The Test of Love

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.”
1 John 3:14

In my previous posts I stipulated that 1 John was written to give assurance to the doubting believer – pointing out the birthmarks of those born from God – namely, Righteousness, Love, and Truth. These marks aren’t things that we do in order to earn salvation and God’s favor, but are signs to which we may look in order that we may know we are indeed saved.

We come to salvation, as John writes in chapter one, by knowing Jesus is the manifestation of the Word of Life, and by entering into fellowship with him as we confess our sins and trust in His atoning work for our forgiveness and cleansing. John then tells us, and repeats throughout the letter, that the first mark of those who are in Christ is a life of righteousness, obedience to His commandments, living as He lived, walking in the light.

The second of the three birthmarks is this – Love. If there was one word that jumped off the page when reading 1 John, it would be “love.” I would put John’s letter next to 1 Cor 13, maybe even before it, in its impassioned call for us to love one another. Consider the call to love in 1 John –

  • (1 John 2:10) Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
  • (1 John 3:10–11) 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. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
  • (1 John 4:7–8) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
  • (1 John 4:19–21) We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
  • (1 John 5:1) 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.

Certainly, the list is not exhaustive, but the evidence is clear. If we are in Christ, we will love God, and we will certainly love one another.

J.C. Ryle put articulated the point so well:

A man born again, or regenerate, then, has a special love for all true disciples of Christ. Like his Father in heaven, he loves all men with a great general love, but he has a special love for those who are of one mind with himself. Like his Lord and Savior, he loves the worst of sinners, and could weep over them; but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers. He is never so much at home as when he is in their company. He is never so happy as when he is among the saints and the excellent of the earth. Others may value learning, or cleverness, or agreeableness, or riches or rank, in the society they choose. The regenerate man values Grace. Those who have most Grace, and are most like Christ, are those he most loves. He feels that they are members of the same family with himself. He feels that they are his fellow-soldiers, warring against the same enemy. He feels that they are his fellow-travelers, journeying along the same road. He understands them, and they understand him. He and they may be very different in many ways-in rank, in station, in wealth. What matter? They are Jesus Christ’s people. They are his Father’s sons and daughters. Then he cannot help loving them.

The evidence given, then, for every believer is this: Love one another. Here are the evaluative questions: Do I love fellow Christians? Do I look forward to our fellowship together? Do I seek forgiveness and willingly give it because of our shared grace in Jesus Christ? Will I invest my time, my life, my energies, to show my love to those in need?

Beloved, let us love one another!


The Christian’s Attitude Toward Sin

This year at Bible Camp, I led a Bible study through 1 John.  In the past years, I felt that my lessons were far too complex for young campers, so I really tried to bring the class back to the basics, and thought teaching how to study the Bible would be a great place to start.  Plus, 1 John is one of those books that is easy to understand, though deep in its application and wisdom.
While much of 1 John is given to demonstrating how there are three birth-marks of a genuine Christian (Obedience, Love, and Truth), the opening chapter serves as the gate through which all must pass if they are going to walk with Christ.  It is not a great theological hurdle, nor must one complete some rite or ritual to be found in Christ.  No, according to John, if you are going to have fellowship with God and with Jesus Christ His Son, you must have a proper understanding of your own sin and know how to deal with it.
John spells this out for us in 1 John 1:6-2:2 quite clearly through a series of contrasts, denials and affirmations, on the genuine Christian life. Let’s take the denials first and see what genuine Christian is not, then we’ll look at the affirmations.
What a Christian is not:
  • vs 6 – If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
  • vs. 8 – If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us
  • vs. 10 – If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Here we see by negation what marks the life of a false believer.  Those who continue to sin while claiming to walk with God, those who deny that what they are doing is a sin, and those who deny that they have ever sinned, they do not practice the truth, they are self-deceived, and they make God to be a liar. If you deny your own sinfulness, then you deny your need for a savior from your sin, and you deny the clear testimony of God’s Word.  
So what then ought a Christians attitude be toward sin?
Let us look to what John says again:
  • vs 7 – If we walk in the light as He is in the life, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
  • vs. 9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • vs 2:1-2 … but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins…
Those who are born of God, who have fellowship with Jesus Christ, walk in the light, living in obedience to His word, all the while trusting in the blood of Jesus to cleanse them from all sin. The genuine believer knows his own sin, confesses his sin, and trusts in the saving power of God in Jesus Christ for salvation – and this is all by the grace of God.
The Westminster Confession teaches, “repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience” (WSC 87).
What, then, is the gate through which all must pass in order to have fellowship with God in Jesus Christ, it is the gate of repentance.  Acknowledging sin, hating sin, turning from sin, and trusting in the righteousness of Christ as we seek to follow after Him.
Interesting Reading from the Pastor’s Desk
I’ve been reading this week about music and worship and thought I’d share some of the articles with you here:
The High Point of Worship – This is a longer read, but well worth it. It is a good refresher on why we worship the way we do as a Reformed and Presbyterian Church, what at the center of our worship, and will, hopefully, renew us in our devotion in worship on the Lord’s Day.
The Lord is My Salvation – From the Getty’s, here is a new hymn, a song of testimony, inspired in part by Psalm 27. There is a link to where you can download the song for free, as well as links for the sheet music of the song.
So Will I – This article demonstrates the kind of discernment that I try to apply to every song we use in worship. I have to admit, I love this song, but like the author of this article, I am troubled by the content of the second verse and what it would lead a congregation to think when singing it.  I could think of so many better words to use to describe sanctification than “evolve.”