Spiritual Jealousy—Part 1
March 19th, 2023

1st John 3:13

13 Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

Why would we be surprised?  Because early Christians were widely noted for their compassion; Jesus’ message lived out in their lives resulted in radical communities offering love and care for those in need that the pagan world had never seen before.  The Didascalia, published in the 3rd century was a guidebook to Christian practice, and insisted that church leaders were to ensure that arrangements were made for orphans to get education, widows to receive aid, and the destitute to be provided with food and firewood.  Even before Constantine, the church had created a system of social assistance that no department of the pagan state had ever provided.  The teaching of Jesus was the great motivation behind the rise of hospitals, orphanages, and hospices for the dying. Christian hospitals could be found all over the Christian world, from Syria in the East, to Europe in the West.  Later Middle Ages, the Benedictines alone were responsible for more than 2,000 hospitals in Western Europe, and by the 15th century there were 37,000 Benedictine monasteries caring for the sick.  In America today, approximately 19% of hospitals are religiously-affiliated, and many more used to be.  Yet, we have been hated, and persecuted.  So often, we get repaid evil for doing good, and yet, John insists that we should not be surprised. Why?

Be Not surprised

He’s saying that they need to “Stop being amazed or shocked” by it, because this can give way to a feeling of “oh poor me”, which was not going to be helpful to their spiritual growth.  These are good warnings to be reminded of today, so that we’re not caught off-guard, and so that we do not fall into despair or self-pity.

Jesus warned us

Jesus warned us in John 15:18-19 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. That means that because we are not of this world, and have been taken out of the world to live our lives for Jesus, we are no longer the world’s own, under the influence of the enemy, but now fight against the flesh, the world and the enemy, and this results in a kind of spiritual jealousy and hatred that Jesus is describing here.  The people of the world neither know God, nor mostly want to know God.  Jealousy involves the “feelings of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantages or prosperity of another.” (according to Webster).  It also involves “longing after or coveting some advantage or possession of another.” Then spiritual jealousy concerns feelings of displeasure about someone else’s perceived closer relationship with God, or coveting someone else’s spiritual gifts, ministries or blessings. 

The Scriptures Warn Us

Cain and Abel-Cain made the choice not to come under the authority of God, and chose a life of sin for himself instead.  And because Cain’s heart was wrong, in his failure to love God enough to obey, then God had no regard for his sacrifice.  Samuel the Prophet made this clear to King Saul in 1 Sam 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.  Again in Proverbs 21:3 To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.  But Cain wanted to just go through the motions of a sacrifice on his own terms, instead of obeying God, and of course this was unacceptable to God.  As 1 John 3:12 told us:  And for what reason did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil, but his brother’s were righteous.  And by the end of Cain’s story, he is banished from the people of God, and basically founds the line of people who don’t follow God.  So, we find the same spiritual lesson that the Pharisees were to learn later–Don’t regard our ways and traditions as higher than God’s Law, or we will find ourselves fighting against God, and if we’re not careful, separated from Him.  Also, don’t hate people for having a closer relationship with God—learn from their good example.  Follow them as they follow the Lord. 

Joseph and his Brothers–In Gen 37, in verse 5 5 Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more.  Joseph had a dream from God about being put in charge over them. Now, as the youngest, it was kind of understandable that they were unable to rejoice with him about this.  Jealousy not only makes us want what others have, but it also makes us want them to not have what they have. The lesson for us, as Christians who have been shown favor by God:  we didn’t earn it!  Ephesians 2:8-9  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.  In other words, there was nothing commendable in us.Romans 3:10 10 as it is written: “There is no righteous person, not even one;  And so, the point is this:  Let us not give reason and justification to spiritual jealousy by being self-righteous and arrogant, as young Joseph sounds in Genesis 37, or we may have to learn some hard lessons, as he did—13 years of slavery and prison to work on his character before he was ready to lead!   And so, we see another lesson here, in that the very person that they were trying to kill was the one that God was going to use to save them from certain starvation later!  So, maybe the person you don’t like, or even the Brother or Sister in Christ that you don’t like will be the very one with a Spiritual Gift that is going to be used to minister to you later in your life!  Don’t attack and try to get rid of that person now, or you may find yourself suffering later!

David and Saul-We see how jealousy and disobedience destroyed the life of Saul most clearly in his relationship with David.  It began when David returned from killing Goliath, we read in 1 Sam 18:7-8 7The women sang as they played, and said, “Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.” 8 Then Saul became very angry, for this lyric displeased him; and he said, “They have given David credit for ten thousands, but to me they have given credit for only thousands! Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” 9 And Saul eyed David with suspicion from that day on.  And, of course David was going to have the Kingdom, but it was because God had anointed him to have it, not because he killed Goliath, or was in charge of the men of war and killed a bunch of Philistines.  Saul was afraid that David would take the kingdom away from him, but he also saw David as the embodiment of the fact that he had chosen his own sinful way instead of God’s, and that David had chosen to follow God—so God was with David.  Saul had turned against God, and was jealous of David, who hadn’t.  The lesson is that we must obey God fully, and that means loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, not being jealous of their realationship with God, their gifts or their ministries, and of course not killing them with hatred in our hearts, and certainly not trying to kill them physically, as Saul did!  Love your Brothers and Sisters in Christ!  Don’t allow a root of bitterness springing up to defile yourself, or others! 

Love One Another
March 12th, 2023

1st John 3:11-12

For a Christian, we cannot fail to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and be walking in our New Nature.  We see this in Paul’s warning in 1 Cor 3:3 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like ordinary people?  In other words, the Corinthians expressing jealousy and strife toward each other instead of love shows that they are walking in the flesh, and not by the Spirit.  They are walking like ordinary, unregenerate, unsaved people, in their old nature, instead of walking by the Spirit.

11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we are to love one another;

John is saying that an elementary, basic lesson of Christianity is that we are to love one another.  In John 13:34 Jesus taught, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” It was the only New Commandment that he ever gave.  A distinguishing mark of being a follower of Christ is a deep, sincere love for brothers and sisters in Christ. In giving this command, Jesus did something the world had never seen before—He created a group identified by only one thing: love.

How did Jesus Love?

He loves unconditionally Romans 5:8 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  And that means that there was nothing commendable in us that Christ would die for us.  He loved Sacrificially. Jesus bore our sins on the cross, shedding his blood as a sacrifice for sin, 2 Cor 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  Jesus bore our sin, so that we wouldn’t have to bear it, and be under God’s wrath eternally.  God loves with Agape love, self-sacrificial love concerned only about the well-being of the one loved, and not their worthiness of the love given.  Jesus’ love is holy, pure, sincere, without adulteration, or anything that defiles—because He is holy Hebrews 7:26 26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens; 

Commanded to Love

Love, the Bible insists, is a choice, and a commitment to keep making the choice to love. 

By the Spirit

We have the Holy Spirit, who loves us, and others with the Love of Christ, encouraging us, enabling us to obey. 1 Cor 1:19-20 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body.  That means that we are not only commanded to love, but made capable of loving with the love of Christ.

Because we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we share the love of Jesus with others, and it is apparent in the way that we relate to Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  We see a model of how to live this out in Eph 5:18-21 when Paul encourages us to make our priority to be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father; 21 and subject yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ. 

Jesus said in Matthew 22:36-40, when a lawyer asked him 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 Upon these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.”

By obeying the Spirit, through the Word of God, the believer can love like Christ does.We can emulate the love that Jesus has shown us, the unconditional, sacrificial, forgiving love because He first loved us. We will find that as we walk by the Spirit, the flesh has less opportunity to mess up the relationship that we have with God, and with each other.  Gal 5:16 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  And, by the Spirit, we will find that we express the fruit of the Spirit by walking by the Spirit.  Gal 5:22-24 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Show God to Others Through Love

As will all of God’s Commandments, they are for our Good.  We are to shine as examples of how God loves people, and reflect that especially in how we love our brothers and sisters in Christ, because, as the song says “They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love, and by this we are able to point them to God.  Or as Jesus put it in Matthew 5:16 16 Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. We Glorify God by having, and showing love for one another.  In giving this New Commandment, Jesus made sure that we would understand the reason, by following it up in John 13:35 saying that when Christian brothers and sisters love one another with the Love of Christ, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”.  Gal 5:16 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  And, by the Spirit, we will find that we express the fruit of the Spirit by walking by the Spirit.  Gal 5:22-24 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. We have the Holy Spirit living within us, and as we obey His urgings to love one another, we love like Christ.

Love as Christ

Christ’s love displayed through the believer is unlike the “love” generated by the flesh, which can be selfish, egotistical, unforgiving, and insincere.First Corinthians 13:4–8 gives a wonderful description of what Christ’s love will be like in and through the believer who walks in the Spirit.  4 Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. 5 It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, 6 it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  8 Love never fails; This kind of love isn’t just a feeling, these words demand action—these descriptions of love all call for an action on our part to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, not just to talk about it!  1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

Not as the world

People don’t naturally love with a 1 Corinthians 13-type love. To love like that, there must be a change of heart. In 1st John 3:12, John continues

12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And for what reason did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil, but his brother’s were righteous.  I’m sure that Cain said that he loved his brother many, many times as they were growing up, but really Cain just loved Cain.  He would not come under the authority of God, and chose a life of sin insteadUltimately, this manifested itself in him rising up against his brother, and killing him out of jealousy of his relationship with God.  His failure to love God in obedience, and love his brother in truth ultimately resulted in tragedy for his brother and himself, and their whole family.  But when we are forgiven by Christ, we become a participant in the divine nature 2 Peter 1:4 4 Through these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world on account of lust. When we receive the New Birth, the New Nature in Christ, we also receive the capability to love like Jesus.

Practice Righteousness
March 5th, 2023

1 John 3:10 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother and sister.

John gives a litmus test to tell who are Born-Again Christian followers of Christ, and who are not.

By this

John said that no one who is born of God practices sin, and will say that those who do not follow Jesus don’t practice righteousness.

The Believer’s Struggle Against Sin

The reason that John denies the possibility of believer’s sin, is that when we sin, we are acting in accord with our old nature, our flesh, and not our New Nature.  For a Christian, we cannot sin, and be walking in our New Nature.  The devil’s children reveal their unregenerate natures by sinning. So when a Christian sins, he or she fails to express the new nature but reflects the devil’s pattern by expressing the old nature. For a Christian, our struggle is AGAINST the flesh, by the power of the Spirit, not cooperating with it.  We are no longer allied with the flesh against God.  We have changed sides.  But, we still have this flesh, with it’s sinful nature, problems, hurts, habits and hangups.  And that means that we have a struggle going on inside us, the Spirit against the flesh. 

See Rom 7:14-24 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.   So, we see Paul’s inward desire, guided by the Spirit is to live a holy life, but he finds that he has this fleshly nature that wants to sin, and sometimes he listens to his flesh, and sins, and he hates this!  For believers, this struggle with sin is vexing, and is really the central struggle of our lives, Gal 5:17 Galatians 5:17 For the desire of the flesh is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, in order to keep you from doing whatever you want.  As a Christian, we finally have peace with God, and it’s wonderful!  But immediately we find that we’re now on God’s side, at war with the world, the devil, and our own fleshly desires!  And Paul looks at his own battle—the inner man, powered by the Holy Spirit striving to do God’s Will, and the flesh, trying to do whatever it wants.  The key here is the struggle against sin.  Paul says in Rom 16-18 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  Paul finds that by imperfect keeping of the Law, he has given sin an opportunity.  As Paul says in Rom 7:19-20 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  He’s given the enemy an opportunity for harming him, and given sin an opportunity to work destruction and death in his life, instead of dying to himself, and overcoming sin.  And it’s because he’s trying in his flesh.  And what’s his reaction?  He is miserable: Rom 7:24 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  But, for Christians, this grief over sin brings not hopelessness, but a realization that we cannot overcome sin ourselves.  And so, with Paul, we say in Rom 7:25 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Jesus, through the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit in each of us, has given us the power to overcome sin!  He is our deliverer from sin, not we ourselves!  Didn’t Jesus die for ALL of your sins?  Then why are you trying to take some of them back from Him and say “I can handle these myself”.  No, Give Him all of them!  Trust Jesus!  He can give you the victory! 

Sin speaks to the world

Another reason why we do not sin, is that it should be more and more distasteful to us, outside, and foreign to us, as we become more and more like Christ.  And, when believers sin, they are bearing a witness to the world, but it’s not the one that they want to bear.  Sin in the life of a believer is not only evidence of their lack of walk with Christ in the New Birth that has been purchased for them on the cross, it also gives this bad witness to the world.  And they recognize the hypocrisy immediately!  It’s “speaking their language”. 

Perseverance in Christ also speaks

Our perseverance in our Christian walk by the Spirit, and not the flesh, is not only a proof of salvation to us, this sustained abiding in Christ, this continued following after Him and keeping our eyes on Him is a proof to those around us that we belong to Jesus.  As Christians, we will “abide” or remain in Him.  We can trust that God will complete His work in us Phil 1:6 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus.   What a wonderful verse.  But we forget the one before it:  Phil 1:5 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.  It’s the Philippians personal walk in Christ, active participation living out the Gospel of Christ in their daily walk with Him that gives Paul the confidence to say that God’s work is continuing in them, and will keep continuing in them until the day when they stand before Jesus.  Paul agrees with John; the proof of salvation is in the abiding, walking with Christ.

the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest

So, “By means of this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest.”—are obvious.  Our conduct, the way that we live our lives, makes our parentage, from a spiritual perspective. 

Well, the way that we live our lives, speaks volumes about our spiritual parentage as well. Jesus, by His walk, and His Character, revealed God the Father to us as Emanuel, God with us, so also we, by our walk, our character should be revealing Jesus to those around us!  Our conduct makes visible and obvious our true spiritual parentage.  The children of the devil display their basic nature by sinning.

anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God

Anyone born of God will practice righteousness, and anyone not Born of God will always lack righteous conduct, because righteousness is always sourced in God, who they do not know!  So what about those people who are “good people”, who do wonderful things from a human perspective?  Now many good-seeming works are disguised evil deeds, or done with self-serving, selfish or unrighteous motivations.

The classic example is the Pharisees. 

But what about those people who are unbelieving, but are good people acting out of human kindness and a sincere effort to do good and serve people?  Is God going to allow them to go to hell, along with the really evil people of the world?  In terms of how God handles these situations, let’s look at Cornelius in Acts 10.  We know from Acts 10:2 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and made many charitable contributions to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.   An angel even appears to this Roman centurion, and says, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God” in v. 4.  But despite these good deeds that even God attests to, through his angel, which are motivated by a desire to please God, and praying earnestly to God, he was not yet born again.  By his own testimony Cornelius indicated that an angel had told him, “Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved”.  God will do whatever is necessary to bring the saving message of Jesus Christ to that person so that he can believe it and be born again.  We saw a more modern example with the Jesus Movement in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.  There was a sincerity of heart, and a desire for Good in some of those flower children that God knew, once they were saved, would turn into a joyful devotion to Him.  Again, they were not saved by works, but that desire to do good and seek God got His attention, and He brought about the circumstances needed to hear the good news, come to faith in Christ, and be saved. Even if He needs to send apostles or missionaries to some unlikely places.  Titus 3:5 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we did in righteousness, but in accordance with His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, It is only by faith in Jesus Christ that anyone receives the forgiveness of sins. And, if God will respond to their feeble and inadequate efforts, then maybe so should we.  Let’s go to those who are searching for God in all the wrong places, and let’s point them to how to have a real relationship with God through Jesus, his son.