Monday, July 14, 2014

How Can I Be Sure That I Have Eternal Life?

Part 11 of Authentic, a series on 1 John

Text: 1 John 5:6-13

You can listen to this sermon here.

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (vv. 11-12).

What's Most Important? 

What do you have planned for the rest of your summer? A summer vacation? A home improvement project? Weekends at the cottage?

In the busyness of life, we sometimes forget about what is most important. There is nothing more important than having eternal life. How can I be sure that I have eternal life?

A Perplexing Passage

To what do “the water and the blood” refer (v. 6)? Gary Burge writes that “First John 5:6 is perhaps the most perplexing verse in all of the Johannine letters” (Letters of John, 201).  The most common interpretation is that “the water” refers to the baptism of Jesus, and “the blood” refers to his crucifixion. Since John’s opponents apparently didn’t agree with him on “the blood” (“not by the water only, but by the water and the blood”), it could be that they were de-emphasizing the cross.

Why does the KJV contain a statement about the Trinity (v. 7) that is not found in modern translations? The KJV reads, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” Most Greek manuscripts don’t include these words, and undoubtedly they were not in John’s original letter.

Having Eternal Life

“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life” (v. 11). Eternal life is not something we receive when we die; it’s a present possession. “Gave” is in the past tense. John is writing to people who already have eternal life. Also, eternal life is more than a quantity of life; it’s a quality of life. Jesus said that he came to earth so that people could “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Of the 136 occurrences of “life” (zoe) in the NT, 66 of them are found in John’s writings. To have eternal life is to pass “out of death into life” (3:14; cf. John 5:24). To have eternal life is to “not perish” (John 3:16; 10:28). To have eternal life is to avoid “the wrath of God” (John 3:36). To have eternal life is to “never be thirsty again” (John 4:14; cf. 6:35). To have eternal life is to “not come into judgment” (John 5:24; cf. v. 29). To have eternal life is to be raised up on the last day (John 6:40, 54). To have eternal life is to “not walk in darkness,” but “have the light of life” (John 8:12). To have eternal life is to live after death (John 11:25). To have eternal life is to know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent (John 17:3).

How can we be sure that we have eternal life?

1. If you have eternal life, your faith is in Jesus. 

“And this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (vv. 11-12). To “have” Jesus is to have him abiding in you. When you have something, it does its thing for you (John Piper, "He Who Has the Son Has Life"). For example, if you have a car, it does its thing for you: gives you transportation. If you have Jesus, he does his thing for you: gives you eternal life.

Jesus abides in those who believe in him (v. 13). We must do more have beliefs about Jesus; we must have believe in him. In other words, we must trust in him. If you are going on a trip, you must trust in your car. Some cars aren’t reliable, but Jesus is always reliable. When we trust in what he has done for us through his death and resurrection, we have the Son and eternal life.

2. If you have eternal life, your desires have been changed. 

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (v. 13). Throughout 1 John, John has been writing that people who have eternal life have a desire to obey God and love others. We don’t earn eternal life by obeying and loving, but our desire to obey and love is a sign that we have eternal life.

Make Sure 

We’re told to make sure we do certain things (e.g., brush your teeth, get a good education, save for retirement).

But we must make sure that we have eternal life. And also make sure we do what we can so that others also receive eternal life. Nothing is more important than having eternal life.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What Is Faith?

Part 10 of Authentic, a series on 1 John

Text: 1 John 5:1-5

You can listen to this sermon here.

Who is he that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (v. 5).

Mocking Faith 

If you’re someone who regularly uses Facebook or Twitter, you’ve probably come across several anti-Christian memes. Someone I follow on Twitter has created a fake atheist Twitter account. The account has over 400 followers. All he does is tweet silly anti-religion memes. For example: "Faith: Pretending to know things you don’t know." "Give me an 'F.' Give me an 'A.' Give me an 'I.' Give me a 'T.' Give me an 'H.' What have you got? No evidence!" "Science adjusts its views based on what’s observed. Faith is denial of observation so that belief can be preserved."

Are Christians foolish for having faith? No. Usually, when Christian faith is mocked, the person doing the mocking doesn’t understand what Christian faith really is. What is faith?

Real Faith

John writes that every person who has been born of God “believes” (vv. 1, 5). Faith is essential to the Christian life.

1. Faith is well-founded belief. 

A “well-founded” belief is “based on good reasoning, information, or judgment.” Christians believe that “Jesus is the Christ” (v. 1) and that “Jesus is the Son of God” (v. 5). John wrote his Gospel so that people would make these affirmations about Jesus: “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

What caused John to believe? It was the resurrection of Jesus. John says that he found the tomb empty except for the cloths that had been wrapped around Jesus dead body: “Then the other disciple [John]…went in [the tomb], and he saw and believed” (John 20:8). John also claims that the risen Jesus appeared to John and the other disciples (John 20:19-20).

The majority of scholars (including non-Christian scholars) accept the following facts: (1) Jesus died; (2) Jesus’ tomb was empty; and (3) Jesus’ followers (e.g., John) sincerely believed that they had seen the risen Jesus. Christians believe that the best explanation of the facts is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.

2. Faith is life-altering belief.

Faith is more than merely “believing the right things” (i.e., being theologically correct). Faith in the gospel is something that changes our lives. When we believe that “God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (4:9), we can’t help but love God. And when we love God, we seek to please him. “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (v. 3). (Those who have faith in Christ also have been given the Holy Spirit, and “the fruit of the Spirit is love,” Gal. 5:22.)

In 2:15, John wrote, “Love not the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” To “love the world” is to have the values of the world (i.e., to live for what the world is living for). To the world, God’s commandments are burdensome. The world isn’t interested in doing God’s will. But, John writes, “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (v. 4). Jesus said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26).

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How Can I Have More Love for Others?

Part 9 of Authentic, a series on 1 John

Text: 1 John 4:7-21

You can listen to this sermon here.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (v. 11).

Inspiration Needed

Is there a project that's been on your to-do list for a long time? Many times, there are things we should do that we lack inspiration to do. Loving others (i.e., giving of ourselves to help others) is something we know Christians should do. John writes, “Beloved, let us love one another” (v. 7).

Love is not an option for a follower of Jesus. Jesus himself said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). 

Our default setting is self-centeredness. We’re naturally more concerned with how other people can help us than how we can help other people. How can we have more love for others?

God’s love provides the inspiration to love others. 

God's Love Revealed 

John writes that “love is from God” (v. 7). If we want to know what love really is, we should look at what God has done for us. Verses 10 begins with the words “In this is love.” (The NLT says, “This is real love.”) John also states that “God is love” (v. 8). That’s who he is. God is continually showing love to others. The death of Jesus was a public demonstration of God’s love for us: “The love of God was made manifest among us” (v. 9).

God loves us so much that he sent his only Son to die for us. 

John emphasizes the depth of God’s love by stating that “God sent his only Son into the world” (v. 9) and that God “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (v. 10).

God’s “only Son” was sent into the world “so that we might live through him” (v. 9). The Greek word for “only” is monogenes. It’s found nine times in the NT. The word is used to described the widow of Nain’s “only son” (Luke 7:12; cf. 8:42; 9:38; Heb. 11:17). Colin Kruse writes, “In each of these cases the expression is used to add poignancy to a story by highlighting that it was the person’s ‘one and only’ child who was in dire need, threatened, or had died” (The Letters of John, 158-59). The word is found four times in the Gospel of John to describe Jesus, including 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (cf. John 1:14, 18; 3:18).

The Greek word for “propitiation” is hilasmos. In the NT, it’s found only twice—both times in 1 John (2:2; 4:10). In paganism, a propitiation was a sacrifice that appeased the wrath of a god. Christian propitiation is different. God is the one who provided the propitiation: his only Son. And God did not force his Son to die for us. Jesus willingly died: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (3:16.)

Inspired by God's Love 

Fear is not the right motivation to obey God’s command to love others. “Whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (v. 18). “Perfection in love here involves a love for God which is based upon our sense of God’s love for us, and this love relationship is what removes our fear as we face the day of judgement” (Kruse, 168-69). “There is no fear in love, but [God’s] perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment” (v. 18).

Love is the right motivation to obey God’s command to love others. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). John writes, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (v. 11). He also states, “We love because he first loved us” (v. 19).

When we realize how much God loves us, we are inspired to please him by loving others.

Did you know that every Christian should be a preacher? If you’re a Christian, you should preach daily to at least one person: yourself. We must daily preach to ourselves the gospel.

When it’s difficult to give of ourselves to others, we need to remind ourselves that God loved us so much that he gave his only Son to die for us.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How Can I Discern Between Truth and Error?

Part 8 of Authentic, a series on 1 John

Text: 1 John 4:1-6

You can listen to this sermon here.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (v. 1). 

Wolves in Disguise

Probably all of us know the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Little Red Riding Hood is deceived by a wolf who disguises itself as the girl’s grandmother.

In the New Testament, Christians are warned to watch out for wolves in disguise. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). The apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). And here in v. 1, John warns his readers, “Many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Christians must not be spiritually gullible. 

John writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (v. 1). Little Red Riding hood was deceived by the wolf because she was gullible. False teachers will not announce to us that their teaching is false, so we shouldn’t believe every teaching we hear. (Many false teachers sincerely believe their teaching is true.) How can we discern between truth and error? 

Judge Not? 

To discern is to judge. (To discern between truth and error is to make a judgment.) But didn’t Jesus say, “Judge not”? Not exactly. Jesus also said, “Judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). The words “Judge not” are found in Matthew 7:1, but to understand what Jesus really meant, we need to read Matthew 7:1-5. “Jesus was explicitly rebuking the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who were quick to see the sins of others but were blind and unwilling to hold themselves accountable to the same standard they were imposing on everyone else” (Eric J. Bargerhuff, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, 26).

Matthew 7:1 does not prohibit Christians from exposing false teaching. Paul says that one of the qualifications for an elder is that he must “be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). This doesn’t mean that Christians shouldn’t be allowed to have different views on non-essential doctrines (e.g., the millennial kingdom).

Testing the Spirits 

John says, “Test the spirits,” because he believes that there is a spiritual force behind every teaching: either the Holy Spirit or demonic spirits. Paul writes, “The Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). We are to “test everything” (1 Thess. 5:21). When trying to discern between “the Spirit of truth” and “the spirit of error,” we should ask two questions.

1. What does this person say about Jesus? 

John writes, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” (vv. 2-3). There are three essential beliefs about Jesus: (1) the man Jesus of Nazareth is God the Son; (2) Jesus is fully God and fully man; and (3) Jesus is the only source of eternal life. We must reject teaching that denies any of these truths because it will lead people astray. To detect error, we must know the truth!

2. What does the world say about this person? 

“The world” in this context refers to people who reject the gospel. Beware a “Christian” teacher who is celebrated by the world. John writes, “They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them” (v. 5).

The Importance of Doctrine 

In some versions of Little Red Riding Hood, Little Red Riding Hood gets eaten by the wolf. Sometimes being deceived has very serious consequences.

If Christians are deceived by false teaching about Jesus, the consequences will be more serious than getting eaten by a wolf.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why Is It So Important to Love Others?

Part 7 of Authentic, a series on 1 John

Text: 1 John 3:11-24

You can listen to this sermon here.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (v. 16). 

Love One Another

Have you ever caught yourself saying something that your dad always used to say when you were a kid? A couple of my dad’s favorite sayings were (and still are) “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” and “Walk in there like you own the place.” He often used those sayings when I was a teenager searching for a part-time job.

Probably you can think of a few sayings that your father liked to say. Here are some popular dad sayings. “Do you think I’m made of money?” “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” “Were you brought up in a barn?” “When I was your age….” “A little hard work never hurt anyone.” “You’ll learn someday.”

The apostle John thought of himself as a father to his readers. Several times he calls them his “little children” (e.g., v. 18). One of his favorite sayings was “Love one another.” In verse 11, he writes, “For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (v. 11).

It might be annoying to here the same sayings over and over again, but usually there is some wisdom behind a dad saying. For example, dads say “Where you brought up in a barn?” because it’s wise to close the door when you’re entering or exiting your house. My kids often neglect to close our back door, and this is probably the reason why we’ve had some mice in our house.

Why is it so important to love others?

The Importance of Loving Others

In this passage, we find two reasons why it’s important that we love others.

1. Love is necessary if we are to please our Father. 

Today (Father’s Day) is a day when people want to please their father. (Why are dads so difficult to shop for?) Of course, not every father is a good father, and many people aren’t interested in pleasing their father. But God is a perfect Father. In 3:1, John writes, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” Every child of God wants to please their heavenly Father. And what pleases God most is love: our love for him and our love for others.

In our relationships, we “should not be like Cain” (v. 12), who hated his brother and murdered him (cf. Gen. 4:1-16). We are like Cain when we hate others (especially our brothers and sisters in Christ). John says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (v. 15). He was probably thinking of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:21-22: “You have heard that it was said to those of hold, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matt. 5:21-22). John also says, “And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (v. 15). (Of course, God will forgive all sins—including murder—but John is thinking of an unrepentant murderer.)

When we know there is discord between us and another person, reconciliation should be our top priority. Jesus went on to say, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24).

In our relationships, we should be like Jesus. “He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (v. 16). The actions of Jesus define true love (“By this we know love,” v. 16). Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11; cf. vv. 15, 17, 18). He also said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13; cf. 13:34).

True love is not a do-nothing love; it’s a self-giving love. John writes, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (vv. 17-18; cf. James 2:15-16). Fathers, we’re very good at laying down ourselves on the couch, but how good are we at laying down our lives for our family? To husbands, the apostle Paul wrote, “Love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). One way we can love others is by giving them our time.

2. Love gives us confidence that we are children of God. 

There’s a logical fallacy known as the “No true Scotsman” fallacy. For example, person A says, “No Scotsman would cheer for England in the World Cup.” Person B replies, “I’m Scottish, and I’m cheering for England.” Person A says, “Well, no true Scotsman would cheer for England.” Some people would argue that John is guilty of the no true Scotsman fallacy when he says that no true Christian would continually hate others. But what John says is no different than what Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples [true Christians], if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

“By this [i.e., loving others] we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him” (v. 19). But how much love is enough to “reassure” our hearts? Sometimes “our heart condemns us” (v. 20). But John says, “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (v. 20). God knows all of our failures but will always forgive repentant sinners. John adds, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (v. 21).

Monday, June 9, 2014

What if I Don't Feel Like God's Child?

Part 6 of Authentic, a series on 1 John

Text: 1 John 2:28-3:10

You can listen to this sermon here.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God (3:2). 

Am I Good Enough?

Some of the world’s most talented people struggle with insecurity. Musician Taylor Swift has said, “I doubt myself 400,000 times per 10-minute interval.” Actor and rapper Will Smith has admitted, “I still doubt myself every single day. What people believe is my self-confidence is actually my reaction to fear.” Actress Kate Winslet has confessed, “Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud. They’re going to fire me.”

Many Christians struggle with insecurity. They think, “If I don’t feel like a child of God, maybe I’m not. Maybe I never was.” What if I don’t feel like God’s child? Why do we sometimes doubt that we are God’s children? We struggle to obey God, and we think we might not be good enough.

Nobody is good enough to be a child of God. 

But we can be God’s children because of what Christ did for us, not what we do for God. “To all who did receive [Christ], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13; cf. 3:3).

Reassuring God's Imperfect Children

In 2:28-3:10, John gives us three truths about God’s imperfect children.

1. God’s children aren’t perfect, but we are loved by God. 

We should be amazed by the love of God for us: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (3:1). God’s kind of love is a sacrificial love. He demonstrated his love for us by sending his Son to die for us (4:9-10). God’s kind of love is also an unending love. God will never un-adopt his children. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:35-39).

2. God’s children aren’t perfect, but we have the desire to be perfect. 

John writes, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning” (3:8). He’s not saying that God’s children never sin (see 1:9; 2:1). A common interpretation is that John is referring to habitual sin. Another possibility is that John is confronting people who claim that God’s children are free to sin. God’s children don’t desire to rebel against our Father.

3. God’s children aren’t perfect, but we will be made perfect by God. 

John refers to two appearings of Jesus: a first appearing (3:5, 8) and a second appearing (2:28; 3:2). “When [Christ] appears we shall be like him” (3:2). We will be “like” Jesus, not identical to him. Like Jesus, we will be morally perfect. This is the consummation of our salvation. We are “predestined to be conformed to the image of [God’s] Son” (Rom. 8:29). For the child of God, the coming of Christ is something to desire, not dread: “we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (2:28; cf. 1 Thess. 4:8; 2 Tim. 4:8; 1 Peter 4:13).

The Imposter Syndrome

Some insecure celebrities might have what is known as the imposter syndrome. According to Wikipedia, the imposter syndrome “is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved.”

Sometimes I don’t feel like a child of God. I feel like an imposter. I struggle to obey God. But the good news is that being a child of God is not based on my performance. It’s based on God’s grace. Christ died for all of my sins. I am trusting in what he has done for me, not in what I am doing for God.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God”!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Am I Believing the Truth About Jesus?

Part 5 of Authentic, a series on 1 John

Text: 1 John 2:18-27

You can listen to this sermon here.

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son (v. 22). 

The Importance of Correct Belief

In 1 John, the apostle John gives us three tests to help us determine whether or not we are authentic Christians (i.e., someone who has eternal life). The first test is the moral test: “Do I obey God?” The second test is the social test: “Do I love others?” The third test is the doctrinal test: “Do I believe the truth about Jesus?”

Have you tried this spring to rid your lawn of dandelions? My dad is not someone who is willing to accept weeds on his lawn. One spring, he decided to spray his lawn with weed killer. A few days later, he noticed brown spots all over his lawn. He told me about this, and I immediately knew what had happened. What my dad believed was weed killer was actually grass killer.

Having an incorrect belief about a bottle of grass killer was harmful to my dad’s lawn. What about what we believe about Jesus? How important is believing the truth about Jesus? Nothing is more important.

We can’t have eternal life if we don’t believe the truth about Jesus. 

There was a group of people who left John’s church over a disagreement on the doctrine of Christ. John writes that these people “denie[d] that Jesus is the Christ” (v. 22). Since they didn’t believe the truth about Jesus, they were not authentic Christians. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (v. 19).

Their denial of the truth about Jesus meant that they lacked a relationship with God. They “denie[d] the Father and the Son” (v. 22). If you deny (i.e., reject) Jesus, you also deny the Father. “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (v. 23). John is repeating what he heard from Jesus: “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23).

The Authentic Jesus

John calls the people who were denying the truth about Jesus “antichrists” (v. 18; cf. v. 22). The prefix “anti” can mean “against” (e.g., anti-aircraft) or “false.” They were antichrists because they were against Christ and teaching a false Christ.

John also states that the presence of antichrists in the world is a sign that it is “the last hour” (v. 18). How could it be the last hour? History has changed its direction. Since the death and resurrection of Jesus, history is no longer traveling toward the end; it’s traveling along the end. At any moment, Christ could return (cf. 2 Peter 3:3-10).

Until Christ returns, we should expect false teaching about Christ. The false teaching that John confronts in verse 22 might have been a denial of the incarnation (i.e., God becoming flesh)—a denial that “Jesus is the Christ” (cf. 4:2-3; 2 John 1:7). They might have believed that the divine Christ came upon the man Jesus at the time of his baptism and left him before his crucifixion.

What is the truth about Jesus? The following are four essential truths about Jesus: (1) he is God the Son; (2) he is God incarnate; (3) he died for our sins; and (4) he rose from the dead. If we don’t believe these truths, we are believing in “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4).

Two Cautions

In this passage, we find two cautions concerning false teaching about Jesus.

1. We must not sacrifice the truth about Jesus for the sake of unity. 

Both the truth and unity are vital to the life of a church. But if we don’t agree on the essential truths about Jesus, there isn’t real unity. 

2. We must be very careful when someone tell us something new about Jesus. 

The word “abide” is found several times in verses 24 and 27. John says that two things abide in Christians: “what you heard from the beginning” (i.e., the truth about Jesus) and “the anointing” (i.e., the Holy Spirit). Those who spread false teaching (“who are trying to deceive you,” v. 26) want people to go beyond what we have heard and believed to something new. But we must “abide” (stay, remain) in the truth. To go beyond the truth is to go into error.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Do I really love God?

Part 4 of Authentic, a series on 1 John

Text: 1 John 2:12-17

You can listen to this sermon here.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (v. 15). 

Do Not Love "the World"

Everyone who claims to be a Christian would say they love God. But if we examined everything we did during the past week, how evident would it be that we love God? Authentic love is more than words or feelings. Love is demonstrated by our actions.

Am I really devoted to God?

John writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (v. 15). (In this context, “the world” does not mean people, as in John 3:16, or the earth.) In verse 16, John tells us what is “in the world”: (1) “the desires of the flesh,” (2) “the desires of the eyes,” and (3) “pride in possessions.” To “love the world” is to have the values of the world (i.e., to live for what the world is living for).

Loving “the world” is idolatry. 

The first commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:3). John concludes 1 John with a warning against idolatry: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (5:21). We might not go to temples to worship idols of stone, wood, or metal, but every culture has its idols. John Calvin said, “The human heart is an idol factory.”

Tim Keller often says that idolatry is “turning a good thing into an ultimate thing.” An example of an idol is home improvement. Lowe’s slogan is “Never stop improving.” Home improvement is a good thing, but we shouldn’t turn it into an ultimate thing. To some a store like Lowe’s is a temple, and home improvement is their god.

Why We Shouldn't Worship Idols 

John gives two reasons why we shouldn’t worship idols (i.e., love the world).

1. We can’t love God while loving an idol. 

“We are not created to worship, but rather we are created worshiping” (Mark Driscoll, Gerry Breshears, Doctrine, 339). Everyone is a worshiper. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). Our heart is to be devoted to God, not idols. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).

If we are devoted to idols, we are not devoted to God. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (v. 15). A common idol is money, and Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24).

2. Idols always end up disappointing us. 

All that this world offers is temporary (as the rich farmer in Jesus’ parable discovered, Luke 12:16-21). “The world is passing away along with its desires” (v. 17). Most people eventually discover that idols leave us frustrated and unsatisfied.

In 2005, novelist David Foster Wallace gave a speech to the graduating class at Kenyon College. Near the end of the speech he said the following. “In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship … is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.” Wallace hanged himself in 2008 at the age of 46.

“But whoever does the will of God abides forever” (v. 17; cf. 1 Cor. 7:31). Doing the will of God is the opposite of idolatry. The frustration and dissatisfaction of idolatry should drive us to God.

Monday, May 12, 2014

What Is Authentic Christianity?

Part 3 of Authentic, a series on 1 John

Text: 1 John 2:3-11

You can listen to this sermon here.

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him (vv. 4-5). 

False Claims 

In 1 John 2:3-11, the apostle John addresses three claims that people were making in his day. He introduces each of these claims with the words “Whoever says”: “Whoever says ‘I know [God]’” (v. 4), “Whoever says he abides in [God]” (v. 6), and “Whoever says he is in the light” (v. 9). Sometimes these claims were true, and sometimes these claims were false. In this passage, John helps us identify if our claim to be a Christian (i.e., someone who possesses eternal life) is true or false.

I’m sure you’ve seen lots of commercials for “As Seen on TV” products, such as the ShamWow (“holds 20 times its weight in liquid”), Magic Mesh (“the new type of screen door that opens easily and then magically closes itself behind you”), Mighty Putty (“seals leaks instantly”), and the Snuggie (“keeps you totally warm and gives you the freedom to use your hands”).

But many of these products don’t live up to the claims made on the TV commercials. According to, the ShamWow is “not as absorbent as advertised”; Magic Mesh is made of “flimsy material” and “doesn’t always close”; Mighty Putty is “not reliable”; and the Snuggie is “no better than a regular blanket” and “not warm enough for outdoors.” (As I've always said, a Snuggie is just a backwards bathrobe.)

Am I making a false claim when I say “I’m a Christian.”

There are many people in this world who go to church every Sunday and claim to be Christians but are not authentic Christians.

If our Christianity lacks love, it’s not authentic Christianity. 

In John’s day, there were people who claimed to know God (v. 4), to abide in God (v. 6), and to be in the light (v. 9), but their lives told a different story. They lacked love for God and love for others. They were not authentic Christians. (This does not mean that we receive eternal life based on how much love we have. Eternal life is a gift of God receive through faith in Jesus, not our works.)

Authentic Christian Love

Christians should be people who strive to love God and others. How can we display the love of authentic Christianity?

1. We should obey God’s commands because we love him (vv. 3-5a). 

This week, basketball player Kevin Durant received the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award. During his acceptance speech, he said the following words about his mother: “You made us believe. You kept us off the street. You put clothes on our backs. You put food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate and [you] went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.” I’m sure Durant’s love for his mom affects how he responds to her. In a similar way, our love for God should affect how we respond to his commands.

“Whoever keeps [God’s] word, in him truly the love of God is perfected” (v. 5). “Keeps” is in the present tense, which means that John is referring to an ongoing obedience (not a perfect obedience). “The love of God” probably refers to our love for God. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15; cf. vv. 21, 23, 24). “When we have discovered God’s inexhaustible love for us, we love him utterly, and this is expressed tangibly in obedience to his will” (Gary M. Burge, The Letters of John, 99).

2. We should love others as Jesus has loved us (vv. 5b-8). 

We “ought to walk in the same way in which [Jesus] walked” (v. 6). Our “walk” refers to the way we live. Jesus said to his disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Jesus called this command “a new commandment,” but John calls it “an old commandment” (v. 7) because his readers had it “from the beginning” (v. 7). The “beginning” probably refers to the time when they first heard the gospel. John says that this commandment was “true in [Jesus] and in [his readers]” (v. 8). The meaning of “true” might be “truly expressed” (Colin Kruse, The Letters of John, 83).

3. We should love the unlovely (vv. 9-11). 

“Whoever loves his brother abides in the light” (v. 10), but “whoever hates his brother is in the darkness” (v. 11). There would be no hatred if everyone was easy to love. Jesus asked, “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (Matt. 5:46). The ultimate test of our love is whether or not we are able to love the unlovely. “Love becomes a genuine value only when it is tested, only when we must reach beyond ourselves and love someone we do not wish to love” (Burge, 101).

Is the claim that you’re a Christian a true claim?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Will God Ever Disown Me?

Part 2 of Authentic, a series on 1 John

Text: 1 John 1:6-2:2

You can listen to this sermon here.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world (2:1-2).

Displeasing Our Heavenly Father

In 1 John, the apostle John tells us how we can know if we are authentic Christians (i.e., have eternal life) or not. Throughout the letter, John gives three tests of Christian authenticity: the moral test (obedience to God), the social test (love of others), and the doctrinal test (correct belief about Jesus). But people don’t only ask, “Am I really a Christian?” They also wonder, “Will I remain a Christian (i.e., continue to possess eternal life)?”

Recently, there was a story about a grandfather disowning his daughter for disowning her son. In my opinion, both the grandfather and the mother acted wrongly. Children sometimes cause their parents great disappointment, but that doesn’t give parents a right to disown their children.

How does my sin affect my relationship with God? If God is my Father and I am his child, will my disobedience ever cause God to disown me? 

In 1:5, John states that “God is light.” “Light” is a metaphor for God’s moral perfection (holiness). God hates sin. (John defines sin as “lawlessness” in 3:4.) But John also says that “God is love” (4:8).

What We Must Not Do When We Sin

In 1:6-2:2, John tells us what we must not do when we sin.

1. We must never deny our sin. 

Often when a parent asks a child if he has done something wrong (e.g., stole a cookie from the cookie jar), the child will deny his sin (even if the evidence is all over his face). Sometimes the denial of the sin is worse than the sin itself.

In 1:6-10, John probably has in mind a group of people who claimed to have been sinless since coming to know God (possibly the people mentioned in 2:19). These people claimed to “have fellowship with [God]” while walking in darkness (1:6). They said they “ha[d] no sin” (v. 8). And they said they “ha[d] not sinned” (v. 10). John says that these people were liars (“lie,” 1:6; “deceive ourselves,” v. 8; “make [God] a liar” v. 10). (The word “if” is found six times in 1:6-2:1—once in each verse.)

In contrast to these people who denied their sin, John says that God’s children “walk in the light” (v. 7). Colin Kruse writes that “walking in the light” (cf. John 3:19-21) involves a “willingness to be open towards God” (The Letters of John, 63). We can’t be forgiven unless we “confess our sins” (1:9). God forgives all confessed sin (“cleanses us from all sin,” 1:7; “cleanses us from all unrighteousness,” 1:9). “Cleanses” is in the present tense, which means the forgiveness is an ongoing activity.

2. We must never diminish the seriousness of our sin. 

If God will forgive all my sin, does my sin really matter? Yes, every sin is an insult against the blood of Jesus. We should never be content in our disobedience. (If we are content in our disobedience, do we really have the Holy Spirit within us?) John writes, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin” (2:1). So often we downplay the holiness of God and our sinfulness (cf. Isa. 6:1-7).

3. We must never despair when we sin. 

When we do sin, Christ is our “advocate with the Father” (2:1), and he is “the propitiation for our sins” (2:2). In paganism, a “propitiation” was a sacrifice that appeased the wrath of a god. Christian propitiation is different. God is the one who provides the propitiation. Later, John writes, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (4:10).

An “advocate” is someone who speaks on behalf of an accused person. (The Greek word for “advocate” is parakletos. The word is used as a title for the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel.) Our advocate is described as “the righteous one” (2:1). Jesus, the righteous One, “now stands in the presence of the Father to speak on behalf of those who have not acted righteously” (Kruse, 73).

We don’t despair when we sin because all of God’s anger against our sin was directed toward Jesus when he died for us. Now whenever we sin, Jesus can say, “I suffered for that sin.”

A Child of God by Grace

If we don’t think it’s right for a human parent to disown his or her child, why would we think that God would ever disown one of his children?

We become God’s children by grace, and we remain God’s children by grace. We enter into God’s family through faith in Christ. This means our confidence is based on what Christ has done for us, not on what we do for God.

No, God will never disown one of his children.

Does this mean that our obedience to God is unimportant? No. God’s grace affects our motivation for obedience. Our motivation for obedience to God should be love, not fear.