Yesterday we looked at John as he spoke the importance of love for one another, obedience to the Lord, and a clear faith in Jesus as God’s Son coming in the flesh. He’ll continue with these themes — and a few more in today’s reading.
Test the spirits — 4:1
Whether it was gnosticism or Judaizing teachings or something else, they needed to test the spirits of the teachers in their midst (wherever they might be). Some taught truth, but some taught error. Some spoke of God, but some spoke from Satan. Some spoke from godly perspectives, but some spoke from worldly motives, viewpoints, and assumptions. And yes, Christians are not only allowed but commanded to judge (a better word is probably “discern”) such matters. We need to be able to tell what’s true from what’s false, what’s right from what’s wrong, good fruit from bad fruit, fresh water from sea water. John commands us to test the spirits — are they from the Spirit (compare it to the Bible) or from the world? Because, as I’ve mentioned before, doctrine (teachings) do make a difference.
Religious teachings purport to be revelations of the true spiritual reality, but not all teachings really are — in fact, only one can be a real description of spiritual reality, in the same way that only one teachings of physical reality can be true; e.g., gravity pulls us toward the earth, light travels at 186,000 miles per second, the sun is 93 million miles away, etc. We use these facts (teachings) about physical reality to operate in our physical world; to try to operate under the “teachings” that gravity pulls us sideways, that light traveled at 186,000 miles per hour, or that the sun was 93 million light years away would make getting to the moon impossible, because they’re all wrong. So, also with spiritual reality; if we attempt to be saved under false teachings, getting to Heaven will be impossible. So test the spirits — by the Scriptures!
Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world — 4:6
This passages encourages us to keep our courage and hope despite opposition and false teachers. Yes, the world surrounds us and opposes us at every turn, but keep firmly in mind that God is on the faithful Christian’s side. I’m reminded of the story of Elisha in 2 Kings 6:16, when his servant went out one morning to find their house surrounded by the Aramean army. The servant rush back indoors in a panic with the report of how they were surrounded, but Elisha replied with a prayer to the LORD that He open his servant’s eyes. When the LORD “opened” the servants eyes, he saw the host of heaven surrounding the Aramean army — 2 Kings 6:16 “So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’” So, let’s open our eyes to the spiritual realities around us, and realize that “great is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
His love is perfected in us — 4:7-12
How is God’s great, infinite, marvelous love “perfected” in US? Easy; when we are living our lives as we should, we become the very hands and heart of God, of Jesus, ministering and helping and teaching others around us. Love isn’t really perfect unless is shown, and although God shows His love minute by minute in His daily blessings toward us, we have the unbelievably great opportunity to be the hands and heart of God toward other people through things that we do to bless their lives. We’re not called the body of Christ for no reason, you know. The church remains the physical body of Christ here on earth, showing God’s love in word and deeds day after day in what you and I do. Isn’t that awesome? Now go perfect the love of God to all the world around!
The one who cannot love God — 4:19-21
No, I’m not talking about someone who is emotionally handicapped. I’m talking about people who profess to love God while not loving their brother or sister. John tells us that such a contradiction is impossible. Here’s a challenge than for modern men who sometimes tell us that they love Jesus, but don’t want anything to do with the church. Really? That’s too bad, because you cannot really love Jesus, then. Yes, sometimes people in the church are less than lovable, but we’re not called to love only those that love us, are we?
Matthew 5:46-48 — “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
In other words, according to what John is saying here, to say that we do not love our brothers and sisters, is the same thing as saying that we do not love the Lord. I cannot think of a more devastating, convicting, and damning statement than that. Does it take work? Yes. Is it impossible? No, not at all. How? 1 John 5:2 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.” Do good to your brothers and sisters in Christ, forgive them, be kind to them, have their best interests at heart — do what you’re supposed to do toward a brother or sister — and you are showing love. And you’ll find that even your attitude toward them will begin to change, because our emotions will follow our deeds.
His commands are not burdensome — 5:3
How do you feel about God’s commands? Are they a pain? Or do you regard them as wise and preferred counsel for your life? Think about Sunday or Wednesday night church gatherings. Think about giving. Think about forgiving someone. Burdensome or not? It’s usually the rebellious heart that sees them as burdensome, because the rebellious heart wants to go another way and would except it’s perhaps afraid of consequences. Fear of consequences aren’t always bad, because they can serve us well, when other higher motivations aren’t strong enough; but fear can also take the joy out of Christian living. Change your attitude and your perspective on things, and great things always happen.
That you may know that you have eternal life — 5:11-13
Don’t you want to know? The false teachers and possibly some church difficulties had thrown big question marks into the minds of some (or all) of the folks that John was writing to about their salvation. John wanted them to know how to know they were on the right track. Perhaps you’d like to know, too.
Have you become a Christian the way that they Lord commanded: faith in Jesus as the Son of God, repentance of sinful living, give a confession of faith in Jesus as God’s Son, obedience in water immersion in the name of Jesus for forgiveness of sins, and living a faithful disciple’s life. This last thing, John would say, includes loving your brother and sister and being obedient to what the Lord says. Now do you know? If you have questions, I’m open to contact.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.