A Powerful Love

[9] 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. [10] 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.

– 1 John 4:9-10

God sent His only Son to die on our behalf. He has shown us a costly love. In verse 10, we find the word ‘propitiation.’ It is an odd word and it means that Jesus has paid for our sins and made us right with God. So God has shown us not only a costly love, but a powerful love.

If you fell into the Ohio river and I jumped in to save you, it would be a costly love. But it makes a difference whether I actually do save you or whether you still drown. Jesus died on the cross and He did not die trying to save us. No on the cross He conquers sin and death and He actually saves sinners from hell.

Test the Spirits

[1] Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

– 1 John 4:1

False prophets very rarely say, “Hey everyone, I have a message from the devil!” No, they say they have a revelation from the Spirit.

John is warning us that while a spiritual experience is important, it alone is not enough to guarantee that it is from God. Spirits must be tested. If a random guy told a girl, “God said you’re supposed to marry me,” the girl would not immediately believe him. She would be discerning.

Who we marry is important, but who we worship is more important. When people say things about God, we should be discerning. We should test the spirits.

This includes testing ourselves. Our hearts, our emotions, our logic can so easily go astray. Haven’t we done enough foolish things to know that we can’t be trusted implicitly? We are biased and selfish and the first “spirit” that must be tested is within us.

The Ugly Truth Will Set You Free

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

– 1 John 1:8-9

It’s a rare person who is foolish enough to say that they are perfect.  Nearly everyone will admit that we’re all human and we all make mistakes.  Yet at the same time, we all believe that deep down we’re good people.

One thing that makes this believable is that we know how to compare ourselves favorably. My Sunday School boys tell me how good they are at basketball and how they can beat my son. Well my son is three, so I tell them that’s not saying much. Somehow when it comes to our character and faith, we always compare our best to other people’s worst. We proudly say that we’re better than a murderer or a drug dealer and if all else fails we can always compare favorably with Hitler.

Another reason we are tempted to believe in our own goodness is that we are experts at self-deception. Have you ever met an angry person? The last person to know that he’s angry is always the angry person himself. We know how to play this game. We don’t hate anyone but there are people we’d just rather not speak to ever again. We’re not greedy or envious, we just want to be financially secure.

But God is not deceived by any of this. He is light itself and in Him is no darkness at all. His light exposes darkness! So John is pleading with us, don’t be deceived! The lie is tempting. It feels good to think we’re better than others. It’s painful to face what’s really in our hearts. It’s tempting to believe the lie and avoid the pain, but this does not lead to real joy or real life.

It’s only when we acknowledge and confess our sins that we are free! When we downplay our sin before God and others, relationship is impossible because we have to lie. If we claim to have no sin or if we always excuse our sin, we have to try to deceive each other and God. But if we confess our sin – not that we are sinners generally, but that we love specific things more than Jesus, that we are willing to hurt others to get what we want, that today and not just in our former life that we like our sin – then He’ll forgive us! Jesus can wipe away our sin and make us clean, but He comes only for the sick.

To live in lies is tempting but this only leads to slavery. The truth – no matter how ugly – is what sets us free.

Complete Joy

[3] that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. [4] And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

– 1 John 1:3-4

[1] My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

– 1 John 2:1

The Apostle John writes as a father to his children. When you consider your children or your future children, what do you want for them? Safety, security, success? Not to have to deal with pain and suffering? I think ultimately, we want all these things but more so we want for our children joy.

Like a good father, John wants his spiritual children to have joy. But there is no joy in a forgiveness that is nothing more than permission to sin. There is no joy in a God that’s just a ticket out of hell or a faith that’s a way to be better than other people.

Joy is found in true fellowship with God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit. and with other believers.