We’ve been working our way through the NT book of 1 John – discovering as we go how to live in a world that claims to be “spiritual” – but not Christ-centered. 1 John’s entire message can be summed up in nine words: “God is LIGHT. God is LOVE. God is LIFE.”

To this point we’ve seen how God is LIGHT. John has so far offered us four (of six) proofs or tests in this letter…proof that our relationship with God is genuine or not by “walking in the light”; proving our level of spiritual maturity by how much we love God & love people; whether we know the Truth or not  by our willingness to genuinely confess that Jesus Christ is Lord – as one and equal with God; and, demonstrating the depth of our righteousness in Christ by “practicing righteousness” (and not “practicing sin”).

In this blog we get to the heart of John’s message – literally the middle of the book. It covers 38 verses of this 105 verse book…1 John 3:11-5:3. And I’ll give it to you in three parts…one in this blog and one each in the next two blogs.

This passage is “bookended” by three verses about God’s LOVE: 1 John 3:11: For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” And 1 John 5:2-3: By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”

So, the heart of John’s message in this passage is that God is LOVE! 1 John 4:8 says: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” And 1 John 4:16 reads: So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

John gets right to the point by asking the question… What is love? And he answers it by telling us, first, what love is NOT. John says, love is not religious activity expressed from a self-centered heart.… “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (1 John 3:12-13).

Do you know the story of Cain & Abel? Genesis 4 tells us that Cain offered God less than his best. He gave God something other than what God required…a blood sacrifice. Cain wanted to approach God on his own terms. But because of his pride, God wouldn’t accept his offering. Cain’s act of worship was just “religious activity.” His worship was out of a sense of duty.

God was trying to teach Cain a spiritual truth. He wanted him to see that a blood sacrifice for sin was a picture of the ultimate sacrifice Christ was going to give for our sins.

Later, John later tells us in this book that Jesus Christ was to be the “propitiation” (satisfactory sacrifice) for our sins. God didn’t want Cain’s offering, He wanted Cain’s heart. If you read the story in Genesis, you see that God warned Cain about letting sin take over his heart: “…sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” But Cain’s response was to kill his brother, Abel, in rebellion against God (Gen. 4:6-8).

John’s point in all this is that God knew that murder and envy and rebellion were in Cain’s heart. And, by contrast, God also knew that Abel’s heart was right with Him. That’s why John could say that Cain’s “…deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12). Cain’s religious deeds were evil because his heart was far from God.

So, John says, love is not religious activity expressed from a self-centered heart.

Hebrews 11:4 says: “Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain.”  The reason it was better was because Abel worshipped God from a God-centered heart, not a self-centered one. When we approach God on our own terms – and not His – that’s not love.

John’s postscript to all this is: “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). In other words: Don’t be surprised if most people reject this message. Because human nature hates to do things God’s way.

I once heard Pastor Jack Hayford relate, how he was preaching a hard message to his people. After the service a woman came up to him and said: “You were awfully hard on us today, pastor. You need to be more sensitive to people’s pride when you preach.” Pastor Jack responded: “Oh, I’m sorry. You must have misunderstood me. I wasn’t trying to be hard on our pride…I was trying to kill it outright!”

When our pride gets in the way, God has no compunction about dealing with it… even HARSHLY at times. John is telling us that love is NOT religious activity from a self-centered heart.

After telling us what love is not, in the next four verses, John tells us what love is:

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. 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. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:14-18).

John gives us two insights here…the EVIDENCE of God’s love and the ESSENCE of God’s love.

The evidence of God’s love is LIFE. “…we have passed out of death into life…”

In other words, we know we’re experiencing God’s love when we no longer exist in a kind of “walking death” every day of our life – living in a perpetual state of fear.

Proverbs 29:25 says: “The fear of man lays a snare….” A trap is laid for us by what we fear. The “fear of man” is the fear of failure and rejection and punishment and feelings of shame. And each of these expressions of the “fear of man” has its own unique lie and false belief.

The fear of failure says: “I must meet certain standards in order to feel good about myself.” Fear of rejection argues that: “I must have the approval of certain others in order to feel good about myself.” The fear of punishment lies to us by saying: “Those who fail are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished.” And the fear of shame causes us to live without hope by telling us the falsehood that: “I am what I am. I cannot change. I am hopeless.”

These are the “wages of sin” Paul speaks of in Romans 6:23 – and they show up in our lives as addictions that control us through fear. It’s the basis of all addictions – physical or emotional. Addictions always have their roots in some sort of controlling fear. And John is saying you can’t love if you live in fear: “Whoever does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14).

So LIFE, according to John, is living in God’s ability to be loved and to love others. And that only comes from loving God and “fearing” (respecting) Him.

We read earlier in Proverbs that the fear of man lays a snare in our lives. But Proverbs 14:27 says: “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.”  The antidote for the fear of man is the fear of the Lord.

LIFE is receiving God’s love in place of fear. And that, John says, results in inner peace and joy and the ability to love others. That’s the evidence of God’s love in your life. BUT IT ONLY COMES FROM GOD. It’s not accomplished by paying a guru or a shaman or some “self-help” expert to give you the “insight” to do it.

So, the evidence of God love in your life is you’ve “…passed out of death into life.”

And then there’s the essence of love –  ACTION. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18)

Love always involves the willingness to die for the one you love – or it’s not love.  Love has to cost us something. In order for love to be God’s love it must be a deed. Action is required.

Dick Hillis of OC International tells the story of a young East Indian mother and her starving child. In an article called Love is a Costly Thing, he writes:

“She was lying on the ground. In her arms she held a tiny baby girl. As I put a cooked sweet potato into her outstretched hand, I wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift. The sweet potato could help so little — but it was all I had.

“Taking a bite she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her baby’s mouth, she forced the soft warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive. Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few minutes the baby was asleep.

“I later learned that during the night the mother’s heart stopped, but her little girl lived. Love is a costly thing.”

Of course, John says, the greatest loving deed of all was God sacrificing His Son for you and me. That’s the truest essence of love.

So we’ve seen the evidence of God’s love (LIFE) and the essence of God’s love (ACTION). In my next blog, we’re going to see the effect of God’s love.


To read more about becoming a godly man see Every Man Jack – Becoming the Man God Wants You to Be, by Daniel L. Clubb. You can find it at Westbow Press //westbowpress.com/en/search?query=Every+Man+Jack and on Amazon at //amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack-Becoming-Wants/dp/1973680386 or wherever books are sold.

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