Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sin's Devastating Effects

I Jn 5:16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. (KJV)

I recently preached a series of sermons at our church from the book of First John. What became very obvious as we went through the book, is the serious nature of sin and the toll it takes on the community of faith as well as the individual. Today, I want to briefly talk about the devastating effects of sin on the human body. Now let me preface my remarks by saying that I do not believe all sickness or disease is related to some sin in a person's life. We live in a fallen world and our outward man is perishing even though our inner man is being renewed day-by-day.

One of the first examples that come to mind are the believers at Corinth. In chapter 5 we read of a man who is involved in a form of gross sexual immorality. Because he (and the congregation) saw no need for repentance or discipline, Paul instructed the church to hand him over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Paul seems to indicate that sexual sins are particularly destructive to the human body:

1 Cor 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.(KJV)

To this same church, he also warned that coming to the communion table in an unholy manner and a reckless way could result in premature death as well as sickness. Yet another extreme but biblical example is that of Ananias and Saphira. Their sin brought immediate physical death. John stated that he wrote his epistle so that the believers would not sin (I John 2:1). Not only does sin have eternal consequences when not repented of, but it can have devastating effects on the human body.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Phil 1:33 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, (KJV)

I want to say a special thank you to all who read this blog regularly and contribute. I also want to thank God for His great salvation. I hope that all who read today will be blessed as they reflect upon the goodness of God. Thank God for the people in your life who make a difference.

In closing, please allow me to share a story about the late bible commentator Matthew Henry:

"Matthew Henry, the famous Bible scholar, was once accosted by thieves and robbed. In his diary, he wrote: "Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because they took my purse and not my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed." "

God bless you today

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mechanics of Bible Study (II)

In our last blog entry, we looked at some of the how-to's of bible study, using I John for illustrative purposes. We're looking primarily at chapter one in our example. So if we were going to begin studying the book of I John and beginning with chapter one, this is the way I would approach study. First, I would do as I spoke of in my last entry- read, read, and read it again. Next, I would try to determine the recipients and occasion of the letter. It is not 100% obvious from reading strictly chapter one (that's why I recommend especially with the smaller epistles to read them all the way through several times before beginning more thorough study) exactly what's going on in the Johannine community but there are a few clues.

First we see that John begins with an interesting phrase in his greeting:

I Jn 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (KJV)

Again, without reading the entire epistle it would be unwise to read very much into this, but if you had read the entire epistle you would realize there is some controversy regarding Jesus Christ coming in a physical body. So now the fact that John emphasizes that he has heard (with his own ears), seen (with his own eyes) and "handled" (leaned on his breast) Him takes on even more meaning.

We also see that this verse looks very similar to the introductory verse in the Gospel of John. We will later discover many similar themes between I John and the Gospel of John. In this same thought, we also see some repetetive words in this chapter, one in particular being "Light." A cursory reading or search of the Gospel of John reveals that the imagery of light is a popular theme in the Johannine writings. Walking in the Light is tantamount to living as Jesus did.

In this short chapter, we see this phrase three times "If we say....." so there are certain things we can gather from this. First of all, there are possibly some catch phrases or slogans that have floated around the Johannine community (much like the Corinthians were famous for "everything is permissable "). Perhaps false teachers or deceived persons are making false boasts or claims. One thing is certain, John is trying to alert the reader that verbal profession is not the basis for determining one's standing before God and his "walking in the Light." His deeds are what truly reveals one's spiritual condition and standing before God. In other words, John is concerned that people are actually "walking the walk" and not just "talking the talk."

We also see the word "fellowship" (Greek word Koinonia) repeated numerous times in this chapter. John (through the Holy Spirit) is concerned that his readers have true fellowship or communion with God and with one another. This is only possible when we have a proper understanding of Jesus Christ and the nature of saving faith. John will later offer one of the most transparent and blunt methods of discerning the children of God and the children of the devil in chapter 3, but he definitely whets our appetite for more in this introductory chapter.

Yet another powerful theme in this chapter is that of the nature of sin. We can immediately discern that some have a faulty understanding of the destructive nature of sin in one's relationship with God. It is impossible to determine precisely the meaning of these "if we say..." clauses but there are some pretty strong indicators. Either these professing this thought that they had reached a level of sinless perfection, or this is a foreshadowing of what would later become called "Gnostic" teaching (i.e. that "matter is evil."). Such a person would believe that the regenerated spirit was so pure that no deeds done in the body were considered sinful....obviously a doctrine of demons.

These are all weighty themes, and John will develop them further in his epistle. These are just some basic guidelines of how to approach a biblical text for study. I recommend that you read other books on the topic because there are so many different approaches out there and none of them are exhaustive. I think it's important as with anything else, to make your study fun. Mixing things up, using pneumonic devices, scripture memorization, and word studies can really breath life into the task.

Enjoy yourself...until next time!


Monday, November 06, 2006

Mechanics of Bible Study (Part One)

Again, I apologize that I seem to have such a difficult time updating my blog. I would promise to do better, but I seem to be really bad at good intentions too. Oh well, enough about me, let's continue talking about bible study. I wanted to first give you the spiritual dynamics (certainly not all of them, but a few) of bible study. Some things are rather straightforward, while others may not be so obvious to everyone. Having said that, let's look at some of the nuts & bolts of bible study today. Because I'm currently preaching a series at our church on I John, I thought I would use that epistle as an example. Let me share a few ways that I would approach my study of this book, and the first chapter in particular.

First, I would say to do what almost every "expert" (I'm not including myself in the expert class, just in case you were wondering) does when approaching a passage of Scripture. Read it, read it some more, read it again, read...well you get the picture. I know some of my friends reading this are probably of the KJV-only persuasion, but even if you do hold to this position, I encourage you to read a passage of scripture in numerous different translations, just to get a feel for the text. Sometimes the archaic language of the KJV makes it difficult to grasp the meaning of a particular word or phrase. I don't wish to engage in any type of bible translation debates, so please no hateful e-mails or comments (experience tells me I have to include such disclaimers...sorry).

Epistles in particular should be read all the way through in one sitting. This is the way we treat secular literature (especially letters or e-mails sent to us). We don't go "lucky dipping" in the middle of the letter to try to get the sense or tenor of the letter or e-mail. We read the greeting(s), introductory remarks, body of the letter, and the conclusion (or benediction). Reading an entire epistle helps us to discern the tone of the letter. Is it warm and familial? (John frequently uses the term "my little children" as an address in this epistle) Or is it more serious and corrective (as in Galatians where Paul gets right to the issue of false teaching/gospels)? Many commentaries are available which give the "occasion" of the letter, but I would suggest before you ever consult a commentary (as a matter of fact, I recommend that this is the LAST thing you do-and I will discuss this more indepth later) that you read and pray over the text yourself. In doing so, you will probably have a good sense of the occasion of the letter. Pay special attention to the recipients of the letter, personal pronouns and other descriptive titles.

Now in the example of I John, this letter begins with a strong similarity to the Gospel of John. Most conservative theologians agree that the Gospel of John, I, II, and III John, and Revelation have the same author (there are those who disagree, but I will not deal with that here for sake of time). Operating under that premise, it would be wise to be familiar with the other writings by this author. You will find that there are many similar themes between I John and the Gospel by the same name. For illustrative purposes, I'm really only going to deal with the first chapter of I John, but the "purpose statement" of this letter can be found in the last chapter. John says that he writes these things "that you may know you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God" (I John 5:13b). So it becomes evident by reading the entire letter through in one sitting, and paying attention to the "purpose statements" of this epistle (phrases like "these things I have written to you because..." or "I am writing to you so that.." or "I'm writing you because") that the Johannine community needs clarification or at least John through the Holy Spirit was concerned that they needed further information regarding the nature of salvation and assurance.

We will look at some more mechanics in the next entry-until next time.....