Tag Archives: Love

Joyful Obedience

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 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. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has 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.”  (1 John 3:11–24 ESV)

This section is highlighting Cain’s unacceptable sacrifice with Abel’s acceptable sacrifice.  Ultimately, it does not seem to matter what their sacrifices were, but the heart behind the sacrifice.  God is after contrite hearts that offer sacrifices by faith alone (Psalm 51:17).  Actions speak louder than words and we learn that Abel’s sacrifice was offered by faith and was deemed righteous (Hebrews 11:4).  Cain was evil and did evil, for out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:43-45 & Matthew 12:34).  The difference between good and evil is seen in actions that flow out of the heart.  The redeemed will have increasing goodness flow out of them as the fruit of transformation.  Don’t be surprised that the world hates you – for it is evil.

John emphasizes the continuing ethic to love one another.  Love for one another is rooted in God’s love for us (1 John 4:19).  Love for others, and especially the saints, is a sign that we have been raised from death to life.  The one who does not love abides in death.  John sounds like Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26) when he says that those whose lives are marked by hate are murderers and no murderer has eternal life.  It is jarring, John is saying that if our lives are marked by hate instead of love then we are not redeemed.  That is a hard saying.  External compliance to God’s commands is inadequate to save.  A moral ethic of being good doesn’t require saving faith.  Jesus’ mission was not to make immoral people moral or to make bad people good – Jesus came to make dead people alive.  We should not murder (Exodus 20:13), but more than that we should kill coveting which leads to hate, anger and ultimately can lead to murder.

The love of God compelled Jesus to action.  Jesus loved us and went to the cross.  Love is active, not passive, love is not primarily an emotion.  Because Jesus sacrificed for us, we can sacrifice for Him.  He is not just our model, but also our power to love.  If we see a brother in need and callously blow it off, we are not abiding in love.  Let’s not love in talk, but in action.  True obedience involves not just our words of profession, but our obedience in love (3:18).  As we walk in a love that is rooted in His love for us, we reassure ourselves that we are His children.

When we become convicted of sin, God is greater than our heart or our sin.  He offers forgiveness.  He is greater than us.  A clear heart leads us to boldly approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  John makes a connection between our obedience and God answering our prayers.  Is this, “I obey, therefore God gives me what I want?”  No, this is not the secret formula to get what you want.  This is a picture of an abiding, dependent man who is praying confidently before the Creator of the universe because he know that he has an Intercessor in heaven.  The commandment is to believe and out of that to love.  Our work is one of belief, one of faith (John 6:29).  Abiding produces faith which yields obedience.  We are not made right by our obedience – that is religion, but our obedience does bear witness to our transformation.  The Holy Spirit of God is the One that bears witness with our spirit.  “Abiding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our minds, direct our wills, & transform our affections.” -Sinclair Ferguson

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God’s children forsake sin (1 John 3:4–10)

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”  (1 John 3:4–10 ESV)

When we walk in ongoing, unrepentant sin, we walk outside of God’s good, right and protective law.  To walk outside of God’s provision and protection has grave consequences.  Jesus’ mission was not only to forgive us of sin, but to free us from its grip (Romans 6).  John goes boldly tells us that no one who abides in Jesus keeps on sinning – we can’t because He is light and in Him there is no darkness or sin.  He says that no one who walks in ongoing, unrepentant sin (that is evident for we all have sin in our lives) knows Him.  This may be a long and slow process, but ultimately God ensures His elect that they are His by the way that they walk.  Our actions always speak louder than our words.  It is easy to say we love God, serve Him and pursue Him, but only those who pursue the righteousness that is found in Jesus alone are truly His.  Don’t be deceived!  If you’re hanging your hat on having walked an aisle or having prayed a prayer, but have no real desire to know God or grow in holiness, then you need to ask if you are really His child.

We aren’t of God if we make an ongoing practice of sinning.  Growth in holiness, empowered by the grace of God is the most comforting thing in regards to our eternal security.  One cannot be regenerate and walk in ongoing, apparent & unrepentant sin.  Sin is of the devil.  We must be careful not to place timetables on this – for we have all walked in sin for a season.  But, it should always frighten us and move us towards the cross.  The regenerate person cannot continue to walk in open sin because the Word of God and the Holy Spirit dwell within him.  We can’t keep on walking in open sin because we have been reborn.  It is like being reborn as a fish and trying to live on land – you can’t for long.  The very air that we now breath is the grace of God through the Word of God.

The litmus test for faith (children of God versus children of the devil):  whoever does not practice righteousness or love his brother is not walking in the light.  This takes some serious unpacking because it sounds like external behavior modification.  We are recognized by our fruit (Matthew 7:16).  The Christian is transformed to the core by the Holy Spirit, so much so that he cannot walk in a pattern of continual sin for long periods.  John boils it down to the true barometer of where our hearts really are regardless of what we profess or what we’d like to believe.  If we don’t love others, we aren’t regenerate; we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  This is at the top of the list of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions in Galatians 5:22.  We can’t produce this, it is Spirit wrought.  Additionally, if you can’t forgive then you aren’t forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15).  This is slow and progressive, but will be a growing reality in the hearts of the elect.  God, help us!

God’s love fuels our transformation (1 John 2:28–3:3)

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.   See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 2:28–3:3 ESV)

We are His adopted sons and daughters!  WOW!  It should never cease to amaze us that God makes His enemies His family.  That is real love!  Most Christians readily understand & confess that their sins are forgiven (justification), but many struggle to truly embrace that they are adopted children of God.  We may get it in our heads, but don’t meditate on it so that it migrates to our hearts and impacts us at the core of our beings.

We are to abide in Him so that we can discern right doctrine, have right motivations and pursue right behavior.  This will assure us of our salvation.  We must always rest on Jesus’ righteousness alone.  As we rest & rely on His righteousness, we will begin to look like Him.  We must never lean on our own righteousness, but upon the righteousness of the true and better older brother – Jesus.

There is unavoidable friction between those who name the name of Jesus and those who do not.  We serve two different Masters.  Believing in God’s love for us is the fuel for transformation.  His love is so deep and wide that He made His arch enemies His adopted sons.  John addresses us as “beloved,” which is a form of the same word that John uses for love in verse one when he marveled at the love of God towards us.  We are beloved, objects of His love and affection – we are His children.  And though we are not fully like Him yet, we will be like Him because we will see Him. 

The primary way to be like God is to see Him, to behold Him for who He really is.  There is coming a day where mortality, brokeness & sin fades and gives way to a perfect paradise lived in the presence of God.  No more sin, no more mental illness, no more intellectual falseness, no more depression, no more sadness, no more decit.  All the sad things will be made untrue.  As we set our hope upon Him, we seek to live pure upright lives.  Our hope produces transformation of heart which yields transformed behaviors.

Laws, rules & commands don’t produce love (1 John 2:7-11)

“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:7–11 ESV)

John is not launching a new command, but reiterating the singular command of scripture:  Love God (Deuteronomy 6:5) and others (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:34-40).  The requirement of God has always been to love Him first and to obey Him as a reflection of our love for Him.  Our obedience was always supposed to flow out of our love for Him.  However, we learn through the whole of the Old Testament and from our personal lives that being commanded to love God is impossible for us to obey.  Laws, rules & commands don’t produce love.  Love must be shown, love must be demonstrated.  The Law modeled what loving behavior looked like, but was powerless to produce it on its own.  It was all pointing to One who would demonstrate perfect love by coming and living a perfectly obedient life of love on our behalf.

John also says that this command is new.  The command to wholeheartedly love God has now been fulfilled by Jesus.  God clothed Himself in the confines of human flesh, subjected Himself to a life on broken earth, was tempted in every way (but never sinned), was spit upon, ridiculed and murdered for His goodness – all for us.  He demonstrated perfect love for God and for us.  Who goes through what He went through for His enemies?  Who does that to make enemies family?  Our love for God is the natural byproduct of believing what Jesus has done on our behalf.  The more we meditate on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection on our behalf, the more we are moved by His demonstration of love for us.  His love marks us and produces a love for God that flows into a love for others.

It is impossible walk in the light and hate others.  But, how do we learn to love others?  We abide in Him, we revel in and behold the beautiful love that Jesus had for us – the most depraved, broken and rebellious of people.  In an abiding relationship with Jesus, there is no darkness.  If we have hatred for others, we are walking in darkness and are blinded by the darkness.  So if we feel hatred boiling up in us, do we just try harder to love Jesus and that person?  No.  We run to the foot of the cross, we behold Him and Who He is and what He has done.  We beg God to awaken our dead hearts to the redemptive beauty and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  We ask to see God’s majesty, holiness & glory more clearly and to understand our depravity more deeply.  These are the things that make love and grace something that no longer needs to be explained because they are now experienced.  When we know just how bad we really are and just how perfect & powerful He really is, we fall on our knees in worship because we know how unworthy we really are to be called His children.  This worship gives way to a love for others that is supernatural.