To love like Jesus, we need to respond to the love he has shown us. Will we take heed of his sacrificial example and love others like we are called to?
Love Like Jesus
To see if you are a Christian ask yourself if you love God and if that love leads to a life of obedience inspired by his love for you.
“The love we are talking about must be motivated or given birth to by love itself. In other words, we are actually responding to God’s love as we are loving him back.”
Topics & Timestamps
00:00 – A recap of 1 John 1 and 2
05:22 – Obey the two greatest commandments
11:02 – Love must be motivated by love itself
19:17 – Loving results in obedience
28:57 – Marks of love in a true believer
35:47 – Check your heart
39:40 – Christ our example
Top Quotes: Love Like Jesus
“We respond to God’s love by loving him back.”
“To see if you are a Christian ask yourself if you love God and if that love leads to a life of obedience inspired by his love for you.”
“Salvation produces good fruit, it fixes our hearts and makes us lovers of others, we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to obey the greatest commandment.”
Other Content On This Topic
Text: 1 John 3
Date preached: 6th January 2022
Location: Alive and Active National Students Conference. Living Word Uganda, Kampala, Uganda
Today we are in chapter three of First John. 1 John 3.
Again, allow me to remind you of the main theme of this book: John himself says in chapter 5:13 that, “I have written these things to you, that you who believe the name of God’s Son that you might know that you have eternal life.” We said that that was because of the unsettling effect that took place in the early church by heretical teachers, who were claiming to be the ones who had that kind of privilege and that everybody else didn’t have that.
We mentioned the fact that it was primarily the gnostic heresy that was doing its rounds and, consequently, John was responding to them and doing it in such a way that those who believed in God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, would in fact be assured that they are the ones who had eternal life. The others did not.
We went through the first chapter and then spent quite a bit of time in the second chapter yesterday. I mentioned that I would have loved that first part of that second chapter to have been left in the first part, because of that continuation of, “if this is true then this must, of necessity, be true.”
Beyond that, we went on to ask the question, “In the light of this, how do I know that I am truly a Christian?”
Basically, what we said was, deal with this matter at heart level. Don’t deal with it by looking at outward things like how long your hair is, or how long your dress is, and things like that. Deal with it at heart level.
We notice issues like walking as Jesus did. We saw the whole issue of living a life of love, which we’ll come back to in chapter 3.
We saw issues of the journey in grace. What has been happening there? Again within your inner being, (it is) the reality of being born again and living out that aspect.
Then there were two major warnings that were there: one was the warning of worldliness, and the other was being warned against false teachers. The warning about false teachers was really, in a sense, encouraging, because what we’re being told is those that are running away from the context of truth to follow soul damning heresies, are individuals who, in the first place, had never really known the grace of our God.
What’s keeping you is not something that’s special about you from birth, but something that is special about you from the new birth. It is the anointing of God upon your life, which is really the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in you, who is making that wonderful difference.
Well again, I sort of differed a little bit with those that have split First John. I would have really loved if chapter three began with verse 28 of chapter 2. At least in my Bible the ESV (English Standard Version), whoever was working on the different subheadings, seems they’ve been convinced also, and so they put “children of God” not at the beginning of chapter 3, but at the beginning of verse 28. So there, I don’t feel too much of a heretic compared to yesterday!
If I was to summarize what is captured in chapter 3, it’s really the way I am heading my sermon and I’m calling it: obey the two greatest commandments. Obey the two greatest commandments.
Christianity is primarily remedial. If the fall had not taken place in Genesis 3, we would have never needed all those sacrifices, including the sacrifice of Jesus. It would have been a different world. We would have all simply continued after Adam and Eve to live perfect lives.
It was because of the disaster of Genesis 3 that the necessity of redemption came into place. What happened in Genesis 3 is big, but one of the things was that of a disturbance – a complete disturbance of the two most important relationships. One is the vertical one, with God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Two is the horizontal one – that is with one another. You can’t miss it when you read Genesis 3 itself, because when God came in the cool of the evening, what did Adam and Eve do? They ran away. They took cover.
You know, I love the way Genesis 3 speaks about the cool of the evening because it reminds me of young people who are in courtship, isn’t it? They meet in the cool of the evening. But then you know something is wrong when the person in question runs away from you. You know something has happened because that’s the romantic atmosphere and the person has run away.
There definitely was the loss of love for the living God. But you can’t also miss the way in which in Genesis 3 itself, when God said to Adam, “where are you?” and Adam’s response was very quick to put all the blame on Eve.
“It is this woman. She is the cause of all my problems!” Sounds like a lot of husbands in my church: “This is the cause of all my problems. Deal with her! Ever since you dumped her here, my life has never been the same.”
And then, of course, by the time we read chapter 4, the first two brothers, one murders the other. We’ll come to that in a moment of the story. What Christianity basically does, is to reverse that. To take us back to the point where our greatest love is to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength and then to love our neighbour the way we love ourselves.
Now, we never reach that perfection in this life but as I spoke about with the pealing of the onion, if we get to the you that makes you, you, if you are truly born again, those aspects will be there. A genuine love for God and a genuine love for others and especially, brothers and sisters in Christ.
That is what is captured in this, and I just want us to quickly go through it. The way John introduces it is by taking us right to the end of life and we are now standing before Almighty God and he’s saying at that point, the greatest thing is not to be ashamed. In other words, not to end up on the wrong side of God. That’s what we see that in verse 28 and 29 and then we will go into this love portion.
“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.” (1 John 2:28 – 29)
And that’s the point. It is this new birth that changes everything and that ensures therefore that you are not ashamed on that day and we who have led that in your life will not be ashamed on that day as well. It is the fruit of the new birth.
So, really that’s what we’re dealing with here and it is what produces that love. I want us to notice in quickly three things:
First of all, is that the love we are speaking about must be motivated, or given birth to, by love itself. In other words, we are actually responding to God’s love as we are loving him back.
Look at the way he puts it here in the first 3 verses, listen to this,
“See [or as some older versions say, “Behold what manner of love”] what kind of love, the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason why the world does not know us is that he 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. Everyone who thus hopes in him in this way purifies himself, as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1 – 3)
One of the most miserable things about religion outside Christ, is that it is a religion of works. It’s trying and trying and trying and hoping that, perhaps, you may have tried enough that on the judgment day, God says, “Well, you just managed to cross the line. Come in, come in, come in.” That’s a miserable way to live.
The joy of true Christianity is knowing that I am a Child of God. I’m saved. I’m going to Heaven. Jesus Christ has paid my debt completely. I have been adopted into God’s family. I am a child of God. When I die, I’m simply going home. That’s it.
What a difference it is! It causes one to be overwhelmed emotionally every so often at that thought. That’s what this passage is about here. He’s saying, “Think about it, think for a moment: What kind of love is that a rebel this such as you, and you know your rebellion in life, should be brought into the home of the King of kings and given all the rights of a place in that house?”
Now obviously, if you say that to unbelievers they go “Ho, obviously you’re just cheating yourself!” The Bible is saying don’t be surprised about that. Even when the very Son of God was on earth, the world didn’t recognize him. They rushed to get rid of him on the cross – got rid of him. Why? He’s claiming to be the Son of God! Now, if they missed him, they’ll miss you too.
But that should not cause you to also doubt who you are: you are a child of God now. When the angels of God are looking, here on earth, looking under this roof, looking at you, they are seeing those of you who are under their instructions. “Look after that one, that’s my child.” What love.
Now what that should do to you is to say, wow, if he has loved me this way, I want to love him back. Isn’t it? That’s the way life is.
I’ve raised 6 – well when I say children, it’s a little demeaning because they’re adults now, but I hope you understand. I’ve raised six children in my home and one of the marvels that I see is the way in which they will do anything for me. They really love me and I see it. I know it. I experience it. I when I need anything and I ask it of them, there is no hesitation, absolutely no hesitation. And it’s not because if they don’t, they will get bad signals from me. It’s just genuine love. Genuine love.
My mother died when I was 9 years old, and I was brought up by foster parents. And in the same way, I’ve brought up others. I always felt this sense of indebtedness to the man and woman that poured so much into my life and brought me up. I felt it.
I’ve never forgotten the day my foster mom came and put a paper in front of me and said she had been renting a government house and the house had now been sold. She gave it to me and simply said, “Son, you know what to do” and she went away. I got all the others to say, “Guys, here is the house we must buy. How much are you contributing?” We contributed and made a payment. Not because of compulsion, but out of love.
And that’s what this passage is telling us. He who has this hope in him purifies himself as he is pure. I want to obey him. I want to be like him.
Another obvious way of applying this is when you’ve been brought up in a home where your father or mother is a good role model. A good role model. Have you noticed how you say often to yourself, “When I grow up I want to be like…”
Well, precisely the same.
Again, the love that has been shown to you, are saying to yourself: “that’s the way I want to live. This is how I want to live.”
And this is now the outcome that we see in the rest of this chapter.
The first is that of loving God.
Now, the way in which you express love in a critical relationship is by obedience. That’s the way you do it. In marriage, you know that wives are told to do what? Submit. Now it’s not slavish submission, it is love responding to the husband’s love.
In the same way, children are called to do what to their parents? Obey their parents. It is the way you express love to him who is your authority figure in the home.
Alright, so we can go on speaking about this, but this is what we find here in verse 4 down to verse 10.
John is primarily saying that the distinctive mark of those who are truly the children of God is that of ethical holiness. Seeking a life that obeys God. A life that hates sin. It’s my sin that rushed my Saviour to the cross. I cannot indulge in it. I hate it.
Look at the way John goes to town, so to speak, to argue against anybody thinking they can be Christians and love sin at the same time. How does he do it?
First of all, he argues for the fact that, in fact, the very nature of sin is that it is rebellion, that’s what it is. It is to say to God, “God and your law to Hell. I’m going to live as I please. I will be a lord to my own self.”
Look at verse 4,
“Everyone who makes the practice of sinning also practices lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4)
Now you remember I said to you earlier that what the redemption has come to do, what Christ came to do, what Christianity is all about, is to fix that, so that, that which became the norm of Eden can become the abnormal in God’s kingdom. Therefore, sin is the opposite of what Jesus Christ came to do on earth. Is the opposite.
He puts it this way,
“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one, therefore, who abides in him, keeps on sinning. No one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:5 – 6)
It’s contrary: you cannot be claiming that Jesus Christ has saved you from hell if he hasn’t saved you from sin. Because he actually saves us from the sin that takes us to hell. Obviously, it’s not saying that we never ever sin. Remember we dealt with the heart issue. Because if you said you never ever sin, then it would contradict chapter 1, where it says, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:9)
But the point he is making there is at the heart. In other words, where is the trajectory of your life? Are you like a kitten or a cat? You know a cat; even when you think it’s clean because it often looks great, you find wherever it is sitting, its cleaning itself. All the time! You think it’s clean, but its cleaning itself.
Now that’s a Christian. While you are admiring the person, if you go eavesdropping in his closet, he’s confessing his sins to God. You say, “Wow! So this guy actually sins?”
But the point I’m making is this: introduce ugliness. Try cleaning a pig. As soon as it sees muddy water, its making itself dirty again.
Am I like a cat or am I like a pig? I was trying to avoid saying it!
But he argues further:
“Jesus Christ came to destroy the work of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) and kingdom of sin in your life then surely it hasn’t saved you. Again look at the following two verses there, verse 7 to verse 8:
“Dear children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness, is righteous as he is righteous. Whoever makes the 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.” (1 John 3:7 – 8)
That’s why he came. So you cannot claim me to be a Christian if the full-fledged life of sin and evil and wickedness is true of you. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in church. whether you’ve been baptized. Whether you memorize half the Bible. The question is: what is your life showing?
And then this final argument there is this that the new birth.
Remember we’re talking about being born of him at the very end of the chapter 2. We have the words, “if you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” (1 John 2:29)
The new birth rules out a person living in sin because it’s a moral transformation from inside out. It is a fixing of you in the heart. It is taking away from you that stony stubborn heart in a heart transplant and giving you a new heart. A new heart that loves God and loves righteousness.
Verse 9 and 10,
“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. 10 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.” (1 John 3:9 – 10)
Friends, do you to know if you’re a Christian? Simple. Do you love God? Do you? Is that love showing itself in a life of obedience to God? And is it inspired, not by fear of judgment, but by what kind of love the father has lavished, poured out on us, and us loving him back? So that’s the first aspect.
Second aspect is loving others. John has already introduced it in the statement, hasn’t he, when he said, “nor is the one who does not love his brother.” He brings in the aspect of love: that love is yet another test for our salvation. Because we have now entered into the family of God, we now care for one another.
That’s something that’s so interesting about the human family. It’s amazing, except that sin does make us fight. There’s a phrase we use, we call it “sibling wars.” Brothers and sisters fight about all kinds of things: toys and food and so on. But even after fighting, you’ll see the way in which they defend each other when the chips are down.
I went to boarding school when I was growing up, after my mom died as I said, went to live with my immediate older sister and when I went to building school.
I don’t know about Uganda, but in in Zambia those who are the first ones to come there, or rather the very last ones, they get mocked. They get bullied so much.
But for me, two years ahead, was one of my cousins at the home where I was living. It did not matter, the fact that at home, I told on him. To understand that phrase, when you’re going to tell the parents this is what they did etc.
When I went to boarding school, if anyone tried to bully me, I just went to tell him. And I made sure that I was deliberately very emotional when I did. “This is what John did to me!” John went into hiding, he did! For quite a few days actually!
This is something about family that God has done in making us who we are. And that’s the reason why what Cain did to Abel, that came so soon after Eden, tells us what sin has done to us.
And so, when you’re speaking about love here, one of the major tests of this love is brotherly love. We need the context of the church.
This is in verse 11.
“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (1 John 3:11)
It reminds us of what he said in chapter 2. He has spoken about this message from the beginning and it’s a message of love.
We’ve already spoken about Cain and this is where he comes to this,
“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.” (1 John 3:12 -13)
That you can understand, not your brother in the Lord hating you, for an upright and godly life that you are living. That you should not understand. And yet, that often happens because the Christian church is not a pure church.
The weeds grow with the wheat and therefore there will be people in the church who hate you. Why? Because of your goodness. That’s the very reason they hate you. And you are shocked. You can understand if you are being hated for a wicked life. But not for a life of genuine love for God his word, his word, his kingdom, but that’s because the world is also in the church. All I’m saying to you is that you should not be those that hate the righteous, because it simply shows that you are not saved.
John goes on to say that this is the undeniable proof that we’ve moved from death to life because that’s what happens at the new birth. God, by his Spirit, infuses life into you.
Look at the way he puts it here in verse 14,
“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.” (1 John 3:14 – 15) (Italics added)
John is not holding back any punches. He’s saying you should judge yourself. Because if you don’t judge yourself now, you will not seek salvation now and by the time you will be seeking it, it will be too late.
Remember how Jesus spoke about the final judgment? He spoke about how everyone would be raised from the dead and some would move to the right and others to the left. To those on the right he says. “When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you give me something to drink. I was naked you clothed me. I was sick you visited me…” And so on and so forth. And they are shocked and say, “When did we do this for you?” And he says, “When you did this for the least of my brother, you did this for me.” It was your life, it was your life of love of the brethren.
The he turns to those on his left and says, “Get away from me you workers of iniquity. When I was hungry you gave me nothing. When I was thirsty, you gave me nothing to drink. When I was a stranger, you did not look after me. When I was sick or in prison, you didn’t visit me.”
And they were shocked. They said Jesus, “When? Surely if we had seen you in any condition, we would have sold the last shirts on our backs to get you out of trouble.” And he says, “Well, when you were not doing it for the least of my brothers, you have not done anything for me.” That was abundant evidence that you were not a child of God. And those are sent to eternal punishment. (See Matthew 25:31 – 46)
Some people think, “Isn’t that teaching salvation by works?” No, it is teaching that salvation produces fruit – godly fruit. It fixes our hearts. It makes us lovers of others. We are enabled, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to obey the greatest and the second greatest commandments.
What we’re now being taught here, is that true love is, first of all, modelled in Christ. And then, the hatred being spoken about here is typical of fallen creatures. Let’s read this and I must wrap up.
”By this we know love, that (Jesus) 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.” (1 John 3:16)
So, Jesus is a great model, and we see it genuinely lived out in true believers. They see a need they don’t simply say “God bless you, I’ll pray for you,” and they don’t even pray. They are genuinely moved with sympathy to help genuine needs that are staring them in the face.
But listen to this, verse 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, [And that’s true of any Christian every so often, you doubt.] God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. “ (1 John 1:19)
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, this is now the fruit. It brings us back into the vertical we relationship. Confidence before God and whatever we ask we receive from him because we keep his commandments. There it is again; we love him and do what pleases him. and what is this commandment this is a commandment that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and there it is again and love one another just as he has commanded us whoever keeps his commandments abides in him and God in him and by this we know that he abides in us by
This loving God and loving the brethren, it’s not self-righteousness it’s not me making this strenuous effort against myself. It’s the Holy Spirit who came to take residency. And that’s what gives me confidence even when I go before God to talk to him, to pray. It is, “Lord, it must be you who has done this in my life. This is not me. I know myself too well. So, the work which you began, bring to completion, Lord. Bring it to completion in my life.”
So there we are. John is bringing this new birth and saying that it causes us to marvel at the love of God. Then we respond in love. Loving obedience to him. We’ll respond in love to his children. Yes, some of that also pours out into the non-Christian world, in terms of loving them to Christ but it certainly is true within the context of my brothers and sisters. Are you a Christian today? Are you?
Well use this test. Because what you find about religious people who are not Christians, not true Christians, it is this: they try to be morally upright. And some of them put us to shame about it. But it is out of lack of love. They’re miserable and often they are doing good works and they hate the fact that they are doing those good works.
In Zambia, one of the big things about belonging to a church is that your funeral will be taken care of very well. Not only taking your body through the building, but church members will come and they do all the cooking for all the mourners and they provide for them. And so on and so forth
I’ve never forgotten; one day, I was at a home when there was funeral. This particular church had uniforms. They wore white tops, red shirts and black trousers or skirts. I’m told it talks about how, you know, our sins were black, the blood of Jesus Christ came in and then we are now whiter than snow.
Well, they were cooking at the back and I happened to be in the building eavesdropping on the conversation. They were complaining. They were saying, “This funeral is too much, it’s just too much! There was funeral last week and we had to go there and a funeral the other week and so if anybody dies this coming week…”
That’s not love. They threaten you not to die. that’s not love.
That kind of Christianity which is outwardly, somehow appearing of care, but in the heart is missing the combination of ethical uprightness and, at the same time, loving joy only the Holy Spirit can produce in them. Instead of trying to do it in your own strength, go to Christ and say to him, “The picture that has been presented today, that’s not me. Lord Jesus, save me.”
Let’s pray: Our Father Heaven, again we thank you that we can be assured, even in this life, that we are your children and that can give us confidence in your presence as we approach you in prayer.
Lord, in this first congregation, no doubt there would be those that have a form of religion but completely lack in that seed that has been planted in those who are truly your children. The seed that abides in us. The Spirit of God who changes our lives. We pray that you confront it with the reality of your word, that they might seek you and find you.
Through Christ we pray, Amen.