Let us pray: Dear Savior, how comforting it is to know that You have conquered sin and death for us! How uplifting to know that You have made us into new creations through confidence in Your Easter victory! May we always value the strength and love that flows from these truths. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR RISEN LORD!
TEXT: I John 5: 1-6
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Every once in a while I step back when I read Scripture. I step back from the meaning of the words and gaze with awe upon the elegance of the writing and the logic employed. Today’s lesson strikes me as a prime example of this. We think of the Apostle John as a semi-literate fisherman who employed crude speech and wasn’t very well schooled. Nothing could be further from the truth. John grew up in a family that had enough money to have at least two homes—one in Galilee and another in Jerusalem. Yes, he was a fisherman. But when you actually read the things he wrote: “The Word became flesh and dwelt for a while among us.” Or, “God is light, in him there is no darkness at all.” Well, semi-literate people just don’t speak that way, do they?
As I read this text, I was struck by the flow of logic John employs. He goes from the truth that faith is Jesus equals being born of God because Christ is God. Then he goes on to evoke the image of a loving family and tells us that just as God loved Christ and Christ obeyed Him in all things, so the faithful will seek to do likewise. Because John knows this world is sinful and opposition to such a lifestyle will occur, he reminds us that God has won a complete victory over all such evil and gives it to us in Christ. And finally, he tells us how Christ’s victory comes to us—via water and blood—code words for baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Note well the impeccable logic of it all. Yes John was one of the great minds of the ages, wasn’t he?
But, we’re not really here today to ponder how John conveys truth to us; we’re here to drink in the content of his cup of truth. And as we do that, I want all of you to remember one thing:
To be sure, the reward of a Christian’s faith often seems far off. We’re all still here on this earth. We have bills to pay, work to do, kids to raise, and meals to make. Those daily tasks are literally “in our faces.” Meanwhile, Christianity talks of life after death and heaven. Let’s face it: the daily grind usually overwhelms the reality of some future, distant reward. That’s why most Americans have such a hard time saving for their retirement.—The present seems more practical than the future. And so, our people ring up debt, our nation rings up debt because “now” is more real to us than some distant future.
John knows how insidious and destructive to our faith that mindset can be. And here he seeks to counteract it. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” So, if you believe in your heart that Jesus is God’s eternal Son, the Chosen One sent from the Father to save your souls—you’re actually born (made a new child) of God Almighty! Likewise, “everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.” Elsewhere John writes: “God is love.” Well, if God is perfect, and if He is love, than any Child Who comes from Him will also have to be perfect and be rich in love, too. Obviously He’s talking about Christ, His beloved Son, but those words are pregnant—for they include us who have been born of Him, as well.
Have you ever wavered in your love for God? Have you ever doubted whether you were conning yourself? Have you ever met another Christian who was difficult to get along with and you labored to love them and doubted whether your efforts were genuine? Well, John now provides us with an inner test: “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.” God’s command to love goes this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Such love primarily exhibits itself in always putting God first, and also being concerned for another’s soul. It is not sweating and holding onto petty slights or misguided comments. It is rising above all that and as Luther says: “putting the best construction on another’s words and actions.” Love does that for others because God in love does that for us.
“And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” Most people, all people, chaff under God’s commands. Fractious human beings don’t like to be told what to do or how to act. No one likes to be told they are wrong. The commandments do exactly that. And so everyone views them as a burden, a heavy weight to bear, all because they think they have to do it all alone. And yet, here John says they are not a burden after all! Why? Because God’s love, given to us in Christ has overcome the burden of guilt and shame associated with the commandments. Just as God’s Son overcame the world of sin with His perfect life and death and resurrection, so, too, any and all who cling to Christ in faith. Therefore, as newly born children of God, doing for others, helping even when we’re not thanked for it, channeling our emotions towards building up another instead of tearing them down or venting on them—those things become our chief focus and the love behind them overpowers our selfish pettiness.
Our theme is: Christianity=Practicality. If you truly want to have a happy, loved-filled life and not become overwhelmed by the problems this world inflicts upon humans, well, your love-wrought faith in the victorious Lord provides you with such inner contentment. It’s God gift to you in Christ. If that’s not practical I don’t know what is!
But in order to insure that this practical guide to lifelong fulfillment is and remains our very own possession, John goes on to inform us exactly how God’s love comes to us today and how that loving heart within is kept alive each week so it doesn’t grow cold. “This (the sole Source of eternal love) is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”
Of course in writing this, John had in mind the water and blood that flowed from Jesus’ side when the soldier’s spear pierced him. But in applying it to us, the picture is ultimately of the water of baptism and the blood of the Lord’s Supper. The point is clear: feed your faith! Fill your soul with the truth of your baptism and the strength and comfort the Lord’s Supper brings! Do it weekly! Do it daily! For those means of grace are the vehicles God uses to testify of His eternal love for you! Yes, “the truth will set you free.” And the truth of Christ is proclaimed and applied to your soul by the Spirit Himself in water and blood. And so, my friends, right here we have a practical application to our daily life when it comes to being happy, content, and fulfilled. We have God’s “how to” guide. All that remains is for you to take it to heart and use it as you’re getting ready for glory. Amen