Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
We Shall Overcome - May 10, 2015 - Sixth Sunday of Easter/Mother’s Day - Text: 1 John 5:1-8
Today is the sixth Sunday of Easter, meaning we are 36 days out from Easter. Jesus has been showing Himself to be alive for these past 36 days and will continue to do so for another four days, because, as we well know, on Thursday of this week, May 14 we will celebrate Ascension Day, the day in which Jesus ascended back to heaven, the place from where He descended in order to take on human flesh and blood, live, suffer and die for us because of His great love for us. I pray everyone will celebrate Ascension Day and wish everyone they know a blessed Ascension Day.
Now please notice as I make this next statement that my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek; today is also one of those holidays given to us by our greeting card companies known as Mother’s Day, and I say the same thing about Father’s Day. But do not get me wrong, indeed I believe we should celebrate both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because as I was reminded growing up, every day of the rest of the year seems to be children’s day. So, Happy Mother’s Day to our mothers and we are glad you are hear.
With those greetings, I think we should get to our text. Our text begins with John reminding us of the faith that has been given to us and our response of faith which is stirred in us. John begins by reminding us that the faith that is given to us is a faith that believes Jesus is the Christ and shows itself in love. John says, “1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whomever has been born of him” (v. 1). Notice that John does not put any conditions on faith and being given faith. He simply reminds us that to believe in Jesus is to be a child of God. One need not make a “decision” for Jesus, nor “claim” Jesus, nor anything else as if we are doing something to gain or earn faith. As Jesus reminds us that He would have us have faith as a child, so I would suggest, ask any child if he or she believes in Jesus and when they answer “yes” then know that they are a child of God. Yes, it is just that simple.
John continues by reminding us that this faith that is given to us is a faith that is shown in loving God and obeying His commandments. John says, “2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments” (v. 2). Here we are reminded that faith and action, or faith and works do go hand in hand. We cannot hide our faith for our faith shows itself in love. Indeed, as God first loves us, as we are reminded by Jesus in our Gospel lesson for today, so we love others because we just cannot help it. To not love others would mean a rejection of God’s love. And the same is true with respect to obeying God’s commandments. The desire of faith is to be obedient to God’s commandments. The opposite would also be true, to not obey God’s commandments would mean a rejection of faith.
As John continues he reminds us that this faith that is given stirs in us a desire to keep God’s commandments and we do keep His commands which are not burdensome because of Jesus victory which He gives to us. John says, “3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith” (v. 3,4). God loves us so much and we see His love most expressively in Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross which brings victory over sin, death and the devil. This victory is ours and is given to us as the Holy Spirit gives us faith through the very means of God’s Word, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. As the Holy Spirit gives us faith He gives us the ability to overcome temptation and sin and to be able to keep God’s commandments, even if not perfectly so.
John continues reminding us that this faith that is given is given so that by faith in Jesus His victory becomes our victory and this is perhaps a reference to the Lord’s Supper and our participation in Him. John says, “5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (v. 5). It is faith in Jesus, faith given to us, which overcomes this world and ultimately brings us to eternal life in heaven.
So, how do we know we have faith and eternal life? John continues with words of confidence, “6This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7For there are three that testify: 8the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree” (v. 6-8). So, John gives us three testimonies or witnesses. First there is the testimony of the Spirit, that is the Holy Spirit gives testimony through the Word of God. As we hear and read the Word of God the Holy Spirit works through that very Word to give the gifts God has to give. As we hear and read the Word of God, as it tells us we have faith, forgiveness and life, we can know for certain that we have faith, forgiveness and life. God’s Word does what is says and gives the gifts it promises. More than any other word, we can and do hold firmly to God’s Word.
The next testimony of which John speaks is the testimony of the water. With this testimony of the water we actually have two testimonies. First there is the testimony of the water and blood at Jesus’ death. Remember, as the spear pierced Jesus’ side out came blood and water which was proof of Jesus’ death. Some would say that this blood and water was the sign of a broken heart and rightly so as we have broken Jesus’ heart through our lives of sin, yet His great love moved Him to give His life for ours.
The second testimony of the water is that of Holy Baptism wherein through the water and God’s name we are given faith, forgiveness and life. Through the waters of Holy Baptism God gives to us, He writes His name on us, He writes our names in the book of Life, He gives and does to us and we are given to and done to, all pointing to Jesus.
The last testimony is that of the blood. As with the testimony of the water so with the testimony of the blood, there are actually two testimonies. First, again there is the testimony of the water and blood at Jesus’ death reminding us of God’s great love for us. Also reminding us that Jesus did die, which was the price for sin. Jesus died to pay the price for our sins, all our sins, completely.
The second testimony of the blood is the testimony of Jesus’ Holy Supper wherein He gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink. Remember, throughout the Old Testament, as the sacrifice was offered the one offering would eat of the sacrifice, thus participating in the sacrifice. So, on the night in which Jesus was betrayed, as He celebrated the Passover, He took bread and wine, blessed them and gave them to His disciples instructing them in the fact that they were eating His body and drinking His blood thus participating in His sacrifice. So even today as we come to the Lord’s Table we eat His body and drink His blood thus participating in His sacrifice so that His prefect life is our perfect life; His perfect death is our perfect death; His perfect resurrection is our perfect resurrection and His perfect life, eternal life is our perfect eternal life.
What does this mean? Again we are reminded that we get it right when we get right who is running the show. We get it right when we point, not to ourselves but to Jesus. Again this morning we are reminded that it all begins with God. God gives and we are given to. God gives faith, forgiveness and life and He gives these gifts through the means of grace, His Word, Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution and the Lord’s Supper reminding us of how important it is to make regular and diligent use of His means of grace where in we are given more and more of His gifts.
God gives and then God stirs in us to love. It all begins with God. He loves us and He stirs in us to love others. Our love truly is not our own, but is merely a reflection of God’s love for us, thus as we and others are loved by God and as we love God and others we are simply reflecting God’s love so that others know our love and faith.
God gives; God stirs in us to love and God stirs obedience, even if it is imperfect. Indeed we cannot be perfectly obedient because that is not our nature, after all we are conceived and born in sin and every intention of our hearts is evil all the time. Our will has been so tainted by sin that our will is only to sin. Yet we are continually reminded of God’s great love for us a love that gives us forgiveness of sins which in turn stirs in us a desire to repent, to be given forgiveness and to continue, with God’s help to be obedient to God’s commands.
And as we were reminded, God’s commands are not burdensome because He gives the victory. God in Jesus has accomplished all that needs to be done for our salvation. Jesus was born in human flesh in order to do for us all that we cannot do for ourselves. Jesus lived a perfect life, obeying all God’s commands for us in our place. By faith in Jesus, faith which He gives to us, His perfect obedience is our perfect obedience.
And so we have God’s victory in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The price for sin, eternal spiritual death, which was set in the Garden of Eden, has been paid by Jesus’ blood on the cross. What we owe Jesus paid. What should have been ours, eternal spiritual death, Jesus took for us. What is Jesus’, eternal life in heaven is ours, by faith, the faith which He has given to us, thanks be to God.
Indeed, God’s Word is true and we have His testimony. Now we have all heard that a person cannot be convicted on the testimony of one person and so in our text John reminds us that we have the testimony of Jesus’ life not by one but by three, “the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.” This morning we rejoice in the testimony of these three and we rejoice in the faith and gifts God gives to us.
So, today is the sixth Sunday of Easter. We are thirty-six days out from Easter. Thursday is our celebration of Ascension Day. Today is also Mother’s Day and the day we celebrate God’s gift of motherhood and also perhaps one of the first examples we might have of God’s unconditional love, that of a mother’s love for her children. In keeping with the context of our text then we would say we rejoice in a mother’s love being reminded that she loves as God first loves her just as we love in return as God first loves us. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.