If we say we’re followers of Jesus Christ, there are certain things we should, nay, we must do. As we talked about last week, there are observable markers of being someone who follows God — things we should be able to notice when we examine ourselves. Those things are inseparably connected with Christ’s presence in us.
There is plenty of freedom within the perfect law of liberty, but there are absolutes as well. God is highly personal and He’ll work with you on a personal level. That does not, however, mean He has different requirements for how different people follow and worship Him. He’s also a just God who is not inconsistent in His commandments, laws, and expectations. We might have different understandings of what God expects, but as we grow toward God we should also be growing in unity as we understand His mind more fully. There isn’t one law for you and one law for me. There’s just God telling us all to walk in His ways.
Love + Obedience + Indwelling
John begins both his gospel and his first epistle with a focus on Jesus Christ’s role as the Word of life. Then, in the epistle, he focuses on how we can have fellowship with this great Being and His Father. We must “walk in the light as He is in the light,” “confess our sins” so He’ll forgive us, and then keep His commandments (1 John 1:5-2:3). We cannot claim to know God unless we’ve keeping His word and walking as Jesus walked (1 John 2:4-6). God wants us to be part of His family and that means becoming like Him (1 John 3:1-2).
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. (1 John 3:3-7)
Jesus takes away the sins we commit in transgressing the law and makes it possible for us to walk in righteousness. This is much the same thing Paul talks about in Romans (just in much simpler language) and it reaches much the same conclusion: “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10).
When we examine ourselves looking for faith, we should look for the signs John mentions. He says that we dwell in Christ when we keep His commandments. That indwelling is confirmed by God’s spirit in us. And it’s all tied-in with loving God and loving our brethren (1 John 3:14, 24; 4:13-16; 5:2-3). Commandment keeping, love for God and others, and dwelling in relationship with God are inextricably linked.
The Doctrine of Christ
We might ask, after reading this, “What commandments do we have to keep?” John gets into that in his second epistle.
This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. … Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. (2 John 6, 9)
We’re to keep the doctrine Christ taught us and the commandments heard from the beginning. This could mean the beginning of everything (as the word is used in John 1:1-2) or beginning from a certain event (as in John 15:27). As regards the doctrine of Christ, that clearly includes everything He taught while on this earth and could very easily include all He taught in the Old Testament as the Word of God. But even if we try to restrict ourselves to looking at what Jesus said about the law and commandments as recorded in the gospels, we still find Him including all the commandments of God.
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:17-19)
We want to be among those who do and teach, not in oldness of letter but in newness of spirit putting the law in its proper context. That’s another aspect of the doctrine of Christ”: that the entire law, properly understood, hangs on loving God and loving other people (Matt. 23:37-40).
If we can’t rule our own spirits and walk in the light now, God won’t trust us to rule and dwell with Him in His kingdom. If we refuse to value and keep His law now, He won’t trust us to administer it in the future when it goes forth into the whole world (Is. 2:1-4).
God is watching you and me today, looking to see what manner of person we’ll be as we walk around saying, “I’m a Christian.” Will we follow Him in true hearts filled with faith and love for His word? Or will we walk however we want without regard for His commands? You cannot serve God and yourself. You have to pick one master. Let’s make it Him.