2014-07-27 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
“The Be-loved & the Be Loves”
1 John 3:1-24
Intro: Love letters from the J’s!
Fellowship. Community. Corruption. Disruption.
Written by beloved disciples…to a beloved community.
To an intergenerational community being exhorted to love one another.
Late 90’s CE, John is in his 80’s…one of his last letters, sharing the things that are most dear to his heart.
PETERSON: Get God right, Get love right. Don’t make your own image of God…Don’t make your own style of love.
Take these pages of Love with you in the month of August. See what Love might do!
Voice 1: What marvelous love the Father has extended to us!
Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to.
TIME OUT: It doesn’t take too long to get “snagged”… I thought the world was good? How come the J’s make the world sound like the “bad guy.” Didn’t God so love the WORLD, that he gave his only son for the World (John 3:16)??
So…how is this world different….well, it’s about the unbelieving part of the world. Even if we hearken back to John 1, we read that the world rec’d him not…
So, whenever we read about the J’s dissing the world…they’re not creation-haters…but they are drawing a line between those who believe and those who do NOT believe…but the J’s assure these churches (this church) that they are believers.
They ARE children of God. And let us not be surprised when the unbelieving world does not understand the “unbelievable things that we do” because of Love…because we are God’s children…because we have Christ in us, working out the Christ-life in us…putting Christ on display with not just words, but action too.
…friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.
That’s exactly who we are! Children of God! We’ve got to start from the right place today and everyday…not “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” NO!!
You, me, we are children of God. That’s EXACTLY who we are.
But that’s only the beginning! Who know’s how we’ll end up?!?
We “stay ready”…with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own lives… it’s not us getting all shined up & polished up in our own strength (do you see what we have to work with?)…it’s the heart and the life of Jesus, working, living through our heart and hands. We are children of God….Children who DO out of our “who we is-ness”…you know what I mean?? It’s a good start…everyday….it’s a good, holy, righteous, a God-named, God-beloved, start!
BUT…….. the J’s again remind us as we move ahead in today’s portion of the love letter that it’s not always “happily ever after.” Remember the big GodStory we’ve been immersed in for the last 10 months? It starts great and grand…but good creation falls…it falls into the hands of the Evil one…the good creation is perpetually pushed into the ways of chaos…chaos doesn’t win…not at any time in the GodStory does chaos win…but chaos wreaks havoc along the way…on humankind, on creation…on this earth and people that God so dearly loves…The J’s call this CHAOS a “dangerously lawless” place…
Voice 2: All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God’s order. Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. There is no sin in him, and sin is not part of his program. No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin. None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ. They’ve got him all backward.
So, my dear children, don’t let anyone divert you from the truth. It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah. Those who make a practice of sin are straight from the Devil, the pioneer in the practice of sin. The Son of God entered the scene to abolish the Devil’s ways.
Remember last week when I said the “love of God” card, way outplays “we’re just shmucky sinners” card? Well, that theme continues…
Voice 1: People conceived and brought into life by God don’t make a practice of sin. How could they? God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are. It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin. Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test.
For this is the original message we heard:
We should love each other.
– – a simple test???
But there is a simplicity here…children of God love…children of the Devil hate.
The J’s then pull out a “test” page from deep back in the history book of the GodStory…they go back to Cain & Abel. Wanna see how historically this “simple test” has played out?
Wanna tell the difference between a sibling who loves God versus a sibling who joined in the practices of the evil one and hated his brother?
2 words/names: Cain & Abel.
This has been going on for a long time…it’s the age old story of good VS evil, light VS darkness, love VS hate…so what story line are you going to continue Oh beloved children of God?
* * * * * * *
Voice 2: We must not be like Cain, who joined the Evil One and then killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because he was deep in the practice of evil, while the acts of his brother were righteous. So don’t be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. This has been going on a long time.
So, how are we doing on the simple test??
The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn’t love is as good as dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don’t go together.
[passing or failing the test, for the J’s, is the difference between being true believers
Last week, we touched on the issue of anti-christs. Before we move on to the final paragraphs, I want to touch on this again…
1 john is the only place where we read of anti-christs. Small “a” anti-christs. Last week we learned that these antichrists or disruptors had “come out” from these congregations. Someone asked…were they ever truly believers in the first place?
We can’t be sure…but in many ways they modeled the life of Judas. Judas was one who had been with Christ in the beginning…started well…but over the course of time (3 years) became overwhelmed with the wiles and schemes of the evil one…and he denied the love of the father…and he denied Jesus…rather than submit to the teachings of the beatitudes (mourn, weep, poor), he went the way of the evil one…(how do I look, feel, control).
So…FBC…how might this love letter enable us to name, recognize and avoid anti-christ trajectories/ways in 2014.
Q: Who are the 2014 anti-christs?
I think contextually, in this letter, anti-christ’s were those who, like Peterson says, make up their own image of God, and make up their own style of love.
And I guess I want to warn us all…that no matter where we are on the spectrum of Christianity…whether we lean to the right, the left, or live in the broad middle…
The warning is…let’s not make up our own image of God…and let’s not make up our own style of love.
Ie: image of God. I think there’s always going to be a struggle between a God who’s too good and a God who’s too harsh. I think the caution for us from this letter is to not make God look too much like us. Wrestle with God. Wrestle with the scriptures, the God Story. And like Jacob, if you’re really wrestling…you’re gonna leave the fight with a limp. God’s going to change you. And he’s going to leave you with a living reminder of what it means to wrestle with him. You will live differently as you wrestle with God. It’s a good/right thing…because it keeps us humble…and spares us from making God in our own image.
Ie: own style of Love. I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we all make up our own style of love. But if God is Love, getting to know God’s heart and God’s story, ought to shape the way we love.
I don’t think it’s just bad people who get love wrong. I’m surprised, time after time, with how mean Christians can be. And there are certain theological postures out there that are getting increasingly mean. I think anti-christs can sometimes start with good intentions…but in the end, if you are a “hater of the other”, then how can God dwell in you?
[Pause….let’s talk more about anti-christs] WHO ARE THE 2014 anti-christs??
If you are here today…seeking to be with Christians…seeking to worship and learn more of the living God and his community of people…my hunch is that you are not an anti-christ.
But pay attention…because Judas started with a soft and sincere heart too did he not?
[reboot: v. 1 – – “Behold, what manner of love the Father has lavished upon us…that we might be called Children of God…and that is what we are!!]
In the final paragraphs, the J’s will remind us that this way of being the children of God is attainable…and practical…and experiental…
Voice 1: This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.
My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it.
For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
Aren’t these fantastic promises???
God is greater than our worried hearts…God will empower us to love as he loves…to love as Jesus loves.
Voice 2: And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said,
doing what pleases him.
Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command.
As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.
“We’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him.”
These last phrases boil [pleasing God] down to 2 actions: Believe. Love.
It’s not enough for Christ-followers to believe in Jesus. The J’s aren’t buying belief. They’re calling the bluff on it.
Believing in Jesus, means LOVING. This is the original command…the command that began at the beginning of time. Love God. Love One another. Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang on these 2 commands.
Wanna be a world-changing Christian this week?
Stop all those things that just keep you as a busy-body, trying to earn God’s favour and trying to make yourself good enough.
Believe in a living Jesus who is living in you, and amongst us. This Jesus who is wildly and wonderfully on the loose!
And LOVE. Put down all your weapons, judgments, arguments, theses, propositions, theological banter, christianese phrases and bumper stickers…
And love. Love one another.
And we will change the earth this week.
We will join in on God’s good work in the world.
And we will experience the deep and abiding presence of the community of God, living in us, through us, for us.
Behold! what manner of love god has given us, that you, me, and the pew sitter who dwells next to you today, might be known and named as children of god…that is what we are…so let us live like we are loved.
REFLECTION: hold J’s letter in your hand….imagine that one who loves you is inviting you to “be love”….embrace that phrase or image that is coming to life in your heart in this quiet moment… and imagine what it might look like as you accept that invitation to “be love”….(the recipient really ought to be a human being right?).