Our Greatest Journey
Have you ever woken up in an unfamiliar bed and wondered, "Where am I?"
You probably then looked around for some clues until you gradually realized from your surroundings where you were.
Have you ever woken up and wondered, “Where am I spiritually?”
If so, you probably also want to thoughtfully and prayerfully look for pointers and clues as to your spiritual state. Thankfully the Bible provides many such indicators to help us discover where we are in relation to God. One such clue is in 1 John 3:14.
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death (1 John 3:14).
The Apostle John uses the image of traveling from one destination (death) to another (life), and says, "If you've made that journey, you'll see signs of love for other Christians in your life.” Let’s take a closer look at that death-to-life journey and the clues that tell us we’ve taken it.
Our Home: Death
The Apostle John says the starting point for everyone is "death." Although he is speaking about spiritual death, let's consider physical death for a moment in order to help us understand spiritual death.
Physical death means the separation of the body from the soul. When that separation happens, the body dies and decays, physical senses stop working, thought and feeling cease, and communication is impossible.
Spiritual death means the separation of the soul from God resulting in soul death and soul decay. Our spiritual senses do not work. We have no spiritual thoughts or feelings Godwards and communication with God is impossible.
This is where all of us are by nature, as we are born into this world. We are born spiritually dead, murdered by the sin that became part of us the moment we were conceived. Spiritual death is our natural home and habitat. As we look around this home, we see the ornaments and decorations of hatred, murder, ill-will, and malice confirming our dismal and dreadful location.
Our Journey: Jesus
The good news is that John doesn't leave us there. He sees a way out, a way of being transported from death to life. But it's a journey we cannot take by ourselves. We need to be transported there by Jesus.
Some try to get from death to life by themselves, but this results in breakdown and even greater lostness. Cults and false religions offer their own forms of transport - usually promising cheaper and faster ways to life, but none have ever carried one soul to safety.
The Lord Jesus is tried and tested transport. He has successfully carried innumerable souls from death to life. He has never failed, broken down, or taken a wrong turn.
Our Destination: Life
He carries us from spiritual death to spiritual life where the soul is no longer separated from God but united to Him. There's connection with God, thoughts and feelings Godwards, and spiritual growth and health.
But how do we know? How can we be sure we've made this journey to such a different state and place?
John says: "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren."
And just to underline this, he adds, “He who does not love his brother abides in death.” If we don't love other Christians, we are still living in death.
Our Evidence: Love
This love is reasonable. Consider the multiple reasons we have to love one another:
- We have the same Father.
- We are members of the same family and household.
- We bear the same image and likeness – of Christ our elder brother.
- We share the family name, privileges, and possessions.
- We are all going to live together forever – in our heavenly home.
This love is practical. John goes on to challenge Christians to make that love concrete, not just to talk about it but to work it out in everyday life (1 John 3:16-18).
This love is primary. Notice that life comes first and love comes second. We do not gain spiritual life by loving. Life produces love, not vice versa.
This love is assuring. We can be sure we have passed from death to life if we love other Christians, as John later underlines:
And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him (1 John 3:19).
Hugh Binning Christian Love
Jonathan Edwards Charity and Its Fruits