Preached in the San Diego Rescue Mission on Wednesday morning, August 30, 2017.
Have you ever heard a person complain about fake Christians? They look at a person’s mistakes and say, “That’s why I can’t stand Christians. They preach love, and then look at how they act. They’re all fake!” They don’t complain about Jesus, because Jesus is hard to argue against. So, they point to Christians they don’t like for whatever reason, and call them fake. Sometimes it may be true, and sometimes not. The Bible tells us how we can know who Christians are. We know we are Christians if we love like Jesus.
There has been a terrible flood in Texas this week. People are going through some terrible times. They are losing their homes and all their belongings. We have seen some courageous people reach out and help their neighbors. A Houston police sergeant died, drowning in flood waters as he was reporting for duty. People are making sacrifices to help their fellow man.
Lakewood Church, a Houston megachurch, has come under criticism because of the storm. They put out a statement saying to pray for the people of Houston, and gave out a list of shelters. People started asking questions. Why weren’t they opening their huge church, which used to be an arena for a basketball team? They own a multimillion dollar facility, but it was closed to the public in the city’s time of need. The criticisms started pouring in. The community had put all this money into this church, but they weren’t helping in their time of need? Some called all Christians fake, because of the hypocrisy they saw in the actions of this church. The church ended up opening its doors, but not until they suffered a lot of criticism and bashing.
They should have been quicker to love their neighbor in action. But as Christians, are we quick to love our neighbor? Do people look at our lives and say, “fake Christian,” or do they see Jesus working in us? How can we know if we are a Christian? The Bible gives us criteria for us to know if we are living the Christian life. John writes about this in John 2, starting in verse 3.
Christians live to obey Jesus
The first thing John wants us to know is Christians live to obey Jesus. Christians live to obey Jesus. John says in 1 John 2:3-6:
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. 1 John 2:3–6
John is telling us that there is a way to know if someone is a Christian or not. It is not good enough for someone to give lip service to their Christianity. A Christian is not known only by the way he speaks. A Christian is recognized as a person that does what Jesus says to do. There is a clear standard of a Christian life. As a Christian, we are Christ-followers. We are called to live our lives as Christ lives His life. A Christian life is a life of love.
Not everyone who calls himself or herself a Christian is a Christian. A lot of people call themselves Christian. There are even people claiming to be Jesus himself. I heard of a man in Florida that was claiming to be Jesus returned. He goes around telling his congregation that there is no heaven or hell. They buy lots of expensive gifts for him, which he takes. He does no miracles, and does nothing that Jesus did. He is a fraud and a liar.
We know a Christian by his authenticity. The work that the Holy Spirit does in a person happens from the inside out. It is authentic, and creates a big change in a person. When God touches a person, He cleans out all the dirt and grime in their life on the inside, and makes them a new person. That inside transformation comes out of them in loving words and actions.
Suppose a man is an adulterer. If he becomes a Christian, but continues in his adultery, is he a Christian? How can that man be touched by God without a changed life? A change by God turns you into a new person. A person who has no Christian change in his life, can’t call himself a Christian. He needs to repent, turn to Christ in faith, and God will then move that man to a changed, transformed life.
A fake Christian life is like rap music videos. Rappers talk about the tons of money they have, the rich mansions they own, and the tons of diamonds on their wrist. In their videos, they have huge gold chains. They are laying in hot tubs in a huge mansion with an ocean view, and drive around in luxury sports cars. But it’s all an act. It’s all a big Hollywood production to sell an image to the youth that rap will bring you a luxurious life. They rent expensive gold chains, and return them after the video. They set up scenes in houses that they don’t live in, to make you think that they are rich beyond compare. It’s all a fake act.
Don’t let your Christian life be a fake act. Christianity is not about impressing people. There is only one opinion that matters. There is only one type of Christian that matters. That is the Christian that Jesus knowns as His follower. Jesus said that there will be people a lot of people who will stand before Him, and claim that they knew Him. Jesus will tell them that He never knew them, and have them leave from Him (Matt. 7:23). Don’t let your Christian life be a fake act. Seek Him first, and He will take care of the rest.
A Christian is also known by his obedience to God’s word. John says that “whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him” (1 John 2:5). A Christian’s character is shaped by his obedience to God’s word. We are molded by reading what is in the word of God, and learning about Jesus’ life. We learn about the life that He wants for us, and apply His truth to our lives.
Living the Christian life without God’s word is like trying to build a house without blueprints. A person who knows nothing about home construction needs instruction. He would not start putting wood, wall board, and pipes together, hoping that a house will appear. He needs instructions on how to build a house. Like that homebuilder, the word of God is our blueprint for life. Life is complicated. It takes a lot of choices and decision making. We need to know God’s word, so we can live a life that is founded on the principles God put for us in His word.
A Christian obeys as Jesus obeyed. We are Christ-followers. A Christian sees the life that Jesus lives in the gospels, and patterns his life accordingly.
Suppose a business owner hires you as an apprentice cook in his fancy restaurant. You don’t know much about cooking. You might know how to scramble eggs, but that’s it. But the owner of the restaurant is expecting you to cook just like the head chef. This head chef is a world-renowned expert chef. Would you go in the kitchen and think, “I don’t need to learn how the head chef cooks? I’ll whip up something on my own, and I’m sure it will be as good as the head chef’s cooking.” No, that would be foolish, and likely get you fired. Instead, you would follow the head chef around, from the beginning to the end of your shift. You would try to learn about every single thing he does, from chopping the food, to seasoning it, to cooking time.
Our Christian life is like learning from that head chef. We are followers of our Lord Jesus. The Bible gives us important information on who Jesus was, and what He did. It tells us where He went, who He spoke to, how He treated people, what His life mission was, and how He accomplished it. It is invaluable information. We need to examine His life, the only perfect “Christian” that ever lived, and pattern our lives after His. We must see who He is, trust in Him by faith, and let Him lead our lives according to His truth in His word.
Christians live to obey Jesus.
The Bible teaches that we should live a life of love
Second, the Bible teaches that we should live a life of love. We need to live a life of love. John talks about this, starting in 2:7:
Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. 1 John 2:7–8
John writes about this idea between and old and new commandment. He does not specify the commandment he is talking about in this section. But, he does specify it in his second letter. In 2 John 5, John writes:
And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. 2 John 5
The commandment that John is talking about is love. This is a commandment that we have had from the beginning. It is a very clear commandment in scripture. Moses said in Leviticus 19:18:
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18
This is the greatest commandment for the Christian. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, your mission is to love God, and to love your neighbor. We are to love people.
The idea is like that story of the Good Samaritan, which in modern times might look like this. You are walking in the street, and you see an old man hurt. He is in a lot of pain. You stop and call 911. You wait with the man until the ambulance comes. You speak to the man to ask if he has any family that you can call, but you find out that he has no one. He is alone. You then get in the ambulance with the man. You go with the man to the hospital. You find out that his name is Frank. You let Frank know that you are going to stay with him. You get to the hospital, and wait with him at the hospital. You tell Frank about how Jesus has changed your life, and how He loves people. When he gets out of the hospital, you get some dinner with him. You then pay for his cab home. You do all this because you know you would want someone to do it for you. This is loving your neighbor.
Jesus lived a sacrificial life, and we should aim to do the same. Jesus treated people with love and compassion, healing them, and feeding them. We need to be the healers in our community. God has called us to live in love. Are you able to love others? In Christ, you are. We need to love people.
Jesus brings a whole new clarity to what a life of love is. Jesus showed that love is sacrificial action. It is thinking of others, and doing good to them. It is feeding the hungry, taking care of the sick, and loving your enemy. Jesus’ life emphasizes true, sacrificial love.
Have you ever been at the beach at sunrise? The world is dark. You know you are walking on sand, and you can hear the water in front of you. You can see a little glimmer of the waves through the moonlight. But everything is dark, and it is hard to see. But as the first colors of the skyline changes, things become to get in focus. As the light gets brighter, you can start to see all the beauty around you. The ocean stretches out as far as you can see. The sky is a beautiful array of colors, and the sand minerals glisten in the sunlight. The waves are clear and beautiful.
A new life in Jesus is similar. Before Jesus, everything was dark and confusing. You thought you knew what was going on around you, but you really had no clue. You tried to figure it out, but you kept groping around, bumping into things, and not knowing were you were going.
But when Jesus comes into your life, He starts to spread His light all around you. Things become clearer. You start to see things according to His light. He loves people, so you start to love people. Jesus’ love is overwhelming, and covers everything around, just like that morning sun. It is beautiful, and it brings clarity to life.
Christians live to obey Jesus, and the Bible teaches that we should live a life of love.
Love is not hypocritical; love is clear
Third, love is not hypocritical; love is clear. Love is clear. John writes in 1 John 2:9-11:
He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:9–11
John makes a contrast between light and dark. He does this to emphasize the difference between a life that is lived in God’s righteousness, and a life that is lived in immorality. An immoral life is chaotic, and full of hatred, while a righteous life is clear, and full of love.
The chaos of an immoral life is destructive. It is a life full of hatred: hatred against God, and hatred against others. How we relate to others tells people about our relationship with God. Hatred destroys relationships. Hatred destroys a person, causes severe depression, and deepens your frustration with life. A life lived in hate is a life that is groping around, trying to figure things out, but without much success.
I once saw a blind man trying to cross the street. As he crossed, he was bumping into cars. Cars were honking him as he was trying to find the crosswalk. He had to use his stick, and made it across, but was visibly frustrated as he got to the other side. A life filled with chaos is like walking in the dark into traffic. It is a dangerous, destructive experience.
When God changes a person, He deals with the hatred in your heart. Maybe you had a bad marriage, or perhaps you can’t stand your own life because of decisions that you have made. God can change your heart, and give you a new perspective. You will begin to see things in a new light, because God will give you a new way to think about life.
The love that Jesus gives brings clarity to life. It’s like opening the door to a dark basement. As you open the door, you can’t see much. You start to grope around, trying to find a light. But when the light comes on, everything in your path becomes clear. You can see the way forward, because the light has brought clarity to your surroundings. Jesus is the light of the world, and He brings clarity to our path.
If you are a Christian, God has shown His light inside of you. Let your light shine to others. Let them know how Christ has changed your life through your words and actions. May all the things you do glorify Christ.
We have seen that Christians live to obey Jesus. A life lived by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will show love to God and to others. The Bible teaches that we should live a life of love. And we know that love is not hypocritical. Love is clear.
Are you living a life of love? What do people think when you say that you are a Christian? Do they look at your life and think, “another fake Christian?” Or do they see the love that you show others, and know that you love people because of Christ in you?
You need the power of the Holy Spirit to live an authentic Christian life. The authentic Christian life is shown through a life of love in Jesus. We must repent of any hatred that we have towards others. Christ is not glorified in hate. Instead, we must forgive others, because Christ forgave us. We must love others, because Christ loved us first. We must be willing to live a life of sacrificial love, because that is what Jesus did for us. God will give us the power and strength. And on the day when we see our Lord and Savior, He will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Remember, we know we are Christian if we love like Jesus. Love like Jesus today.