Love Illuminated

God Is Life, 1 John 5, 14 June 2015

Big Idea: God is light, love, and life.

Scripture: 1 John 5


Today we conclude our series on the first epistle or letter written by Jesus’ friend John to the first Christians. I have been overwhelmed by the rich content of this short book. We have titled this series “Love Illuminated” and we could say the theme of the first chapter is God is light. The theme of the next chapters is God is love. The final chapter’s theme is God is life.

Jesus said plainly to Thomas in John’s biography of Jesus, the Gospel or good news of John…

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Jesus is life.

As I have said previously, we could take months to dissect this short letter, yet it is just that—a letter. It’s not a painting needing endless interpretation, a song for us to learn to sing or dance, or an inner feeling requiring unpacking. It’s a rather straightforward letter, a letter we will finish reading today.

Victory over the world

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:1-5)

When you trust Jesus you trust what He did and who He is, His identity. If Jesus is LORD, you have been born of God, new birth. You’ve been born again. God becomes your Father, your Dad. Your Dad loves you, you love your Dad, and you love your siblings, brothers and sisters in Christ along with our big Brother, Jesus.

How do you know you’re a child of God?

  1. You are righteous. You do what is right. (1 John 2:29)
  2. You stop a lifestyle of sin. (1 John 3:9)
  3. You love other Christians, your spiritual siblings. (1 John 4:7)
  4. You believe in Jesus. (1 John 5:1)
  5. You overcome the world. (1 John 5:4)
  6. You keep yourself from satan. (1 John 5:18)

Love, obedience, and truth.

Loving God shows we are His children. Last week we said love is more than a feeling, but a verb; it’s action! If we love God we obey His commands. What are they?

Be filled with the Holy Spirit
Love your neighbor
Pray without ceasing
Rejoice always
Give thanks in all circumstances
(and so many more; many are found in 1 Thessalonians 5)

How do we overcome the world? Faith. We’re in the world but not to be of the world.

This is the only time “victory” occurs in the New Testament.

Faith saves us.
Faith keeps us.

J. Vernon McGee says Canaan represents the world where we live today. We’re blessed with all spiritual blessings. Joshua led the people into the Promised Land, but there were battles. Jericho was the first battle (the world). Ai was the second (the flesh). The Gibeonites deceived Joshua (the devil). We overcome the world not by fighting but by faith. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down.

We cannot overcome the world by fighting it.

Assurance of Salvation

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:6-12)

Water and blood both came from the side of Jesus on the cross.

Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (John 19:34-35)

Water speaks of the living Word of God. We must be born of water, the Word.

Blood speaks of life and the death of Jesus.

We need the Holy Spirit.

Note: verse 7 may have been added later.

The Spirit, water (the Word) and blood agree Jesus is the Savior of the world because of His death and resurrection.

The witness or testimony of God is greater than that of humans.

The Holy Spirit is given to all followers of Jesus.

If you have Jesus, you have life. It doesn’t say who goes to church or reads the Bible. Is Jesus your Savior and LORD? Salvation and eternal life comes through trusting Jesus.

The next verse is very important.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:13-15)

We can have confidence and boldness in approaching God.

Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance but laying hold of His willingness.” - Martin Luther

We have a great Dad who will hear and answer.

Prayer may be one of the most misunderstood aspects of the faith, yet it might not be that complicated. I often relate it to talking with my son. I love my son and will do most anything for him…unless I’m unable—which God is not!—or I know it’s not in his best interest (which would be unloving).

John’s gospel records numerous statements from Jesus regarding prayer, talking with our heavenly Father.

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:13-14)

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:16)

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:23-24)

We are to pray in Jesus’ Name, not because it’s a secret password to miracles but because it states our desire to follow Him and seek the will of God. It means our will and His are the same. To accomplish this, we often must listen as well as speak. Prayer is a conversation, not a monologue. What is God saying to you? We can have confidence when we pray. The Father loves to give good gifts to His children, but prayer is not a formula to be followed guaranteeing our immediate desires. He is not our butler, but prayer is not wishful thinking, either. Daddy knows best. He can be trusted, even if He doesn’t make sense at this moment.

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. (1 John 5:16-17)

This refers to physical death. Not all sins are the same, though they all displease God.

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:18-20)

The new nature will never sin. It has a desire for God and righteousness.

Christianity is not a religion but a Person, Jesus.

Finally, we come to a short yet profound command, an interesting way to conclude the letter.

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

That’s it!

It occurs to me either

  1. there’s more to the letter that has been lost
  2. he had to get the letter in the mail because the mailman was coming!
  3. these are his final words and he wants them to linger for emphasis

Keep yourselves from idols.

What is an idol? Anything we love more than God.

The Bible is filled with them. The Golden Calf may be the most infamous. It was common for religions to have physical idols, often statues believed to possess power.

This week I was reminded of the importance of wisdom…and the consequences of ignoring it. A few days ago in our daily One Story readings God says to Solomon

“As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’ (1 Kings 9:4-5)

Imagine God offering to establish your royal throne forever! Solomon was given one request, he asked for a heart of understanding, and God gave him wisdom, wealth, power, and everything this world can offer.

But he forgot God. He did not keep himself from idols, essentially the first two of the Ten Commandments.

The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’S command. So the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. (1 Kings 11:9-11)

John’s final words…

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

What are your idols? We all have them. Money? Career? Family? Friends? Pleasure? Sports? Education? Food? Religion?

Jesus is life. He is the way. The truth. The life. Is He your life?

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

God is Love, 1 John 3, 31 May 2015

Big Idea: We are in the midst of a battle fought with love and prayer.

What is your favorite book of the Bible? Why?

What is your favorite chapter in the Bible? This may be a less popular question.

As we continue our series “Love Illuminated” on the book of 1 John, we come to the fourth chapter of this essential letter from one of Jesus’ three best friends, John. While this may not be my favorite chapter in the Bible, few are loaded with more incredible, memorable verses. It’s packed with theology, challenge, encouragement, and insight.

Its overarching theme is a four-letter word which best summarizes the entire Bible.
It’s a four-letter word which best summarizes God.
It’s a four-letter word which best summarizes what we are called to be as followers of Jesus and as the Church, the Body of Christ. The word is…love.

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. 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. (1 John 4:1-3)

There were and are false prophets, false teachers, false teachings. Test the spirits. Test me! The Bible is our authority. Jesus is our authority. The reason cults exist is people follow leaders that are not following Jesus.

The question isn’t do you believe in God, but what do you believe about God. What do you believe about Jesus? We note previously how there were those in John’s day—and ours—who believed Jesus to be human but not God or God but not human. He is uniquely fully God and fully human.

This the the third time John mentions antichrist (1 John 2:18, 22). We said antichrist can mean against Christ or instead of Christ. Jesus said many would come in His name and also there would be opposition. There are many antichrists but they are not the antichrist mentioned in Revelation.

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. (1 John 4:4-6)

The spirit of antichrist is in the world. We are engaged in a real, cosmic battle between good and evil. Can I let you in on a little secret? We win!

The Holy Spirit is given to all believers. The Holy Spirit teaches through the Word of God, the Bible. Believers have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, but unless we surrender to God we can still sin and rebel against God. If, however, we remain or abide in Christ (John 15) and invite the Holy Spirit to fill and guide us, we will have the mind of Christ and act like Jesus, bearing fruit.

Imagine you’re in a bicycle race, hot and sweaty. You just happen to have a bottle of ice cold water, but never reach for it and drink it. Does it help you? No. Is it available? Yes. Would it be foolish to not take advantage of it? Absolutely! It’s not enough to have the Holy Spirit, which all believers do. We are to let the Spirit take control. Hands off! That’s hard for many of us who want to be in control. It’s not whether you have the Holy Spirit, but whether or not the Holy Spirit has you!

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

Believers are to love one another. This is not sentimental, sexual, or social love but supernatural, unconditional agape. It says, “I love you. Period.”

In 1984 the band Foreigner had a huge hit that said, “I Want To Know What Love Is.”

When I was in high school our youth leader told the story about proposing to his wife. He knew he had feelings for this woman but struggled to define love. He was reading 1 John 4 and saw this verse (and verse 16).

God is love.

One of my greatest fears for us is that we become so familiar with the
idea of love without actually receiving and/or giving it. We know about love, but do we love?

Love is not being nice.

Love is not avoiding conflict.

Love not the absence of hate. In fact some have said the opposite of love is indifference, not hate, since love and hate are both intense. How often are we indifferent?

Love is a verb. It requires action.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and 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. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:9-12)

He is the propitiation for our sins. The word means mercy seat, the place where the priest met God in the Old Testament. The word atonement means to cover. Jesus is the mercy seat for our sins. He died. He conquered sin and death so we can come boldly into the presence of Almighty God.

Do you love?
Do you love believers?
Do you love unbelievers?
Do you love your enemies?

The question is not can you but do you. The test of our faith is not our knowledge but our love.

Don’t miss the last verse. No one has seen God but people can see God’s love in us, through us. This is what it means for us to shine, to reflect God’s love like the moon reflects the light of the sun.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. (1 John 4:13-16a)

This is not a human love. The fruit of the Spirit is love…Some believe love is the fruit and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit emerges from love.

Who is Jesus? This question is hugely important! He is the Son of God. If Jesus is not who He claimed to be, His death was useless. He was arrested and crucified for claiming to be God…and He proved it by the resurrection!

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:16b-18)

Here John says again, “God is love.” Love is made perfect or complete.

1 John 4:8 God is love
1 John 4:16 God is love

You can’t say God is mercy or grace or justice, but God is love. God reveals His love at the mercy set, Jesus.

I love the phrase, “Perfect love drives out fear,” but this is not any fear (although love probably has the capacity to drive out any fear). This is about fearing judgment, something we need not fear because Jesus died for us and showed us His love…in action.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:19-21)

God loved us first. He took the first step, made the first move. Our love for God and others is always a response to knowing and experiencing His love for us. If your love tank is empty, only God can fill it up. He has plenty to share, just ask!

How many claim to love God yet hate others?

Love is a command.

Do you love?

I confess

  • not loving my enemies
  • not loving my friends
  • making it about me and my name rather than the Name of Jesus
  • failing to share God’s love with the lost


Two weeks ago the Christian & Missionary Alliance held their General Council in Long Beach, California, a national gathering that occurs every other year. Viewing it online I heard President John Stumbo share for the first time as President his report, his state of the denomination address. His first word to us was simple: love.
I realize this isn’t fancy, complicated, or trendy, but Jesus loves you and, therefore, you are to love Jesus and people, those Jesus loves.

But what is love? God is love, but who is God? Love!

Twenty five years ago this past week I said “I do” to my bride, and she returned the favor! During our ceremony, we had a chapter of the Bible read aloud. It was not written for a wedding. It is not about romance. It does not discuss eros love. It’s a great description of agape, however.

These words were read that day:

  If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Children of God, 1 John 2:28-3:10, 24 May 2015

Big Idea: We are children of God…or children of the devil.

Scripture: 1 John 2:28-3:10


My name is Kirk. Most people call me Kirk. Some call me Pastor Kirk. Three very special people call me Daddy or Dad. I love to hear that word. I have three adult children presently in three different states and I love being their daddy. I must admit in addition to great joy, there is great challenge involved in being a dad, not the least of which is calibrating invitation and challenge, encouragement and discipline, good cop and bad cop, warm love and tough love.

As we continue our examination of John’s first letter about twenty years following his biography of Jesus—the Gospel of John—we see John speaking like a dad, a shepherd, a pastor who has great concern for his sheep, his flock, his disciples. He showers them with confidence and challenge and provides for us an incredibly relevant message two thousand years later.

And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. (1 John 2:28)

John refers again to the “little born ones,” his precious followers, believers in Jesus. He echoes Jesus’ words in John 15 about the vine and the branches were Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Remain in Me. Abide in Me. Continue in Me.” The quality of fruit is directly related to the health of the branches and their connection to the vine and the roots. Good fruit cannot come from a dead tree.

Why remain and do life with Jesus? He’s returning and we want to be ready. We want Him to know us, to welcome us, to say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” This life matters. Our actions count. This is preparation for the future. When Jesus returns it will be both wonderful and woeful. If we know Him, it will be a wonderful reunion. If we have rejected Him—and I don’t just mean in our head, but with our life and deeds—great peril awaits.

We don’t know when He is coming but we know He is coming and we’ll all have to give an account for our lives. Are you ready?

If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. (1 John 2:29)

Children look like their Dad. Have you noticed? This is not only true physically but also in mannerisms, habits, and actions.

God is righteous. His kids are righteous. It’s one thing to know Jesus but another to act like Him. Righteousness runs in the family!

One feature of this passage is the subject “everyone who” which appears nine times.

everyone who acts righteously has been born of God

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1)

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Although the NIV translation omits it, may read, “Behold, what manner of love the Father has lavished on us.” Lavished!

We don’t expect to be God’s children, we don’t hope to be…we are His children! This is fantastic!

This love is great. It is special. It is unusual. This isn’t “I love ice cream” love or even “I’ll love you as long as you make me happy” love. It’s agape. It seeks nothing in return. It’s unconditional. It’s real! He proved His love by sending Jesus to die for us.

Keep in mind John is writing to believers, to children of God. He is inviting them into a deeper relationship with God. He is encouraging them. He is increasing their confidence in God and their adoption into His family in the midst of opposition, skepticism, and religion which says we’re saved by our works rather than the work of Jesus. Neither religion nor the world understands grace, unmerited favor. Our identity is given to us by God as we follow Jesus and are adopted into His family.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

God sees what we will be. He knows the future. Jesus is returning and there will be a new heaven and a new earth, we will have new bodies like Christ’s body, and we will see the glorified Christ and be like him. These are encouraging words. If you’re a follower of Jesus today, you are a child of God. You can be confident and secure.

All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:3)

everyone who has this hope based on Jesus makes himself pure

Following Jesus is just that…following, imitating, becoming like Him. This requires action. It doesn’t say all who think purity is a good idea are pure. It doesn’t say if I pray a prayer to accept Jesus into my heart I’ll live a pure and righteous life. It means if we follow the pure One we will live increasingly pure lives that reflect Jesus.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4)

everyone who acts sinfully is really doing sin

This is a reference to habitual sins. Anything contrary to the will of God is sin. It’s serving our old nature. Sin will disrupt our relationship with God. Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, we have been battling the allure of sin. Isaiah said

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

We all sin and fall short of God’s glory, His purity, His perfect standard of holiness. We need Jesus not only to forgive us but also to model for us what it means to be human, what it means to be pure and righteous.

But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (1 John 3:5-6)

everyone who abides in Him does not commit sin
everyone who commits sin has never seen Him

Jesus came to take away our sins—plural. He never sinned. If we know Him, love Him, and follow Him we will not sin. This does not mean we will never sin, but it will be a regretful mistake rather than a prideful habit. If sin is rebellion against God, we can’t follow God and sin.

The believer who remains/abides does not practice sin. We do sin, and God can deliver us from sin. Jesus died to forgive us and allow us to be reconciled to our Dad.

When believers sin, there is sorry and remorse. If you keep on sinning and don’t feel guilt or conviction you’re in deep trouble!

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. (1 John 3:7)

God’s children look like God’s Son. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree!

Everyone who acts righteously is truly just

Now John gets clear. Crystal clear. He shifts from invitation to challenge, from encouragement to warning.

The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. (1 John 3:8)

everyone who acts sinfully belongs to the devil

These are strong words! You are either a child of God or a child of the devil. You can’t be both. Who’s your daddy?

Jesus died to take away the sin of the world, to put an end to sin and death and broken relationships. That was His mission, His purpose. I love what Paul wrote to the Colossians:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)

This discussion of sin is challenging because we do sin but we don’t want to sin when we are following Jesus. We have two natures, the old and new. They are in constant conflict. Paul described it this way:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:14-20)

That’s the definition of frustration, right there! He continues:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. (Romans 7:21-23)

John continues:

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. (1 John 3:9)

everyone who has been born of God does not act sinfully

We must be born again! The new nature will not commit sin. The Prodigal Son left his life of sin and came home to his father.

This doesn’t mean we never sin but we don’t live in sin. Remember earlier John said

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

Have you been born of God?

J. Vernon McGee said he believed in the security of believers and the insecurity of make believers!

When we are helpless and hopeless, He’s able to take control. You can’t do it yourself. We need help. We need the Holy Spirit. We need God. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. We must remain/abide/be with Him if we want to emulate Him.

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. (1 John 3:10)

everyone who acts unrighteously does not belong to God

It’s pretty simple. We are children of God if we do what is right and children of the devil if we live in habitual sin and fail to love others.

What fruit are you bearing?
Do you do what is right?
Do you love your brother and sister?

So What?

Perhaps the great question is not do you sin but do you want to sin? Do you
want to do what is right and love you brother and sister. If so, call upon the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth and keep you from sin. God’s children are not perfect, but they are unconditionally loved, and with that love comes the Son and the Holy Spirit to offer salvation, forgiveness, sanctification, power, love, and hope.

If the world sees righteous Christians, they will see Jesus.

Followers of Jesus, be encouraged by God’s invitation for you to be His children, but also be challenged by the responsibility to follow Him, to look like Jesus, and to exhibit faith, hope and love…one day at a time.

Credits: some thoughts from Thru the Bible by J. Vernon McGee

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Antichrists, 1 John 2:18-27, 17 May 2015

Big Idea: We must know the Truth and avoid the lies.

Scripture: 1 John 2:18-27

  Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
  As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.
  I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.


What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word…antichrist?

My mind races to the book of Revelation, end times movies, Christian persecution, and global chaos.

As we continue in our study of the book of 1 John—a letter written by one of Jesus’ best friends and the author of the Gospel of John—this word “antichrist” emerges.

To review last week’s text that precedes this week’s scripture, John writes

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

There’s a great contrast between God’s ways and the world’s ways, and that distinction will continue to be expressed in today’s passage.

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18)

“Little children” is used again, speaking to the babies in the faith. John tells them it’s the last hour, which sounds like one of those end times movies again with earthquakes and people disappearing and chaos ensuing. You may have noticed it has been the last hour for quite some time! On the one hand, it’s tempting to dismiss You might not be around tomorrow.

Antichrist can mean against Christ or it can mean instead of Christ, a substitute.

There is going to be an antichrist but there were many in John’s day. They denied the deity of Christ, that Jesus was God. Many claimed to be Christ. Revelation 13 describes a wild beast that is called forth by satan, a political ruler against Christ and also a wolf in sheep’s clothing who pretends to be Christ, a religious ruler. Both can be called antichrist, one against and one instead of Jesus.

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:19)

Have you ever seen someone excited about something, only to lose their enthusiasm? In sports, we call these fair-weather fans. They’ll support a team as long as they’re winning, but when the championships end, they jump on the bandwagon of another team.

This happens frequently in the marketplace. A person will be passionate about their job until it gets difficult and they’ll quit or—worse—complain.

Faithfulness is never more evident than in relationships. The reason marriage is more than just a piece of paper is the commitment it records.

I have seen so-called followers of Jesus abandon the faith, and there is nothing more tragic. Eleven of the twelve disciples were faithful, but Judas did not remain with them.

A popular argument among Christians is whether or not you can lose your salvation. Some suggest if you can, you were never a Christian in the first place. I’m not here to debate the issue here, but Jesus said in Luke 8 that the Word of God is like seed, some of which falls on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and some on good soil that took root and persevered and produced a crop.

Are you truly a follower of Jesus? Are you a new creation? Why? Is it simply for what you can get from God? What if He fails to meet your “needs” and He disappoints you?

Paul said

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Three chapters later he added

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Does this describe your life? Are you standing firm in the faith? How do we do that? By filling our mind with God’s Word, our heart with prayer, and our hands with service to others. Simply, we know and follow Jesus.

John continues

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. (1 John 2:20)

We need the Holy Spirit. The Spirit helps us understand the truth.

I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:21-23)

They had the truth but lies are entering. Some see the world as the enemy, but the real enemy is inside the church.

Again, there are many antichrists, then and now, those who deny Jesus is the Messiah.

If Jesus is not God, we’re in trouble.
If Jesus is not human, we’re in trouble.

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. (1 John 2:24)

We must remain. We must abide. We must persevere. We must continue daily to follow Jesus…hourly…every moment!

This requires discipline. That’s not a popular word, but I heard a great definition of discipline this week:

doing what you don’t want to do so you can do what you want to do (Jeff Fisher)

Sometimes I don’t want to jog, but I overcome that objection by thinking about the reward of being physically fit.

Sometimes I don’t want to invest time in my relationship with God, but I overcome that objection by thinking about the reward of knowing Jesus.

Sometimes I don’t want to invest money in savings, but I overcome that objection by thinking about the reward of having an emergency fund or resources for the future.

In John 15, Jesus said if we abide/remain/persevere/invest our lives in Him we will bear fruit, but it doesn’t happen automatically or instantly.

What did they hear from the beginning?

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1)

And this is what he promised us—eternal life. (1 John 2:25)

God promised us eternal life. That’s a long time! It’s not just eternal but life! If we trust Jesus with our lives, eternal life is promised.

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:26-27)

Who’s trying to lead us astray? Anyone who is not teaching the Word of God. Do you know it well enough to know the truth from the lies? Never trust me over the Bible…and let me know if you ever hear a word that doesn’t align with the Bible.

I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m in process. The more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn!

My favorite theological quote is from Leonard Sweet who said, “20% of my theology is wrong. I just don’t what 20%”

He’s not saying we don’t need teachers, but we especially need the Holy Spirit.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)

So What?

There are many false teachings and false teachers. They perpetuate myths. Can you think of any? Here are some:

  1. God wants you happy. God wants you rich.
  2. God won’t give you more than you can handle.
  3. It doesn’t matter what you do.
  4. It doesn’t matter what you believe.
  5. Praise God when things go well. Ignore Him when things go poorly.
  6. Jesus was a good teacher but never died.
  7. Jesus was a good teacher but never rose from the dead.
  8. Jesus was not God.
  9. Jesus was not human.
  10. God helps those who help themselves.
  11. All good people go to heaven.
  12. Only good people go to heaven.
  13. Success is always measured by numbers.
  14. There is only one road you can take, one plan God has for your life.
  15. If you’re not busy, you’re lazy.
  16. God is not okay with doubt and questions
  17. There are bad sins (abortion) and acceptable ones (gossip)
  18. Your behavior affects God’s love for you
  19. The church is a building or a gathering
  20. All pastors are perfect, holy, and super spiritual
  21. The Bible is all about rules
  22. The Bible is boring

Finally, challenge what you hear from me, challenge what you read in the media, challenge what you see in our culture. Does it align with the Word of God? It’s so tempting to follow conventional wisdom or what is politically correct without wrestling with the scriptures. Yes, sometimes they’re difficult to understand. Some things are controversial, but we must humbly seek the truth, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us. This is why we have elders. This is why we have Life Groups. This is why we have a Facebook page and Q&A in sermons…to study, wrestle, and seek to understand the truth…both the words on the page and Jesus,
the Truth.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

The World, 1 John 2:15-17, 10 May 2015

Big Idea: We are not citizens of this world, but citizens of heaven on God's mission in our world.

Scripture: 1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.


Do you like to travel? What’s the most fascinating place you’ve visited? Why?

There’s a common expression many make regarding a place. The phrase is…

“It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

There are various reasons people give for their statement, but interestingly enough virtually every visited place has people that live there!

In 1972 Christian music pioneer Larry Norman released an album called “Only Visiting This Planet.” More recently, t-shirts have proclaimed, “Don’t mind me, I’m just visiting this planet.”

Visitors and residents live very different lives, don’t they? I was with a friend from out of town last week during the election and they weren’t too concerned about whether or not Proposal 1 was going to pass. They don’t have to drive on our crater-filled roads each day!

Actually, it would be quite odd if they were deeply concerned about the election, aside from their interest in how it would affect me.

This past week I joined a group of people in downtown Ann Arbor for the National Day of Prayer observance, an annual half hour of prayer at the Federal Building flagpole. While I appreciated their concerns and prayers, I was struck by how opinionated their prayers were, certain of God’s will for the United States and ever so bold in telling God how politicians and leaders should vote, with hardly a word of thanks for the freedoms we enjoy, the progress we’ve made, or even worship for God simply being God. A day set aside for talking with our Dad turned into a laundry list of fear, angst, and pleas for power.

I’m quite sure I over-reacted to their prayers, but today’s passage from the first epistle of John reminds us not to be overly concerned with this world. I want to live in peace and freedom and smooth roads as much as the next guy, but we’re just visiting!

Do not love the world or anything in the world. (1 John 2:15a)

This is not a reference to creation or the planet. It’s not a reference to people in the world. It’s a reference to the world’s system, to worldly things, to temporary things.

Since sin was introduced to our world, evil has been present, causing death, pain, and destruction…all disguised beautifully in tempting forms…like chocolate covered poop!

Jesus spoke of this world. Although he created it, he has allowed satan and his demons to tempt and deceive, presenting us with daily choices to follow God or the world. Jesus called him the prince of this world (John 14:30; John 16:11).

I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, (John 14:30)

…and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:11)

In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul spoke of what it was like for people before they followed Jesus.

…in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 2:2)

Evil is real. Just watch the news! Every day we are bombarded with lies that suggest we will be truly satisfied when we have __________.

Fill in the blank: money, sex, power, the latest cell phone, the fastest car, the best clothes, the most Facebook friends, the most encounters with celebrities, the biggest paycheck, the most prestigious job, the best grades, the finest school, the most beautiful family…

Paul told the Galatians…

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

The cross and the world are in tension. Good and evil are in tension. God and satan are in tension.

Peter recognized the evil in our world.

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. (2 Peter 2:20)

John continues…

If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. (1 John 2:15b)

This is harsh, but true. Jesus said nobody can serve two masters.

Have you ever had two bosses?

A few years ago I found myself driving a fifteen passenger van in Los Angeles with three navigators! I finally had to tell two of them to put away their GPS devices so I could follow one person.

You can’t run with the devil during the week and run with the LORD on Sunday!

You can’t love sin and God. We are in the world but not of the world.

There is a perpetual conflict between our old sinful nature and our new, righteous nature given to us through Jesus.

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:16)

God gives us all desires. Those desires are not bad since they were from God, but we are often tempted to meet those desires in unhealthy, sinful ways.

It’s like running a marathon, wanting to finish, and then taking a taxi to the finish line.

The flesh, the eyes, and pride. Notice how these themes appear repeatedly in the Bible.

The lust of the flesh. Our bodies have cravings. Gluttony is a real temptation. Eve was tempted by satan to eat the forbidden fruit. It wasn’t that God said she couldn’t eat, but rather she couldn’t eat from just one tree in the garden.

Jesus was also tempted this way in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. He was hungry after fasting for forty days (duh!) and satan tempted him to turn stones into bread to inappropriately feed his flesh. He even misquoted scripture to lure Jesus into sin.

By the way, temptation is not sin. It’s what we do with the temptation that matters. Eve said yes and Jesus said no.

The lust of the eyes. Our eyes are drawn to attractive things. They are often the gateway to lust, pornography, or materialism. The tree looked good to Eve. The fruit looked good.

Jesus was also tempted this way. He was taken to a high place and satan showed him the kingdoms of this world, offering them to Jesus if he would only worship satan.

The pride of life. Eve was told if she ate the fruit she would be wise. It wasn’t simply an urge to eat something tasty, but a desire to be like God.

Jesus was also tempted this way. He was told to jump off the top of the Jerusalem temple and show his superiority by summoning angels to protect him. Jesus never performed a miracle to impress people.

The stomach, beauty, and even religion can be deadly and of the world when we give into sinful temptation. Here’s why:

The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:17)

The Roman Empire, Michael Jordan’s athleticism, the wealth of many who invested in Enron and Radio Shack, …

It All Goes Back In The Box

Author and pastor John Ortberg tells a great story about learning to play Monopoly from his grandmother. She repeatedly beat him and finally said John needed to risk it all, go for broke, buy every house and hotel possible and accumulate as much wealth as possible. She said, “One day you’ll learn to play the game.”

So he played with a neighbor all summer long, understanding money and possessions were the way to keep score. That fall he sat down to play with grandmother and ruthlessly beat her, taking every last dollar she had! She had one more thing to teach John. She said, “Now it all goes back in the box. All of the houses and hotels, railroads and utilities and money goes back in the box. None of it was really yours. It was here before you came along and it will be around after you’re gone.”

So What?

This world is not our home. No matter how exciting it can be to experience money, sex, power, fame, and comfort, the thrill will eventually wear off. Then what?

What really matters?

We are just visiting this planet.

As odd as that may sound, we’re not the only ones. Jesus made a visit, and He set for us a great example of how to live here while being citizens of heaven. He only visited for about 33 years. He said to give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s and to God what belongs to God. He never demonstrated fear, even when seemingly most of the world wanted him dead. There is no record of him campaigning for a candidate or even a political issue, though his sermons were loaded with radical commands and ideas no politician would dare utter.

Some Christians are so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good. We need to be involved in this world, but only to the extent that we’re on mission, that we are obediently following our assignment to make disciples, to love others, to lose our lives for God’s sake.

A growing trend in travel is eco tourism where people do more than visit and consume; they serve the residents, perhaps through digging a well or volunteering at a soup kitchen. They are on a mission, but permanent residency is not part of the arrangement. The tourists know they will eventually return home.

This world is not our home. We’re just visitors. Let’s live like it! In the meantime, let’s complete our mission and leave this world in better shape than we found it!

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast
here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Children, Youth, and Fathers, 1 John 2:12-14, 4 May 2015

Big Idea: Spiritually mature disciples reproduce.

Scripture: 1 John 2:12-14


Communication is a fascinating aspect of humanity. We are social creatures with the primal need to convey our thoughts, needs, feelings, and ideas.

Once upon a time we had only verbal and body language.

Hieroglyphic drawings came next.

Written words followed.

The advent of the telephone was a tremendous way to connect with distant people.

Paging, e-mail, and texting introduced new technologies for instant communication.

Today FaceTime, Skype, and other video apps allow face-to-face teleconferencing.

What’s next? Hologram is one emerging tool.

An unsolicited bit of advice: choose the appropriate form of communication for the appropriate message. Texting is great for a short grocery list, but don’t use it to break up with your girlfriend! If you really want your message to get noticed, buy a pen, a card, and a stamp and…write a note!


Every writer has a message and an audience. They are both critically important. Have you ever texted the wrong person? It can be embarrassing, especially if the note is personal or private.

We are studying a letter, the first epistle written by John, one of Jesus’ three best friends. In this fourth week of our series, Love Illuminated, John reveals his audience (plural).

At first glance it seems odd to include details about his recipients in the middle of the letter, yet the details reveal much about them.

Scripture: 1 John 2:12-14

  I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. (12)

This phrase “little” children literally means “born ones.” Perhaps we could call them born again ones. This refers to all believers who have been forgiven by the precious blood of Jesus shed for us on on the cross, by His broken body which was pierced for us.

John continues…

I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

Fathers here refers to mature saints who have known Jesus for many years. They know Him who is from the beginning—Jesus.

John began his gospel with these words:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2)

Fathers know Jesus. They know Him well.

I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one. (13)

It seems young men are more mature than children but not as mature as the fathers. They have faced temptation and won. This is immensely important today. Though it could be said of every generation, the world is filled with lies from the evil one that wants to steal, kill, and destroy.

What are some?

You need money, sex and power…now.
The first shall be first.
He who dies with the most toys wins.
It’s all about you.

John is acknowledging a group of young men who have chosen to live radical, counter-cultural lives. They don’t care what’s politically correct, but instead they live what’s biblically correct.

Now John goes back to the children.

I write to you, dear children,
because you know the Father. (14a)

These immature believers know they are children of God. They know their Daddy!

Now John seems to repeat himself somewhat.

I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning. (14b)

It does not say they know about God. John says mature believers know God. Paul said it this way:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

These verses are loaded! Suffice it to say if you truly want to know someone, walk in their shoes. Last month featured “Take Your Child To Work” day. Thousands of children skipped school to be with their mom or dad, watching and sometimes experiencing life in the real world.

It’s one thing for my son to know intellectually I am his father.
It’s another thing for my son to have met me.
It’s yet another thing for him to be told I work very part-time as a DJ.
It’s still another thing for him to watch me play music at a wedding reception.
It’s an even greater thing for him to work alongside me, entertaining guests.
It’s perhaps the greatest thing for him to live with me, watching me every day.

At each level, my relationship with him grows. He may even decide someday to take over my DJ business, following in my footsteps.

Knowing Jesus does not end at a worship gathering or a Life Group. It’s only the beginning.

We need the Word of God. It’s food. It’s daily bread. Most of us don’t eat weekly. We don’t even eat daily. We eat several times a day.

You can’t expect on meal to nourish you for seven days!

Do you know Jesus? Do you live with Jesus? Do you do life with Jesus?

John continues…

I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one. (14c)

The strong overcome the evil one by the word of God, it’s the only weapon of offense, the sword of the Spirit. Many aren’t in the word of God, but we need it if we are to grow strong.


John is writing to three groups of people.

  I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. (12)
because you know the Father.

They know God the Father.

I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
because you know him who is from the beginning.

They know God.

I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one. (13)
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one. (14)

They are strong, they have overcome the evil one, the word of God lives in them.

So What?

Are you a child, a young man, or a father? Many overestimate where they are on their journey, thinking because they have great biblical knowledge they are mature believers. The Pharisees were just such a people. Their minds were full but their heads were big. Their hands were idle. Their hearts were hard.

Jesus said we are to come to Him like little children…and grow…looking increasing like Him.

As we said previously, God’s love language is obedience. If we love Him, we will do what He commands. Most Christians—including myself—are educated far beyond our level of obedience.

There’s a great verse in the book of Ezra that describes a spiritual father. It says

For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. (Ezra 7:10)

He studied God’s Word. That’s the first step. Children read books.

He observed or practiced the commands of God. That’s what young men do, they are strong and they obey God.

Finally, he taught God’s Word. Some of this may have been in a classroom, but likely it involved modeling…discipleship…reproduction.

Who Are You?

Are you a spiritual child, young adult, or parent? It has nothing to do with your physical age. In fact, it has nothing to do with your spiritual age. There are people who have called themselves Christians for decades who disobey God habitually. None of us is perfect, but we choose to repent or repeat our sins.

Maybe you feel pretty good about your life and actions. You have a heart for God, spend time in pray and studying God’s Word each day. Keep it up! I want to challenge you: who are your disciples? To whom are you a spiritual father or mother? Do they know?!

Parents have kids. We are all commanded to have spiritual kids, disciples.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

There’s only one verb in verse 19: make. Spiritual parents make disciples. They intentionally invest their lives in others. They do life together with them. By definition they parent them spiritually.

You don’t have to be old to be a spiritual parent; you simply need to help another grow, help them take their next steps.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Love and Hate, 1 John 2:7-11, 26 April 2015

Big Idea: Followers of Jesus are to love one another, and this requires sacrificial action, not mere tolerance.

Scripture: 1 John 2:7-11


Two weeks ago while visiting our daughter in New York City I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I love the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago but this was my first visit to The Met. It is a fantastic home to priceless sculptures, pottery, musical instruments, and, of course, paintings.

Heather and I recently saw a powerful film, The Woman in Gold, an historical movie about a painting captured by the Nazis and the quest by the rightful owner to have it returned. Spoiler alert: it was eventually returned…and sold in 2006 for over $130 million!

That’s pocket change, though, compared to the February sale of Paul Gauguin’s “Nafea Faa Ipoipo? (When Will You Marry?) for $300 million!

Which begs three questions:

  1. Who has that kind of money?
  2. Why would you choose to spend that much on that painting?
  3. How do you know it’s real?

Can you imagine spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a painting and discovering it to be a fake?

There’s an old expression that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Things are not always as they appear, and our world is filled with counterfeits, be they paintings, money, or even people.

In our series “Love Illuminated” we’re looking at the book of 1 John, a letter from one of Jesus’ best friends to early believers of the movement we know as Christianity. The early church was threatened by outsiders who wanted to dismiss, disrupt, or even destroy this new religion. An even greater threat, however, came from within, those who claimed to follow Jesus but failed to do so.

One of John’s goals in this letter is to test the authenticity of their spiritual vigor. Last week we saw two of those tests:

Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. (1 John 2:4)

I suggested God’s love language is probably obedience. Knowing God involves action. It’s not simply going to church or reading the Bible or even memorizing scriptures, but rather it is responding to the commands of God. It is obeying god.

Two verses later John wrote

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6)

This phrase “to live in Him” is the Greek term “meno” which John used forty times in his gospel and 27 times in this epistle. It speaks of the indwelling of the Christian in God or even possibly of God indwelling us. It is to abide or remain, to truly know God. Jesus did not come to begin a new religion, but rather He showed us what it means to be human and He invites us to follow Him, His teachings, and His example.

1 John 2:7-11

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.
(1 John 2:7)

What’s the old command? Love God and love you neighbor. It was presented generations earlier.

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

One way we love God is by loving our neighbor.

“ ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18)

John’s audience had been told love God. They had been told to love their neighbor.

Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. (1 John 2:8)

Jesus not only taught commands, He followed them. He said

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45)

Those are strong and difficult words! Jesus demonstrated them, however, even praying for those who crucified Him.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

The center of God’s will is to love one another, and what made it new was Jesus. He showed us what it truly means to love—not tolerate, not co-exist, but love.

What’s so exciting to me is the Holy Spirit filled Jesus with unconditional love and offers it to us, too, if we are willing to ask and receive.

How crazy would it be for Jesus to just say, “Love” and walk away? The first part of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5 is love. We are to receive God’s love from the Holy Spirit and let it overflow in our lives to others.

This is not about trying harder. It’s about aligning ourselves with the Light.

The moon has no internal light. It cannot be brighter for us by trying harder. In fact, it can’t shine at all…unless it is aligned with the sun.

We, also, must be aligned with the Son, S-o-n. We are to be filled with the Holy Spirit, letting go and letting God. We are to die and surrender our lives daily to God if we hope to experience His presence and power in our lives and be a blessing to others. We need to grow daily and we grow by feeding upon bread, the Word.

John’s first test of authentic believers was obedience. The second was love that looks like Christ’s love.

Here’s the third:

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. (1 John 2:9)

None of us hate, right?! This is church, after all!

Hate is the absence of the deeds of love. That could include indifference! We often think hate is only expressed in violence or harm, but passivity or inaction could be hateful. Love unexpressed is not love at all. It is not neutral.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. contrasted hate and love beautifully when he said,

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” -
Strength to Love

He’s undoubtedly reflecting John’s words, which continue…

Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. (1 John 2:10-11)

Haters are in darkness. Lovers are in the light.


Loving others—especially other believers—is the test of genuine faith. We’re family. Family loves through thick and thin.

Have you ever noticed the power of love in a family? Some families say and do terrible things to one another, yet there is an understanding of love, a lifelong commitment to the other person. The real test of one’s love is not found in the good times, but in the midst of suffering. You see who your true friends and family are when things get hard.

Increasingly in our culture family is not merely people with the same last name, but those with whom we do life. This was, perhaps, even more true in the early church where believers were persecuted, resources were often scarce, and the movement of Jesus was spreading virally—without social media!

God’s redemptive plan was never to get people saved or get people to an altar…the plan of God was to reconcile people to His family. Jesus came to rebuild God’s family.

Let’s face it, love is hard! It sounds easy, but it’s not. By love I don’t mean nice or tolerant. I mean looking out for the best interest of the other person. Love involves action. It involves sacrifice. It involves!

C.S. Lewis said
“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
An Example: Reconciliation in Armenia
Although many are aware of my German roots, I’m also one quarter Armenian. This past week marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the slaughter of up to 1.5 million of the 2 million Armenians by Turks. Needless to say, for a century there has been tremendous animosity between Armenians and Turks.
How do you tell an Armenian Christian to just love Turks, knowing your ancestors were destroyed by their ancestors? It’s certainly akin to asking Jews to forgive Germans.
My great grandfather was a victim of the Genocide. Though not killed, he hid in a ditch filled with dead bodies, eventually able to escape to the United States.
Earlier this month, a group of Turkish Christians stood before TV cameras at the Armenian Genocide Memorial and said, “We came to share your pain. We have come here to apologize for what our ancestors did, to ask for your forgiveness.” The new report said
Gathered around the monument’s eternal flame, the more than twenty Turkish citizens spoke out simply, and repeatedly: “We plead with you, if you can, to forgive us and the crimes of our forefathers.”

Significantly, the Turks were joined by a number of local Armenian Christians who formed a huge circle, holding hands together around the memorial as they prayed aloud in Turkish and Armenian for their nations and peoples.

One Western observer of the Yerevan gathering confessed, “I may never see something like this ever again in my life. I was a spectator, watching the walls of division and hostility come down. It’s what the gospel of Christ should be doing all over the world, bringing true reconciliation.”

This is what love for one’s brother looks like. This is what it means to walk in the light.

The Bible is filled with descriptions of light and darkness. Few things contrast greater.

We’ve all been born into sin, into darkness, but we’ve been given an invitation to the Light, an invitation we can accept or reject.

Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.

So What?

Love, don’t hate. If only it were that simple!

You may be saying, “I don’t hate anybody. Haters gonna hate.” This isn’t about how you react to someone who cuts you off on the expressway, a momentary action. Hate in this context is a state of being, a habit of failing to love someone.

If we love, we’re in the light. If we’re in the light, we can love, we can shine. But it won’t happen if we merely try harder. We must abide. We must remain. We must be with God through prayer, worship, study of scripture, and fellowship.


If I were to purchase a million dollar painting I’d hire an expert to authenticate the work of art. They would surely have a variety of tests to determine whether it is a fake or the genuine article.

Likewise, John had tests to determine authentic followers of Jesus from fakers who talk the talk but fail to walk the walk.

Do you obey? Even when it’s inconvenient? Even when it’s costly?

Do you live as Jesus lived? Are you a “little Christ,” imitating His words and deeds?

Do you love? Your friends? Your family? Your neighbors? Your enemies? Not love in your head, but love in action?

Jesus did. He set the bar high, but He gives us the Holy Spirit to enable us to live like Christ.


You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Sin and Obedience, 1 John 2:1-6, 19 April 2015

Big Idea: God’s love language is obedience

Q&A (question from last week)


Last week we began a new series on the book of 1 John entitled Love Illuminated. Love and light are two dominant themes in this short book written to the early Church by one of Jesus’ three best friends, John, the same man who wrote the Gospel of John and Revelation.

John describes in the third verse of the book, which we examined last week, the purpose:

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)

1 John is written to followers of Jesus so they might have fellowship with one another and with God.

Last week someone texted in a question about the plural “we.” It is a reference to the early Church leaders. Just as I might use “we” to describe Scio’s elders, so John is representing the first disciples of Jesus who have become “fathers” to new believers.

This is a book about fellowship, about relationship.

Have you ever had a strained relationship? How did it feel?

Sometimes people confuse position with status. For example, my position might be daddy to my kids, but the status of our relationship may be strained in a given moment.

Our passage today does not deal with salvation. John is writing to children of God. It does, however, deal with fellowship, the status of our relationships with God and one another.



Who do you love? It’s a simple question. Think about the people in your life that you most love. Why do you love them? How do you express that love?

Dr. Gary Chapman’s best-selling book
The Five Love Languages provides the five ways people express love (we’ve looked at these before):

  • words of affirmation
  • physical touch
  • quality time
  • acts of service
  • gifts

A note to couples, it is extremely rare for both of you to have the same love language and, therefore, you need to learn the language of the other person and speak their language…since speaking yours is rarely as meaningful.

I believe God’s love language is

As a dad, I can tell you obedience—and physical touch/hugs—is my love language. If I ask my kids to clean their room and they buy me gifts and say nice things to me but leave Coke cans in their room attracting ants—or worse—I don’t feel loved! I feel disrespected and ignored. Daddy usually knows best…especially when the ants arrive!

So many people talk a great talk about following Jesus on Sunday, singing songs and putting money in the offering plate, but ignoring Him during the week. This is nothing new. When Saul disobeyed God, he told Samuel about the great things he did for God.

But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)

Which brings us to our passage for today.

Scripture: 1 John 2:1-6

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. (1 John 2:1a)

John speaks as a father to his children, his dear children, his spiritual children. The word “children” in the Greek is a term of endearment.

Sin is anything that separates us from God. By definition, it affects the status of that relationship. If I sin against you, our fellowship is strained. Any sin is ultimately a sin against God.

But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1b-2)

Here’s a good “but!” We all sin. We all fall short of God’s glory, His standard of perfection, His righteousness. Praise God for Jesus, the Advocate, the Righteous One who died for us. He is the propitiation for us, meaning He atoned for our sins, meaning His suffering paid for our sins. He took our punishment. The wages of sin is death, and Jesus died as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. He is the atoning sacrifice: at one moment Jesus died to reconcile us to our heavenly Dad.

This is truly good news!

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. (1 John 2:3)

Christians are not permitted to do whatever they please. They must do what pleases God. This is a radical notion, especially in our hyper-individualistic culture that says do it now, have it now, and seize your rights.

We know that we know…Him if…we keep His commands. You can’t know if you’re disobeying God. The assurance comes when we keep His commands. That brings peace. That bring joy.

Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. (1 John 2:4)

Strong words! Any mystery to what he is saying? A disobedient Christian is a liar!

Disobedience is proof we don’t know God.

Many people call themselves Christians but that doesn’t mean they are really God’s children.

Do you love God’s commands?

King David did. Perhaps that’s why he’s called a man after God’s own heart despite his own sins and shortcomings.

The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. (Psalm 19:8b)

Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. (Psalm 119:35)

Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. (Psalm 119:98)

I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. (Psalm 119:131)

It’s easy to talk the talk, but walking the walk is another story.

The test of your car battery is not when it’s 70 degrees and sunny, but ten below zero.

The test of your patience is not when you’re relaxing at the beach, but when you’re stuck in an hour-long traffic backup.

The test of your faith is not what happens on Sunday morning, but 24 hours later when the boss—or teacher—barks out an order for you.

Jesus said…

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: (1 John 2:5)

The Word of God and the commandments of God.

The commandments are the Word of God.

The Word of God includes the commandments…and more.

Jesus said

“If you love me, keep my commands. (John 14:15)

Jesus replied,
“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23)

Children of God want to not only do the commandments but please the Father in all they do. Not “how far can I go and still be a Christian?” Is it ok for a Christian to _________? That’s the wrong question. The right question is, “What can I do to please my heavenly Father?”

Do you want to please God or yourself?

The commandments are one thing, but the word is another.

What is your attitude toward sin? What do you do when you sin?

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6)

Jesus is our example. He did the Father’s will. He obeyed the Father.

Do you think it pleased Jesus to die on the cross? No, but it pleased the Father.

So What?

Are you living as Jesus did? Of course we all fail to live up to His perfect standard, but each week it’s helpful to reflect, to remember, to read, to realize Jesus is the One we strive to follow.

We are not merely to obey commands but follow His example, be in fellowship with Him, do life with Him.

Jesus said the greatest thing in all of life is to

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:30)

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

God Is Light, 1 John 1, 12 April 2015

Big Idea: God is light and we are walk with Him.

Author: John writing on behalf of the Apostles

Audience: the early Church

Date: 85-90 AD


We examined John’s gospel.
We examined John’s second and third letters.
We have not examined John’s vision much, a book called Revelation.


John is one of Jesus’ three best friends. He wrote the gospel of John. His purpose in writing was clear:

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

The gospel of John was written around 65 AD, maybe 75-80 AD. Perhaps twenty years or so have passed and we come to 1 John.This is commonly regarded as a letter or epistle, but the form is more like a homily, like a sermon. Some have called it a “letter-essay.”

Imagine being an early follower of Jesus. Maybe you actually encountered him or had friends who witnessed a miracle or even the crucifixion. This new movement called The Way, now known as Christianity, is involving both Jews and Gentiles, two vastly opposing groups. New Christians were being expelled from the synagogues, some of whose colleagues denied Jesus as Messiah and returned to the synagogue. They needed encouragement. Christianity was a startup religion in the shadow of an established, powerful Judaism. It was bold and risky to follow Jesus.

There were other challenges for early believers beyond social and religious rejection. Heresy was growing, including idolatry and the emergence of false prophets.

Docetists believed Jesus was divine but never human.

Cerinthians believed the Christ-Spirit merely came on Jesus but He was not the Christ.

Some Gnostics believed they could not commit real sins.

The real challenge was “secessionists,” people who were Christians but withdrew from the community. John offers two ways to test the spirits: a moral-ethical test (obedience to the commandments) and a faith test (proper view of Jesus).

Who is Jesus? Last month we looked at our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King. He is fully God yet fully human. Many claim to believe in Jesus, but what do they believe?

We often get excited when someone says they believe in God. But what God? What do they believe? Jesus’ half-brother said

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:19)

Even demons believe in Jesus…but they do not follow Him as LORD. That’s huge.

It’s easy to romanticize the early church, being in the presence of the likes of Peter, Paul, and John. Yet it was a messy time. There were antichrists, gossip, heresy, division, church splits…some things never change! John addressed this letter to one community, but it was probably intended to be shared with the other churches.

2 John was likely written soon after, a book with warnings about false teachers.

The purpose of this writing is expressed in the fifth and final chapter.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)

This is written to believers in Jesus to encourage them and assure them of their salvation.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1)

This may refer to creation, but more likely John is speaking of his eyewitness relationship with Jesus, the beginning of the gospel proclamation. He saw and touched Jesus. He is not a historian writing about an ancient figure, but rather a biographer describing his personal friend.

Some believed Jesus was God but not human.
Some believed Jesus was human but not God.

John touched Jesus. He wasn’t a ghost or vision or a divine apparition like Greek gods.
John witnessed the crucifixion and saw the risen Jesus.

We see echoes in this verse of John 1:1.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Jesus is the Word. Jesus is God.

The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:2-4)

Jesus appeared. This is a reference to the Incarnation, God becoming one of us.

John’s message is passionate. He proclaims Jesus! Why? Fellowship and joy.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)

Light and darkness was a common image of contrast. Imagine life without electricity. Fire (from the sun or a flame) was the only source of light. Light and darkness is the perfect contrast between sin and righteousness. The Old Testament condemned the mixing of light and darkness, right and wrong. God is light.

Peter also spoke of the contrast between light and darkness, sin and righteousness.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

The Old Testament described obedience as walking.

The Old Testament spoke of sacrificial blood as purifying for sins.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

Some believed they had become sinless…of their sins were not sinful.

Notice how John essentially repeats his message about sinlessness…and places one of the most beautiful verses in the entire Bible right in the middle.

God required confession and repentance.

So What?

First and foremost, we are all sinners.

Second, we need Jesus. Jesus is God. Jesus is human. Jesus is real. Jesus is alive!

Third, we can experience forgiveness and purification. Hallelujah!

Fourth, we are to walk in the light. We are to obey.

Fifth, if we obey, we have fellowship with one another.

The Moon

The moon contains no light, yet it beautifully reflects the sun so brightly that it illuminates our night skies.

We are not the light. Jesus is the light. We are the moon. We reflect the light…if we walk in the light.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.