Week 4 in What Love Is was a busy one as we read the rest of 1 John 3, all of 1 John 4, and began reading 1 John 5. These verses are filled with treasures of truth to savor and embed into our hearts and minds. If you’ve joined in for the first time, all of the past recaps for this workbook study as well as other studies that we’ve done can be found under the Bible Studies Archive tab under the header.
“This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 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.” 1 John 3:19-24
Have you ever struggled with spiritual doubts? Maybe, you have doubted the surety of your salvation, the reality of Christianity, or even if you really loved God or God loved you? You might also have doubted whether you could ever be forgiven for something that you know was wrong in God’s sight. I know that I have had these doubts and more at different times in my life. In the above verses from 1 John 3, John writes that our hearts will condemn us, but praise be to God that He is greater than our hearts and he knows everything. God knows us inside and out: the good and the bad. He knows our deeds and our doubts but He also knows our depth of compassion, loyalty, and love. God knows the intention of our hearts. We twist ourselves all around when God already knows. The more we believe and accept love from Him the more we are capable to love and give to others. His Spirit testifying within us, obedience to His commands, and loving others are all fruit of the truth that He lives in us even when we don’t believe it ourselves.
“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.” 1 John 4:1-3
In previous lessons, Kelly Minter mentioned that deceptive messages had crept into the church. Some were sharing gnostic ideas that were detrimental to the early church. These ideas were causing believers to become confused, to entertain doubt, and in some cases to abandon the faith. John wants to encourage his readers to remain in God and hold fast to what they know. He instructs them to discern and to test the messages, the ‘spirits’ as he calls them, that they hear. Are they of God or not of God? I’m reminded of the Bereans. They tested each message that Paul taught them in order to determine their veracity. (Acts 17:11) We would be prudent to examine and place the viewpoints of the world that we hear daily through the filter of God’s truth.
“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.” 1 John 4:4-6
How can we manage all that inundates us daily? Because of Jesus, we can do more than manage, we can overcome and turn our focus back to God. Our Savior, whose Spirit dwells within us, overcame the world and with his assistance we can too. We need to be intentional and purposeful in discerning what holds our attention. Test and discern the source: Love has its origin in God.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” 1 John 4:7-14
God loved us before we loved Him. He sent his Son to be the sacrifice for our sins before we loved Him. God loved us before we were free of sin, before we were righteous, and before we had our act together. God loved us before we even loved ourselves. With God’s love in us, we are capable of loving others in a way that we are incapable of doing on our own. We can love others with the power He manifests through us by His Spirit.
“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:15-21
Fear will stop us in our tracks. John highlights a particular fear that would have resonated with his readers: the day of judgment. He states that living in the love of God gives the confidence to face it. Fear and love can’t coexist. He reasons that in this world we are like Jesus and can overcome fear because of love and relationship. On the day of judgment, God looks at us and sees His Son. We are cleansed, forgiven, and clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. By loving God and focusing on loving Him, we can love others.
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 1:1-5
Laundry loads never end. By the end of the week, I have a mound of clothes to wash. I need to tackle the washing or the mound will continue to grow. Obeying God’s commands can sometimes feel like an unending load of laundry. John writes that obedience to God’s commands isn’t burdensome. Love makes the commands bearable. Jesus spoke on the topic of being burdened by commands.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
When we place the yoke of Jesus upon us, the yoke and burden become easy and light because he is carrying the load with us. He doesn’t drop it all on the laundry room floor and leave. By letting the love of God penetrate our hearts and by laying aside anything that keeps us at odds with God, our faith overcomes. Obedience, perhaps difficult at times, is no longer burdensome because loving God and obeying Him go hand in hand and He is with us carrying the load.
Questions to Consider
- Do I struggle with any spiritual doubts? Have I placed my heart at rest in God’s presence?
- Does the world’s voice or God’s voice hold my attention?
- Can I love others like Jesus loves me?
- What fears have I allowed to take up residence in my life?
- How can I love others today?
You’re doing an amazing job! Hang in there! We only have a couple of weeks left in the study.
Your assignment this week is the Week 5 lessons.