Abide in Confidence 1 John 4:7-21
How many of you watched the NBA finals? How many of you saw LeBron James say this—show video of LeBron saying “I am the greatest player in the whole world.” That’s some pretty strong confidence isn’t it? But what about the confidence it took to do the high ropes? Is anyone here “the greatest high ropes course climber in the whole world?” Haha, probably not. But, talk to me about the ropes course. Was there anything scary about doing them? What made it scary? Did anyone thing that boards were going to break? Or what about slipping? Were you unsure about whether or not the ropes would break? Or what about your harness? Scary stuff, right?
But, after going through all of that and watching other people accomplish it, what happened? You had confidence that it was trustworthy.
It is really important in life to know whether someone or something is trustworthy. It matters if our dentist actually knows a thing or two about teeth. It mattered that the pilot who flew Brittany and I over here knew how to fly. It also matters if what is being preached is true or not.
John wanted to give the church he was writing to confidence. He wanted them to have confidence that they could know that they were hearing a trustworthy message. He wanted them to know whether or not someone was a follower of Jesus or not. He wanted them to have confidence that they would have eternal life with God.
And he also wanted to make sure that people were not putting their confidence in something false.
The first confidence that he wanted to address in this part of the letter was the issue of love. He continually repeats love. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and whoever loves has been born of God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” So, do you demonstrate love? If yes, then you have a good foundation to be confident that you are in a right relationship with God. Do you hate others and think of yourself first? Then you fail the confidence test of love. Your confidence is misplaced.
But why is it that love is a confidence test? Because God is love! And he demonstrated this reality by sending Jesus into the world to save people from sin. God, rather than saying “I do not care about humanity and the fact that they are all broken,” he said “I love them, and I am willing to give my own life for them.” And this is what love is measured against.
See, so often we have a misconstrued idea of love, so we falsely pass the confidence test of love. We say we have love because we occasionally say something nice, or we lower standards and expectations for others, but that is not love. Love is an act of sacrifice that makes the other person better. Love is not selfish, but rather it is outward focused. And when we have a life of sacrificial love, then we can pass the confidence test and know that God abides with us.
But the next confidence test of this passage is related to the Holy Spirit. When you ask the question “does God abide with me?” or “am I in a good relationship with God?” is there a voice inside of you that gives you confidence and says “yes, I love you and abide with you?” And this is a very hard concept to grasp, and I want you to pay careful attention to me for a little bit about this. When you are saved, the Holy Spirit of God joins itself with you and protects you from Satan, gives you the ability to follow God, and gives you a new life. This Holy Spirit helps you communicate with God in a very subtle way. Many times we avoid listening to the Holy Spirit because we do not even know what to do with it. But when you ask God questions, he stirs your heart and will answer through the Holy Spirit by giving you confidence that something is right, or that something is wrong.
But the Holy Spirit always works hand in hand with the work of Jesus. Which is why John gives the confidence test of “Who do you say Jesus is?” Do you believe that Jesus is God’s Son who came and saved us? The Holy Spirit will let us know if we are just saying empty words, of if we actually believe that Jesus is God’s Son.
But what does it mean that Jesus is God’s Son? It means that Jesus is God, and as God he is relating to us and in communion with us. God is three, but God is one. And it seems confusing, but our confidence is not in perfectly understanding how God is God, but that God is God.
Are you following? (if it seems to be yes, then move forward in the passage, if no, then spend a little more on Jesus is fully God, the Holy Spirit is fully God, and the Father is fully God).
When you confess Jesus is God’s Son, you are also saying you believe that God’s love is true, and that God loves you. “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him.” Our confidence rests in God. Our confidence rests in Jesus actually loving us so much that he sacrificed his life for us. Our confidence rests in Jesus raising from the grave and giving us new life. This passage points to the ultimate confidence test being whether or not our confidence is in God.
But God does not leave us to wonder whether or not our confidence is misplaced. God is not a GPS that you have to wonder whether or not it is up to date. And God is not some cosmic coin flip where you have to wonder if it will be heads or tails—or if God loves you or does not love you. You can have confidence that God does love you, because Jesus did come. And you can have confidence in God’s salvation by the work he does in your life, and in the life of others.
God is a God of love and not fear. God does not desire for you to live in fear, or in confusion, or in chaos, or in doubt, or in anger, or in grief, or sadness, or mistrust. Which is why the confidence test of fear is brought up. If you cannot say that you know God loves you, and if you are afraid that God is going to condemn you, and if you afraid that you do not have any love in your own life, then you need ask what your confidence is placed in.
Tonight is the final night of camp. I want you all to be able to go out from here being able to say you are confident that you abide in Christ and that God abides in you. I want to be able to take comfort that the Holy Spirit has encouraged you and given you confidence that you are in a right relationship with God. But I can only tell you where your confidence needs to come from. I cannot make any decision for you.
God loves you. God loves you so much, and loves every person who has ever lived so much that when he saw sin, pain, confusion, and brokenness that He said “I am going to do something about it.” See, without Jesus we all have no confidence outside of our own self. And if we are honest, without Jesus we do not have much to offer. In fact, we are fairly sinful. And God is light—God is perfect and Holy. And light and dark cannot be together, as we talked about Monday night. And God said, Jesus, let’s save humanity and restore our relationship with them. So Jesus came, lived the perfect life; and took the punishment for our sin. When we died he said, “I will take all of the sin, pain, brokenness, and confusion upon myself.” He took your sin, my sin, all of our sin and said “God, do not punish them. I will take their punishment.” And three days after he did this, he rose from the dead and showed that his self-sacrifice was accepted by God. Not only that, but that anyone who believed in him would be able to be in a right relationship with God. All that they needed to do was to confess their sins and follow Jesus.
And this is why I am here. That is why Nate is your youth pastor. That is why us adults are here. He want you to know Jesus and to follow him. Some of you already know Jesus, and we want to help you follow Jesus better. And we want all of you to be able to know with confidence whether or not you are following Jesus. So, tonight, I am telling you that you can know. All you need to do is say “Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner. I need you. I know you love me that that you are God. The only way I can be right with you is to believe what you did was true and to follow you.” It is that simple, and it is simple because your confidence is placed in God. But know that you should not have an easy and misplaced confidence. If you are living a life of sin, ask yourself if you truly are following Jesus and are walking in the light.
So, right now I want to ask you to bow your heads again and pray with me. For those of you that have your confidence in Jesus, pray with me silently, “Jesus, I love you and I confess that I do this poorly. I need you and I want to know you more and to love others more.” For those who are not confident about their relationship with Jesus, but that want to have a confidence pray this, “Jesus, I need you. I confess that I have not been living a life for you, but for myself. Save me from my sin. I want to follow you and to love you.” Amen.
You are now going to your small groups, and some of you have exciting news to tell your counselors. Some of you still have questions. Ask your counselor. Some of you might not have any exciting news or questions, but know that we love you and that we have loved being at camp with you. You are dismissed.