Yesterday, after returning from a lengthy ministry trip to Europe, I was privileged to be reunited with our local church for corporate worship. I preached from 1 John 3:11-24 in our ongoing series titled, “Know.” As you know, John the apostle used the word “know” some thirty times in his epistle. Therefore, he was not the apostle of ambiguity.
True Christians Love One Another
The message that the church has heard from the beginning was centered on the true gospel of Christ that results in a genuine love for the whole church. Rather than a love for one area of the church or certain favorite people in the church—we are called to love one another genuinely. Nothing else will suffice.
John opened up his letter with the idea of genuine fellowship (κοινωνία) that is shared among the people of God. The church, being unique in the sense that people from all different backgrounds and socioeconomic levels assemble together under the banner of the gospel of Christ. The church stands out in the community as a unique assembly.
John speaks about how we should not be like Cain, who murdered his brother Abel. Cain was a religious man and out of jealousy he turned on his own brother. He provided an insufficient sacrifice and with anger in his heart after being exposed by God—he cut his brother’s throat and slaughtered him. He is the example not to follow.
True Christians Care for One Another
John wants his readers to understand what true Christianity looks like. In order to do so, he begins with the Founder—Jesus Christ. John points out that Jesus laid down his life for us. This is the central message of the entire Bible. We read in 1 Peter 2:24 that Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree. In Galatians 3:13, we read that Jesus was cursed for us in order that we would be redeemed. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, we read that Jesus was made sin for us in order that we might become the righteousness of God.
John then moves his readers to examine the truth of real Christianity. It moves well beyond just an intellectual comprehension of facts about Christianity. Many people have known the Bible, but they did not know the God of the Bible. We too often think that the Bible teaches us that we must be the world’s food pantry and the word’s humanitarian care group. While we are called to extend help to the hurting and we often do so with food and clothing, we are to begin with one another within the context of the local church before moving out to the community.
True Christians Have Confidence before God
Every person has a conscience, but this conscience does not lead us to God. Your conscience is created by God and has a distinct purpose to accuse or excuse you. Every child of God needs to have a clean conscience before God. If you are taught Christ properly – you will want to obey Christ faithfully. If you have an improper view of Christ – you will likely live in a loose manner that’s disconnected from faithful obedience.
To live in sin is to live in doubt. True Christians should not be found in a perpetual state of doubt. Listen to what John MacArthur stated about the conscience:
“Our culture has declared war on guilt. The very concept is considered medieval, obsolete, unproductive. People who trouble themselves with feelings of personal guilt are usually referred to therapists, whose task it is to boost their self-image. No one, after all, is supposed to feel guilty. Guilt is not conducive to dignity and self-esteem. Society encourages sin, but it will not tolerate the guilt sin produces. But the answer to dealing with guilt is not to ignore it – that’s the most dangerous thing you can do. Instead, you need to understand that God graciously implanted a powerful ally within you to aid you in the battle against sin. He gave you your conscience, and that gift is the key to bringing you joy and freedom.”
If you find yourself in a steady state of doubt and despair regarding the state of our soul—don’t ignore it. It may not be the devil attacking you. It may be God using your conscience to accuse you and through the gospel—bring you to faith in Christ alone.
The proof of genuine Christianity that leads to a clean conscience is found in a person’s genuine acceptance and belief in the gospel that leads to genuine love for one another in the context of a local church. If you claim to believe the gospel but have little care for the local church your faith and practice are inconsistent and contradictory. Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith.