waited for the Messiah to come

          • God had been silent for 400 years

          • They were anticipating His coming, but they didn’t know when He would arrive

          • I’m sure as they waited there were times of great hope and times when they struggled to understand why God was waiting

        • But hope was fulfilled

          • Christ has come!

          • God’s promise to send a Savior was fulfilled with Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection

          • Jesus is our ongoing source of hope

        • We also live in the future hope of Jesus’ second coming

          • His second coming will complete the story of redemption

          • The story is not over yet

          • When darkness rages and deepens around us, we can hold onto hope that Christ will complete His ultimate work

        • Application

          • Not everyone is currently hopeful

          • You might be feeling like you’re hanging on by the last threads of hope

          • You may be struggling with financial stresses, relational dysfunctions, memories of loss, or commercialized expectations

          • 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Therefore do not lose heart. ​​ Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. ​​ For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ​​ So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. ​​ For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (NIV)

          • The great news is that Jesus brings hope in the dark times of life

    • LOVE

        • The second week we went on a journey of love

        • This journey also spans eternity, because God is love

        • Love is part of God’s nature – it’s one of His many attributes

          • His love fueled creation

          • Love drove God to make a way to restore the relationship between Him and humanity

          • God demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus from heaven to earth (Rom. 5:8)

        • God’s love fuels our relationship with Him – it is through His love in us that we are able to love others as He does

        • We look forward to the future when God’s love story is complete

        • Application

          • We saw on this journey that God has a lasting, conquering, and overflowing love

          • 1 John 4:9-11, 16, This is how God showed his love among us: ​​ He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. ​​ This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. ​​ Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another . . . And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

          • We are able to love others because God first loved us

    • JOY

        • Our third journey was a journey of joy

        • Jesus’ birth was a joyful event

        • Luke 2:9-12, An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. ​​ But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. ​​ I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. ​​ Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. ​​ This will be a sign to you: ​​ You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

        • The good news of great joy was that Jesus, the Savior of the world, was born

        • The joy for us today is that the same message of good news is for us today – Jesus offers His salvation to us

        • While we still live in a world where joy and pain coexist, God’s promise is that our joy will be made complete in the future when Jesus comes again

        • Application

          • You may not be experiencing joy today

          • Instead you are experiencing fear (health, finances, relationships, employment, education, spiritual, government, society, etc.)

          • Those concerns may be stripping you of joy – they may be consuming your waking hours and keeping you awake at night

          • Through Jesus Christ, we can have joy in life’s journey

          • Peter told us our walk of faith with Jesus brings us a sense of joy

          • 1 Peter 1:8-9, Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

    • PEACE

        • We looked at the journey of peace this morning

        • Peace can be so elusive in our world, our families, and our own minds

        • Yet we see God’s peace throughout the story line of eternity

        • Jesus came in the past as the Prince of Peace – that is what we’re celebrating at Christmas

        • Jesus’ peace remains today through the gift of the Holy Spirit

        • When Jesus returns the second time, we will experience perfect and complete peace – ultimate peace for the world

        • Application

          • Peace may be alluding you today because of pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress

          • You may appear to be at peace outwardly, but inwardly you are a mess

          • Jesus’ life was filled with hardship

          • He knew that His disciples and us would experience hardship also

          • So, He gave them and us the gift of peace

          • John 14:27, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. ​​ I do not give to you as the world gives. ​​ Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

          • Philippians 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ​​ And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

          • God’ presence provides peace

 

  • YOU

    • Throughout this journey to Christmas we have learned some very important things about Jesus:

        • Our greatest HOPE in the darkest times of life comes from having a relationship with Jesus

          • 1 John 1:5-7, This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: ​​ God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. ​​ If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. ​​ But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

        • The greatest LOVE we’ll ever feel is the love Jesus expressed when He died on the cross to take our punishment for sin

          • John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

        • The greatest JOY we’ll every experience comes from knowing that Jesus willingly came to save us from our sins

          • John 3:17, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

        • We can have PEACE with God by believing in Jesus by faith

          • Romans 5:1, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • Relationship with Jesus

        • Before we can have a relationship with Jesus, we have to recognize and admit our need (I am a sinner)

          • Everyone is born with a desire to have their own way

          • We reject God and His authority in our lives

          • Romans 3:23 tells us that we have all sinned

          • Romans 6:23 tells us that there is a consequence for rejecting God and it is to be separated from Him

        • We have to be willing to reject or turn from sin (repent)

        • We must believe that Jesus died for us on the cross and came alive again in three days

        • Through prayer, we have to invite Jesus Christ to come in and control our lives through the Holy Spirit

    • Perhaps you are ready to experience the hope, love, joy, and peace that is a result of being in a relationship with Jesus Christ

        • Repeat this prayer after me

        • Dear God, I have been rejecting You and Your authority in my life. ​​ I have chosen sin over a relationship with you. ​​ I am ready and willing to reject sin, turn away from it, and begin to follow You. ​​ I believe that Jesus died, was buried, and came alive again to take my punishment for sin. ​​ I choose to be at peace with You today and to be saved from my sins. ​​ I accept Your eternal life. ​​ In Jesus’ name. ​​ Amen.

​​ 

CONCLUSION

We have lit all of the Advent candles. ​​ We have completed the journey to Christmas. ​​ It’s time for us to let our light shine. ​​ As a visual representation of that, Pastor Marc Webb and our Elder Laurin Fleming will be lighting their candles from the Christ candle in the Advent wreath. ​​ They will be coming down the center aisle and lighting the first person’s candle. ​​ That first person will then allow the next person in the row to light their candle. ​​ Continue to pass the light down the aisle until all of the candles have been lit. ​​ Once all of the candles are lit, we will close our service by singing “Silent Night.”

8

 

2nd Sunday of Advent

The Star: ​​ A Journey of Love

(1 John 4:7-21)

 

INTRODUCTION

VIDEO – Love Bumper video

 

Welcome to the second Sunday of Advent. ​​ I hope you have been rejoicing in this Advent season. ​​ Last week we talked about the word advent, which is a version of a Latin term which means “coming.” ​​ And so we use these weeks leading up to Christmas as a chance to look forward with great expectation to the coming of Christ as we embark on a journey of hope, love, joy, and peace.

 

While the star is only mentioned briefly in the Biblical texts concerning Jesus’ birth, it was a star that led people to Jesus, just as the star leads us to Jesus this Advent season.

 

So together we continue to look for the light as we follow the star on this journey of love. ​​ The star signals the brightest love, the love that never gives up, the love that conquered sin and death, the love that surrounds us daily and fills us eternally. ​​ Perfect love. ​​ God’s love embodied.

 

How do we understand love?

 

BODY

  • ME

    • First pet

        • After college, Judy and I moved to Florida

        • While we were there we took in a kitten

        • Kittens are cute, but cats are not always cute

        • We had this cat for about a year

        • It wouldn’t allow us to keep our bedroom door shut at night, because it wanted to be able to come and go throughout the night

        • It’s morning ritual was to jump up on the bed, put its rear end in my face and knead my bladder with its front paws

          • Needless to say, after being asleep all night, my bladder was full

          • It was this cats way of getting me out of bed, so I would feed it

        • This cat did some other irritating things while we had it, but the day we had to take it to a shelter was extremely difficult

          • We were moving to a new apartment in an adult community and they did not allow us to have any pets (except fish)

          • Judy stayed in the car while I took our cat into the shelter

          • I was trying to be strong, but I broke down and cried as I signed the paperwork and handed our cat over

          • While the cat did some irritating things, we still loved it

    • Other pets

        • We had a dog when we lived in Ohio

          • When we knew we were moving to Missouri, we tried to find a loving home for Socks, but weren’t successful

          • We didn’t want to take him to the pound

          • Several months before we moved, he was hit by a minivan and killed

          • I remember Wade’s words that day as we sat in the living room talking about Socks, he said, “I wasn’t ready for Socks to die!”

          • We weren’t ready for Socks to die either

          • We loved him and enjoyed his company even though he did some crazy things that would get on our nerves (like bringing a dead animal up from the ditch and then rolling in them)

        • We had a cat when we lived in Missouri

        • We had turtles in California

        • We have a dog and two cats now

          • We love Fester, CBS (Clyde, Barney, Skittles), and BTCP (Butterball, Tinkerbell, Cinderella, Precious)

          • I’m not looking forward to the day when they are no longer with us, even though I was not in favor of taking in the two cats

          • They have grown on me

 

  • WE

    • Do you know how much Americans spent on their pets in 2016?

        • $60 billion [Michelle Castillo, “Americans Will Spend More Than $60 Billion on Their Pets This Year,” NBCNews.com, July 12, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/americans-will-spend-more-60-billion-their-pets-year-n390181]

        • Why would we do that?

          • We walk them, clean up after them, vacuum up the hair, take allergy pills, clean the tank, apologize to the neighbors, and much more

          • We love them, so we spend our hard-earned money and time caring for them

          • It’s not because of anything they’ve done for us, but simply because we love them

    • How many of you can relate?

        • Have you or are you going to buy your pet a Christmas gift?

        • Is there anything you wouldn’t do to take care of your pet?

          • How many of you have taken your pet to the vet for a dental visit or some kind of surgery?

          • Who has or is currently giving their pet shots for diabetes or medication for some other health concern

        • We do all of that out of love

        • Please don’t think that I’m trying to compare God’s love for you with your love for your pet

        • God’s love is far greater than the love we lavish on our pets

    • Thinking about our love for our pets starts us down the road to think about God’s love for us

        • How do you perceive God’s love for you?

        • Do you feel you need to earn it?

        • Do you wonder if God’s love is meant for you?

        • Do you see the overflow of God’s love in your own life toward others?

 

Through this journey of love, today, God wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – We love because He first loved us.

 

Let’s pray

 

As we look at the journey of love today, we’ll see that God’s love is a lasting, conquering, and overflowing love.

 

  • GOD (1 John 4:7-21)

    • Lasting Love [love that never gives up] (vv. 7-8, 16b-18)

        • Read 1 John 4:7-8, 16b-18

        • The key phrase we find in these two sets of verses is “God is love”

          • This is one of His many attributes

          • His love has no beginning or ending – no limits

          • His love desires our good and never desires harm or evil

          • He wants our love in return

          • Jeremiah 31:3, The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ​​ “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

            • The love that the prophet Jeremiah is describing here is one that never ends

            • God loved us before we were even created

            • He continues to love us, without limits

            • He loves us even when we don’t love Him, even when we don’t desire to be in a relationship with Him

            • This is the love God the Father has for His creation – an unending, unlimited love

            • God doesn’t just love us with words, but He loves us with actions, as well

            • Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: ​​ While we were still sinners, Christ dies for us

            • We’re going to learn more about that when we talk about the second point, conquering love

        • God’s love demonstrated at Jesus’ birth

          • We often talk about Christmas as the time “when love came down.”

          • We say God’s love entered the world as a baby

          • All of that is true, but God’s love didn’t begin at Jesus’ birth

          • His love has always been and will always be

          • It was manifested on earth during the creation of the world

          • The history of our world, the story of the Bible, is a love story from the first day of creation

          • It’s the story of God’s love for His people and His plan of redemption to bring us back into relationship with Him

          • David expresses in Psalm 139 these truths: ​​ God is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present. ​​ God knows us, God is with us, and his greatest gift is to allow us to know him

        • God’s love is expressed through the fulfillment of His plan in Jesus Christ

          • Paul explains this to the Ephesian believers

          • Ephesians 1:4-8, For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. ​​ In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. ​​ In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

          • God’s love does not depend on us

          • It’s not something we have to earn or perform for to maintain

          • It starts with God, not us – He is the One who initiated a relationship with us – He pursues us

          • God is love

          • It’s His nature and character – it’s who He is

          • His love for us was there from the beginning of time and will continue throughout eternity

        • God’s love is not only a lasting love, but it’s also a conquering love

    • Conquering Love [love that conquered sin and death] (vv. 9-10, 13-16a)

        • Questions

          • Do you ever have a hard time loving God?

          • Do you ever have a hard time accepting His love for you?

          • Do you ever doubt that His love is enough to cover all the pain, hurt, selfishness, and evil of our world?

          • Do you question whether or not His love is enough to cover the pain or hurt in your own heart?

        • God’s love is different than human love

          • The love of a father, mother, spouse, ex-spouse, friend, or enemy is not a perfect love

            • They can and will let you down, hurt you, abuse you, twist the concept of love to inflict damage or pain or heartache or to manipulate you

            • Those betrayals of love can seem hard to heal from or let go of

          • God loves you unconditionally

            • It’s not based on anything you’ve done or have to do

            • It’s not a limited amount of love for a certain period of time

            • God loves you purely, perfectly, wholly, and lavishly

            • He pours love out on us – no matter how unlovable or unworthy we may feel

            • God’s love is more vast and perfect than we can ever fully and completely understand with our human intellect

            • Ephesians 3:17-19, And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

          • God’s unconditional love was expressed for us through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection

        • Read 1 John 4:9-10, 13-16a

        • God’s plan through Jesus

          • God showed His love among us by sending Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins

            • We are all born with a desire to have our own way

            • Romans 3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

            • Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

              • God gave us a will and freedom of choice

              • When we choose sin it results in separation from God – a gap between God and us

              • Isaiah 59:2, But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.

              • Some of us chose avenues that do not bridge the gap, such as good works, religion, philosophy, morality, and many other things

            • There is only one way to bridge the gap that our sin has created between us and God

              • It is Jesus Christ!

              • This was who the Israelites were waiting for, but many of them missed Him, because He did not fit their preconceived ideas of what the Messiah was supposed to be like

              • God became man through the birth of Jesus Christ

              • God’s love was manifested on earth through Jesus

              • 1 Timothy 2:5, For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.

              • 1 Peter 3:18, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.

          • Acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God

            • This simple fact is what separates true Christianity from the false religions of the world

              • When asked who they believe Jesus was and what He came to earth to do, their answers will inevitably avoid recognizing Jesus’ divinity

              • He was a good teacher

              • He was a another prophet from God

              • He was just a man

            • When we acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, then God lives in us – we have a relationship with Him

            • John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

              • Admit your need (I am a sinner)

              • Be willing to turn from your sins (Repent)

              • Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the cross and rose from the grave

              • Through prayer, invite Jesus Christ to come in and control your life through the Holy Spirit (Receive God’s eternal life)

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, believe that He died for me on the cross and rose from the grave, and receive His eternal life.

        • As followers of Jesus Christ we have this promise from God, written in Paul’s letter to the Romans

          • Romans 8:38-39, For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

            • That’s an incredible promise from God

            • Our feelings can deceive us

              • When we’re going through difficult times, we may feel like God isn’t there or that He doesn’t care

              • When a financial crisis hits we may feel abandoned by God and alone

              • When God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we wanted Him to, we can feel like God doesn’t love us

              • When we see widows, orphans, and the poor living ​​ all around us or poverty and the ravages of war in other parts of the world, we can sometimes wonder why a loving God would allow those kinds of things to happen

              • The reality is that our loving God is in the middle of all of those situations (he is all-knowing, present everywhere, and sovereign)

            • Our feelings do not change the truths of God’s Word or His character

            • As followers of Jesus Christ we can know with confidence that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (we can claim that promise for ourselves today)

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Claim God’s promise that nothing will be able to separate me from His love

        • God’s love that conquered sin and death has been around forever and through the Holy Spirit it lives in us and overflows to others

    • Overflowing Love [love that overflows to others on our life’s journey] (vv. 11-12, 19-21)

        • Questions

          • Does anyone have company coming this Christmas? (Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles?)

          • While Christmas is a wonderful time to be together, let me ask you this question, how many of us will be sick of our relatives or guests after the third day of being together all the time?

          • Some of us may be feeling that way about your spouse and/or children

          • We can’t wait for the holidays to be done, and the Christmas break from school to end, so we can have some peace and quiet

        • It’s the very nature of God’s unending and unlimited love that it cannot be contained

          • God doesn’t want it to be contained

          • The Bible tells us to love others, even the people who seem unlovable

          • Sometimes that’s easy, and sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world

          • Expressing God’s love to others is not something we can do on our own

          • It only happens when we have been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ

          • When we believe in Jesus and repent of our sins, then the Holy Spirit immediately comes to dwell within us

          • He gives us the power to love everyone as God loves us

          • 1 Peter 1:22-23, Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. ​​ For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

          • That doesn’t mean it is easy, but it shifts our focus from trying hard to love others on our own, to experiencing the depth of God’s love in a way that allows it to overflow in our life to the people around us

        • Read 1 John 4:11-12, 19-21

          • We see in verses 11-12 that we should be willing to love others, because God loved us and sent Jesus to take our punishment for sin

          • In verse 19, John changes from saying that we ought to love to the fact that we do love, because God loved us first

          • John tells us that it is impossible for us to love God if we do not love other people

          • In verse 21 John gives us a command from Jesus, Whoever loves God must also love his brother

          • We love because He first loved us

        • Application

          • God’s love is truly the whole reason we celebrate this season

          • The journey of love is not simply about words or even the feelings of acceptance – it is also a journey of action and truth

          • The gift of God’s Son that we celebrate was God putting love into action through Jesus

          • His love is an overwhelming love that calls and moves us to similar action

          • 1 John 3:16, This is how we know what love is: ​​ Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. ​​ And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

          • Advent and Christmas can be an easy season to put this similar love into practice

          • It can also be a difficult season to practice God’s love overflowing through us

          • As you gather to celebrate Christ’s birth this year, will you allow His love to penetrate and overflow your heart as you abide with the source of all love?

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Be willing to allow God’s love to overflow into the lives of family members, friends, and coworkers.

 ​​ ​​​​ 

CONCLUSION

VIDEO – “Advent_3_-_Love_English_Version”

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