The act of writing, of sharing the circumstances, the gifts and the graces planned and carried out by my Savior and God brings joy, peace, and contentment to know that He has my life in His hands. My prayer for those who read, who share in what I continue to learn each day, many times through my weakness, is that you will be encouraged to look for God's presence and grace in your life also.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Knowing that God Loves Us, I John 4:13-21

[The following is the lecture I prepared for March 7, 2013 for our Women's Bible Study.  I especially enjoyed this study because of all the reminders about how God loves me and all that he has done by sending his only Son to die for my sins.  "Thank you, Father."]

I John 4:13-21
“By This we Know”
   13. “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
  1. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
  2. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
  3. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
  4. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
  5. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts our fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
  6. We love because he first loved us.
  7. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
  8. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

How we know we abide in him:
  1. Because he has given us his Spirit
  2. The testimony of the apostles who saw him and touched him
  3. Our own confession of who Jesus is.
  4. The experience of God's love
  5. The practice of God's love
At the end of I John 4, John lays out very clearly how we can know we abide in him. Each week when I go through the lesson, when I really dig into what John is talking about I am more convinced that what John has laid out in this letter is how we can be encouraged to really know that we dwell in him....that God is in us.....that Christ is in us and that we are in God and that we are in Christ. What he is absolutely not doing is giving us a check list of what we can do to measure up to God's holy requirements of being a Christ-follower. He is not giving you a to-do list. He is telling us that we have arrived because what he, God, the all powerful, all knowing, all present God has done for us, the most undeserving, wretched sinners. My salvation, my faith, my abundant life in Him is only because of him.....not me.

But here in this last part of John 4, John encourages us even more as he lays down in detail the truths that are before us so that we can know without doubt that we do indeed dwell in, abide in God and in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

# one is in verse 13. “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”
Sometimes discussions about the Holy Spirit abiding in us, making his dwelling place in us, talking to us, teaching us, leading us can be a little bit puzzling. Many of us have friends who talk about the Spirit freely, who are very much in tune with the Holy Spirit and well sometimes I'm just not so sure about them. The truth is, sometimes I've been afraid to really find out about this “Spirit in me” because I'm afraid of what he might make me do or say. After all I wouldn't want to be considered a fanatic. And so we shy away from just what the work of the Spirit is in us. I want to challenge you and myself to really take a look at Scripture and what it says the Spirit's work is. I am simply going to read a few Scripture verses that talk about his work....some here in I John and some throughout the New Testament.
Romans 8:16 “The Spirit himself bears witness with out spirit that we are children of God.”
The assurance we get that we are children of God comes from the Spirit. Without him, we would not know that.

In Matthew 10:19-21, Christ told his disciples some really encouraging truth. Think how this would change your actions if you really believed it:
When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not YOU who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you....”

It is the spirit who deals with our flesh. Without the Spirit, we don't have a chance to control our flesh.
John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
Romans 8:9 “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
Galatians 5:16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

Our prayer life would not be effective if it weren't for the Spirit. Romans 8:27-28 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
I Corinthians 12:8 “For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom , and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,”

I Corinthians 12:13 “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free---and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

I love this one....the more I studied this the more amazed I was...
I Corinthians 2:9-12 “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.
These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.”
It is only, ONLY through the Spirit that God has given us, that we can know God, that we can understand the things of God. It is NOT because we are intelligent that we understand God....it is because the Spirit reveals God to us.

And earlier in chapter 4 verse 2 we read, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”

And then it is the Spirit that he gave us to be our HELPER....
John 14 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
.”But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

Galatians 4:6 “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Because of the Holy Spirit in us, we can cry out to our Daddy. We can go to our heavenly Father multiple times a day, multiple times in an hour, even every minute and ask him what we need, tell him how we feel, find a refuge in him. WE do not make atonement for our sins only once a year as the Israelites did. The heavenly gates have been opened wide for us....wide open and we can approach the mercy set without fear.

And of course Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;”

And I could go on and on....but it comes down to this fact....”We know God abides in us, each of us personally, because he has given us of his Spirit.

#Two verse 14 “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.”

We have confidence that Jesus came down to earth....he lived a sinless life.....he was sacrificed on the cross for our sins and he rose again. He was also seen after his resurrection by the disciples and many others. John was one of those who not only heard Jesus, incarnate but he saw him with his own eyes, he touched him. Jesus came and died for us, he came to redeem us and because of the testimony of the apostles and all the truths in the Bible we can know him....

#Three verse 15 “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

Confession of what I believe...that Jesus came in the flesh and died for me...is part of our faith. But we also see in Scripture that there even the demons confessed who Jesus is. So confession is not just of the mouth but also of the heart. And that means that we surrender to the authority of God in our lives....we give him full control of our hearts, to change our hearts.

#Four verses 16-18 “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”

So the fourth way we know that we abide in God is we “come to KNOW and to BELIEVE the love that he has for us.”

I would hope that all of us sitting here would say, “Oh, yes, I know that God loves me.” But in practicality many of us here, perhaps most of us here, and probably all of us here don't always act like we really know that. We don't always believe that he really loves us.

And here I'm going to talk about me. There are days when things just don't go well... or maybe I should say they don't go like I think they should go, things happen that make me feel like I'm not doing a very good job at this “living life” thing. Could be the washing machine starts leaking, a piece of jewelry falls in the toilet, I realize I could write my name in the dust on top of the piano, I eat 3 scones instead of 1 and my attempt to lose weight is totally jinxed for the whole day, I get upset with Larry for something that he cannot and will not ever be able to do correctly this side of heaven. In other words all my attempts to do life right, to improve myself as a house keeper, caregiver and controller of myself have failed.

My problem is that somewhere deep in my being, I still think I can do it. I still think there is something within me that will enable me to do life better. I really don't realize the depth of my wickedness, my selfishness, my depravity. And as long as I keep trying to fix me because I'm fixable, God's love will be a distant mirage. I will not understand it, or really accept it. The problem is I don't think God can really be trusted with my life, With my day to day boring life, with my everyday problems. So I try to fix me and take care of things myself. And guess what I get frustrated, angry, depressed, and at times even bitter when things don't go the way I want them too.

Look at verse 17....I couldn't help but think that John really understood women when he wrote this....of course this is inspired by the Spirit so I guess I could say that the Spirit really understands us, because he gave John words to use that speak to us. There are three words here that resonate with most of us....we want them: LOVE and PERFECTION and CONFIDENCE. Satan uses those very three things to allure us to what the world offers....Whether that is through people, intellect, position, riches, looks or power. We want someone to love us no matter what we do; we want to be perfect so we look to the world's wisdom to become perfect, to fix ourselves; and we want to have confidence. We want to be that person who has it all together, who others look to for answers, for a model of what they should be like. And what do we get from Satan and his world....emptiness....we end up feeling like a worse failure no matter how hard we try.
And then he uses one word that sums up the thing that many women deal with every day....FEAR. You name it and we fear it....and once again it is because we are looking to the world for answers: for security, for safety, for meaning of life, for approval, for peace. It never works but only leads to disillusion, because the world can never give us enough security, safety, the real meaning for our existance, approval or peace. Those things are only found in God and his love for us.

As John says in these verses God's love in the key....knowing God is love, abiding in his love, abiding in him because he is love is the only answer to our quest, our desire for love, perfection and confidence. You see God put those desires in us....he put them there so that we would seek Him, desire Him, trust Him, love Him, thank Him.

Think what a difference it would make if instead for worrying, fretting, agonizing over our bank accounts, houses or other assets we have, we would think about all that we have inherited through Christ. We are the children of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. We have spiritual blessings in the heavens that we cannot fathom.
Think what a difference it would make if we thought about and meditated on the fact that the God of Creation is our refuge, our shelter, our ROCK.
Think what a difference it would make if we realized that God approves of me totally, right now because of the righteousness of Christ that covers me.
Think about what a difference it would make if we rested in him. If we rested in his peace.

Would that affect how you approach your day....with its dirty diapers, sick children, ruined plans, or even the lure of the world with its “stuff” and the passions of our flesh that draw us away from God.
But to get there, we have to really know and understand the depth of God's love. In John 17, when Jesus was praying to the Father in the Garden before he was arrested, he ended his prayer for all of those whom God had given him, with “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you. I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Paul in Ephesians when he was praying for Spiritual strength for the church prayed, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

You see until we really understand what Christ did for us we will never know the depth of his love for us. Elysse Fitzpatrick in her book “Because He Loves Me” said “God's love first transforms our hearts, then it changes our behaviors....without the recognition of this prior and ongoing work of love, we won't have the courage or the strength we will need to fight sin the way we ought.”
John reminds us about just what the God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit did to show their love for us.
   God sent his only Son into the world to be the Savior of the world,
  • Jesus came to be the propitiation for our sin
  • Jesus cleansed us from all sin.
  • Because of God's love in sending His only Son we are called children of God
  • And one day when he appears we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is.
  • Jesus loves us so much that he, the Son of the Almighty, laid down his life for us.
  • And because of that love we can ask him our requests and he hears us and answers.

When we understand the love with which we are loved, words like election, justification, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, sanctification and glorification will begin to be a part of our daily lives. You see the gospel is meant to affect our daily lives, every aspect of our life.
Because when we are totally persuaded, totally convinced of God's love for us, when his love is perfected in us and Fear is gone, then God's work in our inner being will be evident to all those around us.

# FIVE verses 20-21
Which leads us to the last way John says we know we abide in him is when we see God's love flow outward through us. The practical out flowing of his love to others becomes a consistent way of life. We love BECAUSE he first loved us. We will love our brothers, we will keep his commandment and love God and love our neighbor as ourselves and love our brothers because the love of God has been perfected in us, in our inner being.

If we grasp the immeasurable love of God for us and what he has done, how could we do any less than keep his commandment and love others?
Last year we studied the book of John....it was one of the most life-changing studies I have ever gone through. And here is one of the reasons...I learned about the relationship of Jesus to his Father and the Father to the Son....and the love Jesus had for the Father. Jesus lived a sinless life. He did it all right....he never, not once sinned. He was tempted greatly but he didn't fail. Why was he able to do this? Because of Love. Let me read you a few things he said about that very thing in John.

“I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”
“I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father”
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work”
I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work”
“I do not seek to receive glory from people”
“I have come down not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me”

In closing I want to share with you a couple of things that Elysse Fitzpatrick said in her book “Because He loves ME.” If any of you sitting here struggle with really believing and accepting that God loves you, you need to read this book. It is one, you can't read quickly but there is so much truth, it is so worth the read.
I hope this will help you understand just what God's love means for you.
She is talking about justification here and about how not only did God wipe our slates, our record clean because of Jesus death for our sins past, present and future but he put Jesus record on our slates.
So when God looks at you he sees a person who
-always does the things that are pleasing to him;
-is so focused on accomplishing his will and work that doing so is your daily food;
-doesn't seek your own will but seeks his will instead;
-doesn't seek to receive glory (praise, respect, worship) from others;
-has always kept all his commandments;
-lives in such a way that your life brings holiness to others;
-loves others and lays down your life on a consistent basis for others;
-seeks to obey every command so that righteousness will be fulfilled.
In God's opinion, and that is the only one that counts, that is what he sees on each of our records today, and yesterday, and tomorrow.

The following are some of the verses in I John that speak to our our being in God and all that is positive about our relationship with him.  May I suggest, since I'm not reading this aloud to you as I did to my audience, that you sit down with a cup of your favorite tea and read slowly, savoring every statement here.  Be blessed.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the sons of God, and so we are.”
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning....
Whoever practices righteousness is righteous as he is righteous.
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God....
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers...
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers...
“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we aks we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world......We are from God.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God...God is love.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
“...if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
“By this we know we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
“We love because he first loved us."

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