1 John 3:13-24 – 2023 Aug 3

I know it has been a while since our last study, and I want to thank you all for your patience with my work schedule and some of the disasters I’ve had to deal with in my personal life.  I wish I could tell you that I’m done with all of that, but I don’t think I’m out of the woods for this just yet.  Just as one thing sorts itself out, another reveals itself, and as a result, my savings are almost nil and I’m barely treading water financially.  However, I am confident that the Lord will supply all my family’s needs, and even if He wishes me to go through that, I will rejoice and serve my King no matter the cost, because He gave His all for me.  This is truthfully not about me, and it never has been, contrary to what people try to tell me all the time.  It is about Him and who He wants me to be.

With that in mind ,let’s look at the text under consideration this evening.  [read text with help from audience]

Remember, John is being very direct in his language about things.  He isn’t pulling any punches, and we should follow his example as regards our own situations.  I know it’s hard, but we cannot be doormats or wallflowers unless the Lord tells us that.  I have never been told that I needed to be passive in following Him.  This evening, we’ll see the need for courage as we face the world.

I broke the text down as follows:

KV14:  Practice agape love towards other believers

13-17:  Love (agape) of the brethren is the indicator of Christianity

18-22:  Display that agape in deed and truth, not just word or language

23-24:  Follow the commandments:  Agape God and each other

We live in a day when the collective “wisdom” in our society says that love is love is love, but that’s not really true, and you’ve heard me absolutely go off about this before.  Allow me to explain calmly here.  In fact, I’ll put it up on the screen for the folks watching the livestream.

There are 5 words we need to know.  The first is Hebrew, and like English, the word is modified by descriptive words like adjectives or adverbs.  That word is ahab, and it simply means love, because it is the surrounding words that give context and meaning.  Greek is another story.  There are a total of four words that can be translated into English as love.  This slide summarizes them.  The first of these is agapao, and it is the love of God, the love that is by choice, is self-deprecating, that is it places the interests of others ahead of itself, and it is self-sacrificial, in that it would rather see others benefit from that love rather than itself.  It was the Hebrew translators of the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek, done about 200 years before the birth of Christ, that popularized the use of this otherwise obscure Greek word into the use the New Testament has for it.

The second of these is phileo, and it is used for a tender affection for others, a brotherly love, or a sisterly love for those around us.  This love, in contrast to agapao, allows for emotion to be involved at all times.  The former may have emotion involved, but it does not rule the choices that it makes.  This type of love does, and in New Testament terms, wants to see the benefit of the object of this love.

The next two are not translated “love” in the New Testament that I can find.  The first of these, storge, is used in Romans 12:10 as philostorgos, or “devoted to one another.”  This is the only place I can find it, and it is seen as love of the family, like a man loves his own children.  This is not so much a choice as a default state of things, where we love what is similar to ourselves.

The last of these is eros, and it is never translated as “love” in the New Testament.  It is seen in the OT Song of Solomon, but it is there seen without sin.  It can be seen as sensuous, but not sensual.  In Greek, there is no association with sex to the word, it has more to do with the impulse to have something, and this is in mankind more akin to lust or covetousness than anything else.    When they say “love is love is love is love,” it is most like eros to which they refer, and like I said, this has no association with actual love of any kind, it has to do with baser impulse in people.

Now, with that understood, how can we say something as stupid as “love is love is love is love?”  It clearly is NOT.  In fact, John is telling us in this text which kind of love we as believers need to exercise, and lest you think that to be an easy task, try doing it.  You’ll see it is not possible without the love of God realized in your heart and life.  That said, let’s get into the chapter.

KV14:  Practice agape love towards other believers

The Apostle John is not saying anything in hidden proverbs or wisdom here.  Considering that he was dealing with what we have come to give the label of Proto-Gnostics to around here, this is a stark contrast to them.  Remember what they did.  These were the people that said that they weren’t just regular Christians.  They had “secret knowledge” that could only be gained if you became their acolytes.  I think if we were to put that into today’s terms, it would be “members of their cult,’ which is exactly what was happening, although I’m certain they would not like my characterization of them as “cult.”  There is no “secret knowledge” for the real believer.  The mysterion or “secret” of Christ is in fact an OPEN secret, and John discusses the key to learning that secret.  Let’s dive into the verses here.

13-17:  Love (agape) of the brethren is the indicator of Christianity

The very first thing you should be aware of is the identity of the people you are following, and fortunately, the Lord said that we could be known by the fruit we present to the world.  The problem is that this presentation will earn you nothing but ire with the world.

13:  Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.

  • John gives us an alert of sorts, a kind of warning, although it is information we likely already know.  I didn’t know it right away, but I could have guessed from reactions from my friends and family.  My dad told me never to share it with my sisters.  Don’t worry, I did what God said and not men.  My mother said, “Don’t preach to me.”  I didn’t know how classic that was as a response, especially when she started listing off her religious accomplishments as a Sunday school teacher and her mom’s model for the new mother Mary in a painting Grandma did in her church basement of Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus.  Come on folks, we know what that is!  It’s virtue signaling!  When do people do this?  When they need to tell themselves how good they are to cover up their own sins from themselves!  She still does it, and I still preach to her.  My dad even heard it from me, and he didn’t really respond.  My sisters have all heard it, and so have all of my high school friends, because I was saved in between grade 12 and grade 13, before I went to university.  Some agreed after the fact, and I think the guy I’m thinking of is a pastor for a Mennonite church in Steinbach, Manitoba.  Another is Pentecostal, but nobody’s perfect, right?  Some have disagreed with me, and that’s okay I guess, though I want them to be gloriously saved.  Some have disavowed me as a friend publicly.  As much as that hurt, think of how it will be for THEM in the day that they are judged by Christ if they don’t turn.  I don’t hate them, but it’s pretty clear they hate me and the Christ I stand for now.  But to be fair, Jesus said that was going to happen in John 15:18-19:  ““If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.”  If you didn’t know this, there is no time like the present for you to learn that this is situation normal for the real believer.

14:  We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.

  • How do you know that we are “in the faith,” so to speak?  John tells us in plain language:  because we love the brethren (that includes both brothers and sisters in the Greek, by the way–no one who spoke Greek back then, which was most of the world, would have thought otherwise, unlike today).  What does this mean, passing out of death and into life?
  • John tells us that in the Gospel he wrote, chapter 5, verse 24:  ““Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”  That Greek phrase both times is “…metabebee’kamen ek tou thanatou eis teen zoeen’…” and in  this usage (both in John 5:24 and this verse), it is referring to the separation of man from God due to Adam’s disobedience to God, from which both of these uses are saying that those who believe in Christ are delivered from, According to Vine.  Death, thanatos, is the opposite of life, and it should be said NEVER denotes or implies non-existence.  My Homiletics professor was an annihilationist, so I find it necessary to say that, because I am not.  Those who are not saved will not cease to exist, they will suffer eternal torment, and that’s the biblical position.  We’ll go through that at some point doctrinally, but not now, it isn’t John’s point.  The Greek word zoe means life as God has life, as a principle, and in the absolute sense.  Life in this sense is the opposite of death.
  • Now, John says that we can know that we have passed out of this death and into God’s absolute life if we “love the brethren.  That word for “love” is agapao, the love of God, the love of choice, the self-depricating, self-sacrificing love of God.  We must choose to have this for people that are not easy to love, my friends, and it is my contention that if you have NOT passed out of death and into life, you are not even capable of this kind of love.  And if you have, it takes A LOT of practice.  And it is important that we have this kind of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially when they annoy or even anger us, because if we do not, we are living in death.  Who wants that?  And John elaborates!

15:  Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

  • John explains that everyone who hates his brother or sister in Christ is in fact a murderer.  I do not doubt that John was recalling a very famous sermon to us called “The Sermon on the Mount.”  Jesus in that sermon informed us that there was more to the law than just the written word.  Matthew 5:21-22 reads, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before  the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the  fiery hell.”  There is more to the statement, but that’s what we need for the context–hate and the anger that goes with it is already spiritual murder.  No murderer has eternal life.
  • That last bit breaks my heart.  I know I’ve talked about this before, but I have a friend that is in prison for at least the next 8-10 years because he actually murdered another friend of mine, who was more like a little sister to me.  That was what he was in for the first time anyway, he is in the second time for escaping custody, and about 3 years ago it added to his sentence.  No murderer has eternal life abiding in him.  I don’t want to see anyone I have had a hand of some kind in discipling end up in the lake of fire!  Come on man, turn from your sin.  Now what does that say about someone for whom you hold hate in your heart?  It says the very same thing.  Come on, turn to Christ in faith.

16:  We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

  • John even explains that we can follow an example–Christ Himself.  We know the love that God has for us by His actions toward us.  Romans 5:8 puts it like this:  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  We were his ENEMIES, Beloved.  He had no reason at all to give up His life to a bunch of cosmic traitors, and that’s exactly what we were.  And that’s what He did.  And because He did, He calls us, here through John, to do the very same thing.  For those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to love them like God loves us.  He gave up His life for us when we were the worst people on the planet.  How is it we can justify being different? 
  • Please understand, I’m not talking about that idiotic “religion of niceness.”  That’s the one that has as it’s basic commandment that “Thou must be nice to everyone, and being mean at all will have you disfellowshipped, shunned, or worse.”  That isn’t what I’m talking about.  What do you do when someone is less than kind to you?  Well, you usually make excuses for them as to why they did that.  What would love do there?  Sometimes that, but more often, it should be to IN LOVE call your brother or sister patiently and kindly to repentance.  Is it really love if you’re letting them use you like a doormat?  It is one thing to serve, it’s quite another thing to live with the abuse of another.  That’s not agapao of any sort.
  • For example, what would you do in terms of Agape Love to [say like you’re making it up off the top of your head because you are] a brother or sister that manipulatively tries to get you to do stuff for them, like I don’t know, buy groceries for you, and they never pay you back, they never treat you with what most people would consider respect, and they even try to manipulate you into more.  If it was me, I’d make all kinds of excuses for the person, and then I’d get progressively more salty about that until the friendship blew up.  I mean left to myself in the natural man.  What should I do?  I should be bold and filled with the Spirit of Christ, and lovingly and patiently bring up the manipulative behaviour, and WHEN (not if) they blow up at me, just shrug it off.  Sometimes love requires we establish real boundaries.  Next verse.

17:  But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

  • On the other hand, if they need groceries, there is nothing wrong with helping the brother or sister out.  There is nothing wrong with giving them rides.  Just remember you’re not serving them, you’re serving Christ, regardless if they ever get that picture.  Both ways, you are laying down your life like Christ laid down His life for us.  That’s our example.  And He did both things.  He even flipped over tables in the temple, because it was the only way to get the attention of the people that needed their attention got.  The key question is what is best for them according to Christ, not what they are trying to manipulate you into through false guilt or other like manipulations.
  • In the main, we MUST serve the Lord, and part of that means making sure folks that need have enough, whether they are manipulative or not.  Now, if a brother spurns that help, that’s not motivation to abandon them.  However, I think real brothers and sisters in Christ won’t be manipulative as I’ve described.  My experience is that the manipulative ones are bucking for “false convert” status, not that it changes our response.

Do you see the difficulty yet?  Being a real believer can look a lot like the religion of niceness.  But the motivation behind it is entirely different.  Sometimes it’s better to err on the side of kindness and generosity.  Sometimes it isn’t though, and we need to learn, and help our brothers and sisters learn what is appropriate.  No one should get a free ride on their lives.  We all have to walk with Christ for ourselves, and that is a more precise art than you might initially think.  That’s a half-decent segue into our next paragraph.

18-22:  Display that agape in deed and truth, not just word or language

That last verse was a transition into this paragraph.  We very clearly MUST serve others in the love of Christ, that agapao of which we have been speaking.  Do you remember that “traditions of the elders” discussion that Christ had with the Pharisees?  Mark 7:10-13 talks about this.  “Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”  We humans have ways of making up rules of our own to preserve what it is we think we have rights to, which is everything.  Here, the example is Corban, a vow made by an individual to dedicate a certain thing or things to God.  In Christ’s case here, He spoke of a man whose parents had fallen into hard times.  To preserve the wealth involved instead of doing the right thing and helping out the people that gave him life and in all probability taught him the skills to earn what he had earned, he promised Corban, that is, he vowed to dedicate that wealth to God instead.  You should know that there was no condition that the man KEEP that vow.  If circumstances or situations changed, that vow could be revoked without so much as a by-your-leave.  This is a really good spot to jump into the paragraph.

18:  Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

  • You see, our excuses for preserving ourselves or our stuff are NOT love, and loving God and then loving your neighbour in the same way you already love yourself is to be the foundation of all behaviour of the real believer!  Paying lip service to the ideal and then living in a different manner is NOT CHRISTIANITY.  We don’t just get to say it and then not do it.  John says it right here like this:  Don’t just love in word and just say religious platitudes!  Your words need to be backed up by actions!  Not just “with word or tongue, but in deed and truth!”  That is, not with logos [the words we say] or with the glossa [the language we use], but in our ergon [our works, the things we do] and alee’thia [the truth as it is in Jesus]!  Beloved, that’s John the Apostle’s instruction to us, and it comes from the Lord Jesus Himself.  What did Jesus say about simply following the program, the “traditions of the elders”?  He said that invalidates the Word of God.  It isn’t the right thing to do at all.

19:  We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him

  • John is telling us in plain language that if we actually live out the things we say as we walk with Christ, that we will know we are of the truth and increase our own assurance that we belong to Him!  How many times have I had the conversation with people?  “Oh Pastor, I need assurance of my salvation!  I don’t feel like I belong to Jesus!  I “hope” I go to heaven when I die, but I just don’t know!”  You know, in about a chapter and a half, John is going to tell us that we can KNOW we are His with absolute knowledge, not just hope, guess, pray, or wonder.  Usually, when I probe a little bit or observe over time (part of the job, yes, I AM watching over you, like a shepherd does his sheep, and I am answerable to the Great Shepherd for your souls, Beloved), I find an area (usually more than one) that the individual is, to put this kindly, not yielding to God.  To put that plainly, areas where they still walk in sin, and they’re doing it because they want to for some reason.
  • I do understand that desire, Beloved.  Moses even recognized it, that sin was pleasurable, and I’ll add in the extreme.  What Moses realized, and I share with you here, is that these pleasure are only temporary (Heb. 11:25).  Do you want more assurance that you belong to Him?  Then MORTIFY your sin, like the Apostle Paul said to do, and that the puritan reformer John Owen wrote about in his work, The Mortification of Sin.  You can get the book from Amazon if you like, but they want $60 CAD for it.  Better to order from Banner of Truth Publications, and I think we paid like $18 for it there.  In the words of John Owen, “You must be killing sin, or be sure that sin will be killing you.”  You want more assurance, pay attention to your own holiness of life.  Stop walking in sin.

20:  in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.

  • I mean, what did you think that John was talking about here?  It’s all good to read or listen to the Word being read, but if you don’t put it into practice when you hear it, how is that walking in Truth?  The good news here is that we can turn from our wrong, broken, twisted ways and walk in holiness and purity.  Beloved, where our hearts condemn us, we can turn to God our saviour, His Son Jesus the Christ, and we can turn away from our sins which are killing us, sometimes quickly, sometimes painfully slowly.  This is not to say there won’t be temporal consequences, but the Lord who loves us is both kind and merciful towards His sons and daughters.  And He knows.  God the Son knows what it means to be tempted.  He was tempted by the best in the business.  Because He was God and either would not or could not be corrupted (maybe both), He remained without sin.  He knows the penalty of our sins to us personally.  He suffered ours to save us from them.  And He, John informs us here, is greater than our hearts.  He is greater than our sin, and He is greater than the heart that is inclined to sin.  We know from Jeremiah (17:9) that our heart is desperately sick with its own wickedness, but He is greater than our hearts, and He knows what it means for us, and He knows what we need to be formed into His image.  We may safely and securely place our trust in Him and be assured that we belong to Him as we walk in His ways.
  • Some think that this means they can do what they want and ask God to bless it.  Beloved, that’s pride, and that’s the original sin of the devil.  They think they can have their own creeds, like the one we saw about a month ago, the “Sparkle Creed,” and proudly flaunt their depravity in God’s face along with their co-opted sign of the incomplete rainbow (a real rainbow has 7 colours, theirs has only 6, interestingly the number of man) and believe that God will just “accept and affirm” their sinfulness.  What hubris.  Worse, they make a parade for the occasion and try to make us all celebrate it!  Don’t do it, Christian.  Don’t go anywhere near it unless it’s to do outreach, and you had better be prepared for the consequences of that.  People have been arrested and jailed for just reading the Bible as one marched by.  In my opinion, there are better outreach spots and occasions. 

21:  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;

  • How can our heart not condemn us when it is filled with sin and depravity, Beloved?  Only if He has given us a new heart.  Listen to how the prophet Ezekiel puts it to His Old Testament people!  “Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Eze. 18:31).  And if you don’t think you can do that, it’s okay, you can’t.  Neither can I.  That’s why this same Ezekiel gives us good news:  “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”  (Eze.36:26-27)  God will do that for us!  In fact, He calls ALL of us to repentance, and in all who will obey that, He will make this change personally and completely.  If that doesn’t give you confidence, I don’t know what will.  If people want to listen to this these days, they know where to find us.  If they don’t, then let the sinners have their depravity, because it’s all they have and it’s all they will EVER have.  But if our hearts do NOT condemn us, then we WILL have that confidence before God.

22:  and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.

  • That confidence has one purpose:  to drive us to prayer!  If our heart does not condemn us, it gives us confidence before God, and that must necessarily drive us to prayer in confidence to pray for the Lord to accomplish His will here on earth as it is already accomplished in heaven.  What gives us that confidence and assurance?  That we passed the test of “being in the faith,” that we walk in His commandments and do the right thing that pleases Him (I might add no matter what anyone else thinks).

This is a debatable issue:  Is this passage prescriptive or merely descriptive?  Well, if you are asking me, then I think this is one of those rare passages that is both, and we need to cry out for wisdom and grace that we do not get it wrong.  One thing is certain:  either way, we need to walk with Christ to understand the answer, and that is ALWAYS the right answer.

23-24:  Follow the commandments:  Agapao God and each other

The legalistic among us will tell us that we need to do what the Lord says, and no doubt have lists of rules for us to follow, and because of the way I grew up, there is something in me that resists that, not because I am a rebel per se, although we all are at heart.  As a Christian man, I prefer not to follow a list of rules blindly, because God gave me a brain capable of reason and understanding WHY we do certain things, and the ability to communicate that understanding to others in a clear and easy-to-understand way.  For all of those legalists that will demand that we adhere blindly to some list of rules that are based on a (very) flawed understanding, I will for a change agree, we need to follow a list of rules, and I will explain that list and why we must follow it.

We must love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we must love our neighbours as we already love ourselves.  That’s the rule that Jesus says underpins everything written in the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 22:35-40) which reads, “One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.””  I need to point out here that the same Greek word here is used:  agapao.  Let’s see what John is saying.

23:  This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.

  • This is the commandment we are to obey.  It’s just the one Jesus told all His disciples that John would later pen in his gospel account of the life of Jesus on earth.  John 6:28-29 (28 for context) says, “Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.””  John here has cited something he heard the Christ say directly to the people who were following Him at the time.  Some did, some sought a further testifying miracle.  Do you see the point?  We don’t get to ask for proof like that.  Proof has already been offered, and if you won’t let that persuade you, well, you’re not going to obey Him, are you?  Who are we to place our belief in?  His (God the Father from the contextual use here) Son [huiou, the mature one that is legally entitled to the inheritance] Jesus [Greekification of the Hebrew Yeshua] Christ [Greek for Messiah, English: Anointed One].  Beloved, there is no doubt here.  Who are we to trust in, cling to, rely on?  Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Not our own works or made up nonsense.
  • Then John says something else He heard the Lord Jesus say to the disciples:  Love one another (John 13:34-35).  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.””  The word that Christ used here?  Agapao.  According to Vine in His Expository Dictionary, “Agape and agapao are used in the NT (a) to describe the attitude of God toward His Son, John 17:26; the human race, generally, John 3:16; Rom. 5:8, and to such as believe on the Lord Jesus Christ particularly John 14:21; (b) to convey His will to His children concerning their attitude one toward another, John 13:34, and toward all men, 1 Thess. 3:12; 1 Cor. 16:14; 2 Pet. 1:7; (c) to express the essential nature of God, 1 John 4:8. 
  • John also reminds us that he was in fact there to hear the Lord Jesus utter these words in the last phrase, “…just as He commanded us.”  There can be no doubt from what John says that we are indeed to love (agapao) God and love everyone else like that, in the way John has already established in our text this evening.  The most important of those is that this agape [noun form] lives in truth, and it is not loving to not share Christ with people, regardless of what they tell you.  Those who have followed this study for a year or more will recall when I showed the clip of Penn Gillette, a well-known atheist relating an encounter with a real Christian.  He got it, Beloved, even if he wasn’t saved then and there.  His statement went something like this:  “How much would you have to hate somebody to know that terrible judgement was coming and say nothing about it?  ESPECIALLY if you knew the only way to avoid it?  Love lives in truth.  Don’t let people dictate falsely what it means to love your neighbour. 

24:  The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

  • John closes off this thought unit with another little self-inspection on how we can know we are in the faith.  Are we keeping His commandments?  Are we at least trying to do so?  If we are, we are remaining in Him, and more importantly He is remaining in us.  If you think about what John is saying here, you see he is summarizing what he has said in the rest of the chapter to this point, that in believing, and loving, and obeying, we will be empowered by the Holy Spirit, that is, “the Spirit whom He has given us.”  If you’ve been paying attention, that’s what you got, sand that’s what I have been trying to point out.

Beloved, if we say we love God and do not do what He says, it is a sure mark that we are not really His, but that we are one of millions of pretenders to the faith, delivered once for all to the saints.  Many of them today sit in churches around the world and even believe they are Christians because they go to some building that houses some social gathering that identifies itself with the word Christian, and may even speak a form of Christian gobbledy-gook to make themselves sound believable.  Some can be rescued, some cannot.  How do we know which ones can be rescued?  Well, those would be the ones that respond to the gospel we share with them.  Ultimately, they will hear it and leave places like I’m describing and join the church invisible, the one that has all real believers from all time forming what Paul called the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16).

So how do you get people to listen to you?  Well, I think John suggests it if he doesn’t come right out and say it.  Your life and practice of the Faith must back up the words you say.  If all you ever have with people are arguments, there is something wrong with your approach at the very least, but that isn’t really our topic this study.  What I am saying is that if you are not walking in obedience to God, you aren’t behaving as a real Christian.  If all you do is fold at the slightest challenge and moan about how you can’t do it and how much trouble God is challenging you with, my first thought is that you don’t WANT to follow Him, you just want to manipulate people into doing stuff YOU should be doing, and those tasks were given by God for you.  That you cannot do them is proof of that!  He wants to do them through you, and He wants you to rely on Him, His strength and ability, and His resources as you do them.  And boy, I’ll tell you, those words convict me…I am the man, as David said.  I find it difficult to simply step out on my own.  I have no idea how to do that without offending a lot of people who don’t need the offense, and hurting a lot of people that don’t need that kind of pain.  So I’m stuck in my rut, praying just like you, that God would take me out of that rut and set my feet on solid ground.  I have no money, no real resources, no real solid core of people that could come with me, though there are at least a couple, and what makes that worse is that they’re waiting for me!  I mean, no pressure, right?  Plus all the little comments I get.  I won’t get into them, some are digs, some are encouraging, but I mean really?!?  But enough about me.

What do YOU think about what our Lord has said through His Apostle John to us?  Think about that carefully as you give heed to His instruction and believe Him, love Him (and others in His name), and obey Him.  There will be a test, and I won’t be the one giving it.

And that’s what I saw in the text this evening.

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