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Love God’s Greatest Gift – “Made For Love”

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Love Gods Greatest Gift 4

1 John 5:1-8

May 5, 2024

The philosophy of basic training in the Army has really changed over the past 25 years.  Now, maybe it has changed in all branches of the military, but I know personally that it has definitely changed in the Army.  It used to be that drill sergeants in general ran basic training with the mindset of: “Do what we tell you and don’t ask questions.  We are in change and the standards here are tough.  If you can’t make it, then we’ll send you home.”  And for many years soldiers were trained this way and they were trained well.  They obeyed, but usually they obeyed out of fear.  So if you were injured or struggling in some way, you never wanted to say anything out of fear of appearing weak or being kicked out of the Army.  I remember many drill sergeants who were proud of the number of soldiers in their unit who failed to complete basic training, because they couldn’t meet the training standards.  The more soldiers who failed, the tougher the drill sergeant appeared.

However, I would say at about the turn of the century things changed.  Instead of trying to get rid of soldiers who couldn’t meet the standards, drill sergeants changed their mindset and were determined to train, shape, and motivate everyone who came to basic training to meet the highest standards.  They took great pride in saying that they took a group of people, strong and weak, educated and uneducated, from all walks of life, and they trained them, shaped them, and molded them so that every person met the tough standards.  They bragged about how no one failed basic training in their group, because of them.  Now the standards did not change and the training was not made any easier, but the thinking here was that soldiers wanted to obey the drill sergeants not out of fear, but with hopes they would be rewarded.  With this approach, the fewer soldiers who failed, the better the drill sergeant appeared.

Both of these training philosophies or you could say “obedience” philosophies produced excellent results, but at the same time very different soldiers.  The old way produced soldiers who were afraid to do anything wrong; while the new way produced soldiers who were eager to do the right thing.  Today I would like us to look at the brand of obedience that Jesus followed, and this obedience consisted to two parts: Active Obedience and Passive Obedience.

In verse 6 of our second lesson from 1 John it says, “This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood.”  Now this verse may sound a bit odd.  What does it mean that Jesus came by water and blood?  Since John is referring to things that happened in the past, saying that Jesus came by water and blood, what John is referring to here are two important moments of obedience in Jesus’ life.  One of those moments has to do with water and the other with blood.

The first part of Jesus’ obedience has to do with water in Jesus’ baptism.  When Jesus was baptized it marked the beginning of His public ministry.  While Jesus certainly did not need the benefits of baptism, that being the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit to create faith, the thinking was if Jesus was going to save sinners, then He needed to identify with sinners.  So He got down in the water with them in active obedience to God and identified with their needs.  And this brought great joy to God the Father as Scripture says that the heavens immediately opened after Jesus’ baptism and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”  Knowing that we could not save ourselves, Jesus was actively obedient for you and me.  He was baptized for our sake.  He kept all of God’s laws perfectly for our sake.  And He suffered and died for our sake, so we could live.  Therefore, because of the work Jesus did for us to save us, we should want to serve God by being actively obedient to Him.

Think of it this way.  Let’s say you’re driving down the road and all of a sudden you get a flat tire.  But a person driving a blue Chevy Malibu stops to assist you and both of you are able to get the tire changed very quickly.  You thank the person who helped you and he leaves.  About 30 minutes later you see that same blue Chevy Malibu stalled on the side of the road.  Do you think you are going to drive by without offering to help?  No, not a chance.  You’re going to stop and offer that person some help, because he stopped to help you in your time of need.  Well, Jesus motivates us in much the same way.  When we consider all of the things Jesus has done for us, we will want to obey Him, because He helped us out first by His obedience to His Heavenly Father.

You and I obey God by being actively obedient to His commands, but we don’t do that perfectly, we fail every day.  So one of the things that is involved in this active obedience is repentance.  Jesus’ disciples encouraged people to “repent and be baptized, every one of you.”  Therefore, if we have been baptized – an act where Jesus does all the work to save us – then repentance, that is confessing our sins and doing things differently, is the work we must do as part of our active obedience.  But the challenge is that repentance is not easy or enjoyable.

Repentance is like weeding the garden.  You never get all the weeds out.  Some are too small to see.  Some have left their seeds in the ground to germinate next week.  A good gardener keeps the weeds out of his/her garden by walking through it every day, pulling out the weeds as they come up.  A good gardener never lets the weeds take over his/her garden.  It’s the same way with our lives.  We will never get rid of all of our sins until Jesus comes back to this earth and restores us completely.  So until that day comes, we need to examine our lives on a daily basis and pull out the weeds of sin that want to choke our faith.

The problem is some of those weeds of sin have been growing for so long that they have become a part of us, and instead of pulling those weeds out, we nourish them.  That’s why Jesus gives us families, friends, and many others to help us identify those weeds and pull them out.

Jesus came by water by being baptized for us, but He also came by blood – blood that was shed on the cross for us.  This was the other big obedience event in Jesus’ life, and this was known as His passive obedience, because Jesus wasn’t doing anything when He suffered and died, other than allowing those soldiers and all of the people to arrest Him, mock Him, beat Him, and nail Him to the cross.  And just as Jesus wants us to be actively obedient to Him, by repenting and pulling out those weeds of sin in our lives, He also wants us to be passively obedient to Him by allowing Him to use us to bring the Good News of His love and forgiveness to others.  This is part of His command to love one another, as we heard in our Gospel lesson and this command should not be difficult.  Passive obedience, unlike active obedience, is not hard as we were made to love, but the problem is we make it hard.  Instead of allowing Jesus to speak and act through us, we go out of our way at times to hide our faith out of fear of what others will think of us.  We think things like, “Oh, I don’t want to bring Jesus into this conversation and ruin the good relationship I have with others here at work.  I’m not going to mention my faith unless someone asks me first.”  Are we ashamed of Jesus when we think and act this way?

God has put us into a variety of family settings – our family at home, our family at work, our family at church, and so on, so that we may live together and love each other.  Shouldn’t we want to serve Him, knowing the reward of eternal life that He earned through His perfect life is waiting for us?  Shouldn’t we want to give Jesus our best, especially considering His suffering and death, and everything He has done for us?

God could scare us into obeying Him.  Like an old drill sergeant, God could say, “You better try to live a Christian life by obeying my commands or you’re going to die forever.”  But that’s not how God operates toward us.  Instead He says, “Look at all I have done for you.  I died for you so you could live.  I will always care for You.  Trust me, I love you, and I am preparing a place in heaven for you so you can live with me forever.”  Doesn’t that just make you want to obey Him, not out of fear, but out of thanks and love?

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