The Testimony of God – 1 John 5:6-10

It has always been said that actions speak louder than words.  It’s one thing to make a claim, it’s another to back it up.  In 1 John 5:6-10, the apostle tells us that Jesus did both.  He not only claimed to be the Son of God and savior to the world, his actions are evidence of that truth.  Beyond that, the Holy Spirit, as we’ve talked about before, offers testimony, both internally and externally (which we’ll see in just a second).

I suppose this could be considered one of those passages somewhat difficult to understand.  John starts talking about Jesus coming by water and blood and that testifies about him, agreeing that He is the Son of God and it can sound pretty crazy at first.  I think, though, if we break it down just a bit, we’ll see what I believe John is talking about.

The testimony of water.  This most likely refers to Jesus’ baptism.  We need to think about what that was all about and what happened.  When Jesus came up out of the water, after having identified Himself with us in the act of baptism, the Spirit of God descended upon Him for all to see and a voice was heard giving testimony:  “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  God, Himself, testified and the Spirit confirmed the nature and person of who Jesus was as He obediently undertook an important sign of His identification with us.

Then, of course, was the blood.  Jesus not only talked about the need for Salvation, He provided it.  He put His money where His mouth was and went to the cross, fulfilling prophecy completely, demonstrating His divinity through the resurrection.  John says that their (the witnesses) testimony is strong, having seen all of this take place, but the testimony of the Spirit of God, Himself, the baptism and the sacrifice of Christ give us a certainty of who Jesus was and is.  It is because of this that John speaks in such strong terms regarding making God a liar, having been provided such compelling evidence.

In the midst of such turmoil surrounding this “holiday” season (who can put up what display and is this a pagan holiday or a Christian one, etc.) we who are Believers can reflect on the reason Christ came and appreciate the testimony God has given us that Jesus became flesh to bring hope to the hopeless, sight to the blind, healing to the sick and salvation to the lost.

The Circle of Love – 1 John 5:1-5

If you can get past John’s mental gymnastics, you’ll find a pretty simple concept in 1 John 5:1-5:  The love of God and the love of others is so entwined that you cannot have one without the other.  To get a little more complex in my explanation (as does John to a further degree), as the Believers, we love God.  If we love God, we must keep His commandments.  His commandment is to love Him and love others.  To love others is necessarily to demonstrate love for God, which necessarily demonstrates we’re Believers.  See the circle?  I think God intended for that kind of circular reasoning so that we could not let ourselves out through a loophole (no pun intended) of loving others.

He tells us that this is not a burdensome task for those who are His because, through faith, He does the loving through us.  In spite of the fact that this is still difficult, at times, to love those who are tougher to love, we can be over-comers because He has overcome.

Even this morning, I have been dwelling (more than necessary) on an individual who is challenging to me.  I get annoyed rather quickly and find the word “obnoxious” pop to mind when I think about them.  What do I do with that?  I suppose there are many ways of handling it, some better than others, but for me I have to consciously put that aside.  I have to remember how obnoxious I can be, how imperfect I am, and try to have the same grace I want to be shown by others who may have similar feelings towards me. How do you handle similar situations?  What is the way that brings the most honor to Christ?

On another quick note, John makes an important doctrinal statement in verse 1 that we don’t need to miss:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

Look at how he phrases that: Everyone who believes (present tense)…has been born (past tense).  We sometimes think that our believing brings on the regeneration of our spirit.  What John says here is that our believing is evidence of our having been regenerated, which demonstrates how salvation is a work of God alone doing in us (who are dead in our trespasses) what we cannot do ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 15:16, John 6:60-66, 1 John 2:29, 3:9, 4:7, 19).  This is great news since He took the initiative to rescue us from our path of destruction (having been born in sin) and made us new, giving us the ability (faith, again see Eph 2:8-9) to trust Him, and the obedience to place that faith in Him (what we refer to as asking Him to be Lord of our lives) and live according to the commandment He has given us.

Can I Get A Witness? – 1 John 4:13-17

I had the opportunity to talk with a young lady after worship yesterday who is dealing with a lot of spiritual issues.  In tears, she said to me that she felt lost.  I asked in what sense she meant that and she told me that it seemed she was adrift at sea without any direction.  Remembering that on another occasion she had told me she had trusted Christ, I asked her about her relationship with Him.  She said, “I thought I had trusted in Jesus, but there has been nothing in my life to give evidence of that.”

I remembered back to John’s teaching in chapter 3, verse 6 [see commentary here]: “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known Him.”  As we talked, she was right — there had been absolutely no transformation in her life since she “prayed a prayer.”  She still was unable and/or unwilling to give up the lifestyle choices she had made that were leading to destruction.

I suppose the good thing about this is that she continues to feel drawn at this point.  She still feels the tug of conviction, but she doesn’t have that ever-important element that John describes in the reading for today: the inner testifying of the Spirit of God that we are children of God.  The transforming work of love is carried out in our lives and we, then, “have confidence for the day of judgment…”.

I have great hope that she will truly come to trust in Christ because of the evidence that He is drawing her in to Himself, but when there is no transformation and no inner testimony of the Spirit that we are saved, there can be no justification.

When Love Isn’t Love – 1 John 4:7-12

You know what I get tired of?  Religious people who go to church and do all the stuff they’re supposed to, but give them half a chance and they rail on somebody.  I get tired of people who talk about the love of God, but never seem to show it; never seem to demonstrate grace and unconditional acceptance.

On the one hand, I think it could have something to do with that last statement I made.  We sometimes fall victim to thinking that unconditional acceptance means of all a person does: their actions, choices, ideologies, etc.  Instead, I’m talking about unconditional acceptance of the person.  Then, of course, it’s easy to say that we love people unconditionally, but fail to realize that if our actions don’t back that up, we’re just offering religious platitudes.

On the other hand, it is too often that people are simply being religious, and not transformed. In verse 8, John says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  The translation is simple, isn’t it?  If your life is not characterized by the kind of unconditional, active love that God is, then we are not saved because we do not know Him.  That is a very serious indictment that we had better not dismiss.  Eternity rests on it.

A New Kind of Test – 1 John 4:1-5

Up to now, the tests in 1 John have been for us.  We have been given tests to demonstrate whether or not Christ really lives in us and if we are really following after Him.  Now, the tables are turned.

Testing the spirits is a vital operation that we must carry out constantly.   In an age of tolerance, we are pressured into accepting everything that comes our way.  Whether through social issues that arise or through spiritual teaching, discerning the Truth can be very difficult.  Subtleties lie around every corner.

John tells us that the bare minimum standard we must require is that the teacher fully affirm the diety and humanity of Christ.  If a teacher sounds good, appeals to the masses and gives glory to “god,” that is not enough.  Where do they stand on the issue of Christ?  If they waffle on any aspect of the person of Christ, they are to be rejected.

It goes further than this, though, because there are some who will claim the deity of Christ and get everything John is requiring here and still be misleading teachers.  For instance, there are some Christian leaders, denominations, etc., that will align very clearly with the Bible’s description of Christ, yet change other parts of the Gospel:  “Yes, Jesus is fully God and fully man.  Yes, He came to die in our place, was physically born, killed, resurrected and ascended…but, He’s not the only way to salvation.”  Bam! There it is, and they were sounding so good.

Some preach a health and wealth gospel which is not in line with Jesus’ teachings.  Some prove their own social agenda by denying that parts of Scripture are relevant today.  Others will deny the authenticity and even the inspiration of some writers (Paul is a popular target) because he doesn’t support their claim.  Watch out for these people.  Test the spirit!

Doubt-Less – 1 John 3:19-24

Have you ever had serious doubts about your salvation?  I think we all have from time-to-time.  Sometimes they’re well founded because it is possible to spend an entire lifetime going to church, doing all the religious ritual stuff, “doing good,” never having entered into a saving knowledge of Jesus (beyond head knowledge to the heart level, where Jesus–not the Jesus stuff–has become the center of your life).

Sometimes, though, even those who have trusted Jesus begin to have doubts…serious doubts…about the condition of our souls.  This should certainly give us pause, understanding that these are often times when we have drifted away from the relationship with God we have had, being blocked from him by sin.

Our conscience plays a vital role in remedying this as we listen when conviction comes, realizing what has happened, and moving back to Him through confession.

“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.”

This is really the key to maintaining a healthy and right relationship with God:  keeping His commandments, namely, loving Him with all our hearts and loving each other.  Love is the commandment.  This can take a thousand different forms, but that is the bedrock foundation upon which our faith is founded, having been loved to the extreme by Jesus Christ who makes this whole thing possible.

Some of the expressions come through sacrificing our needs and wants for that of others.  Giving sacrificially to those who do not have enough to sustain them (which is not a political issue–liberal, progressive, conservative or otherwise–so let’s stop making it one), or simply being there for a friend who is hurting.

So many ways are there of loving and yet I find myself often “condemned” in my soul, as John says, because I’ve not done any of them.  As we’ve said before, real faith is that of actions, not merely lofty rhetoric.  Keeping the commandment keeps the doubt at bay and, then, if those times when Satan is the one convicting, John reminds us that “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”

It’s easy to talk big…but we need to stop long enough to listen to what are our hearts telling us.

Faithless faith – 1 John 3:16-18

John and James sound very similar here: if you’ve got the goods and you keep it to yourselves when there is a brother in need, your faith is a sham.  Sounds tough, but that’s really what is being said.  John says it like this:

if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet g closes his heart against him, h how does God’s love abide in him?

Translation?  Your faith is a sham.

James says it like this:

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 q and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good [2] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Translation?  Your faith is…you get the picture.

Despite our tendency to talk up a lot about faith and trusting in God, unless we’re acting on our faith by taking care of those around us with what we have, we’re fooling ourselves.  Remember where Jesus separated the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25?  Sheep were put on one side and goats on the other, the sheep heading to heaven and the goats to eternal punishment.  What made the difference?  It wasn’t simply a “profession of faith”…they all made that.  It was what they did.  The sheep actually acted on their faith and took care of the “least of these.”  They put feet to what they said.

We need to be a part of that Gathering Storm of compassion in action so that we do not fall victim to heartless, faithless religion.  “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Tough Love – 1 John 3:11-15

Man, John just pulls no punches, does he?  Listen to some of this: “Whoever does not love abides in death.” “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”  Tough stuff, but I read it very appreciatively.

Sometimes we are too polite in the Family of God.  We make sure that no one gets their feelings hurt and we find it so difficult to call someone out even when their very soul is at stake.  I know I have often suffered from this in the past and have worked diligently to overcome it.  Sometimes we need our cages rattled by someone who truly loves us, as John is loving us, so that we don’t take an unrecoverable fall.

John is clear that the world will hate those who are in Christ.  That makes it all the more imperative that there is love within the family to the extent that we’re willing and prepared to have someone mad at us by speaking the Truth.  It must be peppered with grace, but it must be clear.

Interestingly, that very thing also serves as yet another one of John’s tests of being in the Family.  Verse 14 says that, “we know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.”  It is the compassion as well as the tough love that is willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of another.  In this, we’re told that others (outside of Christ) will know that we are Christ-followers, hopefully even leading some of them to long for and pursue after this kind of love.

Spiritual Anarchy – 1 John 3:1-10

If you’ve been following this running commentary on 1 John, I’m sorry I was unable to post on Friday or Saturday.  Friday I was out of town and could not get on a computer and Saturday we had a break-in at the church and my day was tied from early til late (and I choose not to post on Sunday).  I thought, then, I would cover passages over the last few days since they all cover the same idea.

As I alluded to in the last post, freedom from habitual sin is possible through the Holy Spirit.  What John goes on to say is that it is not only possible, it is imperative.  In very strong terms, John equates habitual sin with spiritual anarchy…lawlessness.  He points out that in Christ there is no sin and someone who continues in sin is not of Christ, but of the devil.  Strong stuff.

It is important to differentiate unintentional sinning with habitual sinning because of our sin nature.  We are prone towards sinning in our carnal or natural self (before Christ).  Since we have been redeemed from our sin nature, there is freedom from the eternal consequences of sin, but our sin nature still exists as long as we are in this world.  Thus, sinning is something we will always struggle with this side of Heaven.  That is why Paul talks of a war within in Romans as we battle to overcome that sin nature through the power of the Holy Spirit.

If, however, there is no battle and I continue in the same sin over and over again (especially to the point where there is no conviction from it, which eventually happens), John argues that as evidence for a massive spiritual problem:  the marks of a counterfeit disciple.

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

We need to go back to 2 Corinthians 5:21 which states, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  Amazingly, in Christ, we actually become the righteousness of God.  This means that righteousness is not just something that we do, it is who we are.  If we are not living a righteous life (not talking about perfect, but Christ-centered; not merely adhering to a moral set of rules but heart-motivated lifestyle bent towards right and Truth), we are in serious need of submitting ourselves before the Father and asking Him to bring a spiritual over-haul and to rescue us from the penalty of spiritual anarchy.

Is it a wonderful life? 1 John 3:1-3

How many times have we wondered what it will be like when those of us who have trusted in Christ will enter into heaven?  Some of the popular notions include wings, essentially becoming angels (ala It’s A Wonderful Life), or spiritual beings with no real form or physical identity.  Others think it will be like a big party hanging out with friends and hugging on family members.

While the first two are pretty ridiculous, I can’t really speak on the last one.  There is a great deal of mystery involved with the specifics of heaven and life after we leave this earth (“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared”).  However, there is also a great deal of information.  Since this is a simple devotion-type post, I won’t go into all the various passages that deal with heaven and, instead, stick to what John says here.

We have great reason to look with anticipation to Christ’s return because we are told that “when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”  What is that like?  Well, remember back when Jesus appeared to his disciples, having received a glorified body?  Scholars believe that He was in the state in which glorified Believers will be.  He was clearly identifiable, though there seems to have been some changes since he walked with two of his followers on the road to Emmaus and they didn’t even recognize Him.  Yet, he was clearly a human form (even bearing the scars from his crucifixion), though without the same physical limitations that we face (His mode of travel was a bit quicker than ours here!).

I like the way the ESV Study Bible describes it:

In eternity, Christians will be morally without sin, intellectually without falsehood or error, physically without weakness or imperfections, and filled continually with the Holy Spirit. But “like” does not mean “identical to,” and believers will never be (e.g.) omniscient or omnipotent as Christ is, since he is both man and God.

It is great for us to speculate and to try and understand what we will be like then, but we must be careful not to neglect what is important now.  That is what John is emphasizing because, rather than heavenly musings ending in trivial pursuits, they should lead us to a life of serious introspection, seeking to live a transformed life here and now.

Verse 3 says that “everyone who thus hopes in him [that is, if you have this hope that you will be like Him when He returns] purifies himself as He is pure.”  In other words, we should be driven towards living a life of purity from sin because we have this hope that one day we will be completely removed from sin as He is.  The kicker here is that we already have the indwelling Holy Spirit, so purity from habitual sin is already possible.  More on that next time.

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