Bold Belief is Sacrificial
Jesus sacrificially gave his life for us...what does it look like for us to sacrificially give our life for others? Join Dr. Marty Baker as we take a look at 1 John 3:16-24 and unpack the ways that bold belief impacts the way we love the people around us.
From the inception of the Church, the Devil sought to destroy or at least diminish its impact. You can see his sinister strategy, which he still employs today, from a cursory reading of the book of Acts.
- In Acts 4:1-13 the Dragon attacked externally (Peter and John were arrested for their preaching about the Messiah).
- In Acts 5:1-11 the Dragon attacked internally (a wealthy Christian couple, Ananias and Sapphira, lied about what they would give monetarily to the Lord).
- In Acts 5:17-42 the Dragon attacked externally (the Jewish High Priest imprisoned some of the apostles because he was jealous so many Jews came to them for help and not to him).
- In Acts 6:1-7 the Dragon attacked internally (one Gentile group of Christians felt slighted at meal time from the Jewish group of believers).
- In Acts 7-8, the Dragon attacked externally (Stephen, the godly saint, became the Church’s first martyr, and Saul went on a rampage killing Christians at will wherever he traveled with his termination team).
I could continue but I think you get the point: The Devil vacillates between internal and external attacks in order to divert the Church from its God-ordained mission of winning people to Christ and making mature disciples (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). Of the two I would say the former is most difficult to deal with because you don’t anticipate some Christians to turn and create havoc in the local church body, but, unfortunately, they do. The types of internal division are limitless.
- Sometimes it’s all about how things are run. One group says one way, another group says another way.
- Sometimes it’s all about who makes decisions. One powerful person says it should be his way, while church leadership says it should be their way.
- Sometimes it’s all about a power-grab, where one person or group wants to control the church so they can accomplish their goals.
- Sometimes it’s all about whether the church is embracing cultural worldviews or not.
In the seven churches John pastored in Asia Minor, the division centered around progressive new doctrines as opposed to ancient doctrines handed down from the disciples.
The Gnostics, who disguised themselves as ardent believers and infiltrated these unsuspecting churches, had a definite internal strategy: (1) create doctrinal division by winning people to their viewpoint slowly so as to not cause alarm, (2) label doctrinal dissenters as inferior believers, (3) drive the non-progressives from the churches, and (4) seize power to control the churches for their arrogant and misguided purposes.
Believe me, nothing has changed in the Devil’s strategy in the last 2,000 years because it has worked so well for him. External attacks are a real issue to be reckoned with by local churches; however, it is the plethora of internal attacks which wear down leadership, cause saints to distrust each other, pull saints way from their true mission because they are so busy putting out fires started by the “Gnostics,” and cause believers to take sides as opponents instead of realizing they are supposed to stand with each other against the wiles of the Devil. Whichever method of attack our Adversary musters, one thing is sure. We can learn who to counter him by gaining much wisdom and insight from John’s sagacious words in 1 John 2:28-4:19 where he answers a pertinent and timeless question:
What Does Bold Belief Look Like In Trying Times? (1 John 2:28-4:19)
Talking like a wise, old grandfather to his spiritual children, John moves through various answers which come to his mind as he thinks about the topic at hand. Nine tidbits of wisdom have surfaced thus far.
- Bold Belief Strives For Consistent Obedience (1 John 2:28)
- Bold Belief Lives In Light Of Who Jesus’s Character (1 John 2:29)
- Bold Belief Lives In Light of Who You Are (1 John 3:1)
- Bold Belief Lives In Light Of Who You Will Be (1 John 3:2-3
- Bold Belief Understands Sin’s Nature (1 John 3:4)
- Bold Belief Understands Sin’s Solution (1 John 3:5)
- Bold Belief Understands The Power Of Intimacy (1 John 3:6, 9)
- Bold Belief Steers Clear Of Falsity (1 John 3:7-8)
- Bold Belief Lives For Brotherly Love (1 John 3:10-15)
To these John adds two more in verses 16 through 24:
Bold Belief Is Naturally Sacrificial (1 John 3:16-20)
Watch closely how John develops this point:
16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
True, we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves, and this encompasses believers and unbelievers (Matt. 22:39); however, we are supposed to really make sure we capitalize on love for other Christians. Why? Apart from it being a divine command, it is utterly essential the unbelieving world sees Christians loving each other in a way that’s, well, supernatural. To see love among believers is to see the Lord they serve who is the epitome of love (1 John 4:8). So, what about it? Are your words and actions towards other saints founded on love?
Who is our model for how we should love other believers? Jesus. How did He love us? Everything about His love drips of supreme sacrifice:
- He who knew no sin became sin for us (1 Pet. 2:22).
- He willingly died for His enemies (Rom. 5:6-9).
- His death for enemies gives them the potential to be His friends (John 15:13).
- His death gave us the potential to move from spiritual death to spiritual life (1 Peter 3:18).
What motivated Him? Love for us, of all people.
Christ’s love moved Him to do the unthinkable of dying in our place, of laying His life down as our sin-substitute. The preposition John employs denotes this. Huper (ὑπὲρ), by definition, speaks of substitution. This is how the word is used by Paul in 1 Timothy 2, verse 6:
NAS 1 Timothy 2:6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.
BYZ 1 Timothy 2:6 ὁ δοὺς ἑαυτὸν ἀντίλυτρον ὑπὲρ πάντων, τὸ μαρτύριον καιροῖς ἰδίοις
The preposition is translated “ransom” because it denotes a price paid to free someone. Hence, while sin held us within its clutches, Jesus paid the ransom price to free us by dying in our place as the perfect and holy sin-substitute.
NAS 2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
BYZ 2 Corinthians 5:21 Τὸν γὰρ μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν, ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν, ἵνα ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ.
The final clause opens with the hina (ἵνα) particle to denote the purpose of Christ’s loving substitutionary work: It was all designed to give sinners the potential to become righteous before God who is holy. Love cannot be described in any more profound a fashion than this. He died so we could live. He bore our sin when we should have born it. He came down so we could go up. He became the God-man so we could become sons and daughters of God and spiritual brothers and sisters in His eternal family. What a gift. What a model.
Yes, a model. His sacrificial spirit should become ours as we think about how we relate to other Christians, especially. As John states in the final clause of this verse where he moves from the cause to the effect:
16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
No person knows how they will behave in a demanding, dangerous, and potentially deadly situation, but we should all be prepared to lay our lives down for each other. It’s hard to fight with other saints when you are prepared to die in their place.
I’m sure the covert and then overt hostility of the Roman culture to the Church caused many saints back then to think long and hard about John’s words. Nero’s persecution in A.D. 67, followed by that of Domitian in A.D. 81 certainly captivated the thinking of Christians, and in fifteen to twenty years after John wrote these letters to these particular churches, Trajan in A.D. 108 would stoke the fires of persecution by killing many saints. Ignatius, who most likely followed Peter as the spiritual leader in Antioch, was eaten by wild beasts in Rome after he traveled through Asia Minor encouraging and strengthening the churches John had pastored. What a man of God. What a Christian brother.
Take an honest look at your Christian walk right now. Does substantial sacrifice for other saints describe it?True, you may never be called to lay your life down for another Christian. John knew this and that’s why I think he added verses 17 through 18:
17 But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
For many of us, our supreme sacrifice will probably be tied to material things. Think of it this way. If I give up to another saint what I might need to sustain my life, I have, in a sense, shown I am willing to lay my life down for them.
- When I give a struggling Christian family money for gas for the next month, I am loving sacrificially.
- When I loan a Christian my car because his is in the shop and he needs to get to work, I am loving sacrificially.
- When I anonymously give a single mother with three children money to purchase food for several weeks, I am loving sacrificially.
- When I provide a room at a reduced for a Christian college student to live in, I am loving sacrificially.
- When I sell stock and give it to the church to help it meet budget in order to meet needs, I am loving sacrificially.
As John surmises, to have the financial ability to alleviate the needs of brothers and sisters in Christ and not take action is to reveal you are not walking intimately and lovingly with Jesus.
Further, to be all talk and no do is to reveal you are not only a shallow saint but a hypocritical one at that. Here is how John puts this:
18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
In Greek, there are two main words for “but.” This one, alla ( ἀλλά ), states the strongest adversative in the Greek language. I’m sure John, as a pastor, had seen his fair share of Christian talkers and not doers. Don’t you know he heard things like, “I’m sorry to hear about what happened to you. This is so tragic. I hope things work out for you and your family,” or “Thanks for sharing your predicament with me. Now I know how to pray for you.”
Jesus, your Lord, never operated with words devoid of works.
- When they ran out of wine at a wedding, He made a lot more (John 2).
- When a lame man needed new legs, He stepped in and gave him a new pair (John 5).
- When 5,000 hungry worshippers needed lunch, He produced it by multiplying five barely loaves and two small fish (John 6).
- When a man born blind desperately needed eyesight, Jesus lovingly gave him new eyes (John 9).
Need I say more? Christ’s motto could have been: I’ve got it so I give it, or I love with works, not with words. Let these be our mottos for daily living with other saints.
So, what about it? Whose need in this body are you prepared to meet sacrificially? To be able to answer the question assumes you are so intimate with others you know of their needs. If you are not aware of any needs, then perhaps it is time to start paying attention to how you can sacrificially step out and show others Christ’s love by alleviating their need, or at least, helping them not feel so much pressure. And please do not broadcast what you have done for the moment you post this on Insta-gram, you instantly have your spiritual reward. Jesus spoke of this:
2 When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing 4that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you (Matt. 6).
Let secrecy be your guide as you give and look forward to the day when the Lord will reward you.
What happens when you live a sacrificial live of giving to saints beyond spiritual reward? John tells us in the next verse:
19 We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him,
Note, he is not saying that sacrificial giving to spiritual siblings is a sure-fire way to show you are a saint (although it does show brotherly love). Contextually, when John speaks of “the truth,” he speaks of the truth of the Lord’s selfless and sacrificial example of loving the brethren. Thus, when you step forward to give to alleviate needs (not wants), you immediately demonstrate you are modeling the truth of Christ’s lifestyle. Are you? Will you?
I have a Christian friend who is a very successful businessman. When his friend was in danger of losing his home in the housing/market crash of 2008, my buddy stepped forward and simply bought the man’s home so he didn’t have to worry about losing his investment and becoming homeless. Granted, not everyone can give like this, but we can all learn to sacrifice for other saints in light of our respective levels of financial blessing from the Lord. What radical action will you take? Ask God and He will show you what needs to be done and with whom.
Being a wise, old saint, John knew the giving drill. He knew that no matter what you give there is always the temptation to think, “Ah, I really should have done more. What was I thinking?” John knew how condemning your inner conscience can be, and that’s why he added these words to close out this point about sacrifice for saints:
20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
What does this mean? It means when your heart, your inner voice, (wrongly) condemns you for not doing enough, the Lord knows how much you gave, how much it really cost you, and what your inner motivation was at the time. He is not some cold, hard, unfeeling Lord who looks to crush your efforts to grow in the faith by giving to other needy believers. Far from it. As a just, loving Judge, He has all the facts and really delights in seeing you make some forward spiritual progress. So, if you are a widow or widower living on Social Security and a few meager investments, which are currently being eaten up by the current Stock Market downturn, don’t get depressed because your gift to another saint was paltry by worldly standards. On the other hand, be happy you are doing your best, and rest in the fact your Lord is truly pleased with you.
True, our times are trying in many ways, and it’s a tough time for the local church as culture goes south and as churches implode over a variety of issues. May we continue to be what our culture needs. What is that? A church where Jesus is showcased as saints lovingly and sacrificially give to each other.
Next, John adds this practical concept to the mix of wisdom for wicked times:
Bold Belief Is Powerful In Prayer (1 John 3:21-24)
For those mature believers who don’t struggle with a condemning heart about give because they do give, it is a logical consequence for them to have total confidence that the Lord is pleased with them:
21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
I’m sure there are numerous brothers and sisters like this in our large body right now. If this describes you, then enjoy your level of Christian maturity. Enjoy the fact you will be able to stand before the Lord on judgment day and not flinch when your level and motivation for giving is revealed openly by Christ’s cleansing fire. I say this because the word “confidence” is the same one used by John in 1 John 2:28 where he spoke directly about the Judgment Seat of Christ. Oh, for more saints who will not flinch on this revelatory day.
In addition to possessing confidence because of a disciplined walk where sacrificial giving is concerned, John closes out this section talking about obedience in giving directly impacts your prayer life:
22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
Does this mean we really get whatever we pray for? No. We know from 1 John 5:14-15 that our prayers should always be concerned with God’s will above all else.
14 And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. (1 John 5).
Even our Lord prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane for the Father’s will to be done, not His (Luke 2:42). How can we pray any differently? Why should we pridefully expect God to accomplish our will, when His will is perfect and always better? Thus, it is one thing to pray for the Lord to give you a certain person for a life partner, but quite another to say, “Lord, I want your will in my dating life.” It is one thing to say, “Lord, I want this particular college for my education for all these reasons, but quite another to say, “Lord, show me which school you have for me.” For those saints who live generously toward other saints, while they pray for God’s will, they will live to see Him move in a profound fashion in due time.
Further, we know from our Lord’s teaching when He walked among us, He will give us what He deems is best and not hurtful to us:
9 Or what man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? (Matt. 7).
Earthly fathers give their sons what is best for them, not that which is worthless or dangerous. Arguing from the lesser to the greater caused Jesus to then state the obvious:
11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matt. 7).
Ostensibly, we can safely say we can pray for “x,” but the Lord knows we need “y.” Put in terms some can appreciate, “Lord, you know I want to go to the language school in Monterey, California,” but He knows you will accomplish much more for Him at Fort Knox, Fort Sill, Yuma Proving Ground Army Base, Mountain Home Air Force Base in Elmore, ID, Fort Leavenworth Army Base in Leavenworth, KS, and so on and so forth. I just had an Army Colonel tell me recently, “I didn’t want to come to D.C. I struggled against it, but the Lord brought us here anyway. Now, a year later I can say this experience has been the best thing which could have ever happened for me and my family.” That, my friend, is a godly saint talking. Here is a man who keeps God’s commands, like loving other saints, who prays and then steps back to watch God work His wonders in His life.
Do you want to have a powerful prayer life? It doesn’t mean you have to spend hours each day in prayer. It does mean you need to walk obediently to the Lord’s commands. After all, what father is going to give great things to a son who doesn’t obey him? The earthly world doesn’t work like this, and neither does the heavenly one.
What are some of the Lord’s commands? Here are two:
23 And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
Believing in Jesus as your Savior places you into His eternal family and instantly gives you countless new brothers and sisters for all of eternity. Never forget how you became a family member of the Lord, nor how He blessed you with innumerable spiritual siblings. Your faith in His death and resurrection is what set this all in motion (John 3:16-18; 1 Cor. 15:1-7).
A second commandment needs restatement: We are commanded to love each other (John 13:34). It’s far from optional, and is supposed to be natural. Have you been treating other saints with love? Have you been giving to alleviate their needs? This is a sure-fire way to know whether you are loving them or not.
Keeping Christ’s commandments is also a sure-fire way to demonstrate just how intimate your walk with Him really is. Again, John is right on point when he remarks:
24 And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us (1 John 3).
If your intimacy isn’t what it’s supposed to be, then you know what you need to do. You need to start loving on your brothers and sisters in a sacrificial and generous fashion. When you do this, not only is your divine intimacy deepened, your prayer life is empowered as God rewards your obedience with profound, jaw-dropping answers to prayer.