|THE COMMITMENT OF FELLOWSHIP
1 JOHN 3:13-24
Series: The Fellowship Of The King - Part Eight
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 27, 2005
Please turn with me to 1 John 3 - starting at verse 13. As your turning to that passage I’d like for us to think about the context of what we’re going to look at. Let me ask you two questions.
First question: Would you agree that here in the United States there is an agenda to remove from government everything Christian? Examples? No God in the Pledge of Allegiance. No prayer to open sessions of Congress - at least no prayer in Jesus’ name - no 10 Commandments - no Christmas - no Easter. Revisionists are re-writing history - with the blessing of the National Education Association and others - revising American history to excise our Christian foundation.
Second question: Would you agree that the United States is shifting from being a non-Christian nation - towards becoming an anti-Christian nation?
A teacher in an elementary school in Florida overhears two of her students talking about their faith in Jesus and rebukes them - not for talking in class - but for talking about Jesus in class. A Vermont kindergartner is forbidden to tell his classmates that God is not dead, because such talk is, “not allowed at school.” (1) In DeKalb County, Alabama - under a court order - a prayer policeman was appointed - at a cost of $62,000 - to make sure that only “voluntary silent” prayer was conducted at school. (2)
Those aren’t isolated incidences - or a few wackos way out on the fringe someplace.
Its been estimated that 55% of the world’s nations restrict the gospel of Jesus Christ in varying degrees. (3) The United States is no longer an exception to that type of restriction. According to the people who research these things - take polls - study numbers - the United States has become the 3rd largest mission field in the world. (4)
1 John 3:13. Let’s read this verse out loud together - verse 13: Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.
Three thoughts in this verse we need to wrap our minds around.
First thought: This isn’t an Us verses Them hatred.
John 3:16: “For God so loves the - what? “World” Who’s the world? People. Us. “God so loved the world that He - what? Jesus - crucified for us - the world. Why? Salvation. Eternal life with God. That’s love. God loves the world.
When we look beneath the surface of the world we find that we all have a lot in common. We’re all highly valued - deeply fallen - greatly loved. We’re all in the same boat. Not matter who we are or where we’ve come from - we’re all sinners desperately in need of God’s grace.
But there’s a part of this world that’s under the dominion - the influence - the delusion - the command of Satan. Satan hates God. Hates God’s children - us. The hatred leveled against us is not a political issue. It’s a spiritual attack. (Ephesians 6:12)
The enemy isn’t people who hate us. The enemy isn’t people who don’t know Jesus. The enemy isn’t people living strange lifestyles. The enemy isn’t even the person sitting in that cushy green chair next to you.
Behind the attack is Satan. Satan uses whatever’s at his disposal to try and deceive - divide - defeat - destroy us.
John’s point is not Us verses Them. We’re being reminded that we’re hated by a vicious enemy - Satan.
Second thought: This is no surprise. Life in Christ is a spiritual battle. Expect it.
Just look around. God is blessing this congregation. People are coming to know Jesus. Lives are being healed. We’re debt free. We have the privilege of talking about changing these facilities so they can increasingly be able to facilitate ministry. There are increasingly amazing opportunities for ministry that God is opening up to us. We’re excited about all this. There’s a sense that we’re on the verge of something awesome.
Do you think that Satan is just jumping for joy about all this? “Alright! Those people at E Free Merced are being blessed by God.”
Satan hates us to the core of we are. At some point - perhaps subtle - perhaps right in our faces - his attack will come - to delude - to divide - to destroy us and the work of God amongst us. Don’t be surprised. Plan on it.
Third thought: John is writing to the brethren - and sistren - to believers - to those who have fellowship with God and with each other. “Don’t be surprised, brethren.”
The point isn’t that we’re hated. John’s point is how we respond to this hatred. Knowing we’re under attack. How do we live? How can the fellowship of those who have life in Jesus Christ survive and thrive?
In verses 14 to 24 John focuses on three specific parts of our life together. Specific areas of our fellowship where we need to strengthen our commitment towards each other.
The first is OUR COMMITMENT TO LOVE EACH OTHER.
Look with me - starting at verse 14: We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
The greatest expression - illustration - of God’s love in our human experience is what we see in Jesus Christ.
John writes in 1 John 4:8 that God is love. None of us would love - or could love - if we weren’t in some way in contact with God who is love. All love comes from God - the love of parents for children - the love of friends for friends - the love of husbands and wives for each other. Its all a gift of God to us. But, the greatest expression of God’s love is in Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:6-8 is a familiar passage. Important for us to be reminded of this morning. Paul gives us a description - four specific examples - of the love that we see in Jesus Christ. Walk with me through these verses.
First example - verse 6 - Jesus - who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.... Jesus did not “grasp” - or hang on to - His rights and privileges as God - to be worshipped as God - to exercise His power as God. He voluntarily let go of them.
Second - verse 7 - Jesus - emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.... Jesus by an act of His own will became a servant - a slave. In the Roman world slaves were looked on with the same regard as a shovel or pick - a vacuum cleaner - a tool to be used. Jesus should have been worshipped - adored by people - angels - by all of creation - yet He willingly became a slave.
Third example - going on in verse 7 - and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man.... That is that Jesus didn’t come as a king - a ruler or rich person - someone insulated from the worst parts of our human condition. He became the son of a common family - in a conquered nation - born in the humility of a stable. He came and embraced us as brothers and sisters - going through what we go through.
Fourth example - verse 8 - He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus didn’t have to die. He isn’t born - as we are - with the terminal illness of sin. Jesus loved us so much that He volunteered - chose - to receive the death sentence that is really ours.
Paul writes that Jesus chose, “even death on a cross.” Jesus could have chosen to die quickly - painlessly - surrounded by His family and friends. But, He chose to die on a cross - in pain and agony - rejected and despised - executed as common criminal - in shame and disgrace. Deserted by everyone - including His Heavenly Father. He died - finally - because He was unable to breathe.
Paul writes that Jesus - God - freely and lovingly chose to become a human being - to humble Himself as a servant - dying on a cross in our place - for our sins.
Jesus defines what real love is. Its sacrificial and difficult. Its to give up ourselves for someone else. Specifically - Jesus laid down His life for us - me - you.
C.S. Lewis writes, “It is easier to be enthusiastic about Humanity than it is to love individual men and women, especially those who are uninteresting, exasperating, depraved, or otherwise unattractive.”
Jesus - loves us - individually - personally - dying for us - knowing everything about us.
Its a kind of love that we won’t find in the world around us. The world follows Satan - is deluded in to choosing to love self. God teaches us to choose others. God’s kind of love only comes from God.
To have God’s kind of love means that we need to choose to love God. To give everything - all that we are - to give it to Him. To choose to open our lives to Him so that His love will flow through us to others. Putting ourselves aside so that we can be there for each other.
John writes: We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
That’s hard. But, that’s the kind of love we need to have for each other - brothers and sisters in Christ. Love that hangs in there when wronged. That comes alongside in pain. That’s trustworthy - even with deep hurts and great needs. It comes against gossip and unjust anger and attempts to tear others down. It places the needs of others ahead of our own. Love each other with the love of Jesus and Satan will have no opportunity to turn us against each other.
Will you say this to the person next to you? Only if you really mean this. “In Jesus, I’m committed to love you.”
John’s second commitment comes in verses 17-20: OUR COMMITMENT TO SERVE EACH OTHER.
Look with me - starting at verse 17: But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.
“Whoever has the world’s goods” - means that God has already given us what it takes to meet the need.
“If you see your brother in need” - means that our eyes are open and looking for ways to meet needs. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) - the priest and the Levite - the religious leaders of the day - did what? Went by the man beaten and left for dead on the side of the road - they’re own country man. They didn’t want to see him. They glanced at him - avoided his gaze - moved to the other side of the road - passing by as quickly as they could.
John says that we have a choice - to close or open our hearts. If we see our brother or sister in need - will we help?
One of the great joys of being a part of this congregation is being a part of the way people here try to meet real needs. Often unnoticed. Behind the scenes. Giving themselves to meet the needs of others. Using the stuff that God blesses us with for the reasons He’s blessed us with it.
There is a close relationship between John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16. To the depth of our understanding of Jesus’ love for us will be the extent of our ability to love others. If we allow the love of Jesus to touch us deeply - we will lay down our lives for others - give up our rights - be quick to forgive wrongs - prefer another instead of ourselves - raise up others instead of taking the credit for ourselves - give up our possessions - go where there’s hurt. Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to do the same for each other.
Verse 18 is an appeal: Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue... Don’t just give lip service to love - just singing about it - talking about it - writing checks without personal involvement - praying for God to meet needs and concerns that God has already given us the means to resolve. But in deed and truth. Brothers and sisters - be vulnerable - be humble - give everything to meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters.
That kind of commitment to serve sustains fellowship. Gives no opportunity for Satan to come between us.
If you mean this. Would you say this to the person sitting next to you. “In Jesus, I’m committed to serve you.”
John’s third commitment starts in verse 21. OUR COMMITMENT TO PRAY FOR EACH OTHER.
Verse 21: Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
Joe, Dave, and Bob were hiking in a wilderness area when they came to a wide - raging - violent river. They needed to get to the other side, but had no idea of how.
Joe prayed, "Please God, give me the strength to cross this river."
Poof! God gave him big arms and strong legs and he was able to swim across the river in about two hours - although he almost drowned a couple of times.
Dave prayed, "Please God, give me the strength and the tools to cross this river."
Poof! God gave him a rowboat and he was able to row across the river in about an hour - although he almost capsized the boat a couple of times.
Bob had seen how this worked out for the other two, so he also prayed, “Please God, give me the strength, and the tools, and the intelligence, to cross this river."
Poof! God turned him into a woman. She looked at the map - hiked upstream a couple of hundred yards - then walked across the bridge.
We often hear people say, “Prayer works.” No it doesn’t. Prayer isn’t like room service. We pick up the phone - order chocolate anchovy pizza - and God is some kind of cosmic bellboy who grants our every wish. Like stuff happens because we’ve cleverly tapped into this awesome power of prayer. We don’t manipulate God because we pray. Prayer isn’t the power - God is. God chooses to listen to us and respond according to His sovereign will.
We need to read the fine print. There are requirements here in verses 22-24. We need to keep God’s commandments - to do the things that are pleasing to Him - so that we abide - remain - in the place where He desires us to be so that He will work in us and through us - that fellowship will be sustained - even thrive under attack.
First - verse 23 - Believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:9-11: “God highly exalted Him - Jesus - and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Our ability to resist Satan isn’t based on our power. Satan isn’t going to leave us alone because we pray and think spiritual happy thoughts. Its being in Jesus that counts. Being a child of God with the God given authority to speak up using Jesus’ name in prayer.
Jesus’ name is powerful. At the name of Jesus - Satan must bow. He’s defeated - powerless - unable to resist against Jesus. When we pray together - like during services - during meetings - whenever believers pray in the name of Jesus the gates of hell can’t resist that. They crumble. Satan is defeated.
Second - reading the fine print - verse 23 - John writes that we’re to “Love one another.”
We talked about this. Love like Jesus loves. Serve each other. Prayer adds another dimension. Prayer for one another is act of love.
When we pray with each other - for each other - on our knees - shoulder to shoulder in humility - without pretense - pride - or elevating ourselves above each other - each of us asking our Father to care for the brethren and sistren - we become open. God opens our eyes to see needs. We open ourselves to God’s leading and working in our lives. We help each other stay focused on God.
Third - verse 24 - “abide in Him by the working of the Holy Spirit.”
E. Stanley Jones wrote this: “Prayer is surrender - surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boat hook from a boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.” (5)
The Holy Spirit keeps our hearts in tune with the heart of God - gets our prayers focused on what God wills not just on what we want.
If you mean this - would you share this with the person sitting next to you. “In Jesus, I’m committed to pray for you.”
Some of you will understand this far better than I do. When you’re in combat and being shot at it - it tends to rearrange your priorities. People who we may have disagreement with suddenly become our best friends. We’re called into the fellowship as the Church to support each other under fire.
The fellowship we have is precious - to be valued - to be honored - sacred as it was bought with the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ. We need to learn what it means to stand with each other. To love each other - to serve each other - to uphold each other in prayer. So that when Satan attacks - and he will - the fellowship that God is creating here will remain to the glory of God.