This morning we are wrapping up our series on the book of 1 John. Which is actually a letter – written by the apostle John to all of the churches – he is writing in his old age – in fact by now he is the last living disciple.
And we’ve said a number of times through the series that John’s letter can be divided into three buckets of thought if you will… John is concerned about Right teaching – because there’s a group teaching a message different than Johns – not just different but false. And so John wants to remind them of the truth.
He opens the letter by reminding them of his credentials – I saw the man with my own eyes! He was one of Jesus’ closest friends. He spent three years of his life as an apprentice of Jesus – he knows his stuff. He knows what Jesus taught. He is the expert- and he knows all there is to know about Jesus and his message. He was there! So they can be assured that what John taught them was correct. Right teaching.
He is also concerned about right living. And he reminds us that, although no one is perfect – neither should a follower of Jesus be content with habitual sin. We ought to be at fighting the good fight of faith against the former tyrant that is our old selfish nature, that is always looking for an opportunity to reclaim the throne. That’s the daily fight we fight. Jesus called it dying to self.
Efforting is required to fight against the power of the world – especially the lust of the eyes, and the cravings of the sinful nature, and the boasting about what one has and does…
Lastly – the third bucket that John speaks about is right loving. Loving God and loving one another. It all begins with God’s love for us. Behold! John writes – what manner of love the father has bestowed upon us. What manner of love is this – from what planet does such love come from? It comes from God and lands on us and transforms us from the inside out so that we might love one another.
This morning we’re going to end our series by focusing on a statement that John makes in 1 John 5:13- 15. And I like it because it answers an important question that I want us to know – it’s a question that will improve your enjoyment of the bible. And the question is – why?
I remember one time being around a little kid – a little tyke – Mr. Phil, where is Josh? Well he’s not here today. Why? Well he’s at college. Why? Well he needs to get his degree so that he can get a job. Why? In order to live. Why?
Listen you little Plato, you keep asking questions and you’re going to throw me into an existential crisis. Eventually all of those questions end with, “Because I told you so, that’s why?” Parents learn eventually to skip all the steps in between and just start with – because I told you so and that’s why.
Someday I would like a parent to go all the way with a kid who likes to ask Why until the kid finally says – Thank you, now I understand completely.” How many days?
But to be fair to the kid – it’s a great question to get to the heart of stuff. Why? And when it comes to reading the bible – one of the most important questions you can ask is why did they write this. Why did they include this detail?
Why did the writer put that story next to that story?
Now – when it comes to the question, Why did John write this letter – he makes it super easy for us. And – in fact – we mentioned John wrote the Gospel of John, as well as this letter. And in both the gospel of John and this first letter – John concludes his writing by explicitly stating why he wrote these things. (Luke starts his book by explaining – John concludes his writings by explaining WHY he wrote – and this morning we’re going to look at both of john’s statements – first from John’s Gospel and then from his letter.
Let’s read the Gospel of John 20:31
31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
What do we learn? Who is John writing to? He is writing it primarily to people who have not yet placed their faith in Jesus. He is talking perhaps to skeptics or people who are on the fence when it comes to Jesus. He is writing to those who are checking this Jesus guy out – and it is John intent that he help them understand as much as possible about this Jesus.
So let me talk first today to those of you who John was writing to… my guess is that there are those of you on the fence about this Jesus thing. You might be pretty skeptical or have some obstacles to overcome before you are ready to say – Yes Jesus – I am a follower of yours.
It might surprise you to hear me say that there are many reasons to not believe. We do our best, like John, to help you discover the real Jesus. We are not disguising the fact that we are trying to convince you and help you overcome those obstacles to faith, but we understand why you might be reluctant.
After all, Jesus wants everything from you. And in return he promises to bring you into a kingdom where you no longer need to fend for yourself. You are freed from worry, fear, the opinions of others, materialism, anxiety, self reliance – and suddenly you get to become the real you, the you you were created to become – through a daily conversational relationship with the God who created you. And all God asks in return is all of us.
I want to ask you if you are on the fence – to consider reading the Gospel of John. And what you will notice about John is how many stories are in there about people who have one on one interactions with Jesus, and how Jesus ministers to them each uniquely different.
For instance, there are two stories – virtually back to back – where Jesus interacts – first, in John 3, with a religious leader named Nicodemus. Nicodemus is well respected. Powerful. Wealthy. Learned. He kind of sneak checks out this Jesus guy by coming to Jesus at night – and the first thing Jesus says to him is – kind of drops it really abruptly – No one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.
I don’t know what you think that term means – to be born again. It’s rather common for people to look down their nose at the term – but, just a reminder that it’s a term introduced by Jesus, and according to John – in his letter, 1 John 5:1, Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. So it appears that this idea – applies to every person who is a follower of Jesus. The old has gone, the new has come.
Back to Nicodemus in John 3 – Nicodemus of course, takes it literally and wants to argue with Jesus about the nonsensical nature of his teaching.
So here’s the point – Nicodemus is steeped in religion. He goes to church every week. More than you and I do. He probably grew up going to church. And Jesus is telling him – that it’s not the answer. You’re barking up the wrong tree.
There might be people in this room right now, you’ve gone to church your whole life. And yet – you aren’t living the “With God” life. You, sadly, are only living the “With Religion” life. And Jesus wants to bust you out of it.
Nicodemus shows up – very put together – very religious – very well respected – and Jesus says – let me bust you out of this joint and into a relationship with God like you’ve never imagined you could have.
Some of you have gone to church your whole life. Is it possible you’re in the same boat as Nicodemus was in? Is it possible that Jesus wants to bust you free of the “with religion” life and place you by faith into the Kingdom of Heaven – into the garden where you get to walk with God like friends?
That’s new life. That’s the gospel. That’s the promise.
Nicodemus knew Jesus had something he didn’t. He wanted to know more. Jesus says, be born again. Surrender to the Lord. Be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. Trade out the “With Religion” life and receive the “With God” life today.
Now – let’s look to the right and read the next story – in John 4. Remember I said that when you read the bible and start asking the question why, it will make the Bible come to life? Here’s an example.
In John 4 – we find Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman. Has a poor reputation in the town. She has been married and divorced five times. Living with a guy now. You can read the story – but note the differences between her and Nicodemus.
Man/woman; Jewish/Samaritan; Inside/outsider. Rich/poor. Put together/ Falling apart. Why does John put them side by side?
Because he wants you to see that no matter who you are, where you’re from, whatever your status in society – the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven have been throw open to you – but you must be born again to receive it.
And how does one become born again? Well, let’s look at the lynch pin – what verse appears right in the middle of these two stories? John 3:16
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus loves lost people. And lost people come in all shapes and sizes – and some come from religious backgrounds, and some come from irreligious backgrounds – John shows us Jesus reaching both with the same offer. Today can be the day you surrender your life to Christ and are born again – born from God. And you will begin living this day – an eternal kind of life.
Jesus loves lost people – and by the way, so do we. In fact – let me shift my attention for a moment – I want to talk to those f you who have decided to follow Jesus – are you praying for you friends who haven’t yet discovered the real Jesus? Will you start to pray for them?
And one of the things we are working on is a day when we will be able to go up to the building and take a walk through tour of what’s going on. And one thing I’d like to ask you to do is begin to think of someone in your life you want to come to believe in Jesus. And what we’re looking to do is to write their names, or their initials, in the walls of the church. Just before they cover the walls with wallboard – or cover the beams – we want to write names on the beams.
And if you are watching from a distance you can email us the names or initials of your people you are praying for and we will write them in their for you. But here’s why – one day – we hope that we will be doing a baptism and we will be able to tell them – your friend wrote your name on our wall right there. We’ve been praying for you to know Jesus.
Now we don’t have the date yet – but it’s going to happen – and so begin praying for people you want to know Jesus.
John writes the Gospel of John so that people might hear and Believe
Now – let’s transition to how John concludes his letter. If John writes his gospel to help people yet to believe, to whom does he write this letter? And why?
And then in his first letter here – he concludes his letter by writing,
1 John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
And did you notice though who the target audience is in the letters? It’s clearly written to people who have already placed their faith in Jesus – and he is writing to assure them that they are all set when it comes to their relationship with Jesus.
He is writing to provide assurance and confidence – that what Jesus has done is enough – nothing else is required. That through faith in Jesus their sins have in fact been washed away – they are in fact cherished daughters and beloved sons of God himself, and that although they may struggle at times – he wants us to be filled with confidence – in order that we might live in it.
1 John is written that we might know that we know – and live confident assured lives that we are His and he is ours.
Let me share this story with you. When I was a younger Christian – about 20 – one summer I went to this Christian music festival in Pennsylvania – and I’m standing there getting ready to rock out with some Stryper! To hell with the devil!
Well – this guy walks up to me with some literature and asks me – hey man – are you saved? Do you know Jesus. And I’m like, man do you know that this is a Christian rock concert? Like – you should be taking your wares over to the pagans at the Van Halen Concert.
No – he says – I’m here because most of you haven’t been saved because you didn’t do this and that, and been baptized according to this particular words and you are haven’t done all that you should do to be saved- you only got part of the story.
And I was like – whatever man – anyway – I was newer to Christianity – there wasn’t yet an internet for me to find answers to what this guy was saying – and on the surface it seemed like what he was saying squared with the bible – I mean – he had verses and stuff. And I have to be honest – it threw me for a loop. Am I saved? Am I a child of God? Is there something I’m missing?
What I didn’t realize at the time, was that this gentleman who spoke with me, was extending to me an invitation back into the ‘with religion’ life – that my relationship with God depended on checkbox stuff – do this, say that, in the right order or it doesn’t count. God’s a stickler for the rules!
I didn’t realize that what this gentlemen was doing is the oldest trick in Satan’s book – it’s the reason John writes this letter – and it’s the reason Paul writes Galatians- there were false teachers coming into the church and telling people – you only got part of the story – those guys missed something. You aren’t yet good with God until you add to what Jesus has done on the cross – you add good works – it’s always Jesus plus something… Or sometimes it’s Jesus minus something.
God’s not really with you. Listen – what did Satan say to Adam and Eve in the garden? Really? did God really say that? He’s whispering doubt into their ears – undermining their confidence. And that tactic continues today, you know.
John write that we might know! What Jesus has done is enough, writes John. Nothing else needs to be added to the cross.
The life and death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s proof that what Jesus did was enough. And now? We live with confidence that our sins are washed away. The “with God’ life is ours.
Let me ask you – do you doubt that God really loves you? Do you doubt that your sins are washed away? Do you wonder what God really thinks about you?
Let me tell you. When you place your faith in Jesus, You are his cherished daughter. You are his beloved son. Your sins are washed away. And you are his. You are safe in his care – you are safe in his kingdom. You have nothing to fear.
This week as I was praying through Psalm 23 – which I implore you all to memorize and pray through daily if possible, I had the thought – I wonder what Psalm 23 would sound like coming from God’s side things.
Psalm 23 was written from David’s perspective to God – but what if it was from God’s perspective to us.
Can I read what I think it might sound like as an encouragement to you today – and with this we’ll close.
I am the Lord, and I am your shepherd. With me by your side, you lack nothing.
Follow me and I can lead you to green pastures and quiet waters. Let me refresh your soul.
I want you to know that whatever path I lead you down today, it’s the right path for you. Even if it happens to be a dark valley. Even if you find yourself scared – even if the path I ask you to walk down frightens you – I want you to know that I will be with you every step of the way, and so, there is nothing to fear.
With me by your side, no evil can harm you. I can whoop any foe that dares to come against you. I hope that comforts you. Sit with me and let’s have lunch. Don’t worry about trouble – they aren’t foolish enough to try anything with me next to you.
I am the God who heals you. I am the God who provides good things in your life. Look – isn’t your cup overflowing?
Be with me and rest – assured, that my goodness and my love are following you every day of your life, including today. And live confidently, because right now – and forever – you are mine. We’re in this together.