1 John 4:7-21
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
Interestingly enough, this song was cause for an uprising in our Christian high school. Some parents thought the song was too contemporary and ungodly, so they pulled their students out and sent them to a more conservative school.
According to Wikipedia:
"We Are One in the Spirit" is a Christian hymn written in the 1960s by a then-Catholic priest, the late Fr. Peter Scholtes. It is inspired by John 13:35. The title of the hymn, “They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love,” originates in a phrase that non-believers used to describe Christian believers of early Church: "Behold, how they love one another."
Maybe the parents knew it was written by a Catholic. (This is not a commentary on ecumenicalism.) The 1960s were characterized by love statements: love child, love-in. You name it, it was all about love. The 60’s revolution was about making love, not war.
What’s love got to do with it, anyway? 1 John 4 sheds light on the subject of love. Verse 19 is one we learned as children: We love him because he first loved us (KJV). We now know the verse should read, We love because he first loved us. Verse 16 says God is love. The point is, our love is rooted in God’s love because he is the author of love. We love because God introduced us to love.
But man’s love is twisted if it isn’t based on God’s love. His love brings unity. His love casts out fear. John says in verse 7, love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Man’s love is imperfect if we say we love God, but then we hate our brother.
Now comes God and the perfect model of love. God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life. God’s love gives. God’s love gives sacrificially to the point of giving us his best—his one and only—not so that he can benefit, but so that we can have life eternal in heaven when we deserve hell. Now that’s love – unselfish, beautiful, perfect love.
Life Application Questions
Luke 10:25–37; Mark 12:28–34
Have you noticed that simple and familiar things can also be mysterious?
Take my spouse for example... No, better not go down that track. 😊
How about this verse: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”
I’ll bet you’ve heard that one before...a lot of times. After all, it is the “greatest command.” It’s Christianity 101. If you miss it, you kind of miss everything.
But what does it mean to love God?
Is it a feeling? Is it a choice? How do I know when I’m doing it?
What is the difference between “heart,” “soul,” and “mind” anyway?
When do I exert energy loving God?
The more questions I ask, the more perplexed I become.
OK, take a deep breath. Step back. Look at the whole sentence. What is the big idea? What’s the main point?
With our entire being—all of who we are—we should love God. With our will, our emotions, our intellect, and our activity, we are to pursue and delight in God.
Jesus put it this way: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me” (John 14:21). In another place, John wrote: “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands” (1 John 5.3). In other words, God’s “love language” is obedience.
To love God by obeying His Spirit moment-by-moment through a single day demands my entire concentration. It requires all kinds of choices. It takes self-control and self-discipline. It calls for remembering God’s goodness. It depends on finding joy in Jesus. In other words, it only happens when I’m “all in” with my heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Are you “all in” today? Let’s love God with our whole being—heart, mind, soul, and strength.
It will be worth it.
Moses asked the Israelites an interesting question: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”
The answer to the question, of course, is: “Nothing.”
God doesn’t ask for anything else, because he’s already asked for EVERYTHING. What more could you ask for than complete and unreserved fear, obedience, love, and service? What’s left after that?
That might seem like a big ask, if it weren’t for the last phrase: “for your own good.”
We’re tempted to think that God asks us to obey His commands for His own good...
...as if God needed our obedience.
...as if God were on a power trip, throwing his weight around.
...as if God were dependent on us.
...as if God got a kick out of giving orders and being obeyed.
No, God gives us his commands for our good. Moses follows up this question by giving some reasons why fearing, obeying, loving, and serving God are for our own good (and just make sense).
1) God is the Creator, and we are part of His creation. He made us, so it follows that He knows what is best for us. (v. 14).
2) God chose us to belong to Him, not because we deserved it but because He loved us. Such a God can be trusted. (v. 15)
3) God isn’t like the other so-called “gods,” whom you can bribe or manipulate to your will. The one, true God is all powerful and will judge impartially. It’s far better to submit to His ways. (vv. 16-17)
4) God is good. He is just and kind. Like Him, His commands are good, just, and kind. His commands reveal who He is. He doesn’t ask us to do anything He hasn’t already done. (vv. 18 – 19)
5) God saved us from bondage and gave us freedom. His commands don’t make us a slave again. They keep us free. They lead to life. (vv. 20-22)
We live in a culture that considers the greatest evil to be any restrictions or limitations on the right of the individual to express what he or she feels. The fancy word for such thinking is antinomian (Greek anti, “against”; nomos, “law”). The antinomian believes that resistance to all social, religious, and moral norms is for our own good.
Except it never turns out that way.
Saying “Yes” to all our desires is easy, but it lands us in slavery. It’s not for our own good.
Saying “Yes” to God’s commands is often the harder choice, but it leads to freedom. It’s for our own good.
May God give us grace by His Spirit to choose His ways for our own good.
Obedience to God’s Word and will design us to become “living epistles”, that others may read. Why does obedience matter? The kids skirted the edge of the trail to Laurel Falls. Loose stones plunged over the precipice as parents reminded them, again, to not walk near the edge. The kids raced around the curve in the trail and disappeared and their parent’s commands, again, echoed off the mountain, “slow down, come back here with us.” The 3 and 5-year-old chaffed at the rules and didn’t desire obedience. Their Dad rounded the curve in the trail and we all heard his urgent whisper, “bear, bear, bear.” The fully grown black bear was just a few yards off of the trail. Obedience’s reasons became clear. “…Be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey.”
(Deuteronomy 1:3) The Israelites, as well as the kids on the trail, needed to address their obedience issues: the why of obeying, the who of obeying, and the product of obeying.
Just like children need the protection of obeying their parents, the Israelites needed the protection of obeying Yahweh, and we need God’s protection in our lives too. Yahweh knew the dangers and blessings in their path and in the future generations’ paths. “The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God so that we might always prosper and be kept alive…” (Deuteronomy 6:24) God was concerned about the external conduct of His people, but He was also concerned that their hearts were devoted to Him. The children on the path to Laurel Falls, chaffed against the rules of their parents, but they reluctantly obeyed because they trusted their parents’ wisdom, and their parents had proved their trustworthiness in their relationship with them. God had proven Himself, faithful and trustworthy, repeatedly, through the wilderness, despite the Israelites reluctant obedience. When have you had to exercise your reluctant obedience in a trustworthy God? “…The Lord, our God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6: 4-5) Successful obedience occurs in the context of a relationship. Why do you find it hard to obey all that God has commanded?
What does obedience produce? We want to become “living epistles” so that others may read as God writes the Word on our hearts. “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.” (2 Corinthians 3:2) The product of obedience is how we live, and how we live backs up what we say. Read Deuteronomy 6:6-7. How can children in your life “read your life” and see obedience to God in action? Those children careening down the trail had the opportunity to safely view a bear and avoid becoming a bear snack because they chose obedience. The Israelites were invited to enjoy a “land flowing with milk and honey”, and to live long and prosper, within their obedience to Yahweh. Your obedient life speaks volumes about the who and why of your “obey”. “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.” (1 Corinthians 3:3)
The word "rules" is distasteful to most people. “Commandments” is even worse. So, we substitute words like” guidelines” or “suggestions.” Sorry, but this won't do when we're talking about what Yahweh requires. I wonder if he thinks, "What is it about 'You may do this' or 'You may not do that' that you don't understand?"
Do you remember learning the Ten Commandments? Have they been the rules you live by? If not, why not?
In the Ten Commandments God has very graciously given us the secret to having good relationships, first of all with himself, then with our parents, and finally with other people. I like to tell children, "Rules are like fences. They are there so you won't get hurt."
God has given his children rules to help them avoid being hurt.
It all begins with a right relationship with God. Humans need something or someone to worship. We have been created with such a vacuum in our hearts. But, when people don't know about the one true God, they create gods of their own.
What are some false, man-created gods that 21st-century people worship?
Think about how blessed you are to know the one true God? But our God is a jealous God, who will not tolerate the worship of anyone or anything but himself. Thus, the first four commandments are our "rules for a relationship" with him.
1. You must worship only me.
2. You must not make any kind of an idol to worship in place of me.
3. You must not misuse my name.
4. You must keep the seventh day as a day of rest.
So, how are you doing with the first four?
Dr. Rata's recent sermon on the plagues, with its application for us today, should have made us all stop and evaluate just who and what we idolize and worship. What are you worshipping before or instead of Yahweh?
Today, we may often think about our relationship with Jesus more than with God, but, of course, Jesus is God. So, the words of this gospel song should be our daily pledge.
I'll Worship Only at the Feet of Jesus
I went to visit the shrine of plenty,
But found its storerooms all filled with dust.
I bowed at altars of gold and silver,
But as I knelt there, they turned to rust
So, I'll worship only at the feet of Jesus,
His cup alone: My holy grail.
There'll be no other gods before Him
Just Jesus only will never fail.
Oh, God, help me live by this promise every day. Holy Spirit, please show me the things and people I have put before you and help me worship God alone. Amen.
jbd & gmd