Over the past few months I’ve had the privilege of preaching at a small church down in Castle Rock that’s looking for a new pastor because their former sr. pastor retired at the end of June. It’s a healthy little church that has a lot of life and some really great people. And one of the people that I’ve been able to get to know is an 84 year old guy named Dick. He and his wife Bonnie are core members of the church, they always sit in the 2nd row and are really attentive so one Sunday morning, after worship, I asked Dick what he had done for a living. He told me that he was in the insurance business but then he quickly spoke of the time when he was 40 and he and Bonnie, at the invitation of some friends, started to attend a church in Lakewood where the pastor was almost as good of a preacher as Ryan Paulsen. Dick said that one Sunday the pastor gave an invitation to come forward and receive Christ and he felt this overwhelming compulsion so he got up, walked down the aisle and made a personal commitment to the Savior. And then he said that from that day on, everything in his life began to change. His marriage become more intimate and committed, he saw his insurance business not just as a way to make money but as a way to serve others and he became very concerned about the spiritual condition of his friends while paying attention to the future of work at the same time, his employees and people around the world. Eventually, he and Bonnie got involved in a ministry called Evangelism Explosion and they had Xian tracts printed up and sent out with all their insurance literature and, over time, they traveled to over 20 countries to give out Bibles to those people in their own language. A few weeks ago, Dick and Bonnie, missed a Sunday and the following week when they showed up I told em’ we missed them and Dick said, ‘Well, one of our grand-daughters was helping to lead worship at her church and so we had to go support her.’ I don’t think there’s any question whatsoever that when Dick made that personal commitment to Christ 44 years ago his entire life went in a new and better direction that impacted him, his family and innumerable other people in a positive way. Transition/Curve/Go Slow… Dick’s experience illustrates the biblical truth that when you become ‘born again’ as Jesus said in John 3 – you get God’s spiritual DNA – and that will shape your life and determine your destiny. That’s true for you and that’s true for me. Our spiritual DNA determines our destiny both temporally and eternally and I’d like to show you that from our passage in I John. And to make the really personal I want to ask 3 questions and then have all of us here answer those for ourselves. So let’s start with the first question, which is ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ and now let’s look at I John 3:4-8 which forces us to wrestle with some important truths. 4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9
- Who’s Your Daddy?
- John says a number of interesting & provocative things in these 5 verses.
- For starters, in v. 4, he describes sin as ‘lawlessness’:
- WS: anomie – means a reckless disregard for the things and ways of God; the word describes an arrogant attitude of radical autonomy that rejects and disobeys God because it’s natural to do that.
ILL.- Augustine of Hippo: (Picture) pecae non peccare; non-pecae non-peccare and we have their fallen nature. ILL.- G.K. Chesterton: *’What’s Wrong with the World? ‘Dear Sirs: In response to your editorial ‘What’s Wrong with the World? I am. Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton.’
- In our natural, fallen state we automatically live in lawless rebellion against God and, therefore, we’re part of what’s wrong with the world.
- Then, in v. 8, John says something else that gets our attention: The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
- He says that the father of anomie – this lawless attitude of rebellion – is the devil, otherwise known as Satan.
- The Bible talks quite a bit about Satan, who was the pre-eminent arch-angel who opposed God and was thrown out of heaven.
- And from various hints in the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, the Gospels and Revelation we get the strong impression that the devil’s core sin was pride and self-sufficiency; it’s this notion of radical autonomy that by nature opposes God.
ILL.- Perhaps the 17th century English poet & Puritan John Milton described it best in Paradise Lost: Satan says ‘It’s better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.’
- And ever since Satan set himself up in total opposition to God, his work has been to destroy God’s creation, starting with people – & in our natural, fallen state we go along with him – either consciously or otherwise – & make a mess of things.
That’s the bad news of this text.
- But the Good News is that God wants to free us from the control of Satan, the chains of our sin and the penalty of death – and then transform the way we live.
- To see how God has done this, let’s look again at what John writes in v. 5 and the 2nd half of v. 8.
5 But you know that he (Christ) appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
- God’s response to the enormously destructive work of the devil and the horribly fallen condition of humanity was the Incarnation:
- The Incarnation was the event where the eternal Son of God was born as a baby to Mary and Joseph and then grew up to become Jesus of Nazareth.
- Jesus lived a perfect life and then died on a Roman execution rack to destroy the devil’s work and deliver us from our sins.
ILL.- Fleming Rutledge (Picture) The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ. 16 years to write, thinking @ this since she was 14. Goes into a brilliant and sophisticated discussion of Christ’s Incarnation/Atoning Death on the crow so that our sins could be paid for, their power absolved & the devil’s work undone.
- Those laid the foundation for His resurrection from the dead, His ascension to heaven and the gift of His Spirit that allows us to be born again and receive His spiritual DNA.
- And that’s what John talks about next. Look at v. 9-10.
9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
- John says that when we accept Christ – we gain His spiritual seed (WS – sperma) – we get HIS nature – proving that we are born of God.
ILL.- When children are conceived they get their DNA from their father and mother
- John is using that biological reality as a metaphor to say that when men, women and children come in faith to Christ they’re spiritually born of Him & have a new DNA.
- And over time that begins to change everything about them because NOW they have a new nature at work in them.
- And this answers the question that arises in our minds about John’s statements that ‘no one born of God will continue to sin’ and ‘they cannot go on sinning’:
- He’s not saying that those who know God – who are born again and have his Spiritual DNA – don’t ever sin again.
- He’s saying that the children of God can’t live in sin; they can’t habitually & consistently practice it because it violates the new nature of Jesus that now resides in them.
- Friends, if you and I know Christ and have HIS SPIRITUAL DNA – we’re going to sin (that’s a reflection of our old nature) – but because we now have a new nature we’ll feel bad about our sin & be motivated by the Holy Spirit to repent & move towards maturity.
ILL.- Jamison Ward and Angie: He’s got His Heavenly Father’s spiritual DNA APP.- So, as we summarize this portion of the text, it forces us to address the question… Who’s Your Daddy? Who’s Spiritual DNA do you possess? If you’re here and you don’t claim to be a follower of Jesus we just want you to know that we’re SO GLAD you’re here and this is free information for you to consider and think about. But if you’re here & you know Christ John wants you to know that God is your Father & that will determine where our lives go now and where we end up when we die. Our spiritual DNA does determine our destiny. Transition/Curve/Go Slow… Let me show us one of the implications of that which revolves around our 2nd Question: What’s your calling? Look at 2:28-3:1 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
- What’s your calling?
- In this section, John says that we can acquire the Father’s DNA and be called His children because of the AWESOME LOVE that He has lavished on us.
ILL.- The Wal-Mart Commercial on TV where the parents are surprising their kids with special gifts that they really wanted on Xmas morning. The marketers want us to know that if we really love our kids we’ll drive the extra mile to Wal-mart & buy that perfect, special gift that will cause them to explode with joy!
- John is exploding with joy because of the Father’s love that has been expressed for us in Christ’s Incarnation, Death & Resurrection and His incomprehensible willingness to make us born again and give us His Spiritual DNA.
- That’s why we can be called His children.
- But what’s really interesting and really, really important in this portion of our text is v. 28 where John says ‘dear children, continue in Him….’
- This is an imperative – in other words – it’s a command.
- The word ‘continue’ can be translated remain, abide, or DWELL.
- It means, as Ryan noted last week, to follow Jesus and practice the life HE HAS CALLED US TO LIVE.
- To continue OR DWELL IN JESUS means that we follow His call in every aspect of our being – relationally, sexually, financially, occupationally, intellectually – AS HE LEADS US THRU THE COURSE OF OUR LIVES.
ILL.- I’m a student of Leadership and I came across a great Quote on Leadership by historian and teacher Nancy Koehn via the writer David Foster Wallace: Real leaders are those individuals who help us overcome the limitations our own weaknesses, laziness, selfishness and fears and get us to do harder, better things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.
- I love that definition of leadership because it describes Who Jesus is.
- He leads, inspires and helps us to do what’s best in spite of our weaknesses, failures & limitations – AND that’s WHY OUR CALLING is to DWELL in Him, Abide in Him and follow Him throughout the course of our lives.
- Friends, that does NOT mean perfectly: It does mean persistently.
- Some of you here this morning are Tired – you’re in or you’ve just come thru a weary season of life and you emotionally limped into the worship center today
- Others in this room are Hurting – you’ve suffered some sort of relational breakdown and are heartbroken and in pain & you’re just trying to get thru the weekend.
- Many of us are Anxious – we’re concerned about kids, or the stress of the holidays and nervous about the state of our country/culture – especially with all the mass shootings – and those feelings can overwhelm us and sometimes cause us to shut down.
- Wherever you’re at today – whether you’re in a good place or a tough place – I want to encourage you to do exactly what John commands here and that is dwell in Jesus.
- He’s our Savior, our Lord, and the Best Leader who ever lived.
- He’s the One who said ‘Come to Me, All who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
PI: If we have His DNA & follow Him persistently He’ll help us navigate the challenges of our lives now. Transition/Curve/Go Slow… And then He’s going to do something even more astounding than that. Look at 3:2-3 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
- Where’s our Hope?
- This takes us to our 3rd Question: Where’s our Hope?
- This portion of the passage shows the absolute necessity of having the HOPE of our eternal destiny with Jesus at the very center of our souls
BECAUSE HOPE IS THE FUEL THAT OUR LIVES RUN ON.
- We need Hope in Jesus when we get really sick & need His healing touch
- When our marriages or families get tangled – we need HOPE that the resurrected LORD can help get things untangled so we can have healthy relationships
- In the midst of a culture of division and political dysfunction we need Hope that Christ is in control & redeeming people, building His church & advancing His kingdom.
- And friends, since Jesus is going to return someday and take those of us who have His Spiritual DNA & are His children to be with Him forever – can I suggest that by His grace we do our best to live as the most HOPEFUL PEOPLE AROUND?
ILL. – Did you know that Hope has actual healing power? In one study, 122 men who had a heart attack and survived were surveyed on their degree of hopefulness or pessimism. Of the 25 most pessimistic, 21 died within 8 years. Of the 25 most optimistic on 6 had died. Loss of hope increased the odds of death by 300%. It predicted death more accurately than any medical factor including blood pressure, degree of heart damage or cholesterol. You know what that means? IT MEANS IT’S ALWAYS BETTER TO EAT DONUTS IN HOPE THAN BROCCOLI IN DESPAIR!
- And John stresses the incredible hope we have as Xians when he says ‘we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
- When Jesus returns – those of us who have died in Him will be resurrected & those believers who are still alive will be raptured.
- And all of us will be transformed into these beautiful, marvelous creatures who have resurrected & glorified bodies just like Jesus has now!
ILL.- I don’t know about you but that is becoming increasingly important to me. In my opinion, one of the greatest meals ever invented is a really good pizza along with a delicious craft beer. I love that but I get these bad headaches & can no longer drink beer. But someday, in my resurrected & glorified body in the kingdom of God, I’m going to be able to eat as much pizza & drink as much beer as I want. And the same is true for all those who have the Father’s DNA and dwell in the Son. Our destiny has been determined and it is glorious. So, let me ask you, Where’s your Hope? When this life comes to an end, and at some point it will, where do you want to spend eternity? Conclusion Back in the fall of 2003, some friends of mine and I felt led of the LORD to start Aspen Grove Community Church. The leadership of South Fellowship so gracious and generously allowed us to use the ELCenter on Thursday nights for our worship services and children’s ministries. And so on Thursday night, January 15th, 2004, we started with 47 people and continued to meet every Thursday night thru the winter and on into the spring. Well, Easter began to approach and we wanted to do the best we could to reach out to our family members and friends who didn’t yet know Jesus and so rented out two large rooms down at the old World Venture headquarters for Sunday, April 18th. And everyone pledged to pray for their family members and friends and then invite them and see what God might do. And by God’s grace, we had a Great Easter Service – we had a brunch that was great; the worship was fantastic, the kids program was really positive, I thought the sermon went pretty well and we had almost 175 show up. And when it was all over, I was on a HUGE HIGH – I thought ‘Lord, this is exactly why you called us to start this church!’ And I think I was just about the last one to leave the building. Walked into the parking lot and my sister, Becky, who had come to the service was standing by my car. She was 4 years older than me and had had a difficult life for a lot of reasons and she didn’t know Jesus in any kind of a personal way so when she came that Easter Sunday I was really excited. And as I get up close to the car I can tell that she was crying and I remember thinking, ‘I didn’t think the sermon was that bad.’ And when I got to her I gave her a hug & she said thru sobs how great the people were and what a great service it was and that she wanted to come back. And she did. She came back the next Thursday night and then the one after that and the one after that. Something spiritual had happened in her heart that Easter Sunday morning. She was born again and got the Father’s DNA, and she became a child of God. And then she started to dwell in Jesus and she began to grow spiritually and she began to serve and even give some of her $. And while life continued to throw some pretty big challenges her way she became one of the most faithful members of Aspen Grove Community Church where she worshipped Jesus every single week. Over the past 2 years she struggled with some serious health issues and little over two months ago she got really sick and we put her in the hospital and then the ICU. But the LORD wanted to take her to be with Him and so, on Thursday, 9/14, she entered the arms of the Savior. Her Spiritual DNA – which she got that Easter Sunday back 2004 – determined her destiny – an eternity of glory of with our mighty God and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth. May that exact same thing be true for me and may it be true for all of you as well.