Abiding in the Knowledge of the Resurrection

There is a rite of passage for fifteen-year-olds in the United States of America. These aspiring young men and women are allowed the precious gift of a driver’s learning permit. It is a terrifying and an exhilarating experience for a family. I remember teaching a teenager to drive a few years ago. We got into my car and she looked at me and said, “Which one is the brake again?” I realized she did not have the necessary knowledge to get behind the wheel. We had a long way to go before she was ready to take the wheel. One of the most important and yet often rarely taught pieces of knowledge is car maintenance.

Every new driver needs to understand the importance of regularly changing the oil in their car. Oil is the lifeblood of an engine. The oil lubricates the engine maximizing its efficiency and allowing the car to run smoothly. If the oil is not changed regularly, the engine will eventually shut down. Of course, the car will work for a while before any problems are seen. Fuel costs will start to increase as the engine has to work harder. There will begin to be odd noises and the car will become sluggish. Eventually, if one does not abide in the knowledge of regular oil changes, the engine will die. It is only a matter of time.

            As oil is an engine, the abiding knowledge of God is essential for our spiritual vitality. We may be able to run a long term without abiding with God, but eventually our spiritual engine will shut down. We must abide in the knowledge of God. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ provides essential knowledge which we must live our lives by. If we do not abide in the knowledge of the resurrection, we will eventually shut down. Amos 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” In Apostle John’s first epistle to the church, he exhorts the church to abide in the knowledge of Christ. Almost half of the uses of the abide in the New Testament, are used in the book of 1 John. Abide means to remain, stay with or continue. John encourages the people to remain in the knowledge of the gospel. To remain or abide is not some mystical idea, but to govern one’s life on the knowledge of God. A car owner should abide in the knowledge of the importance of oil changes as a Christian should abide in the knowledge of the resurrection of Christ. There are five aspects of knowledge that John encourages the church to abide in through his epistle.

 

Abide in the Knowledge that the Resurrection Shows Eternal Light

One of the key themes in 1 John is the use of light and darkness. The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows that He is the divine light of the world. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) God manifested his light through the Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him, and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” Again in 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his son cleanses us from all sin.” Later, in 1 John 2:7, “At the same time, a new commandment I give to you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” In the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Son, we know that Jesus Christ is the eternal light of the world.

            Jesus being the light of the world always gives us a clear example of which to follow. If we are ever confused on how to live, all we must do is look to Christ. How much confusion could be avoided if we simply looked to Christ? Without light, we cannot know where to go. Have you ever had to get up early and didn’t want to wake anyone in the house up so while you tried to get ready in the dark? It may work once or even twice, but eventually you are going to hurt yourself. We need light. We cannot properly function in the darkness. The light of Jesus shows us how to live, but it does not show us merely how to live, but how to live eternally. “Jesus is the true God and eternal life.” 1 John 5:20

 

Abide in the Knowledge that the Resurrection Supplies Eternal Life

We must also abide in the knowledge that God sent the Son to supply us eternal life. Jesus was sent to save us. 1 John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin, but if anyone does sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, but not ours only, but the sins of the whole world.” Again in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. And later in 1 John 4:14, “We have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the World.

            We are sinners and sinners have no claim on eternal life. Our sin has separated us from God. Our sin deserves to be punished and must be punished if God is just. All human beings are under God’s wrath. And yet, the Father sent the Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Propitiation means an atoning sacrifice or an act of appeasement to God. God anger is appeased or satisfied or placated. God’s anger no longer rests on us because it was taken on by Christ. The act of propitiation changes God from being at enmity with us to being for us[1]. We have moved from an enemy to a beloved child. The Son is the Savior of sinners by being numbered as a sinner for our salvation.

In World War 2, Ernest Gordon was a British captive in a Japanese prison camp by the River Kwai in Burma, where the POWs were forced to build a 'railroad of death' for transporting Japanese troops to the battlefront. They were tortured, starved, and worked to the point of exhaustion. Nearly 16,000 died.

 

Gordon survived the horrors of that experience and wrote about….one occasion when, at the end of a workday, the tools were being counted before the prisoners returned to their quarters. A guard declared that a shovel was missing. He began to rant and rave, demanding to know which prisoner had stolen it. Working himself into a paranoid fury, he ordered whoever was guilty to step forward and take his punishment. No one did. 'All die!' the guard shrieked. 'All die!" He cocked his rifle and aimed it at the prisoners. At that moment, one man stepped forward. Standing at attention he calmly declared, 'I did it.’ The Japanese guard at once clubbed the man to death. As his friends carried away his lifeless body, the shovels in the tool shed were recounted--only to reveal that there was no missing shovel.[2]

 

The men survived because the guard’s wrath was appeased. The soldier became the propitiation that moves satisfied the guard’s anger to the rest could go free. The reason we have hope this morning because there was a death sentence against us. The sentence was clear, “All die.” Unlike the guard, who had no basis for his anger, God was perfectly just in his sentence. God chose to send his Son as our Advocate and say, “I did it,” taking the place of those who deserved to die. Jesus Christ stepped forward and gave up his life to satisfy God’s wrath and to save us. God has supplied eternal life through the Son.   

The Father sent Jesus to save us and now Jesus sends us to help save us. John 20:21, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” You abide in the knowledge of the resurrection when you savor the sacrifice of Christ and share him with others. If you never share Jesus, how can others have fellowship with us? “that which we have seen, and heard, we proclaim also to you so that you may have fellowship with us and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3) When was the last time you proclaimed the eternal life so that others may have forgiveness of sin and fellowship with Father through the Son?

 

Abide in the Knowledge that the Resurrection Secures Eternal Life

Jesus Christ did not only supply the means of eternal life with his death, but secured it in his resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is the promise of our future resurrection. Romans 8:29 says that Jesus, “was the firstborn among many brothers.” Jesus secured our eternal life in his resurrection from the dead. Paul later writes in 1 Corinthians, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” Jesus was the first, but there shall be others.

            The goal of 1 John is so that we would know that we have eternal life. 1 John 5:11-13, “And this is the testimony, God gave us eternal life, and this life is in the Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I am writing these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know you have eternal life.” The resurrection proved that Jesus was the Son of God. His resurrection is now proof for us that we will also have life. What a sweet and sure hope!

            Do you ever doubt that you are saved? Do you ever wonder if God’s resurrection power is applied to you? Beloved, you are not alone. This letter was written to comfort and encourage a people who doubted the goodness and power of God in salvation. 1 John 2:12-14,

 

I am writing to you little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. I am writing to you fathers because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I am writing to you children because you know the father. I am writing to you fathers because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you young men, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

There are so many places in this short letter where John reminds the people of the victory they have in Christ. Abide in the knowledge of our victory in Christ,

1 John 2:20, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” 1 John 2:24-25, “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.” 1 John 4:4, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 5:4-5, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:20, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”

 

            Do not let condemnation govern your life. For there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We live in the sure hope of our future resurrection.

 

Abide in the Knowledge that the Resurrection Supplies Eternal Living

The people of God should look different than the world. We show our faith through our deeds. As Calvin said, “It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone.[3]” Christians have always been marked by righteousness. “Whoever says they abide in Christ, ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:6) If Jesus is our example and our teacher, we should desire to live a life like him. Our lives are a clear sign if we belong to God. John speaks of believers walking in the light as Jesus is in the light. He speaks of believers practicing righteousness as Jesus is righteous.

            After my wife came to the Lord, the first passage of Scripture I encouraged her to memorized was 1 John 2:15-17. It was an important paragraph in 2003 and maybe even more so today,

 

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

 

            It is piercing passage of Scripture that provides a powerful perspective. The church of the living God should not look like the world, but should reflect the love of the Father. And sadly, more and more churches are desiring to become like world to reach the world. Friends, we are called to reach the world through the our good works and God’s good word. Let us never try to win the world through worldly means for world is temporary, but we who do the will of God will abide forever.

John increases the weight of his exhortation to godliness in the main body of the letter. His longest explicit admonishment is in 1 John 3:4-10,

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

 

Notice how John both gives words of encouragement to the saints and warning to those are not living up to their faith. The one who practices righteousness (right living) should have confidence he belongs to God. The one who makes a practice of sinning should have no confidence before God. They should have no security of their eternal life. The one who has been born again lives in righteous.

This does not mean we will never fall to sin, because even as we heard earlier, we are all sinners and have an Advocate before the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. We do not rest in our righteousness but in the righteousness of Christ. And yet, our lives should look more like Jesus than less like him. “And now little children, abide in him so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink back in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” (1 John 2:28-29)

Fifty years ago, this Easter, one of our faithful members repented of her sins and trust in Christ as her Savior. She has never regretted that decision since. Maybe you need to draw a line in the sand today. Maybe you need to turn from your sins and trust in Christ to save you. Who knows, maybe fifty years from now you will think back to today when Christ changed your life forever. Friend, do not be deceived. Followers of Christ will look like Christ.

Come to the light. If you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Do not stay in darkness. Come to the light. Everyone who trusts in Jesus purifies himself as he is pure. Allow Jesus to cleanse you from all your sin. The Father sent the Son to satisfy his wrath and to fill your need. Come to the light.

Beloved, if you are striving to live righteously, take comfort today that the Lord is pleased with you. There are always days that we can live better, but we should not always live feeling like we do nothing right. God is pleased when we keep his commandments. God is pleased when we live to please him. This side of heaven our good deeds will never be perfect, but that does not mean God is not pleased with us. Take heart, you are God’s children. You belong to him and he loves you.

 

Abide in the Knowledge that the Resurrection Shapes Eternal Love

Lastly, we abide in the knowledge of the resurrection when we love our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we are born of God, we will love with his eternal love. Our love should no longer be marked by self-interest and self-glorification, but self-sacrifice. There is no book in the New Testament that is so focused on loving the family of God. It is powerful reminder of what God has done for us in Christ. Jesus died on the cross, was buried, was raised from the dead, seated on the right hand of God, and sent his Spirit so that we can live through him. When we love our brothers and sisters in the faith, we are manifesting his love to the world. Hear the Elder John’s exhortation to love each other,

1 John 2:10, “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 1 John 3:11, “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” 1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.” 1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1 John 3:23, “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

The sheer volume of exhortations to love one another is so striking when you read the book in one sitting. The most concentration paragraph is 1 John 4:7-12,

 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 

 

Love is a badge of the redeemed. As love identifies the saints, hate is a marker of the world. John warns of the hate towards the brothers almost as much as he encourages love. One of the clearest warning he makes is referring to those who leave the fellowship of the saints as those who are anti-Christs. 1 John 2:18-19,

 

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 

 

            It would have been shocking to John for someone to say they had fellowship with Jesus and not gather with the saints. The communion with the saints was a mark of having communion with God.

            Praise God for how often I have witnessed the eternal love of God through how you care for each other. How you sacrifice time with your families to visit the sick. How you open your homes to fellowship around the Word of God. How you wake up early and stay up late to study the Bible together. How you pray tirelessly for each other. How you check up on each other when we are gone. How you love to spend time together after services talking about what God is doing with each other. How often I hear of you sharing meals together. I pray that we would be known more and more for how we love one another.

            Abiding in the knowledge of the resurrection is essential for our spiritual lives. Beholding and marveling at the beauty of gospel of the glorious resurrection of the Savior is something we do not do once a year, but every day. We must grow closer to Christ. Puritan John Flavel writes of how abiding Christ only magnifies his beauty,

When the saints shall have fed their eyes upon [Christ] in heaven, thousands and millions of years, he shall be as fresh, beautiful, and orient as at the beginning. Others beauties have their prime, and their fading time; but Christ abides eternally. Our delight in creatures is often most at first acquaintance; when we come nearer to them, and see more of them, the edge of our delight is abated: but the longer you know Christ, and the nearer you come to him, still the more do you see of his glory. Every farther prospect of Christ entertains the mind with a fresh delight. He is as it were a new Christ everyday, and yet the same Christ still.[4]

 

Beloved, we never outgrow our need for Christ but his beauty only widens and deepens in time.[5] Let us abide with him because He is our Light, our Love, the true God, our eternal life, our propitiation and the Savior of the world. Behold all the many angles of Christ and feast on His majesty.

 

[1] RC Sproul, What do expiation and Propitiation mean? http://www.ligonier.org/blog/two-important-words-good-friday-expiation-and-propitiation/ accessed 4.15.17

[2] http://sermons.logos.com/submissions/119200-All-Die-#content=/submissions/119200

[3] John Calvin's Antidote to the Council of Trent (1547). Answering Cannon 11 of the Council of Trent.

[4] Flavel, J. (1820). The Whole Works of the Reverend John Flavel (Vol. 1, p. 270). London; Edinburgh; Dublin: W. Baynes and Son; Waugh and Innes; M. Keene.

[5] Modified quote from Spurgeon.