Faithlife Sermons

1 John: Called to Love - Part 1

1 John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:30
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Introduction:
I came across a funny story as I was studying for this message that seemed to get us pointed in the right trajectory today.
A 12-year-old boy was waiting for his first orthodontist appointment and was a bit nervous. Apparently he wanted to impress the dentist. On the patient questionnaire, in the space marked “Hobbies,” he had written, “Swimming and flossing.”
I think if we polled most 12-year old boys - flossing their teeth would not make the top two on their hobby list. In all actuality - flossing may not even make the list of something they do unless the dental hygienist or dentist does it for them!
Today we are going to discuss the ‘Call to Love’ that each of us receives as believers. Many of us may applaud this concept. We may say ‘Amen’ to the idea that loving others is a key tenet of the faith. We may look at the First and Second Greatest Commandments and know that we are to love God first and then love people.
Yet, if someone would walk with us day to day - would they see us as more like this 12-year old boy or would they see us more like Jesus? Would we be known more by what we said or more known by what we did?
With all of this in mind - let’s dive into the Scripture today:
Read Full Scripture:
1 John 3:11–18 ESV
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 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. 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.
Prayer
We are called to love no matter what happens as believers. This first point hits in a very difficult way because we see that...

I. If You Love God…The World Will Hate You (11-15)

Yet we still are to love others. Let’s revisit verse 11 to see this in more detail:
1 John 3:11 ESV
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
Starting at verse 11 we see that there is a message that we have heard from the beginning. What is this message? It is the message of the Gospel. We love because He first loved us. We are to love God and love others. This is the message of the Gospel that was proclaimed even in the Old Testament. It is the message that predates the Creation of the world. God knew that man would fall and the message of love and redemption was planned before the foundations of the world.
It is important to note here that God not only commands believers to love, he also enables them to obey this mandate:
Romans 5:5 ESV
5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
He gives believers the Holy Spirit that carries out the command to love God and love others. How wonderful is our God! He doesn’t just give commands - He provides the power and ability to carry them out.
Moving to the next verse we get a picture of the opposite of this love.
1 John 3:12 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.
Right after reminding his readers again about the Gospel, he brings up the first murder in verse 12. In the book of Genesis chapter 3, just prior to this murder, we see the first lack of love - this is the choosing of self over God in the eating of the forbidden fruit. The following chapter in Genesis - chapter 4 - we come to the second lack of love - culminating in an act of active hate through murder. We see Cain hate his brother Abel and take his life!
A greater understanding of the Greek here provides a more detailed picture of what happened in Genesis 4. This word murdered in the Greek is sphazō (sphaz-o). It is a rather strong word. It was actually used in the butchering or slaughtering of a sacrificial animal. It is used to describe a violent passion. It was used in classical Greek as a violent slitting of the throat. I hate to give this graphic detail, but it is important that we understand the devastating effects and dangers of hate.
Why does he do this? For one - Because of the sin of envy. Envy is such a dangerous thing. It blinds one from seeing. It hyper-focuses one on someone and everything else seems to not matter any more. It stems from pride and selfishness.
Why was Cain so upset with Abel? To our knowledge, Abel hadn’t done anything malicious to Cain. We have no record that Abel said or did anything against Cain. Yet Cain villainized his brother. His hate blinded him from who Abel really was. He saw what he wanted to see. He was upset that God accepted Abel’s offering but didn’t receive his.
Note in verse 12 the word who. This word ‘who’ is actually not found in the original Greek. It literally says - Cain, of the evil one. Cain is referred to as a son of Satan. Yet also take note that this son of Satan is still religious. Cain worshiped at an altar. We see the Scribes and Pharisees do the same in the New Testament. It is not religion that saves someone. It is only though a true loving relationship with God through salvation in Jesus Christ that one may be saved. Beware of those who use religion as their salvation.
Getting back to this first murder - After the sacrifices that Cain and Abel presented and Abel’s was accepted and Cain’s was not, Cain had a an important decision to make. We all can learn from horrific event. When something bad happens to us we can focus on one of three things:
Three Responses to Negative Circumstances
We can blame God
We can blame someone else
We can own up to our part of the problem
1) We can blame God. He is the one in charge so if something bad has happened we can decide to blame Him. Many people do this. Yet, Cain was smart enough to know that this was futile. He had heard of the judgment and power of God in judging his parents’ sin and decided this wasn’t the correct path for him.
2) We can blame someone else. We can blame shift. This is a very common thing we see today as well. This sin originated in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve who blame shifted from the start, and it obviously carried into their progeny. But it didn’t stop then. It has continued to this day. We can decide that our problem or hardship is due to someone else. And we can place all of the blame on that person.
3) We can own up to our part of the problem. Obviously, not every problem we face will be 100% our fault. Sometimes we may even be entirely innocent. Yet, we should always start with self-reflection and repent of anything we did wrong. Cain refused to see his own sin. He decided it was better for him to blame everything on his brother. He refused to own up to the fact that God had called for an animal sacrifice and that he brought a sacrifice that was not commanded. He refused to see his own pride and sin by wanting to bring the best that he had cultivated instead of bringing what God actually commanded.
As we dive further into the issues in this first murder we see that there is another monster lurking underneath the surface. Not only was envy part of the problem, righteousness was another. Those who are children of the devil hate righteousness. Righteous persons put wicked persons in a compromising situation. The light of Christ shown through a righteousness person makes the sinful nature of an unrighteous person much more noticeable.
We see this even in children. If you acknowledge a righteous act that one child does - you may see the surrounding unrighteous children begin to despise that child. Not only may envy begin, but there may be a despising of that child among the unrighteous children. They may begin bullying the child or exerting a strong influence to stop the child from doing what they did that was righteous. They may even try to bear false witness against the child in order to make them look bad.
These actions are nothing short of hate.
1 John 3:13 ESV
13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
John lets his readers know that this is to be expected for the believer. Don’t be surprised. The KJV translates this “marvel not.” In other words - of course the world hates you. Your righteousness exposes the darkness around you. You saw what happened to Jesus. He warned you already:
John 15:20 ESV
20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
What did you expect? That you would do right and the evil world system would embrace light in the midst of darkness? Of course not! It is only natural that the wicked hate the righteous because the lives of the righteous blatantly contradict the very lives of the wicked. The lives of the wicked scream injustice and evil in the light of the righteous.
John finishes this thought with a view of eternity.
1 John 3:14–15 ESV
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.
Although the righteous are hated - they can be sure that they have passed from death to life. This assurance comes not from works but instead from a work done within them by the Holy Spirit. As D.L. Akin so eloquently states:
Eternal life is not earned by loving the brothers. Rather, loving the brothers is evidence that one has made the transition from death to life.
Those who have passed from death to life do not align with the ones mentioned in verse 15. They do not hate their brothers. They stand in opposition of hate and instead love as Christ loves.
We have seen that if you love God…the world will hate you. But we also see in this section...
Scripture References: Rom 5:5, Gen 3, Gen 4, John 15:20

II. If You Love God…The World Will Not Understand You (16-18)

a) Because of Your Sacrifice, Generosity, and Service (16-18)

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.
John likely writes verse 16 as he recalls his prior writing in the Gospel of John in 10:18:
John 10:18 ESV
18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
These phrases - lay down and take up - are actually very interesting in their choice of wording. It actually is the type of language that one would use when referring to a cloak or an article of clothing. Namely, this is usually something that you can put on and take off.
The power of this verse in John 10:18 shows the incredible power and glory of our Savior. He is the Creator of Life and thus had the power to lay His life down willingly for our sins on the cross. How beautiful is that sacrifice. He took on our sin so we would not have to suffer in Hell.
Yet this same powerful Creator God - Jesus Christ - also had the incredible power to take His life up again through the resurrection! He is now exalted at the right hand of the Father so that by faith in Him and repentance of our sins - we may have eternal life through His atoning sacrifice on the cross.
What is our response to this?
Jesus laid His life down for us. And we are to do the same for others. We are to be sacrificial with our lives. We are to be willing to be martyred for the faith. We are to be willing to give up our dreams and hopes and aspirations and even our 401k’s should the Lord require that of us. We are to count all of our accolades as rubbish as Paul stated in Philippians when comparing it to the glory that is to be revealed.
Philippians 3:8 ESV
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
As I continued studying this concept, I came across an idea that really challenged me. There is an exaltation of those who do great things for the Lord. These are very difficult - don’t get me wrong. Leaving your homeland and going into missions in a dangerous country is a very difficult task. Being willing to be imprisoned for your faith as those in China and most recently - even in Canada - is very difficult. But these tasks do bring a sense of exhilaration. And sometimes recognition as well.
Yet some of us may not be called to go overseas. Some of us may not experience the type of persecution seen in China. Because of this, I find that those living in American Christianity may struggle even more to live sacrificially than others. The mundane day to day life of excess and comfort may make it more and more difficult for us to part with our comforts for someone else.
Brothers and sisters - what have you sacrificed for God recently? Finances? Time? Hopes? Dreams? Your plans for His?
Believe me - sacrificing your time, or finances, or dreams, or hopes for the Lord is not without its reward. We have a heavenly reward that will far surpass anything here. But there is also a blessing of fulfillment while on earth. A closeness with the Father and an intimate relationship with Him.
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.
In verses 17 and 18 we see a call for sacrificial giving. If we have the world’s goods. This Greek word for good is bios (bee-ose). It refers to necessities for life. Food, clothing, shelter. John says there is a danger if one sees and closes his heart against him. This word sees in its Greek context refers to a state of keen observation. Not just a quick glance but seen with a deeper understanding. This phrase of closing his heart is also a unique phrase. It means closing the inmost parts of a person. It is a deliberate rejection of the urge of compassion that arises in the heart. For believers this can be referred to as rejecting the prompting of the Holy Spirit’s conviction in your life.
Obviously, we cannot do everything for everyone in every situation. We all have limited time and resources. But John is calling out people who see and understand a need, experience the conviction to act, and then refuse to obey. John says - then how does God’s love abide in him?
Verse 18 goes on and says don’t just talk the talk but walk the walk.
We must be willing to sacrificially give of our time, our treasures and our service to others and to Christ through the church.
In order to measure how well the American church is doing at sacrifice, generosity and service - we need to look at the best gauge of the heart - which sadly, is the wallet.
I don’t like talking about money. I don’t think any Pastor enjoys it personally. I’m not sure why I don’t like talking about it because I don’t even take any salary from the church! Yet it is still uncomfortable. However, I do need to preach the whole counsel of God and this is an area that is of intense persecution in the American church.
As we gauge the state of the American church I realize that no statistics are perfect. These are per an article from two years ago. However, even if these are in the right ballpark, we are in a lot of trouble.
(Reference) https://pushpay.com/blog/church-giving-statistics/ - accessed 11/28/19
According to Church Giving Statistics on Pushpay.com we see the following staggering findings:
Only 10-25 percent of any given congregation tithes.
On average Christians give 2.5% of their income to the church. During the Great Depression this number was 3.3%.
Of families that make over 75,000 dollars per year, only 1% donated 10% of their income. According to this article those with a salary of $20,000 or less are eight times more likely to give than someone who makes 75,000 dollars or more.
The Greatest Generation (1900-1927), The Silent Generation (1928-1945), and The Baby Boomers (1946-1964) make up around 80% of church giving today. In contrast they only make up 30% of the entire US population.
Take in mind that 30% of the population today is 22 or younger (Gen Z) and not likely old enough to give substantially. That shows 40% of the United States population (those born betwen in 1965 and 1996 - Generation X and The Millennial Generation) provide 20% of the churches giving.
These statistics are disheartening to me. We see a few trends that are extremely dangerous to the church today. If Generation X, the Millennial Generation and in the future Gen Z do not step up and give, the church could see an 80% decrease in funds within 25-30 years once most of the final baby boomers go to the meet the Lord. We see that the younger generations are not nearly as giving to the church and frankly - many aren’t even present in the church today if we look at church membership statistics.
Another disheartening statistic is that we see that those who make more end up giving less proportionally! As God richly blesses it appears that Americans forget who He is.
Proverbs 30:8–9 ESV
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9 lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
America has become full and is saying, “Who is the Lord.”
My challenge for us today is for each of us to ask ourselves the question - am I giving sacrificially to the Lord of my time and resources? Do we look more like the church of America or are we an outlier? My challenge has no strings attached. This isn’t a guilt-ridden plea for our church or any other for that matter. It is a challenge for each of our hearts.
Matthew 6:21 ESV
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus is clear that we invest where our heart is.
Obviously we usually invest in things we value highly or things that we expect to get a good return in. We may invest in a 401k and see that the stock market has provided an average of 8% or more over the past four decades. We may invest time and resources in our children’s education knowing that they are more likely to get a better paying job if they are educated well. But what about the church? The church is far from perfect but it is the entity that Christ has set up to reach the world with the good news of the Gospel and to disciple and baptize believers. We must see the benefit of giving to our local church because Christ has commanded it and it is His will.
We as believers who love God should not be understood by the world because of our sacrifice, our generosity, and our service to others.
Scripture References: John 10:18, Phil 3:8, Prov 30:8-9, Matt 6:21
Conclusion
Today we have gotten half way through our mini series on Called to Love. We have seen today that those who love God will be hated by the evil system of the world. We have also seen that those who love God will not be understood by the world.
I pray that each of us applies these points to our lives. I pray that each of us are not understood by the world. Frankly, I also pray that there have at least been some instances where there was a hatred directed to you because of Christ’s righteousness shinning through you. We need to be living in such a way that is so countercultural that it is offensive to those who are of this evil world system. No, we do not live obnoxiously. We don’t pick fights. But we live in such a way as to represent Christ in this dark world.
Next week we will discuss that not only does the world hate and not understand those who love God - but that those who love God will overcome.
Prayer
Please fell free to reach out if you want to discuss further what it means to be saved. Also if you want to discuss how to move closer in your walk with Christ as you love like He loves.
Also for those who have considered baptism or church membership -I would love to discuss this with you.
God bless and have a blessed week!
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