“WHO DO YOU RUN WITH?”
First John 3.14
1. Please turn in your Bible to First John 3.14. When you find that verse in God’s Word please stand and we will read together:
14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
2. This sentence deals with the issue of assurance of salvation. There are a great many people in the world who are quite sure they are genuinely converted, but this passage deals with assurance that is based upon the truth of God’s Word, not the unverified certainty and convictions of a person who is sincere, but sincerely wrong.
3. Please observe the first half of the sentence: “We know that we have passed from death unto life.” Implicit in this statement is the reality that a person passes from death unto life. That is, conversion is not a process but an event, and you are either in the realm of death as a lost person or in the realm of life as a saved person.
4. Let me read what the Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament says about this word that is translated “we have passed”: “metabebhkamen perf. act. ind. metabainw to pass over from one place to another, to transfer, to migrate (RWP). The perf. tense indicates the permanency of the step of salvation (Schnackenburg).”
5. So, when a person is converted he transfers, he migrates, he passes from the realm of spiritual death to the realm of spiritual life. And this passage is irreversible. If you are truly converted you have already made this migration, you have already passed from death to life . . . while you are yet this side of eternity!
6. Now consider the second half of the sentence: “we love the brethren.” In John 5.24 Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
7. You pass from death unto life by faith. So, faith precedes conversion. But once you’ve been converted, once you’ve passed from death unto life, love for the brethren is seen to proceed from conversion.
8. Love for the brethren is in two ways a sign that you are converted. During this exposition time I want to explore and expand upon this love for the brethren, this love for those who are genuinely converted, as a sign to you of your own conversion. Consider, if you will, three things in this regard:
1A. First, CONSIDER THE ACT OF LOVE FOR THE BRETHREN
1B. Please recognize that this love that one believer has for another believer is not a natural thing, is not a thing that can exist in an unconverted state. That’s why it is part of the fruit of the Spirit.
1C. To love someone because he bears the image and likeness of God, because he is holy, is something that is accomplished in the child of God only by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
2C. The natural man certainly hates God because He is a holy God, hates God’s Law because it’s a holy Law, and hates God’s children because they are a holy people.
3C. But does not the regenerating Holy Spirit make the heart new, giving to the born again person a love for God? Yes, He does. The Holy Spirit loves the Father. And since the Holy Spirit indwells the new believer he will also love the Father, because of the Holy Spirit’s influence upon him.
4C. And this same Holy Spirit Who brings this love for God also sheds abroad in our hearts a love for other Christians. Thus, there is a connection between the command to love God with all your might and the command to love your neighbor as yourself.
5C. But what if there is no love for the brethren? Ah, then there is no love for God, either, in Whose image and after Whose likeness the brethren are made. No love for God and no love for the brethren means no indwelling Holy Spirit. No indwelling Spirit means no real conversion, Romans 8.9.
2B. As well as not being a natural thing, this love for the brethren is also not a superficial thing.
1C. When Romanian pastor Richard Wurmbrand was in a communist prison for 12 years the only person he could fellowship with was a Jehovah’s Witness. Now, he did not fellowship as with a brother in Christ, but he had some correspondence with a human being who though lost had some sense of the value and importance of spiritual things, some sense of God.
2C. Imagine, then, the depth of the love he would have had for a fellow Christian in that communist prison, one with whom he shared the Savior. And this is what is meant by a love for the brethren. Paul, in Romans 12.10, expresses it this way: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.”
3C. This is not some “I’ll be nice to you when it’s convenient for me” approach to a brother in Christ. There are those who seem to have love for Christians, but closer inspection shows that such is the case only when there is benefit, only when there is advantage. Such as that is not love for the brethren. Love for the brethren must be something that is rooted in your heart.
4C. Do you love Christians after this fashion, my friend?
2A. Next, CONSIDER THE OBJECTS OF LOVE, THE BRETHREN
That is, the brethren that you are to love if you are a Christian.
1B. We love them because they are brethren.
1C. You recognize, to continue from a few moments ago, that godly men can be loved for selfish reasons. It is possible to show love and to actually feel love for a Christian because he is wise, or because he is powerful, or because he is learned, or because he loves you.
2C. Ants come to a picnic, not because they love the family that has gathered to eat. They come for the food, for the sugar, for the pastries, for the Kentucky Fried Chicken. And so sometimes a person will seem to love a Christian, but he doesn’t really. Not because the fellow is a Christian, but for the goodies he gets from that fellow, for the nice treatment he receives, for the benefits he realizes from being close to the guy.
3C. Do you love only that Christian from whom you receive benefits? Or do you also love that Christian who can’t give you anything, and is only in a position to receive from you?
2B. As well, we love the brethren because they are like God (Who we love), and we love them more when they are more godly, since then they more like God.
1C. If godliness is the reason why you love the brethren, then the more godly the brother or sister is the more you should love him or her. And this is a very important point.
2C. Some people profess to love Christians. But when that Christian becomes more concerned with holiness, becomes more particular about doing right, has an ever stronger desire to be godly, some so-called fellow Christians then retreat from him.
3C. Never mind that his steps toward greater consecration are the halting steps of a growing baby Christian. The hypocrite only thinks about distancing himself from this one and having no more to do with him because in his heart he really hates that Christian’s holiness.
4C. Still others like the idea of godliness at Church, they just don’t want any of it at home. And the notion of a holy spouse, or a holy child, or the very idea of living next door to a godly family, causes them to wrinkle their noses in disgust.
5C. Does such a person love the brethren? And if you love the Christian, won’t you love more the person who is more Christ-like? It would seem so if you really love the Christian.
3B. This also implies that the professing Christian will love all Christians.
1C. To “love the brethren” is a pretty broad statement, after all, with wide application. It means you love the poor brethren as well as the rich. It means you love those brethren who are not like you as well as those who are like you.
2C. James 2 condemns the practice of treating the well dressed brother better than the brother who is too poor to dress well, thereby showing partiality. And such practice should be condemned. But what about preferential treatment for reasons other than prosperity? Is that not just as wrong? Of course it is. Preferential treatment for the unspiritual sports enthusiast over the spiritual man who is not a sports enthusiast is just evil.
3C. Now, this does not mean that each one of you cannot have your own inner circle of Christian friends who are closer to you than others. After all, the Lord Jesus Christ had His 12 and from among them He had an inner circle of three.
4C. But shouldn’t your inner circle be comprised of those who are more godly than the others, rather than those who are less godly? And shouldn’t your circle of those you love and interact with be comprised of all kinds of Christians, and not just those who are like you?
3A. Finally, CONSIDER THE EFFECTS OF LOVE FOR THE BRETHREN
There are five that I want to make mention of before this morning’s sermon:
1B. First, if you are a Christian you will stand with a brother
1C. The Christian faith has enough sunshine patriots and fair weather friends. What’s really needed are those who will stand when the going gets tough. We once had a fellow in this Church who I to this day describe as “a man you can count on until you need him.” No good.
2C. If you love the brethren you will be the kind of person who can be counted on when you are needed. You will be the kind of person who stands with a fellow because that fellow is standing by himself.
3C. Not like Demas, who showed himself lost after all by not standing with Paul. Listen to these sad words from Paul. I read Second Timothy 4.10, written from a Roman prison cell by the lonely apostle: “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica.”
4C. But it’s not just the preacher you will stand with if you are a Christian. It’s any brother in Christ who is in need of someone to stand with him.
2B. Next, if you are a Christian you will rejoice in a brother’s blessings
1C. John the Baptist was approached by his disciples who told him that everyone was flocking to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Baptist’s disciples were worried and jealous of the Savior’s crowds. But John loved his Savior and said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
2C. How perfectly his response illustrates Paul’s description of love in First Corinthians 13 as that which does not envy, that which is not jealous about the prosperity of another brother.
3C. What is your reaction when a brother in Christ is greatly blessed? Delight? Or envy?
3B. Third, if you are a Christian your love for the brethren will be seen by your opposition to wickedness
1C. Cain hated Abel enough to kill him because Abel’s works were righteous and his own were evil. The reverse is true of the child of God. Lot’s righteous soul was vexed by the sins of those in the city of Sodom.
2C. Listen to Psalm 15.1 and 4: “1 LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He . . . 4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned.” And this word “contemned” means despised. In other words, David recognized that the child of God does not like, actually despises, the reprobate, the man who is set against God.
3C. So, you say you love the brethren. Do you also oppose that which is ungodly, that which is wicked, the person who is openly opposed to God?
4B. Fourth, if you are a Christian you will give of yourself for another brother’s spiritual benefit
1C. God loved the world so much that He gave His Son. The love that Jesus had for His Father and for His Own moved Him to give Himself on Calvary’s cross. So God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ both show us by Their examples how love gives of self for the benefit of the one who is loved.
2C. In Second Timothy 4.6 we read Paul’s comments regarding his impending martyrdom for the cause of Christ. Now, he could have recanted, he could have said the right words and would have been set free. But His love for Christ and His love for the brethren moved him to write these words: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” He was willing to lay down his life for the benefit of the brethren.
3C. Will you give for a brother? What will you give? When will you give? How will you give?
5B. Finally, you will bear a brother’s burdens and forbear his infirmities if you are a Christian
1C. Listen to Galatians 6.1-2:
1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
2C. Now listen to First Corinthians 13.4-7:
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
3C. Do you get the idea, from these two passages, that it’s your job to finish off a wounded brother who has fallen? No. How about your dealings with the weak? Do you get the idea in these passages that you should abandon him . . . or perhaps help him?
1. A great many people have assurance of their salvation. But I wonder how many people have an assurance of salvation that reflects the truth, that reflects the reality, that’s a real sign that they know Christ?
2. So far this morning we have considered how your love for the brethren should be a sign to you that you are truly born again, if you are truly born again.
3. After brother Isenberger comes to lead us as we stand in a moment to sing, we will address the second sign of this verse, how failing to love the brethren can be a sign to others that you are not saved.
4. Now, let us stand as brother Isenberger comes.
1. Let me stay very basic this morning. Let me stay so simple that even the little kiddies in the auditorium can fully understand what I am saying, without even trying hard.
2. We looked during the exposition at how love for the brethren is a sign to a believer that he truly is born of God. We now see how no love for the brethren can be a sign to other people that you are not born of God.
3. For the sermon we look at the last sentence of First John 3.14: “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”
4. It’s one thing for you to be convinced you are born again, but it’s quite another thing for the rest of us to be convinced you are born again.
5. Four considerations that are fair appraisals of the love, or lack thereof, a professing Christian has for the brethren.
1A. First, WE LOOK AND WE ASK “WHO DOES HE LIKE?”
1B. Please remember that love for the brethren is a supernatural love that is imparted by the indwelling Holy Spirit. And it’s a love that simply does not exist prior to the conversion of the believer. So, it’s really telling to look at the life of a professing Christian to find out who he likes, whose company he enjoys, who he runs with.
2B. And I think it’s a fair appraisal of love to compare it in some regard to liking someone. Love is, after all, giving to meet needs. And when you like someone you spend time with that person, meeting that person’s social needs while you yourself are getting your own social needs for interaction with other people met. So, we can tell who you love by watching who you like.
3B. In Psalm 26 David declares, “I have walked in thy truth. I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked.” Interesting.
4B. When we observe a professing Christian, and everyone observes professing Christians, we take note of who he likes. Does this Christian like only people like her? Does he like only people who are like him? Does he have to have common interests, enjoy watching the same blood sports, have the same limited interest in spiritual things, tend toward the same emphasis on materialism with the lost guys?
5B. Does he like only those who like him do not participate in the Church’s evangelism? Does he like only those who like him work on Sundays? Does she like only those women who like her boss and dominate their weak husbands? Does he like only those who like him have never brought anyone from work to visit our Church, ever?
6B. Or does he like Christians who pray, Christians who witness, Christians who give sacrificially, Christians who have a humble and servant spirit? As we saw last week that the lazy like to hang around the lazy, so the spiritual like hanging around the spiritual and the ungodly tend to associate with the ungodly. If someone watched you, and they do watch you, what would they conclude about who you like?
7B. “I thought you wanted us to have unsaved friends?” I do. And you should. But who does that so-called Christian prefer? Do the people he likes suggest to the informed observer that his likes are the result of a supernatural work done in his heart to give him a love for those he could not love, he would not love, were he still unconverted? I wonder. And it’s not just me who wonders.
2A. Next, WE LOOK AND WE ASK OURSELVES “WHO DOES HE LISTEN TO?”
1B. Before Church, and after Church, and on any occasion for that matter, does that professing Christian ever engage in conversation about spiritual things? And when people are discussing the things of God, does he ever listen, does he ever participate, or does he go someplace else and talk about sports or money or computers or cars?
2B. In Colossians 4.6 Paul admonishes us to “Let your speech be alway with grace.” And in Titus 2.7-8 Paul encourages Titus: “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works . . . Sound speech, that cannot be condemned.”
3B. Some time back I took an inventory of the things I discuss with my three closest friends in the ministry. It wasn’t scientific, mind you, but I wanted to take stock of the typical types of discussions that occur with the men I listen to. And what I found was that though each of those men tends to focus on different aspects of the subject, all three of the men I chat with talk almost exclusively about serving God, about getting unsaved people converted, and about steps they are contemplating to help out someone who is a member of or is attending their respective Churches. That’s who I listen to.
4B. This type of conversation is not the result of me being a pastor. We have men and women in this Church whose minds and hearts are fixed upon spiritual pursuits, and whose exchanges with other people are inclined toward the things of God, or that have to do with matters needful for the soul.
5B. You see, I need this type of conversation, and so do you. In Ephesians 4.29 Paul told the Ephesians, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
6B. The Christian knows in his gut, at an unconscious level, that he needs God’s grace. He craves God’s grace. He seeks God’s grace. He hungers for God’s grace. What tells in the professing Christian’s life is whether or not he seeks conversational grace from the brethren, or if he is always talking about things material, things meaningless, things carnal, things recreational.
7B. Do you realize that we have members of this Church, and others who attend our Church, who have never engaged me in a conversation about spiritual things? There may have been the occasional question about something from the Bible or some personal issue, but never a discussion of what God is doing in his life, never a discussion of what he has discovered in God’s Word, never a discussion of a witnessing adventure at work or at school, never a quiet reflection on God’s goodness or God’s greatness.
8B. You have to wonder, “Who does that guy listen to?” “Who does that woman listen to?” Is there ever a personal and spiritual conversation with a godly believer about the things of God? I am deeply concerned about those who talk only about work or play or stuff, but who seem unwilling or bored to listen to anyone discuss the things of our great God Almighty, things which are truly interesting to the child of God.
3A. Third, WE LOOK AND WE ASK OURSELVES “WHO DOES HE LOOK LIKE?”
1B. Everyone looks like someone. You know that. There are very few people in the world who do not emulate or copy to some degree other people in speech or appearance. And this is for several reasons: First, no one has ever had an original thought, so we look to other people for ideas of what to look like or sound like. Second, we want by our appearance and speech patterns to identify with a certain group of people because we admire them and at some level want to be like them, whether it be the cool people, the pretty people, the smart people, . . . or the spiritual people that we know.
2B. This is partly behind Paul’s directive to Timothy about women’s attire, in First Timothy 2.9-10: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” And the same principle lies back of a man’s appearance.
3B. Who does that guy want to identify with? When someone gets a first impression of him, what impression does he want to make? Does that professing Christian, whoever he or she is, seem to be identifying with the unsaved crowd and the way they dress, with their level of immodesty? Or does he or she seem to be trying to emulate the more modest, the spiritually mature Christians he knows?
4B. The point I seek to make is this: On an unconscious level you seek a group identity of some kind. What group do you seek to identify with? Or do you seek to identify with two groups of people, so you can play both sides, depending on where you are and who you are with? So, what does that professing Christian look like? Who is he trying to be like when he buys his clothes, when he wears his shoes, when he does his hair, when he picks out his shades?
5B. “Is it the modesty that’s your chief concern, pastor?” No. Though some of our young women are getting perilously close to the bare midriff look. You can’t come to this Church dressed like that. That said, my chief concern is that people tend to dress like those they want to identify with. And I wonder why someone claims to be a Christian and yet refuses to choose to identify in his selection of clothes with the group he says he is a part of.
6B. Will you ever see a Crip who isn’t wearing baggy pants and colors? Are you not certain to see a member of the Bloods wearing his colors? Yet we see supposed Christians who refuse to identify with the group they claim to be a part of. Now, I’m not making a legal requirement of clothes, but it causes me to wonder. When I got saved I started visibly identifying with the group I was a part of.
4A. Finally, WE LOOK AND WE ASK OURSELVES “WHO DOES HE LEISURE WITH?”
1B. You will excuse me, but before I got saved I was lost. I liked lost, I listened lost, I looked lost, and I leisured lost. That is, I ran with unsaved guys and did unsaved things because I was an unsaved guy. But when I got saved I stopped the leisure with the lost thing. I mean, it just ended. Why would I want to spend my valuable time with some lost guy who stubbornly refuses to move in my direction? “Good bye.”
2B. Excuse me, but the passage which comprises our text for this morning deals with the issue of loving the brethren, not loving the lost. Now, it’s good to love the lost. But there is absolutely no comparison to be made between who you’d rather spend your time with as a genuinely born again Christian. It’s the Christian, hands down, every time.
3B. This is what Paul refers to in Romans 12.10 when he writes, “preferring one another.” Why in the world, then, would any Christian want to spend time with a lost guy who isn’t budging, who isn’t moving in the right direction, who isn’t responding to his efforts to get him saved?
4B. My friends, I have better things to do with my time than get emotionally involved with a guy who insists on going to Hell. Why in the world do I want to set myself up for great heartache with a person who insists on being a crispy critter someday, when I could more profitably spend my time with a guy who loves God and wants to grow, or with a lost guy who seems to be moving in the right direction?
5B. Who do I leisure with? I leisure with Christians who are humble, who have a servant spirit, and who seem to want to grow, and I leisure with unsaved people who do what I tell them to do. If they don’t do what I tell them to do I move on to those who will follow direction.
6B. And when we look at professing Christians we expect them same from them, do we not? We are nearing the end of this age. We are running out of time. So we dare not waste our valuable time on knuckle heads who are too stupid to secure the salvation of their own eternal and undying souls.
7B. Why, then, does that professing Christian spend so much time with that lost guy? Why does she hang around that unsaved girl when there are wonderful Christians the Bible says she should love, the Bible says she should prefer?
1. Our text comforts us with the promise that “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” It’s wonderful if you have assurance of your own salvation because you love the brethren.
2. But our text also warns us that “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” You give others assurance of your salvation by who you like, by who you listen to, by who you look like, and by who you leisure with. If you don’t look like, act like, behave as though you love your brother, then it appears that you are unsaved.
Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), p. 791.