Faithlife Sermons

Upsetting Normal

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Good morning… We are in our series in the Epistles of John…We are going to talking about “Upsetting Normal.” I want us to take a moment to greet some and then I want you find a seat somewhere else…not your normal Seat… if you in the back… I want you to change it up. Now that I have made you a little uncomfortable…. Let’s talk about Normal
When we say, something is normal we mean that it is standard it’s something can be expected…
In some ways, normal is good… If you having a baby you hope that everything is normal… when you go in for the ultra sound you want there the be two hands, two eyes…heart beat…. in this sense, Normal is a good thing…
But in another sense Normal can be just average… the status quo… normal can mean the base line…if you in college class that you are finding challenging you are just happy to get through with a pass… I had one professor after hearing the Syllabus, I made a conscious decision to take a pass fail in his class…opposed to getting credit… my goal was simply to pass the class.
Another thing about normal is that it can also be habitual…our natural or normal responses… There is a guy at my Gym that says just about every time I see him …we are creatures of Habit. it’s true we seem to be comfortable doing the same thing over and over… these habits can either be good or bad for us.
It takes intentionality to change our habits…but it can be done and we can exchange bad habits for good habits. And there can be a “New Normal” for us.
John the beloved disciple of Jesus is writing at a time when there is a lot at stake for the church, there is false teaching has crept into the church…and, also, temptation to be like the world…. John knows that in order for the church to survive it’s going to have to go against the flow… Doing Church as normal was not an option.
John uses lots of repetition in his letters. He addresses the church affectionately as children. He reminds the church to go back to the beginning to the elementary teachings and doctrines of Christ himself. False teachers may have started with them but they did not continue in the right teachings.
John talks about challenges of living in the last days. He talks about the system of world being at odds with the values of believers…
He uses the contrasts of Darkness and light to make the distinction between what it means to be born again. John tells us that one of the evidence of be being born of the spirit of God is that one practice righteousness and demonstrates Gods love towards others.
What John does in the book of 1 John is “upset Normal” the status Quo.
John pushes on what ought to be and should be as Christians- The truth is that God has called us to a life that is far from Normal… but a life that makes a difference… and that cannot be ignored.
The greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we can become. - Phil Jenkins
Johns is about the church making a difference in the world..
T/s lets read our text..
1 John 3:11 ESV
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
T/S How do we move from Normal to making a difference?

1. We Shift the Balance from "Inward" to "Outward"

John tells us that the Christian message has not changed from the beginning, it’s always been about loving others… It’s always been about the person on the other side of us… Whether it’s the person sitting next to you or our neighbor or person we meet on the off chance… its always about them… Gospel (good News) is position outwardly… The trouble is that we are hard wired to take care of our inward need… We are wired for self-preservation - to have our own needs taken care of first… and so the natural response is too put our needs before others…
Christianity is a confessional religion… we preach sermons, we say prayers, we sing songs in worship…And now we have websites. and Facebook accounts…These are all proclamation… There is a place for proclamation...But
John pushes back on identity as Christians being more than our confession (proclamation)but also the practice of Faith…
Christianity is a verb not a noun… Faith is an action…
If the only way that our community knows that we are Christian is by the sign hanging on the outside of the building, we have a problem...
A.W. Tozer says it like this....
“A Profession of faith that doesn’t make a difference, doesn’t make a difference to God either.”- A.W. Tozer
John tells us that Faith is more than our words… it’s also our deeds. John draws together the theology and the ethics of true Christian faith; that united whole is the inseparable mixture of word and work.
One of the mistakes we can make in interpreting the NT is by putting the emphasis in the wrong place…For example we can preach God is righteous and God is Holy (which is true) …but neglect that God is a God of love… Even though John deals with issues of sin, righteousness and judgement… It is still positive message because everything is prefaced by the love of God… John wants us to stand before God as Children of God and reap all the benefits of the relationship.
We need to remember that even though the scripture deals with the hard issues in our lives… the emphasis of the NT is always on the positive benefits of the character of God.
John is telling us that the message about the love of God has not changed…. As God, has loved us… so we ought to love one another… This is not exclusive love. this is loving those whom God has put in front of us…Now, you might push back on this.. pastor you don’t know how hard it is to love certain people… And, I understand that some people take more energy than others… (just keeping it real).
I like Vaughn Roberts…pastor from Oxford said..
"When you love people who are like you, that's ordinary. When you love people, who are unlike you, that's extraordinary. When you love people, who dislike you, that's revolutionary." Vaughn Roberts.
That’s why it’s called the great command because it’s not easy. right.
If we are going to love like Jesus... we need to know a few things about love and the first is that love takes commitment.
When Pam and I were married her Uncle Dave sang the song for us on our wedding day… A song that Don Francisco wrote called love is not a feeling it’s an act of the will…
So you say you can't take it The price is too high Your feelings have gone It seems your river's run dry You never imagined It could turn out so rough You give and give and give And still it's never enough Your emotions have vanished It once held a thrill The wonder of love Could be alive in you still The ring on your finger Is put there to stay You'll never forget The words you promised that day
Jesus didn't die for you Because it was fun He hung there for love Because it had to be done
The Chorus says Cause …Love is not a feeling it's the act of your will.
We have never forgotten it in our marriage. Now, I think that I have married the most incredible person in the world… I have admiration and love for Pam … She outstanding mom…She is amazing gifted at training children…She has amazing patience with me…
She prays like no other person I know…but we are still human --- and like every marriage both of constantly chose to love… Choosing to love in some ways is not natural… It’s not natural because we have to be intentional… and choose to love... The kind of love that God demonstrated towards us --- is not natural – its supernatural…
John uses the word Agapao for loving others… It Comes from the kind of sacrificial love that God demonstrated in Christ … Agapao is the deepest possible expression of God’s character… It is characterized by God willingness to forfeit all his rights and privileges of being God and becoming a man to enjoy relationship with us.
This is the kind of love that we should demonstrate towards one another. John writes about love in the present tense… meaning that there is no completion love. there needs to be continuous display of love in the family of God.
How do we do this?
A couple years ago Neal and Judy Brower (district superintendent) shared with a group of us pastors about the important of listening to others… It was so practical…
Loving means being curious about someone else. Each person is unique — The world population clock tells us that in October there are 7.7 Billion people on the planet and there are no two people the same…Every person is unique in every sense of the word…That just shows you how amazing God is… When meet someone we should take the time to appreciate uniqueness... every person has imprint of God… image bearers. When we start looking for God’s image in people it may change our attitudes.
That's the kind of love John is calling us to—the kind of love the world is waiting to see.
T/S To illustrate this point of the importance of loving others – John uses an extreme example of Cain and Abel a relationship that sours and goes terribly wrong…
A story that his audience would have known quite well..
1 John 3:12–15 ESV
12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
The story of Cain and Able is one of Jealousy… both offer a sacrifice to God… Cain offers a grain offering and Abel’s offers blood sacrifice…God accepts Cain’s and rejects Abel’s… Instead of dealing with the issue before God… Cain allowed Satan to get ahold of his heart and mind… He allowed evil thoughts to full his mind and this led to jealousy and this led to murder...
John asks the question…Why did Cain Murder? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.
Cain’s anger stemmed from the fact that his own offering was rejected… His anger against God boiled over against his brother and he killed Abel… Abel was the nearest representative of obedience to God…
What’s going on here?
The righteous acts of Abel provoked the jealousy of Cain, which digressed into hatred and eventually murder…John is saying this is what happens when we neglect love in our lives… We can allow thoughts to develop that are destructive… If we think about something negatively for so long… we can begin to start to believe our own conclusions… start to think negative things about people in our lives....
John tells us that “Jealousy—hatred—murder is a natural and terrible sequence”
John says, that this kind of behavior is normal in the world… Don’t go looking at the world for the God variety of love… The world doesn’t understand Agape love…
The world often behaves like Cain.…The world works on getting ahead of each other… outperforming the competition…. … and when that doesn’t happen - Jealousy settles in...
John says don’t be surprised when the world hates you. because until they come to the knowledge of the savior — they will not understand the kind love demonstrated in Christ. The example of Cain’s hatred provides a striking antithesis to the demand for brotherly love within and beyond the Church. Abel is thus directly opposed to the attitude of love demanded among spiritual brothers
But not so with Believers because we have been born of God… John describes this as having passed out of death to life…
The perfect tense verb metabebekamen literally means “to take steps over,” “to pass over,” or “to move from one place to another.” John employs the term to denote a permanent movement from one spiritual sphere, “out of death” (ek tou thanatou), into the exact opposite region, “into life” (eis tēn zōēn). The perfect tense distinguishes the permanent, abiding reality of the life they now experience
The evidence, as well as the test, of having crossed over from spiritual death into the dimension of eternal life is both practical and objective — Simply by our love for others.
“Love is not only proof that men are truly children of God; it is also the decisive touchstone for all such claims.” Dodd.
In other words, eternal life is not earned by loving the brothers. Rather, loving others is evidence that one has made the transition from death to life…
T/s John now give us the example of love…in Jesus
1 John 3:16–18 ESV
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
T/s How do we move from Normal to making a difference?
1. We Shift the Balance from "Inward" to "Outward"

2. We shift the balance from "Abstract" to "Actual"

John says to the church “by this we Know love” …. that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
-We have the knowledge of the kind of love we are talking about… Because love is a Person…Jesus.. We have seen Jesus (love) in his ministry during his life, we have seen his love towards the woman caught in adultery, towards tax collectors, towards the Samaritan woman… we saw his love for the multitudes when he fed them… We felt his love in His words and parables. We saw his love on the Cross....his compassion for the thief next to him. forgiveness to the Romans… and his completion of the task...
…The idea of the imitation of Christ —is concept that is deeply imbedded in NT theology…In book of Philippians 2:5 tells us to have mind among yourselves as in Christ Jesus… who being God took on the nature of man… we follow Christs example of humility and love
John tells us How we should love! Johns tells us to live like Jesus lived.
How did Jesus love…
Augustine said that...
In Christ, we do find greater love, seeing that he gave up his life not for his friends but for his enemies. How great must be God’s love for humanity and what extraordinary affection, so to love even sinners that he would die for love of them! “For God emphasizes his love toward us”—they are the apostle’s words—“because while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Augustine
John tells us that Jesus lay down his life…The word lay down means to put something down… It seems to imply not so much the laying down as the laying aside of something like clothes … It is, in fact, used in John 13:4 of Christ taking off his outer garment.”
As Hiebert explains: “Since one’s life is an individual’s most precious possession, Christ’s willingness to lay down that life on behalf of others constituted the greatest possible expression of love.”
This is again a shift from Normal to making a difference.… Normal would be for me to stay in my lane and ignore what is happening in around us in the world…
But extraordinary love… lays down on behalf of others.… To lay aside means to lay aside a right or a possession…
What can I lay down for others? There are basically three things we can lay down for others...
Our talent, time, and our treasures.
John says we ought to love… its stronger than a good suggestion. it means to be obligated — to love because Christs love towards us.
Love Does… love doesn’t observe… it must move from the abstract into the Actual… Loving others might start as an abstract idea — vision or thought… but it can’t stay there… Jesus modeled actual love...
Tertullian is one of the Church Fathers who lived about 100 years after John… An in his writings we have this remarkable testimony --- of the generously of the early church --- to extent that the unbelieving world noticed.… Tertullian tells us that the world marveled at the love that witnessed in Christian fellowship… Especially at it faced some ferocious persecution.... Tertullian says deeds so noble that they put this brand upon us... ‘See how they love one another! … how are they ready even to die for one another!’ This is incredible when you think that this was 200AD…
John tells us who we should love..
John says we are to love those who have need! If anyone lacks material possessions. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
1 John 3:17 ESV
17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
• One of the blessings of living in the United States is that we are incredibly blessed when it comes to the freedoms and basic living conditions.
• Over three billion people — more than half the world population as of 2010 — live on less than $2.50 US Dollars (USD) a day. More than 80% of the population lives on less than $10 USD per day
• You don’t have to go far to find poverty in our world.
• Zimbabwe is going through another crisis of shortages… when you walk into the grocery shop there is nothing on the shelves… Sister in law Kate told us how thankful they were to get a loaf of bread this week. She also asked us to pray from them this weekend because they were need for Gas for next week so that Pam’s brother Kevin can get to work..
• John is saying that one of the easiest things is to ignore the needs of others in our world.… We can insulate and isolate ourselves from the massive material poverty that surrounds us in the world.
• Now it is impossible to meet every need in the world. but we can help some… There are some things we can do.
As Lewis observes: “It is easier to be enthusiastic about Humanity with a capital ‘H’ than it is to love individual men and women, especially those who are uninteresting, exasperating, depraved, or otherwise unattractive. Loving everybody in general may be an excuse for loving nobody in particular.”
• We can pray that God would give us new awareness.
• Investigate local ministries serving the poor
• Look at your budget… then we should act..
John says when you see someone in need - don’t ignore them… don’t avoid them...
John is calling the Church to live a life of generosity… This is another practical way that we can show someone that we care about them.
Johns asks… How do we know that someone abides in Christ? How do we know truth from error… we look at what is actual! It’s something we all know is that Actions.. speak louder than Words… One of my favorite quotes is from St. Francis.. of Assis.. “Preach the gospel and if necessary use words”
John makes the logical argument. How can we profess to be partakers of the nature of God and yet not demonstrate love to others?
Divine love itself should “dwell” in (μένει) and flow from the genuine disciple of Jesus. That is a mark and test of authentic spiritual experience.
It is the nature of God’s love to give, just as it is the nature of the sun to shine. And that love is the mark of a faith that is real. It touches our bank accounts and our diaries. It governs the stewardship of our time and talents, our energy and our possessions
For love is to be active, and not theoretical; it is to be expressed not only in words, but also in works inspired by the divine love itself
How clear and practical is this… talking is not going help someone who needs a hand…We bring the gap between Faith and Practice… through actions....
To love in both words - deeds and truth -
truth (quality) n. — conformity to reality or actuality; often with the implication of dependability.
Get the implication of loving in truth is that you can be depended upon…Be that kind of person that shows up...
1 John 3:19–23 ESV
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
T/s How do we move from Normal to making a difference?
1. We Shift the Balance from "Inward" to "Outward"
2. We shift the balance from "Abstract" to "Actual"

3. When we shift the Balance from Condemnation to Confidence through Prayer.

John uses the book ends of beginning and endings… Here John brings up the Parousia or the appearing of Christ… All things in history are moving towards his coming…
John wants us to think about that day with hope.. not to shrink back in fear but to anticipate that day with full assurance… What hope to see Jesus… There is this picture going on FB… The first day in heaven… and I love this image… because that’s the kind of confidence that John is talking about…
When we shift the balance from mere talking to living out our faith… This becomes the New Normal… With this the new normal.. comes confidence…
This is another theme that comes up over and over in John… That all this false teaching that Gnostics brought… that Christians had to have the special anointing’s… which invoked feelings of inadequacies… John simply says… When your Faith deeds line up...
We can be confident that on that day when we stand before him at the Parousia — his appearing… Our hearts won’t condemn us because we have been abiding in Him...
Confidence in God’s presence is one result of an untroubled conscience: fellowship with God, rather than judgment from him.
“The word rendered confidence stood in ancient Greece for the most valued right of a citizen of a free state, the right to ‘speak his mind’ … unhampered by fear or shame.” (Barker citing Dodd)
Truth we have confidence in Prayer.. as Children of God we can come before God and bring every request we have knowing that we have his full affection.
The challenge this morning is to change lanes.. instead of going in your lane… Normal.. I want to challenge you to change lanes…. from Normal (living for me) to making a difference in some elses world. that is where we find life and joy…
Lisa Bevere “Don't settle for the crumbs of comparison when God has invited you to His table”
One of the things we encourage in this country is this idea of following our passion… We say things like "follow your passion," "pursue your dreams," or "do what you love and love what you do."
But is this really true?
Do these mantras truly represent the path to vocational clarity, personal fulfillment, and human flourishing?
Not according to a study by researchers from Stanford University and Yale-NUS College, which found that "following your passion" is likely to lead to overly limited pursuits, inflated expectations (career, economic, or otherwise), and early or eventual burnout.
The study's authors concluded:
People are often told to find their passion as though passions and interests are pre-formed and must simply be discovered. This idea, however, has hidden motivational implications … Urging people to find their passion may lead them to put all their eggs in one basket but then to drop that basket when it becomes difficult to carry.
Although our culture tells us to "look within," assuming a fixed set of passions to guide us on our way, researchers found more positive results among those who allow room for interests and intelligence to develop over time.
The study encourages us to ask: Are we still looking only to the self or are we looking outward and upward as well?
As David Brooks once wrote: "Most successful young people don't look inside and then plan a life. They look outside and find a [need or God's call], which summons their life...
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