1 John 5

Today, read 1 John 5.

When I was a teenager, I was introduced to my grandma’s sister Helen. We had met before when I was much, much younger, so we needed an introduction to get re-acquainted. Whoever made the introduction–my aunt, I think–told Helen that I was planning “to become a minister.” Helen immediately said, “Oh! How can you be that good?!”

I was not prepared to answer that question, but John was. Here in 1 John 5:2-3 he told us that keeping God’s commandments is loving him. When we love God, we keep his commands. Why? Because when he saved us, he imparted to us a new nature, one that desires what he desires. Like a son admires his father, we admire our God. His holiness, his love, his goodness, his mercy, and all the other things that are true about him become things we desire, not things we try to avoid. This is why verse 3b-4 says, “his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.”

Like an infant, our ability to love God and keep his commands is weak when we are new Christians. Over time, and with the feeding of his word, the development of the church, and the power of the Spirit, our love for God grows as does our desire to obey his word. We never become perfect in this life, but over time we grow and become stronger. The pull of our sin nature and the seduction of this world becomes weaker and we more naturally choose to do what pleases God because we WANT to do those things.

Do you see this in your life? Are some of the sins that used to really fascinate you now seem repulsive? Are you growing in your faith and in his word? If so, it should not be a burden to hear what God wants. It should be like light shining into a dark hole, calling you out, giving you hope, and making you joyful as you grow in grace.

If this isn’t true in your life, then you have to consider whether you belong to Christ or not. As verse 5 says, “ Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” Only faith in Christ can save you and only he can change you by the grace of God.

1 John 4

Today, read 1 John 4.

Nobody got Jesus’s instructions about love more than John did. He is called the “apostle of love” because love was such a theme in his Gospel and in his letters. We’ve read about love repeatedly as we’ve read 1 John but 4:12, which we read today, makes a startling statement about love: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

Think about that statement. Nobody on earth today has ever seen God. Some base their unbelief on that and deny God’s existence because they’ve never seen him. But verse 12 goes on to say that our love for each other is a visible demonstration of God’s existence. It is how we experience God (“God lives in us.”). This kind of love is so much more than good feelings toward others. It is about what’s good for the other guy–putting my wants and needs behind what someone else wants and needs. It is about sacrifice by giving my time and money and attention freely when someone needs it. God is the one who compels people to act this way. It is his love for us and now in us that causes us to give ourselves unselfishly to and for others.

Who in your life needs this kind of love? Who least deserves it–remember, Jesus gave himself for us when we were far from deserving. Look for opportunities today to love like Jesus; when you do, it gets harder for unbelievers to deny God’s existence because they will see the supernatural evidence of his existence in your love for others.

1 John 3

Today, read 1 John 3.

This chapter continues describing the differences between those who are children of God and those who are not. Of all the important things described in this passage, I am struck most by verses 17-18: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Here we are on Thanksgiving day. I hope you’re enjoying some great times with family and friends. I hope you are enjoying a great meal, too. But what is the state of your generosity? Are you quick to help out others who have genuine material needs? That is one of the marks of genuine discipleship. If you happen across someone with a need today or on “Black Friday” tomorrow, use the opportunity to share the love of Christ by giving to meet that need.

1 John 2

Today, read 1 John 2.

It can be difficult, at times, to know whether someone who claims to be a Christian really is one. So many people claim to love Jesus, to have believed in him, to be his followers. I find that whenever I meet someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus, I want to believe their claim.

This passage gives us some objective things to look at to evaluate someone’s profession of faith in Christ. The word “claims” is used in verse 6 and verse 9 to describe someone who says they know Christ. So how do we know if someone is truthful when they say, “I know him” (v. 3), “claims to live in him” (v. 6), and “claims to be in the light” (v. 9)?

The answer is to look at how they live. Does a person claim to know Jesus, to live in him, and to be in his light? If that person’s claim is true he or she will:

  • keep his commands (vv. 3-6)
  • love other Christians (vv. 9-11)
  • won’t love the world (v. 15b)
  • will be loyal and active within a local church (v. 19).

In addition to these things, those who truly love and know Jesus are committed to the truth (vv. 20-27). That is the basic commitment and the other things flow from it. When we love Jesus, we love and are committed to his truth. That truth is what causes us to keep his commands, love other Christians, etc.

How is your love for Christ? Does it cause you to live obediently as Jesus did? Does it compel you to love other Christians, to turn away from the temptations and pleasures of this world, and to be active in our church? These are not conditions we meet to prove that we follow Jesus; they are the natural response of someone who has the “anointing” (v. 20, 27) which is the power of the Holy Spirit within. If you lack these things, you don’t need to try harder, you need to be saved! Turn from your love of this world and receive the gospel message; it will transform you so that you show the marks of spiritual life listed in this chapter.

1 John 1

Today, read 1 John 1.

Our faith is primarily about God. He is our Creator; we belong to him and are accountable to him for how we live this life. Due to Adam’s choice to sin, none of us is capable of pleasing God by living up to his perfect righteous standard for how to live and worshipping him wholeheartedly. As a result, we are under his wrath and hopelessly lost for eternity. But, because of his love and mercy, God the Son came into the world to live a perfect life and die as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Once we trust in him by faith, God credits his perfect righteousness to us–we call this justification. At the same time, he credits us with the death of Christ and, on that basis, forgives us for our sins based on the death and resurrection of Jesus for us.

More could be said, but that’s a basic outline of our faith. The major goal of it is to glorify God by reconciling us sinners to him through Christ. That reconciliation is the major benefit to us of God’s grace in the Christian faith and the end result of that reconciliation is eternal life.

But there are other benefits to being a Christian and John led off with one of them here in 1 John 1:3 when he wrote, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us….” To put this verse in other words, John wrote about the gospel so that (among other things) the readers might have fellowship with John and all other Christians.

The word “fellowship” is a much-used, little-understood word in Christianity. Its basic meaning is “sharing.” When we talk about it as a core result of being a Christian, it means that we share a new kind of relationship with other Christians. It is a kind of relationship that non-Christians are not capable of having because it is a spiritual relationship, a deep bond that genuine believers in Christ share.

And why do we share this deep bond? It is because we are all connected in a “fellowship” relationship with God. As John wrote in the latter half of verse 3, “And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” It is God’s grace to us in Christ that connects us to the Triune God, giving us a new fellowship–a family relationship with God that we never had before Christ and could not have without him. Because we all share that, we now have a basis for sharing a deep connection to one another in Christ.

The result of Christian fellowship is joy; according to verse 4, “We write this to make our joy complete.” The rest of this letter is going to spell out the marks of genuine faith in Christ, starting with truth (“…walk[ing] in the light,” v. 7a). But before describing what a genuine Christian looks like, John began with one of the motives Christians have for sharing the gospel–“so that you also may have fellowship with us” (v. 3b).

Do you want a deeper friendship, a stronger, more spiritual connection to other people? Then share the gospel with others! The salvation we share by God’s grace is the only true common ground that can unite humanity. It–and only it–can bridge cultures, languages, ethnic backgrounds, and anything else that divides humanity. This is not the only reason to give the gospel, or even the main reason, but it is an important one. Faith in Christ unites those who belong to Christ and gives us a basis for true fellowship. The more we reach others with Christ, the greater and broader and deeper our connection to other people will become.

Numbers 33, Psalm 78:1–37, Isaiah 25, 1 John 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 33, Psalm 78:1–37, Isaiah 25, 1 John 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 John 3.

When you look at your children, you see things that are familiar. Maybe he has your hair color or your eye color; maybe she looks like your spouse did as a child. Have you ever heard your child say something and thought, “That’s exactly what I would say!” Do your kids have your sense of humor, your temper, your aptitude (or not) for sports? Of course your children reflect you and your spouse because the two of you made them together. They have aspects of your DNA and have listened to you talk, watched what you do, learned how you see the world and react to things around you. Here in 1 John 3, John tells us that believers act like God because we are his children. First and foremost, he begins by reminding us how deeply the Father loves us because he has called us to be his children (v. 1a) and will eventually cause us to be just like he is when Christ appears (v. 2). 

In the meantime, we are misunderstood and rejected by the world because we belong to God’s family now. The world does not recognize the characteristics of God in us because they have not been born of God, so they don’t share in his nature like we do (v. 1b). But since we have the hope of being glorified when Christ returns, our instincts are to become purer in our thoughts and actions, holier in our walk through this world (v. 3).

Verses 4-18 give us a sustained look at the differences between those who have been born of God and those who have not been born of God. Anyone can say that they are a Christian, but those who have God’s nature implanted in them through regeneration will have growth toward righteousness (v. 7) and away from sin (vv. 9-10a). If a person practices sin and becomes more sinful over time, that person is reflecting his father’s nature—his father the devil (v. 8). But if we are children of God by faith in Christ, then we will do what is right and learn how to love others (v. 10). Verses 11-18 go deeper on the aspect of love that stems from God’s nature in us. Loving like God does means loving not hating others, even though the world hates us (vv. 12-13). But our love for each other is a mark of our new nature in Christ (vv. 14-15) and this is love is evidenced not by what we say (v. 18a) but by our self-sacrificial actions toward others who have needs (v. 17). Just as Christ sacrificed himself to meet our needs, so we who are his children by regeneration will learn to sacrifice the material things we have to care for and provide for others. 

There is a kind of Christianity that is orthodox in doctrine but cold in daily life. When someone calls themselves a Christian and answers every doctrinal question about Christianity correctly, we assume that they have faith in Jesus. But it is easy to become smug and cold when we feel like we have all the answers. It is easy to match the hatred the world has toward us with contempt for their sinful lifestyles instead of compassion for how sin has enslaved them. It is easy to hoard our money and possessions for ourselves or give in a stingy way that resents having to share, but none of these things is truly loving. Having pure, sound doctrine is important but it is not the real test of our faith in Christ. What really demonstrates our faith in Christ is love that sacrifices to help others, even when—especially when—it makes our wallet thinner. Is this convicting at all? John says the way our conscience responds to the commands to love either reveals our genuine nature as children of Christ (v. 19, 21) or shows our need for repentance (v. 20). We may struggle with unloving attitudes or stinginess toward those who have real needs, but if we completely ignore God’s commands to love and have no prick of conscience or conviction of the Holy Spirit about it (v. 24b), then we are not God’s children. We are orthodox unbelievers; people who understand the facts of Christianity but have never been born into the family of Christ. So where can you show the love of Christ today? This is the best way to know whether or not you really belong to him (vv. 23-24).

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.