Rejoicing in the Truth – 2 John

“I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth . . .” (2 John 4a ESV)

Truth is of utmost importance and absolute. Coming to understand truth is a privilege. If we have received the truth, we ought to study the truth, proclaim the truth, and guard the truth.

We’ve seen the significance of truth in our expositions in the John’s First Epistle. John was writing to believers who, like us, were threatened with lies from false teachers. John writes to them from the heart of a pastor, warning them about these wolves while assuring them of their standing with God. Reading the epistle inspires even 21st century Christians to defend the truth.

While examining, preaching, and contending for truth are vital disciplines, we must also ask: do we rejoice in truth? The truth that you guard from attack – do you truly love it? The truth you preach to others – does it delight your own soul? The truth that you parse, exegete, and scrutinize – does it bring you joy? Are you encouraged when others walk in truth?

The joy of truth is the spirit of John’s Second Epistle. Though much of the material overlaps with his first letter, the emphasis on rejoicing in truth stands out in the first few verses. Indeed, the epistle contains warnings against false teachers. But we do not start with a defensive or negative posture; rather, in our quest to see the truth of Christ exalted, we begin with a heart that is so captivated by the glorious truth of the gospel, that anything less or anything contrary is automatically spurned. Our hatred for every false way should be a natural outgrowth of our love for what is true.

As we prepare for our brief time in 2 John, let us ask the Lord to search our hearts and reveal our real attitudes toward the truth. Is truth something we use to win arguments, or is it something that has won our hearts? Is truth something we enjoy telling people to obey, or is it really our delight to walk in truth? Does hearing truth conjure up judgmental attitudes about others or does it cause us to rejoice in God? Brethren, let us remain diligent in our study of truth and vigilant in our defense of it, but most of all, let us rejoice in the truth and in knowing the Truth-Giver!

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The Church’s Call to Faith, Suffering and Help – Matthew 17:9-23

And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” Matthew 17:17

Imagine for a moment the disappointment that Moses must have felt after having been in the presence of the Lord God on the mountain for 40 days, to come down to find the children of Israel steeped in the idolatrous worship of a golden calf (Exodus 32). Moses was so upset by the shameless display that he actually smashed the stone tablets that contained the Law written by the very hand of God (Exodus 32;19). In our text for Sunday we find Jesus, coming down from His communion with Moses and Elijah and the very voice of His Father. As He does He is descending more than just a physical mountain; like Moses, He returns to find the enemy has triumphed over His faithless followers. Imagine how jarring it must have been to His heart to come from the heights of heaven to return to such an unbelieving company of disciples who were unable to cast a demon out of a young child.

There is an eternal difference between the experiences of Moses and Jesus, however. Moses came down the mountain, leaving God at the top; the disciples however, did not leave Jesus on the mountain; He came down with them. Now their failure is transformed into an opportunity to learn from Jesus and grow in faith, as the transfigured Christ who is the “Beloved Son of God,” now comes down the mountain as the “Son of man,” to teach His disciples how to live by faith, suffer, and help and serve others.

Faced with a demon-possessed boy, Jesus teaches that if the disciples had but a small amount of faith, nothing would be impossible for them (17:20). There is one reason that God’s people are not walking an overcoming, victorious walk; there is one reason that God’s people are not serving one another in love; there is one reason that Christians are not living as we ought – it is faithlessness. The good news though is that we can accomplish great things with even the smallest measure of faith. This is where we find the answer to our inability. The Father’s command in verse 5: “Listen to Him,” necessitates obedience, and obedience requires faith. May we exercise our mustard seed of faith to obey the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

Exodus 20:1-17 – The Ten Commandments of God to Israel

In His glorious covenant with Abraham, the Lord promised that He would make Abraham a blessing to many nations (Genesis 12) and also that Abraham would: a) have an heir, b) his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, and c) they would inherit the land of Canaan (Genesis 15). Today in hindsight and with the progressive nature of revelation, we can see how all of these promises have come to pass, but the fulfillment was not as evident at the time Moses wrote Exodus. Abraham had an heir and his descendants were many, but they were bound in slavery in Egypt. The Lord miraculously set them free from their bondage and is bringing them into the Promised Land. On this journey they are called to the very mountain on which the Lord spoke to Moses in chapter 3. In what is truly an epic event within Exodus and all of the Old Testament, the Lord will again speak; this time not only to Moses, but to all the people of Israel. In our text and the verses that follow, God gives what is known as the Mosaic Law. It is a covenant that God made with Israel.

We’ll open up our text with first looking at the giver of the Law who is none other than Yahweh! Then in verses 3-17 we will see how the Law reveals certain attributes of the Lord Himself! Finally we will find Israel’s reply after receiving the law. Israel already answered Moses and said, “All that the Lord commands we will do” (Exodus 19:8) and will affirm this again in Exodus 24:3. But of course, they could not keep their word.

Why could Israel not do as they said they would? Was there a problem with the Law? No; it was with the people’s heart. They needed the Law written afresh on their hearts (Deuteronomy 30:6-8). They needed to be born again! Their failure to keep the Law points the Israelites to their sinful hearts and their need to repent and trust in the Lord. The Law also points to the sinless One who would come and fulfill the Law completely. So, the Law points forward to Jesus Christ! (See Matthew 5:17; Hebrews 4:15; and 1 John 3:5). We will close the message looking at the many tests in the New Testament about the Law and its function in the life of the believer in Christ.

 

 

 

The Triumphant Messiah – Matthew 17:1-8

… a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” Matthew 17:5.

Following Peter’s great messianic confession at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus began teaching His disciples that both He and they must suffer (Mt 16:21-26). In order to encourage them in the midst of this, Jesus promised His disciples that, “there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Mt 16:28). Many find the answer to this promise in what takes place six days later when Jesus would take Peter, James, and John to a high mountain to be transfigured before them (17:1-2). These disciples witnessed Jesus Christ in all of His past and future glory, in the very form that He would occupy for all eternity after His resurrection.

With the transfigured Jesus were the two great figures of the Old Testament: Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (the prophets). Again it is impetuous Peter who speaks up with the typical human response to any great historical moment: “Let’s memorialize it!” He announced, “I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (17:4). No sooner does Peter say this, than God replies, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (17:5), leaving them with Jesus alone.

There are a number of things that we can learn from this momentous event. We see the continuity of the Old and New Testaments in the friendly conversation of Jesus with Moses and Elijah; we also find, however, the supremacy of Jesus Christ as the Beloved Son of God, who is more than a mere prophet like Elijah and who fulfills the Law of Moses. We also see our sinful human tendency to memorialize events with something physical to adore. And we find that Jesus alone is the final authority whom we are called to obey. The transfiguration also gave the disciples a hopeful glimpse of the future triumph of Christ and the restoration of His glory after He would suffer and die. This glory was that which was inherent to Jesus’s nature, which He had in the beginning when He dwelled eternally in the bosom of the Father. It was this glory that Jesus temporarily shrouded in flesh in the incarnation, the glory which now became visible for this brief but life-changing moment in time known as the transfiguration.

We Know that We are from God – 1 John 5:16-21

“We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19 ESV)

Next Sunday, we will conclude our time in the First Epistle of John. In the end of chapter 5 (verses 16-21), John reemphasizes themes that he highlighted elsewhere in his letter, including sin and righteousness, God and the evil one, and eternal life. In all these things, the context of the epistle aids our grasp of these elemental truths and their dire importance: John is writing to a church ransacked by apostasy; the people are questioning the faith and whether they belong to God. Once again, we must keep in mind that First John was written to grant assurance to Christians who are straddling the edge of doubt and despair.

Toward this end, John conveys three “we know” statements for encouragement: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning” (v18a), “we know that we are from God” (v19a), and “we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding” (v20a). In a world full of lies, it is vital for the believer to be reminded of these absolute truths.

It is true that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (v19b). John, of course, does not deny God’s sovereignty by making this statement. Rather, he is making a sharp distinction: we are from God whereas the world places itself under Satan’s dominion. This truth remind us of many things when all seems hopeless: 1. The world (that is, unbelievers) believes lies, sins, and hates truth because it is the world, 2. Sinners do what they do because they are under satanic power and need to be rescued, 3. We are citizens of an entirely different kingdom, with a different King, and therefore we behave differently, and 4. God is greater than the wicked one and will be vindicated.

When the actions and proclamations of the world discourage you, remember two basic truths: 1. Consider who the world is and 2. Consider who we are – we belong to God!

 

The Suffering Christ – Matthew 16:20-28

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things … Matthew 16:21

We have come to a new section of Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus begins to reveal His mission and work. Having understood the nature of the Person of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, the disciples will now be confronted with a different idea of the mission of Christ, than they were familiar with. While they acknowledged Jesus’ messiahship, they would now begin to learn that this Messiah’s work involved suffering and death, and to follow Him would likely mean their own death as well.

In this text we have the very first definite prediction of Jesus’ passion (which will be repeated in 17:22-23, and 20:18-19). The Jewish people’s idea of the Messiah, for the most part, was that he would triumphantly reign over the world from Jerusalem. The idea that the Messiah would go to Jerusalem to suffer, was beyond their ability to comprehend, so much so that Peter actually rebuked Jesus for having been mistaken in suggesting such a shocking thing. Even though Peter just confessed Jesus to be the Son of God, he had much to learn about what it meant to follow Him. Jesus revealed that Peter’s rebuke was the result of setting his mind on the things of self, rather than the things of God.

Jesus took this first revelation of His own suffering as an opportunity to teach the disciples about living a life of self-denial and even death to self; in verse 24 He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” For a disciple, to follow his teacher meant that he would live and die as his Rabbi did. So as Jesus did not live for himself, the call to discipleship involves repudiating every link that ties us to ourselves–in the words of one commentator, “obliterating self as the dominant principle of life in order to make God that principle.” To “take up one’s cross” unquestionably pointed to the humiliating practice of a condemned criminal carrying the very instrument of his own execution, through the streets, bearing the shame of onlookers, ultimately to his death. Ironically Jesus tells us that this is the only way to find true life. If our own physical well-being is the dominant principle of life, we will end up losing our lives. Practically speaking, this means that self-interest ends up killing us, while living for God and others results in real life.

The Testimony of God – 1 John 5:6-15

“If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.” (1 John 5:9)

As we wrap up our series in the First Epistle of John, we find ourselves back where we started – chapter 5. In these final words, John emphasizes the purpose of the book – that those who believe on the Son of God may know they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). We have therefore concluded, along with a multitude of commentators and preachers, that the primary intention of John’s first epistle is to provide believers with assurance.

Recall that we have emphasized that this assurance is based on faith in Christ. The more closely we walk with Jesus, the more we will be granted a blessed confidence that we are his. To bolster our faith, God graciously gives us witnesses – trustworthy sources that point us back to Christ. In the scriptures, we learn that creation is a witness to the handiwork and attributes of God. The prophets and apostles were witnesses to God’s power. Believers are witnesses of God’s working in their lives and are called to testify to one another. The greatest of all witnesses, however, is God himself.

John says in 5:9, “if we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater.” God himself is the ultimate witness giving the ultimate testimony. In God there is no deceit, no ulterior motive, no collusion, no reason for suspicion – he is the only pure witness. Called to testify, he points us to his Son.

The main point of 1 John 5:6-15 is that believers should have confidence because God has given us his testimony, which is greater than man’s testimony, that God has given us eternal life in his Son (v11). Now,  how does God testify? Verses 6-8 contain some statements that have been more difficult to understand. We are told in verse 6 that Jesus came by water and blood. Many see this phrase as referring to his baptism and death. We will dive more deeply into the meaning behind these terms on Sunday.

God has given us his testimony, and this testimony points us to Christ. Now, given the assurance that comes with receiving God’s testimony, what do we do? One of the blessings of this confidence is that we can go to God in prayer more boldly. John applies this message by concluding the section with, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” May we find greater assurance in God’s testimony of his Son.