by Mark Fulmer
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him, and He in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1 John 4:7-16
There I stood, stunned. Stupefied really. The task had seemed simple. We were making pancakes and needed milk. So it fell to me to dash to the local market. Sure thing thought I, I'll be back in a flash. And then I found myself, still as a stone, standing helpless in front of the frosty glass doors. I had forgotten that almonds are mammals, and coconuts and soybeans. Cow milk, goat milk, whole milk, lactose free, calcium fortified, fat-free, 1/2%, 2%, organic–I need an aspirin. But at least I wasn't shopping for granola!
The infinite choices and clamoring voices of our culture are mind-boggling. Trouble is, they can also be heart-boggling and spirit-boggling. We can be stunned into uncertainty and silenced into submission because we face an endless barrage of faith claims, each presented as ultimate truth. Culture screams at us that we mustn't hold antiquated ideas of one true faith. There is no such thing, we're told, any more than "milk" means just one thing.
God's people in every age have faced exactly the same scenario. The people of Israel were warned by word and deed that the land of Canaan would offer other gods to be worshipped, other truths to be encountered. But God is a jealous God, and his people were to revere Him as the one TRUE God, maker of heaven and earth.
In the early Christian church, the apostle John writes to his congregations about just this matter. Some folks had learned enough about Christianity to sound plausible as teachers of the way. But their message was a confusing cacophony of partial information seeded with doubt about the person and work of Jesus Christ. This was causing anxiety at best and faith-destroying blasphemy at worst. How was the truth to be discerned? Which were the clues to cling to?
John, the Son-of-Thunder, the "disciple whom Jesus loved," points to two things; is the teacher teaching and the preacher preaching that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who has come in the flesh from God? Jesus is not just an idea, or an ethic, or a memory. He was and is fully God and fully man. To proclaim that mysterious truth is not to explain it or contain it. But John makes a powerful statement that Jesus Christ, who came in the flesh, is the unalterable reality. John reminds us that it is the Holy Spirit's work to proclaim and protect that truth in the heart of the believer. If what we see and hear detracts from or denies that central truth, it is not of God.
John also reminds us that all of redemption grows out of the reality that God is love. And therefore, those who are God's lead lives of love. This is exactly what John heard Jesus say, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." Matthew 7:15-20
John is saying something very bold here. He is reminding the church that the adopted children of God bear the likeness of their Heavenly Father. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Christian people are people who love one another and love the world around them. If the proclaimed message of truth is packaged in selfishness and hatred, it is not the message of God Almighty.
So John tells his churches, and us, that we must test the spirits to see whether they are from God. And he gives us the criteria by which to do the testing. Do the messages resound with the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God? And do the messengers live faithful, loving lives?
May we ourselves be found living in the truth of the Gospel.
And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us. Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. 1 John 3: 23-24