Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1429
January 26, 2020 1 John 5.1-12
Dr. Ed Pettus
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
“Life in Jesus”
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Some time ago I was playing golf with a buddy, I won’t mention names. This fellow golfer hit a shot on a short hole, a par 3, that looked really good at first. If you have ever played golf you know there is that moment in time when the ball takes flight and all hope is high, what we call a “TV” shot. “TV” shots look really good in the sky, blue backdrop, ball high, straight, camera zeroed in! His ball was looking good, heading for the green, but then, a gust of wind seemed to knock it from the sky and the ball came down and hit the top of a stone wall; it shot higher into the air than one would have hoped and then plopped into the water beyond the green. He just looked back with a hapless grin and said, “The story of my life.”
For him to say: “The story of my life”, even if joking around, says something about how we understand ourselves, even how we define our lives. We often do see our lives like that golf shot. We make our plans and things look to be going smoothly when a “gust of wind” comes along and changes our plans drastically. Those “gusts” can come in so many forms: sickness, financial changes, accidents, or even in positive events like birth, new relationships, or a financial windfall. Those things positive or negative can change we way we look at our lives.
I want us to consider today the stories define us. What testimony shapes who we are and how we tend to live? I believe that our actions are shaped by these inner testimonies. We see it in the political world most ardently. The liberals and conservatives are driven in two different directions because of particular ideologies – because of the particular testimonies they hold as truth. Of course, politics are not the only areas where we see this. All of life is presented with competing testimonies for meaning and purpose in shaping our lives.
How do we see our lives? Sports? Work? Shopping? Jesus? Just had a conversation with someone who is a mature believer in Christ and he has just retired from a career. It has been a difficult adjustment and he realizes how much of his life was tied to his work. It helps to shape our identity even when we know that it should not dominate our identity. Let’s look at what makes the story of our life.
Born of God (1 John 5.1)
The Bible also presents testimonies that offer ways to shape our lives. Everyday we must choose which testimony we will live and proclaim. This brings us to our testimony for the day. 1 John gives testimony – God’s testimony that is stronger than human testimony. And yet God uses human testimony to reveal God’s testimony. There is often a very close relationship between the two. Sometimes these two testimonies agree, for sometimes the testimony is the same. God speaks through human prophets, saints, preachers, ordinary folks, and oddly enough even through those who would never knowingly speak for God.
Jesus brought the testimony to a world already soaked with many many testimonies. God’s testimony was made amid human testimony. I like to think of it in the way the Psalms have become God’s word to us and yet they are the prayers of God’s people. John’s testimony begins today with birth, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.” Born of God, born of Him. Our earthly testimonies begins with birth. Our parents have shaped that identity, our story. Place, time, peers, school, work...all these are factors that shape our earthly existence. But the Bible, John and Paul and Jesus and others, all speak of new birth. John in chapter 3 of the gospel, you must be born again (3.3-8). Paul in 2 Corinthians 5.17, we are a new creation. For John in these first to verses of 1 John, belief in Jesus and love for one another are sure signs of our new identity and rebirth in Christ.
Life in Jesus means living a believing life, that is, a life filled with trust. We trust that Jesus is the Messiah, chosen of God, who lived and suffered and died and was raised to life. Paul writes: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Believing is a matter of the heart, of the center of our existence, at the core, in the soul. It is a knowing that goes beyond our mental capacity, a trust that extends beyond words. In the reformed faith we even understand believing to be a gift from God, for everything is given by God’s grace.
This is where the story of our life begins – at new birth.
Keeping Commandments (1 John 5.2-3)
There is another factor in verses 2-3. Obedience to God’s Word, to keep commandments is a sign of our life in Jesus.
2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
We too often equal obedience with negative connotations, but obedience to the word of God is more often associated with delight…“for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love” (Psalm 119:47). Psalm 1 reflects the contrast between disobedience and obedience: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). Obedience is not a burden but a joy, because it is obedience to God, to God’s Word, to God’s righteousness. And such obedience simply becomes a part of who we are as 1 John 5:10 notes: “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.” It is right here (pointing to heart) in the deepest part of our existence, in our hearts, in our being, helping to create in us the fullness of being God’s creation.
Note as well that keeping commandment is not burdensome. To say that more positively, keeping commandment is a joy...and it gives joy. That joy comes out of the love we have for God and the deep desire to please Him by keeping His commandments. In that is what leads to the next point, that is, in keeping commandment we enable the building up of faith, a faith to overcome the world.
This is where the story of our life grows – in the Word.
Faith to Overcome (1 John 5.4-5)
4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
New birth in Jesus begins the journey of faith that enables us to overcome the world. What does that mean, what are we overcoming? I think it means we are able to resist and overcome the temptations of the world. You will remember the things of the world from 1 John 2.15-17, desire of the flesh, desire of the eyes and the pride of life. The opposite of this is to be overcome by the world. And that is what has happened to all who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior. We are either believers overcoming the world, or non-believers overcome by the world.
This is how the story of our life plays out – with faith to overcome the world.
The Testimony Within (1 John 5.6-10)
6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.
The testimony is in us, we just have to find ways to get it out! As believers, God has written the testimony on our hearts. Moses and Paul both testify to God’s testimony in our hearts.
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it” (Deut. 30:11-14). Paul quotes this passage again in Romans 10:5-8.
The testimony of God is given to us through Jesus Christ. The testimony is sure. It is about the good news of Jesus Christ. It is revealed through every part of scripture, Old and New Testaments. At its basic level it is that God sent His only Son to live, suffer, die, and rise again that we might have life. John writes here that it is more reliable than the testimony of men. Humans err. Humans fall short when it comes to giving an accurate account. Studies show that eye witness accounts in court can sometimes be flawed to the point of identifying the wrong person. It is not hard to see that God’s testimony is greater than our own. And yet, the testimony of God is given to us through human beings. We trust and believe that God has inspired men and women of old to give His testimony in the form of the God’s Holy Testimonies, Old and New.
God’s testimony is that which is revealed in Jesus Christ. He is our testimony and when He has touched our lives so deeply, it is at a depth that transforms our lives and we cannot help but tell it. God’s testimony becomes our testimony. Not so much about who gives the testimony but what testimony is given.
This is the story of our life from the heart – the testimony within.
Life in Jesus (1 John 5.11-12)
“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12). As believers, this is the testimony out of which we live and breathe and have our being. It is a testimony about life. We are not just looking forward to eternal life but we are experiencing it in Christ today. Jesus is life and when we receive Jesus we receive the life God gives for now and forever. The truth is that Jesus Christ is the testimony of God. He is the testimony out of which we live. He defines our life. Our testimony is certainly a story to tell, but it is more because the life we have been given through the testimony is “in his Son” and “whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Out testimony is a relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ. We do not have a personal relationship with a doctrine or philosophy or idea, but with a living person – the one who died and rose from the dead. This is the testimony that we chose each day – that we might testify to Jesus Christ, for he is the story of our lives.
The testimony is of life – pro-life, not just with the abortion issue, but in all things. Jesus wants life for all our problems and all our life, addictions, sins, illnesses, injuries, but also work, justice, play, politic, medicine...everything is geared toward life for God’s people.
God gave…it is a gift, nothing that we have done, but God’s gift to us.
Eternal life…it is a gift given for eternity and yet it begins in this life.
In the Son…the only way we can know this life is in Jesus Christ.
We, as God’s children, need to evaluate what drives us in life. The non-believer cannot help but be driven by the ways of the world, consumerism, power, political ideologies, whatever the catch phrase of the day. John says that whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. Whoever has the Son has life. This is the testimony of Scripture. In this is life with Jesus.
This is the story of our life – life in Jesus.