John the Apostle has often been called “the Beloved Apostle” or “the Apostle of Love.” He didn’t start out that way! Jesus called John and his brother James “the Sons of Thunder” probably for their temper. But after hanging around Jesus for 3 years, John was transformed. He was part of Jesus’ inner circle. In John’s first letter (1st John 3:7-18), he gets right to the point of describing God’s work vs the devil’s work. The devil works to bring death, not life. Just like Cain murdering Abel. The work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is life-giving work. He is a creator God. He is a forgiving God so that whatever you’ve done, you can be forgiven and restored. He is the author of life. He breathed into Adam, the first man, who then became a living creature. He has knit each of us together while still in our mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13). The devil’s work is to sow hatred in our hearts. Wherever and whenever you experience hatred, you experience the work of the devil. That’s why racism is so evil. It’s the work of the devil. V15 says that anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer. Strong language. That’s John being crystal clear. In the context he’s talking about fellow believers in the church. We also know from other scripture passages that we’re to love our neighbor as ourselves. But in the church, in the congregation, love must guide our relationships even if we don’t agree on every issue. What I mean is that in any congregation, you’ll find a variety of opinions on any issue – politics, money, power, recycling, gender issues, legal vs illegal immigration, which version of the Bible to use, the meaning of a certain verse, etc etc. Those potentially divisive issues are not the guiding issues for the Church. My relationship to you is not based on any of those issues. Love is the guiding principle in the Church. And love is life-giving, and unifying. Love is the basis for refreshing community. It’s in our Church vision statement. It’s in our Church DNA.
Look at the second sentence in v8. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” We have a savior! We have a deliverer! We have a conquering, warrior God who has come to do HIS WORK! Not only is God’s work completely different from the devil’s work, God’s work also destroys the devil’s work. It isn’t just that God is building a different kingdom (which is true). But it’s also that God’s Kingdom destroys the devil’s kingdom. In the OT book of Daniel, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a large statue whose parts were made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, and clay each of which represented kingdoms on the earth. In the dream, that statue was struck by a large rock not made by human hands. The Prophet Daniel interpreted it. He said “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” (Daniel 2:44) The Kingdom of God has come! And it destroys the devil’s kingdom. Jesus has appeared to break every chain that binds you! The work of Jesus delivers us from the strongholds of the devil that grip our heart.
In 1984 the band “Foreigner” released what became a hit song. It was called “I want to know what love is”. I read in an article that before they recorded it, the band got into a circle and prayed the Lords’ Prayer together. Millions of songs and books and poems have been written to explain, define, describe, or illustrate love. But… if you really want to know what love is, read 1st John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” This is the love that the world misses or doesn’t understand or doesn’t accept. But… Love was created by God and the definition of love comes from God. It expresses itself in unselfish sacrifice. The Gospel is all about sacrificial love. Not teenage infatuation. Not puppy love. Not sappy love. Not romantic love. But a powerful, life-giving, death-destroying agape love that sacrifices for others! That is the kind of love the Spirit reproduces in you and me.