Sermon – Easter 5 – April 29, 2018
1 John 4:1-11 ‘Love’s Litmus Test’
CT: To confess Jesus Christ is true God and true man is know God is love.
Intro: My grade 12 physics teacher told us not to believe everything you read; prove it. Physics has practical applications; it’s not simply formulas on paper; it’s observable, measurable. John in our Epistle lesson urges his fellow Christians not to believe every spirit, but test them to see if they are of truth or error. You can discern it and observe it! Your faith has practical applications.
Intake Concern: John wants the young Christian Church to be wise toward those who would teach falsely and lead them astray. The devil is always at work plying his trade of doubt that he might separate us from the truth of the Gospel. And as John asserts, the Gospel begins with and is centred on this fact; God fully assumed human flesh and became a man for our sake. Anything less than that robs Christ of His work on the cross; anything less and God has not forgiven your sin and your guilt remains.
John’s Gospel begins with this fact: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John notes that you can test the nature and character of other people by their confession. If they confess anything else or anything less than Jesus Christ fully God and fully man, they are not of God. They are of the nature and character of the antichrist—of those who put themselves in the place of Christ to propagate deception not truth. Deceit is attractive to the world around us, but the Christian knows the difference.
1st Reason: John makes a big deal about it; you are either of God or you’re not! As a Christian you have that assurance that you have been born of God in the waters of your Baptism. This real flesh and blood Christ gave His life for you and pours out all the benefits of His cross and empty tomb into your life. He kills you and makes you alive; dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. God has brought you into this caring and nurturing relationship with Him through the birth of the new life of faith; He has given you His Spirit. So John can say with confidence that He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
The way the world processes information and makes decisions will offend you because the language of the world is not of God. Apart from Holy Spirit’s work of calling you through the power of the Gospel you cannot know God, understand God, or listen to Him. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians explaining that “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Co 2:14).” Furthermore, “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit (1 Co 12:3).”
Listening: In a similar vein, Jesus in John chapter 8 said that those who are of God hear the words of God, but those who don’t hear them are not of God. The sheep listen to the Good Shepherd; that’s last weeks’ Gospel lesson. Only through faith does the Christian hear Jesus’ words and confess that He is the Christ come to us in the flesh. But it’s not that we can lay claim to our special listening skills; this is God’s work through Jesus Christ in you. You are grafted into the true vine, Jesus, and apart from Him you can do nothing. The vinedresser surgically and purposefully prunes every branch—is working in you through Word and Sacrament—that you would produce fruit. (Or as John the Baptist said, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance!) Jesus said that “by this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” But it’s not about proving myself before God; it is the vinedresser’s work that brings about the fruit; it gives Him glory by showing the world whose you are. You believe and confess Christ in the flesh; you are of God! And it shows!
Sin’s Fruit: Yet it’s not all about right doctrine; it’s what this teaching does to you, and that makes this doctrine of Christ (Christology) important! While the world around us lives more and more for itself, no matter how nicely they dress up their actions, the outcome is visible. All around you the lines between right and wrong have been blurred to accept all kinds of sinful behaviour under the guise of ‘the loving thing to do’. The erosion of the family is not hidden but explained away by family counsellors and physiologists; if we only got the right programs and structures in government we could fix all these things, but it hasn’t. Why would a young man drive a van down a sidewalk and kill people he didn’t even know? Is it really because our culture’s sexual freedoms left him thinking he was entitled to sex with anyone anywhere he wanted? Never mind ‘Incel’; where is the praise for self-control and chastity? How does love enter into this picture? This idea that I can do what pleases me so long as it doesn’t hurt someone else has come off the rails; it’s a lie!
2nd Reason: You know you are of God because you no longer live to yourself; rather you live through Christ. You know and believe that Jesus Christ came in the flesh; that God so loved you that He sent His only Son to suffer and die that believing in Him you would live out of God’s gracious forgiveness unto eternal life. This is something the world cannot understand, but you can; you know God is love. For this reason John said, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” And love is most clearly expressed when you and I, having failed to love one another as we ought, repent and forgive each other. For “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.” Jesus in the flesh is the means of our forgiveness.
You and I both know that we will not always love each other as we ought; we’re sinners. That’s not an excuse; it’s simply a fact. But that you have the Holy Spirit at work in you is also a fact. You know of God’s defining expression of love for you in His Son, and the more this love of Christ Jesus is at work in you and me, the more it permeates who you are and what you do, giving glory to your Father who is in heaven! There is a discernable and observable difference; Christ at work in you.