Politically Incorrect Christianity: Living the Truth--“Love That Brings Life”

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Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, tells the story of a ten-year-old boy who was failing math. His parents sought to help him overcome his deficiency. They met with his teacher. They attempted to help him with his math homework. They even hired a tutor. All to no avail. Finally, they decided to send him to a Parochial School. Perhaps the discipline, small class size, and forbearing Nuns would help.

That night, after the first day of school, the boy came home and poured over his math homework. His parents were thrilled, believing that Parochial School had given their son a new found love for math. When they received their son’s first report card they were astonished—he had earned an A+ in arithmetic.

Curious, the boys parents ask their son what made the difference. Was it the text book? Was it the Nun’s teaching? Just what was it that had turned his grade around?

“Well,” said their son, “I never took math seriously, but on the first day of school I walked into class and saw this guy nailed to a plus sign. I knew they meant business.”

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16, NIV84)

Jesus meant business when he died on the cross. In doing so, he revealed the lavishness of God’s love for a people who do not deserve such grace. But Jesus laid down his life for us. The verb laid down refers to the removal of one’s cloths. The word came to represent divesting oneself of anything important and is a picture of Jesus willing to take off his life for the sins of God’s Elect. Christ’s atoning death is a radical example of selfless love and emblematic of the kind of love Christians are to have toward each other.

If you want to have an assurance about your life in Christ, you need to examine your devotion to the Body of Christ—His Church.


    • "This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” (1 John 3:11, NIV84)
    • ILLUS. In 1970, noted Christian apologist, evangelist, and author Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984) introduced his book The Mark of the Christian with the following statements: “Through the centuries men have displayed many different symbols to show that they are Christians. They have worn marks in the lapels of their coats, hung chains about their necks, even had special haircuts. Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of this, if one feels it is his calling. But there is a much better sign—a mark that has not been thought up just as a matter of expediency for use on some special occasion or in some specific era. It is a universal mark that is to last through all the ages of the church till Jesus comes back. What is this mark? At the close of his ministry, Jesus looks forward to his death on the cross, the open tomb and the ascension. Knowing that he is about to leave, Jesus prepares his disciples for what is to come. It is here that he makes clear what will be the distinguishing mark of the Christian: “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me; and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:33–35). This passage reveals the mark that Jesus gives to label a Christian not just in one era or in one locality but at all times and all places until Jesus returns.
            1. let me share three points concerning v. 11


            1. it’s a message that the Church has had from the beginning
                1. it is a commandment that is taught throughout the biblical text
                    1. it is a command that is not subject to change or variation—it is immutable
                    2. since the Day of Pentecost the unchanging, authenticating mark of the Christian faith is a self-sacrificing love of the brethren
                2. whether they were Jews or Gentiles, John’s readers would have heard from the Old Testament about the need for God’s people to love, not only one another, but the stranger and even the enemy
                  • “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18, NIV84)
                    1. and, of course, Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan forever ends the question, And just who is my neighbor?
                3. instructing the Church at Rome concerning brotherly love, the Apostle Paul quoted both the Ten Commandments and this passage from Leviticus
                  • “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:8–10, NIV84)
                    1. the Apostle is not springing something new on his Congregation whereby they’ll react, “Wow, we didn’t know that!”
            2. it should come as no surprise to you that love is the central theme of John’s sermon to his congregation at Ephesus
                1. the word love is used forty-six times in 105 verses
                2. so it’s an immutable command and remains the primary identifying mark of the true believer


            1. cogent means a forceful presentation or a forceful speaker
                1. in other words, loving the brethren is a powerful and forceful evidence that Christ is in you
            2. assurance that we are walking in the light comes from loving the brethren
                1. throughout this book, the Apostle John is dealing with a central issue of the Christian experience: How can we know that we are in a genuine relationship with God?
                    1. how do you know that you are walking in the light and not walking in darkness?
                    2. how do you know that you are a stalk of wheat and not a tare among the wheat?
                    3. how do you know that you are a sheep and not a goat?
                    4. how do you know that you are a child of God and not a child of the Devil?
                2. one of the identifying marks of being a Christian is that we love other Christians and walk in fellowship with them
                  • “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.” (1 John 2:9–10, NIV84)
                3. the truth that they were to love one another was something his readers would have heard from the beginning
                4. loving the brethren is not some new innovation that the Apostle has come up with
                    1. it is a message taught to them by Christ Himself that is being passed on from one generation of believers to the next
                      • “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34–40, NIV84)
                5. when John’s readers became Christians, they would have committed themselves to
                    1. loving God—which translates into loving His commands—and ...
                    2. loving God’s people—which translates into living in fellowship with them
            3. and so loving the brethren is powerful and forceful evidence that Christ is in you


    • “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.” (1 John 3:12, NIV84)
            1. Cain provides a negative example at two points
                1. first, he fails to demonstrate love for his brother
                    1. in not loving Abel he shows that he belongs to the world and to the devil
                    2. and why doesn’t he love his brother? — because his own behavior is evil while he sees that his brother’s actions are righteous
                        1. Cain represents the realm of spiritual death, with a veneer of religion covering a heart filled with hatred
                    3. for the very same reason, the Apostle warns his flock, do not be surprised ... if the world hates you
                      • ILLUS. When the Church takes a stand—a biblical stand—on moral issues like abortion, infanticide, homosexuality, homosexual marriage, and embryonic stem cell research we will always beget the world’s hatred.
                2. second, he has robbed his brother of life and is a murderer
                  • “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” (1 John 3:15, NIV84)
                    1. the word murder here is a word that always implies violence and literally means to butcher or slaughter
                        1. Cain’s act was not done in the heat of passion, but with cool deliberateness
                        2. it’s tempting to smugly look at ourselves and proclaim, “I’ve never done that and never could do that.”
                    2. but as Christians we know that Jesus takes it one step further and gets to the heart of the issue as only Jesus can get to the heart of the issue
                    3. it’s not merely about outward behavior, but inward attitude
                      • “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21–22, ESV)
                    4. hatred, according to Jesus, is the spiritual equivalent of murder just as a lustful eye is the spiritual equivalent of adultery
            2. true Christians, those born of God, have love for their brothers and sisters in Christ
                1. it’s a love placed there by the presence of the indwelling Christ so that we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren
                2. loving those in the family of God does not give us eternal life
                    1. God does that
                    2. but loving those in the family of God is a mark of authenticity that we are ourselves are part of the family
                3. the Apostle John writes in v. 14 that love for the brethren is a sign that we have passed from spiritual death to spiritual life
                    1. will we love all fellow Christians equally? No
                    2. will some fellow Christians make it hard for us to love them? Yes
                    3. but a fundamental desire to love the brethren will show through our lives
                      • ILLUS Rick Warren, in his book A Purpose Driven Life, writes: “People become disillusioned with the church for many understandable reasons. The list could be quite long: conflict, hurt, hypocrisy, neglect, pettiness, legalism, and other sins. Rather than being shocked and surprised, we must remember that the church is made up of real sinners, including ourselves. Because we’re sinners, we hurt each other, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. But instead of leaving the church, we need to stay and work it out if at all possible. Reconciliation, not running away, is the road to stronger character and deeper fellowship.” “Believers are going to disappoint you and let you down but that’s no excuse to stop fellowshipping with them. They’re family, even when they don’t act like it, and you don’t just walk out on them.”
            3. although the Apostle John illustrates the necessity of loving by illustrating what happens when we don’t love as Christ loved, it is really Jesus, and not Abel, who provides the positive example for the Apostle’s flock to follow
                1. the Apostle is attempting to teach his congregation that our actions reveal one’s inner character
                2. when the Pharisees had the audacity to accuse Jesus of accomplishing his miracles by the power of Satan, Jesus told them
                  • “ ... the tree is known by his fruit ... A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” (Matthew 12:35, KJV 1900)
            4. A Commandment That Is from the Beginning Is That We Should Love One Another


            1. by now it is obvious that love is a central theme and concern of 1 John
                1. but with 1 John 3:16 we come to the first of several pronouncements that state explicitly, This is ... what love is
                2. it is the voluntary self-giving of Jesus to other and for others, in life and death, that defines the epitome of God’s love
                  • “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9–10, ESV)
            2. Christians must not give in to the spirit of Cain
                1. in fact, if you have the spirit of Cain, you are not a Christian
                2. Christ calls us to be different even when we are outraged by something or someone
                    1. our calling is to love, to give forgiveness when it’s not deserved, to show gentleness when we’re verbally accosted, to show grace when we want to blow our tops
            3. Jesus is our model to emulate
              • "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers." (1 John 3:16, ESV)
                1. it’s easy to be pretty abstract when we begin talking about love
                  • ILLUS. Linus, one of the beloved characters of the Peanuts Gang surmised it well when said, “I love humanity ... It’s people I can’t stand.”/
                2. the question is: What does love, real Godly, life-redeeming, world-changing love look like?
                    1. instead of giving us some maudlin chick-flick illustration, or some abstract definition of love, the Apostle points us to a person
                    2. love looks like Jesus! — John says, by this we know
            4. in this passage, the Apostle give us three characteristics of life-redeeming, world-changing love


    • "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers." (1 John 3:16, ESV)
            1. the Apostle John write, he laid down his life for us
                1. in stark contrast to hatred stands the true character of Christian love
                2. the essence of true Christian love lies in giving one’s self for others
                  • ILLUS. Suppose that last week I’m standing on the edge of Peer 17 in NYC which is the South Side Seaport. As I’m standing on the edge of the pier some guy comes running up to me and says, “This is how much I love you” and then dives into the Harlem River and drowns. I’d probably thought he was nuts. Maybe it’s a nice gesture, but what a waste of a perfectly good life. Couldn’t he just have told me how much he loved me? But, suppose I’ve fallen off that pier, and I’m drowning and that same guy dives in to rescue me, drags me to safety, but dies in the process of rescuing me. In that case, he doesn’t have to say a word. Laying down his life for mine says emphatically “This is how much I love you.”
            2. do you get the point?
                1. that’s what Jesus did when he went to the cross
                    1. he didn’t just talk about love, but he brought God’s love to us by rescuing us from our sin
                2. the Apostle John looks at Jesus Christ’s death on the cross as a picture of how God wants us to love
            3. Christlike Love Is Costly


    • "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers." (1 John 3:16, ESV)
            1. the Apostle continues his characterizing of life-redeeming, world-changing love when he says, and we ought
                1. the tradition of laying down one’s life for another does not end at Calvary
                2. the issue for us in this culture is how will we lay down our lives?
            2. more often than not, for us in this culture a committed love involves a commitment to put others first
              • “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3–4, ESV)
              • “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10, NIV84)
              • “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21, NIV84)
              • ILLUS. Princess Alice was a member of the British royal family, and the third child and second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She died on December 14, 1878. British Prime Minister William Gladstone, in announcing the death of Princess Alice to the House of Commons, told a touching story. The little daughter of the Princess was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors had told the princess not to kiss her daughter and endanger her life. Once when the child was struggling to breathe, Princess Alice, forgetting herself, gathered the child into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Rasping and struggling for her life, the child said, “Momma, kiss me!” Without thinking of herself the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria and some days thereafter and died.
                1. real love forgets self, denies one’s self
                2. real love knows no danger
                3. real love doesn’t count the cost
                  • “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. ... ” (Song of Solomon 8:7, NIV84)
            3. Christlike Love Is Committed


    • “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17–18, NIV84)
            1. of course, it’s one thing to say, “Yeah...If you ever need someone to die for you just let me know, but don’t bug me until that happens.”
                1. so John gets very practical; laying down our lives for other followers of Jesus Christ means helping them in very practical ways
                2. if we have “material possessions”—and all of us here today do—and we see a Christian with legitimate needs and we close our hearts to that person instead of helping him or her, then we’ve extinguished God’s love in our lives
            2. a hardened heart to someone who’s genuinely needy betrays the spirit of Cain, just as Cain hardened his heart to his brother
                1. love requires more than idle talk
                2. it demands simple acts that meet the need of brothers and sister in distress
                  • “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15–16, NIV84)
                  • ILLUS. Humorist and author Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts I do understand.”
            3. to answer the question, What does God want of us? we also have to answer the question, What do we owe each other?
                1. although response to God is a personal matter, it is not merely a private or internal matter
                2. John made this explicit in talking about the obligation of love that we owe to each other in obedience to Christ’s command
            4. Christlike Love Is Volitional

Con. True love demands our humble service for the sake of others. ILLUS. In John’s gospel, we have the clearest of illustrations of the kind of love the Apostle is referring to in his Epistle. As he pens the words “We should love one another ... “ his mind goes racing back to an event that took place on the night Jesus celebrated his last Seder Meal with the disciples. After dinner was over, Jesus did something very unexpected, but very much in keeping with his character. He took off his robes and wrapped a towel around his waste. Then he took a basin of water and a towel and, one-by-one, began to wash the feet of the disciples. When he was finished, he donned his robes. We pick up the story in John 13:12 ...

“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:13–17, NIV84)

He tells them I have set for you an example and there is no greater example of how we are to serve one another out of a heart of love. That’s what it means to love the brethren and if we love in like manner it gives us assurance that we are walking in the light.

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