Parents, suppose your fifteen-year-old son or daughter decided to attend a "blow out" party one Friday night and Saturday. Your son or daughter had always been honest with you. He or she made mistakes, but never deliberately deceived you. He or she has never plotted to create a conspiracy against you.

Suppose your fifteen-year-old is very successful in the deceit. You thought he or she spent the night with a friend, but he or she spent Friday night being part of Saturday at a "anything goes" party. He or she got drunk. He or she experimented with drugs and got high as well as drunk. While drunk and high, he or she decided to become sexually active.

Your teen comes home Saturday afternoon feeling physically and emotionally horrible. The conscience is killing him or her. Your son or daughter feels so ashamed that he or she cannot look at you.

Your fifteen-year-old quickly heads to the bedroom and spends the rest of Saturday afternoon and night in bed. Sunday he or she worships with you. Sunday night he or she says, "I have to talk to both of you." With tears, regret, and shame, your child tells you everything.

When you hear the confession, you are devastated. You cannot grasp how your teen can know that your love for him or her is genuine and deceive you. You cannot imagine your child doing what he or she did. You are grieved; you are angry; you are embarrassed; you are ashamed; you are confused.

As parents you talk all night instead of sleeping. You get angry together. You cry together. You share your devastation. Finally you make a decision.

Monday night with lots of tears, all three of you talk. And you tell your fifteen- year-old, "This our commitment to you. We forgive you. We will work with and encourage you. We want you to make a commit to us. Work with us to rebuild our relationship. If you will be open and honest with us, we will never stop loving you and encouraging you. We ask you to make us this promise: accept your share of the responsibility to help us rebuild our relationship."

  1. How powerful is a promise?
    1. What makes a promise powerful?
      1. In human-human relationships and in the human-divine relationships, nothing has as much potential for power as a promise does.
      2. However, for a promise to be powerful, two things must be true:
        1. The first concerns the person who gives the promise: the promise must be genuine.
        2. The second concerns the person who responds to the promise: he or she must trust the promise.
      3. When a promise is not genuine, it quickly loses its power.
      4. If the person who receives the promise does not trust it, it has no power.
    2. Go back with me to the opening illustration.
      1. These were the parents' promises:
        1. Forgiveness, support, and encouragement.
        2. Continuing love and help if the child will be open, honest, and accept responsibility.
      2. If those promises are to be powerful in the parent-child relationship, two things must be true.
        1. The parents' promises must be genuine.
        2. The fifteen-year old must trust those promises.
      3. If the promises are not real, if they are not genuine, the relationship will die.
      4. If the fifteen-year old does not trust the promises, the relationship will die.

  2. Most of you in this assembly have been baptized.
    1. This is God's promise:
      1. If you trust what God did in the death and resurrection of Jesus (that is what it means to believe),
      2. If you resolve to redirect your life by turning it away from the evil in you (that is what it means to repent),
      3. And if you are baptized because you believe and repent,
        1. God will destroy your sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).
        2. God will place you in Christ (Galatians 3:27).
        3. God will make you His child (Galatians 3:26,27).
        4. God will raise you from baptism to newness of life (Romans 6:4).
        5. God will place you in His body (1 Corinthians 12:13).
      4. I ask each of you who have been baptized, do you believe those promises? I anticipate most if not all of you would quickly say that you believe them.
      5. I ask each of you who have been baptized, why do you believe the promises?
        1. "Because that is what scripture says."
        2. "Because those are God's promises."
    2. Let me clearly understand you.
      1. I am to trust God's promises to the person who is baptized; because he believes and repents. Those promises are:
        1. I will destroy your sin.
        2. I will place you in Christ.
        3. I will make you God's child.
        4. I will give you newness of life.
        5. I will make you a part of Christ's body.
      2. I am to trust all those things will happen when I believe, repent, and am baptized because:
        1. The Bible says it.
        2. God promises it.
      3. Is that correct?
        1. Is that always correct?
        2. When the Bible reveals a promise from God, I am to trust that promise?

  3. Let me share with you another promise God gives.
    Read with me 1 John 1:5-10.

    This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    1. In my understanding, these are John's points.
      1. There is no evil in God.
      2. Those who have fellowship with God do not knowingly live their lives in evil.
      3. If we claim to walk with God and knowingly live our lives for evil, we are lying, and we do not practice the truth.
      4. If we commit ourselves to living our lives in God's light, two things will occur in our lives:
        1. We will have fellowship with other Christians.
        2. Christ's blood will continue to cleanse our sins.
      5. If we claim there is no evil in our lives (therefore we do not need God's forgiveness), we are self deceived and God's truth is not in us.
      6. If we will confess the evil that we realize is in us, God will do two things.
        1. He will forgive us of the evil we that we realize and confess.
        2. He will also cleanse us of all the evil we commit but do not realize.
      7. If we claim that we have committed no evil, we make God a liar and God's word is not in us.
    2. In those statements, John reveals some incredible promises from God.
      1. First, John wants us to understand that Jesus' cleansing blood does not stop flowing through our lives after we are baptized.
        1. Baptism begins the flow of that cleansing blood.
        2. That atoning blood continues to flow in our lives and to cleanse us from the evil that occurs in us.
      2. Second, for the atoning blood to continue to flow in our lives, the Christian must accept these responsibilities.
        1. I must honestly accept the fact that evil will always occur in my life.
        2. I must honestly commit myself to living in God's light by studying, learning, and understanding His word.
        3. I must honestly accept the responsibility to confess to God the evil I commit when I realize that this evil has occurred.
        4. I must honestly accept the responsibility to maintain fellowship with Christians.
      3. If, as a Christian, I pretend that I do not commit any evil or that I do not need God's forgiveness, I become a self-deceived liar who does not practice the truth, and God's word does not live in me.
    3. What is God's promise to Christians?
      1. He promises that Jesus' atoning blood will never stop flowing in our lives providing us forgiveness.
      2. He promises that He will forgive the evil that we recognize and confess.
      3. He promises that He will also forgive us of the evil we do not even realize that we commit.
    4. Why should we trust those promises?
      1. We should trust them because God is faithful and righteous.
      2. In our words, we should trust Him because without fail God keeps His promises.
        1. He cannot lie.
        2. He cannot deceive.
        3. He always, without fail, does what He says He will do.

  4. That is why it is called "newness of life."
    1. That "new life" that comes into existence the moment that you are baptized was not designed to fade away during the rest of your physical life.
      1. This new life begins existing when the believer who repents is baptized into Christ, just like new life begins when a baby is born.
      2. That new life becomes stronger, more powerful as the person grows closer to God by maturing in Christ.
      3. Why?
        1. Part of this has to do with what we do: we mature; we grow up.
        2. Part of this has to do with what God does: He keeps using the blood of Jesus to cleanse us and forgive us each day.
      4. In Christ I begin each day of my life as a new, forgiven child of God because every day I am cleansed and forgiven by Jesus' atoning blood.
    2. I must not abuse God's promises and forgiveness.
      1. It is possible for me to do what God wants me to do.
        1. I can live my life in God's light.
        2. I can have fellowship with Christians by being a responsible part of the Christian community.
        3. I can confess evil in my life when I realize it is there.
      2. I cannot be perfect, but I can be faithful.

[Prayer: God, help us know and trust your promises.]

When we know and trust these promises, we experience freedom and are filled with joy.

God Himself promised that He will never stop forgiving us if we will live our lives in His light and responsibly turn from our mistakes when we realize them.

God will do exactly that! It is impossible for God to make a deceitful promise. What we must understand is this: the God who loves us has no desire to deceive us.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 16 January 2000

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