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Know Truth: I John 3:18-22

I John: LIGHT/LOVE
Know Truth: I John 3:18-22
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday March 27, 2022

Draft, Not Transcript

Let’s get straight to work and see that love is elemental and foundational to the christian life, not elementary.
 
1 John 3:18–22 (ESV)
18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Flip to 1 Corinthians 13, I’m afraid we think of “love” as elementary but it isn’t it is elemental.
 
1 Corinthians 13:1 (ESV)
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
 
John has been focused on the implications of love for much of chapter 3. Look back up in the book: 
 
1 John 3:1–3 (ESV)
1 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.
2 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.
3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
 
Deeply stamped into us, part of the image of God in us, is a capacity to love when we are redeemed this capacity is tapped and nourished for the purposes of God. 
 
Love is the focal point for John here.  In working to pull on that thread, he presents to us two couplets in verse 18: word/talk and deed/truth. 

Love is elemental and foundational to the christian life, not elementary.
 
John, in verses 11-15 of chapter 3, talked about love 6 times.
  
Then he gives application to loving Biblically, in verses 16-18, where we now find ourselves. 
 
1 John 3:16–18 (ESV)
16 By this, we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
17 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?
18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
 
Similarly, James in James 2:18 said:
 
James 2:18 (ESV)
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
 
John has returned to his impassioned address, little children.  Little children, he says, as a continuation of verse 17’s hanging question:
 
1 John 3:17 (ESV)
17 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?
 
If the love of God is in you, then your heart will open to your brother in need.  It’s an outflow of inflow of the love of God in you, as another James once said.  John says to the audience of believers (affectionally called little children), ‘let us’.  He includes himself, let all of us, me included, those who claim Christ let us take those words and talk and marry them with deeds founded in truth.
 
Love is elemental and foundational to the christian life, not elementary.
 
As we continue, John will ask in 19, how do we know we are redeemed believers and how can we be assured.  Then in 20-21, he splits people in two, 1) assured hearts 2) condemned hearts.
 
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;
20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
 
Have you ever heard of tiger balm?  It is for muscle aches and pains. Tiger balm, I believe, was created in a laboratory by torture artists and should only be distributed with a prescription.  That product, if used rightly, helps dull the pain of muscle strains (by out shouting pain receptors through a fire-like burning sensation). In my life I’ve gone through a good bit of it.  However, it is pretty troublesome if you don’t use it carefully or right.
 
 Don’t let it touch your eyes.  You will wish for death. 
 
Tiger balm is in someways like verses 19 and 20.  If I read verses 17-18 and am comforted that the love in

1 John 3:1 (ESV)
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.
 
When we see:
1 John 3:17 (ESV)
17 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?
 
We see our fellow believers in need and think, how can I help? We have compassion for them, and we see that evidenced in:
 
1 John 3:18 (ESV)
18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
 
Our love manifested in word/talk is met with deed and truth, we’re seeing fruit of the love of God in us:
 
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;
20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
 
The manifestation of the love of God in us (by this) by a word/talk joined with deed/truth, and this is the encouragement.

It is the outflow.

It is the fruit of our alignment to God in Christ. 

The balm that is these verses says that the practice of Godly love from the believer blesses us with an inner assurance of Hope:
 
Philippians 4:6–7 (ESV)
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 
Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)
11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
 
How do we have this faith, hope, and conviction; it is an innate truth we know from the Word, and it is supported and grown over time through experience as a believer.

Love is elemental and foundational to the christian life, not elementary.
 
Hebrews 11 provides excellent news, but what if we approach this passage as an unmoved, unloving, uncaring soul? Like my example, tiger balm, this great encouragement applied to the wrong areas, an unmoved heart, burns.

Our question then shouldn’t be, how do I mask the burn, but rather WHY is it burning – because we know:
 
Isaiah 55:11 (ESV)
11    so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
       but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
 
If you find yourself burned by this passage on assurance of salvation, if you find yourself unmoved by the plight of the believing, you need to consider whether you have been converted.  Whether the God of eternity has called you to be His own; because as we’ve read previously:
 
1 John 1:7–9 (ESV)
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
 
Unlike tiger balm, the burn from verses on assurance of salvation isn’t the Word not working. This burn is, in fact, the word working.
 
Consider again the verse that followed 1 John 1:7-8 above, you are deceived if you say you’re in the light and aren’t.  If you confess, He is able (in power and fairness) to save you.
 
You see, the word of God isn’t some cold balm designed to cover up the pain. Instead, the Word will effectually raise pain to the surface and give it purpose, that is annihilation of the root cause the power and guilt of sin.
 
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
 
1 John 3:21-22 (ESV)
21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
 
He carries his thought through – if verse 18 is to those whose love is in word/talk met with deed/truth as filtered through verses 19-20’s assurance, then John addresses this beloved group of assured believers.  However, the scripture continues to work for both the assured and un-assured. 
 
“if our heart does not condemn us”
 
What if it does
 
“we have a confidence before God”
 
What if we don’t have confidence?  This is the thrust and conviction of verse 18. 
 
Romans 8:13–17 (ESV)
13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
 
The scripture has one single, consistent message. We are bent against God (all the evidence demonstrates this).  Conversely, Jesus lived perfectly paid for the sins of those who will believe. The question becomes – will you believe? 
 
22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
 
Ahhhhh, so we’ve arrived—verse 22.
 
What a great place to jump in with no context and give a sermon on prayer.  It’s a formula, right: 
 
keep commandments+good works = whatever we ask, we receive
 
Except that John spent 21 verses getting here.
 
We have a running joke in my house where you say, oh, so what you’re saying is, then you give some blown-out oversimplified conclusion to whatever the person was actually saying.  It is a fun game, and sadly many people play that game with the scripture in this verse.
 
You can play that game here if you don’t care for the word and want to believe unfounded things, but not if you have high regard for truth. Remember, our word/talk must be met by deed in truth. 
 
These are the key couplets of verse 18, word/talk + deed/truth. Deeds must be founded in the truth.
 
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
 
Titus 3:8 (ESV)
8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
 
James 3:13 (ESV)
Wisdom from Above
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.
 
Matthew 7:21–23 (ESV)
I Never Knew You
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?
23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
 
On scriptures overarching foundation of texts about good works, John demonstrates God as the fruit of transformation and works as flowing naturally through a transformed person.  3:1-11 talks about the love believers have as a gift from God, making us “like” him. Reminding us that if we have the love of God, we purify ourselves in the first 3 verses, then spends verses 4-11 giving the counter-argument – when we don’t have love, we have sin, and sin is separation from God.
 
11-15 we studied last week, seeing the example of Cain and Able, the fruit of lack of love. 
 
16 we are called to imitate and model God’s love, demonstrated in Christ’s sacrifice.
 
17-18 called to model intra-Christian love and see that as fruits of salvation.
 
John is building out a case for living as a transformed people centered on love, not for manipulating God for stuff.
 
John arrives at verse 21 not to blow that all away and give you a formula for manipulating God, but to encourage you that as you’re increasingly abiding in God, seeing the fruits of Love, you’ll be so radically transformed that your very prayers and desires are aligned with God’s will. You’ll see God moving in your life – this is elevated over stuff/things – plastic objects from China hold a distant second to the Will of God playing out in your life.
 
In the face of ultimate suffering and hardship, Jesus prayed that His very prayers would be in alignment with the will of God:
 
Luke 22:42 (ESV)
42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

One theologian, Westcott, wrote, “the fruit of love is confidence”
 
John Stott said that love is the final objective test of our Christian profession.
 
Our great love for the brothers and sisters is fruit and fuel to be encouraged to keep abiding:
 
John 15:7 (ESV)
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
 
This is the blessing we find: conformity to God through abiding in Him and learn that love is elemental and foundational to the christian life, not elementary.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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