1 John 4:1-3
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. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world.
John continues to talk about spirits, encouraging us to be discerning of them and to lean into the Spirit of God, the One that acknowledges Jesus Christ as God Incarnate, mysteriously entering our world to bring reconciliation. All our thoughts, attitudes, and perspectives are to be infused with the Spirit of truth that proclaims Jesus as Lord of our lives and the One who saves us.
- Contrast the emotions you feel in the presence of the Spirit of God vs. The spirits of falseness?
- How does your life reflect the truth that God came to earth through Christ to reconcile all to him?
- What practices do you have to discern between the spirits?
Gracious God, as John addresses the presence of spirits that are in contradiction to Your Spirit, we acknowledge that we experience the same thing because we are in the world. Lord God, give us simplicity of heart to follow the Spirit that proclaims Jesus Christ as God Incarnate and the discernment to let go of any spirit that would speak against that. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
1 John 4:4-6
4 Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
As John speaks to his readers, he calls them “little children” and “beloved” several times. He is speaking to them out of love and tenderness, reminding them that they are loved by him and by God. There is a greatness to the God we believe in, a power that overcomes the world, AND there is a love and compassion that characterizes his relationship to us and our relationships with one another.
- How do you live as one who is beloved and carries with them the overcoming power of God?
- What does it mean to you that you are “from God?”
- What does it look like to live in the truth of the Spirit with love for others, even though the world may not understand?
Gracious God, thank you that our experiences here on earth are not a surprise to you, but that you have equipped us with discernment to hear your voice in the midst of many voices. Help us to stay close to you so that we continue to hear you and live in Your truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1 John 4:7-10
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
These are such wonderful verses of promise and a reminder of the redeeming work of God, reconciling us to Himself. As we read these verses in the context of the rest of John’s letter, we see that our faith is tied to our love, and even more, God’s love for us. The best way that we can live out our faith in a world that is filled with false spirits is to live in the reality of God’s sacrificial love for us and to extend that love to others.
- What does it take for you to love first? What is at stake when you love?
- How does your acknowledgment of God’s love for you reflect in your capacity to love others?
- Are there things that you believe about yourself that get in the way of receiving God’s love?
Gracious God, love is where you meet us. Love is what compelled you to become flesh and repair the relationship between You and us. We confess that we have piled on other requirements that divide us and keep us from living in the reality and safety of your love. Show us how to open ourselves to your unconditional love, and allowing your love to transform us and our relationships with one another. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1 John 4:11-16
11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
The concept of Trinity permeates the New Testament as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dance together to reveal Godself to us. God’s motivation is love and it is behind the invitation to believe in the redeeming work of Christ that could only be done by God. We are invited to the dance of love, which is carried out through our love for one another. There is a freedom and vulnerability that comes with love, and that is the work that God is doing in our lives as we abide in Him.
- How do you experience the love that God as Trinity has for you?
- What does freedom and vulnerability look like for you as you think about your relationships with those you love?
- What gets in the way of love in your life?
Gracious God, your invitation to love can be a bit disorienting because there is so much emphasis placed on the truth of our faith. Help us to open ourselves up to the vulnerability and freedom that comes when we know and believe that we abide in you and your love. Help us to lead with love, choosing to outlove rather than outwit others for your sake. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1 John 4:16b – 21
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
John sees that among his flock, there is a high value placed on knowledge, knowledge that has no expression in love. The quest for this knowledge has led to fear of punishment. John is saying it is impossible to love when we live in fear that we are not enough, don’t know enough, or haven’t done enough. In God, we belong to him because of His unfailing love for us and can live free from fear. Living in love, not fear, allows us to live wholeheartedly before God and with others.
- Where do you see fear in your own life? How does it close you off from love?
- Where do you see the need to turn toward people in your life with love not fear? What is behind your resistance?
- How can you express the love that you experience from God to someone today?
Gracious God, we live in a world that stirs up fear and uses is as a guiding light for our decisions and relationships. We open ourselves to you and ask that you would show us where we need to let go of the fear that shrouds your love in our lives. You desire that we experience your wholehearted love for us so help us to come to you with our arms wide open, vulnerable and ready to receive it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.