Posts Tagged 'love'

God’s Best Gifts, Part 1

There are many verses in the Bible, especially the New Testament, that speak of what God has given man – His gifts. Our Lord talked about this in the Gospel of Matthew:

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11 | TNIV)

That’s an interesting verse that deals with prayer. Part of the believer’s walk with God is walking in prayer. You can think of prayer as a kind of fellowship. The kind of prayer Jesus is talking about here is not the kind of prayer that your pastor or priest prays while standing in front of the church. That kind of prayer is usually prayed using flowery language and sometimes in the King James version: “Our great and glorious Heavenly Father hear, thou, our prayer as we lift up our hearts…” But who prays like that on a Tuesday afternoon, at work, with deadlines looming, or during a situation where a choice must be made but the direction isn’t clear? At times like that, you don’t think to translate your words into 1611 language! You need help, and you need it now! And it’s God’s help you need. You need God to break through His world into yours in a special way to meet the need that burdens your heart.

That’s what Jesus is talking about here. And because most of us have these kinds of needs constantly – some of them may be “big,” and others not so – we pray like this, or we ought to pray like this, constantly throughout our day, not just when we go to bed at night. That’s the idea behind this famous sentence:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7 | TNIV)

Jesus wants us to pray persistently, and that doesn’t necessarily mean praying about the same thing over and over again. It may sometimes, but what He’s getting at is praying about everything. It seems like a done deal with Jesus: Ask, and it you’ll get what you ask for. What you’re looking for you will find. The closed door will open. All this positivity is predicated on prayer. Jesus’ brother half-brother James fleshed this out even more when he wrote:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (James 1:6 | TNIV)

I guess that part goes without saying, but you’d be surprised how many Christians go through the motions of prayer without their brains engaged. The one praying has to be focused; he has to truly believe that the Lord is listening and will come through with an answer. That in no way means that your belief triggers God to act or that the power of your belief will cause what you want to come to pass. Life isn’t Hallmark movie. God wants you to trust Him; to rely upon Him; to depend completely upon Him. If that sounds like a ongoing thing, that’s because it is.  Prayer is – or should be – an ongoing activity, like breathing! It’s all part of a relationship with God, your Heavenly Father. And the very fact that Jesus correlates the natural feeling between father and child and child and father suggests that those are the feelings God has for us and, therefore, that’s how we should feel about God. And what dad would withhold anything beneficial from his son or daughter?

God, our Heavenly Father hears our prayers and answers them. He gives us what we need and often, even what we want. Jesus calls answers to prayers “gifts.” But God is always giving us gifts. All the time, whether we notice those gifts or not. And, remarkably, God even gives gifts to those who don’t belong to His family. Here’s an example that kind of gift.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9 | TNIV)

With respect to Calvinists, God sent His Son – the very Love of His Heart – into our sinful world for the express purpose catching the attention of all those who were dying in their sins. This was a theme of John’s which he first mentioned back in his Gospel:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16 | TNIV)

Because real love is so rare in the world around us, man, steeped in sin and bound to a loveless world, needs to experience it. Condemnation, however, is all around in abundance. Condemnation is plentiful. That’s why Jesus came in love; He came so that man would notice Him and want what He was offering: God’s love.

Reason for another gift

John begins the fourth chapter of his letter encouraging his readers to exercise another gift they had been given.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1 | TNIV)

John doesn’t call this gift by name, but he’s referring to the gift of discernment, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit that all believers possess, since he encourages his “dear friends” to exercise it. It’s not just the clergy or the Pentecostals who are to “test (or discern) the spirits,” it’s all believers.

The primary reason for writing this letter was to warn its readers to beware of false teachers, whom John refers to as “antichrists.” They were all over the place in the first century of the church’s existence, and they’ve only multiplied since then. His warning is applicable more than ever today.

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18 | TNIV)

False teachers claim to be representing “the church” and preaching “the truth,” but in reality they aren’t. They’re hard to spot, which is why believers need to exercise their spiritual gift. John’s readers and we are not to be credulous when it comes to every teacher and teaching. We aren’t to “believe every spirit,” or buy into every teaching we hear because it sounds good. The word “believe” here really mean “to place your trust in.” That’s a tricky thing not to do when a teaching really sounds good! But if your desire is to remain true to the Lord, you have to stick with His teachings and avoid the rest.

John uses the word “spirit” but what he’s really referring to a person’s personality. In the case of one who teaches – or professes to teach – the Word of God, their personality will eventually be revealed by their words and actions.

The real test is a simple one:

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (1 John 4:2, 3 | TNIV)

That’s a completely objective test, involving an objective standard: Does this person acknowledge the divinity of Jesus Christ and His Incarnation? In other words, does this teacher hold to the basic teachings of the Gospel. It’s important to note here that Christians are not encouraged to apply the test that is popular in our day: look into the person’s heart. That far too subjective a test. Besides, no man can know another’s heart!

But John doesn’t stop there. He provides a sort sub-test that involves how the truth is received by others from us:

They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. (1 John 4:5, 6 | TNIV)

These are very important verses for Christians to know and understand. The false teachers’ teachings, no matter how clever sounding or deep those teachings appear to be, are worldly in origin. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that kind of teaching, but when a teacher claims his worldly teaching is from God, that makes him a false teacher. And the proof is in who is clamoring to hear his teaching. If his teaching is readily accepted by the world and the unsaved clamor to hear it, then the odds are pretty good that teaching is a worldly teaching. By way of contrast, the Christian – the true teacher – draws from a higher Source than the world: God Himself is the Source of his teaching. And the odds are pretty good that teaching won’t end up on the New York Times Bestseller list any time soon.

We belong to each other in love

Obviously, Christians are not to have fellowship with false teachers; the more you rub shoulders with them, the greater the chance that their bad ideas and behavior will rub off on you. We are, however, to be in fellowship with other believers. As far as John was concerned, we belong to each other in love. Love is the common bond between believers.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7 | TNIV)

In a very broad sense, all love is from God. The ability for the unsaved to love each other; for an unsaved parent to love their child, for example, is an ability given human beings by their Creator. So, in that broad sense, all men are capable of receiving and giving love on some level. What John is really writing about is “this love.” The article, “this,” is present in the Greek but not in our modern English translations because it sounds awkward. It’s too bad, because that word is vitally important in this particular case. The love that exists between believers is that special kind of love. As a matter of fact, the presence of “this love” in the believer makes it possible for him love his neighbor, who may not be a believer. It’s unfortunate that Christians don’t consciously think about this or realize its significance. We are in possession of a divine love that enables us to love the Body of Christ as He loves us.

And that brings us to verse 9,

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9 | TNIV)

God is love, and God expresses His love for His creation in concrete ways. First among those ways was sending His one and only Son into the world. The Son is the expression of the Father’s love. The purpose of sending Jesus was so that sinful man might believe in Him and obtain eternal life. But the word that captures my attention is “showed.” God “showed” His love – He put His great love on display for all the universe to see by sending Jesus into the world. That’s a deeply moving and profound thought. In a world so desperately short on real love, God sent a gift of love. Sadly, most people won’t notice that gift.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4 | TNIV)

Now, our own experience and the fact that churches even have members shows us that God’s gift of love – the light of the gospel – has been seen by at least some unbelievers. This is because of the unrelenting work of the Holy Spirit in the world around us. He is drawing sinners to faith in Christ. Some will respond to that drawing power, many will not. But thank God He sent His gift of love into the world. True, divine love. A gift from God you can’t live without.

Advertisements

Your Amazing Faith, Part 7

Jackie DeShannon sang a lot about love. She made the song, "What the World Needs Now" famous. She was right. The world "needs love, sweet love," but not just any love. The world needs the love of God.

Jackie DeShannon sang a lot about love. She made the song, “What the World Needs Now” famous. She was right. The world “needs love, sweet love,” but not just any love. The world needs the love of God.

Your amazing faith is what makes you an amazing person. That’s not a cliché, it’s a fact that is accomplished by the transforming work of God through the in dwelling of His Holy Spirit. That’s where your amazing faith came from in the first place: God. It was His gift to you when you heard the Word and responded in faith to it:

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 | NIV84)

And your amazing faith, as amazing as it is, isn’t in itself, it isn’t in your abilities, or your dreams and hopes. Your faith isn’t your church or some talented individual. The object of your faith is God Himself, and His abilities and His Word, as Paul showed us during a raging storm at sea:

So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. (Acts 27:25 | NIV84)

Not only did Paul discover the object of faith, but he also showed us the secret of faith – or more specifically, Paul showed us the secret to living righteously is in our amazing faith in Jesus Christ:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 | NIV84)

You and I work so hard to avoid trials and trouble and if we happen to fall into trouble on account of our faith, those kinds of trials are what God uses to stretch and toughen up our amazing faith:

These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:7 | NIV84)

Paul found out that living a righteous life was possible by having faith in Jesus Christ and living as He did, and He went on to show us how the Holy Spirit makes that possible:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a | NIV84)

That’s the power of faith – the fruit of the Spirit. And the prayer of faith is something James taught us about when he talked about praying for a sick person. There is power in prayer just as there is power in faith and the prayer of faith really boils down to exalting the amazing will of God:

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. (James 5:15 | NIV84)

We come now to the last aspect of your amazing faith, and it’s found in the most pastoral letter in the New Testament:

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4c | NIV84)

John and his letter

In all, John wrote five pieces of literature that have been preserved for us in the New Testament; three letters, a book of prophecy, and one gospel. His first letter is unlike any other New Testament letter. Some scholars refer to it as an essay or a tract, and others refer to it as a sermon. It’s hard to categorize it, but it’s easy to see what John was trying to do. He wrote like a pastor, covering all manner of issues so as to build up and encourage his people in their faith. He writes with care, compassion, and passion.

The thing about John’s letters, and in particular his first one, is that they are chock full of theology. A lot of Christians hate that word almost as much as they hate the word “doctrine,” yet no believer can live without either. The “apostle of love,” as John is often referred to, covers such profound doctrines as sin and salvation, atonement and holy living. But unlike, say Paul in his letter to the Romans, John writes about various doctrines not in an academic, systematic philosophical manner, but he shows how these doctrines form the very foundation of our fellowship with God and how believing the right theology leads to a life of love.

John lived a very long life for a man of his day. He traveled with Jesus and wrote his letter sometime around the end of the first century, around 95 AD.

Faith is the victory

1 John 5:1 says a lot more than appears on the surface:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. (1 John 5:1 | NIV84)

The word “believes” a Greek verb, pisteuon, and it’s a strong verb. Merely understanding the Gospel and confessing the truth of salvation does not make anybody a partaker of the life of God in Jesus Christ. It’s one thing to outwardly confess faith in Jesus Christ, as John had previously covered back in 4:2, 15. But what is outward must be inward first. Remember what Paul wrote:

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:10 | NIV84)

But when you couple the truth of verse 1 with what John says in verse 2, you get the notion that Christianity is absolutely exclusive:

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. (1 John 5:2 | NIV84)

Only Christians – only those who have experienced a conversion of the heart leading to a confession of the mouth, leading in turn to a wholehearted love and devotion to God and His Word – are children of God. In spite of what you may have heard to the contrary, not everybody is a “child of God.” In John’s Gospel, there is this interesting exchange between Jesus and some Jews.

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” (John 8:42-44a | NIV84)

Wow! That’s Jesus talking, telling unbelievers that God is not their father, the devil is. A statement like that is like a deep line in the sand. If a person wants to be a child of God, then he must sign onto the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Christianity is exclusive to Christians. Being a child of God is exclusive to Christians. And loving the children of God is part of loving God. You can’t claim to love God yet live out of fellowship with the body of Christ. The two go hand-in-hand. That’s why being in church is so important. It’s not that going to church saves you, it’s that being in regular fellowship with the local body of Christ is one way of showing your love and support for the children of God, and God Himself.

But again, actions without an inner commitment constitute nothing.

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome… (1 John 5:3 | NIV84)

Just to exclaim, “I love God” while you are in church amounts to exactly nothing. Anybody can say anything. John made that pretty clear a chapter back:

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20 | NIV84)

But now he adds the bit about non-negotiable obedience to God’s commands. In John’s thinking, that’s simply doing what God wants you to do; it’s living the way He wants you to. And that’s not hard to do, by the way. The world thinks it is. As far as the world is concerned, only one person a 10,000 is a “Saint.” But in the Kingdom, we all are. And if you forget what those “commands” are, John’s already told us:

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 3:23-24 | NIV84)

Love was a big deal to John, and it should be to you, too, if you consider yourself a Christian. We should be deliberately looking for ways to encourage fellow believers all the time. A phone call, an email, a text message, or a smile and good word can go so far in making the day a little for another Christian. Too often though, we find it easier to tear down a fellow believer, especially if we don’t like them in the first place. When we gossip or speak about another Christian using derogatory terms, then we aren’t being obedient to God. During the Second World War, there was a saying, “Loose lips sink ships.” Well, in our war against the forces of evil today, “loose lips sink lives” all the time. Your grandmother was right: If you don’t have something good to say about someone, don’t say anything.

And that gets us to the verse that got us into this whole thing:

…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4 | NIV84)

Verse 4 is really just a continuation of verse 3, so let’s ignore the verse break and put the sentence together, the way John intended:

And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.

God’s commands are not too much for the believer, because the believer has been born of God and he, by virtue of his new birth, overcomes the world. What that means is simple. To John, “the world” is opposed to God and God’s people and that opposition is manifested in the form of disobedience. So when you, as a believer, are tempted to disobey the Word of God and live in a way that shames God and the body of Christ and hurts other believers, you are doing what “the world” wants you to do, not what God wants you to do.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 | NIV84)

The things of the world look so good and promise so much, but according to John, you never have to side with the world over Christ. It is entirely possible to live in constant obedience to the Will and Word of God because you have overcome the world; you are stronger than “the world.” By virtue of your faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, you have already overcome this sinful world in the spiritual sense. In the practical, day-to-day sense, that same faith, which was given to you by God, empowers you to live in such a way as to glorify God and shun the world.

To overcome the world begins with being victorious over all the things in your life that have ever tempted you or will ever tempt you to go back to the ways of the world. Things like your attitude, your dreams, your desires, your ambition, your emotions, and so on. Your amazing faith gives you the strength to overcome those those inborn stumbling blocks so that you are equipped to overcome the world.

Your amazing faith, that incredible, indispensable gift from God, not only saved you and set you free from sin; it not only enables you live like Jesus lived and love like Jesus loved, it gives you what you need to live in complete victory over the evil in this world. It empowers you to live in obedience to God and to love other believers. Your amazing faith is such an integral part of your life, you can’t live without it.

Letters From an Old Man

Knowing the Father, 2:12—17

In the final years of the first century, Christians faced an insidious enemy: false teachers who invaded their churches preaching attractive Gnostic doctrines that sounded so good yet opposed the Gospel. It is no accident that throughout his letter, John advised his readers to “walk in the light” and to live by faith, obeying God’s commands. Like a good pastor who wants his congregation to spiritually healthy, John had given them some tests to determine if who they were listening to were genuine believers or false teachers.

This section of 1 John may be broken into two short segments. The first, verses 12—14, contrasts the position of the believer who walks in the light with the position of the false teachers who walk in the darkness. The second part, verses 14—17, he warns his readers not to fall into the seductive trap of worldliness as the false teachers had.

1. Children, fathers, young men, 2:12—14

I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.

I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young people,
because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, dear children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young people,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

A/ All Readers, verse 12, 14a

John begins his thoughts to all the readers of his letter by saying, “I write to you.” That seems like a strange thing to write, since obviously John is writing to them! He means more than just that he is putting pen to paper; he means that he is writing words down that he wants them to remember; they are permanent. John could easily make the trip to visit them personally and tell them what he wants them to know, but writing them down serves the purpose of making his readers not only take notice of what he has written, but also to discuss it and learn it.

His initial thought is addressed to “dear children.” Teknia seems to be John’s pet name for believers in general, so this verse is for all believers—

Your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. (verse 12)

Forgiveness from sins is not the whole plan of salvation, but it is the very entrance into the Christian life; it is the beginning step of “walking in the light.” Forgiveness of sins is one of the first things a believer experiences when they come to the Lord. Forgiveness of sins is not based on our asking for it or our desperate need for it. John indicates that our sins are forgiven “on account of his name,” that is, on account of Jesus’ name. In Hebrew thought, “The name” always stood for the character of an individual; so “on account of his name” is a way of saying that they were forgiven through the work and person of Christ. This is the best news a person could ever get! Everyone who believes in Jesus and repents receives remission of sin.

In verse 14, John goes further. Because their sins are forgiven, believers can now know the Father—

You know the Father.

John uses a different Greek word this time, but he is still addressing believers in general. As a result of God’s free forgiveness, all believers are able to “know the Father.” This is a privilege unbelievers can never experience; only believers may “know the Father.” Note that John does not say “know God.” Of course, the terms are synonymous, but by using the more personal “Father,” John is emphasizing the personal nature of the believer’s new relationship with God. No longer are we viewed by God as merely “followers,” because our sins have been forgiven through what Jesus did, God now views us as His children.

B/ Fathers, verse 13a, 14a

You know him who is from the beginning.

According to Jewish custom, this form of address would refer to those who had responsibility for authority. Sometimes, it was used to refer to leaders of Israel’s past, like the father’s of Israel, the patriarchs, and so on. Here, though, John likely has in view older and more mature members of the congregation. John appeals to these older men because the implication is that with age comes spiritual enlightenment—deeper knowledge of God and Jesus Christ through His Word.

We may take John’s words to “fathers” in two ways. All people like to be praised, and gaining spiritual knowledge and a closer walk with God are indeed desirable and even enviable traits in a Christian. But the implication that with maturity comes spiritual maturity may sound threatening to some. God cannot make a person grow. The Holy Spirit will not force anybody to learn the Word of God. These things are the responsibility of the believer. How many “fathers” are still spiritually immature in the Church of Jesus Christ today? How many so-called mature Christians are as ignorant of God and His Word today as the day of their new birth?

We grow grace as we learn and study and pray. Spiritual grown is not automatic; we make it happen. Mature believers are desperately needed within the Church today; to teach the younger believers, to care for their spiritual children. Mature believers are responsible to “hand the torch of the gospel light to the next generation, the young men of the church.” (Hendriksen)

C/ Young men, verse 13b, 14b

You have overcome the evil one. (verse 13b)

You are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one. (verse 14b)

The final group of believers addressed is “young men.” While some scholars think John is referring to the youth of the church, my sense is that John is actually thinking about young believers, that is, new converts or those who have not been in the Church for a lifetime. It is sad but true that the longer one is a Christian, the cooler their love grows for both God and His family; the exuberance they have for spiritual things dims. It seems as we grow in our faith we all too often become cynical about the Church, we become jaded about our spiritual leaders and the things of God become common place. But notice what characterizes exuberant Christians: they have overcome the evil one and they are strong. Their strength comes from a diet of the Word of God. Weak and anemic believers are those who starve theirs souls of the Word.

Those of us who have been Christians for years and years should take a lesson from young Christians. May we pray as David prayed—

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

2. The world and the will of God, 2:15—17

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

As we read John’s warning not to love the world in verse 15, we are reminded of the words of James:

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

John’s language is particularly strong in verse 15, “Do not love the world.” Those who aspire to the high standard of Christian living described by John so far in his letter must not “love” the world. The word he uses is the same word he used back in verse 10, where he writes about the person who loves his brother. That kind of love is the love that forms attachments, intimate fellowship, and loyal devotion. This is the kind of that should be reserved only for God and His Church. Christians have no business having those kinds of feelings for the things of the world. This is because the world is in darkness, but we are supposed to be people who walk in the light.

There is no contradiction between what John wrote here in verse 15—

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him

And what he wrote in his Gospel—

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Plummer comments:

[T]he world which the Father loves is the whole human race. The world which we are told not to love is all that is alienated from Him, all that prevents men from loving Him in return…The world which we are not to love is His rival.

This world is a system of life created, not by God, but by unregenerate man, therefore to give that world our affection is to commit spiritual adultery. This is something God will not tolerate in those who claim to love Him.

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24)

Not only is God described as jealous, look carefully at Exodus 34:14—

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

“Jealous” is also one of His names. It is part of His character, although not sinful, that describes how protective He is of His relationship with you. Are we that protective of our relationship with Him?

From not loving the world, John moves onto the positive admonition to do the will of God. In verse 16, John again seems to echo what James wrote in his epistle; that which is created in the world does not come from God but from the devil.

Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. (James 3:15)

What are the so-called things of the world? John spells them out in a memorable triad: “the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does.”

  1. The cravings of sinful man. This literally means “the desires of the flesh” and an outlook on life that is oriented towards self. In other words, these cravings serve only yourself and demonstrate a self-sufficient independence from God. That, according to John, is what a sinful man is like.
  2. The lust of his eyes. Some commentators suggest John has in mind specifically sexual lust, but the phrase probably carries with it the thought “everything that entices the eyes” (Bultmann). It has been rightly observed that the eyes are are the windows to man’s soul. When one is enticed by lust, their eyes become instruments that cause them to sin.
  3. Boasting of what he has and does. This last tendency of a sinful man is not easily translated, which accounts for the numerous differences of translation among various translations of Scripture. The key word in the Greek is alazoneia, and it is used only one other time in the NT, James 4:16. A variation of the word is used in Romans 1:13 and 2 Timothy 3:2 to describe a “pretentious hypocrite who glories in himself or in his possessions” (Barker). F.F. Bruce wrote,

If my reputation, my public image, matters more to me than the glory of God or the well-being of my followers, the pretentiousness of life has become the object of my idol-worship.

The reason why true believers should not live like the alazon is summed up in verse 17—

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

How utterly foolish it is to be fixated on temporal things that pass away. It is beyond stupidity for an eternal being, created in God’s own image, to obsess over things that rot and disintegrate with the passing of time. The world and all it’s trinkets have already begun to putrefy. The world is corpse waiting to be buried. But those of us who endeavor to do the will of God will live forever.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

The Art of Loving One Another

A study of 1 John 3:11-18

As we begin our look at this group of verses, it is noteworthy to mention some of what John had previously written.  Knowledge of God is evidenced by conduct.

The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  (2:4)

If you claim to be a Christian, you obligate yourself to conduct yourself as Christ would conduct Himself if He were in your stead.  Furthermore, John taught that being “born of God” is evidenced by our love for other believers.  In fact, the command to love other believers is actually the test of whether one is “walking in the light” or not.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.  (2:9-11)

This is the acid test of one’s confession of faith:  do they love the fellowship of other believers?  Of special note here is John’s emphasis on the word “brothers,” or “brothers and sisters” in the TNIV.  The proof of our relationship with Jesus Christ is how we treat others in the body of Christ.  Here John is not presenting a social gospel; of loving those outside the church.  Christians, of course, are not taught anywhere to hate the unsaved, but we are admonished many times in the New Testament to treat those within the church with a kind of special love and attention.

1.  Hatred of the world, 3:11-15

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.

John begins his contrast of love and hate by first giving the command of mutual love within the body of Christ, followed by an example of hatred.

(a)  Love, verse 11

As noted by almost ever Bible scholar, love is not the application of the Gospel, it is the goal established from the beginning.  Believers experienced the love of Christ “from the beginning” of their relationship with Him, and they are to show that kind of love to others within the body of Christ.  It is to be a mutual love:  the command is to love one another.  Mutual love between Christians and the world is impossible, according to verse 13, since the world must hate us.

(b)  Hate, verse 12

When John mentions Cain, he points back to something he mentioned in verse 8:

He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.  (3:8)

It’s sad but true, but just as love was “from the beginning,” so also is hatred.  And Cain, who murdered his brother, is the perfect antithesis of the one who loves his brother.  Cain is representative of all who are not born of God; they hate their brothers and do not want fellowship with them.  While we know Cain murdered his brother, Abel, the Greek here literally says “Cain…cut his brother’s throat.”

Jesus said a similar thing to some Jews who opposed Him and exhibited the same kind of hatred toward Him that Cain expressed toward Abel.  The story is recounted in John 8:37-47, and there Jesus says to them that despite their claim to be children of Abraham,

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.”  (vv. 39-41)

“If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning.  (vv. 42-44)

Cain proved that he did not belong to God by murdering his brother.  In fact, in the next two verses, John indicates that Cain’s hatred toward Abel was motivated by Abel’s righteousness!  We prove whether or not we belong to God by how we treat our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  This is John’s reasoning.

(c)  Hatred, verses 13-14

It should be natural, if not always evident, for Christians to love one another.  It is just as natural for those in the world to hate Christians.  It is always surprising when Christians are taken off guard by opposition from the world.  Yet this is, according to the teachings of Scripture, the normal reaction of a godless world to the Church.

At this juncture, we might have expected John to admonish Christians to love the sinful world.  He did, after all, pen the words of John 3:16, which were in response to the world’s hatred of the Christian.  Because he doesn’t, and this has led some to assume that Christians should hate the world.  Naturally, this is not what John is teaching at all.  John’s subject, and the point of this teaching, is the evidence of Christian character rather than the evangelistic concern which the Church should manifest for the salvation of the world.  Mutual love in the body of Christ is simply a better piece of evidence than love for a sinful world.  The reason is obvious:  if a Christian cannot love “the children of God,” how can he love “the children of the devil?”

(d)  Judgment, verse 15

In no uncertain terms, John says that any believer who lacks love for other believers has a heart filled with hate; there is no middle ground, and hatred will eventually end with its manifestation.  In Cain’s case, it was manifested in the murder of Abel.  Is John here saying that every single Christian who “hates” a fellow believer is a murderer?  Does hatred always lead to murder?  John Calvin’s observations provide some balance:

If we wish an evil to happen to our brother from some one else, we are murderers.

But John was not the first to link hatred with murder.  Jesus Himself said this in Matthew 5:21-22,

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

Glenn Barker observes:

To hate is to despise, to cut off from relationship, and murder is simply the fulfillment of that attitude.  Cain, because he murdered his brother, was cut off from the covenant community.  He received no promise.  So no murderer is within the community, nor anyone who “hates his brother.”

If you have hate in your heart, you have no place in the Church.  J.B. Phillips in his translation of this verse puts it like this:

The man without love for his brother is living in death already.  The man who actively hates his brother is a potential murderer, and you will readily see tat the eternal life of God cannot live in the heart of a murderer.  (vv. 14b-15)

2.  Love for each other, verses 16-17

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

John, as a pastor, uses the phrase “we know” in the perfect tense.  This means that “we,” members of the body of Christ,  have knowledge of a historical event, namely, the death of Jesus Christ.  How are we to love each other?  We look at the supreme example of this agape love:  Jesus, who willingly gave His life for others.  But John’s point is that we know what love is because we have heard the Gospel message.  Hearing the Gospel, knowing what Jesus did of His accord, what then is the believer’s obligation?  John writes that we “ought” to give our lives for our brothers.  In other words, love that costs nothing to give is not real real love.

John scorns mere talk about loving and demands the deeds and truth of love as evidence of spiritual life.  (White)

This passage of Scripture forces all who read it to examine their earthly relationships within the realm of the Church and to ask themselves this:  What am I willing to risk to love my brother?   According to Jesus, the chance of losing your life is an acceptable risk.  Is it so in your life?

For those of us find that question difficult to answer, it seems like John anticipates this and so adds that, perhaps losing your life won’t ever happen, but there are other ways  to show love to a fellow believer.  For example, we can be compassionate to him in his time of need.  But there are conditions for this.  John indicates that if we are in a position to see with our own eyes his need, then we must act to help alleviate that need.  This is an immensely powerful verse, because if we can deny a fellow believer help when we know for certain he needs it, then we deny the presence of God’s love in our hearts.

Kistemaker writes:

The command to “love the Lord your God” can never be separated from the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  These two go together at all times.

Conclusion, verse 18

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Without question, this is tough teaching!  Even from someone as tender-hearted as John, what he said would have been no less a big pill for his readers to swallow than it is for us, two thousand years later.  Perhaps John sensed this, so he addresses his readers as, “little children.”  He does not want his readers to throw up their hands in defeat, as though he were giving them an impossible admonition, rather, he wants to get a heart-felt response from them.  Love, real and genuine love is more than mere words.  It demands simple acts, from one person to another.

Must believers really give their lives for a fellow believer if need be?  Must a Christian render aid to another Christian when he himself is in dire straights?  Should a Christian buy shoes for a brother’s child when his own are in bare feet?  How far does a believer take this?  John Wesley, in answer to these kinds of questions, wrote this:

Give and lend to any so far (but not farther, for God never contradicts Himself) as is consistent with thy engagements to thy creditors, thy family, and the household of faith.

Truly, mutual love in the body of Christ is an art.


Bookmark and Share

Another great day!

Blog Stats

  • 192,357 hits

Never miss a new post again.

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 261 other followers

Follow revdocporter on Twitter

Who’d have guessed?

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

Photobucket