THE CHRISTIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM!

Seems every group and movement today wants to embrace and attach to themselves a special song they consider to be their national anthem, which is an identifying song that distinguishes the group or movement from others. Well,  I would like to nominate a hymn for the Christian “national anthem.”  But let me give a little background information before revealing the hymn I nominate!

One of my heroes of the Christian faith is Martin Luther (1483-1546). Born in 1483, in Eisleben, Saxony, located in modern-day Germany, Luther was studying to be a lawyer, when in the summer of 1505  he was caught in a horrific thunderstorm and was struck by lightning.  Lying on the rain-soaked ground, he  feared for his life and vowed if God would spare him, he would become a monk. Only two weeks after his brush with death he entered St. Augustine’s Monastery and in 1507 was ordained to the priesthood.  He devoted himself to fasting, laborious hours in prayer, taking pilgrimages, and frequent confession of his sins. Instead of finding peace, he found himself experiencing deep spiritual despair.

His despair drove him to the Word of God and he soon begin to question many of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1515, while studying the Book of Romans, his eyes were opened to the truth that the only righteousness which will gain one acceptance before a holy God is not found in one’s good works, but by faith and trust in the grace of Jesus Christ and the sufficiency of His death on the cross. Luther taught, as well, that the Bible was the only source of divine revelation and truth. His rejection of the church’s teachings and practices landed him in hot water with the “higher ups” of the church.  On October 31, 1517, he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. Luther  was called upon to recant his writings and teachings at the Diet of Worms in April 1521.  He said he would not recant unless scripture proved him wrong and he emphatically stated, “My soul is captive to the Word of God. Here I stand. I can do no other, so help me God.” As a result, he was excommunicated by the pope and condemned as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor. From Luther’s protest of the Roman Church, Protestantism and the Protestant Reformation was born and flourished.

Luther’s convictions and firm stand resulted in him personally experiencing struggles, trials, heartache and dark times in his life. From 1517 to 1527, Luther’s focus on the abuses of the Roman Church brought threats to his life from multiple sources. His reputation was always under attack, his family never felt safe, and his Reformation teachings were constantly being discredited. In August 1527 a friend who espoused Luther’s teachings was martyred. In the fall of 1527, the Black Plague broke out in Wittenberg, and instead of leaving, Luther stayed to minister to the dying. In December 1527, Luther’s daughter, Elizabeth, was born sick. Luther and his wife prayed for her survival but in May 1528, she died. It was about this time Luther wrote to a colleague, “We are all in good health except for Luther himself, who is physically well, but outwardly the whole world and inwardly the devil and all his angels are making him suffer.”  He later wrote that he was undergoing trials in his life that were the worst he had ever experienced.

Luther was going through a very dark period in his life, where his constant companions were persecution, pain, sorrow, uncertainty and death. Luther was mentally and spiritually exhausted, under the load of suffering, yet he took comfort from reading the Psalms. Scholars tell us it was during this dark period of his life, between the years of 1527-1529, that the German Reformer penned his most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Luther based his hymn on Psalm 46, which undoubtedly reflects the reality that God’s people can confidently rest in His protection in the midst of uncertain and chaotic times.  Written during a dark period of his life, Luther intended the hymn to be one of comfort.    Luther’s hymn is one of comfort and hope in the midst of trial, temptation, and fires of testing.

The four stanzas of “A Mighty Fortress of is Our God” read (Read them slowly and let them sink in. Click here to hear it sung by Steve Green):

1.  A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

2.  Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

4.  That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

This is a great hymn of comfort in the midst of pandemics, trial, suffering, sorrow and chaos. This hymn reminds us how Martin Luther, and all Christians,  in the midst of the uncertainties and struggles of life, have a Mighty Fortress in the Lord.  The hymn eventually became the anthem for German protestants. The hymn was sung throughout Germany, often against the objection of the priests. It was sung in the streets when Reformers were being tried. It was sung by poor Protestants emigrants on their way into exile. It was sung by martyrs as they were dying. The hymn is sewn into the very fabric of the history of Protestantism.

The hymn is a celebration and affirmation of the omnipotence and omnipresence of God. The hymn affirms the truth that our Lord has power over all earthly and spiritual forces. The hymn confirms the sure hope we have in God through Jesus Christ. The hymn asserts that long after kingdoms of earth have vanished, the Kingdom of God is forever.

What a hymn it is!  In the uncertain days in which we live, what a hymn of assurance and affirmation of our trust in our Sovereign Lord. And since every group and movement is securing a song to be their national anthem, I nominate “A Might Fortress is Our God.” For our God is indeed Mighty and our Fortress!!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

IT CAN BE DONE!

There is too much hatred and division in society today. No one seems to be able to get along with others because of the diversity in individuals. Yet it is possible to bond in friendship with someone in whom diversity exists. It is possible to find commonality with those with whom we don’t necessarily “geehaw.” In the fall of 1971, as a college sophomore attending Campbell University,  there came out for cross country a young man named Jerry Dodgion, nicknamed “Bugs.” He only had one year of college left as he had dropped out to join the Marines. After a four year hitch in the military, he returned to college to finish his degree. It turned out he had no athletic eligibility left because of his age, so since he couldn’t run on the team, he became the team manager. Jerry and I were as opposite as yea and nay. We were like light and darkness.   The likelihood of he and I becoming friends was slim and  none.

Yet, in spite of being polar opposites we became friends… good friends. We were as opposite as yea and nay. We were like oil and water. I was 19, he was 27. I was 6 ft ½ inch, he was 5 ft 9 inches. He was a hardcore Marine veteran who had served in Vietnam, I at the time was a pacifist. He was from Virginia, I was from North Carolina. I was a Christian, he was not. He was a math major, I was a religion major. I disliked math, he disliked religion. I was soft spoken, he was outspoken. I was an introvert, he was an extrovert. He was abrasive and said whatever he thought, I kept things to myself and bit my tongue. He was constantly drinking coffee for the caffeine boost, I detested coffee because of the artificial  boost it gave! We disagreed on most every topic we discussed.

The picture is from an article about a marathon Bugs and I ran together in January 1972.

We seemingly had nothing (and I mean nothing) in common, so how did we become good friends? There was one interest we had in common that we both loved….running. Running was our ground of commonality. We trained together, hung out together, ate together, ran races together. The picture is from an article about a marathon Bugs and I ran together in January 1972. We were almost inseparable. Where you saw one you saw the other. We added to the mosaic of who each of us were. We remained friends and in contact beyond our college days. He came to hear me preach several times after I entered the ministry, and the last time I saw him he had started going to church. Sadly, “Bugs” died in April 1996 of an unexpected heart attack. He was only 51. I still miss my friend…the friend in whom we had nothing in common!!

The point of my reminiscing is that it is possible to find common ground with those with whom we may have more diversity than commonality. It would truly be a better world if we laid down our hate, biases and prejudices, and sought to find the commonality in each other and to exhibit love instead of intolerance. It is possible….for “Bugs” and I are proof it can be done!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

 

THE ANTICHRIST SPIRIT IS AMONG US

The Bible says in the last days “perilous times” shall come (2 Tim 2:3). The word “perilous” is packed with imagery, picturing a ferocious beast pouncing on its defenseless prey tearing the catch to pieces. We are living in such times, as we witness the spread of mayhem in the streets and the seeds of moral confusion, social unrest,  financial uncertainty, overt Marxist activism and spiritual deception being sown throughout society. We are witnessing the widening of the crack in the dam that had once held back the flood of evil, man’s heart spilling forth unrestrained lawlessness. John in his first epistle writes that the “spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (I John 4:1-3).

The aged Apostle writes that we can know we are in the last hour because of the existence and activity of the spirit of antichrist permeating society. John writes, “Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore, we know that it is the last hour” (2:18). Now what did John mean by the last hour? The “last hour” (called the “last days” by Paul) is the entire period of time between the first coming and second coming of Christ. However, as the Second Coming of Christ draws nearer, evil will escalate and grow worse and worse (2 Tim. 3:13). There is no question that is happening before our very eyes.

What is meant by the “spirit of antichrist” permeating society? What are the characteristics of the “spirit of antichrist?” Interestingly, the only place in the NT where the word “antichrist” is found is the epistles of John (I John 2:18 (twice), 2:22, 4:3, 2 John 7). The word “antichrist” (Gk ἀντίχριστος/antichristos) is a combination of two Greek words “anti” meaning against or instead of and “Christos” meaning Messiah, Christ, the Anointed One. It is clear from the books of  Daniel and Revelation there is coming a day when there will be a person who will rise to power who will oppose Christ, who will be against all that Christ stands for, who will portray himself as a “savior” but will be a counterfeit Christ.  Before the personage of the Antichrist will be revealed and accepted by the masses, there must be a “spirit of antichrist” that pervades society in order to pave the way for the Antichrist to ascend to power. Today we are witnessing the unfolding of the “antichrist spirit” which is paving the way for his revealing.

How do we recognize the antichrist spirit that is already working among us? John points out several  distinguishing characteristics of the antichrist spirit.

First, the spirit of antichrist rejects the deity of Jesus and that He was God in the flesh. The antichrist rejects the incarnation of Christ. John writes, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). He further writes in I John 4:3, “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist” (I John 4:3). While society can’t deny the historical reality of Jesus, the antichrist spirit portrays Jesus as a mere man who held high ideals, leaves us an excellent example of how we should live, a wonderful teacher, but He was not God become a man. Of course, if Jesus is not the God-Man, He is incapable of providing for us salvation and deliverance from our sins.

Second, the spirit of antichrist rejects the existence of sin. John writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us… If we say that we have not sinned we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (I John 1: 9, 10). The antichrist spirit seeks to convince man that he is not a sinner alienated from his Creator and in rebellion against a holy God, but he is capable of summoning  innate good within him and by his own power and reason bring about the utopia the human heart desires. Of course, if man is not a sinner the message of the cross is unnecessary.  If there is one truth human history has proven is that man is a sinner whose heart is desperately wicked, that man is out of tune with his Creator, and man left to His own power and reason divorced from God only creates a chaotic mess. If one thinks otherwise, just watch the news, read the newspaper, and look in the mirror. The evidence is overwhelming from experience and Scripture that man is a sinner and to contend otherwise is to deceive one’s self.

Third, the spirit of antichrist rejects the moral and ethical precepts of the Bible. John writes, “If…we walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1:6). The antichrist spirit seeks to promote the fallacy that truth is relative and changing according to the whims of society, and the moral and ethical precepts of the Bible are archaic, outdated and those who proclaim those truths are out of touch with reality. The antichrist spirit seeks to convince man that he is smart enough to create his own morality a part from any Divine influence. The antichrist spirit seeks to silence those who promote biblical morality as necessary for an orderly society. It is clear today the rejection of biblical morality and ethics has plunged society into a slide toward implosion and self-destruction.

Fourth, the spirit of antichrist rejects that salvation is found only in Christ. John writes, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God” (4:14-15). The antichrist spirit is not altogether against “religion” as long as it is a Christless and crossless “religion.” The antichrist spirit opposes the teaching that Christ is the only “Savior of the world” and the only path to a restored relationship with God. The antichrist spirit promotes there are many ways to God and for one to think Jesus is the only way  one is considered to be narrow minded.  

Fifth, the spirit of antichrist seeks to combine “worship” of the state with “religion.” John’s wording in 1 John 4:14 is deliberate and pointed when he writes that Jesus is “Savior of the world.” The Greek phrase  σωτῆρα τοῦ κόσμου (sotera tou kosmou), has reference to  the Roman Emperor who was called σωτῆρα τοῦ κόσμου,  savior of the world.  Emperor worship was the state religion of the Roman Empire and Roman citizens were expected once a year to acknowledge and give their allegiance to Rome and the emperor. The Roman Empire and the Emperor were seen as supreme. John in calling Jesus “Savior of the world,” σωτῆρα τοῦ κόσμου (sotera tou kosmou), was committing a capital offence,  as he is clearly teaching that salvation is not wrapped up in the supremacy of the state or the emperor, but only in Jesus Christ who alone deserves our worship and allegiance as Savior of the world.  When the Antichrist appears, he will combine the state with a christless religion to form a one world system and will expect the masses to swear their allegiance to both. One would have to be blind not to see the antichrist spirit is quickly moving society in the direction of combining both the state and a christless religion into a one-world system where the state is supreme and the Antichrist is worshipped (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; Rev. 13:8).

Sixth, the spirit of antichrist in opposing Christ seeks to silence the voice of the church.  As has already been seen, the word antichrist means that which opposes or is against or instead of Christ (I John 2:18 (twice), 2:22, 4:3, 2 John 7). Today the radical progressive left and most  left-wing groups and movements are clearly opposed to the Christ of the cross and the Christian faith. Christianity is a barrier to their agenda of fundamentally changing America and ushering in a godless and Marxist culture.  They are coming after the church. The spirit of antichrist has attached itself to many well-meaning “social justice” groups, the ultimate goal being to silence the church, rid society of Christian influences and create a culture devoid of a Christian voice.   The rush to remove every statue, the changing the names of buildings, businesses, logos, etc. that are deemed to be offensive, is nothing more than the insidious undercurrent of the spirit of antichrist eventually labeling the church as being offensive. The ultimate goal of the antichrist spirit,  like the advancement of the ocean’s evening tide, is to remove from culture the voice of the church; thus, clearing the path for the Antichrist to step into power without significant opposition. One would have to completely shut their eyes to the reality of the day not to see this unfolding.

Yes, the spirit of antichrist  has clearly permeated our culture today. Some may say, “You are overreacting.” My friend, the alarm needs to sound even louder, not less. Everything in our culture today, from the news media, the economy, much of academia, much of professional sports, Hollywood, leftist politics, the apostate churches, has been infected by the spirit of antichrist and opposes the spiritual, moral and ethical teachings  of Christ and Scripture. These avenues of communication desire to deceive people into a false view of who Jesus is and what He taught.

The clock is ticking toward the unfolding of the Great Tribulation as found in the Book of Revelation.  As the spirit of antichrist spreads at an alarming rate, the person of the Antichrist is waiting to step forth from the shadows as soon as all the pieces of the puzzle are put in place (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8).  Yes, the spirit of antichrist is here. It must be recognized that we are in a spiritual war today. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, our noses in the Word and our ears attuned to hear the trumpet sound. Let us pray for a discerning spirit that we will not become vulnerable to the deception of the spirit of antichrist that is among us.

A final word, even with the  pervasive spread of the spirit of the antichrist today, there is no need for the Christian to fear. John reminds us that the Spirit of truth indwells every believer and that we “are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is [Christ] who is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4). May our confidence rest in that assuring truth.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

A TEST OF THE GENUINENESS OF OUR LOVE FOR CHRIST

As one reads through First John, the aged Apostle lists many stringent “tests” as to whether one’s Christian profession is genuine. It is easy to say we are Christians, that we love the Lord, but do our lives harmonize with what we profess? In First John 5:3 the Beloved Disciple writes,  “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.”    John says in this verse our love for the Lord is revealed by two factors: (1) we keep His commandments, and (2) His commandments are not grievous or a burden to us.

First, John indicates our love for the Lord is confirmed by our keeping His commandments. The verb translated “we keep” (τηρῶμεν of tēréō) is present tense, active voice, meaning we habitually and actively keep his commandments.  Tēréō (τηρέω) was a word used to speak of a guard intently guarding his prisoner or any object of value, to guard something carefully. Metaphorically it meant to keep, to observe, to carefully obey. The genuineness of one’s love for the Lord is reflected in one living a life that is seeking to live out the principles and truths of God’s Word, to have a biblical worldview which is expressed in one’s lifestyle. John makes it clear that one’s proclaiming they love the Lord must be backed up by a life actively obeying the truths of God’s Word. If we are not seeking to live a life that honors our Savior and we are ignoring the precepts of His Word, John tells us no matter how loud we proclaim our profession our words are empty as a bucket in a dry well.

Second, John indicates our love for the Lord  is expressed in an attitude that embraces His commandments without grievousness,  without seeing them as a burden. John writes that if we love the Lord then we will not see His commandments as grievous (5:3). The Greek word translated “grievous” (βαρεῖαι from βαρύς – Barus), is found six time in the NT and is translated heavy once, weighty twice and grievous three times. The word “barus” was used to speak of anything heavy or weighty (rock, weight, load, etc.) which presses down on a person with oppressive force. Metaphorically it meant any trouble, burden or problem which weighs us down and becomes spiritually, emotionally, physically or psychologically oppressive to us. So, figuratively “Barus” refers to that which brings affliction, struggle, burdensome or oppression into our lives.

John in using the word “barus” indicates that if we love the Lord His commandments are not a burden or seen as oppressive to us.  When someone says they love the Lord but seeks to cast off God’s moral standards, ethical principles, and virtuous values because it is believed they keep one from expressing their own human impulses and compulsions, then John says while one may say they love the Lord they in reality do not. We are living in a day when many who claim the name of Christ, see God’s commandments as a hindrance in their being able to express their “humanity” and, therefore, seek to cast off His restraints as being grievous (Proverbs 29:18). There are too many professing Christians today when it comes to embracing the moral and ethical principles of the Bible have said, “Let us tear off [His] chains and free ourselves from [His] restraints” (Ps 2:3). Such thinking only reveals one’s profession is false. Man’s sinful nature rebels and is repulsed by the commandments of God, but if one has been born from above by the work of the Spirit, the Lord give’s us a new nature which is not repulsed at the commandments of the Lord but embraces them. We embrace them because we know His commandments have our best interest in mind as we travel the bumpy roads of life.

As Christians we see His commandments as positive, healthy, and as guiding us into being what humanity is meant and designed to be. As Christians we should approach the Bible not as chore to read, but as a love letter wherein we hear our Savior’s voice and find out how He would have us live in our pilgrimage on earth.   Our love for God is proved only by keeping His commandments and they certainly should not seem burdensome or grievous to obey the commands of the One whom we love. Keeping the commandments of God is evidence of our love for the Lord and shows that our love is more than in word and tongue but in our attitude and actions.  The Lord’s commandments are not heavy and burdensome to the regenerate soul, to one in communion with Christ, and to one who has had the love of God shed abroad in their heart.  If in our profession of Christ, we see the Lord’s commandments as a burden that cramps our style, then our profession lacks substance and our words ring hollow.

We love Him because He first loved us (I John  4:19). William Barclay has written, “Our response to Christ is the response of love, and for love no duty is too hard and no task too great. That which we would never do for a stranger we will willingly attempt for a loved one. What would be an impossible sacrifice, if a stranger demanded it, becomes a willing gift when love needs it.”

The Good News is that our Lord empowers us to follow Him. God does not give us his commandments and then go off and leave us to ourselves. He is forever by our side to enable us to carry out what He has commanded. What is impossible for us becomes possible with God. While the commandments of Christ we may find at times difficult, burdensome they are not.  But our Lord never laid a commandment on man without giving him the strength to obey it. And every commandment laid upon us provides another chance to show our love for Him.

Yes, if we call ourselves Christians, John offers two stringent tests that prove our love for the Lord: (1) we habitually keep His commandants, and (2) His commandments are not seen as a burden to us, but an opportunity to reflect our love for Him. Clearly, John’s words give us reason to pause and reflect upon our profession in Christ. Is our profession that we love Him not only expressed in our words, but reflected in an attitude that embraces His commandments in obedience which is visible in our daily lives?

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

UNDERSTANDING FIRST JOHN 3:9 – THOSE BORN OF GOD “CANNOT SIN”

 When one reads the Epistle of First John in the English translation (KJV), the reader may draw the conclusion that John not only contradicts himself but that he establishes an impossible test in determining the genuineness of one’s Christian profession, that being “Christian perfection.”  It appears the aged Apostle contradicts himself when one reads what he states in 2:1 compared with 3:9. Is this the case or is there a satisfactory explanation as to what John meant?

In I John 1:8 he makes it clear that all men are sinners and only the provision of Jesus is able to forgive our sins. John writes in 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” This could be called John’s equivalent to what Paul stated in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” All men are sinners and need a Savior. And for one who recognize their sinfulness John writes, “If we confess our sins, he (Father/Jesus) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1:9).

Now once one is a Christian John expresses his desire, “My little children, these things write I unto you that ye sin not” (2:1a). That is the goal, the desire, to sin not. But what if as Christians we do sin? John gives us good news, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (2:1b). When a Christian does sin we have a lawyer, a go-between, an intercessor, and one who pleads our case before the Father who secures our forgiveness, Jesus Christ the righteous.  While the goal, desire and ideal is not to sin, John realizes that as finite creatures the reality is that at times we will sin, but Christ has made provision by His Advocacy to secure our forgiveness and restore our broken fellowship with the Father.

Now when we come to I John 3:9, the Apostle makes a startling statement which appears to contradict what he stated in I John 2:1. In the KJV 3:9 reads, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

In 2:1 John recognizes that no Christian measures up to the ideal of not sinning; therefore, the need for an Advocate. However, as 3:9 is translated in the KJV it appears John is saying the proof we are genuine Christians is that we don’t sin anymore! Is John advocating Christian perfectionism as to whether we are saved or not? To gain a proper understanding of the verse let us look at in its context by examining I John 3:4-9, which  reads, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (KJV)

In 3:4 John says sin manifests itself in lawless rebellion and willful defiance of God, His character being expressed in the Law. In 3:5 John proclaims that Christ, who had no sin, came to earth for the purpose of taking away our sins. In 3:6 John informs us as Christians we need to abide in Him so we will not keep on doing sin. Let it be pointed out the Greek word translated “abide” is a present active participle, meaning to continually remain or abide in Him. The word translated “sin” in the Greek is present indicative active, indicating continual action. In other words, John says in 3:6 if you are not continually abiding in Christ but instead are living in continual sin, you don’t know Him! In 3:7 John says those that continually “doeth” righteousness (“do” Gk poieō) – present active participle, indicating habitual action) prove they are righteous.  In 3:8 he writes that those who continually commit sin are of the devil. Again, the Greek word translated “committeth” is a present active participle, indicating habitual action. Then in 3:9 John writes that whosoever is born of God does not continually commit sin, doesn’t live a habitual lifestyle of sin. Once again, the word translated “commit” is a present active participle, meaning one born again doesn’t live a lifestyle of sin.  The reason the Christian doesn’t live a lifestyle of sin, is God’s seed, His divine life, remains in the believer (3:9). The life principle of Christ indwells the believer who instills within the Christian the desire to flee from sin and enables the Christian to live a victorious life whereby sin is not the habit or way of one’s life.

Now we come to the translation that appears contradictory and has created controversy. John adds in 3:9 that because the “seed” of God abides in the believer, “he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”  The Greek phrase is οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν (ou dunatai hamartanein).While “he cannot sin” or “not able to sin” is a strict translation it fails to bring out the true thought that is consistent in 3:4-9 and is revealed in the Greek tense of  hamartanein. As has been pointed out, the word translated “commit” in verse 9 is a present active participle, denoting action that is habitual. Gleason Archer insightfully comments, “In one respect this otherwise adequate translation fails to bring out one very important feature of the hamartanein (to sin) after ou dynatai (not able), a present infinitive in Greek implies continual or repeated action.” [1] In other words, no one who is born of God engages in a lifestyle sin. To do so is proof one hasn’t been born of God.

S.M. Baugh also points out that the phrase ou dunatai hamartanein, translated “cannot sin,” is a present infinitive. Baugh writes, “The fact that John chose to use the present infinitive…shows he was thinking about ‘sinning’ in v. 9 as a characteristic action. Hence, John does not teach ‘perfectionism’ that Christians can experience sinlessness in this life. Rather, when he says ou dunatai hamartanein he teaches that the genuine Christian cannot be characterized by a life of unrepentant sin.” [2]

Kenneth Wuest succinctly writes that “cannot sin” in verse 9 is “the present infinitive, [which] in Greek speaks of continuous, habitual action, never the mere fact of the action…The translation therefore is, ‘He is not able to habitually sin.’ The Greek text here holds no warrant for the erroneous teaching of sinless perfection.” [3]

While there are other explanations which seek to explain 3:9, the above explanation as to what is meant by the translation “cannot sin” is both consistent with the thought of John of in 3:4-9 and doesn’t contradict 2:1. While for this writer the KJV is the preferred translation for reading and studying, I John 3:4-9 in the ESV gives a good sense of what John is seeking to convey:  Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.” (ESV)

John is clear that those who live a lifestyle of sin, who habitually practice sin, are not saved and are not genuine followers of Christ. It might be added, in order the Christian not find a loophole to sin C.H. Dodd has astutely suggested, “The apparent contradiction is probably not to be eliminated, though it may be qualified, by grammatical [astuteness].” [4] The Christian’s life should be markedly different from an unbeliever.  For one to say they are a Christian and live in habitual sin, John doesn’t mince words, “You are a liar and the truth is not in you” (1:8-10). The teaching of John through his epistle refutes those who contend that because of grace one can live a life of habitual sin. Let it not be so in our lives, but instead heed the words of John, “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when [Christ] shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (I John 2:28).

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

Footnotes

[1] Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982), 428-429

[2] S.M. Baugh, A First John Reader, (P&R Publishing, 1999), 50-51.

[3] Kenneth Wuest, “I John,” In These Last Days (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1957), 150.

[4] C. H. Dodd, “The Johannine Epistles,” The Moffatt New Testament Commentary (London, 1946),  80.

 

 

 

 

 

A MADMAN OR A PROPHET?

We are clearly living in a USA, as the theologian Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) described, which is now in a “post-Christian era.” America began as a nation founded on Biblical principles and a strong belief that guidance from “Divine Providence” was behind its formation. How, then, did we get to the place in our country where we now see the abolition of belief in a Supreme Being and the belief there no longer exists absolute moral values which were given to us by our Creator for the purpose of guiding human behavior and the preservation of order in society?

When the USA was barely a hundred years removed from the signing of the Declaration of Independence, there was a “prophet” living in Germany who “prophesied” the day would come when Western civilization would declare God to be dead, reject the Christian faith, and adopt the philosophy of nihilism. The word nihilism comes from nihil, a Latin root meaning “nothing” or “that which does not exist.” Nihilism is the belief that there is no basis for absolute truth and rejects the existence of all religious, ethical and moral principles. Nihilism believes that established moral, social, religious and political systems must be destroyed in order to pave the way for the replacement of new forms of moral and political structures. Nihilism advocates anarchy and revolutionary activity to achieve such an objective.

One would have to be blind not to see that the dark shadow of nihilism is falling across this land in the advancement of godless secular humanism; in the formation of groups and movements, many with Marxist connections, who are calling for the destruction of traditional moral values; lawlessness, violence, and vandalism in the streets; disrespect for authority and law and order; the calling for the removing of all statues and monuments that have any hint of being offensive; and the call for replacing the current religious and economic systems, which are considered obsolete, with new ones that will rest on the shifting sands of relativism.

How did we get to this point in our society? In the nineteenth century there lived in Germany a philosopher named Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). He was a self-proclaimed atheist, who “prophesied” that Western culture would eventually reject Christianity, declare “God is dead,” and nihilism would be embraced. How right he was! Nietzsche’s views were extreme, and many of his day considered his views bizarre. Eventually his extremist writings pushed him to mental and emotional exhaustion, and he spent the final years of his life in a state of insanity. While some label Nietzsche a madman, some of his views have proven prophetic.

The son of a Lutheran pastor, Nietzsche attacked Christianity relentlessly, declaring  “God is Dead.”  He “prophesied”  the day would come when Western culture would proclaim the “death of God.”[1] He contended the “death of God” would occur when Western man’s consciousness rejected Christian values and morality and dismissed Christian “truth” as being the ultimate ground and support of all reality. According to Nietzsche, “Nihilism is the belief that everything deserves to perish, to be destroyed…This includes the belief in God and an essentially moral order [as] untenable.”[2] Once God is rejected, traditional values must be abandoned, as well. With Christianity rejected, according to Nietzsche, man will be forced to look within and rely upon himself where “there is no one to command, no one to obey, no one to transgress.” [3] If the God of the Bible does not exist, reasoned Nietzsche, then the moral values taught in the Bible will no longer have sway in society.[4] Once Biblical values are rejected man will face an ominous dilemma, for to proclaim the death of God is to deny what once gave society ultimate meaning and value, and there will be no alternative but to embrace nihilism, which will bring chaos.

Nietzsche  foresaw the day when Western culture would enter a state of culture decline and man would find himself helplessly caught between two worlds, one dead and the other powerless to be born. Nietzsche feared when the Christian worldview was no longer the dominant influence of the thought of Western culture, it would be replaced by a liberalism that was incapable of giving birth to a new world. He was correct in his prediction. Liberalism today is giving birth to a culture that is still born, bringing forth a cultural of death not renewed life. Ignoring history doesn’t change the fact that Western culture is rooted in Christian values, and to remove those values the foundation of society dissolves into dust. And that is exactly what we are witnessing today as nihilism begins to pervade our culture and society.

Nietzsche being an atheist, he rejected the premise that there existed absolute truth and values; therefore, once Nihilism is embraced, man is free to be his own God and create his own morality and ethics. [4] However, what Nietzsche didn’t comprehend (and all those who follow such thinking), is that once God is declared as non-existent, society implodes because culture is built on the quicksand of ever-changing relativism. Nietzsche was confident that through reason man could find alternative truth and morality by which he could live. He falsely thought man could become fully human without God, but in reality, without God man becomes less than human. The consequences of living without God and morality only leads to hopelessness, despair and self-destruction.

Time has proven Nietzsche’s basic “prophecy” correct, in that Western culture has gradually denied that God is necessary and the abandonment of Christian values. This has resulted in the denial of absolute truth and that moral values exist, which has led to the embracing of nihilism and chaos in society.  Philosopher Peter Kreeft succinctly states, “One need not share Nietzsche’s atheism to agree with his historical, not theological, dictum that “God is dead”—i.e., that faith in God is dead as a functional center for Western civilization, that we are now a planet detached from its sun. One need not share Nietzsche’s refusal of morality and natural law to agree with his observation that Western man is increasingly denying morality and natural law…” [6]

As Christians we should not be resigned to the current societal climate in which we are living, we must be courageous trumpeters who are consistently sounding the alarm of the dire consequences that result when God is dismissed from culture and Biblical values are abandoned. It is painfully clear that we are living in a society that no longer views life from the perspective of a Biblical worldview, but sadly a godless humanistic view of life is sweeping the land.[7] Man refusing divine revelation, he is left to his own version of what is truth and reality, which has no fixed ethics. It is up to Christians to proclaim without apology the truth that reality is found in the revelation God has given to humanity in Jesus Christ and through His inspired Word, the Bible. The “freedom” that nihilism promotes leads to chaos, bondage and ultimately collapse.

Francis Schaeffer wrote shortly before his death, “Learning from the mistakes of the past, let us [Christians] raise a testimony that may still turn both the churches and society around—for the salvation of souls, the building of God’s people, and at least the slowing down of the slide toward a totally humanistic society and an authoritarian suppressive state.” [8]

Nietzsche’s “prophecy” of descent into nihilism is being fulfilled in our current culture and as Christians we must be about the business of defending the reality of revealed truth found in Jesus Christ. What we are witnessing today in actuality is not the death of God, but we are witnessing the death of man spiritually, morally, socially, and further alienation from his Creator. As man distances himself from his Creator, his love for his fellowman also wanes….and while shouts call for exhibiting respect for the integrity and sanctity of human life the opposite occurs because God who gives value and dignity to human life has been rejected.

Unless there is repentance on behalf of Christians, prayer for a return to a Christian worldview permeating society, and a proclaiming with boldness the truth of the Gospel that Christ redemptive grace embraces all humanity, the “prophecy” of Nietzsche will be fully realized in a culture that will drown in the dark and deathly waters of nihilism. There is no hope outside Jesus Christ, individually or societally.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

Footnotes

[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche, ed. Walter Kaufman (New York: Penguin Books, 1960), 95-96.
[2] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, tr. Walter Kaufman (New York: Vantage Books, 1967), 18-19.
[3] Nietzsche, Portable, 143.
[4] Norman L. Geisler and Paul D. Feinberg, Introduction to Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), 408.
[5] Francis Golffing, The Genealogy of Morals, (New York, 1956), 288, 296-298.
[6] Peter Kreeft, C. S. Lewis for the Third Millennium (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 107.
[7] Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto (Westchester: Crossway Books, 1981), 17-18.
[8] Francis Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, Vol. IV (Westchester: Crossway Books, 1982), 274.

SHE NEEDS OUR PRAYERS

I have a dear friend, She needs our prayers. Her birthday is only a few days away. On the Fourth of July  She will celebrate Her 244th birthday. I have known this friend all my life, sixty-eight years now. She is in intensive care on life support. Matter of fact, She has been on extended life support for some time, but in recent days Her condition has become critical to where I am not sure that She will survive.

My friend was born surrounded by God-fearing men and women who believed in the freedom of the individual spirit, who believed that God granted people certain inalienable rights that allowed them to pursue their dreams. My friend has been a proponent of the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, which is granted to all by the Creator and who engage in that pursuit with a creative spirit and a willingness to work hard, which in turn opens many doors of opportunity.

My friend in years past sought to exhibit a character that took the moral high ground, believing in the sanctity of life, the sacredness of family, and that marriage was between a man and a woman. She defended those who were victims of injustices and punished those who sought to trample her virtuous Constitution.

I have grown-up being proud of Her. Every time I see Her banner gracefully unfurled in the gentle breeze, I still get a lump in my throat as I think of all those who have defended Her honor. When I hear “Her Anthem” played, I stand proudly and patriotically in respectful  thanksgiving for what She means to me and millions more.

Over the years my heart has been broken as the one I honored and loved has grown sick and whose health is rapidly deteriorating. I am not sure She is going to make it. Her once family values have been attacked and thrown to the curve. Her moral foundation is being replaced with the sand of relativism. Her purity has been soiled by those who care not for the Biblical moral values which She has embraced for so many years.

The fundamental historical foundations on which She was built has been shaken to the core. A soul that was once anchored by principles of liberty and constitutional laws, has drifted toward the sandy shore of a government of dependence and give-a-ways that threaten to leave Her shipwrecked on the rocky reefs of indifference.

Once frugal and thrifty, She is now enslaved by foreign lenders because of leaders who have greedily taken advantage of Her financially. Sadly, they have put Her on a train ride that is leading to inevitable financial derailment. It pains me to watch it happen, but the crash is certain.

Once so strong and vibrant, with a voice that caused others to tremble when they even thought about encroaching on the freedoms of others, now has been weakened by naïve compromisers and freedom-hating extremists who seek to strip Her of Her once strong hand of enforcement and have made Her vulnerable to Her enemies. Her weaken state grieves the hearts of all who once felt safe under Her mighty and protective wings.

It pains me to watch Her reputation being tarnished by those who wish to erase Her history and teach Her noble heritage never occurred. While She has not lived a perfect life and has made mistakes along the way, She doesn’t deserve the disrespect She is now receiving from those who want to remove from memory any testament of Her noble past. Many of Her children from the past, who have helped shape and impact Her admirable character, are being dug up and their contributions are being defamed, discarded and destroyed.

She is the last bastion of democracy, the last hope for those seeking escape from the hands of tyrants and European socialism. Now the influence of those on the radical left with socialistic agendas is molding Her into an image that Her birth-parents fought to never see happen. In recent days I have felt the hot tears of Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, Hancock, and Henry as the democracy they gave us is becoming a government more akin to a man named Marx.

She has survived a lot of hard knocks and punches in Her life, but She is struggling to survive amidst a current onslaught of orchestrated attacks by those who are bent on destroying Her and replacing Her with a fabricated aberration  no more sturdy to last than a house of cards in a wind storm.

Some blindly say, “Oh, She is not sick, all is well.” No, all is not well. May I say, her banner now flies limply in the sky, monuments honoring Her that once dotted the landscape are being removed, and attempts are afoot to silence the singing of her song in public gatherings. She is not the same anymore. Change has occurred. She is on life support and my heart is broken. I am not sure She will recover. While Her flag has draped many a coffin through the years, if  a turn around in Her health doesn’t occur soon, She will go the way of all nations who have imploded, and Her flag, which once flew so elegantly in the sky, will be placed lifelessly over Her remains.

She needs our prayers. It is no longer, “God Bless America” – it is now “God Have Mercy on Her.”  As Her birthday approaches, please pray for Her.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

THE MARCH TOWARD MARXISM

We are living in a day when there is the constant push to purge the USA from the principles that made this nation the greatest nation on earth. The Radical Left are hard at convincing the citizenry that Marxism (socialism) is the economic path to utopia. However, Marxism is a two-sided coin that seeks to not only bring about (1) economic change, but (2) purge society of God. Let us briefly examine this two-sided coin.

Economically the USA has been a capitalist nation. Capitalism by definition is an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition and supply and demand in the free market. Capitalism has resulted in the USA being the richest nation on earth, and the envy of the rest of the world.

In recent years we have seen the push to replace capitalism with socialism, which history has proven does not work and always brings economic collapse. In a socialist system production and distribution decisions are made by the government, and individuals rely on the state for everything from food to healthcare. The government determines the output and pricing of all goods and services. Socialists argue that shared ownership of resources and central planning provide a more equal distribution of goods and services and a more equitable society. Socialism promises much, but delivers misery. Socialism always fails because sooner or later the nation runs out of everyone else’s money!!

The term “socialism” and “Marxism” have become synonymous in our society today. While there are some subtle differences between the two, Marxism has become equated with socialism. Suffice it to say, Marxism paves the way for socialism and if Marxian principles and ideas are carried out to there conclusion, then Marxism leads to Communism. Today in the USA the March toward Marxism is most prevalent, and if embraced the nation is headed for collapse like every nation who has traveled down the Marxian Road.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) was born in Trier, Prussia in 1818. His parents were Jewish who in 1816 converted to the Lutheran Church. While Karl Marx was baptized into Lutheranism at age six, he later became an atheist. Attending the University of Bonn, but because he was constantly getting into trouble, he enrolled at the University of Berlin. There he studied law and philosophy. His rebellious nature found him challenging established ideas on every front, religion, philosophy, economics, ethics and politics.

Marx held capitalism in complete disdain, claiming that it would be the ruination of all societies, leaving them no alternative but to claim socialism as the  answer to survival. Marx contended that capitalism would inevitably lead to a revolution by the working class due to the strain that it placed upon what he perceived as oppressed workers. Marx dreamed of creating a society where there was no distinction  between rich and poor. Marx was unhappy with the societal climate of his day, and taught in order to change society the economic structure of the country must be changed (socialism). Marx envisioned a revolutionary society in which everyone’s needs are met, and no class divisions exist.  His mantra was, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” (Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program, 1875) This system, we equate with socialism, was Marx’s vision for the perfect society.

Interestingly, the ten principles Marx advocated in his co-authored work with Friedrich Engels in 1848, The Communist Manifesto (Chapter 2), are the same ten principles the Radical Left are advocating today. The ten principles are:
1. State control of real property.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralization of the country’s financial system in the hands of the state.
6. State control of means of communication and transportation.
7. Increase state control over means of production.
8. Equal liability of all to work.
9. Control over where people live.
10. Free education.

The goal of Marxism is the disappearance of all class distinctions and all production being placed in the hands of the state, the citizenry dependent on the state to supply their every need from the womb to the tomb. It is clear to see, this nation is Marching toward Marxism.

Now the other side of the socialistic coin. While the Radical Left paint a bright picture of the state providing one’s every need, the other side of Marxism is not spoken of today….a godless society that has no need for religion or a Supreme Being of any kind…the state is supreme.

The goal of Marxian proponents is to not only change the economic system of the USA, but to rid society of any reference to Deity. Marx wrote in 1841 that he was “against all gods, heavenly and earthly, who do not acknowledge the consciousness of man as the supreme divinity…Religion is only the illusory sun…. Man makes religion, religion does not make man. In other words, religion is the self-consciousness and self-feeling of man who has either not yet found himself or has already lost himself. Religion is the opium of the people…. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness” (Marx, On Religion, 1841, 41-42).

Marx saw Christianity as a barrier to his economic system, and called for its abolition. He believed where Christianity flourished it served as a “superstructure for capitalism.” He saw Christianity as an enemy of the state because the principles of Christianity embraced the individual spirit over the state and each person’s right to work hard, and with God’s help, to engage in producing through entrepreneurial endeavors, create and develop economic ventures (Marx, On Religion, 135).

In Marxism, socialism can’t thrive where Christianity flourishes, because the individual, who has been created in the Image of God and for whom Christ gave His life, takes priority over the state. Marx called for the dissolution of ideas created in society through its history of “views and conceptions” and replace them with revolutionary new ideas (Marx, On Religion, 88). Marxism espouses revolution.

The destruction of monuments we see today are not an accident, there is an orchestrated agenda to radically change America. The Radical Left and all the movements that have attached themselves to Marxism, are not only seeking to change the economic system of the USA, they are seeking to purge society of its history; in the words of Marx to see the “dissolution of the old conditions of existence.” (Marx, On Religion, 88). The current destruction of monuments and statutes is but a prelude of what is coming next. They are next coming after the church’s symbols, monuments and emblems, and to silence the church. That is the progressive advancement of Marxism.

This November is the most important election in USA history. I wish there were better choices, but there is not. The question one must ask, “Will we hold on to what is left of the USA, tattered and torn as She is, or will we head down the road to full-fledged Marxism?”  If we choose Marxism (socialism) then we have chosen the road to collapse. It is a godless and economic road of self-destruction.

It is past time we woke up. I pray it is not too late.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

WHY PATRIOTISM IS IMPORTANT

Let me say at the outset, I am a Christian. Almost fifty years ago I pledged my allegiance to Jesus Christ. I am a citizen of a holy nation (I Peter 2:9), of a continuing city whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 14:14). While my physical birth in 1952 found me being born a citizen of the USA, my spiritual birth in 1970 found me being born into the Kingdom of God. Even if the USA collapsed and ceased to exist, the Kingdom of God is eternal. Without question my first loyalty is to my Savior and His Kingdom of which I am a citizen. That being said, is it ok for a Christian to express patriotism to their earthly homeland?

As a United States citizen, there are those within Christendom who contend that a Christian should not express loyalty or patriotism to any earthly  kingdom or nation. Without question, in the current climate of the day showing expressions of patriotism is under fierce attack. By patriotism is meant to be unashamed to show a love, devotion, and loyalty to one’s country. While it is the Christian’s responsibility to first and foremost be obedient citizens in the Kingdom of God, in Romans 13:1-7 the Apostle Paul discusses the responsibility of  Christians being prayerfully supportive and respectful  of  civil government. It is appropriate  for a Christian to be supportive and express patriotism, to exhibit  respect and a desire for the  country to thrive. Patriotism is one of the finer qualities any citizen should possess. When patriotism is properly understood it creates a responsible citizenry.

It was by God’s grace I was born in the greatest nation on the face of the earth. From the moment I saw the light of day, my parents instilled in me the importance of patriotism. I still get a lump in my throat when I hear the National Anthem and see Old Glory waving in the breeze. I am unapologetically a patriotic flag-waving,  flag-standing citizen. Now, being patriotic doesn’t mean I agree with everything that goes on in this nation, it doesn’t mean I am blind to the nation’s shortcomings and the corrections that need to be made, but what it does mean is that I believe in the ideals for which the flag stands; it means I am respectfully honoring and grateful to the over one million patriots who have given their lives that the flag might fly; what it does mean is that I am thankful, even in spite of Her shortcomings, to live in the greatest nation on earth; what it does mean is that I am thankful to enjoy freedoms that citizens of other nations only dream of; and what it does mean is that I am thankful, even in our differences, there is that which unites all citizens in a Brotherhood, and that is being an American in a free society.

Patriotism is an important thread in the fabric of our nation. If patriotism is absent there will be a rip in the seam that will eventually unravel the cord that holds the nation together. Patriotism is the spark that creates a fire in the nation’s spirit. It is important that we return to being patriotic Americans. Patriotism is important for several reasons.

First, patriotism is important because without it our freedoms will be lost. John Adams, our second President, stated, “I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. I can see that the end is worth all the means to defend it.” Daniel Webster stated, “God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.” A people who have lost their patriotism and love for their country will not defend it, and will eventually lose the freedoms so many fought to preserve.   Without patriotism, freedoms can’t be maintained but will eventually be lost.  We owe our freedoms  to the patriots who fought for our country and those guarding it. Let us be cognizant of the words of Ronald Reagan, “Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction.”

Second, patriotism is important because without it we soon lose our courage. Love for country inspires courage to defend it. We need more citizens who are made up of the “stuff” of Nathan Hale who said before being hung, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” It took courage for those 56 brave men to sign their names to the Declaration of Independence, most of them losing their fortunes, family and lives. Their courage came from a patriotism that bolstered them to fight for ideals they believed worth dying for. When patriotism is lost, courage is lost to defend the ideals upon which this nation was founded. Sadly, today many don’t respect the hardships of our Founding Fathers and our Armed forces who protect us. Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it; it flies from the collective breath of each courageous patriot who died protecting it.

Third, patriotism is important for without it we lose appreciation for our heritage, we forget where we came from. When as a nation we fail to teach the history of this great nation and begin to take our freedoms for granted, we then lose appreciation for our glorious heritage. With history today being erased, rewritten and no longer being taught as in years past, surveys show that with each passing year more and more people don’t know why the Fourth of July is commemorated. Thomas Jefferson stated, “How little do Americans know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy.” Patriotism is important for the protection of a country’s culture and historical heritage. When we no longer teach of the hardships of the Pilgrims in the New World and of the faith and fortitude of our Forefathers who fought for freedom, lack of appreciation grows and the freedoms we take for granted will slip through our fingers like sand.

Fourth, patriotism is important because without it we lose sight of the faith that made America great. America became great by a people who held to the conviction as stated in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Four times in the Declaration, God is mentioned. The revisionists in their attempt to rewrite history seek to dismiss the faith of our Forefathers. While not all the Founding Fathers were individually Christians; nevertheless, they founded this country on the basis of a faith in a Divine  Creator from whom we receive our unalienable rights. John Adams, a signer of the  Declaration of Independence, stated, “The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite….  And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty.” George Washington stated, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.” When we  view patriotism as unimportant and  fail to acknowledge that we began as a nation “under God” we are a nation destined to go under.

Fifth, patriotism is important because without it we soon lose our unity. When a ball team loses its loyalty to one another, unity dissolves and defeat will result. Part of the Declaration of Independence reads, “For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives our fortunes and our sacred honor.” We may all have our differences, but one truth that should unite citizens in Brotherhood is that we are blessed to be Americans who live a free society. As we watch patriotism vanishing before our eyes today, we are witnessing, as well, the eroding of our nation’s unity. We need to be united and stand together for the progress of the country for its improvement.

Sixth, patriotism is important because without it we lose our identity as a nation. Sadly, there is the push today to dissolve our nation’s identity and blend in and be like other nations, and in the process, we are losing our uniqueness. We are like no other nation on earth. The USA is the envy of the rest of the world. We need to remember, our identity of who we are as a nation is wrapped up in a people who have a glorious heritage like no other nation, who can be proud of those who have fought and defended her honor, and who aren’t afraid to stand up and speak out and take action against evil and wrong around the world. When patriotism is deemed as unnecessary, we will eventually lose our identity as a great nation.

Seventh, patriotism is important because without it Old Glory will cease to fly. My heart breaks today as many hold the flag in contempt. There are those who say, “The flag is just a symbol.” But behind that symbol is the reality of the faith and courage of our Forefathers, the blood, sweat and tears of countless brave men and woman who have sacrificed that Old Glory might fly, and the noble ideals which has made America great for 244 years. While we continue to strive for “a more perfect union,” as stated in the  Preamble to the United States Constitution, when we begin to hold the flag in contempt and lose our patriotism the ideals which we long to see become a reality, will begin to vanish like the morning dew before the heat of a summer sun.

Yes, patriotism is important, it is essential for the survival of a nation. While as a Christian I only bow my knee to the Lord Jesus Christ, on the Fourth of July I will patriotically and unapologetically stand when the flag passes by.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

 

WHAT A SENTENCE!

One of the cardinal rules in writing is not to make sentences too long. A good sentence should be concise, containing no unnecessary words. It is easy to make a sentence too wordy, and in the process lose the reader. When we come to First John 1:1-4, the Apostle introduces his epistle with a sentence that covers four verses. In the Greek it is one majestic sentence of 87 words (in KJV 108 words)! Leon Morris writes that, while profound in its content, the entire four verses of the prologue being “but one highly compressed and complicated sentence in the Greek.” [1] It is as if John doesn’t know where to begin and where to end. What a profound sentence it is! It is a sentence which contains so many sparkling diamonds of truth it would take a lifetime to unpack all the treasures contained within.

While the majority of English translations put a period after verse 3 for the sake of readability, 1:1-4 is a sentence bursting with heaven’s illuminating brilliance whereby John with each inspired word seeks to pierce the darkness with the radiance of the Light of Christ. (The ASV translates it as one sentence). The four verses read: “1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” (KJV)

The aged disciple of Christ writes what reads more like a sermon than a letter, to churches in Asia Minor about 95 AD. The content of his eighty-seven-word opening sentence is like a musical filled with soaring crescendos. It is so rich in truth a whole commentary could be written on just those four verses, so just the hem of the sentence’s garment will be touched. Seeking to unpack some the golden nuggets found within 1:1-4, it is hoped it will whet the appetite of the reader to dig deeper into the text. O, what a sentence.

I. The Eternality of the Word
First, we discover The Eternality of the Word in verses 1-2. John refers to Jesus Christ in his epistle as he did in his gospel, as the Word, the Logos – more specifically the “Word of Life.” In Greek Philosophy “Logos” was that one abiding principle in all the universe that never changed and was the force by which all existed; the Logos was the Ultimate Reason which controlled all things. John informs the Logos was more than an impersonal force, but a Person in whom was life, eternal life. That person was Jesus Christ. Two truths John reveals about the Word of Life, Jesus Christ.

(1) The Eternal Existence of the Word. John says, “That which was from the beginning” (v. 1). The Greek word translated “was” (ἦν) is in the imperfect tense, it speaks of continuous action in past time. “Was” emphasizes the preexistence and divine character of Christ. Christ, the Word did not come into being at some point in time. Christ has eternally existed from “the beginning” (v. 1), thus He is not a created being.

(2) The Eternal Equality of the Word. The Word was not lesser than God, but was God. John writes that the Word was “with the Father” (v. 2). The Greek phrase “with the Father” (πρὸς τὸν πατέρα) indicates one who is facing the Father, one who is on an equal plane with the Father. The Word, who is eternal, is eternal life Himself. John is clearly teaching the Trinity, that one God exists as three Persons. “With the Father” reveals that Christ and the Father are equal and one, yet distinct in their person. While there will always be a mystery about the Triune Godhead, the majestic words “with the Father” cause us to bow in worshipful awe.

II. The Entrance of the Word into the World
Second, we discover from John’s opening sentence The Entrance of the Word into the World (v. 1-2). Two truths stand out about the Logos, Christ’s entrance into the world.

(1) The Word came to Earth as a Man. John says twice in verse 2 Jesus was “manifested.” He who was eternal, He who was equal with God, He who was God, became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). The word “manifest” (phaneroo) means to make visible or known what has been hidden or unknown. The word was used to speak of a bright light appearing, like the sun. It is in the passive voice, meaning that God coming to earth robed in flesh was totally separate from any action of man, but it was God who took the initiative. Man is a recipient of God’s action in His revealing Himself. While creation teaches us there is a Supreme Being, we could not know God personally apart from Him taking the initiative to revel Himself in Jesus Christ. In Christ the invisible God became visible. John is clearly affirming the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

(2) The Word was Examined by Man. John is not writing about hearsay information, but as an eyewitness. He says he actually heard Jesus speak, looked upon Him, and handled Him with his hands (v. 1). When John says he handled Christ, the word he uses (ἐψηλάφησαν) means “to examine closely, to handle with a view of investigation.” John in describing his examination and encounter with Jesus uses the perfect tense, which means that which happened in the past still has lasting results in the present. He is saying, “What I heard Jesus say is still ringing in my ears and what I saw him do is still in my mind’s eye 60 years later. What I heard, I can’t unhear; what I saw, I can’t unsee.” To all the naysayers who contend Jesus was not a historical person, John knew for a fact He walked on earth, because he saw, heard, and touched Him, and He was more than a mere man. John affirms Christ was God become flesh. He is the revelation of God seen in human form. Upon careful examination and investigation of Christ, John was convinced beyond all doubt that He who was called the Word was the transcendent God invading time.

III. The Enduring Witness for the Word
Third, we discover from John’s opening sentence The Enduring Witness for the Word (v. 2-3). John makes it clear that which he heard, saw and touched, he bore “witness” to (v. 2) and “declared” to others (v. 3). The word “witness” (martureo) means to testify of and was used to speak of someone who was a witness in court. It is in the present tense which means he was an ongoing witness for Christ. The word translated “show” (v. 2) and “declare” (v. 3) (anaggello) means to proclaim, report unto, to bring tidings from. It was used to speak of one who heralded news to the town. It is in the present tense, meaning he kept on proclaiming what he saw and heard. As to John’s certainty that Jesus was the Word, two truths present themselves in his enduring witness and declaration of Jesus Christ.

(1) John Declares Christ as Fact. Once again, the Apostle says he is declaring what he had seen and heard (v. 3). It is a fact. John is saying, “We deliver nothing by hearsay, nothing by tradition, nothing from conjecture; we have had the fullest certainty of all that we write and preach.” Again, John uses the perfect tense, meaning what he saw and heard had so impacted him that the voice of Christ is still ringing in his ears and what he saw he can’t unsee. Because John had a personal encounter with the Living Christ, he can’t help but declare Him, and continue to declare Him. The Good News that is worth proclaiming is that God in Christ has visited earth to restore the brokenness of humanity.

(2) John Declares we are Called into Fellowship. John declares Christ is the God-Man, therefore, we have been called into fellowship with one another and with the Father and the Son (v. 3). Fellowship with one another in Jesus Christ, issues from a real, practical, fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The word translated “fellowship” (koinonia) means “belonging in common to, participation in/partnership in.” It carries with it the meaning of communion, participation, share a common life, and partnership. In Hellenistic literature it was used to describe partners in business, joint owners of a piece of property, or shareholders in a common enterprise. The idea is that of one person having a joint-participation with another in something possessed in common by both. The word koinonia indicates the setting aside of private interest and desires and the joining in with another or others for common purposes. John says for the Christian that common interest and purpose is Jesus Christ, the Living Word. Fellowship with Christ and with one another is the bond that ties believers together.

The kind of relationship John describes is only possible because Jesus is who John says He is in 1 John 1:1-2, the Word of Life. If someone invited you to have a “personal relationship” with a past historical person you would think them foolish. One cannot have a genuine “spiritual” relationship with a dead man. But with the eternal God who became man and who arose from the dead we can have a relationship with Him and one another.

IV. The Explanation for Writing
Fourth, we discover from John’s opening sentence The Explanation for Writing (v. 4). He writes, “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” “These things” of which John is writing refers to the entire contents of the letter. As the reader digests the contents of what John penned, his prayer is that the reader will be filled with the joy of all that the Living Christ accomplished. The word translated “be full” means complete overflowing joy. It is in the perfect tense, meaning joy that continues and persists throughout the believer’s life. John desires his readers possess the assurance of knowing that they are in fellowship with the one in whom eternal life is found, for there is where true joy is found. Throughout the letter John hammers home the truth that our joy comes from knowing that in Christ we have eternal life (5:13), knowing God is love (4:16), loving our fellowman (2:9-10), not living in habitual sin (3:6-7), knowing that greater is he that lives in us than he that is the world (4:4), knowing we have an “Advocate” when we do sin who cleanses us from all unrighteousness (2:1-2), living in such a way that we will not be ashamed before Him at His coming (2:28), and in this world we can live as “overcomers” (5:4). When the Christian is cognizant of those truths, there is created a joy within that the world can’t give.

John wants his readers to realize that Christ is the source, object and center of the Christian’s joy. It is a joy that can only be found in an abiding relationship with the Living Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. It is entering into abiding fellowship with Christ and fellow Christians that John desired for his readers and desires for you and I. Expressing that desire, John brings his lengthy sentence to an end.

Conclusion
As one can see, trying to plumb the depths of John’s opening sentence is like trying to dive into the deepest depths of the ocean or ascending to the highest mountain peak. One would have a better chance of counting the sands on the seashores of the world than to ever fully grasp the wonder of John’s thoughts as he searches for words to describe the magnificence of Christ and how He affected his life.

O, what a sentence. O, what a Savor!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

Footnote

Leon Morris, “I John,” The New Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1970), 1260.