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Summary: John not only shows that our faith in Jesus is not blind. Rather it has rock solid credentials behind it. And our faith is victorious. Through Christ we have overcome the world. But our faith must also be vital.

Sermon by George Hemmings - given at St Thomas' Burwood March 18 2012

Let’s Talk about Faith

Over the last few weeks, as we’ve delved into 1 John, we’ve heard over and over again his call for us to love and obedience. Well, this morning I want to change tack a little and talk about faith. In chapter 5, John writes that our faith will overcome the world! Faith is victorious, in this life and the next. But this isn’t all John says about our faith. He describes what our faith should look like and what our faith is in.

Faith is… Vital

The first thing John says is that our faith is vital. It’s alive and kicking. That’s because it begins with the new life we receive from God. We like the think that we have faith and then we’re born again. But John tells us this isn’t the case. He says in verse 1, that everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ, has been born of God. Our rebirth comes before our faith! God is the one who has given us new life. Through God we’ve been born again, we’ve been made new. It’s this new life that enables us to believe in Jesus. Therefore it’s no surprise that the faith we have as a result should be alive as well.

Our belief in God isn’t merely intellectual. It’s not enough to say ‘I believe’ without having this borne out in our life. It’s not enough to say the creeds, without our faith changing our life.

Well, what does this faith in action look like? It’s no surprise that John goes back to love. (No we can’t escape it that easily!) John assumes that if we believe in Jesus, if we have faith, then we’ll first love God. ‘Everyone who loves the parent.’

And he quickly goes on to say that if we have faith, we’ll not only love God, but also love one-another. Having been born of God, we should love all those who have also been born of him. ‘Loves the child.’ It’s unthinkable that siblings would not love one-another. Everybody here with a brother or sister knows that you might, probably do, push each other around a bit you still love each other. Families love each other and so as brothers and sisters in Christ we should love each other.

If you were here last week, you’ll hopefully remember that Chris saying that in Greek there are four different words for love. (If you don’t good reason to download the sermon!) One of these words is storge – family love. We might think this is the kind of love that John is calling us to here.

But it’s not. Instead, he continues to use that other word – agape, the practical and unemotional love. And he says our love for our brothers and sister is expressed in a very particular kind of way:

2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

At first we might think John has made a mistake. Everywhere else in his letter, he’s written that we know we love God if we love each other and keep God’s commandments. But Here John turns things on their head. He reverses what he’s said before. Now he says we know we love one another, when we love God and obey his commandments. It’s frustratingly circular isn’t it! We love God when we love one another and obey his commandments. And we love one another when we love God and obey his commandments.

If we can put aside the circularity for the moment, what John is saying holds true for all our relationships:

2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

The best way I can love Sarah

- is by loving God more than I love her.

The very best way I can love Micah and Joshua

- is by loving God more than I love them.

The best way I can love you, as my brothers and sisters?

- is by loving God more than I love all of you.

This doesn’t make sense to our world. It’s very foreign to us. We think, that if I want to love you as much as is possible, I should make you number one in my life. But John says that’s wrong. The best way to love someone is to make them number two.

Why is this the case? Why is it that being the most loving husband or wife, the best mother or father, the best friend, involves loving God the most? Well, as we heard last week from chapter 4, God is love and God has shown us how to love. God loves us with a generous, altruistic, sacrificial love born out of the need of the loved one. We learn this by loving God, by putting him first in our life. When we love God we learn to put ourselves last. We reverse the sin of the Fall.

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