Scripture Reading: 1 John 5:1-5
Remember when you had kids in the home? Or maybe you remember growing up yourself and your parents would always nag you about things.
“Go wash your hands.”
“Come in for dinner.”
“Clean your room.”
“Go have a bath.” (“But I just had one last week!”)
Generally, for most of us I would imagine, our parents expected simple obedience. Be polite. Be clean and tidy. Don’t get in any trouble. Do a few simple chores around the house. None of that tends to be a whole lot of work to accomplish.
But, when you are a kid, boy do you think sometimes these are the biggest demands in the world. Kids just want to go out and have some fun, get dirty, and not have to think about it too hard.
Isn’t the innocence of youth a beautiful thing? Kids just want to move on from one fun thing to the next, and stopping for chores or even cleaning themselves just gets in the way of moving onto the next fun thing.
But as parents, we just want our kids to grow up well. We want them to know how to share, how to be polite, how to be good citizens, and to not stink up the house after playing outdoors all day. Is that too much to ask? I suppose parents have one answer, and 10 year olds may have another.
We’re almost done with the book of 1 John. We’ve made it to the final chapter today, and that theme of love continues to follow us along.
John reminds us today of the importance of following God’s commandments. This is how we show we love God, by following his instructions for our daily living. By commandments, we mean living by the standards God has set before us in the Bible. The obvious place to start is with the Ten Commandments. You know the ones.
No gods before Him.
Don’t take God’s name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy.
Honour your parents.
Do not murder.
Do not commit adultery.
Do not steal.
Don’t bear false witness.
Don’t covet things owned by other people (house, wife, or anything else)
For the most part, these are not hard to follow. And of course, if we simplify them a bit, we see the first four are about our relationship with God, and then the rest are about how we live in relationship with each other, then we can see what Jesus meant when he said, “’… You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ … ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30-31, ESV)
Those are the general guiding principles God has given us with which to start as our base. That’s what they are, a base on which to build. God has other instructions for us as well. There are things God will ask us to do, and ask us not to do in our lives. And the list of things may be different for different people. But, no matter how you look at it, you can break down any of those commandments to the rules of love God has given us. Love God, love our neighbour.
Maybe God wants you to watch less TV, so gives you a command to do so. Why? Because he probably wants you to do something else instead, like read the Bible or pray (which is to love him) or serve someone else (which is to love others).
Maybe God wants you to drop something else from your life, he would do this because it may be causing you to sin, and sinning is surely not loving God.
In 1 John 4:3 we read this, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
Is loving God burdensome? No, I don’t think so. When we acknowledge the love of God in our lives and we return that love back to him, it’s quite a joyful moment! And it’s also a feeling we can carry with us the rest of our lives.
Now, I confess it will be a bit trickier to love our neighbours. I will admit there are people out there who are really hard to love. They can be greedy, or selfish, or many other things which really grind our gears. And for the most part, we probably can avoid them most of the time. Which is great, because we don’t have to worry about them. But what if they are at your workplace? What if you can’t avoid them? What if they stand in front of the church and preach every week? Loving others is not as easy as it may sound, or as easy as we would like it to be. But what can you do? Just try your best.
One thing we need to realize is that everyone has some sort of flaw, probably a bunch of them. I can’t complain when someone doesn’t do something for me which they’ve promised, because I forget to do things all the time. You just need to take a look at my “honey-do list” to know that. (You know, the list of things you promised your honey you would do)
And of course there are far worse sins in the world which have been making the news of late. There have been a number of men accused of sexual misconduct, even in the last two weeks. This is incredibly sad, especially the completely bizarre circumstances some of the women accusers have found themselves in. I won’t mention any of them here because I prefer to try and keep my sermons child friendly, but they are just strange and sick behaviours put on by men who are supposed to be respected in their fields of excellence.
This just goes to prove, I think, of the inherit sinful nature of the world right now. As more and more inappropriate sexual behaviours are increasingly reported, you can’t help but wonder how we’ve entered such a world where this happens.
Bev and I had this discussion the other night. What drives a man to do these things? Is it the feeling of power? Is it something broken in the human brain connected to their sense of social and moral consciousness? Is it the effect of the readily accessible porn industry these days? Is it all of these things together, or something completely different? One thing for sure, it’s not loving God, and it sure is not loving our neighbours.
This is the impact of a sinful world on people. Somehow their sin becomes a warped sense of reality where it’s ok to abuse or take advantage of someone else.
But what does John say about a response to the sins of the world by living a life of faith? He says this in verses 4 and 5, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5)
If we want to overcome the sin of the world and learn to love one another, then we need Jesus. For a Christian, this should be our first response. It is our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Saviour which carries us in ways of how God wants us to live and love. The same love of God which Jesus showed as he lived his life, shunning and condemning sin, but at the same time loving people as children of God.
God has no desire to burden us with unachievable standards of living. The Bible tells us that a life of faith as a child of God is actually quite simple. It takes a lot of the pressure off when you think about it.
We don’t need to worry about being better than anyone else, we simply accept who we are as children of God, and if God wants us to change, we trust he will lovingly guide us. Which is also his promise. There’s a saying you sometimes hear, and I think it’s from author and pastor Max Lucado, “God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.”
God wants to take us, as children of the world who struggle with sin, and make us his children in the likeness of Jesus. Why? Because he loves us all. And we can only know this love if we start walking away from our sin and towards Jesus.
Every one of us here is somewhere on that journey. Some of us are close to living lives of love, some of us may just be getting started. The trick is to realize the journey will not end on this earth, it will end when Jesus returns to take us all home. So no matter how far down the road you may be to being like Jesus, we need to acknowledge we can’t get there in this life. But we strive for it. We may even long for it. And there will be a few moments where we may feel we’re almost there, just to fall back a little bit and realize there’s further to go.
But it isn’t a burdensome journey. It’s not meant to break us down and leave us tattered. It might feel like it at times, especially early on as we may need to make some dramatic changes to rid ourselves of the sin that controls us, but in time we realize it’s for our own good and there’s joy we will find we didn’t have before.
Remember the promise of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
In Jesus we find rest for our tired souls, souls beaten up by sin and shame. Jesus will help us shed those burdens and walk with him. Remember, his yoke is easy, his burden is light.
As a kid I remember going to the South Shore Exhibition in Bridgewater and watching the ox pulls. Two beastly animals tied together by a yoke to pull as much weight they could, as far as they could. But you can’t help but notice they are a team pulling together since one could never pull such a load on its own.
Jesus died for our heavy burdens so we may be free to walk with him. Jesus took the heavy load on himself and offers to help us carry one much lighter. He offers us a life of love, love only God can give, and we’ll never have to carry that heavy load alone any more.
If we know God, we are never alone. If we know God, we can overcome the sinful world by living lives he has planned for us. The victory of Jesus on the cross is our victory. His resurrection is our resurrection. His life is our life.
In Jesus Christ we are one with God, living as his children, walking in lives of light and love, peace and joy, knowing our heavenly Father is preparing a place for us as we walk this journey of life towards him.
Each day is a step toward that goal. And each day Jesus takes that step at our side, our teammate carrying the load. A load that gets lighter every step of the way as we walk to our heavenly reward as people of love, the love of God.
Let us pray,
What a gift it is to have you at our side each and every day. As we walk this world, as we bump into struggles in our journey, you are right there to help carry the load.
And as we walk this road with you, may we know the joy of having you shed the burdens from our lives, lightening the load for the continued journey ahead.
Remind us, Lord Jesus, of the infinite love the Father has for us, his children, each and every step of the way.
We ask this in your most holy name. Amen and amen.