(2/22) Harry Ironside was one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century. He eventually became the pastor of the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago during the 1940ís. Harry Ironside was at once a very serious preacher and a humorous man. Once while traveling by train to one of his speaking engagements, he was recognized by a well-known atheist. The
atheist challenged Pastor Ironside to a debate when they arrived at their destination. Pastor Ironside agreed to the debate but only under one condition. Each side was to produce 100 people who have had their lives changed, marriages restored, addictions healed, and more because of their faith system. The result was that the debate never took place.
Seriously, have you ever heard anyone say, "One day, I realized there was no God, no real purpose for my existence, that we are all the result of a cosmic explosion and it has changed my life. I am no longer addicted to drugs or alcohol, my marriage was saved, my kids are doing better and feel more secure, and I can face life and death with confidence
and hope. I have found meaning in a meaningless universe."??????
I begin with that because the aged Apostle John is addressing the church that probably was questioning their faith due to the false teachings of a cult called Gnosticism. The cultís teachings were causing people to wonder if what they had believed and what they were doing was really the right way. Was there something they were missing? Have you ever
asked or wondered that? Letís digress for a moment.
Have you asked or have been asked, "How do you know that what you believe is the right way, or the truth?" There are so many religions. How do you know that yours is the right one? Within your Christian religion, there are so many denominations, and divisions within your denomination, how do you know yours is the right one?
Letís go a step further, and I know I may offend someone here, and I beg forgiveness up front. My intention is just to make a point, not to offend. Have you ever been made to feel inferior or that you were missing something because of:
ē The Way you Dress Ė Real Christian women never wear slacks, and always wear hats. Real Christian men always wear white shirts and ties. Right????
ē The Bible you Read - A bumper sticker I saw in Florida, several years ago said, "If it ainít KJV, it ainít Bible." Right?????
ē The Way you were Baptized. In whose name, sprinkled or dunked, forward or backward, one time or three times?
ē The Number of Church services you attend each week. Have you ever heard that those who go to church on Sunday morning go for the people; those who go on Sunday night go for the preacher; but those who go to Weds. Prayer meetings, go for God?
ē The Church you attend each week. I remember a friend asking me to guest speak at his Sunday school class at a different church, when I was in Bible college in the 70ís. I would not, because I wouldnít go into that church.
Now be honest, donít you feel inferior because we still meet in a school. We donít have a praise team, or a praise band. We have one guy with a guitar (who is fantastic, BTW). We donít have strobe lights, or a drama team, or a dynamic youth or childrenís ministry. I just had to fill out a report for the Blue Ridge Baptist Assoc. and I felt the
ē The Preachers you listened to. I remember in 1978 when Billy Graham came to Baltimore, there were local preachers telling their congregations to not attend, because liberal Christians would be participating in that crusade.
ē The Music you listen to or sing. Old Hymns or Current Contemporary.
ē The People you associate with. Pentecostals, Catholics, Baptists, Mainline denomination folks, and Non-Denom. Evangelicals donít fellowship. Real Christians practice separation. Right????
ē The Presence or Absence of an Experience. When I was a new believer, I had never heard of Pentecostalism, or the Charismatic church. But, I was asked one day if I had been baptized with the Holy Spirit, or had I spoken in tongues? I said, "No." I was told to just wait and it would happen. I was made to feel inferior to those who were, "Spirit
Filled," Christians. I read Dale Evans (Roy Rogersí wife, one of my boyhood heroís) book, The Woman at the Well, and David Wilkersonís book, The Cross and the Switchblade, both mentioned this speaking in tongues thing. I would watch TV preachers and see Jimmy Swaggart tongue talk while he was preaching, yet I never had such an experience. I told a relative one time that I was
a Baptist preacher and he said, "Well, we preach the Full Gospel at our church." It took a lot of prayer and study to come to a conclusion that I have about those things, because I was made to feel inferior.
ē The State of your Health and Finances. There are some who believe that if you are not healthy, you donít have enough faith, or if you are not wealthy, you donít have enough faith, or there is sin in your life. They learned nothing from the book and story of Job.
Now there may be more, but you get the idea. In Johnís day, a cult was teaching that if you were not initiated with the secrets of the cult, you didnít have it; you didnít know God; you were not redeemed, and you were inferior. So, John spends this whole chapter and really the rest of the letter giving us assurance. How do you know if you are the real
deal? Well, we saw the marks of a believer in the early part of this chapter. A True Christian wants to purify himself, He wants to stop sinning, He wants to do what is right, and He wants to love others as Jesus loved him. Itís with this that we pick up in verse 18 and will work through verse 24. Notice with me that John will give us at least 5 pieces of evidence that should
result in our being assured that what we have is the real deal.
I. A Compassionate Heart. (vv. 18-19) "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him." Now I know that everyone can have a time when they feel compassion. A national disaster makes us want to jump in and help the team. But I
believe what John is referring to is a heart that has changed from being self-focused, self-centered, and just plain selfish to one being sensitive and giving and caring for the needs of others no matter the costs. There is no better example of this than our buddy Ebenezer Scrooge. He wouldnít attend to his dying partner Marley until the end of the business day and would
evict his own mother if he could. He paid his taxes so the poor should go to the prisons and workhouses. But his life changed when he saw a young boy with a joyful countenance who was dying and a family without resources to prevent it and then the image of himself dying without anyone to show him compassion. Scroogeís life changed to become one of the most compassionate men
in his community. Now that is all fiction, but Dickonís captured for us what happens when a person comes face to face with the real deal; the love and grace of Jesus Christ. His heart changes. God takes the stony heart and replaces it with a soft heart of flesh that cares for the hurting, hopeless, and the helpless.
When you come face to face with your own depravity and helplessness and you hear the Gospel of Jesus and you repent and follow Him, your heart wants to give of yourself: that is, your time, words of encouragement, or comfort. You are willing to mentor or coach young people, teach children, though yours are grown. Ladies want to encourage their
husbands, speak words of praise to him, and come along side of him to help? Men want to help their wives, treat them like a queens, and let her know that she is Godís gift to them? You want to work for your boss or client as if God were judging your work. This is a sign that your heart is of the truth.
When you are willing to give from yourself; that is, your money, your possessions, your food to help those on need. Especially when you are willing to sacrifice to the point of everything for an orphan, or an enemy. John says, this is evidence of the real deal. By This, John says, we know we are of the truth. BTW, whose life have you touched recently?
Secondly when you have the real deal you will have:
II. A Confident Heart (vv. 20-21), "For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God." Notice that verse 19 implies two things, a compassionate heart is evidence of following the truth and being of the truth results in assuring our hearts
before Him. The phrase literally has the meaning of being pacified or reassured. One translation renders it, "We set our hearts at rest." Our whole heart or inner man is at rests in His presence.
Now verse 20 may have two meanings. One being that if our heart condemns us; that is, our consciences are going off saying, you blew it, you are wrong, you know what you should do, but you arenít doing it, and you try to convince yourself that you are okay; you are not okay and if your own conscience is telling you that, God who knows it all, will be a
The other is that sometimes, we wonder if we are okay and we know that our hearts have been changed but our conscience still says, not enough. We have to pause and remember that Paul says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:1) The fact that John uses the term, "Beloved," and that he says we have
confidence means he is talking to those who are the real deal. The word, "Confidence," means boldness of speech. Knowing our hearts have changed, we approach God with boldness. He is our Father. We have no problem calling on Him at any time. We talk to Him in the dearest of terms calling Him Abba Father, or Papa, or daddy. We cast all our cares on Him knowing He cares for us
(1 Peter 2:6). We share all our anxieties with Him knowing He wants to give us His peace (Phil. 4:6). A Father has a wonderful relationship with His children and His children have a free and unrestricted communion with their Father. My daughter Amanda and I have this wonderful relationship that she doesnít mind tell talking to me about just about everything. But she feels
free and confident in our relationship. You donít do that when you donít have the real deal. It is more cold and formal. Are you confident in approaching your Father, or do you feel as if you have to introduce yourself to Him, and explain why you havenít prayed so much? The 3rd evidence is:
III. A Compliant Heart (v. 22), "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight." Now when we get to chapter 5, I want to spend more time talking to you about prayer and Godís answers to prayer. But let me say now, that after 40 years it is still a mystery to me. John is
writing similar to what he wrote, quoting Jesus, in John 14:12-14, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. And
again in John 15:7-8, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." I believe this is all a reference to doing the work of Jesus for Jesus in such a close communion with God that our thoughts and desires we know are His and He
will not refuse to do or provide for His child. Notice that it says, "Because."
Because our desire is to obey our Father in heaven, not out of compulsion but out of love and a desire to please Him. It is like what Paul said in 1 Cor. 10:31, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Or 2 Cor. 5:9, "Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him."
I know that Godís commands are always for my good (Deut. 6:24-25; 10:13) and they are the best way to live and they will result in His glory, and I know that even when I donít understand God knows what is best. His commands are to bless us and not to be a burden (1 John 5:24). Jesus said in John 14 that if we love Him we will keep His commands. He told
us that when we make disciples we are to teach them to observe all he has commanded us (Matt. 28:19). Listen carefully, this isnít a pick and choose faith. That is not our option, this is, an all or nothing faith. If your desire is to obey all of Godís Word and please Him in everything you do, then you have the real deal. If you want to pick and choose what you will obey and
do, you are not a believer, you are a make believer.
The fourth piece of evidence that John gives for our assurance is:
IV. A Christ-Centered Heart (v. 23), "And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment." This is a big one and John wants us to get this. He wants us to believe on the name of Godís Son, Jesus Christ. Oneís name stands for all that the person is. It is His character,
His integrity, His person, His work, His life. And, in the case of Jesus it is all that the scriptures reveal about Him. He is not just a prophet, not just a good man, not just a spirit, not a lesser god. He is the very God and Creator, the Holy One of Heaven and eternity. He is very God of very God who came to us through the womb of Mary, housed in a human body, remained
sinless and would die to pay hell for all of our sins and then rise again to show that it has been accomplished. He ascended into heaven to await the day when he will return for His saints and then to judge the nations and rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and send Satan to the eternal Lake of fire. He is God the Son, One with the Father and The Holy Spirit. Faith in
His death and resurrection is the absolute only way to be forgiven and have eternal life. There are no other gods or viable faiths apart from Him and you must believe this, and if you believe this with all heart and confess it with your mouth (Rom. 10:9-10), you, my friend can rest assured that you have the real deal. He is not just Lord, He is My Lord; He is Your Lord. He is
the one who gives me my direction for my life and my orders for my day. It is Him that I want to please. And, I want to carry on His ministry by loving others for Him as He has loved me. Thatís what it means to believe on the name of Jesus Christ His Son. That is the real deal. This is not just believing facts, it is giving my life and entrusting myself to this Jesus Christ
for time and eternity.
Finally, You know you have the real deal because you have the Holy Spirit.
V. A Comforted Heart (v. 24), "Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us." The person who does the four things we just mentioned can only do so because God is in him or her. God resides in us now by His Holy Spirit. We spoke of this 5 weeks ago and will
again next week. Our Lord Jesus told us in John 14, 15, and 16, that when He would go away, He would not leave us as orphans, but would send His Holy Spirit to reside in us forever. That is an important word. Because His presence is not temporary. He will not abandon you and you can not evict Him. He is here to comfort you, encourage you, help you, and teach you. He is here to
help you to feel the compassion that Jesus has and to love as Jesus loves and to do those things that before you believed you could not or would not do. He helps you to learn Godís word. Scripture makes sense to you now. Theology is not a foreign language. When you are tempted to sin, scripture comes to your mind or a warning buzzer goes off. That is the Holy Spiritís
presence in you. When you are talking and verses just jump into your mouth. That is the Holy Spirit. When you say, wow, I really got on a plane and went to Mexico, China, or El Salvador to do missions, that is the Holy Spirit. And you donít have to have a tingle-ly experience to get Him. He moves in when you confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
(Read about Bill Moore pp. 167-68 John Ortbergís Know Doubt)
If these five pieces of evidence are present in you, then you, my friend, are inferior to no one. You are second to none. You are capable of great things; thing you canít even begin to imagine. You are a child of the living God and you are The REAL DEAL.
May our Lord bless you as you touch others with His grace and may they want to know the one who changed you!
But if you have no compassion for the poor, hurting, helpless, and hopeless; If you have no confidence in approaching God as your adopted Father; If you have no drive to know and observe Godís commands so you can honor him and know that you are always doing what is good and right; If you have never wrapped yourself around the entire person of Jesus
Christ as the eternal God, and King; and If your life hasnít been forever changed by the Holy Spirit, then you, my dear friend, are not a believer; you are a make believer. You have no sure hope, you have a hope so. If your faith is all about having prayed a prayer, attending church, being baptized, or giving your money, or having some experience or some external command;
this is your day. This is the day to embrace the one who loved you so much He would rather die than live without you. Let Him take your heart of stone and replace with a heart of flesh. Let Him make you anew today. He will if you will call to Him.
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman