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God is Greater Than Our Heart

June 30 2024

Book: 1 John

Thank you for reading this sermon from Christ Fellowship. I hope and pray that this sermon will be a blessing of grace and truth to you. With that said, let me encourage you not to use this sermon as a replacement for your local church. Christ Jesus did not establish his Church simply for us to consume content. Instead, He calls us to be part of a real, covenant family. 


11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

This was the command Jesus gave to His disciples at the last supper. And again, this is not a friendship kind of love, or a romantic kind of love, or even a family type of love. It’s that special word – agape. It’s a God kind of love. Permanent. Unconditional. Sacrificial.

12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

The opposite of sacrifice is murder. If you remember from last week, there are two groups of people. People of the world and people of God. Children of the devil and children of the Father.

The story of Cain and Abel highlights a particular kind of hatred that John wants us to see – a hatred for righteousness.

13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

Why? Because, like Cain, the world hates righteousness and loves lawlessness.

We see it in media and entertainment – where characters who engage in immorality are frequently portrayed as glamorous or successful, while those who uphold Biblical morals are depicted as naive or weak.

We see it in politics and business – where people who engage in bribery and fraud often prosper, while people with integrity are marginalized.

We see it in the general acceptance of behaviors and lifestyles that were once considered wrong even by pagans.

But notice the key distinction that John makes between people of the world and the people of God.

14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

One group is spiritually dead. The other is spiritually alive, and the evidence of that life is love – active, sacrificial love.

15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

John borrows here the language of Jesus from the sermon on the mount where Jesus equates hatred to murder. Harboring hatred in your heart for someone is abiding in, or being at home with, death.

This is interesting because murder is not the unforgivable sin. Paul assisted a murder and was forgiven. David committed murder and was forgiven. Jesus was actively being murdered on the cross and asked the Father to forgive them.

Instead, I think John here is thinking of the people who left the church and now hate the body of Christ. These are the antichrists we talked about last week. Their actions do not suggest that they have personally experienced the sacrificial love of Christ, as he says in the next verse.

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

Jesus perfectly demonstrated the kind of love He wants us to have for each other: active sacrifice. This is God’s vision of a sacrificial community. That’s what He wants His church to be. Now, look at John’s example.

17 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?

John typically uses plural words – we, our. But here he switches to singular. Do not close your heart to a brother in need. You. He makes it personal, that we should ask ourselves is my heart closed to a brother or sister in need?

By saying it this way, John forces us to be specific. As one commentator says, “Loving everybody in general may be an excuse for loving nobody in particular.”

Who specifically has been a recipient of your sacrificial love? And notice, John also moves from a big sacrifice to a small one. In verse 16, he’s talking about laying down your life for a brother. In this verse, he’s talking about providing for physical needs.

In other words, true love is not only revealed in the big sacrifices. It is also expressed in little ones. And if you think you’d make the big sacrifices when you’re unwilling to make the small ones, then you’re lying to yourself.

18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Love is action, not words. This is what Jesus means when He tells husbands to love their wives. Don’t just say it… prove it.

This is deeply convicting to me, because I’m strong with words and often weak with action.

19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;

20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

Remember, John is not trying to cause doubt. He’s trying to encourage believers in their faith. We know our love is deficient. We know that Christians aren’t always the perfect example of love.

But there is also no condemnation for those in Christ. And so, John says to us, listen to God, not your heart. He knows the truth and His Spirit will reassure the heart of a believer.

21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;

This is the ideal mental state of the Christian – resting well… at home with God.

22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

Once again, John is speaking of our relationship with the Father. He’s a good Father! As Jesus said, your Father in heaven knows what you need before you ask. This is not a promise of temporary blessing. It’s a promise of eternal love and rest. We have a good relationship with the Father because of Jesus.

23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

It’s important to hear these words, not as a statement about what could be – but as a statement about what IS… what is already true. We believe. We love. We abide. We already have this kind of relationship. We’re not trying to get it. And we know it because the Spirit of God lives in us.

But once again, John pivots. He focuses our attention back on the false teaching.

4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

This is clever, because the false teachers in this case are overly concerned with the spirit world. They denied that Jesus was really God in the flesh.

2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,

3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

See what John did there? If you want to know the Spirit of God, then you must believe Jesus took on flesh. If you deny that, then you don’t have the Spirit of God.

4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

This is a strong, beautiful statement. You are from God. You have overcome the world. It’s done. It’s already true. You’re not working for it to be true someday. Have confidence! The Spirit IN YOU is greater than the spirits out there.

5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them.

6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

John says “we”, referring to the apostles. And he can make this claim of authority because they had direct contact with Jesus. They witnessed his life, death, and resurrection. They had been sent by Jesus to spread the Gospel. If the apostles were not teaching it, then it was not from God.

The world is full of error. This is why it is so important that we devote ourselves to the teaching of the Bible – that we listen to God’s Word.

Now… as we think back over today’s text and the past few weeks, what do we notice? John keeps going back and forth between truth and love… knowing God and loving God… he’s showing us the relationship between the two. You cannot separate true knowledge of God from love.

It is this relationship between truth and love that makes the Gospel so beautiful. It produces both confidence and humility. It allows us to be seen and still be loved! And it motivates the kind of sacrificial love that Jesus calls us to.

It’s a love that can see another person for who they really are and still move towards them instead of away from them, because I know myself and I know I’m not worthy of the Father’s love, but He gave it to me anyway.

More than that, He keeps giving it. Some of us are prone to doubt God’s love because we keep messing up. Surely, at some point, God will be done with me… right?

No! It’s not possible! Stop feeling sorry for yourself!

You might ignore His love, or neglect it, or waste it, or misunderstand it, but God will never stop giving it. Sacrificial love always knows the truth and gives anyway. That’s what makes it different.

It’s what makes our God different. You won’t find a God like this anywhere but Christianity. You won’t find this message “out there”. And we need to keep hearing it.

If so much of what is wrong with the world, according to John, is a lack of love… if that is our bent, our struggle as humans… to know and feel the safety and security and warmth of loving relationship… and if that is what the God of the Bible is offering us, without condition… and it changes us from the inside out and motivates us to love others in the same way…. Then may we not neglect it.

Be here as often as you are able, to hear the good news, to experience the love of the Father, and to show it.