As changed people, we are empowered to live unselfishly
FRIDAY, MAY 4
1 John 5:1–6
True believers who love God will always be known for loving other believers — His children
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well.
“Born of God” — born again, the spiritual rebirth. John quotes a common saying to emphasise that true believers who love the Father, will be known for their also loving other believers, His children.
2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands.
Having said earlier that love for one another is evidence that we love God, 1 John 4:7–8, 20; the other side of the coin is that loving God is inseparable from loving His way of unconditional love and therefore being loving towards all who are His children.
3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome,
Following the way that God loves to see in us may at times be demanding but that is not the same as being under a heavy burden. If we are His, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be like Him in attitude and action; through faith, rather than effort, it comes (super)naturally.
4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
“Born of God” — the decision to believe and trust Jesus as Lord is a spiritual rebirth. If we have decided to allow Jesus to be Lord of our lives, that is a decision (v.4) by which we have ‘overcome’ the pull of the world’s values, to live by His values. It is also (v.5) an ongoing overcoming of sin and selfishness and independence in victorious Christian living.
6 This is the one who came by water and blood — Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
“By water” — Jesus was empowered for His ministry at baptism, a ministry which reached its fulfilment “by blood” at the Cross. In this letter, John has emphasised that Jesus was fully God and fully man — the Son of God as was confirmed at His baptism, but also the Son of God, confirmed again, at His death.
Being born again comes as a result of trusting and owning who Jesus is as the Son of God — and asking Him to be Lord of your attitudes and decisions and actions. It’s a big decision, and it results in a big change. A new spiritual person with a new nature emerges — more forebearing and forgiving, and a one-ness with other believers which transcends the different emphases of denominations. Christians love unity and love fellowship, and are generous-spirited to people who don’t hold the same beliefs and values.
Of course, not all who profess to be Christian are like that. In every church there’s good and bad, affirming and judgmental — a mixed bag. But the point John is making is that it’s easy to tell who belongs to the Lord, because they will be the ones who are the comfortable people to be around.
Living in God’s love, John emphasises, must result in living in God’s love towards others, or else it isn’t real. It isn’t a heavy burden, something to strive for. The more open we are to allowing Jesus to work in us — or allowing His Spirit to work in us — the more we’ll find ourselves doing and saying what he would do.
For reflection and discussion
The world looks to find fault, looks for someone to blame, looks to protect its own interests. How good or bad are we at doing what Jesus would do, and as John puts it, overcoming the world?
The emerging message
We live in a fast-changing world and it can seem that our church traditions are the only anchors we have to avoid being swept away.
The problem is, the kind of religious security we crave is nowhere found in Scripture, but the challenge to the early church of adapting to the missionary task among different people in different lands and cultures is everywhere.
God’s ways are higher, but we praise Him because He is always about bringing life change through salvation.
Jesus gave us the capacity to receive His love and joy by staying prayerfully and spiritually close to Him and His ways. It’s life-changing for us and our lives in Him can be fruitful and life-changing for others around if we let Him work through us. However, the message seems to be that God never stays still, and constant change is the only thing that is here to stay.
Peter’s experience was in many ways the most shocking, but the most joyful. Arrested by the audible voice of God speaking to him and showing him in a vision that he needed to reinvent himself as a disciple, he saw a move of the Holy Spirit he couldn’t have anticipated. The rule book he had known all his life had been torn up and his journey with God had changed forever.
Our fast changing world needs our message, but although the message does not change, the way of telling the story and presenting the invitation must change to remain relevant. As we see in this week’s readings, God knows this and is ready to show us — if, like Peter, we listen and learn.
Originally published at The Living Word.