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1 John 1:4 – And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (NKJV)

The Apostle John writes “these things” in 1st John that your joy “may be full” (v.1.4) What things?

  • Full joy comes from fellowship with God, walking in the light. (1.5-7)
  • Full joy comes from confessing our sin (1.9)
  • Full joy comes from having Jesus as our Defender (2.1)
  • Full joy comes with knowing God; evidenced by our obedience and love (2.3-11)
  • Full joy is obtainable for all Christians in every stage of maturity (2.12-14)
  • Full joy through loving the things of God and not of the world (2.15)
  • Full joy is cultivated by righteousness (2.28) and purity (3.3)

The Bible is full of opposites. God consistently reveals that His ways are opposite of man’s. You give to get. Be last if you want to be first. Be exalted through humility. Gain life by losing it. True to that idea, we find out in 1 John 3 that joy and assurance is found in our sacrifice to love others and give our lives “for the brethren”.

What does it mean to love others? Is this a feeling that you have? While that can certainly be part of it, true love is a choice to serve, to sacrifice, to prefer, to defer… to lay down your life for the good of those you love.

1 John 3:16 – By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (NKJV)

How do we know what true love is? Because Jesus modeled it for us. He laid His life for us. His love was a tangible choice to sacrifice His life for ours. It would have rang hollow for a Savior to only speak of loving us and not demonstrate it with action (given the need for a solution to our sin problem).

1 John 3:18 – My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (NKJV)

And so we are to love in the same way Jesus modeled it to us. We are to love in “deed” which means it has to be more than words. We are to love in “truth” which means it can’t be haphazard love based on our own ideas. It has to be love grounded in God’s Word.

John, in his usual practicality presents the idea unmistakable terms. If you have money, food, clothes or resources and you ignore a brother in genuine need, then how can you say that the love of God is in you? Does this mean that we are to help every single person that crosses our path who presents a need? We can’t possibly help everyone so what is John talking about?

1 John 3:17 – But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? (NKJV)

I think the key to the principle is in the phrase “shuts up his heart”. God will direct us to those opportunities and people that He wants us to respond to. If you’re heart is open to love others, God will lead you in how to respond to needs as they arise. The key is your open heart (love) towards your brethren.

When we love in deed and truth, then we can be assured we are walking in truth (3.19) and our heart is right with God (3.20). When our heart is right, we are free of guilt and condemnation and have confidence when we come into God’s presence.

When we are confident in light of our right standing with God, we are primed to receive from Him whatever we ask. Why? Because we are keeping His commandments and doing those things that please Him (3.22). What commandment are we keeping? John circles back around to his opening point:

1 John 3:23 – And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. (NKJV, emphasis mine)

Once again, in beautiful simplicity, John writes “these things” so that we can have “full joy”. Look at the path the Apostle draws out for us (1 John 3):

  • v.23 – we are commanded to believe in Jesus and love one another
  • v.16 – we know what love is because Jesus modeled it for us by laying down His life
  • v.17-18 – love is practical and demonstrable, not just words; you love by helping and serving
  • v. 19 – if you show this tangible love, you can know that you are in God’s truth
  • v.20-21 – when we know we are in God’s truth, we can be confident towards God
  • v.22 – when we are confident towards God, we can ask from God expecting to receive because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him
  • v.23 – And what is the commandment we keep? To believe in Jesus and love one another which starts the cycle over again.

The Apostle John tells how to love, what it means to love, who our example of love is and the benefits of that love: assurance, confidence which help us to have a life of full joy.

    Loving God, thank You for sending Your Son to show us how to love. Help us to learn to lay down our lives for each other to demonstrate that love to the world. In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplation: Is your life marked by love for others? Is it evidenced by action, or just words? Would you say that the lack or presence of joy in your life is parallel to the amount of selfless love you show others?

Application: A life of full joy is obtainable but on God’s terms not ours. It always involves doing things His way. Joy is the result of a life characterized by love for others. If you’re unsure what that means then look to Jesus to see how true love is demonstrated.

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?