We are in Jerusalem the center for so much of the New Testament in the Bible. Let's get this background on the book we are approaching in this flight segment.
The book of First John is next; let's look carefully at what we can see in this scriptural territory.
Pastor Skip Heitzig: As you know, there were three really close associates with Jesus Christ on earth out of the 12 apostles that followed Him; they were Peter, James, and John. Peter's letters we covered last week. Those last two James and John, they were brothers and they were sons of Zebedee, they were known as the sons of Zebedee although; while they follow Jesus, Jesus gave them a new name, a nickname; He called them "Sons of Thunder." James and John, the author of this book, got one of those titles, "Sons of Thunder", probably because of their energy and their zeal or perhaps it was because of their tendency of having no tolerance whatsoever.
You may recall the story in gospel of Luke, chapter 9, when they are going toward Jerusalem, Jesus has His face set toward Jerusalem, the scripture says and they stop by, one of the Samaritan villages and they are not too excited about receiving Jesus because he is going to Jerusalem and so it was James and John, the sons of Zebedee that made a suggestion to Jesus, "Hey! Lord, would you like us to call fire down from heaven and kill everyone, like Elijah did?" You know what kind of a request is that, that's like, Al-Qaeda disciples. [laughter]
And I don't know how you picture James and John but after reading that I, kind of, pictured them with leather robes and spike bracelets and kind of wild hair, "Sons of Thunder", very, very interesting group. Now John, wrote the gospel of John, these three epistles First, Second and Third John and the book of Revelation, a very closed associate with Jesus and he is called in the gospels the apostle whom Jesus loved, he laid his head on the bosom of Jesus at the last supper, you may remember.
So he was called the apostle that Jesus loved, interestingly we find that title in the gospel of John. So John is the one who gave himself the nickname. Oh! We have all these disciples but I'm the guy Jesus loved. You know what I liked that, because I think that could be true of all of us. You are the one that Jesus loved and loves, you are the one that Jesus loves and he took the love of God and he personalized it for himself.
Now something that is noteworthy about this letter of First John is there is no typical opening introduction, now there is no opening address or greeting like we find in some of the other letters, it's not like a typical treatise but it does have a very tendered tone to it, a very familial tone, of father to children. It is thought that John was very old when he wrote First John, Second John, Third John and then Revelation. Very old, probably in his eighties or nineties, it is thought to have been penned in 90 something AD which would make John probably one of the youngest of the twelve apostles, but somebody who lived to a very old age before he was exiled to Patmos where he died.
Now it's a tendered toned letter; you'll find the term "father" mentioned 13 times in the letter. You find the term "children", that's what he addresses them as or little children addressed seven times and he uses two different words. Though in English it's the same word children, he uses the word teknion in Greek which is born ones and paidion which is a child, paidia is a child, born ones, recently born ones and collectively little children, paidion.
There is another term that is particular to John's writings that we find six more times in this letter and it's the term "beloved." I love that, to call a group of people my beloved. J. Vernon McGee used to always say, and now my beloved. He would always address the radio audience that way. And John liked that. It's the Greek word Agapētos my loved ones. So it is a very tender tone, picture of father going over the basic truths of the Christian life with his children and you have the tone of First John.
Now there is a story; there is a legend, we don't know how true it is but one of the early church fathers said that when John was very old and couldn't do public ministry by himself, he couldn't walk places or travel unassisted; he had to be lead and eventually carried and by the way he was living in Ephesus and they carried him from meeting to meeting and he was feeble.
So he couldn't preach and teach but they would bring him into the meetings and they would always look for him to say some word of encouragement and all he would say over and over again was 'little children, love one another'. Isn't that beautiful, as an old man to be that full of grace, instead of saying what are you kids doing? Its little children love one another, he said, very, very often.
Now there is something else that's very noteworthy about First John and that's the flow of the book. It does not have a typical structure. The book defies any kind of normal outlining; it seems to have no divisions in it that we have in other letters. Some of Paul's letters and even Peter's letters have distinct divisions to it, not so with First John.
Now some commentators and people who write study Bibles have tried to outline the book but it seems to be very forced and very unsatisfying. The best way to view John is by looking at spirals or revolutions, in fact, that's what I would call First John, it's a revolutionary book. It is a series of revolutions or spirals, what he will do is he will draw four spirals and cover the same truth over and over and over again.
Now I will tell you why I am telling you that because you read through First John, then you come to a place, and you go, wait a minute, didn't he just say that? Didn't he already cover that? He is covering it again and that's what he does, he takes and draws a spiral or a revolution of truth and then he goes through it again with ever wider, deeper circles and then yet again wider and deeper, it covers the same truths but probes deeper and wider each time. So he covers the same truths, four cycles, four times but he goes wider with each turn and he goes deeper.
So here is how those spirals divide, chapter 1 verse 1 to chapter 2 verse 16 is the first spiral or revolution. And then from verse 17 through chapter 3 is the next revolution of truth or spiral. And the third one is chapter 4 and the fourth spiral is chapter 5. Same truths little bit different angle but you will find some basic things and he goes over and over and over again. And comparisons, light versus darkness, truth versus lies, love versus hate, children of God versus children of the Devil.
He will address happiness and holiness and security, all repeated themes in four spirals or revolutions. Not only is the outline different and that there are spiral revolutions, it is a revolutionary book. There are revolutionary truths to use in a different manner. It will revolutionize your life. It will revolutionize your relationship with God, it can revolutionize with people, it can revolutionize your morality and your love, these are all the reasons John wrote this book.
Now some of you remember way back when the song was written or you have heard it sung since then, there is an old Beatles song that said,
'You say you want a revolution,
well you know we all want to change the world
You say you want a revolution,
Well we would all love to see the plan'
The lyrics say. Well John has the plan, he offers a revolutionary way of thinking, a revolutionary way of living life and he covers those basic things that can transform in four spirals or revolutions. I will tell you why he is writing this book. There seems, when John wrote this, to be an ever more serious attack against the truth that Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John had preached and a heresy known as Gnosticism, we have given you that term before.
We are giving it to you again because John writes a lot against that insurgent doctrine in the early church especially there at Ephesus and I will touch a little bit on it as we go tonight. One thing you discovered John has a real knack for is boiling truths down, boiling life down to the irreducible minimum. He just has a way of taking all of the stuff and taking you all the way down to a very simple knowledge equation. This is what we know, this is the truth, and he boils life down to relationships with God and relationships with people, which is a good way to view life.
So chapter 1 verse 1 "That which was from the beginning, [sounds like his gospel doesn't it? In the beginning was the word], that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of the life; the life was manifested, and we have seen it and bear witness and declare to you that eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us. That which we have seen and heard, we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ."
Now some of the Gnostics, as I will explain a little bit later denied some basic truths about Jesus Christ. Some denied that He was God, others denied that He was man. But because of that denial John is saying look, Jesus Christ is a lot more than a theological, academic exercise to me; I was there. We were there, we saw, we heard, we handled this Word of Life. No secondhand religious experience, he had a personal encounter. John saw Jesus face to face. John ate meals with Jesus, lived and traveled with Jesus for three and a half years, even laid his head, as I mentioned on Jesus' bosom at the Last Supper.
I don't know, if you have ever thought about, what it was like for these apostles, the moment or the day it began to dawn on them just who this was, they were hanging out with. This is the very Word of Life. The origin of everything, this is God in human flesh. We are hanging out with God and when it began to dawn on them because they were asking questions, what manner of man is this that can calm the storm.
Well, look what John says in this verse, "which we have heard", what did John hear? Well, John was there when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. John was there when Jesus gave the Upper Room Discourse in John 13 through 16. John was there when Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse, the whole end time scenario of Matthew chapter 24. He heard His parables, the parable of the seed and the sower, the weed and the tares, the vineyard, the unrighteous judge and the widow; he was there, he heard it and he assessed it.
Not only that, now "which we have seen with our eyes", think of what he saw. He saw things they had never seen before. Withered arms, strengthened, healed; blind eyes seeing; deaf ears hearing; dead people living; Jesus walking on the water; the transfiguration of Jesus with Moses and Elijah. He saw that and he writes about it.
And he said, "Which we have looked upon", notice that in verse 1, "which we have looked upon." The word I want to tell you what it is, theaomai, theaomai; now that doesn't sound familiar until I tell you another word that we use, that is where we get the word from, theatre, theaomai, theatre and a theatre is a place where you sit at least for an hour or two and you look at something, you look in one direction and you study and you apprehend for a long period of time. So the word looked upon or theaomai or theatre means to gaze intently and to really study and make a personal even scientific investigation.
We looked upon Him and notice what else, our hands have handled Him. This is what John is saying and he is setting you up for the real punch later on in the book. All of his senses were engaged when he dealt with Jesus and he wants to come up against these Gnostics who were saying, well Jesus didn't have a real human body, he really wasn't a human being or he wasn't what others say that he was. John is saying, "I was there. This is what I saw, what I heard, what I handled and what I gaze intently upon." So that's sort of--if there is an introduction that would be that verse.
Now John wrote this book for five reasons and I am going to give you those five reasons tonight and that's how we are going to go through this book, just picking some verses and since it defines the standard outlining and instead of going through all of these cycles, we are going to go through the five major reasons why John said he wrote this book. And we find that he wrote these five things, he touched on these in order to revolutionize our lives. And so this is what we are going to do. Number one, 'These Basic Truths Can revolutionize your friendliness.
Look at verse 2, "The life was manifested, and we have seen it and bear witness and declare to you that eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us. That which we have seen and heard, we declare to you, that you also may have." And here is the word, "fellowship", he will use that four times in the verses I will show you. "Fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ."
Look down at verse 6, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, [see what I mean by the irreducible minimum] and do not practice the truth."
Verse 7, "But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."
The keyword there is of course the fellowship, it's an overused word, it was a huge word in the seventies, every church had a fellowship hall and a fellowship time and talked about how to have fellowship and now the new word is community but it's the same basic idea. And I will tell you what fellowship is not. It doesn't mean coffee and donuts, after church, fellowship is so much more.
A better translation would be relationship or common partnership or even friendship. And what John is doing is showing you that we have a partnership, a friendship, a commonness with the Father through Jesus Christ and with other Christians, they are our brothers and sisters through Jesus Christ. We have this dual community going on; our fellowship is with God and with God's people.
Perhaps one of the weakest links in the church of Christ today is the area of fellowship and I mean true let your guard down, come as you are and be loved as you are, fellowship. When it comes to inreach which is part of our mission statement, upreach, inreach, and outreach, when it comes to relational inreach, it's one of the areas we fail in sometimes.
This is a world of big impersonal institutions and a big impersonal internet and the church many times can appear to be another big impersonal institution and so many of us as churches, the older we get we want to concentrate on organization rather than organism. We want to talk about the organizational structure and this kind of accountability, all good and important, the most important is the relationship, is touching God's people through what God gives us, real community.
It seems it's much easier to go to church than to be the church. So one of the reasons, John writes this he says is, this is the partnership we have with God and with you and what we have seen and heard we're declaring this to you. So this book, these basic truths of the Christian life can revolutionize your friendliness.
Number two, this again, this is the second reason John wrote the book, he'll say so, he'll say so, "These Basic Truths Can Revolutionize Your Happiness." Verse 4, "And these things we write to you that your joy may be full."
See John says, one of the main reasons I am writing this is for your joy to be filled in, filled up. And here's how it works, preaching the authentic message of the authentic not fake, not Gnostic Jesus, the authentic gospel of the authentic Jesus produces authentic fellowship with God and with each other that in term produces joy. One follows the other, there cannot be joy until there's relationship with God and partnership with God's people. That's the thought that John is bringing here, I'll put it to you this way, joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God and a partnership with God's kids.
You need the presence of God and a connection with God, but you cannot be disconnected from God's people, the church and live a complete life and John says that. I write these things as your joy may be full and it's all part and parcel of the partnership, fellowship. It was Billy Sunday who said, "If you have no joy then there is a leak in your Christianity somewhere." Good way to put it. And what's sad to me is that historically, maybe not so much in modern times, but historically, Christianity has been viewed as the very experience that takes joy out of a person's life.
I remember telling somebody that I became a Christian and a few different times, I heard things like; "Oh, I'm so sorry or why or hmm." They just couldn't get it, they just thought, boy you gonna like, you know, wear a monks robe and go live out in the middle of the desert somewhere. But they just of course don't get it. But unfortunately there is people historically that have portrayed Christianity as such, like you can never laugh, you can never have fun, you can never tell a joke. It's like, "Hi, I'm a Christian, I'm mad at everybody."
Live is a real drag and so here I am as a Christian waiting to go to heaven. Have you ever meet people like that? It's like, live, you know, grin, and bear it. Don't grin, just grit and bear it, but one day I will die and go to heaven. What a horrible way to live. He writes so that we could have joy. Oliver Wendell Holmes, the great author even remarked on this. He said, "I would have entered the ministry if the clergyman I know, don't look and act so much like undertakers."
That's why I purposely tonight did not dress like an undertaker, I am just not into that. Mark Twain said this, "Having spent considerable time with good people, I can understand why Jesus like to be with tax collectors and sinners." Think about that, there is some truth to that. So these basic truths John is writing 'Can Revolutionize Your Friendliness', 'Can Revolutionize Your Happiness' number three, these basic truths 'Can Revolutionize Your Holiness'.
Chapter 2 verse 1; "My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. And if any one sins, [I am glad he wrote that] we have an advocate, [advocate is lawyer, attorney we have the best defense attorney in the world] Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation [or the mercy seed or the atoning sacrifice] for our sins and not for ours only, but also for the whole world. By this we know, that we know Him if we keep His commandments."
Talk about a revolution. John says, "I am writing these things to you to steer you away, to deter you from practicing sin." That doesn't mean after you are done reading First John, you will never sin again. It does mean if you and I can grasp these truths, if they can percolate into the soil of our hearts, then we will see a diminishing of sin, that's one of the purposes that he writes this book.
It was Dwight L. Moody who said of the Bible, "This book will keep you from sin but sin will keep you from this book." And some of those truths that help us stay away from sin and live a holy life are found in First John and that's one of the reasons he wrote it. "I write these things to you that you may not sin." So these basic truths 'Can Revolutionize Your Holiness'. Let's continue with that thought.
Chapter 3 look at verse 4; "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, [and sin is lawlessness]. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous."
Notice the difference, he goes back and forth a few times in this letter, this epistle. Between sins plural and sin singular, he makes the difference.
Go down to verse 8; "He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil."
So sin, singular is the root. Sins, plural those individual acts are the fruit of the root. Sin is the part of the nature, it's endemic of all people from the fall. Everybody has this in nature, but sins are the fruit or the acts that are committed based upon the root of sin. So when you are saved, even though the root remains, you still have that old nature, you don't need to keep bearing the same kind of fruit by committing these sins and he writes this that we might not sin.
Now once again, all of these flow from the same principle according to John, fellowship with God, relationship with Him, relating, fellowshipping, partnering and then with God's people and it produces a holiness which in turn produces happiness.
Now John does write a lot in this book about sin. And sin is hardly a popular concept. In fact wouldn't you agree that the average garden variety pagan denies sin and sees the concept of sin as not only irrelevant and outdated, but it produces unnecessary guilt and a lot of that is based upon years of the fruit of two different streams, Charles Darwin's evolution theory and origin of the species and B.F. Skinner's behavioral psychology which sees mankind as purely mechanistic evil as a point of view, sin does not really exist and to speak of sin causes a necessary guilt, that's the garden variety pagan's ideology.
Now if you were to travel to other parts of the world or talk to other beliefs systems, people who are involved in them, they have a very similar concept of sin. For instance, in Hinduism, sin and evil are relative terms. Hinduism teaches that good and evil are both relative that as man is making his journey through life and striving to know himself, he is bound to fail and if he really blows it in this life, he can make it up in the next life because of reincarnation.
Then there is the belief system of Unitarianism. Have you heard of Unitarianism? Again, good and evil relative terms described by different people. A man is basically good, says the Unitarian, not evil, not sinful, basically good and we save ourselves, they say by bettering ourselves, self-improvement. Then there is Christian Science, have you heard of Christian Science, teaches that sin and death and evil do not exist; it's an illusion. Christian Science, I don't even know why they call it that. You know what it's like, it's like Grape Nuts. Do you ever wonder why they call Grape Nuts that? They are not grapes and they are not nuts.
And Christian Science is neither Christian nor is it scientific, it just sounds impressive. They are like Grape Nuts. It's the Grape Nuts of the Christian world, it is not Christian. It denies the basic truths of the Christian faith, it is hardly scientific, but that's what Mary Baker Eddy Patterson Glover Frye, she had real problem with men as you can see, taught that evil and sin were illusive. They really didn't exist. But playing some metaphysical game and saying something does not exist when it clearly does exist doesn't help anybody. The best thing to do is to acknowledge it, to repent of it and to live what John calls a holy lifestyle. Number four, these basic truths 'Can Revolutionize Your Perceptiveness'. So your friendliness, your happiness, your holiness, now your perceptiveness or you could call it discernment.
Look at chapter 2, verse 21; He says, "I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also."
Verse 26; "These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him."
So that's the fourth reason John wrote this letter and that's to say, these basic truths 'Can Revolutionize Your Perceptiveness'. Now here is where the letter in these four cycles turns from very paternal and very tender and very pastoral to very polemical, very argumentative, very stand up for the truth and guard the truth; it's a warning and one of the themes in this book is discernment, it's a call to discernment throughout the entire letter because of these problem people that I mentioned Gnostic that it infiltrated the church at Ephesus.
For instance, notice in chapter 2, verse 18, he refers to Antichrist. Chapter 2, verse 26 and chapter 3, verse 7, those who try to deceive you. Chapter 4, verse 1, false prophets and in chapter 4, verse 1 through 7, he speaks of these who defect from the truth as demonic, demonic and he says they are of the world.
So look at chapter 4, verse 1; "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, [or that Jesus Christ was truly human as well as divine] is of God and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and now is already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world."
Now why did John use such tough language here and throughout the book? What is going on? What is going on is what I hinted at and I want to develop this thing called Gnosticism, the group called Gnostics, G-N-O-S-T-I-C, Gnotic from the Greek word gnosis which means to know. They claimed to have a superior knowing. They know better, they know more, and it was a philosophical weirdness that they espouse to.
They were influenced by the Greek philosophies principally the philosophy of Plato which taught a philosophical dualism. In other words, everything that is material is evil and everything that is spirit or spiritual is good; those were the Gnostics. Okay, now follow me here; Gnosticism was divided into two groups, Cerinthian Gnosticism and Docetic Gnosticism.
Now I am going to explain those to you. Cerinthian Gnosticism is named after a guy named Cerinthus; he was one of the guys who espoused the guy and guess where he lived, Ephesus. And he was the arch enemy of John the Apostle, history tells us. Now he taught that Jesus wasn't God, He wasn't divine. That Jesus was a person born of the natural relationship of Joseph and Mary and the divine spirit or the Christ came upon Him at His baptism when the Holy Spirit came from the heaven and the Father said, this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. At that point the Christ's spirit, the divine spirit dissented upon him and it left Him just before His crucifixion; that's Cerinthian Gnosticism; number one.
Number two, Docetic Gnosticism; Docetic and Doceticism comes from a word that means "to appear"; that's what the term Docetic or Doceticism means "to appear." They attacked the humanity of Jesus Christ. This is what they said, here is the bottom line; Jesus was not really human, but He appeared to be human. When you looked at Him, He looked like a normal human being. Look that's a person coming at me, but because everything material is evil and everything that is spiritual is good, He couldn't have had a real human body.
So He was appearing to have a human body, He seemed to be human, but he wasn't human. They denied that Jesus Christ has come in to flesh. Follow me? So that's why he says, if you deny that, you are not of God. Jesus didn't just seem to be real, John said, I heard Him, I saw Him, I handled Him, I ate with Him, I observed Him intently, He is the Word of Life. That's what John writes in the gospel; "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth."
So First John, chapter 4, if I were to paraphrase it. He is saying, don't believe everything you hear just because somebody says, I am a Christian like the Gnostics were doing. John would say, you have to check it with what you know to be true. I am not writing these things because you don't know the truth, you know the truth. But you have to check what you hear with what you know is true. Just because a guy wears a collar, a clerical collar, he is on television, very charismatic, has a weird hairdo, nice smile, doesn't mean necessarily that everything that comes forth from that source is true.
In fact what did Jesus say, beware of false prophets they come to you, with what kind of clothing, sheep's clothing. You notice the false prophets don't knock on the door and go, (making sound) or come up to you and say, "Hi I am a wolf." They'll go, baa, like a sheep. So you think, they are one of us, they say the name of Jesus and it's amazing how many Christians will buy anything, anybody says if they mention, they mentioned God in that song or they said God bless you.
They must be a born again Christian like I am. It's like we want to fall for anything just because a name's dropped or a 'God Bless You' was said at the end of an award or even the name of Jesus Christ. Do you remember the group that Paul visited called the Berean Church in Acts chapter 17, verse 11 and what really blew Paul away and what commanded them to him?
He said, "Those in Berea were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word of God with all readiness, but they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things be so."
Check the scripture, I don't care who is teaching, cross reference it, check it to see if it's so. So the church needs a revolution of discernment. At the same time, I want to call for humility. Many apologetic ministries take a while before they develop the necessary parallel virtue and that is humility. We have to be very careful when we stand up for the truth, not to purposely offend and think I and I alone because I am into discernment ministry, I must know everything and everything falls and rises based upon my assessment of them. We have to be careful to be humble. In other words, we are God's sheep; don't become an attack sheep. There is nothing worse than an attack, sheep with teeth, "Lambo" you don't want that. [laughter] Be wise as serpents but harmless as doves, harmless as doves.
So these basic truths 'Can Revolutionize Your Perceptiveness', that's one of the reasons John wrote. Fifth and finally, the last reason John wrote this letter, these basic truths 'Can Revolutionize Your Assuredness', your security. Chapter 2, go back to chapter 2, verse 3 now I'm going to read a list of things; I'll tell you when I'm going to go for it. The word "know" or "we know" appears 32 times in First John. It's amazing how often John says, well I sort of feel didn't say that or I kind of think, it's "we know."
Chapter 2, verse 3; "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments."
Verse 5; "Whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him."
Go to chapter 3, verse 14; "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."
Verse 18; "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed, and in truth."
Verse 19; "And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.
Chapter 3, verse 24; "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."
Chapter 4, verse 2; "By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God."
Verse 11 of chapter 4; "Beloved, if God so loved us, then we ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us."
Verse 13; "By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit."
And then finally chapter 5, verse 13; "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God [now he is telling you the fifth reason he wrote First John] these things I have written to you that believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God."
You see the word there, "to know." It's a very strong word, "to know" with absolute knowledge that you have eternal life. "And this is the confidence we have in Him that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." It's pretty clear then that according to John, the Christian life is not built on empty wishes or weak flimsy hopes but a very strong confident assurance that you know. I want you to know that you are safe, I want you to know you have eternal life, I want you to know that you have passed from the realm of death to the realm of eternal life, I want you to know that and here is how to know that.
I remember before I was a Christian, and I was searching and I was seeking and people were telling me about the Jesus of the Bible, I went up to the clergyman of my church and just the way he was talking was ambiguous.
So I said, let me ask you a question, I was just a teenager, one day I am going to die, that's just sort of a giver last time I checked. How do I know that when I die, I am going to go to heaven? I was stunned by the answer. I guess I expected something definitive. He said to me, eye to eye, "You cannot know until you die." So I said, "Pardon me, isn't that a little too late to find out, I've been wrong."
I mean don't you think that if God can reveal Himself, He can reveal the way to know, that I am going to be with Him forever. Well, you just can never know, you can hope and ask God to dispense His grace but you can never know until you die. John would say, you are wrong, you can know and I wrote this so that you do know. In fact, I will say it to you this way, if you are not sure tonight that you are going to heaven, if you are not absolutely certain that if you were to die, then you better not go to sleep tonight.
You should have nightmares tonight; you should just live in terror until you do know. I mean at least know you are going to hell for certain because the worst thing to do is to believe in your whole life you are going to heaven and find out you were wrong because you never were saved. That's why Jesus said, I wish you were cold or hot. I don't like that lukewarmness; I will spew you out of my mouth. Here is the thing about a hot person, and that's a believer they are hot, they are just on fire.
Here is the thing about a cold person; at least a cold person knows he is not hot. He knows he is cold, I'm cold. I, I'm cold. I need to get hot. But if you are just warm enough to kind of not know the difference, it's dangerous. He writes that you might know and you should be able to say without a shadow of a doubt, I know that I am a Christian. What if I were to ask you, are you an American and you were to say, I hope so. You know what you mean, like you are not sure, you never have a birth certificate, where were you born. So John gives five tests in this book so that you and I know that we are saved, know that we passed from death and the life, know that we are his child.
Number one, are you obeying His word. Chapter 2, verse 3; "Are you obeying his word?" It's a very concrete easy way to build assurance. I am obeying what He said. My life isn't perfect, but I am obeying what He said, generally.
Number two, are you believing His truth? Chapter 4, verse 2 and chapter 5, verse 13. Here is the basic stuff about Jesus, are you believing His truth?
Third test, are you expecting His return? Chapter 3, verse 3; some translation say, not is come in the flesh but is coming in the flesh. It's good to refer to a second coming.
Test number four; are you conforming to His standards? Chapter 3, verse 24. And the fifth test, are you loving His children? Chapter 3, verse 19. These are the fruit of the root of faith. Faith is the root; they produce the fruit of righteousness.
When I was giving my testimony one time, a person said, well how do you know you are saved? I said, that's easy, I was there when it happened. I remember very distinctly what I thought before, during and after. I know how not only my mind changed, I know the feeling that I had, but that's really second part. I saw my life change.
You can ask my family, you can ask my friends to see if there has been a life change. I was there when it happened, I know for certain. But it's a good thing to be certain of. Are you saved, are you sure, are you truly sure that you have been converted? Here is why I ask the question. You can have what I would call a cultural conversion.
A cultural conversion is somebody who agrees with the basic tenants of Christianity and believes and get involved in Christian activities so they are involved in the Christian culture. They will hang around churches, but it's never really something born from the inside, they are not born again from above, a real life change, a real personal buy in; it's a cultural conversion.
Number two, some people have a ceremonial conversion. They will go through rituals and ceremonies and they will stand on, I have been baptized and I have been confirmed and then I went through that ritual and that ritual. And they replaced ritual and observances with true faith and repentance which are required. That's not a cultural conversion, it's a ceremonial conversion.
Other people have an emotional conversion or a mental conversion. They get pressured into it. There are people, come on man, now pray this prayer or they get reasoned into it. It's always a little bit dangerous to just purely do it by reason because if you can reason somebody into it, maybe somebody else will reason someone out of it. You can use your reason and you can certainly persuade men and women but it has to be something that is born of the Holy Spirit and there has to be again that personal buy in of yes, I am going to commit and make a decision to cooperate with Him.
Seventeenth century, Puritan preacher, Thomas Manton wrote, "None walk so evenly with God as those who are assured of the love of God." So this book is a revolution and there are four spirals or revolutions of the same basic truths that go wider and deeper and each truth is revolutionary and to revolutionize your life. And do you want a revolution?
And I hope you do because you know what Christianity is truly the most counter cultural philosophy, for like of a better term, experience in the world. You want to live counter culturally, you want to live against the flow, I hope you do. You want to stand out in the crowd, be converted. Give your life to Christ. But the revolution must start from the inside and it will work its way to the outside. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for the truths of First John. We thank You for the life of the Apostle John. The disciple who Jesus loved, the one who saw and heard and felt and touched and handled and studied Jesus in the flesh as being fully human and fully divine. Lord we do not have the same experience that John had, we do not have the same ability to say we were there, but another one of his apostles Peter said, "Whom having not seen, yet you love and rejoice with joy unspeakable full of glory."
So Lord, we too have felt his touch, we have heard his word as we have read and heard it preach and we have heard certainly the word conformed in our own hearts. We have experienced a lot of things on this side of grace and we are so thankful for them. We are so thankful Lord that the very changes that John wrote about in our fellowship or friendliness, in our happiness, our joy, in our holiness or obedience, in our perceptiveness or spiritual discernment and in our assuredness that certainty that we are saved, that those things are all a part of us who believe.
And for those Lord who are not there, who haven't experienced that internal revolution of heart that perhaps a few here tonight would admit to that, not try to rationalize out of it, not try to deny it, not try to say evil and sin and these things don't exist, but to confess it.
As John said, "If we confess our sins, God is righteous and faithful, just and faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." You're in the forgiving business, You're in the cleansing business and then you make us partners with you and with each other.
We experience your presence when the authentic Jesus Christ has been apprehended by the heart that produces a sense of holiness, it produces a sense of joy and all of these things follow that relationship. That's the great truth that John writes about. Lord the fact that John wrote about it four times in this letter, these things over and over again indicates that we who are older, more mature Christians, cannot settle on hearing things once or twice or even a few times, but there is always the need to be reminded of the basic things that set us free.
As Jesus said to the church of Ephesus, remember from where you have fallen and do those first things over again. Bring us back to the simplicity the reducible minimum the basics of fellowship with you and fellowship with each other and impact to this world. Father, we would pray for anybody who's with us tonight, who doesn't know You, who has wandered from You or not sure if they were to die tonight or at all, when they do that they would be with You. Lord, I pray that You would do a work, I believe You have been doing it all night, but I pray that You would do that that culminating work where the soul that You have chosen cooperates with You now and comes to know Your peace and grace, just flooded it by Your love. I pray that there will be a decision and a commitment that You birth within that person as they discover You've chosen them.
And so the call goes out tonight as your heads are bowed and your thinking about your life. If you've never giving your life to Christ or if you've wondered away from Him; you want to come back to Him and enjoy His fellowship, His friendship, His partnership. I want you to raise your hand up. As our eyes are closed, you raise your hand up and you're saying, "I'll admit to that tonight, here's my hand, Skip. Pray for me before you close this service. I want to know Christ; I want to know that I'm forgiven. I want to walk with Christ again." God bless you and you toward the left, in the middle. Anybody else? Raise your hand up. A couple of you way on the back, on the side over here, and in the middle on my right side. Anybody else? Anybody in the balcony? Raise your hand up, raise it up tall. God bless you. The middle left, toward to back in the middle, right over here, right over here, God bless you.
Heavenly Father we thank You; thank you for the work that You are doing in these hearts and You will continue to do in Jesus name, Amen!
Let's all stand, as we sing this final song, I want everyone who raised a hand to put feet to those hands; find the nearest aisle and walk up here. I'm going to call you publicly to receive Christ or to come back to Him whichever it is. I'm going to lead you in a prayer, to seal the deal with Christ. So wherever you are just get up and come right up here, as we sing this song. [music playing] [applause]
You feel that tug in your heart that is the Holy Spirit saying, "Do it, come. Join these who have made this walk." Just as Nick said, "It's a place of forgiveness; God is searching for you; want to bring you back." So we'll wait just another moment; if God doing that work respond to Him say, "Yes" to Him. Be His child; come to the foot of the cross where everything is forgiven. Anybody else? Anyone else? [music playing] [applause]
I'm so glad that you walked forward; I'm glad that you are here; I'm glad I can lead you in a prayer. [applause] What I would like to do now is allow you to ask Jesus into your own heart. So all I'm going to do is say a prayer out loud and I want you to do say it out loud after me but I want you to think about what you're saying. I want you to pray this sincerely from your heart. This is you turning over your life to Him, the one who made you, and died for you, and loves you.
Let's pray together; Lord I give you my life; I admit I'm a sinner; please forgive me; I turn from my sin; I turn to You as Savior and as Master; I believe in Jesus that He died on the cross and that He rose from the dead; fill me with Your Holy Spirit and give me Your power to live for You. In Jesus' name, amen. [applause] Amen! Alright!