1 John 3:16-18 ESV
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
He Laid Down His Life
So, in what ways did Jesus lay down his life for us? It didn’t begin on the cross. It began with his first sermon, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And then with these words, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny self and take up his cross daily and follow me.” And then when he said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven,” etc. And it is when he chided the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and evil, too.
[Matt 4:17; Lu 9:23-26; Matt 7:21-23; Matt 23; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11]
For, it was Jesus’ words and his actions that got him hated and killed. So, every time he opened up his mouth and he spoke truth to the people, and he confronted them with their sins, and he called them to repentance and to self-denial and to death to sin and to walks of obedience to him, he was being hated and persecuted. And he had people harassing him and trying to trick him and to trip him up with his words in hopes that they could accuse him of wrongdoing, and these were mainly the rulers in the temple of God.
But Jesus also healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, comforted the sorrowful, delivered people from demons, fed the hungry, and performed many other miracles in demonstrating to the people the love of God, and also in demonstrating to the people that he was/is God (the second person of our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). And the religious zealots who were mostly the rulers in the temple and the teachers of the Scriptures hated Jesus for his good deeds and for proclaiming that he is God, too.
So, they had him hung on a cross to die, hoping that his death would silence him and his gospel, but God had other plans for Jesus’ death. For Jesus died on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. He died so that we would now live for him and no longer for ourselves. And he died to deliver us from our slavery (addiction) to sin so that we would now be slaves of God and of his righteousness, in the power and working of God’s Spirit who now lives within those of us who follow Him.
[1 Pet 2:24; 2 Co 5:15,21; 1 Co 6:19-20; Rom 6:1-23; Eph 4:17-24]
And then God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, and after he ascended back to heaven he sent his Holy Spirit to indwell his followers, to be Jesus, in the Spirit, alive with us, now teaching us all things about Jesus and about our walks of faith and empowering us to live holy and godly lives to the praise and honor of God who saved us from our sins. And he also leads us and empowers us to be the Lord’s witnesses in sharing the truth of the gospel with people so that they can be saved and have eternal life with God.
[Mk 13:11; Lu 4:18-19; Jn 14:26; Jn 15:26; Jn 16:13; Ac 1:8; Ac 2:17-18]
Laying Down Our Lives
Jesus Christ set the example for us with regard to what our Christian lives should look like and for what genuine love looks like in action. And we are to follow his example if we are to be genuine followers of Christ. And you can’t be a believer and not a follower, and a follower is one who obeys his commanding officer (Jesus), and who does (in practice) what he says we are to do. And if we are truly following Jesus’ example in doing and in saying the kinds of things he did and said, we should also expect the same results.
We will be hated and persecuted, even by pastors and elders of churches, and by church people who also profess faith in Jesus Christ. They won’t like it that we are calling out sin for what it is, and that we are calling them to repentance and to obedient walks of faith in Jesus Christ. And they won’t like it that we are calling out false teachers and false teaching, which is leading many people astray, and that we are counteracting the lies with the truth. And so they will come against us like they came against Jesus.
And even if we are crying out to them out of our own pain and suffering, and we are asking them to do right by us, and not wrong, many of them will close their hearts to us and they will refuse to help, and they may even turn our own words against us and use them to accuse us falsely and to attack us bitterly and/or to just plain ignore our cries for help. And this is exactly what the religious leaders in the temple of God did to Jesus, too. For if we are honest, and we tell the truth, it can be used against us, not for us.
And, wow, I could tell you story after story of how I experienced such treatment coming from the hands and mouths of those who were supposed to be my shepherds, and who were supposed to love and protect me, but who either just ignored my cries for help and did nothing, or who turned against me and then became my enemy. Church abuse is way more prevalent than what a lot of people might imagine. But the more involved you are in ministry, the more you will see the stuff that goes on.
For in America, so much of what is called “church” is not the true church, but they are businesses of human-making being marketed to the world just like any other businesses, and so they run them like businesses, which can be very cutthroat. Some of the meanest people I have known in my life claim to be followers of Jesus and pastors and elders of churches. And they are following the ways of man and not of God and the ways of the culture and not the ways of the Spirit, and so they are wounding their wounded.
They have more sympathy for the abusers, in many cases, than they have for the abused. And they will protect the abusers more than they will do anything to protect the abused. And they will provide support groups for the abusers, but few do for the abused. So, essentially, they are closing their hearts to other Christians who are in need, not just physically, but who are in need of being rescued from abuse or who are in need of comfort and encouragement, and for the right reasons.
So, what this is teaching us, the church, is that we need to be like Jesus, and we need to be teaching what he taught, and we need to be ministering to other people’s needs like he did, and we need to not close our hearts to our fellow Christians who are in legitimate need. And we need to be willing to be hated and persecuted like Jesus was hated and persecuted in order to lay down our lives for others. For if you say what Jesus said, and you do like he did, you are going to be hated and mistreated like he was, too.
[Matt 5:10-16; Matt 10:16-25; Matt 24:9-14; Matt 28:18-20; Lu 6:22-23; Lu 21:12-19; John 15:1-21; Acts 1:8; Acts 26:18; Rom 5:3-5; Rom 12:1-8; 1 Co 12:1-31; 2 Co 1:3-11; Eph 4:1-16; Eph 5:17-27; Phil 3:7-11; Col 3:16; 1 Thess 3:1-5; Jas 1:2-4; Heb 3:13; Heb 12:3-12; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 1 Pet 2:9; 1 Pet 4:12-17]
Before the Throne of God Above
Charitie L. Bancroft
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is “Love,”
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart,
I know that while in heav’n He stands,
No tongue can bed me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free,
For God, the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
Behold Him there! The risen Lamb,
My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased with His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, My Savior and my God.
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One thought on “Don’t Close Your Hearts”
May I suggest holding their feet to the fire by presenting to the various followers of any particular congregation a simple questionnaire of 10 or so questions based upon how well their ‘own’ church is doing… best of all you can ask ‘any’ question, and this service offered is for nothing more than an evaluation service to them. The basic template is simple (I can provide) and referenced as ‘NCCES’ ‘National Christian Church Evaluation Service’ the questions can also be quite damming and truthful to their operations, and operatives alike.
We all know the Truth will eventually come to the forefront, so in the meantime we who understand these things can at least do good unto them, and by doing so may also cast coals of fire upon their heads.
Blessings to you