Calvary Road Baptist Church

“LEAVERS” Part 3

First John 2.18-19

 Turn in your Bible to First John 2.18-19, where I have previously preached two sermons about members who leave the church. In the first sermon, we saw from the text that the Apostle John identifies leavers as antichrists. In the second sermon, we saw from the text that the apostle reveals to his readers that leavers are lost:

 18     Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

19     They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

 The Christian life can sometimes be discouraging. Of course, in Christian warfare it is always possible for the believer to become disillusioned and despondent because of the difficulties associated with living the Christian life, and the heroic sacrifices that God sometimes calls upon Christians to make for Christ’s sake. This does not take into account that Christians are sometimes the brunt of spiritual attacks whereby the forces of darkness use intelligence and deception to disrupt the believer’s thought life. The mind is the arena where most spiritual conflict takes place, so it is no wonder that Satan and his demons, which pioneered psychological operations against their enemies, would seek to discourage and disillusion us. All of this is why the Apostle Paul wrote, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong,” First Corinthians 16.13. Courage, heroism, a cool head under fire, the determination to never give up, and a fierce resolve to finish the race; these are some of the characteristics of real Christians.

Two British churchmen of days gone by, who were burned at the stake for their faith in Christ and their opposition to Romanism, illustrate what I am referring to:

 On Oct 16, 1555, Ridley and Latimer were lead to their martyrdom. Ridley came fully robed, as he would be dressed as a Bishop. Latimer wore a simple frieze frock. The seventy-year-old Latimer followed feebly behind Ridley. Ridley gave his clothes away to those standing by. Latimer quietly stripped to his shroud. “And though in his clothes he appeared a withered, crooked old man, he now stood bolt upright”. As they were fastened to their stakes, Ridley’s brother tied a bag of gunpowder to both of their necks. And then, as a burning faggot was laid at the feet of Ridley, Latimer spoke his famous words:

 

“Be of good courage master Ridley, and play the man, for we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”[1]

 

This is the type of behavior we have come to expect from saints of God, the type of behavior exemplified by the prophet Daniel, by Stephen the first Christian martyr, by the apostles Peter, Paul, and John, by countless others down through the ages who rejoiced in hope of the glory of God, and who reckoned “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”[2] However, do not think that the only things a Christian ever has to be happy about are dying a martyr’s death and the promise of heaven. Oh, no. Throughout the Word of God, we read not only of God’s people rejoicing enthusiastically, but we also read of many encouragements being given to us to provoke us to rejoicing. Don’t you just hate it that so many people think Christians are sourpusses? In many congregations, there are people who are actually thought to be Christians who have almost perpetual scowls on their faces, near terminal frowns that furrow their brows, and countenances that have fallen so far as to sweep the dust from the floor.

However, my Bible shows me that there are numerous reasons given, throughout the scriptures, for the child of God to not only have joy, but also to express that joy by something called rejoicing. This should surprise no one. After all, the indwelling Spirit of God in the bosom of every believer produces the personality characteristic of joy, according to Galatians 5.22. When there is sufficient joy so that the expressing of it becomes necessary, that expression of joy is called rejoicing. Do not think, however, that God so works in a person’s life that he just sits around with a silly grin on his face, occasionally bursting forth in a mindless chuckle. That is not the way it works at all. Christians are not the spiritual version of Snow White’s favorite dwarf, Dopey.

What happens with this thing called joy is that Biblical truths are understood and appreciated in such a way that a connection is made in the Christian’s mind between what God’s Word says and what the child of God observes with his own eyes. When that connection is made, and the Christian is reminded that God is faithful, that God is true, that God is in control, that God is blessing, that God is righteous and good and holy and powerful, and that God is very much my heavenly Father, then comes the inner delight and very frequently the outward chuckle. But is it mindless? Not at all.

This morning, in a text that has seemed to some to this point to be so gloomy in its outlook, so sad in its consequence, and so discouraging in its effect, we are going to see the other side. Yes, it is true that those who leave are antichrists. Yes, it is true that those who leave are lost. However, it is also true, and it is a cause of great joy and genuine rejoicing, that Christians stay. It should be no surprise to us that Christians stay in their churches. After all, Christians are an organic part of their churches, and the Spirit of God works in Christians to exhibit that required character trait for all servants of God, which is faithfulness.

This text, which tells us so much about those who leave, also speaks loudly about those who stay. Three things to notice about Christians that give us all reasons to rejoice:

 First, NOTICE WHAT CHRISTIANS REALLY ARE

 First, we are “children.” What a delight to fall into that company of individuals who are rightly and properly seen to be God’s children. It is a great tragedy to be born into the family of man, if that birth is not followed by yet another birth, since the ultimate end of only one birth is eternal torment. However, if a person, who is born is then born again; he will have been born into God’s family. That is precisely what the beloved John is speaking to in our text. His remarks are directed to those who have not only been born into the family of man, but who have been subsequently born again into the family of God. How does it come to be that one born a sinner is then born into God’s family? It turns completely on the person and work of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered and bled and died for sins, and who rose from the dead three days and nights later in glorious victory before He ascended to His Father’s right hand on high, where He is now. John 1.12-13 tells us how a sinner comes to benefit from Christ’s saving work: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The means through which the new birth of a sinner is accomplished is faith in Christ, “them that believe on his name.” It is brought to pass, not as the result of either your will or mine, but as the result of God’s will being accomplished. Regardless of what else happens, is it not a good thing to be one of God’s children? Of course, it is. You see, God is the perfect Father, and He takes care of His children. That is a great thing, a thing worth being happy about.

However, notice what else we are who are Christians; we are “little children.” This short phrase actually translates a single word here in the Greek New Testament, the word paidia, which refers to a little kid.[3] Why would the aged Apostle John refer to Christians in general as “little children”? The first reason that I can think of is that, compared to him, so advanced in age and so seasoned a servant of God, everyone else was comparatively immature. Not only had he been a Christian a long, long time, but also throughout the entirety of his Christian life, he had effectively and faithfully served as an apostle of Jesus Christ. So, he did a lot of living during that time. Another reason aged John would refer to them and by application us, as “little children” has to do with the progressive nature of sanctification. Justification is that work of God that forever alters the standing of a person in the sight of God. Justification is what is done on behalf of the Christian at the moment he comes to Christ. Progressive sanctification, on the other hand, has to do with the gradual changes that takes place in every Christian’s life so he will be somewhat more conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Sanctification is the process that begins once the justification event has taken place. What beloved old John implies by calling us “little children,” the Apostle Paul states in Romans 8.29, where he declares God’s predestinating purpose for the elect to be “conformed to the image of his Son.” Aren’t you glad God is not finished with you yet, Christian? Aren’t you glad that what you now are is not what you will end up being, in a sense, and that you will become a better Christian over time than you presently are? So, what are we, as Christians? First, we are God’s children. That is cause enough for rejoicing. However, on top of that, we will be better than we are now. We will become more and more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. That is what Christians really are. Isn’t that a good thing?

 Next, NOTICE WHAT CHRISTIANS REALLY KNOW

First, we who are Christians know to distinguish the times. The last phrase of First John 2.18 reads, “we know that it is the last time.” I am persuaded that Christians can tell that “our salvation is nearer than when we believed.”[4] In other words, we are conscious of the fact that each passing day puts us closer to the end than we used to be. Though some will mock at what I say as too obvious to need mentioning, unsaved people think that human history is cyclical and not linear, and their perverse thinking denies that we are approaching the end of the age. Such awareness produces a response by genuinely converted people. Paul wrote, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.”[5] Should a Christian plan for retirement and make provision for his grandchildren? Of course, he should. No one knows the precise time of Christ’s second coming, or the Rapture. But no real Christian denies the sense, from what he reads in the Bible and from what he sees going on in the world around him, that even if we are not really close, we certainly are getting much closer. Is that a bad thing, or is that a good thing? Depends upon your perspective. For the child of God, that is a good thing. For a lost person, on the other hand, that is a very, very bad thing, for what is a Christian’s salvation is a lost man’s undoing.

As well, we who are Christians know to distinguish the lost, even if we do not always know how. We are not perfect in our discernment, for only God knows each man’s heart, and only the Lord Jesus Christ knew that one of the twelve He had chosen was a devil.[6] That said, those of us who are genuinely saved have the good sense to know that there is a broad spiritual chasm between the saved and the lost, so broad that no one but Jesus Christ can bridge it. We see it in our text from the Apostle John’s use of the words “ye” and “they.” My friends, all the world is divided into two camps, “us” and “them.” Who “us” is and who “they” are is entirely dependent upon whether or not you have experienced the new birth. From the perspective of our text, which was written to Christians (and knowing that in the Bible Christians are always those who are baptized church members subsequent to being born again), everyone is born into the “they” camp, and remains in the “they” camp, until he has been born again through faith in Jesus Christ. Then he is in the “us” camp. Can we be fooled into thinking some are saved who are actually lost? To be sure. It happens all the time. However, converted people, real Christians, know we should distinguish between saved and lost, even if our skills of discernment are limited in these bodies of flesh. These two things the child of God knows, when added to his knowledge that he is a child of God, give us good occasion and great cause for rejoicing. I am so glad I am a Christian. I am glad that I know we are in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. I am so glad that I know there is a difference between the saved and the lost, a difference that should be recognized, appreciated, and acted upon.

Finally, NOTICE WHAT CHRISTIANS REALLY DO

Of course, this ties in perfectly with the Christian’s knowledge that he is a child of God, that we are in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, and that a dramatic difference exists between the saved and the lost. It is because of what we are, coupled with what we know, that we do what we do.

First, we stay. We know that Christians stay because we know that the lost do not stay. Not that some that are lost will not stay, for some who are lost certainly will stay. However, those who leave most certainly are shown by old John to be lost antichrists that leave. Christians, on the other hand, stay. That is the whole thrust of our text.

Second, we stay in church. We stay in church because that is where we are in this world. In First Corinthians 3.9-17, Paul informed the Corinthian congregation that they were God’s building; in fact, a temple of God. What was true of that congregation is true of our congregation. Not our physical meeting hall, mind you, but the people who comprise Calvary Road Baptist Church. So, how does a child of God become a part of such a church congregation? First Corinthians 12.18 reads, “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” In other words, God places that Christian in the congregation He wants him in. How does God accomplish that feat? By means of the Great Commission. The congregation goes out and gets the sinner, brings him to Christ under the preaching of the gospel, baptizes him into the congregation (First Corinthians 12.13), and then trains him to serve God.

That brings me to the final thing Christians do. We stay, we stay in church, and we stay and serve God. So, how can we be sure that Christians stay in church and serve God? First, we can be sure because our text clearly shows us that only those who are lost leave. Therefore, Christians must stay. If leaving is a characteristic of someone who is definitely lost, it only makes sense that Christians are among those who stay. Next, Christians who stay will serve God. Why so? Because faithful service is demanded, according to First Corinthians 4.2: “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” As well, faithful service is a significant factor in every Christian’s assurance of salvation. Listen to what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in First Thessalonians 1.2-4:

2      We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;

3      Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

4      Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.

A terrible misconception has crept into Christian thought over these last 175 years, the notion that a person who is a Christian need never serve God. About the only notion as toxic for churches as that error is the error that leaving the church is not only acceptable behavior, but that it is behavior that is private so as to be no one else’s business, not even the pastor’s. A final doctrine, that solidifies our thinking with respect to a Christian staying in his church and faithfully serving God, is that doctrine that shows the relationship that exists between a Christian and his pastor, as it is revealed in Hebrews 13.7, 17:

7      Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

17     Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

How can any Christian “remember them which have the rule over” them, or “obey them that have the rule over” them, or “follow” their faith, and “submit” themselves, by leaving? These things can only be done, these two verses can only be complied with, by those Christians who remain in their congregations and faithfully serve God. So you see, there is a definite difference between not only the destinies of the saved and the lost, but also the behavior of the saved and the lost while here on earth. It is over this difference that we who are Christians can rejoice.

An amazing thing has happened over the last almost two centuries in the so-called Christian world. Judgmentalism has been so energetically and vigorously attacked on all fronts, that Christians everywhere have completely retreated from their holy obligation to exercise discernment. I am not suggesting that anyone engage in the practice of evaluating the motives that lie back of people’s choices and actions, unless the motives are spelled out for us in scripture, but it is wrong not to reflect in our discernment, in our judging of the rightness or wrongness of things, the clear declarations of God’s Word.

In many areas of life, there is a great deal of latitude given to us by God. A man may marry just about anyone he wants to marry, so long as she is a female, so long as she is a Christian, and so long as she is orthodox in her doctrine. As well, a person can do just about anything he wants to do for a living, so long as his job does not conflict with the clear duties and obligations of a good testimony and a faithful ministry. There are, however, some issues God is very restrictive about, and where we find very little latitude: Sinners are commanded to obey the gospel. Churches are commanded to baptize hopeful converts. Church members are commanded to stay put and faithfully serve God.

Are these things a terrible curse, or are they the cause and occasion of great rejoicing among those whose sins are forgiven? When looked at from God’s perspective, they are the sources of great blessings and the fountain of much rejoicing.

As I look out over this congregation, I am thankful for more than 25 years of faithful attendance and service to God by Lee, Archie, and Shirley. When I look at our text for today, and consider such people, I get the warm fuzzies and my gratitude to God for them fills my soul. I hope that when 25 more years have passed each of you will have fallen into that category of church members whose faithfulness and willingness to serve God gives not only this old pastor, but also the Lord Jesus Christ, cause to rejoice.



[2] Romans 8.18

[3] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 749.

[4] Romans 13.11

[5] Romans 13.12

[6] John 6.70



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org