When a young William Carey, the acknowledged founder of the modern missionary movement, first applied to his church board to be sent to india, he received a classic reply. “young man,” said one of the older church leaders, “when God chooses to save the heathen of india, he will do so without your help.”

Fortunately, Carey knew better than that. He knew that although God is the one who calls and saves sinners, we must share the Gospel with others. His trust in the sovereignty of God would sustain him for the next 7 years as he labored without a convert.

The book of Romans is a treatise on systematic theology. Paul begins by establishing Israel’s guilt in the first few chapters of this epistle. In chapters 1 and 2, he shows the depravity of man in the world. Although God is recognized through worship, men exchanged the truth of God for a lie and chose to bow down to created things rather than the Creator. Therefore, mankind is guilty and deserving of divine wrath.

In chapter 2, Paul confronts the Jews for their pride in the law and failing to practice it. In chapters 3 and 4, he demonstrates that salvation does not come through the law. In fact, the law exposes that all men are sinners and under divine judgment. The law reveals our seed for a Savior, something it cannot provide.

There are 3 therefores Romans: chapter 5, 8, and 12. In chapters 5 through 8, Paul explains God’s provision for righteousness in Jesus Christ and the implications for repentance sinners. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He reminds readers that he works all things together for the good. In eternity past, He chose those whom he would save. And none of them will be lost. He mapped out our lives to be conformed to the image of his Son. Paul commences chapter 8 by reminding readers that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ.

Chapters 9–11 display God’s sovereign control of history. He reveals how the Jew’s rejected the messiah according to his plan. This hardening of Israel’s heart allowed gentiles in great number to come to faith. God predicted the entire process in the old testament.

The question that Paul is answering in Romans 9 and 10 is: “how have so many Israelites rejected Jesus as the messiah while so many gentiles have come to faith in him?” Paul’s answer in Romans 9 is one of divine sovereignty: “many Israelites do not believe because God has not chosen them.”His answer in Romans 10 points to man’s responsibility: “the Israelites did not believe because they rejected God.”

We have the privilege of learning about conversion from the greatest Christian missionary: Paul of Tarsus. Instead of outlining the normal progression of salvation, Paul works backward. He reverse engineers evangelism.

Romans 10:13–17:

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

1. Sent with the Gospel

The word sent is a passive verb. Who does the sending? God does. They don’t send themselves. God does. Remember what Jesus said, “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9:38). He doesn’t direct us to pray for softened hearts, or open ears. He doesn’t ask us to pray for people to get saved. He wants us to pray for more workers. God is the one who sends the laborers in the field.

In verse 15, Paul quotes from Isaiah 52:7. In verse 16, Paul cites Isaiah 53:1, the most well-known and loved messianic text of Isaiah. In their original context, Isaiah speaks of the divine deliverance God will bring about by allowing the Jewish babylonian captives to return to Jerusalem where they will rebuild the city which was in ruin. Paul uses these verses to refer to the final, ultimate deliverance of Israel and the gentiles from their sins.

God calls our feet beautiful when we share the Gospel. We live in a world that spends money on making ugly feet pretty. We can spend all the money in the world on shoes, polish, or manicures, but it won’t compare to what feet look like that are worn from walking with the Gospel. God delights in those who deliver the Gospel to the lost.

The process begins with God. He does the sending.

2. Preaching Christ

Paul isn’t thinking of a formal message before a congregation. Preaching means to herald or proclaim. Everyone preaches all the time with their life and lips. In ancient times, people didn’t have access to the internet, cell phones, twitter, or facebook. They relied on messengers personally delivering the news to towns and communities. This is not just a command for preachers. Paul is directing believers to communicate the message of Christ. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

God has chosen the proclamation of the word as the means by which to save men. Not powerpoint, not music, not drama, not videos, not lights, or any others means of technology. While those aid the process, there is no subsitute for the preaching of the word. When the preacher stands up to teach the Bible in an expository manner, they are speaking as a mouthpiece for God. Like a postman delivering mail to your house, it is the duty of the preacher to deliver you the word of the Lord.

Harry A. Ironside was the pastor of the Moody church in Chicago. He remembered ironside describing a visit to Chicago by the flamboyant evangelist Gypsy Smith. Gypsy Smith got his name because he really did have a gypsy background, and he told many fascinating stories about growing up in a gypsy camp.

On this occasion the message was made up almost entirely of these stories. At the end of the meeting, Gypsy Smith gave an altar call, and hundreds of people surged forward. Ironside used to say that he wondered what they were coming forward for. “perhaps,” he said, “they wanted to become gypsies.”

When you talk about Christ, it’s easy to invite people to him. Success is in the sharing not the saving, God does that.
The reasons I think that Paul gives us this reverse order of salvation is to show his audience that when they reject the preacher they are actually rejecting Christ himself. Luke 10:16, “the one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” When people say no to an invitation to follow Christ, they are not saying no to you, but to God.

3. Hearing Christ

When people preach the word, lost people will hear. Hearing is the prerequisite to belief. Notice he doesn’t say, “and how will they see or experience or feel or touch.” Have you heard St. Francis Assisi’s popular quote, “go into the world and preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.” unfortunately, this is unbiblical. Paul would have never said that. He knows that salvation follows proclamation of the word.

People tell me all the time: “I don’t know what to say”. Share scripture. Why do you think scripture memory is so important for the believer? How many people have you personally shared the message of the Gospel to in the last week? Month? Year? How will people hear if you don’t share something with them. In order for people to hear, you must speak to them.

4. Believing in Christ
You must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 16, “but they have not all obeyed the Gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 so faith [belief is the same word] comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Paul says, “the majority of people who hear about Jesus will not hear and believe in him.” That’s doesn’t stop us from preaching the word to people.

In baseball, a good batting average is 300. That means that you get a hit 3 times out of every 10 pitches. That doesn’t seem like a good average, but you keep swinging. Eventually you will hit a ball. When you go fishing, you don’t catch a fish everytime you cast, sometimes you don’t catch fish at all, but you keep casting the line. Same goes for fishing for men.

5. Calling on Christ

Paul has already shown us that God works through processes or a natural order. Romans 5:3–5, “not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the holy spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 8:29–30, “and those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Paul starts with the calling on the Lord and then gives us the steps that come before it. Normally you start with the beginning of the process and work toward the end. Romans 10:13 gives us an incredible promise: everyone who calls upon the Lord will be saved.

Paul starts by quoting Joel 2:28, “and it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my spirit. 30 “and I will show wonders in the Heavans and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 the sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 32 and it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”

What is so significant about them is that they conclude that great parenthesis in Joel’s prophecy that looks ahead to the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit at Pentecost and to the proclamation of the Gospel to all peoples that followed the Spirit’s coming.
Remember that peter quoted the exact words at Pentecost in Acts 2:16, “but this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “ ‘and in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my spirit, and they shall prophesy.”

What does it mean to call upon the Lord?

It means to believe on or put your trust in. This phrase is used in Acts 9 we are told of Paul’s attempts to arrest those who “call on [Jesus’] name” (Acts 9:14, 21. These are individuals who are followers of Christ.
He uses this phrase in 1 corinthians 1:2, when he wrote the letter to “everyone calls on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours.” these are believers.

Everyone who calls upon the name of Jesus will be saved. It doesn’t matter how stained your past is or if your have shipwrecked your life or denied Jesus like peter did, Christ will forgive you of your sins and save you. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, intellectual or unschooled, red, yellow, black, or white, everyone is precious in Jesus’ site.

2 elements are necessary for salvation:

  1. You must understand that Jesus is the only one that can save you.
    Acts 4:12, “and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under Heavan given among men by which we must be saved.”John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”
  2. You must call upon the Lord

Confession is the word that means to agree with God. About who you are, who he is, and what he has done.

Here is the unbreakable chain: People are sent. After being sent they preach. When they preach, people hear. When people hear, they believe. When people believe, they call. And everyone who calls upon Christ will be saved. What part of the chain is breakable?
Weakest link in the chain is our involvement. When we fail to obey the Lord’s command to go and proclaim his word and his ways to a lost world, it hinders the mission of God.

The negative of this command is this: everyone who does not call upon the name of the Lord is not saved from their sins, the wrath of God, the power of satan, and an eternity in hell. There is an amazing promise in this verse. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. One of the reasons for the lostness in the world doesn’t reside with God but with man. Before we point the finger at God, we must remember that there are a few pointing back at us. God uses human instruments led by the spirit to save lost sinners.

But what happens to the innocent man in Africa who has never heard about Jesus?

Does he go to Heavan? Yes.

The problem is, he doesn’t exist.

The problem is not why didn’t the African man come to God for salvation. The problem is why didn’t we go and tell him about the good news about Jesus Christ. Good people don’t go to Heavan, forgiven people do. People do not go to hell because they didn’t choose Jesus as Lord and savior of their life. People go to a Christless eternity because they are sinners who are unable to stand in the presence of a Holy God. Because of the sin of Adam, we are born heading to hell. God in his mercy reaches down and saves sinners. It is only by God’s grace that he saves one.

The question is not why doesn’t God save other people. The question is: “why did God save me?” One day the Gospel changed you. Acts 9 is the clearest picture of regeneration. If you would have asked Paul about Jesus the morning he was packing his bag for Damascus, he would have said I hate Him. If you would have asked him that evening when he was blinded, he would have said, “i love him.”

A study by Church Growth Inc., suggested that more than 75% of all conversions occurred because of a relationship with a family or friend. I would bet that many of you came to faith in Christ because someone personally shared the Gospel with you. The sovereignty of God bookends the process. God does the sending of the person sharing the Gospel and God does the saving of the one responding to the message. The pressure is off. You can’t lose. Success is in the sharing not the saving, God does that.

God will not save everyone you talk to. But he will save none of the people you don’t talk to. I can predict your future. If you never share the Gospel, you will never see anyone come to faith in Christ.

While at the Together For The Gospel conference, I received an incredible tool related to scripture memory from Dr. Andrew Davis. Scripture memory is a discipline that will dramatically impact your life, and it is essential to a d-group. I highly recommend you download it and read through it at your first opportunity.

Download a copy of An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I would be on a panel at the Together For The Gospel conference discussing group ministry in the local Church. I wanted to share excerpts of that panel with you. I had a great week, and was blessed to hear from many of you.

Martin Luther may have constructed the reformation vehicle with his revolutionary 95 Theses nailed to the door of a church in Wittenberg, but it was Thomas Cranmer, along with a few others, who paved the road for fleshing out its implications. Cranmer is the author of The Book of Common Prayer, one of the first devotional resources for the common man.

During his formative years, Cranmer possessed an insatiable desire for learning. He was afforded the opportunity for education in Cambridge, where he later joined other scholars to discuss Luther’s theology and practices. In August of 1529, a chance conversation with King Henry VIII as he was visiting a neighboring community gave Cranmer the opportunity to use his writing and reasoning skills under the employ of the Crown. King Henry sought Biblical grounds for divorcing his first wife Catherine of Aragon in order to marry his newfound love Anne Boleyn. Cranmer was summoned to write a letter to the Papacy in favor of granting an annulment of King Henry’s marriage. Although Rome denied the request, this solitary act earned Cranmer King Henry’s respect and the right to be an Ambassador of Europe.

After the death of the archbishop of Canterbury, just three years later, Henry appointed Cranmer to assume the position shortly thereafter. The first order of business on the docket for the Archbishop was to annul the marriage of King Henry VII to Catherine of Aragon and to validate his marriage to Anne Boleyn, even though the ceremony took place three months prior to his installation.

Cranmer became the commander in chief for the doctrinal direction of England. He called for reform among the clergy through the messages in his first work, the Book of Homilies, in 1547. His second work, Book of Common Prayer is what he is often remembered for today. It’s important to note that the word “common” was used to describe the fixed Scriptures used for regular services and for the vernacular in which it was written.

It’s impossible to translate to a modern audience the impact of this book at the time it was published. In a day and age without the Internet, television, or radio, few resources rivaled it. Cranmer’s emphasis on Scripture as the foundation for the weekly service, a difference from the structural formality of the Mass, made it the standard among Protestants. Another distinction, equally important, was the language in which the text was written: English. Up until that point, religious books utilized specialized languages, such as Hebrew and Latin, which few understood.

The title of the book is misleading to a modern audience as well. The book was a rubric for conducting church services, allowing for lectionary readings, songs, and creeds. Additionally, it contained outlines for performing weddings, funerals, and ordinations. Morning and evening prayers were included as well, although the section is small in comparison to the others.

During his tenure, Cranmer propagated to his constituency Royal Absolutism, the belief that the King was God’s chosen vessel to lead the church and the nation. Although he disagreed with the King in his attempt to divert back to Catholicism, for the most part, Cranmer was militantly loyal, which spared his life on occasion. Immunity would not last forever, however. Shortly after being crowned Queen of England, Bloody Mary, as she was called, ordered the massacre of protestant believers.

Cranmer was arrested, stripped of his priestly office, and charged with treason for speaking out against the Catholic Church and the Papacy. Believing that he could avoid being burned at the stake, Cranmer, weary from imprisonment, signed a document recanting his reformative stance against the Catholic Church. His signature appeared below a document stating: “I confess and believe in one, holy, catholic visible church; I recognize as its supreme head upon earth the bishop of Rome, Pope and vicar of Christ, to whom all the faithful are bound subject. I beg and pray God to deign of his goodness to forgive me the faults I have committed against him and his church.” Additionally, he affirmed the seven sacraments, the original source of his repudiation against the church.

His denial didn’t revoke the decision to send him to the stake. The government still ordered his death, that is, after one more confession, this time in public, in support of the Catholic church. Weight of what he had done overwhelmed him immediately; it was too late to be saved from the flames. His own signature would be used to humiliate him throughout the region.

In prison, before Cranmer’s execution, the witness of two men would impact Cranmer’s recantation. Huge Crowds lined the street near Balliol College in October 16, 1555 as Armed Dignitaries of Oxford lead two prisoners to a ditch. The first prisoner, Nicholas Ridley, former bishop of London, was 55 years old at the time. The second prisoner, Hugh Latimer former bishop of Worcester, walked behind him, wearing a ragged coat and a frayed hat. “Are you there?” Ridley yelled to his close friend. “Yes,” replied the 70-year-old bishop, “I’m coming as quickly as I can.”

The two men embraced one other and then knelt together for prayer before enduring a fifteen minute message from Dr. Smith about how love for God equals the belief that one must earn salvation through good deeds in the [Catholic] Church, as well as believe in the holy sacraments, particularly the Mass and the Eucharist. “Repent,” bellowed Smith, “and come home to the Church, and you will save your lives and your souls.” Ridley retorted, “May we speak?” Dr. Smith responded, “Only if you renounce your erroneous opinions.”

“Well,” shouted Ridley, “So long as breath is in my body I will never deny the Lord and His truth, God’s will be done to me.” He sealed their fate with these words.

Smith, along with the dignitaries, fastened chains around the waists of both men before securing their bodies to the stakes. Then, bags of gunpowder were wrapped around their necks. Finally, the executioners ignited the bundle of sticks at their feet. As the flames leapt up their legs, Latimer spoke first: “Be of good courage master Ridley, and play the man, for we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” Bystanders reported that Latimer burned quickly, but Ridley lingered in agony because the fire burned initially on only one side.

UntitledThat candle was lit, indeed, for watching from a prison window was Thomas Cranmer. Before being tied to the stake, Cranmer was allowed to address the crowd with one last confession of support for the Catholic Church, which he’d had six months to prepare. With hundreds of eyes watching his every move, Cranmer removed a piece of paper from his top pocket and read, “I come to the great thing that troubleth my conscience more than any other thing that I ever said or did in my life. All such papers which I have written or signed with my own hand [are] untrue.”

He then shouted these words over the growing murmurs in the crowd: “And as for the pope, I refuse him as Christ’s enemy and antichrist, with all his false doctrine. And as for the sacrament….” But by this point, dignitaries had stormed the platform, began to rip him from the stage, and then bound him to the stake.

As the fire climbed his legs, the former Bishop of Canterbury stretched out his right hand, the one that signed the original document of recantation, into the flames and kept it there as he said, “This hand has offended you, Lord.” He only withdrew it one time to wipe his face before it burned to a stump. As he was consumed by the fire, Cranmer continuously prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”

Although Cranmer’s contributions are still realized today in the Anglican Church, they have not stood without some criticism. Just for instance, the formalized structure suggested in the Book of Common Prayer can foster spiritless leadership on the part of the minister and monotonous engagement on the part of the congregant.

Criticisms such as these should be taken with a grain of salt, however, for the Book of Common Prayer began a number of positive precedents, such as the emphasis on the pastoral prayer in the service. Puritan preacher and author William Perkins, supported the formal prayers as “being both profitable and necessary since they provide for uniformity in worship and prevent ignorant pastors from neglecting the duty of pastoral prayer.”

While Cramner’s work was not necessarily the first quiet time devotional, as the Missal was used in the Middle Ages by monks and nuns in monasteries, it was certainly the most accessible. Its vernacular made it useful for the common man and set an example for personal quiet time that has proven crucial over the years to countless believers around the world.

As we conclude our series on 1 John, we examine 1 John 5:16–21.

One thing you can “be sure of is that your sins will find you out.” you can hide sin for a season, but it will always find you. It reminds me of the young couple about to get married.

The young man went to his dad and said, “I’m a bit apprehensive about getting married, Dad”. “why, son”, said the dad. “well, I’ve got terribly smelly feet dad and it’ll be so embarrassing when my wife finds out”. “don’t worry about it, son, just be sure to go to bed with your socks on and she’ll never notice the smell. You’ll be fine”. Meanwhile, the young lady goes to her mother and tells her, “I’m a bit worried about getting married, mom, because I’ve got terrible bad breath in the mornings and it’ll be so embarrassing when my husband finds out”. Mom says to her daughter, “don’t worry, dear. All you need to do is, be sure not to open your mouth first thing in the morning. Don’t say a single word until you’ve been to the bathroom and brushed your teeth.” The wedding goes off fine and for six months they each manage to keep their secrets safe. Then one morning at about 5.00 am, the young husband wakes up and suddenly realizes one of his socks has come off in bed. He frantically rummages around under the bed clothes trying to find this elusive smelly sock when suddenly his young wife wakes up. As he pops his head out from under the blankets she says to him, “what on earth are you doing”? He replies, “oh no, you’ve eaten one of my socks”!

You can hide something for a while, but when you least expect it you will be exposed.

John shows us that we can sin for a season, but it doesn’t come without a cost. A Christian that keeps on sinning will suffer two punishments: discipline or death.

1 John 5:16–21,

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. 18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know shim who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

1. Eliminate sin from your life

The verse reads, “if anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life” (1 John 5:16). Apparently, this idea was familiar to the first century believers, but is somewhat of a mystery to us. All sin leads to spiritual death or separation from God. But there are some sins that lead to physical death.

First of all, John is talking about believers. The one committing the sin unto death is a brother which is his title for a follower of Christ.

Early Church father Tertullian taught that Christians could not commit sins such as: murder, idolatry, fraud, denial of Christ, blasphemy, adultery, and fornication because God would not forgive these sins. The Roman Catholic Church categorizes sins into venial sins, which can be forgiven, and mortal sins that result in spiritual death. Unfortunately, the Bible makes no such distinction. And if Tertullian’s list was correct, men in the Bible such as David, solomon, peter, and paul would all be in hell!

We have four options for interpreting the sin that leads to death: murder, apostasy, blasphemy against the holy spirit, or unbridled, continuous sin.

  1. We know that murder cannot be the sin that leads to death because David wouldn’t have lived.
  2. We know that it probably is not apostasy since tat genuine believers don’t leave the faith.
  3. We know that blasphemy of the holy spirit was restricted to the generation that Jesus was speaking to. They people had just finished calling Jesus beelzebub. They labeled a holy vessel unholy. The problem is that they cut themselves off from the only means by which they could be saved. If you are drowning and I throw you a life preserver and your response it, “I hate life preservers.” You are dead because it’s the only means by which you can be saved. I get this from Jesus’ response: “this adulterous and wicked generation.”

So what it is? Before I tell you what I think it is, let me talk about what happens when someone sins. When an unbeliever sins, he or she “stores up wrath for themselves on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” according to Romans. 2:5.

When a believer sins, one of 2 things happen:

A. Discipline from sin

Hebrews 12:5, “my son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 it is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 if you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the father of spirits and live? 10 for they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

  • Moses was disciplined by not being allowed to enter the promise land.
  • David was disciplined and not to build the temple.
  • Samson lost his power, his hair, and ultimately, his life.
  • Jonah refused to speak for the Lord and was eaten by a whale.
  • Peter was disciplined several times by Jesus.

God forgives our sins. However, God will discipline us when we sin. There are consequences for sin. Think twice before you engage in sin.

B. Death from sin

Sin, if continued, may end in physical death. Does the Bible contain examples of this? Yes. There was a situation in Corinth where God chastened some believers for taking the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner. As a result, they became sick and ill. Some even died (1 Corinthians 11:30). Ananias and Sapphira, did not lose their salvation, but their physical life on earth was ended. They sold a piece of property and pretended to give all of the proceeds to the Church when in reality they kept back part of the money for themselves. They lied by saying they gave all the money to the Church, and God struck each of them dead on the spot. I don’t think the “sin unto death” is a single, isolated act. It is acts of sin that are repeated over and over by the disobedient child of God. Notice that John says, “if a man sees his brother.” this indicates an open action against God which affected the entire congregation. He just got finished talking about having our prayers answered in verse 14. He then encourages us to pray for believers who are in sin. However, there is sin where our prayers will not be heard. It is the sins of a believer who is on the path to death. John says that we need not pray for such a person. There is no remedy. Instead of the believer continuing to waste his life and drag Christ’s name through the mud, God removes them from the world.

John Macarthur, “no intercessory prayer will be effective for those who have committed such deliberate high-handed sin. God’s discipline with physical death is inevitable in such cases as he seeks to preserve the purity of his Church.”

One commentator said it best: “a person who persists in sin, who rejoices in sin, who never thinks of temptation as a sin, who has no regret for sinning, who glories in his sin, who boasts in his sin, who is proud of his sin, who is proud that he knows how to get away with his sin, and who delights in sin.”

“Now in life it is a fact of experience that there are two kinds of sinners. So long as a man in his heart of hearts hates sin and hates himself for sinning, so long as he knows that he is sinning, he is never beyond repentance, and, therefore, never beyond forgiveness; but once a man begins to revel in sin, and to make sin the deliberate policy of his life, and loses all sense of the terror and the awfulness of sin, and also the feeling of self-disgust, he is on the way to death, for he is on the way to a state where the idea of repentance will not, and cannot enter his head. The sin unto death is the state of the man who has listened to sin so often, and refused to listen to God so often, that he has come to a state when he loves his sin, and when he regards sin as the most profitable thing in the world.”

I don’t know what the sin that leads to death is, but I do know this: I don’t want to find out. Listen to me closely, you don’t want to prematurely stand before God as a believer because you refused to repent of sin. If you are in sin now, run to God. Get out immediately. Don’t wait brother or sister. Respond to God, when he disciplines you.

Here’s something to consider: maybe the reason you habitually sin is because you are an unbeliever. By remaining in sin, you are revealing who you really are.

2. Affirm your relationship with Christ

Verse 18, “we know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 we know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 and we know that the son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Who is the one born of God who protects believers? It is Jesus. It is unlikely that John is talking about us guarding ourselves, but that Jesus is the one who guards us. Tthe evil one does not touch the believer” Touch is more than to place a hand on someone. It means to grab hold of a person. Because we are sealed in Christ, satan cannot lay hold of your life. “The world lies in the power of the evil one.” lie means to be caught in the grip of. The whole world lies asleep in the arms of the devil. He says, “sh-sh-hhh hush! You’re waking people up, and we don’t want to do that! They are very comfortable. Many people in Churches are dead in trespasses and sins, and we don’t want to wake them up. Let’s leave them alone.” He feeds us lies so we buy into his plan.

Dr. David Allen reminds us that some of the most enticing, creative commercials on television are beer commercials.
First, you will never find someone over 30 drinking beer in the commercials. The ads appeal to a younger generation. Second, the beer can in the commercial, it is always brand new. Third, the cars in the commercial are dream cars. You won’t find a Fiat, Kia, Hyundai, Ford or Chevy. You will find a Corvettes, Porsches, or Jaguars. Fourth, every beer commercial has attractive women in scandalizing outfits. Every one of them just walked off the runway. All of the men are thin, muscular, and good looking. No beer bellies or unshaven facial hair in the ad. Finally, the scene is a party with a DJ spinning dance music in the background. Everyone is having the time of their lives, kicking back cans of ice cold beer. The entire ad is an illusion. That never happens.

What if they showed you what actually happened after a night of drinking: puking on the side of the road, ruined lives, car accidents, mangled bodies, broken families, emptied bank accounts, and hospital visits. What if they talked about the 100 million alcoholics in the world, or the 80,000 alcohol related deaths annually, or the 700,000 people injured from alcohol related accidents, or the 6,000 teens who die every year because of alcohol. But the Devils’ lies go well beyond alcohol. He lure us with vanity—to look a certain way.

  • Covetousness—to own certain things.
  • Immorality—to indulge in sinful things.
  • Pride—to worship oneself.

Jesus sets us free from the shackles of sins. He gives us purpose and a new identity in him. We are able to discern the truth because we “know him who is true.” Know doesn’t mean head knowledge but experiential knowledge. What’s the difference?

Some of you came to Church for years and participated in singing worship songs to the Lord as an unbeliever. You sat through countless sermons but they never affected you. But once you got saved, you were thrilled by them. The worship music moved you to tears. The sermons touched your heart. That is the affirmation of the new birth.

3. Eradicate idols from your life

Verse 21, “little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

John ends his letter with a line that catches us off guard. This is the summary verse of the entire book. When you give up idols, everything is affected in your life: actions, attitudes, words, thoughts, and deeds. Idolatry may surprise your twenty-first-century ears. I am confident that most if not all of you are not carving idols for worship in your home. But they come in different forms. Our idols consist of metal, plastic, rubber, upholstery and glass. We call them automobiles. Some idols come in the form of flesh and blood. We call them relationships. Other idols can be fame, fortune, or popularity. They come in raises and promotions at our jobs.

John lived in Ephesus, which was the epicenter of idolatry in the Roman empire. The goddess Diana was believed to reside in the temple of Diana in Ephesus. The temple took 200 years to complete and was 420 feet long and 220 feet wide and was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Ionic pillars soared 60 feet into the air. In the center of the temple stood the goddess Diana, robed in a veil of persian silk. Small replicas of the temple and images of the goddess could be purchased for worship outside the temple.

God warned his people against idolatry in Exodus 20:3, “you shall have no other Gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above, or that is in the Earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

How do I know if something is idolatrous?

Ask yourself, “what do I most love?” Here is another question to ask, “what do I think about when my mind wanders?”
If your thoughts move to your car, your business, your home, your investment, to your husband, wife, or child,To that which feeds lust or pride, worldliness or covetousness. The greatest idol is self. One author said, “we are trying to hold at bay the gnats of small sins while swallowing the camel of self.” The cult of our personality is alive and well with such phrases as self-help, self-image, and self-esteem. I think you can sum up 1 John with the last verse. When we stop idolizing ourselves we can love God and love others.

The early Italian reformer Savonarola is well known for his desire to cleanse florence of materialism and immorality by having people get rid of their material possessions that tempted them to have an immoral lifestyle in the “bonfire of vanity.” Savonarola once saw an elderly woman worshipping at a statue of the Virgin Mary. He observed her daily trek to pay homage to the statue and was impressed with her devotion and virtue. He inquired about the woman’s commitment to a fellow priest, who warned Savonarola that things are not always as they appear. Savonarola learned that this woman in her 20’s had been the model for the artist’s sculpture of mary. She had worshiped at the statue ever since.

In the Christian Church today we to eradicate the vanity in our hearts. All idolatry begins in the heart and must be exterminated there first. This is why David said, “give me clean hands and a pure heart.”

God gives us 3 words for idols: tear them down.This means that we must work at keeping ourselves from idols. It’s not passive but active. This is the only imperative in this section. John Owen said, “be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” If you are in sin, repent now.