The Cross Made the Difference for Us
1 John 5:1-8
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Jan. 25, 2015
*Christians are like other people in a whole lot of ways. We go to school and work. We love our families. We enjoy the same foods, sports and hobbies. Like non-Christians, we also go through problems in our families, our finances, and our health. We certainly don't look different from non-Christians. But today's Scripture reminds us that in the most important ways Christians are different.
*The cross made the difference for us! -- And God's Word shows us how.
1. First: As Christians, we are blessed with two birthdays.
*Every true Christian in the world literally has two birthdays: A physical birthday and a spiritual birthday. That's the day we were born again by receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
*John confirmed this truth for us in vs. 1, when he said: "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." Christians: We are born again by the Holy Spirit of God working through the Word of God to bring us to faith in Jesus Christ. That's why 1 Peter 1:23 tells all Christians that we have "been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever."
*In John 3, the Lord explained how crucial it is for people to be born again. And Jesus said this to Nicodemus:
3. . . "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.''
4. Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?''
5. Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
*"You must be born again," Jesus said. -- The reason why is because physical birth can only give physical life. Horses produce horses. Dogs produce dogs. And mortal people produce mortal people. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh."
*But "that which is born of the Spirit (or that which is given birth by God's Spirit) is spirit." The Holy Spirit produces a new kind of person by a new kind of birth, the spiritual birth that gives us God's eternal life.
*But this new birth can only come by trusting in the cross of Jesus Christ. And Jesus was talking about the cross when He went on to say this to Nicodemus:
14. . . "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15. that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
16. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
*Obviously we are born again by truly believing in Jesus Christ. But what does that mean? What does it mean to believe? What does it mean to have saving faith? -- Jerry Falwell really helped us understand.
*And he started by saying that saving faith "is like taking a drink of water. In John 4:14 Jesus said, 'Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.' Saving faith is like taking a drink of water.
*And saving faith is like sitting down to an expensive feast someone else provided for you. In Luke 14:16-17 Jesus said:
16. . . 'A certain man gave a great supper and invited many,
17. and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, "Come, for all things are now ready."'
*Saving faith is also like accepting an invitation. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, 'Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'
*Saving faith is also like walking through a door. In John 10:9 Jesus said, 'I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.' And saving faith is also like receiving a gift, because Romans 6:23 tells us that 'the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.' (1)
*Saving faith is like taking a drink of water, like sitting down to an expensive feast someone else provided for you, like accepting an invitation, like walking through a door, and like receiving a gift. Are you born again by having saving faith in Jesus Christ?
*"Decision Magazine" told of a lady who had gone to church for 40 years. She had sung in the choir, taught classes, given her time, and given her money. She had also visited the sick.
*But one day this very nice woman realized that her heart was not right with God, and she later said: "I fell onto my knees and prayed, 'Dear God, I'm lost. Please show me the way! Forgive me of my many sins. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.' You see," she said, "I had never admitted I was lost. When I did, and asked God to forgive me, Christ came into my heart. My battle was won." (2)
*She was born again from above. She was born again by God, for "whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." The cross made the difference for that lady, and if you are a Christian, the cross made the difference for you too! Christians, we are blessed with two birthdays.
2. We are also called to live by love.
*All Christians are called to live by love. This truth is undeniably clear to us in vs. 1-3, where God's Word says:
1. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.
2. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.
3. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
 In these verses God tells us 3 things about His commandment to love one another. First: There are no exceptions for believers.
*All Christians are commanded to love their brothers and sisters in Christ. That's at the end of vs. 1, which tells us "everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him."
*In other words: "Everyone who loves the God who gave us new birth also loves the others who have received the new birth. Everyone who loves the Father also loves His children." So there are no exceptions to the love commandment for Christians.
 Also notice that this godly love is evidence for our salvation.
*As vs. 2 says: "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments." In other words: "When we love God and keep his commandments, we will also love the children of God." And this godly love is evidence of our salvation.
 On top of that, godly love is easy for Christians.
*That's why vs. 3 says God's commandments are not "grievous" or "burdensome." God's commandment for us to love one another is not a heavy burden to us.
*That doesn't mean it won't be hard at times. Sometimes we all get irritable and hard to live with. Sometimes all of us can be a pain in the neck. But the grace of God that saved us also flows in us. And it works through us, so that we can love each other in spite of our short-comings. And all of us have them.
*Pastor Pat Cook reminds us that our Bible heroes were real and imperfect people. He gave these examples:
-"Noah got drunk.
-Abraham was a liar.
-Sarah laughed at God's promises.
-Jacob was a scheming conniver.
-Moses had a short fuse.
-Gideon was afraid.
-David had an affair.
-Elijah was suicidal.
-Jonah ran from God;
-Hosea's wife was a prostitute.
-Martha worried about everything.
-The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once.
-Peter denied Christ.
-The disciples fell asleep while praying.
-And John the Baptist ate bugs (not that there's anything wrong with that.) (3)
*Christians: None of us is perfect, but we can all love each other, because God's love is living in us. The cross made the difference for us, so we are called to live by love.
3. We can also overcome every obstacle.
*God wants us to know that we can overcome the greatest obstacles life throws our way. And we can overcome these obstacles, because of our faith in Jesus Christ. Verses 4-6, show us two great things about our faith.
 First: Our success is sure.
*In vs. 4, John tells all Christians that "whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world our faith. Our success is sure, because our faith IS the victory that overcomes the world. And whoever "is born of God overcomes the world."
*The question for us is: Are we going to doubt this sure truth, or are we going to believe what God says in His Word? Sometimes we are plagued with doubts, but God's Word has the remedy for all of our doubts.
*Man says: "It's impossible." -- But in Matthew 19:26, Jesus said, "With God all things are possible.''
*Man says: "I can't do it." -- But Philippians 4:13 says: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
*Man says: "I'm not smart enough." -- But in James 1:5, God promises to give us wisdom.
*Man says: "I'm too tired." -- But in Matthew 11:28, Jesus says: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden & I will give you rest."
*Man says: "I can't overcome this temptation." -- But in 1 Corinthians 10:13, God says He will "make a way to escape."
*Man says: "I'm always worried and frustrated." -- But 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all our cares on God, for He cares for us.
*Man says: "I can't go on." -- But in 2 Corinthians 12:9 the Lord says: "My grace is sufficient for you."
*Man says: "I'm afraid." -- But over 70 times God's Word says: "Do not be afraid."
*Man says: "I feel all alone." -- But in Hebrews 13:5, Jesus says: "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (4)
*Our faith is the victory that overcomes the world, so our success is sure.
 And our source is the Savior.
*In vs. 5: "Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" -- Hallelujah! The focus of our faith must be Jesus Christ!
*Some faith teachers on TV promise health and wealth, if you will only believe enough, or if you only have enough faith. One big problem with this teaching is that people can begin to focus on the weakness of their faith, rather than the infinite strength of our God.
*But in Mark 11:22, Jesus said: "Have faith in God." So we don't have to trust in our faith. We can trust in His faithfulness! We can trust in the Lord, and that's a whole lot better.
*Verse 6 reminds us why we can trust in Jesus: "This is He who came by water and blood Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. . ." This verse is talking about Jesus' ministry from His baptism to the cross. And Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on that cross for our sins. There could never be a greater reason to have faith in God.
*Dr. Larry Baker is a man who knows the difference faith can make. When he was just 25, Larry was struck by a viral infection that made him totally blind. The doctor said, "I'm afraid that I have to tell you something that will affect the rest of your life, you will never see again."
*Larry replied, "Doctor, I understand what you are saying, but I will determine the effect." At the time, Larry was married with three children and working for a dairy, delivering milk.
*He described himself in high school as "a member of that one third of the class that made the top two thirds look good." But Larry took advantage of a scholarship offered to people with vision disabilities. He graduated from Indiana University fifth in a class of 780 students. Larry then received the Presidential Achievement Award, and went on to earn his master's and doctor's degrees in business administration.
*After being a university professor for ten years, Larry started his own company, and began to present seminars around the world. This blind man learned to ski after the age of 45, and Larry urged us not to let other people set limits for us.
*Larry once said, "Nobody has ever gone broke giving more than they receive. Have faith in God, your family, friends, and last, but not least, have faith in yourself." (5)
*Most of all, I'm sure Larry Baker would tell us: "Have faith in God!" The cross made the difference for Larry. And Christians: The cross made the difference for us! That's why we can overcome the every obstacle.
4. But also notice that we have been won by great witnesses.
*We have been won to Jesus Christ by great witnesses, and we see the heavenly witnesses in the last part of vs. 6 and in vs. 7. Here John said:
6. . . It is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.
7. For there are three who bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.
*The Word is Jesus Christ. These three: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the one true God. And they are heavenly witnesses of all that is good and true.
*Next in vs. 8 we see the earthly witnesses of God. John said, "There are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one."
*Surely the Holy Spirit of God is still witnessing in the world today. On the night before the cross, Jesus told us about the work His Spirit would do after Jesus returned to Heaven. And in John 16:7-11 the Lord said:
7. "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
8. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9. of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
10. of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
11. of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."
*Only the Holy Spirit can convict people of their sin, their urgent need of salvation, and the hope they can find in Jesus Christ! No one can be saved without the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
*And this work is so essential, that in Romans 8, Paul said:
8. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
10. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
*In Romans 8, Paul also said:
14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father.''
16. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
*The Holy Spirit of God is still witnessing in the world today. But Christians, we must be in vs. 8 too, because Jesus told His followers that we would be His witnesses. Again in vs. 8, John said: "There are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one."
*The water in vs. 8 could be our baptism, because baptism is surely a public witness that we have received Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
*The blood witness in vs. 8 could represent the Lord's Supper. We know this, because in 1 Corinthians 11:26, Paul tells Christians: "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes."
*When we are saved, we witness through our baptism and by taking the Lord's Supper. But we are also supposed to witness with our lips and with our lives.
*You have probably never heard of Albert McMakin. He was a 24-year-old farmer who trusted in Jesus way back in 1934. Albert was so full of enthusiasm that he filled a truck with people, and took them to a revival meeting to hear about Jesus. But one farmer's son was hard to persuade. That young man was too busy falling in and out of love with different girls, and he didn't seem to care about Christianity.
*Eventually, Albert did persuade him to come to the revival. And the way Albert did it was by telling the young man that he could drive the truck! The boy was only 16, and what 16-year-old could turn down that offer? When they got to the revival meeting, the young man was awestruck. And he went back night after night, until one night he went forward and gave his life to Jesus Christ.
*That young man was Billy Graham. And we can't all be like Billy Graham, but we can be like Albert McMakin, doing all we can to bring our friends to Jesus. (6)
*Christians: The cross made the difference for us! We are different, -- because we are:
-Blessed with two birthdays.
-Called to live by love.
-Able to overcome every obstacle.
-And we've been won to the Lord by great witnesses.
*Think about these things as we go to God in prayer. And if you have never trusted in Jesus, ask the Lord to save you right now.
(1) Adapted from Jerry Falwell - "The Most Important Question Ever Asked" - www.trbc.org/sermons/20010902.html
(2) Adapted from "Exploring Christianity" - Dick Tripp
(3) SermonCentral illustration contributed by Pat Cook
(4) Adapted from SermonCentral illustration contributed by Davon Huss
(5) "The Tullahoma News" - June 6, 1990 - Section A, p. 9 - Source: Sermons.com sermon "Connections in High Places" by King Duncan - John 15:1-17
(6) SermonCentral illustration contributed by Martin Dale - Source: "Questions of Life" by Nicky Gumbel, pp.193-194