Friday, October 05, 2007

1 John – The Journey Begins

Last week I had the pleasure of teaching the T&T (3rd through 6th grade) Awana clubbers, and boy is it a pleasure to do that. Last year we went through the Ten Commandments for the entire 28 (or so) weeks of the club, and I think did a pretty thorough job of hammering home the reality of God’s standard against sin as well as opening a door for the kids to be able to see just how sinful they are. Well, this year I decided to move from lesson structure on Law and Gospel to Gospel and Growth. Sure, we’ll still include the use of God’s Law in His Word to bring about the knowledge of sin, but the focus this year is on the growth that follows conversion.

With that focus in mind, I have zeroed in on the first epistle of John to guide our lessons. Why? The way that I understand this book is that it was written “so that our joy may be made complete” (1 John 1:4), but specifically so that our joy may be complete with the knowledge that we “have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13) So last night we began our tour through First John using the contrasting statements to evaluate our lives.

Many people in western Christendom today, I believe, have been lulled into the false belief that if they prayed the sinner’s prayer as a child (or at one point in their lives) is almost a magical group of words that must be used to impart eternal life. I am very tired of modern protestant Christendom’s sinner’s prayer battle cry that seems to, so often, lack any real articulation or understanding of what the gospel teaches and demands about the evidence of a changed life…at least with what is communicated to the listener.

And if this is the atmosphere in Christian literature and culture, my fear is that we are raising up and influencing generations of children who will try Jesus, accept Him, pray the prayer, but never really get saved. And all the while they will have the “assurance” that they’re saved based solely upon the one point in time when they prayed the sinner’s prayer. I liken this protestant concept of salvation to the Roman Catholic (or other) concept of baptismal regeneration. Basically stated, in that theology one is born again based upon the fact that a person was baptized as (usually) an infant.

We Baptists tend to shake our heads and wonder how people can be so deceived to think that salvation comes through a ceremony of water baptism, and rightly so, but so many of our Baptist brethren don’t see the same type of error in the popular evangelical protestant theology of the day. I dare say that one can make an argument filled with more Scriptures directly referencing “baptism for the remission of sins” than an argument using Scriptures directly referencing “Ask Jesus into your heart”. As a matter of fact, I don’t know of one that says that this is what we are to do.

Now I have to say two things. First of all, all of the Scriptures that seem to be somewhat in favor of baptismal regeneration or a combination of faith and necessary baptism for salvation do not say that. The Bible is clear that man is saved by faith alone (see Romans 5:1 and Ephesians 2:8,9). Secondly, there is verse that jumps to mind regarding “ask Jesus into your heart,” and it has (for better or worse) been pushed to this level of recognition and used this way by Baptist, or Baptist friendly, preachers.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not done a fully thorough study of this section of Revelation, so my comments about the above verse will be more moderated for that reason. But, the way that this verse is applied many times by the preacher when he says, “Jesus stands at the door of your heart, and if you pray to accept Him, He will come in and you will be saved.” The problem is that “heart” is not even mentioned here, and the context of the statement in Revelation is dealing with the growingly apostate church of Laodicea. So whether this is a call for true believers to repent of their floundering ways or call unbelievers to salvation is, at this time, unclear to me. But in any case, for preachers to base modern day evangelistic language primarily on this verse is very reckless.

So now we come back to the first epistle from John. This book is loaded with passages that contrast someone who walks in the light with someone who walks in darkness. It is my intention and goal to work our way through this book in the Awana meetings. I hope and pray that the teaching of God’s word in this book will cause those children who have made professions of faith to examine themselves to ensure that they’re in the faith and (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Peter 1:10).


1 comment:

St. Michael the Archangel said...

Eric,

May this find you in peace with the Lord. I'm sorry for leaving a comment here without any real substance. I have a new post on my blog concerning communion I would like you to post on.

Pax Christi,

Michael

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