Loving the Children
1 John 5:1-2 NASB
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the
Father loves the child born of Him. (2) By this we know that we love the children of
God, when we love God and observe His commandments.
Love God, Love His Children
It is a truism among families: "love me, love my
kids." God apparently follows the same rule of thumb. So the first
question is, "just who is a child of God?" John gives us the answer
here; whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ. Think that one through from
it; it means someone who accepts that Jesus is who he claims he is. In
particular, it is his claim to be the Messiah (the Christ) which is most
important. The reason for that is simple: it implies all the other claims of
Christ. If you accept this one, the rest come more or less as a package with
John uses the phrasing, "whoever believes." Please
note that in John's time the idea that you could believe something and not act
upon it was considered a sign of mental defect. In short, you had to be nuts to
believe something and take no action upon it. So we may not conclude from this
that an academic believe only is sufficient. But we can conclude from
the first word, whoever, that membership in this family is open to anybody who
wants to take it up. It often comes as a surprise to the new Christian that he
does not have to be "good enough" to become a Christian. The only
known qualification for being a Christian is that you have to be a sinner
first. Some of us are exceedingly well qualified. (Blows on fingers, polishes
them on shirt.)
The transformation of becoming a Christian is so immense
that it is described as being "born again." The technical term is
regeneration. There are certain lizards whose tales can be completely removed
and then grow back. This is the spiritual equivalent. The process is so
effective that we are said to be "born of God"; we become something
entirely new. Of course, this process only begins when you become a Christian
and continues for the rest of your life — and as far as I know, may go on
So how do I love God? Just asking the question is a good
start. It's not something that necessarily comes completely naturally — ask any
successful husband and he will tell you that love is hard work. If it's that
difficult with a wife, how much more difficult is it to love God? Let's take a
look at some of the common techniques:
Scripture reading. If you love God, you love to hear from him. So
open his writings and hear from him.
Prayer. If you love someone, isn't that just natural to want to
talk with them?
Meditation. We are to "think on these things." It's how
you get 20 years of experience rather than one year of experience 20 times.
Those are the techniques which might be described as interior
— meaning that they belong to the inner person. The outer person has methods
Most prominent is public worship. A significant part of public
worship is the adoration of God.
Perhaps as important is this: do you praise God in front of other
people for what he has done for you?
These things may seem rather ordinary to you; but did you
really expect loving God to be intellectually complicated?
Observe His Commandments
It's when we get observing his Commandments that most people
think that loving God is difficult. The impression persists that Christianity
is a large collection of rules, mostly negative, violation of any of which
causes you to go to hell immediately, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Actually, Christ condensed the entire matter to two Commandments. The first is
to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; the
second is to love your neighbor as yourself. Let's take the first one first. If
you put your entire heart, soul, mind and strength in the loving God you give
him the key to correcting any misimpressions or false starts that you might
have made. Remember, you are host to the Holy Spirit who will guide you into
all truth. That guidance comes in a number of forms, including Scripture
reading and perhaps listening to this lesson, but the principle is simple. Give
it all you've got.
When Jesus was asked about this business of loving your
neighbor, he didn't reply with a nice dictionary definition of who a neighbor
might happen to be. He told the parable of the good Samaritan. This tells us
two things: first, neighbor includes a lot of people we didn't think it would.
Second, this is not something subject to rules and regulations but rather
One aspect of love your neighbor which has been greatly
neglected in the emerging church is this: if you love your neighbor, would you
share who Jesus Christ is with that neighbor?
1 John 5:3 NASB
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His
commandments are not burdensome.
What Is Burdensome?
Noah Webster in his original dictionary defines the word as
having these characteristics:
Grievous to be borne.
Causing uneasiness or fatigue.
If you need a contemporary example, may I refer you to the
Internal Revenue Service? Federal regulation has become indeed burdensome to
the typical American. It need not be federal regulation; we have police
departments busting six-year-old girls for holding forth with a lemonade stand.
This is what were trying to avoid.
It should be pointed out that this also describes a common
straw man argument for Christianity. The opponents of Christianity are fond of
portraying it as a massive, burdensome collection of regulations. It's easy to
show that this makes it a lousy religion. What's difficult is to maintain and
claim that that's really what Christianity is about. Then again, our opponents
are not too picky about the facts. After all, the postmodernist knows that this
must be true — at least for him.
Keep His Commandments
Have you ever thought about that word keep? It really means
to hold onto something, doesn't it? That's what he wants us to do with his
commandments — hold on to them. The Fact is that from the earliest days it has
been easy to summarize what God wants him to simple things. Let me give you
First, from the Old Testament:
Micah 6:8 MKJV
He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does Jehovah require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to
walk humbly with your God?
(The Modern King James is perhaps the most eloquent here.)
Three simple points and Micah has summarized everything you need to do to keep
Saint Augustine comes next: "Love God — and do as you
please." If you love God, what you please to do will please him.
Third, we have the obvious one from Jesus Christ:
Luke 10:25-27 MKJV
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tempted Him, saying, Master, what
shall I do to inherit eternal life? (26) He
said to him, What is written in the Law? How do you read it? (27) And answering, he said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with
all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your
neighbor as yourself.
(The following verses lead into the story of the Good
If you are still puzzled about this, consider a commonplace
example. Most of us know how a car works — that is to say, we know where to put
the key, we know where the gas pedal is, and we know how to steer the car. An
automotive engineer would consider this completely inadequate to describe
"know how a car works." The engineer would probably get into gas
expansion laws, the laws of thermodynamics, and any number of things having to
do with materials. All this knowledge is good; we certainly hope the automotive
engineers have it. But the simple level of how a car works, works.
Let's go back and look at those three criteria for
Grievous? There is no grief in being forgiven.
Uneasiness? The Christian should be able to reply to his
questioners with confidence. We are to present the ready defense; if you are
prepared, the uneasiness disappears.
Oppressive? It is Christ who gives true freedom and relieves all
Burdens are heavy when you can't lift them. If you have help
lifting them, they aren't heavy.
Overcome the World
1 John 5:4-5 NASB
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that
has overcome the world--our faith. (5) Who is
the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of
Note that word "whatever." The word in the Greek
is rather inclusive: it can mean whatever, whoever and several other meetings
ending with the word ever. It's not just people; it's something that is
characteristic of anything that is born of God. Whatever it is, it overcomes.
This is something that comes out of the attributes of God; his character so to
speak. As God is victorious, so are the things born of God. The things of God
love God; they do not love the world. The people of God love God; they do not
love the world. In particular,
They do not obey its dictates. The world commands us to acquire
more, to fight on all occasions, to hate. The question is, do you give into
It follows therefore that the child of God is not someone who
"goes along, gets along." We are not here to blend in to the scenery.
We are to be a light upon a hill which cannot be hidden.
In particular, we are citizens of the heavenly kingdom — and
therefore do not submit ourselves to the laws of Satan.
The word "victory" in the original Greek is also
the root word of "overcomes." You know that root word; it's "Nike."
The word form used as "overcomes" is in a continuous tense; it means
to continually overcome, not just overcome once.
The phrasing used in "this is the victory" implies
that we have found the source of that victory, not the result. What John is telling
us here is that faith is in fact the source of the Christian's victory. In
other words, if your faith is strong your victory is more certain. So the
practical question for us is, how do I have a strong faith?
This author has had the privilege of watching Tino Wallenda
(of the Flying Wallendas) perform in prison ministry. If you ever get the
chance to see, take a look at where he keeps his eyes. You will see that his
eyes are always fixed upon the other end of the tight rope — his final
destination. That's the secret to faith as well: keep your eyes fixed on your
final destination, Jesus Christ. Don't get distracted; faith is not about
"what" but about "whom."
When John asks, "who is the one" the original
words of the Greek are not those of one who is seeking an answer which he does
not already know. Rather, they are an appeal to the hearer to apply the facts
he knows and the experience he has to come to the same solution. In essence he
is saying, "Look around you." Look at the successful Christians you
see; they are victorious. Look around at the rest of the world too; you will
quickly find that it is only the believer who overcomes the world. Remember,
overcoming the world is not the same thing as being successful in the world.
Why is this so? It is because overcoming the world rests
entirely upon Jesus Christ. Nobody else has risen from the grave by his own
power. No one else has eternal life in his hands. Faith in him yields victory
now and the "well done" when our Lord returns.
If this seems rather obvious to you, that's because it is.