Monday, May 24, 2010

Grow! Grow! Grow!

Photo credit.

Preached at Northwest Christian Church

David P. Kautt

Sunday Morning, May 23, 2010

1 John 2:12-14: “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to receive a letter from someone like the Apostle John? I mean, if he were writing a letter to us – today – what would he include in such a letter? What would he say to us?

I had the unique opportunity and privilege this last week to be the scribe, the secretary for a friend of mine who asked me to help him put together a letter he wanted to send to a friend of his in prison. It wasn’t that my friend needed help construction what he wanted to say in the letter. As he dictated the letter to me, there was no doubt in my mind that he KNEW what he wanted to communicate to his prisoner friend. The reasons for his letter and the intentions he had in mind to accomplish through his letter were very clear to him. All he need was a scribe – I was that scribe!

I want you to take a look at this Book. What is it? What do we have here before us? We call it the Word of God, don’t we? We refer to it as the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, the Book of books. But, what I want you to consider with me this morning is how that this Book – this best of Books – is, in fact, God’s letter to you and to me. Oh, yes, I know that it was penned - inspired - transcribed two, three - in some cases - nearly 4,000 years ago, and yet because it is Holy Scripture, a word from our Infinite and Eternal God, it is a time-less, or perhaps I should say “for all times…” Book. It is in fact a letter from God in this case, through the apostle John, to us – to us!

What kind of letter do we have here? What is it that the Spirit of God has prompted the apostle John to write to us? And, what are we to learn from it? What are we to do in response to it?

The first thing I was reminded of - as I sat on my couch last week, with pen and paper in hand preparing to serve as my friend’s scribe - was that a letter, at least the way we write letters, begins with a greeting, an introduction, an address to the recipient of the letter. “Dear Friend,” were the words I jotted in behalf of my friend in the letter he wanted to write. But, look at what the Spirit of God directed the apostle John to write; he addresses us in a similar way in verse 12. He speaks to us as “little children”. In verse 13, he addresses some as “young men” and others as “fathers”. And, the same goes for verse 14, as well: “little children,” “young men,” “fathers”. Why would God prompt John to use words and phrases like that to address folks like us? Well, perhaps it is meant to communicate the love and concern that God and this servant of His, the apostle John, have for folks like us. When God looks at those who belong to Him, through His Son, He looks at them (at us) as His children! As those who are DEAR to Him!

Another reason I figure the apostle John uses the different ways of addressing his recipients – “little children,” “young men,” and “fathers” – is because he’s looking at a congregation of believers in Jesus, made up of various individual Christians who are at different levels of spiritual growth and maturity. Each are dear and cherished by their spiritual mentor, the apostle John; but each are at various locations on the road toward maturity in Christ.

The Spirit of God led John the Apostle to address his readers, the recipients of his letter, using differing words – words meant to express tender concern – and words meant to acknowledge the unique spiritual location of each person reading the letter. And, yet, I’d like you to think about this part of the letter – the beginning part – for just a moment or two longer. Could it be, that at least part of the reason for the different forms of address here, in verses 12 through 14, is not merely to acknowledge the varying degrees of spiritual maturity present in a congregation such as this one, but also to spur each one of us – “little children,” “young men,” even “fathers” to greater levels of spiritual growth?

I mean, you think about it with me, will you? “Little children” – “spiritual babes” we might call them, as far a God is concerned, that’s the starting point, the beginning place for all of us - when it comes to our walk with Christ. In fact, Jesus said that unless we become as children, we cannot enter His kingdom! But, listen. Listen. While “little children” may be a great starting point – hear me, please – as far as our Father in heaven is concerned, it is no supposed to be the ENDING POINT, too!

Grow, little children; grow toward young manhood. Grow, young men; grow toward fatherhood. Grow, yes grow, fathers, grow to be even more like your Father in Heaven! Grow! Grow! Grow!

In looking at a letter, like this one here, or even in transcribing a letter – as I did last week – there’s something to learn, something worth noticing with respect to the way in which the letter writer addresses the recipient. But, then – secondly, there is something to gain from examining the CAUSE behind the letter, too! Take a look again at these three short verses, and let the Beloved Apostle – “John, tell us, will you. Why did you write this letter?”

Now look at verses 12, 13 and 14, and notice how very clearly and powerfully the apostle John answers that question for us. “I write to you because…”

1 John 2:12-14: “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.

What is the Spirit of God meaning for us to see through these because statements? Well, the first thing I believe He intends is a very simple thing. Think of it, “I write to you, little children, BECAUSE your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake…” “I write to you, young men, BECAUSE…” I write to you, fathers, BECAUSE…” Through these “because” statements the Spirit of God directed John to inform us of this simple truth: this is a letter for Christians. This is a love letter from God the Father to those who have come to belong to Him, through Jesus Christ. In other words, this letter was not designed to be an evangelistic tract, a gospel pamphlet to be distributed to those who are OUTSIDE of Christ. But rather, it was meant to be a tool for edifying and equipping God’s people. And notice how it accomplishes that goal: it does so by bringing folks like us back to the foundation of our faith, forgiveness of sin, knowing Christ – the Word of God abiding in us, and waging war against the enemy of our souls!

Dear Friend,” “little children,” “young men,” “fathers” - these are the ways letter writers address the recipients of their letters. “I write to you because…” Because your sins have been forgiven for His name’s sake; because you have known Him Who is from the beginning; because you have overcome the wicked one. “I write to you because,” these statements let us in on what prompted a letter like this letter.

But, then, go one step further with me in this look at John’s letter to us. I want us to consider what John might have intended – the goal the Spirit of God had in mind – when He directed John to write what he wrote. “I write to you BECAUSE your sins have been forgiven for His name’s sake!” As we pointed out earlier, this statement – and the 5 or 6 other “because statements listed here – are powerful reminders of a Christian’s spiritual state or status in Christ!

In Christ we are forgiven. In Christ we are known BY and able to know God the Father. Yes, in Christ we are strong and victorious because of God’s indwelling word! But, listen. With every one of those “because” statements as to our spiritual status, comes an implied exhortation, a challenge, a command! Verse 12 – Yes, dear children, in Christ your lives are marked by the forgiveness of your sins!

But, don’t stop there! Grow! Children, grow! Pursue a life of sinning LESS and confessing MORE! That’s the way toward greater spiritual maturity! Grow with respect to dealing with your sin! Remember 1 John 2:1-2?

1 John 2:1-2: “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the whole world.”

And you, young men, I write to you “because you have overcome the wicked one!” Because you have won some victories, in Christ, over lust and greed and pride and anger. But, don’t stop there! Grow! Arm yourselves with more of God’s holy armor. Stand firm in His strength, and most of all keep fighting, because there are MORE battles ahead, and MORE victories to win – in Jesus Christ! Grow!

Then, thirdly, the apostle John speaks to the fathers, to those who have grown spiritually to such a point that they now are helping to give birth to spiritual children. What does the apostle John say to them? He says, “Grow!” Yes, through the implied exhortation wrapped up in his “because you have known Him who is from the beginning” statement, the apostle John challenges even the spiritually mature to keep on growing! You have know Him! Yearn to know Him MORE. To the spiritual fathers among us, maybe the apostle John is urging you to say back to him, “I want to know Him more! Would you make room for me, allow me to lean with you on His breast!” “I want to know Him more!” Or, how about the spiritual mothers in our midst - that should be your plea as well! “Make room – sweet Mary of Bethany – make room for me at Jesus’ feet!” “I want to know Him,” “I want to soak up all that He has to say!”

If the apostle John were to write us a letter, today, what kind of letter would he write? What would he say to us? In this letter, intended originally for Christians living in Asia Minor near the end of the First Century AD – he wrote to the tender little children - the spiritual babes – to the strong young men, and to the spiritual fathers of those congregations. And he wrote because of the spiritual fruit, the fruits of repentance and salvation that were evident in them.

I wonder, if John were writing me a letter, a letter to us, would he be able to list the same series of “because” statements? Would he? Furthermore, I wonder – if our lives were “letters”, written on the tablets of other Christians’ hearts (see 2 Corinthians 3:1ff), what message from the Lord would those Christian brothers and sisters be receiving? I wonder…

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How Do You Know that You Are a Christian?

Preached at Northwest Christian Church

David P. Kautt

Sunday Morning, May 16, 2010

1 John 2:7-11: “Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

How do you know that you are a Christian?

You know, there are a lot of important questions to consider across the course of our lives. This last week, my family and I encountered several of these all at once. I bet your experience was something similar. For example, we received invitations from at least two young friends to attend their graduation ceremonies, as they complete their high school education. And, the question up for consideration when such an opportunity arises is – what next? “What do they plan to do with their lives?” Then, along comes Friday – never a dull moment around our place – and, two more questions to wrestle with. Both of these questions were prompted by phone calls that came our way. “David, my dad just died and we’re trying to find someone to conduct his funeral service. Would you be willing and available?” the caller inquired. The significant question raised by that caller’s questions is obvious, isn’t it? “Am I / Are we ready to die?” No one knows where or when or how death will come – but, surely – we al know it will come! And, surely, surely, we must be ready!

The other phone call I answered on Friday was no less significant than the first one. Unlike the first caller, the young lady’s voice on the end of the line was not familiar to me. She asked, “Would your church building be available for a wedding on Saturday evening?” Here it was just barely 24 hours ahead of time, and then she asked, “If need be, would you be available to perform the ceremony?”

Once again important question were placed before me and my family. In this case, the one most relevant to our lives and our family – as we’re watching our children grow up on us – is, “Who will our children marry?” “Who does the Lord have in store for them as future spouses.”

How do you know that you are a Christian? All things considered, this question ranks at the top as far as importance is concerned! In fact, whether it be the crossroad of life we call high school graduation, the intersection of two lives and two families being shaped into one new family at the wedding altar, or the disruption of our lives by the end of someone’s life – all of these situations, and the questions they present to us, must be guided and governed by the answer to the question: How do I know, how do you know – that you’re a Christian?

The apostle John, guided by the Holy Spirit, places before everyone who claims to know Christ as Savior, three tests, if you will, to use in order to verify an answer to this question, “How do I know that I am a Christian?” Well, first of all, there is the “Right Behavior” test. 1 John 2:6, the last verse of the paragraph just prior to the one we read a moment ago, puts it like this: “He who says, ‘I am abiding in God – in Christ – must walk [must live] his life just as He (Jesus) walked.” In the third verse, John declares, “Here is how we know that we have come to know God, if we keep His commandments…” You understand where the word of God is going with this, don’t you? The test of right behavior is the test of obedience to God. Or, to put it another way, the first way John urges us to answer the question, “Are you a Christian?” is by placing before you yet another question. And that question is what I call the ‘How You Live’ question.

The third benchmark, the third guidepost or self-test God’s word challenges us to perform is one we have not encountered yet in our study of First John, but if you’d like to mark it down, simply note that it is the “Right Doctrine” test. In light of the apostle John’s question: “How do you know that you are a Christian?” – through this letter, the Holy Spirit inspired John to ask us, “What do you believe?” “What do you believe as to the Identity and Uniqueness of Jesus of Nazareth?”

We’ve looked at benchmark #1. In the future days, the Lord willing, we will look at benchmark #3. But, for today, at least, it’s time to stop and examine benchmark #2 – self-test #2, the Test of Right Relationships and the question “How Do We Love?” How do we love?

This second test is unique in a way, compared to tests #1 and #3. And, yet it is quite similar to the other tests. In simple terms, the similarity is that all three of the tests place before us a command (or a group of commands) that the Lord hands down to us through the apostle John. Think of it this way, the Right Behavior Test revolves around God’s command “This is how My children must live!” And, the Right Doctrine Test revolves around God’s command, “This why My children must believe about My Son!” In a similar fashion, the Right Relationships Test – the benchmark we have stopped to examine today – revolves around a command of God also. That command is: “This is how my children must love.”

Though all three of these benchmarks have some similar features, there also is a uniqueness to each one. For a moment, let’s consider the uniqueness or uniquenesses of benchmark #2 - the How I Must Live command. To begin with notice with me that - according to verse 7 of our study text – this command to love our fellow Christians is actually an old commandment… I wonder what that means? But, then take a look at verse 8. No sooner has John informed us that this command to love one another is old - he turns right around to tell us that it also is new! Read the text with me again.

1 John 2:7-8: “Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.”

How is it that one of God’s commands can be both OLD and NEW? Let’s see if we can untie that knot…

This command to love our brothers and sisters in Christ – it is old. “How old?” you ask. Leviticus 19:15-18. Going all the way back to the days of Moses, the lawgiver and the children of Israel as they left Egypt and made their way to the Promised Land – 1,400-1,500 years before John’s time, plus 2,000 more years to bring it up to our time - at the heart and center of God’s instruction to His people to safeguard justice from partiality and prejudice – at the heart and center of God’s instruction to His people to safeguard one’s heart from thoughts of hatred and grudges and one’s hands from acting on that hatred by taking vengeance when God alone had the right to carry out vengeance; at the heart and center of these God-ordained instructions given 3,500 years ago are these words:

Leviticus 19:18 – “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

This command, this benchmark, is old! It is found in, of all places, the Old Testament, the Old Law as we sometimes call it. And yet, 1 John 2:8. And, yet it is new… it is new. How so? In the margin of your Bible beside verse 8 of our text, or if nothing else write it in your memory, store away this tidbit. Two initials, two letters with periods after each letter: J.C. J.C. The old commandment of Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself” is new, infused with fresh meaning because of J.C. – whose initials are those? Jesus Christ’s. When God’s Love Gift came into our world in the form of His Son Jesus Christ, He showed us what it meant to love one another. John 13:33ff – take a quick look again at the thirteenth chapter of the gospel of John with me, would you please? The scene is the upper room, on the night when Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, on the night when Jesus was deserted, abandoned by Peter and all the rest, on that fateful night what does Jesus do?

Well, we learn from the records of the other gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – that Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper in that upper room, and takes His disciples forward just a few hours to the ultimate expressions of Love at Calvary! But, notice also, from the record that John supplies of this scene, we learn that Jesus brings the old commandment of Leviticus 19:18 back to the ears of His followers. And then, through what He does when He takes up a pitcher of water, a wash basin and a towel – and what does He do? Through His humble washing of His disciple’s feet, Peter, James, John and even Judas Iscariot, Jesus infuses this old commandment, “Love your neighbor,” with fresh meaning! Verse one of John 13 tells us that Jesus loved His own to the end. And, coupled with that – with that humble, servant-like expression of that love – He offers these words:

John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

How do you know that you are a Christian? Benchmark #2: the ‘Love Test’, as we are calling – it sets before us this probing question: Have you washed anyone’s feet lately? Have you dispensed a cup of water to someone in Jesus’ name lately? Have you visited the fatherless and the widows lately? And, have you done it, not to get the attention and approval of men, but did you do it because of Christ? Because you love and want to honor J.C.? “A “new” commandment I am writing to you,” John declares, “which thing is true in Him – in J.C.” The question, however, is: “Is it also true, it is also real, a fact, a reality, in you and me?” There are some who say, “I am in the light”, however, according to verse 9, at the same – think of the contradiction John underscores here – at the same time these false brothers and sisters are claiming to be “in the light,” their hateful actions and attitudes toward their fellow Christians proves that their claim is empty. It shows, rather, that they are in the darkness!

Beloved, let me wrap up this message this way: what is the GOAL of our study this morning? 1 John 2:7 – some might say that the goal of this sermon is to learn that a commandment has been written, Leviticus 19:18, John 13:34,35. Is that the goal? No! 1 John 2:7 – others might say that the goal of this study is to hear a word from the Lord – is that the goal? Merely to hear, but never to do? You know what the answer to that is, don’t you?

1 John 2:9 – What is the goal of this message? A false, phony, empty, even evil profession, “I am in the light,” masking the hatred that is in one’s heart? No! No! No! One more time – what IS the goal? 1 John 4:11 – that the implications of John 3:16 might be demonstrated in and through our lives. 1 John 4:12-16 – that the impartation of God’s Life and of His Divine Nature might be evident, proved and prove-able in our lives. 1 John 3:10-11 – that the fact that God is our Father might be indicated in and through our lives. 1 John 2:8 – that the answer to the question, “Am I a Christian?” might be “yes!” “Yes!” “Yes!” - because the new commandment to love my brothers and sisters in Christ is true, real – a fact – in you, as it is in Jesus Christ!

Monday, May 10, 2010

One of God's Best Gifts

Preached at Northwest Christian Church

David P. Kautt

Sunday Morning, May 9, 2010

A billboard out on Central Expressway, what would it look like? What it says? What it doesn’t say? I’d like to put on one of those big billboard this message: “Godly mothers are one of God’s best gifts.”

Now think about it with me, will you my friends? What the message didn’t say was: MOTHERS are one of God’s best gifts – though I believe mothers are very important in God’s grand scheme of things. But that’s just it, isn’t it?! Any woman – any young woman of sufficient physical health and maturity can bring a child into this world, right? And, sad to say, we have many of those kinds of mothers these days, don’t we?

But, listen. What we don’t have a lot of these days are GODLY mothers. And in my estimation, this is one of the key ingredients that’s missing from our society and so many homes and families in our day and time. GODLY mothers.

Now, let’s think this through for a minute, shall we? “GODLY mothers.” What does that word ‘godly’ mean? It means “God-like.” In other words, when boys and girls look at their mothers, more than seeing her, as undoubtedly she is – as their maid, their chef, their chauffeur and their doctor – they ought to see what GOD is like. Now, don’t misunderstand me, for a mother some of the most important daily venues in which she is to reflect God’s nature and character are those very venues! As she cleans their home – and, by the way, as she guides here children to learn how to make their home neat and clean – by her attention to detail, by her cheerful spirit, by her attitude of “I’m doing this to glorify God and bless my family,” she serves as an extremely powerful model to her little ones (and big ones, too!). In all of that, she’s a model of what it means to be a Christian! What it mean to be godly.

You see, the godly mother, she shows her children what GOD is like. Yes, as she pushes that broom and tugs on that vacuum cleaner; as she kisses their ‘owies,’ as she tenderly applies ointment and band aids to skinned knees; as she tirelessly rocks her little ones through the pains of ear infections and stomach flu – what does she do? She shows her children what it means when God says, “I am merciful and compassionate to my children!” God uses you, as a mother, in those uniquely, God-given responsibilities of motherhood (and, not in something else, not in some other way.) Mom, in your tasks of cooking and cleaning and nursing and mending, God uses YOU to impact your children, those precious ‘arrows’ HE has placed in your quiver. God uses you to touch their lives for His sake and for eternity!

What am I trying to say? Two things, really. Godly mothers, Christ-like mothers. Number one – we need more of them, not less of them! You know, as important as other influencers may be to our children’s growth and development, no one – NO ONE can replace a mother’s supremely important role, as one of the two most vital people in children’s lives! So what am I saying? Mom, you are important! And your exemplifying Christ in your work as maid, chef, chauffeur and physician to your children is important! Don’t let the world tell you otherwise!

Godly mothers. We need more of them, not less of them!

And the second thing I’m trying to say is this: “Mom – ‘a godly mother’, ‘a Christ-like mama’ – does that description fit you? Is that what you are?!”

Let me point you in the direction of some ways to evaluate yourself, and along with that, some help for those of you who want to become a godly mother.

First things first: This Book, the Bible, the Word f God, this unlimited resource of divine wisdom and guidance about every area of life, including motherhood – this Book is our starting and ending point! Advice columns, library ‘top-shelvers,’ check-out stand periodicals, even ‘family’ wisdom handed down from one generation to the next – none of these can compare to or should ever take the place of THIS Book! This is our Source, your Source, Mama! And God’s sufficiency supplied to you, so that you can carry out that role!

Now, having said all of that, Mothers, how can you know if you’re a godly mother? What characteristics of Christ-likeness should be especially evident in your lift in that unique role you play?

Allow me to suggest the following areas for you to investigate further, as you seek to become all God wants you to be. First of all, I invite you to think about your voice. Mothers, when God wants your children to hear words of love, when He’s looking for someone to say to your children, “I’m glad God made you!” does He use your voice? When your little ones’ Heavenly Father is searching for someone whose voice – both in terms of WHAT that person say, and HOW he or she says it – when God is looking for someone to say to your son or daughter, “I love you!” doe He use your voice? Ladies, He wants to. His desire is to use your voice in that way!

Think about it with me, will you? Please find Proverbs 31:26. This is Solomon’s magnificent description of the excellent wife, the wife and mother whose godly character surpasses all others.

Proverbs 31:26: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.”

What does Solomon say in answer to these questions?

Listen, sisters. He says, “When God is looking for someone to speak words of love and tenderness and truth to your children, He wants to use you! He wants to use your voice!” And how will that come to pass? It will come to pass when you have the law of kindness on your tongue, and God’s eternal wisdom flowing from your mouth.

Now find Proverbs 10:21. What does Solomon say about the lips of the righteous, about your lips, my dear sisters, if godliness is what your life is all about? Proverbs 10:21: “The lips of the righteous feed many.” Think of it! Your lips can actually serve as God’s instruments to nourish your children, if your goal is to be a GODLY mother! Jot down these other verses to look up along these lines: Ephesians 4:15 and Ephesians 4:29. “but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ.” and “Let not corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”

So mothers, you are important, supremely important to your children, and to their becoming all God intends for them to be. But listen, more than chefs and maid and chauffeurs, what your children need and what God wants you to be for these He has made in such a fearful and wonderful way is for you to be godly! And you begin that right here with your mouth, with your lips, with your voice – in the things you say and how you say them, in allowing God to use you to speak words of love and truth and Biblical wisdom to your children.

But then, what about those times when your children – young or not-so-young – are hurting? What is it that they need? A band aid? Maybe. A dose of cough syrup? Maybe. Some of that white ointment on their scratchy places? What do they call that stuff? “Chigger-ex?” Or perhaps a few stitches in their arm? Maybe.

No, dear sisters. You think about it with me… when your little ones or your gown ones are hurting, whether it be physically or otherwise, what they need the most is comfort. And who do you think God’s Holy Spirit – the Comforter that Jesus promised to send in His place – who do you think He wants to use as His human agent for that comfort? To me, the answer is simple, yet oh-so-significant. God wants to use you! When your children need comfort, when the world of people and problems, either child-size or adult-size, has socked it to your children, when their hearts are broken, their tears are falling, and maybe even their blood flowing… when your children need comfort, their Heavenly Father wants to hear you say, “God here, use my arms, use my hands!” “Use my arms and hands, just like Jesus used His arms and hands to touch, to bless and to hold the little children.” (See Mark 10:13-16). When your children need comfort, Ladies, would you, would you allow Him to use your arms and your hands?

Now let’s look at Proverbs 1:8-9. “Listen, my children, to your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching, for they will be a crown to grace your head and a lovely necklace to adorn your neck.”

And Proverbs 6:20-24: “My children, keep your father’s commands, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them like a necklace around your neck. Then, as you go through life, they will watch over you; and when you’re awake, they will speak to you. For your father’s commands are like a lamp, and your mother’s teaching is like a light, and the correction and discipline they give you are the way to life. They will keep you from immoral people – from the seductive words of wayward sinners.”

What is Solomon saying? What is the point he is trying to communicate to his children about their mother? Ladies, mark this one down, and you children, you ought to circle this one, too! Mothers – oh, certainly you have a big job cooking for hungry girls and boys. (And in case you hadn’t noticed, they prefer your cooking over that of anyone else.) And it’s a big job washing and drying all their laundry, even showing them how to take care of their clothing, and taxiing them from one ball game to another band concert – all these things and your servant leadership in these things is important. But listen, dear sisters, listen to Solomon, God’s inspired spokesman. When God is on the lookout for someone to instruct your children, when He is searching for someone to enlighten your sons and daughters on that subject that is at the very beginning and foundation of wisdom and knowledge, and I mean the fear of the Lord *, guess whose hand He hopes to see go up as the very first volunteer? That’s right! He wants to use your mind to teach them! Think of it, sisters! What an incredible opportunity! What a sobering and humbling responsibility! God wants to use your mind to teach them about His mind! That’s what my imaginary bill board message means when it says, “GODLY mothers are one of God’s best gifts.”

Mother’s Day. I don’t know if you’ve noticed it or not, but I’ve noticed that perhaps more than at any other holiday or special day through the year, whether it be Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, Valentine’s Day or any other special day, perhaps more than any other time of the year, more special meals are being enjoyed, more boxes of chocolate and bouquets of roses are being given, and more long distance phone calls are being placed on Mother’s Day than at any other time of the year! I think that’s wonderful! You mothers deserve all that extra attention!

But you know something? At some of those dinner tables and over some of those telephone lines, there’s an awkward silence – and uncomfortable ‘distance,’ even though mothers and their children may be in the same room! Why is that?

Take a look at 2 Corinthians 6:14 and following **. Have you ever heard of the concept of being ‘unequally yoked’ with unbelievers? To me, one of the saddest things about Mother’s Day is when mothers and their sons and daughters get together for lunch, or when they talk to each other on the telephones and instead of celebrating the wonderful, warm intimacy and mutual understanding, because they are all coming at life from a Biblical view, instead of that closeness and unity which God intended for there to be in families, there is separation and disharmony! They are unequally yoked! And why is that?

Hear me, dear sisters. The reason so many mothers and their sons and daughters are distant is because some have chosen to follow Christ, and some have not! Bu listen, ladies. Here’s the really important part for you. What is one of God’s very best gifts? Remember the bill board message? It says, “GODLY mothers – GODLY mothers are one of God’s best gifts!” So here’s the deal. If your children – especially your grown children are godly and you are not – don’t be surprised that there’s an awkward silence or an uncomfortable distance between you and them! More than likely, when they’re looking for someone to understand them, to share Biblical fellowship with them, if you’re not a godly mother, they won’t look to you. Why? Because, sad to say, as an unbeliever, there’s just no way you can truly understand them or fellowship with them.

Oh, but listen sisters. Listen! What a celebration your Mother’s Day meal with them this afternoon would be if you – right now – would give your heart to Christ! If you – at the end of this service – would step out and respond to God’s gracious invitation to salvation! Equally yoked! Equally yoked – that what you would be!

Godly mothers. They are one of God’s best gifts. Why? Because, when little ones as young as Hannah, Kayla, Bear and Noah John, and bigger ones like you and me, need to hear words of love, when they need to know that somebody understands them, guess what, ladies? If you’re a GODLY woman, a Christ-like mother, He looks to you – to your voice, to your mind, and to your heart to provide what is needed. Isn’t that amazing?

But then, one more thing – really, the most crucial of all. GODLY mothers – why are they so important? You know a moment ago I described what is probably the less likely scenario, the unequally yoked situation where the division, the separation between mother and children is due to the mother’s unbelief, the fact that the mother is not a Christian – that’s the less-likely situation. Now, let’s consider the situation from the other way around. The children are the ones who are lost and bound for hell. How will that unbelieving son or that wayward daughter come to know Christ?

Dear sisters, I don’t want to make it look more simple than it is, especially when we’re talking about unbelieving grown children. I know I’ve not been a parent nearly as long as most ofyou have, but one thing I am learning is this: the seeds of lifestyle and behavior, attitudes and priorities, habits, friendships, influences and thought patterns that we as parents allow to be sown into the hearts and minds, souls and spirits of our children – even at Cody and Jaden’s age – no doubt about it! No getting around it! Those seeds will grow! They will flourish and yes, they will bear fruit – good fruit and yes, bad fruit, too.

So, what’s the point? What do you mothers, and we fathers too, need to keep in mind here? Hear me well, Beloved, this one final question. When our children ask about God, when they want to know who Jesus is and how to be born again – does God use our faith to help them come to know Him? Do they see Jesus Christ living in us? Or does the One who gave His Son to die for them have to point them to another godly woman or man to be the example of Christ-likeness they need? Allow God to use your faith!

Godly mothers. They are one of God’s best gifts! And I trust that we, who are the children of those dear women, will let them know today and regularly, how grateful to God we are for them.

Let me close with this prayer. “O God, you are the Perfect Parent. You know our children so well, so much better than we do. You know their inner needs. You watch them growing and truly understand them. You care deeply for them and love them so sacrificially. For these reasons we ask for Your help in raising them. No, Lord, more than that. More than Your help, we ask that You bring them up! We hand them over to You! Just don’t let us get in Your way. Don’t let us interfere with Your parenting them! But, dear Lord, when you need human help, use us! Use us! When they need to hear words of love, use our voices. When they need comfort, use our arms to cradle them. When they need instruction, use our minds to lead them into insight from Your mind. When they need understanding, someone who really knows what they’re going through, use our hearts. And most of all, when they ask about You, use our faith humbly lived out before them, so that they too will come to know You as their holy Father in heaven. In Jesus’ name. Amen. “

* Proverbs 1:7 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” And Proverbs 9:10-12: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you. If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you will bear it alone."

** 2 Corinthians 6:14ff: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate,” says the Lord. “Do no touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Who Does He Look Like?

Preached at Northwest Christian Church

David P. Kautt

Sunday Morning, May 2, 2010

1 John 2:3-6: Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know we are in Him.

One of the things that parents (and grandparents) the world over since the days of Adam and Eve have done and continue to do on the day their new little one arrives safe and sound is to ask: “Who do you think he looks like?”

Oh sure, brand new parents do things like count their little babies’ fingers and toes to make sure nothing is missing, and they shed tears of joy and hold their precious bundles up close. But perhaps more than any other new-parent ritual, this one – the one where they ask, “Who do you think he looks like?” is most significant.

“Who do you think he looks like?” “Who do you think she looks like?” Why would new daddies and mommies ask a question like that? What is it they want to know when they ask that question?

Have you ever heard someone exclaim, “I just had to pinch myself to see if it was really happening to me – to see if I wasn’t dreaming or something”? You know why young parents ask, “Who do you think she looks like,” don’t you? It’s because they can hardly believe that this new little bundle of joy is theirs. “We just had to pinch ourselves,” they squeal, “because we could hardly believe that she had arrived – that she really was ours!”

I love memories like that, don’t you? I love thinking about new parents rejoicing at the gift of a little baby, one of God’s very best gifts. But, allow me to turn a corner here, if I may, by asking you to consider this question as it connects to the message of our Scripture text: “Whose child are you?” “To whom do you belong?” I mean, when God the Father in Heaven looks at you and me and asks the Lord Jesus, “Who do you think he looks like? Who do you think she looks like?” does He see His likeness in you and me? Do we look like Him?

Now, before you and I start searching our purses and pocketbooks for a mirror to take another look at ourselves, allow me to invite you to open up this “mirror” – the Word of God – to see first of all what God looks like. Will you join me in doing so?

As those who claim to know Christ and to be known by Christ, to discern what we are supposed to look like as Christians, we must first have a good understanding, a well-informed Biblical understanding of what God looks like, of who and how He is! First John – this divinely inspired letter, penned by the apostle John – is a good place to start on this quest. Take a look with me, if you would.

What does God look like? Who is He and how is He? 1 John 1:5 starts us off by declaring that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all!” And verse 7 adds that He is “in the light.” But what does that mean? What is the Scripture teaching us about God when it indicates that He is light and in Him there is no darkness at all?

Take a look at the verse sandwiched between verses 5 and 7 – and along with that verse, verses 8 and 10 – to uncover the answer to this question. “John, what do you mean? What are you telling us when you declare that God is light and that in Him is no darkness at all?” The answer is in verses 6, 8 and 10. Light and darkness. Do you see it there? Light and darkness are opposites! They have nothing to do with each other. And light and darkness are connected with truth and falsehood respectively.

So put it all together with me for a minute, will you? When the Bible says that God is light, it means that He is true, He is the Truth. And that no darkness – no lies – no falsehood are in him!

Look at 1 John 2:29 and 1 John 3:7. What does God look like? Who is He and how is He?

1 John 2:29 says, “If you know that He is righteous” – there’s our answer, right? “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.” Whew! That verse has a lot to say, doesn’t it?

And look at 1 John 3:7 with me for just a moment, will you? What does this verse tell us about who God is and how God is? 1 John 3:7 – there’s the phrase again, do you see it? The verse says that “He – God – is righteous!” Don’t let anyone deceive you. Don’t let anyone trick you or fool you into believing something different. “God is righteous.” And take a look there – “Just as God is righteous, so also everyone who practices righteousness is as He is” – looks just like Him!

We’ve gleaned a fair amount of information, a working description of who God is and how He is! He is light - truth and in him is no darkness - no lying, no falsehood, no deception at all! And He is righteous. That’s who He is and how He is. But, now let’s come back to our earlier question, “Whose child are you? To whom do you belong?” I mean, when the Heavenly Father looks at you and me, and ask the Lord Jesus, “Who do you think he looks like?” does He see His resemblance, His likeness, in you and me? Do we look like Him?

I so appreciate the words of the apostle John, the words of the Spirit of God through him. Do you know why that is? It is because they are so simple! You go to some of Paul’s letters or to places like the book of Hebrews, and sometimes you almost get lost – maybe even confused – in the long sentences and the tightly woven logic. But not in John’s letters. He writes on a level I can handle. He writes simply. But, listen. Don’t misunderstand. He also writes straightforwardly, pointedly, even what we might call painfully, when he communicates the truth of God for our lives. A perfect illustration of this is the subject we are considering today. The subject of looking in the mirror to see if I really look like the One who is light and walks in the light! “John, can you help me? How can I know – really know – if I look like Jesus?”

1 John 2:3, 1 John 2:4, 1 John 2:5, and 1 John 2:6 – all four of those verses are the answer the Holy Spirit gives us through the apostle John, and all four of those verses say it in the same simple, pointed and yes, even painful sort of way. Here it is: You know – you can know right now if you look like Jesus by asking yourself one question: “Am I obeying God?’ “Do I keep His commandments?”

Simple, isn’t it? No long sentences. No tightly woven logic to unknot. I can know. I can discover whose I am by examining whether or not I am obeying God consistently.

Now, let that settle in for just a moment.

Those who truly are God’s children show it, prove it, by their obedience to His commands. It is simple, isn’t it? But it’s also pointed – ouch! And, it’s even painful!

Let’s look again at the text, shall we? How important is it to obey God? Verse 3: obedience to God is an indicator that we have come to know God. “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know we are in Him.”

Verse 5 – Obedience to God. How important is it? To obey God, to keep His Word is to open up the way for God’s love to be brought to fuller maturity in me. Or to put it another way, when I obey God, my love for Him grows!

Verse 6 – Obedience to God. It’s so simple, isn’t it? But again we must ask, “How important is it?”

Looking again at this text and this verse, this verse stunned me. It grabbed my attention, because when it says, “He who says that he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked…” do you know what it is trying to teach us?

Here’s what it intends for us to know about how important obedience is. OUGHT - do you know what that word implies about obedience? It means that obeying God so that we will look like Him is not merely a good idea or some divine suggestion that God has passed down to us from heaven. No! Rather, it means that to obey God is my obligation! If I am going to claim to belong to God and to look like His son Jesus Christ, then I must obey God. I am indebted, under obligation to do so!

The words of the apostle John about belonging to God and looking like His Son, Jesus Christ really are very simple. But also very painful and pointed. Because they highlight our deficiencies and underscore Jesus’ supremacy! Jesus always lived to do His Father’s will. He didn’t merely preach, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done!” He practiced it! In fact, in one place He said that to do God’s will was like food to Him (John 4:34).

Yes, John’s simple words, “You can know that you know God, that you belong to the Father in heaven, by asking, ‘Do I keep His commands?’ ‘Do I make it a habit to obey Him?’”

John’s simple words along these lines point out in big, bold type, our deficiencies. I often don’t obey God, and when I disobey Him, I am – in essence – attacking His authority and the authority of His Word over my life. And when I disobey God, I am making myself out as someone who claims to be God’s child, when I disobey God, I make myself out to be a liar, and I make it impossible for me to be like Jesus, to follow His obedient example.

So, what do we do? “John, you’ve pointed out - the Holy Spirit speaking through you has pointed out – our deficiencies! And believe me, they are many! But can you help us? Can you direct us to Someone whose life isn’t marked by deficiencies, but by all encompassing sufficiency?” I love it! I love it, don’t you?

1 John 2:1-2. There is Someone. Who always looks like God, Someone who always proves it, by obeying Him! And guess what? He is our Advocate! But what does that mean? Two things: As we struggle with the impossibility of obeying God on our own, in our own strength, what does our Advocate do? He comes alongside us, offers us His strength, and declares to us, “Let Me help you make possible the impossible! Let Me empower you to do what you are otherwise unable to do!” He is our Advocate.

Secondly, here’s what that great truth means when it tells us in 1 John 2:1 that Jesus Christ, the righteous one is our advocate. It means that when we fail – and believe me, we WILL fail to obey God – as our Advocate, when we fail, guess what? He pleads with God to forgive us!! His propitiating blood covers our failures! Praise God!

Who do you think you look like? Let me close with one last promise to all who truly belong to God through Jesus Christ and one last exhortation.

1 John 2:3-6: Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know we are in Him.