Face to Face Communication

January 31, 2016 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Bible - NT - Matthew, Confession, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Trials
2 John 12–13 (NKJV)
12 Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 13 The children of your elect sister greet you. Amen.
Today we bring to a close our series of exhortations on 2 John. John has reminded us time and again of the intimate relationship between truth and love. Truth and love are not competitors but companions. As we emphasized, truth is like our skeletal structure and love is like our flesh. Truth without love is dead and love without truth is an amorphous blob. Only truth and love together, bones and flesh together, enable us to serve Christ to the glory of the Father.
And because of this intimate connection between truth and love, John is not content simply to write to his audience. Written words are great; written words are important; written words can convey a lot. But written words cannot convey adequately the heartfelt love and loyalty that John had for this congregation. He wanted to speak with them face to face – so that they could not only read what he had to say but see how he said it. He wanted them to know how deadly these false teachings really were; how reliable Christ really is; how burdened John really was for their spiritual growth. There is no substitute for face-to-face communication.
John’s words remind us that when we are facing difficulties and challenges with others, the best remedy is face-to-face communication. Face-to-face interaction forces us to remember who this person really is; gives us an opportunity to clarify ourselves, to express our heart and to ask questions.
At no time is this face-to-face interaction more important than when someone has sinned against us. Jesus commands us in Matthew 18:15, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”Jesus commands us to pursue face-to-face communication with a brother or sister who has sinned against us. We are to “tell him his fault” privately – to speak to him, tell him the offense, and attempt to bring about reconciliation. We aren’t to give him the cold shoulder; aren’t to post his transgression on Facebook; aren’t to write him an email; aren’t to get even; aren’t to gossip to others. We are to go and tell him his fault privately. We are to seek him out face-to-face.
And the goal of this face-to-face communication is reconciliation. The goal is to re-establish peace and to again experience joy in the relationship. John writes, “I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.” Doing the (often) challenging thing of pursuing our brother or sister when there is tension in the air is the only way to eliminate that tension and reestablish joy.

So reminded this morning of our calling to unite truth and love and to do it by seeking face-to-face contact with our brethren, particularly when there is tension in the relationship, let us confess that we often grow cold and distant instead; that we often keep to ourselves, become resentful or indifferent, and rob ourselves and our brethren of joy. And as we confess these things, let us kneel before the Lord.

He who does not honor the Son…

January 3, 2016 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Bible - NT - John, Creeds, Heresy, Meditations, Trinity, Worship
2 John 9–11 (NKJV)
9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
Last week we learned that the Father and the Son are inseparable. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father; and he who does not honor the Father does not honor the Son. This unity of the Father and the Son is a major theme throughout the Apostle John’s writings. Alone among the Gospel writers, John records Jesus’ words to the disciples at the last Passover feast. The unity of Father, Son, and Spirit is a major theme of these words. Consider these statements that Jesus makes:
Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately… you believe in God, believe also in Me… He who has seen Me has seen the Father… Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me… the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you…when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me… He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority; but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
This inseparability of Father, Son, and Spirit explains why John takes such pains in our epistle to refute the errors of Docetism. It also explains why the Trinity was the first major debate in the history of the Church. Who is this God we worship? Who is Jesus? Who is the Spirit? The first commandment declares to us, “You shall have no other gods before me.” So who is this God we worship? He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The inseparability of Father, Son, and Spirit also explain why, as a congregation, we have prioritized reciting the historic ecumenical creeds together throughout the year. Depending on the time of year, we recite or sing the Apostles’ Creed, the Athanasian Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon. Each of these creeds reminds us whom we worship – we worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; we do not worship some abstract deity called “God”; we worship the God who revealed Himself in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ and who has poured out the Spirit to lead and guide us into the truth.
This morning, remember that it is this God, the Creator of all things and the Redeemer of His people Israel, who has called you here to worship. It is to Him we offer praise, before Him we confess our sins, to Him we present our offerings, from Him we receive instruction, and with Him we feast at the Table. And He is no puny tribal deity or idol, but the Living God who rules over heaven and earth.

So reminded into whose presence we have come and whom we are worshiping, let us bow before Him, acknowledging our sins and transgressions and asking Him to forgive us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Let us kneel as we confess our sins.

Allah is an Idol

December 27, 2015 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Bible - NT - John, Christmas, Ecclesiology, Islam, King Jesus, Politics
2 John 9–11 (NKJV)
9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
Today is the first Sunday of Christmas – a glorious opportunity to continue celebrating the Incarnation of Jesus. John’s words today remind us that the Incarnation of Jesus is not just an interesting fact of history that is relatively unimportant; rather it is the reality that shapes the very meaning of the name “Christian.”
Truth matters. Hence, to reject the “doctrine of Christ” – by which John means the reality of the Incarnation, that the Word of God, He who was in the beginning with God and was God, took on human flesh and dwelt among us – is to reject God Himself. Those who profess faith in “God” but who reject God’s Son do not worship God but an idol. They may be sincere; they may be kind; they may be gracious; but they are not worshipers of the true and living God.
John insists on the inseparability of the Father and the Son. We cannot have the Father without the Son; nor can we have the Son without the Father. Jesus Himself declared, He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (Jn 5:22-23). Consequently, John forbids us from recognizing as brethren those who deny Jesus. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
As you may know, Wheaton College was in the news a couple weeks ago for indefinitely suspending a professor for declaring that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. This action by Wheaton’s president Philip Ryken was encouraging. Like the Docetists whom John is addressing, Muslims worship an idol, they do not worship the Living God. Sura 4.171 in the Koran declares,
O followers of the Book! do not exceed the limits in your religion, and do not speak (lies) against Allah, but (speak) the truth; the Messiah, Isa son of Marium is only an apostle of Allah and His Word which He communicated to Marium and a spirit from Him; believe therefore in Allah and His apostles, and say not, Three. Desist, it is better for you; Allah is only one God; far be It from His glory that He should have a son, whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His, and Allah is sufficient for a Protector.
According to Islam, therefore, Jesus is not God. How then is it possible to confess in any meaningful way that Muslims and Christians worship the same God? One can only do so by repudiating the “doctrine of Christ” and ceasing to be a Christian in any meaningful sense. Allah is an idol; Yahweh is the Living God.
John’s words again remind us that we are called upon to worship the Jesus who has revealed Himself in history; we are to worship and serve the Jesus of revelation not the Jesus of our imagination. And this means drawing lines, making distinctions, and saying – what you are teaching is false.

As we come into the presence of God this day, therefore, we are summoned to come into His presence only in the Name of His Son Jesus, for there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. And reminded that truth matters, let us confess that we are often afraid to stand for truth and against error. And let us kneel as we confess our sins together.

Isn’t that a bit harsh?

December 21, 2015 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Church History, King Jesus, Meditations, Truth
2 John 7–8 (NKJV)
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.
For the last several weeks we have seen that John has emphasized the integral nature of truth and love. Truth and love are not competitors but companions. Last week we saw that love, in particular, has substance. This is love, John told us, that we walk according to God’s commandments. Love is not primarily an emotion but an action – keeping God’s commandments from the heart.
Today John reminds us again that truth matters. There were teachers in John’s day called Docetists who claimed to be Christians; they professed faith in “Jesus.” But the Docetist “Jesus” was a fiction of their own imagination not the Jesus who actually revealed Himself in history. The Docetists claimed that Jesus had only seemed or appeared to be an actual human being. In point of fact, however, he had been a spirit guide, come to teach us how to escape the prison house of our flesh and reunite with the Eternal Spirit. Jesus had not come in the flesh.
John’s evaluation of the Docetists is blunt. He labels them “deceivers” who had gone out into the world and who had no love for the truth. But John goes further. He writes that such a teacher is not only a deceiver but an antichrist. These teachers, John insists, are enemies of Christ notwithstanding all their fair words and profession of faith in him.
Judged by many today, John’s words are incredibly unloving. “How can he be so judgmental? Deceiver? Antichrist? Isn’t that a bit harsh?” But John’s words are merciful and gracious, a reflection of his deep love for his readers. How so? Because what the Docetists were teaching was damning. A Jesus who did not take on human flesh and offer Himself a sacrifice on our behalf is no Savior. Were these professing Christians to embrace such a “Jesus”, they would be damned and lose the reward, eternal life, for which they had been aiming. So John was being most loving, warning them that the liquid they were being urged to drink was not medicine for the healing of their souls but poison that would damn them to hell.
Once again, therefore, we see how imperative it is for us to take our notions of truth and love from Scripture. Love warns those who are in danger of the danger they are in. Love warns the people of God against the Jesus of Mormonism and Unitarianism and Liberalism and sentimental Americanism and Islam and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The “Jesuses” they teach and embrace cannot save you; they are no more powerful than an imaginary friend. But the Jesus revealed in Scripture, God Himself in human flesh, can indeed save for He actually lived, died, and rose again.

So reminded that merely invoking the name “Jesus” is not sufficient but that the Jesus we invoke must be the Jesus who has revealed Himself in Sacred Scripture, let us kneel and confess that we often prefer our own thoughts of Jesus to the Jesus revealed in the pages of Scripture.

Walk in the Truth and Rejoice in the Truth

December 7, 2015 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Christmas, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Faith, Love, Meditations, Sanctification, Truth, Word of God
2 John 4–6 (NKJV)
4 I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. 5 And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. 6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
Last week we emphasized that though it is common for people, including Christians, to pit truth and love against one another, the Scriptures do no such thing. In Scripture, truth and love are not competitors but companions. John continues this theme today – rejoicing that the believers walked in truth and calling the church to love one another. Truth and love go together.
So when we see truth and love united together and both being implemented by a group of people; when we see believers who are eager to understand the Word of God and, simultaneously, eager to put it into practice and sacrifice on behalf of one another, what should be our response? John tells us. He writes in verse 4 – I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.
As children of our heavenly Father, we are to rejoice greatly when we see others walking in God’s truth. Nothing should give us a greater delight than to see folks growing and maturing in the faith. That, John tells us, is something worth celebrating.
So consider a couple implications of John’s words. First, walk in the truth. John forces you to ask, “Am I delighting in the Word of God and so striving to bring delight to others who fear God?” We all know how demoralizing it is when those we thought were on our side suddenly start compromising with the enemy: when Judas betrays the Master with a kiss; when Benedict Arnold sells the colonies out of personal spite; when fellow Christians turn away from you in time of trial or hardship. Betrayal stings. So the first admonition is to treasure the truth – don’t betray the Father and so demoralize the brethren. Instead walk in the truth and so bring delight to those who fear and reverence God. Be a cause of joy to God’s people and a cause of grief to His enemies.
Second, rejoice in those who walk in the truth. The national media, our President, many of our elected officials including some of our local city officials, want you to rejoice in wickedness, to rejoice in those who despise God and show contempt for His Word. They want to shape your celebrations, to shape your delights. Don’t let them. Rejoice in what is good and true and beautiful. In other words, celebrate Christmas with gusto. Rejoice with the wise men, rejoice with Joseph and Mary and Zacharias and Elizabeth and Simeon and Anna. And call Herod, Herod the Tyrant rather than Herod the Great.

So this morning, reminded that we are to walk in the truth and to delight in those who do the same, let us confess that we are often prone to weakness, that we often cower in the face of criticism, and that we are tempted to rejoice in wickedness rather than in righteousness. And as we confess our sins to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able.

Boon Companions

November 29, 2015 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Ecclesiology, Love, Meditations, Truth
2 John 1–3 (NKJV)
 The Elder, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
It is common for Christians to pit truth and love against one another. On the one hand are those Christians zealous for truth: we must dot every “I” and cross every “t” and those who cross their “t” at a slant are suspect theologically. These folks become so zealous in their pursuit of the “truth” that no church is good enough, no teacher faithful enough – except for that internet teacher across the country with whom it is not necessary to engage personally.
On the other hand are those Christians zealous for love: we must be tolerant and accept one another no matter what. Are you teaching that Jesus’ resurrection is simply a myth and fable that celebrates the enduring power of the human spirit? That’s okay – we both believe in the resurrection, don’t we? Are you counseling married couples that it’s okay to divorce in order to achieve their personal happiness? That’s alright – we both believe in marriage, don’t we? Let’s all just love one another and accept one another and get along because, after all, “God” is love, isn’t he or she or it?
But John treasures both truth and love. He writes to the elect lady whom he loves in truth. He does this in company with all others who have known the truth, because of the truth which abides in us. And so he pronounces God’s blessing upon the elect lady and her children in truth and love. For John truth and love are not competitors but companions.
The relationship between truth and love – a passion for what God has revealed in His Word and for God’s people – is like that between our bones and our flesh. Truth is the skeletal structure; love is our flesh. Truth by itself is cold, hard, lifeless and as scary as a skeleton. Love by itself is a formless blob, unable to hug, unable to proect, unable to move. Our flesh and bones working together enable us to do all that which we want to do. And, spiritually, truth and love perform the same function. Each alone is lifeless and useless but together they enable us to glorify God and love our neighbor.
So John reminds us today not to pit truth and love against one another. We are to embrace with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength what God has revelaed in His Word – and we are to use what we’ve learned to love and cherish those whom God puts in our path.

Reminded of our tendency to pit truth and love against one another and to neglect one for the other, let us seek the Lord’s forgiveness and His grace to treasure them both. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess to the Lord.

The Church our Mother

November 25, 2015 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Ecclesiology, John Calvin, Meditations, Sanctification
2 John 1–3 (NKJV)
 The Elder, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
Today we begin a series of exhortations from John’s second epistle – one of the shortest books of the Bible. John identifies himself quite simply as “The Elder” who writes to “the elect lady and her children.” As an “elder” John identifies himself as one whom Christ called to shepherd a specific congregation in the fear of God. As such, John writes to the “elect lady and her children” most likely a reference not to an individual woman and her actual children but to a specific congregation and the members of that congregation. This is confirmed by the way he closes the letter. He writes, “The children of your elect sister greet you. Amen.” John’s epistle is a letter from his congregation to theirs.
Note, therefore, two things about John’s title for the church, “the elect lady and her children.” First, John personifies each local church as a lady chosen by God: he writes to “the elect lady” and his congregation is the “elect sister.” This means that Trinity Church too is a lady and to be treated as such. But not only is the church a lady, she is also elect – chosen, selected by God to represent Him on earth and to be His peculiar people. John’s choice of feminine imagery, not only “elect” but an “elect lady”, fits with Paul’s identification of the church as the bride of Christ.
Second, members of the congregation are called “her children.” John writes to the “elect lady and her children” and sends greetings from “the children of your elect sister.” The local, visible church, in other words, is our mother. And as our mother, we are called upon to honor her and support her, to esteem her and value her. John wants us to apply the 5thcommandment, to “honor your father and mother”, not only to our earthly parents but also to our spiritual parents. We honor the our Heavenly Father and we honor the Church our Mother, the bride of Christ. So even as Jesus, the husband of the elect lady, pursues her holiness, so we, as children of the elect lady, are to honor her in the fear of God.
Notice, therefore, that John’s manner of address expresses a robust theology of the church. Our local church, in our case Trinity Church, is our mother. Therefore, we are to love her in the truth. So John Calvin writes:
… let us learn even from the simple title ‘mother’ how useful, indeed how necessary, it is that we should know [the visible church]. For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels. Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives… God’s fatherly favor and the especial witness of spiritual life are limited to his flock, so that it is always disastrous to leave the church.
So what of you? Have you loved and cherished the church, devoted yourself to her health and growth, prayed for her children, contributed to her stability, preserved her purity? John reminds you today to honor your mother.

So having heard these words, let us confess before the Father the ways in which we have failed to honor our mother. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess together.

Communicating Face to Face

September 1, 2013 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Ecclesiology, Friendship, Meditations
2 John 12–13 (NKJV)
12 Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 13 The children of your elect sister greet you. Amen.
Today we bring to a close our series of exhortations on the second epistle of John. John closes his letter with a warm greeting from his own congregation. The children of your elect sister greet you.
In the midst of his conclusion, John writes words that rattle our increasingly depersonalized interaction with one another. John writes, Having many things to write to you… John informs us here that his second epistle isn’t short because he had no more to say – he had many more things he wanted to communicate to them. So why didn’t he include them? …I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.
As wonderful as it is to get a letter – John reminds us that it is yet more wonderful to have the person. And John’s awareness of this important distinction was built upon his years of fellowship with God Himself in the Person of our Lord Jesus. As wonderful as the written word of God is and as much as John treasured it, it was in Jesus that the light of the knowledge of God shone. Knowing Jesus enabled John to know the Word of God in its fullness. And so John wanted to speak with these folks, not just correspond with paper and ink.
So what is the equivalent of paper and ink today? Certainly we have stationery, but we have many other communication tools. Email, facebook, twitter, instant messaging, the telephone, even face time – all are substitutes for personal interaction, face to face communication. Many of them are wonderful tools, gifts from God that enable us to communicate with others when we are not face to face. But let us remember that none these things are a true substitute for the personal contact that John desires and that we desire. For it is that personal contact, modeled on the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, that makes our joy full.

One of the dangers of the many new technologies that we possess is that they can subtly separate us from one another by giving us the illusion of face to face contact. And so though they apparently bring us together, they can in actuality separate us further and spread the plague of loneliness. So John reminds us to pursue one another face to face, that our joy may be full.

And as we meditate on these things, let us remember that the origin of separation in our relationships with one another and with God is our own sin. We hid from God lest the light of His countenance reveal our rebellion. So as we come this day into God’s very presence in worship, let us not flee, but let us confess our sins and ask Him to forgive us through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. Let us kneel as we confess together.

Embracing the Truth

August 18, 2013 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Ecclesiology, Heresy, Meditations
2 John 7–10 (NKJV)
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. 9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him;
For the last two weeks we have explored John’s second epistle and seen that John unites things that many of us often attempt to divide. Today John tackles the topic of truth and informs his readers that truth matters and that Christianity has propositional content that enables us to evaluate false teaching.
The particular false teaching that John rejects was called docetism – docetists taught that the body is evil and that salvation is escape from the prison house of the body. They insisted, therefore, that Jesus could not have assumed a body – that would put him in the same dilemma as the rest of us. Jesus only appeared to have flesh and bones – he really was a spirit instructing us with secret knowledge on how to escape the body.
This, John tells us, is a damnable lie. If we do not get the identity of Jesus right, if we do not articulate the truth about Jesus, then we have neither the Father nor the Son. John informs us that the critical issue is not whether one believes in a person named Jesus but what one believes about him. Who is Jesus? Both Scripture and Christian tradition have always insisted that Jesus is God Himself in human flesh, the Second Person of the Trinity. He is “God of God; Light of Light; very God of very God…being of one substance with the Father.”(Nicene Creed)
Those who modify, twist, distort, or pervert this doctrine are neither Christians nor allies. Whether Unitarians who insist that Jesus was just a great man, or Muslims who insist that Jesus was just a great prophet, or Jehovah’s Witnesses who teach that Jesus was just the greatest of all god’s creations, or Mormons who teach that Jesus was just a man who earned his way to godhead – we are not to consider these nor their like as Christians or allies. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house [church] nor greet him [consider him your ally in the work of the Gospel].
Maintaining this stance is challenging in our day – we live in a religiously pluralistic society full of neighbors and friends who do not embrace historic Christianity and who consider such a devotion to truth out of touch. And so we often find ourselves tempted to compromise or downgrade Jesus’ claims. We are ashamed of the truth rather than embracing the truth.

So reminded of our call to embrace the truth and that we have at times compromised the truth instead, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.