What an amazing time in the Word of God tonight. You know whether you wake up super early in the morning or if you prefer (like I do) to enjoy the calm tranquility that settles over the house in the evening hours to study and do your daily devotional time, the important thing is that you offer your best time to the LORD. As you study His Word it is amazing how much He reveals through His Word that is applicable to circumstances that you may be encountering at the present time. The Word of God, according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches us that, “All ScriptureÂ isÂ given by inspiration of God, andÂ isÂ profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” And so, as I studied tonight I reflected on a number of these “profits” and their application in my own life. As you read through these passages of Scripture, it is my hope that you will ask yourself some sincere questions:
- How has this study helped me fill in some of the gaps in my own doctrine?
- Have I been persuaded of something that I had previously misunderstood?
- Have I been convicted in part or in full of my sin and failure to live out the Word of God in my own life?
- How will I conduct myself in light of what I am reading?
If we read through the Scriptures and just brush over the content in an attempt to check off devotional time from our list of “to-do’s” for the day, I think we miss the point and shortchange ourselves from the precious time well spent with the LORD. So I would encourage you as you do your own devotions, pray before you begin that the LORD would give you a heart to hunger after the fullness that comes from a deep study of His Word.
Keep in mind that my commentary on this passage of Scripture is for my own purposes as I ponder the implications of the Word of God for my own life. I am a student of the Word of God, just as you should be. But if you are blessed by anything I have written here, then the credit goes to the Holy Spirit that teaches me as I study the Word. On the other-hand, if you find something that just does not jive with the full counsel of the Word of God, then feel free to blame me. I am a child of the King, but not above making mistakes. Either way, be a Berean. Don’t just take my word for it, discover what the LORD would have you to learn from His Word.
[1Jo 3:13 NKJV]
Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.
In this verse John is telling his readers not to be surprised by the fact that the world will hate them. The world is at enmity with God, refusing to be reconciled with him through the saving grace which was afforded to them by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us why the world hates us in John 15:18-19, notice that the reason he gives us is that He has taken us out of the world. Now, of course this does not mean physically taken out of the world, yet. There is coming a day when in the twinkling of an eye we will be raptured to meet Him in the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). But as it stands we are in the world but not conformed to the pattern of this world. Because we follow the LORD and are subject to His righteous rule in our lives we are at odds with the way the world operates. We run counter the culture and because of our dedication and devotion to the truth, often times we find oursleves openly pitted against the sinful lifestyles that the world embraces. To many in the world our lifestyle brings about conviction, to others in the world we are considered foolish and despised, tolerated at best. But we know that message of the cross is our salvation, this message is foolishness to the world (1 Corinthians 1:18).
And because the world hates us we can expect to bear the burden of persecution by the same world system that crucified our Savior, the world system that our Father has delivered us from. But we are commanded to love our neighbor. And if we love the people in the world as God does then we are free to exhibit the love of Christ even in the face of persecution.
[1Jo 3:14 NKJV]
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.
John 13:35 is the evidence that we are His disciples. As His disciples we have inheritied eternal salvation and have passed from death to life. The evidence of salvation is manifest in the love that we have for one another. The love that we give to one another can only come from the Father. We are incapable apart from Jesus to experience love in its purest form, yet when we love the LORD, His love shines through us and empowers us to love with the most effective kind of love. I have heard stories of Christians who have been imprisioned for their faith and subjected to agonizing hostility by their captors who witnessed the love of Christ in their prisoners. Later these same captors are moved by the testimony of their Christian prisoners, who without a word endured the suffering but did not return evil for evil. If we love our neighbor, even when our neighbor reviles us, and we show kindness to our neighbor in doing so we might bring about conviction that leads our neighbor to the cross. Proverbs 25:21-22 speaks of this kind of conviction.
John points to the fact that if we do not have love for our brother we abide in death. This death is a spiritual death. If we fail to love our brother or harbor unforgiveness for percieved wrong doing, our focus is no longer on the LORD but on ourselves. Pride becomes our enemy and causes us to err against our brother. We would do well to remember that it is God who judges justly. We are incapable of judging from the righteous viewpoint of our Father and therefore we should be about the business of loving people and leave the judging to One who is worthy to judge. If we love with the same love that the Father has for us, then our compassion for others will drive away any selfish motivations to seek justice for wrong doing committed against us. Again, there is liberty in the law of love.
[1Jo 3:15 NKJV]
Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
To hate your brother is the embodiment of evil. It was hate that drives the devil to desire the destruction of all that God has created. When we hate our brother we are in line with the adversary and his objective. Matthew 5:21-22 gives a stark warning to those who become angry and display hatred towards another. While to hate someone does not mean that you have physically murdered them, although hatred does lead to the heinous act itself, when you hate your brother you have, in essence, murdered him in your heart.
This attitude and conduct of hatred is a sure sign that you do not have salvation. If we have been forgiven of our sins and now embrace the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus, we ought to be forgiving of those who have wronged us. Jesus paints an amazing word picture for us in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. Hatred is the result of a lack of forgiveness. Unforgiveness, when allowed to fester will become an ulcer in the spirit of a person and will lead ultimately to spiritual death.
[1Jo 3:16 NKJV]
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 exhorts us to emulate Christ by our willingness to lay down our lives as He laid down His. We know what true love is because it was exemplified in the crucifixion of our LORD. We know that Jesus willingly chose to lay down his life. One proof we have of this comes from the account of His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemini in Matthew 26:46-54. Notice in verse 53, Jesus says that He could have called on 12 legions of angels to rescue Him if willed it. That is a an amazing statement all things considered. To think that in Isaiah 37:36, one angel killed 185,000 enemy soldiers in one night! Now imagine 12 legions of angels! In a Roman Legion there were 6,000 soldiers. So if you do the math that equals 72,000 angels! If one can do as much damage as Isaiah reports…I think you get the picture. But the point here is that just as Jesus chose to lay down his life, we ought to follow his lead and do the same for our brethren. This is what love looks like: sacrifice (John 15:13).
[1Jo 3:17 NKJV]
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?
As believers we are called to give of ourselves. When we see another brother in need we should be the first ones to come to their aid. When we consider that all we have comes from the LORD, we instantly recognize that we own nothing. Even the wealthiest believer does not own anything. We are simply stewards of the things the LORD has blessed us with. When we bear outstretched hands to give, what we find is that the LORD fills them again and again to overflowing. When God so freely gives to us it would be preposterous for us not to give as freely. Again, we are to imitate the Father who is the greatest gift giver. Now, it may be that you have nothing to give. And by this I mean Â that you may be in no financial position to give Â to someone in need. It may be that you are the brother in need. I should note that John begins this verse by saying whoever has this world’s goods. This would preclude the poor from this responsibility to some degree But the idea here is that you be willing to give. Even the poor are capable of giving love. Notice that it says in the verse above that “he sees a brother in need and shuts up his heart from him”. It is this attitude of a heart that is full of greed that runs counter to the love of God.
[1Jo 3:18 NKJV]
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
John, like James, has this get off the fence mentality that I love so much. Essentially John is telling his readers, “Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.” When it comes to love believers must understand that the word is a verb. To love is to put to action something that is more than an emotion. Love is lived out in deed. In other words, love is manifested in our actions as we serve and give to others. Notice here also that love is lived out in truth. There is no deception in love. The motivation comes from the purest desire to bring honor to Jesus who is our teacher. They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Not that we are seeking to flatter the LORD with our deeds, but the idea is that we want to bring glory to His name as we align ourselves under His banner.
[1Jo 3:19 NKJV]
And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.
It is through acting out our love for others in deed and in truth that we confirm our alignment with Jesus. The purity of our giving to others, whether it be physical giving or spiritual giving is evidence the we comply to the terms of our surrender to Jesus. Not that we achieve salvation through our acts of service. We know that our salvation comes from Christ alone. But rather than working to salvation we work from salvation. That is we offer up our works as a show of gratitude to the One who has saved us.
[1Jo 3:20 NKJV]
For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
If we are doing what is pleasing to the LORD we know that there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1) but even so the enemy may deceive us or we may even deceive ourselves into believing that our service to the LORD is of no value. We know that in us nothing good dwells (Romans 7:18) and that our hearts are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:19), but when we are walking in the Spirit and fulfilling the will of God for us in our lives out of love and a geniune desire to honor God, our deeds are righteous. And if our hearts condemn us, John is saying that God is greater than our hearts and knows all things. In other words, it is God who rightly judges our hearts. We have the tendency to judge what we can see and feel, what is on the outside; whereas, God looks on the inside (1 Samuel 16:7 and Jeremiah 17:9). We can be confident that He is a greater judge than we are. He is, afterall, God!
[1Jo 3:21 NKJV]
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.
When we are walking sincerely (without wax) before the LORD in humility seeking His will above our own fleshly desires and are blameless before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4) then we are living out a right relationship with the LORD and can have the confidence that our lives are pleasing to Him. Our confidence with regard to God is confirmed by the testimony of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us (Romans 8:16). This confidence we gain is also a gift from God, it is His assurance that He is pleased with us. His pleasure brings us immediate joy. What son does not smile from ear to ear when his father is pleased with him? How much more then should we experience the joy that comes from those words we long to hear, “Well done My good and faithful servant!”
[1Jo 3:22 NKJV]
And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
When we are seeking to please the LORD we can ask Him for anything and He will give it to us! Now, this particular verse is often missused and abused by those who camp amongst the properity teachers that paint God as a cosmic vending machine that is bound by His Word to give us whatever we want for our own selfish gain (James 4:3). That is not what this verse is saying at all. When we desire to please the LORD we desire to do His will. It is God who directs our paths (Proverbs 3:6 and Proverbs 16:9) and has ordained our works (Ephesians 2:10) beforehand. And so where God guides He provides. When we need provision for the task at hand, the LORD will give us what we need in order to accomplish that which He has called us to do. When we are seeking His will we are walking in His Word and adhering to His commandments. In doing so we are not concerned about personal gain, but rather our focus is on pleasing the LORD. And so we can expect to recieve whatever we ask Him for because the things we are doing are pleasing to Him.
[1Jo 3:23 NKJV]
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
John sums up the duty of every believer quite succinctly here by reminding us of the LORD’s commandement. First, he says, “we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ. It is the most important commandment of Jesus that we first be saved (Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:13). Salvation is the first step to living a life that is pleasing to God. Without the blood of Christ to atone for our sins, we are hopelessly lost and at odds with God. It is through salvation that the relationship between God and man is restored. Next, we find the royal law of love. God commands every saved believer to love one another (John 13:34 and John 15:12) so that we become the expression of His love towards humanity. Love is the only thing that makes us fit for service, without it we are useless to serve the LORD (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
[1Jo 3:24 NKJV]
Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
This to me is another one of the most exciting passages in all of the Scriptures. John declares if we keep His commandments that we abide in Him and Â He in us! The word “abide” here has three meanings in the Greek. It is the word “menĹŤ” and it speaks in reference to place, time and condition. When we keep the LORD’s commandments: we are continually present with the LORD and He with us; we are eternally united with Him and He with us; and we become one with Him and He with us. Furthermore, we have the assurance of this place time and condition which is evidenced by the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Just before Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, He comforted us with the knowledge that He would send the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, John 15:26, and John 16:7) and would seal us for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). It is the Holy Spirit that confirms our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14,Â 2 Corinthians 1:21-22) testifying on our behalf that we are indeed children of God (Romans 8:16).
And so the application that I have walked away with from todays study is that I need always to be mindful of the purpose for my life as a believer. In light of what John has given us in his contribution to the pages of Scripture, I must frequently remind myself of the commandments of God and seek to live them out in my life daily. While that may sound like a generic response, it is none-the-less true. As far as specifics are concerned; for me, I plan to be more loving to my neighbor, starting with the one who shares a bed with me (my wife) and then those who share the same roof with me (my kids) and then my neighbors that live around me, and even my neighbors that I call my church family! I will seek out ways to edify and uplift my neighbors. I will bless them with whatever the LORD gives me to bless them with. My sole desire is my souls desire to please the LORD.
I pray the LORD will search me and reveal to me where I am pleasing to Him, so that I can continue to do the things that cause Him to smile. That I might continue to draw closer to Him as I study His Word. And finally that I would be able to continue spurring others on to love and good works as I fulfill the calling that He has placed on my life to study His Word, teach His Word, and be changed by His Word.