Keeping God’s Commands; Living Like Yeshua; Loving Like Yeshua; The Characteristics Of True Believers; Loving God, Not The World
John wrote this letter to followers of Messiah to encourage them to have fellowship, which is a sharing of values and life, with the Father and the Son; to encourage them have fellowship with the true spiritual leaders like John; to warn them from following the antichrists, the false teachers and false prophets and false messiahs who oppose the true Messiah.
It’s easy to learn the basic teachings of the faith; go to church, or in our case, synagogue, temple, shul or congregation; say: “I’m a believer. I’m a Christian. I’m a Messianic Jew. I know God. I have fellowship with God. I love God.” Talk is cheap. To have fellowship with God, more than talk is needed. John wanted us to know that obedience is required. We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. The world hates God; is in rebellion against God; is at war with God; is disobedient to God. People are not in fellowship with God; not united to God; not in union with God; have no communion with God. They do not love God. To experience fellowship with God, to really love God, we must end our rebellion against Him; turn from disobedience to obedience; be committed to obey His word and keep His commands.
What commands? Not the commands of the Sinai Covenant. Rather, the commands of the Messiah, also known as the teachings of the New Covenant: Commands like: love God with all your heart and soul; love your neighbor; forgive 70 times 7; be holy; boldly proclaim the Gospel to everyone you can; what the Lord whispers in your ear, shout from the top of your house; love and serve your brothers and sisters; do something to build Messiah’s Community. When a person keeps these commands, he has real fellowship, real sharing of life with God; real communion with God; he has real love for God. We don’t want to be liars who are devoid of the truth, claiming to know and love God, but being disobedient and not doing what He commands.
How can we know we have real fellowship with God? We live like Yeshua did. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Yeshua did. Living like Yeshua lived doesn’t mean we need to wear sandals like He did, or wear the same kind of clothes He did, or keep all the laws of the Sinai Covenant like He did.
Yeshua’s followers live under Messiah’s New Covenant, not the broken Sinai Covenant. Therefore living like Yeshua lived means being like Yeshua; being full of love, grace, mercy and truth like Yeshua was; being holy like Yeshua was; being obedient to God like Yeshua was; focusing on proclaiming the Gospel like Yeshua did. If we are living like Yeshua lived, then we really know God; truly love God; genuinely are united to God and have fellowship with God.
It’s easy to say: “I’m a believer. I know God. I have fellowship with God. I love God. I’m a Christian. I’m a Messianic Jew. I’m saved. I’m going to Heaven.” Talk is cheap. To have fellowship with God, a real sharing of life with God, more than talk is needed. Love for our brothers and sisters is required. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Human beings, because they are made in the image of God, are incredibly precious, and are to be loved simply because of who they are. The command for us to love one another is an old command. It’s been around since the beginning.
I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. The command to love people is as old as Adam and Eve, who loved each other. The command to love people is as old as the command to be our brother’s keeper. But in another sense, the command to love our brothers and sisters is a new command, because the command to love is seen most clearly in Yeshua. Yeshua’s life adds a whole new dimension to the command to love. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Yeshua loved human beings – with caring love, gracious love, forgiving love, with sacrificial love. With the arrival of the Son of God, love is seen in new light. Live is seen in a powerful new way. With the life and death of Yeshua, love for God and love for people, especially for the followers of Yeshua, has assumed a new importance.
And John added that the truth about love was seen, not just in Yeshua, but in them. Just as love characterized the life of Messiah, love characterized the lives of the early Messianic Jews and Christians. They were a united community that loved one another.
The world is in darkness, which represents rebellion against God and sin and hatred and death. Light represents God’s presence, truth, salvation and life. Yeshua is the true light that is already shining. He has appeared. He has revealed that a life of love for God and for people is what God wants for humanity. Its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. With the arrival of the true light, and with the salvation of more and more people who love God and love people, we can see that the darkness is passing. How encouraging! How exciting!
Talk is cheap. If we are saved by Yeshua, the true light that is already shining, we will shine like Him. We will love like He did. If we don’t; if we hate others, especially our fellow Christians and Messianic Jews, we do not have fellowship with God. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
Love is our guiding light. If we love, we won’t stumble like a man walking around in the darkness. We will know how to relate to others in the right way.
We must love our brothers and sisters, even if we don’t like them – and we will not like all of them. We must love our brothers and sisters, even if they have hurt us – and some will hurt us. How can we do that? We remember that we have sinned against God, and continue to sin against God, yet He has forgiven us our many sins; and the sins our brothers and sisters have sinned against us are less than our sins against God. Therefore it is our duty to forgive them.
And we look at people like God looks at them – that they are made in His image, and are therefore very precious; but also, because of the fall of man, very damaged. We look at precious, damaged people, like God looks at them – with a redemptive perspective; that they can be saved, redeemed, transformed, become like Yeshua, live forever as the glorious children of God. We look at people, like God looks at them, as works in process.
When we have that perspective, we are able to respond to precious, damaged people with patient love. When they do or say something foolish, mean, hurtful, selfish, wrong – before we respond, we consider – not our hurt feelings, not our anger, and then respond from hurt or anger – which won’t be the right response – but we consider what is the best thing to say or do to help them so they won’t continue being foolish, mean, hurtful, selfish and wrong. That’s how we can dislike someone and yet love that person. That’s how we can be hurt but not respond by hurting back. That’s how we can love our brothers and sisters, who are imperfect and who will sin against us.
John wrote to believers to encourage them have fellowship with their true spiritual leaders, like John, and to encourage them to remain in the fellowship of the Father and the Son. There is God and there is Satan, the god of this world. There are true spiritual leaders and false spiritual leaders. There are true believers and false believers. What characterizes true believers? John told us: I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
True believers know God. They know Him as He really is – Father, Son and Spirit. They know Him in a personal, intimate way.
Their sins are forgiven. They know their sins are forgiven. They are grateful their sins are forgiven. They rejoice that their sins are forgiven.
They have overcome the evil one – Satan, the leader of the fallen angels, the god of this world. He no longer controls them. They no longer do his bidding. They are no longer under his authority. They no longer share his values. They no longer act like him.
The word of God lives in them. They understand it. They treasure it. They live it.
Most people are the opposite: They don’t know God as He is. They don’t know Him in a personal, relational way. Their sins are not forgiven. They have not overcome the evil one. The word of God does not live in them.
How about you? Are you a true believer? Talk is cheap. Are you the real thing? Do you know God as He is? Do you know Him in a relational way? Do you have a close, personal relationship with the living God? Have you confessed your sins and turned away from them, and with God’s grace, on a daily basis, are trying to not repeat your sins?
Do you know your sins are forgiven and are grateful and rejoice that they are forgiven? Have you overcome the evil one so that you are not doing the kinds of evil things he delights in? Is the word of God alive in you so that you understand it, appreciate it, treasure it and are living it?
True believers love God, not the world. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
When John commanded us to not love the world or anything in it, he didn’t mean our beautiful planet and the things in it like the people and animals and plants and trees and rivers and lakes and seas. “Do not love the world” means do not love the corrupt system in which we live with its corrupt values. John elaborated on what he meant by not loving the world or anything in the world: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
The world is characterized by the lust of the flesh: there are legitimate pleasures of the flesh: intimacy between a married man and woman; eating good food, drinking good wine, beer and other adult beverages; enjoying art, music, dance, sports and other wholesome entertainments. But those pleasures need to be done in moderation, not in excess; and pursued within God ordained boundaries – like sex being reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. God wants us to enjoy legitimate pleasures, which He has given us to enjoy, but enjoy them the way He intended. And, we don’t want to live merely to fulfill our appetites, or put our pleasures before serving God. That too is the lust of the flesh.
The world is characterized by the lust of the eyes: The desire for more and more things; never being satisfied with what we have; never being content – always wanting more money, more possessions, bigger things, better things. Those who are engaging in the lust of the eyes should understand that the pursuit of things rarely brings contentment. There is always more to possess. Even if they get everything they want, most still are unsatisfied. They ask: Is that all there is? They should consider this alternative given by Rabbi Paul: Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Godliness, knowing God and being like God and sharing God’s values, along with cultivating contentment if our basic needs are being met produces the most benefits and is the best way to live.
The world is characterized by the pride of life: the desire for fame, honor, position, authority over others. We don’t want to seek the honor given by fallen people, but the honor given by the holy God. We don’t want position and authority to be praised by others, but position and authority – if given by God to serve people and serve God.
God and a corrupt world are competing for our love. We can only love one. If we love God, we will turn away from a corrupt world. If we love a corrupt world, we have turned away from God. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. We must ask ourselves: Which do we love? God, or the world? We can know which one we love by knowing which one occupies our thoughts and interests and time and effort – and money. Which do you love? God, or the world?
And, John wanted us to know that there are two very different outcomes for those who love God and those who love the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. Let’s see: I have two choices: love God and show that I love Him by doing what He wants and live forever, or: love a corrupt and temporary world and its corrupt desires and be destroyed along with it. Hmm, which makes more sense to choose?
I made my choice – long ago. I chose to reject the world and its desires. I chose to love God and His desires, and do what He wants and live forever. How about you? Have you made your choice? Is the way you live, and what you value, consistent with your choice?
Father, John wrote this letter to help us make sure we have fellowship, a sharing of values and life, with You and Your Son; to help us have fellowship with the true spiritual leaders like John. Help us have that fellowship.
Father, it’s easy to learn the basic teachings of the faith; go to our congregation and say: “I’m a believer. I’m a Christian. I’m a Messianic Jew. I know God. I have fellowship with God. I love God.” Talk is cheap. To have fellowship with You, we know that obedience is required. Help us be obedient, truly obedient, an obedience that comes from our hearts.
Father, John told us that we can know we have real fellowship with You if we live like Yeshua lived. So work in us that we are living like Yeshua lived.
Father, John told us that to have fellowship with You, love for people, especially for our brothers and sisters, is required. Please work in us that we love our brothers and sisters – in spite of that being difficult at times.
Father, John told us that true believers know You in a personal, intimate way. Their sins are forgiven. They have overcome the evil one. Your word lives in them. They love You, not the world. Help us be those true believers.