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Friday, August 26, 2016, 3:16 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 John 3:1-18 (ESV).

To Be Like Him (vv. 1-3)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

God’s love for us is so amazing! I am so grateful for his grace to us. We are all so undeserving of his love and grace. Yet, the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ to die on a cross for our sins so that we could be delivered from bondage to sin, so we could be set free to walk in his righteousness and holiness, and in order that we might no longer live our lives to fulfill our own sinful desires. He didn’t do this because of our goodness, but because of his great love for us, since our righteousness is like filthy rags in his sight. Yet, in his great love and mercy he provided the way that we might be saved from our sins and have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. Amen!

God’s will for his children is that we be holy, which means to be set apart (unlike, different) from this sinful world, because we are becoming like Jesus, i.e. because God is transforming us into his likeness. This is a process which begins the moment we accept God’s invitation to his great salvation, and it continues throughout our time we live on this earth. This holiness is not optional, though. If we live our lives according to our sinful flesh we will die without God, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, and if we are walking in the Spirit, in Christ’s holiness, we will live. Then, one day, when he returns for us, and we are given glorified bodies, we will be like him fully in holiness and righteousness (Phil. 3:20-21).

Practicing Righteousness (vv. 4-10)

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

Many people today are teaching a gospel message which says we don’t have to repent of our sins, and we don’t have to obey God, because God requires nothing of us, because he does it all. When they teach this, they give their adherents free license to continue living in sin without guilt and without remorse. They tell them that a simple prayer to receive Christ is all they need to secure heaven, and that it will not be taken away from them no matter how they live their lives from that moment forward. But, is that what God’s word teaches? No!

We learn in scripture that if we continue walking in sin, and yet we say we have fellowship with God, or that we love God, or know God, that we are liars, and the truth is not in us. God does not demand sinless perfection, but he does demand a change in lifestyle. In other words, it is not that we have to be literally perfect, for if that could be gained through trying to keep the law, Christ would not have had to die for our sins. Yet, we should never use lack of perfection as an excuse for continued and willful sin against God. When we truly put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6:1-23).

Love One Another (vv. 11-18)

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 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. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 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? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Amen! In this world we have so many misconceptions concerning what it means to love other people. So many people think that love is just a feeling or words you say to make someone feel good, whether you mean them or not. They tell people lies and call it kindness or politeness. They won’t stand up for what they say they believe in because they are worried they might offend people and make them feel uncomfortable. What they are really worried about is that others might reject them, and so this is really about loving self rather than truly loving others.

Jesus is God, and God is love, and yet Jesus did not ever back down from his beliefs, or compromise the truth, or shy away from sharing the truth of the gospel so that people would like him. He was not here to win a popularity contest but to save sinners and to free them to walk in his righteousness. He laid down his life for us so that we could go free from sin, not so we could continue in sin guilt free. It is never loving to tell people lies. It is not love to give people a false hope of salvation by telling them that they don’t have to turn from their sins and follow Christ in obedience. They may like us, but they may go straight to hell.

You have heard the saying, “Real friends do not let their friends drink and drive.” I say, “Real friends do not let their friends continue in sin and tell them that they will go to heaven no matter what they do.” If we really love people, we will tell them the truth. Yes, many will hate us and they will reject us, and they may falsely accuse us and turn others against us, too. Yet, if we are to lay down our lives for others, as Christ laid down his life for us, then we need to follow Jesus’ examples to us on how to truly love others.

Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, comforted the sorrowful, and he fed the hungry, and we should do likewise. Yet, he also told people the truth about what was in their hearts, and that if they did not repent, that they would be cast out into utter darkness where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. He told them that many would come to him on the day of judgment and would say, “Lord, Lord,” but he would tell them to depart from him, because he never knew them. In other words, true faith in Jesus Christ is not just words we say, but true faith is accompanied by obedience to Christ and his Word. It is the same with love. If we truly love God we will do what he says. If we love others, we will show it by our actions.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.