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"Passing the Tests of Love"
1 John 3:10-18
(Delivered Sunday, March 10, 2002 at Bethany Bible Church. All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)
God has given us certain stories in the Bible that, I believe, He intended for us to look at as "foundational." They are foundational in the sense that they explain to us why things are the way they are. I'd like to begin our time this morning by reminding you of one such story as it's found in the Book of Genesis.
This foundational story is based on another very familiar, very foundational story - the story of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I take the story of the fall of humanity in Genesis to be literal history. Their sin brought a curse upon not only themselves, but also upon the whole human race that would come from them - including you and me. And yet, in the midst of the story of their fall, God made a promise that Eve would have a "Seed" - that is, an offspring - who would be their Savior from the curse of sin. God told the serpent, who had tempted Eve and had instigated the fall of humanity; "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Gen. 3:15). We're told here that this "serpent" (who was the devil) would have a "seed" - that is, an offspring of children or descendants; but that the woman would also have a "Seed". These two "seeds" would be in a state of enmity with one another; but the woman's promised "Seed" was going to be the One who would gain the victory - give a crushing blow to the head of the serpent - and would redeem His people from the curse of sin.
And that leads us to the story I wanted to tell you. Some time after our first parents sinned, and were driven by God out of the Garden of Eden, the Bible tells us that Adam and Eve gave birth to a son. They named this son Cain; a name which meant, "I acquire," because Eve said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD" (Gen. 4:1). Cain's birth was an important "acquisition" to Adam and Eve - not just because of the joy that the very first child had been born into the world, but because they had hopes that this particular child would be the fulfillment of that all-important promise from God. But Cain, as the unfolding events show us, was not to be the fulfillment of that promise.
In time, Adam and Eve had yet another son named Abel. And while Cain was a farmer and tiller of the ground, his younger brother was a herdsman and a keeper of sheep. The Bible tells us that, in the course of time, both brothers brought an offering to the LORD. Cain, because he was a farmer, sought favor with God through the produce of his own human efforts. He offered the fruit of the ground which he had grown. But Abel offered a lamb, the very best of the firstlings of his flock, as a sacrifice for his sins.
Both brothers knew the kind of sacrifice God required for their sins. Their parents had, no doubt, told them what God had done for their own sins. Adam and Eve had certainly told them how, when they sinned, they sought to hide their sin from God, and sewed fig leaves together as a covering for their nakedness and moral shame. And they must have told them how such a covering wasn't acceptable to God; and that He clothed Adam and Eve in "skins" - clearly indicating that a substitute had to die for what they had done.
Cain and Abel certainly must have known this story. They knew that God required a death to atone for sin. And it was on the basis of God's requirement of a "substitute" to atone for sin that Abel made his offering. The Bible tells us this very clearly in Hebrews 11:4; "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous ..." It tells us that Abel's sacrifice pointed by faith, beyond the ages, to Jesus as "the Mediator of the new covenant", and to "the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel" (Heb. 12:24). Abel offered a sacrifice out of an obedient faith in God's promise of a future Redeemer who would be his Substitute. But Cain did not make an offering out of faith. He offered the works of his own hands, in an act of faithlessness and sinful pride. And we're told that "the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but that He did not respect Cain and his offering" (Gen. 4:4-5).
Cain became angry and depressed because of this. And yet, God offered him a way out if he would have only taken it. God told him, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it" (vv. 6-7). Cain, however, didn't heed this warning; nor would he repent. Instead, he grew even more bitter and resentful. Cain began to hate his younger brother - not because Abel's deeds were evil, but because his deeds had been declared to be righteous by God ... and because Cain's deeds had not. Cain was beginning to reveal that he was, indeed, a "seed" - but not of that promised "Seed" who would be the Redeemer. He was revealing that he was of the "seed" who would be in enmity with that of the woman. By his hatred of his righteous brother, he was showing himself to be of the "seed" of the serpent; the devil's own offspring.
Someone has called hatred "embryonic murder". Left to follow its natural course, hatred will eventually explode into literal murder. As John Calvin wrote, all who hate their brethren are murderers; "for we wish him to perish whom we hate." And so, a time eventually came when Cain, who hated his brother, drew him aside and said, "Abel my brother; let's take a walk together and talk for a while. Let's go for a stroll out in the field." As they walked along and were finally alone, Cain finally saw his opportunity. He brutally murdered his brother. The world's first child grew up to be the world's first murderer.
Have you ever wondered how it could be that Cain would have even known to do such a thing as to murder his brother? Where in the world had he ever even "seen" death - let alone conceive of such an act of slaughter - in a place where death had been unknown before the fall? I have a theory. I can think of only one source for him to know about death; and that was through a sacrifice to God, like that of Abel's offering. I believe Cain did to his own brother, in wicked and bitter hatred, what he saw his brother do to his lamb in righteous faith before God.
Cain's act was before God too. He tried to hide it from God, but he couldn't (v. 9). Perhaps Cain literally poured his brother's blood out like a sacrificial lamb; because we're told that Abel's righteous blood cried out to God from the ground. As a result, God cursed Cain for his murderous act; and sent him away to be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth.
Can you imagine the heartbreak all of this was to Adam and Eve? And more than this; can you imagine how their hopes for the promised Redeemer must have seemed as if they had been hopelessly dashed by this dreadful act? They not only lost one son to murder; but they lost the other son to exile. Neither of them had proven to be the promised "Seed"; and there were no sons left.
But the Bible tells us, "And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth [which means "Appointed"], 'For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed'" (v. 25). Eve recognized that Abel was of that righteous "Seed", and that now Seth had been appointed by God to replace him. And Seth also had a son; and it was in that son's generation, as the Scripture tells us, that men began to call upon the name of the LORD (v. 26).
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Dear brothers and sisters; this story is foundational because it tells us why things are the way they are. We see it fleshed out all around us every day. There are, in this world, two "seeds" - two family-lines of people, if you will: (1) those who are the "children" of the Seed of the woman, that great promise from God of a Redeemer; and (2) those who are the "children" of the devil. The offspring of one family line is righteous like their Redeemer; and the offspring of the other is murderous, like the devil. At the most basic, fundamental level, there aren't many different kinds of people in the world. There are only these two: those who are of the Seed of the woman, and those who are of the seed of the serpent.
And which "seed" one belongs to is easy to discover. There is a way to test. The apostle John, in his first letter found way on the other side of the Bible, puts the matter this way:
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That "foundational" story of Cain and Abel has something to say about how the world knows that we are truly the children of God. The world will never really know that we are Christians by our "church building", or by our "correct doctrine", or by our "cleaned-up lives". As important as those things may be, they're not where the real proof lies. Jesus Himself said, "By this all will know know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). They will know we are Christians by our love. We must love our brethren.
So then; what does "the tests of love" say about the genuineness of your relationship with Jesus? What does it say about which "seed" you are of? Let's look carefully at what John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has written for us in this passage. Let's examine ourselves against these "tests of love".
First, we find ...
TEST #1: DO YOU KEEP JESUS' COMMAND TO LOVE? (vv. 10-11).
John writes, "In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another ..." (vv. 10-11).
People often talk - in romantic, sentimental terms - about the universal Fatherhood of God. They often say that God is everyone's "Father", and we are all His "children". And there is some truth to this; because the Bible recognizes that we are all His "offspring" in the sense of His being our Creator, and of our being His creations (Acts 17:28). But that's where the universal "Fatherhood" of God ends - at creation. The Bible clearly teaches that some people are God's "children" in an adoptive/family sense, and that everyone else is definitely outside His family circle and are in the family circle of the devil instead. Everyone who wishes to enter God's family by faith in Jesus Christ is welcome to come in; but the fact remains that each person is definitely either of His "Seed", or of the devil's "seed". There are only those two options, and no other.
If there were such a thing as a universal "Fatherhood" of God, Jesus certainly would have known about it, and certainly would have proclaimed it. But when Jesus confronted those that hated Him, and that opposed His teaching, and that would not believe on Him, and that even sought to murder Him, He denied that God was their Father. He said, "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44).
And so, when John says that "the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest", he is simply affirming what Jesus taught - that there are ultimately only two kinds of people: the children of God and the children of the devil. The children of God may not always behave as good as they should behave, and the children of the devil may not always be as evil as they can be; but the fact remains that every one of us is in one of those two family lines. John's words do not a suggestion that we can become either a child of God or a child of the devil by of the way we behave; but rather affirm that the way we behave reveals whether or not we are either a child of God or a child of the devil.
Understand, then, that the family line you're in can be clearly known. Your family affiliation is "manifest" by your behavior: "Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother." John states the matter negatively in this verse. But elsewhere, he affirms the same points in a positive way. For example, he says this about righteousness: "Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous" (v. 7); and, "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God" (v. 9). And concerning the love of the brethren, he writes, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God" (4:7); and "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him" (5:1). Your behavior in these two ways reveals from whom you are born.
John joins these two forms of "manifestation" - "the practice of righteousness" and "the love of others who have been born of God" - together because they are, in fact, inseparable. One flows directly from the other. "Righteousness" expresses itself, in practical terms, through genuine love. You cannot truly "love" apart from righteousness; and you cannot fulfill the practical requirements of "righteousness" apart from love. Jesus taught us that God's commandments - which define practical righteousness for us - can be summed up this way: "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40). And later on, John writes, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:2-3).
In fact, Jesus spoke these words to His disciples just before He went to the cross for them: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34). "This is My commandment," He said, "that you love one another as I have loved you" (15:12). This is what John was speaking of when he wrote, "Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning" (1 John 2:7). And this is what John is referring to when he writes, in our passage this morning, "... This is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another" (v. 11). Righteousness demands of us that we keep Jesus' commands; and His great command to us, from the very beginning, is that we love one another.
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So; how do you measure up to this first test? Do you keep Jesus' command? Do you love the brethren? Do you love those whom Jesus loves? Do you long to join yourself with those who also love Jesus and follow Him? Do you seek the righteousness of your brothers and sisters in Christ; and do you allow God to use them to bring about righteousness in your life? Are you willing to let your life be wrapped up with theirs? Are you willing to put up with and forgive the occasional offenses that we, as brethren, may inflict on one another?
Many people say that they are children of God; but they don't "love" the family of God. They wont associate themselves with God's people. They stay away from Church, 'forsaking the assembling of themselves together' with other Christians (Heb. 10:25). Sometimes, they talk about having a "love for the brethren"; but harbor resentful, bitter, hateful feelings toward a specific brother or sister. Many believe themselves to be in fellowship with Jesus; and yet they refuse to love their brothers or sisters who are of a different color of skin. Some say they love the "family of God" in a general sense; but are more bitter, resentful and hateful toward some of the Christians within the walls of their own home than toward anyone else.
Many, many people say that they're children of God; but they fail the test of keeping Jesus' commandment to love the children of God. God's children are manifest by the fact that they keep Jesus' commandment and love their brothers and sisters.
Dear brothers and sisters; this is the message that we have received from Jesus from the very beginning: "Love one another". It is His command. Whoever builds a life-style around not keeping this command is not of a child of God. If you are harboring hatred and resentment in your heart toward another brother or sister in Christ, then stop deceiving yourself. This is not the conduct of a child of God. Let this be the day that you allow the Holy Spirit to convict you of that sin, to repent of it, and begin to genuinely love your brothers and sisters in Christ - like a true child of God should.
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The first test of love, then, is this: "Do you keep Jesus' command to love?" As we read on, we find ...
TEST #2: DO YOU AVOID CAIN'S PASSION FOR MURDER? (vv. 12-15).
John goes on to say that we should love one another; "not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (vv. 12-15).
Cain's great legacy to this world is that of the murder of his brother. And by that act, Cain manifested whose child he was. John says that Cain "was of the wicked one"; that is, that he was of the "seed" of the serpent. He was in enmity toward those who were of "the Seed of the woman". John is urging us here to not be like him. He is urging us to not hate our brother, as Cain hated his; otherwise, we would prove ourselves to be outside the family of God, as Cain proved himself to be of the wicked one.
Notice the details. First, notice that those who hate like Cain are positioning themselves against God, and are aligning themselves with the devil. John reminds us that the reason Cain murdered his brother was "his works were evil and his brother's righteous". Someone always reveals who they belong to by how they respond to those whom God declares righteous. Jesus once told His disciples,
This, of course, is what John meant when he said, "Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you." If you are a child of God and are declared righteous by Him, then you will be hated by those who are not. That's to be expected. "Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you", as Peter says, "as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12). But the important point to notice in all this is that, if someone is characterized by a life-style of hating those who God has declared righteous in Christ, then he or she is aligning themselves with those who, like Cain, are of the wicked one - those who, as Jesus says, "hate the Father", and who "do not know Him".
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Second, notice that those who hate like Cain are aligning themselves with those who are spiritually dead. John says, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother [or simply "He who does not love ...", as it's translated in the NASB] abides in death" (v. 14).
The death John speaks of here is "spiritual death"; and to "pass from death to life" is simply another way of saying that we've been saved. Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" (John 5:24). Such a person has been "resurrected", in a spiritual sense, from out of the grave. The promise of Jesus is that, even if they die physically, they will one day be raised up to eternal life in a glorified body. Such a person has passed from the "death" of being separated from God because of sin - doomed to eternal judgment; and has passed into the saving "life" that comes from being made righteous before God through Christ - destined to an endless fellowship with Him in glory. John says that we can know for a fact that we have passed from spiritual death into eternal life by the fact that we love the brethren. The love of the brethren is the proof of eternal life.
By the same token, however, we can know that whoever is not characterized by such love, but who instead progressively and persistently hates his brother - like Cain did Abel - has not passed into life. Instead, such a person "abides" or "remains" in death. He or she has not been made spiritually alive.
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Finally, notice that those who hate like Cain are also murderers like him. Now, I'm sure this is a shocking statement to some. Many who engage in a little hatred of their brethren would be deeply offended at the idea that the Bible calls them murderers. But John very clearly says, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (v. 15).
How can it be that someone who "hates" his brother or sister in Christ is actually a "murderer"? I believe Jesus explained how this can be. Jesus once quoted from the Old Testament commandment, and said, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' [or "empty-head"] shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matthew 5:21-12).
Murder is basically a matter of diminishing the life of someone else. You may "murder" in a complete sense by taking their physical life away from them; or you may "murder" them by taking bits and pieces of their life from them in portions. Jesus basically took the commandment against literal "murder", and expounded on the spirit of the commandment - saying that whenever we even belittle our brother, or call him a name, or defame him in some way, we're taking something of his or her life away; and that makes us murderers in God's eyes.
A friend of mine once told me about a church he had become associated with. This particular church was, unfortunately, a part of a particular movement a few years ago that tended toward legalism and separatism; and since he had become attracted to certain teachings within this movement, he also became aligned with this church. He began to have misgivings about this church however, because he heard a lot of hateful words and criticisms being expressed by its leaders toward Christians outside this movement. One day, he heard something that made him leave this church. He overheard one of the elders talking to someone else about another church on the other side of town. This elder spoke with great hatred and disdain for the members of this other church; and he said, "Sometimes, I feel like I'd like to get a shot-gun and shoot those ____________!" (using a word that no one should ever use to describe another person in any circumstance - let alone for one professing Christian to us to describe another). That hatred finally revealed its true nature, and expressed itself in a desire for "murder". My friend was right to leave that church; because the leadership of that church was aligning itself with the mentality of Cain, the murderer of his brother.
Dear brothers and sisters; we must be very, very careful about how we think toward those who - like us - have placed their trust in Jesus and have been declared righteous by Him. They are very precious to Jesus; and anyone that is precious to Jesus should be considered unspeakably holy by us. We may not agree with our brother or sister on everything; but we dare not hate them for any reason.
We must remember that Jesus loves our brother or sister deeply, and died to claim them to Himself. We must remember that He has chosen to take up residence within them, and has made them into His holy temple. We must remember that He has pledged to take them to heaven to dwell with Him forever in eternal glory, and to cause them to be a reason for the angels to fall before Jesus and praise Him for His amazing grace. How dare we ever become resentful toward His good work in His redeemed ones, or think "murderous thoughts" of hatred toward those He so infinitely loves!! And knowing all this, how could we keep on harboring such hate toward our brother or sister, and still claim to be God's children ourselves? We must guard our hearts diligently, and avoid any such an attitude of hatred toward our fellow Christians; because to harbor such an attitude is what it means to hate like Cain.
How, then, do you measure up against this test?
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Someone, at this point, might say, "I can see that we're to show love to one another. But how do we define such 'love'? Is John speaking of a feeling of strong affection? I can do that for a brother or sister in Christ I don't like - just so long as I don't have to be around them." It would be very easy to "define" love in such a way as to not have to actually do anything loving toward them.
John, in this final test, gives us an objective, practical way to understand what it means to love our brother or sister. And so, we now consider ...
TEST #3: DO YOU PRACTICE JESUS' PATTERN OF SELFLESSNESS? (vv. 16-18).
John writes, "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:16-18).
First, John teaches us what the love of Jesus looks like. He reminds us that Jesus "laid down His life for us". He paid love's ultimate price. Jesus Himself said, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). And the apostle Paul expands on this when he writes, "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:6-8). Jesus' love for us was a love that moved Him to give Himself for us, that He might sanctify us and cleanse us and make us into His own beautiful bride (Eph. 5:25-27).
"By this," John says, "we know love." We don't ultimately know love by looking at our own feelings, or by looking at one another's worthiness. We can only really know love by looking at Jesus - the One who willingly laid His glory aside to redeem unworthy sinners at the cost of His own life. Such a display of love as Jesus' stands as the great example that we're to follow. Jesus' commandment is to love one another "as I have loved you" (John 13:34). He set the standard for us.
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Second, John shows us we're obligated to take our love for the brethren as far as Jesus took it - even to the point of laying down our lives for one another. I've always been fascinated by comparing John 3:16 with 1 John 3:16. The most famous verse in the Bible says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). And now we read; "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
John uses a Greek word for "ought" that carries the idea of a debt that is owed. When Jesus washed His disciples feet, He told them, "... I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him" (John 13:15-16). Likewise, when we understand that Jesus loved us so much that He willingly laid down His life for us, such love obligates us to love our brothers and sisters as much as He did. Such love puts us in a wonderful kind of debt - one that, the more we examine, and the deeper we see that it is, the more joyful we are to pay it.
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Third, John makes us bring this example of love down to practical terms. It would be easy to think of the love of Jesus in such a lofty and grand way, that we fail to truly put love into practice. It would be easy to be like the guy who wrote a love note to his girl that said, "I love you with a love so great, I'd climb the highest mountain for you. I'd swim the deepest sea for you. I'd cross the burning desert for you. And I'll take you out to a movie next time I'm free." John asks, "but whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?"
This is a lot like what James had to say about faith. He wrote, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2:14-17). Similarly, John asks, "What good does it do to say that you 'love' so much that you'd be willing to die for your brother or sister, if you're not willing to give up a few earthly possessions to meet his or her need? What good does it do to say you love someone some much you'd be willing to die for them, if you aren't willing just to give up some of your stuff for them?"
In fact, John puts the matter even stronger. He shows that a reluctance to bring love down to the "basic needs" level shows that love really isn't even there. He speaks of a progressive closing of the heart in this verse: of (1) having this world's goods in one's possession; (2) seeing the needs of a brother or sister; and (3) deliberately closing up one's feelings of compassion to that need and 'trying not to think about it'. Such a succession of events would show that such a person hadn't really come to grips with the love that Jesus had shown toward him. "How does the love of Christ abide in him?" John asks.
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And so, finally, John calls us to put Jesus' pattern of selfless love into practice. He writes this closing appeal: "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue" - that is, with mere lip-service; talking about how much we "love" - "but in deed and in truth". It isn't that God doesn't want us to say that we love one another; but He doesn't want us to rely on those words to be the demonstration of it. He wants our love to be practically demonstrative. A love that is in act is a love that is in fact.
Once again, how do you measure up against this test? Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you love them in their need? Do you demonstrate that love by sacrificially meeting those needs? Are you prepared to take that sacrifice as far as Jesus took it? Or is there a point at which you close up your heart and refuse to sacrifice?
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All these tests help manifest to us whether or not we're in the family of God. They manifest whether or not we're of the Redeemer's family-line, or of the deceiver's family-line; whether or not we're of Seth or of Cain.
The test of obedience to Jesus' command reveals this; because, as John says, "In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother" (v. 10). The test of the passions of Cain reveals this; because John says, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death" (v. 14). The test of Jesus' pattern of self-sacrificing love reveals this; because John writes, "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (v. 16).
What if we examine ourselves and can see that we have failed these tests, and fall short of the love of Jesus? I don't believe that, if these test reveal that we've failed, then it's automatic proof that we're outside the family of God. I don't believe the proof of whether or not we're a child of God is found in having a perfect record. Instead, I believe the proof is found in what we do after we've found that we've fallen short. Do we feel genuine sorrow over the fact that we are not as loving as we should be? Do we repent of our bitterness and resentment toward one another? Do we repent of our failure to show practical love as we should? Do we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit's rebuke; and do we sincerely invite Him to take control of our lives and help us to love as Jesus loved? Do we let Him change us? I suggest to you that that kind of response is the mark of a true child of God.
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Bethany Bible Church, 18245 NW Germantown Road, Portland, OR 97231 / 503.645.1436