We continue in our study of 1 John, beginning in chapter 5, verses 1-5. If you’ve not been with us over the last few Sundays, this will be new material for you. If you’ve been with us over the last few Sundays, this will be repetitive, but that does not mean you can take a nap.
Very few of us learn important things upon first exposure, and even fewer learn to communicate clearly what we have heard only once. If I were to ask you this morning, what are the marks of a true Christian, I suspect that only a handful of us would be able to list them confidently. (We are not talking about how to become a Christian but what a Christian looks like.)
Being able to list the marks of a true Christian allows you to know whether the people you meet who call themselves Christians are misrepresenting themselves or not. And just as important, you will know whether you are truly a Christian, destined for eternal life with God beyond the grave.
John wants to remind us this morning of the marks of a true Christian in 1 John 5:1-5.
Before we go into the main teaching of this morning, let me define the term, "born of God." To be born of God means to have a living relationship with God, not just to be biologically alive but to be spiritually alive. And only the Spirit of God can make us spiritually alive.
In John’s record of Jesus’ life, John 3:1-8, a Jewish teacher, named Nicodemus, asked Jesus about spiritual matters, and Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!"
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
A true Christian is born of God, not the product of indoctrination, but one in whom God’s Spirit has done His work. And John lists four marks of one who is born of God. These birthmarks can be summarized in the acrostics, B.L.O.W., as in the Spirit of God blowing life into us. Let’s look together at each birthmark. (These are not steps to be born of God, but these are signs of a person already born of God.)
The B in BLOW stands for Believe that Jesus is the Christ. We see this in verse 1a.
The evidence of being born of God is belief that Jesus is the Christ, that is God’s chosen Savior for the world. This is not the same as belief in a higher being, a cosmic force or some sort of god. Many believe in some greater power, but not in Jesus as the Christ.
For some people, even belief in God is difficult but not impossible. If you’ve been taught by your education system that there is no God, or if the recognition of God was absent in your growing up, you don’t need to be born of God to believe in the existence of God.
You can rationally and experientially come to the conclusion that there is a God. Simply look around at the complexity, yet orderly, universe and creation. Such design presupposes a Designer, namely God. Furthermore, if you are aware of the law of cause and effect in our universe, you will conclude that what we have today is the culmination of a lengthy series of causes, and there must be a first Cause, namely God.
So your belief that God exists is not an evidence that you are born of God. When you are aware of the world in which you live, you logically conclude that God exists. But the only way that you can conclude that God came in Jesus to be the Savior of the world, is to be born of God. Only God’s Spirit can impress this truth on you.
In Matthew 16:15-17, Jesus asked his disciples, "But what about you? Who do you say I am?"
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven."
When God reveals the truth of Jesus to a person, we don’t need to persuade, we simply need to be available to affirm with God’s Word, the Bible.
The B in BLOW stands for Believe that Jesus is the Christ; the L in BLOW stands for Love other Christians as family members. We see this in verses 1b and 2. (READ)
Jesus said to his disciples in John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." The second mark of a true Christian is his or her love for other true Christians.
Now, neither Jesus nor John is limiting Christians to love only other Christians, but they are saying that if you love the parent, you will love the children also. In fact, you can love the parent by loving the children. When you love Esther, I feel loved by you. So when you want to express love to God the Father, love His children, those born of God.
My sister and I are best of friends today, but when we were growing up, my sister and I fought just like other siblings. One day, my Dad and Mom went out to do some shopping, and they told my sister and me to study at home. When they returned home, they asked what we did. We told them we studied hard and we deserved some free time.
Without pausing to reply, my Dad pulled out a tape recorder that was running in our room. He stopped the recorder, rewound the tape and pushed play. The tape recorder revealed fighting and bickering between my sister and me during our parents’ absence. You can be sure we didn’t get the free time we asked for.
From that experience, I’ve learned to relate to my sister keeping one eye on her and one eye on my parents. And when we understand that those born of God are brothers and sisters in God’s family, and not nuisances or obstacles to deal with, we will relate by keeping one eye on each other and one eye on God.
You may not always like me, because I sometimes disappoint you or say things that hurt you. But keep one eye on God. If you love God, you have to love me. I may not like you sometimes, because you don’t follow through with what you said or you’ve said things that have hurt me. But I will keep on eye on God. If I love God, I will love you.
The B in BLOW stands for Believe that Jesus is the Christ; the L in BLOW stands for Love other Christians as family members. The O in BLOW stands for Obey God’s commands out of love for God. We see this in verse 3.
If I really love you, and if I really love God, then obedience to God’s commands is not burdensome. True love is not trouble-free, but neither is true love troublesome, because the one we love is worth the trouble.
Before Susan and I were married, there was no doubt that I loved her. Nothing was too burdensome for me to do for her. I didn’t mind that she didn’t know how to cook or clean. I was willing to cook and clean for the rest of our lives if I could marry her.
Then we got married. I became less patient. And I discovered that she takes too long in learning to cook and clean. Within a few months, she became burdensome to me.
What happened? Some of you might joke that my eyes were opened too late, but I don’t think so.
I believe my focus, after several months, wrongly shifted from loving Susan to expecting her to love me and serve me. When I intentionally shift back to loving Susan without expectation of her loving me, she no longer became burdensome.
There’s an important principle that I don’t want us to miss, and the principle is this, "Nothing is too burdensome for us to do for the one we truly love." Let me say this again, "Nothing is too burdensome for us to do for the one we truly love." Love is a choice, not simply a feeling.
When you apply this principle to life, you will improve not only your marriage, but also all your relationships, including your relationship with God. The reason why obedience and service to God is burdensome is because we don’t truly love God.
We maybe using God for our personal gain, which causes the obedience to God’s commands is burdensome. God’s commands are not burdensome when we truly love God.
And the way we grow in our love for God is to receive, recognize and recall God’s love for us. God’s first and utmost love for us is demonstrated through Jesus Christ dying on the cross to pay for our sins. That’s why John says, "We love because [God] first loved us (1John 4:19)."
The B in BLOW stands for Believe that Jesus is the Christ; the L in BLOW stands for Love other Christians as family members. The O in BLOW stands for Obey God’s commands out of love for God. The W in BLOW stands for Win in life and in death. We see this in verses 4 and 5.
Over the last year and a half as a pastor, I’ve attended, helped out in and officiated more funerals than I expected. One sobering observation stays with me from these experiences, and the observation is this: No dead person ever won in life if he or she did not win over death.
You can have all the riches, recognition and relationships in life that you dream of, but you will lose them all at death. Life on average is but 80-90 years, a drop in the bucket of time in comparison to eternity after death.
Jesus said in Mark 8:34-38, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels."
In other words, if you have everything but have not believed that Jesus is the Christ, you won’t have anything at the end of life. But if you have believed that Jesus is the Christ, and have not much else, you will have what really matters when you stand before God at your death.
I’ve been told there are three huge gates that lead into the Cathedral of Milan. Over one gate there is an inscription in marble under a beautiful flower bouquet that says, "The things that please are temporary." Over the second gate, there is a cross with this inscription: "The things that disturb us are temporary." However, over the central gate, there is a big inscription saying, "Eternal are the important ones." (Source unknown)
Jesus said in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Unless we win over death with eternal life, we have not won in life.
Watchman Nee tells about a new Christian who came in deep distress to see him. The new convert said, "No matter how much I pray, no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot seem to be faithful to my Lord. I think I’m losing my salvation."
Nee said, "Do you see this dog here? He is my dog. He is house-trained; he never makes a mess; he is obedient; he is a pure delight to me. Out in the kitchen I have a son, a baby son. He makes a mess, he throws his food around, he fouls his clothes, he is a total mess. But who is going to inherit my kingdom? Not my dog; my son is my heir."
The birthmark of a child of God is not perfection in behavior. The Birthmarks are belief that Jesus is the Christ, love of Christians as family members, obedience to God’s commands out of love for God and winning in life by winning over death.