God is Love

Transcript of my Radio Program – Sunday – May 4

Good evening and welcome to Simple Faith, I am Cathy Merritt your host.  We are continuing in 1 John, Chapter 3.   We ended with John writing to us about what Jesus did for us, and that it is the way we should live our lives.  We are to be different than those who rejected Jesus.

Prayer:

 

Doing What is Right

1 John 3:7-10

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one 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. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

This is an interesting passage to begin our lesson this evening.  Don’t let anyone lead you astray!  There are many, who would do so, and they may try by appealing to our pride or vanity, they might appeal to greed or lust, they might even appeal to our intellect with attractive arguments or curious reasoning, but have you ever asked yourself why they would bother?

John gives the reason in this passage: They are sinful, of the devil and doing the devil’s work, because the devil has been in rebellion against God since the beginning and is looking for allies… or at least to separate us from Christ. It is really important that we get this point.  It is the work of the devil to separate us from Christ, because in Christ we are part of His work, and His work is to destroy the works of the devil.  Actually, this is so simple we might miss it!  In Christ, we are a threat, so there will be opposition.

Within this context, John speaks of doing what is right as opposed to doing what is sinful, and in this context doing what is right means following Jesus Christ, and doing what is sinful means not following Christ and trying to lead His followers astray.  So far, this is very straight forward, and then John throws us a curve at the end, a curve that leads us to the next section.  Doing right means that we love one another, doing wrong means that we don’t.

Wait! I thought you just said that doing right was following Jesus, and doing wrong was not following Jesus!  Where did all of this love stuff come from?

Simple answer: If we do not love one another as He loved us, then we can’t possibly be following Jesus Christ, because loving one another is where He is leading!

Following Christ is an action.  I have always believed being called a Christian doesn’t show any action – but being called a Disciple of Christ shows action.  We should be Following Christ by his example – not calling ourselves believers by our words, but by our actions.

Love is Active – 1 John 3:16-18

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 and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children,let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

What an amazing text regarding love and what it really is.  The concept of Christian love, love of our brother or sister, is not merely an abstract idea, it is a reality of life that requires action. John gives us the model of Christ as the example of what love looks like in action.  Jesus loved us, and so He set His own life aside so that we might live.  In the same way, John calls upon us to set aside our own lives for the sake of others.  This may not necessarily require our physical death, for there is more to the teaching of Christ than that.  It will most certainly require that we set our interests aside to serve others.

John uses the specific example of one who has material resources giving them to a brother or sister who is in need in these verses. How can we possibly sit by and let our brother or sister suffer when we have the means to bring relief; to do so is not showing the person love.  We can think of other circumstances in which we may have what a hurting person might need, and we must not withhold  aid, even though giving aid can be quite inconvenient.  Very often these days, we may come across a brother or sister who has emotional pain, and we must be ready to give whatever comfort and relief that we can.

Whatever the particular case may be, we must understand that loving one another doesn’t simply mean to be nice, it means to put others first in thought, and deed as well as in words. This is what it means to follow Jesus Christ; this is what it means to love one another!

Do You Really Know for Sure? 1 John 3:19-24

This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives 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.

Chapter 3 of John’s first letter ends with the assurance that we can know for sure where we stand with God, but it isn’t the answer that most of us give if we are asked “how we know”…

John’s answer is that we know by the Spirit within us.

Well steady on there, isn’t that the Spirit that so many are waiting for…until “it” decides to move…? Yes, that one, the one that we say we can’t hear.

Yes, that’s the one John is referring to!

John takes a little different tack that we often do. He says that we will notice whether or not the Spirit within us condemns us, we know that God is greater than our hearts and knows all.  I think that many of us today use slightly different terminology for this by saying that we “feel convicted” about something.  When this happens, we have something to seek forgiveness for and have the need to alter our behavior or attitudes in some way.  When we are not condemned by our hearts, we are confident in his presence. We know that in saying these things, John is making reference to the work of the Spirit in our lives because he says so in the last part of the passage. Now, the remaining question is whether or not this is really true in our lives?

Over the years I’ve noticed that many people will tell me about their active prayer lives.  They will tell me all about the countless hours they spend with God and all the rest.  On other occasions, they will tell me that they never notice the Spirit working within them, and that’s how  I know for sure that they don’t have any of this great prayer life they like to go on about.  The reason is that seeking His presence is how we are able to discern the Spirit that is within us!  Notice that John linked the two in verse 21 and 22:

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask,

You should notice something else here. Here’s verse 22 in full:

and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.

Yes, we will receive anything we ask in prayer, if we “keep his commands and do what pleases him.” As always in John’s writings, asking and receiving are always firmly within the context of doing His will, and not in doing our will.

So, can you really know for sure where you stand with God?

YES!

Seek His presence and you’ll find out!

Test the Spirits   1 John 4:1-3

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. 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.

Oh my word, what a timely text!  With the previous chapter ending by saying that we can know that Jesus lives in us because of the (Holy) Spirit He gave us, now John takes another step forward in our experience.  How can we tell who is right and who is not?

Simple!  Test the spirits!

Well, it is actually simple, but at first it sounded a little creepy to me. On closer examination, however, it isn’t creepy and it isn’t hard.  Does a teacher or commentator acknowledge that Jesus Christ came in the flesh?  Do they acknowledge Him at all? If they do, they are from God; if they don’t they are not from God. If they are not from God, they are the spirit of the antichrist! This is not complicated, and we might take John’s teaching here into consideration when we watch the recent Evolution debate on You Tube. If they don’t acknowledge Jesus, they aren’t from God, they are antichrist. If this is so, would we consider them a reliable source of insight?  Well, you can decide that one…   1 John 4:4-6

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 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.

John finishes this thought in these verses, making his point even clearer.  We have overcome the spirit of antichrist, because the Holy Spirit within us is greater by far that the spirit of antichrist could ever dream of being.  Interesting point to bear in mind when reading commentaries, blogs and books!  These false teachers speak from the viewpoint of the world, not from the viewpoint of God, and the world will listen to them. Yes, and while the world will listen to the false teacher, the spirit of antichrist, the world will not generally listen to us, for they simply can’t fathom what we are talking about, so let’s not be surprised by this.

I’ve spoken with many Christians who fear that they might be tricked and led astray, and I always tell them that they will not be tricked and led astray if they have a strong relationship with Christ.  That is precisely what John is asserting here.  It’s so simple to tell the difference, and when you were little, your mother or father probably told you how to recognize who is credible and who is not, for I’ll bet they told you to  “consider the source.” To put it another way, I wouldn’t recommend that we take spiritual advice from an atheist, nor would I suggest that we should take Bible instruction from a non-believer.

See how simple this stuff is?

This is Love  1 John 4:7-10

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

We are now beginning the central core of this letter, and this core runs from verse 7 to the end of this chapter.  it is not only the central core of the letter, but it is also the central core of Christian theology.  All of those comparisons at the beginning of the letter, and all of the discussion of evil, antichrists and the testing of spirits comes back to this theme, for without it, the rest of the theology of our faith is rendered meaningless.  In short, what is written in this section is the one thing that give Christianity its power and authority, and against which the gates of Hell itself cannot, and will not stand.

The last sentence in this text is the key: God loved us. In fact, he loved us while we were lost, and not loving Him at all.  Yet God loved us anyway! He loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us.  Yes, you’re right, this has already been pointed out in this letter, but here it is again, as the core of everything else; that is how important it is that we grasp this simple concept!

How could God love us so much and in spite of everything?  Because God is love.

That being the case, we are to love one another, just as God loved us.  Nobody can do this unless God is in that person, which is to say that person is in Christ.  Loving one another as God loved us runs counter to every teaching of this world, as it also runs against our natural human inclinations.  Therefore, if a person does not love, it is because God is not in him or her.

How will the world see Christ in you?

It will see that his love is in you, and working through you.

How can the lost be won for Christ?

By seeing His love in you, and working through you.

More Love  1 John 4:11-12

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

John is continuing his thoughts that we looked at in vv. 7-10, and is the central core of Christian theology, the part that everything else is built upon.  Simply stated, this love core flows like this:

1. God loved us while we were still sinners.

2. God sent His Son to die for our sins.

3. We loved God and responded to the Gospel.

4. God loved our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Therefore, so do we.

We see this pattern at work once again in verse 11.  God loved us, so we should love each other  Then John, as was his custom, takes one more step.  Since no one has ever seen God, and since God loves all of us and we love Him, if we also love each other, God’s love will be complete in us and visibly expressed within His Body, the Church.  This is as far as John has gone so far…

At this point, we can infer that there is another step.  The other step is implied in John’s mentioning that “no one has seen God.”  OK, why did he choose to write that?  Think…

No one has seen God, but if we love one another as God loved us, then His love will live amongst us, and though us all will see it.

The other evening there was a debate about Evolution and Creation.  These kinds of discussions usually have at their core, an assumption that if we cannot observe some “evidence” that God exists, then we can determine that He does not exist.  I’m no scientist, but this seems to be a natural inclination on the part of people who are educated with regard to the Scientific Method.  Remember that one from your school days?  It was the one about observations, and testing theories with observable evidence?

Back to John.  Have you ever thought that it would be nice if you could find the positive “proof” of God’s existence? Yes, something that can be observed and studied?

Are you sitting down?

John just gave it to you!  The proof is God’s love at work in our lives and within the Body of Christ. At least it should be!  Maybe if we started taking these verses to heart and putting them into our everyday manner of living, like we are commanded by God to do, more people would notice that the greatest “proof” of God, the observable evidence is right there in front of us all: Love for one another as Jesus has loved us, and gave His life for us.

Let’s wrap up for today with a question to think about: Do you ever wonder if it is a coincidence that the whole concept of Godly love has been corrupted and demeaned in our culture? After all, doesn’t society use the word “love” to mean just about anything  other than Godly love?

God is Love  1 John 4:16b-18

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

This short text is tricky; we need to be sharp to get the full benefit of it.  “God is love.” OK, so far, so good, this part is easy.  Them John says, Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  For us to live in love is to also live in God, and when we do that, God lives in us because God and love are the same thing. They are inseparable.  Here comes the curve: John is building again.  Because of the inseparable nature of God and love, living our lives in love will make love complete, and ensure that we will be confident on the day of judgment: This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: OK, this one is really interesting… John finishes this way:

In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

 

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