The Love Test

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“Whoever

does not love

abides in death.”

 

 

What does your love reveal? Strange question perhaps but if you think about it cuts to the core of who we are. That is why it is so important to our Father and why Jesus makes it kind of a litmus test of true faith. Who & what do you love? How do you love? What is the character and scope of your love. Wrestle with these questions as you reflect on 1John 3:11-18 through the weekend.

Here’s what I know about us all. We all want to be loved. We dream of a pure fairy tale kind of love that never fails and produces deep unending joy. Problem: without Jesus, all human love is broken and polluted. Sure we have moments and spots of holier love, but if we are honest for the most part our love is conditional and selfish. We have been loved in false ways and we in turn love others in false ways as well.

Love is defined in verse 16. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” Jesus defines love. In fact only Jesus can really fully truly love us. IF we are willing to let Him do that something changes in us as a result. His love flows through us and our love becomes more holy and less polluted. That is why He makes such a big deal of it. We learn to love only by being loved at this level. That is why Jesus makes is a litmus test of real faith. Only those who have let Jesus love them find the capacity to love others in such a whole unbroken, unpolluted manner.

So, I invite you to reflect on the Truth of God and the reality of your love. What does your love reveal? What would it look like to let Jesus love flow through?

Real Life Holiness

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      “…anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God…” 1Jn 3:10

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How are followers of Christ supposed to live in today’s world? Specifically how are we to think about sin & holiness. Who decides which is which? What does it look like to practice righteousness? Is this a requirement for a true relationship with God?

Some make their own definition of righteousness. Our age has no sin except that which blocks or violates my personal desires. The biggest cultural fights are for the right to do what I want & become what I want without restraint or limitation of any kind or regard for anyone else.

Even among believers, sin is being redefined faster then melting snow in April. Many seek relief from the struggle by concluding that sin is not the big deal we thought it was and just embracing it when it seems promising.

Others set out clarifying the rules we need to live by if we are serious about God. This sounds good at first but leads either to proud legalism or great frustration. Often it has an angry & panicked tone that judges all who refuse to conform. The error is that it twists what God says to mean that we get to God by practicing righteousness with serious commitment.

Understanding this week’s passage actually brings great confidence and freedom WITH real holiness (1Jn 2:28-3:10). We will connect the dots this Sunday, but I’ll give you a big piece to consider now. We are made holy by Jesus’ presence within us. That is His purpose. It is not what we do, it’s what He does! Look closely for yourself and ask, “what is the relationship between sin, holiness and a true relationship with God? How is this relevant for life today?”

Staying True

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1Jn 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

 

While several things provoke me in this week’s passage, one key is clear. They disagree over Jesus. Those who stayed embraced Jesus as the Son of God who is the way the truth and the life. (Jn 14:6). Those who left claimed a superior relationship with God while denying key truths about Jesus.

This one thought came clear for me this week: At One Point or Another, Not Everyone in the Building is Part of the Family. Seems obvious I know, but look at the realities that come with it. 1. Some will eventually leave because they disagree about Jesus. 2. Some of those will seek to deceive others about true faith before they leave.

In our own time we have seen both churches and denominations go belly up when it comes to the biblical truths about Jesus. In those cases, those without true faith did not leave, they took over!

Now as a pastor I love that people choose to be among us who do not yet share our faith in Jesus. My hope is they feel His presence and love through us and in time come to trust Him for themselves and grow in their faith. But how do we remain open without being led away from what matters most in our desire to have more people connect with Jesus? In other words, how do we increase the chance that they will find Christ without us leaving Him behind? Verses 20 & 26-27 provide the key to this tension. We must lean on the Spirit of Christ within us to escape any deceptive pull on the outside.

As you look over the passage before Sunday I invite you to wrestle with some questions: What were those who weren’t really with them doing when they were with them? What kept them from coming to true faith? What made them leave in the end? What does this look like today? How are we to live our faith as a community of believers in the face of such a reality without losing our core? (1jn 2:18-27).

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Competing Loves

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“Do not love the world or the things in the world.

If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

1Jn 2:15 

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What does it mean to love the world? Love the Father? What about John 3:16? Aren’t we supposed to love others? A key to this lies in how the term “world” is used. It can refer to the physical creation, to the whole of humanity or to the prevailing cultural systems & values we are invited to embrace.

John clarifies the contradiction between the world’s values and the kingdom of God for those who trust their lives to Jesus. That relationship shapes our lives. We cannot embrace the world’s values and Christ’s values at the same time. They are opposed to each other- sometimes at war.

God wants us to see the dissonance between what He gives and what the world embraces. He wants us to so love Him that we are protected from the dangerous currents of the world through deepened trust and sharpened discernment. Love for Him keeps us from the sickness of the world which seeks only to hurt, kill and destroy through dark deception.

Why does this matter? I took a prayer break asking God what He is trying to say? Here is some of what I heard…
     “Don’t get caught up in the streams of this world. Its currents will pull you away from intimacy with Me, away from my will for you and away from things that matter most.
The world’s understanding of happiness, worth, success and fulfillment don’t flow in the same direction as Mine. They will not lead to the kind of life that I (Jesus) can give. The world promises happiness but gives pain, disappointment, addiction, emptiness, restlessness, and loneliness.
Love Me. You will find rest, joy, purpose, peace, wholeness, forgiveness, wisdom, strength and holy community. Come to me, rest in My love for you.”

Reflect on this: How do you face the tension between loving God and the what the world offers? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Join us Sunday or online to unpack these ideas further in 1Jn 2:15-17.