Monday, April 4, 2016

Thur 4/7 P3 - Embracing Christ-centered rather than man-centered Christian living

James 2:1 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

1 John 4:7 "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God."

The past couple of days have been focused on the important subject: "Embracing Christ-centered rather than man-centered Christianity. In the first installment we considered James' warnings to his readers to avoid "favoritism" and thus "man-pleasing Christianity". Yesterday we looked at what happens when we show partiality to one another from James 2:1-13. We discovered that showing partiality is another way of saying "being a man-pleaser". When Christians get caught in the trap of trying to court favor with men in the place of bringing pleasure to Jesus, less love for Christ, His Word, God's glory and people occurs.

How James and 1 John work together in urging Christians to embrace Christ-centered Christianity
Clearly James is warning his readers to not show preferential treatment in their dealings with one another. Whenever we study warning sections in God's Word, it is God's way of warning us about what not to do. Often it is instructive and helpful to turn to sections that are dealing with the same subject, urging us on what we need to do. Exhortation is a form of communication that urges readers and listeners to perform a certain task, or to increase effort in a practice that they are already doing. Warning sections in scripture urge readers to avoid certain practices or attitudes that can hurt their walk with the Lord. Whenever we are dealing with sin, we need both warning and exhortation. 

The Apostle John gives the antidote to showing favoritism in his short Epistle of 1 John.  In 1 John 4:7-21 we see John painting a picture of a church that is to exercise the Great Command to "love one another". When we speak of "loving one another", human love is not the love we are exercising, but rather God's love. Notice the four outcomes of Christians showing love to one another, and how such outcomes lead believers to embrace Christ-centered Christianity rather than its man-centered counterfeit.

1. More love, not less love for Jesus. 1 John 4:7-9
John cannot help but to write about Jesus Christ's accomplishments on the cross. Why? Because his exhortation to "love one another" is based off of God's supreme act in the sending of Jesus. As we love one another with respect to Christ's redemptive work on the cross, He and others will become more dearly loved. Loving one another - rather than being partial - yields a greater flow of the love and power of Jesus Christ. When God's power of love flows through His people - the net result is like electricity through a light bulb.

2. More love, not less love for God's glory. 1 John 4:11-12
John writes in 1 John 4:11-12 "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us." God's glory is His goodness and name put on display. As we aim to love one another, we are positioned to not only better see God's glory, but to enjoy it. Jesus states in Mark 12:28-34 that the two greatest commandments are to Love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourselves. 

The command to love my neighbor is directly related to my love for God. Whenever Christians make these two commands central to their life, God's glory in Jesus Christ takes center stage. As Christians sharing this core conviction to come together in unity of heart and mind, the spiritual climate of the church becomes saturated with love and zeal for His glory.

3. More love, not less love for God's Word. 1 John 4:13-19
1 John 4:13-15 states - "By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God." As the Holy Spirit testifies to your heart and mine about who we are and whose we are, He does so in connection to the scriptures. Where else do we learn that Jesus is the Son of God, or that He first loved us? The scriptures! (1 John 4:16-19) 

Whenever we choose to love one another with God's love, the love for God's word will follow suit, since scripture itself is described as the believer's food. (Job 23:12; 1 Peter 2:1-2) 

The Holy Spirit within the Christian bears witness of the words which He inspired through the writings of the Apostles and writings. It is through the scriptures that faith is born, nourished and enabled to see Jesus Christ. (Luke 24:44; James 1:18)

4. More love, not less love for one another. 1 John 4:20-21
1 John 4:20 reads - "If someone says, 'I love God' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." As we make a concerted effort to love one another without partiality, we will have the supernatural by-product of greater love for God. Conversely, as we aim to make our lives more God-centered - we will have greater love for one another. Why? Because God has so chosen to indwell each Christian by His Spirit. (John 14:17; Ephesians 1:11-14) 

Moreover, Christ purchased His people with His own blood, making them precious due to the price paid for them. (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Again, we cannot separate loving the Lord our God with all our mind, soul and strength from the other great commandment to love our neighbor.

Conclusion - loving one another results in embracing a Christ-centered Christianity
Through John's simple command to "love one another", we find the antidote to the warning James gives concerning showing partiality. As we love one another with God's love, we will end up with Christians who love God and others more than themselves, which in turn makes for Christ-centered churches. May every Christian consider these words and embrace Christ-centered Christianity rather than its man-centered counterfeit. 

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