The Urgent Warning

John adds a warning and an incentive. The warning is: “and the world passeth away and the lust thereof” (v. 17). The things of the world are temporary, fleeting, and have no lasting value. The world offers pleasure, power, and the fulfillment of the lusts of the flesh, but one day these things will come to an end. There will come a time when you will not be able to enjoy them. However, it is almost impossible to convince a person infatuated with the world that this is the case. A worldly person lives for the moment, especially for the weekend, and it takes a miracle of grace to wrest his heart away from the world.

But by “passeth away” John means more than to underline the world’s temporary nature. These things pass away because they will be destroyed in the judgment. The worldly person will stand before God. The music will be silent, the sensual pleasure will be over, worldly friends will be gone and he will be sober. Then he must give an account to the Almighty: “I exchanged my Creator for the fleeting pleasures of creation. I had no love for God in my heart. The world was my god.” And if the worldly person has only his love for the world he will stand naked before God, stripped of everything except his sins, and will be condemned.

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The Forbidden Love

John says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” The meaning of this commandment is not, “Do not start loving the world,” but “stop loving the world.” The saints to whom the apostle writes had already begun to love the world.

There is much confusion here.

Love for the world is not the same as merely living “in” the world. Since this is the case, it is impossible to avoid worldliness by leaving the world or by abstaining from modern society. Some have tried that: the monks of the Middle Ages sought to escape worldliness by asceticism, an extreme form of self-denial, but a monk has worldliness in his heart which he cannot escape in a monastery. The Amish have tried to escape worldliness by avoiding the use of modern conveniences, by a simple unindustrialized farming lifestyle, and by not having electricity, but that is not the answer to worldliness. Electricity or the lack thereof has nothing to do with worldliness! Electricity can be used to the glory of God or it can be used in the service of sin. Jesus prayed, “I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:14–15). The solution, therefore, is not to depart from the world.

Love for the world is not the same as using or even enjoying the good gifts of God’s creation. There are some Christians who feel almost guilty if they enjoy pleasure. They seem to think that it is a Christian’s duty to be miserable and to make others miserable. Christians, for example, may enjoy food and drink, art, culture, and leisure with a clear conscience. There is nothing sinful in pleasure itself. Pleasure only becomes sinful when it satisfies the lusts of our flesh, the lusts of our eyes, and the pride of life. We must not love pleasure rather than God (2 Tim. 4:4), but God has given us all things richly to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). If one forgets that principle, one can become self-righteous and legalistic, proud that one is holier than the Christian who uses a TV or computer, or who reads certain books, or ___________ (the reader should fill in the blank).

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Worldliness: A Perennial Danger

There are two passages in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit explicitly warns us against the world. The first is James 4:4 where James calls Christians and church members “adulterers and adulteresses” because of their friendship with the world, adding that the one who will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Earlier in that same epistle James says that “pure religion and undefiled” is (among other things) “to keep [oneself] unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

The other passage is 1 John 2:15, where John commands Christians not to love the world. The force of the Greek grammar is: “Stop loving the world.” The reason John gives is similar to James: “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

I believe that we all know instinctively what worldliness is. We can sense it; we know it; and we are very quick to see it in others and to excuse it in ourselves. Worldliness is one of the greatest dangers to the church. The Christian has three main enemies: the flesh, the devil, and the world.

 

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MP3 of Radio Interview with Rev. Martyn McGeown on 'Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt'

On Friday, December  7, 2018, Rev. Martyn McGeown had a radio interview with Chris  Arnzen, the national, religious radio host of Iron Sharpens Iron, on his book, Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt

If you did not have an opportunity to listen to Rev. McGeown's interview on Iron Sharpens Iron, you can do so now by clicking the link below. 

 Click on the icon to listen.

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Jesus the Refugee

Around this time of the year, liberal churches like to focus on certain aspects of the story of Christ’s nativity in order to make political commentary. One of the favorite approaches of such liberal commentators, whether the pope of Rome, the archbishop of Canterbury, or liberal churches in the USA and Europe, is to present the baby Jesus as a migrant or a refugee. For example, a church in Massachusetts recently erected a “nativity scene” in which “the baby Jesus” was locked up in a cage, separating him from Mary and Joseph, while the “three wise men” were blocked from reaching Jesus by a wall or a fence. Such a scene was designed to provoke a conversation about immigration, constituted a protest against the separation of children from their parents by U.S. border control, and was designed to raise awareness about the plight of caravans of migrants attempting to cross the same U.S. border.

It is not my intention to make a political statement about U.S. immigration policy (or even EU immigration policy for that matter), but to explain the biblical text, which has been hijacked and twisted in an attempt to push a particular political and moral agenda. Many of the same liberals, of course, will champion abortion, but will cry foul if the same biblical passages are used to argue against the evil of murdering the unborn. For example, had Mary (the mother of Jesus) and Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist) been alive today, they could have—if they had been so wickedly inclined—walked into an abortion clinic and terminated their pregnancies. Mary, who in Luke 1:42 was perhaps only a few weeks pregnant at most, could have taken an abortion pill, which is now readily available in many Western countries; while Elizabeth, who in Luke 1:36 was six months pregnant, could have opted for a surgical procedure in a state-funded abortion facility such as Planned Parenthood. While any right-minded Christian shudders at the idea, many of the same liberals who promote the “Jesus was a refugee; therefore, we should have open borders” narrative are champions for the freedom of choice of women like Mary and Elizabeth, and would even demand that the taxpayer fund the right of abortion. Liberals, therefore, are selective in their “biblically-based political outrage.”

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Baptism Now Saves Us: An Assured Conscience

So what is the status of a baptized person in the Roman Catholic Church? His sins have been removed, but “concupiscence” remains. In Roman Catholicism, concupiscence is a moral weakness, a tendency toward sin, which is itself not sin and which can be resisted by grace (grace that God gives to everyone through the sacraments and through the good works of piety of a faithful church member). But the Bible teaches that all sinners (even believers) have a sinful flesh, a totally depraved and corrupted nature, which is not only inclined to all evil, but is itself evil, and which can do nothing good. This sinful nature exists in all sinners, although in believers it has been dethroned. Nevertheless, even in believers the flesh is still very active and produces in us all kinds of evil. Without a biblical understanding of sin, the Roman Catholic will lack a proper understanding of salvation: neither water baptism nor the power of free will (even when coupled with God’s grace) can deliver us from the “filth of the flesh.”

Why then does the Bible speak this way, linking the reality of salvation to the sign of baptism? Reformed theologians speak of the sacramental union, for in the Bible there is a close connection between the sign (baptism) and the thing signified (the washing away of sin in the blood of Christ). The Heidelberg Catechism asks about this sacramental union, “Why then doth the Holy Ghost call baptism ‘the washing of regeneration,’ and the ‘washing away of sins’? God speaks thus not without great cause, to wit, not only thereby to teach us that, as the filth of the body is purged away by water, so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ; but especially that by this divine pledge and sign he may assure us that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really as we are externally washed with water” (Q&A 73).

The relationship between the sign (baptism) and the thing signified (salvation) is not one of identity. They are not the same, nor does the sign become the reality. A sign cannot be the reality; otherwise, it is not a sign. A sign cannot become the reality, otherwise it ceases to be a sign. Nevertheless, sometimes the Bible gives the name of the thing signified to the sign itself, because God would have us associate the reality with the sign.

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TODAY! Radio Interview on 'Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt' with Rev. Martyn McGeown


TODAY from 4-6pm EST, Rev. McGeown will be interviewed by Chris Arnzen on his radio program Iron Sharpens Iron.

The subject will be Rev. McGeown's recent book, Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt

Visit www.ironsharpensironradio.com and click on the livestream box to tune in and listen from any device. The program can also be listened to by phone at (563)999-9206; press #3 for Christian Radio when prompted.

Be sure to tune in later today!

 

 

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Baptism Now Saves Us: A Spiritual Cleansing

There are therefore, two figures in 1 Peter 3:21: the flood, which is an Old Testament type of baptism; and water baptism, which is the New Testament picture (or the sign and seal) of salvation in the blood and Holy Spirit of Christ. The reality is salvation in Jesus Christ.

The Heidelberg Catechism elucidates: “Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself? Not at all; for the blood of Jesus Christ only, and the Holy Ghost, cleanse us from all sin” (Q&A 72). Water baptism, and its type, the flood, point to one great reality: the washing away of our sins by the blood and in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Peter teaches this when he writes: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us…by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (v. 21). Peter connects salvation not to water baptism, but to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and therefore also to the cross. There is no resurrection without the cross, for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is his bodily resurrection from the grave three days after his death.

Peter has already explained the death of Christ in verse 18: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” Christ’s death was a substitutionary death, an atoning sacrifice to satisfy God’s justice. We are unjust or unrighteous, and Christ, the just one, paid for our sins. Thus Christ died both for our benefit and in our place, and by his resurrection God proves that he is perfectly satisfied with his Son’s work of atonement.

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Radio Interview on 'Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt' with Rev. Martyn McGeown


 

NEXT WEEK Friday, December 7, Rev. Martyn McGeown will be interviewed by Chris Arnzen on his radio program Iron Sharpens Iron from 4:00-6:00 pm EST. 

The subject will be Rev. McGeown's recent book, Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt

Be sure to tune in next week Friday!

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Baptism Now Saves Us

The apostle Peter writes certain words about baptism that are strange to our ears and that we might be reluctant to say. Some quote these words in defense of their doctrine of baptism, for they believe that baptism saves. The Reformed must not be shy about this text, for, it too, is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable—when properly understood, of course! Peter writes, “Baptism doth also now save us” (1 Peter 3:21). Salvation in baptism! By carefully studying the text, we ward off wrong notions, but we also derive the meaning that the Holy Spirit would give.

And in so doing we shall have a better understanding of baptism and appreciation for baptism.

In 1 Peter 3 the apostle makes a comparison between the flood of Noah and baptism: “the like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us” (v. 21). The antecedent of “whereunto” is the water of the flood in verse 20. The flood, therefore, was a type for the word “figure” in verse 21 is the Greek word “antitype.” Since the flood was the type, there is also an antitype or corresponding reality, for an antitype is the New Testament fulfillment of an Old Testament type. Already we should see that a bald reading of the text, “Baptism saves us,” will lead us astray. To understand the Spirit’s meaning here, we need to examine the relationship between the type and the antitype.

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