What Else is There? – Part 7- The End!

Here’s the last part!

Consider Yourself Warned

One thing that my wife has always cautioned me on is using “warnings.” In great wisdom, she helped me to understand that warning people that the outcome of their behaviors will be bad does not inspire them to love God any more. I agree with her completely. But, there are times when warnings are appropriate. For instance, imagine a child that’s about to wander into the street. A parent screaming a warning at the kid isn’t going to inspire a greater parental love in the child. But it will save their life. I once heard John Piper give a Biblical example similar to the following that will be helpful too:

Do you remember the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah? Jacob had worked for a long time to earn the right to marry Rachel. It was true love. However, Rachel’s older sister Leah was still unwed. In those days, much shame would’ve been brought upon the family to have the younger marry before the elder. On the wedding night, Rachel and Leah’s father pulled a switcheroo and sent Leah into bedroom to sleep with Jacob. I don’t know what situation would have caused Jacob to not know the difference, but he didn’t notice. Obviously this caused some modern reality TV sized drama. But how much pain could’ve been avoided with a simple warning? Imagine a person calling out annoyingly in the night: “HEY JACOB, THAT’S NOT RACHEL YOU’RE ABOUT TO HAVE SEX WITH!” It probably would not have inspired Jacob to love Rachel any more but it would’ve kept him from getting into bed with the wrong woman. It was information that he needed to know. Much drama and pain could have been avoided. Warnings can help people avoid terrible outcomes and provide immensely important information. The Bible regularly and appropriately uses warnings to this end and I think it’s safe to appropriately reiterate some of these.

Here’s a doozy from John the Baptist:

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son of God will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. John 3:36

Again we see the importance of obedience. I find it interesting that for John the Baptist, the opposite of believing in the Son (Jesus) seems to be disobedience. If this is true, it means that actual belief in Christ and obedience are inextricably linked. Obedience is a big deal. It seems to be a proof that a person actually knows Jesus.

Even Moses understood that disobedience signaled a lack of knowledge and love for God:

Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today… It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the makes to perish before you, you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the Lord your God. Dt 8:11, 19-20 (emphasis mine)

Instead of forgetting about the Lord and straying from serving Him alone, we need to know therefore that Lord your God, He is God,the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments (Dt 7:9). Again, we can see that obeying God is an essential aspect of loving God. Lip service doesn’t cut it here. True love for God produces a lifestyle of obedience to Him. If it doesn’t, you might not have true love for and faith in God and that’s a terrifying place to be. See what I mean as Moses continues what he’s saying in Dt 7:9 in v10:

Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but He repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face. Dt 7:9-10

Taking this at face value, it seems clear that for Moses, hating God is the opposite of obeying and loving Him. Can you see how big of a deal obedience is now? As far as we know, Moses is the only person who physically saw God and did not instantly cease to exist. He knows what’s up. Unless I’m missing something, love for God and obedience to God go together. Obedience proves that love is true.

“I’ll prove my love”

In order to rescue Odette from Rothbart’s evil spell, Prince Derek must make a vow of everlasting love and prove it to the world. This isn’t as easy as it would seem. Derek only discovers this after spending months searching for Odette and learning of the spell. He truly loves her, but that’s not enough to break the spell. He must prove it to the world. So at a big party he declares his love to the world which should break the spell. Only it doesn’t. Like the patriarch Jacob, Derek is the victim of the classic switcheroo. He had the wrong woman. Unlike Jacob, Derek completely rejects the wrong woman and runs to save his true love. He’s able to chase her down but it’s nearly too late. He has to fight and defeat the evil Rothbart who transformed into some kind of giant bat thing. He slays the bat thing and the spell breaks. Derek and Odette can finally be together. Derek had finally proved his love. Simply proclaiming it without appropriate action was not enough.

While I wholeheartedly approve of enthusiastic worship, rocking out to the latest Hillsong jams on Sunday morning doesn’t prove much. I am great at proclaiming how God is like a big wave, or fire, or is beautiful beyond compare. That’s easy. Answering the question, “what else is there?” is harder. Is God’s beauty all that matters to me? How do I prove my love? Do I prove my love? Do you? I am truly amazed that God has stacked the deck in our favor. Not only has He revealed Himself to us in His Word, but He as also given us the Holy Spirit to help us out. He wants us to succeed in loving Him. He wants us to obey because that is what’s best for us. God’s not holding out on us. He’s made it so that every single Christian can obey Him. It’s hard to obey. But not too hard. Do you love God?

Prove it.

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What Else is There? Part 6- Clarifications and Conclusions

Read the other parts first!

 

Important Clarifications

With all this talk of obedience I do not want to be misunderstood as saying that obedience is love and is what gets us saved. Many people already think this and thus live accordingly. My intention is to share what I’ve discovered because I think it’s true and essential. The Bible seems to teach that obedience is the evidence of your love for God. True love for God comes first and then out of that love flows obedience which proves the love exists. Think of it like this. We can see the world around us because of light. Light must be first present for us to respond with sight. Obviously, our vision does not produce sight. We don’t wake up with the morning light flowing out of our eyes as we open them. Light is there and thus we see. This isn’t a perfect example but it helps me. Let’s get back on track.

Obedience is not what saves us and brings us into a relationship with God. We cannot do enough good things to save ourselves or coax God into forgiving us. This is important because some people delude themselves into thinking this way. Many do enormously righteous, godly, obedient things but it’s not enough. Check out this frightening story that Jesus tells:

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to me, “Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Mt 7:21-23

For Jesus, those who do the will of God enter the kingdom of heaven. From this above passage, the will of God seems to be knowing Jesus rather than cool Christian performance. Jesus’ above words seem to serve as a warning that mere profession and good, obedient works aren’t enough for eternal salvation. Obedience and good works have never saved anyone (check out Romans 3:19-4:25). Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Eph 2:8-9). Simply “loving” and obeying Jesus isn’t enough when not precluded by faith.

I think it’s also important to point out that God is not a big mean abusive Father in the sky waiting to smack us down when we mess up. Don’t take my word for it, read His:

“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.” Ezekiel 18:32

He doesn’t like punishing people but He does it. In the same way a good parent doesn’t enjoy punishing their child but they do it anyway because it’s what’s best. Before you start thinking that God is a big meanie, remember that He sent His own Son to take our place in punishment. He will forgive you every time you come to Him in repentance. He’s quick to forgive and slow to anger. This is the kind of God you should want to obey.

Some Conclusions

Obedience is a big deal to God. So much so that our obedience proves that we know and love God (1 Jn 2:3). Jesus himself told his followers that the person who keeps his commands is the one who truly loves Him (Jn 14:15,21,23). Someone with authentic faith in God does their very best to obey God because they truly love Him. Perfect obedience does not happen even for the best of us. Fortunately, we have King David’s example of repentance. When we disobey, we can repent and confess our sin to God and He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9). Not only does God’s Word give an example of how to live in repentance of disobedience but God also gave us His Son Jesus to obey and imitate. Jesus lived a perfectly obedient life and He is our example. When we claim to know and love Him, we must live our lives life He did (1 Jn 2:6). Someone with authentic love for God does their very best to obey God and avoid sin.

I think that most Christians are aware of what overt disobedience to God looks like. Pretty much everyone is familiar with the ideas of the Ten Commandments and the mandate to love God and people. Where I see Christians (myself included) falling into disobedience is in less obvious ways. I see disobedience when Christians support and/or fail to oppose behaviors, choices, ideas, lifestyles, policies, entertainment, and all kinds of other things that the Bible clearly denounces as disobedient. Now that everyone has a voice via social media we have insight into each others lives like never before. You don’t have to be physically present with a person to see and learn about their behaviors and views any more. Because of the peer pressure of social media, it’s hard to not support the world’s disobedient ideas and values and even harder (sometimes dangerous) to publicly oppose them. I am not calling for nutty activism and yelling at people on Facebook. What does need to change is us. Those of us who claim to love, know, and have faith in God need to be resolute in obedience. Someone with true love for God does their very best to not participate in or even seem to support disobedience. Loving God is inconsistent with tolerating and supporting things like:

  • abortion
  • racism
  • feminism
  • chauvinism
  • gay marriage
  • transgenderism
  • any sex outside of a monogamous male/female marriage
  • destroying the environment
  • Islam
  • workplace inequality
  • covetousness (i.e. being jealous of other people’s lives and things on social media) 
  • unethical business practices

Obviously, there’s more blatant disobedience happening than the above list. I mentioned what I did because these are some of the main things I see in the world right now. When Christians support, tolerate, or participate in sinful and disobedient things without shame and repentance they are basically declaring that disobedience is not a big deal and these things are not sin. John’s letter has something to say about this:

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us… If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:8,10

It’s scary enough to deceive yourself but making God out to be a liar is legitimately terrifying. So the next time you think it’s cool and progressive to post pics of yourself support gay marriage at the local pride parade, remember John’s words. Before you rejoice because your favorite rapper declared his love for God after winning an award, ask yourself, “what else is there?” A public confession doesn’t mean much if they are denying God by their life.

What Else is There? Part 5- Two Heroic Leaders

Read parts 1-4 before this one if you already haven’t!

Two Heroic Leaders

At this point, a natural question to ask is: Wait, isn’t it possible to disobey God but still know and love Him? I found two examples of leaders in the Bible that helped me answer this question, Samson and David.

Samson performed some incredible acts (see Judges 13-15 for his story). He performed several supernatural feats of strength and endurance because God empowered him to do so. Samson delivered the people of God from Philistine oppression several times but what stands out to me is all the times Samson disobeyed. Samson was to be a Nazarite from birth to death. A Nazarite is someone who has taken a special vow of purity to abstain from alcohol, unclean foods, and avoid dead bodies. Much of what I’ve read (outside the Bible) and been taught seems to imply that Samson was a man of God.

Though Samson had been dedicated to a life of holiness and purity, he practiced neither. He not only kills a lion (thus coming into contact with a dead body) but later eats honey out of its carcass. This is not to mention all the dozens of people he killed with his bare hands. He intentionally marries a wife from among the enemies of the people of God. Later, he picks up a prostitute. He then finds another woman that he loves named Delilah. Samson allows Delilah to figure out the source of his strength and violate his Nazarite vow (again). On the other hand, Samson seems to be a man of God. He was chosen from birth by God and defeats Israel’s enemies on several occasions. He is specifically empowered by the coming on of the Holy Spirit at least four times. How can someone so disobedient at the same time seem to be a man of God?

Samson wasn’t. I think it’s that simple. Samson never seems to claim to know or love God and I couldn’t find any find anything in the Bible saying that he did. Sometimes I forget that just because the the Holy Spirit uses a person, it doesn’t mean that person is holy. God uses whomever He chooses, holy or otherwise. Samson’s story illustrates that God can use a disobedient person to get things done. Let’s look at another disobedient person.

King David of Israel is called a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam 13:14) and someone who did God’s will (Acts 13:22). He loves God (Psl 18:1-3) and claims to keep the ways of the Lord and be blameless before Him (Psl 18:20-24). But David also:

  • had sex with and impregnated Uriah’s wife (2 Sam 11:4-5)
  • kills Uriah and steals his wife Bathsheba (2 Sam 11:17)
  • conducts a census of the people which God explicitly forbids (2 Sam 24:2-15; 1 Chr 21:1-4)
  • the God forbidden census leads to the death of thousands of David’s subjects (2 Sam 24:1-9;  1 Chr 21:7-17)
  • personally kills thousands in his long military career

How can David claim to be someone who truly loves God when he’s done more sinful disobedient things than even Samson? Obviously, David can claim whatever he wants, but how can he be right? If you’ve read much of the Bible at all you know that David is pretty much universally revered as a great example of a God loving person. What makes David right is what makes you and me right. The difference between David and Samson is the difference between anyone who truly knows and loves God and anyone who doesn’t. It’s repentance. David claims correctly because of his consistent repentance. When confronted for stealing Uriah’s wife and then killing Uriah, David repents and accepts his punishment from God (2 Sam 12:1-23). After conducting the deadly census, David confesses and repents (2 Sam 24:10-25). David consistently confesses his disobedience and maintains an attitude of repentance (Psl 24:11; Psl 51). David’s life is a perfect example of 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

David consistently confesses and God is faithful and righteous to forgive him.

What Else is There?- Part 4- Don’t You Forget

Here’s Part 4. Don’t forget to read Parts 1-3. It will help this post actually make sense.

Don’t You Forget

The faithful leaders of God’s people have always reminded His people that our true obedience is proof that we know and love God. Unfortunately, God’s people do not always listen. Let’s briefly look at what can happen when God’s people forget about obedience.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being my priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children. Hosea 4:6

Hosea clearly declares that God’s people are being destroyed and rejected by God for their lack of knowledge and forgetfulness of God’s law. God takes His commands seriously. He is willing to reject and destroy His own people. But are they truly His people if they ignore, reject, and/or forget His law? I think that Moses and Joshua would answer “no” to this question. God is not an ineffective parent, full of empty threats. He follows through. Here’s what happens when His people chose to forget:

Their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flute and by wine; but they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord, nor do they consider the works of His hands. Therefore my people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst.

Isaiah 5:12-13 (emphasis mine)

In these two passages, we find examples of how forgetting God seems to be linked with obedience and how when this happens, punishment can ensue. It’s not like God’s people didn’t have leaders steering them in the right direction. Moses and Joshua tried to hammer it into the people. Even Solomon, their wisest and most successful king, spoke of this issue:

Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple minded? And scoffers delight in scoffing? And fools hate knowledge? Turn to my reproof, behold, I will put out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; and you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, when your dread comes like a storm and your calamity comes on like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they shall not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. they would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof. So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices. For the waywardness of the naive shall kill them, and the complacency of fools shall destroy them. But he who listens to me shall live securely and shall be at ease from the dread of evil.”  Proverbs 1:20-33 (emphasis mine)

What Else is There? Part 3- God’s Law Is Love (Him)

Here’s Part 3

Don’t forget to read Parts 1-2 before this if you haven’t already 🙂

God’s law is love (Him)

While Jesus’ words carry all the authority necessary, this concept did not originate at this point in time with Jesus. It’s something that the Jews have known about (or should have known about) since Moses. In Deuteronomy 6:2, Moses tells the people that the way to fear/respect/revere the Lord is by keeping His statutes and commands. Just a few verses later we read “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Dt 6:5). Here, loving God is a command. People are required and commanded to love God. This must mean that an aspect of love is something that we can do. Again in Dt 7:9 we see that loving God and keeping His commands are connected:

Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who live and keep His commandments; 

For Moses, loving God and obeying Him seem to go hand in hand. Moses passed this key idea down to his protege and successor, Joshua. In Joshua’s important farewell speech to the people, he chooses to again reiterate the connection between loving God and obeying God:

Only be very careful to observe the commandment which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all you heart and with all your soul. Josh 22:5

Clearly Joshua felt this idea to be extremely important if he chose to reinforce it to the people in some of his last words. From the very beginning of the history of God’s people, we find an understanding that love for and obedience of God go hand in hand.

What Else is There? Part 2

Here’s Part 2

Back at the beginning of the year, I started slowly working my way through 1 John. This past week I just finished. I’m so grateful to be able to slowly work through a part of the Bible like this. Last year I read completely through the Bible and I can never decide which I prefer: reading though everything fairly quickly or slowly moving though a smaller chunk. I connected with one of the major themes in this letter and the next few posts are the results of my investigation. I’ve broken it up into smaller pieces so it’s easier to digest so be sure to read them in order or you might not know what’s going on.

Prove It

In studying through 1 John and other relevant Biblical passages, I think it’s safe to say that you prove that you love, know, and have faith in God by obeying His commands. Disobedience without repentance can be a major indicator of your lack of knowledge and love for God. In other words, if you disobey or ignore God’s commands and think it’s no big deal, this could be evidence that you do not actually know and love God in a saving way.

I grew up a pastor’s kid, went to Christian elementary school, Christian high school, and graduated from seminary with my degree in Biblical studies and I can count on one hand the amount of times that I was taught this aspect of obedience. Jesus Himself says that the person who keeps His commands is the one who loves Him (Jn 14:21). In this study I found this concept throughout the entire Bible. It’s not something radical that Jesus invents during His time on earth. Why is this something that seems to be ignored in Christian circles?

The ultimate root is obvious: we are all sinful people and people have never liked to obey. The very first people couldn’t even do it. But for us today, I think a big part of why this concept is largely ignored boils down to the fact that as a society we don’t like to obey. Obedience is not sexy. Anyone who denounces another’s behavior is immediately skewered for being intolerant, prude, homophobic, sexist, racist, bigoted, and just plain mean. Nobody wants to be called any of those things so those of us who do have a strong moral compass are hamstrung by fear. Those who are in the wrong cannot possibly imagine being wrong because many people have a worldview that it is the individual who determines for themselves what is right and what is wrong. “Don’t judge me” is the motto. The thought of obeying someone else’s rules and commands is foreign and in some cases, incomprehensible.

I contend that you prove that you know and love God by obeying His commands. To put it another way, unrepentant disobedience evidences a lack of knowledge of and love for God. I came to this conclusion through my study of 1 John and other relevant Biblical passages. I’m hoping that I can explain how I got there in a coherent and persuasive way. Let’s start with 1 John.

John seems to have written this letter to the various churches in Asia Minor around AD 90. False ideas had already crept into the churches and John wants to make sure the faithful stay that way. These false ideas were an early form of Gnosticism. Check out the below explanation from The Essential Bible Companion :

Gnosis means “knowledge,” and Gnostics believed they were saved not by faith in Jesus Christ but by special knowledge available only to those initiated in the cult. Gnosticism was syncretistic, borrowing from a variety of religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity, and pagan religions. Gnostics taught that the material world is evil, only spirit is good. This dualism often led to immoral behavior, since some Gnostics claimed what they did with their bodies did not affect their spiritual state (Walton, et al. 123).

Here are the main sections from John’s first letter that caught my attention:

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God is perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as he walked. 1 John 2:3-6

and

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:1-3

Could John be any clearer? He obviously believes that the person who truly knows God, keeps His commands. A person who claims to know God yet lives a life in remorseless disobedience to His commands is a liar. I’m not trying to say that every person who claims God with their lips and denies Him with their life is out there trying to be deceptive. Most aren’t. Maybe they are ignorant of what the Bible teaches and expects. Maybe they are just plain delusional. Regardless of the reason, claiming one thing when the opposite is true is still a lie. As John says, the truth is not in him (or her). John teaches the early believers that when you claim to know and love and abide in God, you ought to imitate Christ in how you live. It’s by this imitation (i.e keeping God’s word) that you prove your love for God.

John even goes as far as to define what the love of/for God is: that we keep His commandments. For John, God’s commands aren’t burdensome. Here’s what burdensome means: difficult to carry out or fulfill; taxing; undesirably restrictive. What I find amazing is that a guy who was beaten, exiled, and boiled in oil for God and His commands did not find them to be burdensome. Another cool thing about God’s commands is that when we obey Him, we are able to love our fellow Christians better. Think about it. The better that you are able to love God and obey him it only makes sense that EVERYONE around will benefit from your increase in godliness. Not only should Christians obey God but every Christian can obey God.

Maybe an example will help. It’s not exactly the same but it’s got some of the same ideas. As of this writing, I work full-time. I have a job that I love that allows my wife to work part time and be home most of the time. Because of this, she shoulders most of the household duties like cooking and cleaning. Don’t worry, I do have my chores around the apartment too. For instance, she has tasked me with garbage duty. The task itself is not something I like to do. But I do like my wife. In fact, I love her, like a lot. So I take out the trash. Don’t tell her this, but I even want to do it because I know that it’s something she appreciates. It’s not something that’s burdensome in any way. I get that this is not quite the same thing as obeying God but I trust you get the point. When you truly love someone, you want to do things for them.

This idea that obeying God is proof of your love for God is not something John is creating for the first time here. Don’t forget that John was best friends with Jesus while He was on earth. They spent a lot of time together. John has had a decade or two to think about the things he heard Jesus teach. In his first letter he is teaching the new believers what he learned from Jesus years before. Check it out:

If you love Me, you will keep my commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to Him. Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that you are going to disclose Your self to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent me. John 14:15-24

Pretty much everything that Jesus says is significant but I find His above words to be especially important. Jesus Himself tells us an in important aspect in how to love Him: “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments;” and “He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me.” Jesus seems to consider obedience to be a proof of loving Him. Obedience also seems to play a role in a person being loved by God as well. Who is the person who does not love Jesus? He who does not love me does not keep my words. Obedience is a big deal to Jesus and the Father. So much so, that they sent us the Holy Spirit to help us obey and follow better. An important part of what the Spirit does is to help remember the words of Christ so that we can live a satisfying life with Him (Jn 14:26).

What Else is There? Part 1

Back at the beginning of the year, I started slowly working my way through 1 John. This past week I just finished. I’m so grateful to be able to slowly work through a part of the Bible like this. Last year I read completely through the Bible and I can never decide which I prefer: reading though everything fairly quickly or slowly moving though a smaller chunk. I connected with one of the major themes in this letter and the next few posts are the results of my investigation. I’ve broken it up into smaller pieces so it’s easier to digest so be sure to read them in order or you might not know what’s going on.

What Else is There?

Growing up, I loved The Swan Princess. To this day, it’s one of my favorite animated movies. My siblings and I would go through stretches where we would watch it every single day at least once. We had some kind of deluxe edition on VHS with a weird music video after the credits by an obscure Japanese band. The Swan Princess has it all. Romance, comedy, action, and perhaps the worst haircut in cinematic history. What the heck Prince Derek?

At this stage in my life, my favorite part is when Derek finally realizes that he does want to be with Odette after all these years of being pledged to her. He emphatically decrees that the wedding is to be arranged but Odette stops him in his tracks. Up to this point, Derek has not stopped talking about how wonderful and beautiful she is but Odette wants to know if this is for real. With plenty of appropriate sass, she asks “Is that all? Is beauty all that matters to you?” Taken aback and probably very confused, Derek replies, “What else is there?” Everyone but the Prince immediately realizes this is the wrong answer. Later, we discover that Odette simply wanted to make sure that Derek truly loved her, just for being her. After talking it out with his best friend and an advisor, Derek comes to the same understanding. He just assumed that she knew he loved her but now he knows he has to prove it in a big way but it’s too late. Odette is stolen away by an evil sorcerer and placed under a spell. Lots of other stuff happens but the important part is that Derek has to prove his love for Odette to the world with a vow of everlasting love. He is eventually able to do this and they live happily ever after.

swan princess meme

I learned at a young age that just saying nice things about a person isn’t always enough. You have to love them, express that love, and prove that love. All that Odette wanted was all that anyone wants: to know that they are loved just for being who they are. She desired proof of this love. Once Derek finally understood this, he had to prove it. He had to overcome all kinds of things by taking massive action to prove to Odette and everyone else that he truly loved her.

This year I have been slowly reading and studying my way through 1 John. One of the preeminent themes of this letter is love. While John explains various aspects of love, my focus recently has been love for God. I have been asking questions like, what does it mean to love God? How do I know I love and know God? How do I know someone else loves and knows God? What does God say is loving God? etc… I am so grateful that John very clearly answers my questions in a way that I can easily understand.

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

1 John 2:3-4

and

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3

When I claim to know and love God, I want to be certain that I am doing this the right way. I want to have a better answer than Prince Derek if God asks me “Is that all?” I want to be able prove my love for God. I don’t see many Christians trying to live their lives this way. So many people speak very passionately about the mercy, love, power, and beauty of God. Almost any time a celebrity, rapper, or athlete wins or accomplishes something, the first words out of their mouth are “Thank you God, He helped me…” But at the same time, they live lives that would make even a first century heathen blush. I think that God could at any time ask each one of us, “Is that all? Is beauty all that matters to you?” I’m afraid that many will incredulously answer “what else is there?” I know that I do NOT want that to be my answer. Heck, I don’t even want God to have to ask me that question. I want to live a life with Him that proves my love for Him to the world and I want to help others do the same. When I think about my love for God or someone else claims they have for God, I say to myself, “How are we proving it? What else is there beyond all this talk?”

Check back later for part 2