Friday, April 26, 2024

Morning Message: Forgiveness and Refreshing

Bobservations' Column
Titled - "Forgiveness and Refreshing"
Written by:  Pastor Bob Lawrenz

With the text today, we learn something about God’s commandments, and the underlying truths which help us make sense of why God has given them to us and given them for us. The idea of Jesus being our Lord reminds me of Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ tomb when she realized to Who it was that she was speaking. Much more than the gardener, she heard His voice and recognized it, responding, “Rabboni,” which is Hebrew for “Master.” Jesus our Lord, and Master is a benevolent, kind, loving, gracious, and forgiving Lord over us. The Apostle Paul called himself a bond-slave to Him, and thought it an honor.

“But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19), gives us a reason to willingly become His bond-slave too; no more striving to supply our own daily needs. Jesus will supply!

When benevolent slave-owners of 18th and 19th century America found a loyalty among their servants, they did not have to leave after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. And Biblically, it happened also, In Exodus 21:5,6, when a slave was to be given his freedom at the year of Jubilee, he could say, “I love my master, I love my wife, and my children, I will not go out free.” The master would take the slave to a door, or doorpost, and put an awl through his ear, designating the servant-slave’s desire to remain under his benevolent master. Kind and considerate masters would honor such loyalty, and the servant would remain “on the job.” But it happened by mutual agreement between the master and the slave. A scared earlobe was the evidence of such an agreement. And the master would continue to supply for the needs of that servant and his family.

While the concept of “owning” another person is repugnant to much of the world today, slavery and servanthood continues in many cultures. And the evidence of a Christian master/servant relationship in the Church are the scares carried by our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Love, loyalty, and obedience grow.

John 20:27-29 - "Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

Bobservations' Column: Audio Version

Sunday Morning's Audio Message:
1 John 1:9-1 John 2:14 - "Forgiveness and Refreshing"

Summary/Additional Commentary and Definitions:  

1 John chapter 2 acts as a guide for all believers, reminding us that our relationship with God is reflected in our actions and love for others. In a world filled with distractions and false teachings, we are encouraged to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, abiding in His truth, and continually growing in spiritual maturity. As we walk in obedience and love, we can be assured of our place in His eternal kingdom.

John's focus on right fellowship with God, includes a lifestyle of overcoming sin. Believers are not to continue in a lifestyle of sin (1 John 2:1). However, if and when they do sin (a single act), John reminds them that Jesus Christ is our Advocate with the Father. (1 John 2:1). Through Jesus sacrifice on the cross, he is not only the propitiation for our sins, but the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2). Those who keep His commandments are demonstrating that they truly know Christ (1 John 2:3). Those who do not keep His commands, but say they have fellowship with Him, are liars (1 John 2:4). Those who walk in Christ, as Christ walked, give evidence that they are "in" Him (1 John 2:5–6).

John continues to remind believers that we are commanded to love one another (1 John 2:7–14). John mentions "commandment" or "commandments" nearly a dozen times in this letter. Three of these mentions are in this single verse. He begins by noting that these directives are not new but are existing instructions, and he is simply giving a reminder to live as Christ (1 John 2:7). Hate for one's spiritual brother or sister is incompatible with fellowship with Christ. Love for one another is evidence of a close relationship to Christ. The believer who loves his brother abides or remains in the light, which is Christ. Those who do not, in contrast, are in darkness—they are at minimum failing to obey Christ's commands (1 John 2:9). Love is the single most important sign which the world uses to identify a Christian. Those who love their fellow brother show they are "in the light" (1 John 2:10). John's writing includes an important poetic section in verses 12–14.

Lastly in today's teaching, John addresses various stages of spiritual maturity—children, fathers, and young men. The Word of God applies to all believers in whatever stage of maturity they are in.

Keep in mind that John is countering the false teachings of the Gnostics and reminding true believers not to forsake the teachings of the apostles, the teachings which they have heard from the very beginning of their faith, but to continue in faithful obedience, and discerning between truth and lies. 

Key Words and Definitions with Reference:

Confess Our Sins (1:9) - The term confess means to say the same thing about sin as God does; to acknowledge His perspective about sin. Continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation. God wants us to live with a clear conscience and a pure heart (Matthew 5:8; Psalm 24:4). This is only possible when we regularly confess and forsake our sins, keeping the model of Jesus ever before us (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1). He never had to confess His sins because He never committed any (Hebrews 4:15). Since we have inherited a sin nature, and are prone to sin, we need to learn how to confess our sins regularly both to God and to other people so that we can live free of guilt and shame (Colossians 2:14).

Cleanse Us (1:9) - "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all."  (1:5). He calls us to walk in that Light, not in darkness of our sin, the sin that separates us from Him. The Bible makes it clear that every human being is born into this world as a sinner (Romans 3:23). That sin makes us ceremonially unclean and unfit to enter into the presence of God. The blood of Christ is what washes our sins away (1 John 1:7; 1 Peter 1:19). The way to deal with sin is to repent and confess it as soon as we recognize it. Otherwise, guilt will weigh heavily on us. We must be willing to admit our sins to ourselves. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me,” said David in Psalm 51:3. We injure ourselves and hamper our relationship with God if we try to hide or deny our sins: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). But if we are honest with ourselves, we can repent and confess our sins to God and experience His forgiveness and cleansing (Acts 3:19). God continually cleanses those who are confessing sin.

Have Not Sinned (1:10) - To say that we "have no sin" (1:8) or "have not sinned" (1:10) is a lie. Since God has said that all people are sinners (Psalm 14:3; 51:5; Isaiah 53:6; Jeremiah 17:5, 6; Romans 3:10-19, 23; 6:23). to deny that fact is to blaspheme God with slander that defames His name.

Sin Not (2:1) - Greek hamartia - "to miss the mark."  John speaks of a kind of sin one can recover from and another kind of sin from which one cannot recover.  To counter the false teachers who denied the existence or importance of sin, John affirms its reality.  This affirmation of sin's reality constitutes the second test of true fellowship. Although Christians must continually acknowledge and confess sin (1:9), they are not powerless against it.  (Romas 6:12-14; 8:12,13; 1 Corinthians 15:34; Titus 2:11, 2; 1 Peter 1:13-16). Those who deny the reality of sin demonstrate their lack of genuine salvation.  John's readers, unlike readers today, apparently understood the difference between these two kinds of sin.  Those who denied the Christian community (2:18-19) to follow heretical "antichrist" teachings were irrecoverable.  Their rebellion and denial of Jesus' true identity (4:1-3) leads to unrepentant sin.  In the end, their sin produces spiritual death.

If Any Man Sin (2:1) - This refers to a specific sin.  This provision is not applicable to a life of habitual sin, which is a clear indication that the sinner has not yet truly been born again.

Advocate (2:1) - Greek parakletos, literally "one who is called to our side."  This Greek term refers to the position of a comforter, consoler, or defense attorney.  In John 14:26 and 15:26, the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter/ Helper/ Advocate for believers.  Who is our advocate with the Father?  Jesus Christ the Righteous.  He becomes our lawyer in a sense.

Propitiation (2:2) - Propitiation is a big word and it means to cover or to satisfy or appease–it is the turning away of wrath by an offering. John uses it here (and again in chapter 4) to illustrate the truth of what's been done for us. The danger for us is that we would minimize or overlook what's actually happened. The sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross satisfied the demands of God's holiness for the punishment of sin (Romans 1:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:3). Jesus' sacrifice for us satisfied God. What this verse is telling us is that Jesus Christ Himself offers to pay the full price for our sin. He is the propitiation. He is the payment. He is the covering.

The Whole World (2:2) - This is a generic term, referring not to every single individual, but to mankind in general. The value of Christ's blood was infinite, sufficient to cover all the sins of all mankind throughout the history of the world. The power of the blood of Jesus is not limited, but only applies to those who believe in Him. There is some theological debate on this verse. To clarify, this text is not telling us that atonement/payment was made for everyone, and everyone is going to heaven–that is universalism. In the book of Revelation, we see the wrath of God being poured out on the unrepentant, unregenerate mass of humanity who show up at the Great White Throne judgment and are cast into the Lake of Fire. Christ's atonement is offered to anyone who repents. And the merit of Christ's atonement is given to all who believe and to all who repent of their sins. With atonement, it's a covering of the sin, whereas the propitiation also includes the turning away of God's anger. Is the invitation for all? Yes, it is. Does God so love the world that He gave his Son? Yes, He does. Jesus offers forgiveness and salvation to all–to anyone who sees their sin, understands their desperate need, and comes to Him in humble faith, turning from their sin and submitting their life to Christ.

Know... Keep (2:3) - Know in the Greek, ginosko, meaning "to understand." Keep in the Greek, tereo, meaning to watch, preserve, keep, observe, hold fast. This is the first of at least 37 occurrences of "know" in 1 John.  One of the prominent themes in this epistle is the assurance which we have in Christ.  Those who are genuinely born again display the habit of obedience. Obedience results in assurance of salvation (Ephesians 2:2; 1 Peter 1:14). 

Abideth (2:6) - This word is one of John's favorite terms for salvation.  Jesus' life of obedience is the Christian's pattern.  Those who claim to be Christians out to live as He did (John 6:38) since they possess His Spirit's presence and power. 

New (2:7) - Not referring to new in the sense of time, but something that is fresh in quality, kind or form.  Jesus personified love in a fresh and new way, and it was shed abroad in believers' hearts (Romans 5:5) and energized by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22; 1 Thessalonians 4:9).  Jesus raised love to a higher standard for the church and commanded His disciples to imitate His love.   The commandment to love was not only new, but old because the Old Testament commanded love (Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:5) and the readers of John's epistle had heard about Jesus' command to love when they first heard the gospel. 

From the Beginning (2:7) - The commandment to love one another is not a new revelation, for Jesus had repeatedly taught this in His earthly ministry.   

Hates. . . in darkness until now (2:9) - The original language conveys the idea of someone who habitually hates or is marked by a lifestyle of hate. Those professing to be believers yet characterized by hate are not true believers.  The false teachers in the church, Gnostics, made claims of transcendent knowledge of God, and salvation, but their actions and behavior proved their claims to be false. 

Little Children (2:12) - John is addressing three special groups in 1 John 12-14.  "Little children" is from the Greek word meaning "infants," referring to spiritual babes in Christ (same as in 2:1).  However, Little children" in 1 John 2:13 is from the Greek word meaning "young child," referring to half-grown Christians (same in 2:18). 

Fathers...young men...little children (2:13-14) - These very clear distinctions identify three stages of spiritual growth in God's family.  Fathers, the most mature, have a deep knowledge of the eternal God.   The pinnacle of spiritual maturity is to know God in His fullness (Philippians 3:10).  Young men are those who, while not yet have the mature experience of knowing God in the Word and through life, do know sound doctrine.  The are strong against sin and error because they have His Word in them.  

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Morning Message: For Fullness of Joy

Bobservations' Column
Titled - "For Fullness of Joy"
Written by: Pastor Bob Lawrenz

After completing our study through the Book of Revelation, I thought of what the Angel of the Lord had directed the Apostle John to do in Revelation 1. John had just seen the vision of Jesus in His Spiritual Body in verses 12 through 15, and the Angel said to John in Verse 19, “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.”

Many Bible teachers and commentaries take the angel at His word and begin the Book of Revelation right there with the vision of Jesus he had just seen. But what else had John seen?

It occurred to me that John had seen so much more! John has seen Jesus in His physical body too! John’s entire Gospel tells the story, and most scholars agree that his Gospel account was written between 85 and 90 A.D., a trusted source believes it is likely the latter, 90 A.D. This is where John’s first Epistle begins, and he describes not only what he had seen, but heard, looked upon, and touched!

My own personal thought is that when telling John to write what he had seen, the Angel of the Lord, was actually prompting John to start penning his account of the Gospel. And the Gospel of John stands apart from the other Gospels. They generally cover the same things as each other, with some variation by way of their individual experiences.

But John’s Gospel is a most personal account of Jesus’ ministry. The text reveals the close tie that John had with Jesus. John being seated next to Jesus at the Last Supper would reveal the bond that they both shared. Effectively, Jesus knew ahead of time what the role of young John was to be.

But just before Revelation, John also wrote three Epistles that give us further insight into the first century Church. First, Second, and Third John were written in sequence, probably in 90 A.D., based upon their historical content.

We learn about antichrist’s work in Revelation, but to see “antichrist” in print, in the Bible? It only appears in First and Second John. Antichrist was also at work in the Book of Daniel, but never mentioned by that term. In fact, antichrist and his works are everywhere in the Bible, undermining God’s every move.

John the Baptist, and John the Apostle 

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light…” - John 1:6,7

Bobservations Column: Audio Version

Sunday Morning's Audio Message:

1 John 1:1-9 - "For Fullness of Joy"

Summary/Additional Commentary and Definitions:  Audio message will be uploaded Sunday Afternoon.

First John is one of five New Testament books written by the apostle John. The others are the Gospel of John, 2 John, 3 John, and the book of Revelation. This is the first of his three letters in the New Testament. While no specific audience is mentioned, he is clearly writing to the churches he is overseeing, the churches in Asia Minor.

The parallelisms in 1 John are striking for their simplicity: Christ vs. antichrists, light vs. darkness, truth vs. falsehood, righteousness vs. sin, love of the Father vs. love of the world, and the Spirit of God vs. the spirit of the Antichrist. While this is not a complete list, it reveals a letter that presents the world in an uncomplicated way—there is right and there is wrong, period. This emphasis by John, while striking, is not without love. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. John recognized that love comes from God, and he encouraged the believers to love one another (1 John 4:7). John’s first epistle teaches that while it is important to recognize the lines between truth and error, it must always be done in a spirit of love.

The Book of 1 John seems to be a summary that assumes the readers' knowledge of the gospel as written by John and offers certainty for their faith in Christ. The first epistle indicates that the readers were confronted with the error of Gnosticism, which became a more serious problem in the second century.   Gnosticism was a pagan evolutionary philosophy which was in existence well before the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But by the middle of the first century, however, many Christians were compromising with it.  There were many varieties of Gnostics, but all rejected the concept of special creation by the transcendent God of the bible, and either the true deity or true humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

As a philosophy of religion, it held that matter is evil, and spirit is good. The solution to the tension between these two was knowledge, or gnosis, through which man rose from the mundane to the spiritual. In the gospel message, this led to two false theories concerning the person of Christ, Docetism—regarding the human Jesus as a ghost—and Cerinthianism—making Jesus a dual personality, at times human and at times divine. The key purpose of 1 John is to set boundaries on the content of faith and to give believers assurance of their salvation.

Just like the apostle Paul prophesied, many false teachers had arisen within the church's own ranks. Their teachings had become saturated in philosophical trends infecting the church with false doctrine and perverting the fundamental teaching of the apostles, including the full deity and humanity of Jesus, and the atonement of Christ.

These false teachers were advocating "new ideas" from Greek philosophers which eventually became known as "Gnosticism." Basically, they were introducing "dualism" into the church. It is the belief that matter was inherently evil, but the spirit was good. Therefore, they attributed some form of deity to Christ, but denied His humanity in order to preserve Him from evil. The bible affirms Jesus' full deity as well as His full humanity (Philippians 2:6-8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 2:22; Mark 1:24; Acts 3:14; Revelation 3:7.)

Gnostics also claimed elevated knowledge of truth, even higher than Scripture. Instead of Divine Truth standing as judge over man's ideas, Gnostic ideas were judging God's Revelation. Because they denied Jesus' physical body was real (Docetism), the apostle John forcefully affirms Jesus physical reality (1 John 1:1 seen, heard, handled).

Their belief that matter was evil, but the spirit was good led to the idea that sin in the body had no connection or effect on one's spirit. Therefore, they taught that sin committed in the physical body did not matter, absolute indulgence and immorality was permissible, they could even deny that sin existed (1:8-10). They could disregard God's law with no consequence (3:4).  

Although these false teachers claimed to believe in Christ, their denial of the true nature of Christ demonstrated their lack of genuine salvation. 

One of the purposes of this Epistle was to stress the full though sinless humanity of Jesus and to assure believers of the certainty of their gift of salvation.  A further purpose was to refute those in the church who were seeking to accommodate Gnostic philosophies and practices into their Christian faith and life. 

Since this letter’s audience was clearly dealing with problems related to false teachers. John warns against them throughout this entire writing. John also develops themes of fellowship, Christ-like love, forgiveness of sins, and assurance of salvation. John focuses on specific needs related to the church.

At the time of this letter, John is the last apostle still alive. John is fully aware of the false doctrine infecting the church and opens the letter in a very straightforward way, jumping right into the issue at hand. John is writing from personal experience and sharing his eyewitness testimony. I saw Him. I heard Him. I handled Him.

As we read through John's epistles, we see the apostle respond to the crisis. First, he reassures the faithful and instructs them to combat the threat to the church. The letters were sent to the churches to stop the spreading of false doctrine and to encourage the faithful.

Key Words and Definitions with Reference:

That Which (1:1) - refers to the proclamation of the gospel that centers in the person, words and works of Jesus contained in the apostle's testimony.

We (1:1) - refers to the twelve apostles.

From the Beginning (1:1) - A similar text is used in John's gospel, "In the beginning."  But while John's gospel looks back before the beginning of time, His epistle, proceeds forward from that beginning of time to the incarnation of the eternal "Word," which became the Word of life," the manifestation of the Father in "his Son Jesus Christ."  It refers to the beginnings of gospel preaching when they first heard about Jesus.  "From the beginning" emphasizes the stability of the gospel message, it is unchanging no matter current worldly fads or philosophical thinking. 

We have Heard... We have Seen... We have Looked Upon... We have Handled (1:1) - This is John's personal eyewitness testimony of the person of Jesus Christ - his physical reality.

Manifested... Seen... Bear Witness... and Shew it Unto You (1:2) - John reemphasizing the authority of his own personal experience as an eyewitness of Jesus' life, powerfully refuting the false teachers wrongly portraying Christ.  

That Eternal Life... With the Father... Manifested to Us (1:2) - Jesus is eternal, and that eternal life was "manifested to us."  

Fellowship with Us (1:3) - Fellowship does not mean social relations.  Believers are to be partakers with John in possessing eternal life (Philippians 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:4).  The same word is translated "communion" (1 Corinthians 10:16; 2 Corinthians 6:14).  It means "joint participation in things held in common."  The fellowship we can have with the Father through the Son is the same fellowship we as believers can have with one another.  

That Your Joy May Be Full (1:4) - John's goal for this epistle is that the reader will have joy.  The truth of the gospel, the proclamation of the gospel produces life eternal, and true fellowship with God and with fellow believers. 

We Have Heard From Him (1:5) - The message that John and the other apostles preached came from God, not from men (Galatians 1:12).

God is Light (1:5) - 1 Timothy 6:16 tells us that God is light, and dwells in light.  God is the light of shining glory; He is the light of truth and the light of holiness.  He is also the light of life (John 1:4) and of true guidance (John 8:12).  In Scripture, light and darkness are familiar symbols.  Light refers to biblical truth, while darkness refers to error or falsehood (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 6:23; John 1:4; 8:12).  Morally, light refers to holiness and purity.  Darkness refers to sin and wrongdoing (Romans 13:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-7).  While the heretics claim to be truly enlightened and walking in the true light, John exposes that lie, for they do not even recognize their sin.

No Darkness at All (5:5) - John forcefully affirms that God is absolutely perfect, and nothing exists in God's character that impinges upon His truth and holiness (James 1:17).

Do Not the Truth (5:6) - Our greatest reality is that we possess Divine truth.  That is, the testimony of ALL SCRIPTURE.  There is nothing more important, more valuable, more powerful, more necessary that God's truth. Whatever God has said is truth, and His word is something that all believers should believe, abide in, teach, obey, protect and proclaim. Those who do not the truth are simply liars, they are not believers.

Walk in the Light (1:7) - There are two distinct groups in Scripture, those who Walk in the Light, and those who Walk in Darkness They are the Saved and the Unsaved. It is the separation of believers from non-believers.  1 Thessalonians 5 succinctly describes this contrast:  Believers Walk in Light, not Darkness; we are Children of the Day, not Night; Believers are Alert, not Asleep; they are Sober, Not Drunk.  To walk in the light, is to follow Jesus.  We are no more children of darkness.  Ephesians 5:8 says, "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light."  To “walk” is, in short, to live one’s life. One’s lifestyle or way of life can be considered a “walk.” The word also indicates progress. Walking is related to growth; it is taking steps toward maturity. “Light” in the Bible can be a metaphor for life, happiness, righteousness, or understanding. The Bible is clear that light comes from the Lord God, the “Father of the lights” (James 1:17). He is the opposite of evil. Putting it all together, walking in the light means growing in holiness and maturing in the faith as we follow Jesus.

All Sin (1:7) - The Greek word for "sin" is Hamartia - (1 John 1:7, 8; 3:4, 5, 8, 9; 5:16, 17).  It literally means "to miss the mark."  Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18). Sin had its beginning with Lucifer, probably the most beautiful and powerful of the angels. Not content with his position, he desired to be higher than God, and that was his downfall, the beginning of sin (Isaiah 14:12-15). Renamed Satan, he brought sin to the human race in the Garden of Eden, where he tempted Adam and Eve with the same enticement, “you shall be like God.” Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God and against His command. Since that time, sin has been passed down through all the generations of mankind and we, Adam’s descendants, have inherited sin from him. Romans 5:12 tells us that through Adam sin entered the world, and so death was passed on to all men because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).  All sin, whether known or unknown, is cleansed by the blood of Jesus as we walk in fellowship with Him.   A genuine Christine walks habitually in the light (truth and holiness), not in darkness (falsehood and sin). 

Deceive Ourselves (1:8) - Self-deception. We live in a world full of lies, and deceit comes from many sources. There are lying spirits who lead astray (1 Timothy 4:1); there are “evildoers and impostors” looking for dupes (2 Timothy 3:13); and, perhaps most insidious, we have ourselves to deal with. Self-deception is common in our fallen world. Our own hearts are deceitful—so much so that we easily fool ourselves (Jeremiah 17:9). Not only did the false teachers of John's day walk in darkness (sin) but went so far as to deny the existence of a sin nature in their lives. If someone cannot admit to being a sinner, salvation is not possible (Matthew 19:16-22). There is only One who was sinless, that was Jesus Christ.

Confess Our Sins (1:9) - The term confess means to say the same thing about sin as God does; to acknowledge His perspective about sin.  Continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation. God wants us to live with a clear conscience and a pure heart (Matthew 5:8; Psalm 24:4). This is only possible when we regularly confess and forsake our sins, keeping the model of Jesus ever before us (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1). He never had to confess His sins because He never committed any (Hebrews 4:15). Since we have inherited a sin nature, and are prone to sin, we need to learn how to confess our sins regularly both to God and to other people so that we can live free of guilt and shame (Colossians 2:14).

Cleanse Us (1:9) - "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.  (1:5). He calls us to walk in that Light, not in darkness of our sin, the sin that separates us from Him.  The Bible makes it clear that every human being is born into this world as a sinner (Romans 3:23). That sin makes us ceremonially unclean and unfit to enter into the presence of God. The blood of Christ is what washes our sins away (1 John 1:7; 1 Peter 1:19). The way to deal with sin is to repent and confess it as soon as we recognize it. Otherwise, guilt will weigh heavily on us. We must be willing to admit our sins to ourselves. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me,” said David in Psalm 51:3. We injure ourselves and hamper our relationship with God if we try to hide or deny our sins: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). But if we are honest with ourselves, we can repent and confess our sins to God and experience His forgiveness and cleansing (Acts 3:19). God continually cleanses those who are confessing sin.

Have Not Sinned (1:10) - To say that we "have no sin" (1:8) or "have not sinned" (1:10) is a lie.  Since God has said that all people are sinners (Psalm 14:3; 51:5; Isaiah 53:6; Jeremiah 17:5, 6; Romans 3:10-19, 23; 6:23).  to deny that fact is to blaspheme God with slander that defames His name.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Morning Message: The Alpha and Omega Speaks


Bobservations' Column
Titled - "The Alpha and Omega Speaks"
Written by:  Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Today’s re
ading in Daniel leads directly to today’s study in the Book of Revelation. Daniel 10:3 introduced the Prophet to the pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity. Among other things, it was Him that was in the fiery furnace of King Nebuchadnezzar with Daniel and his friends. Daniel’s description of Him is identical to that of Revelation 1:13 as John turns to see the voice that was speaking to him and had already identified Himself as “Alpha and Omega” in Rev. 1:9-11. And in our reading of Daniel 12:7-9 today, this Man’s message to Daniel was that the book was “sealed up till the time of the end.” Daniel did not seal it up, God did.

Back into Revelation 22 – Our study today reveals “the time of the end,” The entire Book of Revelation is chronological, and this chapter being the last written record of God revealing His plans for us and knowing that we are in the end-times if not the “last days,” is a fitting conclusion in this chapter. In other words, the Bible contains all the information necessary to assure mankind’s eternal destination as Believers, AND that also of non-believers. Things get very black-and-white as we get closer, and closer to the Lord’s return. There will be none that will be able to claim that they never knew, only the voice of Jesus saying, “I never knew you.”

Everything we need to know about God, about His will for us, and about His plan of Salvation is in His Holy Word: IT’S IN THERE! All that we need for a fulfilling and holy life that is pleasing to the Lord is within the pages of the Bible. It is written of in 66 books. 40 scribes have recorded God’s words for us, and each scribe is guided by the Holy Spirit.

It may take a little personal study to learn it, but the truth of God is like the parable of a treasure buried in a field, and the wise man buys the field so the treasure will be his. Or the parable of the woman who sweeps her whole house to recover a highly valued pearl that was lost.

The chapter even comes with warnings of pitfalls; pitfalls that many men have made already, and caused their names to be wiped from the Lambs’ Book of Life, or suffered through the plagues of Egypt. God’s warnings, and His love are evident throughout the Bible.

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  2 Timothy 2:15

Bobservations' Column: Audio Version

Sunday Morning's Audio Message:
Revelation 22:8-21 - "The Alpha and Omega Speaks"

Summary/Additional Commentary and Definitions:  

This week we come to the end of the book of Revelation.  This is part two of chapter 22, and the great themes of Revelation have already unfolded, and the doors have been opened. The rebellion of angels and man is over.  The kingdom of God has already been ushered in; all of God's enemies are in the lake of fire. The King of kings is on the eternal throne, assuming His sovereign right as King of the earth, and King over ALL.

Absolute holiness characters everything within God's kingdom. Sin has been obliterated. The redeemed, bought by the blood of the Lamb, are now in eternal glory. Everything is over that ever dealt with man, except for the permanency of eternity. 

The earth and the heavens have been recreated by chapter 22. The blazing prism of diamond transparent light, the glory city Jerusalem, has settled down into the eternal state. Light, beauty, holiness, joy, and the presence of God and the Lamb, worship and praise to God in the Lamb’s service and likeness to Christ are all eternal realities.

And as we enter into chapter 22, life is everywhere, because here we find infinite and eternal life.  The chapter begins by talking about the river of water of life. And we see ourselves in heaven in the eternal place.

In these final closing verses, the emphasis is that everything that we've read in this book is going to happen. And because it’s going to happen, you better do something about it. You better take it to heart.  You better respond to the Holy Spirit.  You better respond to God's final invitation to come to faith in Christ.   The Bible has come full circle:  It starts with the promise of a coming Savior who would redeem His people from their sins (Genesis 3).  Just as the Bible opens with the promise of Christ's first coming, it ends with the promise of His second coming.   

Jesus speaks in verse 7, "Behold, I come quickly..." Then you see it in verse 12, “Behold, I come quickly.” And you get over in verse 20, and you read, “Surely I come quickly.” There’s a kind of urgency here it’s pressing the Christian to respond and take care of some very important things. And it’s also pressed with the urgency of warning to the unbeliever.

In this final portion of the book of Revelation, there is a tremendous emphasis on the suddenness of the coming of Jesus. We know that the Bible has much to say about the fact that Jesus will come quickly, that He will come suddenly, that He will come in a moment, in an hour that you think not, that it’ll all happen in the twinkling of an eye, that it’ll be sudden, that it’ll be swift, and that it’ll be final.

The book of Revelation began with the words of Jesus to the seven churches. It concludes with the penetrating words of Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the Morning Star. The Lord of life and King of eternity is coming soon! May our earnest and sincere prayer be the same as John's: "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"

Key Words and Definitions with Reference:

Quickly (22:7) - "Quickly" means suddenly, imminently, without delay.  The knowledge we have of Jesus soon return should not lead us to a life of idleness. Rather it should produce a life of diligence, obedience and worshipful service to God with an urgent proclamation of the gospel to unbelievers. 

Blessed is He Who Heeds... (22:7) - "Heed" means "guard." Believers are to guard and protect the book of Revelation against those who deny its relevance, its authority, and against those interpreters who obscure its meaning.  In fact, all of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is to be guarded (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:13-14). 

Heard and Saw (22:8) - John resumes speaking for the first time since chapter 1 and confirms the veracity of the revelation with his own eyewitness testimony - the basis of any reliable witness.

Do Not Seal the Words (22:10) - See 10:11 - 
The prophet Daniel was informed that his "words [were] shut up and sealed until the time of the end" (Daniel 12:9), but John was told not to seal the words of the prophecy of Revelation (Revelation 22:10). For Daniel, innumerable events needed to transpire before his prophecy would be fully meaningful. For John's Revelation, no events needed to occur because the time was near. He had seen or heard everything relevant which would take place in the end time. Even if specific details were unclear, or yet to be fully realized, the message was ready for mankind to hear and understand. Previous prophecies were sealed up. These prophecies are to be proclaimed so they can produce obedience and worship.

The Time is at Hand (22:10) - This refers to imminency, which means that the end is next.  
No one knows when the Lord will return (Matthew 24:36), but the doctrine of imminence (Revelation 22:7) teaches the rapture could occur at any moment (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). We don't have to wait for any signs to be fulfilled to recognize this as the next major event in God's timeline. The signs Jesus mentioned in Matthew 24 primarily occur after the rapture, in the tribulation, before Jesus returns to earth in a blaze of glory (Revelation 19:11–16).

According to His Work (22:12) - 
God will recompense each person according to his deeds. Faithful believers may anticipate rewards, but unbelievers must face punishment. When the apostle Paul neared execution, he looked forward to receiving the crown of righteousness that the Lord would award to him. He added that he would not be the only one to receive this reward. He said all who have loved Jesus' appearing will also receive the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). Other crowns (James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4) are promised to faithful believers that will likely be awarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Only those works which survive God's testing fire have eternal value and are worthy of reward.

Blessed Are Those Who Do His Commandments (22:14) - See 1:3 - 
Doing His commandments does not earn us eternal life, but it is evidence that we have been granted eternal life. Besides, there is an inherent blessing in doing His commandments, because they are good and right for us.  

Regarding the phrase "those who do His commandments," some translations interpret this to "those who have washed their robes" instead, symbolizing those who have been forgiven of their sins - who have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.  The difference is between two ancient Greek words:

HOIPLUNONTESTASSTOLAS (washed their robes) or


Dogs (22:15) - Whereas the righteous may enter New Jerusalem, the unrighteous are barred from entering the city. They are described as dogs and sorcerers, sexually immoral and murderers, idolaters, and lovers and doers of falsehood.  Dogs were considered despicable creatures in New Testament times.  They were seen as scavengers that mill around garbage. When applied to people, the term referred to anyone of low moral character. Unfaithful leaders (Isaiah 56:10) and homosexual prostitutes (Deuteronomy 23:18) are among those who received such a designation.

Sorcerers (22:15) - Those engaged in occult practices and drug abuse.

Whoremongers (22:15) - Immoral persons engaged in illicit sexual activities.

Murderers (22:15) - those who commit criminal intentional homicide.

Idolaters (22:15) - Idolaters worship false gods, including material objects and even human beings. Those who bore the mark of the beast were idolaters because they worshiped the beast. Colossians 3:5 cites covetousness as idolatry, thereby identifying as idolaters those who worship money and what it can buy.

The Churches (22:16) - The seven churches of Asia Minor which were the book's original recipients (1:11). 
Jesus had sent His angel to deliver the message of Revelation to the apostle John. He said the message of Revelation is "for the churches." Presumably, churches should be teaching and heeding the contents of this last book of the Bible. To ignore the book of Revelation is tantamount to rejecting the gift Jesus has presented to the churches.

The Root and Offspring of David (22:16) - Christ is the source (root) of David's life and line of descendants, which establishes His deity. He is also a descendant of David (offspring), which establishes His humanity. This phrase gives powerful testimony to Christ as the God-Man (see 2 Timothy 2:8). 
Jesus was born as a descendant of King David (Matthew 1:1, 6–16) He is the rightful heir to the kingdom God promised to David (2 Samuel 7:12–16). The angel Gabriel prophesied that Jesus would reign over His kingdom from the throne of His father David (Luke 1:31–33).

Bright and Morning Star (22:16) - This is the brightest star announcing the arrival of the day. When Jesus comes, He will be the brightest star who will shatter the darkness of man's night and herald the dawn of God's glorious day (see 2:28).  
 Malachi 4:2 promises Israel that the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in its wings. Revelation 22:16 identifies Jesus as "the bright morning star." Just as the morning star appears before the sun rises, so Jesus will come for the church before he returns to restore Israel to himself.

Come! (22:17) - This is the Spirit's and church's answer to the promise of His coming. There are 2 distinct invitations in this verse.  The first part of the verse is a prayer addressed to Christ.  "The Spirit and the Bride say come."  The Spirit longs to see Jesus exalted in beauty and splendor, power and majesty.  The Church, the Bride of Christ also longs for Christs return and echos the Spirits plea for Christ to come.  The church has awaited Jesus' return for centuries.  They long for Him, long to live with him (2 Timothy 4:8).  The second part is the last call for unbelievers to come to faith in Christ. Those who hear, who thirst and who wishes can take the water of life without cost, because the price has been paid through Jesus sacrificial death. 

Whosoever Will (22:17) - The final invitation in the Bible to come to Christ! The water of everlasting life is freely available to all who thirst for God and His righteousness. Salvation is given only to those who will come.

Let Him (22:17) - This is an unlimited offer of grace and salvation to all who desire to have their thirsty souls quenched.

The Words (22:18) - God's Word is Infallible, Inerrant, Complete, Authoritative, Sufficient, Effective and Determinative. The importance of the words in the Revelation are precise thoughts using precise words inspired by the Holy Spirit.

This Book (22:18) - the prophecies given in the Book of Revelation, and in a broader sense, he entire Bible itself. The "foundation" of divine revelation has been laid in the apostolic era and thus need not be laid again. Any new revelation is repeatedly warned against.

Take Away From the Words (22:19) - A very serious warning to those who dare to take away from God's prophetic word. Those who attempt to take away from, diminish, dismantle and pervert God's Word will be met with their own destruction.

Surely I Am Coming Quickly (22:20) - (See 3:11) 
In this verse we read Jesus' affirmation that He is surely coming "soon." As with similar statements in Revelation, this is translated from the Greek word tachys, which most literally means "quickly." This is more a statement on the way Jesus will return than a claim about when He will return. While there are no more major events left preceding His return, we cannot claim to know exactly when that moment will arrive (Matthew 24:36).

His coming may be soon—today or tomorrow, but the time of Jesus' return is locked up in the counsels of God. Whenever He comes, the event will occur quickly. First Corinthians 15:52 describes the event as occurring "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." John and the other disciples heard Jesus promise: "I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also" (John 14:3).

In light of this future expectation, what is now required of believers is outline by Peter (see 2 Peter 3:11-18).

Friday, April 5, 2024

Morning Message: The Tree of Life

Bobservations Column
Titled - "The Tree of Life"
Written by: Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Today, we are back to our on-going study of the Book of Revelation. We left off at the end of chapter 21 to celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and His glorious Resurrection a week later. With just one final chapter of Revelation to cover before finishing the Book, we are still freshly fed from the events of a Passover week some 2,000 years ago. “The angel of the Lord” came to mind as I prepared for this Sunday’s teaching.

We already see the multi-facetted character of Jesus Christ as Messiah, Redeemer, Savior, Lord God, King of kings, and Lord of lords. I am going to add to that list, in case you don’t already think of Jesus also as a Messenger sent from the Father. Literally, the word “angel” means messenger: one who is sent with a message. It gives us insight into the frequent use of the phrase “angel of the Lord, particularly in the Old Testament. Through the Prophets, God Himself sent messages to His people. Each of them had a holy and sanctified message to reveal to mankind. In the New Testament, the 12 Apostles were chosen to partake of the Good News Message that Jesus taught and shared. Then they were sent out to the four corners of the Earth to spread that message. In John 4, a Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob became a messenger to the Samaritans.

The well of Abraham was near to Beersheba, in Philistine territory. This was the well where Abraham’s servant found Rebekah as a wife for Isaac. And our reading today finds Jesus goes to another well to meet a woman, Jacob’s Well near Mt Gerizim, to a woman who is a descendant of Jacob, and therefore also of Abraham. And this woman took Jesus’ words to the men of Sychar, of the Samaritans. After speaking to Jesus, she too became a messenger. Though the Apostles objected, Jesus told them He had needs to go through Samaria, and it is no wonder; salvation is open to “whosoever.”

Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

Bobservations' Column - Audio Version

Sunday Morning's Audio Message:
Revelation 22:1-7 - "The Tree of Life"

Summary/Additional Commentary and Definitions

Here we are at the ending of the book of Revelation.  The ending is as dramatic and wonderful as the beginning.  Following God's final punishment of the wicked, the earth as we know it will be no more.  John records in chapter 21-22 the startling revelation of the city of God and the beginning of the eternal state.  Clearly, Paradise lost in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) will be Paradise regained!  Satan, the beast, and the false prophet have been thrown into the lake of fire forever.  God will create a new universe to be the eternal dwelling place of the redeemed.  The citizens of eternity - Old Testament saints, Tribulation saints, and all those converted during the millennial kingdom - will dwell in the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city marked by the awesome glory and presence of God.  

At the end of chapter 21, John described the beauty of New Jerusalem. This depiction briefly concludes here.  John was taken to a high mountain and shown the holy city, Jerusalem from a distance in chapter 21.  As if that weren't enough the angel takes John inside the city.  He describes for us a magnificent city, the capital city with a street of pure gold, transparent like glass.  There is no temple, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city has no need of sun, or moon for light, for the glory of God illumines it, and the lamp is the Lamb of God.  Amazing description. 

Revelation 22 is a remarkable passage, because in it the apostle John not only brings his correspondence to the seven churches of Asia minor to a beautiful climax, but in doing so he also depicts the glorious end of the redeemed people of God throughout the ages.

John’s purpose has been to comfort and encourage the Christians in the seven churches who are undergoing trials and persecution.

Chapter 22 takes us beyond those things that must take place (vv. 1–5). God’s redeemed people will find eternal rest and refreshment in and with Him. But the language used by John in this splendid word picture is comprehensive and provides a healing and glorious glimpse of what has been accomplished by the redeeming work of Christ. John speaks of the Tree of Life and its healing effects for the redeemed.

To grasp the significance of this scene we must go back to Genesis 3 and the aftermath of the fall of Adam and Eve.

In Revelation 22:1–5, three elements of Christ’s redeeming work experienced in this life but consummated in His return are on display. First, there is restoration. The earth is restored. Second, there is a reversal of the curses and consequences of sin introduced in Genesis 3. John says the leaves of the Tree of Life are good for the healing of the nations. Third, John’s mention of restored access to the Tree of Life includes complete reconciliation with God and a renewed intimacy with Him. This is set forth in verses 3–5. The throne of God and the Lamb will be in the midst of His people. They shall see His face, His name shall be on their forehead, and God shall be their light.

The reference to the leaves being used for "healing" leads some to suggest that New
 Jerusalem will exist somewhere above earth prior to the end of the millennium, others see this as a symbolic reference to permanent, eternal health and life. Light, as well, is a crucial metaphor in the Bible, representing truth and knowledge (John 8:12; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Matthew 4:16). John also notes that all evil, darkness, and night are gone from this holy city (Revelation 22:1–5).

Revelation then ends its description of the future and returns to more immediate commands from Jesus. The angel commends what John has seen as accurate and worthy of trust. This is followed by a statement reiterating the idea that "I am" is coming soon. This might have confused John, seeing as the words are those of Jesus, but it had been the angel speaking up to that point. Perhaps in confusion, John starts to worship the angel, but is immediately corrected. "And" beginning verse 7 marks a change in speakers.  The speaker is no longer the angel who spoke in verse 6, but Jesus Christ, the One who is coming quickly.  (Revelation 22:6–9).

The book of Revelation began with the words of Jesus to the seven churches. It concludes with the penetrating words of Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the Morning Star. The Lord of life and King of eternity is coming soon! May our earnest and sincere prayer be the same as John's: "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"

Key Words and Definitions with Reference:

Faithful and True (22:1) - The words of Revelation are as faithful and true as the One who revealed them to John.  

River... of Life (22:1) - It
 is like, and yet unlike, all earthly streams. Its source is divine; its waters are bright; its flow is endless. The river is unlike any on earth because no hydrological cycle exists.  Water of life symbolizes the continual flow of eternal life from God's throne to heaven's inhabitants (see Zechariah 14:8; Ezekiel 47:1,2; Revelation 21:6).

Tree of Life (22:2) - A symbol of both eternal life and continual blessing. The last time we read about the tree of life was in the garden of Eden in Genesis. The tree of life was put in the midst of the garden (Genesis 2:9). When Adam and Eve sinned, they had to be cast out of the garden. This symbolized their separation from God. They could not be in eternal fellowship with God nor be in the presence of God because of sin. Eternal separation from God is the second death, as we saw in Revelation 20:6,10,14-15 and Revelation 21:8. The tree of life is now in the midst of New Jerusalem, representing God’s people having full fellowship with God and full access to God forever.

The Tree Bears Twelve Fruits (22:2) - 
Here then is the food of the redeemed—eternal nourishment, suited to their redeemed being! Here is perpetual spring, perpetual summer, perpetual autumn—no winter, no withering, no famine, no decay! Life for eternity, sustained by the fruit of the live-giving tree, which shall nourish all the parts and powers, mental and material, of our everlasting and incorruptible nature! One for each month and is symbolic of the abundant variety in heaven.  The English word "therapeutic" comes from the Greek word translated "healing."  The leaves somehow enrich heavenly life, making it full and satisfying.   The cherubim had once been directed by God to prevent sinful men from eating the fruit of the tree of life and living forever in their sins (Genesis 3:22-24).  In the New Jerusalem, however, the tree of life will always be freely accessible to all (See Ezekiel 47:7, 12).

No More Curse (22:3) - The curse on humanity and the earth as a result of Adam and Eve's disobedience (Genesis 3:16-19) will be totally finished.  God will never have to judge sin again, since it will never exist in the new heaven and new earth.

See His Face (22:4) - One of the beatitudes promises that the pure in heart will see God (Matthew 5:8). For all human history, no unglorified human could see God's face and live. John 1:18 declares that no one has seen God at any time, but that situation no longer exists in the heavenly city. God's redeemed, glorified servants will see His face, as Revelation 22:4 tells us, because now they are holy. Although New Jerusalem is a beautiful place, undoubtedly the best thing about it is the privilege given to God's servants to see His face. This suggests a degree of intimacy previously unknown.

His Name (22:4) - God's "name" stands for His character and His ownership of His servants. In the tribulation unbelievers received the mark of the beast on their foreheads as a pledge of their loyalty to him (Revelation 13:16–17). Throughout eternity God's servants will demonstrate their loyalty to the One who redeemed them. They are God's personal possession (see 3:12).

No night... candle... Light of the Sun (22:5) - His servants live in the light and the glory of God. Everything is now perfect. There is no more evil, no more sin, no more death, no more darkness (see Isaiah 60: 19-20).
For the Lord God giveth them light, immediately from himself, without the use of means and ordinances; and in his light the saints will see all things clearly; who will be always communicating it to them and will be their everlasting light.

They Shall Reign (22:5) - Heaven's citizens are more than servants (see Revelation 3:21). To him who overcomes, Christ will grant to that person to sit down with Him on His throne.  They will enjoy fellowship with Christ in the kingdom and throughout eternity.  That's not all, they will reign with Him (1 Corinthians 6:3; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 5:10; 20:6). 

His Servants (22:6) The members of the seven churches of Asia Minor who received this letter (1:11), and then all believers who have read or will read it since.

Things which Must Shortly Be Done (22:6) - This involves the entire revelation that John has just related. "Shortly" is two words in the Greek, "en tachos" which means "in haste. " The events prophesied in Revelation began to be fulfilled immediately, in the lives of the seven churches to whom the book was initially addressed, followed by the Church Age, the Tribulation and the Millennium period. 

Blessed is he who Keepeth (22:7) - What does it mean to Keep the book of Revelation?  It is a general command to observe, watch, preserve, hold fast.  Those who keep these words, long for Christ's return and our eternal fellowship with Him.   After reading and study the Book of Revelation, we love our Lord Jesus even more.  We want to be more like Him.  We desire the things of God, and long for the day we can be together.  Blessed are we, for our hope and our reward are in Him.

I Am Coming Quickly (22:7) - Jesus' return is imminent (see 3:11). Some argue that Christ’s coming could not possibly have been imminent for the early church, given the obvious fact that two thousand years later, He has still not returned. Skeptics often ridicule Christianity or challenge the inerrancy of Scripture on that very ground. After all, the verses cited at the beginning of this chapter do prove that James, Peter, John, Paul, and the writer of Hebrews all believed Christ’s return was very near— “at the door” (James 5:9); “at hand” (Philippians 4:5; 1 Peter 4:7); “approaching” (Hebrews 10:25); “com[ing] quickly” (Revelation 3:11; 22:7). Remember the clear statement of Christ in Matthew 24:42: “You do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” The exact time remains hidden from us, as it was from the apostles. But Christ could nonetheless come at any time. The Judge is still at the door. The day is still at hand. There are no other events that must occur on the prophetic calendar before Christ comes to meet us in the air. He could come at any moment. And it is in that sense that Christ’s coming is imminent. In the very same sense, His coming was imminent even in the days of the early church.

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