Saturday, October 30, 2010

Make the Gospel True

Here is another bit of my sermon this weekend that didn't make the cut.


Is the gospel true in your life group? Don’t you want it to be? Don’t you want to be a part of a community where agape is active? Don’t you long for the gospel to be true in your church? The gospel happens when you walk in the light of a love that lays down its life. Do you want to impact the world for Jesus? Lay down your lives for one another, because that doesn’t happen in this world.

Several weeks ago, Andy Sieberhagen led the staff in a devotional where he took us deep into the mind of a long-term, overseas missionary. It was a terrifying experience! He told us that people go overseas because they believe that the Christian community they’re experiencing at home is worth giving to others and worth dying for. Friends, your life group and your church are only worth dying for if you are already laying down your lives for each other.

Dear friends, let us lay down our lives for one another, because this whole concept of laying down your life comes directly from God! And anyone who lays down his life for his brother and sister has been born of God and knows God.

Do you want to see God work in your life? Walk in the light of a love that lays down its life. Do you want to know God more? Lay down your life for your brothers and sisters. You can’t love God if you refuse to lay down your life for others.

What’s truly amazing is that when you walk in the light of a love that lays down its life, this whole thing that Jesus called us to actually works. It really works. Forgiveness happens, and you are set free from the cycle of victimization. Grace happens and relationships are restored and strengthened. Laying down your life for each other really does make you able to lay down your life for God.

I know that each of you wants to love God with all of your heart, but you can’t love God if you don’t love your brothers and sisters. You can lay down your life for your brothers and sisters because God has laid down his life for you.

What are you holding onto? What sin, what offence, have you not let go of? Who are you refusing to forgive? What right are you laying claim to that hurts others? What demands are you making of others—your friends, your family? Where are you refusing to die? What word is God speaking to you right now? Money. Shame. Hobbies. The Boat. Power. Free Time. Sleep. Where is God calling you to walk in the light of a love that lays down its life?

Jesus didn’t just walk in the light of a love that laid down its life, he is the light of love that laid down his life. Consider all that has been forgiven of you. Consider how patient he has been with you. Does that make you grateful? Does that make you want to sacrifice everything for him? Whoever sacrifices everything for God must also sacrifice everything for his brother. So how will you walk?


Preston said...

Andy -

First, thanks for a powerful sermon tonight. I loved your expanded translation of that passage when I read it on your blog, and I'm glad you used it in a sermon.

Second, I'm having trouble reconciling a concept in 1 John and thought you could probably help. 1 John 2:9 speaks of still being in the darkness if you hate your brother (Gk. ἀδελφὸν, simply "brother"). 2:2 insists that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, and there are quite obviously many non-believers in the world. All modern translations that I have at my disposal (at least those that use anything other than the generic "brother" for ἀδελφὸν) expand or clarify the sense of "brother" to mean "Christian brother" or "fellow believer". So it sounds like all of these translation committees (NIV, NLT, MSG, NET) think it's possible to walk in the light while hating a Jew, Muslim, Hindu, etc. when I'm pretty sure that's just about exactly not what Jesus meant. It's certainly not what I want Jesus to have meant.

Did these mainstream translations just choose the wrong sense of the concept of a "brother", just like in English we have so much baggage around the word "love"? Was John confused? How would you translate ἀδελφὸν in this context?

Preston Wilson

andy said...

Preston, that's a great comment. And how did you type in Greek? Please tell. :)

First, whenever we find the word "adelphoi" we take that to mean brothers [and sisters] in the faith. All the letters of the NT were written to congregations with the assumption that all present would already have put their faith in Christ. So the term "brothers" does refer, exclusively, to Christians.

The reason that John goes to such great length to tell Christians to love each other is because that clearly wasn't happening in this congregation. Furthermore, if we can't love each other, then what credibility does the gospel have with nonChristians?

It's also important to remember that John was the same author who wrote John 3:16 • For God so loved the world...

The type of conclusion you point out is an exegetical fallacy, one that I would call over-literalism. (I'm sure there's a better, more sophisticated term for it.) Just because the Bible says that we walk in the light by loving one another, does not mean that what it doesn't say is also true--that we can walk in the light and hate every nonChristian. That, of course, does not reflect the heart of God, who loved each of us before we turned to Jesus, as John tells us in his Gospel.

Preston said...

Andy -

The Greek typing comes from a little app called PortableKeyboardLayout (; I made my own modified version that handles Koine better (it's in my Dropbox at when I started studying Mounce's grammar a year or so ago. I guess I wasn't geeking out enough about learning an ancient language... I had to write code about it too.

And thank you for the help with the exegetical problem I couldn't resolve. This is the sort of thing that would seem logical to include in study Bible notes, but I don't see it in the NIV or NLT notes, and the NET notes expand upon just the believers-only angle. Seeing it as it was intended (as a letter that would only be read to or by believers) makes it much easier to grasp why it only refers to believers.

And if we can't be nice to Christians, how can we be nice to non-believers, anyway?