“Authentic Christianity” – Book of 1 John
Easter 2 – April 8, 2018
Introduction: Back to E100.
Getting back to E100 – explain.
- Authentic items
How do you tell if something is authentic? (ask for answers) Go back to the source. Copyright date or condition of a book. Artist’s original signature. Certificate / seal of authenticity (1 of 450). Chemical make-up of a product. Carbon dating.
It’s getting harder… people are getting good at making knock-offs, replicas of the original. (ex. Photoshopped photos) My Bobby Orr jersey (CCM from China?). Stephan’s knock-off Take 6 game from Hong Kong. Can you tell the difference?
- Authentic Christianity – Thomas Linacre’s surprise
How do you tell what authentic Christianity is?
Authentic Christianity – Linacre quote from “The Call.” (p. 109) (He had learned Greek, and reading from Greek was much different from the Latin Vulgate.) He was questioning authentic Christianity. He was right to go back to the source, to the Greek. Every time you translate you lose something in translation. If you translated NT from Greek to Latin to English to French to Nizaa (in Cameroon), you would definitely lose something in translation… you might even lose the very intent and content of the message.
- Authentic Christianity – The source
- Corporate Christianity – Acts 2
For authentic corporate / community Christianity, the best source is the post-Pentecost Christian community. What did Christian community life look like in AD 30? Found in Acts 2.
Apostles’ teaching – immersing the group in God’s message – OT & NT (oral, but now written)
Fellowship – living life together in community, with love and shared experiences
Breaking of Bread – worship and Holy Communion (strengthened, encouraged, forgiven)
Prayer – bringing their needs to God
Wonders and signs – seeing God do amazing things in and through His people
Sharing with those in need – blessing others physically (compassion) (also our Acts 4 reading)
Praising God – worship, singing songs of gratitude for God’s grace in Christ
Growth / witness – getting Jesus into the lives of others who aren’t in relationship with Him
- Individual Christianity – 1 John
For authentic individual Christianity, a great source is the first letter of John (today’s epistle reading… and the rest of the book).
John wrote this letter near the end of the first century – 50 or 60 years after Jesus’ resurrection – but he was still a first generation Christian. So, if we want to know what authentic Christianity is about, it’s reasonable to take our cues from John – not necessarily from his Gospel (that’s about the life of Jesus) – but his epistle is about living a Christian life. So what does John say?
Belief in Jesus
Authentic Christianity is first and foremost a belief in Jesus. John often wrote in the singular… an individual is an authentic Christian if he or she believes in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, if he or she acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, if he or she confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, if he or she believes that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah.
John also includes some implications on the negative side – belief in Jesus implies avoiding lies / false teaching which are signs of the antichrist. So, often in our worship on Sundays, we publicly confess what we believe and we use the words of the ancient creeds – the Apostles’ / Nicene.
As John wraps up his first letter, he offers us confidence in our belief: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” That’s GOOD!
Acknowledge our sin
The second thing about authentic individual Christianity is a willingness to acknowledge and confess our sin. The portion of 1 John that served as our epistle reading today made that clear: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves… if we confess our sins…”
The Big Book from Alcoholics Anonymous lists Twelve Steps for recovery. The Fourth Step reads: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of our lives.” That’s a pretty good equivalent of acknowledging our sins – sins of thought, word and deed, sins of commission and sins of omission, sins of not loving God with our whole being and of not loving our neighbour as ourselves.
An authentic Christian does not profess to be “holier than thou,” but humbly and genuinely repents of every wrong AND relies on God’s faithful forgiveness. That’s what John writes: “If we confess, God is faithful to forgive.” The last verse in our epistle reading affirmed that Jesus “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Acknowledging our sinfulness is a hopeless endeavor, until or unless we know that there is a remedy for our sins found in that atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Grace is the remedy of contentment for the hopelessness of our sinful condition.
Life in the Spirit
The third test of authentic Christianity is life in the Holy Spirit. John writes that “we know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” This ties in to the corporate Christianity things that we have already mentioned – fellowship and worship and prayer. We could also mention Paul’s fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 and his encouragement to live by and walk with the Spirit. We’ll leave that topic for more discussion on Holy Spirit Day – Pentecost.
Follow His commands
Another sign of a Christian life is a person who follows God’s commands. Perhaps the most clear statement of this sign of authentic Christianity is 2:6 – “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” So, yes, if you’re claiming to be an authentic Christ-follower, then evidence of that is a Christ-like life. I’m not a big fan of the WWJD acronym – What Would Jesus Do – but this is as close to a Biblical equivalent as you’ll find. John has several other statements that call on us to follow His commands:
We obey His commands.
This is how we know that we love the children of God: by carrying out His commands.
This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.
A Christ-follower seeks to be obedient and to live a life of Christian integrity, just as Jesus, Himself, said: “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” We don’t do those good deeds to get a pat on the back from others, but so that others may see Christ in us, authentically, and come to the point of praising God.
Love for others
Good deeds, following God’s commands, usually looks like love, and John’s letter features love for others as a sign of authentic Christianity. But love for others starts with God. John is both clear and simple: “God is love… we love because God first loved us.” God is the source of love. If we need to go back to the source to find something authentic, then we need to go to God for authentic love. The Greek word for love – the word that is sprinkled throughout John’s epistle and his gospel – is the word agaph. That word refers to unconditional, self-sacrificing actions for the sake of the beloved. John explains that we are God’s beloved: “This is love: that God loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Then, in response to that agaph love of God, John calls on us to “love one another,” “to lay down our lives for our brothers [and sisters],” “to help a brother [or sister] in need,” and to love “with actions and in truth.” These words complement Jesus’ own words in John’s Gospel: “Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that [a man] lay down his life for his friends.” And that’s how Jesus’ showed His love for you – laying down His life.
Proclaim the message
The last sign of an authentic Christian faith is proclamation of this good news. That’s how John begins his letter: “What we have heard, and seen, and looked at and touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. We proclaim eternal life to you.” More specifically, John proclaims
God as light and life and truth and love, and His Son, Jesus, as the source of eternal life. When a person possesses and believes and professes such precious gifts, it is natural to share those gifts and that message with others: Eternal life is in God’s Son. Eternal life is the possession of all those who put their trust in Jesus. This WE proclaim!
The very last statement of 1 John is interesting: Keep yourselves from idols. John is saying that we have the authentic Christ and Saviour by believing that Jesus is God the Son in the flesh. He is the true God and eternal life. Any other teaching, any other Saviour is not authentic, and is therefore an idol.
Is our Christianity authentic? The message is! (We get it from the source.) Let’s pray that God’s people today are authentic Christians – truly believing in Jesus, acknowledging our sin, living in the Spirit of God, following His commands, loving others, and proclaiming the message!! Amen.