Love And A Clear Conscience
LOVE AND A CLEAR CONSCIENCE
1 John 3:18-24
Several years ago the number one song in America was “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” and you could say, that is exactly the way the Gnostics, those who thought they were enlightened, or the antichrist mentioned in chapter 2 thought, “What’s love got to do with it?”
- They believed that they could have fellowship with God while standing on a platform of hate.
Here in chapter 3, John says that love has everything to do with it!
- In vs. 10, John says, “The one who does not love his brother is of the devil.”
- 11, John says that “Love is foundational; it was the message that these brethren heard from the beginning.” They couldn’t hear about Christ without hearing about love.
- 12, John says that they were not to love like Cain; they were not to have a self-love or a self-centered love.
- And look at vs. 14: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
- And in vs. 15 John says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” and does not have eternal life.
Regardless of what the Gnostics say, those who claim to have a special knowledge, John says, “If you want to be right with God; if you want to be in fellowship with God; if you want the assurance of eternal life; love has everything to do with it!”
But John doesn’t leave it up to the Gnostics or anyone else to define what love is. Look at vs. 16. John says: “We know love by this, that He (Jesus) laid down His life for us;”
- The only way we can know love or “agape” is by looking at the cross.
- “He laid down His life for us” – Jesus’ love was totally unselfish; it was deliberate; it was sacrificial; it was His choice; He gave 100%. And we didn’t deserve any of it.
And look at what our response should be to His love; vs. 16: …and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
- The word “ought” in the Greek speaks of a moral obligation. This is how we manifest our love for Jesus by loving our brothers and sisters like He loved us.
- In the day that John wrote this, when Christians were arrested and imprisoned by the Romans; and the Jews; many followers actually lost their lives to protect their brethren.
- The Gnostics sure weren’t going to do this.
And most of us will, more than likely, never find ourselves literally laying down our lives for our brethren. .
- But, there are ways other than dying to “lay down your life for a brother or sister” and John mentions those in vs. 17.
But whoever has the world’s goods (means of livelihood – you are capable of helping), and beholds his brother in need (food, clothing, shelter, medicine) and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
- The answer is, “It doesn’t!”
- The Gnostics thought it did but John says otherwise.
Now, vs. 18: Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
- You cannot carry out this assignment to “love those in need” simply by lip service.
- Genuine, Christ-like love is manifested by action and it is sincere.
So, that is the standard; vs. 16-18 is our assignment: 1) Be willing to lay down your life for your brethren; 2) give of your livelihood to help your brother and sister in Christ who are in need; and 3) manifest a sincere love by your actions, and not just by word.
But how many of us can fully live up to this standard? How many of us can fully love like Christ?
- The flesh is weak and as hard as we try we can no more love like Christ than we can live sinless lives like Christ.
- And when we don’t live up to the standard we feel bad. We feel like we have failed.
- We feel like we should have done more?
- We feel guilty and we condemn ourselves.
- Does God? Does God condemn us when we condemn ourselves?
- Look at vs. 19.
We shall know by this (by our actions of love) that we are of the truth (we are not pretending to love), and shall assure our heart before Him, 20 in whatever our heart condemns us;
- Why would our heart condemn us?
Because we feel like we have failed to live up to the standard.
- I think we have all probably done that. We have a brother or sister in need and we want to help; but we don’t know what they need; or how much they need.
- So we do what we can.
And later we fill bad thinking perhaps that we “Didn’t do enough”; we “wish we could have done more.”
- We feel like we haven’t even come close to manifesting the amount of love that Jesus has shown toward us, and so we feel bad.
But John says here that our sincere actions of love show that we are “of the truth and we can stand with assured hearts before God.”
And look at the end of verse 20: …for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
- Your heart or your conscience may condemn you; but God is greater than your conscience; and He overrules your condemning conscience and He gives you assurance.
- He reverses the sentence of the conscience that says we failed to love like He did.
And notice that little phrase at the end of vs. 20: …for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
- God knows our hearts; He knows our desire; and He knows our faith.
- He knows that we care; He knows that the flesh is weak; and He knows that we did what we could.
- But, He also knows when we could have helped and selfishly or unlovingly didn’t.
Look at vs. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
- Even though our heart or conscience tells us that we are guilty and have failed to love like we should, God overrules the sentence of our heart and we can still ask Him and know we will receive it.
- Our perceived failure and short coming does not condition His response to us.
Vs. 19-22 tells us that a Christian can live without guilt complexes even in the midst of failure.
- This passage gets rid of guilt.
Vs. 23: And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
- How can God command us to believe?
- Because God has given sufficient evidence that Jesus is His Son.
- The man who does not believe is without excuse.
Vs.24 And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
- How do I know I know that God abides in me?
- Because His Spirit abides in me.
- How do I know that His Spirit abides in me?
- Because I keep His commands.
So, “What’s love got to do with it?”
- You can “believe in Christ; you can confess Him as Lord, you can repent of your sins; be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins; you can give all of your possession to the poor, and you can surrender your body to be burned (1 Cor. 13:3) but if you do not have love, you have nothing.”
And we will probably never have to literally “lay down our lives” to help a brother or sister; but we may be compelled to “lay down our lives” in other ways.
- And when we help our brother or sister in need, we know that we are of the truth and our hearts are assured before God; even when we feel like we may not have done enough.
- “Little Children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023