Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

09/10/17 Sermon - Let's Practice Real Love

“Let’s Practice Real Love”

1 John 3:11-24



Today’s beginning verse, 1 John 3:11 is a repeat from what the author already wrote in 1 John 2:7.

Do you think there may have been a problem amongst those who were a part of the first Christian church?

A big enough issue that the author had to repeat himself? The author remembered the command of Jesus in John 13:34-5

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus’ command makes me wonder.

 

Jesus tells his disciples to love one another, and by doing so, they would be distinguishing themselves as disciples of Jesus.

Does that mean that disciples of other leaders, do not demonstrate love for one another? If they did, there would be confusion as to whose disciples they belonged. As Jesus has made it clear that love between His disciples would be a distinguishing factor.

I guess people haven’t changed much, because the basic Christian message has not changed. We are called to love one another. This message is still needed. I think, in the Christian church, we hear more about “having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” like it is only us and Jesus that really matters.

 

 

But after reading these verses, and noting that it is a command, how we treat each other, especially stressing on how we love one another, seems to be a very important factor to God in our personal relationship with Him.

The author continues by giving an example of what we are not to be like. He reminds us of the hatred, the brother Cain had against his brother Abel. We are reminded that Cain was jealous of his brother’s righteous works and hated his brother. But then author puts an even greater responsibility upon the born again Christian. The Christian knows that they have passed from death to life, yet if they do not love their fellow Christian, but hates one of their fellow Christians, the author goes so far as to call them a murderer, and murderers have no eternal life abiding in them.

 

The author also reminds us that we shouldn’t be surprised when people outside the church hate us, but when people inside the church hate us, that is when we should take notice. The author writes that Christians know they have passed from death to life.

How do we know that we have passed from death to life? Isn’t that something that happens when one accepts Christ as their Savior from their sins?

The author is writing to the new Christian church to inform them and us that the not only should we be baptized to demonstrate our inward change, but we should be living out the presence of God in us, every day. There should be an outward expression of our inward change and it begins with loving our brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

 

If we don’t love our brother and sisters in Christ, then we are allowing sinful emotions such as hatred, jealousy, and bitterness to take over the presence of the Holy Spirit. These emotions represent what the author calls, “place of death.”

We need to let go of the things of death. We need to pass from death to life. This is the gift of grace from our Lord Jesus Christ. And this truly is grace,

because normally we expect to pass from life to death. We all know that whether we like it or not, we are living now, and one day die.

But Jesus turns everything upside down. He allows us to pass from death, into life. Beginning today.

The world has their criteria to evaluate each person. We get evaluated by our gifts and talents, the color of our skin, the amount in our bank account. But, Christians are called to love other Christians, without evaluating them.

Christians are suppose to accept other Christians because:

  1. We know right off the bat they are sinners, and make mistakes

  2. We know Christ resides in them and we are called to love Christ

  3. We hope others will do the same for us

I am sure you all have known someone in your life who considers themself a Christian, maybe solely because they know they are not Muslim, or Jewish, or Buddhist or an atheist. This same thing was happening the time the author was writing this message. There were those claiming to be Christian, who were not.

So the author gives a litmus test, beginning in verse 16, to determine if someone is really a Christian. There are three mini tests one needs to administer:

 

  1. The Truth Test

  2. The Love Test

  3. The Moral Test

  1. The Truth Test is: Do we believe the Bible is true?

  2. The Love Test is: Do we show love to others like Jesus has shown to us?

  3. The Moral Test is: Have our actions become more like Christ?

When one has passed all three tests, there will be sufficient evidence to prove they are a genuine Christian.

Now the Truth Test and the Moral Test are straight forward, but the Love Test needs further clarification. Have you noticed that 1 John 3:16 is quite similar to the verse John 3:16? It reads.

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.

So what exactly is that type of love? How we define “love” really makes a difference. Psychology tells us that each of us has a “love language” based on how we were brought up as a child in our particular family. To understand the Biblical idea of love, it helps to understand the vocabulary of love among the ancient Greeks, whose language was used in the writing of the original New Testament. The ancient Greeks had four words to describe the various types of love they experienced.

Eros - for which we have the word erotic and referred to sexual love

Storge - referred to family love, that love that is experienced between a parent and a child, or between family members in general

Philia - was the word for love between friends

Agape - a love that loves without changing, a self-giving love that gives without demand or expecting repayment. Agape love is the love that can be given to the unlovable or unappealing. It’s the type of love that doesn’t stop when rejected. Agape love gives because it loves, not because it wants to receive.

The English language has only one word for love, and because of this, people confuse the four loves, and can often end up hurting each other. A person may tell another person “I love you” meaning there may be strong feelings for the person, but in essence, they really are expecting something in return. The speaker is referring to erotic love, while the listener may be thinking agape love.

The love described in 1 John is agape love.

The type of love that wants to give, and is shown by demonstration. Christ laid down His life for us. Paul put it this way in Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The fact that Jesus died isn’t the ultimate demonstration of love. It is what Jesus’ death does for us that shows us the ultimate love. If I am on a pier and a person jumps in the water and drowns, and cries out with their last breath, “I’m giving my life for you!” I cannot really comprehend that act as an act of love - it just seems strange. But if that same person jumps in the water to save me from drowning, and gives their own life that I may survive, then I can fully understand how the giving of their life was a great act of love.

We are called to live sacrificially for our fellow believers. Actually we are also called to love our enemies and those who hate us, Matthew 5:44. But, in 1 John, the author has touched upon a more basic test.

If you can’t love other Christians, Good Grief!

What kind of Christians are we?

The author goes on to say we should “lay down our lives.” This means we should feel a sacrifice, maybe even feel like we are dying. Love means saying “No,” to oneself, in order for someone else to live. We often have this picture of God asking us to lay down our lives, much like Jesus, in one great, dramatic, heroic gesture. Although that could occur, generally God puts us in places where we are asked to lay down our lives, piece by piece, little by little, in small yet important ways, each day. Paul said a similar thing to those in Philipi, in Philippians 2:3-4:

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Margery Williams Bianco, wrote it this way in one of my favorite books,  The Velveteen Rabbit


“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”

The author goes on in 1 John 3:17-18 describing what it means to love in real life. If you are really loving another, you not only talk the talk, you walk the walk. You put your words into deeds and truth. If you are able, to meet another believer’s needs, and do nothing, you have not demonstrated the love we have been reading about. God’s love is not abiding in you.

David Guzik, a commentary writer asks this question: “What is the limit to this kind of love? And here is David’s answer: The only limit

is the one that love itself imposes.

When giving to a person, meeting (their) perceived or immediate need, does (them) harm instead of good – then the loving thing to do is to not give (them) what (they) ask for, but to give (them) what (they) really need instead.

And what will this kind of love bring us?

Assurance.

I like the way Eugene Peterson translates these next verses.

18-20 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.

When we practice real love, the author tells us it is also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it.

Let me get this straight!

If I practice real love, that will shut down the debilitating self-criticism that occurs in my mind! Can any of you relate to self-criticism? I will let you know, I have had years of therapy assisting me with the negative criticism I learned to provide myself, for just about everything.

At times I am my own worst enemy. I particularly like the words, “even when there is something to it.”  So even when I have a legitimate criticism of myself, and I choose not to forgive myself,  if I practice real love, I can shut off that self incrimination. How can that be? Well, go back to the definition of “real” love.

When we are loving those around us, and not thinking about ourselves, but thinking of loving others, we take our mind off ourselves, no more thinking about ourselves, negatively or otherwise. The next verse reads,

“For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.”

AMEN !

God has our worried heart covered, in fact, He has it covered better than we ever could, because He knows more about us than we do ourselves!

The author goes on to say,

“And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God!”

Once we are free before God, free from hatred, jealousy, bitterness, etc. Once we are no longer condemning ourselves, the author tells us,

“We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases Him.”

By following God’s command to love one another, trusting in Him, we will begin taking our eyes off ourselves, and onto others. We begin to see, that God is taking care of us. God is using us to take care of others. We experience God’s deep and abiding presence in us, by the Spirit He gave us.

Let’s pray for love to replace the hatred, jealousy, bitterness, we have for ourselves and for others. Which will in turn, free us from ourselves and keep our eyes focused on God and His love.