Jesus gave His perfect example of love by laying down His life at the Cross, the most violent way to die especially as He had all our sins, sicknesses, diseases and mental torment laid on Him, Isaiah 53:3-6. God is not expecting us to die for other people as Jesus did, although in some countries this does happen to Christians. In the western world it is hard to live for people in selfless sacrifice but choosing others’ desires before our own shows where we are in relationship to Jesus.
In these few verses John is giving a very practical example of love in action. Consider what we do with our material possessions. Are they available for God to use at any time? Or do we give our tenth and then feel the rest is for us? If we hear of anyone in need do we consider straight away what we can do to help? If we ourselves have very little, or live from pay packet to pay packet do we still look for ways to give of our time, energy, or even sharing what little we do have. God’s character is that of a giver (John 3:16) so it is essential that we allow His love to pour out through us to the world around us.
Do we do these things to make sure we get credit or do we try to do as much as possible in secret? Being a Christian is not just what we believe and think, our values or attitudes, but He invades our whole life in order to turn our lifestyle right way up, where our world is not centred around us as number one. Instead, our focus is on God’s heart for all those He values, using all the posessions and gifts He has given us in order to reach others in His world.
We need to recognise those that Jesus Himself would love, those who are on the fringes of the Church, as it is so easy to give time to those who have similar lifestyles and interests as ourselves but to those on the fringes we sometimes only give a passing comment. Jesus’ way is always to allow God’s love that is shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) to pour out through us to all in need in His Body. Consider 1 John 3:17 ‘If anyone has material possessions and sees his (African / Indian/ Burmese) brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?’ This is exactly what God wants us to do – to apply His Word to our everyday world. This is not just a passive acceptance of people but an active love, being Jesus to all people. Nothing should be excluded from our love for others; all we have should be made available to Him to be used in the service of His Kingdom even if it costs us a lot. After all it was our loving Father who gave it to us in the first place. As we lay down our own plans or ideas to benefit a brother or sister it just demonstrates our love for Him.
Be like Jesus showing Love by giving His all (John 3:16). Laying down our lives is also a way of having victory over the devil as shown in Revelation 12:11 ‘They (the saints) overcame him (the Devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.’ God is passionate about the poor ‘wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.’ Isaiah 1:16-17
To see a beautiful picture of the God kind of agape love for the widows and the poor look at Ruth. In Ruth 1:16-18, we see how although she was a widowed Moabitess, she chose to go with her mother-in-law and worship the one true living God. He did not turn His back on her or make her a second-class follower even though she did not have the Jewish heritage. Ruth was determined to put Naomi’s well-being before her own, she chose Naomi’s people, their culture and religion and she did it all without any guarantee of provision or safety showing great bravery. She worked day and night for provision for Naomi at risk to herself, Ruth 2:11-12.
Ruth’s confession of love to Naomi can be our prayer to the Father declaring our love to Him. But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16. When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. Ruth even in her widowhood didn’t take on a victim mentality but gave her life for the support and comfort of Naomi and God used her mightily for the furtherance of His Kingdom. Her name is seen in the ancestry of Jesus, Matthew 1:5
Let’s consider God’s passion for the lost, poor, naked, needy, fatherless, destitute and widows. When we are born again we are made righteous in our spirit but we have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to work out our salvation, Philippians 2:12. This gives us a passion for the poor and needy just as is our Father’s heart. There are nearly 2,000 verses in the Bible telling us of our duty to the poor and needy. For example Psalm 82:3-4 ‘Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’ That is a clear directive of the heart of the Father to us regarding His children.
Poverty Statistics (taken from ‘Begin a Love Revolution’ by Joyce Meyer (DVD))
There are approximately 6.76 Billion people in the world today (2008).
Let’s look at it in terms of there being 100 in order to bring it down to our small understanding.
64 have no mobile phone
11 are Asian
12 are African
11 are European
7 are Hispanic
4 are American
19 are Muslim
16 are Catholic
13 are Hindu
8 are Protestant
6 are Buddhist
16 don’t believe God exists
18 can’t read or sign their name
50 live under the International poverty line.
32 Don’t have access to essential medicine
19 Lack basic sanitation
16 Can’t get clean drinking water
12 are starving.
Children are the most at risk with 30 thousand dying each day due to poverty – that is 210,000 each week – and 11 million mainly under 5 years old die each year. Imagine your child is hungry but you have no money or food and there is nothing you can do about the pain in their eyes. As we read this 854 million people around the world are wondering where their next meal will come from.
Imagine you have a cold but no medicine so common illnesses become killers. What about a cold bitter winter’s night but there is nowhere to go! 1.6 billion people around the world are tonight living with inadequate shelter or none at all. Would you not be tempted to sell your child with the promises of getting your family out of this poverty?
Stop and wonder what you think of when someone mentions a prostitute, but remember she probably didn’t choose her profession; it chose her. Poverty does that. It robs people of their dignity and children of their innocence.
Some facts from www.stopthetraffik.org
- TRAFFICKING IS…
to be deceived or taken against your will, bought, sold and transported into slavery for sexual exploitation, sweat shops, child brides, circuses, sacrificial worship, forced begging, sale of human organs, farm labour, domestic servitude.
- TRAFFICKING IS…
where family members and friends deceive parents to release their children or sell them for as little as $20 each, selling them on to local gang masters or serious organised international trafficking rings.
- TRAFFICKING IS…
2–4 MILLION men, women and children are trafficked across borders and within their own country every year. More than one person is trafficked across borders EVERY MINUTE, which is equivalent to five jumbo jets every day – a trade that earns twice as much worldwide revenue as Coca Cola.
- TRAFFICKING IS…
where victims usually suffer repeated physical abuse, fear, torture and threats to families to break their spirits and turn them into saleable commodities. A person can be sold and trafficked many times.
This is the biggest and most lucrative smuggling business in the world changing place with cocaine and before weapons! Children are more saleable than guns!? What has the world come to?
Highest number of child prostitutes are in India, Brazil and in America. This is fed by the demand of people behind closed doors using pornography both on the web and in magazines.
These are not just figures on a page – these numbers have faces. They are real people just like you and me. This is real and God needs us to be part of His answer to the problem. It is time for the Church of Jesus Christ to have a revolution of our thinking to understand that the best way to help ourselves is to reach out and do what we can for others, where our greatest joy comes from the smile on someone else’s face.
It is time for Love Himself to be allowed to take a stand through His children and find a way to show the world that His way is the best and only way. Every person is so valuable and even if we feel ‘what can I do?’ we only need to change things one person at a time. What did Ruth do? She only committed to serve and bless her bitter (Hebrew – ‘mara’) old mother-in-law, Naomi. This amazing love by a poor hungry young widow worked out for her like this: she became the mother of Obed who was the grandfather of David. What a reward! How many of the young girls working in the rubbish dumps of the world today are God’s princesses and we will be serving them in Heaven?
Who can I help?
In the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) it was the religious people – the priest and the Levite who passed by on the other side. So whoever is in my way and has a need, I have a responsibility before God to help in whatever way I have at my disposal. Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil, Acts 10:38. Are we really any different after all He was anointed with the same Holy Spirit that we have!
How does Love behave except like Jesus did, so that as we live in His resurrection power we can take all God has given us and use it in the service of mankind. After all who really is going to benefit if we walk this love walk? We are the ones who are so happy because we get our minds off ourselves, we are lifted out of depression, we walk in power of the Holy Spirit, and we can’t out-give God. We have been given the authority as children of the King to put wrong things right – that is justice in action. We are created like our Maker so we can have His passion and zeal for other people like Him and be passionate about what He is passionate about.
So what can I do?
Tonight as you snuggle down into your comfortable bed remember all those who have no bed. Think and pray for all being prepared for the sex trade.
Pray for God to give you a creative idea. His ideas are always the best.
This will take prayer, thought, planning, time, effort and lots of energy.
Surf the web and find out if you can support an organisation that is already doing something.
What does God want you to give up to simplify your life?
Read Isaiah 58:1-14 to see all the promises for people who care for the poor and needy.
Check out www.a21.org – Abolishing Injustice in the 21st Century
We cannot just do nothing!
14 Perfect love – 1 John 3:16-20 Challenge Questions
Read all the notes on ‘Perfect Love’ -1 John 3:16-20
1. What do you feel about the thought of laying down your life for your brothers/sisters?
2. Would it be easier to lay down our lives if it was for Jesus? Why?
3. Is your response to the Cross emotional or spiritual or mental? Which do you think is right? Has it always been this way?
4. Do you think that using our material possessions for people in foreign countries is wrong as there is enough poverty in this country? Why?
5. What spoke to you from the notes?
6. From the Poverty Statistics were there any that shocked you?
7. What do you feel about child trafficking? Do you think it happens in this country?
8. As an individual who can you help? What do you think God wants you to do? Be bold!!
9. Write out two promises from Isaiah 58 for those who care for the poor.
Read the verses – 1 John 3:21-22
10. Referring to verses 19 and 20 as well how can our hearts not condemn us?
11. Where does this give us confidence and in what area of our lives?
12. Is this confidence related to our obedience to God? How?
13. Do you feel as if you get any or all of your prayers answered? Do you have an example?
14. Why do you think this is?
15. What is the best lesson you have ever learned about prayer? Could you share this to help others who do not find prayer so easy?
16. Sum up in one short sentence what you have learnt in the whole of study No.14.
Memory verse ‘If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask,’ 1 John 3:21
How about taking the commitment of Ruth and making it into a prayer
‘Father of every person under heaven don’t let me leave You or turn back from You. Where You go I will go, and where you stop I will stop. Your people will be my people and You, God, are my God. I will die walking with You, and when I stand before You in judgement may it be when I have completed all you have for me to do and I have not shrunk from any task in Your Kingdom on earth. For the Glory of Jesus’ Name’