Let Love Live Week 6 – The Challenge of Love
1 John 3:11-4:6
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: we should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: we know it by the Spirit he gave us.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognise the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
John knows that suffering and false teaching make it really difficult for us to trust that this is our future and God is working in our present to get us there.
There is another thing that makes faith hard.
13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
That is what John is wanting us to hear today. Faith is that means by which we can know and trust that this anti-messiah world, this anti-messiah heart and the Anti Messiah himself are actually surrounded and outgunned all the time.
John knows this faith is often very weak within us. Like Peter trying to walk on that dark water, it is just so easy to settle for the trouble around us, the impossibility of God’s ability working in us and around us.
False teaching does not help. It can confuse us or blow us right off course.
John knows that not everyone who claims to God’s prophet is a faithful prophet of God. Jesus told him that.
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Matthew 7:15)
18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
So how do you recognise them.
2 This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
In his hearing of John, Luther pointed out a couple of weeks ago;
If Jesus is not God, then he is just a guru, a prophet, a nice bloke, another good man who tried to change the world but failed as he met a tragic end. Or he was a false prophet, full of deception and lies that need to be ignored and expunged from your life.
But as we have said, often false teaching and teachers are quite hard to spot. They sound like true teachers of life and hope and human improvement. They can be very good people, humble people who claim to know the world and us and how things should be, or sometimes even claim to know God more than we.
Paul makes these folks sounds shifty and malicious. Sometimes that might be the case. But I am not sure it is how it always is in our culture.
A lot of people who serve in learning communities, business, leadership, self-help, medicine, well-being and etc are not shifty or malicious. They are only doing what they know and often out of the best intentions.
It is just that their belief under whatever they are teaching is not that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, Saviour and Lord, and the world’s hope.
And if Jesus is not those things, then someone else or something else is, and that is a lie. That is false.
So, John says “test the spirits” for this truth so faith and love prosper. But how?
There is only one way. It always begins with listening carefully to what people speak.
People will say what they say. Some of it might be helpful. Some not. We just need to listen as long as it takes to see how they land on that crucial foundation; Jesus is God in human flesh and blood sent to save the world. He is our hope and life.
It is amazing how if you listen long enough you can eventually discern that even the most learned and humblest and well-meaning person does not proclaim that Jesus is God, Saviour and Lord with us. It is then that we part ways, or maybe, ‘switch modes’.
If it is clear that the person does not share this truth of Jesus, we do not need to discount everything they say! It just means that we now know where we stand and we slip into another mode:
15… Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience …
Of course, there are harsh people around. There are people who are unashamedly anti-messiah and don’t mind you knowing that – sometimes with a lot or cynicism or even anger and vitriol.
John is not surprised! We don’t need to be either.
13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you
It is then that we cling to these beautiful truthful words:
4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
Friend, the One who is in you is greater that the One who is in the anti-messiah world.
It may look like you are surrounded by a thousand Syrian chariots, but faith says that they are actually surrounded, not you!
Faith in this Jesus who took all the soldiers could throw at him, all the vitriol, all the shaming and naming and dismissing to its bitter end and then rose in glorious light is the victor of this continuing battle.
Because of that victory, you do not need to ‘let your heart blame you’, when you find it hard to see what God is doing in your life, says John. No,
20 if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
In other words, if you lack good behaviour and words and a loving attitude and will in your difficult day, you do not lack faith that same day.
Faith and hope that come from the truth of Jesus are greater than your lack, any day.
Luther loves this:
Even if our conscience makes us fainthearted and presents God as angry, still “God is greater than our heart.” Conscience is one drop; the reconciled God is a sea of comfort. The fear of conscience, or despair, must be overcome, even though this is difficult. It is a great and exceedingly sweet promise that if our heart blames us, “God is greater than our heart” and “knows everything.”
 Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 30, p. 280). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
God’s love in Jesus is greater than your lack.
He knows, he knows and he still loves.
Enjoy his sea of comfort in whatever battle you face today.