Monday, November 8, 2010

Assistance and Assurance in Our Christian Walk

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, November 7, 2010

1 John 5:6-13, “This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.  For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.  If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God; which He has testified of His Son.  He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.  And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

“I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God”.  Last Lord’s Day, on that happy occasion of our son Jaden’s baptism, we began the message with this passage of Scripture as our study text, and with that ‘good confession’ as we call it, those monumental words of commitment, that faith declaration, as the starting point in our study. 

Today, I want to come back to those words and this study text, and consider their meaning and implications for Jaden and for the rest of us - ONE WEEK AFTER… 

Certainly, the waters of the baptistery are still, long since still, following Jaden’s baptism one week ago.  And, certainly Jaden’s body and my body are dry, after 7 days to get that way.  But, listen – there are at least two or three other things that are certain as well.  Allow me to remind you of what they are.  Number one, for Jaden, and in fact, for all of the rest of us who have made that good confession, and have been immersed into Christ for the remission of our sins, the discipling process, the task of growing in Christ is not over.  It is not finished, yet.  In fact, in Jaden’s case, in a way, you could say that it has just begun. 

Number two, though only 7 days have elapsed since Jaden declared his faith in Christ, and was baptized by God’s Spirit into the Church, the Body of Christ – let me tell you – those 7 days have NOT been 7 days FREE of temptation and testing in Jaden’s life!  Believe me, they haven’t!  Nor, have they been 7, temptation-free days for you, either!  Satan didn’t go on a leave of absence ever since Jaden walked this aisle!  No, I would dare to say that he has been even more at work trying to get him back!  And, he’s working on you and me to tempt us in that direction also! 

And, thus, there is one more thing that is certain.  Anybody have any idea what it is?  It is certain that, whether we are 7 days out, or 77 years out, since our confession of faith and baptism, it is certain that TODAY we need assurance and assistance in our faith walk with Christ, in this thing the Bible calls Salvation!

Guess what? That's exactly what God has provided for us, right here, in His Holy Spirit-inspired Word! Assistance and assurance in our faith walk with Christ.

Before we explore those two inter-related subjects let me point out something to you, that I think is critical for our understanding of this text and for going home with what God wants us to go home with from this text. Zero in on verses 10, 12, and 13 – and note carefully the words, “believe,” “believes,” and “has,” and “have”. I point out these words to you, to underscore for you their meaning and the implications of their meaning in the context of this passage. These four words, found repeatedly in verses 10, 12 and 13, although they come across in most of our translations in such a way that makes one think all that is involved in salvation is for a person to believe in Christ, we need to go deeper, to realize that when the apostle John says, in verse 10, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; and he who does not believe God has made Him a liar...” Literally, what God's Spirit speaking through the pen of the Apostle John is saying to us is this: “He who keeps on believing in the Son of God continues to have the witness in himself; [and] he who does not continue to believe in the Son of God has made God a liar...” And, the same kind of thing is true for the translation of those words found in verses 12 and 13.
So what am I saying? What's the point? Do you remember that I told you that at least 3 things are certain for Jaden, and for the rest of us who are Christ's followers – 7 days AFTER his baptism?

Number one – for Jaden (and for you and me, too), the growth process is not over – it has only just begun!

Number two – Satan has been working even harder to get Jaden back, since the events of last Lord's Day!

And, number three – it is certain that Jaden, and you and me, need assistance and assurance in our walk with Christ. Here's the point: what I'm trying to drive home in underscoring the continuing aspect of believing as it relates to salvation – two things, two phenomena that I have observed way too many times over the years! Here they are: number one – way too many folks have walked aisles like this one and said words like Jaden said, and gotten wet in a place like the place where Jaden got wet, only to dry off and not be any different! A confession of faith, and an act of faith, if they are not done in faith, not carried out by faith, then they are useless! Useless! The Apostle John writes, in verse 13, “I am writing – I have written what I have written here, to you who continue to believe in the name of the Son of God...” This letter is not written to those who participate in a few empty, religious rituals! No! This Book was written to Believers! To those who continue to Believe!

Second phenomenon I have observed way too many times over the years is this one – a person walks an aisle like this, confesses, sincerely confesses Christ like Jaden did, steps into the watery grace of Christian baptism, and is raised to walk in newness of life – then, BAM! I mean, almost that quickly – BAM! He's hit with, she's hit with the same old temptations, and the same old spiritual struggles! Then, what? Then, into the mind of that vulnerable, little babe in Christ flood thoughts like, “I must not really be saved! I mean, I thought I was! I repented of my sins, confessed my faith in Christ, joined Him in His death, burial and resurrection in Christian baptism, so, why am I being tempted like this? Why am I struggling with doubt and discouragement like this? I though I was saved...”

Look again at verse 13 with me, will you? And read closely and carefully. The Apostle John explains for us in simple, yet I believe, very, very meaningful terms here, WHY he wrote what he wrote.

1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Three reasons why, number one, as we already pointed out, he wrote to confront the problem of 'easy believism”. You know, walk this aisle, say a few words, get wet in there, and you're good to go. “He who keeps on believing in the Son of God has, is having the witness in himself, but he who does not continue to believe God has made God a liar...” The Holy Spirit directed John to choose words, yes, even to select very specific tenses and forms of words to state very clearly that easy believism, and the empty ritual that goes with it, won't cut it with God!

But, notice also – two other reasons why John wrote what he wrote. These come at phenomenon number two that I described a moment ago. Easy believism and it companion empty, religious ritual is one problem facing folks like you and me and Jaden. But, you know something? I think the problem that confronts and even obstructs far more of us is the problem of doubt! The problem, the naggin questions, “Am I really a Christian? Have I been truly saved?”

One day Jesus was making His way down from a mountain where, before the eyes of Peter, James and John – the same John, by the way, who wrote this letter – Jesus had been radiantly transfigured before their eyes... Still over awed by what had happened on that mountain, Peter, James and John walk with Jesus to meet the rest of the disciples and find them there, at the foot of the mount, striving with the religious leaders and, more importantly, struggling to help a man and his son, his demon-possessed son. Pick up the account with me, if you would, beginning at verse 17 of Mark chapter 9.

Mark 9:17-24, “Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Now, go back to 1 John 5:13, and read the text with me, one more time.

1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Why did the Holy Spirit direct the Apostle John to write what he did, in the way that he did? To confront the problem of easy believism, yes. But, I think even more significantly, to confront the problem, the difficult, gut-wrenching problem of doubt.

A moment ago we read in the gospel of Mark the account of a desperate father and his anguished cry for help, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” As we close, allow me to point you in the direction of a faltering disciple, a faltering disciple, named Peter, and in both cases, the case of the desperate father and, the case of the faltering disciple, allow me, most of all, to remind you of the Faithful Savior! The faithful Savior – Luke 22:31-34.

Luke 22:31, 33, 34, 32, “And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

You walk down this aisle, you sincerely confess Christ as your Lord and Savior, you step joyfully into that watery grave and are raised to walk in newness of life... And, about the time your feet reach the top step of the baptistery – BAM! BAM!
Cock-a-doodle-do!” “Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death!” “Didn't I just declare something like that a few minutes ago? And, haven't I just been joined with Christ in Christian baptism? I though I was saved? What's going on here? What went wrong?”

The problem, the deep, anguish-inciting problem of doubt! We've been there, haven't we? We have! But, look! We are not there, in that dark and dreadful place called 'doubt' alone! No! The one to Whom desperate fathers and faltering disciples cry out, “Lord, help my unbelief!” He's there! In that dark place! Yes, He's there! And, look at what He's doing for us there! Luke 22:32, 1 John 2:1, Hebrews 2:16, Hebrews 4:15 and Hebrews 7:25 – There in that deep, dark, dreadful place called doubt, Jesus our Advocate, our Great High Priest, our Mediator, is praying for us, that our faith may not fail! Amen? Amen!

Assurance and assistance! This Book, this portion of Scripture that we have come to love so much, the Holy Spirit directed the Apostle John to write it, so that desperate fathers and faltering disciples might have what they need: assistance and assurance, in their walk of faith with Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:13, “1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

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