1 John 3:11-18 (Part Two) January 8, 2017
Sermon Series on 1 John Sermon # 14 “What God Expects of You When You See Others in Need.”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
I want each of you to think about your top four of five priorities in life. Think about what you invest a lot of your time and energy into.
How many of you included loving other Christians among your priorities? Would it surprise you to know that God ranks this mutual love very high among His priorities for you?
John gave us a command in 1 John 3:11, that we should love one another. Did you know that the commandment to love others is one of the most repeated exhortations in the New Testament? It appears some 55 times, as a direct command! Here are some of the forms it takes:
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matt. 5:44
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39, and seven other times in the NT)
“Love one another” (John 13:34 and 14 other times in the NT.)
“Do everything in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
“Serve one another in love” (Gal. 5:13)
“Bear with one another in love” “Live a life of love” “Speak the truth in love” “Put on love” “Pursue love” “Stir up one another to love” “Love one another deeply” and more.
Therefore one of the most important things you should focus on is to love the Lord your God with all you have, and to love your neighbor as yourself; to love one another as Christ has loved you; to love the person in another pew with God’s love.
Last Sunday, we looked at the contrast between Cain and his hate and murder, and Christ and His love and self-sacrifice. We also saw that the prime model of love, the key motivation for love, the supreme might behind such love is found in v. 16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
What is love? Poets, songwriters, and lovers all want to know the answer to that question.
Well, here in 1 John 3:16 we are told what love is: that “Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.”
Let’s continue in vv. 17-18, as we see how we are to love one another.
17 “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
God tells us that our love should be demonstrable, with concrete displays of love (18), just as Christ’s love was an action, a laying down of life on our behalf (16). This is how we know what real love is – not mere talk, but a compassionate sacrifice for others in need. (17).
Did you notice the change from “brothers” in v. 16 to “brother” in v. 17? This change is deliberate and significant. For it is easier to profess a love for helping people in general than it is to get involved in the life of one individual or one family, right? Especially if their lives are complicated, messy, dysfunctional, and entangled! One person put it this way: “Loving everybody in general may be an excuse for loving nobody in particular.”
But let’s be honest: such love in action requires a significant investment of our time, energy, resources, and it will stretch us out of our comfort zone. v. 17 tells us this includes giving to others who are in need, from what we have.
So I want you to think of a situation where you had material possessions (“the life of the world”) AND you saw a brother of sister in need of the very possession you had. Maybe it was money, or a room to stay in, or a car. How did you respond? Did you have pity on that brother or sister in need, and share it with them? [Yes or no?] What went through your mind? Did you show Christ’s love in action? Why or why not?
Let’s back up a step in this process of loving others, by asking you some questions: “Are you seeing your brother and sister in need?” Is it possible that you are so wrapped up in your problems or in your little self-centered world, so that you have put blinders on, to prevent you from even seeing the needs of others? What about hearing those needs? That is, are your conversations so much about you that you rarely bother to ask about the needs of others, so they don’t even come across your radar screen of compassion?
If you aren’t seeing or hearing the needs of your brother or sisters, then you won’t be loving them with Christ’s love, right? We may need to begin by repenting of our narrow focus and by asking God’s forgiveness of our deliberate blindness and deafness towards the needs around us.
Yet at the same time I rejoice that the grace of God is working in many of you, so that you do care about the needs of others. You are seeing the needs, you are hearing the hurts, and the Holy Spirit is living in you, prompting you to help meet those need! I think of those who volunteer their time to help Every Good Gift, caring for crying and sometimes screaming babies for four hours, so that the moms can be mentored. I think of those who are giving of their time and energy to care for needy adult parents or grandchildren. I thank God that His love is working in you to cause you to reach out to the stranger, the widow, and the sick. May the Lord encourage you and give you grace to persevere in His love!
Did you ever wonder why our loving God allows so many of His people to be so poor, to suffer so much, or to be in such need? Do you ever think: “Why doesn’t the Lord meet their needs and heal them and provide for them?” Well, 1 John 3:17-18 gives us a clue as to why God allows His people to be in material need at times: He wants you and me to help meet that need. He wants us to be so gripped by the love He has for us, so moved by the love of Jesus Christ laying down His own life on our behalf, as our propitiation, as our atoning sacrifice, that we express that love, by giving to others, in compassion, through sacrifice, and in action and in truth!
It is as if God has periodic tests set up for us: He gives us material goods, and then He wants us to learn for ourselves if we are selfish or selfless. All the time He wants us to know more of His love for us and to see that love transform our hearts and our checkbooks and our comfort.
God is calling us to give sacrificially, to give generously, and to give in faith, when we see our brothers and sisters in need. It’s okay if you start out small and seek to ramp up to the Biblical ideal. For as you are faithful in little things, God will allow you to be faithful in bigger things. He wants you to taste and see that the Lord is good, step by step, as you trust Him, and He fills your heart with His compassion and pity.
I had to laugh at God’s timing for reminding me of this truth when He did, a few weeks ago, when I was preparing this sermon. At that time, God brought an unusual number of needs to my attention, and Lynn’s. And He used those needs to challenge us to consider: Would we have compassion on our brothers and sisters in need, given that we possessed the material possessions they needed?
Here’s what happened, all in the space of about one week:
A single mother of two children calls the church and said she’s being evicted from her apartment, and needs financial help.
A father of three from another country lets me know that he needs help getting his American driver’s license… and could also use a car.
Two families in the Interfaith Hospitality program -who are without a home – needed some meals and overnight hosts.
Three single moms needed babysitting and mentoring and feeding from God’s Word, so they could break out of generational poverty,
A single man had nowhere to live and needed a place to stay for a while.
All of that was going on the same time, in the midst of everyday jobs and other volunteer responsibilities, while I was studying these verses of Scripture: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
So what could Lynn and I do but to show God’s mercy upon those in need, when we (and you as a church) had the resources to meet those needs?
You see, when you do have the resources to help those in need, then God says, ‘Have compassion on them; give of your money, give of your time, share your possessions, use your skills… Let Christ’s love for you – flow through you- to reach them! And as you love them, God will be glorified; Thanks will be given to Him; you will be blessed; their need will be met; and the gospel of Jesus will be demonstrated in action! You know, that is what happened that week when all those needs came together… and God gave joy to me, to Lynn, and to many of you, as we shared in being instruments of God’s love in Christ!
Yet at the same time there is a tendency for us to think, “I can’t help everyone who has a need.” That’s true, but here’s what God showed me from v. 17: “God does not expect you to help everyone in the world. But He does expect you to help those He brings to your attention, using the resources which He has given you.” (Repeat)
Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan, who helped the one victim He came across. Remember that Jesus Christ didn’t heal every leper in Galilee. He didn’t give sight to every blind man. Likewise the apostles didn’t wipe out poverty or make every lame man to walk. But they did bring Christ’s love to bear upon the needy who came to their attention. They did share their money with those who they knew were in need. They helped those whom God brought to their attention, by using the resources that God had given them: prayer, healing powers, money, lands, and even their lives. “God does not expect you to help everyone in the world. But He does expect you to help those He brings to your attention, using the resources which He has given you.”
My friends, if we fail to have pity and compassion on our brothers and sisters in need, then God declares that His love is not in us. Let me repeat what God says: if we do not show compassion on our brothers and sisters in need, then God’s love is not in us. Is God’s love in you? Then let it take action! Yes, God’s love was revealed dramatically and historically in His Son laying down His life for us on the cross. Hallelujah! But that love should now be displayed continually in us, His disciples. The essence of such divine love, whether in Christ or is us, is costly self-giving; it is the giving of our possessions, of our self, and at times, even of our very life. It is the love that God showed to you and to me. Let us bask in that love. Let us dwell in that love. And it will motivate us; it will move us; it will give us a makeover of love, by the hand of God’s Spirit at work!
18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”