I think that the practical side of this sermon has been very difficult for me as I have prepared. We all need to wrestle with the meaning and the application of a passage of scripture to our personal lives. If I do not apply what the Bible teaches, I am a huge hypocrite up here sharing good news on how you are supposed to live as a good obedient follower of Jesus. In other words, If I don't apply God's word to my life first, I cannot be a model and am a fake.
There is so much meat to chew on in this passage I struggled to know what to focus on for the half hour that we are together here. I see three sections in this passage.
The first being the concern about hate vs love.
The second being the importance of loving others and how that is practically worked out.
And the third being that when we are in right relationship with God, God will supply more through prayer that we can use to help others.
Evil people will deceive, hate and destroy. Christians are being persecuted around the world. They are being tortured and killed because of evil men and women. Are these your brothers and sisters in Christ? Godly people will love.
John says "From the beginning." This is not necessarily from Adam and Eve but it could be from the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. We know that, Satan deceived Eve and Adam sinned with her destroying the initial relationship with God. God continued to speak to Cain and Abel but Satan wanted to destroy God's highest creation of mankind. Satan used doubt to break the relationship between God and Adam and Eve and now he uses hate, jealousy and murder to destroy the righteous godly Abel. Satan would be triumphant now that the one who brought sacrifices which honoured God was gone! Or so he thought.
Godly people show up the evil when they arrive. In Japan before Christianity arrived, handicapped people were ignored, shunned and bullied. Girls were not allowed to get an education. When Christianity taught that we are to love all God's creation, there has been a change in the way the government takes care of those who were before denied care and education. It was the way that Christians cared, that transformed society not only what they taught. God has a better way and some people resent that message but righteous acts win God's approval.
Cain had become jealous of Abel. Not jealous of anything Abel had, but envious of his acceptance and relationship with God. The motivation for hate was jealousy that Abel had a better relationship with God and perhaps even a God gave him a greater blessing. It was the righteousness of Abel that brought about jealousy. Jesus was popular among the people both because they respected his teaching and through Jesus God did miracles of healing, driving out demons and feeding people. This prompted jealousy in the hearts of the Jewish leaders who killed Jesus.
Disobedience leads to jealousy, which leads to hatred, which leads to murder. If we have hate in our heart we are a murderer and are no better than Cain. If you are jealous or hateful like Cain, PLEASE, release your hate, bitterness and your frustration with trying to control others and love as God loves us.
The hate of the world brings death. The one who does not love "abides in death". It was sin that brought death into the world. The focus of the world is death, hate, murder - just look at the news. ISIS is killing off all the Christians in Syria and Northern Iraq. It is genocide - religious cleansing worse even than Hitler's killing of the Jews. Let us pray for justice and healing of their land and peace for our Christian brothers and sisters in that land.
Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment." (Matthew 5:21-22). And John says in John 5: 15, "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer." Hating is the same as murder and no murder will have eternal life. Suicide is murdering yourself. Desire to kill oneself is a sign you hate yourself. Each of you is special in God's eyes. He loves you and wants you to love what He has given to you and use it for changing the world around you not destroying it.
You see, God looks at our hearts. He knows what is in our hearts. He knows about our anger, and bitterness, and hatred, or dislike of someone, and He knows what it is doing to us. Do you ever get angry? Ever get jealous? Ask God to search your heart. If there is something that God prompts you to do, don't reject God's promptings and remain in sin. We know that he who remains in sin will not see eternal life.
There will be times when it is difficult to show love. When the first missionaries came to Alberta, Canada, they were savagely opposed by a young chief of the Cree Indians named Mas-ke-pe-toon. But he responded to the gospel and accepted Christ. Shortly afterward, a member of the Blackfoot tribe killed his father. Maskepetoon rode into the village where the murderer lived and demanded that he be brought before him. Confronting the guilty man, he said, "You have killed my father, so now you must be my father. You shall ride my best horse and wear my best clothes." In utter amazement and remorse his enemy exclaimed, "My son, now you have killed me!" He meant, of course, that the hate in his own heart had been completely erased by the forgiveness and kindness of the Indian chief. - (Today in the Word, November 10, 1993)
We think of John as the disciple of love but at the beginning of Jesus' ministry when he was choosing the 12 Disciples he called James and John, the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). Later we see that they wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans when they did not welcome Jesus and his Disciples into their village. (Luke 9:54)
During the Second World War, Jake DeShazer flew on a mission to drop bombs on Tokyo but because of wind and clouds ended up bombing Nagoya. He was captured by Japanese in China when their plane crashed. Though raised in a Christian Family, he had allowed hated for the Japanese to consume him and he reacted violently toward his captors. In Solitary confinement the Japanese sought to starve the prisoners of war but they allowed the American prisoners to get a copy of the Bible and share it in their cells. They memorized large portions and the word of God transformed Jake so that after the war was over he went back to Japan as a missionary to spread the gospel of peace and love to the Japanese.
Mitsuo Fuchida,was the Japanese Captain who led the air raid against Pearl Harbor, and who gave the command to drop the bombs to start the war. Mitsuo Fuchida was a hero in Japan after the war because of that exploit and others, but his own heart was empty. He was searching for peace and he read the tract that told the story of De Shazer's amazing change of heart after De Shazer read the Bible. Mitsuo obtained a New Testament and began to read it with growing interest and amazement. At last he came to the story of the crucifixion. When he read the Lord's words from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34), his heart broke. He realized that this One who could love his enemies and pray for those who persecuted him and despitefully used him, was manifesting a quality of life that no natural human being could possibly show. Mitsuo Fuchida became a Christian and an evangelist going up and down Japan telling the story of a love that can change human hearts.
God's way is not hate but love. John 3:16 - God so loved the world He gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have eternal life. Here we have in 1 John 3:16 "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." Jesus gave his life for others, we should be willing to sacrifice for others as well. This sacrifice includes giving to the needs of other believers. Not being willing to give to needs of others indicates God is not living in us. The focus of Christ is love, peace, kindness, generosity. Loving fellow believers is a sign of new life in Jesus. We many not be asked ever to sacrifice our life for someone but God wants us to sacrifice our possessions to be generous to help those in need.
John clearly defines love. It is not some emotionally mushy feeling, it is definite heartfelt action for someone in need. Jesus said in John 15:12 "Love one another just as I have loved you." How did Christ love us?
Talk is cheap. Deeds and actions are true indicators of our love for God and others. God knows our hearts and God will give to us because we keep commands and do what pleases Him.
The focus in this passage is on material goods but there is probably more emotional and spiritual needs in our country than material needs. Selfishness closes our heart to helping others. People are craving for love. Are we sharing the love Christ has given us with others?
What did the first church do? How generous were they with others who had little? They looked after the widows and the poor in Jerusalem in Acts 5. Paul urges the Christians in Rome in Romans 12:13 to be distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Jesus said, "Do unto others as you want them to do to you." (Mt 7:12)
I think one of the most moving stories in the Bible about helping the poor is the story of Ruth. Elimelech took his wife and two sons to Moab to find work because there was a drought in Israel. While there his sons grew up and married local girls. Elimelech and both his sons died leaving three widows and no children. Naomi heard that the famine was over in Israel and there was a good crop of barley and wheat so she headed back to Bethlehem where her husband still had a little land left. Ruth went with her mother-in-law to a foreign country and worked hard to care for her mom by going out into the fields to try to find a few stalks of grain that might have fallen from the harvesters. After working hard one day she had collected about a hamper's worth of barley.(22 liters) The owner of the field was Boaz and he noticed Ruth working hard. He found out he was related to her now deceased father-in-law. Boaz cared for his relative Naomi and married Ruth. Notice that Ruth was poor but she was not asking for handouts. Boaz was generous by telling his workers to leave a little extra for Ruth to collect. Ruth's hard work and care for her mother-in-law won the heart of Boaz and Ruth's great-grandson became King of Israel - King David.
Jesus said that the poor you will always have with you. (Jn 12:8, Mt, Mk ) All of us don't have enough to feed all the hungry in the world even for one meal so what does it mean to give to those in need.
Over the years, I have developed guidelines for giving for myself. Your guidelines may be different.
1 God will direct you to give of your personal resources to those in need around you. We are not just talking about Haiti or Mexico or other poor countries. There are needs all around the world and these are significant but God will direct you to see the needs of people in your family, in your community and on the mission field.
2. God will guide us to those who can responsibly use what we are giving. God does not expect us to give money to people who have foolishly wasted their money on toys, drugs, alcohol, illicit relationships, or lived beyond their means by spending selfishly on clothes, cars or computers. We have given food, shelter, and encouragement to a number of people over the years who struggled financially but we have learned not to just hand them money to waste.
3. Give to those who cannot give you back monetarily. God will give blessings which are sometimes material but more often in relationship and in spiritual joy. Going out for a coffee? Don't go out with people who will treat you to a meal later. It is not wrong to go out for a coffee but don't go out with the motive of getting something out of the other person later.
4. Give to people who you know have a need. Giving to people across the world who have a special appeal on TV is not wise stewardship. Give to organizations that will help spiritually as well as physically. Some organizations remove all Christian identity from aid to some parts of the world. If they are ashamed of Christ, I don't think they are worth helping.
5. Don't give to people who are lazy and are impoverished because they lack the motivation to work. The guy standing on the street corner with a sign, " My family doesn't have any food." has either spent the money God gave him foolishly or is lazy. Some people are genuinely sick and cannot work. My father in law had a stomach ulcer and was off work when Lydia was younger. They didn't have much growing up because of these kind of issues and not because he didn't want to work. Others helped them in their need.. Lydia saw the church helping in a time of their need. When we were asked by the body of Christ to go to seminary to prepare for serving in the mission field, God provided through generous individuals.
James 2:14 - 17 tells us: "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 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? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
Is your faith dead? Today I want you to think of all the wonderful acts of kindness that you have enjoyed doing over the last two weeks. You can be proud that you are serving the Lord so faithfully and diligently. You can thank the Lord that He has given you so many opportunities to help others in the last couple weeks. That brings glory to God and is what He desires of you.
It's easy to talk about love but hard to practice genuine love especially for those closest to us. Kids responded to their pastor when he talked about loving others with the following letters. "Dear pastor, I know God loves everybody, but he has never met my little sister." Here is another one: "Dear Pastor, I would like to go to heaven someday, because I know my big sister won't be there." Do we not feel similar sometimes?
V 22 We can ask God to help us supply the needs of others. Our hearts will not condemn us if we are asking and interceding for others. If we are selfish our hearts will end up condemning us and we may even miss heaven.
Some people pray and they feel that Heaven is shut to them. God is not listening. There are conditions for prayer.
One is that we have to have a clean heart, a pure heart.
The second thing is that we must ask according to His will.
The third that we may not like God's answer. He may answer No or Wait - both which we believe that God doesn't hear and doesn't care about us.
The fourth is that we demand that God change another person. He doesn't impose on you and he will not impose on others no matter how bad they are.
We will learn more about prayer was we go through "When God's People Pray" on Sunday evenings.
V 23 Christianity is simple. Two things to remember. Believe Jesus and love one another.
The criteria for entering heaven is believing Jesus died to forgive our sins and repent and then showing that we have loved and given to the needs of the poor, the imprisoned and those who cannot care for themselves. (Mt 25:31-40) It should become so natural that we don't even think twice about helping. There are millions in this world around you that are starving for love. Will you share it? Will you sacrifice?
Will you be that grain of wheat that is put into the ground and dies to your own pleasure, your own desires to be a nice plump grain of wheat sitting on a shelf and end up sprouting and giving life? That is my personal challenge to myself. What talents, what skills, what insights, what blessings that God has given me can I share with others to show love and be a good steward. Jesus said, If we are faithful in a little he will enlarge our borders and entrust more to us to use for His Kingdom. The more He gives us the more we are challenged and grow. Trees which are blasted by winds grow deep roots. If a tree has shallow roots, when the tempests blow, they are blown over. Love is not always easy to share. But I want to be faithful and obey Jesus' command to "Love others." Jesus promised "Give and it shall be given unto you, full measure shaken down and running over." Luke 6:38
If our heart does not condemn us means that we know we have searched our hearts and asked forgiveness of God and every person involved. We can ask the Holy Spirit to show us any unconfessed sin if we are not sure that we have a clear conscience. When we live free from sin, we live a life of joy, happiness and are free? Are you living that way or are there secret sins that trouble you?
The song - Come to the Saviour,
Come to the Savior, make no delay;
Here in His Word He has shown us the way;
Here in our midst He's standing today,
Tenderly saying, "Come!"
Joyful, joyful will the meeting be,
When from sin our hearts are pure and free;
And we shall gather, Savior, with Thee,
In our eternal home.
"Suffer the children!" oh, hear His voice!
Let ev'ry heart leap forth and rejoice;
And let us freely make Him our choice;
Do not delay, but come.
Think once again, He's with us today;
Heed now His blest command, and obey;
Hear now His accents tenderly say,
"Will you, My children, come?"
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LEMC June 5, 2016