Confident Christians Pray with Confidence

Confident Christians Pray with Confidence

Yesterday I preached 1 John 5:13-15 in John’s epistle in our “Know” series.  After looking intently at verse 13 last week, we moved on to the next two verses and examined what John said about prayer as a Christian.  If John’s agenda is to bring true believers to a place of concrete assurance and faith in Christ, he demonstrated his desire for the Christian to pray with confidence as well.

John, along with the pattern of the early church, was a man of prayer.  We see Peter and John going up into the temple at the very hour of prayer in Acts 3.  Certainly he understood the priority and privilege of prayer, and he desired for his fellow Christians in various cities to be people of prayer as well.  Knowledge that is separated from prayer and communion with God becomes nothing more than cold and lifeless doctrine.

John desired for the Christians to know that God hears the prayers of His people.  John urged the Christian community to pray with confidence.  The language of “toward him” in verse 14 paints a picture of a face-to-face conversation.  John is picturing prayer as a face-to-face conversation with God and what a joy it is to have this privilege as a Christian.  John understood the privilege and desired for others to enjoy it as well.

While God hears the prayers of all people, there is a difference between merely hearing and hearing with a desire to care for and answer the prayers of His own people.  If a group of children are calling out to a man for a favor, he may hear all of them, but he will pay close attention to the voice of his own son the group of children.  God cares for His own children in a unique way.  As we explore the Word of God, we see a clear pattern of prayer demonstrated from Jesus to the early church.

Jesus prayed

  • Jesus prayed at His baptism in Luke 3:21.
  • Jesus sought to be alone in prayer, but was often interrupted.
  • Jesus would rise early in the morning for prayer as we see in Mark 1:35.
  • Jesus would pray all night at times as we see in Luke 6:12.
  • Jesus prayed for His people – John 17.

The Apostles Prayed

  • Paul prayed for the church and for the church’s witness – praising God for it in Romans 1.
  • Paul urged the Christians in Rome to be faithful in prayer – Romans 12:12.
  • Paul urged the church at Rome to pray for him – Romans 15.
  • Apostles prayed together in the upper room as they waited on the Holy Spirit to come – Acts 2.
  • Peter and John were seen going into the temple at the hour of prayer – Acts 3.
  • Peter prayed on a housetop in Acts 10:9.
  • Paul and Silas prayed in prison – Acts 16:25.
  • The apostles gave themselves to the Word of God and prayer as the deacons took charge of the practical needs of the church in Acts 6.

The Church Prayed

The early church is pictured in Acts 2:42 as gathered for the purpose of hearing the apostles’ teaching, engaging in fellowship, and praying together.

The Bible closes with a prayer of the church:

Revelation 22:17 – The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

God not only hears the prayers of His people, but He answers them in accordance with His will.  John provides us the condition of prayer followed by the limitation of prayer.  First, the condition of prayer is clearly revealed at the end of verse 14 as the “will of God.”  We can’t pray code word language and expect that God will be bound by our words to give us the desires of our greed-filled hearts.  We must learn to bend our will into conformity to God’s will.  When we pray rightly, we don’t approach prayer out of superstition.  We must learn to approach God in a way that far supersedes a rabbit’s foot.  Christians pray in confidence that God hears and has the power to answer the prayer so long as we pray in accordance with God’s will.

The limitation of prayer is directly connected to the limitation of God.  Our God is sovereign and big.  He is strong and mighty.  There is nothing too big for God, and we must learn to approach God with big weighty prayers that go well beyond the superficial weak prayers that we often pray.  God can heal disease.  God can provide jobs for the needy.  The same God who never sleeps nor slumbers and the same God who controls the wind and the waves is the God who provides for His own people.  Just as Jesus taught in Matthew 6:33, we must seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of the provisions for God’s people will be met.  Jerry Bridges once said:

Prayer assumes the sovereignty of God. If God is not sovereign, we have no assurance that He is able to answer our prayers. Our prayers would become nothing more than wishes. But while God’s sovereignty, along with His wisdom and love, is the foundation of our trust in Him, prayer is the expression of trust.

Laboring for Assurance

Laboring for Assurance

Yesterday I preached 1 John 5:13 in our series through the epistle of 1 John.  As you may already know, the thirteenth verse of the fifth chapter is the key verse of the entire letter.  It become explicitly clear that John was writing and laboring for the assurance of the Christian community in the various different cities surrounding Ephesus.

1 John 5:13 – I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

What Did John Write?

All through the letter, John addressed both doctrinal and practical aspects of the Christian life.  At the time of John’s letter, there were various different false gospels and false prophets who were confusing the churches.  Many believers were left without true assurance and many unbelievers were given assurance.  John’s letter cuts to the heart and exposes the true heart of Christianity.  Some of the issues that John addressed include the following:

  • The Deity of Christ (1 John 1:1-2)
  • Joy in Christ (1 John 2:1-4)
  • Jesus as our Advocate and the Propitiation for Sin (1 John 2:1-2)
  • Perseverance of the Faith (1 John 2:3)
  • Love of God (1 John 3:1)
  • Love for One Another (1 John 3:11-12)
  • Abiding in God and God Abiding in Us (1 John 3:24)
  • False Prophets (1 John 4:1-3)
  • God is Love and We Must Love One Another (1 John 4:7-8)
  • Overcoming the World (1 John 5:4)

Everything that John was addressing from essential doctrine to essential practice was aimed at the assurance of the believer.  John was laboring for the assurance of the churches, and we should labor for the assurance of our brothers and sisters in Christ—but not in a compromising way that avoids confronting sin—which John certainly didn’t do.

Who was John Addressing?

John makes it clear that he was writing to those “who believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).  The letter was not sent to the community in general.  It was sent to the local church in the community.  In fact, this is the case for the overwhelming majority of the Bible.  Rather than being written to unbelievers—the majority of the Bible is aimed toward the believer and only in rare occasions do you see a passage that directly or indirectly addresses unbelievers.

In this case, John is writing his letter to the local churches in various cities as this letter would have been circulated and passed around.  He was writing to those who profess faith in Christ.  Once again, he had a clear agenda that is unveiled in 1 John 5:13.

What was John’s Motive?

John the apostle with a tenderness and affection for the Christian community writes his letter to help true believers find assurance and to put the spotlight on those who claim Christ but apparently have never been born again.  John was laboring for the assurance of his fellow believers.

What John was doing in the letter is what we must do in our small groups, our Bible studies, and our sermons.  John was pointing to real genuine Christianity and making it clear that if you claim to be loved by God yet you refuse to love one another in the context of the local church—you’re not a Christian.

How many people in our own culture attend church on Sunday, but if the truth were known, they’re not truly converted?  Many people such as Billy Graham and A.W. Tozer have put the number as high as 80-90% of the average church on Sunday morning.  If their estimates are anywhere close to accurate—that’s a tragedy in the making.  To think that hell will be populated by a multitude of people who claimed to be a Christian but in reality they were lost and unconverted.

Matthew 7:21–23 – Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ [23] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Doctrine and Assurance

Doctrine and Assurance

Yesterday I preached the text found in 1 John 5:6-12 in our ongoing series titled, “Know.”  John has a clear agenda through his letter as he desires for the Christians to have solid assurance of their salvation.  John repeatedly uses vocabulary in different words that are often translated over into English as— “know”  and he does so at least 30 times in his short letter.  The key verse is found in 1 John 5:13.

Interestingly enough, John does not disconnect doctrine from assurance.  John does not build a case for assurance to be built upon the foundation of feelings or emotions.  Instead, he points out the need to have assurance that is connected to critical doctrines of the faith.  Here in this passage, the doctrine that John emphasizes is the deity of Christ.

In John’s day, a form of what we call Gnosticism was becoming popular and it attacked the deity of Christ.  It suggested that the spirit of the Christ came upon Jesus at his baptism but departed just prior to his death on the cross.  Such a teaching cut to the heart of the gospel and must be opposed.  John pointed to the witness of Jesus being centered on the Spirit of God, the water, and the blood.

The ministry of the Spirit of God is most visible in the inspiration and preservation of God’s Word.  Over a period of 1,500 years—the Holy Spirit moved upon forty different human authors on three different continents to write the body of God’s canon that we call the Bible.  All through the Bible from Genesis 3:15 to Revelation 22—the Spirit of God is pointing to Jesus as God’s Son—the Savior of sinners and most controversially, One with the Father.

At the Baptism, as John makes note by the reference to water, Jesus’ deity is clearly put on display as the Trinity is manifest together both visibly and audibly (see Mark 1:9d-11).  This unique moment in Jesus’ earthly ministry validates Jesus as the Son of God—which is a clear reference to his deity.

The reference to blood is a reference to Jesus’ death.  Not only was Jesus God at his birth and his baptism, but he was God at the point of death on the cross.  This is what we know as the hypostatic union, where Jesus’ deity took upon himself human flesh.  Jesus was God at the point of his brutal death on the cross thereby providing the sufficient sacrifice for sinners.  When Jesus died, some very unique events occurred that validated his claims to be God. In Matthew 27:45-54, notice the events that point to the deity of Jesus.

  1. The sky turns black for 3 hours.
  2. The temple veil tearing.
  3. The ground shaking.
  4. The rocks breaking.
  5. The tombs of many who had died rose from the dead.
  6. The guard’s testimony of Jesus.

All of these events point to the fact that Jesus was God.  The ministry of the Spirit of God, the baptism of Jesus, and the death of Jesus all validate the claims of Jesus.  Repeatedly through his earthly ministry, Jesus claimed to be God.  At one point, Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).

John makes the point that if you reject the deity of Jesus you call God a liar.  However, if you receive Jesus as God, you will receive eternal life.  Doctrine matters.  Knowing God intelligibly as he has desired through his Word is essential to being a child of God.  John MacArthur said:

Christians preach an exclusive Christ in an inclusive age. Because of that, we are often accused of being narrow-minded, even intolerant. Many paths, it is said, lead to the top of the mountain of religious enlightenment. How dare we insist that ours is the only one? In reality, however, there are only two religious paths: the broad way of works salvation leading to destruction, and the narrow way of faith in the only Savior leading to eternal life (Matt. 7:13-14). Religious people are on either one or the other. Sadly, the Sanhedrin and all who followed them were on the broad road to hell (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Acts 1-11, 135-136).

Saving Faith Produces Victorious Living

Saving Faith Produces Victorious Living

Yesterday I had the privilege to preach the passage found in 1 John 5:1-5 in our ongoing series titled “KNOW.”  John is passionate about leading people to find assurance of their faith in Christ.  However, in doing so, he is likewise committed to pointing out the insufficient paths of false Christianity along the way.

Many people struggle with the assurance of their salvation.  Some professing believers struggle based on doubts they have about the past while others focus on the struggles of the present.  According to the New Testament—those who believe the gospel have been freed by Christ in order that they will obey Christ (John 8:36).

All people are born in bondage to sin.  We are all born in the shackles of sin and the only thing that we can freely do is choose to sin.  By nature, we are the children of wrath and we love to do the will of our father—the prince of this world (Ephesians 2:1-3).  It’s only the gospel that breaks the chains of sin and sets us free to live a life of obedience to Christ that leads to victory over the world.

According to 1 John 5:1-5, everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  Not some of the believers or most of the believers—John builds the case that all believers overcome the world.  This is the necessary line in the sand for John and he provides it as a means of testing and assurance.

The word “overcome” comes from the Greek word νικάω (nikaō) which means “Conquer, Overcome, Prevail.”  The word literally has in mind the idea of winning in the face of obstacles, to be victor.  From this word, we have the word NIKE.  Originally known as Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS), NIKE, was founded by University of Oregon track athlete Phil Knight and his coach Bill Bowerman in January 1964. The first pair of shoes were crafted with the use of a waffle iron. Just think—a $28 billion dollar corporation with over 45,000 employees was started in a kitchen on a waffle iron – with hand made shoes.

The Greek speaking world understood the word NIKE as the name of the Greek goddess of victory.  The sports apparel company seeks to connect their customers with the image of victory as they market their products with the idea that if you wear NIKE products you will become victorious.  That, however, was not the intent of John in his letter.  He had something far different than an athletic competition in mind.  He was focused on the Christian life.  John was writing his letter so that people could have assurance of their salvation in Christ (1 John 5:13).  In order for believers to have assurance—they must be able to live victoriously.

The world, as mentioned by John, is a reference to the system of the world—the depraved system ruled by Satan and the demonic beings.  It is impossible to live the Christian life apart from true saving faith.  It would be like climbing Mt. Everest in a pair of Nike shoes and a light windbreaker.  In my preaching yesterday, I made a statement that I hope lingers in the minds of people.  I stated that I don’t want to present a view of Christianity that is weak, superficial, and so shallow that an unbeliever would believe they could do it in their flesh.  I want Christianity to appear impossible.  From being born again to living the victorious Christian life—it should seem impossible apart from true saving faith.

With that in mind, whoever lives in obedience to Christ will have a life that brings true glory to God.  No person can do it on their own.

The Spirit of God Provides Assurance of Salvation

The Spirit of God Provides Assurance of Salvation

Yesterday I had the opportunity of preaching from 1 John 4:13-21 in our series through the epistle of 1 John.   As we’ve pointed out all through the series, John has a desire for his readers to know some things about God, about themselves, and to have assurance of their salvation.   We have purposely titled the series, “Know” for that reason.

Millions of professing Christians wake up everyday and approach life without concrete assurance of their salvation.  They ask themselves often if their faith is real, if their religion is genuine, and if they have truly pleased God.  However, they continue to fall back into ongoing patterns of sin and seem to have very little if any love for God’s Word and their local church.  How can a person know they are indeed a true Christian?

The Gift of Assurance

John writes the following verse 13, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”  In other words, we know that we are indeed a true believer based on the fact that we have the Holy Spirit abiding in us.  All through the New Testament, we find the clear teaching of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who comes at the point of conversion.  Texts such as Titus 3:5 reveal this truth to us.

Titus 3:5 – he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

It is John’s aim in this section to demonstrate that the assurance of salvation comes as a result of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  From birth, we are born into the bondage of sin and are unable to live in a manner that pleases God in our human flesh.  Yet, after conversion and the receiving of the Holy Spirit, we receive the freedom to live in a God honoring manner.  We see this clearly taught in passages such as Galatians 5:16-18.

John also labors the point of God’s sovereignty in salvation as he points to the deity of Christ and then places clear emphasis upon the fact that salvation is God loving us rather than us choosing to love God.  He says, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16).  God has loved us before we love God—or our fellow brethren in the church (1 John 4:19).  Salvation is not us coming to God or us finding God—in the Bible salvation is pictured as God coming to fallen, helpless, dead sinners who need a Savior.

The Fruit of the Spirit

After conversion and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit becomes evident in our lives.  First of all, we have a peace—a true confidence to approach the judgment throne of God knowing that Christ has taken our sins upon himself and satisfied the justice of God on our behalf.  We have no need to live in fear of punishment.  Jesus was punished in our place (Is. 53:10).

Last of all, John returns to his theme of love by demonstrating that the ministry of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers will lead to genuine love for the brethren that proves true salvation.  In other words, if a person claims to be loved by God and claims to love God but refuses to love his or her fellow church members, John calls that person a liar (1 John 4:20).  The person who claims to be a Christian but harbors bitterness, animosity, hatred, envy, jealousy, and continually gossips and slanders other church members proves to not be a child of God.

Are you a Christian?  On what basis do you claim to be a follower of Christ?  Do you have proof that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is at work in our life bringing about the fruit of the Spirit in your daily lifestyle?  If not, you have reason to fear that you religion is empty and worthless.  If that’s true, you need to repent and trust Christ alone for your salvation.

 

The Sufficiency of God’s Word

The Sufficiency of God’s Word

This weekend I had the privilege to preach in the 2017 World Missions Conference put on by Berachah Bible Church in Fayetteville, Georgia.  Their local church does an excellent job of being intentionally engaged in the work of missions around the world and it was a joy to be with them this weekend where I spoke three times.

Last night, we wrapped up our time together in the 2 Timothy 3:16-17.  The focus of my sermon last night was on the Word of God as the source of our message for missions.  As we consider the Word of God—we must remember that it transcends culture, languages, geographic boundaries, socioeconomic levels, and nations.  The Word of God is sufficient for all of life and ministry—and must remain at the center of the local church’s work of discipleship and missions.

As Paul wrote his final letter to Timothy—his son in the faith, he urged him to find confidence in the Scriptures.  As Timothy was charged to pastor the church in the city of Ephesus, a very difficult context to serve, Paul reminded him that he had a sufficient source for his preaching ministry and his mission work in Ephesus.  Before Paul finished his course, he wrote one final letter and pressed urgently upon Timothy to remain faithful in his calling.

Paul pointed out the nature of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16.  The source of Scripture is found in God Himself and is sufficient, infallible, inerrant, holy, and authoritative.  John Piper once said these words:

The sufficiency of Scripture means that we don’t need any more special revelation. We don’t need any more inspired, inerrant words. In the Bible God has given us, we have the perfect standard for judging all other knowledge.

This is why we don’t need the heavenly tourism literature that has become so popular in our day.  Books such as, 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven Is For Real.  Such books undermine the sufficiency of God’s Word and never communicate anything beyond what God has already adequately revealed to us in the pages of holy Scripture.

Paul also pointed out the necessity of Scripture.  God’s Word is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.  When the pastor stands to speak on the Lord’s Day, provided that he is speaking from the pages of Holy Scripture—he has something profitable to say.  It is through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word that the Holy Spirit Himself corrects us and reproves us.  If we continue in a spirit of rebellion, it may be that our pastors will confront us with God’s Word.  This is a profitable work that leads to holiness.

Furthermore, Paul emphasizes the idea of training in righteousness so that the man of God (the pastor first and then he leads the people down the same road) will be “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17).  No matter what area of life we choose—excellence requires work.  In the Christian life, to become holy and faithful as we’re called by our Lord—it requires training in righteousness and what source do we look for this training?  Paul points Timothy to God’s sufficient Word.

No matter where we turn, the Scriptures are profitable for training in righteousness:

  • The Scriptures are profitable to teach about God.
  • The Scriptures are profitable to teach about marriage.
  • The Scriptures are profitable to teach about work ethic.
  • The Scriptures are profitable to teach about courtship.
  • The Scriptures are profitable to teach about politics.
  • The Scriptures are profitable to teach about business.
  • The Scriptures are profitable to teach about money.
  • The Scriptures are profitable to teach about sin, salvation, life, death, and eternity.

Praise God for His sufficient Word.