1 John 3:4-6
4 Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
These are not pleasant words to read as we ponder the security of our life with Christ while at the same time, knowing our propensity to fall short in our actions, attitudes, and thoughts. There is a great 2-prong reminder in this passage as well, that Jesus came to take away sins and to destroy the works of the devil. When we allow Christ to form his redeeming character in us, our bent toward evil begins to fade.
- What emotions do you experience as you read vs. 4 and vs. 8?
- What does Christ say in his words and deeds to your awareness that you have fallen short?
- Where do you need Christ to destroy the works of the devil in your life?
Gracious God, as your children, we reflect you and your character. When we act out of character, we stray into looking more like the world and doing the acts of the devil. Thank you for coming in the Person of Christ for our salvation and our empowerment to overcome the works of the devil in this world and in our lives. Help us never to forget that we need you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1 John 3:9-11
9 Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. 10 The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters. 11 For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
John sets the standard high for those born of God, whose spirits have been infused with the Spirit of God. There is a righteousness to our character as God’s children, a righteousness that reflects him. But there is also love. Our belonging to God as his beloved children is reflected in the way we live, but also in the way we love. That can be the more difficult way, but it is also the more excellent way.
- Where do you see the seed of God’s Spirit growing in your attitude, thoughts, and/or actions?
- Who around you are the recipients of your love? What does that look like?
- How can your life be more infused with the love that marks the beloved children of God?
Gracious God, thank you for entering our lives through your Spirit when we yield to you, deepening in us your character from which can flow attitudes, thoughts, and actions that reflect your love for the world. Give us the capacity to love even as you are transforming us into your beautiful image. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1 John 3:12-15
12 We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.
John is inviting his readers to see the world differently, not as a place of belonging but as a context in which to practice love. Jesus warns that the world will hate the disciples and John is living this and passing it on to the next generation. AND he is inviting the readers to continue to follow Christ and reflect Him, rather than sliding into the way of the world.
- How is your relationship with the world?
- Do you have expectations of your relationship with the world that may be unrealistic for you as a follower of Christ?
- How are you living against the grain of the world?
Gracious God, this world gives us much joy, and it is easy to forget that it is not our true source of affirmation, encouragement and sense of belonging. Help us to love one another without limits as we find our place of belonging in you, the One who loves us perfectly. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1 John 3:16-20
16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
Theologian Walter Bruggemann once said, “we seem to be willing to die for the sake of others, but we are less willing to be inconvenienced by others.” In this passage John is bringing the call to follow Jesus to where the rubber meets the road. We can spend a lot of time in our heads, asking questions and working out theoretical scenarios, but our love, infused by and sourced in God and acted out in meeting the needs before us – that is what assures us of our belonging to Him.
- Who is inconveniencing you right now?
- What would it look like to step in and love them freely?
- What does it mean to you that, “God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything?” What do you need to acknowledge that he knows and lay before him?
Gracious God, we can spend so much time hiding who we are – from you, from ourselves, from others. And yet you invite us in love to live openly with one another, covered by your forgiveness and grace and because of that, able to extend that same grace to others. Lord Jesus, make it so in our lives. In your name, Amen.
1 John 3:21-24
21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
It is a profound thought that the Spirit of God abides in us, and we abide in God. We are invited to communion with the One who created and reconciled the world, planting his character of love in us. There is a boldness that comes with believing that Jesus reconciled us to God, giving us the opportunity and the freedom to follow him and love one another. We are not competing with one another but connecting with each other in Christ.
- Where do you experience division among other followers of Christ?
- What do you hear God speaking into that division?
- What might be yours to do in bridging that gap in love?
Gracious God, in this time of division, our hearts are broken for the ways that your children have experienced estrangement from one another. We confess the ways that we have placed our preferences and non-essential convictions above your command to love one another and trust you for our restoration. Forgive us, we pray, and show us new ways to love one another for your glory and the benefit of your children, and the well-being of the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.