Category Archives: 1 John

1 John 4:7-21: God is love

It makes a big difference when you know how much someone loves you. In 2015 a Korean man went to HUGE lengths to show his girlfriend how much he loved her. While the couple sat in a restaurant across the street, friends and work colleagues stuck thousands of post it notes on the full length windows on three floors of a neighbouring building. They spelled out a wedding proposal inside a love heart. That’s a big gesture. I’m sure she’s in no doubt how much he loves her.

But it’s NOTHING compared to the big gesture God’s given US. He’s loved us from before the creation of the world. And he wants us to KNOW how much he loves us. But not just so we feel loved. He wants it to change HOW WE ACT.

So that’s what we’re going to do today. Answer the two questions: How do I KNOW God loves me? And how should I live in RESPONSE to that love?

Love demonstrated

How do I know God loves me? Because he’s DEMONSTRATED it. He wants us to KNOW it. (Just like that Korean man wanted his fiancé to know he loved her.) He’s made a grand gesture, far greater than thousands of post it notes. He’s given us his Son. Romans 5:8 says God DEMONSTRATES his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

That’s LOVE! And it was a gift that COST EVERYTHING. Life itself! That’s LOVE! A gift given to those who were undeserving and ignorant and rebellious. Which makes the love even GREATER!

And because we were helpless – stuck in our sin- it was a gift WE DESPERATELY NEEDED. A gift that means we can go from SINNERS to SAINTS. From ENEMIES to FRIENDS. A costly, generous gift that demonstrates love.

And 1 John 4:9 says something similar This is how God SHOWED his love among us: He SENT HIS ONE AND ONLY SON INTO THE WORLD that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins

God’s love language is gifts. And acts of service. He’s shown love to his children by sending Jesus, his ONLY SON, to die in our place, paying the penalty for our sin. So we can LIVE.

It’s an act that DEFINES love. “THIS is love”. Love begins with God. His initiative. It’s not a reaction to our love for him. True love INITIATES action, rather than simply RESPONDS to it.

In LOVE, he graciously chose us, then sent His Son to die in our place. Then, in LOVE he called us and saved us.

A love story

In fact, one way of thinking about the story of the Bible is that it’s A LOVE STORY. Between God and humanity. The bridegroom and the bride. The story begins with God making us to be his image bearers in his world. In rebellion we ran away. From that point on, God works to entice and woo his unfaithful bride. To win her back. He makes covenants with her, being her God and making her his people.

In the book of Isaiah God describes his historical relationship with Israel like that of a husband and his adulterous wife. In chapter 54 v5, he says

For your Maker is your husband- the LORD Almighty is his name… 6 The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit… 7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.

God rescues Israel from slavery in Egypt, he makes a covenant commitment to them, to be their God. But they won’t commit to him. They keep loving other gods. And so God sends them into exile. And then, IN LOVE, he brings them back. But they still aren’t faithful.

But God’s got a better reconciliation planned. A greater intimacy and faithfulness. In the fullness of time, Jesus comes. And brings the separation to an end. And God joins us to him, in faith. The two become ONE. Ephesians 5 uses the image of husband and wife to describe Christ and the church. (Even the marriage idea of two being united, and becoming one flesh). And a husband’s sacrificial love for his wife is to be modelled on Christ’s love for his bride, the church.

And, finally, at the end of the Bible. At the end of this world. Revelation describes eternity beginning with a wedding feast. Between Jesus, the Lamb, and his bride, the church. Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’

And that joy and unity and intimacy will continue FOREVER in the new heavens and new earth.

The story of the Bible is A LOVE STORY. The story of God’s love DEMONSTRATED. Most clearly in the giving of his Son.

Love recognised

And because he’s demonstrated it, it means he wants us to RECOGNISE and APPRECIATE it. It’s not enough for us to just GAIN THE BENEFITS of his love. He wants us to SEE it and UNDERSTAND it. That’s what Paul prays in Ephesians 3:17-19. He prays that you, being ROOTED AND ESTABLISHED in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to GRASP HOW WIDE AND LONG AND HIGH AND DEEP IS THE LOVE OF CHRIST, 19and to KNOW this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

The context is about how God’s Spirit lives in us. We EXPERIENCE God’s love because Christ is dwelling in our hearts through faith. That’s what it means to be rooted and established in love. God’s love is the soil our roots grow into. And his love is the foundation our lives are built on.

And Paul’s prayer is that we have the power to UNDERSTAND it. We’ve already gained the BENEFITS of his love. (We’re FORGIVEN and ADOPTED. We know what it MEANS to be loved.) But God wants us to BUILD on that experience.

He wants us to know how WIDE his love is. How all inclusive and encompassing. There are no extremes of behaviour or acceptability that are beyond Christ’s love. And there’s NO ONE beyond the boundary of his love. Jew and Gentile. Rich and poor. Red and yellow, black and white – ALL are precious in his sight. And there’s no situation where his love won’t hold you. No danger, no enemy, no power. Nothing can separate you from his love. (His love is WIDE).

And God wants us to have power to understand how LONG his love is. It’s no teenage infatuation, that lasts a lunch time, and then, tomorrow has moved on. It’s love that began before the creation of the world. Ephesians 1:4 says For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. IN LOVE 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ (He’s loved us for longer than the Universe has existed!)

And it’s LONG love in the sense that it’s infinitely PATIENT and long-suffering. There’s no limit to the amount of unlovely behaviour on our part that he’ll overlook. It’s not like HUMAN love – that’s FICKLE and TRANSITORY. That stays as long as the object of the love remains LOVEABLE. God’s love has stickability. His love is LONG. In Exodus 34:6-7 God describes himself THIS way. The LORD , the LORD , the compassionate and gracious God, SLOW TO ANGER, ABOUNDING IN LOVE and faithfulness, (His love is LONG)

And God wants us to have power to understand how HIGH Christ’s love is. Perhaps the idea is that it’s love that boosts and promotes us. It’s ACTIVE and PURPOSEFUL. It doesn’t leave us where we were. Christ’s love LIFTS US UP, makes us new creatures, with a new purpose and nature and future. It moves us from ONE kingdom into ANOTHER. Ephesians 2:6 says And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his KINDNESS to us in Christ Jesus.

And, finally, God wants us to have power to understand how DEEP Christ’s love is. It’s not superficial or mild. There’s an INTENSITY to his love. He gave EVERYTHING. The depth of his physical and spiritual suffering reflects his DEEP love.

And God doesn’t just want us to UNDERSTAND it, or COMPREHEND it. But to KNOW it (v19). To EXPERIENCE it. To know it from THE INSIDE – from being THE BELOVED.

And that’s a task you’ll never completely achieve. We can only BEGIN to know it. That’s what the phrase means in Ephesians 3:19 “to know this love THAT SURPASSES KNOWLEDGE.” Which sounds like a contradiction, but I think he means we know SOMETHING of it, but we’ll NEVER FULLY ARRIVE. We’ll spend our lives experiencing MORE of what it means to be loved by God. It’s an assignment worth committing your life to.

We know his love more as we read and re-read all God’s PROMISES found through the Bible. And MEDITATE on them, and PUT THEM TO THE TEST. We know it more as we read the gospels – the descriptions of Jesus’ earthly life and teaching and character. How he treated people.

We know it more as Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. As we TRUST him, and OBEY him. And find him faithful, and generous, and wise and good. We EXPERIENCE his love day by day.

And it’s an assignment you can’t do on your own. Did notice that it’s a GROUP TASK? Paul prays (v18) that we’d have power, TOGETHER WITH ALL THE SAINTS, to understand the love of Christ. As we SPEAK to each other, and SING to one another, of what we’re learning and experiencing of God’s love, OTHERS will know it more. And as we LOVE each other more, both LOVER and BELOVED grow in their EXPERIENCE of our FATHER’S love.

Love responded to

So that’s the FIRST two sections. Love DEMONSTRATED, and love RECOGNISED.

And God’s PURPOSE in that is that we’d RESPOND to it. You SHOW you’ve recognised it by the way you RESPOND.

  1. Love one another

And that was the point of the Bible reading from 1 John. The main purpose of the letter is to help the readers identify FALSE teachers from TRUE ones. And one of the three tests for a TRUE teacher was whether they LOVE OTHER CHRISTIANS. The true response to God loving you is to love his CHILDREN. See there in v7? Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

A person who DOESN’T LOVE THE BROTHERS shows that they DON’T KNOW THE LOVE OF GOD.

God has SHOWN us what love looks like. It’s costly and undeserved and sacrificial and other person centred. V9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

SOME people feel that God loves them because they see a pretty sunset. Or have a feeling of peace as they meditate by the ocean. Or because they got a new job. Or had a baby. Or they’re healthy and wealthy. But those things come, and DON’T come, to EVERYONE. (To God’s children, and those who AREN’T his children ALIKE). And they’re no SIGN of God’s special love for his children. But what IS a clear communication of his love is the GIVING of his only Son to save UNDESERVING SINNERS by dying in their place. And then to FORGIVE their sin. So they can trust, and obey, and love. THAT’S love! THAT’S the God who loves you. And the WAY he loves you.

And here’s the appropriate response to that love. V11 Dear friends, since God so loved US, we ALSO ought to love ONE ANOTHER.

That’s why it’s so important to KNOW God’s love. (To FEEL it). Because it’s the fuel for our love for OTHERS. We love the way the MOON gives light. The moon doesn’t PRODUCE light, it REFLECTS the light from the Sun. And TRUE love doesn’t COME from us. It shines from God ONTO us, and then we KNOW it and TRUST it, and we REFLECT IT ON. That’s what v10 is getting at This is love: NOT THAT WE LOVED GOD, but that he loved us

He’s not saying we can’t love AT ALL. I think what he means is that TRUE love doesn’t BEGIN with US. We didn’t love God FIRST. We can only love OTHERS TRULY (in the way GOD loves) when we’re LOVED BY GOD. When we KNOW it, and RECEIVE it. And when we’re JOINED to the God who is love. THEN we can love others with God’s love.

If you don’t KNOW sacrificial, undeserving love TO YOU/ then you can’t GIVE it. You can only give a pale imitation of it. A poor reflection of it. If you haven’t received the undeserved, forgiving, giving-everything love from God. If you haven’t recognised your complete UNWORTHINESS to be forgiven. Then you can’t truly love undeserving people. You’ll only love CONDITIONALLY. You’ll only love when they love you BACK, or when they DESERVE it. Or when you FEEL like it.

How well does our reflected love to others point people to the love God has for us? Is our love costly, and undeserved, and sacrificial? Or is it conditional, calculating, and self-protective? Does it point people to Jesus? Or does it turn people OFF him?

  1. Don’t fear

The SECOND way we respond to God’s love is NOT TO FEAR. To be confident. In ANY situation. Romans 8:35 gives these amazing promises. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us

Whatever happens to us, there’s nothing to FEAR, because nothing can SEPARATE you from God’s protective, powerful, saving LOVE.

  1. Accept discipline

THIRD. Not only can we be CONFIDENT in the face of bad things. We can ACCEPT THEM GRATEFULLY as DISCIPLINE. Hebrews 12 encourages us My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” 7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.

Bad things aren’t just things to be endured with COURAGE. They’re TRAINING from the hand of your LOVING heavenly Father.

And, just like PHYSICAL training, NO PAIN NO GAIN. A few verses further on there’s this application. V10 God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees

Let life’s difficulties train your SPIRITUAL muscles because your LOVING Father is GROWING YOU STRONG. James 1:2 even encourages us to REJOICE in them, because they develop perseverance and maturity.

  1. Compelled by love

One final response to God’s love. Let it COMPEL you. Inspire you. Control you. In 2 Corinthians 5.14 Paul gives a hint to what DRIVES or MOTIVATES him. He talks about his life’s work of trying to persuade people with the gospel (v11). And that God’s given him the ministry of reconciliation as an ambassador, imploring people to be reconciled to God (v20). But in v14 we get this insight into his motivation. For Christ’s love COMPELS us, because we are convinced that ONE DIED FOR ALL, and therefore ALL DIED. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again

Christ’s love COMPELS us. FUELS, INSPIRES and MOTIVATES us. He DIED for us. And so, we die. We die to our plans and ambitions. We belong to another. We’re, no longer, to live for ourselves. But to live for HIM who died for us and was raised again.

Let me finish with this quote from Jim Packer’s fantastic book, Knowing God. Great questions for us to contemplate about whether the truth of God’s love has reached beyond our HEADS to our HEARTS.

Is it true that God is love to me as a Christian?… If so, certain questions arise. Why do I ever grumble and show discontent and resentment at the circumstances in which God has placed me? Why am I ever distrustful, fearful or depressed? Why do I ever allow myself to grow cool, formal and half-hearted in the service of the God who loves me so? Why do I ever allow my loyalties to be divided, so that God has not all my heart?” J.I. Packer, “The Love of God”, Knowing God.

1 John 2:28-3:10: Like father, like son

Family resemblances. People say I look like my father. And I sound like him. And people who’ve met Caron’s mum will know how much THEY look alike. But of course there are things that are much more important to pass on to your children than just LOOKS. Like CHARACTER. And an example of following Jesus.

 

And that’s the issue in this next part of John’s letter. How true children of GOD should BEAR A FAMILY RESEMBLANCE in CHARACTER. His children are LIKE him.

When God makes us his children, he passes on certain characteristics. And that’s how we can know who BELONG to him. And who DON’T.

Remember the issue? There are false teachers who are SAYING all sorts of things. Like how they know God. And have fellowship with him. Or how they’re IN THE LIGHT. Or even that they’re WITHOUT SIN.

But John says the way to tell whether they’re telling the truth is TO LOOK AT THEIR LIFE. To be FRUIT INSPECTORS. Because they’re DEEDS will show whether they’re WORDS are true, or not.

Last week, in Ch 2, we saw John’s THREE TESTS. First, they’re the ones who DON’T OBEY GOD’S COMMANDS. (Who don’t walk in the light). And SECOND, they DON’T BELIEVE JESUS IS THE CHRIST. And THIRD, they don’t LOVE THE BROTHERS.

They SAY they know God, but their LIFE and their DOCTRINE says DIFFERENT.

And today we’re seeing more of the same. From Ch 2 v28, where the focus is on OBEDIENCE. In particular, how, if you’re really one of his children, you’ll BEAR the RESEMBLANCE of your Heavenly Father. See it there in v29 of Ch 2?

29 If you know that he (GOD) is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been BORN of him

In other words, GOD is righteous. (Morally upright, pure and good). So it follows that people who are BORN of him, will do what’s RIGHT. They’ll BEAR THE FAMILY RESEMBLANCE.

Just like you expect PEACHES to come from a PEACH tree. And Siamese kittens to come from a Siamese CAT.

Same thing again, down in v7. God’s children are LIKE him. Like FATHER, like SON. V7.

7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who DOES WHAT IS RIGHT is righteous, JUST AS HE (that is, God) is righteous.

Same thing again in v9 and 10.

9 No one who is BORN of God will continue to sin, because God’s SEED remains in him; HE CANNOT GO ON SINNING, because he has been BORN of God. 10 This is how we know WHO THE CHILDREN OF GOD ARE and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who DOES NOT DO WHAT IS RIGHT IS NOT A CHILD OF GOD; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

GOD is sinless, so it follows that his CHILDREN will BEAR THE LIKENESS.

But did you notice the unusual way John describes how we’re born of God (in v9)? God’s SEED remains in him.

We normally think of conversion in a more TRANSACTIONAL way. (Communication and response). Someone hears the gospel message. They trust what they hear, and repent of their sin. God forgives them and makes them his child. A guilty verdict is replaced with an INNOCENT one. There’s a change in STATUS, but not necessarily in NATURE.

But John wants us to think of becoming a Christian as A DIVINE INSEMINATION. God’s SEED is planted in you. Which is really what BEGETTING, or being BORN of GOD, points us to. Even if it IS a metaphor.

And I think he does it to emphasise that there’s A CHANGE OF NATURE when someone’s born again. Our BASIC CHARACTER changes. From EARTHLY to HEAVENLY. From FLESH to SPIRIT. Because God’s RIGHTEOUS DNA is passed on to his children.

You’ve been reborn by THAT SEED. So you’ll have THAT NATURE.

If that’s YOU, v9 says you CANNOT GO ON SINNING. And v6 adds, No one who lives in Jesus KEEPS ON SINNING. And NO ONE WHO CONTINUES TO SIN has either seen him or known him.

Now, if you’ve been listening AT ALL for the last few minutes, I’m guessing you’ve started to see the problem. You’ve heard what I’ve SAID. And perhaps you can see the LOGIC of it.

But perhaps you’ve also remembered some of the things you’ve said and done and thought in the past week. And you wonder how the two ideas fit together.

I know I certainly can. Because I’m someone who’s been a Christian for 40 years, but I keep on sinning. There are SOME things I’m doing ok at. But there are OTHER things that I just keep stumbling in. And I’m thinking you’re probably the SAME.

Does that mean we don’t know Jesus? Let me give a couple of answers.

Three answers to the problem

1 The general direction of a life, not perfection.

First thing to note is that John isn’t teaching PERFECTIONISM. He KNOWS we’ll sin. He’s already said it. Back in Ch 1. In fact to SAY you’re without sin is evidence of FALSE TEACHING. Ch 1 v8

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

So we’ve somehow got to put THAT together with what he says HERE about someone born of God can’t go on sinning.

One commentator says, “We must not forget what John has already taught us… no Christian is sinless. We must balance that truth with the equivalent understanding that no Christian is A HABITUAL SINNER either.” (Jackman, 94)

That’s a helpful description – a HABITUAL sinner. John’s thinking more about the GENERAL DIRECTION of your lifestyle, rather than PERFECTION.

Did you notice how he describes the Christian life in v2?

What we WILL be has not yet been made known. But we know that WHEN HE APPEARS, we shall be like him

He knows he and his readers AREN’T PERFECT YET. But there’s a desire expressed there, isn’t there? We’re not there YET. But we WANT TO BE. We want to be more like Jesus than we are NOW. And ONE DAY, we’ll GET THERE.

The translation we’ve got is pretty helpful here, v6. “No one who lives in him KEEPS ON SINNING. No one who CONTINUES to sin knows Jesus.”

John’s test about OBEDIENCE is about the GENERAL DIRECTION of your life.

The false teachers FAIL that test. Their general direction was AWAY from Jesus. But for his readers. And, hopefully, for YOU. If there’s a DESIRE to follow Jesus, rather than the world. If there’s CHANGE. PROGRESS. If there’s a gradual growth in godliness, in prayerfulness, in patience, and humility, and love.

If there’s the DESIRE to be living his way, even if you don’t always SEE THAT THROUGH. If there’s SORROW AND REPENTANCE when you fail. Then there’s every reason for you to be confident you pass John’s test.

It’s like a toddler in a room full of strangers. Her father’s on the other side of the room. And he calls her name. The little child looks up, sees her father, and starts walking towards him.

If someone ELSE calls her, she might stop. She might look around. She might even stumble and fall. But she’ll get up, and keep heading towards his father. Because she’s a child of her father.

And that’s the Christian life. We might stumble and fall. We might LOOK in another direction. We might even stray off track. But we’re headed towards God. We’re listening to HIS voices.

That’s what we WANT to do. We’re not there YET. And we’re troubled when we STUMBLE. But one day we WILL be.

And that’s what separates FALSE Christians from TRUE ones.

2 Celebration, not condemnation

Second point. John’s letter has the flavour of … CELEBRATION, rather than … CONDEMNATION.

He doesn’t want his readers drowning in guilt because they sin. Doubting their salvation. He wants them to recognise their birthright. Who’s given them birth. And to CELEBRATE it! And to LIVE UP TO IT.

Have a listen to the tone of 3:1.

3:1 How GREAT is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! AND THAT IS WHAT WE ARE!

John’s SURE of it. That’s celebration, not condemnation! Or jump back up to Ch 2 v12. Listen to the confidence he has about his readers.

12 I write to you, dear children, because YOUR SINS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN. 13 I write to you, fathers, because YOU HAVE KNOWN HIM who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you HAVE OVERCOME THE EVIL ONE. I write to you, dear children, because you HAVE KNOWN THE FATHER… I write to you, young men, because you ARE STRONG, and THE WORD OF GOD LIVES IN YOU, and you HAVE OVERCOME THE EVIL ONE.

John runs his test of obedience over his readers. And they PASS WITH FLYING COLOURS. His purpose is celebration, not condemnation. They’re tests to use on OTHERS, rather than THEMSELVES.

Strategies to bear the family resemblance

Let’s move on. John’s given us his identification tests. How to identify who’s a child of God. And who ISN’T. So what do we DO with that?

First answer is to ask the question of YOURSELF. Does this describe YOU? Have YOUR sins been forgiven? Do you KNOW God? Are you his CHILD?

And if the answer is NO, then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. ACCEPT God’s OFFER! Recognise your sin. Confess it. Ask God to forgive them because of Jesus. He IS faithful and just and WILL FORGIVE your sin, and purify you from all unrighteousness.

He’ll put his SEED in you, and make you his CHILD. And give you his NATURE, so you CAN obey. And want to OBEY him. To RESEMBLE him.

Do THAT. And you can know the JOY and the CELEBRATION John’s describing.

So dwell in Jesus (2:28; 3:6)

Many of us have already DONE that. So what’s NEXT? DWELL IN JESUS. It’s the GOAL, and it’s the PATH we travel on.

Have a look back at the end of Ch 2. From v26. He’s WARNING the genuine Christians about the FALSE ones.

26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.

And then he talks about how Christians have God’s Holy Spirit in them. God joins himself SPIRITUALLY to you. It’s the SEED that gives you his NATURE as his CHILD. V27, John calls it THE ANOINTING.

27 As for you, THE ANOINTING you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit-just as it has taught you, REMAIN IN HIM.

In other words, keep joined to God. Do all you can to LISTEN to him, FOLLOW him, and LOVE him, and OBEY him. That’s what it comes down to in the paragraph just before. V24 of Ch 2.

24 See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, YOU ALSO WILL REMAIN IN THE SON AND IN THE FATHER. 25 And this is what he promised us-even eternal life.

Do all you can to KEEP THE MESSAGE ABOUT JESUS FRONT AND CENTRE OF YOUR THINKING. It’s all there in THE BIBLE. Which is why we keep going on about READING YOUR BIBLE.

See that its WORDS REMAIN IN YOU. Don’t get distracted by other things. Remind each other of them. Sing them. Read them. Pray them. Listen to them on podcasts. Watch them on youtube.

That’s the way to remain in the Son and the Father. Or DWELL in him.

It’s so important for John because remaining in Jesus is the key to MAKING IT TO THE END. See it there in v28?

(just as it has taught you, REMAIN in him). 28 And now, dear children, CONTINUE in him (same word again), so that WHEN HE APPEARS WE MAY BE CONFIDENT AND UNASHAMED BEFORE HIM AT HIS COMING.

Stay STUCK to Jesus. That’s the key to be unashamed when he returns. The way to confidently approach him.

So bear fruit

Dwelling in Jesus is such a big part of how John understands being a Christian because HE LEARNED IT FROM JESUS HIMSELF. Back in John’s GOSPEL. Jn 15 v4. Jesus said to the disciples

4 REMAIN in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must REMAIN in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man REMAINS in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

The only way you can bear fruit. The only way you can live the obedient, godly life of a child of God. Is to ABIDE in Jesus. Remain connected to him. Make him your dwelling place. He’s the vine. You’re the branch.

John himself puts it like THIS in. (Back in his letter) Ch 3 v6

6 No one who lives (dwells) in him keeps on sinning.

No one who ABIDES in him keeps on sinning. It means to keep your THOUGHTS fixed on him. WALK with him, doing everything in his STRENGTH, for his GLORY. It means FOLLOWING HIS EXAMPLE.

Do THAT, you won’t continue in sin. And you’ll bear FRUIT.

If you’re not connected to him, you CAN’T BEAR FRUIT. In fact, you wither and DIE. Righteous obedience is IMPOSSIBLE to produce on your own. That’s why the false teachers can’t do it. Because they’re not connected to Jesus. They don’t have God’s Spirit.

And so, the NEXT command we’re to obey, after we dwell in Jesus. Is to BEAR FRUIT.

Recognise whose seed is in you. WHO your Father is. Who you’re to resemble. And STRIVE to be RIGHTEOUS.

You don’t HAVE to sin. Don’t SETTLE for it. Don’t rationalise your failures. Don’t jump too quickly back to Ch 1. To the promises of forgiveness when you sin.

Take seriously what v9 of Ch 3 says. Look at it again. It says No one born of God continues to sin, because God’s seed remains in him, HE CANNOT GO ON SINNING.

Which is ONE way of translating it. In my view, a better way to translate it is HE IS ABLE NOT TO SIN.

And I think it’s helpful. It’s different to “he is NOT ABLE to sin.”

Because we have God’s powerful, eternal, holy seed in us, we’re ABLE to not sin.  Not ALWAYS. Not consistently. Not NEVER AGAIN.

But it’s Possible for us, to follow God as we should. To have pure motives. And pure thoughts. And loving actions.

So let’s PURSUE that. Because, if we’re God’s children. that’s OUR DNA. Our TRUE NATURE.

Get ready for that day

And ALSO, strive to be holy because it’s preparation for the final day. Here’s one final motivation. Be righteous NOW, so you’ll measure up on Judgment day.

That’s the argument John’s making at the start of Ch 3. God has LAVISHED his great love on us, making us HIS CHILDREN (that’s v1). We’re children, but not fully FORMED yet. V2.

“What we WILL BE has not yet been made known.”

Does that mean we just give up, because we’re not yet the way we want to be? No!

But we know that when he appears, WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM, for we shall see him as he is.

That’s the sure future for us. We’ll be perfected like Jesus. But notice how that affects us NOW. V3.

3 Everyone who has this hope in him PURIFIES HIMSELF, just as he is pure.

We strive to be holy and pure NOW, so we’ll suitably dressed for that day. So we’ll measure up. So we won’t be ashamed.

Jesus’ plan for us IS perfection. So when we meet him, we want to be WELL ON THE WAY TOWARDS THAT. It’s the HOPE of that meeting, and that transformation, that should DRIVE US ON to obedience NOW.

And it’s just contradictory for the Christian to hope for THAT MEETING, but still delight in delicious sins. (To walk regularly in disobedience.)

Imagine an athlete whose been selected for the Olympic Games. She’s Australian champion. Carrying the hopes and dreams of all Australia. It’s two months out from the Games. Imagine if she decided all the hard work had been done. And she could just RELAX. Eat hamburgers and ice cream, or skip training. Sit on the couch watching TV. Go out partying with her friends.

She’d never do it. She’d be ASHAMED. DISGRACED. She wouldn’t measure up to her identity. She’s an Australian representative. And she’d want to live up to that expectation.

It’s the same with OUR FUTURE IDENTITY. It’s contradictory for the Christian to hope for Christ’s return, but still walk regularly in disobedience.

Children of God, BEAR THE FAMILY RESEMBLANCE. Don’t fight it. It’s NATURAL. Love it, embrace it. IMPROVE it.

It used to annoy me, growing up, when people said, “You’re just like your father.” But the comment we should ALL long to hear is “You’re just like your HEAVENLY Father.”

Just like him, because you’re DWELLING in Jesus, following him. You’re LOOKING FORWARD to your FUTURE perfection and reward. And striving to growing in obedience and in the family likeness.

1 John 5: Solid Confidence

Australia’s Got Talent and Australian Idol are two of the most popular shows on TV. And one reason is that people love watching the TERRIBLE singers. They queue up for hours just to spend 30 seconds (or LESS) in front of 3 judges who are brutally honest with them.

I’m fascinated by the CONFIDENCE of these people. Often for absolutely NO REASON. They walk confidently onto the stage – but when they open their mouth you cringe. No tune, no pitch – all over the place. It’s a bit like a car crash – it’s a terrible thing, but you can’t look away. They are so confident, but there’s no BASIS for that confidence.

But perhaps even more, I love to watch THE OPPOSITE. To watch those people who are very nervous. Not confident at all. They’re intimidated by the cameras and the judges. Their voice trembles, and their hands shake as they hold the microphone. But when they open their mouth, it’s GLORIOUS. And the audience goes WILD. For all their ABILITY, they have such LITTLE confidence.

It’s a funny relationship, isn’t it, between REALITY and CONFIDENCE. Often those with the GREATEST REASON to be confident are hesitant and unsure. And those with the LEAST reason to be confident/ are so SURE of themselves.

And it’s often the same when it comes to Christianity. Let me ask you two questions – they’re from a witnessing course calling Evangelism Explosion. Do you know FOR SURE that you are going to be with God in heaven? It’s a great question, isn’t it? And lots of people will answer. “I hope so” Or “I’m not sure.” (They think it’s arrogant and rude to BE CONFIDENT about how God will receive you.) What about YOU? How would YOU answer? Do you know FOR SURE that you are going to be with God in heaven? Perhaps YOU’VE been a Christian for many years, but you still wonder and question where you stand before God.

And here’s the SECOND question. And it gets to the HEART of what your confidence is based on. If God were to ask you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” What would you say?

If you’re confident, what’s the BASIS for your confidence? Is it something about your OWN ACCEPTABILITY and PERFORMANCE? A comparison to other people? Wishful thinking? Or is there SOMETHING ELSE you can be confident in?

So, is it possible for a sinful person to be confident before the perfect, holy God of the Universe? Is it arrogant? John would say that it’s not only possible, God EXPECTS and WANTS his children to be confident before Him.

And the key is what you place your CONFIDENCE IN. Rather than your OWN performance, it needs to be in WHO JESUS IS, and WHAT HE’S DONE.

Do THAT, and you can have COMPLETE AND PERFECT CONFIDENCE. Do THAT, and you can rest easy that God’s made you one of his children.

The whole letter’s been about that, right from the start. About THE REAL JESUS – really sent by God, and who John saw, and touched and heard. And who really DIED to pay for your sin. And who was really RESURRECTED to guarantee eternal life.

You can read it HERE AT THE END, in chapter 5; verse 11 and 12. “AND THIS IS THE TESTIMONY, here’s what God wants you to know… God has given us eternal life, and this life IS IN HIS SON.” Nowhere else. Verse 12; he who HAS THE SON has life…. He who does NOT HAVE THE SON does not have life. Simple as that. Black and white. There’s no other way.

Or jump down to v20. 20 We KNOW also that the Son of God has COME and has given us UNDERSTANDING, so that we may know HIM WHO IS TRUE. And we are IN him who is true-even in his Son Jesus Christ. HE IS THE TRUE GOD AND ETERNAL LIFE.

Solid and certain. You can know for sure, because you UNDERSTAND who Jesus is, and what he’s done. And that it all DEPENDS ON HIM.

Confidence in the REAL Jesus

The trouble is it’s got to be the REAL JESUS. Remember the false teachers John’s writing about? Back in chapter 2 verse 19; They used to be part of the church. But not anymore. He says, THEY WENT OUT FROM US, but they didn’t really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. They didn’t belong… because they’d made up a DIFFERENT JESUS. Who wasn’t the Jesus John had walked and talked with at all.

And it seems like they taught that Jesus wasn’t really God’s Son come in the flesh. That he wasn’t God’s chosen king. And that he hadn’t really risen from the dead AT ALL.

If that’s YOU, says John. Then you don’t know God. And you can’t have ANY sort of confidence before him when you die.

Instead, here in Ch 5 John explains how THE EVENTS OF JESUS’ LIFE give the Christian a great foundation for being SURE and CERTAIN and CONFIDENT.

But, I must admit, he has a strange way of explaining it. Did you notice it there, from v5?

5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 6 This is the one who came by WATER and BLOOD-Jesus Christ. He did not come by WATER ONLY, but by water and BLOOD.

There’s been all sorts of theories over the years about what John means. But the BEST one is that the WATER refers to Jesus’ BAPTISM, and the BLOOD refers to Jesus’ DEATH and RESURRECTION.

The false teachers had no problem admitting Jesus’ BAPTISM. When the Spirit descended on Jesus from heaven, like a dove. And God’s voice said, “This is my son, I’m well-pleased with him.”

But they just weren’t that keen on the REST of it. That Jesus was sent by God FOR THE PURPOSE of DYING IN OUR PLACE. To save us. And then to be RAISED TO LIFE as PROOF.

It’s not just the WATER that testifies who Jesus is. But the BLOOD TOO. You’ve got to trust THAT TOO if you want confidence before God.

And in John’s time, to PROVE something in a court of law, to be REALLY CONFIDENT, you needed THREE WITNESSES. So John’s got a THIRD witness. V7. (He did not come by water only, but by water and blood)

And it is the SPIRIT who testifies, because the Spirit is the TRUTH. 7 For there are THREE that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are IN AGREEMENT.

He’s thinking about the Spirit descending visibly at Jesus’ baptism. Evidence that Jesus really IS God’s Son.

But also the INTERNAL testimony of God’s Spirit. That’s from v9

9 We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Anyone who believes in the Son of God has THIS TESTIMONY IN HIS HEART.

That’s the work of God’s Spirit. Who’s ALWAYS at work in real believers. When we HEAR the truths about Jesus, it’s God’s Spirit who helps us BELIEVE them. Who opens our eyes, and helps us see our NEED, and convicts us of sin, and helps us understand what Jesus achieves. And who gives us the confidence to TRUST those truths.

And the point is it’s GOD who provides all three witnesses. Because he wants us to be CERTAIN.

So to NOT believe them is TO CALL GOD A LIAR. Did you see that there in v10?

Anyone who DOES NOT BELIEVE GOD HAS MADE HIM OUT TO BE A LIAR, because he has NOT BELIEVED THE TESTIMONY God has given about his Son.

That’s fairly confronting, isn’t it? Have you ever thought of it like that? If you haven’t yet decided to trust Jesus, to admit your sin, and ask God’s forgiveness, then what’s your problem? What’s STOPPING you? By NOT believing God’s testimony, you’re CALLING HIM A LIAR!

LIFE AND DEATH…

Don’t let that be you! Believe God’s triple testimony. Commit yourself to the REAL JESUS.

Nothing matters MORE. V12 says it’s a LIFE AND DEATH DECISION. “HE WHO HAS THE SON HAS LIFE… and he who DOESN’T HAVE THE SON… has NO LIFE.”

You know, a few years back they turned that into a car bumper sticker. “No Christ, NO LIFE. Know Christian, KNOW LIFE.” And people were furious. How dare you say I have NO LIFE if I’m not a Christian. How arrogant! But that’s what it says. He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son does NOT have life.

Non-believers might think it’s arrogant to claim that. But if it’s TRUE. If God’s testimony is true. Then to NOT believe – to call God a LIAR – surely that’s even MORE arrogant! That’s putting yourself above GOD!

Solid Reason for Confidence

But it’s not really about arrogance. It’s about TRUTH. And CONFIDENCE. Which is what we get to as we move into the next verse, and some concluding remarks. V13. Everything John’s written has been to people who BELIEVE in the name of the Son of God so they may KNOW that they have eternal life. And that they can be CONFIDENT to come before God.

And it reminds me of something Billy Graham did when he was in Australia back in 1979; the great American Evangelist, face to face with Mike Willessee. Interviewed on National Television. And the next day in the newspapers it was almost a NATIONAL SCANDAL.

Because Mike Willessee says to Billy Graham, it’s near the end of the interview, “Dr Graham, DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING TO GO TO HEAVEN? To which Billy Graham says without a moment’s hesitation, “I don’t just THINK I’m going to heaven. I KNOW I’m going to heaven.” Which Mike Willessee said was the most arrogant thing he’d ever heard in his life. I mean, aren’t you meant to say, Well, gee I hope so? Or, well, you know, MAYBE. Billy said it straight out. I KNOW IT. It’s only arrogant if your trust is in YOUR OWN PERFORMANCE. But if it’s in Jesus’ performance INSTEAD, then it’s not ARROGANCE, it’s TRUST. Which is what Billy Graham had.

Friends, I want to say to you today, YOU CAN have it TOO. And you SHOULD. (If you’re someone who’s put your trust squarely in JESUS. Who believes in the NAME of the SON of GOD. Because if you’ve done that, you’re not claiming any credit for YOURSELF when you’re sure you’re heading for heaven. You’re saying you’re confident in HIM…who died for you.

And that’s exactly what John’s saying in verse 13. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God SO THAT YOU MAY KNOW that you have eternal life.” Not just HOPE IT. KNOW IT.

And how can you know it? Because the REAL JESUS …REALLY DIED – to REALLY PAY THE PRICE FOR SIN.

Confidence to PRAY

And it’s confidence that makes a real difference in the way you live TODAY. (It’s not just about when you DIE.) Because if you’re confident about your relationship with God, then you’ll be confident TO PRAY. There from v14.

He says one of the great benefits of knowing you have eternal life, is you also know GOD HEARS YOUR PRAYERS. John says, if you ask according to HIS WILL, there’s a 100% guarantee, HE HEARS YOU. And more than that, verse 15, if you know he HEARS YOU when you ask according to his will, you know you HAVE WHAT YOU ASKED FOR. Because GOD’S WILL will always be done.

Want to know how to have your prayers answered? Tune your prayers to God’s will. And they WILL be answered.

Now it’s interesting here, isn’t it, the sort of prayer he goes on to talk about – not the prayer for a new car, not the prayer for a parking space when you’re running late. The sort of prayer that first springs to John’s mind when he’s thinking about PRAYING ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL… is the prayer he mentions in verse 16. Praying for your Christian brother or sister- when you see your Christian brother or sister SIN.

Do you ever pray that prayer? You see your brother SIN. (Someone who’s put their trust in Jesus.) We ALL do it, don’t we?. Blow it. Regularly. You see your Christian sister sin; and you say, someone BORN OF GOD doesn’t keep sinning like that. I need to PRAY… that she’ll stop. That she’ll remember WHO SHE IS. That she’ll remember where she’s heading. Eternal life.

And you know what? Because you’ve put your faith in the REAL JESUS, God answers the prayer. Because YOUR SISTER’s put her faith in Jesus, God answers the prayer. You see how it works in v18.

18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God (that’s Jesus) keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.

She comes to her senses. JESUS keeps her from stumbling too far. She repents. Her SIN is forgiven. And it doesn’t lead to death at all. PRAYER ANSWERED.

And WE ALL need prayer like that. And we all need to keep PRAYING for each other. That we’ll be turning from our sin. And God ANSWERS those prayers.

And we can be CONFIDENT of that. And confident of eternal life. Not because of our own performance. But because of WHO WE PLACE OUR CONFIDENCE IN. And that’s who John FINISHES focussing on. V20

20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true-even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

And that’s who OUR focus needs to be on. Know him, understand what he’s done. Remain in him who is TRUE.

That’s a SOLID FOUNDATION for confidence.

1 John 4: What’s Your Love Language?

“Five Love Languages” is the name of a great Christian book on marriage. And its point is that we all feel loved in our relationships in ONE of FIVE ways.

Some people feel loved and appreciated when they RECEIVE GIFTS. A bunch of flowers, an expensive birthday present, or a special night out.

Some people feel loved with PHYSICAL TOUCH. With a hug, or holding hands. Just a hand on the shoulder at the right time shows them they’re LOVED.

Then there are people who feel loved when you TELL them. WORDS OF AFFIRMATION make them feel special. Like “That dress really suits you.” Or “You did a great job with that presentation.” Or “I love the way you’re so organised with paying our bills. I trust you completely.”

And then for OTHERS, it’s not so much the WORDS, or GIFTS, as just BEING there. QUALITY TIME is what really counts for them. Long conversations over coffee. Just hanging out together in the garden. Or long walks in the country.

And FINALLY, there are people who don’t want to HEAR it. They want to SEE it. For them ACTIONS speak louder than WORDS. They feel loved with ACTS OF SERVICE. For them, nothing says “I love you” more than changing a dirty nappy, or doing the washing up.

The genius of the book is recognising that we often SAY “I love you” to others using the love language WE like. But, if that’s not how the OTHER person feels loved, we might be WASTING OUR TIME. Or our GIFTS. Or HUGS. The message misses the mark. They’re DEAF to it.

You need to say “I LOVE YOU” in the LANGUAGE the other person UNDERSTANDS. Otherwise, they may not HEAR you. They may not FEEL LOVED.

God’s love language (9, 10)

But whatever your love language is for HUMAN relationships, John says there’s one love language ALL CHRISTIANS UNDERSTAND. This is how God says, “I love you!” to his children. Ch 4 v9. He SENT HIS ONE AND ONLY SON INTO THE WORLD that we might live through him. THIS IS LOVE; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and SENT HIS SON as an atoning sacrifice for OUR SINS.”

Sending him, sacrificing him, to mend the relationship with us. God’s love language is GIFTS.

Know it and trust it (16)

God LOVES. But MORE than that. He DEMONSTRATES it. Reveals it. Which means he wants us to KNOW it. And to TRUST it. See down in v16?

And so we KNOW and RELY on (or TRUST) the love God has for us.

It’s just a little verse. Just sitting there in the middle of a whole stack of verses about LOVE. But it’s SO IMPORTANT.

God’s SHOWN us love. That’s important. But it’s ALSO important that we KNOW it. And TRUST it.

ESPECIALLY in the face of false teachers. Teachers who want you to trust SOMETHING ELSE. And experience SOMETHING ELSE.

And so what John’s doing in chapter 4 is showing us how to KNOW God’s love. And how to TRUST it. How to EXPERIENCE it.

And how we SHOW that we know it, by the way we REFLECT it and LIVE IT OUT.

God’s love language is the GIVING of his Son as a sacrifice to SAVE us. And John wants us to make sure we hear it clearly, and that we FEEL loved. If we do that, we’ll REFLECT that by loving OTHERS, by loving GOD who’s IN others. And if we feel loved by God, we’ll be CONFIDENT before him in the face of his judgment. That’s the message.

Know WHO loves you

So. The FIRST part of knowing and trusting God’s love is to know WHO loves you. What SORT of God loves you? And how has he SHOWN it?

First. Love isn’t just something God DOES. It’s something he IS. V8, and again in v16. “God IS love.”

It’s natural for God to show love because he IS love. It’s more than a QUALITY. It’s part of his ESSENCE. From all eternity, God LOVES. Even before there was anything else to LOVE. You see, God is THREE persons. And LOVE is the best way to describe the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit loving each other. From all eternity, God is in relationship, complete and fulfilled.

Love isn’t a quality God CHOOSES TO DISPLAY. It just BUBBLES OUT OF HIM. One commentator says, “To imagine that God does not love us is to deny his true nature, to repudiate his character. It is to distort the free grace of God into something much less worthy.” (Jackman, BST, 118)

What else do we know about this God who loves you? V2 The ONE WHO SENT JESUS CHRIST IN THE FLESH. THAT’S God.

And again in V9 and 10. Who’s the God who loves you? The one who sent his one and only Son into the world, as an atoning sacrifice for your sins, that we might live through him.

Or v14. Who’s the God who loves you?

And we have seen and testify that THE FATHER HAS SENT HIS SON TO BE THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD.

SOME people feel that God loves them because they see a pretty sunset. Or have a feeling of peace as they meditate by the ocean. Or because they got a new job. Or had a baby. Or they’re healthy and wealthy.

But those things come, and DON’T come, to EVERYONE. (To God’s children, and those who AREN’T his children ALIKE). And they’re no SIGN of God’s special love for his children.

But what IS a clear communication of his love is the GIVING of his only Son to save UNDESERVING SINNERS by dying in their place. And then to FORGIVE their sin. And pour out his Holy Spirit into them. So they can trust, and obey, and love. THAT’S love!

Can you HEAR it? Do you understand that love language? THAT’S the God who loves you. And the WAY he loves you.

Make God’s love complete by loving others 12, 16b-17

That’s the FIRST step. The NEXT step in knowing and trusting God’s love is to make God’s love complete by loving OTHERS.

What do I mean by that? Let me read v11 and 12 first. And then explain it.

11 Dear friends, since God so loved US, we ALSO ought to love ONE ANOTHER. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and HIS LOVE IS MADE COMPLETE IN US.

And it says a similar thing down in v16 and 17.

Whoever lives in LOVE lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is MADE COMPLETE AMONG US

Now, John’s NOT saying there’s something MISSING from God’s love. That it’s LACKING something/ that you can COMPLETE. (Like your teenager HALF cleans his bedroom. Then you come along and clean THE REST.)

But what he’s saying is that God’s PURPOSE in loving us / is that we RESPOND to his love by loving OTHERS in the SAME WAY. (The GOAL, the INTENTION, the LOGICAL OUTWORKING.)

The word for COMPLETE is about finishing, or hitting the target, or achieving the end goal. To COMPLETE God’s love is to achieve the goal he HAD for it.

Look at v7.

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love COMES FROM God. Everyone who LOVES has been born of God and knows God.

Love BEGINS with God. It’s his NATURE. We RECEIVE it as his children. And then we PASS THAT ON. We’re the mirror that receives it VERTICALLY, then reflects it HORIZONTALLY. It’s how we show we’re his CHILDREN. We RESEMBLE him.

That’s what I think John’s getting at in v10. “This is love, NOT THAT WE LOVED GOD, but that he loved us.”

He’s not saying we can’t love God AT ALL. I think what he means is that TRUE love doesn’t BEGIN with US. We didn’t love God FIRST.

We can only love OTHERS TRULY (in the way GOD loves) when we’re LOVED BY GOD. When we KNOW it, and RECEIVE it. And when we’re JOINED to the God who is love. THEN we can love others with God’s love. That’s the order of things down in v19. “We love because he FIRST LOVED US.”

We love the way the MOON gives light. The moon doesn’t PRODUCE light, it REFLECTS the light from the Sun. And TRUE love doesn’t COME from us. It shines from God ONTO us, and then we KNOW it and TRUST it, and we REFLECT IT ON.

In fact, you can’t actually SHOW God’s love to OTHERS/ until you KNOW it. I think that’s what Ch 5 v2 means. It’s confusing. Because we expect it to be the other way around. Listen to it carefully.

2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.

We EXPECT it to say, “This is how we know we love GOD – by loving his CHILDREN.” (Love you CAN see shows the reality of love you CAN’T see. John’s just SAID THAT.) Ch 3 v20.

But in v2 of Ch 5 he says it the other way around. I think John’s saying something DIFFERENT. When we LOVE GOD, (when we UNDERSTAND his love for us, and when we respond by OBEYING HIS COMMANDS) only THEN can we TRULY/ completely/ love his children. We know what it means to love because we know what it means to BE LOVED.

If you don’t KNOW sacrificial, undeserving love that gives everything TO YOU/ then you can’t GIVE it. You can only give a pale imitation of it. A twisted misrepresentation of it. Like one of those carnival mirrors that gives you a huge head and no body. Or that makes you look SHORT when you’re really TALL.

If you haven’t received the undeserved, forgiving, giving-everything love from God. If you haven’t recognised your complete UNWORTHINESS to be forgiven. Haven’t KNOWN and TRUSTED that. Then you can’t truly love undeserving people. You’ll only love CONDITIONALLY. You’ll only love when they love you BACK, or when they DESERVE it. Or when you FEEL like it.

But John says we complete, or perfect, God’s love, when we receive it in humble, repentant thanks. And then REFLECT it OUT. Loving OTHERS the way WE’VE been loved.

And so, as v16 says, that’s HOW we know and rely on, or TRUST, the love God has for us. We know the truth of the One who LOVES us. And we’ve EXPERIENCED it. And we’ve GIVEN it.

Be confident in completed love in the face of judgment 18

And (third point) what all of THAT means is we can be CONFIDENT when judgment comes. That’s the next step in v17. (Love is made complete among us)

so that we will have CONFIDENCE on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.

So is he saying that the basis for our confidence is our own ability to love? I HOPE not, because I wouldn’t be very confident in that case. But look at how he continues.

18 There is no fear in love. But PERFECT LOVE DRIVES OUT FEAR, because fear has to do with punishment.

Firstly, it helps to notice that the word for PERFECT is the same as COMPLETE. Complete love drives out fear. Does that mean God’s love or OURS? Well… YES.

Remember that God’s love is COMPLETED when we receive it and reflect it on. That shows that we’ve God’s CHILDREN. That we’re LIKE him.

And when THAT sort of love is on display (God’s love, understood, and relied upon, and DISPLAYED by us). Then we can have CONFIDENCE, and not FEAR, at the thought of God’s judgment.

The false teachers just UNDERMINE that confidence. Because they distract people from how God shows his love. And so people don’t KNOW it, and RELY on it, and REFLECT it as they should.

So how are you GOING with that confidence? Do you LONG for that day? To see God face to face. And to know COMPLETELY the love you’ve caught a GLIMPSE of?

To be CONFIDENT like that begins with knowing and relying on God’s love. Learning his LOVE LANGUAGE. You have to see it demonstrated in JESUS, who lay down his life for YOU, a SINNER. Who loved you when you were thoroughly UNLOVABLE. You study it, meditate on it, sing about it, speak about it. And you have to TRUST it. And REJOICE in it.

And then REFLECT it. By loving TRULY your Christian brothers and sisters. (Love that gives EVERYTHING to people who don’t DESERVE it).

What love my God would bring You down to earth?

What king would take a low and lonely birth?

Yet to this dark and broken place You came

To sleep beneath the stars that You had made

 

What love my God would send the Way of Life

To walk the road, rejected and despised

That You might know the weakness I possess

And be my rock of strength and righteousness

 

 

What love my God could hold You to the tree

To bear that overwhelming debt for me?

The Son of heaven leaves the Father’s side

The Healer bleeds, the Life was made to die

 

What love my God, so gracious and extreme

Was strong enough to come and fight for me?

To go through hell and down into the grave

And raise me up to see You face to face

 

O Your love my God like a flood

As heaven opened up pouring out on us

O praise the King who came to the world

In His love like a mighty flood

 

 

1 John 3:11-24: Costly Love

There’s an old legend about the apostle John. He was the longest surviving disciple of Jesus. In fact, John lived well into his nineties, which was pretty unusual back then. Especially if you were a Christian.

The year was somewhere around AD90. Most of the disciples had been executed. But John survived. And the story goes that every week they’d carry him into the church meetings in the cities around Ephesus on a stretcher, this frail old man. And every week, they’d take him to the front. And a hush would come over the room. They’d hang on his every word. This last disciple of Jesus. And every week, he’d say this. “Little children, LOVE ONE ANOTHER.” And then he’d lie back down on his mat and they’d carry him out. Every week, exactly the same message. Little children… love one another.

And one day, the story goes, someone asked him about it. “John, why is it that every week you say exactly the same thing, little children love one another?” And John said this. BECAUSE IT IS ENOUGH.

There’s other stuff he could have added. But why waste words? Someone his age only has so much energy. And that’s the Christian life in a nutshell.

As far as John’s concerned, if you’ve put your trust in Jesus, then there’s only ONE OTHER THING you need to know. So week after week, he’d remind them. Little children, LOVE one another.

You don’t need to work at being the SMARTEST in the room. Or the bravest. Or the HARDEST WORKING. Or the most MORAL. Or the most GIFTED. All you need to know. “Little children, LOVE ONE ANOTHER.”

Well, that’s just a story. But when you look at what John writes HERE, you can understand why it might actually be TRUE. Because that’s exactly the message he keeps on REPEATING. LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

You can see it in verse 11, right where we started. “This is the message you HEARD FROM THE BEGINNING,” he says. “We should LOVE ONE ANOTHER.” (It’s the message he FIRST told them. And he’s STILL telling them.)

He says it again down in verse 23. “And this is his command.- to believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ… and when you’ve done that.. TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER, AS HE COMMANDED US. If you read right through this chapter and the next one as well, you’ll see it over and over again.

And the thing John’s saying is this. Trusting Jesus and LOVING ONE ANOTHER go hand in hand. And you can’t have ONE without the OTHER. There’s NO SUCH THING as “loveless Christianity.

And it’s in the context of IDENTIFYING WHO THE REAL CHRISTIANS ARE, and who the PRETENDERS are. Doesn’t matter what they SAY, if they don’t LOVE THE BROTHERS, then they don’t LOVE GOD. If there’s NO LOVE, there’s NO CHRISTIANITY.

But I guess it’s important that we DEFINE WHAT WE MEAN BY LOVE. These days you have to be CAREFUL when you’re talking about love. Because these days, LOVE is everywhere you look. In every song on the radio. At the MOVIES and in the magazines.

And in the Gay Marriage debate, LOVE IS LOVE meant something like, “I’ve got the right to feel whatever I want for whoever I want.” Which makes love seems A BIT MORE SELFISH than the way MOST people would define it.

So before we start talking about LOVING one another, it’s important to understand what THE BIBLE means by love. Because you can love APPLES… and I do. Or you can love CRICKET… and I do. And you can LOVE your favourite movie star or pop singer. But it’s not the sort of LOVE John’s talking about here.

He’s not talking about what you PREFER, or what you’re ATTRACTED to. And he’s not, particularly, talking about FEELINGS.

John gives us CONCRETE EXAMPLES of the sort of love he’s talking about. First he gives a COUNTER EXAMPLE. How NOT TO BE. Then a positive. How we SHOULD BE. Opposite extremes.

HOW NOT TO BE…

Have a look at verse 12. John goes all the way back to the start of the Old Testament to tell us what NOT TO BE LIKE. He says, “Don’t be like Cain.” Cain, firstborn son of Adam and Eve. His brother Abel was righteous; Cain was JEALOUS. So he KILLED HIM.

Now THAT, says John, is how THE WORLD works. (Striving to be FIRST, BEST, RICHEST. Always COMPARING. Dragging others back).

Maybe not MURDER; maybe more subtle. Ridicule, or gossip, or spite, or envy, or resentment, or competitiveness.

John says, don’t be like Cain who belonged to the evil one and MURDERED HIS BROTHER. Because that’s what HATING IS, v15. It’s MURDER!

He says, don’t be surprised, brothers, if THE WORLD hates you. Because the world is like Cain all the time. Hating, And then ATTACKING.

But be surprised if YOUR CHRISTIAN BROTHER hates you. Because it shouldn’t BE that way. It’s not NATURAL. And it’s the core of our DIFFERENCE.

In fact, it’s the way we KNOW we’ve changed sides… from death to life. The uniform that identifies US from the WORLD. Verse 14. “We know we’ve passed from death to life, because we LOVE OUR BROTHERS. Anyone who doesn’t love remains in death.

Loving your brother, it’s one of the KEY INDICATORS of a genuine Christian. And if you’re not doing it, if you’re HATING your Christian brother or sister instead, or IGNORING them, or RIDICULING them, or DISMISSING their opinions without listening, or NOT BOTHERING TO MEET with them. Then maybe you need to have a good look at yourself.

Hating your brother – it’s SERIOUS. You can’t dismiss it as just a clash of personalities. Hating your brother is MURDER. No better than Cain.

POSITIVE LOVE

But love is a whole lot more than just NOT HATING, isn’t it. Cain’s the NEGATIVE EXAMPLE. What about the POSITIVE?

You’ll see it in verse 16. You want to know what love is? Look at the perfect walking talking example. The most complete human who ever lived. “This is how we know what love is… Jesus Christ LAID DOWN HIS LIFE FOR US. ”

Now, will you notice, this is no HOLLYWOOD-style love. No romance. It’s CRUCIFIXION-STYLE/ Christ-style love. The real symbol of love isn’t a little squishy heart. Or cupids firing arrows.

The real symbol of love is a CROSS. Love… is self-sacrifice. Jesus chose DEATH for a world who HATED him. He took all of God’s judgment for them. So they didn’t have to. And John says that’s the perfect definition of LOVE.

It’s why Christians wear CROSSES. And why they’re on top of churches. Because the cross is the PERFECT SYMBOL of what love is like. What’s LOVE? Love is LAYING DOWN YOUR LIFE FOR SOMEONE.

But here’s the crunch. He says, Don’t just sit back, in comfort, and APPLAUD JESUS. WE TOO OUGHT TO LAY DOWN OUR LIVES FOR OUR BROTHERS. (second half of verse 16). And if you’ve been sitting there patting yourself on the back for how LOVING you are, let that sink in for a minute.

Love means LAYING DOWN YOUR LIFE for your Christian brothers and sisters. Love means LETTING YOURSELF BE RIPPED OFF for somebody else. Love means GIVING UP YOUR RIGHTS for somebody else. Love means DOING WITHOUT, while someone gets to use what you’ve worked for.

It means apologizing FIRST. It means turning the other cheek. It means happily moving to the END of the queue, so others can be served FIRST.

It means wasting your time and your money and your energy and your emotions on someone who NEEDS them. Who soaks them up, and soaks you DRY in the process. And then coming back for more the next day. That’s LOVE.

Or let’s think about marriages. What’s love like this look like in marriages? I hear this excuse in troubled marriages. “But I don’t FEEL LIKE I did when we first married!” “I don’t LOVE him anymore. God wouldn’t want me to be unhappy.” And that’s enough of a reason to give up on a marriage.

But if love is laying down your LIFE for your partner. Then it doesn’t DEPEND on how you feel. Laying- down-life love means keeping on keeping on/ whatever you feel, however you’re taken for granted. Or whenever YOUR needs aren’t being met. Or your kindness isn’t reciprocated. Or you’re not listened to. Or appreciated. Or you don’t think the other person DESERVES your love.

But perhaps you think, “That’s ALL TOO HARD, Dave! You’re not REALISTIC. It’s TOUGH. I don’t know if I can KEEP doing it ANYMORE.” F COURSE IT’S HARD. If it was EASY, EVERYONE would be doing it. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be LOVE that separates Christians from non-Christians. If it was easy, 40% of marriages in Australia wouldn’t be ending in divorce.

There’s all sorts of theories about why churches normally have more women than men. And there’s an opinion out there that Christianity is just for WOMEN. A crutch for the weak. It’s got a reputation as being SOFT. Easy. For people who can’t cope on their own. If it was a lolly, church would be a marshmallow. And I think part of it’s to do with THIS WRONG VIEW OF WHAT LOVE IS. The church talks about LOVE, and people assume it’s soft, soppy, romantic love.

But if love means following Jesus. If it means LAYING DOWN YOUR LIFE for your Christian brothers and sisters. That’s REAL MAN’S work. (And real WOMENS work TOO, for that matter.) Work that’s challenging, and difficult. It’s the sort of work you can GIVE YOUR WHOLE LIFE TO. That’s REAL Christianity. MUSCULAR Christianity. If that version of Christianity was a lolly, there’d be no marshmallows in sight. It would be Rock candy. A Jaw breaker.

And perhaps if we started getting THAT message out there, about what a CHALLENGING, TOUGH REVOLUTIONARY lifestyle Christians are called to/ it might strike more of a chord with Aussie men.

And here’s where it gets REAL. John goes on to say how our love for one another has to be PRACTICAL LOVE. Verse 17. Giving up our possessions.

I mean, we hang on to them like we’re never going to let go, don’t we? But John says this. “If anyone has material possessions, and sees his brother in need but has not pity on him, HOW CAN THE LOVE OF GOD BE IN HIM?”

And he’s not talking there about just FEELING sorry for your brother in need. Or mouthing a few easy words. That’s not what he means by HAVING PITY ON HIM. He means if you sit there in your comfort and luxury and watch a Christian brother or sister in need and YOU DON’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT, then you haven’t even STARTED understanding what love means. You haven’t even STARTED to find out what CRUCIFIXION-LOVE is all about.

And I reckon in this age of globalism, and instant communication, that’s WAY MORE CHALLENGING FOR US, than for John’s readers. Because we see BROTHERS in NEED EVERYWHERE.

Test yourself for a minute. And just ask yourself what material possessions you’d actually be prepared to give up to help someone in need? Imagine in your mind walking through your house, room by room. What luxury would you give up to help out a brother in need? Your TV? Your laptop? Your lounge? I mean, Jesus gave up his LIFE for you. You can’t do EVERYTHING, but you can do SOMETHING. The fact is love’s got to be more than LIP SERVICE. Which we can all do pretty well, can’t we. Look what John says in verse 18. “Dear Children, let us not love with words or tongue, BUT WITH ACTIONS and IN TRUTH.” Don’t just talk about it. DO SOMETHING. Something REAL. It might be missionaries overseas. It might be a single mum or dad in the next street. It might be a Uni student. Or a single-income family.

Have a THINK about our church. Or those around us. Who can you see who’s got a need? Who you can be showing PRACTICAL LOVE to? Love that’s REAL? It’s what PROJECT HELP is trying to coordinate. A way to CONNECT a NEED with a practical, loving HELPING HAND.

The database is a bit outdated at the moment. But the idea is that we have a list of what gifts and capacities people have to be able to help others. And when we find out about a need, we match up the NEED with the SOLUTION. On OUR OWN, we can’t meet all the needs around us. But TOGETHER, we can BEGIN to show the cross-shaped love of Jesus.

That’s been pretty tough to hear, hasn’t it? Three hard-hitting punches to challenge us.

  1. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
  2. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?
  3. Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Now, I don’t know if you’re anything like me at this point. But I read v16 to 18, and my thoughts, rather than go to the times I HAVE loved like this. Straight away, go to the times I HAVEN’T. I think about the times I’ve SAID I’ll help, or pray for, someone, then I get distracted or simply can’t be bothered, and I don’t follow through. The times, rather than PITY, I’ve felt judgment and superiority, or frustration and impatience.

I think of the times I choose selfishness over sacrifice. Hoarding over helping. Words over action. I’ve got ONE standard for how I want people to treat ME, and ANOTHER for how I treat OTHERS.

The gap between my EXPECTATION and the REALITY is YAWNING. (Between the quality of MY love for people, and the love JESUS showed.) There are times, if it was up to MY PERFORMANCE, I’m not sure I’m really living like THAT SORT OF Christian.

If I’m honest, I look at my own performance, and MY HEART DOUBTS. And, I think, perhaps, you’re probably like ME.

But look at what John says NEXT. V19. Straight after a few of the most challenging verses in the whole Bible.

19 THIS then is how we (will) know that we belong to the truth, and HOW WE SET OUR HEARTS AT REST in his presence 20 WHENEVER OUR HEARTS CONDEMN US: (That) God is GREATER than our hearts, and he knows EVERYTHING.

First question to answer is in which direction does the “THIS” point in? Forward or back?

If it points BACK, to v18, then John’s saying that it’s by loving with actions and in truth that we’ll know that we belong to the truth.

And that’s not WRONG. In fact, v14 says something very similar. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.”

But I actually think the “THIS” points FORWARD. To v20. Which means John’s starting a new thought. “THIS is how you’ll know you belong to the truth and how to set your heart at rest in his presence whenever your heart condemns you… THAT GOD IS GREATER THAN OUR HEARTS AND HE KNOWS EVERYTHING.”

There’s the same construction back in v12. THIS is the message you heard. That we should love one another. The THIS looks forward.

And in v16. THIS is how we know what love is… THAT Jesus Christ lay down his life for us. The THIS looks forward.

And again in v23. THIS is his command. To believe in the name of his Son and to love one another. The THIS points FORWARD.

And I think it’s the same in v19.  So, if that’s right, how does the truth that GOD IS GREATER THAN OUR HEARTS AND KNOWS EVERYTHING /help to set our hearts at rest in his presence when our hearts condemn us?

John knows how HARD it is to love the way Jesus loved. And he knows that we’ll FAIL at that. He knows the reality that we’ll SIN. And that we’re not yet what we WILL BE. And he knows that, when we FAIL, we’ll be tempted to doubt we’re God’s children.

But his advice is, “When that happens, when your heart condemns you. Don’t focus on your own performance. FOCUS ON GOD’S CHARACTER. He’s GREATER than your doubting, condemning heart. His grace trumps your sin. HIS judgment matters more than YOUR judgment. He knows the REALITY. His Spirit has ANOINTED you. LIVES in you.

I think it’s important to distinguish between the TEST of love. And the COMMAND to love. The TEST is in v14 “we know that we have passed from death to life because WE LOVE THE BROTHERS. (Not as well as we could, but there’s LOVE there). Certainly compared to THE WORLD.

Then there’s THE COMMAND. V16. We OUGHT to lay down our lives. Or v18. LET US love with actions and truth. They’re THE GOAL. Those are not the TESTS of belonging to Jesus.

But that’s what our hearts want to MAKE them. And so they condemn us.

But God is GREATER than your condemning heart. The very fact your heart MOURNS over your lack of love is EVIDENCE that God’s at WORK in you!

So set your heart at REST. Don’t be so HARD on yourself.

AND… be CONFIDENT before God when you pray. V21

Dear friends, if our HEARTS do not condemn us, we have CONFIDENCE before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.

Come to God CONFIDENT in prayer. Not because of the strength of your love for others. Or your performance during the day. Or how you compare to others. But because God is GREATER than your heart.

Trust his mercy and justice, not your love and obedience. Come like the TAX COLLECTOR in the temple, not the PHARISEE.

And when we’re living FOR him, and following the example of Jesus’ love, and living IN him. Then we’ll be ASKING for the things that will please God, and bless others. And God will GIVE us those things.

In John’s mind Christianity’s pretty simple. V23. This is what God wants – Believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, (put your faith in him). And LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS HE COMMANDED US.”

Simple. Just that it’s HARD TO DO.

And we need to keep ENCOURAGING one another and REMINDING one another that that’s what it’s all about. And looking to GOD with confidence that comes from HIS MERCY and GOODNESS.

Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

 

1 John 2:28-3:10: Like Father, Like Son

cricketAs a country, Australia has an inferiority complex.  We’ve only been colonised for 200 years. We’re just a baby compared to European countries. We began as a bunch of criminals. And we’ve been playing catch up ever since when it comes to culture and the arts. Trying to show we belong among the best countries in the world.

It’s perhaps most obvious when it comes to SPORT. It’s vital to the national psyche that we do well on the sporting field. That we can match it with the best.

And you see our inferiority complex when it comes to visitors. Whether it’s someone famous, or just a tourist. We always ask, “What do you think of Australia?” It’s important to Australians what other people THINK of us. And how we compare to OTHER countries.

And I think we can be tempted to feel the same thing as CHRISTIANS. Do YOU sometimes get an inferiority complex as a Christian?

Perhaps it’s comparing yourself to NON-CHRISTIANS. You might be at Uni, and you hear these incredibly intelligent lecturers making fun of Christians. How OTHER philosophies make much more sense intellectually. The whole rationalistic/ scientific/ humanistic MINDSET seems to argue against what you believe. And you’re tempted to think you don’t measure up.

Or perhaps it’s hanging around RICH people. So satisfied, so content. They seem to have everything they could ever need for a fulfilled life. And you start to wonder whether you’re chasing the wrong things.

Or maybe it’s just YOUR FRIENDS. They do whatever they feel like doing. No morals. No consequences. No one to answer to. And they laugh at your old-fashioned sense of morality and values. And you start to wonder if you’re making too much out of the Bible. And whether you should just lighten up a bit. A Christian inferiority complex. We’re all tempted to think like that.

Or what about comparing yourself to other Christians? Perhaps it’s the church in the next suburb with the fancy new BUILDING. Or the great band. Or the expensive equipment. Or the big youth group. Or the thousands of members, or the multiple staff, or the big advertising budget, or sophisticated website.

Or perhaps it’s the Christian EXPERIENCE that other Christians talk about. Special gifts, like healing or speaking in tongues. Perhaps it’s prophecies, or great success in evangelism, or major victories over sin. Whatever it is. We’re tempted to feel INFERIOR. That we’re missing out, second-class, out-of-date, boring, small scale. Do YOU ever feel like that?

That was the sort of thing John’s readers are experiencing. There’s false teachers around who deny all sorts of things about Jesus. That he didn’t REALLY come in the flesh.

Last week, in Ch 2, we saw how you could IDENTIFY the false teachers. First, they’re the ones who don’t obey God’s commands. Who don’t walk in the light. And SECOND, they don’t believe Jesus is the Christ. They SAY they know God, but their LIFE and their DOCTRINE says DIFFERENT.

And today we’re seeing more of the same from Ch 2 v28, where the focus is on OBEDIENCE. You can see the whole section summed up in one verse. Ch 3 v6 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Same thing again in v9. “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him.

That’s the test, when you’re deciding whether to listen to a teacher of not. If they keep on sinning, then they don’t know Jesus.

I’m wondering, though, if you can see a problem. I know I certainly can. Because I’m someone who’s been a Christian for nearly 40 years, but I keep on sinning. And I’m thinking you probably admit the SAME. Does that mean we don’t know Jesus?

Four answers to the problem

For the false teachers, not his readers

First point to make is that it’s a test John intends as mainly for THE FALSE TEACHERS, not his readers.  Even though the readers aren’t perfect, there’s obviously a CLEAR DIFFERENCE between how the false teachers behave/ and the TRUE Christians. You can see the FALSE TEACHERS are John’s target in v7 of Ch 3.  Dear children, DO NOT LET ANYONE LEAD YOU ASTRAY.

The false teachers are the problem! While John’s readers obviously pass the test. See how he describes them in Ch 3 v1?  How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And THAT IS WHAT WE ARE!

It’s about the general direction of your lifestyle, not perfection

The second part of the answer is that it’s a test about the … GENERAL DIRECTION of your  lifestyle, not … PERFECTION. The translation we’ve got is pretty helpful here. “No one who CONTINUES to sin knows Jesus.”

John’s thinking about the general DIRECTION of your life. He CERTAINLY doesn’t think the Christian will, or is able to, live a perfect life. Back in Ch 1 v8 he said

8 If we claim to be without sin, we DECEIVE ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we CONFESS our sins, he is faithful and just and will FORGIVE us our sins and PURIFY us from all unrighteousness.

And here in this passage he says, v2, What we WILL be has not yet been made known. But we know that WHEN HE APPEARS, we shall be like him He and his readers AREN’T PERFECT YET. So his test about OBEDIENCE is about the GENERAL DIRECTION of your life.

Which is why the false teachers FAIL it. Their general direction was AWAY from Jesus. They were all about doing what THEY felt like. Rather than Jesus. And their lives looked JUST LIKE the non-Christians around them. But for his readers. And for YOU and I. If there’s an DESIRE to follow Jesus, rather than the world. If there’s CHANGE. PROGRESS. If there’s a gradual growth in godliness, in prayerfulness, in patience, and humility, and love. If there’s the DESIRE to be living his way, even if you don’t always SEE THAT THROUGH. If there’s SORROW AND REPENTANCE when you fail. Then there’s every reason to be passing John’s test.

It’s like a toddler in a room full of strangers. His father’s on the other side of the room. And he calls his name. The little child looks up, sees his father, and starts walking towards him. If someone ELSE calls him, he might stop. He might look. He might even stumble and fall. But the child will get up, and keep heading towards his father.

And that’s the Christian life. We might stumble and fall. We might stray off track. But we’re headed towards Jesus. That’s what we WANT to do. And we’re troubled when we DON’T. And that’s what separates FALSE Christians from TRUE ones.

Obedience is evidence of salvation, not its cause

Third point. This obedience he’s talking about is … EVIDENCE of salvation, not the … CAUSE of salvation.

On the surface of it, you might read John’s test, and think that being saved is all about being good. “You BECOME a Christian by being GOOD ENOUGH. The false teachers aren’t Christian because they’re not good enough.”

It’s certainly the way MOST people think you’re saved. “As long as I do enough GOOD things. Hopefully they’ll outweigh the BAD ones, and God will let me sneak into heaven.”

But that’s not what John’s saying. Look CAREFULLY at what he says. 3:6

6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.

If you ALREADY live in him, you won’t keep on sinning. He DOESN’T say “Stop sinning, so that you’ll live in him”.

Same thing in v8. “No one who has been BORN of God will continue to sin.” The BIRTH comes first, THEN the obedience.

For John, the test of obedience is JUST THAT. A TEST. It’s not a METHOD of achieving salvation. It’s EVIDENCE. It’s just IDENTIFYING those who ARE saved. As well as those who aren’t.

It’s like your BIRTH CERTIFICATE. Someone wants to know whether you’re an Australian citizen. How can you PROVE it? You show them your birth certificate. But that’s not what MAKES you an Australian. You’re Australian because you’re BORN here. The birth certificate is just EVIDENCE of your NATURE. Not what CAUSES it.

And it’s the same with John’s test of obedience. It’s just EVIDENCE of belonging to Jesus, not what CAUSES it.  For John, as in every OTHER part of the Bible, what MAKES you saved is all the work of Jesus. And nothing to do with YOUR work. He says it right there in 3:5.

He (that’s Jesus) appeared SO THAT HE MIGHT TAKE AWAY OUR SINS.

His work, not ours. Or down in v8.  The reason the Son of God appeared was TO DESTROY THE DEVIL’S WORK. His work, not ours. We belong to God when we accept as a GIFT the forgiveness he offers because of the WORK OF JESUS on our behalf. GOD makes us his children. Then we SHOW that by obedience.

Celebration, not condemnation

Fourth point. And it really flows from the other three. John’s letter has the flavour of … CELEBRATION, rather than … CONDEMNATION. He doesn’t want his readers drowning in guilt because they sin. Doubting their salvation. He wants them to get rid of the inferiority complex, and recognise all they have in Jesus. And CELEBRATE it! Have a listen to the tone of 3:1. How GREAT is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! AND THAT IS WHAT WE ARE!

John’s SURE of it. That’s celebration, not condemnation! Or jump back up to Ch 2 v12. Listen to all the things John’s readers HAVE.

12 I write to you, dear children, because YOUR SINS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN. 13 I write to you, fathers, because YOU HAVE KNOWN HIM who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you HAVE OVERCOME THE EVIL ONE. I write to you, dear children, because you HAVE KNOWN THE FATHER… I write to you, young men, because you ARE STRONG, and THE WORD OF GOD LIVES IN YOU, and you HAVE OVERCOME THE EVIL ONE.

John runs his test of obedience over his readers. And they PASS WITH FLYING COLOURS. Celebration, not condemnation.

Does this describe YOU? Have YOUR sins been forgiven? Do you KNOW God? Are you his CHILD? If NOT. You can do it TODAY! Ask God to forgive your sins because of Jesus. Determine to head towards HIM. Seeking to OBEY him.

Do THAT. And you can know the JOY and the CELEBRATION John’s describing.

Three answers to the false teachers

Let’s move on now. We’ve worked out a little about the false teachers. And why John’s so concerned. We’ve seen the NEGATIVE side of his argument. But what does he say POSITIVELY? How does he argue AGAINST the false teachers?

They say “Sin as much as you want!” And so John gives three arguments AGAINST that. Why the Christian life should be characterised by obedience instead.

Those who abide in Jesus won’t sin (2:28; 3:6)

Why not just sin as much as you like? First, because those who ABIDE in Jesus won’t sin. It’s a characteristic idea for John. Remaining IN Jesus. DWELLING in him. Keeping CONNECTED to him. They’re all the one Greek word.

And it’s the key for John as he writes to these Christians. See it there in 1 Jn 2, the end of v27?

just as it has taught you, REMAIN in him. 28 And now, dear children, CONTINUE in him (same word again), so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

It’s the word for ABIDING or DWELLING or REMAINING. Stay STUCK to Jesus, says John. CONNECTED to him. That’s the way to be unashamed when he returns. The way to communicate with, and to confidently approach him.

Same word again in Ch 3 v6.

6 No one who LIVES in him keeps on sinning. No one who ABIDES in him keeps on sinning. To be connected to Jesus like a branch to a vine. To draw all your nutrients and strength from him. It means to keep your THOUGHTS fixed on him. WALK with him, doing everything in his STRENGTH, for his GLORY. It means FOLLOWING HIS EXAMPLE.

It’s possible for us to do it because Jesus promised to DWELL IN US. “Remain in me, and I will remain in YOU.” He gives us his Holy Spirit to be with us. To guide and strengthen and correct and equip and encourage. As we dwell in HIM, he dwells in US. And John’s point is that if we’re doing THAT, we won’t continue in sin. 3:6 “No one who DWELLS in him keeps on sinning.” Why? The answer’s in the previous verse: “In Jesus IS NO SIN.”

That’s why Christians who are abiding in Jesus won’t continue in sin, because there’s no sin in Jesus, and we’re in Jesus, so it’s CONTRADICTORY if we continue in sin. And the way to CONQUER that sin is to focus MORE on remaining in Jesus. Read about him. Focus on his character. Pray to him. Walk with him.

Sin is against our future nature (3:2-3)

Second argument. Why not just sin as much as you want? Because sin is AGAINST OUR FUTURE NATURE. Ch 3 v2 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

In other words, we’re not perfect YET. We’re not what we WILL be. Jesus’ plan for us IS perfection. So when we meet him, we want to be well on the way towards that. It’s the HOPE of that meeting, and that transformation, that should DRIVE US ON to obedience NOW.

And it’s just contradictory for the Christian to hope for that meeting, but still delight in delicious sins. (To walk regularly in disobedience.)

Imagine an athlete whose been selected for the Olympic Games. She’s Australian champion. Carrying the hopes, dreams and inferiority complexes of all Australia. It’s two months out from the Games. Imagine if she decided all the hard work had been done. And she could just RELAX. Pig out on hamburgers, or skip training. Sit on the couch watching TV. Go out partying with her friends.

She’d never do it. She’d be ASHAMED. DISGRACED. She wouldn’t measure up to her identity. She’s an Australian representative. And she’d want to live up to that expectation.

It’s the same with OUR FUTURE IDENTITY. It’s contradictory for the Christian to hope for Christ’s return, but still walk regularly in disobedience. That’s John’s SECOND argument.

Sin is not a family characteristic (3:9-10)

And his third argument is you can’t just sin as much you want because it’s not a FAMILY CHARACTERISTIC. If you’ve been born of God. If you’re one of his children. There should be a FAMILY RESEMBLANCE. Ch 3 v1.

3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called CHILDREN OF GOD! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know US is that it did not know HIM.

He’s even clearer down in v9 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

Children of God should BEAR THE FAMILY RESEMBLANCE. Don’t fight it. It’s NATURAL. Love it, embrace it. IMPROVE it.

I used to HATE it, growing up, when people said, “You’re just like your father.” But the comment we should ALL long to hear is “You’re just like your HEAVENLY Father.”Just like him because you’re CONTINUING in Jesus, following him, doing everything for his glory and in his strength. You’re CELEBRATING the incredible privilege of being part of God’s family. You’re LOOKING FORWARD to your FUTURE perfection and reward. And you’re growing in obedience and in the family likeness.

What a life! What a future! What an identity! What a purpose! What have you got to feel inferior about?

1 John 1:1-2:2: The inconvenient truth

bluebottlesThe kids and I drove to Maroubra Beach the other day. It was hot, and we were looking forward to a refreshing swim.

As we walked across the sand toward the water, we were surprised by how few people were swimming. Until we saw the big sign stuck in the sand. Caution. Bluebottles! (Jellyfish with very painful stingers on their tentacles.)

They were floating everywhere in the water. So to go swimming was almost to guarantee you’d be STUNG. And there were so many washed up on the sand, you had to be very careful where you walked, or else you’d step on them.

The sign told AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. Inconvenient, because if we followed its advice, we’d miss out on a swim. And we’d go home hot and disappointed.

But, of course, it would be even MORE inconvenient if we IGNORED the truth. If we just went swimming, and got stung. And were in pain for hours afterward.

And it’s a little like that with the Christian message. It’s the inconvenient truth that everyone has SINNED. They’ve rejected God and live their own way. And they’re headed for his JUDGMENT.

It’s INCONVENIENT because nobody likes to be told they’re a SINNER. It’s just DEPRESSING. And INSULTING.

In fact, last year the anti-Scripture group, Fairness In Religion In Schools, found it SO inconvenient, they paid for a billboard in Sydney to let parents know just what their children were being taught in Scripture.

“Did you sign your child up for this?” And then a quote from a Scripture resource book: “God says you are stuck in your sin and need to be rescued from his judgment.”

The argument went that it was damaging to a child’s self-esteem, and obviously UNTRUE. And so should be STOPPED. Because, so they think, human beings are NOT THAT BAD. ESPECIALLY not little children.

And the sad truth is, I reckon about 90% of Australians think they’re RIGHT! That we’re all basically GOOD.

And there’s a RELIGIOUS version of that opinion, and you’ll find it preached in churches and temples and synagogues everywhere. In fact it’s been around for thousands of years. And it goes something like this. “We’re not that bad. And we’re getting better. And we’re all working towards God. Surely he wouldn’t judge US. We don’t need a SAVIOUR. We just need GOOD ADVICE so we can SAVE OURSELVES. So don’t preach sin and judgment.”

And we meet that sort of thinking in 1 John. It’s thinking that says, “I’m basically a good person. And that will be enough for God. There’s no danger!”

But John says anyone who thinks they’re GOOD is LYING to themselves. And, in fact, rather than walking in the light. They’re actually walking in DARKNESS. Do you see it there from v8?

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

Whoever he’s thinking about, they think they’re not that bad. They don’t need saving. And they don’t deserve judgment.

And John’s answer is that’s RUBBISH.  The TRUTH. (The INCONVENIENT truth. In lots of ways, the UPSIDE DOWN truth.) Is that to have fellowship with God, to walk in the light. To be clean and forgiven. It all begins by admitting you’re NOT clean. That you’re SINFUL. V9 9 If we CONFESS our sins, he is faithful and just and will FORGIVE us our sins and PURIFY us from all unrighteousness.  Say you HAVEN’T sinned, and you STAY in your sin. ADMIT your sin, and you’ll be forgiven and PURIFIED of it.

In SOME ways, it’s inconvenient. Because it’s admitting you’re guilty and helpless and dependent. And there’s danger of God’s JUDGMENT. But in OTHER ways it’s a WONDERFUL truth. Because you get FORGIVEN and PURIFIED!

Now there’s all sorts of theories about who John’s opponents are. But to ME it looks like the same sort of opposition Jesus faced in John’s Gospel. From the JEWISH LEADERS who, again and again, showed self-righteous pride. And refused to recognise Jesus, or their need of him.

Like in John Ch 9. There’s a blind man who Jesus heals. The Pharisees decide Jesus must be a sinner because he heals on the Sabbath. And for good measure they condemn the healed man as a sinner too.  And when Jesus hears about it he says, v39, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

The Pharisees says, “What! Are we blind TOO?” Jesus replies “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but NOW THAT YOU CLAIM YOU CAN SEE, YOUR GUILT REMAINS.” They call JESUS a sinner. But he turns it around and says that since they say they’re NOT sinful, they’re guilt REMAINS.

In other words, he’s saying, “If you admitted you were spiritually blind, I could HELP you. I could open your eyes. But by refusing to admit it, you stay GUILTY.” Which sounds JUST like what John says in his letter. “If we claim to be without sin, we DECEIVE ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  He learned it from Jesus himself! And it seems like his OPPONENTS are the same. The Jews. And some in the Christian church are LISTENING to them. And they’re GIVING UP on Jesus, and RETURNING TO JUDAISM. Because they think the JEWS are God’s people.

And so John writes his letter to show WHO GOD’S PEOPLE REALLY are. And who’s REALLY walking in the light. Who’s SINFUL, and who’s been FORGIVEN.

And while the FALSE teachers are dealing in LIES. John’s message is TRUE. And it’s based on the truth of TWO GREAT HISTORICAL EVENTS. The RESURRECTION of Jesus, and the DEATH of Jesus.

First, the resurrection. That’s verses 1-4. 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have SEEN with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have TOUCHED-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life APPEARED; we have SEEN it and TESTIFY to it, and we PROCLAIM to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has APPEARED to us. 3 We PROCLAIM to you what we have SEEN and HEARD, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our JOY complete.

He’s talking about Jesus. And the truth of his appearing. John and the other disciples SAW him, HEARD him and TOUCHED him. And they TESTIFIED the TRUTH about him.

It COULD BE he’s talking about Jesus’ life in GENERAL. But I reckon he’s thinking of the RESURRECTION. In particular because of the words “appearing”, “seeing”, “touching” and “testifying”. Seeing and touching and testifying aren’t things the disciples did much of BEFORE the resurrection. But we see it all the way through John’s account of the resurrection, in ch 20.

First up, Mary from v14 of John 20. She HEARS Jesus, then turns and SEES him, and it seems like she gives him a HUG, (TOUCHES him) because he says in v17, “Don’t HOLD ONTO ME. Instead, go and TELL the brothers.” And v18, she goes and TESTIFIES, “I’ve SEEN the LORD!”

Next up, the disciples. They’re together behind locked doors. Jesus appears, and says, Don’t be afraid. They HEAR him, SEE him, even his hands and side. And, v20, they’re OVERJOYED when they SAW the Lord.

Then there’s THOMAS. Who wasn’t there. He says, “Unless I SEE him and TOUCH the holes where the nails were, I won’t believe.” And that’s what HAPPENS. Jesus APPEARS, Thomas HEARS him, and SEES him and TOUCHES him. And he BELIEVES, “My LORD and my GOD!” he responds.

And, into Ch 21, we see that Jesus “APPEARED” again at Galilee, v1. And again in v14, this was the THIRD time Jesus had “APPEARED”.  And finally, down in v24, John wraps it all up by saying that he’s the one who WITNESSED it all. “THIS is the disciple who TESTIFIES to these things. And his TESTIMONY is TRUE.”

I hope you can hear all of that echoing through these opening verses of John’s LETTER. The life APPEARED. RESURRECTED life! Right inside a locked room! And we SAW him and HEARD him and TOUCHED him. And we TESTIFY to the TRUTH of what we heard and saw.

Why emphasise the resurrection so STRONGLY? Because people are IGNORING it. They’re listening to the Jewish leaders, and turning their BACK on the resurrection, and pretending it hasn’t happened. We’ll see next week how that SHOWS ITSELF by denying that Jesus is the Messiah. (That he’s God’s anointed king.)  They think the resurrection changes NOTHING, when the truth is/ the RESURRECTION changes EVERYTHING.

The Jews think they’re God’s people WITHOUT Jesus. They claim to have fellowship with God. But they’re ignoring the living WORD of God, who CAME from the Father.  But not John. Instead, he LISTENS to him. And declares the MESSAGE HE HEARD. V5.

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

It’s an uncompromising message. An inconvenient truth. That God is pure and holy, and won’t permit sin. And we don’t like to HEAR it.  And it’s inconvenient because of its RELEVANCE to us. V6. The logical conclusion of v5.  6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

You can’t say you’re in fellowship with a holy GOD while at the same time not living a holy LIFE. That’s living A LIE. I hope that’s not YOU.

Same thing with saying you don’t SIN. That’s v8 we read earlier. Anyone who says THAT is FOOLING themselves.  8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

But not only that, you’re calling GOD a liar. V10. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make HIM out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

That’s LIES. The opposite of which is TRUTH. Which is what John’s declaring. V9. We read it earlier.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will FORGIVE us our sins and PURIFY us from all unrighteousness.

Don’t pretend you haven’t sinned. The TRUTH sets you FREE. The solution begins with admitting you have a PROBLEM. And when you CONFESS it, God FORGIVES it, and purifies you. In a way the Jewish teachers can NEVER match.

How can John be so SURE of that cleansing? Firstly, God is FAITHFUL AND JUST. He’s TRUE, in the face of all the lies. He’s reliable, and consistent.

But that’s not all. We can ALSO be sure of forgiveness because of the OTHER true historical event. Jesus’ DEATH. V7.

7 But if we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and THE BLOOD OF JESUS, HIS SON, PURIFIES US FROM ALL SIN.

Just like the sin offering cleansed the Jewish believer from sin. But BETTER. Purified from ALL sin. Once, and for ALL. Is that purification and forgiveness that YOU know?

He spells it out in more detail into Ch 2.  2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody DOES sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the ATONING SACRIFICE for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Not just a passive, dumb goat, whose blood is poured out as a symbol of punishment. But an active, powerful, living advocate, who presents our legal defence to the Father. A defence based on HIS OWN obedience.

And he’s the RIGHTEOUS One. Who always acts with TRUTH. Who better to represent us?

And not just PURIFYING, like soap or disinfectant. But satisfying the JUST WRATH of the Father. That’s what the word translated as “atoning sacrifice” means. Other translations have PROPITIATION. Which means SATISFACTION of WRATH.

And the extraordinary truth for his Jewish readers was that this satisfaction didn’t just happen for JEWS who were kept the laws of the sacrificial system. It was a sacrifice for GENTILES TOO! And it meant satisfaction of God’s wrath against the sins of the WHOLE WORLD.

And all it takes is FAITH on the part of the sinner. Faith in the effectiveness of Jesus’ sacrifice. Is that faith YOU have?

And the result is a new nation. No longer Jew OR Gentile. But now Jew AND Gentile. No longer enemies. But FAMILY.

Which has been the whole point of the apostles’ teaching. See what he says back up in Ch 1 v3? So that people will have fellowship with each other. As they come to know Jesus. V3.

3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have FELLOWSHIP with us. And OUR fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.

And that’s the good thing about TRUTH. Even inconvenient truth. Truth sets you FREE. It gives you CONFIDENCE. And it gives you JOY. And it leads to FELLOWSHIP.

It’s walking in the LIGHT. It’s seeing clearly, and walking without stumbling. It’s certainty. Assurance. Certainty of your forgiveness and your fellowship. Because it depends on Jesus’ work, rather than yours.

And it’s JOY because it’s fellowship with OTHERS who walk in the light. Truthful openness and transparent accountability.

And joy before GOD. Because you know you’re accepted by him. And your past has been dealt with. And your future is SURE.

Is that YOUR experience? It CAN be.

All those things –freedom, forgiveness, light, confidence, joy and fellowship – they all come as we LISTEN TO THE TRUTH REVEALED IN GOD’S WORD. Truth about ourselves, and about Jesus, and about God’s promises.

Which is why the Bible is the focus of everything we do. And that’s TRUTH worth making a PRIORITY. Truth worth giving your LIFE to.

1 John 2:3-27: The power of words

bullies-victim-110429When children are being made fun of, sometimes parents tell them to say: “Sticks and stones might break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

But that’s just RUBBISH, isn’t it? Because words can hurt FAR MORE than a pinch or a punch. Physical pain goes away, but the hurt of words can last a LIFETIME. Words like, “You’re USELESS. I don’t love you anymore. You’re FAT. I hate you.” Words are POWERFUL. They can be powerful in the DAMAGE they do. But they can also be powerful in the GOOD they do.

And this passage in 1 John is all about BOTH types of words. Lies that DAMAGE. And TRUTH that does GOOD.

Remember John’s writing the letter to warn about false teachers. (People spreading LIES.) Notice how many times John mentions THEIR WORDS. Look back in Chapter 1 first. V6

6 If we CLAIM to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we LIE and do not live by the truth.

Then v8. 8 If we CLAIM to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the TRUTH IS NOT IN US.

And again in v10.  If we CLAIM we have not sinned, we make him out to be a LIAR and his word has no place in our lives.

And then as we move into Ch 2. There’s v4.  The man who SAYS, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a LIAR, and the truth is not in him.”

And again in v6 Whoever CLAIMS to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

And then down in v9. Anyone who CLAIMS to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.

Lies TESTED

It’s all about the WORDS THEY SPEAK. Because words are POWERFUL. There were people in church CLAIMING all sorts of things, CLAIMING to be part of God’s people. But they were LIES.

So how can you IDENTIFY them? How can you tell the LIARS, from the REST? John says the way to TEST the lies is to look at their LIFE. Because their LIFESTYLE gives them away. Their ACTIONS shouts louder than their WORDS.

Like v4 – they SAY they know God, but THEY DON’T OBEY HIM. LIARS! Or v9. They CLAIM to be in the light, but they HATE THEIR BROTHER. Liars!

The TRUTH is, v11, they’re NOT in the light. They’re stumbling around in the darkness, BLIND! No matter what they SAY! The TRUTH is they’re NOT keeping God’s commands, and they HATE THE BROTHERS.

And because they’re SPEAKING all these WORDS, they’re not just putting THEMSELVES in danger, but they’re leading OTHER PEOPLE into danger TOO. Danger of God’s JUDGMENT.

Words like THAT are even MORE damaging than insults like “You’re USELESS. I don’t love you anymore. You’re FAT. I hate you.”

So who ARE they? John finally gets round to giving us a bit of information down in v18 of Ch 2. Up to this point he’s been speaking GENERALLY – (“If WE claim to be without sin… THE MAN who says… ANYONE who claims to be in the light…”)

But have a look from v18. Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, EVEN NOW MANY ANTICHRISTS HAVE COME. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 THEY WENT OUT FROM US, BUT THEY DID NOT REALLY BELONG TO US. For if they had belonged to us, they would have REMAINED with us; but their going showed that none of them BELONGED to us.

We’ll come back to the antichrist in a moment. But notice firstly he’s describing people who USED to be part of the Christian community. But then they LEFT.

For a while they’d LOOKED like Christians, but by LEAVING, they showed their true colours. They were NEVER REALLY CHRISTIAN AT ALL. In fact, they’re ANTI-Christ.

And then v20, the CONTRAST. The GENUINE Christian knows the TRUTH, because God’s Holy Spirit GUIDES him. But, in comparison, look at v22. It’s ANOTHER way to test who the LIAR is. Who is the liar? It is the man who DENIES THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST. Such a man is the antichrist. He denies THE FATHER and the Son.

A liar is revealed by WHAT HE SAYS ABOUT JESUS. It doesn’t matter what OTHER things you say you believe. Or even what you DO. If you deny that Jesus is the Christ, you can’t KNOW GOD HIMSELF.

But what’s it mean that Jesus IS the CHRIST? You know, we sometimes hear “JESUS” and “CHRIST” together so often, we assume “Christ” is a SURNAME. But it’s a TITLE. It’s the GREEK version of the Hebrew word, MESSIAH. It means “Anointed One”. And it’s the title for GOD’S PROMISED KING.

And these false teachers had taken a look at Jesus. And come to the conclusion that he WASN’T the Messiah. A good teacher perhaps, or a prophet, or miracle worker. But not the Messiah. And certainly not GOD. But they didn’t just BELIEVE that, it’s what they SAID. They DENIED he was the Christ. More SPEAKING. So other people were INFLUENCED by their lies. The power of words! And so, John calls people like that ANTICHRIST. AGAINST Christ.

And what you SAY ABOUT JESUS is a key theological test for John. He comes back to it again and again through the letter. Like down in Ch 4, v2

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that JESUS CHRIST HAS COME IN THE FLESH is from God, 3 but every spirit that does NOT acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist,

Or 4:15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God

Or 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God

And again in v5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

(Perhaps he REPEATS it so much because he wants to cancel out the power of the LIES.)

In fact, John was on about the same theme when he wrote his GOSPEL. In chapter 20 v31, he says why he wrote THAT.

31 But these are written that you may believe that JESUS IS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, and that by believing you may have life in his name

Why is it so important to believe that JESUS is the Messiah? Because there were OTHERS who were COMPETING for the title. The Jews had been waiting for God’s promised Messiah for centuries. And there’d been a number of FALSE Messiahs who’d come on the scene. Like Judas Maccabeus. 160BC. Led a revolt against the Romans. People got excited. But then he was KILLED. NOT the Messiah. Or Simon of Perea, 4BC. SAID he was the Messiah. Led a rebellion. But he was killed by the Romans. NOT the Messiah. Or Judas of Galilee, AD6, leads a violent rebellion. People FOLLOW him. But he’s EXECUTED. Or Theudas, AD46. Josephus says, he led a great crowd of people out to the Jordan. And promised to divide the river so they could cross over. But the Roman governor sent out a troop, killed many of the crowd. Took Theudas captive, then cut off his head, and sent it to Jerusalem. Again, NOT the Messiah. All DEAD.

But then there’s JESUS. And he appears. And he attracts a crowd. But he never builds an army. And, just like God’s promised king, he brings God’s kingdom NEAR. And there’s life and peace and blessing and healing. But then he TOO is executed. And the hopes of the nation are DASHED.

But here’s what sets Jesus apart. And it’s why the TITLE “Christ” has been connected to “Jesus” so closely for two thousand years that it gets mistaken for his surname. HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD. We saw it LAST week. It’s the foundation John bases his own life and ministry on. And why he’s so SURE he has the truth. V1 of Ch 1.

1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 THE LIFE APPEARED; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life

And the REST of the disciples concentrate on the same message. Like Acts Ch 2. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost. V22.

22Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know… and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24But GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him… 32GOD HAS RAISED THIS JESUS TO LIFE, and we are all WITNESSES of it… 36Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has MADE this Jesus, whom you crucified, both LORD AND CHRIST (or Messiah).

It’s the RESURRECTION that SHOWS Jesus as the Christ. It’s God’s STAMP of AUTHENTICITY. Where God VINDICATES him. Where he ANSWERS ALL THE CRITICS. Where he sets the records straight. Where he ENTHRONES him as KING.

It’s the RESURRECTION that sets Jesus apart from all the pretenders. All the other pseudo-Messiahs. In fact, it’s what sets CHRISTIANITY apart from all the other world religions. And it’s the best answer possible to the false teachers, these antichrists, who say Jesus ISN’T the Christ. The resurrection PROVES he’s the Christ. You see, it’s a TRUTH that’s far more than an abstract point of theology. EVERYTHING depends on it. Look at what it means if you deny that Jesus is the Christ. V23. No one who denies the Son HAS THE FATHER; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

The Jews were saying you could know God, but dismiss Jesus. And the false teachers were listening to them. And convincing OTHERS. But John says, “LIES!” If you reject the One the Father SENT, then you’ve rejected the FATHER. You can’t know GOD if you don’t know JESUS. That would be SHOCKING to Jews. Then, OR today. Jews think they’re being faithful to God by rejecting Jesus. But John says all it means is they’re not in a relationship with God. No matter HOW well they keep the Torah. What you think about JESUS reflects whether you know GOD. THAT’S why the resurrection is so important. Because it PROVES Jesus is the Christ.

If you’re still investigating Christianity. The RESURRECTION is the miracle you need to focus on. If you’re convinced of THAT ONE, all the OTHERS become easier to accept. In fact the rest of the BIBLE just opens up once you accept THAT one.

TRUTH tested

That’s the FALSE teachers. And their LIES. (How to TEST them.) But John ALSO writes truth to CORRECT the lies. So that the TRUE Christians aren’t led ASTRAY. In fact, he tells us again and again that’s why he wrote. Like v21. Perhaps the key verse in the whole letter. Why does he write? 21 I do NOT write to you because you do NOT know the truth, but (I write) BECAUSE YOU DO KNOW IT and because no lie comes from the truth.

He writes to TRUE believers because they already KNOW THE TRUTH. And he wants them to REMAIN in it. And be CONFIDENT in it. And not believe the LIES that DESTROY.

He says the same thing a few verses earlier. Back up in v12. Why does he write?

I write to you, dear children, BECAUSE YOUR SINS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN ON ACCOUNT OF HIS NAME. 13 I write to you, fathers, because you have KNOWN HIM WHO IS FROM THE BEGINNING. I write to you, young men, because you HAVE OVERCOME THE EVIL ONE.

Again and again he says the same thing. He writes to THIS group of people / because THEY ALREADY BELIEVE. And he’s WARNING them about ANOTHER group of people.

I think that’s what he’s doing in verses 12-14 DEFINING THE BOUNDARY. Between the liars, who walk in the DARKNESS. And those in THE LIGHT.

Again and again, in different ways, and repeating himself. Words are SO powerful, and the LIES are so DANGEROUS. He wants to keep speaking the TRUTH. To make sure they KNOW IT. Words of affirmation! He writes to them BECAUSE of who they are. So they’ll REMAIN as they are. And he gives them a number of TESTS to HELP. Diagnostic questions to show they DO belong to Jesus. Just like the tests to identify the LIES. Like back in v5. A series of comparisons. Like those kids puzzles in the newspaper. Spot the difference. Two pictures that are ALMOST the same. And the puzzle is to notice THREE DIFFERENCES.

Look at the two pictures. The COUNTERFEITS and the CHRISTIANS. V5. Liars DISobey God’s words. But if someone OBEYS God’s word, his love for God is TRULY made complete in him. Obedience is the END GOAL of love. In other words, we SHOW we love God when we VALUE and TRUST him enough to DO WHAT HE SAYS. God’s love language is acts of service. That’s how we know we are in him. Just SAYING you love God doesn’t mean you DO. Or v6. The same idea. Walk as Jesus did, and that BACKS UP your claim that you live IN him.

Or down in v10. The liar HATES his brother. But, in comparison, if you LOVE the brothers, that shows you’re living in the light. Someone might be the most gifted, persuasive speaker in the world. But if he can’t be bothered to meet with other Christians. If he thinks he’s too good to be part of a normal group of God’s people, and to hold himself accountable. If there’s no LOVE for the BROTHERS. Then perhaps he’s not speaking THE TRUTH.

But not just BEHAVIOUR. ANOTHER test is what you BELIEVE. Down in v20. Because you’ve got the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit, you KNOW THE TRUTH. What’s the TRUTH? V23. Whoever ACKNOWLEDGES THE SON has the Father. That means YOU BELIEVE AS TRUE EVERYTHING THE BIBLE TEACHES ABOUT JESUS. That he’s God’s Son, eternally with the Father. That he became fully man. That he died, and that God raised him from the dead, and seated him at his right hand, and declared him to be LORD and CHRIST. Believe THAT, and you have the Father.

And that rules out Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and a stack of OTHER religions. AS well as the non-religious Aussie who thinks he’s a good bloke, and that will be enough. They all believe SOME things about Jesus. But not ALL the Bible teaches about the Father and the Son.

But John wants to see people who BELIEVE Jesus is the Christ. Who KNOW him. And who LIVE that OUT in OBEDIENCE and LOVE. Who walk as Jesus did because they’re IN him. And who aren’t swayed by lies.

OBEDIENCE, LOVE, and BELIEF. They’re the three tests John’s going to come back to again and again through this letter. Is that YOU? Do you BELIEVE Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Does your life show EVIDENCE that you’re IN Jesus? Are you WALKING like him? Is the love you have for God reaching its end goal in that you’re DOING WHAT HE SAYS?

And are you LOVING THE BROTHERS? Committed to them. Giving up your time and your emotions and your possessions for them? You won’t be PERFECT. But are you CHANGING? (Are you a different person to who you USED to be?)

If that’s YOU, then you can be CONFIDENT that God’s at work in you by his Spirit. You can have ASSURANCE of your salvation. You’re one of those John’s writing to. I write to you, dear children, BECAUSE YOUR SINS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN ON ACCOUNT OF HIS NAME.

What’s next?

So what’s NEXT? John’s answer is, “Keep DOING it!” “More of the SAME!” Let the GOOD words – the words of TRUTH – SINK IN. Look down from v24.

24 See that WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD from the beginning REMAINS in you. If it does, you also will REMAIN IN THE SON AND IN THE FATHER. 25 And this is what he promised us-EVEN ETERNAL LIFE.

Let TRUE words REMAIN in you. Soak up the words of affirmation John’s been speaking. Let them SINK in. Meditate on them. Sing them. Believe them. Obey them. Love them. Live them.

And don’t just let true words influence YOU. But SPEAK good, true words to each other. Words that BUILD UP, rather than TEAR DOWN. Words that encourage, and guide, and correct. Because words ARE POWERFUL. And as we speak to one another like THAT, God USES it to keep us IN HIM. In fact, even HIS Spirit speaks to us. Look at how John finishes this section. V27

27 As for you, the anointing you received from him (that’s the Holy Spirit) remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing TEACHES you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit-just as he has taught you, REMAIN IN HIM.