A few months ago I had the opportunity to speak at my church on Sunday morning, and I felt God leading me to 1 John. Personally, I love John’s writing, but I think sometimes he is hard to follow. Where Paul and Peter and some of the other Bible writers are a bit more direct, John’s writing is more indirect. He wants you to come to your own conclusions.

So that can make his book a little hard to follow. Sometimes I want to tell him, just come to the point already! But if you take the time to listen to 1 John, you see that he had a very important but kind of difficult message to convey, and so as not to hurt our feelings, he says it indirectly and in a lot of ways, but his message is really clear. As I was working my way through 1 John, I started drawing this little picture to help me sort out all the main themes.

Basically, John talks about what we KNOW, what we LOVE, where we ABIDE, and who we are: CHILDREN OF GOD.

Picture YOU in the middle there, safely held in God’s arms. This is a lovely picture isn’t it? Doesn’t it make you feel safe and loved to picture yourself in God’s arms? You can just know in God’s arms that you are going to be okay, right?

Well guess what I realized. This picture is actually false. If this is where your security is, then it is a false sense of security. Because if this is how you know God, then you don’t really know God at all.

God says when we do not love each other, then we do not actually know and love Him. You can find the particular verses yourself when you read the book (and you should, which is why I am not writing them out for you!), but John tells us that we know that we KNOW God, because we keep his commandments, and his commandment from the beginning has been LOVE. Therefore, we know we KNOW God when we LOVE each other in real and tangible ways! The picture he wants us to see, and the life he wants us to experience, looks more like this:IMG_2040

If we began to live in this reality, it would change everything! It would change our outlook on life, our families, our communities, our workplaces, our whole world. The problem isn’t that the head knowledge about God isn’t available to the world, it’s that the EXPERIENTIAL knowledge about God, which is learned through LOVE, is not available enough to the world, because we who “know” God are not living it.

John spends a lot of time talking about how we are God’s children. The key to living like God’s children is in this word ABIDE, which shows up all over 1 John. To abide means to have a close relationship with God, like this picture of being held in God’s arms. Close enough to feel His heartbeat, move when He moves, gain His strength, and feel his instant soothing to our anxieties, just like a baby would receive when held securely in a parent’s loving arms.

When you ABIDE in God, God’s love permeates your life, and we also get to experience His power in our lives. God enables us, through our connection to Him, to live the kind of lives that we were designed to live, or unity with God and others, and love, and security, and freedom from sin. When we abide in God, we are not ABLE (not empowered) to sin, because we are instead EMPOWERED TO BE LIKE GOD! When this happens, then we will really begin to be able to live towards others with the love that lives in the heart of God.

1 John 3:1 says “Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the children of God,” even when by all our behaviors, we really sometimes don’t look like it. But regardless, that is what we are: Children of God. 1 John’s requirements for being a child of God are that we confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and is Lord, and that we keep God’s commands by loving each other.

This is how we ABIDE in God: by loving each other. By laying down our lives for each other, as Jesus so willingly laid down his life for us. One thing about the second picture: when I move aside, and allow other people into my life, and love God and another person, that is when I see God’s heart. When it is just about me and God, I can only see my own heart, which isn’t always healthy. When I let someone else in, and share the love of God, then I really can see God’s heart, and God’s heart can connect to my heart and to someone else’s heart as well. That is love! That is how we were designed to live.