This semester in our men's Bible study we're studying the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). Last night we looked at "faithfulness." Part of our homework each week is to come with a worldly cultural example of the assigned Fruit of the Spirit. My wife, Dani, supplied me with this example of what faithfulness looks like to the world…
Tonight I preached on 1 John 4:17–18:
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment.…There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
These are words of promise given to the children of God, those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit. This is the promise: if you believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, you need no longer fear God's judgment.
John is not saying that no one should fear God's judgment. In fact, if you do not believe in Jesus Christ, fearing God's judgment is exactly what you should be doing. Jesus said,
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36)
The Apostle Paul repeated Jesus' message:
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:9)
Notice that salvation from the wrath of God is a promise given to those who have been justified by His blood. Apart from His blood, there is no escape from God's wrath.
This is the true Gospel. It says, "The wrath of God abides on you. You stand condemned before God. Believe in Jesus Christ and be saved." In other words, the true Gospel sees fear of God's judgment as a necessary precursor which compels us to receive God's grace.
But there's a half-gospel that is taking over.
It's a new year. It's a perfect time to recommit yourself to bathing every day in God's Word!
Instead of hopping on Facebook every spare moment, why not read a chapter of Scripture when you sit down by yourself?
Quite a number of CNCFers are joining me this year in doing a year-long reading plan called "Reading God's Story." It's kind of a combination of a chronological reading plan and a topical reading plan that gets you through the whole Bible in 365 days. The basic structure is chronological: you read the Bible in the order in which it was written. But the creator of the plan mixes in passages that relate to whatever event is happening in that day's reading.
For example, after reading the account of the Flood in Genesis 8 and 9, the plan has you read this Psalm on the same day:
I've been preaching through 1 John at CNCF on Tuesday nights this year. We're about halfway through! 1 John can be a difficult book to understand. To do so requires that you be spiritually minded, but I am so earthly minded. One of the Apostle John's refrains is the importance of having a clean conscience before God. What does that mean? It means seeking to obey God in everything all the time. It means never silencing or ignoring your conscience when it tells you no. And it means keeping short accounts with God by frequently and fully confessing your sins to Him—without reservation. A clean conscience helps sustain the Christian's real, ongoing, practical peace with God.
The opposite of a clean conscience is a defiled conscience which corrupts your ability to be a useful Christian. Here's one commentator on the importance of a clean conscience:
Why is it that we see so many joyless, cheerless, one might almost say useless Christians? Why so many living and walking in such a way as to give the notion of godliness being all gloomy doubt, painful discipline, self-absorbing anxiety, listless musing? Awake! Arise! Shake off the chains that bind you. Go forth and in open day, under the open sky, to meet your God and Father, with your heart open to him, as his heart is open to you. Stand fast in the liberty with which Christ makes you free. Be upright. Be honest, frank, and fearless. Be yourselves; out and out yourselves. Dare to avow yourselves what you are, to God, to your own hearts, to all men. Be of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; yourselves true; receiving all truth, declaring all truth; everywhere, and always. Be honest, thoroughly honest, in the closet, in the family, in the market-place, in the parlour. Be transparently honest to your God and Father in heaven. Do but consent to treat him as he treats you. His whole heart, he himself wholly, is yours; all his love; all his fulness. Let your whole heart be his. Be you yourselves his; with no reserve; be altogether, now and for ever, his. (Robert S. Candlish, A Commentary on 1 John [1870; Banner of Truth, 1993], 328)
Is it your desire to keep a clean conscience before God? Do you have a daily peace with God which gives you confidence and makes you a truth-full light to those around you? Don't let a deadened conscience make you useless to God's kingdom.
We've got exciting plans for 2017, and we hope you'll join us!
For the first half of the semester, we'll be studying the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22–23 in our men's and women's discipleship groups. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What do these things mean, and what does it look like for us to bear these fruits?
When we don't believe God's Word, it's hard for us to imagine why God would condemn unbelievers whom we judge to be "good people." We tend to think of unbelief as an excusable sin—it's small potatoes compared to "big" sins, like racism, misogyny, or sex trafficking. If we judge our unbelieving friends to be moral, or nice, we often doubt God's declarations concerning those friends. And as we do so, we give a pass to our own unbelief, too.
The books I've been reading lately keep driving home the magnitude of the sin of unbelief. Here's Thomas Watson:
Clearnote Campus Fellowship is an evangelical campus ministry rooted in the local church. We strive to see IU students come to know, love, and obey Jesus Christ.
What does it mean that we're "evangelical"? Does it mean we seek to represent a particular conservative political subgroup? Not at all. "Evangelical" means…
The past two weeks, we've been spending time after our summer Bible study praying for the upcoming semester. Two Tuesdays ago, we read 2 Corinthians 5:17–20:
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
We prayed that God would give us hearts to be His ambassadors, and that He would prepare specific new people who are "weary and heavy-laden" and seeking rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28).
Last night we read 1 Peter 2:9–10:
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
We thanked God for His excellent mercy in calling us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We then asked for God to stir our hearts to serve in particular ways in ministry with CNCF. Students signed up to pray, to plan Welcome Week activities, to plans fellowship events during the year, to plan our Fall Retreat, to greet students at Tuesday-night gatherings on campus, and much more!
All of these ways of participating in ministry are practical ways that we live out our calling as "priests" to IU and Bloomington, because we do these things so that people might be reconciled to God.
We're excited to welcome new students!
A week and a half ago, 49 people were shot and killed at a gay night club in Orlando. Multitudes have taken to the web (myself now included) to comment on how we should respond to this tragedy. Each person who says anything is standing on some moral high ground from which they’re condemning or approving of other people’s responses. Let’s be honest: we’re all making judgments. Even if your message is “Stop judging, just love people!” guess what, you’re making moral judgments. I’m going to make some judgments too, because my hope is to help us all “judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
The lion’s share of Christian responses I’ve seen to what happened in Orlando have been some version of “let’s not make judgments right now—our job as Christians is just to love, weep, mourn, comfort,” etc.
First, a confession of my own sin…
CNCF's Summer Bible Study starts on Tuesday, May 24! We'll be meeting at the IMU (more details on room to come) on Tuesdays at 7 PM throughout the summer to study The life of Elijah.
In the New Testament, the prophet Elijah is kind of a big deal. He's mentioned in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Romans, and James. John the Baptist is said to be the Elijah prophesied about way back in the book of Malachi, and Elijah himself shows up (along with Moses) on the Mount of Transfiguration to speak with Jesus before His death and resurrection.
So why's Elijah so important? What's so special about him? Well, for starters, he called down fire from heaven, raised a boy from the dead, and ascended into heaven on chariots of fire. And most of all, he trusted God and was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Join us Tuesdays this summer for a study on The Life of Elijah. Starting May 24, we'll be meeting every Tuesday at 7 PM throughout the summer at IU's Indiana Memorial Union (IMU). Stay tuned for more specific details.
See you there!