1 John 3:17-19, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.”
Now remember, verse 17 is in direct relation to the previous verses, so if you need to read the previous verses or go back to the previous lesson, do so to appropriately continue with the context of what the Beloved Apostle is teaching. This statement is a continuation of the thought that John expounds on concerning laying our lives down for others.
If you remember what we discussed in the last lesson, it wasn’t JUST in the sense of dying physically for others, but more in the vein of “dying to self” for others and putting them first if the need arises. Here John is continuing with that original thought from verse 16 and NOT starting a new, independent thought.
The Greek word used at the beginning of the sentence is de, which literally means: “but, moreover, and.” It is called a continuative primary particle and means just what it implies, a continuing of a previous thought or idea. You see, as I stated, this is all part of laying one’s life (or self) down for another.
We are NOT to withhold the goods or valuables of this world if we see or know of a brother or sister in need. To do so is selfishness, which I have always taught is true hate, and is not loving as Christ loved us! This is a sure sign of true Christianity as compared to false, and John is making the inference here that a person who DOES withhold from a brother or sister in need, when they HAVE the ability to help, is NOT in truth a Christian, a follower of Christ’s example.
Another point I want to make clear concerns the circumstance of indiscriminate giving. As Christians, those who are led by the Holy Spirit and have been given the spirit of discernment, that gift that allows us to follow the Holy Spirit’s “still small voice,” we must be discerning and aware of our giving and not just the motive, but will our giving truly benefit another. Sometimes giving indiscriminately can be as hazardous to the person WANTING a “gift” as if they didn’t receive it. We certainly don’t want to enable another’s harmful habits or circumstances that could make their plight in life even worse. An example would be giving money, or finances directly to someone who has a drinking problem, rather than the giver going the extra step to buy some groceries, for example, so that they might have some healthy meals. This is just an example, as the gift could be gasoline for their automobile to help them to work, or clothes to help them, etc. We truly do need to give some thought, but also understand that when and whatever we give is truly “as unto the Lord,” and we should expect nothing in return! Remember, the Lord Himself doesn’t give us everything we ask for, but is always faithful to meet our NEEDS. Sometimes we may not understand in the moment, but later we usually realize the wisdom in it. True love isn’t ALWAYS getting what we want, and so it is with giving to others; we have to be wise in demonstrating true agape love.
We are to ACT in love and truth. We are to DO, when the need arises, and we have the ability to do for others! This is love in action! This is the demonstration, the manifestation, the proof that true love exists! It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with how I feel about a situation or a person. For that matter, the person in need could be someone who has demonstrated disdain for me as a person, BUT, if they have the need and I can supply that need, as a Christian, in TRUTH, true Agape demands I demonstrate that love in actions. I know I have stated this in more than one lesson, but it bears repeating here, that old saying, “actions speak louder than words,” is oh so true and never more exemplified then in the lives of loving Christians toward others, whether Christian or not.
John tells us, and actually he infers a warning to us, he encourages and admonishes us, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
This is a confirmation to the Apostle James famous treatise on our actions necessary to demonstrate true faith:
James 2:14-16, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?”
Have you ever wondered at the fact that ALL of the great spiritual Character traits of being a Christian, a follower of the examples of Christ, are in and of themselves, actions? There is too many confirmations within ALL of the inspired writings to not see that fact!
You can go around telling everyone that you love them, but it has no value unless you are able in some way to put actions behind those words to prove the validity of them!! I know this seems hard and harsh and probably more so to those of you who are reading this on the internet, for we as Christians find it easy to tell those we don’t know within this medium that “we love you.” But—true love demands action. It isn’t love without the act behind it. So, concerning the internet “ministries,” the works, the service that we as Pastors, Teachers and Preachers practice here; how can we demonstrate love in that, especially when it comes to the needs of others and brothers and sisters?
I have taught this ever since I began so many years ago in this medium when some of my peers told me this was just a “hobby” ministry and not real ministry at all. Despite the fact it was the Holy Spirit that opened up and led me to this medium! We can pray AND fervently intercede for one another! I mean really acknowledge to the Father the needs that are requested in our ministries. We can exhort one another with encouragement. We can remember to esteem one another above ourselves. We can remember those that are young in the Lord and remember to provide them with the milk of the Word and not just let them be swept away with our intellectual theology!! To do or even think less of this area of service is putting our Sovereign Lord into a box of our own making and not giving Him the acknowledgement due Him in the area of affecting people’s lives through prayer and teaching! I for one will not do that, but rather, look for ways to GLORIFY God Almighty in the ways He reaches people.
If we remember, first in our hearts that we are here to SERVE, in whatever capacity the Lord has gifted us with and we do that service with unselfishness in our hearts, we are giving of ourselves, we are putting our lives aside for the benefits of others. This medium is a double-edged sword for a couple of reasons when serving others. First, we can give of ourselves without expecting anything in return, trusting that if we are obedient to the Lord, the Holy Spirit, Himself will accomplish the work in those that He has chosen to cross our paths. That makes it easy to love unselfishly, not expecting anything.
But then the other side is that if you are the type that thrives on praise and compliments and you do all to garner people’s affections, you might be approaching this serving from a selfish and stinted motive. Your works might be based more on the ability to receive compliments than of meeting real needs. Real service, is putting aside what you might get from it. Real service is being obedient to your Master, who is hopefully the Lord. Real service is caring more for the eternal welfare of those you serve than their feelings for you. Real service is being willing to wait until you hear from Him those words, “Well done though good and faithful servant.”
There is one final point I would like to make concerning assurance. Notice that whenever John gives instruction, he also gives us the way to be able to gauge our motives and our heart against what he is admonishing us to do. He continues the whole principle, the whole thought of doing rather in deed and truth than in just words, by telling us that when we do in deed, we then know that we are operating in truth and we then have the assurance in our hearts before the Lord. When we practice, as we showed in the previous lesson, when we actually practice doing, then we know, not just believe, but know that we are operating in truth. But the benefit doesn’t stop there by any means! The Lord, in His infinite Grace and Mercy to us, assures us in our hearts of that very truth! The act comes first, the assurance then follows.
Look back on the last time that you did something for another. It doesn’t matter if it was praying, encouraging or even helping to meet a natural need. Do you remember the “feeling” that followed? More than a “feeling” do you remember the sense of satisfaction, the inner joy that actually welled up within you? That is the fruit blossoming forth from the seeds that you planted! That is the Holy Spirit, putting that stamp of assurance upon your heart. You didn’t need any thanks or recognition or compliments. From deep within you, that sense of loving, of really doing for another just grew that much stronger in you!
It all started with, “we should love one another!” Those of you who know me on a more personal level know that I am constantly talking, teaching, exhorting etc., about the need to love one another. This didn’t happen in my life because one day I decided, “Hey, John’s a cool Apostle, I want to be like him!” This took place over many years as the Lord taught me and showed me the power of that very thing, Agape Love. I have seen it break down walls that have been built up over years. I have seen it transform the hardest hearts into hearts that melt at the needs of others! I have seen it strengthen those that were weak and weaken those that thought they were mighty in their own might!
Love is the greatest power in the Universe. It was love that created it, and created you and I to be able to enjoy our place in it. We will get more into the concept that God is love in upcoming lessons, but I want you to be able to meditate on it for what it really is. Sadly, and I am sincere in stating this, there are a lot of preachers and teachers who believe that the teaching of love is over rated, and it is too overdone. I have to disagree (and have actively disagreed) whole-heartedly with that thinking, because everything that is, the Law and the Prophets, from the Creation to the Crowning Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Throne for all eternity is based on that very principle. If God is love, (and I am NOT doubting that He IS) how can anyone say we talk about it too much? That concept is so totally foreign to my thinking and the way the Lord through His Holy Spirit has led me through the years!
My sincere prayer for all is that you develop and have that assurance within your heart and spirit; that you are able to walk and move in that truth and in that light! Don’t forget, it doesn’t happen all overnight, it is the difference between practicing love or practicing selfishness! I encourage you, to practice, practice, practice and then keep on practicing until our Lord and Redeemer returns. Like the Apostle Paul stated in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” Know this my brothers and sisters, I am right alongside each of you practicing and running as well! I am blessed and blessed to KNOW that we are truly in this race together!