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Category Archives: 1 John

It All Comes Down To Love

Sometimes, the simplest commands are often the hardest to obey. Three times in his first letter, the apostle John instructs his readers to “love one another” (2:7-11; 3:11-18; 4:7-21). It is a simple, straightforward command. Yet, it is difficult to practice in daily life.

Instead of showing love by listening, we monopolize the conversation. We criticize instead of affirming. We believe the universe revolves around us. We demonstrate indifference, respond in anger, and are unwilling to forgive. All of these work to destroy relationships.

In 1 John 4:7-21, John makes the argument that Because God loves us and lives in us, we are to love one another. John instructs Christ followers to love one another three times in the passage with a fourth time as an implication.

We are to love others because God loves us (7-10). John’s exhortation to love one another is based on the fact of God and his love. He relates our responsibility back to God’s character and example. Our responsibility to love is rooted in God’s character (7, 8). The proof of God’s love for people is that he sent his only Son to provide eternal life for us (9-10). When we love others, it identifies us as followers of Jesus (7). If we don’t love others, we really do not know God (8)

We are to love others because God lives in us (11-16). The demonstration of love by God is our model for showing love to others. As God manifested love in us then by sending Jesus Christ, so he manifests his love among us now as we love one another. The unseen God reveals himself through the visible love of his followers (12). No one has seen God in his pure essence without some kind of filter. Whenever we love one another we make it possible for God to “abide” in close fellowship with us. Furthermore God’s love reaches a fullness and depth in us that is possible only when we love one another. When we put our trust in Christ, God comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit (13-15). If we don’t love others, God is not in our life (16)

We are to love others because God’s love is perfected with us (17-21). The demonstration of love by God is our model for showing love to others. As God manifested love in us then by sending Jesus Christ, so he manifests his love among us now as we love one another. Full grown love produces confidence (17-18). Our love becomes complete in the sense that we can now have confidence as we anticipate our day of judgment. We need not fear the judgment seat of Christ if we have demonstrated love to others. God took the initiative to love us and we responded to him (19). Our ability to love and our practice of love come from God’s love for us. We are to love the members of God’s family (20-21). Love for the unseen God will find expression in love for our brothers and sisters whom we can see. It is easier to love someone we can see than it is to love someone we cannot see. If we don’t love others, we are lying about our relationship with God and have reason to fear the Day of Judgment (17, 20)

Because God loves us, we are to love one another. Because God lives in us, we are to love one another. Because God’s love is perfected in us, we are to love one another. How can you demonstrate love this week?

During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound. The soldier’s fiancé had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell’s heart was touched and he said, “Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. Curfew shall not ring tonight!”

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 30, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
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1 John 4:19

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in 1 John, Scripture

 

Don’t Settle 4 Fool’s Gold

Eureka! This simple Greek word—meaning “I have found it!”—became the life slogan for thousands of California gold prospectors in the mid-1800s. It summed up every treasure hunter’s dream and expressed the thrill of striking pay dirt. For James Marshall (the first to discover the precious metal in 1848) and the “forty-niners” who followed him, the term meant instant riches, early retirement, and a life of carefree ease.

However, world-be prospectors quickly learned that not everything that glittered was indeed gold. Riverbeds and rock quarries could be full of golden specks that were entirely worthless. This “fool’s gold” was iron pyrite, and miners had to be careful to distinguish it from the real thing.

In the same way, Christians must learn how to distinguish teaching which is biblical and sound from that which is not. We need to be wary of spiritual fool’s gold. That is the subject that the apostle John addresses in 1 John 4:1-6.

Don’t believe every teacher who comes along (1). Some of John’s readers were being swept away by false teachers. John is telling them to take the time to test and see if what they are being taught is true.

Some theology being taught today is the equivalent of eating a candy bar. It is sweet, tasty, and filling, but it has absolutely no nutritional value. In fact, it can blunt your appetite for healthier fare. Rather than blindly consuming everything we hear, we need to put it to the test and see if it is true or not. John provides two tests we can use.

Test #1: What do they say about Jesus? (2-3). In the same way you can identify a follower of Christ by their works, you can identify a false teacher by their message. Rather than ask, “Do you believe in Jesus?” we should ask, “What do you believe about Jesus?” A false teacher will err on either the humanity or the deity of Christ.

Test #2: Who are they listening to? (4-6). John reminds his listeners that they are victors, that they have overcome. They are not necessarily more intelligent or more skilled than false teachers, but they possess the Holy Spirit. In contrast, the false teachers are listening to the world (4-5) rather than to the truth (6). A teacher’s doctrinal beliefs are often revealed by the character of their followers.

As Christ followers, we must practice discernment. Get into the Scriptures for yourself on a regular basis. Ask God for wisdom to know truth from error. Ask God to give you ears to hear and a heart to obey.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 23, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Confident Assurance

You sit down and start to pray. As you begin interceding for an unsaved friend, a thought pops into your head, “Are you qualified to pray for anyone? Your life is so inconsistent. You’re no better than they are. In fact, you’re a hypocrite because you don’t even practice your faith.”

Is it possible to have confidence about our relationship with God? Is it possible to come into God’s presence with boldness? These are questions that many of us wrestle with. The apostle John answers these questions with a strong statement of assurance, “By this we know … we have confidence before God … by this we know” (1 John 3:19, 21, 24). He explains that when we love God by loving others, we enjoy a clear conscience and an effective prayer life.

In the previous passage (11-18), John explains the importance of loving one another. He states that love is not murder, hatred, or indifference. Instead, love is sacrificial. The evidence of love is not in our words, but rather in our actions. By loving other people, we demonstrate the fact that we truly love God.

When we love God by loving others, we gain confidence before God (19-20). By stating, “By this we know that we are of the truth …” John is building on his instruction in verse 18 to love one another. Loving others demonstrates we are followers of Jesus. This fact will provide reassurance when our conscience pricks us.

Someone once said there are three types of people: (1) Those whose consciences are seared or in the process of being repressed into silence. They feel no guilt at all. (2) Those whose consciences are attuned to a taskmaster God who is impatient and never satisfied. They labor under a load of false guilt. (3) Those who consciences are attuned to a God who is holy and also compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness. They deal with their guilt by confessing their sins and enjoying God’s forgiveness.

When we love God by loving others, we gain confidence in prayer (21-22). Once our hearts no longer condemn us, we can have confidence before God. We can come boldly into his presence knowing that he hears and answers our requests. However, the promise of answered prayer is directly related to our obedience and willingness to please God. Power in prayer does not come from occasional bursts of obedience, but from lives of habitual obedience.

When we love God by loving others, we gain confidence about our relationship with God (23-24). John reminds his readers that there is only one central command—believe in Jesus and love others. You cannot believe without loving nor love without believing. The Christian life demands an essential union between faith and love.

John closes this section the same way he started. He uses the phrase, “by this we know …” The primary evidence of our mutual abiding experience in God is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This statement prepares John’s readers for what follows in 4:1, testing the spirits.

When we love God by loving others, we can enjoy a clear conscience and an effective prayer life.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church on April 2, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

The Mark of the Christian

In 1 John 2:28, the apostle John challenges his readers with the statement, “Abide in him.” That leads a thinking person to ask the question, “How can I know for sure if I am abiding in Christ?” John answers that question in 2:28-3:10 by explaining that one who abides in Christ will practice righteousness. Rather than continuing in a lifestyle of sinful habits, a Christ follower will develop habits and a lifestyle that pleases God.

In 3:11-24, John adds that how we treat other people will also reveal whether or not we are following Christ. A Christ follower will obey the command, “Love one another.” In 3:11-18, John says that we do this because of what Christ did for us on the cross. Because Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for us, we should demonstrate our love for one another.

John’s thesis statement in found in verse 11, “Love one another.” As he explains, this was something Jesus taught during his ministry on earth. It is part of the gospel (John 13:34). It proves that we are Christians (1 John 3:14). It proves we follow Jesus (John 13:35). It proves that Jesus was sent by God (John 17:21).

Love is one of those concepts where we all assume we know what we are talking about. In reality, we often have different definitions. Before describing what love is, John states what love is not.

Love is not murder (12). In contrast with love, hate destroys and kills. John mentions Cain killing his brother, Abel, without any details or qualifications. He simply says he belonged to the devil and that he murdered his brother.

Love is not hatred (13-15). John moves from an individual example to a corporate example. In the same way that Cain killed his brother because he was righteous, sometimes the world hates Christ followers for the same reason. Anyone who lacks love has a heart filled with hate. There is no middle ground. And hatred eventually ends in murder, as Cain proved.

Love is not indifference (17). While we may not have the opportunity to die in someone’s place, we can do the next best thing by helping others during a time of need. When we have resources but close our hearts towards others, we demonstrate we are self-centered.

After saying what love is not, John now defines what love is. Love is self-sacrifice (16). John points to the supreme example of love, namely, Jesus Christ. We know what love is because we have heard the message of the gospel.

Self-sacrificial love means a readiness to do anything for other people. It might involve giving up our—money, time, agenda, preferences, control, possessions, listening ear, vacation, desire to be right, desire to be liked—in order to meet the needs of others.

Ultimately, love is action (18). Love is not words or talk, but rather deeds and truth. Love is not merely a verbal profession, it is a vital performance.

Because Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for us, we should demonstrate our love for one another.

“Father, help me to see ___________ as you do. Help me to be willing to give up my __________ for others.”

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 12, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
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Love one another

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Posted by on March 10, 2017 in 1 John, Quotes, Scripture

 

Does Practice Make Perfect?

My teachers lied to me. For years, I was told, “Practice makes perfect.” However, the more I practiced—piano, trumpet, French horn, tennis, spelling, typing—I worse I got. I discovered that practice does not make perfect. Only PERFECT practice makes perfect.

It matters greatly what you are practicing. The apostle John addresses this issue in 1 John 3:4-10 by posing the question, “Do you practice sin, or do you practice righteousness?” What you practice will determine your outcome.

The apostle John begins this section of his letter with the instruction, “Abide in him” (2:28). In 2:28-3:3, he encourages his readers to look forward to the return of Christ. “Because Christ is coming soon,” he argues, “we should avoid sin so we are ready to meet him.” In 3:4-10, John encourages his readers to look backwards to the death of Christ. “Because of what Christ did on the cross,” he says, “we should avoid sin and practice righteousness.”

John warns his readers not to be deceived about sin (7). On the one hand, some false teachers were saying you could achieve sinless perfection. On the other hand, there were those who taught sin wasn’t real. As the various options below indicate, some of those beliefs are still held today. (The list is adapted from How to Be a Christian Without Being Perfect, by Fritz Ridenour. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1986, p.119-120.)

  • Option #1: Real Christians do not sin, period. (Held by perfectionists.)
  • Option #2: Real Christians might commit minor sin, but nothing major like murder. (Similar to Roman Catholic doctrine.)
  • Option #3: Real Christians don’t sin because God has a different standard for them than he has for unbelievers. (Gnostics held that their “secret knowledge” put them “beyond sin.”)
  • Option #4: Real Christians don’t sin in their “new nature” although their old nature might slip up from time to time. (It’s the idea that the “born-again” spirit cannot sin, but the body still does.)
  • Option #5: Real Christians sin in reality but have an ideal goal or standard not to sin. (Possibly fits in with 3:1-2.)
  • Option #6: The real Christian does not commit habitual, consistent sin as he did before salvation. (Knowing Christ doesn’t make one perfect, but there is a definite difference. This position makes the most sense.)

The main idea John wants to communicate in this passage is that Christ followers should avoid sin and practice righteousness because Jesus died on the cross for our sins. John repeats himself twice in presenting his case. The following chart helps us understand the flow of John’s argument. (The chart is adapted from The Epistles of John, by John R. W. Stott. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1960, p,121.)

Verses 4-7

Verses 8-10

The introductory phrase “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning” (4) “Whoever makes a practice of sinning” (8)
The theme The nature of sin is lawlessness (4) The origin of sin is the devil (8)
The purpose of Christ’s appearing “…he appeared to take away sins” (5) “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (8)
The logical conclusion “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning” (6) “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning” (9)

John’s point is that the practice or habit of sin is incompatible with the child of God. He gives four reasons to strengthen his argument: (1) Sin is not merely a mistake. Sin is a criminal act against God’s law. (2) Sin is incompatible with the Christian walk because of the nature of Christ’s person and work. (3) Sin is incompatible because of its source. Sin originates with Satan. (4) Not only is sin incompatible, it is impossible for the child of God. The habitual practice of sin should cause one to question whether their salvation is real or not.

How should a believer handle sin? Thus far, the apostle John has provided four helpful guidelines on how to deal with sin:

  • Pursue holiness, but don’t expect perfection (1:8)
  • Acknowledge your sin quickly (1:9)
  • Remember that you have an Advocate (2:1)
  • Remember that Christ died for your sins (2:2)

The only question that remains is, “What will you practice this week? Will you practice … Sin? … Righteousness?”

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 5, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.