1 John 4:1-6
Spiritual Warfare - v. 1 makes plain that there are spiritual forces at work all around us at all times. Are we taking this reality seriously?
Simplicity - v. 2-3 I find I'm prone to overcomplicating things. I love the way John simplifies and clarifies things. The Holy Spirit causes belief in, affection for and deeper worship of Jesus. If we're growing in self-importance, increasing in the fear of man, indulging the flesh, bending toward the world's value system, or steadily diminishing or distracting from Jesus' glory, than we are being influenced by spiritual forces of darkness. This is not a question of perfection, but direction? Keep it simple. Are you moving toward a more Christ-centered, God-glorifying life? Or are you making excuses not to?
Victory - v. 4-6 - Where spiritual influences are threatening, taking aim at, or tempting you, rest assured that, as children of God, we have already overcome. You have an enemy that whispers venemous lies of your defeat and demise, and who taunts us with the foolishness of believing in Christ and his cross. But the Spirit of Truth exposes those lies, and reminds us of what is more real and more powerful... our security and victory through the risen Christ!
v. 31-33 jump out to me today. I'm personally convicted reading through Proverbs that wisdom does a lot more listening than talking, particularly in relation to correction and rebuke. I don't like being corrected. I'm betting you don't either. But Solomon is saying that criticism and correction are currencies that can be exchanged for wisdom and understanding, which is far more valuable.
Have you felt criticized lately? How did you respond? What if you just evaluate the words spoken... forget all the emotion and the tone and your own defensiveness. If you evaluate the criticism on just what was said, what is there to learn? What wisdom can be gained?
1 John 4:7-12
God the Father is love. He's not just loving. He is love. And if you have any question about what that means or looks like, John points us to Jesus as the perfect embodiment of the Father's essence: love.
We are Christ's body. As Christ's body on earth, it's our calling and privilege to now embody, that same character and essence. We are to be people who are a living expression of God's love.
The struggle is real. We aren't good at loving each other. I'm so not good at this. This is why I must abide in the love of God for me. And because that seems abstract, I must be ever mindful of Jesus' finished work that made God's love concrete... both his love for me and his love for the people I have a hard time loving.
Question: Who am I struggling to love right now? Why?
Let's set our hearts and minds on the love of the Father. Repent for our impulsive and persistent lack of love. And ask for him to grant us what we can't must on our own. v. 12 suggests that while people cannot see God, they can see and encounter him through the love of His people. Let's ask Him for the power to be those people today.
v. 21 and 23 seem to suggest that wisdom doesn't not make persuasion it's aim, but persuasion is a byproduct of wisdom. Foolishness seeks to impose our own will, but wisdom treats and talks to people in ways that influence their will.
v. 6 - How does this verse point to the gospel?
1 John 4:13-17
This is a summary of John's personal testimony. v. 16 makes clear that he has come to believe in the love of God as the realest thing in the universe because he encountered and experienced it, in Jesus.
Consider your own testimony... do you believe in God's love as an intellectual concession? Or do you believe because you have encountered and experienced God's love, thorugh Christ. All the philosophical argumentation in the world cannot refute a real encounter with the real Jesus.
A thought for responding to this passage today: Share with someone why you are convinced of God's love for you, and for them. What makes you believe that? Or ask someone else why they believe in God's love this way? What has happened in their life to persuade them of this?
- v. 2 - What do you see as your greatest advantages in life? What about disadvantages? Solomon says that wisdom is of far graeter advantage than DNA, talent, or position and status. Some of us get more and better opportunities than others. But, no matter where you find yourself, you can learn wisdom, make the most of oportunities, and elevate your position. And if you exhibit folly for long enough, eventually you'll forfeit your opportunities. And privilege with folly is a worse reality than oppression with wisdom.
1 John 4:18-21
This text is both comforting and convicting.
Comfort - v. 18-19 - God's love eradicates fear, because his love eliminates the threat of punishment. My guilt has already been punished, and Jesus willingly took that upon himself. I need not hide my sin or pretend I don't sin because my sin has already been dealt with. I can be honest and real. Neither do I need to prove anything because God's love has nothing to do with my impressiveness or potential. My worst days and worst moments will not define, so I don't need to act like they don't happen.
Convicting - I struggle to love "my brother". That is, I don't very often or very easily do what's best for others without regard for what I want. I don't die to my own needs in order to spend myself to meet the needs of others. And I don't because of fear. I'm afraid of missing out on something, being taken advantage of, not being appreciated, looking stupid, not doing something well. "What about me?" is the question behind so much of my witholding. It reflects a fear that I won't get my needs and desires fulfilled if I focus on the needs of others. John draws a straight line from my lack of love to fear, and from fear to a unbelief in the love of God.
Who am I not loving right now? What fears are holding my back from loving them? What am I not believing in regard to the love of the Father?
v. 15 - Learning and listening are a consistent theme of wisdom in Proverbs. The heart as the place where wisdom resides is also a consistent thought.
I wonder, who are you listening to these days? What wise voices are you allowing to speak into your life? And what are you applying your heart to learn? What are you intentionally growing in the knowledge of?
This starts to seem a little bit redundant, but that's part of the benefit of approaching Proverbs this way. Consistent themes and empahases become unavoidably obvious. In chapter 19, v. 20, 27 beat the same drum Solomon's been beating, from two different angles. He is continuing to emphasize that wisdom is unnatural. While many of us are born with different "natural" gifts, talents and aptitudes, nobody is born wise. Wisdom is learned and acquired throughout ones life. Therefore teachability, humility and attentiveness are major facto so we can't listen to everyone, but we must listen to someone (v.20). From the other side (v. 27), if we only listen to our own thoughts and those who affirm our own thoughts, we have already forfeited wisdom and internalized folly.
v. 1 is really what sticks out to me today regarding wisdom. "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,and whoever is led astray by it is not wise." There is the surface level interpretation highlighting the foolishness of drunkenness. I don't want to gloss over that because we live in a culture loves their alcohol. So, I don't want to deviate from the specificity of Solomon here. But, I do believe that there is a deeper point here than don't get drunk. As it relates to alcohol specifically, and to addictions more broadly (both to substances or other forms of escape and self-medication), wisdom takes seriously both my internal vulnerabilities and external threats. We must cultivate an honest and sober self-awareness in this regard, lest we become people defined by our worst impulses.
What forms of escape and self-medicating are you personally most prone toward and susceptible to?
How are you guarding against their influence?
Who are you talking to or who will you talk to about these struggles so that you aren't hiding sin or sturggling in isolation?
Returning to the theme of learning and gaining wisdom from others, v. 11 tells us that wisdom cannot only be acquired from the wise, but from fools. Seeing the fruit of others' folly is a legitimate and helpful source of wisdom and understanding.
- Where do you see others suffering consequences of foolishness around you? Taking this verse to heart, what caution might you gain or what corrective might you receive yourself through the fruit observed in the life of someone else?