Love, Faith, and Obedience go hand in hand

shutterstock_cracked-clay-potI am so excited to be able to meet with the high school students tonight during AWANA at Southern Calvert Baptist Church. It has been a few months since we have been able to meet. Tonight, we are going to study a few passages from the Apostle John’s first epistle. This epistle is known as the “love epistle“. John’s favorite subject is love. The interesting thing that John does is to tie love with faith and obedience. Do you ever think about love being synonymous with faith? Do you ever think about faith being synonymous with obedience?

I. Love is sincere

I love the word sincere. It has Latin origins and it literally means “without wax“. It’s a cultural word picture. When going to the market place in ancient times, people would search for earthenware jugs and pitchers. Clay would be molded into a jar, jug, or pitcher and then fired to harden them. Usually, these utensils would be used to hold liquid. If there were a crack in the utensil, people would not buy the product because it would not be useful in storing liquids. Deceptive vendors who knew that their utensils were cracked would apply melted wax to fill in the cracks and then sell the product to unsuspecting buyers. A sincere product would be a product without wax. Biblical love makes us sincere. We have nothing to hide. We live out in the open. We are the same in public as we are in private. We are not trying to deceive others with an outward veneer.

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (I John 1)

As followers of Christ, we walk in the Light as God is Light. We do not walk in the darkness. We don’t claim to have fellowship with God and then do godless things behind closed doors. A person who claims to have fellowship with God and then do godless things behind closed doors is lying and does not practice the truth. I want to point out two important details here. The verb “walk” in verse 6 is in the present tense and it is in the active voice. Present tense means that it is habitual, not a one time or occasional mistake. Active voice means that the subject chooses to do the action. It is not by accident. It is a habitual choice. If you claim to have fellowship with God and continually live in sin, then you are lying because your words claim one thing and your actions demonstrate the opposite. Following Christ does not make us sinless because even though the power of sin is broken in our lives, we still have a pesky sin nature. A sincere person knows who he is down to the core and does not try to cover it up. An insincere person may make a claim to be sinless. The loving Apostle John calls that person a liar. A person who claims to be sinless has deceived himself and John states that the truth is not in that person. Those are harsh words but, they are true words. A sincere person does not try to cover up the fact that he is a sinner, instead, he confesses his sin so that he can be forgiven and cleansed by God. The Pharisees kept up the veneer of being holy. They would not associate with “sinful” people and they criticized Jesus for associating with sinners. The sinners knew who they were and they were flocking to Jesus to receive the forgiveness of sins. The Pharisees were also sinners in need of forgiveness but they could not receive forgiveness because they would not confess that they were sinners. Do you try to cover up the fact that you are a sinner? Do you live behind a facade, trying to create an image of yourself that you want others to see? Have you ever confessed your sins and received the forgiveness that Jesus has to offer? What keeps you from being sincere?

II. Love is obedient

What comes to mind when you hear the word “obedience“? Many times, we have a negative reaction to obedience. This is because of our sin nature. Think of Adam and Eve. The devil convinced them to disobey God by telling them that they could be like God. In other words, they could do what they wanted and not have to obey God anymore. That was a tempting statement. It sounded like “freedom” but it actually led to slavery. Obedience is a positive word. It is a good word. Obedience is necessary for genuine satisfaction in this life. Rebellious people are never satisfied.

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:
6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (I John 2)

The Apostle John teaches us in this passage that obedience to God keeps us away from sin. It is impossible to obey God and sin at the same time. When we choose one, we reject the other. If I choose to obey God, I reject sin. When I choose to sin, I reject obedience to God. One sin leads to another and to another and to another on and on until that one sin becomes a habit. Obedience keeps us from taking the first step toward sin that can lead to a habit. It makes total sense. I cannot be an alcoholic if I do not take the first drink. I cannot become a crack addict if I do not take the first hit of crack. Sin is habit forming and obedience keeps us away from the habit. Obedience is important. If I do make a mistake and sin, I must run to Christ, who is my Advocate, and He will handle the mistake. If I do not run to Him, that one sin will quickly develop into a habit. I find it interesting that John compares knowing God with obedience. A person who has a person relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ will obey God’s commandments. In verse 4, the verb phrase “does not keep” is in the present tense and active voice. Again, present tense means a continual or habitual action. If I habitually do not obey God and yet I claim that I know God, then I am a liar and the truth is not in me. That is a harsh but true statement. How many people claim to know God yet habitually disobey Him? Do you claim to know God and yet habitually disobey Him? The love of God matures in us through our obedience. When I walk in obedience, I live as Jesus lived. How did Jesus live? Let’s take a look at Jesus’ own words when it comes to how He lived.

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19)

Jesus looked to God to see what God was doing and He imitated God the Father. If I am going to let love mature in me and walk in obedience to God then I need to live as Jesus lived, following His example.

So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. (John 8:28)

Jesus learned from God the Father and He spoke the things that He learned from God the Father. If I am following Jesus then I will look to the Word of God and speak what I have learned from the Word of God.

39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” (Matthew 26)

That was the cry of Jesus’ heart, not My will but Your will be done. Are you living to accomplish the will of God on a daily basis? You cannot do that and sin at the same time. Choosing one will drive out the other. Do you claim to love God? Are you obedient to Him constantly?

III. Love is an action

Often we think of love as being a feeling or a sentiment. That is not the case with Biblical love. This kind of love is an action. The Apostle John demonstrates this truth in chapter five of his first epistle.

1 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.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. (I John 5)

The love of God is placed in us the moment that we believe in Jesus Christ. We are born again and adopted into the family of God. Now that the love of God is in us, we are able to demonstrate that love to others. Relationships become highly valuable to us. We demonstrate the love of God as we obey the Word of God. When I think of commandments, in the Old Testament, I think of the 10 Commandments. Those commandments can be divided in two parts. The first four teach us how to love God and the second six teach us how to love the people around us. When I think of commandments in the New Testament, I think of the Greatest Commandment. Jesus defined the Greatest Commandment as loving the Lord with all of your heart and then loving your neighbor as yourself. In both Testaments, God wants us to connect with Him and love the people around us. As sincere followers of Christ, the commandments of God are not a burden to us. It is a joy to live in obedience to the Word of God. What about you, are the commandments of God a burden to you? Do you find it difficult to love the people around you? Could it be that you may not have been born again and adopted into the family of God? If that is the case, what should you do? John says that you need to place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and surrender to Him. He will cause you to be born again and adopt you into the family of God. Then you will be able to share the love of God with the people around you.

May the Lord help us be sincere before Him and before the people around us as we walk in obedience to Him!

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