His Side or the Other Side: A Sermon Based on 1 John Chapter 4

by on July 30th, 2013
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His Side or the Other Side

A Sermon Based on 1 John Chapter 4

There’s a story about a little boy (who grew up to be a pastor) and his uncle. The little boy grew up in a church where for a time it seemed they had a minister who wasn’t preaching the gospel. But the officers, the elders, were Bible-believing men; and one of them, the patriarch of the church, was his Uncle Eddie, and to him and many others this was a big problem.

So with some encouragement, this minister finally moved on, but it left the congregation without a preacher.

It was a difficult situation, but the elders were very concerned about the problem they had faced with the previous pastor, so they endeavored to shepherd the flock themselves until they could get a man who would preach the word of God.

From time to time they would invite a prospective preacher to the pulpit, and Uncle Eddie watched them like a hawk Sunday after Sunday, to be sure the Word of God was being spoken. Finally, one man was selected as the new pastor but still Eddie listened to him carefully and attentively for six months.

The minister noticed this, and of course, was very pleased. Every pastor loves an attentive flock.

But then one morning, Uncle Eddie was seen in the back row with his head back, eyes closed, and he could be heard with a very audible snore.

After the service the minister said rather sarcastically, “Well, Uncle Eddie, I noticed that you really enjoyed my sermon today.”

And Uncle Eddie said, “Don’t get me wrong Pastor, I’ve been listening to you carefully for six months. I’m assured that you know the Lord, you love the Bible and you’re preaching the truth.”

And now that I know that’s true, ” I can go back to sleeping again.”

The book of 1 John is all about the truth.

John is very concerned that people are drifting away from the truth, so he sends us this letter to keep us on track. And he urges us to pay close attention.

For the first part of the book, John was concerned to make sure that we as Christians understood the relationship between sin and holiness in the Christian life.

On the one hand, we should know that as believers we will still struggle with sin; but on the other hand, John wanted to make sure that we strive to be like the Lord Jesus Christ, striving after his ways.

And he was having to speak about this subject because there were teachers in this congregation that were teaching that once you become a Christian you no longer sin, and therefore you can live any way you want because Christianity is all about a change of heart and spirit, and so it doesn’t matter how you live in your body. Some people were teaching that sin doesn’t matter.

When we get to this chapter that we will read today, John confronts the twofold problem with this argument.

First, those who are preaching this are false teachers. They are not preaching the gospel as it is written in the scripture, and we should know to be at the very least, we should be highly skeptical of such persons. If they persist, we must not associated with them or listen to them . And there must be an ongoing testing for those who claim to speak by the Holy Spirit.

And then, John mirrors Paul and Peter and James and Jesus (all of whom we’ve read the words of lately, and all whom taught that “love must manifest itself not just in faith, but in action. The truth is that the whole gospel points us to a consistent God-honoring life.

These things are true, and Chapter Four takes us to the questions that are required to be asked so that we can test if we paying close attention to the Word of God, or getting off track.

The questions:

What do we think about Jesus? Who is he? He writes “if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God.”

Who do we think we are? He writes ” If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar”

Who do we follow? Are we obedient to God’s word? Or something else. He writes “Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint”

We’re going to deal with all three of these today together as we read 1 John Chapter 4 [From the NLT – New Living Translation]

1 Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

John writes that you and I, those who have taken our refuge in Jesus, we are of one spirit.

There are only two things a person can be. Only two sides to the coin. There is no “on the fence” position.

Either we are of God’s Spirit, being of “He who is in you,” – or we are not of the spirit, being of “he who is in the world”.

Now we’ve talked a bit recently about “he who is in the world”. This is the spirit of “the chief over the power of the air” or as he is commonly called, the devil.

And I told you then that I honestly don’t give the devil a lot of pulpit time, or time otherwise, because I don’t believe he deserves it, or warrants it.

I DO think he wants it. I think he’d like to spend all my time up here talking about him rather than Jesus.

But I don’t give him that pleasure.

Similarly, I don’t give him a lot of time and energy in my personal life. He doesn’t merit a place. I don’t want him there. And Jesus promises to defeat him when I trust Him.

And I stand firm on the truth that Jesus defeats him every day.

That said, call him what you will, and he has had many names and faces, he does exist. And his spirit is alive in those who do not trust God, in those who do not have his Spirit.

And that’s where John is going here.

In Luke 11, Jesus makes it clear the two forces at work. “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters”

The spirit of the world is in “He who is not with Me”

You are with Jesus, or against Him. These is no soft easy place in the middle.

So which side on you on?

The bible tells us how to test this.

First off….Paul says in 1 Corinthians “And no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” Those who are “other on the side” will not say a lot things about Jesus. They will even say a lot of nice and complementary things. But they will not from their heart say “Jesus is Lord”. They will not believe it!

And then here John says , “if they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us.” And he’s speaking of the apostles here. Those who do not belong to God reject the God-breathed inerrant inspired Word of God through the apostles. They reject the truth of the bible.

And third, in Romans 5, Paul says; – the truth about those who are with Jesus will be evident because “grace would reign through righteousness over them!”

These are the truths from the bible that test if if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.

And it comes up over and over again all over scripture. I had 5 pages of quotes that refer to these three important truths about the indwelling of the spirit of God, but I used only three.

All of these verse pointed to the fact that…

If the Spirit of God is present, a person WILL…(not maybe) they WILL….

Confess the truth about Jesus Christ. They will proclaim Jesus is Lord with conviction and their whole heart. We talked about the fact that , yes people can insincerely say words that me nothing, but the bible tells us that no one can truly call upon the name of the Lord, and trust Him, and not be saved.

If the Spirit of God is present, a person WILL ….

Rely upon and trust the Word of God.

John has a lot problems with people twisting scripture. And of course this happens a lot today.

Some will say (even from the pulpit), “I believe in Jesus, but I do not believe he was born of a virgin.”

Some will say, “I believe in the man Jesus, but I do not believe he was the Son of God.”

“I believe in the historical Jesus, but I do not believe in the eternal Christ.”

“I believe in Jesus, but I do not believe he was who he claimed to be.”

You will hear a lot different things like this.

But the long and the short of it is ….. Jesus doesn’t give us these options. Either we believe the inerrant Word Of God, or we don’t.

So John says a person does not have the Spirit of God is one who denies, for example, that “Jesus Christ came in a real body”.

You can’t pick and choose. It’s true, or it isn’t.

4 But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 5 Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. 6 But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.

There a saying that goes “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see!”

That’s a very modern mindset, and it’s unfortunate.

Because there comes a time that we hear the truth and see the truth…the question then becomes …will be accept it.

I think immediately of the disciples of Jesus who must have had this “only half of what you see” phrase in mind when they walked with Jesus. They saw so much and heard so much, and all of it true and yet they still doubted, they still didn’t get it.

It was tough for them, and they had Jesus in the flesh right before them. How much more difficult for us then, who worship “God, whom we cannot see” in physical form.

John tells us to believe. But he does say to be careful.

So we have to have a critical eye, and a critical ear. That’s different that being judgmental. Critical means, to look closely, examine, and then accept what’s true, but don’t accept everything.

It very relevant today because of the sheer volume of things we are exposed to every day. Modern, instant technologies bring us kinds of things, true and false, right into our homes every day.

A prime example is the news. There are hundreds and hundreds of news sources available to each and every one of us, 24 hours a day, on television, radio, print, on our cell phones, the internet, and so much more.

But which news sources are telling us the truth?

Now you can have your favorites, and you can have a sense that one is more reliable that the next, but if you flip between two news networks and often they will report the same even and TELL you two opposite stories.

How does one reliably know which one is telling you truth?

An unreliable test for this is to say, “I believe the one that makes me feel good. I believe the one that agrees with my political, or social agenda. I believe the one that tells me they are telling the truth. I believe the one that sounds right to my ears.”

This is unreliable because it depends on the “how we feel” rather that verifiable, researched, and tested results.

The only real way to know what’s true, and not, is to independently test it. Go out, and in an unbiased way, go to the source, and get the facts.

It’s a lot of work. And most people wouldn’t do it. Rather, they simply trust what their being told.

But the Bible warns us against believing “everything we hear” just because it sounds good and make us feel good, because there are many false prophets that have gone out into the world.

I know of at least one person in this congregation that likes to have the bible in hand to look things up while I’m preaching, and that type of thinking is totally in line with what John is saying here.

The only way to know what’s true, and not, is to independently test it. To Go , and in an unbiased way, go to the source, and get the facts.

And that source is the Word of God. It doesn’t get more true that that.

And this is a “positive” use of the word discriminate. A follower of Christ is called to discriminate between truth and false hood.

And so John gives us these testing measures.

First, those with the Spirit of God will know who Jesus is. No confusion, no compromise.

Second, those with the Spirit of God will trust the truth of Scripture, and will test everything against it.

And finally, those with the Spirit of God …….will LOVE one another.

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love-not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first.

20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.

A fellow pastor gave two scenarios.

Imagine we’re all on a ship. But it springs a leak and starts sinking. While we’re fleeing to the life-rafts, you manage to grab a bag before it all goes down. Unbeknownst to the rest of us your bag contains a small bottle of water and and a small supply of canned meat, nuts, and dried fruit.

Eventually we spot an island in the distance. We start paddling towards it and as we get closer we see that it’s barren and dry, basically a big rock in the middle of the ocean. But it’s our only hope so we row towards the island. As we are just about to get there someone turns to you and says “I am so thirsty.” What do you do?

2. Or it’s the same deal. Our ship sinks. We flee to the life-rafts. Unbeknownst to everyone you have that bag containing water and food. We again spot an island in the distance. But as we paddle towards this one, we see that it’s lushous, luxurious, and full of life. We can see the trees heavy with choice fruit. There’s a gushing waterfall in the distance. It’s a tropical paradise. As we are just about to get there someone turns to you and says “I am so thirsty.”

What do you do would in this scenario? Would it be different.

I think for most of us in scenario 2 we’d be much more likely to give them our water and food. In fact in scenario 2 we might even throw the whole bag open and say, “water and food for everyone”.

In the second scenario, giving over our water didn’t cost us much did it? There wasn’t much risk. But what about giving it all away while facing survival of the barren, rocky island?

If we give away our water then, we must really love our neighbors, and must really trust God.

There are many in this world that would say “Tim, giving away your only water is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Who would do that? And Why?”

I can’t give away my food, I’ll starve. I can’t give away my water, I planned ahead after all, and I’ll die of dehydration. I have to take care of myself.

What if Jesus lived like that?

There are also many in the world that would say “Jesus dying on a cross for the sins of the world is about the stupidest things I’ve ever heard of. Who would do that? And Why?”

Jesus would and did. God demanded no less of His only Son. He loved us so much that he gave His only son to be tortured and killed, as the ultimate and final sacrifice.

You believe that, and trust God, or you don’t. You are living in truth. Or you are not. You are living in love. OR you are not. You are on one side or the other.

The final of our three tests that John speaks of to discern the Spirit of God, is that he or she will practice love modeled on Christ’s sacrificial love.

Jesus says “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters”

So you are with Jesus, or against Him. These is no soft easy place in the middle.

And our reading gives us some vital things to consider. Because there is no half way.

You are either on His side or the other side.


©2011 Timothy Henry

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