Exploring 1 John Session 20 1 John 3:10-15

 

Exploring 1 John Session 20 1 John 3:10-15

In our 20th exploration of the letter entitled 1 John we are going to discover a test that will help us discern the proverbial good guys from the bad guys. Remember the discovery we made about staying with the original message and we speculated on what that original message might be?  Today John is going to flat out tell us what the original message is.  You might be familiar with the 1961 release of “All the World Loves a Lover: by Bertell Dache.  But if you weren’t listening to your AM radio then maybe you’ve heard the 1992 Song by Prefab Sprout “All the World Loves Lovers,” a great romantic thought that unfortunately is a lie, blame it on Ralph Waldo Emerson; we’ll learn why.  John has written that he wants to make sure we know that we are not deceived, instead, we know that we have a right relationship with God. Once again he is going to reveal to us how we can be sure.

                                                                        

Before we delve into the scripture please recall John’s strict dualism.  He is always comparing things in absolutes, its life or death, it’s in or out, it’s good or evil, it’s light or darkness, there is no in-between, you are either in one camp or the other.  This can cause some introspective soul fits, so I want to clarify these polarized positions by considering the importance of your intent and your attitude.  There is no gray, it is the direction you are headed that matters.  No fence riding, no staying in the gray areas of life, no practicing of sin, you’re on a journey into an ever brightening light, that’s the direction you need to be stepping in.  So don’t beat yourself up if you deem yourself less than perfect.  Certainly don’t justify your behaviors either. Stay in the fight, overcome the obstacles, lay aside the sins that so easily beset, refine your character, purify your heart, work out your salvation, when you are doing these types of things you are on the right path.

 

1 John 3:10-18 (MSG)

10 Here's how you tell the difference between God's children and the Devil's children: The one who won't practice righteous ways isn't from God, nor is the one who won't love brother or sister. A simple test.

 

11 For this is the original message we heard: We should love each other.

 

12 We must not be like Cain, who joined the Evil One and then killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because he was deep in the practice of evil, while the acts of his brother were righteous. So don't be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. This has been going on a long time.

 

14 The way we know we've been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn't love is as good as dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don't go together.

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You can discern good people from bad people by their behavior.  God’s children, those in the light, practice righteousness.  The Devil’s children, those in the darkness don’t.  We’ve made the case that the simplest way to understand what righteous ways are is that righteous ways are demonstrated by your love for God and your love for others.  Practice means doing something over and over again, seeking to perfect.  Righteous means functioning as designed, righteous means being in harmony, righteous means as meant to be.  John reveals to us that when he writes of the original message he’s writing about the actions of love.   Love for others is first treating an individual with respect, and second out of our abundance seek to meet their need. Love for God is obedience to His commands.

 

Jesus, is fully God, fully human, the revealer of what righteous humanity is all about, and also the revealer of the character of God.  Jesus knew that every person in creation needed to be reconciled to God that they could become righteous so that they could live life to the full as intended; so that they would live eternally.  Seeing the need, Jesus lives a life in full submission to the will of the one He calls His Father. Jesus is an example of righteous love for the Father.  Jesus offers Himself up as a blameless lamb, symbolic of the sacrifice of atonement in the Old Testament.  Willing he allows Himself to be ridiculed, tortured and executed to take away the sins of the world, making it possible for your estrangement with the One He called His Father to be reconciled.  Jesus is an example of righteous love for others.

 

If you spiritually sense your estrangement to God and it is your desire to be reconciled then the general pathway to reconciliation, to be in the light, to become righteous, is acknowledging your condition and desire to yourself and God.  Believing that Jesus made an atoning sacrifice for you, in which the original sin that separates and estranges is reconciled and actual sins which you have committed are forgiven. Following acknowledging and believing is Committing yourself to live your life, from this day forward, as a Christ-follower; walking in the light as He is in the Light.  You make that sacred vow before God to be Jesus’ disciple, to live a devout and holy life, to be a lover.  Then having acknowledged, believed, and committed, it is by asking God to accept your faith, that you will discover your greatest need, your need for salvation, your need for a new start, is met in Jesus.  That love is yours, a gift, a gift bought at a great price.  This is the general path to the righteousness that leads to fellowship with the Father, with the Son, and with the Holy Spirit.  Walk it today and you will enter into the light.  I want you in the light.  If now is the time, your time, let me know, I want to help you on your journey.

 

The test that determines which side you are on, the good or the bad, with the righteous or with the transgressors, in the light or in the dark, a child of God or a child of the devil, is a person’s behavior.  Your behavior.

 

Evil behavior lies, steals, destroys, and kills.  Evil behavior manipulates, takes advantage of others, uses people for their gain.  Evil behavior exalts self to the highest priority and believes the lie that anything that benefits self regardless of how it harms another is good, and right, and should be done.  Cain, Adam’s firstborn, one born in the image of Adam, one born estranged, kills his brother.  This was physical death, a murder.  But a person can kill another’s emotional wellbeing, they can kill a dream, they can kill a reputation, they can kill what is often referred to as the best years of someone’s life.  Jesus said that to hate is to murder.

 

Let’s tone it down a bit, evil behavior disrespects another person, judges another person, refuses to help another person.  When we are not seeing the other, no compassion, no empathy, no concern, we are not following the model Jesus set for His followers.

 

Let’s sneak it into the church pew, evil behavior is refusing to forgive a brother, a sister of the congregation, it’s gossip: telling others what is not your business to tell, it’s hypocrisy, breaking a confidence, failing to encourage those you congregate with.  Christians don’t practice evil. If a Christian practices evil that person is not a Christian, maybe in name, but not in reality, they are walking in the darkness.  They need to be confronted and made aware of their error.

 

To an outside observer, it is not what you believe, but what you do, that testifies to your relationship with God.  Those who are intent on discipleship demonstrate that intention in their love for God and love for others.

 

All the world loves a lover.  I don’t think that’s true.  Jesus embodied love and the world executed Him.  Cain kills Abel whose behavior was righteous.  Lovers are vulnerable, lovers get hurt, lovers give themselves away, and are often despised and rejected because they have.  The world loves Cain’s. That is, the world, humanity has made apart from God.  The darkness hates the light for the light banishes the darkness.  The unrighteous hate the righteous because righteousness is their undoing.  The world hates the lover because the lover reveals egoism in the one who hates, love exposes the hypocrisy, the hubris, the facades of those walking in darkness.  So the children of the Devil do their best to extinguish the light.

 

It has never been easy to be a follower of Jesus.  Oh, in the Western World for a couple of thousand years, it was acceptable to be identified as Christian but being a disciple living a devout and holy life, not so easy then nor now. In our current culture, persecution of Christians is on the rise.  There is a shaking going on right now here in these United States.  As the world turns up the heat the temptation to hide away in the darkness of quiet compromise will increase.  A light bringer can not hide in the darkness without becoming darkness.  The world is going to hate you because you expose its insanity, but Jesus said, “Take heart for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

 

Polluting the spiritual confidence and tranquility of the congregation that John is writing to were a group of people who left the congregation ridiculing those that stayed, proclaiming that those who stayed had an inferior knowledge of God.  That those that stayed were so misguided that they had no salvation at all.  I am sure they used great arguments and illustrations with big theological sounding words supported by logic.  John cuts through all of it and tells them and us, that we have transferred from spiritual death to spiritual life, from darkness to the light, from sinner to saint, when it is our intent, our new nature, and our controlling desire to love God and love others.  It is the one who loves God and loves others who possess eternal life.  Eternal life is knowing God, it is being in God and experiencing God in you.  Love is the result of this indwelling.  Knowing God means that God knows you and on the last day will raise you from the grave or transform you in an instant into life eternal. 

 

Some people teach that we will spend eternity in heaven.  But heaven is not our place.  Heaven is best understood as the realm of God.  Heaven is where God dwells.  The earth is humanity’s realm.  It is the place God created for the man and the woman to thrive.  We read in another of John’s writings, in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, that God will make his dwelling on earth. 

 

Revelation 21:3 (MSG)

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: "Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women!

 

Holy Jerusalem, the City of God descends from the heavenly realm to the earthly realm (Revelation 21:2).  Lovers will take off mortality like old clothes and put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:54).  So it is here that we will experience real never-ending life, on a planet that once again has become righteous, not in a place we popularly call heaven. 

 

When a lover dies they join the thief on the cross to whom Jesus said “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).  In Paradise we will be waiting and aware, part of the Great Cloud of Witness the writer of the letter of Hebrews reveals (Hebrews 12:1). 

 

Take heart when things are hard, endure when persecution visits you.  The one who remains faithful will overcome.  I want you in the light because in the light you overcome the darkness.

 

This is what we have discovered in our exploration of 1 John 3: 10-15:

You can tell the good folks from the bad by the things that they do.  The good are lovers, their actions demonstrate their love for God and their love for others. That’s the original message John has written about, love God, love others.  Unfortunately, love has a price tag, that price tag is sacrifice, and part of those sacrifices is rejecting worldly temptations and the worldly way of self-exaltation.  The world, humanity apart from God, will hate you as they hated Jesus (John 15:18).  God gives you the grace to be an overcomer so that you can keep on loving in the face of opposition.  Love also has a reward, a lover knows God and possesses life eternal.  You can be sure you are living a righteous life, working out your salvation because your deeds of love, love for God, and love for others, testify to this fact.  Love puts your fears to rest, it also puts you to work, but we’ll save that for next time.


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