2008-09-28 (am) 1 John 3:11-24 Love One Another
So, continuing from what we learned last week. John now begins to describe what the Christian life looks like, contrasting it with what it does not look like.
Because we are God’s children, because we are new creations, we should love one another.
John’s telling us something here. He’s getting us to look at our motivations. What’s behind our actions? What’s the root of the things we do? What’s the root of our harsh words to others? What’s the root of our evil deeds? How is it that we, who are born of God, who are now God’s children, that we fail to love?
It is because we are still constantly struggling against the old nature. Some days are worse than others. Some days are full of despair, when it seems we can’t get out of a bad mood, no matter what, our words are short, clipped and full of anger. Even as it happens, we wonder where it is coming from, and why we can’t get out of it.
But our hope is not in what we do, either how well we love, or how poorly we love. Our hope is firmly and completely in Christ. That in the midst of the evil that we even still commit, we can turn confidently turn to Christ, and rejoice that it is His righteousness, and His righteousness alone that produces good works in us, that His righteousness completely covers all our failings.
How important it is to be reminded to love others. Now, John is specific here. We’re to love other believers!
Did you know that there were divisions even in the early church? Oh, there might not have been such formal divisions as the different denominations that we have now, but in the Corinthian church there were divisions. Some preferred Paul, others preferred Apollos. Paul reaction was one of incredulity. He says, you’re stuck on something as silly as that? What is Paul, what is Apollos? They’re mere men! Don’t get caught up in minor differences in their teaching, focus on Christ! That’s the most important thing!
These attitudes still persist. We’re tempted to place our denomination over and above others. This is not the same thing as pointing out errors in other denomination’s theology. This is claiming that one denomination is better or more superior than other denominations.
Denominations are nothing more than gatherings of like-minded people. We follow Christ alone. And the denomination we belong to is the vehicle that transports us along the path. The denomination, the church serves Christ also. It struggles to provide the clearest teaching on God’s word, empowers people to faithfully follow God’s word, and promotes faith in God.
Some denominations do well in this, others do not.
But regardless of a denomination people are in, God commands us to love one another. We need to love our fellow Christians. And we do. No, that doesn’t mean that we always get along, but when there are difficult moments, or wonderful moments in the churches around us, we either struggle alongside, or we rejoice along with them.
But it is more than merely loving those in other churches. We’re supposed to love one another in our own church. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, let’s be honest.
I’m sure I’ve made mistakes, in fact, I know I have, and sometimes those I’ve offended have exercised the grace to let me know. I’m not sure I’ve always been so good at then asking for forgiveness, instead, I’ve probably on occasion made things worse.
I know, I’ve been made aware of hurts and frustrations within this congregation. People have alluded to the difficulties that were present in the joining of the two churches, Peers and Edson! And these churches are in the same denomination. In fact, we still sometimes joke about the rift that is largely healed now, in which we see ourselves as one true body of believers.
But what causes, what motivates us to show less than love toward one another?
It is the same thing, the very same thing that caused Adam and Eve to turn away from God, and listen to Satan.
It is the desire to prefer our way, our opinions, and ourselves to another’s or, most specifically, God’s.
You see, Adam and Eve sinned before they consumed the forbidden fruit. It was not the eating that caused them to sin. It was the rejection of God’s commandment. They fell short of God’s glory, trading that which is the greatest, most wonderful, most wise, trading it for a lie.
Sure, Satan’s lie had all the trademarks of truth, it sounded wise, he called into question God’s authority, his truthfulness, and he made it sound like God was holding out on them. Instead, God was protecting them. They were not yet ready to handle the knowledge of good and evil. They were unprepared, naïve. In His time, God would have taught them everything they needed to know. But they chose not to wait, they chose what they decided was the best path of wisdom. And the consequences were greater than they anticipated.
No, they didn’t die physically, but they died spiritually. Their eldest son, followed their steps even more fully, giving his life over to Satan.
And with Satan’s lies in his mind, he acted as Satan would. He fought against righteousness.
Our sinful natures still rebel against righteousness.
Even though we’ve been born again, even though we know the truth, we still have this part of us that tries to overcome. Sometimes the struggles are big. Sometimes they are small. Sometimes it is for a season, sometimes it is for a day.
The same is true today. Well, we’re doing a bit better. We participate in ecumenical services, as pastors we get together for ministerial meetings, and some of the pastors meet for prayer on Wednesdays.
Generally speaking, when we get together with other Christians, we’re quite cordial, but sometimes it is still hard to show love toward one another. It is so easy to concentrate on differences, allow jealousies, or pride to hamper our visions of one another.
So, we need to make every effort to show love toward one another. We need to identify the difference between showing love through fellowship and tacitly approving bad doctrine, bad theology and poor faith.
Sometimes we erroneously believe that having fellowship means that we approve the latter. But you can be friends with people who completely disagree with you. You can even respect them, and listen to their opinions, and yet still disagree!
I mean, push the protection mentality to the limit. “Oh, we can’t associate with them, they will negatively influence us, and cause us to change our doctrine.” If that was truly the case, then either Jesus Christ isn’t the Lord of His church, or we’d never ever be able to associate with non-Christians, and if we can’t associate with them, it will be very difficult, not only to evangelise, but incredibly difficult to live. For then you’d have to limit your shopping to only those businesses that are run by Christians.
That’s not what John is telling us to do. He’s telling us to love our fellow believers! We don’t necessarily have to agree, but respect them, listen to them and honour them, just as Christ has loved us.
Because we are God’s children, we love. Those who are not God’s children, hate. Cain did not become a child of Satan after he killed his brother, but rather, he was already a child of Satan and that’s why he killed his brother.
John lays it out very precisely. Our actions demonstrate which side we are on. We’re either on God’s side, or Satan’s side. There’s no in between. People are either Children of God, or Children of the devil.
Cain’s actions identified him as a child of the devil. Look at how John lays it out. The evil actions of Cain came out of his identity. The deeds originated with Satan. He simply produced the fruit of one who serves the devil.
In contrast, Abel’s deeds were righteous. Does this mean that Abel was somehow better than Cain? No, it means that his deeds originated with Christ. Because Abel belonged to God, he produced acts of righteousness. It is not the other way around. It is not as though Abel did righteous deeds and therefore God was pleased by him and accepted him. No, it is because God had already accepted him, that he produced righteous deeds.
Now we have some practical application. Because we have on record this terrible family incident, we ought to be realistic. Those who are of the devil will do similar things as what Cain did. The unrighteous will always hate the righteous, unless, through the power of God, the unrighteous are converted to Christ.
The world, that is, those who are identified with the ruler of the world, Satan, will hate us. This should not surprise us! And yet, it does, doesn’t it? I mean if we, as Christians, live as we ought, we should be pretty nice people right? I’m sure Abel was a pretty good guy. But his brother hated him! And even though we’re good people, on account of Christ, of course, people will hate us, they will rebel against what we stand for. Therefore we ought not be surprised when that happens!
The world will hate us for standing up for human rights, for speaking for the unborn, for loving even them!
We love because we have passed from death to life! We know this is true, because we love our brothers. Don’t we see this every Sunday? Isn’t the fact that we still get together evidence of God’s grace and love in us? Here is a place where people get together, have coffee, worship, and pray with and for each other! It is a wonderful place!
And, when we’re not doing such a good job of loving one another, it becomes a less wonderful place, and then God, through His Holy Spirit, works in our hearts to transform us again, after Him. So, that’s where the should comes in. We struggle against the temptation to be like our old selves, even though we’re new creations in Christ. So, sometimes we do things, and say things that we shouldn’t say and do. And that hurts. And so we have to seek forgiveness, and give forgiveness, as we’ve been so amazingly forgiven in Christ.
The world hates, it is self-seeking, self serving, hating, killing righteousness. Anyone who hates another person, Jesus said, anyone who is angry with his brother will be judged. In another place,
Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Jn 3:11-4:1). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.