Who is the greatest?
In this series in 1 John that we started last week John give proof of his authority and proof of his ability to tell an eye witness account of the life, death resurrection of Christ and how he is still in the world as the Holy Spirit is here now to be our helper so that it is no longer I that liveth but Christ that lives in me.
John showed us that we either are walking in the light or in the dark, which is in Christ or in the world
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1. Walking Confidently (1 John 2:28-29)
John is calling us to remember our true birth, Our true home, our one true foundation for life now and for all time. We are encouraged to, as Paul writes earlier in 1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
Or as the baptism service says when we are signed by the cross in the words “we are to fight bravely under His banner against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant to your life’s end”
Here John is encouraging us to continue in that journey
He may have been recalling words from the Psalms such as we heard earlier
Remember the old song “I have decided to follow Jesus, No turning back, no turning back”
Yes there is no need to turn back as what is a now and ahead is so much greater than anything the world can offer.
John continues to encourage those who walk in the light by assuring them that everyone who does right is a child of God.
What a wonderful and secure place to be
2. Seeing Ourselves Accurately (1 John 3:1-2)
In fact as we move to verse 1 of chapter 3, many versions such as the King James and New American Standard shout out the beginning of the verse “BEHOLD” look at this, imagine the greatness that has been poured out upon you. We, those who were outside a living fellowship with God have now been adopted into the family. We are there as real, fully accepted and certified children of the King. As we would say in the US, we are full blood brothers.
Yet because of this new and rich new status, the world really does not understand who we are or why we do what we do. The reason is simply that the world does not know Jesus. The world is trying to see something in the dark, while those in the light can clearly see, yet even though we can see clearly there are times that our vision may not truly see what is ahead for not all is yet made clear.
Look at this picture
Any idea of who it is? She is 17 years old at this time Or try this one---
We really do not know what the future will bring to any one just by looking at them because they have not yet been what they will be.
But what a gift, what a privilege we have to be sons and daughters of God
We have all the rights and obligation s of a true family member.
This will mean that we are now living a new way, often times we may feel separated from the world.
This may feel difficult at times but remember that Jesus came to give life and life in abundance. All the world glitter and so called good things are really just a dim and useless illusion for what is real is worth more than all the gold and silver this world can ever offer. For by being in Christ we will become like Christ,
We will be transformed from who we are into someone who is much more glorious. Remember that we are not yet what we will become
2. Conducting Our Lives Rightly (1 John 3:3-6).
So as we move onto verses 3 to 6 we can begin to understand that there is a major division between those in Christ and those of the world because of sin. This is the thing that separates the two groups.
For those who have set their hope on nothing less than Jesus Christ and His righteousness there is purity.
But those who have not done so are continually in the situation of rebellion, which is lawlessness.
Think of what we have heard and seen in London of recent days.
What can the rioters be called? How law abiding are they? They are breaking the laws of the land. Yet there are those I have heard reported that have justified themselves. This justification demonstrates what lawlessness is about. Lawlessness is about creating your own laws. Those that make you feel better. Think of Cain and Able.
Cain murdered his brother. In verse 12, a couple of verses beyond today’s reading, we learn that Cain killed Able because what Able was doing was right.
Sin is lawlessness, and lawlessness is establishing your own laws. It is, as Adam and Eve did, unilaterally declare their independence from God, the rightful ruler, the one they and we should have obeyed.
Unfortunately today, nothing has changed in the human spirit. There is still that desire to do our own thing.
It is here that John writes something hard to understand. Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:16 that Paul writes something that are hard to understand, so it is also true of John when he writes that
6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
So what a downer. Anyone who continues to sin is not part of Jesus, they are outside the life giving relationship Jesus has to offer. What a problem for the whole world, as everyone sins.
Paul agonised over this in Romans 7 when he cries out that the good he wants to do he does not do but the evil he does not want to do he does and ends the paragraph with these words “24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
So John knows that we all sin and John knows the antidote in 1 John 2:1-2 “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 defence--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.”
Paul also knows the healing and reconciling truth of what Jesus has done when he says ““25 Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
Sin is a dreadful and lawless thing that can separate us from Jesus. John however is making a distinction between those in Christ and those who are outside, let me explain
John is using the word sin to identify those who make sin the norm for living. They know no better. True all people have been made in the image of God and so carry inside everyone some sense of what is right and wrong. This however does not make everyone a Child of God, a full blood brother or sister with Jesus. It is only once someone has accepted the free gift of God, that is a saving relationship with Him where Jesus is both Lord and Saviour that someone enters into that new creation.
So what is John on about? He is really talking about our life, how are we living. What is our thoughts what do we desire? John is talking about and challenging us about sanctification. This is a technical word used along with justification and perfection. In our journey with Christ the Holy Spirit works initially to bring people to the realisation that they are sinners, that is in rebellion against God. At the point a person accepts this and admits they need Jesus and accepts Jesus as Lord and Saviour this point of entering into a living relationship is called justification.
From that point until their death or Jesus comes again, there is a continual change taking place in a person’s life. One that is moving them closer to perfection, but in this life we will never reach it. It is like moving into a new house. There is a lot of work to be done in each room to make it just right. The same is going on in our lives. The Holy Spirit and we are working together to clean up all the rooms or parts of our lives. This cleaning up is sanctification. The question that can be asked is are we closer to Jesus in our thought and actions than we were in our past?
John is calling us to do just that. So when we sin, we recognise it and seek first for forgiveness and also for strength and wisdom to avoid it in the future.
4. Overcoming Obstacles (1 John 3:7-10)
We are called to lead lives in Christ. Ones where the laws that underpin our lives are those of God, not laws that we make up that suit ourselves, for that is lawlessness. And remember that sin is lawlessness.
The one that leads the human race astray is the devil. By his very nature he is against God’s law, he is the father of lawlessness, he is the founder of sin.
But God’s antidote to the poison is Jesus
The whole work of Jesus was to destroy the hold the devil has upon people and this world. That was accomplished on the cross and then stamped completed when he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Today we may not see that reality but is a sure thing.
After World War 2 was finished a historian was asked when the war was won in Europe. The response was when the first soldier landed at Normandy. Sure for the next year there was fighting to finish it, but it was that day, June 6, 1944 that the war in Europe was won, so it was on Easter morning that the war against the devil was won, even though we still are in the midst of fighting, and as Paul encourages us fight the good fight (1 Tim 6:12)
We to are called to that fight.
Someone once said that many Christians pray the Lord’s pray not asking “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”
Rather they pray “lead us not into much temptation and deliver us from most evil”
Almost like a soldier asking that when they go into battle they only get shot a little.
We are not called to put up with evil of any kind rather we are to fight against it.
Those who do not know Christ will continue in their lawlessness
Remember that we cannot fight the good fight alone. Remember the words from John 15
We must abide in Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit
So was we come to the end of this sermon I would like to share a story, a made up story to summarise what is the main points
You have a boss who has businesses throughout the world.
The boss sets off on a business trip and leaves you in charge but he also knows that you are just learning the business so he says that he will write to you regularly giving you directions and send a helper so that you will learn to run the business successfully.
So off he goes. Over the next months and years he has sent you a number of letters giving you all the tools that you need to run the business successfully.
On his return, he is amazed as he comes to the business main door and sees things in what appears to be a mess.
The offices are cluttered with papers strewn on the floor, the staff at the front desk are playing cards, in the main part of the office a few people are drinking coffee and tea and it’s obvious that they have been there for hours, the younger people are on the internet playing games and on the manager’s desk are any number of letters of complaint about the company and how it is treating their now lost customers. Instead of building the business it is falling into disrepute.
The boss comes to you and asks what has happened? Didn’t you get the letters or use the helper he had sent?
You respond, we certainly did get your letters. And the helper was here most days. We in fact have regular meetings each week where your letters are read and someone explains them to all of us. We have set up groups who get together on their own time to really understand the letters and the helper is there as well. Some of the people even memorise some of the letters and around the office and in their homes you will find parts of your letters hanging on the walls. We sure did appreciate all that you did for us.
The boss then says, I can see all that you did, but, why didn’t you do what was written?
The employee said, well we just really wanted to do it our way to see what would happen.
When Jesus comes again and looks at our lives, will we be like that employee given all the tools needed to live a life as God has intended or will we live a life that can be summarised in the song immortalised by Frank Sinatra “I did it my way”?