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TEXT: I John 5:1-5
SUBJECT: I John #15: Uno Mas Tiempo!
The Apostle John is the preacher's best friend! No matter how mysterious some parts of his Books are, the preacher always knows what he's aiming at, and as long as he keeps John's aim in mind, his sermons cannot go very far astray. For example:
Near the end of his Gospel, John explains why he wrote it, 20:31-
But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing, you may have life in His name.
What could be clearer? He wrote the Gospel to assure us that Jesus is the Divine Savior of the world so that we would believe in Him and receive Eternal Life. Thus, when you hear a sermon on John's Gospel that centers on anything else, you know that-however true that 'something else' may be-it is not John's point, and more importantly-it is not what the Holy Spirit is getting at!
What's true of John's Gospel is equally so of his First Epistle. Why did he write and send this Letter to the churches of Asia Minor near the end of the 1st Century? And, by extension, to the Church in every time and place? Again, we don't have to guess; he tells us in 5:13-
These things have I written to you who believe in the Name of the Son of God, that you may know you have Eternal Life and that you may continue to believe in the Name of the Son of God.
If John's Gospel is designed to save us; his First Epistle is designed to assure us of our salvation. This is why John wrote it. And, it's also why he keeps saying the same thing over and over again. For, while we are saved by what God did outside of us (on the Cross), we find the assurance of our Salvation in what He's doing inside of us, how he's changing our minds, our hearts, and our conduct.
What are the expected-the necessary-changes in every saved person? John names three, which-I think-includes all the others. They are: (1) Faith, (2) Obedience, and (3) Brotherly Love. Where these are entirely absent, there is no reason to believe one is a Christian. Such a person may belong to the church, but he doesn't belong to Christ. For the death of Jesus both did something for us and is doing something in us, as Paul says in Titus 2:14-
He has redeemed us from all iniquity and is purifying for Himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works.
For most of this Letter, John has more-or-less separated out one from the other, that is, faith here, obedience there, brotherly love somewhere else. But here, in the first five verses of Chapter 5, he weaves the three together in such a way as to make unraveling them awfully hard to do. Because maybe-just maybe-he didn't want them unraveled!
WHY WE BELIEVE AND LOVE
The New Birth is necessary for salvation. Our Lord said, without it, we cannot even see the Kingdom of God, no less enter it! To know that you are born again, therefore, is another way of saying, 'to know you're saved'. In v.1, John tells us how we know we're born again, and note carefully, there's nothing spectacular in it; no high emotions, no visions, no heavenly raptures, nothing of this sort. And so, how would you know you're born of God?-
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten on Him.
Unlike many sincere preachers, John is not saying 'You are born again by believing in Christ'. In fact, he's saying the opposite! He's saying 'You believe in Christ because you're born again'. Faith does not produce the New Birth; the New Birth produces faith.
This faith produced by the New Birth is of definite kind. It is not faith in general (whatever that means!); it is certainly not 'faith' in the sense of 'optimism'), nor even 'faith in God'. It is, specially, faith that Jesus is the Christ! In other words, it is an informed faith centered on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. And not just 'informed', but a practical faith, that is, a faith that becomes visible in the way you live.
Here, in v.1, two parts of 'the way you live' are underlined-
Everyone who loves Him who begot also loves Him who is begotten of Him.
Faith in Christ produces love for God and love for other Christians, including the ones whose personalities don't mesh with your own. Personally, I prefer the company of soft-spoken people. But, the New Birth enables me to also love people who are loudmouths! Not because they're loudmouths, but because they're-
Begotten of Him.
In these politically charged times, I have to say this applies to people who support the President as well as the ones who resist him. Or, Christians who think Colin Kaepernick is a hero and also the ones who think he's a disgrace! The People of God can-and do-differ over such things, but we also love one another-not because we celebrate diversity, but because we are born of the Spirit!
HOW WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER
If v.1 explains why we believe in Christ and love the brotherhood, vv.2-3 explain how we love His people-
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.
Loving others does not require the impossible! The Lord does not tell us to find everyone interesting or attractive, or a whole lot of fun. Some Christians are none of the above! They're boring and repulsive, a general nuisance and a real downer. Whatever the New Birth does for us, it doesn't make us long for their company every minute of every day!
What it does is enable us to do is obey the commandments, including the ones about patience, pity, longsuffering, humility, and putting the interests of others above your own-even if the 'others' are boring and repellent and all the rest!
I hope you like me and enjoy my company. But God doesn't tell you do to! What he tells you to do is to love me, even if-and when!-I'm a real pain in the neck. Because, for all that, I'm-
Begotten of Him.
It is wonderful when we not only love one another, but also truly like one another, thoroughly enjoy each other's company and share common hobbies. But these secondary things are secondary! The primary thing is Brotherly Love, which, however incomplete, is guaranteed by the New Birth.
This New Birth, makes practical love-not only possible-but also, to some degree, joyful, v.3b--
His commandments are not burdensome.
Here, I think James Moffat's translation gets it just right. To people Born of God, obeying our Father is not-
Loving others is irksome! Unless it is sweetened by knowing it is God who wants you to do it. What God? The God who loves you with an infinite and eternal love; the God who sent His Son to the Cross-to bear your guilt in His body on the Tree; the God whose hardest demands are always for our good, and will be richly repaid in this life and the next!
As long as we think of Brotherly Love as a Horizontal Thing, it will be burdensome, irksome, grievous, distasteful, disgusting, unreasonable, whatever word you like! But when we see this otherwise hard work as a way of returning thanks to God for all He's done for us in Christ, the words of Jesus start making sense-
My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
A light burden, however, is not weightless. We will not love one another as easily as a healthy woman breathes. Because there's opposition to Brotherly Love. Where? V.4 says in the-
What does this mean? Well, it doesn't mean 'on earth', as though material things are, in and of themselves, evil or hindrances to brotherly love. The heretics of John's time said they were, but John knows better. In this place, the world plainly means 'the world as it presently is', that is everything that is tainted with sin, both outside of us and also on the inside.
The devil, popular opinion, false beliefs, bad examples, personal histories, Legalism and other malign powers are conspiring to keep us from loving one another.
Let me cite an example from the past, some 40 or 50 years ago, and leave it to you to apply it to the present. In the 1960's, there was a Revival in America, largely among young people, a good many of whom were.Hippies. The boys wore long hair; the girls wore short skirts; they all listened to rock-n-roll and some of them burned their draft cards. When the Lord saved these people by the tens-of-thousands, most of them didn't get a haircut or start supporting the War in Vietnam. Or preferring Bill Gaither to Bob Dylan.
They were Christians who happened to be Hippies. But this is not how most churches saw them at the time. They saw them as Hippies who happened to be Christians (possibly!). They were not welcomed with open arms into most churches!
Why not? If you asked people of my parents' generation, they'd say 'It's because we don't want to bring the world into the church'. What these dear people didn't know, however, is that very attitude is-
Of the world!
Because it made politics, fashion, and haircuts more important than Christ! I know whereof I speak because I felt the same way when I was a boy. Long before I became an old fogey, I was a young fogey! And there's the thing: Fogeyism is the world-- and so is Hipness! Everything that hinders love for the brotherhood-all the brotherhood, every member of the brotherhood--is the world!
When we honestly reflect on our prejudices, peer pressure, and all the other worldly powers against us, you'd think we could only succumb to them, we could only trade in a secular worldliness for a religious one.
This would be true if we were not Born of God, because, v.4-
Whatever is born of God overcomes the world.
Why does the New Birth necessarily overcome the world? I've already told you! Because it produces faith-not 'wishful thinking', but, v.5--
Believing that Jesus is the Son of God.
It is the Gospel, therefore, that rescues us from the bondage of the world and frees us to love one another.
Go back to my illustration. What should the Squares of that time done to accept the Hippies as they were-long hair, bare feet, love beads and all-as they were? How could they welcome such dirty mixed-up sinners into the church?
By remembering that they, too, are dirty, mixed-up sinners! This is where the Gospel Message starts, with total and universal depravity-
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God!
Not just the Hippies, but the Squares, too! The long hairs, the crew cuts, the draft dodgers, the Marines, the people who adored Martin Luther King; the people who despised him-
We have all gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Christ the iniquity of us all!
This is where Brotherly Loves comes from: Equality in Guilt; equality in Grace! We can talk up 'equality' all day long, but it will be nothing but words until we meet one another at the Foot of the Cross!
We don't get there by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but by renouncing ourselves, our righteousness, our worthiness and trusting Christ, who is the Savior of the World!
Let us, therefore, see the iron duty of brotherly love, and remember than an Assurance apart from it is Presumption!
Let us confess our failures, stop thinking of ourselves as victims and the oppressed, and begin seeing ourselves for what we truly are: victimizers and oppressors!
Let us remember that the brother who belongs to the wrong party, votes for the wrong candidates and defends the wrong policies is as loved by God and as redeemed by Jesus Christ as you are! So is the one who speaks in tongues or sprinkles babies or thinks Rick Warren is the deepest theologian since the Apostle Paul! So is the strange little man who takes hospitality but never returns it; or the woman who's ever showing off her clean house, her fine table, her delicious food, and all the rest.
If the Church is the Bride of Christ, it is also the Zoo of Babylon-
A cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
Which the Law excludes from the Congregation of the Lord and the Gospel brings in! Let us, therefore, renew our faith in Christ and love one another with a fervent love. Amen.
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