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Real Faith: Real Victory (1 John 5:4-8)

Real Victory: 1 John 5:4-8

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world…”

- 1 John 5:4

 

Doesn’t it feel like life is sometimes a seemingly endless series of small victories followed by large setbacks? One step forward. Two (or three!) steps back. Those once small victories can come to seem meaningless in the face of such large setbacks. More than that, life seems like a game that is rigged...a game we can never win. Disappointment and frustrations drag us down.

 

However, as John wraps up his letter and as we wrap up our sermon series Real Faith, we are encouraged to focus on the one Real Victory we have in Jesus. Despite all appearances, those of us who have faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have won victory over the world. We have, through Christ, victory over sin, victory over death, and victory over the devil. Sure we may feel like we have been defeated but the resurrection of Jesus guarantees that, in the end, God is triumphant.

 

A friend of mine recently found out that his child, due in August, has a heart defect and, in all likelihood, when the child is born he will have to have surgery. With so much uncertainty my friend and his wife are unsure if they will get to see their child grow up. While they are clearly beatdown and devastated, my friend expressed his confidence in the victory of Jesus. “I’ll either hold him in a few months or I’ll hold him on the Last Day when Jesus comes back,” he told me. Unable to fix the situation himself, he can cling only to the victory that is his in Jesus.

 

This is what it means to have Real Victory. In the face of adversity and the devastation this life often brings, God has poured out His Spirit upon us to bear witness to the truth of Christ’s victory. Through God’s Word and the Sacraments, the Spirit of God works mightily in our hearts to sustain our faith and trust in God who has overcome all sin and every evil. Indeed, even our confession as Christ as Lord and Savior is dependant upon the Spirit. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “...and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit”.

 

So as we face yet another day, we go out confidently because Real Victory is ours. The Son of God has come and, by His death and resurrection, has indeed gained victory over the world.

 

 

Real Faith: Real Relationships (1 John 4:7-12)

Real Relationships: 1 John 4:7-12

 

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

- 1 John 1:11

 

Do you ever get the feeling that we are all just going through the motions? Do you ever get the feeling that, especially in our relationships, we have become mechanical and fake? In our fast-paced world that provides for us a myriad of ways in which we can spend our time, does it ever seem like we’re just too distracted to really pay attention to one another? Does it ever seem like Real Love and Real Relationships are just more work that we really care to put forth? And so it is perhaps one of the great ironies of our time that, with a host of social networks at our fingertips, we are some of the lonliest people on the planet.

 

If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that the cure isn’t to be found in social media or our online personas. Only in Jesus can we find the cure that we are looking for.

 

As we take time to watch Jesus in the Gospels and see how He loves people and how He has loved us, we will find the key to Real Relationships. In 1 John, the apostle has already told us that Jesus is the pattern of our love (1 John 3:16) so in 1 John 4:7-12 John continues to encourage us to love others as Jesus has loved us. More specifically, John urges us to love sacrificially.

 

It’s another great irony, isn’t it? That the secret to being filled up isn’t to hoard the gifts of God. The secret to relational fulfillment is giving. It’s listening. It’s waiting. It’s watching. It’s taking our minds off of what we need or what we’re going to say next and focusing on someone else.

 

What’s more, it’s not about getting something in return or only loving those who are lovable. Jesus loved you and me, even when we were dreadful sinners. Loving like Jesus, then, is about loving one another even in our imperfections. It’s about loving one another despite the fact that we constantly have food on our face. It’s about loving, not the idea of another person, but the person herself.  

 

Real Relationships start and end with Jesus. He has loved us with a beautiful, divine, sacrificial love. Therefore, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

 

Real Faith: Real Love (1 John 3:14-20)

Real Faith: Real Love

1 John 3:14-20

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us…”

1 John 3:16

 

We sure do have a tendency to throw around the word ‘love’, don't we?

 

I love Starbucks. I love macaroni and cheese. I love you. I love God.

 

The word escapes our lips so often we probably don’t even notice it, but isn’t it weird that we can use the same word to express our devotion to delicious cheesy pasta and to our Lord? I’m starting to think that it’s almost as if we don’t actually know what we’re saying.

 

It’s almost as if we have come to believe that ‘love’ is just some positive emotion we feel toward someone or something that makes us stumble over our words or get butterflies in our tummy. It’s almost as if we’ve been conditioned to believe that love is something we feel today although tomorrow we might feel differently. It’s almost as if we don’t actually know what love is.

 

So then the apostle John comes along and, in no uncertain terms, teaches us a thing or two.

 

“By this we know love, that he [Christ] laid down his life for us…” (1 John 3:16a).

 

Real Love, according to John, is not just some feeling. Real Love is not simply an emotion. Real Love is none of that because Jesus shows us that love...Real Love...acts. Real Love does stuff. How do we know? Because Jesus didn’t just send us a greeting card. He laid down His very life for us. Jesus didn’t just feel something toward us. He acted concretely to save us from sin, death, and the devil.

 

So when Jesus calls His disciples to ‘love one another’ and when Jesus calls His disciples to ‘love their neighbors as themselves’ this is the kind of love that He’s talking about. When Jesus tells His disciples to love, He is telling us to love with this kind of self-sacrificing love that puts the other before ourselves.

 

If this sounds difficult, if not impossible, you’re right. It is. Each of us only has so much to give and, after a difficult week, the tank is near empty. The good news, though, is that Jesus has not left us alone in our task to love one another as He has loved us. He continually fills us up with His love and mercy and grace so that His love overflows to everyone else we know. John says it this way, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).


Real Love comes from Jesus. Real Love fills us up and then sends us out into the world to love like our Savior. Real Love acts.

Real Faith: Real Change (1 John 3:1-7)

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
1 John 3:1

Change. Nothing gets us more riled up than change! Change is hard. Change is messy. Change is uncomfortable.

But some change is good. Change means growth. Change means learning. Change means new experiences and new friends. Contrary to popular belief, change is good. To be sure, the Gospel brings change.

The love of God, the love which God has lavished upon us in Christ, brings big change to our lives. In fact, this love which God has poured out upon us changes everything. John writes in 1 John, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

At St. Mark we are in a sermon series titled “Real Faith”. Throughout this series we have continued to see that a real faith isn’t grounded in ourselves or in what we can do for God. Real Faith is grounded in Jesus. The real, historical Jesus crucified and risen from the dead. The real Jesus that brings us forgiveness of sins. The real Jesus that brings us real satisfaction, a contentment that the world cannot provide.

In the same way, real change comes through Jesus as well. For the love which God lavishes upon us through His Word and Sacraments changes forever who we are and alters our fundamental identity. No longer are we defined by our sin, our self-doubt, our inconsistencies, or our failures. Now we are defined by our relationship with God.

We are defined by the relationship that He made possible through Jesus. John says that we are ‘children of God’. That’s who we are. That’s our identity. Not the inconsistent, sinful mess we see in the mirror. But a child of God, dearly (and lavishly!) loved by our Heavenly Father. That’s it. That’s who we are. And it does change everything, doesn’t it?

Knowing that you’re a dearly loved child of the Heavenly Father changes how we approach our work, our schooling, or our play. We don’t work to earn approval or stature. We don’t work in order to prove anything to anyone. We’re already children of God (!!). So instead of working to show others how great we are, work becomes something we do for others. We can work in order to serve our neighbors. We can work in order to bring some good into the world. We can work in order to love and encourage our co-workers or employees.

Because of God’s incredible love for us we experience change. Real Change that transforms our entire life.

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