|Sunday School & Bible Class (Sept-May)||9:15 AM|
Truth and Love
6th Sunday of Easter
May 6, 2018
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
Truth and Love
1 John 4:1–11 (NIV84)
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a staple of my lunches when I was around the age of these confirmands. Especially in the summer when I worked in the cornfields during high school, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich almost every day. I’m sure everyone likes a different ratio of peanut butter to jelly on their PB&J. I liked a thick layer of peanut butter and a thick layer of jelly, strawberry if possible. When that ratio was lopsided, the sandwich wasn’t as good. A sandwich with only peanut butter needs the sweetness of the jelly. A sandwich with only jelly needs the peanut butter to satisfy a hungry worker or student. You need both to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
John points out two things we need for our Christian lives in the account before us this morning. Truth and love. Many who do not know Christ are loving in their own way in this world. But without the truth of God’s Word, a loving person (by this world’s definition of love), is a lost person. They do not have eternal life. On the other hand a person can know all the truth in the Scriptures but not trust it and therefore it has not effect on their hearts. They know the truth but do not show love according to that truth. This person is also lost. A Christian will both know the truth and live in love. Both truth and love are vital in a Christian’s life.
Test the Truth
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
A young child trusts and believes whatever their parent tells them. Jesus points out this trusting nature of a child when he tells all of us to have faith like that of a child. Trust your Father in heaven just like a young child trusts his parent on earth. But children grow up whether we want them too or not. And they begin to question their parents. Of course, this questioning can be done in a sinful way, a defiant and rebellious way. But questioning authorities can also be done in the proper way. In fact, John tells us not to believe every spirit. Don’t believe everyone who tells you something. Test what they say, even if they are parents.
This is one reason that we teach catechism to students in their early teen years. They have questions and we want to give these young believers the truth for why we believe what we believe. The world will throw all kinds of false ideas at us, pretending to be the truth. There was a newspaper ad some time ago that was celebrating that wonderful time when a boyfriend and girlfriend decide to move in together. I think they wanted you to look at or advertise in the paper to find a new place to live together. A recent television commercial was similar, celebrating the day unmarried people move in together. This is a perversion of the truth. It is sin and the world celebrates sin in the name of love.
The Bible holds up before us a much more beautiful truth. Instead of celebrating a day of uncertain, uncommitted and selfish love, we are to celebrate the uniting of man and woman in a lifelong union. Celebrate the day a man commits before God to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Celebrate the day a woman commits to love her husband as she loves Christ. The truth of the Word of God is not only the truth but is beautiful. The truth of the world is not only a lie but is far inferior to God’s truth.
Test the spirits. Test what people tell you about this life and the next. Test what they tell you about God and especially about Jesus. There will be very trusted and highly respected people who tell you lies about Jesus. Some may look to celebrities to tell them the truth, singers, actors, athletes and even celebrity scientists like Bill Nye (the science guy) or the late Stephen Hawking. Test what they say. It may be someone much closer to you like a teacher or coach. Test what they say. Even though the emotional connection with someone is strong, like with a friend a girlfriend/boyfriend, or relative, test what is said. John gives us this basic test for the truth:
This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
The basic truth of the Bible is that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Jesus is the name for the child born of Mary in Bethlehem. Jesus is a human being. Christ is the title for the Anointed One, also known as Messiah. By attaching Christ to the personal name of Jesus the Bible identifies Jesus as the Messiah promised throughout the Old Testament. Isaiah calls him Immanuel, God with us. John’s description that this person “has come in the flesh” tells us that Jesus Christ is not only a human being with flesh and blood. He is also true God, begotten of the Father from eternity. The test for truth is simple. Is Jesus the Christ send by the Father to be the Savior? Is Jesus Christ true God and true Man in one person?
If someone tells you something different they are not speaking the truth of God. But this is not the only truth revealed in God’s Word. Does John mean to limit the truth to only who Jesus is. No. Once you have the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God in the flesh, you have lots of other truths to believe. Whatever Jesus said is now a truth to believe. He is the Christ. He is true God. He died and then rose from the dead. Therefore, everything he tells us is the truth and we test all other claims against his Word. Before Jesus ascended into heaven he gave his disciples the command to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching them to obey everything he commanded. All of the Scripture is truth and every claim of the world must be tested against this standard.
John says it this way: We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
John is an apostle. The apostles and evangelists like Mark and Luke wrote the New Testament. The prophets wrote the Old Testament. Those who listen to the apostles and prophets know God. Those who trust the Bible know God and know the truth for the apostles and prophets wrote the truth from God as they were guided by the Holy Spirit. It is all true.
So if someone says that baptism does not forgive sins, test that against the Scriptures which tell us that baptism not only forgives sins but also gives the gift of the Holy Spirit and eternal life. When someone claims that a person has to do something good to get to heaven, test that spirit. God’s Word is clear that we are save by grace, apart from anything we do. When someone claims that all religions are the same or that there are many paths to the one, true God, test that spirit. Jesus Christ said that he is the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through him.
It could be that the young people who will confess their faith in the truth of God today are the only ones in their classes that believe this. Surely there are other Christians but to believe everything that Christ has given us in the Bible is a rare thing. To believe what Jesus tells us about the sacraments, to take every commandment seriously and to hold to the Word of God as truth above all else is rare. Simply to be a Christian is becoming more and more rare as well. How can we stand up against the world around us that tells us the Bible full of fairy tales and lies? How can we hold onto the truth when surrounded by a culture that ignores or attacks the truths God has revealed? John gives us this truth:
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
The One who stood up against the lies of the Pharisees and others is with you. The One who died and rose again is with you. The One who crushed the power of the devil is with you. Can this world of deception and lies defeat us? Yes. Can anything defeat Jesus? Nothing! Not sin. Not the devil. Not death. Trust in Jesus. He will never be overcome by this world and therefore neither will his believers.
Live the Love
We have the truth of God. This truth of God changes us. The truth of God leads us to live a life of love.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
It is easy to fall into the trap of using knowledge build oneself up while belittling others. Our sinful nature can even use the knowledge of the truths of Scripture in this way. We may look down on those who don’t know as much as we do about the Bible. We may look down on someone who has been deceived by the world into acting as though sin was good.
But everyone in this church today is the same as everyone outside. Everyone who believes that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is the same as everyone who doesn’t. We are all sinners who need a Savior. That is the truth that keeps us humble before God and before others. Instead of lording our knowledge of the truth over others, let us love one another.
If we are going to live a life of love for others we need to keep God’s love in front of us. We are like mirrors. We can only reflect what is in front of us. Let this truth be in front of you continually: This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Only when we know the love of God can we show love to others. God’s love for us is unconditional. While we were still in our sins, Christ died for us. Before we repented, Christ paid for all our sins. He loved us when we were his enemies. Jesus Christ came in the flesh so that he could suffer and die to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. There is no greater love.
Continue in the truth of God Word and you will continue to know the great love of Christ. That love of Christ will continue to mold and shape your life so that you reflect his love to others. Truth and love go together in the Scriptures. Remember that the truth is from God and so is the love. We rejoice in both.