Summary: The love that Christians hold for one another and their self-sacrifice is evidence that they have been transformed from life that ends in death to eternal life with the Father.


There are some powerful and surprising statements in I John 3

". . . we know we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers. The man who does not love is among the living dead."

Christians gather in churches for many reasons, but chief among them is the sense that in this assembly of Christians we find out what is ultimately real. Here we sense in our prayers and communion together we contact the Ultimate Reality. The Ultimate Truth we meet is the person of Jesus. We use many symbols to describe this contact with the Ultimate Reality. Jesus spoke of Living Bread and Water of Life.

One of the early Spanish explorers coming to this country scoured Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth. They looked for life in all the wrong places.

Jesus describes His life, that is life shared with Him, as the Water of Life. John the writer of the Gospel and of today’s epistles says that the person who believes and follows Jesus will have this fountain of life bubbling up inside him.

Jesus describes Himself as the Living Bread or the Bread of Life.

He who wants to know truth should come to Him who is the "Life, the Truth, and the Way" and he will have found God the Father and the Ultimate Truth about this life. One of Jesus’ disciples, Philip said,

"Show us the Father. . . ." Jesus in effect answered, "Look at me. If you have seen me. . .you have seen the Father."

God the Father, God the Creator has shared the secret of life with the Son who offers it freely to all who will accept. In His last words to us recorded in Revelation, Jesus says "Let all who desire it accept the gift of life-giving water."

Let’s go back to I JOHN 3:14

". . . we know we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers. The man who does not love is among the living dead."

John is giving us a reality check here. Do we really know that we have already passed from death to life? Do we know we have eaten the living bread, drunk the living water, and have already bypassed death?

The proof that we are living in life, that we have passed from death to life is that we live in love. "The man who does not love is among the

living dead." John is saying they are Zombies.

The movie "Dead Man Walking" shows us what life is like for the death row inmates as they hear the jailer say "Dead Man Walking" and they watch the condemned man take his last walk. Certain primitive cultures believed that Zombies, the dead, could come back to walk among us, but that they had no spirit, no real life. There is no light of love in their dead, unseeing eyes.

John is saying that people who live without compassion, without love are already dead, they are like Zombies.

The reality check is to measure our life alongside our Lord Jesus’ life.

I JOHN 3:16

"The way we came to understand love was that he laid down his life for us; we too must lay down our lives for our brothers. I ask you, how can God’s love survive in a man who has enough of this world’s goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need? Little children, let us love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it."

So John moves beyond our emotions, to the reality of the way we live. Do we love enough to live sacrificially and redemptively?

Isaiah 53 describes the suffering servant; which originally was Israel, then became the man Jesus, and is now Christ’s Body the Church. "Surely he hath born our griefs and carried our sorrows . . . .with His stripes, we are healed. . . ."

Have you born anyone else’s griefs. . .carried anyone else’s sorrows? . . .taken the lash, the scorn, the ridicule for anyone else? Have you absorbed verbal blows due to someone else with a redemptive purpose in mind? Have you born someone else’s physical burdens?

The Apostle Peter says that we are to follow in Jesus steps I Peter 1:21

Peter says a person in a position of service, or even slavery, if he does the right things and yet is beaten and treated harshly, and can suffer this injustice through his awareness of God’s presence. This IS THE WORK OF GRACE IN HIM. Peter says if you can put up with suffering while doing the right thing this is acceptable to God.

I Peter 1:21 "It was for this you were called, since Christ suffered for you IN JUST THIS WAY AND LEFT YOU AN EXAMPLE, TO HAVE YOU FOLLOW IN HIS FOOTSTEPS." Peter says that when you are accused, insulted, slighted or otherwise hurt when trying to do a good thing, you are suffering in the same way as Christ suffered, and following His example. That is redemptive, it is converting, it is the sign of God’s continued life in this world; a sign of his continued redemptive efforts to save other people in this life.

John says we show the sign of God’s life by giving. That can’t be just the gift, but also must be the giving ourselves along with the gift.

William Ellery Channing was a clergyman in these United States in the early 1800’s. He reacted strongly against the teachings of despair common in those days in some parts of the church which described men as totally depraved. He helped the church to see the potential of men to become Christlike, Godlike, recreated in His image.

William Ellery Channing understood giving self with the gift. During his busy ministry, for many years he fed with his own hands, two poor elderly women who believed that people wished to poison them. They would only accept food from him.

This is really living, when we live in service to other people. Anyone who has participated in team sports knows the joy of winning together with the team. The play maker in basketball has as much joy as the one who delivers the slam-dunk.

Some say they are really living when they pursue some dream or enjoying some passtime. But as a person knowledgeable in psychology said, "the shut-in personality", the self centered personality, has "the beginning of dementia praecox," that is insanity, being out of touch with reality. Everyman who finds his center in himself rather than in others is on the way to madness.

In dealing with the world, whether with friend or perceived enemies, love is the only way to real life.

Orville Dewey, a 19th century clergyman said,

"There is nothing to do with men but to love them. . . .Task all the ingenuity of your mind to devise some other thing but you never can find it. To hate your adversary will not help you;. . .. nothing within the compass of the universe can help you, but to love him."

So God still works through the Body of Christ, attempting to redeem this troubled and sometimes very evil world.

What further proof have we that there is any reality to this?

If Hal Lee were to issue a driver’s license to Wallace Hite and a Passport to Phil Minton, and these two men were to attempt to pass these documents off as real and valid, everyone would be in trouble for fraud.

Wallace would have his car impounded and a date with a judge to answer why he had no valid license to operate his vehicle. Phil would be in similar circumstances for trying to enter a foreign country, or to get back into this country without proper proof. The documents would have no reality about them.

John is saying, you have a passport from death to life. You have access to the Ultimate Reality. The engine that drives our life and assures us we are in touch with reality is trust in Christ and living in love.

I John 3:23,24

"We can be sure that God is with us and that we will receive at his hands whatever we ask. Why? Because we are keeping his commandments. . . .we are to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and are to love one another as he commanded us. Those who keep his commandments remain in him and he in them. And this is how we know that he remains in us: from the Spirit that he gave us."

These are some of the proofs that this is so:

1) Historically - Jesus operated on this principle that one should love his enemy and use it as a tool to change men and societies.

Jeremiah set an example.

Jeremiah warned the nation not to resist Nebuchadnezzar’s armies, but to live obediently and trust God, and the nation would survive. So also, Jesus warned the Nation in His day. He knew that

the Roman occupiers were capable of destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, and prophecied that it would happen. The temple had become a "Den of brigands", not just thieves, but revolutionaries. Jesus was constantly goaded by some to be a revolutionary Messiah, freeing the land from the Romans.

Jesus warned the people not to resist evil, but to return evil with good. He warned what it would look like when the Roman armies would approach Jerusalem, and that the people should flee.

He advised making peace, but instead, false Messiah’s arose and as a result Rome came in and wiped Jerusalem off the map in a 3 year seige.

Jesus’ followers were obedient and saved themselves from the judgment God heaped on Jerusalem through the Roman armies.

This of course happened 40 years after Jesus’ death. We are told that shortly before the 3 year seige of Jerusalem that James, the brother of the Lord led the Jerusalem Church north through the mountains to Syria. Jesus’ prophecy, and the people’s faith in

Him and his teaching saved many lives. The lives of people today can be radically changed and saved not only for the hereafter, but for the hear and now.

2. You can try these sayings of Jesus out in your life. Live in love, reward evil with good, put up with the suffering that sometimes comes as a reward for doing the right thing in the evil world.

Christians have made a journal of the challenges to their life and their attempts to respond according to Christ’s law of love and have been astounded at the fact that He is able to save. The Law works.

3. The Spirit will give you inner peace, even when you have done the right thing but are cursed or ridiculed for it. Paul describes this indwelling spirit as “The Earnest of the Spirit.” Earnest Money is a down payment, as on a purchase of a home. The Earnest of the Spirit is the down payment the Christian receives on the Eternal Life promised to him by the Father.

We read at the beginning “we have passed from death to Life.” The Holy Spirit is God’s down payment to us assuring us of its reality.

One sure sign that you are living outside of the law of Love, outside of Christ, is if you have lost your inner peace. It is not uncommon that we feel the absence of God as well as His presence.

Confidence comes again when we extend ourselves to help another, whether friend or perceived enemy does not matter so long as we do it in Christ’s name and for his glory.

If we are discouraged, it is probably because once again we are self-centered. As Mildred Stillman said, "The whole basis of your trouble is that you cannot get out of yourself. Do you hope to get out of it by always communing with yourself, and feeding your sensibility?

You only make yourself pity yourself by all this introversion. But the slightest glance toward God would calm your heart far better."

Once again, where do we find God? If after prayer, we are still feeling unfulfilled, or that we have not the Spirit, it means we need to follow the footsteps of Jesus in service to others. It was Jesus who told us that when we render a kindness to another in need, we

are rendering service to Him.

George Handel wrote:

The heaven that hides him from our sight

Knows neither near nor far:

An altar candle sheds its light

As surely as a star;

And where his loving people meet

To share the gift divine,

There stands he with unhurrying feet;

There heavenly splendors shine.