1 John 2:7-11

We finished the last lesson looking at Jesus’ love life. He showed amazing love as He cared for peoples' needs and gave so much of Himself to all who called on Him for help. (Matthew 14:14-21) He had just lost His best friend and cousin, John the Baptist, who was the only person at that stage who knew that Jesus had been sent as the saviour of the world - the "Messiah" (chosen one). Consider for a moment what Jesus must have felt like at this time. John died in such a disgusting way, beheaded because of a weak leader (Herod), his seductive young daughter and a vengeful wife. Jesus did not focus on the injustice, but recognised who was behind the death: Satan, the enemy of humanity. Jesus looked at the bigger picture and resolved to respond in a way that would challenge Satan to the core, by healing the sick and feeding the hungry. He did not get bogged down in grief, although I am sure He was tempted to. He knew that John would be rejoicing and worshipping in the Father’s presence and was so pleased for him. At the same time, Jesus knew that His most powerful weapon against the enemy was (and is) LOVE.

This life of Jesus is a real challenge to us: can we also live a life of selfless service, suffering for the name of Jesus and giving up the comforts we love? The motivation for this wonderfully satisfying and rewarding way of life is love for God and love from God. It is only with the power of His Holy Spirit, running like streams of living water through us, that we can live like Jesus and be a powerhouse for Him in this needy world.

“My Father loves me”

Before we can focus on loving God and others, we have to receive His amazing love for us and believe that, whatever happens in our life, God really does love us. (1 John 4:19) We cannot love others in the way that God wants us to love them unless we first have a full revelation of His overwhelming love for us - just as we are. John 17:23 (Amplified Version) says that our heavenly Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus! Let's meditate on this truth and also think about what Paul called: “the breadth, length, height and depth” of God’s love and the fact that God's love for us "surpasses knowledge" and is greater than we can ever expect or even imagine. (Ephesians 3:13-21) Galatians 5:6 talks about "faith expressing itself through love." As we experience what it means to live in God's love, we begin to realize that this works both ways: our faith is activated, energized, built up and strengthened by knowing the love that our Father has for us. There is a new confidence that, whatever we ask the Father in Jesus' name, is ours. Why? Because He loves us. This opens a new door in our hearts to believe and receive from God.

As we allow this love from God to grow in our hearts, it will help resolve many of the problems that we face, because of our growing sense of security and confidence in the Father’s care and love. God’s love will be so alive in us that it will remove worry and concern for ourselves and even bring us to the point where we are prepared to lay down our lives for others. (This may not be needed in a literal sense, but can also mean that we are prepared to put others first and serve them, rather than looking first to our own interests and needs.) Our focus is no longer on ourselves, but on God’s love for us, our love for Him and our love for others. We become so consumed by God’s love that we won’t even notice when an offensive word is spoken against us. God’s love for us will become so real that every action we take - no matter what our circumstances may be - comes out of a pure, love-filled heart. The more we are aware of God’s love for us, the greater the love we will have for others.

It should be no surprise to us when we say: “My Father loves me!” After all, this is one of the main reasons that the Holy Spirit was sent to live in us: He came to communicate our Father’s love. Romans 5:5 says, "God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” The Father is pouring His love into our hearts and He uses the Holy Spirit to do it. “Because you are His sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out ‘Abba, Father’.” (Galatians 4:6) "Abba" (father) is the intimate name that a child uses for a father. Some translations render the word as “Papa”. But the literal Greek translation for "abba" (father) is: “My father, my dear father!” Now can you see why we have been saying: “My Father loves me!”? The Holy Spirit has been sent to reassure our hearts and is crying out: "Abba! (Father!)". He is crying it out in your heart right now!

Limitless love

Let's think about and try to comprehend the limitless, unsurpassed, overwhelming love of our Father, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal Him to us. He desires to do something magnificent for us today and He wants to love us more than we can ever expect or even imagine. Our heavenly Father loves us. He cares about every detail of our lives. "How great the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1) We are children of God and in line to receive a royal inheritance. Thank You, Father, for loving us as much as You do!

As we begin to realize anew the love that God has for us, it is a good idea to identify every act of God’s love in our lives — large or small - and write it in a book. As we recognise these kindnesses, we can respond by saying out loud: “My Father loves me!” Such praise not only warms our Father's heart, but also encourages us to "count our blessings". Let's take time now to be still and to hear His voice, listening very closely. From deep within, the Holy Spirit is crying out - declaring and reassuring us as He says: "Your Father, your dear Father loves you!" God loves us so much that He cannot help Himself. He made us, designing our intricate beings and "knitting each of us together in our mother’s womb". (Psalm 139:13) We are "fearfully and wonderfully made" and He knows everything about us: what we are doing, what we are thinking and where we are going every minute as He goes with us. "My Father loves me!"

Channels of love

If we are to give out love to others, it is so important that our own "love tank" is full. We need to take in His love so that we have plenty to give out. Burnout comes when we work too hard for the kingdom of God without spending time with our Father who loves us. We become empty and dry and our continued attempts to give out end in frustration and exhaustion. A dry life can never be fruitful. We have to spend time in close fellowship with our Father; then we shall have wonderful "love seeds" to plant in people’s lives and the right words and conditions to grow these seeds.

The closer we grow in our relationship with God (Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit), the more we shall find that love involves discipline. Real love always involves accepting boundaries and exercising restraint over our own innate selfishness. God disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness. “My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.” (Hebrews 12:5-7) "[Discipline] produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:10-11) This often serves to draw us back to God for a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him.

A new command

1 John 2:7-8

John then reminds his readers that what he is talking about is nothing new, but the reiteration of a long-standing command (from the Old Testament) with which they were all familiar: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:5) Jesus had said the same thing in His own teaching: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37) The new command is the same as the old command but, because we now have Jesus as the example, we can see love in action before our own eyes. We are also filled with His Spirit so that we can live as He did. "Love each other as I have loved you." (John 15:12) It is the same message of God’s grace and forgiveness, the same message of a need for a saviour. The new message is an encouragement to "walk in the light" after all we have seen and learned from Him.

Relationships with other believers

1 John 2:9-11

John challenges us to be totally honest in how we feel about and regard other believers. If we say that we "love" them, but nurse hate in our heart towards them, we are still "walking in the darkness". Anyone walking around in darkness cannot at the same time walk closely with God or any of His children. If we persist in living "in darkness", we cannot see things clearly or walk by the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t know where we're going. We are effectively blind. More than that, it gives an opening for the enemy to cause all sorts of problems in our church, home life and work. If we are stumbling around and finding it hard to live as a Christian, it's a good idea to think about whether we are living in light or darkness. We need to ask God to show us if we have taken offence at something or are simply not loving another person as He would want us to.

When we allow a damaged relationship to continue, it causes us to close our own hearts to the message of God's word and to fall away from God when problems arise, trying to resolve them on our own, instead of asking for His help. (Mark 4:17) If we are offended, it is our problem because we are the ones who miss out on seeing clearly and become blind. We need to get down on our knees, admit our own failings and pray for the other person. Let's be quick to listen to the Holy Spirit and see if God wants us to do something. Even if looks likely to be embarrassing, it is so much better than being out of fellowship with our Father who loves us. We are to be "rooted and grounded in love". This means rejecting any feelings of hurt and offence. We have to give ourselves totally to "walking in love" with others and commit to praying for them. When this happens, the church (the body of Christ) has a massive impact on those outside God's kingdom, because they can see (as Tertullian - an early Roman author - is reputed to have said) "how these Christians love one another."

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