************ Sermon on 1 John 3:19-24 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 9, 2020
1 John 3:19-24
"What True Christians Look Like (2)"
"You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." This quote, attributed to Abraham Lincoln, is so true. "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
I think we all realize that many politicians want to fool us and pull the wool over our eyes so we don't know the truth about them and their promises. But they aren't the only ones. This past week I visited with a non-member in the hospital. He was really polite and respectful when I was there. But after I left he was rude, demanding, and abusive to his daughter. He had me fooled for a while. The church is not exempt: there are those who try to fool the elders.
The Apostle John knew this. John knew this first hand -- that there are those within the church who try to fool others within the church about their faith and their religion and their devotion. At the time of John, many of those doing this were fore-runners of those we know as Gnostics -- people who emphasized a hidden or secret knowledge and said how you lived your life makes no difference. So, in his first letter John keeps telling us markers to look for so we are not fooled.
With this in mind, notice that our Bible reading this morning begins and ends with the same phrase: "this is how we know ..." This is how we know we belong to the truth. This is how we know He lives in us. This is how we know who is or is not a true Christian. Again, "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." Because John tells us what markers to look for.
As we have been going through John's letter we have come across a number of markers already:
-true Christians love one another; we looked at this last time and the Sunday School children reminded us of this proof this morning
-true Christians believe Jesus is the eternal Son of God
-true Christians walk in the light and not in the darkness
-true Christians admit they are sinners
-true Christians claim Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for their sins
-true Christians obey Christ's commandments
-true Christians grow in the faith
-true Christians do not love the world
-true Christians believe Jesus has come in the flesh
Today, we look at four more markers.
I Confidence in Prayer
A Here is the first marker we are looking at today: John tells us true Christians pray with confidence. Look at verses 21 & 22:
(1 Jn 3:21-22) Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God (22) and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
Did you hear what needs to happen before we have confidence before God? What needs to happen is that our hearts/conscience do not condemn us. God has given us a conscience so we know our sin and admit our sin and rush to Him for forgiveness and grace. When we do that, when we confess, when we rush into the presence of God, then we can pray to God with confidence. When our hearts/conscience tell us things are well with our soul, then we can pray confidently. Those who are forgiven by grace through faith can approach God with confidence. They know their sins have been paid for in Christ and they have nothing to fear.
B Confidence. I want you to realize how amazing this is. John uses this word four times in his letter:
-(1 Jn 3:21) Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God
-(1 Jn 2:28) And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.
-(1 Jn 4:17) In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.
-(1 Jn 5:14) This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
The book of Hebrews also loves to use this word:
-(Heb 4:16) Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
-(Heb 10:19) Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,
-(Heb 10:35) So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
Put this all together. We have confidence right now in prayer. We have confidence right now about the forgiveness of our sins. We have confidence for the future when Jesus comes again. We have confidence at the end of time on the day of judgment.
True Christians have confidence in prayer. The word for "confidence" can also be translated as "boldness." Meaning you have the freedom to tell God exactly what is on your mind. Usually, it is not a good thing to tell people exactly what is on your mind. You run the danger of offending, damaging relationships, and hurting those around you. Today we use the word "filter." You need to filter your words. Now, some people don't have filters. So they spew out of their mouth whatever is on their mind. As our children grow and mature we try to give them filters. When visitors come over we warn them to be careful about what they say. I remember one of our boys asking a woman who was not pregnant if she was pregnant. I remember a boy I barely knew asking me to give him an Xbox for his birthday. Filters.
When our hearts/conscience do not condemn us, when our hearts/conscience tell us things are well with our soul, then we don't need a filter. Because what we say is according to His perfect will, because what we say is pleasing to Him. We hold nothing back. We are free to ask God for anything, to say anything that's on our heart. We speak to Him as a loving child to a loving father. Do you see how we pray? With confidence. With boldness.
Confident prayer is proof of a changed heart. The unrepentant sinner has no desire to rush into the presence of God. The unrepentant sinner is repulsed by the idea of appearing before a holy God. The unrepentant sinner wants to do anything but speak freely to God. The unrepentant sinner has no relationship with the Father. But the Christian does. The Christian has been elected, called, regenerated, converted, justified, and sanctified by God. They know God as Abba, as their Father. They rush into His presence. They ask for anything according to His will, and they know He hears and receives what they say.
How do you know you are a Christian? How does the church know you are a Christian? Because it is your desire to rush into God's presence. Because it is your desire to pour out your heart to Him. Because you are bold in your prayer and ask for whatever you need.
II Obedience to His Commands
A Here is the second marker of the Christian: obedience to His commands. "This is how we know that we belong to the truth ... because we obey his commands and do what pleases him" (1 Jn 3:19,22).
Obedience to God's commands is evidence of a transformed life. True Christians desire to be obedient to God's commands. Think of what Jesus said:
(Jn 14:15) "If you love me, you will obey what I command."True believers are known by their obedience.
Obedience is essential if you are a Christian -- not to earn salvation but as a sign of salvation. We keep the commandments and we do the things that are pleasing in His sight. We strive to please the Lord in all of life. We do everything we can possibly do to please the Lord. This makes me think of what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:
(1 Cor 10:31) So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.What counts is not your ambitions, your desires, your wants, your agenda, your will. They have all died with Christ. Instead, you are consumed with one holy desire: to please God. Instead, you are wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him. Instead, you live for the glory of God.
B John is attacking the Gnostics here. Remember, they said what counts is hidden knowledge. Remember, they said what doesn't count is how you live, what you do -- including obedience to the Law. According to the Gnostics, thinking is more important than obedience.
For someone to say they are a Christian when they are disobedient is to contradict what John says in this letter. For the church to treat someone as a Christian when they are disobedient is to contradict what John says in this letter.
(1 Cor 6:9-10) Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders (10) nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.You aren't a Christian, you can't be a Christian, if you habitually do any of these sins.
C Let me add one more thing about this mark of being a Christian. Many of those who are disobedient view the Law and obedience as burdensome, as being a kill-joy. But true Christians don't view the Law or obedience as burdensome. Rather, it is something done willingly, joyfully, with all one's heart and soul and mind and strength.
There are those who keep God’s commandments in a spirit of fear or servitude rather than in a spirit of love. This was the sin of the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:24–32). A believer should keep His Father’s commandments because this pleases God. When our delight is in the love of God, our desires will be in the will of God.
How do you know you are a Christian? How does the church know you are a Christian? Because it is your heart's desire to please God and obey His commands.
III Belief in the Name of Jesus
Here is the third marker of the Christian: belief in the name of Jesus. John writes,
(1 Jn 3:23) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ."Duh," you might say. "Is it even necessary to say this?" Of course it is. Because I have been in churches where the name of Jesus is rarely or never mentioned. Because there are pastors who never once call people to believe in Jesus.
Belief in Jesus is proof-positive that you are a Christian. If someone does not believe in Jesus, they are not a Christian, they are not a child of God, they are not saved by grace. I have to emphasize this because there is a mistaken belief out there that you can be an unbelieving Christian. Huh? Doesn't that sound ridiculous? An unbelieving Christian is not a Christian. They are an unbeliever. Pure and simple. Believers do not deny the Lord Jesus Christ. Believers believe in Jesus. Period.
We Christians believe in Jesus. That is never up for debate or discussion. That is not optional.
How do you know you are a Christian? How does the church know you are a Christian? Because you believe in Jesus.
IV The Presence of the Spirit
Here is the fourth marker of the Christian: the presence of the Holy Spirit. Verse 24:
(1 Jn 3:24) Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
If you are a Christian you have seen the power of the Spirit of God in your life. You might wonder how and where. As Jesus told Nicodemus, we don't see the Spirit. He comes like the wind and blows where He wills. There is a mystery to the work of the Spirit.
Your dead soul was made alive. Your blind eyes were made to see. Your sinful heart repented. You were drawn to Christ in faith. All of a sudden you love Jesus and His body, the church. The words of the Bible become alive for you. None of this you do on your own. All of these are signs of the Spirit's presence in your life.
Furthermore, true Christians are filled with the Spirit, led by the Spirit, directed by the Spirit, anointed by the Spirit, instructed and taught by the Spirit, gifted for service by the Spirit, bear the fruit of the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, witness in the Spirit.
How do you know you are a Christian? How does the church know you are a Christian? Christians are filled with the Spirit. Which means they are filled with the life of God Himself.
"You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." So what do we do in the church? We look for markers. We look for confidence in prayer, obedience to God's commands, belief in the name of Jesus, and the presence of the Spirit. That's how you know you are a Christian. That's how the church knows you are a Christian.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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