Friday, May 17, 2024

The Vision (5.17.24): And his commandments are not grievous


Image: Rhododendron, North Garden, Virginia, May 2024.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 John 5:1-5.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:3).

The apostle John calls here for obedience to Christ’s commands as an indicator that one knows the love of God. We sometimes call this the ethical or moral test of assurance. As Christ himself taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15; cf. John 15:14).

John concludes at the end of v. 3: “and his commandments are not grievous.”

One thinks of Christ’s teaching of his disciples in Matthew 11, when he told them, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (vv. 28-30).

Did you ever consider that the things that Christ commands of us, like personal righteousness, holiness, and uprightness, only appear to be “grievous” to us because of our fallen condition?

I was reading recently a little booklet addressing the topic of Christians and sexual purity. At one point the author wrote:

Imagine a juicy burger on your dinner plate. Now imagine that you know the meat is saturated with E. coli bacteria. Would you eat it anyway just because it looks good and would satisfy your hunger? Of course, you wouldn’t. Every rational person knows that having a full stomach isn’t worth eighteen hours of vomiting and perhaps a trip to the emergency room. Instead you’ll throw the whole thing in the trash and scour the plate with hot water and strong soap.

The author then adds:

Pornography is E. coli for your soul (Daryl Wingerd, Delivered By Desire, 25; you can read a free pdf of this booklet online here).

Let us consider: When Christ gives us commands to live holy and righteous and upright lives, when he commands us through his apostle, “Flee fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:18a), is he telling us something that is meant to be “grievous” to us? Or is he telling us what will lead us to health and well-being, to avoid sickness and death, and we are just too influenced by the remaining corruption of sin in us to recognize this?

The immediate context in 1 John is not a negative admonition as to what to avoid, but a positive admonition as to what to pursue. It will be to the glory of God and to the spiritual benefit of ourselves and others if we will love the brethren as Christ has loved us. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11). This should not be grievous to us.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, May 10, 2024

The Vision (5.10.24): Love made perfect (1 John 4:17)


Image: Rhododendron, North Garden, Virginia, May 10, 2024. 

Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon in 1 John 4:17-21.

Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he , so are we in this world (1 John 4:17).

What does the apostle John mean when he says our love for God is being “made perfect”?

The Greek verb rendered as “perfect” here does not mean something like numerical perfection so much as it means to complete, or to accomplish, or to come into maturity. It is built on the root word telos, which means end, purpose, goal, or destination. In this life we will not be without sin (see 1 John 1:8, 10).

So, we might render it, “Herein is our love moved closer toward the goal and achievement of our true purpose as believers.” Or, “Herein is our love made more mature or more complete.”

Let me offer an illustration from the world of construction.

In the construction industry they use the term “finishing.” There is the task of building a house, which means building the necessary infrastructure that makes a house a house (e.g., the foundation, framing, roofing, shingles, electrical work, plumbing, drywall, etc.), and then there is the “finishing work.”

I found this description online:

….finishing work describes anything that is used to “finish” off your home (i.e. trim work, crown molding, window casings, millwork, shiplap, paneling, coffered ceilings, etc). All of these things are typically found in a home BUT they aren’t necessarily a “necessity” of building a home.

You can be saved and still be very rough around the edges. All of us are this way when we first come to faith. Some, sadly, do not get much beyond this. The thief on the cross was saved but he did not live long enough to experience a long period of slow and progressive sanctification.

Most of us, however, are granted time and opportunity for the Lord to do his finishing work on us, though it is never complete in this life.

When God saves a man, he begins this “finishing” work of sanctification. This work will only be complete when he enters the state of glorification (see 1 John 3:2: “and it doth not yet appear what we shall be”). But for now, we can be sure God is at work making our love for him and for one another perfect.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Saturday, May 04, 2024

Podcast Recommendation: Pastor Christian Khanda defends the Reformation Text of the Bible


Pastor Christian Khanda of Holy Trinity OPC in Fort Lauderdale, Florida gives a clear and winsome defense of the Reformation Text over against the modern critical text of Christian Scripture on the Kingdom Polemics podcast.


Friday, May 03, 2024

The Vision (5.3.24): The Spiritual Test


Image: Azalea bush, North Garden, Virginia, May 3, 2024.

Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on 1 John 4:11-16.

Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit (1 John 4:13).

One of 1 John’s great themes is assurance of salvation. If one struggles with doubts and worries about his salvation, this is the book we would first recommend for reading and meditation.

We previously noted at least three tests that provide assurance of salvation:

The Doctrinal Test: Do you say you believe? (1 John 2:23; Romans 10:9);

The Ethical Test: Are you seeking to obey Christ? (1 John 5:3; John 14:15);

The Social Test: Do you love the brethren? (1 John 3:14; John 13:35).

In 1 John 4:13 there is perhaps another kind of test, which we might call The Spiritual Test. We know that we dwell (or abide) in Christ, because we have the Spirit.

The same point is made in 1 John 3:24b: “And herby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” Paul likewise spoke of the Holy Spirit dwelling in each believer (see Romans 8:9, 11, 15-16).

What are the evidences of the Spirit within us? Here are at least three scriptural evidences:

First, our consciences are sensitive to sin in our lives (see Galatians 5:17: “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh”).

Second, we begin to understand the Scriptures and the things of God in ways that the natural (unregenerate) man cannot (see 1 Corinthians 2:14-15: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God… But he that is spiritual judgeth all things…”).

Third, the Spirit helps us in our prayer life (see Romans 8:26: “the Spirit helpeth our infirmities” and “the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered”).

May each authentic believer receive assurance of salvation as he recognizes the presence of the Spirit in his life.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, May 02, 2024

2024 Presbyterion (the Eldership) Pastors' Fraternal Audio Posted

The Spring 2024 Presbyterion (the Eldership) Pastors' Fraternal for the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia was held on Friday, April 26, 2024.

Session 1 Marvin Jones, Elder, Redeeming Grace Church, Gloucester, Virginia addresses Confession 19, Of the Law of God.

Session 2 Luke Peterson, Elder, Emmanuel Reformed Baptist Church, Verona, Virginia addresses Confession 26:4, Is the Pope that Antichrist?