How do you tell the children of God, the followers of Christ apart from the rest of the world? You see the fruition of the God’s Spirit in us through our actions. We are not saved by works, we are recognized by them. Verse 10 reads,
“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
So what is it to practice righteousness? Practicing or regularly applying and living out righteousness is done through loving one another. Verse 11 reads,
“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
Earlier in this letter John had said he was writing to the Believers, not about a new commandment but one they had from the beginning but it had been made new because of Jesus. That commandment was to walk as Jesus walked. (1 John 2:6-8). John brought up the commandment again but this time he worded it to love one another. Certainly Jesus gave this commandment several times during His ministry. (John 13:34-35, John 15:12, 17). It is new because in loving one another we are loving as Jesus, with His Spirit, glorifying the Father and showing people to the kingdom of God. But is the same message given from the beginning, God wants a relationship with people. God wants us to love Him and love others. He never changed His message. He never changed His commandments. Love God, love others, and love one another. That is practicing righteousness.
No matter how well you exemplify Jesus and love people, the world will hate you for it. In fact the more you love, the more they will hate you. You don’t find self-worth in what others think of you, your true value is in the fact that God created you, loves you, gave up His Son for you, died for you, and lives for you. God Almighty became Abba to you by adopting you. Don’t look to the world for your value. Their hate is brought about by resentment and jealousy. They might not know they want God or need Him, but deep down they do want that relationship with God and your behavior and acceptance from God makes them hate you. Verses 12-15 read,
“We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
The world is living dead and they need the life Jesus offers. If we love as Jesus loves, we care. We care even though they hate us and persecute us. We don’t want to leave them to death. That is tantamount to murder. That is what hate brings. The world wants us to die along with them. God wants them to live alongside us with Him.
That is a grandiose idea how do we make it practical and real? How do we love them in everyday life? Jesus laid down His life for us, we have to do the same for others. That might not mean we have to take a bullet for them (though it might). It does mean we have to be willing to sacrifice ourselves, our desires, even our needs to help others. John gave us an example of how to love another. Verses 16-18 reads,
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
If you see your brother in need and you have what he needs, you give it to him. If you choose not to care, then can God really be in you? His needs could be food, a job, clothes, encouragement, or prayer. If we move the scope out from your brothers to others, then how can we close our hearts to the world’s need of Jesus? How can we ignore that they are lost, dead in sin, and headed for destruction?
When you do the right thing, when you actually love people as Jesus loved you, you don’t have to fight with guilt, regret, or condemnation. Psalm 85:10 says,
“Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.”
And when your heart denounces and convicts you, when you realize that you haven’t loved and that God doesn’t abide in you, you can turn to God and ask Jesus into your life. God forgives sin. He will take it all away and He will not condemn you if you are in Christ. People have to reach the point of their heart convicting them if they are to ask God to make them righteous. Verses 19-20 put it this way,
“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”
When you live out your life in Christ, you know that He is in you and you don’t have to worry about sin keeping you from God. You know you are forgiven and God Almighty is also your Father. You can approach God and talk to Him about anything. He will give you everything you need and He will make it possible for you to live out your salvation by loving one another. Verses 21-22 read,
“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”
How do you know? How do you have confidence in your salvation when you still wrestle with your flesh? You know the same way others know because you keep His commandments. You are not saved by works, your salvation shows in your walk and actions. And what are God’s commandments? Verse 23 tells us.
“And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”
Yep, that is it. Believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love another, just as He commanded us. If you do that, you have no worries. You have no condemnation. You have confidence that you rest in God, and He lives in you. He gives you His Spirit. His awesome wonderful Spirit, His life, His nature, His love. Verse 24 says it like this,
“Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”
So fellow believers, be encouraged. Sure the world hates you, but you have the Spirit of the Living God within you and He makes it possible for you to love them. It pleases Him when you love them. He gives you all you need to love them. You have Almighty God as your Papa, Daddy, Abba, your Father.