Summary: Christianity emptied of sacrifice is left with a Christ without a Cross. The atonment is an essential, key doctrine, a foundation of our faith.
Sermon Series on First John, “Collecting Evidence of Faith”
I John 5:1-12, “Spirit, Water, Blood, Life” Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Throughout this letter John is stressing two essentials--what we believe, and how we behave. When we’re born into the family of God by faith there’s a family resemblance. We become increasingly set apart from the non-believing world which mistakenly regards the Christian life as oppressive; in other words, no fun. Nothing could be further from the truth. People criticize our Puritan forefathers for being joyless, which reveals historical ignorance. Our obedience to God is not troublesome; because we love God, we want to live for Jesus. His yoke is easy, His burden light (Mt 11:30). In today’s passage John points out our conflict in a corrupted world, the certainty of God’s affirmation, and what all this means for us.
A corrupted world, verses 1-5…
Verses 1-5 describe our corrupt, fallen world. Eugene Peterson calls this “a pushing, shoving, intimidating, arrogant, antagonistic demanding world…but in prayer we leave the world of anxieties and enter a world of wonder. We leave an ego-centered world and enter a God-centered world. We leave a world of problems and enter a world of mystery.” We may grow accustomed to the world, but it is not our true home. The world often responds to evil as though it is uncontrollable. What can we hope to do in the face of such wickedness in our world? We can look toward our ultimate triumph.
I serve on the town’s drug task force and domestic violence coalition. Our meetings can be discouraging when we look at the problems and lack of progress. People ask me, “What do you hope to accomplish?” My answer is that it is better to attempt to pierce the darkness than to curse it. There is a Solution, if people are open to having God as the driving force of their lives. We walk with God or walk alone. This is the purpose of our “Exercising Your Spirit” walking path in town, connecting most churches. At each stop along the way is a marker with a Scripture verse describing our walk with God. Life can be a lonely journey or it can be a pilgrimage of faith, with fellowship from Above and with a family of fellow travelers.
John assures us that we can overcome the world; faith gives us victory. The Greek word for “victory” is a familiar one to us, the word Nike. When I served in the Army, every six months we had to take a physical fitness test, consisting of sit-ups, pushups, and a 2-mile timed run. I put on my Nikes and hit the pavement, but knowing that it was in God’s strength, not my own, that I would finish the course. We’re in a race, but we’re wearing God’s running shoes! Through faith we find the power to persevere and overcome the world. Our sovereign God has a plan, and the outcome has already been determined.
Do you ever watch “classic” sporting events on TV? They are interesting, but hardly nerve-wracking. We already know the final score. Let’s live life that way, because ultimately we will end up winners. When asked to cheat, we play by the rules. When discouraged, we remember our destiny. Winston Churchill observed, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” The power of God is the measure of our hope and expectation. Let’s hold fast, trusting in the Captain of our team.
Someone challenged so-called worldly wisdom this way…
“People may see the good you do as self-serving. Continue to do good.
They may see your generosity as grandstanding. Continue to be generous.
They may see your warm and caring nature as weakness. Continue to be warm & caring.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It never was between you and them anyway.”
Testimonies, verses 6-9…
God affirms the truth of Christ is affirmed in verses 6-12. Eugene Peterson declares that Jesus “experienced a life-giving birth and a death-killing death” (the Message). The One who came by water and blood is Jesus; when pierced on the cross, water and blood flowed from His side, atoning for our sins. Some scholars suggest the water refers to our Lord’s baptism where He was proclaimed the “Lamb of God.” The bottom-line is that our Lord Jesus lived and died for us. If Jesus had been only a man and not God, His sacrificial death would not have satisfied divine justice. We are cleansed by His blood.
Modern liberal academics seek to demote the cross and re-image Christianity, emptied of sacrifice--a Christ without a Cross. They deny the doctrine of the atonement which teaches the removal of guilt from sin by Christ’s sacrifice. They feel the world has grown beyond any use for atonement. Near the end of his life, Charles Spurgeon lamented, “I used to argue over whether the atonement was limited; now I argue over whether there was an atonement.” We need to resist attempts to redefine our faith. This is no minor issue. There is no hope for forgiveness and healing apart from the Cross. Moslems view Jesus as a prophet, but deny His sacrificial death on the Cross. An angry Moslem imam this week called Jesus “the slave of Allah.” All we can say in response to such people is simply, “Jesus loves you.”