“Mom, there he is! Grab the bag!” Sophia pressed her nose against the glass of the car window as Mom smiled and handed the man on the corner a bag filled with food and treats.
The man smiled and said, “God bless you!” as he accepted the free gift.
Whenever they went out, Mom, Sophia, and Dustin would bring a bag of food for anyone they saw who was in need. They would pray for the person after they received their bag.
“Dear God,” Dustin prayed, “please help this man have enough food to fill him up today and give him a warm place to sleep tonight. Most of all, if he doesn’t know You, I pray that he would open up his heart to you. Amen.”
“I bet he will love those chocolate chip banana muffins that we made!” Sophia said with a grin.
Dustin laughed. “Yeah, good thing we went out today. There might not have been any left if we hadn’t–they were so tasty!”
Mom grinned. “You both are eating so much these days, it’s like you have hollow legs!”
Sophia grew quiet as she looked out her window. “Mom? Do you think that man knows what love is?”
“Do you remember the verse we wrote down and put in the bag for him?” Mom asked.
“Yeah! First John 3:16: ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.'”
“Exactly right,” Mom answered. “Do you know the rest of that verse? It says, ‘And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.'”
“We can’t die for people every day!” Dustin reasoned.
Mom laughed. “No, we can’t. But we can let our words and actions tell others that Jesus loved them enough to die for them. We not only need to tell people about God’s love, but we also need to show it in the way we act toward others.”
“So I guess that man does know what love is, because we showed him!” Sophia said excitedly.
“Hey, Mom?” Dustin asked as they pulled into their driveway. “After we unload the groceries, will you show us the love of Jesus by making us more muffins?”
In 1 John 3:16-24, John is reassuring his readers. They are facing the problem of their basic relationship with Jesus. They are being influenced by false teachers. These teachers wanted to create an overall feeling of inadequacy on the part of Christians. This made the Christians receptive to teachings that contradicted the teachings of the Gospel.
These false teachers taught false ideas about the faith. John reassured his readers that because we are children of God and because He loves us, we can safely leave our futures in His hands. God has forgiven us. Jesus is that forgiveness. He offers us salvation by costly love. What He said and what He did are inseparable. Our ethics must also be the ethics of word and work. They must be inseparable.
Believers who want to obey and please God have tender consciences. Sometimes these consciences condemn us, but we must remember that we are children of God. The sin in our lives will be brought to light when we kneel before God. He will convict us of any hidden sins. We should want to obey and please God, and we should be glad when our consciences are sensitive to God. He might pierce our hearts, but we can take joy because we are children of God.
One of my ex-girlfriends once told me that true love means caring for someone else more than you care for yourself. Christian love is a good example of true love. Christian love is self-sacrificing and self-giving. It expresses itself in sacrificial giving to other Christians’ needs. This leads to confidence about the Christian’s relationship with God.
As believers, we can’t just sit back and do nothing. We can’t use our circumstances as an excuse to just sit around and do nothing. We have to get involved in His purposes. We are to serve God by spending our days doing good for others.
As Jesus exemplified, love always involves sacrifice, sometimes even unto death. Claiming to love others is easy, but true love translates into actions. Christians who love others are willing to give of themselves in costly ways. Christian love involves being Christ-like. Jesus had unlimited power, but He chose to live a simple life, teaching about God and heaven and investing in the lives of those who would continue His work. He gave up His privileges and His dignity in order to bring salvation to us. It makes us think: “What are we doing in our lives?”
One of the ways we serve God is by serving those in need. God often uses us to fulfill needs and answer prayers. As we serve others, our own hearts are encouraged as we encourage people and serve. As a result, our own faith will grow as God equips us for serving in new ways. The Bible promises again and again that God answers prayer. However, the statement “whatever we ask we receive” does not imply that if people just pray hard enough, they can have whatever they want. Their requests must be in line with God’s will, and they must be in a right relationship with God, as evidenced by their desire to do whatever pleases Him.
Some people say, “I’ll die for you,” but we do not always have to do this literally. Living sacrificially is a real death to self. It’s a killing of our selfishness and our own desires. To die for others, to live for others is a gift of love that can only come from God.
Our actions will speak louder than any words we will ever speak. When we call ourselves Christians, we are opening up our lives for inspection, and our lives become active witnesses for Jesus. People will respond to our good deeds and thoughtful acts of caring. In fact, people will want to know more about Jesus as our deeds prove to them that our faith is more than just talk.
For example, one morning shortly after the end of World War II, a soldier was making his way back to his barracks in London. As he turned the corner, he saw a little boy with his nose pressed to the window of a pastry shop. Inside the cook was kneading dough for a fresh batch of doughnuts. The boy stared in silence, watching every move.
The soldier walked quietly over to where the boy was standing. Through the steamed-up window he could see the mouth-watering morsels that were being pulled from the oven, piping hot. The boy’s mouth watered and released a slight groan as he watched the cook place them onto the glass-enclosed counter ever so carefully.
The soldier’s heart went out to the boy as he stood behind him. “Son, would you like some of those?” The boy said, “uh, yeah…I would!”
The soldier went inside and bought a dozen doughnuts, put them in a bag, and walked back to where the boy was standing. He smiled, held out the bag and said, “Here you are.” As he turned to walk away, he felt a tug on his coat. He looked back and heard the boy say quietly, “Mister…are you God?”
When we obey God and live a life that pleases God, we can be sure that we will receive what we ask for if it fits within His plan for our lives. God’s Word is His will. That’s why we have to make His Word the number one priority in our lives. When we keep God’s promises in our hearts and minds, it changes and shapes our characters. It makes our thoughts and desires in line with God’s thoughts and desires. Just as Christ grew inside of Mary until He had to come out, He will grow in us until He comes out of us. He will come out in our speech, our actions, and our decisions.
John writes to assure our hearts, provide confidence toward God and help his spiritual children know that Christ lives in them. Their lives are different because the Holy Spirit is working in and through them. With the words, “by this we know,” John assures all believers that they undoubtedly belong to God and are bound to heaven.
Sincere love hates evil and rebellion against God. It shows genuine appreciation and honour for others. It compels us to give to others who are in need even if it means sacrifice on our part. Sincere love is not selective but extends to people we find unlovable. It produces compassion that commiserates and celebrates with others. This kind of love may sound impossible to maintain, and in our human strength it is impossible to maintain. As Paul says in Romans 13:8, we could never pay our continuing debt to love one another, but God gives us the resources we need to make our payments.
If generosity became a way of life for the churches we attend, what would it look like? Widows, single parents and children of divorce would benefit from love that is expressed in practical and relational ways. Programs would focus on bringing the healing message of Christ to broken hearts. Every churchgoer would feel valued for his or her gifts and encouraged to use those gifts. New ministries would develop as members saw opportunities to express God’s love to those in need. When we please God by helping others we are gifted with the Spirit of quiet hearts, peaceful minds, mouths full of praise and hands that help.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1812)
- Savannah Corkum, “Even Muffins Matter.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Palmer, E.F. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 35: 1,2 & 3 John/Revelation (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 49-62)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Pastor Allen Jackson, “Pause to Consider.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jim Burns, “Actions Speak Louder than Words.” Retrieved from www.homeword.com
- Cindy Hess Kasper, “Relentless Love.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “I’d Die for You.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Max Lucado, “He Lives Within You.” Retrieved from www.maxlucado.com
- “How You Can Live with an Attitude of Action.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Joel Osteen, “Confidence to Receive.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Love in Action.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Gary Chapman, “A Church That Cares.” Retrieved from Oneplace@crosswalkmail.com