These studies look at the overwhelming goodness of the Triune God. Depicted by Andrei Rublev's icon of The Holy Trinity.
 

1 John 5:1-5

1 Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and every one who loves the parent loves the child. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

In the preceding section John says, "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God."(4:15) In the last study, I considered the intimacy of sharing that we now have with God as those who confess that Jesus is God's Son. God now comes by His Spirit to live in us, united to us. He makes His home in us. And at the same time, we now abide in and live in God Himself. He is now our dwelling place, our home. John further expands on this idea here in 5:1. Each one of us is God's child, sister or brother to the Son when we confess Jesus is the Christ, God's anointed One. To be His child is to share in this wonderful mutual indwelling or abiding.

John completes this thought with an interesting play on words. He says "and every one who loves the parent loves the child." To love someone else is to grow to love and appreciate what they love. To love someone who is a parent is to love her or his child, to share in the love of the parent for the beloved. To love God the Father then is also to love His child. By using the singular form here, John can refer both to Jesus as the child and to another person, or ourselves as the child. To love God is to believe, trust, count on, and yes, love Jesus as the beloved Son who is sent to us. John has spoken earlier in the letter that to confess the Father is to confess the Son and to deny the Son is also to deny the Father. In 2:23 John says, "No one who denies the Son has the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also."

But this "child" can also certainly mean ourselves as His children as well as others. And the wonderful thing is that John is saying that as Jesus is the Child, so now we are also children (not just creatures) in Him. God loves us and His other children and to love Him is to grow in our ability to share in His love for His creation. Now in verse 2, John is clearly focusing on our love for others. Earlier in the letter John states that if we love God then we should love our brothers and sisters. Now he is focusing more on how we love others--and it leads right back to loving God! "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments." The best way, then, to grow in loving others is not to will for ourselves to love them directly with God to the side of the picture. Rather, it is to grow more and more in our love for God by obeying Him, that is loving what He commands us to love, namely our neighbors. As we obey this command to love what God himself loves (namely his Son and his earthly creatures) we come to see and appreciate more clearly how good, gracious, loving our Father is. We then are moved to love others by living more in the truth and love of God. Our love for others then is grounded in God’s own love and becomes more and more like God’s, that is, becomes more and more Christ-like.

To love God is to obey His commandments. John repeats this point in verse 3. I have thought of this verse in terms of my children (and when I was a child!). My children love me and tell me so, but I see at the moment that they disobey me, they are not loving me deeply for they do not see or cannot see that what I ask comes out of my love for them and for them to obey is to exercise their love for and trust in me. Ideally, as they obey they come to see the goodness and rightness in what I ask and they grow in their love for me and in their willingness to obey the next time. To do as someone asks leads us to come to know their heart, their character and concerns better--to see more clearly who they are and what they are up to. The same is true for us with God.

Now John does not stop with his point that to love God is to obey His commandments. He then makes this wonderful statement, "And his commandments are not burdensome." How can this be? Aren't all commandments, by very definition, burdensome? After all, if they are not burdensome, then are they commandments at all? I know my children often moan when I tell them to do something--they view my requests as very burdensome at that moment! So how is it that God's commandments are not burdensome? John tells us that they need not be burdensome if all of our obedience is done, as it ought to be, by faith. We obey counting on our heavenly Father to be good, trusting that whatever He asks of us, therefore, is for our maturity, our ability to receive more and more of His life, joy, peace, and love and to extend it to others. This is what we hope for our children: for them to see that what we ask is for their own maturity and ability to live life well and to be able to offer that life to others

Also, when we obey God by faith, we are also counting on His ability to change us and enable us to obey. John has emphasized in this letter the need for us to abide in God. This is our first obedience--to confess our own inability to be the children of God on our own strength, to be healed and made whole by our own wills. To abide in God is to count on Him to give us our identities and our lives, to be able to separate us more and more from the sin that destroys us and to truly make us His beloved children. When we abide in Christ we hand Him everything and allow Him to transform us. It is a burden to consider trying to love someone I fear or dislike. But it is not a burden to hand this fear or hate to God and wait on Him to do what I can not do myself--transform this fear and hate to love. Then, I can always begin to act out of confidence that He will be at work and enable me to become more loving.

I have found in my own life that trusting in God's work frees me to wait on Him. This last December I had to go to a dinner party with Gary and there was a woman there who had hurt me and I was angry with her and did not want to see her at all. So my options at first seemed to be to not go or go and avoid her. But then I remembered that I had the third option of faith. I decided to pray that God would enable me to forgive her, to hand it over to Him, and that He would enable me to get to the place where I could attend in peace. This is just what He did and it was a great joy to me to see how much my heavenly Father loves me. Of course, I forget this and will forget this again. I can easily again be deceived into believing that God's commandments are burdensome. John knows this is true of His readers and so He reminds them of the truth. We can remind ourselves and each other of the truth and we can count on the One who by His Spirit abides in us to remind us as well. For God knows that His commands are not burdensome and He longs for His children to live in this truth as well.

This passage reminded me of a conversation Gary had many years ago with a student who was in one of our fellowships. The student was struggling with great anxiety and having a terrible time letting go of it. Gary said to the student, "But the most important thing is not whether you are anxious, but whether God is anxious about this." When she saw that God was not anxious, she could hand her anxiety over to Him and wait on Him to enable her to be peaceful. Whenever I am anxious, depressed, fearful, etc., I find I cannot find my way out on my own. I can abide in Jesus not by waiting to get rid of these fears and doubts first, but by handing them to Him. He knows better what to do with them than we do. I may think His commandments are burdensome, but what is more important is what He knows about His commandments—they aren’t!

In the last 2 verses of this passage, John tells his readers that "whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and the victory that overcomes the world, our faith." In fact John repeats the phrase "overcomes the world" 3 times in these 2 verses! This is why, John says, God's commandments are not burdensome--because when we believe in Him we are born of Him and now we overcome the world with and in Him!. God unites Himself to us by His Spirit when we trust in Him. So, now we are "born of God" and are not tied to the world as we once were. It is therefore our faith, which unites us to Christ, that is the victory--not because of the strength of our faith, but because of the object of our faith. It is not because of who we are that we overcome the world, it is because of who God is and His uniting Himself to us. It is because we count on Jesus, the Son of God (v.5) that we now are not overcome by the world.

What an amazing truth this is, and how I need to hear it again and again! It may seem at times that we are burdened and overcome by our life here on earth, but God knows better and He is able to take our circumstances and give us His life and peace in the midst of them. Whatever we have today to give Him, even if it is only repentance and fear, let us by His Spirit hand it over to Him, abide in and wait on Him to transform our lives so that we see more and more the truth that we are indeed His beloved children!

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