It’s all about you, not
1 John 5:15-21
You’re probably wondering about the sermon title, “It’s all about you, not!”
It is pretty obvious; I’m going to talk about it not being all about you. Faith that is. It’s not all about me, either. My third sermon in this four part series on safety and belonging in God. We continue today in the book of first john to see how we might learn more about belonging and about how belonging is an us thing. It’s a we thing. Not a me thing.
Verse 12 in this chapter contrasts those who have life with those who do not. And in verse 19, it says, “We are from god,” and the “whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
There is the realm of safety and belonging, and there is the realm of isolation and aloneness.
Notice that there are 40 pronouns used in this section and 26 refer to believers. They are all in the plural form. I think that is significant. Whenever first john refers to the individual believer, it is in the context of the collective identity in Christ. Verse 12 says, “the one who has the son.” So we are not spoken of as individuals. Our individuality is not featured or important when it comes to our faith. It is our belonging in communion with God.
Note also that God is explained in terms of a relationship, as connected to us. Verse 20b asserts, “We are in the one who is true.”
In fact, the whole of the book is written with an orientation to the collective Christian identity, that we think of ourselves, our individuality, in terms of the community of belonging. John explains our relationship to one another in verse 16 where he says, “If anyone sees a brother or sister sinning … pray for them.
It is all about us. It’s all about we. Well, you might say, “I got it pastor. Now can we go home?” Not so fast for the exits. Before you head home to pursue your self-interest, First John has more to say to you. There is something here for your head and your heart. Are you interested in what’s coming next?
Here as we look further on it appears that believers some times sin. Verse 16 suggests that we might see our brother or sister in sin. Or, our brother or sister might see us in sin. And that when this happens he gives specific instructions, “… pray on the believer’s behalf and God will for him give life to those whose sin is not leading to death.” One can repent of it and be forgiven.
Even Paul fell to sin and his famous statement in I Corinthians, “I do what I do not want to do and don’t do what I should.” Paul needed this prayer.
We are in danger whenever the forces of evil tempt or find a way to get our attention. Since the “whole world is under the power of the evil one, then we must constantly be on guard. Verse 18b states, “The ones born from God guard themselves and the evil one cannot touch them.”
So you might ask, “Does that mean I have to be on guard all the time?” Yes, that’s what I am saying. I am saying that your value to this community requires that you guard against the forces of evil. And it means that in doing so you will be able to help others in their struggles; help others find strength to resist; help others through prayer. You contribute to a strong, positive faith in action here in this town.
The devil is on the prowl constantly and will find your weakness and work to create a wedge between you and your community of faith.
I remember watching a National Geographic documentary on African wildlife. A herd of wildebeests were grazing when a pride of lions began to stalk them on the savannah. The herd began to run in a wave to and fro, trying to avoid the lions. The lions were watching for a straggler or one that might drift off. If it did, the lion would attack and drag it down.
The safest place was in the herd. Stay in the herd. Tell your neighbor, “Stay in the herd.” We are safe in our faith.
If I get distracted and off track and the evil one is making a move on me, I call for help. I get on the phone because I’m guarding against being singled out and brought down.
This section points out a specific danger in verse 21, idols. What is an idol? Not someone you see on America’s Got Talent, or American Idol, or Dancing with the Stars.
An idol is 1) a false teaching; 2) a moral compromise; 3) anything that would take God’s place in your heart. Anything that would isolate you from God and take away your belonging.
What are these challenges in your life? What threatens to separate you from the heart of God?
People who are of the world, have no sense of our belonging in Christ. They have not awakened to it. Yet man of them long for a sense of safety and belonging. If you are there at that moment when they are open to his spirit, you can be an emissary of light. Not through what you offer, but by allowing God to reach that person through you.
But if you are in your sin, in your separation from God, then who will offer the light of Christ to this person?
So, as it says, let your light shine before others that they might find His redemption.
So back to the question, “What keeps you from fulfilling your connection with God? What tempts you? We all have something and it’s time to get a little uncomfortable and look inside and be honest about it.
I know that I have a few areas to work on. And I get into trouble when my inner feelings don’t match up with my actions. I contradict myself. You know, when you feel one way, but act in opposition to that inner core feeling. It creates discontinuity and conflict. It is uncomfortable to know that I am not acting in accordance with my beliefs. Because, when I do so, I am out of sync with God.
I need to have the courage to face myself honestly and admit a mistake, realign my intention with my actions.
When First John says guard against the evil one, he is saying to be self-aware. Be aware of how your actions are consistent with or inconsistent with whom you know yourself to me. He is saying, wake up to the world of influences around you so that you can enter the “we.”
We have something here worth treasuring; something worth honoring and celebrating: belonging in God!
Christian tradition has identified seven deadly sins that cover the gamut of human weaknesses. It sounds pretty old fashioned, “The seven deadly sins.”
I mean really, who really thinks they are relevant today? We do. And I am going to share them now just so you can become aware of your need for help in whichever area that you feel weakness.
They are: lust, unbridled sexual desire; immoral sex acts, adultery, rape, porn. Wikipedia provides definitions for us.
Then we have gluttony – one’s impuse, selfishness in putting one’s needs above others; attachment to the pleasure of eating.
Then there is greed – desire, pursuit of material posessions, hoarding.
Sloth – a term that has lost it’s relevance. Laziness is more relevant for our times. It is a lack of interest in or habitual desinclination to exercions. It is about people who shirk their duties or are indifferent to work.
Wrath is next and it relates to an uncontrollabe feeling of anger, rage or hatred; vengence seeking.
Will Rogers said, “People who fly into a rage make a bad landing.”
Two left. Envy and pride. Envy involves the insatiable desire, a sad or resentful covetousness toward someone else; it separates a person from his neighbor; it suggests a discontentment with one’s self.
Finally, the father of all sins, pride. Pride is satans most prominent trait. CS Lewis said, Pride is the anti-God state.” It is a state where there is no belonging in God whatesover.
It was through pride that the devil became the devil. It is a state where ego and self are directly opposed to God. It severs the soul from God. Narcissism is one of its identifying factors in today’s American culture.
It is the irrational belief that one is essentially better, superior, or more important than, more moral than others.
It is a dangerously corrupt selfishness; the putting of one’s own desires, urges, wants and whims before the welfare of the people.
Can you see any of these in yourself? Or, perhaps we can also recognize that there are a few other ways to identify what first John is talking about. In our time we could say, consumerism is sinful because it leads to the desire for things we want and more or may not need. It is wasteful.
According to a recent Guardian study, Americans throw away 50-percent of their produce or 60-million tons a year.
Materialism may be related to these sins in that it is the unmitigaged desire to have things in order to bring safety, security and pleasure.
Self-centeredness is another simplification of a common sin that separates us from community.
Your assignment this week is to reflect on your sin of choice and to do some prayer and meditation on what it looks like to face it down with the help prayer, and others.
Second, select two scriptures that are relevant to your need. Write then on 3X5 cards and carry them with you wherever you go. Whenever the tempter appears, take them out and read them out loud.
The goal is to be able to more fully belong here. To be more fully present here; to be a brighter light for that person who really, really needs safety and belong but has no clue as to where to find it.
They belong here in the safety of our unity in Christ. a place where each of us can let down and be the person God made us to be, without fear of repercussion.
When we do really let down, then our heart can open up and we really experience the fullness of belonging in God. Amen.