1 John 3:11-24                         22 January 2017

REPETITION HELPS PENETRATION

John wrote this letter for two main reasons. To define what a genuine believer is and to make sure that we know we are genuine believers.

One of the things that John stresses all through the letter is that if we are genuine followers of Jesus it will be evident in that we love our fellow believers.

History tells us that towards the end of John’s life whenever he was asked to speak in church meetings he kept telling the believers that they must go on loving each other because this is the Lord’s command.

Ill. When I am hammering a nail into a piece of wood, I don’t simply hit the nail once. I keep hitting it until the nail has gone right into wood. And John knew that the only way to get the message into people’s hearts was to keep on hammering away at them  until the message really penetrated and got through to them. And he would that when he started seeing the results in their lives and behaviour

So this morning I will be hammering the same old message again.

Probably the one thing that has caused me grief in church life over the last 50 years has been the unwillingness of believers to love one another as Jesus has loved us.

I know people who have been Christians for a long time, who claimed to really know God, know the scriptures inside out, claim to have had all these amazing experiences from God and yet offend and wound other believers by their unloving attitudes and behaviour.

Ill. Just this week I heard of a church that I was associated with and the congregation is split and one faction is trying to get rid of the pastor, while then other faction want him to stay. And those who claim to be soundly Biblical are behaving in a very unbiblical way. This behaviour is not only damaging the church, but is bringing dishonour to the name of Jesus. It makes me want to weep and I know it grieves the Holy Spirit deeply.

Paul says in 1 Cor 13, “You can be so correct and spot on as far as your knowledge of the Bible is concerned, but if your behaviour is un-loving and un-Christlike it means nothing to God and you are nothing.” Knowledge puffs up, love builds up.”

Bible knowledge is useless unless it is worked out in our lives, characters and relationships.

More than anything else, love should be the identifying mark of all true believers. “By this, shall everyone know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

When Jesus came into this world there was very love being shown in the culture of the day. Like today, people had confused love with lust. Out of the 15 Roman Emperors, 14 were homosexual and unfaithfulness in marriage was so bad that ¾ of the marriages ended in divorce. NZ is not much better ½ of all marriages end in divorce and the idea of marriage is up for grabs.

But what characterised the believers more than anything else was their love for one another. People had never seen such unconditional, sacrificial, selfless love before. It was so radical, so powerful and so attractive that 1000s turned to Christ because of it.

In this passage John contrasts brotherly hatred with brotherly love.

 

BROTHERLY HATRED v11-15

The very first death in human history was a murder committed by a man against his brother. Cain murdered his brother Abel. And the reason he killed his brother was because of sibling rivalry. Cain resented the fact that God was pleased with Abel’s offering, but not with Cain’s.

This situation has been repeated so many times in human history where one family member resents another because it seems as if they get more attention, more approval, more affection, more rewards than they do.

Hebrews 11 tells us that God accepted Abel’s offering because he offered it from the right motive.

He gave his offering by faith wanting to please God where it seems that Cain gave his offering out of sense of duty because it was expected of him. But when Cain saw that God gave his approval to Abel he resented Abel and ended up murdering him.

I have known adults who still resent their brothers or sisters because they felt they were Mum’s favourite or Dad’s favourite. They have allowed that resentment to ruin the relationship and turn them into bitter, negative people.

Ill. I remember a girl whose brother was ill for many years and her mother had to spend a lot of time caring for him. In spite of the fact that her mother kept re-assuring her that she loved her as much as her brother, the daughter felt she was missing out on her mother’s attention and actually grew to hate her brother because of this and even wishing he would die.

This kind of resentment generally involves those we know well. It can be a family member, a friend, a work mate, even a fellow believer. We begin to resent them because they are more successful than we are, they get more attention, more recognition, more approval, more rewards, etc.

John says that Cain resented Abel because he was a good person while Cain was not. And that is one of the reasons the people of this unbelieving world hate you and me.

If we are living a life that is honouring to God then those who want nothing to do with Jesus, won’t want us around. Our very lives and behaviour will make them feel uncomfortable and guilty. 

Ill. I remember before I became a Christian I thought Christians were kill joys. I used to make fun of them and be critical of them. At the time I don’t know why I reacted to them like that. There was something inside me that was anti-Christian.  I know now why I didn’t like them. They made me feel uncomfortable about the way I was living and I didn’t want to have them around me. Their goodness showed up my badness, their selflessness show up my selfishness, their love, my resentment, their honesty my dishonesty. 

That was the reason the religious leaders hated Jesus.

It’s interesting that Socrates the Greek philosopher wrote 400 years before Christ, “If ever a perfect man comes into this world he will be murdered.” Socrates was a wise man who knew human nature.

V14. Once again John stresses the truth that if we love our fellow believers it proves we have passed from death to life, that we have entered into the new eternal life that Jesus came to bring us. But a person who does not love their fellow believers is still spiritually dead. You can’t have it clearer than that. And a church where believers do no love one another is spiritually dead like the church at Sardis.

Why do some Christians refuse to love their fellow believers? The main two reasons are envy and pride.

  1. Because, like Cain they envy their Christian brothers and sisters because they are more successful, more popular, more gifted etc. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that we should rejoice when our Christian brethren are honoured, because they are part of our family.

When someone in our family does well or is honoured in some way we are so happy for them.

  1. Pride that refuses to forgive or apologise. By refusing to forgive we are saying that the hurt or the offense was too great to forgive. In other words we believe we are greater than God who is willing to forgive all offenses. That is pride. It makes no difference how much we have felt hurt by another believer, it is nothing compared to the hurt that God has experienced because of our sin and yet He is always willing to forgive.

Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t treat us the way many Christians treat one another.

John says that if we hate or resent another believer, in God’s eyes it’s as bad as murder. That’s pretty strong stuff, but Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 5:21 and following. And those who hold hatred and resentment in their hearts do not have God’s eternal life within them.

So we have looked at brotherly hatred, let’s now look at brotherly love.

 

BROTHERLY LOVE v16-24

When we love each other it proves we are Christians

What identifies you as a Christian in the eyes of others? Your Bible knowledge, your strong views on certain subjects, your judgemental attitudes towards others, or is it your love for others, your compassion, your humility and graciousness.

How would you want your relatives and friends to remember you when you die?

I would want to be remembered for my love for Christ and my love for others because that is more important than any other factor. I know that although I’m in my sixties I still have a way to go, but I want to keep growing and learning and developing a Christ like character. Like John Newton said, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, but still I am not what I used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am”

Jesus showed us what real brotherly love was when He offered up His life as a sacrifice for our sins. He gave His life for us. John says here that true Christian love is all about giving and sacrificing for each other.

Now some people say, that those who gave their lives in the war, sacrificed their lives for us –wasn’t that brotherly love?

Ill. In the Movie “Patton”, General Patton who commanded the US 7th army towards the end of the 2nd world said to his troops, “Let’s not have this silly talk about laying down our lives for our country. Our aim is to force the enemy to lay down their lives for their country.”

Even though it may sound very noble, no one goes to war with the purpose of sacrificing their life for their country. They go to war with the intention of destroying the enemy and coming back alive. Although there have been some wonderful stories of some who voluntarily sacrificed their lives for their fellow soldiers.

Ill. One such took place in Burma when the Allied POWs were forced by the Japanese to build a rail way. One day after counting the shovels the Japanese found that one was missing. The Japanese officer told that group of POWs that if the person who took the shovel did not own up by the next day they would all be shot. The next day came and no one owned up and so the Japanese soldiers got ready to shoot all the men in the work detail. Suddenly, the Christian army chaplain stepped forward and said, “I took the shovel.” With that he was shot and the rest of the POWs were spared. Later the Japanese discovered they had miscounted and the shovel was there all the time. 

True Christian brotherly love is all about giving and sacrificing for each other.

True brotherly love is willing to sacrifice time, resources, abilities, to help others.

If you read Philippians 2 you see that Jesus was not only willing to sacrifice His life for us on the cross. He was willing to sacrifice His power, His position, His personal ambitions, even His reputation in order to give life to us.

If we truly love others we will be willing to sacrifice our own personal ambitions and desires for power, wealth, position and popularity to help them. We will be willing to give up our pride – the pride that wants to look good in the eyes of others. We need to be willing to be misjudged, criticised and even thought less of by others because we choose to show love to people who are despised and rejected.

Ill. One of the loveliest demonstrations of Christian love in recent times took place in Egypt after a suicide bomber killed 23 Christians meeting in a church in Cairo. A group of Christians from that church were so concerned there would be reprisals against Muslims that when the Muslims gathered to pray, the Christians formed a circle around the praying Muslims to protect them.    

They got flak from other Christians for doing this, but they were willing to sacrifice what others thought of them to reach out in love to the Muslim people.

Jesus was willing to sacrifice His reputation and be looked upon as a condemned criminal, to be regarded as a nobody in order to save you and me from death and hell.

John says here that true brotherly love is not just words or warm feelings towards others. It is practical. “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show that we really do by our actions.” In other words let’s show we really love one another by the way we treat one another – and Jesus said, “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”

When we love each other we have confidence before God v19-22

When we love each other like this it proves we belong to Christ, and we will feel confident to come before God because we know there is nothing coming between us and our fellow believers and we are seeking to show nothing but love towards them.

And even if we feel at times that we are not doing so well in this area, God doesn’t look at our blunders and feeble attempts to show love he looks at the motives and desires of our heart and sees that we really and truly want to show love to others.

One thing I have learned about feelings and that is they are unreliable guides. If you live by your feelings, your life will be an emotional roller coaster.

Satan works through our feelings making us feel guilty and condemned, [Accuser of the brethren]. And you can generally tell when it is Satan because there is no clear conviction of a specific sin. It is just this vague feeling of guilt and condemnation.

But when the Holy Spirit convicts us – it is not vague. It is specific and you know it is right and true and when you confess it and put it right – you have peace and joy.

V21. If there is no clear specific conviction of the HS we can come to God with confidence because He who knows everything about us.

If we are walking in love with each other not only do we have confidence to come before God, but we have confidence to ask God for things.

Ill. Something John Wimber said has always stuck in my mind. “Why would God give us what we ask for if we are rebelling against Him?” I thought how are we rebelling against Him? By refusing to obey Christs command to love each other as Jesus has loved us.”

When my children were younger and they were deliberately being rebellious and disobeying me and then came to me asking me to give them things. I would have said to them, “Until you change your attitude and behaviour you won’t get a thing from me.” 

Ill. Remember the old cash registers with the keys where you used to punch in the numbers and the amount would come up on a screen at the top.

I know that whenever there is something not right in my life that I need to deal with and I turn to the Lord in prayer. I punch in the numbers and do you know what comes up on the screen NO SALE.

Ps 66:18 If I had allowed sin to remain in my heart, the Lord would not have listened to me.

1 Tim 2:8 I want everyone everywhere to lift holy hands toward heaven and pray, without being angry, resentful or arguing with each other. 

When we are walking in genuine Christian love, God will answer our prayers because we are obeying Him and doing what pleases Him.

When we love each other we have fellowship with God v23-24

I don’t care what anyone says. If we are holding unforgiveness and resentment in our hearts towards a fellow believer we are out of fellowship with God.

When another believer says to me that God has told them this or shown them that while they have resentful, critical attitudes towards other believers, I don’t believe they are hearing from God. The only thing God will be saying to them is forgive that person, apologise to that person, be reconciled to that person. But they obviously don’t want to hear that.

As long as you know there is something between you and another believer God will keep at you until you do something about it. You may put up all the arguments in the world to avoid dealing with it, but God won’t give you His peace until deal with it.

One Christian leader admitted, “Too often I succeed in pride and fail in love.” I get my point across, I get my way, I establish that I’m right, but I wound and injure my fellow believers in the process.”

John is saying here that when we believers love each other we remain in fellowship with God. When we refuse to love one another the fellowship is broken. And we know when that happens because the Spirit of God within us is wounded, grieved and we feel a distance between ourselves and God.

It’s crazy because when we do this we are spiritually starving ourselves.

Let me ask you this morning. Do you really want to remain in unbroken fellowship with God? Do you want know that the communication lines are always open between you and God. Do you want to know that sense of God’s presence and peace with you every moment of the day? The answer is very simple – do what God tells you to do and especially be sure to show forgiveness, compassion and practical love to your fellow believers.

Ill. Gordon MacDonald told of a time when he was about to speak at a meeting that was really important for his future ministry. He felt spiritually dead. There was no passion, no joy, no sense of God’s presence. In desperation he called out to God for help and immediately he became aware of a fellow believer who had offended him. Gordon had not really forgiven this Christian brother and felt justified in feeling resentful towards him for what he had done. He realised that pride and resentment had poisoned his spirit and robbed him of that closeness to God he had known before. He cried out to God to help him forgive this man and set him free from his poisoned spirit.

“Suddenly it was as if an invisible knife cut a hole in my chest and I literally felt a thick substance oozing from within. Moments later I felt as if I’d been flushed out. I’d lost negative spiritual weight, the kind I needed to lose. I was free. I fairly bounced off that plane and soon entered the meeting that did in fact change the entire direction of my life.’ Forgiveness restored the presence, passion and power of God to Gordon’s life