A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find another day here.
Monday June 8, 2020
1 John 5:1-3
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
What does it mean to be a Christian? This is the most important question that we can ask, and it is one that, sadly, many people don’t even know where to begin to look for answers. Statistically, if you stopped a random person walking out of a church service on a Sunday morning and asked them what made them a Christian, they would be pretty likely to say something something along the lines of “I’ve always been a Christian” or “My family is Christian” or “I was born in America”.
I was beyond blessed to grow up in a Christian home, with parents who knew and loved Jesus and took our family to church every time the doors were opened, and sometimes when they were not. But although both my mom and dad grew up in different strains of the Catholic faith, for them, and many of their friends and family members, church was little more than an obligation. They went to church because that is what they always did. If you asked them if they were Christians, they would have answered that they were Catholic. If you had asked them why they went to church, they would have responded that was what they were supposed to do. In reality, neither of them actually knew Jesus until they became adults. My mom was led to faith in Jesus by a co-worker who invited her to a Bible study, and she was so convicted that she immediately called up her fiancé to tell him they couldn’t get married anymore since he wasn’t a Christian. After receiving the phone call from my distraught mother, my dad put his faith and trust in Jesus while watching the 700 Club alone in a hotel room in Buffalo, New York. The rest, as they say, is history.
While I was born to Christian parents, in America, and grew up going to an Evangelical Presbyterian church, in America, those things didn’t make me a Christian any more than standing out in a field would make me a farmer. As John wrote in the beginning of his gospel, being a Christian, a child of God, is not something that we are naturally born into, it is not a decision that someone else can make for us, and, in a very real way, it is not even a choice that we can make for ourselves. To be a Christian is to believe that Jesus is the Christ and receive Him as Savior, and it is impossible to receive Jesus unless He first offers Himself. Christianity is all about our relationship with Jesus.
John writes here in his letter that to believe is to be born of God. To be born of God means to undergo a total transformation. The born-again Christian belongs to a new community, has been given new responsibilities, and as a result of their restored relationship with God enjoys new purpose and meaning.
First, the Christian must remember that everyone who loves the Father is a part of our new community, the family of God. The family of faith, as we see over and over in the Bible, transcends all barriers of age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, language, race, and socio-economic status. Jesus commanded His followers to take the good news of the gospel beyond their own communities, to their neighbors, their enemies, and even to the ends of the earth. In his book of Revelation, John writes that the family of saints standing before the throne of God includes individuals from every tribe, every tongue, and every nation on the earth, who worship the same Father through His Son.
Christians have also been given a new responsibility, to love God and love others. Because we share faith in Jesus, Christians have more in common with other believers in Africa and Asia than we do with even our closest life-long unbelieving friends or family. However, regardless of anyone’s theological beliefs or personal faith, followers of Jesus must know and obey His commandments to love. Everyone who knows and loves Jesus has the responsibility to love all of humanity because the Bible tells us that every person on the earth was uniquely created in the image of God.
Finally, God does not ask us to toil in vain, nor is He an arbitrary or capricious master. Echoing the words of Jesus, John tells us that, properly understood, God’s commandments are not even burdensome. When Christians obey the commands of God, they are following their Father’s guidelines for helping them experience their best life possible. Living and walking with Jesus is to know a life filled with purpose and meaning. Jesus came to bring joy, not sorrow; through Him, we can know life to the full. Now, we are given the responsibility, and the privilege, of sharing this message of life and joy and hope through Jesus so that others might join us in His family.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, Your kingdom and power know no limits. Forgive us for the times that we have not loved You as we ought, and have not loved others as You have called us to love. Give us eyes of faith to see that You love us and that Your commandments are what is best for our lives. We pray that You would be moving and working in the hearts of those who do not yet know You, that Your family will continue to grow and many can know true life in Your great name. Amen.