We have been learning for a couple weeks now about good, bad. Light, dark; God and the enemy. We have even been formulating the concept of being called “children of God”. When we think of the concept of being adopted into God’s family, many of us envision what His family would be like. We base that concept on what we experienced as a child. For many of us, we have a concept of what God’s family would not be like, and we long for a family that fulfills the loving, caring, nurturing family of God. Some of us grew up in households with many children, and others of us were kind of on our own. Regardless of what we experienced, it still fall short of the descriptions of God’s family.
When someone talks about being a child of God, being born again, adopted into God’s family, what do you envision? What are the interactions? How are the days played out? We know that there are lots of kids and that resources are truly unlimited, but what is life like for these kids?
Now we know with families, especially if there are a bunch of kids, there seems to always be rivalries, jealousy, fights, anger, and resentment, gossip, lying and poor behavior.
How do you relate your own experiences of children interactions of reality and what this adopted family would be like? Do you think it is possible to have a Godly adopted family?
Reminding us that John is writing to a church audience that is facing challenges personally as well as in the church body. There were false leaders teaching poor theology, they were what are known as gnostic. They were just striving to be intellectual. Some of the discussions that John has been having is that there is a soul and there is a need to care for it and pay attention to it. As we read this weeks text, let us realize that he was writing to a group of people that thought they had it all together, they had it figured out. Yet, John is quite compassionate to continue to push into the concept of their relationships and true commitment to each other and Jesus Christ.
11This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. 13So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
14If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.
16We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister* in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?
18Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. 20Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.
21Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. 22And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.
23And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. 24Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us. – 1 John 3:11-24 NLT
John opens this section with an interesting reference to Cain. Which would be the Cain of “Cain and Abel” from the book of Genesis; the sons of Adam and Eve. These two had many great opportunities, but like us, they were broken and challenged.
When we refer to fellowship, family and brotherhood, how does Genesis 4:9 sit with you?
We have learned that if we have true fellowship with others, treat each other as part of our family, we do care about our brother. We are aware of how things are and what they are up to. The verse also shows Cain’s heart. It shows us that what we reap we sow. In another translation verse 12 states it like this…
We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. – 1 John 3:12 ESV
Scripture is telling us that Cain “belonged to the evil one” and “was of the evil one”. What does that mean? Weren’t they brothers in the same bloodline?
This may be a little tricky, but it does refer back to the previous chapters that John has provided for us. How do we know if one is born again and a child of God?
Besides our gleanings in 1 John, we can also see other references to clarify this stance:
You are doing the works of your father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they answered. “Our only Father is God Himself.” – John 8:41
Over in the book of Jude (who was a biological half-brother of Jesus), Jude has direct confrontation with the gnostic church goers and uses an illustration of Cain…
What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion. – Jude 1:11 NLT
How do you think it would be if someone started a fight or made a scene or was out of line in God’s adopted family?
John illustrates in verse 16 that Jesus showed us how to live in this family. He laid His life down for his brothers and sisters. There are many times where he showed love and compassion for others (feeding thousands, healing strangers, washing feet of disciples, touching lepers, etc.)
17If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. – 1 John 3:17-18 ESV
We need to walk out our talk, or we need to seriously change our talk. Even when the places and situations may be difficult. As men we can get into some difficult situations and walking out what we talk about would not be popular. We might even become the quick minority or target in the group.
How has God been working with you, personally, to grow and be more Christ like in the crowds? Can you see a different man than the one you used to be? How so?
Condemnation, Conviction & Shame
We know the old saying all too well, “we are our own worst critic”. Sometimes our soul tends to seep away from our life, but in reality they are one. From a wonderful book from a friend of mine comes this great perspective:
You can look away but you can’t get away. You can purify yourself or you can destroy yourself but you can’t escape yourself. Nor can you escape God. – Brian Hardin
We are going to make mistakes, bad decisions, fall short. Let us not waste those moments, let us learn, adapt and grow. Condemnation slows and deters, while conviction inspires and propels. When we get that personal feedback, those internal words, pause and reflect on your knowledge of the scriptures. Are those the words that Jesus would use? I know for me, when I take this approach, I can avoid the downward spirals and be encouraged to take the situation as a learned lesson and face the next scene in life.
Shame. The dreaded word that seems poisonous. Yet, it is an emotion that is given to us by God, but is also very powerful. There is of course the negative, toxic shame that is so damaging and lingers around almost like a cancer. But we need to also acknowledge the great blessings that God has given us in shame. Healthy shame is what makes us embarrassed and wants us to avoid repeating a scene in our life. It is not condemnation, but inspiration. We have all been there. It is when something does not go right, but we immediately look to the next right step/decision (what are we going to do next), not wallow in the self-pity of what we have done.
Our help in the storm
19Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. 20Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.
21Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. 22And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him. – 1 John 3: 19-22 NLT
Do you know you can go to God with your situations? When you are in the middle of something, in the moment, ask for help. We do not need to take the shots and fiercely engage in moments of destruction with the intentions to evaluate the casualties later. With “bold confidence” you can go to God and get a time out and get some clear thinking going. Here is the key…
God knows we don’t have it all figured out, and it doesn’t matter. He loves us and wants to teach us, wants to work with us. He is not that bad father that gets up and leaves in the middle of a bad game. He is not one that shakes his head in disgust when we come to him for guidance. He is a good, good father.
Out of context and Out of line
Now that we have framed the concept of needing help and knowing where to turn in the midst of a storm. How do you now see verse 22? This is a widely used phrase, even if not directly quoted…
whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. – 1 John 3:22 ESV
Many times in our world today, people declare they are Christians and they proclaim to be in right standing with God, yet. Prayers seem to be thrown around more than our Facebook feeds.
What does the scripture in 1 John 3:22 stir in you? How would you explain this to a friend, coworker or unbeliever? How would you approach a proclaiming brother in Christ when he has exploited this scripture?
John has used this same vocabulary in his Gospel; in chapter 16.
23In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. – John 16:23-24 ESV
What we should be learning is that, yes, we will receive whatever we pray for when it is God’s will. When our hearts, minds and souls align with God, our prayers are actually His prayers.
Can you explain how your prayer life has changed over the years as you matured in Christ?
23We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. 24Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us. – 1 John 3:23-24 NLT
In the last month we have learned about some direct commands that God gave to us about loving. Not only Him, but our self and others. Isn’t it appropriate that John, “the one that Jesus loved”, would confirm the same message at the end of chapter 3?
To remain in fellowship, we must be able to truly love God, to be okay with who we are and engage and accept our brothers. We cannot be in healthy relationships if any of those three areas are hindered.
37“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. – Matthew 23:37-39 ESV
What have been your latest insights, experiences, victories, challenges, and real life moments as you take this great direction from God?
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.