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1st John 3:4-24; 4:1-3

 

1st John 3:4-24, “Whoso committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.  [That, folks is the Bible definition for sin, given by John the apostle.  A lot of Christian denominations don’t like it, sounds too legalistic, but there it is folks.]  And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.  Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him neither known him.  Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.  He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.  For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.  Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.  In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.  For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.  Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother.  And wherefore slew he him?  Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.  Marvel not, my children, if the world hate you.  We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.  He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.  Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.  Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

          And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.  For if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all  things.  Beloved, if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.  Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.  And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.  And this is his commandment.  That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.  And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him.  And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”

 

1st John 4:1-3

 

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.  Hereby we know the Spirit of God:  Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:  And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is in the world.”

 

“John chapter 3, I believe we got to the third verse.  We’ll start in verse 1 and read to there.  “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be:  but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  And every man that hath this hope in him”—in Jesus—“purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (verses 1-3)  So John pointing us to the blessed hope of the church, saying it is a great purifying factor.  And again, certainly for these Christians who were really putting their life on the line by proclaiming their faith.  Nero’s burning Christians at the stake at this time.  Persecution is mounting against the church, and these believers lived looking for the coming of the Lord.  They found nothing, as it were, in this world that they would attach their hearts to.  And yet John, now he moves on, as we get to verse 4, and he begins to exhort us in regards to the relationship we have with Christ and the way we live.  So, here he really takes us from living for the coming of the Lord to living for the Lord that’s coming.  Both of those things are necessary.  Certainly, as Christians, we are living for the coming of the Lord, and looking forward to that.  [But some denominations have their heads so buried in the prophecy sections of the Bible, and current events, trying to tie all of that together—that living for the Lord that’s coming gets pushed aside.  John brings balance into our worship and focus—helping us all to become more Christ-centered in our walk.]  But as we’re doing that, we’re to be living for the Lord that’s coming, and that is hard for us, because we’re to live as though Christ were coming this evening, because he said ‘in an hour that you think not’, and how many of you when you left your home this evening thought you would never be coming back to it again, because the trumpet would blow in the middle of church and you’d be caught up into his presence?  [Dispensational view, the Rapture.  The Classic Pre-Millennial view shows there’s a lot that must happen prophetically before that “Trumpet” blows.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/2ndcoming_2.htm for the Classic Pre-Millennial interpretation.]   So he may come this hour because you didn’t think that.  So this is an hour that you think not.  Now if you think it now because I’ve said it, he won’t come [laughter].  But the idea is, we’re to be living as though he could come now, and yet we’re all supposed to be living responsibly like he may not come for 50 years, and that is a very difficult thing to do.  It is a very difficult thing to do, and we are to continue in our careers.  And again, people will say “Should I pursue this medical career?  Boy, it’s going to be eight years in college, by that time, they’ll be putting the diploma in my hand, the Trumpet will blow, I’ll be outa here, it’ll all be for nothing.”  Or what happens if on my third trimester, do I stay pregnant forever?  You know, the thing is, Jesus is going to come.  We know that.  And when he comes, some generation must be interrupted.  [I would honestly have to say that some pretty nasty preliminary things will happen before “that interruption” takes place.  Even Matthew 24:7, which many feel details the side-effects of global warming (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/warming/warming1.htm),  coupled to the cycle of world wars we’re already in, then verses 8-13 persecutions, massive ones against Christians, and then a falling away of those ‘who were not really of us’ looking at Matthew 24:7-13.]  There will be some student that is finishing up his intern in medicine that will be interrupted.  There will be pregnant women that will be interrupted.  There will be people that are just finishing a career that are interrupted.  There will be people who said “I do” on the reception on the way to the honeymoon and get Raptured before the honeymoon starts.  It has to happen to somebody, and it might as well happen to our generation.  It’s gonna happen to some generation.  And the idea is, it isn’t spiritual for us just to set everything aside and be sitting here waiting for the Lord.  We have to live like he’s coming this evening, but we have to live responsibly too.  That’s why John moves into this exhortation that he moves into now.  Because, the important thing is that you are about the Master’s business, that you are doing what he has set in front of you—in your marriage, in your homes, in your career, whatever it might be—because that is the most sacred thing you can do, and it is the most sacred place you can be in.  It doesn’t matter what he interrupts when he comes, as long as he interrupts what he asked you to be doing.  And that is the point.  So John now will move on and exhort us.  Yes, he is speaking to us about the coming of the Lord, but now he really begins to speak also about our walk in a very practical way, in verse 4, when he says “Whosoever”, and I’m going to read down, I think, to verse 9 and we’ll back up.  “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law, for sin is the transgression of the law.  And ye know that he was manifested [Jesus] to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.  Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.  Little children, let no man deceive you.  He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he [Jesus] is righteous.  He that committeth sin is of the devil, for the devil sinneth from the beginning.  For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.  Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (verses 4-9)  Now as we read into these passages, I’m going to reiterate the tenses that the Greek is in.  Now that’s not always important.  My job as a pastor and a teacher is to do those things when they might be an encouragement to you.  Because  just to read through that, “whoever commits sin is of the devil”, you know, half the congregation just went ‘Whoa’ you know, ‘I thought I had a funny feeling this afternoon…’ you know.  Charles Spurgeon said ‘there are sermons in tenses’, and in that language that it was written in, it helps us to get a picture.  So I will, as we go through these verses, try to remove the condemning sense of that, because it’s written to God’s children, and it is not saying that if we make a mistake we are damned or we are not in the light.  Because the first chapter clearly told us ‘that if we say that we don’t have sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’  ‘If we confess’—the tense is—‘continually confess our sins, then he is continually faithful and just to forgive us, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, if we’ve never given evidence of our fallen nature, then we make him a liar, and the truth is not in us.  So these things I’m writing to you’ John says, ‘that you sin not.  But if any man does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, who is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world.’  So he deals with the fact, that yes, we’re in that struggle, yes, we do deal with those things.  And we’ll look at that as we move in here.

          So he says “Whosoever committeth sin”—and it is, the tenses are—“Whosoever continually or habitually commits sin, transgresseth the law” or “commits lawlessness” your translation might say.  “For sin is the transgression of the law.”  “And you know that he [Jesus] was manifested to take away our sins, and in him is no sin.”  Now we know that.  Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not”—is not practicing sin habitually, that’s what it says.  “Whosoever sinneth”—or practices sin habitually—“hath not seen him, neither knows him.” (verses 4-6)  So this is not legalism, this is what it’s saying to us.  It’s saying  that if you know someone who claims to be a Christian [or Messianic believer in Yeshua], and they habitually live in sin, you know, every day their lifestyle is that way and they’re giving you that ‘Oh, sure, I love God and God is love, and sure I’m a Christian.  What do you think I am, an Eskimo?’  The Bible says ‘that if you know someone who habitually lives that way [i.e. lives habitually transgressing God’s law, for sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4)], that they are lawless, that they are breaking the law—they have not known him, and have not seen him. “Because in him is no sin, and he was manifested to take away our sin.” (verse 5)  ‘Whosoever abides in him does not practice sin habitually.’  Now does this mean that we never get mad [angry]?  No, at least it doesn’t for me, I’ll say it for myself.  Does this mean there won’t be a day this week sometime when you get a bad attitude or you do something stupid…What it means is, you used to have a lifestyle where you lived for yourself.  When you did something that was a transgression of God’s law you didn’t feel bad about it, there was no conviction, you didn’t feel terrible about it.  As long as numero uno (that’s number one, that’s you and me) got taken care of, that’s all that mattered.  When you become a Christian, there is a new nature now.  It says ‘his ‘seed’ remaineth in us’.  Peter tells us “we’re born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible which is of the word of God.”  And he says “We are partakers of the divine nature.”  So you and I now have a new nature.  [Just what Pastor J. Mark Martin told us in the Romans 6 study. If you haven’t read it go back and read the study on Romans 6-8 at http://www.unityinchrist.com/romans/Romans6-1-5page1.htm.]  And when we try to do the things we used to do, we find out we are not happy in those things.  We are miserable.  We come under conviction, we think ‘Boy, this is not right.  Boy, I hope the Lord doesn’t come until this wears off, or while I’m doing this.’  And there is no longer an ability in us to continue in that lifestyle because our nature has changed.  He was manifested to take away our sin, and there is no sin in him”, so if he comes and dwells in our hearts [cf. John 14 & 16] and controls our lives, it is impossible for us to continue in sin habitually.  Does that mean that we never make a mistake?  No, and I’m not giving you license for the flesh.  But I am describing to you the Christian liberty that the New Testament tells us about, that we are now involved in a covenant, unlike the old covenant that was dependant upon man’s faithfulness to God, and it says that that covenant was flawed because of our humanity and our inability to keep the law of God.  The new covenant is a far better covenant because it is based on God’s faithfulness to man and not man’s faithfulness to God.  [The strict Bible definition of the new covenant, and the only Bible definition of the new covenant is found in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:6-13, which basically states that God promises “to write his laws upon the hearts and into the minds of his children.”  It is  truly God doing the work through the indwelling Holy Spirit, cf. John 14 & 16 and Romans 6-8.]  And because God has changed us, because he has indwelt us, as we come and we ask for forgiveness of sins, Christ comes to dwell within us—there is a change that takes place in the inner man.  And we start to hunger for things, we start to desire [spiritual] things, we start to look forward to things we never looked forward to.  We now have a heart of flesh.  We’ll now watch certain things on the news or see starving children and all of a sudden realize tears are running down our cheeks, and we think ‘That never happened before.’  Where all of a sudden the cursing stops and the anger starts to die away, and as time goes on Christ is being formed within us, and there is that evidence of the new nature.  And when we do do something wrong, there’s conviction, so we go before him, we confess.  But the idea is, if we habitually live in sin and there is no change, we have not been born again.  There is no new nature in us then.  Because he was manifested to take away our sin, and if we abide then in him, and there is no sin in him, we no longer go on in that kind of lifestyle.  And I’ll tell you this, there are some Christians who try to prove that’s wrong.  And they end up to be miserable, period, until they come back [into the sheep-fold].  No sense on elaborating on that.  So, he’s changing us, we’re in-process.   We are not always what we should be, but we ain’t what we used to be.  And we’re not what we’re gonna be.  That’s encouraging, if you think about it. 

          “Little children” verse 7, “let no man deceive you, he that  doeth righteousness”—someone who lives righteously—“is righteous, even as he [Jesus] is righteous.  He that continually commits sin”—or practices sin habitually—“is of the devil, for the devil sinneth from the beginning.”—has never ceased—so someone who constantly practices that gives evidence that he is of the evil one.  And that’s a hard thing for us to read.  Jesus tells a parable about a man who went and sowed wheat in his field, and as he slept the evil one came and sowed tares among the wheat.  I have always wondered exactly what that means.  I know the interpretation Jesus gives us in Matthew 13, but that’s a strange idea, that there are those humans sown among us who are not what they appear to be.  Is that what it’s saying?  Like aliens or something?  I don’t know.  Jesus said to the Pharisees and the Sadducees “You are of your father, the devil.”  Now this is one of the reasons the Bible encourages us that we should be ‘separate’, I think this is one of the reasons it’s very important how you choose friends.  Again, not just making friends with anybody that says ‘they’re born-again’. It’s almost as if the language has become cheap as we say ‘born-again’, and some of the people on TV who are portrayed as being born-again are certainly not people I want representing me and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ…So I  think  when you build friendships, you build friendships with godly people.  He who practices righteousness is righteous.  That’s your responsibility, not just to make friends with somebody who says ‘they’re a born-again Christian’  and they’re living in sin.  Outside of that, it becomes more obvious why it says that we should not marry an unbeliever.  Because it says “those who do not believe are of the devil.”  And if you marry an unbeliever, you’re gonna have trouble with your father-in-law [i.e. the devil], I guarantee ya.  [laughter]  Don’t come crying to me, I warned you.  And isn’t it interesting the way John just says that.  He doesn’t say, ‘Now I know the devil’s…’  He  doesn’t go through all of the apology we do sometimes, as we talk about the fact that there are spiritual realms.  And you know, it’s funny, when we talk about the devil, I think sometimes unbelievers immediately want to mock us, because they think the devil’s a little guy on a tuna-fish can with a pitchfork and a pointed tail, you know, a guy in a comic book or something.  And they don’t know that that is exactly what he wants them to think that he is.  But there is genuinely a very malevolent force that has great animosity toward you because you are the children of God.  And I want to tell you something, one of the reasons that he’s constantly in a rage towards you is because you are sealed with the Spirit of promise, and the Bible says the evil one comes, but he touches us not, he has no part in us.  And there are places in the church [different denominations which have inferior or improper Biblical understanding on this] where they give you the impression that we got an even battle going on here, like the Eagles and the Redskins.  And it’s a tie score, 34-34.  It ain’t a tied score.  Jesus when he rose said All authority in heaven and earth is given unto me.”  All authority and power and dominion are his.  And the enemy only works with as much chain as the Father allows him to have.  Now do I understand all of the dynamics of that?  No.  And I only need to understand as much information as God has given us.  And we are not ignorant of his devices, but John says clearly that there is this force, and those who continually live in the sins that this world promotes are of the devil.  The devil sinned from the beginning, so that is what he does manifest.  “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”  (verse 8)  “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin”—does not practice sin habitually—“because his seed”—God’s seed, the Holy Spirit—“remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”  Speaking of the believer, he cannot continually practice sin because he has a new nature.  Though we sin, though we make mistakes, we can no longer find ourselves at home in those patterns because we have a new nature.  The Bible says that we should set our affections on things above and not on things of the earth, and I’m telling you something, that has happened to us.  And I can speak generally for most of us.  I can say that probably most of us are looking forward to standing around the throne of God and seeing the cherubim there, and seeing the sea of glass and a sea of fire.  And seeing the saints and the angels, multitudes gathered around singing the praises of the Lord Worthy art Thou, Oh Lord, for Thou hast redeemed us by Thy blood from every nation, kindred and tongue!  Are we looking forward to that?  And if we are, we’re either nuts, or something has happened to us.  There is a new nature, and because there is a new nature there are new desires.  And we have been ruined for this world.  And if you as a Christian are still out there trying to fill yourself of the things of this world, you’re beating a dead horse, it’s just not gonna happen because you have a new nature that will never be satisfied, because God is gracious, with the things of this world.  And there is an upward call now on our lives.  He says that.  Verse 10, “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”  We’re family, we’re born of the same seed, if we’re the family of God there should be a genuine love between us.  And I think for most of us, there is.  “For this is the message that ye have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (verse 11)  Not very complicated.  “Not as Cain, who was of the wicked one, and slew his brother.  And wherefore slew he him?  Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” (verse 12)  Now, interesting, by the way, that’s where we get the phrase “raising Cain”.  Because this kid was trouble, was trouble for Adam and Eve to raise, and when you get around somebody whose raising trouble or causing trouble, ‘raising Cain’ comes from this idea.  “Marvel not my brethren, if the world hate you.”  (verse 13)  Now he ties that to Cain.  And again, from the Garden of Eden we see two fountainheads, we see Cain and Abel come to sacrifice before the Lord.  We see one sacrifice accepted, and we see one sacrifice rejected.  It was not that there was, as it were, inherent wrong in Cain’s sacrifice of the fruit of the ground, the problem was he did not offer it in faith.  Somehow God had demonstrated to Adam and Eve that there must be the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin.  So as Adam and Eve worshipped the God they had walked with and they were separate from, they taught their children ‘This is God’s religion, there is no other religion that there will ever be, that is effective—religion, relingary, to re-link is what the word means.  God’s re-linking takes place if man and God will be re-linked, it will take place through the blood of an innocent substitute [had to be a lamb or goat] and that foreshadows the Messiah, the Deliverer that will come.  Well when Cain came, he came with his own works and with his own ideas, and not honoring that [method of re-linking] and not having faith—and there is where the two fountainheads parted.  And since then there has only been two religions as it were on the earth, God’s and the enemy’s.  And every other form of philosophy, every other form of trying to come to God through any other means is at enmity with God’s plan.  So don’t marvel if the world hates you, it flows from this fountainhead, and now you are embracing God by saying ‘In and of myself I am nothing, it is only the blood of Christ that has made me acceptable.’  And the world does not want to hear that kind of philosophy.  The world wants to hear ‘You’re OK, I’M OK, you practice your sex, I’ll practice my sex, you raise your kids the way you want to, except don’t tell them what I’m doing is wrong…’ I mean, it’s crazy what’s happened.  Again, as Isaiah says, “Wrong has become right, right has become wrong”, and he [John] says then, ‘Because Cain was of that wicked one, because the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest in these things, then don’t marvel if the world hates you’ is what John says.  And you should not marvel.  And by the way, I know one of the things that makes this tough is, we get saved, we’re excited, we go running home to our parents and our friends and relatives, and we think ‘this is going to blow their minds, this is the most exciting thing that ever happened, wait till they hear this, oh they’re gonna love this!  This is great, look at this, Jesus is in my heart!’  ‘What!?  You’re crazy, you go to church in the morning in a  meter factory, you go at night, you go Wednesday night.  Don’t you go to the bar anymore?  Don’t you hang out with your friends anymore, or go to Atlantic City?  What’s wrong with you, have you flipped your wig!?’  And you’re excited, ‘I’m going to read in the Bible, mom, and Jesus, I get up in the morning and I talk to the Lord…’  And they’re going ‘Aaugh…’  you know.  And the amazing thing is, the thing you think they’re going to be the most excited about and receptive to is the very thing that causes animosity between you.  And the Bible says it’s because the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who believe not, Satan has done that (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).  So, by the way, if you’re praying for people that you love, it says “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”, the on-target prayer you pray is that their minds would be un-blinded and that they might see the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.  You pray specifically that way, because you make a lousy Holy Ghost, you ain’t gonna wear them down with your wisdom, [but] you get on your knees and start to cry out to God and I tell you this, some amazing things will happen.  And even if they bug you, pray for them.  And I don’t mean, ‘vengeance is mine, you get ‘em,’ that’s not what I’m talking about.  You pray ‘Lord, let me see them through your eyes’, and if you begin to pray for them, you know a remarkable thing happens, you start to see them completely different.  But don’t be shocked when that animosity’s there.  John says ‘don’t be surprised about those things.’ 

          “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.  He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” (verse 14)  Now isn’t this interesting, we pass from death to life, we love the brethren.  One of the things I really love to do, is, before the communion services, sometimes to stand backstage as the musicians are playing and just listen to the chatter that’s out here, thousands of voices. And the sense of it is, there’s such great anticipation, there’s such great excitement, and to see people together laughing and crying, no drugs, no alcohol, nothing that the world needs to inebriate itself.  As Paul says, be ye not drunk with the wine, but be ye being filled with the Holy Spirit.  It’s a remarkable thing to see the body of Christ together.  I think sometimes we take it for granted, too.  You shouldn’t.  You know, it’s sad, we had someone from the church this week, 39 years old, drop dead.  And I’m sure there will be some person around that life, there will be those that will say ‘I wish I had said this’, or ‘I wish that I had asked forgiveness’ or ‘I wish that I  hadn’t said…’  More often we wish that we hadn’t said than we had said.  But while you have one another, don’t take each other for granted.  If you pray for one another, God will do remarkable things in your heart toward one another.  Now I consider it a privilege to be here with you, and I consider this to be my family.   Because when my heart is broken, and things are tough for me and I’m down and out, it is my co-laborers and the people that God has given me relationships with in the body of Christ that rally around me and hold up my arms and help me along.  I had never experienced that when I was in the world.  [And all of us should have that kind of relationship within their congregations and denomination they are a part of.  I felt that within the Sabbatarian Churches of God (Torah observant), and I have felt that kinship in the many other congregations I have fellowshipped with and attended.  That’s how I know these are all God’s people.  People often look from the outside in and like to call such closeness as being a part of a cult.  But it’s not.]  I have a very, very close friend who is a leader in a seal team, United States Seals, and the thing that he says to me is, “What I love about it is the camaraderie.  I know when the guy next to me is gonna breathe, I know when he’s gonna move…”  And I know what he’s looking for is what we enjoy.  He is looking for the communion, the koinonia that he can only have in the body of Christ with other believers.  And he’s experiencing the closest thing to that kind of belonging that he’s known in the world.  And I do try to remember to pray for him.  So “we know we’ve passed from death to life because we love the brethren.  He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” (verse 14)  “Whoso hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (verse 15)  And I’m telling you, the world is crazy.  Look at people shooting each other at the corner, shooting each other at red lights, shooting each other at, remember a few years ago at L.A. on the freeway, people just driving around shooting each other out the window.  Somebody told me they saw a sign that said “LAST AMMO BEFORE FREEWAY”.  It was a joke, of course.  But you know the way it is sometimes now.  And the pressure in the world is so tremendous, again, if you pull in front of somebody and you look in your rearview mirror sometimes and you just see it, you know, they’re giving you obscene gestures, blowing their horn, cutting you out, wheeling along-side of you, follow you home—you know, the world is so crazy you never know by simply offending somebody whether you’re going to get shot anymore.  And the Bible says that.  “Whoso hates his brother is a murderer, and no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (verse 15)  “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (Verse 16)  Instead of being a life-taker, he is as life-giver.  The way that you and I perceive the love of God is in this, that he has sent his Son to die for us, to take away our sins.  John says it here, “because he laid down his life for us”.  The idea is, throughout the New Testament, when God wants to prove to us his love, he points us to the cross.  And again, I know in my own experience, and all of us understand, that so many times we find ourselves praying “God if you love me, you’ll give me this job.”  “God, if you love me you’ll give me this car.”  Like he’s up in heaven going ‘Oh no, I’ve got to prove it again, they don’t believe, they don’t believe’, you know.  “God if you love me you’ll give me this husband.”  “God if you love me you’ll take this husband away from me.” [laughter]  Because we think, we do this thing, ‘Well, if I was God…’  Like he’s up there saying ‘Why didn’t I ever think of that?  Now what a great suggestion.’  ‘He would have made a good god and I didn’t even think of it.’  He sees the end from the beginning, he is the One who is, and who was, and who is to come (Revelation 1:8).  He’s the One who is, that’s why he sees us and says to us “We are justified, sanctified and glorified” because right now he is, that is sanctified, he was, that is justified, and he is to come, that’s glorified.  And he sees us that way, he’s the God that calls things that are not as though they were, and here we’re trying to bargain with him, saying ‘Well, if you love me you’ll give me this date’, you know, ‘if you love me you’ll give me this car.’  And God’s going ‘Oh no…’  The amazing thing it says, is ‘Herein is the love of God demonstrated to us, and this is how we perceive the love of God, that he laid down his life for us, that he’s given his Son for us.’  There can be no greater demonstration of God’s love than that.  You know, if you have ever watched one of your own children on the verge of life-and-death, you know the panic that ensues.  Again, I have my own Joshua, not of course the Son of God, but the son of Joe, and watched him bleeding to death in front of me, and I would have done anything and did everything that was in my power to try to stop and turn that situation around.  I can’t imagine God almighty giving up a sinless Son who he never broke communion with, who every day of his life said ‘I don’t say anything unless my Father says it, I don’t do anything unless my Father does it.’  God Almighty as Jesus comes to be baptized at the river Jordan says “This is my beloved Son in whom I am already well pleased.”  He’d [up until after that moment] never preached a sermon, he’d never done a miracle, he had been in the carpenter shop with him for thirty years at that point in time.  And [God the Father] willingly gave him for us, and stood back.  Jesus said, ‘Don’t you think, Peter, you know, put your sword in its sheath, if I gave command 12 legions of angels would come now.  [And back in Kings, I believe in the time of Hezekiah, one angel slew 185,000 battled-hardened Assyrian soldiers in one night.]  All of heaven was restrained.  Michael and the angels were saying, ‘God, just give us the command, we’ll go down and stop this crucifixion…’, and it tells us that the angels desire to look into the things concerning the heirs of salvation, because there is no savior for angels, they don’t understand why God, their own creator would have taken on human flesh and allowed himself to be brutalized by his own creation, they don’t understand that.  And it is the greatest demonstration of God’s love.  He will give us no greater proof.  And whenever we are wrestling life’s circumstances, and granted sometimes we do, when there’s cancer in our family, or there’s a very difficult situation, and we find ourselves broken, and looking up to heaven, and saying ‘God, how can I reconcile this with your love?’  ‘How can I  reconcile this pain, or this suffering, or this difficult situation with an all-powerful God who has the ability to change it, who tells me that he loves me unconditionally—‘Lord, how can I believe that you love me in the midst of this heartbreak?’  And the answer is always the same.  “Hereby perceive we the love of God, that he laid down his life for us…” (verse 16)  It is always back to the cross.  When we are faced with things that we do not understand, we always fall back on what we do understand, and that is, that God was in Christ on the cross reconciling the world to himself.   “Hereby perceive we the love of God, that he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”  (verses 16-17)  Very, very practical Christianity.  If you have the means, and you have the resources, and you see someone who’s close to you that you love, a brother or sister in Christ suffering and in need, and instead of going to their aid or anonymously helping that person financially or in another way, instead of doing that you shut up your bowels of compassion, it says ‘well how does the love of God find its way to live through you fully?’  Because God laid down his life we ought to lay down our lives for those around us.  So, when those needs come to us, we have to say ‘Lord, OK, are you putting this across my path?’  And I’m gonna tell you something.  There are times, granted, when helping someone is not helping them.  There are times when you are around a user or an abuser who may call themselves a Christian, and by bailing them out one more time you’re only helping them to maintain their irresponsibility.  And granted, there are times, and you will sense the Lord, check you spirit and [he] will say ‘Stand back and let me deal with this guy, stop bailing him out.’  But that is the exception and not the rule, and I think if we are going to err, if we’re not sure of God’s leading, we should always err on the side of mercy, and not on the side of judgment.  I think we have to be careful that our agape love doesn’t develop into discernment.  Because I think as that happens we lose something.  [I just want to add something here.  Pastor Joe referred specifically to our helping out those close to us.  But these two verses can and should also be applied to where we know of others that are in need, and the only way we can help is through one of the major international evangelistic help organizations, say like Samaritan’s Purse, or the JESUS Film Project.  See and scroll to the 2nd half of this site’s Mission Statement to learn more (http://www.unityinchrist.com/missionstatement.htm).  See also http://www.unityinchrist.com/evangelism/sisterchurches/BlessiOrphanHome.htm.  The first link outlines a simple and very inexpensive

$5-a-week giving plan that would move virtual mountains if followed by a sufficient number of Christians.  The second one is a tiny Christian Orphanage in South India which I contribute about a $1.00 a day to, or what amounts to $15 every two weeks.]  If we see our brother in tremendous need and we don’t go to his aid when we have the means, how can we say the love of God is within us.  “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” (verse 18)  Though I speak with the tongue of men and angels and have not love, I am a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal.”   That’s Paul’s way of saying it, the Greek says, talk is cheap.  [James said the same identical thing in James 2:14-17]  “And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.”—or persuade our hearts before him.  If we’re not loving in word or tongue only, if we are loving other people in truth and in deeds by action—again, I mentioned this morning, even your dog knows when you love him, not by a three-point sermon.  I had a dog awhile ago.  He was not interested in my study in 1st John chapter 3.  But he knew when I loved him, because I didn’t love him in just word and in tongue, but in deed and in action.  Again, my wife and my kids are trying to talk me into getting another dog.  Never gonna happen, they tricked me once, not gonna trick me again, they’re saying is ‘Ah, we want a dog, we want a puppy’, and what they’re really saying is ‘We want a pet a dog that you walk, and clean up after and feed and pay for his medical bills—and keep him clean so our hands don’t smell like a dog after we pet him—will ya?’  You know the story.  But that dog, great dog, he loved me, because I was the guy, and most importantly, that fed him.  It was an action.  He wasn’t interested in a sermon in love, it was my demonstration.  And it’s the same thing with human beings.  It’s easy for us to say ‘I love you, be warmed and filled’ and not do anything [James 2:14-18].  That’s what it’s saying here.  It is by our actions when we begin to lay down our life, hereby we know, it begins to convince us that we are of the truth, and we begin to persuade our own hearts before God.  But if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.  “And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.  For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.”  (verses 19-20)  Isn’t that a great verse.  I think you should underline that in your Bible.   Because most of us are so prone to condemnation.  “If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart.”  Thank God.  “And he knoweth all things.”  “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then we have confidence toward God.”  (verse 21)  We’re able to enjoy life, to look forward to his coming, to walk in his presence, to ask him for things.  “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” (verse 22)  Now let’s look at this verse 22.  “Keeping his commandments and doing those things that are pleasing in his sight…”, it almost sounds like the law again—OK, what does this mean, ‘God’s gonna like us because we keep his commandments, you know here we are back under the Ten or Nine or how many of them [the OT version of God’s law is 10 major commandments, which includes the Holy Days of Leviticus 23, the NT ‘law of Christ’ includes nine of the ten commandments, brought to the higher spiritual intent].  Well, the next verse clearly tells us what it means to keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.  “This is his commandment.  That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”  This is the greatest of the commandments, that we love the Lord God with all of our hearts, soul, minds and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves, and Jesus said ‘in these two are all the law and the prophets fulfilled.’  [i.e. the Big Ten, the whole torah, are based on those two, and so is the entire NT law of Christ, which is 9 of the 10 commandments re-stated, and sometimes amplified, such as in Matthew 5]  So, look, Augustine said ‘Love God with all your heart and do what you will.  If you love God with all your heart, what other law needs to be in place?  [Here’s the age-old dynamic of ‘law and grace’ being played out here.  We are to obey God’s law, whether under the freedom of the new covenant we chose to adhere to the “OT big Ten” or the “NT 9 of the Big Ten” given as the ‘law of Christ’.  John defines “sin as the transgression of the law”.  But by the very definition of the new covenant, the simple Bible definition given in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:6-13, God says he will write his laws in our hearts and upon our minds.  Throughout the New Testament we read of how we are told not to sin, and if sin is the transgression of God’s law, as John defines it in this 3rd chapter (verse 4), then we are clearly told not to transgress God’s law.  So we see a dynamic here between our efforts to obey, and God applying his power and effort to write his law within our innermost being, so it’s really him obeying within us.  The whole history of ancient Israel from Joshua through Ezra and Nehemiah show Israel totally incapable of obeying God’s law on their own, without God’s Holy Spirit indwelling them.  Only the prophets were able to obey, and a few kings that had the Holy Spirit, as the prophets did.  We have our part in making ourselves willing to obey, but God I would say has the greater part, making obedience possible in the first place, by actually writing the higher, loftier spiritual intent of God’s law within our minds and upon our hearts—as well as giving us the inner desire to obey.  No legitimate Christian denomination, whether it be Church of God Sabbatarian, Baptist, Methodist, evangelical, Calvary Chapel, you name it, has been able to properly define “law and grace”.  Everyone differs in their spoken and written doctrinal definition of what “law and grace” really is.  Some, and perhaps rightly, will say that verse 22 defines the whole of God’s law, based on 1 John 3:4, and they may be right.  But what is amazing, and I have noticed this in my travels throughout the differing denominations, from Torah observant Church of God Sabbatarian, Messianic Jewish, Baptist, Calvary Chapel—from what some term legalistic, to the super-grace oriented churches—all of their definitions for “law & grace” differ, but all of the Holy Spirit indwelt individuals that I have fellowshipped with within these differing parts of the body of Christ all, to a man or woman of them, are living by the same godly standards of obedience to God’s law, whether that be the OT 10-C version, or the NT 9-C law of Christ version.  So something vital is missing from all our human attempts to properly define “law & grace”.  Pastor Joe falls down on this, as do the Torah observant Church of God Sabbatarians do.  Everyone’s off on this one.  The key is the simple Bible definition of the new covenant.  Paul says that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.  That is our part.  But God says he will write his laws—and I believe “law” is in the plural, both in Jeremiah and Hebrews 8—within our minds and upon our hearts.  It’s a dual responsibility, God’s and man’s, and it is talking about the whole law of God, in it’s spiritual intent, whether it’s lusting, stealing, lying, killing-hating, dishonoring God, idolatry, coveting—all wrapped up in the two great commandments Jesus quoted from Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  Obedience to God’s whole law, whether the OT version or NT version, is not legalistic if it’s being done in and through the power and inspiration of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit.  It is merely God doing what he promised to do in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:6-13.  Hope this helps make a little clearer a subject that defies a proper explanation from the human point of view.  Many of the differing denominations will read this study, and in no way am I implying you should stop or alter your habits of obedience to God’s law, for whichever system of definition for law & grace you are using, God himself is using that system of definitions you have chosen to adhere to as an aid to write his laws within your minds and upon your hearts.  And it is God who is doing the major work of accomplishing this directly by the indwelling of his Holy Spirit within you.  What person among you can walk away from an alcohol addiction, or a lusting habit, or whatever, all on his own?  Not one of you.  The intensely powerful chains of sin can only be broken by God through the divine miraculous power and inspiration of his indwelling Holy Spirit.  True obedience is a work of God within you.  And if that is so, true obedience is never legalistic or legalism, and must never be defined as such—unless you like blaspheming the Holy Spirit.  That is why it is so important not “to judge another man’s servant” as Paul says in Romans 14, and by that Paul means that we are not to be judging the way other Christians define the way their walk should be, whether OT Torah observant (which group Paul was talking about in Romans 14) or NT grace oriented churches (which Paul was also talking about in Romans 14).  So I hope this helps a little.  Had to insert this explanation in here, due to the varied readership this site ministers to, from Torah observant to grace oriented.]  You remember what it was like to be in love with someone when you first met them.  You’re attention was always on that person.  You brushed your teeth, you combed your hair, you put on deodorant, you cleaned the car, you opened the door, you shaved, you changed, you put on real clothes [laughter].  Love is a powerful force.  “And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as he gave us commandment.” (verse 23)  “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him.  And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” (verse 24)  The idea is, there is that new nature, there is that ability to love one another, there is that ability to deny the things of the world, there is that Spirit in our hearts that cries Abba, Father.

 

1st John 4:1-3

 

          Now, because we have the Holy Spirit, now he comes to this kind of short exhortation here, ah, where he says to us [going on into chapter 4] “Beloved, believe not every spirit,”—we have the Holy Spirit, but don’t believe every spirit—“but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.  Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”  (verses 1-3)  In chapter 2 he said there are already many antichrists.  So, as he says, ‘we have the Spirit of God, we have the Spirit moving on our hearts, but he says “Beloved, believe not EVERY spirit, but try the spirits.”  Now, by the way, this is not written to the pastor, this is written to you.  It is your responsibility to test the spirits, and this is not the gift of discerning of spirits that is spoken of 1st Corinthians 12 to 14, because there, as Paul talks about the gifts he said “Do all speak in tongues, do all prophesy?”  The idea is, not all of us then in that context would have the gift of discerning of spirits.  That’s not what it’s talking about [here in verse 1 of John 4].  It is saying to us that all of us are responsible to test the spirits, plural, and when it says that, it is speaking—it is your responsibility to test me—you should never come here just every week to find out what to believe, go home, put your Bible on the shelf and open it up again next Sunday!  Paul said the Bereans were more noble because they went home and searched the Word of God to see what he was saying was true.  Again, it is your responsibility to search the Word of God.  Do not believe what I say, test the Scripture, read it yourself, see if I’m telling you the truth, that’s your responsibility.  Because I’ll tell you this, things are going to get stranger and stranger before Christ comes.  The world we live in is scheduled to be deceived, and it is scheduled to be deceived by false prophets and false teachers.  Your safety is not listening to me, your safety is you have the blood of Jesus, you have the Holy Ghost, and you have the Word of God.  And you do not need to be intimidated by any man.  So you, it says, the responsibility falls on you, for your wife, for your children, for your husband, you yourself test the spirits to see whether they are of God—because many false prophets—and that seems to be the context, the movement of what’s motivating a ministry or a minister or a preacher—it says “many false prophets” in context with spirits, “are gone out into the world.  And this is how we know [or Hereby we know] whether the spirit is of God, whether it’s the Spirit of God.”  And here’s your test.  “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.”  And here’s the test, and take note to it, you might miss it.  Every spirit that confesses, now to confess, homologeo, to say the same thing as God, to agree with God about this—that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.  Again, the background is, the Gnostic heresy and a heretic named Cerinthis that John had to confront, who basically said in his day, again, that the Spirit of Messiah or the Spirit of Christ came upon Jesus when he was baptized in Jordan, came upon him like a dove, and stayed upon him until the crucifixion, but that he was born a man, he died a man, that the Christ Spirit was only on him during that [short 3 ½ year] time.  And you see again, that smacks of Eastern philosophy, it smacks of the New Age movement, and it smacks of those who are waiting for avatars and new prophets and so forth.  No, what it says here is “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come into flesh”—and the Greek insinuates pre-existence.  [Remember Jesus said “before Abraham was, I AM”.  One of the names for God was I AM, given to Moses at the burning bush.  The Jews understood this, and wanted to kill Yeshua, Jesus, because he was claiming pre-existence as very God, the Great I AM.]  The idea is, he is come from somewhere else, he already existed, of his own will [he came] into flesh.  “In the beginning”, John says in his gospel, “was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God, and the Word” not was made, but “became flesh and dwelt among us.  And we beheld his glory…” John 1:14.  So what he’s insinuating here is the Deity of Christ and the incarnation, that the Jesus we believe in…In other words, if you tell me you believe in Jesus, and you say ‘Yah, but I don’t necessarily believe in the virgin birth, you know, that’s, we don’t know what Mary was up to, but I think he was a great teacher, and he’s the Jesus of the Bible, I don’t necessarily think he took away the sins of the whole world, but I believe he had some great things to say.  I don’t necessarily believe that he rose from the dead, this 2nd coming of Jesus stuff is a little.’  Well let me tell you something, [if you believe in that stuff he just mentioned] you don’t believe in the same Jesus I believe in, because I believe in the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world, that of his own will came into the womb of a virgin miraculously, was born, sinless, died on the cross to take away the sin of the world, rose on the 3rd day, and is ready at any moment to come back again.   That’s the Jesus that we’re talking about here.  And every spirit that confesses that is of God.  There’s your test.  “Every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.”  So, watch a ministry, what is the emphasis in a ministry?  Is it healing, or is it Jesus?  And I believe that God heals, we pray for the sick, I see people healed.  Is it prosperity, or is it Jesus?  And I believe there may be seasons in our life when God prospers us.  Paul learned to be abased and abound.  Is it holy laughter or is it Jesus?  What is the emphasis?  Are they building on sand or are they building on the Rock?  Jesus said, “when the Holy Spirit comes he will not testify of himself, but he will take the things that belong to me and show them, and he will speak of me.”  So if you go to a Holy Ghost meeting, that is not a Holy Ghost meeting.  Because the Holy Ghost won’t talk about himself.  If you go to a Jesus Christ meeting, you are at a Holy Ghost meeting.  You know, again, I appreciate so much some of the great men we see in the media, there are those that, it was beautiful to see the Graham team [Billy Graham and Franklin Graham] and the integrity, and to see thousands of people come forward, without all the nonsense, without people rolling around on the floor with, without all the insanity—beautiful, peaceful demonstration of power and integrity.  I appreciate that greatly.  And Jesus said when the Holy Spirit comes, he will not speak of himself but will take the things that belong to me and show them unto you.  So, it’s up to you.  Test the spirits.  If the spirit behind a ministry or a movement confesses and places before you the incarnation, Jesus Christ, coming in the flesh, being God from birth—not from baptism—on through his resurrection, still on the throne of God, if the spirit [of that ministry] confesses, if that is what the emphasis is, it is of God.  “If the spirit [of that ministry] does not confess that Christ is come in the flesh, it is not of God.  This is the spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”  (verse 3)  Now, again, some of the major movements in the world today are antichrist.  Islam.  And I am not putting down any individuals that are Muslim.  But Islam is a movement that is antagonistic to Judaism and Christianity.  And it is a major force—and if the Lord tarries much longer, that we will all recon with in the world today.  And Mohammed did not like Jews and Christians because they are “the people of the Book” and he could not convert them.  Marxism, Communism is antichrist, what motivates those movements.  The politically correct politics that surround us today are antichrist.  They mock Judeo-Christian ethics, family values, righteousness, morality, the identification of sin, the need of a Savior.  And all of those movements will ultimately culminate in a single individual that the Bible calls the Antichrist, who will rule the world with tyranny.  Just interesting, I saw a show on TV today talking about Nostrodamus and how he was so excellent with his prophecies, and everything he said, he said would happen, and he also prophecied that a great leader is about to come and bring peace to the whole world—Oh boy, what a set-up, Nostrodamus, he ate too much Pizza before he went to sleep, Edgar Case the sleeping prophet, you know.  This is the Word of God, and if they’re not testifying that Jesus is come in the flesh, the spirit is not of God.  Ah, we can’t go any further.  We’re kind of breaking in the middle of a, ah we’re breaking where we shouldn’t break, but obviously in God’s sovereignty that’s where we’re supposed to break [off].  We will pick up in verse 4, if you will read ahead “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them”—plural, false prophets—“because greater is he”—Jesus, the Holy Spirit—“that is in you, than he that is in the world.”  (verse 4)  You’re security in the midst of deception that will come on the world is not your own strength or wisdom, it is that he will work within your heart and he will keep you and he is committed to you, and will give you that ability to test the spirits.  Let’s stand, and let’s pray.”  [sermon transcript of 1 John 3:4-24; 4:1-3 given by Pastor Joe Focht, © Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 1996, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19116]

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