Sermon on 1 John 3:20-24
Text: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 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.
There is a song that was put out by The Beatles that told us “All you need is love.” We might disagree in that there are other things that we need to live while we are here on this earth, such as food, drink, shelter, and so on. However, it is true that we do need love. There is a need to feel accepted and worthwhile. A person needs the security of being loved. The apostle John spends so much of his gospel and his three epistles talking about love. Last week, we took the time to marvel at the love that the Father has shown to us in the fact that we have been called his children. His love is also shown in the glorious inheritance that waits for us. This morning, we are going to continue looking at the love that has been shown to us. We are encouraged to LIVE IN JESUS’ LOVE. 1. Trust It. 2. Reflect It.
Since we are talking about love, let us take a few moments to reflect on the love that we have shown to others. One of God’s commands is that we love one another. How sad and unfortunate that we are by nature cold and loveless. Our “love” is limited to those who are close to us or to those from whom we might receive benefit. Instead of being a gift that we freely give to one another, our love may be a tool, withheld or given to control others. It is not love that causes a spouse to berate their partner, harshly criticizing every little fault. It is not love that withdraws affection from a child until they behave the way that we think they ought to behave. It is not love when we target the weak or different and make fun of them or shun them. It is not love that makes us hold on to our own interests that we will not see another’s point of view. It is not love that shirks our responsibility to rebuke a sinner or to correct and discipline children. What other examples can you come up with? I am sure that the list could continue on for some time. God has told us that we are to love one another. How clearly we can see that we have not done so. How just God would be to send us away from his presence for all eternity into the fires of hell.
How thankful we are that, though we are so often loveless, God is the exact opposite. He is love. His love moved him to rescue us from our sins. Jesus is the embodiment of love. His love caused him to come to this earth to fulfill all of the demands of the law, including that to love others. His love was so evident as he dealt with others. His love was so evident when he willingly walked the path that his Father had laid before him, which took him to that cross outside of Jerusalem. We see his love on display as he stretched out his arms to be nailed to that cross. Jesus lovingly stepped into the path of God’s anger against our sins. He did not have to do this. He was under no obligation to save any of us. Yet, he chose to love you and me so much that he willingly suffered and died so that our sins might be paid for in full. In love, he rose from the dead, showing his complete and total victory. This love was shown to you personally when you were brought to faith. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, that saving faith was created, through which you receive the forgiveness that Jesus won for you. This is the love that has been shown to us. This is what we enjoy right now. We live in the love that Jesus has shown to us.
This love of Jesus in which we live is beneficial to us in so many different ways. Earlier, we spoke of the many times and ways in which we have been unloving. Sometimes after a particular event or maybe at the end of a day, we catch ourselves thinking about what happened. We are appalled at our behavior. Our consciences clobber us with the stark realities of what we said or did. The words, the actions, play over and over in our heads. We may catch ourselves wondering if God can continue to love us after what we have done.
It is at these times where the love of Jesus shines forth so beautifully. Look at verses 20 and 21, “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.” “If our hearts condemn us,” John says, “God is greater than our hearts.” God has forgiven us. Jesus paid for every sin. Can you see the trick that the devil is trying to use against you? He wants you to think that you have done something so horrible that God can never forgive you. He wants you to despair of your salvation. He tries to get us to think that Jesus’ work was not sufficient for your salvation. When we start to feel that way, we can tell our consciences, we can tell the devil to be quiet. This is not to say that we deny our sins. We acknowledge that we have sinned. However, we also know that Jesus has paid for every single one of them. When he said, “it is finished,” he meant it. God tells us that he has accepted his Son’s payment for our sins. The apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Living in Jesus’ love means that we trust that we are forgiven.
Another way in which Jesus’ love affects our lives is found in verse 22, “[We] receive from him anything we ask.” Often, when you receive something from someone else, there are conditions attached. You have to do this or that before our request is granted. You have to send in so many box tops before you get your prize. You have to achieve a goal to be rewarded. How thankful we are that God does not operate that way with us. He does not give as part of a negotiation. He does not give once we have fulfilled our part of the bargain. Rather, he is a loving God, who will always do what is best for us. He will give us those things that are good for us. In addition, God does not weary of our coming to him in prayer. He does not get tired of our requests. He wants us to pray to him. He is so glad to hear us, as a dear Father listens to his dear children. This is promise that he makes to us, and we know that he keeps his word. Jesus tells us in John 16:23&24, “Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” Living in the love of Jesus means that we can trust that God will hear and answer our prayers.
This is the love that has been shown to us. This is a love that we can trust in and it will never fail us. John then takes the idea of love to a different place. We read in verse 23, “This is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” This is what God wants us to do. The first part of this verse is something that we cannot do on our own. We cannot choose to believe in Jesus on our own. That must happen through the working of the Holy Spirit. God’s will is that we believe and he has seen to it that we do.
Going on, he says, “This is his command: to love one another as he commanded us.” Earlier, we noted how often that we do not do this. However, we don’t just throw our hands into the air and say, ‘What’s the point? I can’t do it, anyway!’ Because Jesus has shown this amazing love to us, we want to do things that please him. We want to thank him for all that he has done for us. Part of living in the love of Jesus is to reflect to others the love that has been shown to us. Go back to those situations we mentioned earlier. Ask yourself, how can you be a more loving spouse or parent? How can you make the people in your family know that they are safe, that they are worthwhile to you? How can you show love to the person that it seems everyone enjoys piling on with their jokes and rude comments? What can you do so that they know that they are OK? How can you lovingly reach out to the person who seems to be caught in a sin, so that they see what they are doing is wrong, so that you can tell them that there is forgiveness? How can you lovingly reach out to that person who does not know Jesus as their Savior, so that one day they will join their voices with ours in singing his praises for all eternity? People often ask, “How do you tell others about Jesus?” The first step is to show them that you love them. In general, people don’t care what you know, until they know that you care. This is part of that letting your light shine before people. This is what Jesus meant, when he said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Part of living in the love of Jesus is reflecting the love that has been shown to you to others. May God help us to be bright reflections in this dark world.
A number of years ago, there was a great mystery in an orphanage. Physically healthy babies were dying. People tried and tried to figure out what was going on. The mystery was not solved until a connection was noticed between personal loving attention and physical health. “Professional mothers” were hired to cuddle the babies, holding them close and warm, gently caressing them. The babies began, not only to survive, but to thrive. God’s love in Christ is like God picking us up in an orphanage. We were outcasts from his family because of sin. Yet, for the sake of Jesus, he picks us up, makes us feel secure, significant, and worthwhile. We have been adopted into his family. You are a dearly loved child of God. His love is unchanging and constant. May the love that has been shown to you give you comfort when your consciences flare up. May his love give you boldness to approach him in prayer. May the love that has been shown to you be reflected to those around you. Live in the love of Jesus. Amen.
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