Low Sunday: Are You Guilty Of Being A Christian?
If you were going to be put on trial, for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you? Would YOUR faith stand up in court? If your were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you of being born of God as Our text says today? Could you prove beyond reasonable doubt that your faith is true and genuine?
We read in the book of Acts where the great apostle Paul was on trial for his faith, appearing before the highest court in the land, the equivalent of our United States Supreme Court. He made his case before Felix, the Roman governor of Ceasarea; then before Festus, who replaced Felix. Paul even argued his case before King Agrippa II. Paul's faith stood up in court. Felix, Festus, even King Agrippa II found no evidence to convict him.
It might interest you to know that our own United States Supreme Court has set guidelines determining genuine faith, as opposed to simply personal preference or a religious philosophy. In a landmark decision in 1972, concerning the Amish in the Wisconsin vs. Yoder case, CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the rule of the highest court in the country regarding the characteristics that determine genuine faith.
The kind of faith that stands up under trial is "not simply a matter of theocratic belief". In other words it has to be something that goes beyond mere thoughts or feelings; beyond one's ideas about what their religion is or should be. It has to be proven to be a very real and active part of their lifestyle. In fact the Supreme Court has said that genuine faith must be:
A belief system that is "not merely a matter of personal preference". There must be a solid basis for your belief, something concrete to base your faith on.
This belief system must be "shared by an organized group". There must be a solid and observable standard in place, with shared guidelines, rules, creeds, practices. No man is a religious island.
A belief system that is "one of deep religious conviction,". The criteria used by the Court to determine true convictions, as opposed to preferences or philosophy, are these:
A. True convictions are "intimately related to daily living". In the words of the Court, a true conviction "pervades and determines virtually their entire way of life". If you say one thing but practice another, even in only one small area of your life, it will not stand up in court.
B. True convictions have a history. The Court has determined that true convictions don't just spring up suddenly, but have a provable background. You have to be able to show a "religious history of consistent practice, and strong evidence of a sustained faith pervading and regulating respondents' entire mode of life ".
C. True convictions are personal. They are "separated from the outside world and "worldly" influences,". A true personal conviction is something you would stand by, even if no one else would ever know whether you kept it or not. Even if there is no one to see, no one to ever know, you would still base your actions on your true convictions. You would not act in any way contrary to a true conviction, even if you were all alone.
D. True convictions are "preserved against the pressure to conform". True convictions remain, even in the face of all opposition. No matter what anyone else says, no matter what anyone else does true convictions will stand alone.
E. True convictions remain unchanging, regardless of circumstances. True "religious beliefs and attitude toward life, family, and home have remained constant;"
I urge you to look at the criteria established by our own U.S. Supreme Court, and see if your own faith would stand up in a court of law, like the apostle Paul's did. Could your faith meet every one of the criteria quoted above? If you were on trial for your faith, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
Our Epistle reading for today comes from I John chapter 5. And in I John Chapter 5 we read:
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. And every one that loveth him who begot, loveth him also who is born of him. In this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God, and keep his commandments. For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world: and this is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
That first sentence says whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ....is born of God. Saint John mentions the Greek phrase for “is born of God,” a total of 10 times in the book of I John. And through out his Epistle we are presented evidence that shows if we are or are not born of God:
I John 2:29
Every one also, who doth justice, is born of him.
The real life that we receive, when we are born of God, is a life of doing. Not simply talking, or giving mental assent that a doctrine is correct. Matthew 7:21 says, “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." Those who are born of God do not simply believe the truth, they do it.
“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” (I John 1:6)
A person who professes to be born of God, but who does not live in obedience, love , and truth, is either deceived or a deceiver. A child bears the nature of his father, and a person who has been born of God will reveal the characteristics of the heavenly Father.
Be ye therefore followers or imitators of God, as most dear children” (Ephesians 5:1) “As children of obedience, not fashioned according to the former desires of your ignorance: But according to him that hath called you, who is holy, be you also in all manner of conversation holy:” (I Peter 1:14-15)
I John 3:9
Whosoever is born of God, committeth not sin: for his seed abideth in him, and he can not sin, because he is born of God.
The idea here is not one act of sin; the idea is that he does not live in a continual state of a sinful life style. Saint John said earlier in chapter 2, “
If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father...”. Those who are born of God will sin. However, John makes it very clear that that it is God's will that we live with out sin. There is a difference between an act of sin, and committing or living a continual life style of sin. Falling into sin is where we are overcome by the desires in our flesh. Committing a sin or living in sin is where we knowingly choose what we know to be wrong, and give ourselves to the flesh.
I John 5:18
Whosoever is born of God, sinneth not.
I John 4:7
Every one that loveth, is born of God
I John 5:1
...And every one that loveth him who begot, loveth him also who is born of him.
There is a false love, and this kind of love God must reject. There is a true love as well. This true love “of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us.” (Romans 5:5). Love, therefore, is a valid evidence of being born of God. Since God is love, and we have claimed to be born of God, we must of necessity reveal His love in how we live. As one who is born of God, we share in God's divine nature. Since God is love, Christians ought to love one another.
I John 5:1
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.
God is life, and that life comes through being born again.- “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God” - this is one of the evidences that one is born of God. John makes it very clear in the opening of his letter that all, who are old enough to make a decision for Christ for themselves, must receive Jesus Christ for themselves. “But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name.” (I John 1:12) This means that you not only except that He is God and that he died for your sins and that he rose from the dead so that you may go to heaven. But you must be willing to surrender your whole life to him. You must be able to say with open honesty "Not my will but thine be done" in every area of your life. Your marriage your wants your desire...all of it.
I John 5:4
For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world:even our faith.
What is it that overcomes the world? It is our faith. Not in just anything. I could have faith in a fence post, but that fence post can not help me to overcome the world. Faith in Muhammad can't help you, faith in Buddah can't help you, faith in the Indian God Indra can't help you to over come the world. And you your self can't overcome the world. The only person, the only thing that can help you overcome the world, is a faith that is centered in Jesus Christ, who has all the grace you need to have victory.
You may never be on trial in this country for your faith. But there is a much higher court than even our United States Supreme Court. There is a far greater judge than even the Chief Justice. Scriptures say we each will be tried in that court; we will each stand before that judge: the Almighty God. The real question for us as Christians is: Will our faith stand up in THAT court?