Summary: How do you match up to God’s definition of salvation and truth?
We continue this morning with our study in 1 John, chapter 3, verse 24, through chapter 4, verse 6. If you were here last week, you would know that John pointed to the characteristic of love as a demonstration of our belonging to God. Yet, John understands that if something walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it may simply be a child getting ready for trick or treat.
In other words, similarity on the outside does not guarantee authenticity on the inside. So, John pauses between his encouragement for the child of God to love, and takes seven verses to talk about how we can discern an authentic child of God or Christian on the inside.
Last week, someone came up to ask me after the worship service, "How can you tell if someone is really a child of God?" She pointed out that on the surface Judas Iscariot appeared to be a Christian until he betrayed Jesus Christ. I explained that just because Judas Iscariot physically accompanied Jesus doesn’t make him a Christian anymore than a person who sleeps next to his car in the garage make him a car.
So what does define a child of God or a Christian?
A group of college students decided to go to Las Vegas for Spring Break. One boy brought a Bible with him. His friends asked, "What’s with the Bible, Rob?"
Rob replied, "Well, I hear the sights are great and the adult entertainment is abundant. If that’s true, then I might want to stay through the weekend and go to church there."
What defines a Christian? A person who carries a Bible? A person who goes to church? A person who gives thanks before a meal? Is a Christian a person who meditates or one who prays eloquent prayer? Does he do compassionate acts now and then? Do these outward appearances define a person who has true peace with God?
Let’s look together from what John writes.
John tells us this morning that the Spirit of God defines our relationship with God. We read this in 1 John 3:24 - 4:3. John is saying four things in these four verses.
First, John is saying that the person who has the Spirit of God is in a right relationship with God, verse 24 of chapter 3.
Second, John is saying that the Spirit of God in a person will cause a person to believe that Jesus is the Christ, that is God’s Chosen One to pay for the sins of mankind in order to restore us to God Himself. We see this in verse 2.
Third, John is saying that the Spirit of God in a person will also cause the person to believe that Jesus is God come in the flesh, or God taking on human form. You see, if Jesus were merely a man or an angel, the death of one man or one angel would not be sufficient to pay for the wrongs of all mankind? We see this in verse 2.
Fourth, John is saying that if a person does not believe that Jesus is God come in the flesh to pay for the sins of the world, then that person does not have a right relationship with God. We see this in verse 3.
Whether you believe or not that Jesus’ death on the cross can pay for your sins to have a right relationship with God, this is my question to you: Isn’t the idea quite wild and unbelievable - that God would come as a man to die for our sins?
If it is such a crazy idea, why would over a billion people in the world today trust Jesus to clean up the mess we’ve made of our own lives and to restore us to our Creator? But if this is not true, then this is one of the biggest lies perpetrated on mankind.
You see, all other religions in the world require obedience to the commands from their gods, but followers of Jesus recognize we are like little children with dirty hands trying to clean ourselves, and our efforts simply make matters worse. Nothing we do is sufficient to make things right with God, so God took human form to pay the price for human sin.
As a campus minister, a youth worker and now a pastor, I’ve seen many people come to trust Jesus to be God, who came in human form, and to die on the cross to be payment for their sins, so that they can have a right relationship with God. I remember teaching from the Bible at a snow trip in Tahoe, where two Buddhist engineer students, who were best friends, sat and listened. One eventually trusted in Jesus Christ; the other didn’t. What’s the difference?