Sunday, 31 May 2009 00:00

The Abiding Presence of God

I John 4:13-16 (ESV)

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

How can one know that the eternal, invisible, Creator God has taken up residence in me? That is John's concern in our text. He desires that we might know (ginosko), which is "to know by experience" that God dwells in me. The word "dwell" is the Greek word meno. It was used in John's day for fellowship between people who dwelt in a home of another. It is quite clear that the only hope for a sinner is that God takes us residence in our hearts.

  1. Our kinship with God is evidence God dwells within us.
    "Because He has given us of His Spirit" (v.13). To say that God abides in us, or as John intensively states, "He [God[ himself in us," using two pronouns for emphasis, is to say that the Spirit of God takes up residence within our hearts (I Corinthians 3:16). But our text says, "He has give us of His Spirit"—literally "out of His Spirit." What does that mean? One of the experiences of the believer when he receives the Spirit of God is that he or she is gifted by the Spirit—we call them spiritual gifts. Paul describes these gifts in I Corinthians 12:4-11. These gifts are not talents, they are not abilities; but rather, they are changes performed in hearts and minds by God. Something is different within us. Something has changed in us. We are transformed. Christianity is an inside-out faith. Popular culture often sees it as an outside-in faith. This is the reason one of the worst things we can do is question another's motives.
  2. The Lordship of Christ is evidence God dwells within us.
    "We testify... that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world" (4:14). This expression "Savior of the world" has a direct reference to the Roman emperor. In the Roman culture of John's day, people called the emperor "Soter tou kosmou." Translated, this title was "Savior of the world." John is giving a powerful lesson to those who wished to know experientially whether or not God abided in their hearts. Were they willing to give us their very lives in order to honor Jesus Christ as Lord? This is also reinforced in 4:15 with the "confession" that Jesus is the Son of God. To believe Jesus is the Son of God is to state your surrender and obedience to Him.
  3. Our friendship with people is evidence God dwells within us.
    "Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him" (I John 4:16). It is absolutely impossible for a lost person to be unselfish in love and give to others. Only God is able to take the selfish heart and turn it into an unselfish heart of love. It's what the Bible calls the new birth and what John calls God's "seed" in us (3:9). Even more strongly: "We know that we have passed from death into life, because we love the brethren" (3:14). Notice, it is not that we pass from death unto life when we love the brethren; that is moralism or spiritualism. John is speaking life inside.
    1. A heart of hate and bitterness ought to give me pause. It should be like a pain in the chest, or a shortness of breath. It evidences a sickness in the soul.
    2. That is not to say that a Christian cannot feel hate or bitterness. But when that feeling comes, I am broken over my sin, my flesh, my need of grace.

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