Last year, 2015, a man named David Fitzgerald recounted his experience in an interview. As a ‘christian’ and a Southern Baptist, he remembered going around judging whether or not people were saved. He revealed that he felt responsible to gauge whether or not people would spend their eternity in either heaven or hell. He became convinced in his studies that the Christian faith was false and that Jesus actually never existed. He claimed that he was finally able to see other people as equals and that he had a more Christ-like love toward others once he jettisoned Christ, or ejected Christ from his life.
There were two things that struck me during his interview: First, he was inconsistent. He claimed that the reason he left Christianity was that he realized he didn’t know the stuff of the Christian faith for sure. He hadn’t investigated to discover whether or not its claims were true, only believing it because it was told to him. Then he claimed to have believed in Darwinian evolution because it was ‘obviously true,’ indicating that his belief is again only a face value belief. This is inconsistent. We cannot condemn one worldview by one standard and then not condemn another by the same standard, and one cannot know Darwinian evolution as truth because it is impossible to observe. Second, even though this man claimed to have a more Christ-like love than those who actually know Christ, he was very condescending toward anyone of any other worldview, the eyeglass through which we view and interpret reality, than his own throughout his interview; meaning that he was simply lying about being able to love people more. He describes himself as a condescending ‘Christian’ earlier in his life and in his interview proves to be a condescending non-Christian later in his life. To be condescending of others is to look down on them or talk down at them like they are ignorant about the world or the dumbest person on the planet. To condescend is to not show love or even care toward someone else. This means that this man still seems to be just as at a loss for love today as he was and has only claimed to be someone new or different.
There is a big difference between what someone claims and what is actually the case. Last time, we discovered that truth is important for those who have a Biblical worldview and that truth about God is actually revealed in Christ: not in our experience and not in dogma. Now we will draw our attention to what a Biblical love actually is. What is a Christ-like love?
1 John 3 (HCSB)
Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.
Everyone who commits sin also breaks the law; sin is the breaking of law. You know that He was revealed so that He might take away sins, and there is no sin in Him. Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him.
Little children, let no one deceive you! The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works. Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God. This is how God’s children — and the Devil’s children — are made evident.
Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another, unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need — how can God’s love reside in him?
Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action. This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence, even if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience, and He knows all things.
Dear friends, if our conscience doesn’t condemn us, we have confidence before God and can receive whatever we ask from Him because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight. Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us.
Children of God
John begins this part of his letter by referring to himself and his audience as children of God. Last time, we discovered exactly what it means to be a child of God. It is not some cultural form of the Christian religion, but it is actually to pursue truth and to live with Christ as Lord. If you have not listened to or watched part 1, I want to encourage you to do so.
Here is what strikes me as John continues his exhortation or instruction to believers: John states very clearly that we are children of God now, but what we will be has not yet been revealed. All we can know about our future life is that we will be like God because we will be able to see God as He is.
This means simply this: we cannot see the whole picture! It means that in this fallen world, as much as we can discern about who God is and what the future may hold, we cannot currently see God as He is because we are limited. I might even refer again to Genesis 1-3. God created us and everything that God created was perfect because God, by definition, cannot make mistakes. The freedom that God gave us is part of His perfect creation. People used their freedom to rebel against God and, in so doing, created imperfection in this world and fell victim to that imperfection. Now, because we are imperfect, we cannot see God as He is because He is perfect. This is one reason that it is so important for us to actively pursue truth. It is difficult to discover because we are imperfect. No one should take anything at face value or simply believe something just because someone says it. Everything should be checked. In humility, we should always realize that we could be wrong about something we think. Even what I say or write should be checked and rechecked against the text of Scripture. During his life as a cultural Christian, the man I mentioned at first took everything at face value. He believed some things about the Bible that were not true and still, even in the interview I mentioned, claims some things about the Bible that are not true and can be seen simply by reading the text. We cannot see it all.
Since John mentions our future existence, we might think about Heaven here. There are so many people who claim to know what heaven will be like for whatever reason. Even the man here who condemns the Christian Faith so heavily, admits that he had a perception of heaven that had been handed down to him. There are many books about people who have had a near death experience and who claim to have seen heaven or hell. What does a Biblical worldview actually tell us about Heaven?
First of all, John states in our text above that what we will be has not been revealed. We do not know what we will be, how we will relate to God, what we will be able to do, what our relationships will be like with one another, or what our bodies will be like. All we can know about God while we are on this earth is what He has revealed to us. This is humbling and we ought to be so skeptical every time someone claims to know exactly what we will be like in the future and claims to have received the full revelation of God. We ought to be so skeptical when cultural Christianity tries to define exactly what Heaven will be like because even uttering those words is contrary to a Biblical worldview. We do not know because we are not there, and we should not perpetuate lies that we have heard from others who have heard from others who have heard from others. We should look to the text of Scripture. Here is what Scripture actually reveals about our future existence:
- Isaiah 25 states that there will be no more tears and no more disgrace for God’s people and that the kingdoms of the world apart from God will fall.
- John 14 states that God has prepared a place for people who are His, who belong to Him.
- No one will hunger or thirst (Revelation 7).
- There will be no more death or pain. There is an eternal inheritance (Revelation 21).
- There will be a resurrection (Matthew 22).
- God’s people will be like a bride to Him and will dwell on a new Earth with God (Revelation 21).
Other than this, Scripture actually reveals very little about Heaven and even less about Hell. According to Scripture, Hell is a place of great distress: of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13, Luke 13). John refers also to an everlasting lake of fire in Revelation 20. Other than this, though, not much is revealed. Apart from this, there are many theories. Popular or Cultural Christianity gives an exact image. When we do this, we are guilty of adding to Scripture and of leading people away from what Scripture actually claims. The truth is, we don’t know exactly what the future is going to be like; but we believe according to Scripture that it is going to be great for those who genuinely belong to God.
I firmly believe that God has given us exactly what He wants us to have on this earth. If He did not reveal much about our future, but gave us plenty of instruction regarding our present lives, it seems clear to me that God wants us to focus on our lives here. The future will be revealed in its time. This does not mean that we cannot dream, fantasize, theorize or imagine what the future might be like for us, but we should never claim to know and we should be skeptical of anyone who does claim to know.
Love for brothers
After this, we finally get to this question of love. Just to understand love better, we have to ask what love is. Is it a feeling? Is it a choice? If it is a choice, it is not a choice alone. Any philanthropist can donate large amounts of money to non-prophets. Any person can give their time to read to children. Any spouse can dedicate themselves and be committed regardless of personal feelings. Willpower does not equal love. Doing good things for people in order to look good, to gain votes, to gain influence, or to gain a reputation is not equal to love. Love is more than a choice to act. Love actually seems to require a great degree of reason or emotion.
I love coffee because of the benefits, not because I just choose to drink it. I love sweetener because it makes coffee taste better, not just because I choose to use it. I love pizza because it brings me pleasure as the cheese and the sauce and the spicy Italian sausage meet with my taste buds. I love music because it is enjoyable. I love hunting and fishing because it provides an escape for my mind (which is always running 100mph). Love requires reason.
I love my wife. This love is greater. I do love the way that she looks. I love talking with her. I love cuddling with her in front of the television, but this love runs much deeper than just reason. It is emotion to my core. I would do anything for her and I wouldn’t expect anything in return and I am sure she feels the same way about me.
Here’s the thing I notice about human emotional love: It is reactive. It is a response to something received. It is conditional. If human emotional love was not conditional, then we would be born with an automatic tendency to love all people. This is not the case because there is hate in the world that comes from people. I know that I have hated, and so I also know that my love is conditional. I love my mom because she birthed and raised me. I love my brother because we grew up together. I did not always love my wife. There was a time when we had not met and so my love for her is actually conditional upon us meeting and me liking her. All human love is conditional.
What is a Christ-like love? According to John’s Gospel, Christ was with God and was God from the beginning. Everything that was created was made through Him and to Him. This is essential for beginning to understand Christ’s love. Genesis 1:1 states that God created both the heavens and the earth in the beginning. There was a beginning. Time as we experience it began to exist and God created it, which means He is not bound by it. If God is not bound by time, then He must know all things (what we see as past present and future). This means that God knows us in His knowledge, which is not bound by time. The best word we have for this is foreknowledge, but this word insinuates that God knew in the past, but instead it seems that He knows from the realm of eternity. If God is not bound by time as we experience it, then His love is also not bound by time. God actually has the capability to know us and to love us in the realm of eternity. This means simply that God’s love, or the love of Christ, or Christ-like love can be unconditional. In 1 John 4: 8,16, John actually declares that God is love! This means that love is a part of God’s character. If God is eternal then His love, which is part of Him, is also eternal! In a sense, God loves all people because He is love.
So, what, then, does it actually take to have a Christ-like love? It seems to me that the only way a Christ-like love can even exist is if there is a God who is love. It also seems to me that the only way we can have a Christ-like love for our neighbor is if we actually know Christ. Later in his letter, John actually says this:
“In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:17-20 HCSB).
We are able to love with the love of God because God first loved us. It makes sense that if my love is conditional, I would need something to help me love other people without any conditions. If God loves me first, I am able to love. My reason is that God has loved me and is not conditional upon the people that I am now loving. Without this, genuine unconditional love toward other people is impossible.
This means we do not have to condescend. We do not have the place to condemn others. John even states that because of this love, we do not have to fear Hell. Unlike the man we mentioned at the beginning, who seems to not have actually looked into Scripture, we can actually love people better with Christ than we can without Him. This is why it is so important for our ladies to only date men who know Christ. They cannot love you without some sort of condition if Christ is absent.
How to know that we actually know God
Considering all this, there is a way that we can know that we know God, and it is by our actions; whether they are genuine or not. We cannot know if someone else belongs to God based on their actions because we cannot see their heart. Thus, it is not our responsibility to point at someone and say either, “You are saved,” or, “You are not saved!” Our responsibility is to examine ourselves. If our actions line up with God’s commands, specifically the command here to believe in Christ and to love our brothers, and we are genuine and our true motive is to honor God, then we can know that we belong to God. If we willingly live in sin, though, we can know that we do not belong to God. John is very clear about this distinction.
We discover that popular or cultural Christianity makes many claims that are not in Scripture and that these claims actually vary from the claims in Scripture. Cultural Christianity seems to trick many people into thinking that they actually know Christ. Like the man we mentioned earlier, many people in the world tend to argue against Cultural Christianity rather than actually investigate Scripture. We’ve discovered that the only way it is possible to love genuinely is if God is real and if He has loved us. John even calls those who belong to God to die for their brothers and to share their possessions willingly where they are needed without condition. This is not a message of condemnation, of fear or even a command for us to decide who is saved and who is not. This is a message of selflessness that is possible only with Christ. Those who believe in Christ will receive eternal life and those who do not will be condemned, but we are not the ones who have the right to justify or condemn anyone. Only God has that authority. This is a Biblical Christian faith.
 The only way the sort of evolution that was referred to in the interview could be observed is if we were able to watch it from the beginning of the process until now. This is not something that we are capable of and is why evolution in this sense cannot be classified as anything more than a theory.