Every text in I John seems to have its special word, a word that he repeats over and over. What is that word in our text? Testimony and testify, at least eight times. Our text reads like a courtroom drama. John does three things: First, he calls in three witnesses to give expert testimony to testify to the proof and validity that Jesus really is the Christ, Son of God who gives eternal life to all who believe, vss. 6-8. Then, he contrasts the testimony of men with the testimony of God and give three reasons why the testimony of God must be accepted, vss. 9-12. Finally, he sums up the testimony and makes his closing argument in verse 13
My sermon title this morning should be God’s sufficient grace for moms and everyone else, but that was too long. The sermon is for everyone, with some application at the end for moms. All of us are privileged to see into the first heavens where birds and airplanes fly. And all of us are privileged to see into the second heavens inhabited by our moon and sun and stars and galaxies. But very few are there who have ever seen into the third heavens, the habitation of God in all His glory, and lived to tell about it. The context of this passage is that 14 years before writing this letter to the church in Corinth Paul had been given by God an extraordinary vision of heaven. He heard and saw things that were too magnificent even to utter. It was an exceedingly extraordinary manifestation of God’s favor to him, a gift like no other. Because we humans have a tendency to become puffed up or full of ourselves when we are in possession of personal advantages far above others, Paul was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble.
John wrote this letter with essentially two purposes in mind. He wanted to expose the false teachers and those who merely profess faith but don’t actually possess eternal life. And at the same time to encourage believers and reassure them what it means to be born again. John is writing to the church, the family of God, and he is helping identify who is in the family and who isn’t. The spiritual deceivers and fakes and frauds are confusing the saints. We know in our human families how we are like our parents and our kids are like us. There are certain identifying characteristics, birthmarks. We can see the resemblance in the eyes, nose, mouth, how someone walks or talks. Like father, like son. She is just like her mother. People often comment about how much our boys look like one of us. People are identifying Woodyard features in our granddaughters. John is saying there are three identifying birthmarks or characteristics of God’s kids, of those who have been born again. John has repeatedly used three tests for both sides. The doctrinal test, do we love Jesus; the moral test, do we love God’s commands; and the social test, do we love His people. These are the fruit on the tree of born again, the tree of spiritual life. They are not the cause of our being born again, but the consequence. They are not the root, they are the fruit. I remind you that we had no more to do with our being born again than we did with our being born. We are born again of God, by the power of the Spirit, by grace through faith, which is a gift from God so none of us can boast. The word born means begotten by God.
We have been using this overflowing glass as a symbol of God’s overflowing grace to us in the Gospel. But what about when life doesn’t feel like that at all? What about when life doesn’t even feel half full or half empty, but completely empty? What about when we feel like we got nothing? Does it mean you aren’t a Christian? Does it mean you aren’t a good Christian? Does it mean that you have been left out or left behind? Remember David is a mature believer. What do we do when life empties our glass? What do we do when we feel like the Psalmist and find more why questions than answers? Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go about mourning? Why have you rejected me? Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why are you in turmoil within me? It’s OK to ask why questions. Jesus asked why on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?”
Do you know people who make promises and then don’t keep them? Most of us have experiences with people who have promised more than they can deliver. Most of us have been let down, have had expectations unmet. Parents, spouses, teachers, bosses, friends, churches, life. And it is easy to transfer those thoughts and feelings to God. Have you ever questioned whether God has kept a promise? Have you felt let down or failed? Have you ever felt God keeps His promises for other people but not for you? I think there is wisdom in living by the motto of “under promise and over deliver.” Be known as a person of your word, who follows through, does what he says. Is God guilty of over promising and under delivering? Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23) Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) God withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11) If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20) If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:19) God causes all things to work for good for those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)
If you were a random unbeliever reading through the Bible for the first time like it was any other book, there’s a chance you might wonder what all the fuss was over Jesus’ resurrection. I mean, its not like it was the first time someone came back from the dead. So, what’s the big deal? In the OT there are three resurrections all during the prophetic ministries of Elijah and Elisha. In I Kings 17 Elijah raised the son of the widow of Zarephath. Elisha, who is said to have a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, raised two people. In II Kings 4 he raised a Shunammite’s son and in II Kings 13 a corpse came to life when it touched Elisha’s bones. Then in the Gospels there are three resurrections. Jesus raised the son of a widow in Nain (Luke 7), Jairus’s daughter (Matthew 9), and Lazarus (John 11). Jesus’ resurrection is the seventh resurrection recorded in Scripture. So, what’s the big deal? Well it is a big deal because the others are nothing like Jesus’ at all. It is one of a kind.
The apostle John is called the apostle of love. The word love occurs 57 times in his gospel, more than the other three gospels combined. The word love occurs 46 times in his first letter, 27 of which are in chapter 4. That makes this chapter the other love chapter in the Bible after the famous I Corinthians 13. Twice John says God is love. Five times John says love one another. Those two themes go together. After all John has said about love and God, he is not finished, he still has more to say. And when he is done he will not have said it all. God’s love is unfathomable. That’s why Paul prays for God’s enabling grace
What a strange day Palm Sunday is. Here we are at the beginning of Holy Week enjoying our children as they wave palm branches and sing loud hosannas. And we have joined our voices with theirs. And yet we are like Jesus, we know what’s ahead, we know how quickly the hosannas will turn to crucify Him, crucify Him. How fickle is the human heart. How fickle is life. Everything can be going so well, and then suddenly something happens, some bad news, some accident, some change of events, and the darkness and fear move in. As we have been learning how to preach the Gospel to ourselves it became evident to me that the Gospel according to Palm Sunday is a great help and encouragement to us especially when life is unsettling or fickle or just plain hard. Let’s consider seven lessons from Palm Sunday, seven truths of the Gospel from this day.