1 JOHN 4: About God Revealing Love

Read 1 John chapter 4
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit {6 Or spirit} of truth and the spirit of falsehood. 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son {9 Or his only begotten Son} into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for {10 Or as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away} our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

John opens the chapter with a warning to look out for “lying spirits” which is more about understanding love than asking the right questions. It is true that we must test spirits by asking if they believe Jesus is Lord. We must test and ask if Jesus came in the flesh, if he is the Son of God and if he rose bodily from the dead, but! remember! we can be blindsided even with the right questions. We will be blindsided if we neglect to take serious what John has said before this fourth chapter. By not questioning ourselves as John has instructed us to do before we test the spirits.

The Question is: Where is your love?

Just asking the “Who do you say or think Jesus is” questions are a good defense, but love is the offensive action John has been proclaiming. The Apostle John emphasizes this in addressing the need to test spirits. Likewise, as we do, our love will be tested. We test the spirits because God sends them to check us. Love is questioned because our love for Jesus manifests in devotion which is to be the compass of the Christian soul.

Deuteronomy 13: 1-5 plainly states why God’s people need to test the spirits and, in the process, put ourselves under a test. God tells us in that passage:
“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or a wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken up takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” ( gods you have not known) “and let us worship them, “You must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all of your heart and with all of your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commandments and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for enticing rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. You must purge the evil from among you.” (NIV)

Spiritual warfare is about who or what you love. Through moral combat, one’s heart is brought into the light. Either into victory or the retreat into darkness and defeat after the heart’s real desire and belief is revealed. The test is of our love for God as a person, “if you will.”

I think it would be good at this point to have a reminder: John has already in this letter, 1 John 3:10, established that those that love their fellow believers are in right relationship with God. So then, if you struggle with loving Christians (honestly, we all do to a degree), then the requirement to test the spirits will play out for us only as well as is our love for God which is measured by the love we have given to our fellow Christians.

Outwardly we may not be willing to worship other gods, though we would not likely call them “other gods,” but those that neglect proper love relationships tend to fade from God’s way. Those that are unaware of how to have appropriate relational bonds can end up fading from the way of God’s love. Love is what we all really desire. The fact is we do not properly love one another. We don’t love each other as God loves us. It is at that point of neglect that we seek to supplement true relational unity with God’s defaults blessings. Those things that comfort but do not really correct our relational longings

Relationships are hard. In our fear, we resist closer unity. Our inclination is to go with what God freely gives, but unlike Him, we do not always reflect love as He does. People tend, in my experience, to supplement the relational neglect (not loving as God loves us) in their life with God’s blessing or something resembling or pointing to harmony with God. They hold onto the benefit more than God Himself. They then, in turn, follow after others and/or “other gods” by their own choice. Not loving as God loves opens the door to deception. We can only love those who believe in God by loving God Himself. This brings lasting blessing. Therefore, we must ask ourselves: Is our love for God’s blessing or God as a Person? In that way, as John tells us, perfect love casts out fear! (1 John 4:18)

It seems the final exam for the believer is always: The blessings of God or the Person of God?

For example, we read in Job’s story (in the Book of Job) about such a test. A God-blessed life is stripped away to see if he truly loves God. For example, Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice his promised son Isaac. Abraham went through years of waiting on God’s promise of a son only to have God command him to surrender the son after decades of longing. God must come first even before the blessings that come from His Hand. Job and Abraham both believed in God and knew the challenge was to believe God Himself rather than to treasure God’s blessings above Him. After years of learning to properly love God, at the final exam they put to death in their minds any opposition. Likewise, our trust must be wholehearted in the promise of God’s love for us.

1 John 4:8 says simply, “God is love.” A. W. Tozer taught that “Love is not the definition of God because God transcends any one of His attributes.” God defines love in its complete form by sharing that we should lay down our lives for our fellow Christians. Christ is the source of Christian fellowship, and indeed as John points out, it is by such love we live. It is by such love we live!

Therefore, by the Spirit of such love, we carry the Name of God and have continuance in Him. We do not reflect God if we do not love… just as the Shema declares. God commands His people to love with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (one’s whole being) because that is what He does. Moreover, Jesus said the same thing in speaking to this standard of love with His command, “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

We are to love with completeness. Jesus says this more clearly to His disciples when He says, “love as I have loved you” (John 13:34-35). In 1 John, the Apostle John (verse 23) passes along this command to all indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Now I must emphasize: only Christians can love in this manner because they as God children (born of God) have received God’s Spirit and know such love. God’s children are to love one another as they love God following after the love He has given.

Now you may feel that you fall short of such love. You’re right. You do. The real question is do you believe in such love or better yet… in such a Loving Being. Remember He is faithful and just to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9).

I must close by saying, it is our belief that God loves us that brings God’s love through our good works, not the other way around.


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