“You May Not Sin”- Our Spiritual Aim and Goal

Word of Encouragement


ESV 1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.


If you are a Christian, you should rejoice that you are free from slavery to sin! You are free to walk in newness of life because of the love of Christ for you!


Sin is evil and offensive against our Holy God, and a great and grave danger to our souls. Sin has an enslaving power to make us obey it and so it is wonderful news to find out that in Christ we are free not to sin!


We are called in Jesus Christ to realize that we are dead to sin and alive to God. This means that when Christ died on the cross, taking the wrath of God upon Himself for our sins, believers died with Him. When Jesus was raised from the dead, we were also raised to newness of life. The Apostle Paul writes:


ESV Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.


The Apostle Paul says to consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. Why? Our old self was crucified with Christ and we are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:6). The death we died with Christ on the cross we died to sin once for all, so that we could serve God (Romans 6:10).


The Apostle John is teaching the same liberating truth in 1 John 2:1. Notice how John addresses believers as his “dear children”. Like a loving father to a child, so the Apostle John writes to believers so that they may not sin.


But you say: “May not sin?! Certainly, the Bible does not teach perfectionism! Surely you are not saying that the Bible tells me that Christians are to be perfect, are you?!” No, the Bible does not teach perfectionism. In fact, the Apostle John has already addressed this false teaching and misunderstanding in chapter 1 of his letter:


ESV 1 John 1:8-10: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.


We must never say that we “have no sin” (1 John 1:8), or that we “have not sinned” (1:10). If we say that we have no sin or have not sinned, then we are liars and call God a liar. We have a need for the forgiveness of sins, and to be cleansed from all unrighteousness as we walk by faith in this world (1:9). As long as we live in this world, believers will have a need to confess our sins to Jesus and to be forgiven, and Jesus is more than willing to receive our confession and to forgive us. God is faithful and just to forgive us.


What great hope we have as Christians. But John goes on to teach in 1 John 2:1 that he writes his letter so that we “may not sin”. This means that it should be our spiritual aim and goal not to sin against God.


Jesus Christ is the only “Righteous One” (1 John 2:1b). That means that Jesus Christ is the only man who ever lived who was righteous in Himself, or without sin. We have sin, but in Christ we have died to sin, and we should live as if we are dead to sin and alive to God, and to seek not to sin by God’s grace in Christ.


The Apostle John’s balance is most helpful: “I write these things to you that you may not sin, but if anyone does sin we have Jesus.”


There is always grace for sinners in Jesus, but in Jesus Christ, we should fight the good fight against sin, seeking not to sin. May it be our daily prayer that we “may not sin”.  John is teaching the same truth as the Apostle Paul in Romans 6 but in his own unique way.


“Dear Children, I write these things to you that you may not sin…” (1 John 2:1b).


Because of God’s love for us in Christ, let us no longer make excuses for our sins, but let us hear the truth of God’s word and seek the spiritual goal of not sinning by His grace. I know you are thinking: “But pastor, I will sin, I just know it.” But is this the spiritual aim and goal God has commanded you in the Bible to live out by faith? Yes, indeed you will sin, John says “if anyone does sin…” and then provides all Christians a wonderful Savior to go to, but the point of the passage is that Jesus’ work for us is also to promote our resolve to seek not to sin.


How should believers live seeking not to sin?


Let us have a deep hatred for our sins. We must have a deep hatred for our sins. We should begin by understanding that all of our sins are first a great offense against  a Holy and Just and Kind and Merciful God. We offend God when we sin; we grieve God when we sin; we hurt Him in His Holy heart (Gen. 6:5ff), and that is a good start for Christians to understand the Godward offense of our sins so that we will seek not to sin.


Sin was the reason Jesus came to save us. Jesus came to set us free from slavery to sin, to release us from the dominion and rule of sin. Jesus says graciously: “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed!” – -Free from sin! (John 8:31ff). In Christ, we are no longer slaves, but dear children (1 John 2:1a).


As dear children, we realize that sin crushed our precious Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. “He was crushed for our iniquities” (‘iniquities’ are sins against God’s person and commandments, Isaiah 53:4ff). God crushed Jesus for our sins. “He who knew no sin became the sin-bearer for us that we might be made righteous in our union with Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).


Let us hate sin because it is crushed the perfect and holy, meek and gentle Jesus. This will help us seek not to sin.


Let us pray for a holy hatred for our sins against God. Sin is lawlessness. John writes:


ESV 1 John 3:4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.


Lawlessness is a complete disregard for God and His most Holy Law. Lawlessness is doing what we want rather than what God wants us to do. It is foolishness, and it leads to death. There is absolutely no good that comes from sin which is lawlessness. That is a promise from God Himself! The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Lawlessness describes those who will be rejected by Jesus Christ on the last day; it is the character of the anti-christ; it grows and increases into more lawlessness as it is practiced; it is the desperate situation from which God saved us by His grace the Bible teaches us (Matthew 7:23; 23:28; Romans 6:19; 2 Thess. 2; Titus 2:14).


Let us hate sin because it is lawlessness. This will help us seek not to sin.


When we see our sins, let us ask forgiveness from God and deep repentance. Let us see our Advocate before God, Jesus the Righteous One (1 John 2:1b). Where we lack righteousness, Jesus is sufficient as Savior-Advocate (one who pleads our case before God by His blood), to cleanse us. He is also able by His Spirit to keep us from sinning. Jesus’ death takes away our penalty for sin, but also grants us power over sin (1 John 1:7-9).


Let us resolve by God’s grace in Christ by His Spirit that we will not sin. But how can we achieve this? God has provided us some answers in His word. Here are a few ways to seek to do this, although we will fail at times. But what is your main aim, and spiritual goal? To be like Him; to seek not to sin.


Stay far from temptations. If you know something tempts you, or causes you to sin, seek to live far from it. Don’t go near it, even if it is lawful in and of itself. If it causes you to sin and stumble in your walk, then avoid it with all of your heart. If you are tempted to seek satisfaction in something or someone other than God, make sure you don’t fall into a temptation. This will help us seek not to sin.


Live in God’s grace and duty against sins. Go to worship, and hear preaching of God’s Word, take part in the administration of His sacraments; these are all means of God’s grace to communicate His love and power to you as you receive Christ by faith. Pray often all kinds of prayers for yourself and all people (Ephesians 6:18ff). This will help us seek not to sin.


Don’t doubt and distrust God (Romans 4:18-21). Has God ever let you down? Has God ever been unfaithful to you? No, and He never will let you down or be unfaithful to you in Christ. Trust God’s Word to you, believe His promises. Build yourself up in your most holy faith (Jude 24), seeking to believe what God says in true, particularly as He promises you that you may not sin. This will help us seek not to sin.


Be suspicious of carnal self-love. Watch your self-centeredness, and constant focus on yourself rather than on Christ. Be suspicious anytime you become self-aware and wonder why people are treating you in a certain way, or when you are too self-conscious about what others are saying, and you become overly defensive. Carnal self-love will focus you on yourself, rather than on Christ and your service to Him. This will help us seek not to sin.


Kill sin at the root. Know the master sin-roots. Master sins are ignorance of God’s word in general and God’s promises specifically. Unbelief, selfishness, pride, lust, hard-heartedness against God. All of these are master sin-roots that grow all kinds of dangerous and toxic weeds in your garden and the congregational garden of your local church. If you’re not constantly weeding your garden, then the weeds are constantly growing! This will help us seek not to sin.


Keep your conversation and thoughts above focused on Christ (Colossians 3:1-4). You have been raised with Christ, fix your mind on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:1). Watch your negative and cynical and pessimistic conversations and thoughts that you have that are veiled and subtle unbelief against God’s Word. Seek godly companions to talk about God’s goodness and grace. This will help us seek not to sin.


Be watchful and prayerful at all times (Matt. 26:41).  Apart from Christ you are dangerous; your heart is self-deceptive and evil by nature. You do not by nature know how to do anything but sin. You know this experientially in your own life, unless you have learned to self and to God (see 1 John 1:8ff). Remember the importance of asking God to search and know your heart, your thoughts, etc. (Psalm 139:23-24). This will help us seek not to sin.


God’s Word should be your only rule. This will help us seek not to sin.


Seek God’s will each day at the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:14-16). Jesus Christ the Righteous One will grant you mercy and give you grace to help you in your time of need. This is a promise. Why would you not seek this Throne of Grace daily? Why would you not start each day at Christ’s feet? This will help us seek not to sin.


Go to Him know, confess your sins, your carelessness, your lack of watchfulness and prayer. Confess to Christ if you have not tried living for Him as dead to sin and alive to God. Confess to Jesus that you have not even tried to make it your spiritual aim not to sin if this be truth. This in itself is a blatant denial of God’s Word, and is usually fueled by one of the mother root-sins such as ignorance that God’s word teaches this, or unbelief that God would give you strength to live in this way. This will help us seek not to sin.


God requires perfect righteousness of all mankind. All mankind must be perfect if they are to ever hope in heaven and being a recipient of eternal life (Matt. 5:48). Because we are conceived and born in sin, we have no righteousness before God, and can never do anything in this life that is not actually tainted by sin (Psalm 51; Romans 3).


Our only hope is to find the perfect righteousness that God demands of us and that we so desperately need in Jesus Christ alone. This is why Jesus alone is described as “The Righteous” or “The Righteous One” (1 John 2:1b). Only Jesus who was both God and man has attained a perfect righteousness.


Jesus died for sinners, and he died so that we might live for God. Jesus died for sinners so that we might be set free from slavery from sin and live unto God.


The perfect righteousness that God requires of all mankind, God also provides for us in Jesus the Righteous One, and this is received by faith.


Now hate sin. Ask Christ to help you to hate it more. Jesus did not leave you in your sins. He did not allow sin in your life to continue to offend God Almighty, and to destroy your life and soul. He came so that you would have life in Him and to experience abundant life that is without the horrible rule and reign of sin over you, making you a slave with only death as your hope to be set free.


Jesus Christ has overcome sin; he has done for you what you could never do by His power and grace; because of His love for you!


And then go and seek not to sin.


But if you do sin, you have an Advocate before the Father, Jesus the Righteous.


ESV 1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.


Ponder the love of God for you.


IN Christ’s love,


Pastor Biggs


PS I will have more later this week on our WOE study from how we can be Assessed, Aligned and Aim through studying the seven churches of Revelation.

Words without Christ- “Why Sin and Suffering?”

Word of Encouragement


Almighty God asks: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?!”– Job 38


Dear Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ at KCPC,


Recently, I had an excellent question asked to me about suffering and our sins.


The question was concerning someone from another congregation in our community who has been suffering great sickness for some time and was told by another well-meaning Christian (not from our congregation!!) that they were suffering because of some specific sin, and that they needed to find out what sin they had committed and repent.  The “friend” of this sufferer told the dear sick person that she must obviously be in some grievous sin, to be so sick for so long.  She told her that all sickness and disease is a direct result of our sin.


We should understand that this kind of thinking is very unbiblical, fraught with dangerous consequences for those who hold to this aberrant theology, and promotes self-righteousness in those who believe it (not to mention the despair in dear sufferers it is administered unto). We should avoid thinking this way, and offer other answers for our friends and family members who suffer, answers that are rooted in Biblical truth.


Here was my answer to the question.


First of all, I am so sorry that your friend was carelessly told this unbiblical view from another person. I’m afraid that I have heard that kind of false teaching “on the street” in this area, and I can only say that our Lord Jesus and the larger teaching of Scripture denies this to be the truth. This kind of teaching that sickness is a direct result of a particular sin is similar to the so-called “friends” of Job who thought that Job was experiencing the calamity and sickness of his life because of some particular sin he had committed.


Clearly, in the Book of Job, God rebukes Job’s “friends” for this false theology.


The Book of Job opens up with a “behind-the-scenes” look at our loving, merciful and Sovereign God who brings calamity because He is going to use it to train his child and make him more godly and ultimately Christ-like (see the closing chapters of Job in how God teaches Job about the fact that everything he went through was for God’s glory and Job’s good, chapters 38-42, particularly the closing chapters of Job 42).


Rarely does someone suffer in this life as Job did, and yet the purpose of the Book of Job is to reveal God as great and good, and to teach that God allows suffering to grow his people in godliness. But the suffering, illness, and/or affliction is not in direct result of a person’s sin, because the Book of Job says Job was righteous in God’s sight, and although a sinner saved by grace, he “never did sin against God” in questioning God, etc.


For teaching like your friend heard about her sickness being a direct result of a sin she had committed, God would respond, and has responded (Job 38:1) with these words:


“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” ; and read this at the end of Job:


ESV Job 42:1-7: Then Job answered the LORD and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.


Job was able to know God better through his illness and suffering–but he went through his affliction not because of some particular sin he had committed. The purpose of the Book of Job is to teach that sickness, suffering and/or affliction is NOT directly caused by specific sins, but so that God’s children might know Him better through suffering; so that they can understand a bit better things too “wonderful for them”, and to be able to see and know God’s goodness with eyes that only a sufferer in Christ has (see the false teaching of those who would teach otherwise in Job 8:4; 24:19; 33:27; 35:3, 6– God rebukes this thinking as in Job chapters 38-42 mentioned above)!


You could say that those who counsel with words without knowledge are those who ultimately counsel others with words without Christ!


We must understand that God’s Spirit always leads His people to God for help, outside of oneself to find hope.  God’s Spirit leads suffering people out of themselves so that they would behold a glorious Christ (Job: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you…”).


If a Spirit-filled person is ministering to you as you suffer, you will know that the person is from God and is being biblical in their advice to you because they will point you away from your sin, your suffering, and from what you deserve by nature outwardly toward God so that you find His mercy in Jesus. Only our sinful flesh and the accusing devil himself would lead a suffering child of God back into themselves for answers (see the work of the Spirit of God in John 14-16).


For those who point a person away from God to oneself, there is this message from God: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?!”.


Notice also more clarity on this kind of thinking about sin and suffering from John 9:1-5 where our Lord and Savior heals a man born blind.


Notice how the misunderstanding in the time of the disciples (like Job’s “friends”) was to think that if one was suffering then that must mean that they have done something particularly sinful. We should remember that the default mode of sinful human nature is works-righteousness, so you would expect the thinking at this self-righteous level to be: “If I do bad, I suffer; If I do good, I enjoy my life, etc.” But this is unbiblical as our Lord points out to his generation and ours today:


John 9:1-5: As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”


In John 9:1-5, when the disciples get a glimpse of the blind beggar and see him for the first time they ask Jesus the age-old faulty theological question of whether this man or his parent’s sinning was the cause of his blindness.  Jesus answers (as God answers Job’s “friends” in Job 38-42) that his blindness was so that the works of God might be manifest in his life and God would be glorified (John 9:1-5).


In other words, Jesus says that the reason why the man is blind is so that others might see God’s glory in his being made to see.  Concerning the theology question asked by the apostles, it is assumed by them that a particular sin is the ultimate reason for any physical sicknesses, but we cannot say that just because someone suffers a physical ailment it must be due to a particular sin.  Jesus says that it is so that God may be glorified. 


We should understand that there is always a general connection or relationship between the fall of man and our physical and spiritual ailments and/or sicknesses, but only God knows the specific connection between a particular sin and sin’s effects in our lives. It is true that had we not sinned in Adam, had there been no fall of man, then there would be no sin and sickness at all in the world (and that is the hope of the New Creation, Revelation 21:3-7).


However, we should never try to understand a cause and effect kind of relationship to our particular sins and sicknesses. We are all far more sinful that we can imagine anyway. None of us get what we truly deserve. In Christ, we get grace and mercy, even though we suffer. Suffering is a result in a general way because of our sin- -the fall of mankind. But why God allows some to suffer in certain ways and other in other ways is beyond us.


All we can say for sure is that God uses it to make His children humble and holy like Jesus; God calls us to it so that He will be glorified and we will grow in Christ-likeness.


We should be careful of trying to figure out God’s reasons in allowing certain manifestations of physical illnesses in the life of men and women.  We simply do not know.  We know that God is Sovereign and that God is good and he allows these physical manifestations in certain lives for his own good purposes (Deut. 29:29).


When someone tries to say that a person’s sickness is a direct result of a particular sin, they reveal that they have a low or impartial view of sin and human nature; they are deceived.  Often these kind of folks think that they have made more progress in their walk with God than they truly have. Those who are blinded by self-righteousness think that if they do good for God, then He will do good to them and they will not suffer, but this is Pharisaical thinking. They think if they are sick it is specifically because they have sinned or been unrighteous before God. Again, this reveals a works-righteousness mentality.


We should understand that we do good for God as believers in Christ because we are commanded to do it, and in Christ we are privileged to do it, but this does not mean that we will not suffer. Often those who are making the most progress in the Christian life are the folks whom God chooses to suffer greatly for Him! (See the cross and the Son of God!).


Again the words of God to the so-called “friends” of Job are appropriate here: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?!” And those who counsel with words without knowledge are those who ultimately counsel others with words without Christ!


Jesus is wise in his response in John 9 to his disciples’ faulty theology: Rather than allowing the disciples to pursue the mysteries of God’s dealings with man and his sin, he graciously explains to them that in this particular case, with this particular man, his blindness was for the glory of God to be revealed in the Person and Work of Jesus.


This was to shed light for those who have eyes to see, so that they might reach out in their spiritual blindness for salvation in Christ and be healed!  The question should not have been a “why” question as much as a “who” question.


When we suffer, and when we suffer with brothers and sisters who are suffering, we do not want to go down the path of asking and/or seeking to answer the “WHYs” (that is, the ‘WHY questions’) so much as to minister and point to the WHO in our words of counsel.


We ask these questions: WHO has suffered for you-  – before you? WHO has died for you? WHO will never leave you nor forsake you? WHO will uphold you by His righteous right hand?


JESUS. Jesus is the WHO. The WHY is not wise counsel, and is often very crippling and cruel to others when they are suffering. Why? Because you have just taken their eyes off their only hope (WHO) and placed their eyes on themselves (WHY).


When we suffer, all of us can find enough sinful junk within our hearts to damn our souls to hell and plenty of good reasons why we should be suffering- -but this is not the way of Scripture and the Holy Spirit.


The Spirit of God leads us out of ourselves especially during suffering to find comfort and grace in our Savior (WHO).


Let the Spirit of God lead you as you suffer and help those who suffer to Christ, not to focus them on their particular sins. Let us all daily repent of our sins, and live our lives faithfully before God, but let us never seek to find a particular cause and effect relationship in our sins and the sins of others.


In John 9 (and in the Book of Job), we should be reminded that the real questions in life for the Christian are **NOT** the WHY QUESTIONS such as “Why is this person blind?” Or, “Why does God allow this calamity and physical illness to befall this person?” Or, “Why does God allow me to suffer?”


But rather (if we’re going to ask a WHY question), “Why are we not all born physically blind and handicapped with physical illnesses because of sin?” (cf. Luke 13).  But again, the answer to our suffering is in the glorious and comforting WHO question: “Who is my only hope and comfort in both life and death, but the Lord Jesus Christ?!”


The important point made by the Lord Jesus in this passage in John 9 is that although we are not all born physically blind (the Pharisees in the passage who are angry at Jesus could see clearly God’s world around them), we are all born spiritually blind and with an inherent inability to see the things of God in the world or in Christ apart from the power and light of the Holy Spirit reaching deep into our dark hearts and saying with authority as God did in the creation:


“Let there be light…and their was light” (Romans 1:18-25; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6).


Without the work of the Holy Spirit illuminating God’s Word and leading us to Jesus Christ we cannot see anything in our lives as we should.  The Spirit takes us to Christ in our suffering so that God would be glorified in us!


Anyone who has the audacity to tell another poor soul who is suffering that God wants them to repent of a particular sin and they will be made better, is a person who thinks too highly of themselves. This is someone who is more afflicted and suffering before God in their blindness than they realize. They are dangerously leading the sufferer away from their only comfort in Jesus Christ, and thus they become the “blind leading the blind”!


I will pray that God would make this clear to your friend and comfort her in her time of suffering. I would encourage her to know God’s hand is good and powerful and this is her privilege to suffer with and in Christ Jesus, as the Apostle Paul says:


ESV Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…


All of God’s greatest servants suffered in order to be made like Christ Jesus in His death and resurrection, and through suffering and death to self, they became more like Christ (Hebrews 11).  Suffering with Christ is God’s wise and mysterious way of making us privileged to be His dear and beloved children (Hebrews 12:5ff), and causes us to grow in holiness or Christ-likeness. According to Hebrews 12:5-12, the ones who actually should be concerned about their sins against God, **are those who DO NOT SUFFER** they may very well be illegitimate children as Hebrews 12 teaches. But that is for God to decide.


Let us love and serve Him no matter what our Master calls us to do for Him. Let us serve Him and worship Him by His grace!


And let us bring godly counsel that is full of the Holy Spirit and full of JESUS CHRIST to our suffering brothers and sisters, so that they might find God’s mercy, grace and comfort in both life and death.


In Christ’s love,


Pastor Charles


“What the Spirit Says…Tried and True”

Word of Encouragement- The Church of Smyrna- “Tried and True”


“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”- Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22


“…We make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God…”- 2 Corinthians 5:9b-11a


Dear Beloved of the LORD at KCPC: I am writing short messages on the seven churches for our Word of Encouragement so that we might better assess where we are spiritually as a congregation, show us areas that need to be realigned with God’s Word, and how we might more effectively and sincerely make it our aim to please the Lord Jesus Christ!


If you would like to read the introduction to this short series, you may read here: Word of Encouragement


What are our strengths and weaknesses as a congregation? How can we ask God to better search and know us corporately? How are we doing at KCPC as a visible manifestation of Christ’s Kingdom on earth? Are we loving God and others as we did when we were first saved and gathered as Christ’s flock?


We will focus today on Jesus’ message to the Church at Smyrna.


It is important to remind ourselves that these seven congregations of the Revelation were real historical churches at the time that John the Apostle wrote his Revelation of Jesus Christ.  However, we want to understand that they are also symbolic of the entire church age between Jesus’ first and second coming.


This means that what Jesus says to the churches, we need to consider soberly for ourselves.  Jesus is still speaking to us (Hebrews 12:25).  Jesus is particularly speaking to His people in these letters as a corporate body and congregation of confessional Christians, and not merely as individuals. This is why it is good to use these letters to be assessed by Christ as we seek to grow in him as a body.


We should understand that through the reading and preaching of the Word in public worship, we at KCPC are also recipients of this important letter.  Jesus is addressing us, too!


Dear Ketoctin Covenant Presbyterian Church…Dear Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ, in Purcellville, Virginia:


Jesus’ letter to the Church at Smyrna reminds us of the challenging truth that a church can be considered faithful by the Lord Jesus and yet suffer.


Suffering and tribulation are part of being faithful to God’s Kingdom as the Church Militant in his world.


The truth revealed here is: An outwardly rich and successful church (numerically as in attendance, and/or programs provided) does not necessarily mean it is a faithful church; an outwardly “poor” and “unsuccessful” church (in the eyes of the world) that suffers for their faith does not necessarily mean that it is an unfaithful church.


“To the angel of the church in Smyrna” (v. 8a).  Smyrna is one of only two of the seven churches that receive only encouragement from the Lord Jesus.


Where was Smyrna? It was located in Asia Minor about thirty-five miles north of Ephesus.  The Church Fathers, particularly Irenaeus wrote that the Apostle Paul had stayed in Smyrna on his missionary travels.  Church history also reminds us of the great Pastor Polycarp who died a martyr’s death at Smyrna in the second century.  Pastor Polycarp had learned from, and been friends with the Apostle John.


The letter is from our Lord Jesus, particularly describing Himself thus: “The first and the last, who died and came to life (v. 8b; cf. 1:17-18).  Jesus is the Great God in the flesh and yet his knows of this suffering congregation of saints.  Jesus is the first and the last, yet he is also the Compassionate God who speaks to his people.  Jesus is the God who is Transcendent, yet so close. Jesus is the one who suffered unto death and gave His life for us, so that we would willingly our lives and be faithful unto death for Him!


Jesus has nothing to rebuke this church about, but he has a reminder-warning to them about what they are to expect as partners in the “tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus” (1:9). Listen to the kindness and compassion of the Lord Jesus:


“I know your tribulation…” (v. 9a)


“I know your poverty…(but you are rich)” (v. 9a; cf. James 2:5; for “rich in good works”- 1 Tim. 6:18)


Notice that no matter how overlooked and unappreciated and threatened by the world the Church at Smyrna was, Jesus compassionately sympathizes with them in their weakness as their great High Priest who lives to intercede for them at the Throne of Grace (Heb. 4:14-18).


The City of Smyrna was a very rich one.  In contrast, the Church of Smyrna did not live up outwardly to that rich and luxurious reputation; the church was considered poor in the eyes of the world.  Smyrna Church had no big buildings or lofty cathedrals, they were probably not very large in numerical size, and probably did not have a lot of exciting congregations to “wow” the crowds- –yet they were commended by Christ for their riches and success in faithfulness!


The Christ who was rich and made himself poor for our sakes, tells the Church of Smyrna that from God’s objective perspective (regardless of what folks on earth think) that the Church at Smyrna is rich in Gospel truth and eternal blessings! 


In our finite and limited judgment here on earth we are not good judges of whether a congregation is rich or impoverished, successful or unsuccessful.  We can however draw some implication-inference-conclusions from what Jesus says here to the Church at Smyrna.


Lots of congregations of Christ that seem rich and successful may not be.  Christ says later in his letter to the Church at Laodicea:


ESV Revelation 3:17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.


What makes a congregation rich? It is **NOT** money, power, fame, a radio show, and lots of people flocking to the worship necessarily.  According to Jesus what makes a congregation rich is how much they are rich in good works, that is, congregations show forth their knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus in how they live before God and the world.


Remember the way our LORD defined true riches:


ESV Luke 12:15, 21: And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions…So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”


The congregations who are rich in God’s Gospel, and are heirs to the riches in heaven can be small in number and yet many times will be in a world of sin and misery (although there are exceptions).


It does not matter a hill of beans how large a congregation is, numerically speaking.  Among ministers and even members of church congregations there can oftentimes be a kind of boasting about how big one’s building is, how large and loud the organ is; how many folks worship on any given Sunday, and how great and charismatic the pastor is.


All of these perks can be good (if they do not distract from the mission), but if the church is without the true gospel and the “richness in good works” it is a failure according to Jesus (as we will see in Jesus’ address to other congregations in Asia Minor).


We should be careful when we see a faithful, Gospel-preaching congregations dwindle down according to God’s mysterious providence, that we do not think them as poor, when they may be rich.


Again, we are poor judges of what constitutes a truly rich congregation (1 Corinthians 4:3-4, 7)!  But you can know them by their Gospel fruit (cf. Matt. 7).


Jesus says: “I know the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan…” (v. 9b; 3:9-10; John 8:31-59; Philippians 3:3; Romans 2:25-29).  Apparently Non-Christian Jews were claiming to the Roman government that the Church at Smyrna was not a Jewish sect, but was a non-Jewish group with the implication that they were an “unauthorized” congregation of saints (Jewish sects were protected by the Roman Empire at this time in history).  This would have caused trouble for the confessing members of the Smyrna Church because if they were not a Jewish sect then they had to offer idolatrous worship to the emperor.  If they did not offer this idol worship, then they would have been persecuted and most likely killed.


In light of this, the Risen-Ascended Christ tells the Church of Smyrna that they indeed are the true Jews and because of this, they will suffer persecution.  Jesus wants the church to understand herself not only as the True Jews by faith, but also that their citizenship is in heaven.  Persecution of the congregation will be provoked by false Jews and the Kingdom of Rome.


We don’t want to miss that here is the Risen-Ascended Christ’s assessment of **unbelieving** Jews.  This is consistent with what he preached in his earthly ministry and what was clearly interpreted by the Apostle Paul.


This is in no way Anti-Semitic as we might call it; this is the LORD of history evaluating what a true Jew is, and is not (cf. Romans 2:28-29).  Those synagogues in the 1st century who did not receive the Gospel revealed themselves as those who did not belong to Christ or his Church regardless of their outward success in adherents or numbers of worshippers; by rejecting Christ they were rejecting their right to be called children of Abraham (see John 8:31-59).


There were those who were Jewish ethnically who also became True Jews through faith in Christ.  Although they would have been rejected by the Synagogue (of Satan for their profession of faith), they were members of the Church of Smyrna.


In fact, it was those who were Jewish ethnically who were opposing and oppressing many of Christ’s followers.  The Church was being persecuted in Christ (Acts 9).  Remember that pagans and Rome persecuted the early church, but also the unbelieving Jewish synagogues as we learn in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.


Jesus says to the Apostle Paul who was of the synagogue of Satan before his conversion-regeneration, those who persecute Christ’s Church are those who persecute Christ; and those who persecute Christ are not true Jews.  A True Jew is a “Spirit-filled’ Christian, one united to Jesus Christ by faith whether Jew or Gentile by birth!


Jesus says: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer…” (v. 10a).


God grants mercy to many congregations of the world and allows us to live without persecution often in our lives.  However, the Church of Jesus Christ is to expect nothing less than persecution and not to be surprised when it comes along; persecution is allowed by God to make us more like Jesus Christ and it is not to surprise us!


Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory1 and of God rests upon you. – 1 Peter 4:12-14


We may not understand the suffering and persecution in the United States as well as other countries and nations in this world.  We may have plenty of prosperity and time on our hands to interpret the Book of Revelation as wholly a future, speculative “riddle” to be unlocked by our interpretive genius. 🙂 (That’s not completely unfair, is it?)


But as I have tried to make clear in our introduction.  The Book of Revelation is about hope in suffering in this present age.  The book is not for fanciful self-centered interpretation, but given to the Church as God’s Word to encourage perseverance in persecution and suffering!


Let’s talk a bit more globally about the True Church of Jesus and how those who suffer could benefit from Christ’s letter here (and hopefully if as Americans we find ourselves one day similar circumstances we will be strong enough through Word and Sacrament to face the persecution onslaught):


The World Evangelical Alliance estimates that 200 million Christians live in societies today where they are threatened with imprisonment, torturing and martyrdom.  Many Christians in Muslim countries undergo daily persecution and it is reported that Communist North Korea is perhaps the most dangerous place on earth to confess Christ openly and own a copy of the Scriptures.  In North Korea Christians are brutalized in prisons for their confession and profession of Jesus Christ.


In 2006 in Eritrea on the Continent of Africa (Northeast Africa), it was reported that almost 2000 Christians were imprisoned for their faith.  On June 6th 2009, Pastor Hua who faithfully preaches the gospel in Beijing, China was taken as he was changing trains and taken to a hotel and beaten by officials.  They reportedly said to him: “I’m going to strangle you and I’d like to see whether you can still preach the gospel” (officials also threatened to arrest his wife).  The Chinese “Domestic Security Protection Squad” is set up to suppress the spread of the Gospel.


One of the first messages of the Persecuted Church that I have read is, even before presenting the news: “Pray for us!”


We must seek to pray for these persecuted Christians at all times (Eph. 6:18), and we must seek to prepare ourselves for possible persecution like this in the future.  Here is one way we could pray (from the Book of Common Prayer):


Prayer: “Grant that we, who now remember these before thee, may likewise so bear witness unto thee in this world, that we may receive with them the crown of glory that fadeth not away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” – taken from The Book of Common Prayer


In order to have knowledge of the Church’s persecution, and to pray specifically, you can read the updates from our missionaries in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church on our website; you can Google “Christian Persecution” or “The Persecuted Church” or go to “The Voice of the Martyrs” to learn more about the “Persecuted Smyrnans” throughout the world.  We may not all agree fully doctrinally and confessionally on every point with every persecuted Christian throughout the world, but we must admit that those who are truly preaching the Gospel are strong warriors for Jesus who are standing up to unbelief by the giving of their own lives.


Prediction of suffering: “Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison…” (v. 10b).  It is important to note that the devil, the Adversary and Enemy of God and His people is the force behind all of the church’s persecution.  This is why Jesus tells us to overcome those who are the Church’s enemies with love rather than vengeance.


The devil is God’s instrument and sometimes God allows the devil to be used to bring about His sovereign purposes- -but we are called to love our enemies as ourselves (see Romans 12:12-21).  Listen to how the Apostle Paul teaches the persecuted Smyrnan Church in his Epistle to the Romans:


Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it1 to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:12-21


Knowing that good comes out of our suffering persecution, we are to overthrow the power of the devil, and overcome evil by doing loving good in God’s Name.  We do not retaliate or seek vengeance to repay our enemies in God’s Name, but we seek to love, bless, serve, and witness God’s power through our suffering and persecution!


Suffering is part of our union with Christ; Suffering is not outside God’s sovereignty and purposes for His Church Militant.


What is God’s purpose in our suffering?: “…That you may be tested, and for ten days will have tribulation (v. 10b; cf. 1:9; 2:2-3; Matthew 24:7-9; John 16:33).  What makes a true and rich church of Jesus Christ? From this passage it is clear:


1) A congregation who professes the true God and Jesus Christ as the only hope of salvation; 2) A congregation who understands suffering as part of God’s revealed will and purpose for His church to make them holy like Christ; and 3) A congregation who loves Christ more than their own lives and would be willing to die for Christ.


Notice the specific “ten days” of tribulation.  Now this does not mean literally 10 days but is taken from the Book of Daniel (as much of John’s imagery and numbers are taken from Daniel and the Old Testament prophets).  Remember the 10 days that Daniel and his friends underwent the test of not partaking of the king’s idolatrous food.


The 10 days are symbolic of a sovereign time set by God that would be limited in duration, and that could indeed by accomplished by God’s grace.  The “testing” will only be temporal; the “testing will be “manageable” and “doable” by God’s grace to them as they walk by faith and not by sight- -just as Daniel and his friends did as exiles and strangers in an evil world.


As Jesus says to those who love not their lives unto death (2:10):


“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life…” (v. 10c; Matthew 10:21-22; Rev. 12:11; James 1:12)


“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (v. 11a)


“The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death” (v. 11b; “second death”: Rev. 20:6, 14; 21:8)


How does the persecuted and suffering Church conquer- -even through death?


And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.- Revelation 12:10


Remember Who the letter is from: “The first and the last, who died and came to life (v. 8b; cf. 1:17-18).  Jesus is the Great God in the flesh who laid down his life to die for the sins of His believing Church.  Jesus was raised from the dead and lives to rule and reign and watch over the Church at God’s right hand!


In Christ we suffer; in Christ we die; in Christ we live!


Death cannot hold us- -where O death is your sting? Where O death is your victory?- -We will be raised with Christ to experience eternal blessedness in the presence of God.


Confessing Christians will not experience the second death of eternal torment and hell.  A short endurance and life of suffering is not worth comparing with the grace to be revealed to the overcoming Church Triumphant:


ESV Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.


ESV Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him…


A short unbelieving life of denying Christ is not worth comparing to the curse to be revealed at the end of the ages.  As the Apostle John later shows to us in the Book of Revelation concerning the second death:


ESV Revelation 20:14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.


ESV Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”


The Book of Revelation is to encourage the godly in Christ to continue to accept suffering and persecution for the Name of Jesus, while looking forward to a great eternity of bliss and peace in the presence of God!


ESV 1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”


The Book of Revelation is to discourage the ungodly who deny Christ to be warned now for their causing suffering and persecution to the Church for Jesus’ Name.


The ungodly are to understand that the second death of eternal torment and hell await if they do not repent, join the throng of suffering martyrs, confess Jesus Christ before God and man as King of kings and Lord of lords!


Christian: Do not fear but hope in the LORD as one who will conquer in reliance upon God’s grace.  No matter what suffering and/or persecution may come, let us learn to say with our Old and New Covenant brethren:


ESV Psalm 56:11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?


ESV Psalm 118:6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?


ESV Hebrews 13:6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”


In light of God’s grace, let us be careful that we do not compromise God’s truth and live apathetically in this world.


May we at KCPC seek to witness the truth of God’s Gospel in every aspect of our lives and experience the suffering and tribulation that God allows by His grace so that we can be a “rich” and “successful” congregation in every way before God’s face.


May these devotional studies of assessment from Jesus using the letters to the seven churches of the Revelation cause us to better align ourselves with His truth, and encourage us all to make it our aim to please Jesus who died for us while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:6-8).


May we live daily as a congregation before the face of Christ and so before the Judgment Seat of Christ. When we all arrive at our destination and we stand as the congregation KCPC before Christ’s Judgment, may these short devotions have better prepared us, so that we can stand confident and encouraged in the Lord Jesus’ presence.


“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”- Jesus Christ


In Jesus’ love,


Pastor Charles



“Has God Forgotten Me?”- Psalm 77

Word of Encouragement


ESV Psalm 77:19-20: Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.


Dear Congregation of KCPC,


Have you ever asked these questions: “Has God’s steadfast love toward me ceased?” or “Has God forgotten to be gracious to me?” (Psalm 77:8-9).


Honestly, have you ever wondered if God has forgotten you?


Do you have times when you think because of the difficulty you are going through that God must not love you?  Are you tempted to despair and discouragement because you are so overwhelmed?


Perhaps you confess that God is great and good, and you confess that God is Sovereign, but in reality, in the actual way you are living from day to day, it seems that your situation looks so hopeless that you are often living functionally as if there was no God? Perhaps you’re being tempted right now to believe that God could not love you and you feel so overwhelmed by your circumstances, and you’re even tempted to question the way God has led you.


This was the concern the Psalmist had as well (Psalm 77). As a believer, you’re not alone and Psalm 77 has been God-breathed out by the Holy Spirit to encourage you today.


In Psalm 77, the Psalmist wondered if God had forgotten him. He wondered if God had forgotten His graciousness, and had shut up His compassion toward him in anger (Psalm 77:9). The Psalmist wondered if God had forgotten His steadfast love toward him. He pondered in prayer if God had come to the end of keeping His promises (Psalm 77:7-8).


Sometimes God’s people can be so troubled by present circumstances that we can forget that the LORD’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). We must remind ourselves that the way the LORD leads us is “through the sea” (Psalm 77:19).  God shows His power and love and faithfulness to His people by leading them His way “through the sea”. When the Psalmist speaks of “the sea” in this Psalm, he is referring to God’s people when led through the Red Sea from slavery to the place where they would experience God’s greater presence and learn to worship and serve Him. God taught His people by bringing them “through the sea” that His ways are better ways, although they seem extremely difficult at times.


God brings us “through the sea” not to discourage us, but to encourage us to greater trust in His Word and Works on our behalf. He calls us to go “through the sea” not to discourage us but to humble us, so that we might learn to better depend upon Him, and so that we can experience His greater presence and learn to worship and serve Him more wholeheartedly. God’s purposes are for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28). We can rejoice because although the situations God leads us through can seem overwhelmingly difficult, we can walk through them as we know that He leads us and shepherds us as our kind and loving Lord.


Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, was led “through the sea”. The LORD Jesus Christ on our behalf was led by God the Father and with the power of the Spirit’s presence through the pain of suffering the torment of crucifixion, being crushed by the wrath of Almighty God, so that we could be forgiven by the shed blood of Jesus for our sins. Christ was led the way of the cross “through the sea” for us so that we could be reconciled to God and to trust and walk with God all the days of our lives and for all eternity.


Israel in the Old Covenant was led through the sea, from slavery and death to sonship and life. The New Covenant reality this pointed to was for God’s people to be led through the cross from death to life in union with our Savior, the precious Lord Jesus, who delivered us from slavery and made us sons in Him (Colossians 1:13-14).


The imagery that the Psalmist uses in Psalm 77:20 is important for our encouragement today. We are told that the Lord “led your people like a flock”. The important truth is that although God’s paths, God’s ways are higher than our ways, and not the way we would take, these ways are ordained for our deliverance and salvation. We have yet to be fully conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, we have yet to fully make it to the Promised Land, and so God’s way is “through the sea” (Psalm 77:19). It is “through the sea”, now in Christ through carrying our cross that the Lord Jesus accomplishes, perfects, and prepares us for the place He is already preparing for us for all eternity (John 14:6).


Although we feel forsaken, we are actually be shepherded by the Lord Jesus Christ through sanctification. We are His flock the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100).


So when you look around you today and you are led into circumstances that may frighten you, or test your faith, or cause you to wonder if God has forgotten His graciousness toward you, remember the God who works wonders, and who delights in revealing His power and might through our weakness. Listen to the hope of the Psalmist that is ours in Christ Jesus:


ESV Psalm 77:11-14: I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.


Remember God’s love for you revealed in Jesus; remember the perfect deeds of Jesus Christ who earned the righteousness for you that you could never attain and freely gives His perfect righteousness to you by faith. Remember God’s “wonders of old” (Psalm 77:11) throughout redemptive history, but especially as you focus on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ponder this work, meditate on God’s mighty deeds. Remember that God’s way is holy; it is perfect.


Then worship and praise Him in the midst of your circumstances knowing that God is faithful to you and will never forget His people!


If you are being pursued by evil one himself, being persecuted for your faith and all that you can see before you is a great sea that you must cross, ponder God’s ways, remember that He is leading you this way, and that He will shepherd you as your sweet Lord; confess this: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not ever need anything but Him” (Psalm 23 paraphrased).


If you are being led to carry the cross of Jesus Christ, and you are being crucified and have cried aloud to God, and your soul refuses to be comforted, and even your thoughts of God are causing you to moan because of your trouble (Psalm 77:1-4), ponder the death and resurrection of your Savior who has gone before you, who has died and been raised for you.


Ponder the love of God in Christ Jesus and how he calls us to follow Him carrying our cross because He is the Great Shepherd who has sought us and bought us and redeemed us by His precious blood!


When you ask the questions: “Has God’s steadfast love toward me ceased?” or “Has God forgotten to be gracious to me?” Look to Christ on the cross for you and behold His love for you! See on the cross of Jesus Christ that God’s steadfast love can NEVER CEASE; God can NEVER FORGET to be gracious to you. You have His word; you have His works shown to you in Jesus.


And if you are still wondering how you might live praising Him in the midst of your particular way “through the sea” look to how God did not forget His Son.  Christ came to live and die for His dearly beloved people. Christ laid down His life for us, and after being crushed by God’s wrath for our sins, in our place, Jesus was placed in a tomb. The way of the tomb is not hopeful; Jesus remained under the power of death for our sins for three days! In this situation, the way looks hopeless and impossible. Unless God Almighty, our Great God and Savior is the Shepherd. Then even the way through the tomb cannot stop God from shepherding us to victory!


God remembered Christ and on the third day He rose gloriously from the dead. Through the sea, Christ received the victory of resurrection and glorification. We too who believe, although our paths are fraught with difficult times and circumstances, will also see the glory of the Lord in the Land of the Living and be resurrected and glorified.


Let us hope in God.


Build your faith today, beloved congregation of Jesus, by pondering the words and works of God in Christ for us.


His way is through the sea. You haven’t lost your way for He is shepherding you. He says to you: “Follow me” and “Trust me”.


You may not feel His presence right now, and you may not see His footprints, but you can be confident in Jesus Christ that He is carrying you every step of the way.


ESV Psalm 77:19-20: Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.


Ponder the love of God for you.


IN Christ’s love,


Pastor Biggs


PS I will have more later this week on our WOE study from how we can be Assessed, Aligned and Aim through studying the seven churches of Revelation.