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 consumersearch.com, 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?