MONTHLY ARCHIVES: May 2012
Our society has only a vague idea of the notion of love. We apply it to everything from our new iPod® to our grandparents. In the case of Scripture, though, God has an incredibly specific portrait of love: God sent His Son into the world to die on our behalf.
Read 1 John 4:7-12, then read verse 7 again.
According to these verses, from where does the idea of love come?
If true love comes from God, what are its elements?
What do these verses teach you about how much God loves you?
What does it mean to say that God is love?
Does God only love lovable people? Why or why not?
How might this have an effect on how you treat those around you?
What opportunities will you take this week to show real love to those who are not particularly lovable?
Last week, I asked how you could identify a Christian. It’s not by our compelling preaching, our worship, or our programs. While all of these things can be useful tools, the real indicator of what we really believe is how we treat one another. That means that you are respectful, caring, self-sacrificing, and humble—and not just at church or when you think someone is watching. What do your actions tell others about God? Hopefully your actions and the way you treat others shows the world a little about the God you believe in, the God who is love.
Believe it or not, Jesus’ commands are pretty easy to summarize: Love God and love others. These are not separate things. Loving God means obeying Him. It means living as He created us to live. A necessary part of this is showing love toward others, because that’s exactly what God does! He loves people. But while the Christian message is easy to summarize, it is far harder to live out in the real world.
Read 1 John 3:21-24. Ponder verse 23.
Does verse 22 mean that God will just give me anything I want? What might “because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight” have to do with our receiving what we ask?
Why is it important that Jesus commands us to love others?
What are the major roadblocks you face in loving and trusting God?
What are the roadblocks you face in loving those around you?
We know that God lives in us by His Spirit. How do we know the Spirit lives in us? (See Gal. 5:22-23.)
How much of your life is a reflection of the fruit of the spirit? Are you loving, joyful, kind, and so forth?
It is difficult to take people seriously when they pretend that it is easy to love God and love others. It is far easier to talk about it than to do it. This does not give us an excuse though. Loving God and loving others is the absolute heart of the Christian life; it’s not just a nice idea or a pretty thought. It is a command of Christ to those who follow Him.
The closer we are to God, though, the easier it gets to see the world—and the people in it—the way that He does and begin to love them as we’re commanded. Getting close to God means spending time with Him. It means digging into Scripture. It means praying and listening and waiting. Draw close to God and ask Him to give you His eyes and open your heart. You may just be surprised at the love you begin to feel for others in this world!
Unfortunately, far too many of us experience this in our relationship with God. After the “newness” wears off, it’s hard to maintain the same level of excitement.
Today’s passage is an important reminder and warning: do not lose sight of the magnitude of God’s gift to you.
Read 1 John 3:13-15, thinking carefully about verse 14.
Why, according to John, should we expect the world to hate us?
When have you experienced the world’s hatred? Explain.
According to these verses, how do we know “we have passed from death to life”?
What does John say about those who do not love?
Has your love toward others grown cold? Why or why not?
Many Christians think of salvation in terms of a one-time experience. We pray a prayer, say the magic words, and God gives us salvation. Then, we think we just stick that insurance policy in our back pocket and live however we want to.
Unfortunately for such people, the Bible presents a very different message. Christians are continually reminded and warned of their need to be attentive to the gift of salvation that we have through Jesus. Today’s passage says that we who have a relationship with Christ have passed from death to life—and a good indicator of our salvation is the love we have for others. It’s time to take a hard look at yourself. What does the way you love others say about your relationship with Christ?
There is no single verse in the whole Bible that troubles me more than when Jesus says that if we love Him, we will obey what He commands (John 14:15). It presents a stark and troubling reality: it does not matter one bit what I say about how much I love God. What really matters is my obedience.
Today’s passage makes one very important element of obedience clear: we are to love other believers.
Read 1 John 3:7-12. Go back and focus on verse 10.
What principle is at work in verse 9? If you had to summarize that verse for another person, what would you say?
According to this passage, it should be as plain as day who is a child of God and who is not a child of God. What are some examples of things that are “right” in God’s eyes?
What are the two “sides” that John presents in this passage?
If you had to take a long hard look at your actions, whose side are you on? What do your actions show?
If you had to list the loving things you have done for your fellow Christians recently, what would those be?
Anyone who claims to be a Christian—a follower of Jesus—must walk in the way that He did. That means that our lives look like His. That we care about the things He cares about and do the things He thinks are important. That’s what being a follower is.
In this passage, we’re called to holiness in the form of love. That’s a key theme in Scripture: God is looking for followers who will obey Him. The Scripture makes it clear: the person who really belongs to God does what is right. And according to Scripture, loving your fellow Christian is the right thing to do.
Let’s flip the question a bit. How did Jesus want His followers to be identified? According to John 13:33-35, Jesus wanted His followers to be identified by their—wait for it—love.
After that last meal with His disciples, He gave them a new command: love one another. Easy enough, right? The next sentence, however, raises the bar: “Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.” That is a far more specific definition of love than we are used to. The kind of love Jesus calls His followers to is self-sacrificing and considers the other person first. Does that describe how you love others?
This week’s devotions are focused on love. We live in an incredibly self-centered, decadent, and arrogant society. Self-sacrificing love is not a virtue that often makes its way into the news. What is worse is that the kind of love Jesus has called His followers to is often not clearly apparent in our churches—or the lives of those who call themselves believers.
Jesus wants us to love the way that He does. It’s how the world will know we belong to Him. Is that kind of love apparent in your life?