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TEXT: I John 3:10-17

SUBJECT: I John #9: Apostolic Nagging

You never have any time for me!

You have time to watch TV, but never any time for me!

You have time to work on your car, but never any time for me!

You have time to go to the game, but never any time for me!

You have time to meet your buddies, but never any time for me!

Oh, you've got all the time in the world for everybody and everything, but.you've never have any time for me!

Every married man in the world has had this conversation, or some variation thereof. When our wives talk this way, we call it 'nagging', and I've yet to meet the man who enjoys being nagged. But whether we enjoy it or not, sometimes, every husband needs to be nagged. Why? Because most husbands are not very good listeners. Our wives tell us something that is important to them, and we brush it off; or we pretend to listen while-like Homer Simpson, we're thinking, 'Ummm, donuts!'

This is how husbands are; some of us are worse than others, but we're all pretty much this way. And this is one reason our wives nag us (the other being their own willfulness). When it comes to nagging and listening or not listening or listening and doing something about it or not--

All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God!

I bring up the subject of nagging because this is more-or-less what John is doing in his First Epistle. If I counted correctly, I John has 105 verses, but they only address three issues-which they address over and over and over again. The three things John nags his people about are the three things that matter most to the Christian life and witness. They are: (a) obedience, (b) brotherly love, and (c) knowing the real Christ.

John stays on these three matters from Word One to the end, but not because they're his own pet doctrines. He deals with them the way he does because each of them is being challenged by the heretics then hard at work in the churches of Asia Minor. They professed faith in Christ, but the faith they professed was of their own making (or rather, the devil's!) Because, in their scheme of things, discipleship was nothing more than Special Knowledge (or having the inside scoop), and so the dull and practical parts didn't matter, things like obeying the Lord or loving His people.

People who love doctrine need to take this to heart. Nobody comes to our church for the laser show! We come for the Truth (with a capital T)-for unambiguous doctrine, for the Gospel not watered down or made attractive by filing off the sharp edges. This is what our kind of church is for.

..and because it is, it's easy to slip thinking that keeping the rules and loving the brotherhood in practical, ways don't matter all that much! They do. This is why John does some Apostolic Nagging!

Not because we like it, but because we need it!

In the first part of Chapter 3, John revisits the importance of obedience, of simply doing what the Lord tells us to do (or not to do). Some call this 'Legalism', but John calls it-

Fellowship with us, and with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

We need to keep the rules we already know, and to learn about the other ones, too, so that we can also keep them. Unless you make 'Keeping the Rules' into your Savior, it's a very good thing to do, more than good, it's necessary-

Follow after peace with all men and that holiness without which no man will see the Lord.

If this is what John nags us about in the vv.1-10, in vv.11-18, he reminds us, once again, of Brotherly Love, a duty that is necessary, but always easy or very pleasant.

THE OLD COMMANDMENT

The heretics of that time are very much like the adverting men of today, including the ones who are trying to make the church cool enough to appeal to the world! This is why they're always pitching products that are 'New and Improved'-a new knowledge, an improved Jesus, the hippest way to get to Heaven! John wants no part of that for himself, or His people. Thus he appeals, in v.11 to-

The message you heard from the beginning.

The word beginning, of course, conjures up the first verse in the Bible-

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Is this the 'beginning' John has in mind here? Not exactly-but are related! John saw the First Coming of Christ as a New Beginning, what Paul styles-

A New Creation.

The fundamental Rule in this New World is, what John (and Jesus) says it is-

Love one another.

This command does not exclude loving your neighbor or your enemies, but its focus is on the Brotherhood, which should be taken in two ways: (1) It means all Christians, that is the Universal Church, but mostly, it means (2) your local church. It is very easy for me to love those dear brothers in Nigeria, because they don't get on my nerves or make demands on my time! What's a lot harder is loving the people who do get on nerves (not you!) or who want me spend time or money or energy on them, instead of on myself!

If you grew up in what's called a High Church Tradition, you may know the term, Maundy Thursday. That's the day our Lord laid down our Prime Directive, His 'mandate', John 13:34-

A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; that as I have loved you, that you love one another.

In a culture full of new ideas and new ways to live, John brings them-and us-back to the Foundations of our faith, back to Christ Himself, who never cared for the Gnostics' 'secret knowledge' or the marketer's 'cool way to do church'. What He did-and does-care about is our loving one another.

THE CONTRAST

John has said this before, but then, in v.12, he adds a striking contrast to 'brotherly love'-

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.

I, for one, find this most disturbing! When I think of the opposite of love, I think of more innocent things, things like inattention or excess busyness or other things that are certainly wrong, but comparable to murder? I don't think so! But, evidently, John does.

He sees the unloving Christian as differing from Cain only in degree and not in kind. Unlike Cain, we haven't slit the throat of our brothers-in-Christ, but.but.haven't we envied them? Resented them? Maybe even hated them in our hearts under a fake smile and pretend handshake?

Who can plead 'Not Guilty' to this charge? I hope I'm the only one to feel these things, but.I bet I'm not!

In John's mind, Cain was a real man, of course, but he is also a representative of the whole world outside of Christ. This is why, v.13-

The world hates you.

'Why are Christians so.' If you type these words into an internet search engine, you're sure to find words like.'Negative, Judgmental, Intolerant, Mean, Hateful, and Self-Righteous'. Is there any truth to these charges? Of course, there is. We are this way, to some degree.

But are these (somewhat) justified criticisms born out of a love for Justice and Peace and Kindness and Humility? I don't think so. When I compare the words of these people to their own lives, I find they're as guilty as we are of these, in fact, more guilty of them! Why then, do they single us out for such bitter criticism? Go back to Cain and you'll find your answer.

With all of our very real faults, the Church is different than the World, and-in all due humility-we are better than the world. Not by nature, but through union with Christ. His Life in us makes the world look bad by comparison, and this is why even the most mature disciples are described as 'hateful, mean, judgmental, and all the rest-

Because (Cain's) works were evil and (Abel's) were good.

TWO WITNESSES

Loving the brotherhood is a powerful witness to a world full of strife! And make no mistake about it: for all its talk of openness, of inclusiveness, of tolerance, diversity, and so on, the world is an extraordinarily closed system, intolerant, exclusive, marching in lockstep.to damnation!

John says we've got to counteract it! Not by denouncing and protesting or signing manifestoes, but by showing the world what it ought to be, and what it will be when it's set right, at last, by the Resurrection of the Body and Renewal of All Things.

Except for my father, nobody ever despised the Hippies more than I. But, to give them their due, their answers were wrong, but their questions were right! How can the world become what it should be? How can old wounds be healed? How can we put people first instead of money? How can everyone become free? The Hippies thought drugs and music, long hair, and love beads would change the world. Woodstock was their foretaste of Heaven. But the dream of Woodstock became a nightmare at Altamont!

The Hippies failed; the world was not saved by their version of the counter-culture. Because it wasn't counter at all. Like their Square Parents with their briefcases or high heels the Hippies were-

Worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator.

The Church worships the Creator, and His worship must lead-not to the status quo, not to Eisenhower or the good old days-but to Revolution, to changes that include knowing the true Christ, keeping the commandments of God, and.loving the brotherhood (including the ones you wouldn't otherwise take to!).

This is what brotherly love does for the world. Without being obnoxious jerks, it shows the world it is in the wrong and that there's a way out. But only one!

This is important, but John emphasizes another witness-not to the world, but to us, or rather, to you personally. What will loving the brotherhood do for you?

Well, for one thing, it will inconvenience you, turning a lot of your 'Me time' into 'Their time'. But that's me. John says something else. He says brotherly love will strengthen the Assurance of your Salvation, v.14-

We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren. He who does not love the brethren abides in death.

Christians have long differed on what place brotherly love has in the Scheme of Salvation. Some of the debate is too subtle for me, but I can say this much for sure: No one is saved by brotherly love or through it. Paul says we are saved by grace through faith in Christ. Is Brotherly Love, then irrelevant to our Salvation? No it isn't! But it is not the source or the means of our Salvation. It is the fruit!

This is where Assurance comes in. I'm not saved because I love the brotherhood, I love the brotherhood because I'm saved. My love for the brotherhood is not what it ought to be, but I do love the brotherhood. This provides some Assurance-not all of it, but some of it. And it's lack refutes my every pretense.

This reminds me of a conversation I had more than thirty-five years ago. A friend of mine was a very insecure person. He had never had a real job, dropped out of school, and had no success with the ladies. On top of that he had what we now call 'Body Image Issues'. In any event, he was always nervous, always felt like a failure, and so on. This anxiety bled into his Christian life as well, and made him never sure of his salvation. Until he read I John 3:14-

We know we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren.

My friend (also named Mike) said, 'I'm a total mess, but I know I love the brotherhood, and so I must be a Christian!' He was right. And he 'got out of that verse' exactly what John-and the Holy Spirit-put into it.

WHAT LOVE IS

No one could confess Christ without some reference to love, and I suppose the Gnostic heretics did say something. What they said, I'm not sure, but I know what they didn't say. They didn't point to the Cross as the Highest Example of Brotherly Love! That's just what John does, v.16-

By this we know love that He laid down His life for us.

Our Lord said many loving words, but His love was not limited to what He said, however sincerely He said it. His love was proven by what He did: He laid down every speck of self-will, including the will to keep on living, for our salvation. This is what the Gospel is-no try harder, do better, not even love more! It's about the Love of Christ for us, His dying on a Cross that was actually built for someone else, for Barabbas-and for us.

This is what Love is, and the kind of love we're to exercise toward each other. How comforting v.16, would be if only it were half as long as it is. But the Apostle who points us to the Supreme, Unmatchable Love of Christ for us, then calls us to exercise the same kind of love for each other. We cannot atone for each other's sins (as He did), but we can be 'put out'; we can do the jobs nobody wants and for which no one will ever thank us. In a word, we can-

Esteem others better than ourselves.

This is what Jesus Christ wants us to do-not to win His favor, but because we already have it. What does this Love look like? Most of the time, it looks boring; most of the time, there's not even a hint of the heroic!

In many cases it is altogether invisible, like giving up the grudge you've held all these years-and not because the person who did you wrong has finally made amends-but because God gave up His Grudge (so to speak) against you when He-

Spared not His Son, but delivered Him up for us all!

Is there a wrong you need to let go of? Nobody ever said it would be easy, but that's just what Christ did-He let go of every wrong-on the Cross when He took our sins upon Himself!

Is there someone you needs your help? The old sister who needs someone to mow her lawn. Anyone can do it, but nobody is. You do it! Then there's the mentally ill man who talks about himself incessantly? You won't be able to help him, but you can still listen! And then there's the Lonely; they don't need your money or your advice or you to fix their car or patch their roof, all they need is you, you to meet them for coffee one morning or go to the movies some night. Or-have them over for dinner, for no particular reason at all.

To inconvenience yourself for the welfare of others. This is what Love is, and what the Love of Christ is in lower-case letters.

GOSPEL

John is no fool; he knows it always easier to love yourself than to love others. But he calls out away from the Easy Life we all prefer to a Life of Service, sometimes hard, and sometimes impossible.

He also believes we can do this, that we can, in some small measure go from admiring Christ to imitating Him. But we won't do this having only His example or even His example stuck in our faces by loud-mouthed preachers!

We will only imitate Christ's love when we believe-and keep on believing-in His Great Love for us, for people who didn't deserve it when He gave it to us in the first place, and will never be worthy of it.

What I'm saying is simply this: You've got to fight the good fight of faith; you've got to stop believing the lies the world is telling you every day, and even more, the lies your own conscience keeps pressing upon you. Lies such as, 'Well, you've done it again! God's had it with you'. If the Cross were a Finite Sacrifice, the lie might very well be true; it might be possible to outsin the Atonement! But how can the death of an Infinite Christ be finite? The Atonement is designed to cover all our sins, even the most stubborn of them, and what it's designed to do, it does. Keep His love always fresh in your mind and heart and, by degrees, your love will become more like His: it stand written-

For whom He did foreknow, He also predestined to the conformed to the Image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren!

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