1 John 3:19-24
“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”
After focusing on God’s character John now calls us to follow God’s Commands. First we must:
- Lean on Him.
Verse 23 says: “And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ…” To believe means to trust in, to lean on. If there is one thing I have learned in this life it is that we all will lean, the question isn’t are you going to lean its on what or who will you lean. We are commanded to believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, this means to trust solely in Him. I think for those of us growing up in the west and especially the American church this is one of the most crucial commands, for it is a call to lean fully on The Lord. We love our independent attitudes, where we are free to skim the seas and sail on the currents of a culture riddled with self reliance. John reminds us of this command because belief effects behavior. If we really believe in His Son then we must learn to lean on The Lord, to relationally rely on Him. How often as leaders in His church, if we are honest, do we live in vocational violation to His Word when it comes to leaning on The Lord? We live in a culture that champions independence but this is a command to believe. To trust and lean on The Lord means a clear call away from the culture. Have we so bought into the lie of the independent life that we no longer lean on The Lord? Somehow we have spiritualized self reliance to make it seem sane and acceptable, but I think its time to call this trend of trusting self instead of the Savior what it really is, SIN. Self reliance is not the spiritual life its a SINatra life, where the only life song sung is “I did it my way.” What John is calling us to here is a life of Faith, a life that goes against the flow of familiar culture as it leans on the life of Christ. Am I totally trusting Jesus to the point that I am confident to jump into the free fall of faith? How often have we ignored the command to believe, to trust and lean on Jesus, and instead been caught up in the cultural cruise control instead of the command of Christ? Often its only the difficulties and dilemmas of this life, that cause me to see my sin of chasing culture instead of Christ. As they come crashing in, dissolving the pillars I love and lean on, like castles of sand swallowed up by the surging sea. In this life, you have to have faith or you will fall, there is no way to survive without the Savior. Embrace the hurt and the heart ace, the trials and temptations, the difficulty and the loss for you will never fully know that Jesus is all you need until He is all you have. Even in the times of loss we can lean on our faith in the Lord, when everything else falls and friends fail He will be there, a sure and steady guide. In 1887 Anthony J. Showalter received some sad news from friends about loved ones who had died, and in his letter of reply he included the verse, Deuteronomy 33: 27. “The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms” As he pondered this verse he began to write the words to the great hymn “Leaning on the everlasting arms” Listen to some of the words:
What a fellowship, what a joy divine
Leaning on the everlasting arms
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine
Leaning on the everlasting arms
Safe and secure from all alarms
Leaning on the everlasting arms
Today who or what are you leaning on? Second we must:
- Love others.
The last part of verse 23 says: “… And to love one another as He commanded us.” People are not always the most lovable, I know I’m one of them, but this is a command to love others not a casual suggestion. It is a command to love like Christ, a selfless love, not a self serving one, but a faith based, forgiving love, free from the confines of control and the manipulation of me. God in His wisdom is calling us to come into the heart of community, and to light the dark, damp caves of our culture with love. If there is one thing our consumer culture desperately wants, and is searching and screaming for today it is authentic love. Again just like leaning on something other than self, loving, other than self, is not our natural bent. We need this command to love because just like our independence, we can easily justify our lack of love in our judging minds. The monsters in my mind are quick to remind me that “they don’t deserve it, or they haven’t earned it, or they need to love me first. But the greatest gift I can give is God’s unconditional love. How will my life be characterized, will it be an uncaring life or an unconditionally loving life? Let’s lean on Him, let’s love like He does and third:
- Live in Him.
This is found in verse 24: “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them.” The word that is translated as “live” here is the word “abide” which we see many times in 1 John, it means to dwell and is a reminder that God lives in His children. As we come to fully comprehended this truth it means a change in the the way we live. As 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” To live in Him means to let Him be in control, and let Him take the wheel of our will. It also means, to stay put, when problems try to paralyze and situations try to sway, we need to stay put in Jesus. No matter how big the hail don’t bail. In the problems and the pain questions will cascade into your life like a waterfall, but cling to Christ anyway. The reality of living in The Lord means to obey His commands, and the fruit of following the Father and relying on Jesus results in verse 22: “and receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases Him.” To keep or obey means, to attend carefully, to take care of, to observe. This is not name it and claim it, rather when my will lines up with His will, I begin doing things His way and this pleases the Father. Only then are we able and willing to receive what He wants to give us because the wants of our lives line up with His wonderful Will. Our will and God’s coincide as we obey and do it God’s way and as 1 Samuel 2:30 reminds us: “The Lord honors those who honor Him.” John 7:17 highlights the importance of obedience: “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” When we choose to obey, God will reveal His truth, far too often we wait to obey until we understand. Instead we need to obey first for when we reverse this order we hold God hostage to our demands of being blessed before we obey. In 1887, at an evangelistic meeting held by Dwight L. Moody, a young man stood to share his story. As he was speaking, it became clear to many that he knew little about the Bible or acceptable Christian doctrine, yet his closing lines spoke volumes to seasoned and new believers alike: “I’m not quite sure, but I’m going to trust, and I’m going to obey.” Daniel Towner the song leader for that meeting was so struck by the power of those simple words that he quickly jotted them down, and later delivered them to John Sammis, who developed the lyrics to the great hymn Trust and Obey. Today take the time to let these words wash over you afresh:
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Confident rest comes as we focus first on God’s character, He is great, He is glorious and He is a giver. Then as we choose to rely fully on Him, following His commands, to lean on Him, to love others, and to live in Him, it is here that we receive the rest that comes from releasing all of our life over to The Lord.