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1st John (2011)

Burden of Love

1 John  5:1-5

Lesson audio

Loving the Children

1 John 5:1-2 NASB  Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.  (2)  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.

Love God, Love His Children

It is a truism among families: "love me, love my kids." God apparently follows the same rule of thumb. So the first question is, "just who is a child of God?" John gives us the answer here; whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ. Think that one through from it; it means someone who accepts that Jesus is who he claims he is. In particular, it is his claim to be the Messiah (the Christ) which is most important. The reason for that is simple: it implies all the other claims of Christ. If you accept this one, the rest come more or less as a package with it.

John uses the phrasing, "whoever believes." Please note that in John's time the idea that you could believe something and not act upon it was considered a sign of mental defect. In short, you had to be nuts to believe something and take no action upon it. So we may not conclude from this that an academic believe only is sufficient. But we can conclude from the first word, whoever, that membership in this family is open to anybody who wants to take it up. It often comes as a surprise to the new Christian that he does not have to be "good enough" to become a Christian. The only known qualification for being a Christian is that you have to be a sinner first. Some of us are exceedingly well qualified. (Blows on fingers, polishes them on shirt.)

The transformation of becoming a Christian is so immense that it is described as being "born again." The technical term is regeneration. There are certain lizards whose tales can be completely removed and then grow back. This is the spiritual equivalent. The process is so effective that we are said to be "born of God"; we become something entirely new. Of course, this process only begins when you become a Christian and continues for the rest of your life — and as far as I know, may go on beyond that.

Love God

So how do I love God? Just asking the question is a good start. It's not something that necessarily comes completely naturally — ask any successful husband and he will tell you that love is hard work. If it's that difficult with a wife, how much more difficult is it to love God? Let's take a look at some of the common techniques:

·         Scripture reading. If you love God, you love to hear from him. So open his writings and hear from him.

·         Prayer. If you love someone, isn't that just natural to want to talk with them?

·         Meditation. We are to "think on these things." It's how you get 20 years of experience rather than one year of experience 20 times.

Those are the techniques which might be described as interior — meaning that they belong to the inner person. The outer person has methods too:

·         Most prominent is public worship. A significant part of public worship is the adoration of God.

·         Perhaps as important is this: do you praise God in front of other people for what he has done for you?

These things may seem rather ordinary to you; but did you really expect loving God to be intellectually complicated?

Observe His Commandments

It's when we get observing his Commandments that most people think that loving God is difficult. The impression persists that Christianity is a large collection of rules, mostly negative, violation of any of which causes you to go to hell immediately, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Actually, Christ condensed the entire matter to two Commandments. The first is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. Let's take the first one first. If you put your entire heart, soul, mind and strength in the loving God you give him the key to correcting any misimpressions or false starts that you might have made. Remember, you are host to the Holy Spirit who will guide you into all truth. That guidance comes in a number of forms, including Scripture reading and perhaps listening to this lesson, but the principle is simple. Give it all you've got.

When Jesus was asked about this business of loving your neighbor, he didn't reply with a nice dictionary definition of who a neighbor might happen to be. He told the parable of the good Samaritan. This tells us two things: first, neighbor includes a lot of people we didn't think it would. Second, this is not something subject to rules and regulations but rather wholeheartedness.

One aspect of love your neighbor which has been greatly neglected in the emerging church is this: if you love your neighbor, would you share who Jesus Christ is with that neighbor?

Not Burdensome

1 John 5:3 NASB  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

What Is Burdensome?

Noah Webster in his original dictionary defines the word as having these characteristics:

·         Grievous to be borne.

·         Causing uneasiness or fatigue.

·         Oppressive.

If you need a contemporary example, may I refer you to the Internal Revenue Service? Federal regulation has become indeed burdensome to the typical American. It need not be federal regulation; we have police departments busting six-year-old girls for holding forth with a lemonade stand. This is what were trying to avoid.

It should be pointed out that this also describes a common straw man argument for Christianity. The opponents of Christianity are fond of portraying it as a massive, burdensome collection of regulations. It's easy to show that this makes it a lousy religion. What's difficult is to maintain and claim that that's really what Christianity is about. Then again, our opponents are not too picky about the facts. After all, the postmodernist knows that this must be true — at least for him.

Keep His Commandments

Have you ever thought about that word keep? It really means to hold onto something, doesn't it? That's what he wants us to do with his commandments — hold on to them. The Fact is that from the earliest days it has been easy to summarize what God wants him to simple things. Let me give you three examples:

·         First, from the Old Testament:

Micah 6:8 MKJV  He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does Jehovah require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?

(The Modern King James is perhaps the most eloquent here.) Three simple points and Micah has summarized everything you need to do to keep his commandments.

·         Saint Augustine comes next: "Love God — and do as you please." If you love God, what you please to do will please him.

·         Third, we have the obvious one from Jesus Christ:

Luke 10:25-27 MKJV  And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?  (26)  He said to him, What is written in the Law? How do you read it?  (27)  And answering, he said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.

(The following verses lead into the story of the Good Samaritan.)

If you are still puzzled about this, consider a commonplace example. Most of us know how a car works — that is to say, we know where to put the key, we know where the gas pedal is, and we know how to steer the car. An automotive engineer would consider this completely inadequate to describe "know how a car works." The engineer would probably get into gas expansion laws, the laws of thermodynamics, and any number of things having to do with materials. All this knowledge is good; we certainly hope the automotive engineers have it. But the simple level of how a car works, works.

Not Burdensome

Let's go back and look at those three criteria for burdensome again:

·         Grievous? There is no grief in being forgiven.

·         Uneasiness? The Christian should be able to reply to his questioners with confidence. We are to present the ready defense; if you are prepared, the uneasiness disappears.

·         Oppressive? It is Christ who gives true freedom and relieves all oppression.

Burdens are heavy when you can't lift them. If you have help lifting them, they aren't heavy.

Overcome the World

1 John 5:4-5 NASB  For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith.  (5)  Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Whatever

Note that word "whatever." The word in the Greek is rather inclusive: it can mean whatever, whoever and several other meetings ending with the word ever. It's not just people; it's something that is characteristic of anything that is born of God. Whatever it is, it overcomes. This is something that comes out of the attributes of God; his character so to speak. As God is victorious, so are the things born of God. The things of God love God; they do not love the world. The people of God love God; they do not love the world. In particular,

·         They do not obey its dictates. The world commands us to acquire more, to fight on all occasions, to hate. The question is, do you give into this?

·         It follows therefore that the child of God is not someone who "goes along, gets along." We are not here to blend in to the scenery. We are to be a light upon a hill which cannot be hidden.

·         In particular, we are citizens of the heavenly kingdom — and therefore do not submit ourselves to the laws of Satan.

Victorious

The word "victory" in the original Greek is also the root word of "overcomes." You know that root word; it's "Nike." The word form used as "overcomes" is in a continuous tense; it means to continually overcome, not just overcome once.

The phrasing used in "this is the victory" implies that we have found the source of that victory, not the result. What John is telling us here is that faith is in fact the source of the Christian's victory. In other words, if your faith is strong your victory is more certain. So the practical question for us is, how do I have a strong faith?

This author has had the privilege of watching Tino Wallenda (of the Flying Wallendas) perform in prison ministry. If you ever get the chance to see, take a look at where he keeps his eyes. You will see that his eyes are always fixed upon the other end of the tight rope — his final destination. That's the secret to faith as well: keep your eyes fixed on your final destination, Jesus Christ. Don't get distracted; faith is not about "what" but about "whom."

Who

When John asks, "who is the one" the original words of the Greek are not those of one who is seeking an answer which he does not already know. Rather, they are an appeal to the hearer to apply the facts he knows and the experience he has to come to the same solution. In essence he is saying, "Look around you." Look at the successful Christians you see; they are victorious. Look around at the rest of the world too; you will quickly find that it is only the believer who overcomes the world. Remember, overcoming the world is not the same thing as being successful in the world.

Why is this so? It is because overcoming the world rests entirely upon Jesus Christ. Nobody else has risen from the grave by his own power. No one else has eternal life in his hands. Faith in him yields victory now and the "well done" when our Lord returns.

If this seems rather obvious to you, that's because it is.

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