“WHY WE ARE STAYING”

First John 2.19

 

EXPOSITION:

1.   Today is our annual PayCheck Sunday, that day each year when we reverse our pattern of giving, keeping the tithe for ourselves and giving God the 90%, rather than our usual practice of giving God tithes and offerings and keeping the bulk of our week’s pay.  May God bless your participation in this special offering.

2.   Last Sunday’s message from God’s Word focused on the offering and what steps were appropriate to ensure that God’s people are not tempted to abhor the offering of the Lord.  Our Church employs an expert business manager, Dr. Jack Bier (who will be with us next Sunday, Lord willing).  Our Church uses many different Church members to count the offerings that come in each weekend.  Our Church uses a number of well thought out procedures that guarantee financial accountability and responsible stewardship.

3.   But that was last week.  Rather than talk about money any more and about our money handling practices today, I want to speak to you this morning about something else that is related to our PayCheck Sunday.  The title of today’s message from God’s Word is “WHY WE ARE STAYING.”

4.   Our city of Los Angeles (after all, we really do live in Los Angeles) is the most important city in the most important state in the most important country in the world.  There is no city in the world that has more influence on the culture of our state, of our nation, and on this world’s population than the city we live in.

5.   But the city we live in is a city undergoing constant change.  Things are always in flux here.  Whereas this area used to be a place where automobile assembly plants were located, a place where aircraft manufacturing plants were located, and a terminus of the migration route taken by Depression era people to the land of better opportunity, Los Angeles is now a city that is experiencing rapid demographic changes.

6.   Though Los Angeles is not the largest Spanish speaking city in the world, it is the most important Spanish speaking city in the world, overshadowing Mexico City, Havana, Buenos Aires and Madrid in influence.  Though Los Angeles is not the largest or most influential Asian city in the world, it is the largest and most influential Asian city on this side of the Pacific Ocean.  As well, it can be argued that Los Angeles is the most influential Iranian city outside Tehran, the most influential Armenian city, the most important Iraqi city outside of Baghdad, and one of the most important Jewish cities in the entire world.

7.   My friends, Los Angeles is no longer a rather white city, only bigger.  It started out a Spanish and then a Mexican city.  It then became a white city.  But it is now a truly cosmopolitan city.  And therein lies the reason “WHY WE ARE STAYING.”  God is bringing the vast mission field of humanity to our doorstep.

8.   When Jesus told His disciples, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations,” little did anyone imagine that there would come a day when so many of the nations would move to our city, that to obey our Lord’s command to go, we would only have to step across the street, or next door, or lean over to the person sitting at the desk next to ours.  But it has come to that, hasn’t it?

9.   Yet in the face of the nations of the world coming to our doorstep, making our Jerusalem a microcosm of the entire world’s population, there are so-called Christians, even members of gospel preaching churches, who are abandoning this richest of history’s opportunities to serve God, to move away from Los Angeles to some town that is smaller, whiter, supposedly safer, and away from the teeming multitudes who have never before heard of this One we call Lord.

10. Please turn to First John 2.19.  You understand that most of those who participate in the white flight out of Los Angeles make no pretense of being Christians.  They just do what they feel like doing, always looking out only for themselves, and be damned to those who desperately need the gospel.

11. But what about those who name the name of Christ, who attend the relatively few gospel preaching Churches in this vast city, yet claim that because of “God’s leading,” and because they “have peace about it,” and because “God just opened the doors,” they pick up and leave behind the most diverse mission field on earth?

12. I am convinced First John 2.19 has some application to them.  Having found that verse in your Bible, please stand for the reading of God’s Word:  “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.”

13. Theologians wax eloquent when writing their comments about this verse, but they almost universally pass over the profoundly obvious truths that can be observed here.  Allow me to point out some undeniable realities that are associated with those who the apostle John labels “they.”

 

1A.   First, WHO “THEY” ARE

1B.    “They” are professors, not possessors.  That is, those to whom John refers are people who claim to be Christians, but who are not truly born again.  They made professions of faith, they were baptized, they seemed to live the Christian life.  But they were never really born again.  They never really had their sins washed clean in the blood of Jesus.  They had never genuinely come to faith in Christ.  John sometimes uses the word “ye” to refer to the Christians he writes to.  At other times he uses the word “we” when he includes himself.  But when referring to those who claimed to be Christians but who were not, he used the word “they.”

2B.    Who would “they” be? 

1C.   “They” would be somewhat like Judas Iscariot, who was a disciple of Jesus Christ throughout His earthly ministry, who heard all His sermons, who listened to all His lessons, who watched Him work countless miracles, from walking on the water to raising the dead.  But Judas was never converted.  In the end he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and fell under such conviction and guilt that he committed suicide.

2C.   Or, “they” would be somewhat like Simon the sorcerer.  Simon did not want the forgiveness of his sins.  He did not want to be reconciled to God.  He saw God’s power on the life of a preacher and thought it was really neat.  Then he tried to buy the Holy Spirit, thereby exposing himself as an unbeliever.[1]  What he was really trying to do was use God instead of being used by God.

3C.   “They” would also be somewhat like the Corinthian fornicator in First Corinthians chapter 5.  He made a profession of faith that was quite convincing.  He got baptized and became a Church member.  But when he had to choose between a powerful physical attraction and the welfare of the Church at Corinth, his own lusts won out.  When a real opportunity to fornicate presents itself, the truth about a person’s spiritual condition so often comes out.

4C.   “They” could be somewhat like Demas, the man who had so faithfully served alongside Paul.  But there came a day when he left his place of service, abandoning Paul, and moved to Thessalonica.[2]  And what did Paul mean when he indicated that Demas’ motive for what he did was his love for the world?[3]  He meant that Demas had finally showed himself for the lost man that he was all along.

5C.   There is always a mixed multitude among God’s people.  There will always be tares mixed in with the wheat.  But there are oftentimes things the tares do that the wheat will not do.  There are patterns of behavior typical of goats but not of sheep that allow you to sometimes distinguish between the two.

6C.   So, who “they” are is lost.  Make no mistake about that.  John is distinguishing between the saved and the lost, between the heaven bound and the Hell bound, between the redeemed and the damned.

 

2A.   Second, WHAT “THEY” DO

1B.    “They” left.  There is no dispute about this among all the scholars I consulted when studying this passage.  What John seems to be clearly saying here he actually is clearing saying here.  “They” left.  John Mac Arthur, who I am convinced is mistaken about some very important things, is right about this verse.  Notice what he writes:  “. . . Those genuinely born again endure in faith and fellowship and the truth (1 Cor. 11:19; 2 Tim 2:12).  The ultimate test of true Christianity is endurance (Mark 13:13; Heb. 3:14).  The departure of people from the truth and the church is their unmasking.”[4]

2B.    So, what “they” do is leave.  We are not told how the unconverted leave the Church, but I have been a pastor long enough to have it pretty well figured out.  We are referring to people who profess to be Christians, remember, who are a part of the Church and who leave.  These are not visitors who come for a Sunday or two and then depart, never to return.

When an unconverted Church member leaves it usually happens in stages that you don’t really notice until you look back on the departure after the fact:

1C.   First, there is an emotional departure.  That is, there is a distancing of one’s self from the others in the Church, a growing apart.

2C.   Next, there is a philosophical departure.  That is, somehow and in some way there will be a disagreement over something.  It isn’t usually very important.  But it’s enough for the unconverted person to fix his mind on as a point of disagreement.

3C.   Third, there is a financial departure.  That is, the lost person in the Church stops tithing.  When this happens it is just about a forgone conclusion that the person is going to leave.  Of course, when you are dealing with a non-tither you are talking about someone who was never really here in the first place, because where your treasure is not there will your heart also not be.

4C.   Finally, there will be a geographical departure.  That is, the person will physically leave the Church.  Now, in the unconverted person’s mind a transfer from one Church to another seems quite okay.  But remember that Paul observed that Demas left him to go to Thessalonica, where there was a wonderful Church.  That fact, however, did not change Paul’s estimation of Demas’ lost condition.

5C.   You see, John’s issue is not where “they” go, but the fact that “they” leave.  It’s a very bad sign when “they” leave, a very bad sign, indeed.

 

3A.   Third, WHY “THEY” DID

1B.    Their “reasons” always sound plausible.  Their reasons always sound reasonable.  Their criticisms always seem so very justified.  But why are the reasons “they” cite, reasons which other Church members also have, never used by “us” to justify leaving, never used by “you” to justify leaving?

2B.    Because the reasons “they” cite as justification for leaving are never real reasons.  They are only justifications, excuses, rationalizations, spins.  The real reason they leave, the reason given in God’s Word for their departure, is that “they were not of us.”  You see, “if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.”

 

4A.   Finally, WHAT “THEY” SHOWED

   1B. They showed their condition when they left.  They showed that they were not converted when they left.  They showed that their entire profession of faith in Christ was a sham, a joke, a charade, all fake.

2B.    “This passage proves that these persons, whatever their pretensions and professions may have been, were never sincere Christians.”[5]  So wrote Albert Barnes.

 

CONCLUSION:

1.   “Pastor, the implications of this verse are very serious.”  Yes, they are.  Consider some factors that may mitigate to some degree.

2.   First, most Churches do not grow by evangelism, but by luring and enticing members from one Church to another.  In such a despicable process there will no doubt be immature and unstable Christians affected.  That is a factor that must always be considered.

3.   Second, many pastors never teach real Christians to be faithful to their Churches, resulting in complete ignorance of what God wants from individual Church members.  That is a factor that must always be considered.

4.   Third, now you know.  You now have opportunity to consider and ponder and meditate upon this Bible truth.  May it affect the way you believe, and the way you behave.

5.   It is my desire that your faithfulness to your calling will never result in you leaving, will never result in you giving anyone reason to suspect that you fit into John’s category of “they”:  “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.”

6.   Neighborhoods change.  Cities change.  Whole regions change.  But within our congregation, we stay.  Our PayCheck Sunday offering will figure very prominently over the years to help us stay as our area changes, and to enable us to reach for Christ those people who move into the houses left empty by “they” who leave.

7.   Brian Spicer now comes to lead us in a song before this morning’s sermon.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1.   We read in the newspapers and see on television and hear on the radio that there is an exodus of people out of Los Angeles and out of California.  People from Los Angeles move out to the distant suburbs.  People in the distant suburbs move out of the state.

2.   One pastor told me of losing about one half of his 1000+ congregation over a two year period of time when his Church members reached retirement age, moving out of the county or out of the state.

3.   Whatever the reasons given for most people moving out of Los Angeles, they are reasons that are of minor importance to those who claim to be Christians.  Think of it.  God is bringing the mission field to us, and those who claim to be Christians are running away!

4.   Oh, a number of them will make sure they join good Churches and support missions after they relocate.  But how ridiculous it is to send a missionary to China when Chinese people are moving to the city you just left?  How ridiculous it is to send a missionary to Latin America when Spanish speaking people are moving to the city you just left? 

5.   How ridiculous to claim you have a heart for God, a burden for souls, a commitment to ministry, while you value living among the rabbits and prairie dogs and deer more than living amongst people who need Jesus Christ.

6.   And what kind of impact can you possibly have on your children and grandchildren if you say that getting folks saved is important while you move away from the very people who have never heard the Gospel, so you can live among those who have heard the Gospel generation after generation?

7.   I do not know what you are going to do.  I have shown you what “they” are going to do.  Now let me describe to you some of the reasons “WHY WE ARE STAYING.”

8.   A simple sermon, only four points before I let you go:

 

1A.   First, OUR CONTRAST

And by using the word “our,” I am referring to “us,” to what “we” are going to do, not “them.”  Where you fit in in all of this will be determined by you.

1B.    “They” are unconverted, or at best untaught.  Most who leave are obviously lost.  Most who leave will justify and rationalize.  But it must be granted that some just don’t know any better.  But that would not include you, since you have now been taught.  So, of those who from this auditorium leave, it can now be said that “they” are unconverted.

2B.    “We” are converted, as well as coached.  Obviously, a person is not converted because he stays, but he does stay because he is converted . . . as well as coached.  And coached is a good word, since many people are supposedly taught something that does not affect the way they behave.  Coaching is all about the way you behave.  And if you are converted you are coachable.  If you are converted you can be trained to behave differently than the lost behave.  So, in this way we see our contrast, making us different from those who leave.  Why do we stay?  We are different than those who leave.  This is why we stay.

 

2A.   Next, OUR COMMUNION

The word communion refers to that which we have in common.  Consider this life of communion services, of preaching services, of potlucks, of rearing children, of shared beliefs, of shared efforts, of shared lives.

1B.    Think about the fact that our communion is with each other as well as with God.  Excuse me, but I have participated in the rearing of Daniel and David Arnold.  And Larry and Nancy Arnold have participated in the rearing of our daughter, Sarah.  And it’s the same with you others.  Our lives are intertwined with your lives.  This is part of why we stay.

2B.    But our communion is also related to this ministry.  Where your communion with God comes down to earth is where my communion with God comes down to earth; Calvary Road Baptist Church.  Your prayers and desires and heartaches and trials and victories and rejoicings and private blessings are mingled with my own in this Gospel ministry we have been welded to by the Spirit of God.  This, too, is part of why we stay.

 

3A.   Third, OUR COMMITMENT

1B.    Do you not have a commitment to God?  Is it your desire to glorify God in your life and with your life?  And what does God demand but faithfulness?  First Corinthians 4.1-2:  “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”  But how is it that a man is faithful by leaving?  I have never been able to figure out how a man can be unfaithful to a ministry while being faithful to God.

2B.    How about a commitment to Jesus Christ?  Is there a commitment to serve Him?  First Corinthians 12.5 reads, “And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.”  As I understand that verse, the Lord Jesus Christ decides where His Own will be assigned to serve Him.  After all, He is the head of the Church.  Amen?  Do you not have a commitment to serve here because you are persuaded that you have been assigned here to serve here by our Lord Jesus? 

3B.    Then, there is a commitment to each other.  Should you not be a consideration when I decide what I am going to do?  Should I not be a consideration when you are deciding what you are going to do?  I have made a commitment to you.  Have you not persuaded me that you have made a commitment to me?  And if you fiendishly withdraw your commitment to me, should you not immediately inform me of your lack of commitment to me? 

4B.    What about your commitment to our Jerusalem?  Acts 1.8:  “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  Concentric circles define our areas of responsibility.  Our area of greatest responsibility, our Jerusalem, is Los Angeles.  Do you feel no responsibility?  Do you feel no debt of obligation to this city?  Does it mean nothing that God has providentially placed you here to serve Him?  It means something to us.  It means very much to us.  It is partly why we stay.

 

4A.   Finally, OUR EXPEDIENCE

First Corinthians 10.23:  “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.”  “Expedient” means “to be advantageous, to confer a benefit.”[6]  So, what does this verse mean?  It means that there is a level of Christian responsibility and commitment where the absolute rightness or wrongness of something is not the issue, but the relative benefit to the cause of Christ.  It is having two options before you, with no one able to “prove” to you that one is “wrong,” but it being clear to you that one option is more beneficial to the cause of Christ than the other.  That more beneficial option is what is meant by expedient.

Let us consider three cases of expediency:

1B.    First, when pastors leave.

1C.   Almost all pastors leave a Church.  They have to, since they must go to another Church, or go start a Church, in order to fulfill God’s call on their life.  I am persuaded that pastors usually leave too often, and that the cause of Christ would be better served if most pastors stayed where they are.  But there must be some movement of pastors, I think you understand.

2C.   What if God calls three young men in our Church to the ministry?  It is not likely that God’s plan is for them all to stay here and succeed me as the pastor.  It would not be expedient.

3C.   So, it is sometimes expedient for pastors to leave.  It sometimes benefits the cause of Christ for pastors to leave to pastor other Churches, or to start another Church.  I think I will not leave this Church, but it is usually God’s will for pastors to leave at some point and for some reasons.

2B.    Next, when missionaries leave.

1C.   It is always beneficial for missionaries to leave.  You see, missionaries are sent by Churches to leave one Church so they can go and start other Churches.  That’s what God has called them to do.

2C.   Therefore, it would be wrong for a missionary to not leave.  It would be wrong for a missionary to stay.  It would not be expedient for a missionary to stay in one place.  To please God and serve Christ effectively a missionary has to leave.

3B.    But what about Church members leaving?

1C.   What is expedient?  That is, what is beneficial to the cause of Christ?  Does it advance the cause of Christ for Christians to abandon such an important population center and cultural fountainhead to live in Lancaster, to live in Victorville, to live in Phoenix, to live in Las Vegas, to live in Des Moines?

2C.   I find it amazing that first century Christianity was a religion of cities, with rural Galileans trained by the Savior and then moving to Jerusalem to serve the Savior.  And then to move to other large cities when they were driven from Jerusalem by persecution.

3C.   Think of it.  Damascus, Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, Rome.  The early Christians did not flee to the countryside, but fled persecution in one city by going to another city!  But if there was no persecution to drive them out they stayed.  The Church members stayed.  And the pastors, like James in Jerusalem, stayed. 

4C.   It was the missionaries, like Peter and Paul and Silas and Titus who moved from city to city.  But they went to cities, metropolitan centers, places where people were always coming and going, centers of trade and transportation.

5C.   My question is, if your concern has to do with what is expedient for the cause of Christ, where would you go to find a more strategic location to serve God, a more influential city to affect culture, and a more diverse population to which to bring the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ?

 

CONCLUSION:

1.   There are many people who will justify leaving Los Angeles by saying that God spoke to their hearts, or by saying the Spirit of God led them to leave.

2.   I don’t buy that at all.  I do not think the Spirit of God ordinarily leads people in that fashion, by giving them impressions and feelings about things.

3.   Most people who leave leave because they want to leave, and they conjure up some spiritual sounding justification for wanting to leave. 

4.   But the real reason they want to leave Los Angeles, in my opinion, is to improve their standard of living by living more cheaply some place else, or to live in an area where there are more people who are like they are.  That is, though many may not be consciously aware of it, they are moving to get away from the immigrants who are moving in.

5.   Is it more expensive to live in Los Angeles?  Yes.  Is the culture changing from what it used to be?  Yes.  Are there places to live that are too expensive to afford?  Are there once familiar places that now seem to you like a foreign country?  Yes.

6.   Are those reasons to move?  No.  They are simply adjustments to make in your effort to serve God.  “They” move.  And you know what John said about “them.”  We stay.  Why?  There is a God to serve, a Savior to preach, sinners to win.  And this is the place given to us by God in which to serve.

7.   Why is there a PayCheck Sunday offering?  Because we are staying.  And with the price of real estate going sky high, we have to learn how to give really big so that we can someday have bigger facilities.

8.   Now, as our ushers bring the offering baskets, as Brian Spicer comes to lead us in the doxology, place stand for our PayCheck Sunday offering.  To God be the glory.


[1] Acts 8.18-19

[2] Second Timothy 4.10

[3] First John 2.15

[4] Footnote on First John 2.19, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1967.

[5] Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[6] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 960.

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