1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
You know from Jesus’ own words that you can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). If you’re fully devoted to God, you can’t be devoted to this world. There are good things in the world, after all, God created it. But He created it for His glory and when we devote ourselves to the creation instead of the Creator, we find ourselves in sin.
There are a lot of tempting things all around us. Things that, if we allow ourselves to be distracted, can consume us. Possessions can possess us and desires can overtake us. There’s only one way to overcome the world and it’s to follow the One who overcomes the world (John 16:33). The One who created and sustains it can use us while we’re here on this earth, but only if we choose Him over all of this.
There are no regrets to be had if we pass up sin. The things here that seem so wonderful are fleeting, they’re dying. But when they’re all gone, the Lord will endure through all eternity. His love never fails.
1 John 5:1-5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Our faith is the victory that has overcome the world. And what is it that comes from faith? Good works. A natural response to faith is obedience. When we know God and experience His love for us, we want to keep His commandments and follow everything He says to do. If we remain faithful in this, nothing can stop us.
This passage says that everyone who has been reborn overcomes the world. Are you overcoming the world? Have you taken the time to actually evaluate whether or not you’re overcoming the world? What does it even mean to overcome the world? Does that mean we don’t ever fall into temptation or that we don’t sin?
Sadly, most of us don’t think in terms of victory when we look at our lives. We’re not operating in our spiritual gifts or showing any fruit out of the faith we proclaim. Some of us aren’t even showing love to our fellow Christians, let alone to the people out in the world.
But we’ve been equipped. We’ve got the victory already if we’ll just do the next thing God calls us to do. That’s what obedience is. It’s not some lofty, unachievable goal. Obedience is doing the next thing God calls you to do. And when you’ve done it, do the next thing He calls you to do. Then the next. Obedience is a lot like walking. It’s one foot in front of the other.
Walk in victory, knowing that Jesus has already won the battle. The odds are in your favor. You can’t lose.
1 John 4:7-21 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. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
You’ve heard the quote “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary”. While that instruction falls a bit short in regards to how to witness for Christ, there is something to be said about what our actions show the people around us. There are some who don’t know the name of Christ. They’ve never experience Him and never had an encounter with anyone who wanted to really share His love for them. For those people, how we represent Jesus makes all the difference in the world. We’re all they know of Him.
This passage from John’s letter brings up the point that no one can see God, but they can see us. And if God loved us enough to forgive us our sins, we ought to love those around us so that they can experience that forgiveness too. There are opportunities every day to love other people for the glory of God. Even in the little things that we so often overlook, we can be representing our Lord. How did you come to faith in Jesus Christ? It may very well have been through observing the kindness of a Christian.
Let’s not just love with our words, but with our actions. Let’s not forget the love that God has already shown us and our obligation to pass it along to others. There are lives on the line and our love plays a key role in how the world responds to Jesus. Take the opportunities presented to you today, tomorrow, and each day to show love to someone else. You never know what effect it can have on them.
1 John 4:1-6 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. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
In a world that’s full of so much spiritual talk, how can we know who to believe? The truth is, a lot of Christians will believe anything that comes from someone claiming to be a Christian. Just walk into a Christian bookstore and take a look around. You’ll find books ranging all across the spectrum, many contradicting each other. But how do we know what is right?
The Bible gives one criteria to follow when testing the spirits of the world. Whether we’re listening to the philosophy of Oprah or Osteen, MacArthur or Bell, the one question is this: Do they claim that Jesus is God who came in the flesh? That’s the most important question. People may disagree on some doctrines or on some practices, but the one thing that makes a belief system something other than Christianity is their view of Christ.
You’ll see some “denominations” in the world that sound very Christian yet deny that Jesus was God in the flesh. Simply put, that means they’re not Christian. Test the beliefs of any religious organization on this one thing. If they deny Christ, flee and never return. Jesus is God who came to earth as a man, shed His blood and gave His life for the forgiveness of sins, and then He resurrected from the dead and ascended back into heaven where He now reigns. Upon that truth our entire existence revolves. Without it, there is not hope. Without that one belief, there is not Christianity.
1 John 3:11-24 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 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.
Love is more than a word. It’s more than a feeling. Love is a constant decision, an intentional abandonment of selfish desires for the sake of someone else’s good. Love requires something beyond what we can manage in our own human condition.
The thing about real love is that it’s so different from anything we’ve been conditioned to recognize that most of us don’t even know how it works. We think love just means we tell someone nice things or that we give some gifts. But true love is sacrifice, and sometimes that means it hurts. Sinful humans don’t want to hurt for someone else, so it’s not our inclination to love truly. Only the Holy Spirit working in and through us can enable us to love others like Jesus said to.
Love others like you love yourself? How is that possible? Or how about this one? Husbands, love your wives like Christ loved the Church and gave His life for her. Any one of you loving like that? It’s what we’re commanded to do. No less.
We’re not doing anyone any good if we’re just saying we love. We’re not providing a good witness for Christ, nor are we having any effect on people’s lives for the kingdom. We’re just talking. And talk isn’t enough. Love. Love truly. Give of yourself for the sake of others.
1 John 2:28-3:10 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
Are you doing what you ought to be doing? How are your actions speaking to other people about Christ? Are they giving a good witness or repelling people from the gospel?
This part of John’s letter is a powerful thought about our obedience. Not only is he saying that followers of Jesus should do good, he’s saying that if you don’t do good, you’re not a follower of Christ. You get that? John’s saying that if you don’t do good, you’re on the opposite team. If you’re not for Christ you’re against Him. There’s no middle ground. If you continue to practice sin regularly, you’re not a Christian. Ouch.
We all need to take this passage to heart and assess ourselves from the inside out. Are we really practicing righteousness? When we received Christ we were empowered to walk with God and obey Him in a way that was impossible before our salvation. But are we doing it? Are we walking the walk?
No one who is born of God (reborn, we would say) makes a practice of sinning. Are you a child of God? Are you acting like it?
1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
What’s more important; the things in your life or your relationship with God? Before you answer that, pause. It’s easy to jump at answering what we know we’re supposed to say, but take a moment. Think about what really matters in your life. How do you spend your money? Your time? What do you pursue? Now is your answer still the same?
It’s tempting to be overtaken by our flesh, to give into every craving we have for pleasure or entertainment, or material things. But those things won’t last and they don’t matter. They’ll be here one day and gone the next. These things rot and rust, they deteriorate and fail to satisfy. But God is eternal and He’s never going to leave us. Shouldn’t we put more into walking with Him than we do in walking in worldly desires?
John goes so far in God’s Word to say that if we love this world we don’t love God. Let that sink in. If you spend more time trying to gain pleasure out of this life than you do trying to walk in God’s will, then you really don’t love God. It sounds harsh, but put it in human terms. If I marry a woman and then spend most of my time trying to make myself happy through every means besides her, then do I really love her? If God is really our love, then we should be pleased by Him and not need all of the other things of this world. They won’t matter to us because all we’ll want is more of Him.
1 John 2:1-6 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. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
If we claim to be Christians, there ought to be something to show for it. If we aren’t walking a true Christian walk, obeying God, growing to be more like Christ, loving others; then we aren’t fooling anyone. If we love God, we’ll follow Him in everything we do.
All that said, we can try to obey in all things, but we will fail at times. We can’t be perfect, even though we should try to walk as closely to God as possible, with the help of the Holy Spirit. We’ll fail, but the true test is whether or not we admit to wrongdoing and ask forgiveness. If we say we don’t sin, again no one is fooled. We have to have a heart that’s humble enough to confess that we’ve sinned. This is what we’re called to as followers of Christ.
The best part is that we, as Christians, don’t receive God’s wrath for our sins, but we get forgiveness. Jesus already died in our place, He already took on our sins so that we don’t have to suffer the consequences. He made a way so that we have no reason to hold onto our sins as a secret and not admit to them. If we’ll just confess them, He’s faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9). Jesus stands in the gap, advocating on our behalf, making our case. This isn’t just a message for seekers of truth; the gospel is for Christians too.
The First Letter of John
1 John 2: 18-27 18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.t21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.25 And this is the promise that he made to ust—eternal life. 26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.
It will never be my intention to scare you, but there are certain warnings in God’s Word that need to be looked at. John thought it was important enough to point out the existence of antichrists that he spent a good portion of his first letter warning about them.
There are those who oppose the gospel of Jesus Christ and seek to lead His followers astray. Though we’d like them to be easily identifiable through something like their black cowboy hat, it isn’t that simple. Though we’d like to be able to tell who they are based on the fact that they’re “out there” saying hateful things about Jesus, it’s not true. They are among us, posing as our brothers and sisters. They say things much like what we say. They call themselves Christians but their intentions are not to follow Christ. Their intentions are rather to keep others from following Him.
So how can we spot someone who is an antichrist if they look just like a Christian in some cases? There is one test given by John to his readers. They deny that Jesus is the Christ. The simple fact is that they are called antichrists because they are against Christ. If someone is opposed to believing that Jesus is the Son of God, sent into the world to redeem God’s people, then he is an antichrist. Don’t get this mixed up with The Antichrist who will come as the embodiment of all that is evil. These are individuals who reject the gospel yet try to look like they belong with Christians as they work to destroy. It was true in John’s time and it’s true in ours. Be prepared for lies by knowing what the Truth is.