The A.B.I.D.E. Sermon Series “Engage (Gospel Boxing)”

1 John 5:1-6

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4 for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

 

This week we get to the final letter in our ABIDE series.

And next week we are going to do something for the sermon that I am really excited about.

 

Today we get to “E.”

And I will go ahead and share with you that the E stands for:

Engage

 

Our final reading from 1 John serves as a wrap up to the entire letter.

There have been several themes running throughout the letter:

  • atonement,
  • love,

But there is another theme that can be seen throughout the letter and it is an important one.

That theme is how to deal with people who disagree with you.

 

By the time 1 John was written, there were a variety of beliefs on Jesus.

And these beliefs had created an issue for the John community.

It was such a serious issue people were actually leaving the community over it.

Sadly, these kind of fights still occur today.

Churches split over:

Doctrine

Politics

Gay Rights

The role of women

Worship styles

Programs for the children

 

When a church is going through a division,

what the people who claim to be on the “winning” side do not realize is that

when the church splits

there are NO winners.

 

You see when a person leaves a church,

they think they are just leaving a building.

 

And they would be wrong.

When you leave a church, you leave a relationship.

 

When a division happens,

there will be real people who come away with real scars and real sadness.

 

And that is what has happened to the church in 1 John.

 

The main point of contention was former members of the community were denying that Jesus was both Fully God and Fully Human.

In other words, they had no issue with believing Jesus was God,

BUT they just could not wrap their heads around the whole “Human Jesus” thing.

 

This is the reason why our Creeds specifically point out that we as Christians believe Jesus is 100% God and was 100% human.

 

Now for John, our writer of the letter, he is struggling as well.

As the congregation goes through this conflict, John is not there to guide them.

And because he is not there,

The “Dividers” can say what they want and get away with it.

Without John, the church doesn’t know how to deal with these issues and with the people causing them.

 

The best thing that John can do is send them this letter where he touches on how to handle the people who are causing trouble.

And in the letter, John is very upfront in his anger with the troublemakers.

He calls them “Anti-Christs” which is a major insult and a major accusation.

It’s like today when a certain branch of Christianity will call another branch “heretics” or worse.

 

When someone calls you a heretic you want to lash out.

So I can understand when John does not hold back in his anger with “The Dividers.”

In those parts of the letter, John sounds very…well…human.

 

But then John also tries to answer the church’s question about how to react to people who disagree with you?

 

John does not want them to avoid these troublemakers.

John is encouraging them to ENGAGE.

 

John wants to find a balance for a community struggling with doubts about its future and its reputation.

A balance between certainty and courage.

 

John is saying, “Hey. This is what you were taught by me.

This is what I was taught by Jesus.

This is the teaching.

Do not be convinced otherwise…

 

Be certain in who you are and more importantly WHOSE you are.”

 

What John is doing is bringing comfort to those who have stayed in the community to reassure they are right.

I believe John wants to instill a sense of boldness into the community

so that they can feel better about their beliefs,

but also he wants to instill a sense of courage.

 

I believe John does not want the community to not focus on the fight.

He wants the community to focus on living out their faith and their beliefs.

 

Rather than run from the criticism.

Run to it.

Or better yet, run past it.

Let me explain…

 

Over the past month I have started a new workout routine where I am learning to box.

(Yes, it is a sight to behold)

And one of the positions my trainer is teaching me is the jab.

Now as punches go, I am not very good.

(I know that is SOOOO surprising)

So it is taking me a long time to know how to throw a proper punch.

While I am throwing a punch, my trainer is telling me to keep one hand in front of me in order to protect my face.

 

So you are not only on the offense but you are also on the defense.

That is all fine when it comes to learning how to fight.

 

But I don’t want to teach you how to FIGHT for the Gospel.

I want to teach you how to ENGAGE the world for the sake of the Gospel.

 

Sometimes I think we misunderstand what it means to Engage with the world when it comes to the Gospel.

Some of us will go on the offense.

Some of us will go all in on the defense.

Some of us will try to do both.

Or some of us will throw in the towel and not engage at all.

 

But I believe Engagement is not about

having the right stance

Or the right defense.

 

Engagement with the world is letting our guard down.

 

Moving our hand away from our face.

 

Rather than holding our hands in the forms of fists,

Engagement is reaching out our hands in order to shake the hands of those around us.

Or maybe to reach out and grab the person who is drowning in uncertainty.

 

To me, engagement is all about relationships.

 

If I am in a debate, I am more interested in the person rather than the issue.

Or at least I try to be that way.

And that is hard.

 

And when I feel like I do not know if I can extend my hand out in friendship to someone, I run to the gospels.

And one of the passages I run to is from our Gospel.

 

 

This is a major turning point in the Gospel of John because Jesus takes his relationship with his disciples to a new, higher lever.

 

And he does it not by teaching them a lesson.

But by calling them a name.

 

“Friends.”

 

Jesus’ disciples are no longer students but friends,

not on the basis of anything that they have done for him

but on the basis of what Jesus has done for them.

 

Going back to the 13th Chapter, as Jesus begins his Last Supper sermon/teaching lesson with his disciples,

it is revealed to us that Jesus LOVES his disciples.

 

And by the end of Chapter 20 Jesus stops calling them “friends” and calls them by their new, permanent name: “Brothers.”

 

He does not just see them as students but as people he adores and treasures.

He sees them as family.

 

What he is about to (arrest, prosecuted, beaten, executed) is for them.

And he does it for us.

 

And for the same reason.

We are his beloved children.

And so is the one we argue with.

So is the one who is trying to divide.

 

Remember who we are.

And whose we are.

 

Jesus chose us.

And we can choose to ABIDE in the love that has drawn us in.

 

And then we engage.

 

Why Engage?

Because God’s commandments are to be shared.

They are not burdensome or “heavy.”

They are a call to love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

If we do not put our faith into action, can we really call it faith?

 

This is how we are going to respond.

 

With loving action

Let us do the work of God.

Let us feed the hungry in Thomasville.

Let us help those with Cancer in the area.

Let us support our young boys and girls in scouts.

Let us offer a safe place for those who doubt, suffer, or have questions.

Let us offer a place where our children will know God is real and is their companion through thick and thin.

 

And if someone or some other church will claim we are not “Christian” or we are not “the it church,”

Or they talk about the things we do NOT offer…

 

Let them.

Let them waste their time by talking bad about others.

 

And let us use OUR time by help others.

And by helping others, we in turn help ourselves.

 

We help ourselves become the people Jesus wants us to be.

We help ourselves become the workers in the field.

The servants.

The disciples.

The ABIDERS.

 

Over the last five weeks, I have focused on how we abide with God.

 

To abide with God is to

 

  • Be in sync with God.
  • To be loved by God and to love God back.
  • To see God in the people around us and to know God came in the flesh.
  • To be happy with our call as Lutheran Christians.

 

And today, to take that final and important step.

 

Engage.

 

My goal is to help you transform your faith into one that is full of love and action.

 

Because love and action are what will make a difference in this world.

 

Not just for our sake, but for the sake of the other.

 

Because that is what God is calling us to do.

Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11)

 

Let us show the world that our God is awesome and wonderful and welcoming to all.

 

Let us now ABIDE with God.