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.