No burden to love

1 John 5:1-5 (NLT): ” Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments.

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”

I liked a lot of what Selwyn had to say today: “When God instructs us to love. He is only commanding us to function in the way our personalities were designed to, from the very beginning. … The deepest need of our being is to love. … When God commands us to love, His voice finds an answering echo in the deepest regions of our heart. When we fulfil the command to love, we fulfil ourselves.”

God’s Spirit, living in us, helps us to keep His commandments – therefore the more we depend on Jesus to help us carry our cross, the less of a burden it will be. So simple to say, but I know it’s a lot harder to do – right?

Loved into loving

1 John 4:19-21 (NLT): “We love each other because he loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.”

Selwyn mentions in his opening remarks: “Today’s text is one of my favourite verses in the whole of the New Testament. John sees with crystal clearness that the love that flows in the heart of a Christian is initiated in heaven.”

I agree with his comment that ‘once we see how much God loves us’, that many aspects of our Christian life, come into clearer focus.

The conclusion to today’s study, is worth a lot of meditation, because it does change lives – the cross is where we see God’s love in action: “So (look) to the cross. The love of God finds its most burning expression there. Sit before it. Meditate on it. God only knows the love of God, and only God can reveal it. In gazing at the cross, and I mean gazing, not glancing, you will find that the scales will fall from your eyes and, seeing His love, your own love will flame in response.”

When I think of the Creator of this world – hanging from a cross – killed by His own creation; I’m so overwhelmed that my future rests in His hands! He is indeed, a God of love.

What is your view?

No more fear

1 John 4:17-18 (NLT): “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”

Selwyn writes: “The root cause of fear is an absence of love. … Where there is no love, fear flows in. I assure you that if, at this moment, you had a vivid awareness of how much God loved you, every fear troubling you would vanish. And why? Because once your personality detects (through the power of the Holy Spirit) the presence of its Creator, it responds to it with faith and not with fear.”

I think, it’s important to realise that the word ‘love’ as used above – is the type of love that comes from God (agape), and it does not refer to ‘love’ as experienced between husband and wife, or parents and their children, or that type of love experienced by two close friends. The love that flows from God can influence the quality of all these different types of human relationships – but they are not the same!

Consequently, I don’t fully support all of Selwyn’s views in today’s study, without some clarification – for example, we are never afraid of those who love us – if they love us, in the same way that God loves us. Unfortunately, some forms of imperfect ‘love’, which originates in the human heart, and are not of God; do not drive out fear. Do you agree?

 

“They’ve got it”

1 John 4:13-16 (NLT): “And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”

These words give us cause to celebrate – don’t you think?

I liked this excerpt, taken from today’s study: “Take love out of an angel – a devil remains. Take love out of a human being – a sinner remains. Take love out of God – nothing remains. For God is love.”

I also agree with Selwyn’s conclusion – see Jesus as a tiny babe in Bethlehem – and you hear God say, ‘I love you’.

‘Love builds up’

1 John 4:7-12 (NLT): “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”

I really like the above verses – especially these words – ‘that God loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins’. Tomorrow, we celebrate the arrival of His Son – and, this celebration centres on the pivotal event of our history – Jesus’ sacrifice, which took away our sins.

Selwyn writes in today’s study: “John states categorically that we know God not through the efforts of the mind but through opening our hearts to His love. Paul underlines this very same point when writing to the Corinthians: ‘We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God’ (1 Corinthians 8:1-2).”

God first loves us and we respond with love. As we live our lives, in the light of God’s love, He allows us to see a clearer picture of His nature. It’s through love that we get to know God.

Discerning counterfeits

1 John 4:1-6 (NIV): “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”

I liked Selwyn’s conclusion: ” … there is such a thing as misguided tolerance of false prophets and teachers. One basis of testing is quite simple; it is the issue of the full deity of our Lord Jesus Christ (Jesus is God). If a person will not confess that Jesus is God’s eternal Son, the Word made flesh, then whoever he is, whatever theological degrees he has gained or whatever position in ecclesiastical society he may hold, he is not a Christian (at that point in time).”

I’ve expressed similar views myself, and I always seem to receive a comment, along these lines:  ‘Who am you, to make judgements on who is, or is not, a Christian; after all, we are told not to judge’. Well, the Bible tells us in very clear terms that we must make this type of judgement – the text from John’s first letter, contains a number of implied judgements. 

Judgments, which are none of our business – referred to by Jesus, a number of times in the Gospels – are those types of judgements that include condemnation (that the person deserves punishment) and are born out of a heart full of legalism and moral superiority. This condemnation (punishment) aspect of judgment belongs solely to God – He is the only One who knows the condition of our heart; He is the only, perfect judge regarding our reward or punishment.  

However, we are called to make judgments about what’s right and wrong in thought, word and deed. Our responsibility to make judgements about false teaching and prophecy, is made clear in the chapters of John’s letter. The importance of making such judgments is even more evident by the indwelling of God’s Spirit – as one of His main roles, is to help us make the right decisions.

Okay, now, I’ll return to Selwyn’s judgment – anyone who says Jesus is not fully God, is not a Christian at the time of making such a statement.  This judgment says nothing about that person’s eternal destination (heaven or hell) –  that decision is 100%, in the hands of God.

Last point; Selwyn mentioned that ‘Satan is busy undermining Christian truth and doctrine all over the world.‘  Satan is not the personification of evil.  He is an active, intelligent ‘being’ whose power is far greater than any human being who does not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Satan knows your frailties and your weaknesses better than you do – anyone who denies Satan’s existence, is already fully owned by him.

Consequently, one of the great joys of Christmas is this – that when God became flesh and died on the cross, He paid the ransom required to set us free from Satan’s bondage. In John 14:30, we hear Jesus say, ‘I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me … ‘. Likewise, we can say – ‘Satan has no hold on me – I’m following Jesus’!

What are your views on today’s study?

God ‘on the inside’

1 John 3:21-24 (NLT): “Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.

And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.”

I heard someone say last Sunday, that ‘all we needed to do – was to believe in Jesus’; what was not made clear when this statement was made –  is that our belief in Jesus INCLUDES obeying His commandments. To obey God’s commandments is not an optional extra – however, many people act as if it was a nice. but not essential, thing to do.

Selwyn, in today’s study, makes a good point. In his introduction, he says: “One of the most exciting truths of the New Testament is that the Holy Spirit comes to Christians not simply to inspire us and enthuse us, but to indwell us.”

In the days before Christ – ‘the Holy Spirit came upon men and women to endue them with special power for special purposes’. So, why do we now, have God in us – all the time? In John 16:13-14, we read: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me.”

All of us, have been given a new purpose in life – to tell the world about Jesus and to obey God’s commandments; and, we have been given His Spirit to enable us to carry out this purpose. Consequently, none of us are exempt from responding to His call, to work in the harvest field; we all have His power and energy – to work, all day long.

I also thought that the prayer for today was good; as it also helps to bring home the point that we already have access to God’s power: “Thank You, loving heavenly Father, for giving me this word today. In my desire for more of You, I sometimes forget how much I already possess. Help me to live in the full realisation of all that I now have in You. Amen.”