1 John, Part 6
1 John 3. I hope our hearts are ready to worship and to connect with the Lord in this passage of scripture. This was a very encouraging passage of scripture that I had the opportunity to study this week, as I got ready to share with you, reflecting on what John’s desire is for the church.
And if you remember, we’ve discussed the background of John, where he is in this place, what’s happening in the early church during this time. John is the last living apostle. He’s close to 100 years old, his time on earth is about done. He’s the only apostle that wasn’t martyred. He ministers primarily in the church of Ephesus.
But he writes this letter, recognizing that the church is always going to be faced with individuals that attempt to come into the church just to pervert the teaching of what Christianity is about. And he knows the power of what God’s people are about is founded in the truth of who God is. And so, he’s encouraging the church to just rest in the power of God and to walk in that.
And he does this by comparing it to a few things that we’ve examined together. One is light and darkness, that God is light. And I hope we’ve seen together that light isn’t something that you fabricate religiously from your own life, but light is something that God brings into our life as we surrender to him. And that light is designed to pierce the darkness. It’s not by our power that things are done in this world, but by his power. Jesus referred to himself, we’ve seen this together in this word abide, that he is the vine and we are the branches. He who abides in him will bear much fruit, because apart from him you can do nothing.
And then we’ve talked about the idea of righteousness and lawlessness, and how sin is lawlessness. And that idea of lawlessness, we think about sin, we think it’s about … oftentimes it’s about doing bad, but really if you define sin that way it’s selling it short. What sin really is is rebellion against the King because God is King and he defines what’s right and wrong. And when we choose to walk in sin, before sin affects any other relationship in the world, it’s first rebellion against God. And so, what we need in that lawlessness of which we’re all guilty of, is righteousness.
And again, we don’t fabricate this righteousness on our own, it is impossible. We looked at some verses that talked about that. Religion will teach you to fabricate your righteousness. That you do these rules and when you live these rules, then maybe it will be good enough for God. But what scripture tells us is that we can never live up to that expectation, because God is holy and perfect. The only thing religion does is oppress you and it demonstrates to you that you’re not good enough, and you never will be good enough.
But God, in his grace, makes us good enough in Jesus. That’s why Jesus came. He took our place, our substitute. And so, rather than our sinfulness or lawlessness, we receive Jesus as righteousness because of what he has done for us. So, to live in light and to live in righteousness is to walk in Christ.
And today, what John is going to do, is he’s going to take all these thoughts, really, and he’s going to show us what’s central to the idea of light and righteousness. And in 1 John 3:10 is where he starts this, but if you remember the basis of this, he told us in chapter two, verse 28 that he wants us in this confidence before God at his appearing, that one day all of us are going to meet God face to face. John wants us to be confident before him.
So, 1 John 2:28, 1 John 4:17, it talks about confidence before that judgment or before God’s presence when we meet him face to face. So, in the context of this, now John is writing to us what that would look like. And in verse 10, he starts this idea with us. He says, “By this it is evident who are children of God and who are children of the devil.” In case you need to know, you want to be one of those children and not the other, right?
And so, “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” So, because of Jesus’ righteousness that’s placed on us, God’s desire then for us is to live in light of that righteousness in this world. And so, what God wants us to do, righteousness not lawlessness, light not darkness. God desires for us to live it out.
Now, what John is talking about here in this passage is something that he’s fighting against in this early church where people claim to follow Jesus, but they look like hell. When you claim to follow Jesus, you should look like Jesus. Right? And what happened in John’s time period is there was this form of teaching called gnosticism where they believed the physical world was bad, the spiritual world was good. And since the physical world was all bad, spiritual world was all good, they only talked about Jesus ever being a spiritual being, never in the flesh, which is heretical.
But they started to teach this idea that it didn’t matter what you did in the flesh, because all of it was bad anyway. So, just think spiritually, and the way that they thought spiritually was they received this knowledge. They were always about learning. And so, the smarter they were, the more spiritual they were perceived by people. And John’s just calling garbage on all of that.
What John is saying here in this passage is, he describes it this way. He says, “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God.” And what it’s saying is that God is not behind what this person is doing. Now, I think this verse is actually written to a Christian, because he says then, “Nor is the one who does not love his brother.” So the idea of loving your brother in Christ is the idea of what it means to be a believer in the Lord, is to care for one another. You care for other brothers and sisters in Christ. Right?
But he saying, “Look, if this person who belongs to Jesus is not practicing righteousness or demonstrating Jesus in the world, God is not behind that. God is not with that.” And so, what John is clarifying is the confusion that the world often sees by people who claim to follow Jesus, that look nothing like Jesus. When people see that, they don’t want anything to do with that Jesus. We need a Jesus that radically transforms our life, right?
And so, John is playing into this idea, this difference of what God calls us to in this righteousness should look like Jesus, because of what Jesus has done for us. So, verse 11, he says this, “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning.” This is our basis here as followers of Christ, that we should love one another.
And what John is beginning to recognize for us is that our relationship with God, spiritually speaking, is interconnected to your relationship with others. These things are distinct from each other, that the way you love God is demonstrated in the way you care about people around you. If you love God, you love the things that God loves and what God loves is people, because God came to give his life for people.
And so, your relationship with God is not distinct or separate from your relationship with others, rather it’s interconnected with your relationship with others because that’s exactly where God desires to move. Relationships reveal your spiritual health because relationships aren’t always easy. And in the adversity of those relationships, it demonstrates what you trust in.
Now, when you look in verse 11, I think when you read this verse we’d say, yeah, we all agree with this, “For this is the message you’ve had from the beginning, that we should love one another,” right? I agree with this verse. In fact, John’s reiterated this throughout the book of John. In 1 John 3:10, you see he’s attaching this word righteousness. “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” He’s taking this word of righteousness, which we compared last week to lawlessness, right? Or contrasted it to lawlessness. He’s taking this word righteousness and saying, “You know what righteousness looks like lived out? Loving your brothers.”
In chapter two, he did the same thing with light. Chapter two, verse 10, listen to this, “Whoever loves his brothers abides in the light.” So, when a Christian lives out the light of God in their life, it should be demonstrated through this thought of love. He’s really taking all these concepts that we’ve looked at as a body of believers in pursuing after God in our lives, the church powerfully making a difference in this world, that’s what John’s desire for the church to be successful, moving forward, realizing he’s about to step off the scene. And so, what word does he give us? Love. Love.
And we look at verse 11, and we think, “Yeah, I agree with this.” Right? We should love one another. So here’s the question, do we love in this way? We think in terms of love, John’s about to give us just a couple of examples to look at our lives. Because I think, for the most part, you meet people in this world and they’ll say to you, “You know, I’m a loving person.” Right? But John wants to use these verses ahead for us to really examine our lives, to see what kind of love we emanate when we talk about being a loving person. Because there is a worldly natural love, but then there is a godly supernatural love.
And when God calls us to love, God calls us not to treat people the way people treat us, but to treat people the way Jesus treats us. And to do that, it takes a supernatural type of love. And so, John recognizing that love is, it’s sort of junk drawer word in our culture today. Like, I say I love my wife, and I say I love chicken wings. But those are two different things, right? I don’t love my wife the same way I love chicken wings, right? That would be weird.
But we use that word sort of as a junk drawer word. And so, John wants us to examine, when we talk about love, are we really loving the way that God uses to supernaturally work through us to see the lives of other people transformed in Jesus?
And he starts this example with a weird thought, and I feel like, when you first read this verse, you sort of disconnected from what John’s saying, because I feel like his example is so extreme. But look what he says, he says, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one, and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” It’s like, okay, if you’ve never murdered anyone, you’re okay, right? I mean, how do you relate to that thought?
If you know the story of Cain and Abel, Cain and Abel were the first two kids born in this world. Adam and Eve, at least scripture talks about, in Genesis 4, they have Seth, Cain, and Abel from Adam and Eve. And so, Cain, and then Abel come and they give these offerings before the Lord. And it tells us Cain gives his offering before God, and then Abel gives his offering. But when it describes Abel’s offering, it says that he takes of his first fruit, the best of what he has. The first things that God gives him from this world. And he offers them back to God. And Cain gives an offering.
And God accepts Abel’s offering, but he doesn’t accept Cain’s offering. And rather than deal with that before the Lord, Cain deals with that before his brother because his brother makes him now look bad in how own eyes. And so, Cain being frustrated about a step that he took that really wasn’t faithful before God, he takes that anger out on his brother. Because what Cain is interested in is how he looks before other people. What Cain is most interested in, honestly, is himself.
And what that leads to in the story of Cain and Abel is Cain gets so angry, and jealousy towards his brother because Cain covets the acceptance that his brother has. He wants to look good. That Cain kills his brother.
Now, you look at this example, you think, this is kind of silly when we talk about love, just to start off the bat with murder. I’m not a murderer. At least probably most of us are not murderers, right? How do you relate to this?
Well, let me give you just a few thoughts of I think where John develops this. I think first and foremost, one of the similarities that we have here with Cain, that led Cain to do what he did, is that when we feel unloved as people, we tend to react unloving. That’s natural love in this world. That’s worldly love, that when you feel unloved, you respond with being unloving, right? We can justify the reasons that we do it. Forget Jesus’ example, you did this to me, I’m okay to be this way back to you, right? But remember, what God calls us to is that we’re not called to treat people the way people treat us. We’re called to treat people the way Jesus treats us.
The second interesting thing that, when I look at the life of Cain and Abel, that just worth considering is that sometimes we try to pacify our behavior. We say, you know, “Well, the environment had a lot to do with what we do.” And I agree, environment, sometimes we grow up in unhealthy environments. But when you look at the story of Cain and Abel, they had perfect parents. There was no culture. These were the first people.
And so, what John is doing is, he’s using the story of Cain and Abel to reveal the nature really that rests in all of us, because there was no cultural influence in their lives. This is the first murder described in scripture, and so you can’t just blame it on other things.
And third, we make life about us. Our tendency is to push others down and to harm other people. I don’t even say our tendency, what we will do when we make life central to us is that we will use people as tools to meet our desires. And what it entails is that we push others down or we harm other people to get what we feel that we deserve. We make ourselves out to be God and what we want takes primary importance in this world.
And so, while you look at this story of Cain and Abel and you see, okay, he’s starting off the illustration as a murderer, what I would say to us really is that in our hearts, and I’m going to show you this in the next few verses, in our hearts rests what Cain really did. The only difference is that we’ve not been given enough time and occasion to act it out.
And so John starts to spell that out. So when you see in this verse 12, I think John knows, “Okay, look, I’m no murderer, John, I cannot relate to this.” Well, John starts to tell us now, well, this is how our lives really intersect with the personality that Cain demonstrated with his life.
In verse 13, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” We’re not going to marvel that the world hates. The marvel, rather, is when God’s people hate others. He says, “Do not marvel when the world hates you, but rather what God calls us to do is to love deeply.” When you understand Jesus’ love for you, how Jesus comes into darkness, pierces the light for your life, and gives his righteousness in the midst of your lawlessness, that love demonstrated in your life, when you come to embrace that, your life response should be to love in return.
So, when the world in their natural love refuses to love you, who follows Jesus, that’s not the marvel. The marvel is when you refuse to love in return. Because that’s exactly what Jesus did.
If you think about this, God calls us to love deeply. You can’t live for Jesus and the world. You’ll live for one or the other, and when you choose to live for one, you’ll offend the other. You can’t live for both. But, in choosing to live for Jesus, knowing that Jesus is an offense to the world, the way that the world walks through that to find Christ is how deeply you choose to love them in those moments. You don’t have to agree with everyone, in fact, it’s impossible. But God calls you to love them.
So, the world finds their identity in everything that they do. And when you don’t embrace what they do, they hate you for it. But guys, just because we don’t accept what people do, doesn’t mean we ever stop loving them. Jesus did that for you, right? God doesn’t accept what we do. In fact, verse 10, he laid it out like that. That people go in this world, claim to follow Jesus, but look like hell. They resemble the devil more than they resemble Christ. But even in that, Jesus continues to love us. And his love transforms our life. He doesn’t agree with what we do always, but Jesus still loves.
The marvel isn’t that the world hates us, the marvel is that God’s followers would hate in response. In verse 14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” That love brings life. Jesus’ love for us in the darkness of our soul brought us life. Your love, when it would make sense to respond in hate, choosing to love brings life. Loving the brothers, I mean, anyone that’s ever had a sibling knows that your sibling is not always perfect, right? But choosing to love in adversity changes life.
In church life, we have sinful people here. Like, we do not claim to be perfect. We all make mistakes, we all sin. But we’re all on a journey together, and what helps us being transformed in the image of God, pursuing God with our lives, is not this disdain for each other, but rather choosing to love so that we can be transformed in the power of Christ. This is demonstrated in the life of others. Love.
So in verse 15 he says this, “Everyone who hates his brother,” look at this, “is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” And so, now John finally digs into the reason of the example. Here’s why you relate to Cain, it’s not because you’ve murdered, it’s because you have resting in your heart the very seed that produces murder.
Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 5, religious leaders in Jesus’ day looked at the law that God gave and they said, “You know what? We follow law, we’re good. In fact, we’re better than good, we’re the best here.” And Jesus, in Matthew 5, he gives an illustration. It says, “You’ve heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. Whoever insults his brother will liable to the counsel. And whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
What Jesus does in Matthew 5 is he takes the law of the Old Testament and he really turns the temperature up on it, because these people were following what they thought was the Old Testament law and they were keeping it all, in their eyes. Some of them. And so they thought they were good, religious living. They were good.
And Jesus turns the temperature up and says, “No, guys. Look, it’s not about your conduct. It’s about your heart.” Jesus didn’t come to simply change your conduct, Jesus came to transform your life. If Jesus transforms your heart, he’ll change what you do. But it’s not about conduct. Religion focuses on the outside, religion focuses on the conduct. Jesus wants something deeper than that. The seed that produces the conduct of our life. Jesus wants to radically transform the heart.
And so, John and Jesus are using this example. John says that he who has had hate has already murdered. And so, what he’s identifying is that the only difference between me and Cain, or between you and Cain, is that Cain did with his hands what you feel you sometimes desire to do with your heart.
Love. When you think about what God calls us to in this passage, it maybe begs the question to stop and consider, do I really love the way that God calls me to love? What rests in my heart?
The second example John gives is you think about just the idea of the things that goes through our heart, maybe not always in our actions. The second example he gives, he starts over in 1 John 3:16. Remember in chapter 10 and 11, he starts talking about the fact that God’s people need to love. In chapter three, verse 16, he starts on this basis again and he gives us an example here of what that should look like.
He says, “By this we know love,” if you really want to know what love is, “that he,” talking about Jesus, “laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Just as Jesus laid down his life for us, the example in our lives, then as to emulate that by laying our lives down for others, to help them become all that God has called them to be.
So once again, this is supernatural love. Jesus had no reason to do this, in that he had to do this. There’s no obligation in his life to do this. But yet, in his grace he chooses to come to earth and give his life. He owed us nothing, and supernaturally he loves.
And now, as followers of Christ, if you are a follower of Christ, that’s the emulation that should be made known in our lives. In verse 17, though, he says this, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need and yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” While we can distance ourselves from the idea of the example of a murderer with Cain, what John is saying in this passage is that while God calls us to supernaturally love or to be godly in our loving, sometimes we can just be indifferent to the needs of people around us.
Jesus wasn’t this way. Jesus came, Jesus gave it all. But in our own lives, we can just be indifferent to the need of people around us. And indifference hurts. I don’t really think as a follower of Jesus there’s such a thing as neutral.
In fact, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor during the Nazi regime. He was actually hired, at one point, as a pastor in America. He loved the African American church, the way that they would sing hymns and worship. And he oftentimes, when he would visit America, that’s where he would go. And he was hired, I think, as a pastor in Chicago. But he turned the position down because he knew Germany was about to go to war.
And he went back to Germany. And one of his friends said to him before he went back to Germany that, “If you go back this time, you’re never going to return.” And Bonhoeffer knew what was awaiting him. The Nazi regime had started taking over the churches in Germany and tried to force them to follow the teachings of the Nazi regime.
But Dietrich Bonhoeffer went back and he established a church separate, with other leaders separate from the German state run church. And Dietrich Bonhoeffer even remarked during the time of the Germans, when they would take the Jews and others into concentration camps, that there were churches located right next to the train tracks. And Dietrich Bonhoeffer even remarked about the church recognizing in a worship service on a Sunday the train going by.
And what did God’s people do? Rather than respond to the need, they just chose to sing louder so they could drown out the sounds of the carts passing the building. Bonhoeffer remarked, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.”
Indifference is still a stand. And what John wants us to recognize in our idea of choosing to respond in love, is that God gives you ways to respond, ways to make a difference. God gives you time, talents, and resources to demonstrate the goodness of who he is in this world. And so, how do you spend your time, talents, and resources?
You ever considered that time is an inconsequential resource to God? God doesn’t need time. God’s eternal. There’s nothing about time, really, that’s beneficial to God. A thousand days is but one to the Lord, right? God doesn’t operate in the idea of time. So what is time? Well, time is a gift to us. God doesn’t owe us anything, but if you’re here today, you’re breathing, right? God has given you time.
So, time for us becomes a gift and a resource. And the question is, how do you spend it? It’s an offering to the Lord. What you use your time, talents, and resources for demonstrates what you really love. Like, if you pull into the parking lot with something extravagant, something you’ve really lavished your wealth on, I mean, it would take a fool to not recognize what whatever that possession is, you really love it. Where you spend your time, how you spend your talents and resources, is evidence of what your heart really loves.
So what about your talents? God’s given you talents, not because he’s dependent on you. God’s not like up in heaven saying, “I really need this, let’s give it to him because I am lacking in my life. Oh, look at them. They’re filling me up with what they have. Their talent, they are so good.” God’s not like that. God didn’t give you talent for that. If God lacked at all, he would not be God.
God didn’t give you your talents because he’s in need of anything. God gave you your abilities as a way to demonstrate what your heart truly loves. And to leverage that, to demonstrate that love to others that their lives could be transformed by that same love that you’ve encountered.
And I know I used this example, but if God just one time could just let the Jazz win before I die, right? The championship would so wonderful. I like this year, Lord, please this year. I love the Jazz. If you’re around me for a while, the Jazz, I care about that team more than I should. You recognize that if you’re around me, because my heart goes to the things I care about.
And your time, talents, resources, what does that demonstrate about your love for the Lord? What about your resources? God doesn’t give you resources because he’s in need. Let me just tell you, as a church, we do offering here. Not a tithe, I don’t believe in tithing. I think tithe is an Old Testament law, but we do an offering. And we do it joyfully before the Lord.
Some people ask why do we pass a basket? If that feels a little pushy, let me just tell you, as a church, in our congregation, we are a young church family. We have as many young kids in our church as adults. And let me just tell you, parents, one of the beautiful things that you can emulate when that basket goes around before your family is how your heart’s given over to God. I don’t want to guilt you into giving anything. If you give here at ABC for any reason, you feel like you’re doing God a favor? Just go ask for it back. God doesn’t need it. God’s not like, “Oh, man, I’m about broke. Pitch me a dollar.” Right? Rather, what it is is a demonstration of your desire to worship and know God, and to make his glory known in this world.
God’s gifted us certain things to leverage what we love. And your time, talents, and resources emulate that. What does it say? What does it say about your love for the Lord? John’s driving at the thought in verse 11 that we love God. Okay, and if we love God, just consider in our own lives how that’s being made known. Is it hate? Is it hate for others? Because that’s the evidence of murder. Or is it life? Is it using the things God gives you, not because you think that you’re just doing God a favor by doing those things, but your heart really loves them.
In verse 18, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and truth.” Love is a verb. There’s got to be something behind it that demonstrates the evidence of what you proclaim in Christ. If there is no evidence, the question is, do you really belong to Christ?
And so, let me just say this now, now John does a favor, verse 19, because as you look at these passages, like, ah, a little conviction, maybe a little guilt. I don’t want you to have guilt, conviction’s way healthier than guilt. There’s worldly guilt and then there’s conviction in Jesus. Conviction is, “You’re right, my heart’s wrestling with this. I want to walk with God in this. How do I turn this over?” And so, John starts to take us on this emotional journey of what that should look like in our lives as we examine our heart in the area of love.
And so, verse 19, it says this, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.” What’s he talking about? What’s this, by this we shall know, what’s he talking about? Well, he’s talking about love. By the love that you demonstrate in your life, then your heart is reassured that you are walking with God, that you are in the truth with him, all right?
So that’s good, you want your heart reassured in love. So, areas that you see love being made known, like it’s reassuring your heart in walking with Jesus. But then the question is, but what about the areas where I’m convicted in? What do I do with that? Because there are some times where I feel reassured, and there are some times where it just ain’t working, right?
So then he goes, verse 20, “For whenever our heart condemns us,” it gets worse a little bit, right? “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and he knows everything.” I find no rest in this verse for my soul when I think about the conviction of what John said. But he’s saying this, for whenever our heart condemns us, for some of us, when we think about our lives, there is terrible conduct and we feel condemned. And then for some of us, we have a very sensitive conscience and we just feel condemned anyway, right?
But then he adds to this thought, he’s saying, “Look, even when your heart condemns us, really that’s not what matters. What matters is what God says. And all of human history is going to this place where one day you’re going to meet God face to face. God knows everything.”
I like to think of that scene in Toy Story where they are in that upper room and all these toys have been put together by that kid that tortures the … this is Toy Story one, the kid that tortures toys, I don’t know if you remember. But they come up to him, they walk up to Woody and Buzz and they’re like, “We see everything!” And their head just sort of spins in a circle.
God sees everything. There is nothing in your heart that’s hidden from God. You can mask it with religion all day, but all of human history is coming down to this point. Now what do you do? Well, he says in verse 21, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” I mean, that is wonderful, right? If your heart does not condemn you, you have confidence before God. But what if you’re feeling condemned, right? How do you get that confidence?
I think John is wanting us to derive to this, that we don’t want our hearts to be condemned, that we do want confidence before God. That we want to find grace. And so, verse 22, “And whatever we ask we receive for him because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” And again, what if you don’t keep his commandments?
And what are those commandments? How long is this list? I want to show you the list in a second. But I liked this, whatever we ask or receive from him. Like, if you want confidence before God and you don’t want to be condemned, guys, look at this, whatever you ask you receive if you keep his commandments.
Now, let me just tie what this means for us together, because it’s not saying obey some rules and God will give you a Ferrari. That’s not what this is saying. What it’s saying is as your heart wants to willingly walk with Jesus, the desires of your heart change. And your heart begins to desire what Jesus desires for this world. And when your heart desires what Jesus desires for this world, you get that. Whatever we ask we receive in his name.
And right now, what does our heart desire, as we look through this passage? I want confidence, I don’t want condemned. But guess what? That’s God’s desire for your heart too. God wants you free in his love. God wants you walking with him.
And so then, what are these commandments? And John, finally, as he goes through this story, he gives us that place of victory. He starts to explain it to us in verse 23, he says, “And this is his commandments,” ready for the long list? “That we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us by the spirit whom he has given us.”
Commandments, I want to talk a little bit more about this next week as we jump into chapter four of what really the commandments are, and why John only says as a follower of Jesus you really have two. You only have two.
When we think about these commandments, we’re used to hearing it in a little different way. It’s written a little differently in other scriptures, but I think what John is saying is the same as … it matches what the other scripture says. But as a Christian, what we typically say, what’s the two commandments? The two greatest commandments that we’re to obey? We would say to love the Lord your God and to love others. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others.
But here, when John talks about it, he says it just a little different. And I think the reason he says it different is because what John is starting to get us to understand is how we don’t walk in condemnation, but confidence before the Lord. How we really love, how God has called us to love. And so, rather than saying love God, love others, what he says is, believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.
Rather than love and love, it’s believe and love. Believe and love. If you read this section of scripture and your heart might be pricked a little bit about not loving the way God loves, but rather you love with a worldly love or love with a natural love. But you want to love with a supernatural love. How does that happen? He says believe him, believe him.
This word for believe in literally means put all your weight into this. Confidently rest yourself here. Now, why does John say that rather than love God? Why does he say believe in? Well, if you think about the examples that John gave us, the individual who murders and the description of the person that’s indifferent, what do they believe in? What they believe in is their self. What they think is most important is what they want. Because in their lives, what they are is God.
Cain kills Abel because to Cain the most important person is him. And he’s going to do whatever it takes to get there. Even using people as tools to serve him to the point he murders. What made the indifferent person to reflect the love of God in this world? He had the resources. Because what was most important to him was him. And what he believed in was him.
And in both of these stories, these individuals are fighting for themselves. But when it comes to being a believer, with a Christian, we don’t have to fight for ourselves because Jesus has already fought for us. So the question in our lives isn’t about, do you really love God? It’s what we want to be about, but rather what John is beginning to illustrate, what we need to do in order to successfully live out that love in our lives is to not live for self, but rather die to self to make Christ known in us.
You want to love supernaturally, die to self. Or if I said it a different way, stop trusting in you. Rather than believe in you, what John is saying in those examples is the resolution for that soul, is to lay down the fight for self and everything that you can gain, and trust that what Jesus has for you is far better. Believe in Christ.
Guys, you want confidence for your souls, in our all of our souls we wrestle between the natural man and the supernatural. We wrestle. We’ve seen what’s in our heart. We may not have done things with our hands, but it’s been in our heart. And the only way to see the victory of God be made known and life transformed, starting with your own, is to let go of that.
When we use our time, talents, and resources, it’s not because we’re doing God a favor. Really it’s God giving us the opportunity to do favors to us. He’s glorified for it, but we’re blessed. That’s how life’s transformed.
So when you think about this Christian life, it’s a journey. None of us are going to be successful at this. When I look at this example in 1 John, let’s just say this, none of us are going to be successful at this. This is a journey. None of us, let me say it this way, are going to be perfect at this. This is a journey. But when our souls wrestle with these examples that don’t demonstrate the love of God, what we see in this is the solution of where our lives are falling short from what Jesus desires to do and what Jesus desires to do is better.
So the answer isn’t try harder, the answer is to die to self. Because the problem we’ve been trusting in has been self. But what Jesus wants to do in your soul is to supernaturally allow you to love in those moments.
If you’re here this morning and you’re not a believer, if you’ve never put your faith in Christ, or if you’ve walked with Jesus for as long as you can remember, as the solution for our lives every day is to lay that down to the goodness of this King. God, thank you for your light. God, thank you for your righteousness. God, thank you for your love that transforms my soul.
Today, as I go on this journey with you, God, let my heart lay myself down that the goodness of who you are be reflected in my life. And God, your life be made known, not just in me, but in the hearts of others. And when God moves that way, the church moves powerfully. Let me close.