On acting out what you know

Its been a while y’alls. I am still trying to figure out that balance between outside-work activities and making sure food is on my table even if the quest to not starve takes over my life sometimes 😂. Also, let me confess: laziness plays a part. Anyways, the Lord has caught His daughter and I am back now – His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) 🙂

Let’s dive in:

A few days ago, my morning devotion led me to 1 John 3 and I thought the lesson was worth sharing. The key message in this chapter is to act on what we know. This is especially important because James 4:17 tells us:

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

1 John 3 opens up by letting us know that God shows how much He loves us by calling us His children and that is what we are. There are two things to note here:

1) He shows his love by claiming us. By declaring us as His. (Side note: God is so romantic y’alls. He screams out, “I love her and she is mine“. Cue swooning and sighs)
2) He calls us His and thus that is what we are. Whatever God says about us is what is true.

Verse 2 then ushers us into a theme that recurs throughout the chapter – this idea of us knowing who we are but not having come into the full manifestation of it yet. In verse 2, John tells us:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is

By knowing God/Jesus, we know us/ who we are supposed to be.We are children of God. No one can take that away. He declared it and so it is. However, our coming into the fullness of our identity is dependent on seeing Jesus as He really is; something that will not happen till He comes back to earth. So, we will not reach perfection till Jesus comes but the question is : what are we doing with the knowledge of Him available to us now? How are we progressing towards that full manifestation of who we are? I think this is what verse 3 gets at when it says that those with the eager expectation of being like God will keep themselves pure now just as God is pure. So we do not know exactly what we will look like because we have gaps in our knowledge about Jesus as He really is but we do know certain things about Him now. Our duty is to act on that knowledge e.g. you know He is merciful so strive to be merciful.

Now let’s jump to verse 6 where John digs deeper into one aspect of Jesus we are very familiar with: His purity. John tells us that anyone who continually sins (i.e. does not pursue purity), does not know or understand Jesus because we know there is no sin in Jesus (verse 5). Furthermore, anyone who continues to live in Jesus will not sin. It seems the key to being like Jesus (especially in regards to purity) is abiding in Him. John 15:4 clearly tells us that we will not be able to bear fruit (in this case display His character) unless we remain in Him. The dictionary definition of abide is to live or dwell in. In order to be like Jesus, we need to continually dwell in Him i.e. spent time with Him and get to know Him. Note that Jesus is the Word of God in flesh form (John 1:14) so in order to dwell in Him, we have to dwell in the Word. What does this look like practically? Psalm 119: 9-16 lets us know. It says:

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word (practice).
I seek you with all my heart; (dedication)
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart (internalization)
that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees (dependence).
With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth (study).
I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches (delight).
I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways (meditation).
I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word (commitment).

As I think upon this idea of abiding, I realize it is common sense. Remember the saying “show me your friend and I will show you your character” or even the popular quote in these make-it-to-the-top books about being the sum total of the five people you hang out with the most? That is the general idea here. It works in the physical and the spiritual. You want to be like Him, hang out with Him and get to know Him.

As we hang out with Jesus, our actions begin to change and show who we belong to. We begin to do what is right which shows we are righteous even as Christ is righteous. Also, because children of God have the life of God within them, they can’t keep on sinning (verse 9). You know how once you have the Holy Spirit, there are just some things you do that eradicate your peace? Like, you will have no peace till you stop? I think that is what John is talking about here when he says you can’t sin.  He is not saying this in the sense that you do not sin (because we know perfection comes when Christ comes) but that it is impossible for you to remain in sin. Conviction won’t allow it. So spent time with God, get to know who He is through His Word and heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit and you will be on track to living in purity just as Jesus lived in purity. 

We then come to verse 10 where John transitions from speaking about God’s purity to God’s love.

John tells us that love for our fellow believers is what shows that we are of Christ (verse 14). He even goes as far as to equate hate of a fellow believer to having murderous intent (verse 15). I believe this may be because of the example set by so many characters in the Bible.  Joseph’s brothers hated him because of his dreams and his father’s favor on him and almost killed him (but settled into selling him into slavery) (Genesis 37). Esau hated Jacob for stealing his birthright and would have killed the dude were it not for his mother’s intervention (Genesis 27:41-42). And of course, let us not forget Jesus and the multiple times folks tried to annihilate the dude because they did not like what He was saying or doing (John 8John 10; Luke 4). Hate almost always leads to some murderous intent. To love someone is to want the best for them. Thus, if hate is the opposite of love then to hate someone is to want the worst for them. If Jesus who is the expression of God’s love came that we might have life and the opposite of life is death then the opposite of love will lead to it (John 10:10). But how do we know what love is? Once again, through what we know of God. Jesus modeled it for us by laying His life down for us. So we must do the same for fellow believers. Our knowledge should result in action (verse 17-18).

Our knowledge resulting in action is important because it enables us to stand before God with confidence. Does this mean we get it right all the time? No. How do I know this? Because verse 20 refers to us feeling guilty but resting in the fact that God is greater than our feelings and knows everything. If we were going to be perfect (something verse 2 tells us is only possible once He comes), we would have no need of guilty feelings. Guilt means we fell short somewhere but we can rest in God because He looks beyond the outside to our insides (1 Samuel 16:17). He knows our motivations and intentions. So we fell short but He knows why we fell short e.g. if it was a genuine effort that did not pan out. He knows everything. And the great thing about putting our faith to work and genuinely walking in obedience to what we know (even if we fall short sometimes) is that beyond being able to come before God guilt-free (because He is greater than our feelings) and with confidence, we will receive whatever we ask because we obey Him and do things that please Him.

So to summarize:

1. You may not know the fullness of God but you are responsible for acting on what you know
2. To know God, you need to spend time with Him (especially in the Word). You need to abide in Him.
3. If we know nothing else, John reveals that God is pure (without sin) and God is love. Emulate that. Our emulation is the outward proof of who we belong to.
4. You may not get it right all the time but do your very best. God is able to see your motivations and intentions so do not let guilt get you down when you put in effort but come up short

Let’s try our best to obey what we know. It is all He asks of us 🙂

Stay blessed folks!

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