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Our Resurrected Savior Exemplified and Encouraged God's Love

1 John 4:11 (1-11)

Rev. Thomas Handrick, Sr.

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Immanuel Lutheran Church & School  
Perryville, MO

View Associated File

Sun, May 21, 2006
Sixth Sunday of Easter

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

INTRODUCTION: Let's take a simple little three-question quiz this [evening/morning].  Don't worry, it won't be as outrageous or difficult as the one Pastor Cole gave back before Easter about putting an elephant and giraffe in a refrigerator!

First question: What is the one four-letter word that summarizes God's Law?  Let's say it together.  LOVE.

Second question: What summarizes the first table (Commandments 1-3) of God's Law?  LOVE FOR GOD.

Third (and final) question: What summarizes the second table (Commandments 4-10) of God's Law?  LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER.

That was easy enough, wasn't it?  The difficulty (in fact, the impossibility) lies in doing the correct answers.  Because we are sinful and unclean we simply cannot and do not want to love God and love one another according to God's demands in His Law as the Ten Commandments tell us to do.

In the face of that sad and disastrous reality, we find comfort and consolation in the fact that

Transition: OUR RESURRECTED SAVIOR EXEMPLIFIED AND ENCOURAGED GOD'S LOVE in response to which we now Test the Spirits to Determine Their Origin and Live Our Life According To the Spirit of Truth.

I. TEST THE SPIRITS TO DETERMINE THEIR ORIGIN. [1-6: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.  You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.  They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.  We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error."] It's very dangerous to believe everything we read in magazines, newspapers, and books; hear on the radio and television; and see in movies and videos.  In fact, much of the contents of those media is simply wrong ... unreal.  Two prime current examples of that are "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Gospel according to Judas."  It's certainly important that we weigh what we read, hear, and see against reliable information and evidence to separate fact from fiction.

It is most important that we carefully consider all that we read, hear, and see about spiritual matters to accurately separate truth from error in that setting.  Of course, in order to do so we must be ongoing students of God's Holy Word, the Bible.  That means that we daily read it either alone, with family members, or both; and faithfully gather in the divine services with fellow like-minded Christians to hear God's Holy Word publicly and learn it together in Bible study groups.  Only then will we more fully and accurately know the

A. Description of the Spirit of Truth.  Truth is divinely objective.  Truth is not an individual thing ... something that is yours, mine, his, or hers.  Truth is relational (not to be confused with relative).  What God tells us in His Holy Word and His Blessed Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion reveals and defines absolute truth.

King David wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,

(Ps 86:11) "Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name."

Jesus Christ publicly proclaimed,

(John 8:31-32) "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 

That truth is ultimately rooted in Immanuel Himself, Who said about Himself,

(John 14:6) "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

In His institution of the Holy Supper Jesus declared the real presence of His body and blood when He said,

(Matt 26:28, Mark 14:22) "... this is My body.  ... this is My blood of the covenant ... ."

St. Paul further testified to this real presence when he wrote,

(1 Cor 11:27) "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord."

The definitive basis of and foundation upon which accurate truth stands is our Savior, the divine Son of God, Who came into this sin-filled world clothed in our human flesh and blood to atone for our sins as our substitute.  We profess in our divine services the truth about Him that He lived, suffered, died, and rose back to life for our forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.  We do so when we publicly confess our faith with the words of the church's liturgies that contain the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds or the Te Deum Laudamus.

Who and what Jesus Christ is stands in stark contrast to the ...

B. Description of the Spirit of Error.  The spirit of error originates in and flows forth from Satan, who is the devil the evil one.  He desires to inject into all of us doubt that leads to unbelief and finally separation from God.  That's what he successfully attempted to do with Eve (and Adam) when he challenged her with the doubt-provoking question,

(Gen 3:1) "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?"

He then clearly contradicted God's warning about the death-consequence of disobedience by telling her,

(Gen 3:4) "You surely will not die!"

In like manner, Satan deceived Pilate into asking the truth-denying question about the reality of truth,

(John 18:38) "What is truth?"

He did so after Jesus had already told him,

(John 18:37) "For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

This same "spirit of error" was behind Satan's failed efforts to lure Jesus into sin during His wilderness temptations.  They were attempts to lead Jesus to deny that He was the Son of God and Savior of mankind, and instead acknowledge the devil as His master.  That's what Satan indicated when he preceded two of his three temptations with

(Matt 4:3 & 6; Luke 4:3 & 9) "If You are the Son of God".

Various passersby who fired verbal abuse at Jesus as He hung on Calvary's cross dying for their sins and the sins of all people (including you and me) also denied His divine nature when they mockingly said,

(Matt 27:40) "If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross." 

All of this indisputably demonstrates what Jesus declared about Satan, namely, that

(John 8:44) "He ... does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.  for he is a liar and the father of lies.

So, we joyfully thank and praise Almighty God that ...

Transition: OUR RESURRECTED SAVIOR EXEMPLIFIED AND ENCOURAGED GOD'S LOVE in response to which we now Test the Spirits to Determine Their Origin and Live Our Life According To the Spirit of Truth.

II. LIVE OUR LIFE ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH. [7-10: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."] The practical daily-life application for us of God's divine revelation in His Holy Word is to ...

A. Know God's profound love for us.  That raises two very important questions.  First, how does God love us?  And second, how do we apply God's love for us to one another?

The simple and yet insightful answer to the first question is that God loves us through the willing sacrifice of His only begotten Son on Calvary's cruel cross.  St. Paul reminds us of that reality with his words to the Romans,

(Rom 5:8) "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

Our loving Lord and Savior subjected to the heavenly Father's will His own human desire to avoid the pain and suffering that was required of Him to pay for our sins.  In so doing, He endured that agonizing anguish in our place.  That is the significance of the prayer He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane,

(Luke 22:42) "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done."

In response to Messiah's completed work of atonement, St. John invites us to ...

B. Celebrate God's love for us.  That celebration is not only words of praise and thanksgiving, although such words are important!  That is, after all, a major reason for us joining together in public worship.  Here we receive the reality of God's abundant love for us through Word and Sacrament and offer Him our Spirit-led songs and statements of honor and gratitude through the hymns and liturgy.  It is a time and activity of joyful celebration with fellow faith-family members.  As we do so, we affirm and encourage each other in the one true faith in Jesus Christ that we share.

We then take that celebration outside our church walls into and beyond Perryville, Perry County, Missouri, and the United States of America where we live out God's love for us by loving one another.  That love is not just a spoken or sung thing but a hands-on thing as we help the victims of hurricanes and tornadoes, comfort those who mourn the death of loved ones, defend the downtrodden, encourage the lonely and depressed, and, in these and many other ways, be the visible physical presence of the invisible Jesus Christ to all who are in any need.  In short, we gratefully celebrate God's love for us by freely and generously giving His love to one another and others.

It is all consistent with the message that ...

Transition: OUR RESURRECTED SAVIOR EXEMPLIFIED AND ENCOURAGED GOD'S LOVE in response to which we now Test the Spirits to Determine Their Origin and Live Our Life According To the Spirit of Truth.

CONCLUSION: Pastor Cole read in today's 1st Bible Reading,

(Acts 11:23-24, 26) "Then when [Barnabas] arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.  ... and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch."

Now there's a trivia question for us: Where were the disciples first called Christians?  The answer: Antioch.  But the greater question is, "Why were they called Christians?" The answer to that question is that they were filled with God's grace that they made known in their daily living and interacting with other people.  What do people say about us when they hear us talking and see us living our daily lives?  I pray and hope that they know, hear, and see that we are Christians by our love ... by our love ... yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love a love that reflects God's love for us.

Pastor Cole also read in today's Gospel Reading the following statements that Jesus Himself spoke,

(John 15:9, 12-13, 17) "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.  This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  This I command you, that you love one another."

As with so many other elements of our Christian faith and life, loving one another is not an option; it is the real meaning and application of our Baptism identity.  Notice the progression: the Father loved Jesus, His Son; Jesus loved us, as He demonstrated by His substitutionary atonement for us; and now we love one another with a willingness to sacrifice who we are and what we possess for others who are in need.  That's very difficult directive ... definitely not doable on our own ... but definitely very doable as we are connected with Jesus Christ by Spirit-given faith in Him Who lives in, with, and through us.  After all, He is our Resurrected Savior, Who both exemplified and encouraged God's love for us.

God grant it all for the sake of Jesus Christ, His humble Son, our holy Savior.  Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Amen.

This sermon is not copyrighted. It is God's gift to His Church for free and unrestricted use through me who am one of His many faithful servants. Please exercise the common courtesy of properly acknowledging its source should you use part or all of it for any purposes.

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