A Commitment To Love
A Commitment to Love
These days everything is considered Christian as long as somebody is willing to stand up and say it is. Especially if they do it with enough sincerity and passion!
So today we continue on in our series about what Christianity is and what it isn’t. It's exactly what John was trying to help his readers understand in 1 John 3:1-4:6. In the face of false teachers coming through claiming all kinds of crazy stuff to be Christian, John is saying hold on! Jesus was pretty clear on what it means to be a follower of him. So let me stop and make sure you guys know what Christianity is and Isn’t! And thus whether you are an actual Christian or not!
In his commentary on today’s passage, Spurgeon said 1,000’s of sermons are preached to congregations in which this fact is ignored and people “are commonly addressed as if they are all the people of God.” (Spurgeon)
So as we study this let the truth demonstrate your salvation or need of it!
As we study this let the truth be the measure of how much of the life of Christ you are actually living in!
As we study this, listen and ponder the truth. So what is the truth. Well, let’s read it and then I’ll the best I can to try and explain it.
10 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.11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 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. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 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?18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (3:10-18)
1 John 3:10-18 give us 3 truths related to love and Christianity.
The 1st truth related to love and Christianity is that...
Love is a mandatory expectation of God for His children. (3:10-11)
Remember the main contrasting agent is the Gnostics. Some of these are teaching they are sinless because their view is that their soul doesn’t sin, their flesh does. And as such justify all kind of crazy. Others cancel out the death of Jesus and as such the price paid by His death and in so doing leave a righteousness that we must attain.(These were the ascetics who preached against anything fun in an effort to live righteously and earn salvation). In both cases there seems to be a disdain and even hatred by the Gnostics towards those who rejected their heretical teaching.
So in 3:10-18 John moves from the general concept of practicing righteousness and unrighteousness and found in verses 3:3-9 to a specific area of righteousness Christianity demands we practice – Love! Specifically he says in the phrase of those who claim to be Christian but don’t love other Christians (poking at the Gnostics). If you can justify this in your life and “practice” it per se then you are not saved!
Listen to how blunt John puts this example of righteousness.
10 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. Why?
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
Loving one another is at the core of what Jesus clearly communicated (from the beginning!). It's plain as day! For instance,
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?"27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." 28 And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." (Luke 10:25-28)
Now, later Jesus further sharpened this sword. We saw in 1st John chapter 2 the reminder that Jesus goes all in and adds a new wrinkle to the command in the Old Testament Law to love each other as you love yourself. That was to love one another as Christ loves us!
The implication is that if you truly love God and others, then you are obeying what Christians are supposed to. You are truly living by faith in glad submission to God and can be confident you are saved. However, that also means if you are not then you have no reason to believe that you are saved.
So John is making sure his readers understand that Christianity makes it real clear that Jesus bluntly said on numerous occasions that if you refuse to practice love then you are refusing to follow Jesus. And if you’re not following Jesus then you are not saved!
The 2nd truth related to love and Christianity is that...
Hatred is a reality of the sinful world. (3:12-14)
John gives two examples of this, the 1st example is a specific testimony.
12 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.
Cain was jealous that Abel’s sacrifice was celebrated by God and his was rejected. Instead of focusing on what was going on in his heart as to why it was unacceptable he turned his attention on his brother. As if his brother had done something wrong in making a faithful offering to the Lord. All Cain had to do was get his offering right and God was more than willing to accept it. God pointed him in that direction. Instead Cain attacked and killed his brother out of jealousy that Abel’s was accepted!
Now as absurd as this example may sound, It’s amazing how we hate people for doing something right or with excellence or because they are successful. It happens all the time! There can be no greater sign of immaturity in a person, of lostness in a person, than to feel like one’s persons success is somehow an attack on you!
The 2nd example is a broad testimony that explains the reality of the world.
13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
The point is that because the world is under the curse it is not possible for the world to love as God loves. And that it even despises those who love as Christ loves. Because it is not in the worlds nature to love as God loves and it can’t even grasp it because it's darkness! Remember, the kind (3:1) of love John is speaking of is not of this world and cannot be understood by anything in this world! The world has love, just not that kind of love!
However, those who have been saved have passed out of death, been brought out of the curse and can love as Christ loves. They find that they must love this way. They don’t feel they have a choice because God’s love rescued them out of darkness! How then can I not give that to others?
The 3rd truth related to love and Christianity is that...
Hatred and love are actions. One takes life and the other gives it. (3:15-18)
Watch how John shows that hate and love are both actionable things. They are not simply existential feelings that are unrelated to anybody, simply hidden away and only effect you at most. Rather hate and love are both actions that necessarily impact others.
He begins by showing how hatred is an action.
15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer (notice present tense, if you continue in hate/make your effort hate then you an ongoing and present murder), and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (“abiding” means presently active. That is you can’t say you have eternal life acting in you. That is a covenant relationship with God defining you and at the same time justify murder. In this case he specifically means hatred, because hatred is essentially murder!)
He then shows how love is active and starts with Christ as an example.
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.
Think on this, He laid down His life for me because my sin was so great. I could not save myself. I couldn’t pay the debt! I had a need I had no way to resolve!
He laid down his life for me because He loved me so great that he was willing to pay the highest price possible. He suffered eternal death, eternal separation from the Father! He completely suffered it in a moment because He is the eternal God, but that cannot take away that he indeed suffered it in every way!
He laid down His life for me. Therefore mine will never be required! How great a love is that? He has given so great a gift that no other gift is ever needed. I am completely and utterly forgiven! His death is enough! And as a result I have been given life. A life so amazing it can only be described as eternal!
So Christ didn’t just say He loved us. He didn’t have a feeling, because that’s not love. Love does something. It's an action. If it doesn’t act, it’s not actually love. Because if it's love it always acts, It can’t not act (more on that in a second!)
Therefore John writes …
"And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (Instead of hating/murdering and in essence taking their life. We should be like Christ and give our life! Which fleshes itself out practically in many ways, but John gives one example in the final two verses for today)
17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need (this in no way should be took to imply the immature who live entitled to what you have or foolish who if you help them will never learn to stop creating problems. Helping these people is the opposite of love!), yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (You can say you love the person in need all you want, but if you have a solution for them and you refuse to give it to them then you don’t love them. The example is Christ. He had the solution for us and he didn’t just say he loved us. His deed of dying for us made his love real clear!! Because love always gives, and hatred always takes!)
Challenge: The following are practical explanations of God’s love. If you claim to be a follower of Christ then this love is what will be actively shaping you....
Love seeks to affirm others rather than take it.
Note: Jesus is actually deserving of our praise, yet when he walked the earth He didn’t demand it. Instead everywhere he went he gave it! He certainly confronted all kinds people about weak faith, rebellion, sin, and especially the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, but the heart and effort of Christ was totally focused on affirming the people he was with rather than getting them to affirm him. When we claim to be friends with people, when you claim to love people in your family or your church, but you are always upset that people are not loving you enough back…there is a huge chance it has nothing to do with how you are being loved. It's that love isn’t in you! When you know God you get an abundance of God, and God is love. When you are being blown away by His love for you then you have so much to give you don’t have to go take it. You can just focus on giving it because you are getting so much of it from Him!
Love gladly receives the love of others as a gift given rather than a debt paid.
Our love for God is pathetic. I’m mean seriously, but God takes it and is blessed by it! It truly pleases Him. He enjoys it. How, because He loves us! When Christ paid our debts it wasn’t to place another one on us. Ok, now I’ve done this awesome thing for you so you have to do something equally or more awesome than that for me! You know how that works in your marriage right? You do something awesome for your spouse then you put this pressure on them that if that don’t at least match it then you are going to keep this guilt trip on them forever until they do. HA!
Love cannot be muted.
“True love cannot long be dormant. It is like fire, it has an active nature. It must be at work. Love longs for expression. Command it to be without expression, and you command it not to live. And true love is not satisfied with expressing itself in words. It does use words, but it is painfully conscious of their feebleness, for the full meaning of love is not to be conveyed in any human language.” (Spurgeon)
You cannot tell a person who has love to not love! You can’t do things to them that will keep them from loving. You may detour them from actively loving you, but they will not stop loving! If you don’t repent and believe in Jesus, God’s love for you will be detoured at the judgment seat of Christ and you will be cast into eternal punishment. The Bible in no way suggests that love rejoices in unrighteousness, nor that everybody goes to heaven! However, nobody can stop God from loving. Even in the Garden of Eden he kept loving. Even when Israel rebelled He kept loving. Even when David fell He kept loving. Even when they killed His Son. He kept loving. Even when you fail Him, He keeps loving!
You can’t silence love!
So thinking on these three practical examples. Do you have love? Do you have God’s love in you, or just a worldly replica?