Monday, May 3, 2010

Bible Study 1 John Chapter 4 Discernment & True Love

Discernment first then Love (4:1-6)
A major part of this chapter talks specifically about true love (vs our common love that is self-centered and performance based). However, it begins with discernment first. It is telling us that we need to discern first before we blindly love. In the world of increasing complexity and exploitation of good heartedness, where robberies use people in distress to lure and rob kind people  who come to help, we need discernment.

When people are fed up with hypocrisy and seek a true spiritual experience, they are likely and easily be deceived by the evil spirits disguised as angels of light. John tells us how to discern the spirit - whether it is from God or from the anti-Christ. Here is the list:
  1. confession of Jesus Christ as Son of God and existed as a man (come in the flesh) v2. (v14 shows John testifying the real man Jesus that is from God as in Chapter 1).
  2. worldly and Godless mindset  v3 (they speak from the world).
  3. following the Bible or not v6. (listen to us).
Christians tend to focus too much on the coming anti-Christ rather than anti-Christs, the false prophets, now. John is very clear about the anti-Christs existence all through the times. v3 says they are now in the world already!

The spirits work through man and hence we must discern the spirit behind the man. This was made obvious in Jesus' rebuke of Satan that was behind's Peter's words (Mat 16:23).  

We may have to fight the evil spirits behind the person. John assured us in 4:4 that the Holy Spirit within us is greater than the evil spirit outside. We can love a person but not his/her life styles, thoughts or definitely not the evil spirits instigating him/her. Be wise and discerning so that we don't unknowingly become the instruments or victims of the evil spirits behind the people. We cannot be more loving than God. God hates evil. We are in a spiritual battle (Eph 6:12) not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces. Wise up!

True Love
  1. It is from God and we love with and as God's love v7. God is love v8.
  2. God's love is planted in us through Jesus v9
  3. It is pro-active. It initiates. It loves first. It is not a respond or reaction to love. v10,19
  4. Love is unconditional. It is not based on your performance or the value you provide. God loves us while we were yet sinners. Our good behavior is good for us. Our sinful behavior is bad for us. Our behavior does not cause God to love us more or less but does cause us to be joyful and free or not.
  5. Love brings love. We love with God's love v11
  6. Love is action in the tangible and visible world of one another human beings. v12,21
    Anyone who hates his brother cannot say he has love. Loving our living people reflects our love for God v20.
  7. As we love in practice, we get to know and experience love more and our love grows towards perfection v12.
  8. Assurance of His Spirit in us is through our love. Love is abiding in God. v 13
  9. God set the example by giving His only Son to the world to pay for our sins v9-10.
  10. We CAN LOVE because (there is no excuse for us)
    • We are of God (of LOVE) v15,16
    • We believe the Love of God for us. v16
    • As He is so are we in this world v17.
    • LOVE has no fear. Perfect love cast out fear. We can boldly love. v18
    • God loves us first then we may in turn love others v19.
Discern the right spirit and love the person in the right way. Love is truth. Love is other-centered. Love has no fear ( It has decided on the price to pay).

Questions for Reflection
  1. How do you discern the spirit of God or spirit of Anti-Christ?
  2. What are the attributes of True-Love?
  3. What is not true-love?
Questions for Application
  1. From the above list, what specific actions do you need to take in building a harmonious relationships? Who-What-When-How-Where. Why is answered - because you are love. Love wisely and rightly.
(Please be careful about how you love. You should not impose your own standard on others and insisting on people doing exactly as you like. There are culture, personality differences. May be your 'love' is too imposing and a loving act to do is to give space. Love wisely - according to the loved culture and preferences in the context of truth and Godliness).

See also Bible Study 1 John 4 Discernment & Love Discussion

Next: Bible Study 1 John Chapter 5 Identity & Overcoming Power

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