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In Defense of Christianity

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
May 12, 2023 12:00 am

In Defense of Christianity

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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May 12, 2023 12:00 am

Our faith is measured by good works – as the Apostle James taught us – but our good works are measured by how much joy we express while doing them – as the Apostle John will teach us. Faith without works is dead, and so are works without joy.

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Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, you ought to circle that little word, you can miss it. This is an implication of his resurrection. Jesus is the anointed Messiah. Listen, your unchanging, secure, eternal identity in Christ is possible because of that present tense verb. Because of his unchanging, eternal identity as your living Messiah. The Apostle John wanted believers to know for certain that their relationship with God was secure.

Isn't that something you want to know as well? Don't you want assurance that God has really saved you? He wrote about that in 1 John chapter 5, and today we begin a series from that chapter entitled, Without a Doubt. We're going to look at how we can know for certain that we belong to Christ, and we'll see how our lives form an authentic, compelling defense to the reality of the Christian faith. Stephen's calling today's lesson, In Defense of Christianity. Several years after the death of the Apostle John, right around 125 AD, a man by the name of Aristides attempted to defend Christianity to the Roman Emperor by the name of Hadrian, and his defense was scripted and it became known as an apology or a defense of the Christian faith.

I read much of it, whittled down just a few lines, and I want to quote from it as we begin. He wrote this, Christians persuade others to become Christians by the love they have for them, and when they have become so, that is when they become Christians, they call them without distinction, brothers, and if there is among them a man that is poor and needy, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with necessary food. They observe the commandments of their Messiah. They live honestly and soberly. They praise God for their food and their drink.

They render him thanks. Such is the law of the Christian, and such is his manner of life. As we return to John's first letter, 1 John, he used the word in the last two paragraphs, love, and he used it 27 times. It's little wonder that his earlier nickname from the Lord, a son of thunder, would be changed by the early church over time to the apostle of love. He loved the Lord, he loved the church, he loved the word, he loved his children in the faith, he desired they walk in truth, and he longed to see that more than anything else.

But this apostle of love could also be entitled or nicknamed the apostle of certainty. In fact, in his closing remarks, which we have categorized as chapter 5, which we're going to cover not today, but over these next few months, the verb to know is repeated seven times. We know that we may know that you may know. He wants us to lock down some truths.

It's going to appear over and over. If you wanted to write a headline over chapter 5 to define effectively the theme of these verses, if you wrote the words without a doubt, that would be right on the money. The first truth that John wants to lock down for us is what it means to be a Christian. John, the apostle, doesn't want any doubting, any apprehension over who we are and whom we belong, so he launches in his first phrase into what we'll simply call, for the sake of an outline, our family kinship. Notice the first part of verse 1. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.

Stop there for a moment. Now, to understand the tenses of these verbs is to understand his meaning. John is saying that the person who continually, persistently believes that Jesus is the Christ is revealing that they are alive in God, that they have been born again. The evidence of being born again is that you believe that Jesus is the Christ, that you belong to the family of God. By faith in him, that faith demonstrates that you have been brought to life by means of the Holy Spirit, the truth of the gospel, in the person of Christ. Now, to believe means you are putting your trust in. To believe that Jesus is the Christ, that's loaded, and we dealt with that in this letter. That's freighted with theological truth. To believe that Jesus is the Christ means that you believe that Jesus is more than a man, that he was a good teacher, he was a good model, somebody we're trying to live up to, glad he came to earth and lived for 33 years or so, unfortunate the way he had to die. Now, if you believe that Jesus is the Christ, it means that you are believing that he is the divinely anointed Messiah.

Beloved, you will never come to terms with who you are until you understand who he is and find in him your identity and kinship. Now, let me point out what he points out, and that is his reference to our family fellowship. Last part of verse 1. And whoever loves the father, loves the child born of him.

Now, that's pretty self-explanatory, isn't it? If you love God, you'll love his children. If you have fellowship with the father, you're going to enjoy the fellowship of the assembly, those who claim him as father. In fact, Jesus Christ had effectively said earlier to his disciples, the world will know you are my disciples, if I could insert here, by how many times you pray. The Lord will know you are my disciples by how many times you gather to worship. The world will know you are my disciples by how many verses you can quote. Those, by the way, are wonderful things, but that isn't what he said.

In fact, the world isn't really going to pick up on any of that. Truth is, there are religions out there that meet more than we do. What they're going to sense as uniquely different, Jesus said, they will know that you are my disciples by your what?

Love. That's unique. That's unique. That's supernatural. This was the remarkable characteristic referred to by Aristides as he wrote to the Roman emperor.

In fact, the scoffer and unbeliever, Julian, the Roman emperor who wrote later in the fourth century, said this, and I quote him. I love this. Their teacher has implanted the belief in them that they are all related.

Isn't that great? Their teacher has implanted in them this idea that they are related. They actually consider themselves members of the same family.

Imagine that. By the way, it isn't a matter of compatibility, is it? It's a matter of genealogy. We happen to be brothers and sisters because we track back to the Father who gave us a life by means of the Spirit. We demonstrate our life by believing in God the Son as our anointed Messiah.

So it isn't compatibility. We haven't gathered here today because we're all just alike. We're very different, aren't we? We come from all over. In fact, I just started as one of the things we just began, this greenhouse class. It's one of the largest classes I've ever taught, about 140 adults. Some told me today they're going to come on Wednesday night, which is great.

It's about the last time you can jump in until I'll teach you to get in next fall. But we went around the room, and probably 120 of these individuals have begun coming to this church in the last 10 months. In fact, a few of them had only been here for six weeks.

Put all of us to shame. Six weeks, they're in the greenhouse. This young lady I met, I don't know if I mentioned this to you last Lord's Day, but she actually just began coming. She pulled in, she took a wrong turn, ended up in our parking lot, couldn't get out, just stayed.

A lot less effort to just stay than try to leave. She's now in our college ministry. I talked to her. They've come from all over in this greenhouse class. Some found us by driving down Tryon Road. Just popped into the welcome class over here.

Three families just asking and answering questions. And one of them said, well, we just drove down the street in greenhouses. The same thing. We thought you were a college.

We don't know what you were. And the sign is totally ineffective. It says Colonial. And it's pretty good flowers, which looks nice, but nobody knows who we are.

But at any rate, I'm off the track. But some of them listened to the radio. Some Googled on internet and found us that way. Most of them were invited by family and friends.

I did a little survey, which I like to do at the beginning of your greenhouse class to just kind of find out where everybody's coming from. And it's just all over the map as well. In this particular class, there are people from California, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, China, West Africa, Texas.

That's a foreign country. We have a contingency from Texas, I assume, huh? I mean, how are we ever going to get along, especially with those Texans? Let me do a quick survey.

How many of you moved down here from the north? Go home. I mean, welcome here. I keep forgetting. That's what I've been trained to say. Welcome. Who am I to say?

I was born in Minnesota, so thank you for having me. It's fascinating to observe the early church in Antioch in Acts chapter 11, the place where Christians were first rather derisively called little Christs, Christians. It was a slanderous name that stuck that we love to this day. They were first called Christians in Antioch. This was a city where church was planted and led by men from a diversity of ethnic, educational, societal, and even racial backgrounds, just a hodgepodge. In Acts 11, 21, it's a great text where it says, and the hand of the Lord was upon them.

I love that. So the folks in Jerusalem hear about it. It's not a church plant. So they sent Barnabas down there to check it out, and he goes over to Antioch, and it says, and he witnessed the grace of God and rejoiced. Isn't that wonderful? The apostle Paul would later write to the Ephesians of their faith and love for each other, I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and your love toward all the saints.

Why? Because we belong to one another in this family fellowship. A true, genuine, authentic New Testament church does not open its doors to only one social strata. A true church doesn't focus on one age group. A church doesn't pursue only one social demographic. If you can believe, when I was in seminary, that stuff was all the rage targeting a demographic. A church does not accept only one ethnic background or one race.

That isn't a church. That's an embarrassment to the gospel of Christ and the grace of God. The gospel of God's grace supernaturally produces, and those willing to work toward it, harmony in the midst of diversity.

It isn't a matter of uniformity. It's a matter of unity in the spirit by means of sound doctrine, Titus chapter 1. In fact, when you think about it, the church really isn't considered a mixture of races as much as it is considered the creation of a new race. Brand new by our second Adam, Jesus Christ, who's created the race so that we could be called a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people. I love that translation. A people of his own, uniquely belonging to him.

Why? So that we can show forth the praises of him who has called us all out of darkness into this marvelous light, 1 Peter 2. We then are equally united by faith, made brothers and sisters in Christ. So we not only share a family kinship in Christ, we demonstrate a family fellowship. Frankly, John says here, if you love the Father, you're going to love his children too, no matter where they came from or who they are. Throughout this letter, the apostle John has stressed this characteristic of love, hasn't he? In chapter 2, he writes, the one who loves his brother abides in the light, chapter 2, verse 10. In the next chapter, he writes, by this, the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious. Isn't that interesting? It can be obvious?

How? Those who belong to God practice righteousness and love their brothers. In chapter 4, even more pointedly, he says, if someone says, I love God and hates his brother, he's a liar.

He's speaking within the context of the assembly. Also in chapter 4, he exhorts the church. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God. In my research, I found this interesting quote by Manutius Felix, a Roman lawyer who lived also in the second century. And he wrote this about the Christians, and you can kind of hear his bewilderment.

He can't quite figure it out. He says this, they, the Christians, they love each other without really being acquainted. Isn't that great? Isn't that true? There is this immediate relationship.

You found it true on that airplane, in that classroom, at work. You find out that person is a Christian, and it's like you leapfrog over 10 years of having to get to know them. There's just this immediate foundation in Christ, even though you are just barely acquainted. That's actually the work of God. John now throws a twist into the next phrase. Look at verse 2. He's still talking about family fellowship. By this we know that we love the children of God when we love God. You'd think he'd write, by this we know that we love God when we love the children of God.

That's not what he said. He turns it around. By this we know that we love the children of God when we love God.

That isn't a slip of his pen at all. He's telling us that our family fellowship is traveling full circle. We love God the Father, and we demonstrate it by loving each other. We love each other, and that's a demonstration that we actually love God the Father. He's talking about revealing our love for each other and for God the Father when we notice. Observe his commandments, for this is the love of God that we keep his commandments. You might circle the word observe and the word keep.

They sound redundant, but they have a little different nuance. Before I get to that, note here the word for commandment is not referring to the Ten Commandments, or even some list of Old Testament commandments uniquely given to the nation of Israel. In fact, nine of the ten are repeated to the church in some way, shape, or form, except for that Sabbath commandment, which was uniquely a sign of Israel's commitment to God. The word for commandment in the New Testament is simply a broad reference to the word of God. It's the word of God. In fact, our Lord even characterized his teaching as a new commandment. John 15, 10. Now, I want you to notice what John says were to do with the commandments of God, literally the word of God, those truths applicable to the New Testament believer. In verse 2, he writes to observe them. That means practice them.

Physically put them into shoe leather. In verse 3, he writes that loving God is evidenced by the way we keep his commandments. That verb, to keep, is a little different. It has the connotation of stewarding this treasure, of protecting, of guarding, of keeping watch over the word of God. You love the word of God. You're in the word of God. You're reading the word of God. You're practicing it, but you're guarding it. You treasure it.

That's what you do with something you treasure. You watch over it of God. By the way, we understand that these commands of God are given by a God who loves us, who wants to protect us. He might say, don't touch that because he knows. Will we listen to his revelation or will we have to experience it? One author said, his commandments are not intended to weigh us down.

They are wings to help us fly. Great quote. Which is exactly, by the way, the verdict that John is drawing here. Notice the last part of verse 3. He says, and his commandments are not burdensome, which carries the idea of this oppressive weight.

It's the same word translated savage. Paul used to the Ephesian elders when he said, I know when I leave, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. In the book of Acts chapter 20 verse 29.

It's also the same word translated heavy, as Jesus described the heavy legalistic burden the Pharisees were placing upon the shoulders of the Jewish people. Matthew 23 verse 4. If you want to please God, here's the burden. Isn't that the contemporary view of God to this day? You're a follower of God?

Is he a killjoy or what? Christianity? What a drag on life. No, the truth is exactly the opposite. There is no heavier burden than a guilty conscience. There's nothing that weighs you down like sin. The tyrant of sin stoops you over. Jesus Christ promised that his truth, however, would set us what?

Free. John 8 32, not drag us down. In fact, Jesus said, take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. My yoke is easy. If I were to ask you, give me a word for Christianity, none of us would say easy, would we? In fact, we've discovered it's impossible, apart from the spirit of God, which is perhaps lost in the translation.

What does it mean my yoke is easy? You've got to travel back to the days of Jesus Christ, even today around the world, actually. Go back to the time of Christ where he was a carpenter before entering the ministry. He would have a farmer bring him an ox and he would take a piece of wood and he would create a yoke. He'd first take measurements of that ox, his neck size, the breadth of his shoulders, and then he'd go to work carving based on those measurements. And when he'd carved out that yoke, he'd have that farmer bring that ox back and he'd set it on the shoulders of that ox and he might sand a little here, plane a little there, take off a little more over here because he knew it wasn't sitting in a balanced fashion.

It would chafe, it would rub one part of that ox and it would pull and it would hurt. So he had to just make it a perfect custom fit. That's the idea. My yokes are easy.

My yokes are custom made to fit your shoulders. Personally designed. So then his demands become good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12 to. The Christian life isn't a drag. His demands become our delight. Why? Because of our kinship with him and our fellowship with the family.

Doesn't mean it's easy in the sense we think of easy. The Spirit of God enables us to pull in that harness and with that yoke that Jesus has custom made for us and he loves us and we love him. Craig Barnes, a pastor and author for many years, illustrated it this way. He said, when I was a child, my father, also a pastor, brought home a 12-year-old boy named Roger. His parents had just died from a drug overdose. There was no relative to care for Roger so my folks decided to adopt him and raise him as if he were one of their own sons. At first it was quite difficult for Roger to adjust to his new home, an environment free of heroin addicted adults. So every day, several times a day, I would hear my parents saying to Roger, no, no, that's not how we behave in this family.

No, no, you don't have to scream or fight or push to get what you want. No, no, Roger. We expect you to show respect for members of the family. Roger began to change over time. He makes the following point. He says, now did Roger have to make all those changes in order to become a part of the family?

No. He was made a part of the family simply by the grace of my parents. But did he then have to do a lot of hard work because he was in the family?

He bet he did. And it was tough. Change always is. Everything he'd ever known was now different and he would have to work at it, but he was motivated by gratitude for the incredible love and grace he'd received by being brought into this loving family.

Craig Barnes makes an application. Let me read it to you. Do you have a lot of hard work to do now that the Spirit has made you a member of the family?

Yes, certainly. But not in order to become a member of the family. You were made that by grace. Oh, but now you've got a lot of work to do. The Holy Spirit will often convict you when you slip back into the addictions of your old, selfish, sinful ways.

No, no, no, uh-uh. That's not how we act in the family. And we're all learning what that means, aren't we? Now, having expounded on these three verses, let me wrap up our study. I want you to just listen as I read again from Aristides' Apology or Defense of the Christian Faith. Aristides wrote, The Christians persuade others to become Christians by the love they have for them. And when they have become so, that is, and when they have become Christians, they call them, without distinction, brothers. And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with necessary food. They observe the commandments of their Messiah. They live honestly, soberly. They praise God for their food and their drink, and they render him thanks. Such is the law of the Christian, and such is his manner of life.

Isn't that good? That just sums up 1 John 5, 1-3. Let me give you undeniable evidence of the truth of Christianity, the way Christians respond in faith to Christ, the way they relate to one another in love, the way they observe the commandments of Christ with praise and thanksgiving. It may be said of us, Such is the law of we Christians.

Such is the manner of our lives. You've tuned in to Wisdom for the Heart, and this is the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. From the very beginning of this ministry, Stephen has often reminded us that we are empowered by prayer. I invite you to join our global prayer team and pray for us. You'll find information about the global prayer team at forward slash prayer. We also want to pray for you. We have a team of people who pray for the requests that come in. Learn more or submit a prayer request at forward slash prayer. And then join us next time as we bring you more wisdom for the heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-12 00:40:12 / 2023-05-12 00:50:00 / 10

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