Oasis Students & Families,
This Sunday afternoon from 3:30pm-5:45pm we’re going to put effort into fulfilling the James 1 idea of “pure and undefiled religion” by visiting the elderly widows, widowers and shut-ins of Sylvania Church. Here are the details:
What? Pursuing Pure & Undefiled Religion
When? This Sunday, August 1st from 3:30pm-5:45pm
RSVP: Please RSVP ASAP by emailing Chad at [email protected] so that we can make sure enough transportation is available for all students and families who attend. As a note, I really do hope that not only Oasis students, but also Oasis families (i.e., dads, moms, brothers and sisters) also plan to attend.
Why? This is a great question, and one that every believer should know the answer to regardless of what he or she is doing. So, what is the biblical basis and reasoning for visiting our elderly widows, widowers and shut-ins?
As I mentioned earlier, James tells us that, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). Our efforts this Sunday will be toward visiting the widows, widowers and shut-ins who are members of Sylvania, not for the purpose of excluding those who are not members of Sylvania, but for the purpose of “doing good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10). While we are commanded to do good to all people, there is a heightened sense in which believers are responsible to love and care for one another.
This, in fact, is one way we live out the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ. John writes, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 Jn. 4:7-12, italics added). There are a few things I want you to see from this passage that relate specifically to believers living out the Gospel of Christ.
First, John tells us that the reason we are to love one another is because love comes from God (v.7). Now, why does John tell us that we should love one another because love comes from God? The short answer is in verse 7, which says, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God,” and a lengthier explanation is in the previous chapter, where John tells us, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God” (1 Jn. 3:9). The reason, then, that we should love one another because love comes from God is this: because those who have been supernaturally born of God (i.e., born again, or regenerated) by the sovereign work of the Spirit (Jn. 3:5-8) have God, who is love personified, living (1 Jn. 3:24) and working (Phil. 1:6) inside them, conforming them increasingly into the image of God the Son (Rom. 8:29). And if this kind of radical transformation and indwelling has really happened in a person, one must ask, “How can the person in whom sovereign Love both lives and works not himself also be increasingly characterized by love?” To this question, John not only says, “He will not,” but, in fact, “He cannot.” John’s point, then, so far as I can tell, is that the fruit of believing the Gospel is a Spirit-controlled, radically transformed life characterized by the self-sacrificing love demonstrated by God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Next, notice with me John’s wording in verse 11. John uses the phrase, which he also writes in John 3:16, “God so loved us.” It’s important that we realize that John is not saying, “God loved us this much” or “God loved us to this degree.” Rather, John is saying, “God loved us in this way.” In light of this, this same sentence could also read, “Dear friends, since God loved us in this way (i.e., the sending of “his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him”), we also ought to love one another. But why “ought” we want to mimic toward other people the love God has shown us? There are a number of possible answers to this question, but I want to point you to the reason I believe John had in mind when he penned these words in 1 John 4. John’s words focus on the condescension of God in order to relate to sinful humanity, to make propitiation for the sins of His enemies. John’s point seems to be that if the infinitely holy God has condescended to love His enemies, how much more ought those who are God’s people, redeemed by grace alone by the “love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,” love their enemies, and even more so their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, the gravity, or weight, of the Gospel should cause believers to want to love one another with the same self-sacrifical love with which God has loved them.
Finally, John makes a statement that describes God’s plan in using the love of His people. In verse 12, John says God’s “love is perfected in us” (ESV) or “his love is made complete in us” (NIV). How is that possible? Is there something lacking in God’s love? In what way is God’s love in need of being perfected? I think it relates to the fact that “no one has ever seen God,” meaning that what is lacking in God’s love is only the demonstration of it to those who never saw Christ in bodily form during His earthly ministry. And this is consistent with the flow of verse 12: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” So, part of God’s plan in the Gospel is to have it not only preached (though this must NEVER be forsaken!), but also practically lived, or demonstrated, in the lives of His people in their love for one another.
So, in case you were wondering (and I hope you were), apart from saying, “We’re going to visit our widows because God tells us to,” why we’re going to embark on ministry to our widows, widowers and shut-ins, I hope this was helpful. We’re not coldly obeying a command to visit widows; we are seeking, for our own joy, for the good of God’s bride, and, ultimately, for the glory of God, to reflect to others the unfathomable love that was demonstrated toward us in the Gospel of Jesus.
I’m looking forward to seeking to advance God’s kingdom along side you.