Obedience In Love
1 John 5:1-5
5 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. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Truett Cathy is an extraordinarily successful businessman who has done some very unusual things. Truett is the founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain. Even though it has cost him millions and millions of dollars, all of his 1,000 restaurants are closed on Sundays. It is that important to him to honor the Lord’s Day. When he first started his restaurant chain during the days of segregation, he took a very unpopular stand as he made it a point to hire people irrespective of race. That decision cost him a lot of business but he didn’t care. He wanted to do the right thing no matter what the cost. He also took the unusual step of setting aside some of his profits to develop a successful foster home system for orphaned children. Truett Cathy did these things and many other things for one reason and one reason alone. He wanted to obey the greatest of all commandments.
Deuteronomy 6:5 commands us to "LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH." Lest we underestimate the importance of this command, Jesus repeated it in Matthew 22:37: "LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND."
He then added that this was the first and greatest commandment. No wonder it is repeated over and over again throughout the Scriptures. Loving God is our greatest responsibility and privilege. "God is to be loved completely and totally because He, and He alone, is God and because He has made a covenant of love with His people. In the covenant, God promises himself totally… in love to His people, so He expects His people to give themselves totally (soul, mind and strength) in love to him. Loving God should be an absolute priority in our lives just like it is in Truett Cathy’s life.
The "heart" and "soul" and "mind" are references to our emotions, wills and intellect. Such represents the Hebrew way of saying that we are to love God with our whole being. With all of our might and strength.
Admittedly, this whole concept of loving a God we cannot see or physically touch seems so perplexing. How does one express or demonstrate love to a God we cannot embrace or audibly hear His voice?
Our text for this afternoon helps us better understand just what it means to love God. It tells us what we must do if we would keep this great commandment. Loving God has more to do with obeying Him than anything else. Our text (1 John 5:3) says…
1 John 5:3
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
Obedience is the sign of our love for God. Jesus made this truth very clear when in John 14:15 He said to His disciples, "IF YOU LOVE ME, YOU WILL OBEY WHAT I COMMAND." It is very clear, our love for God is expressed through obedience. Obedience is what God is looking for from us. Loving God has more to do with obeying Him than anything else. This obedience is exhibited in three areas of our lives and they are our concern this afternoon.
We love God when we take Him at His Word, believing it and acting upon it. "When He says we are forgiven, we believe Him and unload the guilt. When He says we’re valuable, we believe Him. When He says we have eternal life, we believe Him and bury our fear. When He says He will meet our needs, we believe Him and stop worrying. In believing God…we love Him.
We express genuine love to God when we believe Him and act on His Word. God has made it abundantly clear in His Word that we are all lost sinners in desperate need of forgiveness and reconciliation. He has said that our sin is an enormous problem that separates us from Him. He also emphatically tells us that He has done something about our sin. He has paid the just penalty of our sin.
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We, however, must receive this forgiveness by repenting of our sin and receiving Christ as our personal Savior. When we honestly believe in God, we repent of our sin and we believe in Christ. If we really don’t believe, we fail to repent. When we believe God and obey Him by repenting and believing in Christ, we demonstrate love for God.
2: HOLY LIVING.
1 John 5:4-5
4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Holy living is another way we profess love to God. Verse 3 of our text says, "THIS IS LOVE FOR GOD: TO OBEY HIS COMMANDS." "This leads us to one place… the Word of God. We must know His commandments and then obey them." This is the secret to loving God on a daily basis. "Our love of God is expressed by living the way He commands. Living the way God commands is what the Scriptures mean by holiness.
We are commanded in 1 Peter 1:16…
1 Peter 1:16
16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
We are expected to live according to God’s ways and standards. Here’s another one…
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
We must not live by the sinful ways and standards that the world finds acceptable. We are to please God by living in the light of His ways. Living the way God commands is a matter of obedience and obedience is better than sacrifice.
Holiness really is Christ-likeness. As such it is every believer’s calling; it is not an option…
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
As we mature in the faith we are to become more and more like Christ. “It is an ever-expanding openness to God. It is a growing, maturing, freely given conformity to the will of God.” It is obedience and it enables us to become the people we were created to be.
We also love God by serving Him. Love serves. In Luke 7 we read about a dinner party to which Jesus was invited. It was customary to wash the dusty feet of the guests upon their arrival. Simon, the host, failed to do this; it was a breach of etiquette. He also neglected to offer the traditional kiss of greeting. Furthermore, he didn’t offer to anoint his guest with oil, a special amenity of the day. If you and I were living then and found ourselves in such a situation we would have concluded, and rightly so, that we were really not welcome guests.
But what Simon failed to provide, someone else did in a most unusual and unexpected manner. A woman, hearing Jesus was there, entered, came to the table where Jesus was eating and showed her love for the Lord. She was weeping and with her tears she washed the Lord’s feet. And when she had finished washing, she wiped His feet with her hair. Then, as Luke records, she began to kiss His feet and she anointed the feet of Jesus with an expensive ointment. What an example of love.
Jesus used this incident to teach an important biblical truth. He said that two debtors each owed the same creditor. One debtor owed 500 pence; almost ½ a year’s wages. Other debtor owed 50 pence. Neither were able to pay so the creditor graciously forgave both debts. Jesus then asked Simon, the host, a question: “Which of them will love him most?”
Easy question, Simon answered immediately: “I suppose that he who was forgiven the most.” “You’re right,” said Jesus. Jesus then turned to the woman and said “What she did she did because she loves me very much.” (7:47) The one who has been forgiven much, loves much!
Jesus was saying that if we love God, we will do what He asks, willingly, joyously and freely. We will obey the command to serve Him. If no love exists then there will be little or no service or it will be rendered grudgingly, complainingly and unwillingly.
The fact of the matter is that love serves. Those who love God demonstrate their love through acts and deeds of service. It is first and foremost a matter of love. If we love God… we will serve Him.
Loving God is our greatest responsibility and privilege. We must, however, always remember that our love for God is the consequence of His great, unconditional love for us.
1 John 4:19
19 We love Him because He first loved us.
Loving us He sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross to pay the just penalty of our sins. Through His love for us in Christ, we are offered forgiveness and reconciliation. We can live our lives of a higher, more fulfilling and satisfying plane. We become, as Scripture says, “A NEW CREATION IN CHRIST”.
Gratitude for God’s sacrificial love should move us to love Him more and more and in so doing we will believe more and more, serve more and more and pursue holiness. If thankfulness does not move us to do these things then we do not love God as we should.
Put On The New Self
3 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. 5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. 8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.
When you become a believer, you adopt a whole new set of values. You realign your life to live God’s way instead of Satan’s way. You say, “God, you know better than I do how I should live my life.”
The route to maturity is not the path of secret revelations or of self-punishing disciplines. It consists in understanding and living in the basis of the believers death, resurrection and heavenly enthronement with Christ.
The Colossians had a false notion of heavenly reality, which ironically leads them into fruitless living here on earth. Fruitful living on earth begins, rather, with the right understanding of heavenly reality.
The Apostle Paul spent the first half of his letter to the church in Colossae telling them who they were in Christ, and who Christ was in them. Now he shifts gears and basically says, “You need to put into practice what you already are in principle.” Be who God says you are. Live out your identity. Walk the talk.
An outline for today’s verses could follow the early outline of a water baptism… buried with Christ into death, raised with His resurrection power, up out of the water to live a brand new life. And that’s our three steps for today. First step that I would like to point out is…View your pre-Christian self as dead.
Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. 8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.
Verses 3 and 5 sound like a contradiction, verse 3, you died--past tense; and then verse 5, “Put to death...” Why do you need to put to death all these parts of your earthly nature if you already died? It’s a good question, and we already know the answer.
We first become saved as we allow all our sin and pride to be put to death. We humbly come to Jesus as our only hope. And in so doing, we identify with his death. As Jesus’ body enters the grave, we consider that all we are apart from God is now spiritually dead. It’s gone. Sin’s living days are over. Sin is no longer our master! Chains broken!
Does that mean we never sin once we become a Christian? Of course not! We do. And that’s why Paul says we need to put to death these things that are supposed to be dead within us anyway. Even though our pre-Christian-self died at salvation, it still tries to live on at times, and to pretend that nothing has really changed.
Satan would have you believe that God didn’t really make you into a new creation. And so, sometimes we catch ourselves dabbling in things like sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed. Or, if you don’t find yourself in that list, consider the next: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language from your lips, and lying. Now I think we’ve included everyone!
Look at verse 7: “in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.” Those things are past tense. That’s who you and I used to be, not who we are now. So, put it to death! View your pre-Christian self as dead!
Let me ask you a deep question: How much does a dead person sin? They don’t! Next time you’re tempted to sin, remember that dead people don’t sin! Consider yourself dead to those old ways. YES, I do know that it is hard battle. The old self likes to come out from time to time and tries to take control. We should not let it, remind ourselves that it has died! Our old self is dead!
And then the second step I would like to point out is… to draw on God’s resurrection power!
Verse 1 starts off…
3 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Something miraculous happened the moment you believed in Christ. In that moment, not only did He put to death your old self, He gave you resurrection power as you became a new creation. We’ve talked before about Jesus’ death bringing about your “justification.” Jesus paid for all your sin for all time. Memorized the meaning of the word “justification” by the phrase, “just as if you’ve never sinned.” That’s the state Jesus moved you to.
And the other thing that happened is “identification.” You identified with Christ. You died to your old self, just as He died. And now you draw on God’s resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead. That same power helps you live into your new identity, a new creation in Christ.
Have you ever wondered why it is so hard to overcome a recurring temptation? You fail and fail again. You pray hard. You try to do the right thing. And then you give in once again, no matter how hard you’ve tried.
We’ve said it before. It comes down to this slogan, “Don’t try harder; trust more!” It’s not up to you to white knuckle it harder. It IS up to you to trust God more. Trust that God can give you the willpower you lack. Trust that God can give you the internal drive to obey Him. Trust that God can line up your desires with His desires.
And that brings us to our last step, which is to... Aim for heavenly thoughts and affections…
2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
We’re talking hearts and minds here. Your heart is where your affections lie. Your mind is where your thoughts are. Paul says keep them both set on God. The word “set” in the Greek implies an ongoing action: keep seeking after God’s righteousness. That idea reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33…
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
You see…the more we seek His kingdom, the less we will be focus on self and sin. The less we will seek our selfish desires. When we focus on Gods kingdom, we will be stronger in fighting the desires of the flesh. Keep in mind It should be dead already, ounce in Christ!
Maybe some examples will help. One person kept a gratitude journal. And right before he went to bed, he would write down three unique things he was grateful to God for that day. His rule was that he would never use the same item twice. That made him hunt for unique gratitudes throughout the day.
Or some of you like to take early morning walks, before it gets too hot, or to sit out on the patio or deck. What if you were to use that time sometimes as a prayer time, whether walking or sitting. You can keep your eyes open to pray, you know.
It’s allowed! And you could pray about things you see. “Father, thank you for the beautiful birds who are so busy this morning! Thank you for another and for my brothers and sisters. Fill them with strength, with energy they need to serve You, with a heart that seeks after You and Your ways. Thank you for this place where we live. Help us all get along well together.”
Some of you love watching the news. Have you ever tried praying the news? As you hear about each new situation--most of it bad news, because that’s what sells!--what if you turned each story into a prayer for God’s help, God’s intercession in this world, God’s guidance, for people to live seeking “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Pray the news!
These are just examples, ways to remind yourself you are dead to old, pre-Christian habits, you have resurrection power to help change, and you can reset your thoughts and desires to heavenly things, where Jesus is seated at the right of the Father.
As you die to self and live for Christ, something incredible happens: God transforms you more and more into the image of his Son. Look at 2 Corinthians 3:18…
2 Corinthians 3:18
18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
That’s what God is doing with us, as we spend time with Him. Like Paul, we don’t always do what we know we should do. And all too often, we do what we shouldn’t do. We hurt people, even people who love us. Help us to realize, You have made us into a new creation. Help us reject the old self when it raises its ugly head. Remind us that old self is dead. Help us draw on Your resurrection power. The angel said it well, “Nothing is impossible with God.” Help us place our affections and our thoughts on Your heavenly throne, knowing that you reign over all of us. We belong to you.
When Jesus comes into a human heart by faith, through the Spirit, He sets that person free form the bondage of sin, the chains of death and the futile attempt of trying to become righteous through self-effort.
God is after transformed lives, not merely reformed ones. Part of that transformation happens as we train our minds to focus on the person of Jesus. A s we meditate on Him, the Spirit begins molding us into His image!
In Christ Alone
6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
How can I partner with the Holy Spirit in my life? Before I answer let me ask a question. What allowed you to begin a relationship with God? How did we…sinners, enter into a friendship with a Holy God? What brought us into a relationship with Christ? Was it dedication on our part?
Was it a result of unceasing effort? Of course not! We entered by it by faith, and nothing has changed!
Vs 6 “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving”. We are not the first generation of Christians who have tried to take matters into our own hands, the early church had the same problem. It’s part of fallen human nature to want to maintain control, to do things ourselves…to take all the credit.
When it comes to righteousness, whether for salvation or for living, we must allow God to do the work! The only thing we can do is surrender. Die to self! The Spirit filled life is a life of faith.
It started by faith and it runs on faith. It is faith from start to finish.
Form our opening text, Paul lived in a time--much like today--when there was a lot of interest in spirituality. Some people were into worshipping angels. Others were coming up with creative theories about Jesus, stating He was just God and not man, or just a man and not God. Some people--called Judaizers--were saying, “Sure, become a Christian, but you need to get circumcised, and obey the Sabbath law, and observe all the feasts and festivals, basically become a super Jew who also trusts Jesus as Messiah, and then and only then you can become a Christian.
In his letter to the church in Colossae, Paul kept it simple. He advised to...
6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
In other words, Paul said, “Remember how you first believed in Christ Jesus? How you made Him Lord of your life, as He came into your life and forgave all your sin? Just keep doing that, day after day. Get to know Jesus better and better. Be like a tree putting down deep roots in God’s word as you get to know Jesus, and he will strengthen you in the faith. And oh yeah, keep being thankful. Let it overflow in your life!”
So, according to Paul, you can build your spiritual life in Christ alone. You don’t need horoscopes. You don’t need a thorough knowledge of all the world religions. You don’t need to meditate--unless it’s on a scripture verse, that could be helpful--but not to empty your mind.
Keep cultivating that relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and everything else will work itself out. The great reformer, John Calvin, said, “Whoever is not satisfied with Christ alone, strives after something beyond absolute perfection.” To summarize all the reformers, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, unto the glory of God alone, according to the Scriptures alone.
Build your spiritual life in Christ alone. And at the same time, know what to watch out for and what to stay away from. Paul’s advice still holds true today. So, our second point is… Reject any other way to God.
As you focus on Christ, know that any other way to God is going to be counterfeit. You’ve heard how Treasury agents recognize counterfeit bills, they study the real so much, that the forgery stands out like a sore thumb. Paul talks about watching out for spiritual forgeries starting in verse 8…
8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Remember, Jesus is head of the church. When you stay connected to Him--the real deal--you’ll recognize the counterfeit. Pastor and author Max Lucado writes, “Followers of Christ do not become sidetracked by the insights of religious cults or modern philosophies. Only one person warrants our allegiance and trust—Jesus.”
There is one word that describes all counterfeit religions, and it’s the word “legalism.” Legalism says, “It’s too good to be true, that I could have all my sins forgiven. I have to do something in addition to giving my life to Christ or instead of that. I have to do something to get God to love me.” Do you sense the pride behind legalism? Like, what Jesus did for us on the cross was not enough?
In verse 13-14, Paul said that God took all the legal charges against us (for our sins against God) and nailed them to the cross.
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
We can’t do anything to earn our salvation. Jesus has already done it! Every other religion in the world is the religion of ‘do,’ but Christianity alone is the religion of ‘done”. In Christ Alone!!!
Stay connected with Christ--spending time with him daily in prayer, scripture, and time with other believers--and you’ll spot the counterfeits a mile away.
Pay no attention to judgments over non-essentials. What are the non-essentials? Anything that takes away or tries to add to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Anything that is not essential to your salvation. All the things that Christian denominations usually like to fight about. Like, losing your salvation, baptism is needed for salvation, evidence of Spiritual gifts, like tongues, prophesy, and so on…Those are non-essentials.
We have entire denominations founded on what day is the right day to worship. That’s ok. God loves variety. Nothing wrong with people worshiping on Saturday or Sunday...as long as they don’t say it’s essential for your salvation which day you choose. If they go down that lane and you join them, that’s a problem!
Some read the King James, some the Message paraphrase or different translations. Don’t worry about it. Don’t let these non-essential differences keep you from loving people who love Jesus and just differ over something that is not really that important in all of eternity.
All of our denominational squabbles remind me of that old joke about a man arriving at the gates of heaven.
St. Peter shows him around and informs him that heaven is made up of many rooms in which reside each of the various denominations. Peter takes him down a hallway upon which the man hears beautiful choral singing. “Who’s in that room?” the man asks. “Oh, those are the Methodists. This is how they choose to praise God.” Peter takes the man a little further down the hallway and all of sudden the man hears clapping and tambourine music. “These are the charismatics,” St. Peter explains. After several more such rooms, Peter takes the man to the last room at the end of the hallway. Peter places his finger over his mouth and warns the man to be very, very quiet. “Why?” the man asks. Peter answers, “Because this is the room for the Independent Baptists, and they think they’re the only ones up here.”
Someone once said all of our denominational labels are going to burn off on the way to hell or peel off on the way to heaven. What matters most and what only matters ultimately is Christ Jesus our Lord.
9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
Since all the fullness of the Godhead, dwells in Jesus, and Jesus dwells in every believer, through the Holy Spirit, then it only makes sense that in Him, every believer is made complete.
What could be lacking in this statement… “all the fullness of the Godhead”.
Now listen…the world will continue to get worse. Its in our Bible study, we know what God has instore for the future. Many false believers, false teachings will come our way and that is the truth. In Christ Alone will we be able to stand firm, stand tall and stand victorious! Nothing and no one else can stand as a substitute!!! NONE!!!
Pastor Richard Santos
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