There was a man who went on a hike when he accidentally slipped and fell of a cliff. Just before he plunged down the mountain, he reached out and grabbed and held on to a tree branch. There he hung perilously close to death. In desperation he called out at the top of his voice, “Help! Is there anyone there, help!”
And he distinctly heard a voice call back to him, “I am here. I’m the Lord.”
“God? Is it really You?”
“Yes, it’s Me. Don’t worry, I’ll save you. Do you trust Me?”
“Yes, I trust You, but I can’t hold on much longer!”
“Ok. All you have to do is let go of the branch and I’ll catch you.”
After a brief pause, the man said, “Help, is there anyone else up there???”
This man had no faith. Faith. Faith is the foundation of Christianity. Unfortunately, the world we live in goes against faith. The world demands logic. ‘If I cannot see it, or touch it, or taste it, I cannot believe in it.’ The world is cynical. ‘Christianity is too good to be true. There must be some catch to it.’ But today, God is calling us back to radical, biblical faith. A faith that changes our lives and changes the world.
I’ve entitled today’s sermon ‘A Call to Radical Faith’. What do you think of when you think of the word ‘radical’? For some of you, the picture that comes to mind is a negative one, like, ‘radical Islam’… terrorists. So, radical are the crazy ones, the ones who have gone to the extreme. For others, ‘radical’ may mean trying something different, something new. Yes, radical means all that. But the word ‘radical’ is derived from there Latin word ‘radix’, meaning ‘root’. That’s another meaning of radical. Root. Therefore, today God calls us to radical faith, He’s calling us to return to the roots of our faith, the essence, the fundamentals, the ‘non-negotiables’ of our faith.
The passage we are looking at today is 1 John 5:1-12. And from here I want to share 3 fundamentals of our faith:
- Radical faith orbits around Jesus (1 John 5:1, 5-12)
- Radical faith obeys God’s commandments (1 John 5:2-3)
- Radical faith overcomes the world (1 John 5:4-5)
1. Radical faith orbits around Jesus
1 John 5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…
1 John 5:5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. 11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
Our faith has a solid object: Jesus Christ. Christianity is all about Jesus Christ. This is what makes Christianity unique amongst the world’s religions. For every other religion, you can take away the religious figure, the religion still remains. You can take away Buddha from Buddhism and the religion still stands, because of the teachings. You can take away the prophet Mohammed from Islam and Islam still stands, because of the teachings. But you take away Jesus Christ from Christianity, and you have nothing. That’s why the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17 “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” If Jesus Christ did not die on the cross and rose from the dead, our faith is worthless. Everything stands and falls based upon this, is Jesus who He says He is.
Today’s passage from the Bible reminds us again and again, Jesus is trustworthy. What’s the one idea that keeps on being repeated in this passage? “testify” and “testimony”. Over and over again. What does the word testimony refer to? It’s a legal term used in the law courts… to give a testimony is to tell the truth about something.
Place your hand on the Bible and repeat after me, “I do solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth… so help me God.” Right? Testimony. Here, the Bible repeats again and again, the testimony about Jesus Christ is true. I want to focus on 1 John 5:7-8 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
What do these two verses mean? The Spirit refers to God, the Holy Spirit. The water refers to the baptism of Jesus. Remember what Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist? What happened? The heavens opened, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove and a voice from heaven (God the Father) said about Jesus, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This was a miraculous testimony about Jesus. Finally, the blood refers to the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
So the Holy Spirit takes the truths about Jesus revealed in the Scriptures and applies it to our hearts and we trust and believe in Christ as our Lord and Saviour. That’s how we become Christians. That’s how we have radical faith, when we encounter Jesus personally and He becomes real to us.
Josh McDowell is a world famous Christian apologist, evangelist and writer. But he was once an agnostic who disbelieved in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And one day, he decided to set out to write and book to prove that this was a myth. So he researched and he researched. But the more he did, strangely, the more he became convinced that Jesus was indeed who He claimed to be, and that the resurrection was real. Josh McDowell encoutered the living Saviour, Jesus and became a Christian and out of this came the now famous book “Evidence that Demands a Verdict”, which details the evidences for the veracity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead amongst other evidences for the Christian faith. Josh encountered God personally and his life was dramatically transformed. Once he was an opponent of the faith, now he’s a defender of it.
Young people, we must encounter Jesus personally and frequently. Because radical faith orbits around Jesus. It’s all about Jesus.
2. Radical faith obeys God’s commandments
1 John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
Faith and obedience are two sides of the same coin in Christianity. You cannot say, “I believe in Jesus, but I don’t want to obey His commandments.” We live in a world of feelings and emotions. Too often, we sway along with how we feel and that’s not a good thing. I’ll give you a hypothetical example as to how fickle feelings are. Let’s say you wake up in the morning and you didn’t have a good night’s sleep. You’re feeling grumpy. It’s going to be a bad day, you can feel it in your bones. As you’re getting ready for school, you glance out the window and dark clouds are forming. “It’s going to pour”, you think. “That’s just great. I’m going to get drenched even if I’m carrying an umbrella. What a truly awful day.”
Just as you are about to head out the door, you get a message on your phone. Oh, that boy/girl whom you think is really cute just sent you a text message. “Woah, it’s going to be a great day”, you think. Suddenly the sun pierces through the dark clouds and disperses them. The birds start chirping in the crisp, clear air as you walk to the bus stop to head to school.
But the bus is late and when you get in, it’s super crowded. The bus driver drives like Satan himself, and by the time you get to school, you’re all banged up. What’s worse? You’re late and the Disciple Master of the school takes down your name and gives you a good scolding. “Terrible, terrible day,” you think to yourself. This is just the start of the day, can you see how roller-coaster your emotions and feelings can be? What if your walk with God and your obedience to Him depends on how you feel?
I don’t feel like going to church today. So I don’t. This month a bit tight on cash, I don’t feel like tithing to God. So I don’t. Young people, our obedience to God cannot be only about our feelings. Of course, God is not glorified with us just going through the motions without any heart. But He is also not glorified if our obedience to Him is only when we feel like it, at our convenience. Young people, God is calling us to radical faith and radical obedience. That we would take God’s Word seriously.
And this is challenging. It’s challenging in two ways. First, this is a generation that doesn’t like to read. Generally it’s true. We don’t like to read. How many of you love to read, raise your hands. How many of you love to read your Bibles? Some of you may say, “Yah, I love to read my Bible, because it helps me to go to sleep.” First challenge, cultivate a love for God’s Word. Do whatever it takes to get into the Word of God. If you have to give up computer games, do it. If you have to give up TV shows, do it. If you have to give up sports, do it. If you have to give up social media, do it. Give time to read God’s Word.
Second, this is a generation that thinks it knows, but it only knows in theory, not in reality, not in practice. We may have a lot of knowledge, but little wisdom. Biblical obedience is not merely knowing the Word of God says, but actually doing what it says. For most of us, our bible knowledge has far exceeded our bible obedience. We know a lot. We obey a little. And this is dangerous because we are deceived in our walk with God. We think we’re walking closely with God because we know so much. But in reality, we’re far from Him because we’re not actually living according to His Word. Does that make sense?
Second challenge, whatever you read from God’s Word, obey it. Immediately. And as you obey, God will grant you further wisdom and insight and revelation. Why would God give you further insight if you’re not going to do anything about it? So read God’s Word, obey God’s Word. Is obedience easy? Yes and no. 1 John 5:3 “His commandments are not burdensome…” But they do feel burdensome sometimes right? If you’re honest, I think we can all agree God’s commandments sometimes feels burdensome. 2 things I want to say to help us obey God’s commandments.
i. God’s commandments are borne out of His Father’s heart of love for us
When my son Samuel was growing up, particularly when he was 1-2 years old, one of the most frequent thing he heard from me was the word, “No.” Why? I’ll tell you one incident and you’ll understand. When Samuel just started to walk, he loved to explore. One day, he climbed into the dryer and found he didn’t know how to get out. He wailed, and my mom had to go rescue him, pull him out. In the same way, God’s commandments are given not to restrict us, but to protect us. When God says no, it’s not because He is a kill-joy, rather He wants us to be truly joyful. Don’t have sex before marriage, be pure, be chaste, is an example.
The flip-side is also true, when God commands us to do something, it’s also for our good. Again, an example from my children, this time, Samantha. When Samantha was less than a year old, she suddenly developed a dislike for milk. It almost drove us crazy, wondering where she would get her nutrition from. She did take soft foods, which helped, but we kept being concerned for her calcium intake. So there would be times, when she was growing up, where I would literally threaten her with a cane. “Samantha, drink your milk!” Ok, I confess, not the best method. But the reason why we ‘forced’ her to drink was for her physical growth. Even though she may not have understood why drinking milk was good for her, but just drinking it was helping her grow.
In the same way, God’s commandments are for our spiritual growth. We are called to obey, and even when we don’t understand why… even when we don’t see how it’s for our good, just doing so will enable us to grow. Love your enemies, pray for them is one example. Honour your parents is another. God’s commandments are for our good, and He gives them because He loves us. Never ever forget that.
As we grow in our walk with God, and we discover more and more just how much God loves us, we will grow in our obedience to God. That’s the secret of obedience. Love. Knowing how deeply God loves us and loving Him in response.
ii. God’s commandments are meant to be obeyed in the power of the Holy Spirit
The only way we can obey God’s commandments and not find it burdensome is when we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. We were not meant to rely on self effort to live the Christian life. In fact, we cannot. It’s impossible. Therefore, we ought to always consciously rely on God’s power to obey Him, especially when we find it hard to do so. How does that work? Well, I can’t tell you a formula. Let me share by way of experience. It’s not the worst situation, but it’s an incident I remember.
It was several years back. Samantha was maybe 3 years old. It was at night and I went to her room to check on her before I went to sleep. Then I discovered something on the floor. It was her underwear and pants. It was wet. So I thought, “Ok, maybe she accidentally wet herself and has changed into dry clothes. No big deal.” As I went to tuck her in, I discovered something else. Her bed was also wet. The mattress covers, the mattress protector, the blanket… everything was wet. My daughter was on the verge of death!
At that age, she already knew how to get out of bed to urinate. Sometimes she was lazy. That night, she was plain lazy… just peed all over her bed. So I had a choice. Kill my daughter or serve the family. Serve the family. Now, the following day was Sunday, a very full day in church. So I couldn’t very well leave all the stuff soaking in pee. Had to do the laundry that night. So while the family slept on, I started doing the laundry. First batch put in the washing machine. Take out, put in dryer. Second batch put in the washing machine. Take out, put in dryer. And in between, I slept on the sofa (my daughter was sleeping with my wife on our bed. Her bed had to be cleaned.)
Now, in the morning, when my wife woke up, she saw me smiling as I was folding the fresh laundry. She looked at me a little weird, “Like, has he gone crazy?” But the only reason I was able to do so was really because the Holy Spirit gave me strength and joy as I decided to serve the family. Is my walk with God always like that? I’m sorry to say, no. I wish it were consistently like this, but I can say this: when we decide in our hearts to obey God, He will give us the strength to do so, as we rely upon Him. My pastor calls it a ‘supernatural natural-ness’! Radical faith obeys God’s commandments!
3. Radical faith overcomes the world
1 John 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. 1John 5:5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
What does it mean to overcome the world? What does this ‘world’ refer to? And what is victory we are to have? First, the world. Obviously it does’t refer to the physical world we live in. The world we are to overcome is the world that does not know Jesus, that does not acknowledge Jesus as Saviour and Lord. It is this spirit and this system of the world that wages war against Christians. There are many ways in which the world wages war against us; I’m going to talk about 2 major ways today.
Christians are increasingly being persecuted for our faith. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in many parts of the world are being tortured, put in prison and even killed. Even in America, Christians are being discriminated against in various ways for standing up for their faith. For example, a business owner who refused to provide wedding services for a gay couple was sued for being discriminatory. He had to pay damages to this couple. Don’t be surprised if these are the sort of things that start happening to us.
How do we overcome persecution through our faith? By having the assurance that this life is not the only life we’re going to live. There is a glorious kingdom that we are going to inherit. It will make all the losses we sustain in this life due to our faith seem trivial. Our reward in heaven will be worth it all! Nothing we give up or lose here on earth can compare to the riches of the blessings God has in store for us in eternity. More than that, while we go through trials here on earth, God promises to be with us. He promised He would never leave us nor forsake us.
But perhaps more dangerous than persecution, the world wars against us through seduction. And by seduction, I don’t only mean sexual temptation. I mean temptation in all forms: money, sex, power. The world may not always war against us in a very obvious way, but in a very subtle way. Luring us away, distracting us from God and His kingdom by attracting us to pursue other things. Not that these things are necessarily bad things. Having a relationship. Having nice stuff. Having a good job. None of these are evil, except that we place them as a higher priority than God. So we stop reading our Bibles. We stop serving. We stop attending church. And we fall away from God.
Many more Christians have fallen away from God through seduction than persecution. How do we overcome seduction through our faith? By believing that God is more than enough for us. He will provide for us. He will satisfy us. The things of this earth, the relationships of this world will never satisfy our souls. God alone satisfies us. Do you believe that? Radical faith overcomes the world.
As we draw to a close today, I would like to show you a short video testimony of a girl in Thailand living out radical faith.
God is calling us to live out a radical faith. One that reaches out to people around us. This week, I decided to do a good deed while grocery shopping. I bought a large bottle of 100 Plus with the intention of blessing a group of youths playing soccer at the park below my flat. I handed the drink to them and it was interesting to me that it was enthusiastically received (no shyness whatsoever!) Then I spotted one of them wearing a St. Andrew’s Rugby T-Shirt. As it turned out, he wasn’t from St. Andrew’s, but the group of youths all played rugby. We chatted and they started mentioning familiar names from St. Andrew’s rugby team, and so we talked a little about rugby and stuff. As I left for home soon after, I didn’t manage to get their names, but I’m hoping to bump into them again soon.
My simple reflection: being a blessing opens doors and hearts. To be honest, I was pretty nonplussed at them playing soccer in the first place (because the park is out of bounds for playing soccer, there are many young children who walk there). But I think God stirred me with this principle: if you do good to those you may not like, you’ll actually find yourself disliking them less, and perhaps even liking them. It’s all about human connection.
With regards to evangelism, to me, this was a lesson in going beyond comfort zones. This was about thinking less of self and more of others. Evangelism is not merely sharing the gospel, it starts with loving people with God’s love.