Summary: The ultimate goal of every believer should be Christ-likeness. The closer we walk with Him, growing in grace, the more like Him we become. In order to live victorious, fulfilling Christian lives, we must abide in Christ.
Abiding in Christ
1 John 3: 18-24
Living a Christian life requires much more than church attendance during weekly services. Being known as a Christian is literally to be known as a follower of Christ, one who strives to live life as Christ lived. Being a Christian isn’t merely identification with certain deeds or actions, although they will be evident in our lives, it is genuinely a life we live; it is who we are.
John continues to provide basic admonitions for the Christian life. The truths he speaks of in this passage are not new to us, nor or they beyond our ability to comprehend. They are really simple thoughts that reach profound depths. If we are to be all Christ desires us to be, then we must live our lives as He lived His. We ought to be more like Jesus than at our conversion.
Let’s take a moment to consider the admonitions of the text as we think on: Abiding in Christ.
I. The Challenge Revealed (18-20) – John offers a profound challenge to every believer. This challenge concerns:
A. Our Expression of Love (18) – My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. That is simple enough to understand isn’t it? We are admonished not to limit our love to words that we speak, but to genuinely show our love in deed and in truth. Simply, our actions speak much louder than our words. We can talk of loving others and even challenge those around us to love others, but until we actually express our love through action, we have not really loved. Talk is cheap. We are admonished to show our love through action. Live it out daily as we serve others and care for them.
The work of love must also be performed with pure motives. Some may act in the appearance of love, but real love was not the motivating force. Let us love in truth as well.
B. Our Persuasion in Love (19) – And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. Genuine love flows freely from the believer who is in fellowship with Christ. It just comes naturally. When our hearts are right with the Lord, we will act in love and our love will be evident for others to see. Love is a genuine characteristic of Christianity. If there is never any love or compassion shown, there is little evidence of conversion. Lost people can show love, but it should always be evident in the lives of believers.
When we think of it, we are never more like our Lord than when we express love to others. Loving our neighbor as ourselves is the second great commandment, second only to our love for God. Those who belong to Christ will naturally possess and show love for others. Possessing and sharing this great love bears witness to our relationship with Christ.
C. Our Discretion through Love (20) – For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Real love, love as Christ loves, cannot be fabricated or imitated. One either possesses it through a relationship with Christ or not. At the moment of salvation we are filled with peace and wonder, but as we progress in the Christian life we all fail and miss the mark. Each of us, at some point or another, has found ourselves warming by the fires of denial. We have allowed doubt and sin to enter our hearts. Often during those moments we begin to question and even doubt our salvation. We ask: how could I possibly be saved and do such things? It is during these moments our hearts condemn us.
What comfort and peace we find in this verse. It certainly does not encourage or condone sin, but it does reveal great truth. We are not saved by feelings and we are not kept based on whether we “feel” saved or not. God is greater than our hearts. He is greater than our feelings of doubt. We are saved by grace through faith, not of our works. When our works and actions don’t measure up, we do not lose our salvation because it wasn’t secured by works originally. You will not always feel saved, but salvation is in the finished work of Christ. It is freely given, not dependent upon works or feelings.
II. The Confidence Revealed (21-22) – Many were the difficulties and distractions of the day and John sought to instill confidence in the church. We too can embrace this same confidence. Notice:
A. Our Assurance (21) – Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. He has spoken of times when we doubted, and here he speaks of the great assurance we enjoy in Christ. I too struggled with assurance of my salvation, but the Lord helped me and I eventually got past that struggle. All believers need to get to the place where our faith and trust rely solely upon the Lord. He alone secured my salvation and I rest completely in Him.