THE WONDERFUL LOVE OF GOD

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."--John iii.16

 

THE term world as here used does not mean the globe of earth on which we live--but the race of man. In this sense the term is often used. The world; the whole world; are terms often used to signify the men who live in the world, the race of man, as such. The term perish in this passage does not mean annihilation; it is manifestly put in contrast to everlasting life, as the opposite of that. Everlasting life, as the term is here used, is not merely everlasting existence--I know not the term is ever used in that sense in any other part of the Bible: whether everlasting existence will be a blessing or not, will depend upon the state in which individuals exist, whether in happiness or misery. Under some circumstances everlasting existence might be anything but a blessing.

This everlasting life which is here spoken of is doubtless an everlasting living with God in heaven--an everlasting existence combined with everlasting happiness; this is the eternal life so often spoken* of in the Scriptures, and, doubtless, is that which is meant in this place. Now to perish is the opposite of this; it is not annihilation or a mere ceasing from existence, because to annihilate would ofttimes be no evil to the individual on whom the sentence should be inflicted; to a wretched being it would be not an evil at all, but a great favour. In short, it is very plain that to perish is the very opposite of everlasting life, and means what is expressed in everlasting death, or a state of endless punishment.

In speaking from these words I propose to notice--

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CHRIST OUR ADVOCATE WITH THE FATHER

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." --1 John 2:1

 

In remarking upon this passage, I must,

1. Explain the sense in which the term "advocate" is here used;

2. Show what is implied in the existence of this office;

3. Explain the essential qualifications of an advocate;

4. State some of the conditions of his success.

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ON CONFESSING AND BEING CLEANSED FROM SIN.

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

 

The connection in which this passage stands, is this--"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."

The first inquiry under our text is,--

What is implied in "confessing our sins?"

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God’s Love

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8 (NIV)

I know there are more than a few reading this who have experienced the great blessing and joy of seeing at least one generation of related babies making their first attempts at walking. And no matter how many related generations of babies we’ve witnessed, what is memorable in all of them is the extremely strong, determined, and continuous will in those little ones, to keep on trying, and improving. No matter how often these toddlers fall, trip, or stumble, they have that permanent will to get up and try again. If we multiply the determination of those babies’ wills by a few billion trillion, we may at least, just start to commence, to begin to understand our Lord’s Will and Grace to love us, and to keep on loving us. We know His love for His children is a glorious and perfect love, don’t we? As well as that, we know “God is love” itself. God’s love is fair. He loves all of us in the same way. God’s love conquers any difficulty. God’s love will build a br idge across any kind of river we need to cross. There is no wall or mountain God’s love cannot leap, or bring down for us. There is no muddle, tangle, mistake or, sin that God’s love cannot graciously forgive. God’s love satisfies every longing in our hearts. God’s love places His Kingdom within us; Righteousness, Peace and Joy. God’s love is a giving, doing, practical, working love, not merely a saying love. God’s love is compassionate; He suffers with us. God’s love is Omnipresent, Steadfast, Immutable, and Eternal.

Holy Lord, Thank You, for Your wonderful love for us, for all people. May we ever be grateful, and keen to testify, and never be silent about You, Your salvation plan, or Your perfect love. Amen and Amen.

By  Rosemary (Westbury, Victoria, Australia)

THE BENEVOLENCE OF GOD

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"God is love."--1 John 4:16.

 

It is not my intention, in commenting upon these words, to prove them to be true, for I should consider myself poorly employed in attempting to prove the truth of any passage of Scripture. It is not so much the business of the minister of the gospel to defend the truths of the Bible, as it is to expound and illustrate them, as he finds them revealed, and to show their bearing on the relations and responsibilities of men. It would be easy for me to advance many arguments, drawn from the whole range of the created universe, to show that 'God is love;' but this I shall not do at this time. I shall merely.

I. SHOW WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE TEXT.

II. STATE SOME THINGS WHICH MUST BE TRUE IF 'GOD IS LOVE.'

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Clear Vision

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:8-9 (NKJV)
 
When I was a child, I didn’t realize my vision was fuzzy until I put on my first pair of glasses. Faraway objects popped into focus. I saw the leaves on distant trees, which before looked like solid green masses. Seeing clearly is a blessing, but even now, if I get smudges on my glasses, my vision is blurred. 
 
The Bible tells us a veil is lifted from our eyes when we repent, believe on Jesus Christ and receive Him as Savior and Lord (II Corinthians 3:16). God’s Word comes to life and our understanding sharpens. It’s as if God fits our spiritual eyes with new glasses that enable us to see His truths clearly.
 
When we belong to God, we are commanded to keep our minds and hearts pure. Unconfessed sin in our lives will smudge the inner lenses of our hearts, plunging us into misunderstanding and confusion. When we admit our sins and confess them to God, He forgives us and once again restores our inner vision. 
 
Let’s remember to consistently confess our sins to God to keep the spiritual lenses of our hearts clean.
 
Dear Father, thank You for your abundant grace and power that keeps our spiritual eyes wide open and helps us to resist temptation. Amen.

In Our Father's Arms

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 1 John 3:7 (NIV)

The blonde curls bounced as the blue-eyed little girl pranced down the aisle. The pastor had called for all the children to join him at the front of the church for the children’s message. The little blonde-haired girl joined the circle of small boys and girls seated on the carpeted floor.

When the pastor concluded, each child began to find the way back to their seat in the large worship center. As the little girl found her way back to the correct section, she paused as her eyes scanned an endless sea of faces. Not seeing her parents, she bravely proceeded up the aisle with slow, but certain steps, her eyes timidly taking in the faces seated in each row.

As the little girl continued her slow journey, another couple began waving their hands so the little girl would see them and then hopefully notice her parents close by. But as the little girl looked at them, her pretty face frowned with an expression that said, “No, you’re not my mommy and daddy.” And she kept right on walking. As the little girl got closer to her parent’s aisle, her father stood so she could spot him. A smile replaced the frown as the little girl climbed into her daddy’s arms where she felt safe and secure again.

As we go through life, do we let the waving hands of someone else or the distraction of something else take our focus off of following after our Father? Or do we just keep walking with slow, but certain steps until we see Him? We, too, will feel safe and secure again - in our Father’s arms.
 
Father, please help us to keep our eyes and hearts focused on You today. Amen

Images Without Substance

We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:19-21 (NASB)

I was watching a television program recently that was spotlighting people who go to extremes decorating their homes for Christmas. One man had filled his lawn and adorned his roof with every conceivable plastic and inflatable Santa, snowmen, reindeer, and thousands of lights. When he was asked where he stored it all he showed them his storage shed behind his house. Oddly enough the only thing that was in the emptied out shed was Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. I’m not making this up.

I know that I am not the only one who has realized that the greatest symbols of God’s covenant love for us are always trivialized and set aside by our world system. The apostle John sheds light on this and encourages New Testament believers in the scripture shared above.

Let’s define idol:
1.  an image of a deity other than God
2.  a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance
3.  a figment of the mind; fantasy

The world replaces the true and profound with semblances removed of substance. Look what has happened to the rainbow. To children in our world rainbows are more associated with CareBears, leprechauns and cartoons than a covenant promise of Almighty God. Prior to the flood, "A mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground." (Gen 2:6) Often we read Scriptures and we don't allow our humanity to really interact and think about what the biblical characters were experiencing. They would not be so different from us. Think "Katrina" or tsunami for a moment. Noah's family experienced the destruction of their world on every level. The earth was no longer watered by a gentle mist. Now they would experience the gathering of ominous dark clouds, thunder, lightning, and at times torrential downpours. Can you imagine the fear, the flashbacks, and the gnawing dread they would experience if God in His mercy had not made this covenant with them and sealed it with a beautiful display above their heads? We've lost the meaning of the rainbow to leprechauns with pots of gold and glittery children's stamps. To the survivors it was a constant reminder of His holiness and His mercy.

We are in the Christmas season and the emphasis in our world is on Santa and not a Savior. Santa appears once a year, makes a list and checks it twice trying to find out who is naughty or nice. The Savior is God with us 365 days of the year. He knows we are beyond naughty and has come to save His people from their sins. Jesus is God’s indescribable Gift to us. His grace lavished on us. His life lived to show us the way and empower us to learn and to change.

Then there is the cross. God's holiness and mercy displayed for all to see. I don’t remember where I heard or read this, but the cross was not originally a symbol of Christianity, not at least for the first few centuries. They said not until all those who actually knew first hand of its barbarity and cruelty were dead did it replace the ichthus or fish that seems to have made a comeback as a car bumper sticker. There was a shop in south London which stocked crosses as a fashion item. Punk rockers, Brittney and Madonna and fashion icons have used it that way. The Evening Standard reported that one of their readers had gone into a shop to ask for one. "Sure," said the assistant, reaching for the crucifixes. "Do you want it with the little man on, or without?"

We all know what has happened to our celebration of His resurrection. The Easter bunny and his promise of sweets and dyed eggs take front and center.

We can't expect those who don’t know Him to grasp the meaning and significance of God's covenant reminders to us. It is up to us not to lose the meaning of these sacred things. Beloved, guard yourselves from idols. They have no substance or power to deliver. Go tell God’s amazing story in every creative way you can think of during this and every season. Do it with joy, grace, and a heart of love for those who only know the world’s cheap substitute.

Father, we bow before You and thank You that you are a covenant-keeping God. Help us to never lose our wonder and awe when we see Your covenant reminders. Amen.

Taste Test

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. 1 John 4:4-6 (NIV)

I like to keep my office well-stocked with peanut M&Ms. There is something quite enjoyable about finding the one (or the handful) with the perfect blend of chocolate and peanut flavors. I have a hard time eating plain M&Ms because I feel like something is missing. My mouth is watering as I think about this daily experience now. This savory blend is occasionally replaced when I encounter a peanut with a distinct bitter or spoiled taste, and, no matter how many more I eat, the bitterness seems to linger.

The exterior size, shape, and color provide no way to distinguish between a good and bad peanut M&M. Instead, the true quality is determined by digging down through the layers of candy coating and chocolate to the core and performing the peanut taste test.

By our taste buds, we determine what is wholesome to the body and what is not. In the same way, John encourages us to discern what is Truth and what is not. In some way our lives can be compared to the candy coating and chocolate, that, when stripped away, reveal the sweet character of Jesus. However, when we place ourselves at the center, there is a distinct bitter and spoiled taste.

If you were to perform a peanut taste test on your life, who would be at your core: Jesus or yourself?

Father, please help us to always keep Jesus at our core. Fill us with the sweet savor of your Son. Amen.

The Litmus Test

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him, in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. 1 John 3:18-22 (The New American Standard Bible)

I was pawing through a drawer in the mineralogy lab recently while looking for something and discovered a bottle of small strips of purple paper. The label said they were pieces of litmus paper, an absorbent paper impregnated with a purple dye sensitive to the presence of acids. If a paper strip is dipped into a liquid and it turns pink, the solution has acidic properties. If it remains purple, the liquid does not contain acids.

It seems to me the heart of a Christian is like a piece of litmus paper. Once it has absorbed the litmus of the Holy Spirit of God, when dipped into the circumstances of life that surround us each day, it is capable of reacting by condemning or giving assurance to the character of those surroundings. Without the litmus, it merely absorbs all without regard to quality or character - a sure formula for adverse reactions and conflicts.

So for all who go about “dipping” into the circumstances of life, I pray that you will listen to the Spirit of God in your heart.

Father grant us the courage to acknowledge our litmus paper hearts, and to react to its assurance and/or condemnation in whatsoever circumstances we find ourselves. Amen.