Welcome to Simple Faith and I am your host, Cathy Merritt. This is our 4th night on the air and I praise God that I am able to come back and teach from the words Jesus spoke and what his disciples wrote down and taught to others.
Remember the author, John was someone that walked with Jesus, broke bread with Jesus – lived with Jesus and learned how to live like Jesus. Praise God that we have these scriptures to show us the way.
Let us pray. God is love and because of his love, he allowed his Son to die on the cross for all our sins. Without that death, we would not be able to have that direct connection with God – and so God loved us so much he gave us his son to die for those sins and so God we ask that you continue to show us our path to serve you better. I pray I can continue to serve you as a leader in the church.
I want to start where we left off last week. 1 John Chapter 4 vs. 16-18
God is Love
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.
Did you catch that? If we live in love, we live in God, and God lives in us. This is because love and God cannot be separated. If we live this way, we live like Jesus lived. Jesus did not fear death, why should He? He knew exactly where He was going! When we live in love, we need have no fear of judgment, for that love drives fear of judgment out of our lives.
When a person dies, the next step is judgment. You might believe that we die and immediately go to judgment, or you might believe that we die and sleep until judgment day, but to be honest, it doesn’t matter. Judgment is the next step either way. Just as Jesus knew exactly where He was going, so do we, we are going to be at His side.
So what really happens?
When we go to judgment, there are two sets of books. There is the Book of Life and there is the Books of Deeds. If your name is in the Book of Life, that’s it, you’re in! If not, the other books are consulted, and you are judged by your deeds. You don’t want to be involved in those deeds books! The judgment is not a horrifying ordeal if you are in the Book of Life. Your name is read and that’s it, “welcome home.” What John is telling us here is that living in love means that our names are in the Book of Life.
Let’s put it another way: We read about this day in Revelation 21:11 ff. If you are in Christ, living in love (they are the same thing) your name is in the Book of Life. That being the case, you are not being put on trial or accused of anything at all, for your sins have been taken away entirely; they are as far from you as the east is from the west. There is no sin to even discuss: Period. That is why John can say here, that perfect love drives out all fear. The love God has always had for you terminated all discussion, and your appearance at judgment is a welcoming ceremony, you might say.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but this seems like pretty great news tonight. Good News – Praise God.
We love because He first loved us
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
1 John 4:19-21
This just about sums it all up, don’t you think? God so loves us that He went to extreme measures in showing it, sending His Son to die for us… because so great was God’s love. (John 3:16)
If God loves us, and we in turn love God, then we must also love our brother or sister. As you can see from these verses, there is no negotiating to be done. In fact, John says that it is a command from God that we love our brother. End of discussion!
Well… almost. It may strike some as odd that God has commanded love. It is really a fair question to ask if someone asked it… How can I be commanded to love? I see my brother or sister, and I don’t feel anything for them. As I’ve written before words are funny things; they mean stuff. In English, we only have one word: “Love.” John wrote in Greek. Greek has five words for our “love” and they mean different things. The word that John used here is agapaō which is the word used in the New Testament for God’s love. It is not the word for romantic love. When we are commanded to love one another, this command has nothing whatsoever to do with emotions. Instead, it has everything do with attitude.
To love your brother or sister in Christ means to put their interests ahead of your own. If your brother or sister is in need, we are to take care of their need before we take care of our need. We are to be willing to set aside our cares and hurts to see to the needs of others… just like Jesus did. If we see our brother or sister hurting, we do something about it. Jesus saw us hurting from sin and death, so He did something about it, setting aside His own personal needs… that is unless you’d claim that He really needed to be tortured and murdered, or that it was His idea of fun…
This is the attitude that make the Body of Christ possible. If we were to approach the Body (church) as our little plaything, or as our chance to be important, or in the way humans often approach things, then the Body will fight and divide. Hmmmmm, we might think about that one! If we approach it as people who love one another and put others ahead of ourselves, the Body is the most amazing and awesome thing this side of Heaven, as they say.
So, can we do it? Sure we can! We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. It begins with a commitment to follow Jesus, and it carries on when we are more satisfied in His presence than when we are any place else. Need help or guidance in this? No problem, seek Him, and follow where He leads. You’ll know what to do.
Keep His Commands
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
1 John 5:1-5
As we begin the final chapter of John’s letter, John continues to tell us that we must love God and love each other. He’s been doing this for dozens of verses now; for some who read this, John is going to throw you another curve!
The curve is in verse 2: This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. I’ve never heard anyone argue with the loving God part; that seems easy, almost abstract, but carrying out His commands is often a sticking point. As we have stated many times going through this letter, God’s commands can be summed up very easily. We are to love God, and love one another.
Oh, hold on, did I forget one? , it’s love God, love one another and make disciples. That’s the one many people get stuck on… There are all kinds of criticisms for this, as though I (or someone else) made it up or something, but that is simply not the case! What was Jesus’ final command?
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
My dear friends, All of these words I have not made up – I is there in the book – the truth, the Bible, No, let’s just try a new approach. First, how can we ever say that we love God, but we won’t follow His command to share that love with others? How can we say we love others, and not share the love of God with them? Come on now, that wouldn’t even make sense, would it? God first loved us, so He sent His Son to die for our sins. Lots of “likes” for that one, and lots of nice comments, too. So if we don’t share God’s love with others who are lost, are we not sharing because God really didn’t love them as much as He loved us?
OK, fine. We share with the lost and they enter into relationship with Jesus Christ; now they are our brother or sister in the Lord. So what then? Will we just stand by and watch them struggle with their new faith, or will we help them along their way? Which choice demonstrates love in action?
John goes on to mention that obeying His commands isn’t burdensome because in Him, we have overcome the world. Ever wonder what that has to do with anything? What is it that would hold us back from making disciples? Go ahead and make a short mental list of what might hold you back. Got it? OK, good. Does it have things like being afraid they’ll say no? How about not wanting others to think you’re weird? Maybe you’re afraid that you won’t know all the answers. Yes, there are other possibilities, but in my experience, these are the kinds of things people usually say. In Him, we’ve overcome the world, and these are thoughts of the world, not His thoughts. Was Jesus ever afraid of rejection or embarrassment or afraid of anything this world could do to Him? No. Why would we be concerned about such things? We have overcome the world! We have overcome the world because of our faith! Sometimes, like you, I need to remind myself about that!
To carry out God’s commands is not burdensome, because it is a joy! I can tell you from my own experience that there is no greater joy in this life to see a person I have mentored, grow in the their faith, and step up to serve God because of their love for Him. Yes, it is by far the greatest joy there is!
Haves and Have Nots
This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
1 John 5:6-12
What an interesting text! Do you remember John’s warning about anitchrists in chapters 1 and 4? John was warning the people of his time against the false teachings of the Gnostics, who denied that Jesus came in the flesh, and that He was “from the Father.” John is taking aim at them again in this text when he speaks of the testimony of three witnesses. In our time, while this is still a very important point, we tend to get into arguments about the water and blood part, with various interpretations regarding John’s meaning. For the purpose of this post, I’ll give you my idea on this point, but I’ll spare you the lengthy essay on it, since I’d prefer to focus on application.
One of the main points of contention between Christian teaching and that of the Gnostics was whether or not Jesus came in the flesh; in a human body. The Gnostic approach was that He came more in a spirit form and not in physical form, since everybody knows that the physical body is evil… or so they said. It is always interesting to me to hear Christians who maintain this, since the notion of the human body being evil or dirty is a Greek impulse, not a Biblical teaching! That the Spirit testifies that Jesus is from the Father is obviously a reference to the Holy Spirit who testifies about Jesus. The water, in my view, is a reference to His baptism. To be baptized is a physical activity, in which an actual body is needed; a spirit would be rather impossible to immerse in water. The blood, as I see it, is a reference to what Jesus did on the cross, since it would be a difficult thing to nail a spirit to a cross and have it bleed. The water as a giver of testimony seems to me to refer to the baptism of a new follower of Jesus, who is immersed as a testimony of dying and rising again a new creation. The blood is declared when we partake of Communion, where we declare for all time the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When you put these three things together, you have an ongoing testimony about Jesus from the Holy Spirit, from millions of baptisms, and from our observance of Communion that Jesus came in the flesh from the Father. You might also note that the Old Testament Law requires the testimony of two or three witnesses, and John is providing three. If your reading of this is different from mine, that’s fine, for the larger point for us is what follows…
Let’s pick up John’s discussion here in verse 9:
We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (9-11)
His point that we will readily believe a human testimony, but not God’s is a warning to all of us. There are all sorts of human teachings about Jesus, many of which are designed to convince us that He never even existed, and the difference between life and death is whether or not we will accept God’s testimony, given not only by his Word, but by the Spirit. just think about how crucial this is!
Then comes the most important, bottom-line statement of all in verse 12:
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Please take a moment for this to sink in… and recall my speaking of t keeping His commands.
Yes, this is what I think we need to consider. Some of John’s writings are a little cryptic; he has a way of skirting around in a circle, and his meaning is vague… until he drops the bomb at the end, and this is one of them. It’s one thing for us to say that life is in Christ, but the other side of the coin is that outside of Christ there is only doom!
Jesus has commanded that we make disciples, and that begins with leading the lost to Him. There is a great deal at stake with this process, and John has made that abundantly clear in verse 12, wouldn’t you agree? Maybe there was a time when you could share the peril and doom with a person who didn’t know Him, but if there was such a time, it is long gone. I am aware that many Christians have been impressed with this, and out of their misguided love, they have run out and shared the warning… and driven off those whom they had hoped to save. The world around us, our culture, our society has picked up on this, and rather than be flattered that someone cared, they became outraged, causing trouble.
When Jesus Christ is involved, there is always hope! In this case, there is a simple, if not always easy, answer: Share His love in grace. In loving relationship, many will respond to His love. We must be sensitive to the fact that so many have a negative image of Christianity, whether it is fair or not. Approaching people in love means that we bother to actually care about them, it takes time, it is a kind of investment in people, without judgments, without threats, without doom. Even the most hardened hearts can be mended by the love of God… and I think it is especially important to bear in mind that it is God’s love that we must display is sharing with others.
Does any of this make sense to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
1 John 5:13-15
These three simple verses are encouraging ones, for they assure us of two wonderful things. First, we have eternal life. Second, anything we ask for in prayer will be done, if we ask in God’s will. This is our focus here: God’s will.
The whole idea of tacking “in Jesus’ name, Amen” has always struck me as trying to work the system just a little bit. Of course, we do that because Jesus is recorded three times in John’s gospel telling His disciples that anything they ask for in His name will be given them. Never mind that all three times were firmly within the context of doing God’s will, all we need to do is tack on the magic words… Only it doesn’t work like that!
Yeah, I hate to be the one who has to tell you that God thought of that one already.
Our prayers that are outside of God’s will aren’t guaranteed to be answered, because God is all about His purposes, and we are His servants, not the other way around. So, the question really is, what is within God’s will? It isn’t always in God’s will that nice things happen, that the sick are always healed and that the bad guy looses the game. In fact, it can be quite difficult to discern His will in some situations, especially when we are emotionally invested. There are some things that are always within the scope of God’s eternal purpose, can you guess what they are?
Yep, that’s right, you got it! Things that pertain to saving the lost and making disciples are always within His will. Not things that just make it easier for us, or that make us look like heroes, but things that get those “Kingdom things” done. In this area, prayer is so powerful it can be scary… in a good way.
We must pray big prayers, with boldness, and with the sure expectancy that God will do great things with them, but we need to ensure that our prayers are to advance God’s priorities, according to God’s ways of doing things.
OK, here we go… big bold “God’s will” prayers, and no more little “me” ones. Just watch and see what amazing things He can do!
Thrill-packed Ending 1 John 5:16-17
If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
As we move along through this letter, we think we have John all figured out, and then we come to these two verses, so near to the end of the letter. At first, they don’t seem to belong, what is John talking about? Where did this come from?
So let’s see if we can follow him… if a brother sins, we are to pray for him, and God will give him life. OK, I think I get it; God will forgive the sin, and straighten the guy out. Hold on, that is if the sin isn’t a sin that leads to death; but I thought death was the price of all sin! John’s making it sound like any sin can be forgiven, except one; and this one sin can be committed by our “brother or sister.”
John could have at least mentioned what that sin is… leaving that little detail out makes this hard to follow, at least for me. I wonder why he would do that. Maybe he didn’t think he needed to mention it, maybe he thought he’d already covered that some where; could that part have been lost over time or something? Let’s think.
What was the letter about? Oh, yes, it was about false teachers, in fact it was about a certain kind of false teacher, gnostic false teachers, who claimed that Jesus didn’t come in the flesh. Hold on, John came up with a special word to describe them: Antichrist! Aha! now this is beginning to make sense, the antichrist is not to be forgiven, you don’t need to pray for this. When your brother stumbles, pray for him, when you stumble ask God and He will forgive. Stay away from the antichrist. 1 John 5:18-20
We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
John is winding up the letter now, as he recounts some basic facts of Christian life. A follower of Jesus is not to continue in the old ways. He or she has been buried with Christ, and arisen again as a new creation, leaving the old behind. The “One who was born of God” which is to say the Lord Jesus, keeps us safe from the evil one. This is a pretty important statement for us to keep in mind, especially when we are looking for somebody to blame for our mistakes. John points out that the whole world is under the control of the evil one, and you will no doubt recall that he has already warned us not to love the world, now you know why.
Now, John drops in a comforting and powerful thought: Jesus has given us understanding so that we may know who is true; it is Jesus who is true. If we have the understanding to know who is true, we can also discern who is not. Maybe this is why the arguments and understanding of this world can be so attractive to the world, and appear so idiotic to a follower of Jesus… and vice-versa. Hmmm, might want to ponder that for a bit. God is the one who is true, and the giver of eternal life.
Lastly, John reminds us in verse 21 to stay away from idols, and the letter closes.
A Final Thought
I wish I had great insight, I wish I was a great teacher and could instill great teaching to my brother or sister, but I am only a person that loves Christ, but because of that love, I have been able to teach and lead others to the Good News of Christ. I am just a gal that is trying to serve my Lord, nothing special – nothing remarkable that is for certain!!! So many have done a superior job discussing 1 John, but I believe that God’s message is more important than the messenger. I hope that this lesson of 1 John has lead you to seek God. You do not have to agree with me, but Simply enough – the words says – God is Love.
I believe that if we can stop fighting as Christians and really stop dividing over less important things we can come together in God’s love. It would serve God’s kingdom better.
This ends the lesson of 1 John.
Next Week I’ll begin teaching on Second and Third John
For tonight – I say have a great week and pray that God leads you to action. Remember being a Christian isn’t about sitting still and living like you have the victory. It is taking the victory of Christ’s death and taking the step to become his Child and lead others to the same place.
Many people often say that being a Christian isn’t fun, but I find it is the best thing that ever happened to me. We are allowed so much freedom in Christ – that some are fearful of that freedom. But remember we just finished 1 John. Fear is not of God.
So I pray tonight that you have faith even as tiny as a mustard seed – that it will grow and you will come to faith as so many others have over the years.
This is Cathy Merritt signing out – remember my email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please send your comments or prayers to me.