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.

 

The A.B.I.D.E. Sermon Series “Delight (D also stands for Lutheran!)

 

1 John 4:7-21

7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

 

This week our Sermon Series called “A.B.I.D.E.” reaches the “D.”

And for a long time I could not think of the right word to go along with that Letter.

However, as I was reading and studying our text,

there was a word that kept coming back to me

over and over again. Continue reading

The A.B.I.D.E. Sermon Series: “Incarnate (Attention)”

1 John 3:16-24

16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

This week is the third part of a six part series based on 1 John.

The series is called “A.B.I.D.E.”

This week we get to the letter “I.”

And I chose a word you may not be familiar with but we say it an awful lot.

It is a word that can be found in the Nicene Creed, one of three Creeds in which our denomination the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America believes.

The word is “Incarnate.” Continue reading

The A.B.I.D.E. Sermon Series- “Beloved (Stops & Starts)”

1 John 3:1-7

1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 4 Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

 

Today I continue my sermon series on 1 John.

This is a series that I call “A.B.I.D.E.” which is an acronym.

Each week I will reveal what letters mean.

Last week “A” was for “Atonement.”

Before we get to the next letter, “B,” let me say a few things about what is going on in our text from 1 John.

We practically skip all of chapter 2.

I would encourage you to read it on your own to help fill in the gaps, and to attend our Adult Sunday School class as they walk through 1 John together.

Right before our passage begins, John uses chapter 2 to lay down some of the ground rules for his letter which are repeated throughout.

And this week the focus of our scripture is adoption.

And the word I have chosen for “B” is “Beloved.”

This word is used throughout the New Testament.

It’s a beautiful word.

In the Gospels, God calls Jesus his beloved at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration.

Paul, Peter, and John use “beloved” throughout their letters.

Now by Definition, “Beloved” means “One who is in a very special relationship with another.”

And in the ancient Greek language, one who is beloved is “one who is dearly loved, PRIZED, and VALUED.”

John uses “beloved” quite a bit in this letter.

He does that to make the connection that just as God sees Jesus as his beloved son, God sees the people hearing and reading this letter also as God’s beloved children.

Today, that connection still exists.

Those of us who are hearing and reading this letter are also God’s beloved children.

How are we God’s children?

By adoption.

God has adopted us.

For us, in our time, this adoption happens in the ceremony we call baptism.

Once we are soaked in the water, and marked with the Cross of Christ, God claims us as His own, His beloved children.

I want us to focus on one particular verse from today’s reading.

Verse 2: “Beloved (there’s that word again), we are God’s children now.”

I love how John stresses that we are God’s children NOW.

Being God’s children not only means we get a clean slate from our past and we have a future eternal home, it means we are God’s children right at this moment.

It is a gift for us NOW.

So what does that mean for us?

 

It means we need to be serious about God’s claim on us.

How do we become more serious?

It goes back to the definition of “beloved.”

We are God’s prized possessions.

God finds value in who we are.

 

But do we find value in who God is?

 

Let me put it to you another way.

Almost every Christian I know will say, “I love God.”

But how many of us will say, “I love YOU, God”?

 

When we say “we love God” it means we love what we know about God.

By saying we know something about someone means we do not have a direct one-on-one relationship with that person.

There is no real connection.

 

Saying “I love you, God” transforms that connection because saying “I love you” to someone is a serious action.

It is a serious risk.

That means you are opening your heart to that person.

That mean you are becoming vulnerable to that person.

 

And that can be a scary proposition.

I still remember the night I told Kristen I loved her.

It was in the most romantic of spots…you guessed it…the parking lot of the Olive Garden.

I did not know how Kristen was going to respond, but I had to tell her where my heart was.

So I said, “I am falling in love with you, Kristen.”

And…thanks be to God…she said she was falling in love with me.

Once those words were said, our relationship, our connection, was transformed.

 

This is my goal today:

I want us to have a transformed relationship with our heavenly Father.

I want us to be bold enough to tell God we love him.

I want us to find value in God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I want us to prize God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

 

I want us to say, “I love you, God.”

 

Because we need to be transformed.

I want us to have a better and more sincere connection with God.

 

Once we say we love someone, we do act differently.

We think differently.

Because now we think of how our actions will affect the other person.

And for too long, when we sinned, we have not put God’s feelings into account.

 

Have you ever asked yourself,

“Well, if I take another drink, will God be disappointed?”

“If I go to that internet site that I should not be visiting, how will that make God feel?”

“If I have that affair, what does that do to God?”

“If I sleep in on another Sunday morning, will God care?”

 

Here are the real answers to those questions:

Yes God is disappointed when you have that next drink.

God does feel hurt when you go to that internet site you should not visit.

God does feel anger if you have that affair.

And God DOES care if you worship or not.

 

But even when God has those feelings he ALWAYS loves us.

He ALWAYS values us.

 

Because when God calls us His beloved, he knows there are consequences to those words.

Consequences like: forgiveness and a clean slate.

God takes his love for us seriously.

 

When we call God our beloved, there are consequences

There IS an obligation to live a life different than the one we were given under sin.

There are responsibilities.

There are changes that have to be made.

 

Here are some changes that come to mind:

I call them The Stops & Starts.

 

Christians: Stop holding on to hatred and bitterness.

I know too many Christians who can remember every slight or perceived slight made towards them and yet they are blind at the pain they cause others.

Start showing compassion and empathy to those who are different than you.

Start to understand that just because someone disagrees with you on a subject does not mean that person is evil or that you are being persecuted.

 

Another one:

Stop skipping church.

I know a lot of people (including Christians) who make the excuse “Well, why should I come to worship? I can worship God anywhere: on the mountain, at the ocean, on the golf course…”

 

Here is my response:

And if you don’t remember anything else from today, please remember this:

It is true that you CAN worship God anywhere, but by using the word “CAN” means you haven’t.

 

Let me repeat that:

It is true that you CAN worship God anywhere, but by using the word “CAN” means you haven’t.

 

Stop skipping church.

Stop making excuses to not come to worship on a Sunday morning.

Start making worship a regular activity.

And no, I do not call worshipping once every six weeks “regular.”

And as you worship:

Throw yourself into the whole “it is right to give God our thanks and praise.”

Remember the words (the promises to God) you made at your child’s baptism or at your confirmation:

to come and listen to the word, to learn and live by the Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments.

Start taking Church seriously.

 

One final Stop & Start:

Stop being so negative in your daily lives.

See what love God, our Father, gives us.

John says that very same thing in 3:1 “SEE what love the Father has given us.”

 

Do you see what love God has given you?

Do you take the moments and really see the gifts you have as gifts from God?

Our family, our friends, our possessions, this church.

Start seeing the world God has given you.

Start seeing the people in your lives as GIFTS and as PEOPLE who are worth your attention and your love.

 

Loving God is a serious obligation.

Look no further than John 21 when Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me?”

And each time Peter says “yes.”

And with each “yes” Jesus gives Peter a responsibility:

Feed my sheep.

Tend my sheep.

Jesus still owns the sheep, but now Peter is the one who is going to shepherd them.

 

Today, I want each and every one of you to start telling God you love Him.

I know that is a big step.

That means opening up your hearts and your souls to God.

But who else is going to take better care of you?

 

Let God hold your heart.

Let God shape you into a new person.

Let God love you.

 

And let us love God back.

Continue reading

The A.B.I.D.E. Sermon Series- “Atonement (Beautiful Music)”

First: A “thank you” to Rolf Jacobson whose “Crazy Talk” book was a big help in my studies. His description of the Atonement Theories are the ones I mention.

1 John 1:1-2:2

Chapter 1 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Chapter 2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

 

Atonement (Beautiful Music)

This week we begin a sermon series called A.B.I.D.E. Continue reading