Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, August 1, 2010.
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, August 1, 2010.
1 John 3:10-24: “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
To be or not to be… A long time ago an old play write suggested that that is the question, the big issue of life. “To be, or not to be…”
Well, my friends, as we look not to the words and ways of poets and play writes, but to the Book of books, the Bible – God’s Holy word, a lamp to our feet and a light to our path – as we look to THESE words for all things that pertain to life and godliness we discover that the question, the big issue of life is not “to be or not to be…”, but “to love or not to love…”
Several weeks ago, as we began our journey through this portion of the word of God – the first letter written by the Apostle John – I suggested to you that among other things, what we might find here in this letter would be three ‘tests’, three ways of evaluating ourselves to see if we truly are in the faith. Three sign-posts or distinguishing marks of true Christians that, hopefully, are evident in each and everyone of our lives. Do you remember what they are?
Well, first of all, there is the doctrinal test, that sign post, that distinguishing mark of a true Christian that pertains to what he or she believes about Jesus of Nazareth. Of course, as the apostle John makes clear throughout this letter, in places like 1 John 2:20-23 and 1 John 4:1-3 and 1 John 5:1-5, the point of discussion pertaining to Jesus, revolves not around whether He was good man, a good teacher or a good moral example, but whether or not He was – and is – the Christ, the Son of the living God, who indeed came to this world in human flesh. That’s the doctrinal test, the test of belief, and those who confess, who agree with God’s testimony as to Jesus’ identity, do so because they are truly born again, born of God.
But, then, there’s test number two. How can I know, as John implies in his words in 1 John 5:12-13, that I have truly received God’s gift of eternal life? Sign post number 2 – I need to look at my behavior. Not just what I believe about the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, but I need to honestly evaluate my behavior – is it in keeping with the nature and character of God and of Christ? This is what some have called the ‘moral test’, the signpost of son-ship that pertains to the issue of righteous living. 1 John 1:5ff – Take a look again at that passage with me.
The nature and character of God, and my day-to-day behavior - am I seeking to match up my behavior, the way I conduct myself day in and day out, with the nature and character of God? “God is light” and “there is no darkness at all” in Him, the apostle John declares in 1 John 1:5. But to walk in sin – particularly un-confessed, un-repented of sin, is to walk, not in light as He is in the light, but is to walk in darkness, is to lie, is to fail to practice the truth. Is that my lifestyle? Does that description, walking darkness rather than practicing righteousness, depict my behavior?
The doctrinal test, the distinguishing mark that pertains to what I believe about Jesus – how am I doing with respect to this signpost of son-ship? Or, what about the moral test, the sign post of son-ship that has to do with my day-to-day behavior – how am I doing with respect to that distinguishing mark of a Christian?
That’s two of the tests John points us toward, that we might examine ourselves. But, what’s the third one?
In the passage we read from a moment ago, 1 John 3:10-24, the apostle John lays out for us test number 3, the one that has been called the ‘social’ or ‘relational test,’ the one that everything to do with the question: “to love or not to love.”
Before we jump off into this deep, theological water, allow me to point out two or three things going in, that we ought to keep in mind, as we study this subject, and as we examine ourselves in view of what we will learn.
Number one: the idea of loving one another, though it is explained and portrayed in its fullness in and through the Cross, in and through what Jesus Christ, God’s Son, did for us at Calvary – even though the idea of loving one another came to its ultimate fruition THERE, this idea, this concept, this Biblical teaching is not a new or novel addition that the apostle John is sticking in ‘late in the game’ so-to-speak. No! Rather, as he makes clear with his words in verse 11, ‘this message [the message, the command to love one another] is a message that has been proclaimed and taught “from the beginning”. The beginning of what? The beginning of Jesus’ ministry, for sure. But look next at verse 12 for a powerful answer to that question. The apostle John, in verse 11, says that the message “we must love one another” has been proclaimed “from the beginning”. And the beginning he has in mind, at least if his illustration in verse 12 is any indication, is the beginning of human relationships. “Love one another,” it’s not a Johnny-come-lately teaching – no! It is a foundational teaching that pertains to what God had in mind for human relationships from the very outset!
Secondly, please notice with me a definition, a description, a picture beside the entry in God’s heavenly ‘dictionary,’ next to the word ‘love’. Verse 16 – “John, you’re telling us and teaching us about love, and loving one another. What do you mean by that? What does love, this kind of love, look like?” Read it again with me, verses 16 through 18 and as we do, let’s remember what Calvary looks like!
1 John 3:16-18: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
My loved ones, before we dive off into this teaching pertaining to the question, “to love or not to love” we need to – we must – keep in mind these two things. Number one, the command to “love one another” is not new! No! Verses 11 and 12, it goes all the way back to God’s creation design! Secondly, the word, the concept, the idea of love and loving one another described here is every and always defined in light of the Cross! That is what the apostle John means by love! And, that model, that illustration is what we are called and commanded to imitate!
Okay, now back to this passage and its deep waters, as we contemplate our answer to the question “to love or not to love”, and as we see whether we pass or fail on this third ‘test’ of our Christian profession.
How many of you have ever stopped to look at the photographs on the wall of Wal-Mart of the missing children? And, how many of you have ever recognized one of those children and, after almost fainting, saying to yourself, “I know whose child he is!” “I know whose child she is!”
Whose child are you? “Oh, I’m Johny and Faye Kautt’s son. Born in June 1961…” Whose child are you? All of us could answer in a way similar to the way I just answered that question. But, that’s not the direction the apostle John is trying to steer us with his words in verses 10 through 12. Whose child are you? My loved ones, did you know that our answer to the question, “to love or not to love” has everything to do with the question, “whose child are you?” Read it again with me.
1 John 3:10-12: “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.”
The first thing we need to realize about this third signpost of son-ship, this third examination test, is that whether or not we love each other speaks volumes about who our parent is! I didn’t say parents, but parent! “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God (that, by the way, has to do with signpost #2 – the moral or behavioral test), nor is he who does not love his brother!” Whose child am I? My answer to the question “to love or not to love” is the answer to the question about my parentage!
Secondly, my answer to that question “to love or not to love,” says a great deal about my most basic affiliations!
I mentioned Wal-Mart a minute ago, now I’m going to mention Sam’s Club. How many of you are a member of Sam’s Club? We found out as we were preparing for our vacation trip that not only could we get fuel for Joel’s suburban cheaper at Sam’s Club, but also, because we are affiliated with Mr. Sam Walton’s elite ‘group’, we could get a better motel rate, too!
To whose group do you belong? Ever been asked that question before? My friends, did you know that our answer to that question “to whose group do you belong” has everything to do with our answer to the love question? Verse 13 – Am I a part of God’s group or, am I a member of this world’s club? Is there a way to find out for sure? Yes, there is! Verse 13 – if I love the brethren, the world’s gonna hate me! I won’t be a part of their group, if I love my brothers and sisters in Christ. Oh, but listen, if I don’t love my fellow Christians, then where is my basic affiliation? With them! With the world!
“To love or not to love” – Truly, these are deep, deep waters! Deep because they deal with our parentage, and deep because they address our most basic affiliation. But, also deep, because they speak to our location, because they confront as with the question: “what’s our address?” I know most of your addresses, and most of you know my address. In fact, we regularly receive mail from one another, don’t we? But, what the apostle John is talking about here, in this discussion of the love question, is not what is our house number or what is our P.O. box number; but where is our ABODE? Verse 14 – “We know,” that, by the way, is a statement of certainty, “We know, we are sure, that we have passed from death [one dwelling place] into life [another, a vastly different, dwelling place].” How do we know that? One way! “Because we love the brethren.”
Do you see it my friends? “To love – to love your fellow Christian with that kind of love (Christ-like) is one way to signify that you have, indeed, changed your address! I’m not living any longer at 666 DEATH Street! No! By God’s grace, through the out-pouring of God’s Spirit into my life, and by His Spirit, His love, I don’t live there any longer! No! My new address is 777 LIFE Avenue!
What is so important about the love question? It has everything to do with where you live! But then, finally, please note with me, that all of that is true – whose child I am, to whose group I belong and what is my address – all of those questions ultimately force me to go back one more time to this ‘Mirror’, God’s Word, and ask, “Who am I?” “What is my nature?” Verse 15 – This is one of those ouch verses, isn’t it? Have you ever hated a fellow Christian? Have you ever failed to love a fellow Christian? Notice those two sides to the same coin in verses 14 and 15. Our answer to the question, “to love or not to love,” not only does it speak to our parentage, and to our affiliations, and to our location, but most importantly, it confronts us - like a right-out-of-bed, first-thing-in-the-morning look in the mirror confronts us with our messy hair and our sleepy eyes – our answer to the love question confronts us with who we are! With our nature! Verse 15 – “Whoever hates his brother,” look at the next word, only two letters, but extremely significant, “whoever hates his brother IS a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him!”
“To love or not to love…” What do we see when we look into this ‘Mirror’? More crucial: what will we DO in light of what we see?