Scattered for Now

Yesterday, we memorialized a man of God, Dr. Richard Allen Williams, former pastor of Christ Community Church in Tampa and president of Trinity College in Clearwater. It struck me that here we all were, together in the building that most of us had a hand in constructing, as a church–actually a fellowship–once again.

Sadly, over time, many of us scattered in all directions for many reasons. The structure in which we congregated yesterday is now owned by a church of a mainline denomination–we prided ourselves in being non-denominational–and the surviving CCC now meets in a Seventh Day Adventist Church. Ironically, in the 1960s, CCC in its infancy also began meeting in a Seventh Day Adventist Church!

Now if one looks at the fruits of Dr. Williams’ ministry, the scattering was obviously for higher purposes. We may yearn for the Camelot we once had, but God had other ideas. We may grieve for the fact that we no longer congregate regularly together, and it took the passing of a great man to reunite us, but we can clearly see the hand of God at work, just as in the early church.

Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Acts 4:4

Over time, CCC spawned and sent out many missionaries into our community and nation, and all over kingdom come. And Lord knows, our congregation knew all about the “kingdom,” and wanted it to come soon! At one time, regional heads of most of the national parachurch ministries hung out with us, and a veritable “who’s who” filled our pulpit in guest appearances, J. Vernon McGee, Chuck Swindoll, J. Dwight Pentecost, Bill Bright, John Walvoord, Howard Hendricks, and others I can’t remember. Basically, the faculty of Dallas Seminary. Our associate pastor, Dr. L.P. McClenny, also a graduate of Dallas Seminary, even bounced little Billy Graham on his knee back in his church in North Carolina. You get the gist. We could name-drop all day long.

Our people were not only sent to the remotest parts of the earth, what we misconstrued as attrition, was actually the population of area churches with needed and remarkably gifted people, some of whom went on to plan and build the area’s largest church, and its pastor knows full well what I mean!

CCC was also on the cutting edge of worship, incorporating a praise team and worship band in 1993, before its time really. Truth be known there was a good deal of discussion on mothballing the organ and buying a set of drums, a projector, big screen, theater lights, and suitable PA. The original players of this ministry went on to become integral members of four other local worship ministries, and there were many more generations of musicians to come after them. Also, in our heyday, we wrote and produced full-scale dramatic plays. It was extraordinary what was accomplished with God’s help.

But more than anything else though, true to Dr. Williams’ teaching, former and present CCC members will always have the highest regard and fervent love for the truth and accuracy of God’s word. Dr. Williams made sure of that. I still remember the first full sermon I heard him preach, on Matthew 24, the Olivet Discourse. He cleared up so many misunderstandings that night, and yes, it was about the “kingdom.”

Because of his teaching, I’m absolutely certain that I’ll again share a meal and a thought with him. You see, every Thursday afternoon for a good long stretch, we’d meet for lunch at an Arby’s restaurant in South Tampa (because he loved their roast beef sandwiches with that oozing cheddar cheese). I was a 20-something professional single man and he sought me out to disciple me, and who would turn that opportunity down? A few years later he took care of my singleness, by officiating my wedding. Glory be to God!

Anyway, now that he’s on the inside, I’m sure he’s negotiating for our quick release! That was probably his plan all along. Lord knows he’s got a lot of good reasons for it, provided he can get them all out of his mouth! This is an inside joke, but you all know what I’m talking about!

Richard Allen Williams, 1930-2018

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The Essence of Love

God sent his only son into the world. God sent his only son into the world that we might live through him. God sent his only son into the world that we might live through him by the sacrifice of himself for our sins. God sent his only son into the world that we might live through him by the sacrifice of himself for our sins, and not for ours only, but for those of the whole world (1 John 2:2). This is the essence of love, to sacrifice that which is the most precious to us for another.

Jesus bore gruesome torture, carried a rugged cross in a contemptible trudge up to Golgotha, allowed himself to be nailed to it and hung from it, and lifted his body up from it enough times to breathe life into a sinner hanging next to him (Luke 23:43), and to ask forgiveness for the bloodthirsty mob who knew not what they were doing (Luke 23:34). This act was the essence of love.

Now we are asked to simply love our neighbor, starting with our brothers and sisters in Christ (Galatians 6:10), and reaching out to “those who know not what they are doing.” By his spirit we can, in fact, now be the Father and Son’s exact radiance on earth (Hebrews 1:3). They will know us by our love, and the epitome of that love is a little self-sacrifice on our part for the needs of others. In this act the world will see the essence of love.

9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:9-11

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They Can’t Handle the Truth

4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 1 John 4:1-6

From God or not from God? That is the question.

There are many out there preaching these days. They’re cool. They’re cajoling. They’re compelling. They’re convincing. But are they from God?

John gives us guidance on knowing for sure. Do you hear the name of Jesus in those captivating stories? Have they found room to tell us that Jesus came from God and walked among us? This may be a simple account, but someone with the spirit of the antichrist can’t bring himself to confess this. He’ll change the subject.

As the famous line says, the antichrists “can’t handle the truth.” But we can, and we know it when we hear it, because the spirit of truth is in us!

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Standing Our Ground

And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:3

You can’t ponder the hope of seeing the savior face to face and not be pure. Somehow we must be in such a state that we can stand our ground. That only happens with our being just as pure as he is. He has seen to that.

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Fit for a King

3 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3

Most would not know that William and Kate’s kids belong to the queen. That’s the law. Here the law is love, and we’re God’s children because he loved us enough to adopt us. If those kids knew their rightful place, it’d go right to their heads!

Just as it’s difficult to intimately know a monarch and their family, it’s hard for the world to know us. We may be tread on by the world, but we’re treated like royalty by our king. We try to share this secret with others but they just don’t get it until they experience their own adoption.

There’s an exciting time coming soon when we’ll see the king, and we’re told he’s got the appropriate clothes for us to wear when he comes. (Revelation 19:14) We look forward to this occasion with anxious anticipation, and hope it’s soon! It’s really all we think about. Keeps us out of trouble.

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Consider the Source

25 This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. 28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.  1 John 2:25-29

No one can promise eternal life but Christ himself. The writer (the Apostle John) received this promise directly from him and is passing it on to us.

There were detractors in the “church” who thought otherwise. They left the fold to follow their own way. John was writing these things so that the followers of Christ might not be deceived.

Satan has devised many alternatives to the truth that sound plausible but are lies. He includes just enough truth to make his arguments enticing. We know this from his modus operandi with Jesus in the wilderness. (Matt. 4:1-11) Like Jesus, we know there’s something wrong because of our anointing, the Spirit of God within us who contemplates everything postulated and pronounces it true or false. We can rely on the teachings that come from within. John wrote of this confidence we should have in the truth, using the word four times in this letter.

While John had the privilege of hearing the truth directly from Jesus, we can read it in the Word, or in this case, in John’s letter. If we live, i.e. abide in the Word, it’s hard for heresy to penetrate and lead us astray. We have the textbook and the teacher. What more do we need?

Some scholars and skeptics obfuscate the truth with distracting questions about Bible authorship and accuracy, but the Spirit tells us “the sum of your word is true.” (Psalm 119:160) Our teacher does not let us veer into the weeds, but with His counsel he guides us.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Psalm 32:8

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Christ Deniers

18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? 1 John 2:18-22

This passage is both comforting and disturbing.

For one, there’s comfort in knowing where you stand. If you know Christ, if you’ve confessed him, if you practice righteousness, you’re in. You’ve received the anointing–His Spirit–and you know the whole truth. All you need to do is abide in it. This means to reside within the confines of God’s word. Through his word we have total access to God’s mind–well, who really can know the mind of God? Better, he teaches us through his spirit “all things.” (2:27) And as we’ve seen in previous verses, if we mess up as we abide in the word, there’s a process–confession–whereby we can easily right the ship.

On the other their hand, there are many who are wayward and wandering–simply lost. Others are aggressive in their posture towards the truth. Passive or aggressive, they’re all Christ deniers. In the end, there’ll be one consummate “antichrist,” and he will be defeated by Christ himself.

For now we’re constantly on guard against the counterfeits. John tells us how to spot a Christ denier outside the obvious. They don’t abide in him, and as such, they can’t abide with true believers. They’ll eventually check out. Truth is, they simply can’t abide by–tolerate–the name of Jesus. These people want to get as far away from that name as possible. They want a safe place but there is none.

In contrast, we “can have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.” (2:28)

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