This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday November 17th, 2019.
We are approaching the conclusion of this series in 1 John. For the past couple of months, we have journeyed together through four chapters of this Epistle. We have looked at various topics which are interwoven through this letter all with the central theme of love. John is writing this letter to a church who had recently divided over bad doctrine and theology. Some false teachers or prophets had come into the midst of this church body and openly declared a false Gospel and denounced John’s Gospel. John, being an eyewitness and disciple of Jesus Christ writes to this church to encourage them through this messy situation and assures them his Gospel is indeed the one and only true Gospel of Jesus Christ and no other Gospel exists. He talks in detail about love throughout this epistle. He sets a foundation for God’s love which was shown to humanity by revealing himself through the Word who is Jesus. He talks about how we are to love God through holy living and renouncing the ways of the world to pursue God. He tells us that we are children of God and dearly loved by the Father. He stresses the need of loving one another multiple times. He gives us an example of what true love is which is displayed through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He exhorts the believers to test all the spirits and to cling to and love the truth which is given to us in the Gospel message. He defines love by showing that the essence of all of God’s being is love… he writes, “God is love.”
Last week as I concluded chapter 4, I mentioned that in this chapter alone John tells his readers to love one another three times. He continually stresses the importance of loving one another and loving God throughout his letter. He is saying the two are completely interdependent of one another. One cannot merely love people and not love God nor is the opposite true, one cannot only love God and have no affection for other believers. Loving God and loving others are a package deal and must be practiced in the Christian life personally and within the body of Christ (The Church).
Today we jump into Chapter 5.and John continues to write about much of the same. John has spent a great deal of time making a case for the importance of love, obedience, and belief. As he begins chapter five, he elaborates on the connection between both loving God and loving our brothers and sisters.
(Read I John 5:1 – 5)
Verse 1: Every person who puts their confidence and trust (faith) in Jesus being the Messiah (The Anointed one, the Son of God) has been transformed, made alive (reborn) and we have become sons and daughters of God through the work of Jesus Christ. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17 We are new creations in Christ “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” This does not mean we are better versions of our old selves… It means we are made completely new IN Christ, the old has passed and the new has come. Since we are new creations, we are now considered children of God. Since we are his children, we can love God and proclaim His love to others. However, we are not called to only love God we must also love the one born of Him.
Many people think that “the one born of Him” refers only to Jesus (which it certainly does). But let us remember Jesus is not the only one from God… We, His children are birthed from Him. Through God we have been re-born and if we are born of God then we belong to God and we are from God thus John not only declares we must love God, but we must also love God’s children. Imagine that, John is telling us to love one another yet again!
Verse 2: Here is the evidence (this is where the rubber meets the road) that we are from God. John tells us earlier in chapter 4 that one cannot just be a follower of Christ in name only. Our relationship with Jesus must bear fruit. We must love God AND obey His commands. This is where the true test of our commitment to Jesus Christ comes in. It is easy to say you are a Christian, but it is not always so easy to live as a Christian. We cannot truthfully live the Christian life and not live a life that reflects our faith. I am sure we all know people who say they are Christians, but their lives bear no evidence of any such a relationship Christ at all. They claim to be “Christian” but the way they live declares loudly just the opposite. Part of becoming a Christian entail becoming a new creation or adopting a new way of living through the power of the Holy Spirit. John tells us here, “The evidence of being a child of God is first shown by loving God and secondly, by obeying his commandments.” Love and obedience are also mutually supportive of one another.
Verse 3: Keeping God’s commandments should not be burdensome or a difficult task because God’s commandments are rooted in love. As children of God doing what is right should not be a task; it should be the natural outflow for all His children. Doing what is right and what is good needs to be our nature.
This brings up a question… What fuels our Christian love? What motivates us to love the way God calls us to love? Is it out of joyful obedience or fearful submission? As Christians are we obedient to God because we are fearful of the consequences of disobedience; or are we obedient because it is a natural reflection of the Father and our desire to be faithful to Him? As children of God it is good to have a healthy fear (not in the sense of terror but reverence) of God but fear should never be our motivation in serving God. Jesus never told people to follow him so they wouldn’t go to hell or face punishment. Jesus invited people to enter a love relationship with him and the Father.
As a parent there are times when consequences need to motivate my children to be obedient, but I certainly hope that is not the only reason why they obey otherwise it is a one-sided relationship. My hope and prayer are that my children are obedient to their mother and me because they love us, they want to make us happy and they trust that we have their best interest in mind. As a parent I also realize my children’s behavior is not always based on love and trust, but consequences are the motivation for their good behavior but our relationship with each other cannot be based on fear of punishment.
Those who are truly saved will be characterized by a desire to do the will of God and pursue holy living. Jesus declared in the Gospels, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” Notice He didn’t say, “If you love me you will fear me”, “If you love me You will do what I say If you want to go to heaven”, or “If you want to stay out of hell you will obey me.”
John tells us God’s commands are not burdensome (cruel, severe, violent, or weighty). This however does not imply that they are never difficult (in our human flesh). Instead they are things men and women who are born again and filled with the Holy Spirit love doing. To put it another way, “If you have a right relationship with the Father then you will have no problem being obedient to his commands.”
So, what are the commandments we are to keep? Are we, as Christians required to keep the 600 plus commands, rules and regulations written throughout both the Old Testament? If this is the case, then it would certainly be burdensome, and we would all be weary AND lost forever. According to the teaching of Jesus the command we are to keep is the command to love.
Verses 4 - 5: Since you are a child of God (John has established this in Chapter three) you are victorious or have overcome the world. The word overcome is derived from the root word nike (ni-Kay) which means victorious. We are victorious in this life. The darkness of this world cannot overtake us because we are victorious. The reason we are victorious is because of our faith in Jesus Christ.
God’s love for us is so great that He has fought the battle for us and declared us victorious. Through Jesus Christ we now have a new life, a life where we are fully alive, thriving and in need of nothing because the Spirit of God dwells in each of us. The old ways; the sinful, dark ungodly ways are gone, and we no longer need to live in the murky waters of the world. We now live in the fresh waters of Jesus Christ; living victoriously over sin, darkness and evil, thriving in the Kingdom of God and sharing the Good News that Jesus and His Kingdom has come. Life will try and beat you down but take comfort and security in the understanding that nothing that comes your way can defeat you or hold you down in this life or the life to come because Jesus has defeated death and sin.
As believers we need to be continually reminded about the fact that we are victorious in this life because of our faith in Jesus. The world has no hold on us, and we are not slaves to this world. Since we are victorious in Christ we need to live victorious lives. There is nothing the world can do to beat us down, take away our joy or cause us to live our lives in defeat of evil and darkness. The world can and certainly will try it’s hardest to beat us down, Satan will work overtime to lead us down the paths of doubt and uncertainty, He will try to take away a joy that cannot be taken away, so let us start living as victorious Christians. Jesus has conquered the world! Let us acknowledge and believe that in turmoil, pain, suffering, and persecution joy can be found. Let the truth that we serve a victorious king be our foundation. We live in a time of uncertainty, violence, godlessness, amoralism and turmoil and this should not affect our lives in the least. We have overcome the world because Jesus has conquered the world of darkness and evil. We belong to God and He is the ultimate victor ensuring that we can live victorious lives as well.
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