You can listen to the podcast here.
Last week we saw the personal nature of God’s love. We are able to love because God first loved us. There is no fear at the judgment day because our confidence is in what Christ did for us. For John, the distinguishing mark of an authentic relationship with God is the demonstration of love. It matters little what you say, it matters what you do. This morning John reminds us of something that is truly earth shattering.
1 John 5:1-4 says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”
The first thing I want to look at is the complex simplicity of belief. Look at 5:1. It seems like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Complex simplicity. Even though at first glance it looks very simple, this is quite an extraordinary verse and it is conditional. First there is the whoever. Whoever means anyone. Does that mean anyone can be saved? Rom. 10:13 says, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Paul quotes from Joel 2:32; “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered.” Luke also quotes Joel in Acts 2:21; “And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The willingness of God to save everyone is consistent throughout the Old and New Testaments. But God just can’t save. There must be specific belief. Belief means feel sure about something, it means accept as true. In this case it means accept as true that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus – the Son of God, the One and only Son. Jesus – the One that was born of a virgin in the little town of Bethlehem. The Christ – the Messiah. Christ is the N.T. designation for the O.T. Messiah. Messiah means anointed one. John 20:31 says, “But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” We sometimes use Jesus as the Lord’s first name and Christ as His last name. We sometimes use Jesus and Christ as interchangeable names, but that’s not entirely correct. Luke 2:21 tells us, “And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.” When the word Christ is used, it refers to His specific title of savior of humanity. Paul sometimes reverses the order and calls Him Christ Jesus. The specific belief is in Jesus as the Christ; the mediator, the redeemer, the propitiation. When that belief occurs – when that knowledge turns to understanding and a firm conviction as being true – John says you are, “born of God.” This isn’t anything new. Earlier John said that being born of God leads to right behavior (2:29), it prevents you from habitually sinning (3:9-10), and it causes you to love other people (4:7). In his gospel, John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” (Jo. 1:12) It is the belief in the Messiah that gives us the right to be called a child of God. John’s logic is that if you’re born of God, then you, “Love the Father [and] love the child born of Him.” There’s that principle of love again.
Not to belabor the point, but John says we can know. Look at v. 2. This is the 33rd time John uses the word know. There is no need to hope, no need to waffle, no need to live in doubt, no need to live in fear – we can know for sure. How? Love for other people is grounded in a love for God. It’s essentially the same thing he said in 1 Jo. 4:21: “And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” Love is a fundamental indicator of an authentic relationship with God.
A sudden realization. V. 3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” We’ve heard that several times before. John even included this command in his gospel, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15) The keeping of God’s commands doesn’t save you, it is evidence of salvation – don’t confuse the two. When you read or study your Bible, do you ever feel like it’s filled with a bunch of rules and regulations of what we can and cannot do? You can’t go to movies or listen to rock music. You can’t dance or play cards. Over the years the church has given us instructions too. We are to boycott Disney, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, Pepsi, the Davinci Code, Arizona, and last year one denomination voted to boycott Israel. John turns that idea upside down and gives us something new. “His commandments are not burdensome.” Burden means a heavy load; it is a cause for hardship, worry, or grief. The tax code is burdensome, but God’s commandments are not. Jesus blasted the Pharisees in Matt. 23:4 by saying, “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.” The Pharisees added restrictions that were burdensome to God’s people. Jesus did not and does not weigh down His children with meaningless restrictions. His commands reveal God’s heart for His children. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30) That’s the difference in God’s restrictions and man’s restrictions. God wants to affect change in our hearts – man seeks to control, to restrict, to oppress. God’s standards are high, but they are achievable.
The result of our new birth. John talks about being born again or born of God more than any other N.T. writer. He uses the word born 18 times in his gospel and 9 times in this letter. John says in v. 4, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” We know what born of God means. Overcome means conquer. Everyone who is born of God is able to conquer the world. You have overcome; you have conquered the world – that evil, wicked system of humanity that sets itself in opposition to the things of God. You are conquering – present tense – the world because you have something greater in you than is in the world! John goes on and explains; “And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”What a verse. We have overcome the world because of faith. It is interesting that in all of John’s writings, this is the only time that he uses the noun form of faith. In other places, the Greek word pistis is a verb that is translated as believe. It is that faith that unlocks the power to overcome; to conquer the world. For John, that faith is the confession of who Jesus is, the complete reliance on what Christ accomplished on our behalf. It means a total devotion to what He teaches. It means being an authentic disciple – a true follower of Christ.
Faith isn’t some intangible aspect of Christianity. Faith is what allows God to come into our heart. Faith is what sets the wheels in motion for God to work in our lives. Faith is what unlocks the power of God to be manifested in our lives. Faith is what moves mountains. Faith is what heals diseases, causes the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the lame to walk. The righteous man lives by faith. It is faith that justifies; it is faith that rests on the power of God. Faith moved Noah to build an ark. It was by faith that Sarah conceived. By faith Abraham offered up Isaac as a sacrifice. The walls of Jericho fell down because of faith. Kingdoms were conquered by faith. Faith shut the mouths of lions and quenched the power of fire. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6) You may cry out to God, “I want faith, I want faith!” “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:17)
You want to strengthen your faith, grow your faith? Read the Bible. Come to church. Go to Community Group. Develop real relationships with godly people. Get to know God deeper, get to know Christ deeper. Immerse yourself in the things of Jesus who is the Christ.
Being born again is a reality for John and he wants you to understand the significance of this in your life. Being born again gives you the power to follow the commands of God which are designed to change your heart, they are not burdensome. Being born again means that you have overcome – you have conquered the world and all that it represents. This is the reality of a new life in Jesus Christ.