God Is Love – Part Two (1 John 3:19-24)

So far, we’ve seen in 1 John 3:14-18, the evidence of God’s love (LIFE) and the essence of God’s love (ACTION). In this blog, we’re going to see the effect of God’s love.

What John does for the remainder of chapter three all the way to verse three of chapter 5 (1 John 3:19-5:3) is give us effect after effect – benefit after benefit – of the love of God in our life.  And there are eight of them by my count. I’m going to share three of them in this blog. I’ll write of the last five in the next blogs.

The FIRST effect of God’s love in our lives is that It REASSURES our doubting heart.  “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20).

Dr. Paul Brand & Philip Yancey co-wrote a book about the parallels between the spiritual world and the physical world. In one part of the book they wrote about “phantom guilt” and related a story about a patient named Mr. Barwick. This is what they observed:

“Amputees often experience some sensation of a phantom limb. Somewhere, locked in their brains, a memory lingers of the nonexistent hand or leg. Invisible toes curl, imaginary hands grasp things, a ‘leg’ feels so sturdy a patient may try to stand on it. For a few, the experience includes pain. Doctors watch helplessly, for the part of the body screaming for attention does not exist.
One such patient was my medical school administrator, Mr. Barwick, who had a serious and painful circulation problem in his leg but refused to allow the recommended amputation. As the pain grew worse, Barwick grew bitter. ‘I hate it! I hate It!’ he would mutter about the leg. At last, he relented and told the doctor, ‘I can’t stand it anymore. I’m through with that leg. Take it off.’ Surgery was scheduled immediately. Before the operation, however, Barwick asked the doctor, ‘What do you do with legs after they’re removed?’ ‘We may take a biopsy or explore them a bit, but afterwards we incinerate them,’ the doctor replied.
Barwick proceeded with a bizarre request: ‘I would like you to preserve my leg in a pickling jar. I will install it on my mantle shelf. Then, as I sit in my armchair, I will taunt that leg, “Hah! You can’t hurt me anymore!”‘ Ultimately, he got his wish. But the despised leg had the last laugh. Barwick suffered phantom limb pain of the worst degree. The wound healed, but he could feel the torturous pressure of the swelling as the muscles cramped, and he had no prospect of relief. He had hated the leg with such intensity that the pain had unaccountably lodged permanently in his brain. To me (Yancey), phantom limb pain provides wonderful insight into the phenomenon of false guilt. Christians can be obsessed by the memory of some sin committed years ago. It never leaves them, crippling their ministry, their devotional life, their relationships with others. They live in fear that someone will discover their past. They work overtime trying to prove to God they’re truly repentant. They erect barriers against the enveloping, loving grace of God. Unless they experience the truth in 1 John 3:19-20 that ‘God is greater than our conscience [heart],’ they become as pitiful as poor Mr. Barwick, shaking a fist in fury at the pickled leg on the mantle.” (Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 3)

God’s love will reassure our doubting heart. “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20).

The SECOND effect of God’s love in our lives is that It Gives Us BOLDNESS and EFFECTIVENESS in Prayer. John says: “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” (1 John 3:21-23)

If our heart does not condemn us – if we’re sure of God’s love – then it gives us confidence and assurance when we pray.

There are certain people in the family of God who I love to hear pray and who I like to pray with – because they pray with assurance. They aren’t timid about approaching God and asking Him for something. They’ve got confidence when they pray because they have confidence in God’s love.

That’s the kind of person I want praying for me. God’s love gives assurance in prayer. When your life is pleasing to God, you can expect Him to hear and answer your prayers. My wife prays like that. I deeply appreciate her prayers, because she has confidence in God – and she knows He loves her. She prays with confidence and assurance. And God answers her prayers – often.

OK, there’s one more effect of the love of God in our lives that we’ll look at in this blog. It’s found in the last verse in chapter 3: “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” (1 John 3:24) 

The THIRD effect of the love of God in our lives is a HOLY SPIRIT-FILLED life. The Holy Spirit is present in our lives in fullness when God’s love is present.

If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ – if you’ve accepted Him as your Savior and Lord – then you have the Holy Spirit in your life. But the mark that you’re assured of God’s love is that you’re filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit – and it’s the Holy Spirit who’s constantly verifying the truth and making it real to you. 

The well-known 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody was a man known to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He was not well educated and new to ministry – but he knew how to depend on the Holy Spirit in his life. Once in England he was holding some evangelistic meetings, and an elderly pastor didn’t approve. He said: “Why do we need this ‘Mr. Moody’? He’s uneducated and inexperienced. Who does he think he is anyway? Does he think he has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?” A younger, wiser pastor responded with: “No, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on Mr. Moody.”

Moody once said, “I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God. We must be emptied before we can be filled.”

The emptying of our selves includes emptying our self of our own attempts at righteousness or depending on our own wisdom or our own strength or our own will or our own plans or our own ambitions.

When we’re continually living in the Holy Spirit’s filling, that’s when we get new power and new energy for life. The key to living life with continual spiritual power and energy is to continually let the Holy Spirit give you His power, and not try to live life in your own strength.

But how are we filled with the Holy Spirit? Well…

The first attitude that’s required to be filled with the Spirit is TOTAL DEPENDENCE on God. “The Spirit-filled life begins once we’re absolutely and thoroughly convinced that we can do nothing apart from the indwelling strength of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit-filled life begins with an overwhelming realization that we’re absolutely helpless and hopeless apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Until then, we will always be out there doing things for God in our own strength” (Charles Stanley).
So, first is total dependence on God.

And the second attitude that’s necessary to be filled with the Holy Spirit is TOTAL SURRENDER to God. Until we surrender to the Spirit’s control in our lives, until we come to the place where we’re willing to put all of our life under His control – we won’t be filled with the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Holy Spirit means that we’re controlled by the Holy Spirit, and in order to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, we have to surrender everything to Him.

It’s impossible to live the Christian life on our own. If we could pull it off by ourselves, God wouldn’t be necessary. That’s why Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

The Christian life is a supernatural life, and we need supernatural empowerment to live it.

Ask Jesus to baptize you in and fill you with his Holy Spirit! (John 1:32-34).




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