Archive for September, 2018

1 John 4:9-10

In 1 John 4:9-10 we learn what the real essence of love is.  God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into this wicked world to bring to us eternal life through his death”. This shows us what true love is and what it means. Love is not only defined by the sacrifice of Jesus but is also defined by the giving of the Father. It was a loving sacrifice by the Father to send His only Son as a sacrifice to pour out the judgment we deserved upon Him on the Cross.  God’s love is multi-dimensional.  It is expressed to us by the entire trinity, and is not different between the three Beings of that Trinity.

Guzik writes “Some of us, for whatever reason, have come to think of God the Father as aloof and mean, perhaps the so-called “angry God” of the Old Testament. In this wrong thinking, many imagine they prefer the nice and loving Jesus instead. But the Father loves us too; and the love Jesus showed in His ministry was the same love God the Father has towards us”. The love of the Father was not only in the sending of His Son, but also in what that sending accomplishes for us. It brings life to all who trust in Jesus.  There is an outcome associated with God’s love through Christ – the forgiveness of and payment for our sin.

John explains it further. In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but his love for us when he sent his Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins”. Salvation is not something we initiate or actually have anything to do with except receiving God’s grace for our sin.  Some versions describe what happened when Jesus went to the cross as propitiation, which means that Jesus provided a once and for all time sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God. God will judge us, and hold us accountable for our sins meaning eternal separation apart from Him, as the outcome of His judgment.

 But when Jesus went to the cross to be the propitiation for our sins, we experience the true love of God. There was nothing better God the Father could give to a lost humanity than the gift of the Son of God Himself. He sent the Son, not on a fact-finding mission or merely a mission of compassion – He sent the Son to die for our sins. Boice described it this way: “If God had merely sent Jesus to teach us about Himself, that would have been wonderful enough. It would have been far more than we deserved. If God had sent Jesus simply to be our example, that would have been good too and would have had some value… But the wonderful thing is that God did not stop with these but rather sent His Son, not merely to teach or to be our example, but to die the death of a felon, that He might save us from sin.”  That’s what God’s love is – an overwhelming and never ending sacrifice for our eternity!

1 John 4:6b-8

In 1 John 4:6b-8 we are reminded that not only is the Spirit a way to validate where truth truly comes from, but also in how the world reacts.  “That is another way to know whether a message is really from God; for if it is, the world won’t listen to it”. Understanding just who hears what God has taught us through the apostles, as recorded in the New Testament, helps us to know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Knowing truth has nothing to do with how smart we are. We keep in the spirit of truth by clinging to Jesus, the One who said I am the truth.  He alone is the source and filter for truth.

After focusing the first part of this chapter around knowing truth versus the lies of the enemy, John turns his attention to another theme he has preached over and over in his books – LOVE.  Dear friends, let us practice loving each other, for love comes from God and those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God, and that they are getting to know him better”. We are not commanded to love one another to earn or become worthy of God’s love. We love one another because we are loved by God, and have received that love, and live in light of it. Love is an outgrowth of our receiving agape love from an all loving God.

John shows us why it is so important for us to love one another.  If love is of God, then those who claim to be born of God, and claim to know God, must be able to love one another in the body of Christ. While this love is not perfected in the life of a Christian on this side of eternity, it must be present – and it should be growing. You can’t truly grow in your experience of God without also growing love for one another. But if a person isn’t loving and kind, it shows that he doesn’t know God—for God is love”. Love is the true litmus test of whether or not we know God and are a true Christ Follower.  If there isn’t real love for God’s people in your life, then your claim to know God and experience God isn’t true.

The love John speaks of here comes from the ancient Greek word agape; it is the concept of a self-giving love that gives without demanding or expecting re-payment – it is the God-kind of love. John tells us that God is love.  But we must be careful to realize that when we say God is love, we are not saying everything about God. Love is an essential aspect of His character, and colors every aspect of His nature. But it does not eliminate His holiness, His righteousness, or His perfect justice. He will deal with evil and sin as His nature requires, which means sometimes our interaction with Him will not ‘feel’ much like love.  That doesn’t change the truth that God is in fact love!

1 John 4:4-6a

In 1 John 4:4-6a John reminds us that the victory has already been won.  The battle has been completed, and if we’re a Christ Follower, our side has won. That doesn’t mean that no one is against us because there is a very real enemy that seeks to destroy us.  But we can live without fear, because the Spirit of God within us is greater than the enemy. Dear young friends, you belong to God and have already won your fight with those who are against Christ because there is someone in your hearts who is stronger than any evil teacher in this wicked world”.

As a Christ Follower, we have already won the victory, and have the vital presence of Jesus Christ in us through the Holy Spirit, which makes victory secure – if we will rely on He who is in you instead of relying on ourselves. For those of us walking in this truth, victory is assured – we have overcome the enemy for all time. It is truth, not just wishful hope. There is no reason for fear.  Our enemies in the spiritual realm are many, but there is no place for fear. We have many spiritual enemies, but not one of them is greater than Jesus who lives in us.  The spiritual forces of evil may be all around us, but our Savior has already defeated them all, once and for all!

In fact, we are surrounded by people of the world. These men belong to this world, so, quite naturally, they are concerned about worldly affairs and the world pays attention to them”. Those who are of the world are evident because they speak as of the world; the influence of the world in evident in their speech. Because they speak the world’s language, they have no problem getting people to listen.  In our efforts to share the gospel and speak God’s message, we have to compete with something that mankind readily likes to hear – the voices of the world.  They are not speaking truth but tickle the ears of those around them.

Those who are of God enjoy fellowship with other believers; they speak the common language of fellowship with God and with each other, because one flows from the other.  But we are children of God; that is why only those who have walked and talked with God will listen to us. Others won’t”. The language of fellowship overcomes differences in language, culture, class, race, or any other barrier. It is a true gift from God. When we know God, and are of God, we hear what the Bible says. Those who are not of God, while they may hear the truth, will not truly understand it and certainly will not believe it.  They will in fact reject it.  That’s why we need to be firmly grounded in God’s Word!

1 John 4:1-3

In 1 John 4:1-3 John warns us not to believe everything we hear. “Dearly loved friends, don’t always believe everything you hear just because someone says it is a message from God: test it first to see if it really is”. The truth is there are a lot of false teachers in the world around us, and just because they claim to have a message from God certainly doesn’t make it so.  In fact, if they have to say it, there is probably some question as to whether it is true. We should never assume any spiritual experience or demonstration of spiritual power is from God. We must test spiritual experiences and spiritual phenomenon to see if they are in fact from God.

Why? “For there are many false teachers around, and the way to find out if their message is from the Holy Spirit is to ask: Does it really agree that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, actually became man with a human body? If so, then the message is from God”. John gives us the ultimate test for discerning whether something is from God.  The responsibility first lies with the leadership of a fellowship of believers, but ultimately each of us as Christ Followers must test the teachings to see if they align with God’s truth.  Scripture is the baseline for all testing. If God said it, we can believe it and use it to hold all other teachings up against.  God never contradicts Himself but gives us the perfect filter for truth in His Word.

John tells us to test everything against Jesus. True prophecy, and true teaching, will present a true Jesus. There are no substitutes or replacements to Jesus.  There is no other test.  Someone might confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh yet deny that He is God as the Bible teaches Him to be God. They are giving false doctrine because they are not presenting a true Jesus. No one who presents a false Jesus, or one untrue to the Scriptures, can be regarded as a true prophet. That was the message John gave us when he told us to find out if the message is from the Holy Spirit.  Failing to present the true Jesus makes any message false.

The denial of Jesus as God and man is the basis of the message the Antichrist will bring. If not, the message is not from God but from one who is against Christ, like the “Antichrist” you have heard about who is going to come, and his attitude of enmity against Christ is already abroad in the world”. The Antichrist and the enemy of God wants us to substitute just about anything in place of holding Jesus true to who He is. The devil doesn’t care at all if you know Jesus or love Jesus or pray to Jesus – as long as it is a false Jesus, a make-believe Jesus, a Jesus who is not there, and who therefore cannot save. The enemy just wants to keep us from worshipping and following the true Jesus who is our Savior, Lord and victor over death!

1 John 3:21-24

In 1 John 3:21-24 we are reminded that if we’re walking rightly with God, we can approach the throne He sits in with confidence.  It is our right as a follower of the King to gain access to His throne and be able to approach Him to ask His blessing and assistance.  “But, dearly loved friends, if our consciences are clear, we can come to the Lord with perfect assurance and trust, and get whatever we ask for because we are obeying him and doing the things that please him.” John makes it clear that we can ask God for anything.  Obedience gives us that right.  And obedience will cause us to experience answered prayer.

This is not because our love and obedience has earned us what we ask for, but because our love and obedience comes from fellowship – the key to answered prayer.  God answers the prayers of those who are abiding in Him through Jesus Christ.  Answered prayer is not based on who we are or what we do, but on Jesus.  The key to prayer is being in such close fellowship with God that we ask for the things that are on His heart; we take up His agenda as we focus our requests and prayers.  The spirit of true prayer is Thy will be done, not My will be done – we turn to prayer to call into action what God desires; even knowing that some of the things God desires will directly and personally benefit us.

The foundation for successful prayer is Jesus and our relationship with Him. “And this is what God says we must do: Believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another.” From that foundation must come love for one another.  John treats these two things as one command – we are to believe in Jesus and love people.  These two acts are closely linked. To believe on the name of Jesus means to put your belief on Jesus in the sense of trusting in Him, relying on Him, and clinging to Jesus. It isn’t about intellectual knowledge or understanding, it is about trust.

The second part of this commandment involves the fact that love of our brothers and sisters in Christ is not an option assigned to some Christians; it is a commandment for all believers. We can boil it down to a simple statement that we are to love God, and love people.  Plain and simple, but certainly not easy. If we get that right, the Holy Spirit will give us assurance through His presence in our life. “Those who do what God says—they are living with God and he with them. We know this is true because the Holy Spirit he has given us tells us so.”  It takes some spiritual discernment to know we’re doing what God commands, and John tackles that in the next chapter.

1 John 3:19-20

1 John 3:19-20 has John reminding us yet again what it means to really love others in life.  “Then we will know for sure, by our actions, that we are on God’s side, and our consciences will be clear, even when we stand before the Lord.” John will not allow us to merely talk about love; real love is demonstrated in actions.  Love is a choice, not merely a feeling.  In fact, it isn’t a feeling at all according to what scripture teaches us.  Love is an action word that requires us to DO something.  It is the mark of a true Christ Follower.  And someday, it will be part of God’s standard regarding our judgment as we stand before Him at heaven’s gates.

When we see this love at work in our lives, we can know that we are walking in the truth – and this brings assurance to our hearts before God, that we are standing in Him. Our assurance is two-fold:

  1. First, God already knows everything about you and He loves you, He cares for you, He desires you;
  2. second, God knows all things, and knows who we truly are in Jesus Christ.

If we are truly born again, than the real self is the one created in the image of Jesus Christ.

How much does this kind of love cost?  What’s the price tag of this kind of love? What is the limit to this kind of love? The only limit is the one that love itself imposes. When giving to a person, meeting his perceived or immediate need, does him harm instead of good – then the loving thing to do is to not give him what he asks for, but to give him what he really needs instead. Condemnation can build up inside us that has nothing to do with our standing before God. The enemy sits on our shoulder whispering lies into our ears that we aren’t doing enough, or we’re doing the wrong things, or it doesn’t matter so why do anything.  We need to realize that the command is clear – we are to love one another through word and most importantly our deeds.

We can go to God and have Him give us clarity around how we’re doing in this area. “But if we have bad consciences and feel that we have done wrong, the Lord will surely feel it even more, for he knows everything we do.” If someone is in true fellowship with God – not deceiving oneself or listening to the enemy, then the assurance that comes to his heart while fellowshipping with God is a precious thing. God will validate our love if we listen to Him and follow His direction.  We can know for sure that love takes action.  But God is watching and knows exactly what we are doing, so He can bear witness to our spirit through the Holy Spirit that we are walking in His will!  Are you loving the people He has put in your patch?  Are you DOING love?

1 John 3:17-18

In 1 John 3:17-18 John takes the discussion of love and makes it personal and actionable.  How then should we live after seeing the ultimate example of love as Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross set the bar pretty high.  But John gives us some concrete examples to consider. “But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won’t help him—how can God’s love be within him?” John will not allow us to merely talk about love; real love is demonstrated in actions.  He starts by focusing on an area very near and dear to our hearts – our money and our stuff.

Let’s face it.  All of us that are reading this are blessed well beyond what we need.  We have plenty of money compared to 98% of the rest of the world.  Yet we struggle to hold our money and stuff with an open hand.  After all, it’s ours.  We worked hard to accumulate and earn it so why should we just offer it to help someone?  The why is pretty plain and simple…..because God tells us to.  Here is a test of real love; if we do not divide our bread with the hungry, we certainly would not lay down our life for him. Whatever love we may pretend to have for our fellow man, if we are unwilling to give it away we are merely a liar about love.

Love is an action word.  It’s a verb that requires us to get off the couch and get in the game.  It’s not just words or thoughts or warm fuzzy feelings.  Love demands actions. “Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.” Merely talking about it cheapens it completely.  If we spend out time talking about meeting people’s needs instead of actually meeting them, we completely miss the meaning of love.  Love requires us to identify needs in our fellow man and then actually do something about it.  We need to get involved, not just watch quietly from the sidelines.

Stott wrote “It is easier to be enthusiastic about Humanity with a capital ‘H’ than it is to love individual men and women, especially those who are uninteresting, exasperating, depraved, or otherwise unattractive. Loving everybody in general may be an excuse for loving nobody in particular.” God wants us to pay attention to the world around us, but more importantly to see the people right under our nose.  We need to look for the opportunities to serve and meet needs in those right in our patch and see those folks as God’s children.  God gives us the chance to be a difference in the lives of those around us.  We need to wake up and do it!  That’s what love is!

1 John 3:16

In 1 John 3:16 John dives into what love is all about.  But what is love? How we define love is important. If we define love the wrong way, then everyone passes, or no one passes, the love test. To understand the scriptural idea of love, we should begin by understanding the definition of love in the New Testament.  Guzik defines these four different kinds of love like this:

  • Eros was one word for love. It described, as we might guess from the word itself, erotic love. It referred to sexual love.
  • Storge was the second word for love. It referred to family love, the kind of love there is between a parent and child, or between family members in general.
  • Philia is the third word for love. It spoke of a brotherly friendship and affection. It is the love of deep friendship and partnership. Philia love might be described as the highest love that one is capable of without God’s help.
  • Agape is the fourth word for love. It described a love that loves without changing. It is a self-giving love that gives without demanding or expecting re-payment. It is love so great that it can be given to the unlovable or unappealing. It is love that loves even when it is rejected. Agape love gives and loves because it wants to; it does not demand or expect repayment from the love given – it gives because it loves, it does not love in order to receive.

As humans, we often mix up these four kinds of love and the words that define them.  We need to make sure we communicate the correct way about the love we are talking about.  Jesus demonstrated His love as far more than a feeling He had when He went to the cross.  “We know what real love is from Christ’s example in dying for us.” It isn’t the death of Jesus in itself that is the ultimate demonstration of love; it is the death of Jesus together with what it does for us that shows us His extreme love. Spurgeon gave a sermon titled “The Death of Christ for His People” and made three key points about this love:

  • How great must have been our sins.
  • How great must have been His love.
  • How safe the believer is in the love of Christ.

The truth is that without the demonstration of love by Jesus on the Cross, we truly wouldn’t know what agape love really looks like.  The fact that God would sacrifice His own Son on the cross for the wretched souls of sinful humankind is something we would never have been able to comprehend without His expressing it so boldly.  But John takes it further and applies it to us.  Jesus demonstration of agape love for us needs to impact how we learn to love those around us.  It isn’t just something to know, but something we need to do! “And so we also ought to lay down our lives for our Christian brothers.”

Real agape love involves sacrifice – the laying down of our lives for others. Wishing to be more loving won’t do, because it won’t sacrifice where it is necessary. There is a cost to agape love.  Sometimes the cost of love will make us feel like we are dying – but that is what it means to lay down your life. Marshall wrote: “Love means saying ‘No’ to one’s own life so that somebody else may live.” It is the choice of putting the well being of others ahead of our own.  God seldom calls us to love the exact way Jesus did.  But He does call us to lay down our lives one piece at a time, in small but very important ways that put others first.  Loving our brothers means we put their interest above our own.  It’s what God not only expects from us, but commands!

1 John 3:13-15

In 1 John 3:13-15 John gives us a startling truth – we may not be the most popular kid on the block.  “So don’t be surprised, dear friends, if the world hates you.” In fact, we need to prepare to be disliked or even hated.  He doesn’t want that to be a surprise to us as Christ Followers.  Why would that happen?  Because our life challenges the norm of the world.  It causes people to have to deal with the reality of their own life choices.  That can make them keenly aware that how they live may not align with God’s commands, and may even cause them to be faced with the reality of sin.  So rather than make changes in how they live, they may take out that frustration on those who cause them to be challenged.

But even if we are hated, we need to love people. “If we love other Christians, it proves that we have been delivered from hell and given eternal life. But a person who doesn’t have love for others is headed for eternal death.” A love for the people of God is a basic sign of being born again. If this love is not evident in our lives, our salvation can be questioned. If it is present, it gives us assurance.  If we are filled with hatred, or jealousy, or bitterness, we are in a place of death.  If Jesus is truly our Savior, we came from a place where we knew we were dead, but now know we have passed from death to eternal life.

So what does that love look like?  If we love the brethren, we will want to be with them – and even if we have been battered and bruised by unloving brethren, there will still be something in us drawing us back to fellowship with the brethren we love. There is no question that the church and God’s people can be extremely damaging at times.  Many have been hurt deeply by the church, or the people within.  But if we are born again, we must continue to seek God’s love through God’s people, even when it isn’t easy and they let us down.  It is the essence of loving one another – the desire to be together and live in fellowship with each other.

John draws a line in the sand about this love that is a requirement for a Christ Follower.  “Anyone who hates his Christian brother is really a murderer at heart; and you know that no one wanting to murder has eternal life within.” To hate our brother is to murder him in our hearts. Though we may not carry out the action, we wish that person was dead. Or, if we choose to ignore another person, we may treat them as if they were dead. Hatred can be shown passively or actively. Both are indications that we have a heart problem and need to be redeemed.  Barker wrote “In the heart there is no difference; to hate is to despise, to cut off from relationship, and murder is simply the fulfillment of that attitude.”  Are you loving God’s people in your patch?  If not, it’s time to seek a heart check and get right with them!

1 John 3:10-12

In 1 John 3:10-12 John gives us the two qualities that indicate we are not a child of God:

  1. Living a life of sin
  2. Doesn’t love his brother

Those two things show that we’re not in God’s family.  It seems pretty harsh, but how we live and act does demonstrate our spiritual parentage which ultimately will determine our nature and destiny.  If Jesus is our Savior and Lord, that should flow out of us through our actions.  It doesn’t mean we’ll be without sin but certainly means we’ll strive to walk in God’s ways.  “So now we can tell who is a child of God and who belongs to Satan. Whoever is living a life of sin and doesn’t love his brother shows that he is not in God’s family; for the message to us from the beginning has been that we should love one another.”

One of the challenges we must wrestle with is how we try to balance righteousness and love.  At times they may seem difficult to manage together. They will never be in complete balance, but both area essential.  Righteousness without love makes one a religious Pharisee, and love without righteousness makes one a partner in evil. We are never to love at the expense of righteousness, and are never to be righteous at the expense of love. We aren’t looking for a balance between the two, because they are not opposites. Real love is the greatest righteousness, and real righteousness is the greatest love.

John’s message from the beginning has been for us to ‘love one another’.  It’s pretty simple, but it has never changed.  Jesus gave that command and the Apostles have reinforced it over and over in scripture.  Some may think that because Christ Followers talk about a “personal relationship with Jesus” that it is only us and Jesus who matter. But how we treat others – how we love one another – is really what matters before God. In fact, John gives us the perfect example of what the opposite of that love is. “We are not to be like Cain, who belonged to Satan and killed his brother. Why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing wrong and he knew very well that his brother’s life was better than his.”

John gives us the negative example of love – Cain.  He was not right with God and he hated his brother.  He was raised in a godly environment and should have been equipped for love, but love is a choice, and he chose not to love his brother.  Guzik points out these truths about Cain:

  • Cain’s disobedience came from a lack of faith (Hebrews 11:4) which resulted in first disobedience, then hatred.
  • Cain’s disobedience and hatred was based in pride (Genesis 4:5).
  • Cain’s disobedience and hatred made him miserable (Genesis 4:5).
  • Cain refused the warning God gave him, and gave into the sin of hatred (Genesis 4:6-7).
  • Cain’s sin of hatred led to action against the one he hated (Genesis 4:8).
  • Cain was evasive about his sin of hatred, and tried to hide it. But God found him out (Genesis 4:9).

We can learn about the importance of how we live, and the impact of sin through Cain’s life.  If we don’t choose love, the wrong outcome occurs.

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