Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, in You we live and move and have our very being. You are the Source of both our physical life, and more importantly, our eternal life. You have saved our bodies and our souls by buying us back from sin, death, fear, doubt, and Satan’s power. And in the place of all that worldly garbage, You have given us love—unconditional, free, never-ending love. Today we offer You our thanks, praise, and undying allegiance. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SAVIOR WHO LOVES YOU!
TEXT: I John 4: 1-11
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Did you know that modern American language is reverting back to ancient Hebrew? It’s true! Ancient Hebrew, the language the Old Testament was written in, did not use vowels, only consonants. The vowels were understood. Or, to put it more succintly, the people that spoke Hebrew got used to writing without vowels. We’re seeing the same thing occur today. Look at vanity license plates. I’ve seen one that says: “RDSXFN.” Which of course stands for: Red Sox Fan. Or how about: “GRTDC.” Which obviously belongs to a physician who thinks he’s a: Great Doc.
I don’t do chat rooms on the internet, but consonant abbreviations are the stock in trade for those conversations, too. Also, look at any paper which has a section where single people advertise for dates and you’ll find a whole lot of such abbreviations like, SWF, which stands for single white female, to name just one. The same is true for home for sale ads. They also use abbreviations like: FPL, which stands for: fire place. So, I guess you’d have to conclude that those ancient Hebrews were really quite modern after all!
As we look at this wonderful text from St. John’s first epistle, the apostle provides us with a new spelling for life itself.
WE SPELL LIFE J-E-S-U-S
Just as there are used car salesmen that cannot be trusted—along with some plumbers, roofers, or supposed doctors who have discovered how to lose fat without any exercise—so, too, there are religious imposters. The Bible calls them false prophets. They had them at John’s time and we still have them today. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Normally we think of a false prophet as someone in charge of some cult, or who stands in the Boston Common with a megaphone and announces that he or she has the only direct pipeline to God. However, that is a superficial view. The fact is, there are many false prophets in many Christian churches today, as well. And in every instance, you can pick them out by using John’s false prophet test. “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
When people talk about Jesus you need to listen very carefully. Do they confess Jesus to be the eternal Son of God, or not? Do they believe in the virgin birth, or not? Do they believe the miracles really happened and are true, or not? Do they acknowledge that only those who believe in Christ will be saved, or do they waffle and preach that Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others will also attain heaven? Unitarianism is rampant in New England because it is politically correct. It says all roads lead to God. Such a view mocks Christ and His death on the cross. Also, today you’ll find that many supposedly “Christian” ministers waffle on the validity of the resurrection. Many seminaries, like the Harvard Divinity School, either teach quite openly that the resurrection didn’t happen, or they try to cast so many doubts on it that no one can ever know it as a fact. We need to mark and avoid such false teachers. For they are really antichrists, just as St. John says.
Personally, I don’t lose too much sleep over such misguided souls. I don’t worry about them destroying God’s Church by trying to turn us into another “also-ran” faith. O, I’ll fight them when needed, but I draw my comfort not from my efforts but from God’s Word. I’m not in this battle alone! That’s John’s point when he says: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”
As a general rule of thumb, Christians usually aren’t extremely wealthy. We tend not to be the great “movers and shakers” of modern society. Why is that? Because we’re not driven by the worldly view of success. Our eyes are fixed on heaven and the life that awaits instead of just on this life. Christ says as much when He reminds use that “the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” Luke 16:9.
The fact is, we don’t spell life: m-o-n-e-y, or f-a-m-e, or p-o-w-e-r. We spell life: J-e-s-u-s. Jesus is our source of life. He is the source of comfort and joy. Why? Because only Jesus brings us love, Godly love which is greater than anything the world can offer and which will never go out of style or become superfluous.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” Did you hear that? True love comes only from God and is given only to us through Jesus. Everyone today it seems is “looking for love in all the wrong places.” That is, they look for happiness and contentment and comfort for their troubled consciences in success, in money, in fame, or in a string of new sexual relationships which are really lust, not love at all. The word for love used here is agape. That is, unconditional, unselfish love. This is the love God has for us. This is the love God has given us in Christ, Who suffered and died freely to save our souls. Listen again to our lesson.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
The Roman Catholic church focuses people on their love for God. So do the reformed churches and the evangelicals. They focus people on their commitment to God, or lack of it, the strength of their faith, their feelings of love and their emotions toward their Creator. Folks, that’s putting the cart before the horse! No! We are told by John, the disciple that Jesus loved, the one who felt and experienced such love firsthand, that our focus must always be on God’s love for us in Christ! “Not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins!”
Godly love makes life bearable and liveable. Godly love covers a multitude of sins, as the Bible says. Such Godly love raises us heavenward and makes us otherworldly. Nothing in this life can diminish His love for us. Nothing can subtract from what Christ has done to save your soul. Bask in such comfort and joy. And then put such love into daily practice. “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Amen