God is love
Scheduled for study Dec. 2-8, 2019. Try to understand love this week. It is what makes God, God. God is love. We will also talk about the power of light and darkness and how Christ is the source of all light.

Day 1

1-3 John; Jude – What is love?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. As you read the Epistles of John and Jude, seek inspiration about how you can show your love to God. Record these impressions and act on them.

Sometimes I marvel that I still ask the question, “What is love?” After all, don’t we all go just a little blank in our minds when asked to describe the word charity, which is the pure love of Christ? I have yet to hear a solid description of what charity really is. People give vague examples of love that is supposed to make it clear what charity is, but in my mind they do anything but make the question more clear.

If love is so difficult to pin down and define, why is it the major topic of discussion in this week’s reading assignment? And of all people to discuss what love is, we are hearing it from the man known as John – the beloved. John was especially loved by Jesus. And with that love came a great deal of respect and responsibility. As Jesus was on the cross he gave the responsibility of caring for his mother to his beloved friend John. You don’t get much greater trust in someone than to entrust to them the care and keeping of your own mother.

I have wondered what it is about love that is supposed to cast out all fear. God wants us to love Him so much that we cease to be fearful of what others might say or do to us and focus on serving Him at any personal cost to us. The Lord knows that most of us will not have to lay down our life to prove our love for Him, but some certainly do. The point is, are we willing to?

What example of love rivals this kind of love we are talking about? Most of us are deathly afraid of fire. The idea of being burned to death is terrifying to most any rational person. Yet think of a parent who runs back into a burning building to save one of their children. The love for that child so far outweighs the risks that the parent is willing to do anything to save them. And if they die in the attempt, so be it, because they died trying to save their child. The parent, who would let all their earthly possessions go up in flames, is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice at the mere thought of their child being lost to them by the fire. I believe this is a true example of charity.

The defining characteristic of charity, at least in my mind, is the complete lack of self-serving motives. All that matters is the welfare of the other person. The way I see it when Jesus entered Gethsemane, he was entering that burning building to save someone he dearly loved. He did it not counting the personal cost. He knew his personal suffering would pass, no matter how intensely painful it would be at the time. But in order to save us he was willing to obey his Father’s will and pay the price of redemption for us. I don’t think it matters if you say it was because of his love for God that he did it or if you say it was because of his love for us. Tomato, tomahto. The point is Jesus had enough love for all involved that fear of personal harm was an insignificant consideration.

Now turn that concept around. Jesus showed his love for God and for us and died to save us all. But that same love does not just exist to claim a life. It exists to save lives. We can learn to have that kind of love that will help us be a blessing and a boon to all the parts of humanity with whom we ever come in contact. It may only bring a smile to their face, but it may help someone believe in their own capacity to rise above dire circumstances. Our charity may help someone gain a sense of worth, give them courage to do good things, help someone feel forgiven, etc. Charity is at the root of all the good things that come from God. It is His ever-present concern for our eternal welfare and happiness. It is this same charity, or love, that makes Him so willing to share the control of the entire universe with us and to elevate us to His level of being a god.

To do this great work of salvation God is willing to endure our slights, our reprimands, our railings, accusations, our ingratitude, and our disobedience. He gives us every opportunity to repent and change. He is slow to anger and quick to bless. Do we deserve this kind of generosity of spirit? Of course not. But He is willing to show it and extend it. This is the love of God. This is why love is God’s defining characteristic. It trumps his knowledge, which is all knowledge. Love trumps His power, which is infinite. Love is the greatest power in the universe. Why? Because love gives meaning to our lives and to all that God does.

Day 2

1 John – God is light, and God is love.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. As you read the Epistles of John and Jude, seek inspiration about how you can show your love to God. Record these impressions and act on them.

The love of God cannot exist in ignorance. Ignorance breeds fear and mistrust. Charity, the pureness of God’s love, can only exist in the full acknowledgement of truth. That means He loves us despite knowing our every flaw. That means He loves us, in part, because He completely comprehends our potential to be better than we currently are. Recognizing that certain parts of our characters need to be purged from us, He is willing to create worlds and whole systems to enable our ability to progress and grow into the beings He knows we have the capacity to become.

Pure love requires knowledge to continue to flourish. In its basest form, love can be felt and experienced by anyone, no matter how ignorant or unenlightened. But to fully experience the power of charity in its highest form requires education and truth. It is only by those who know how to use truth to help others that the greatest good can be accomplished. Jesus couldn’t have accomplished the atoning sacrifice if he possessed only the intellectual power of a two year old.

We are taught that light, truth, and intelligence are interchangeable words. We are also told we cannot be saved in ignorance. This is why I say that love is more than just a simple emotion. The love of God is as much a character trait as it is an emotion. Love must be learned, and learned from. We use our knowledge to practice loving in newer and higher ways, and we use our love to increase our experiences that teach us of the character of God.

Day 3

1 John 2:24-3:3 – I can become like Jesus Christ.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. As you read the Epistles of John and Jude, seek inspiration about how you can show your love to God. Record these impressions and act on them.

I see the two key verses in today’s lesson being 1 John 3:2-3. There is more than one way to interpret those verses, but this is how I see them. John seems to implicate (to me) that as children of God we don’t currently know what we will be like when we receive our new bodies in the resurrection. But John seems to hint that we will be surprised to find that those who are faithful to the commandments of God in this life, when they are raised from the dead to come with Christ as he returns to the earth for his second coming, will suddenly realize that their new resurrected bodies are just like his resurrected body, because they are the same. It is then we will see him for who and what he is, in all his glory, and we will recognize as we look at ourselves that we have become like him.

Talk about a mind-altering revelation! We go through our whole mortal experience trying to become better, yet always feeling like we aren’t quite measuring up. Then the day of resurrection comes and we receive a glorified celestial body, just like Christ has. Suddenly we see where all our efforts and prayers, repentance and struggles have gotten us. We have become like Christ, worthy of walking back into the presence of the Father, and worthy of living with Jesus throughout the eternities.

This promise in John should be used as fuel for our spiritual fires. As we struggle through our lives in mortality, we can look forward to the day when we are judged worthy of Christ’s company, for we have become like him by the efforts we have made to repent and become better people. Our ministering efforts to bless others, our times of faith and sacrifice will have turned us into the same kind of person Christ now is. And we will all have the celestial body to show it.

Day 4

Joseph Smith Translation, 1 John 4:12 – Has “no man … seen God at any time”?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. As you read the Epistles of John and Jude, seek inspiration about how you can show your love to God. Record these impressions and act on them.

One of the most difficult things in the gospel to help people see past are direct statements that are either false or are taken out of context. When this verse says that no man has seen God at any time, it is obviously not true. Adam walked and talked with God in the garden of Eden. Even Cain is said to have been shut out from the presence of the Lord (Genesis 4:16). Moses saw God. Seventy of the Elders of Israel, and many of the nobles of Israel saw God (Exodus 24:9-11). In the New Testament Paul saw Christ after he had ascended into heaven (Acts 23:11). And in Acts it talks about Stephen being stoned to death after he looked up into heaven and saw Christ sitting on the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56). These are just some of the examples of people seeing God.

So why might this statement be so blatantly false? There is only one way to explain it, and that is by believing in modern revelation. Without modern revelation there simply is no rational explanation for this misstatement other than to admit that there are translation errors in the Bible. But admitting that causes big issues for many Christians who fully believe in the infallibility of the Bible as the word of God.

In the Joseph Smith Translation of 1 John 4:12 the verse is corrected like this:

12 No man hath seen God at any time, except them who believe. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Note that this is completely in keeping with the Lord’s own behavior. During his mortal ministry, Jesus openly showed himself and his miracles to everyone in an effort to help them believe in him. But after his resurrection he only appeared to those who already believed. I know of no appearance of Jesus to anyone after his resurrection who wasn’t already a believer in him. Look in the New Testament and in the Book of Mormon to see if this isn’t the case. So this verse makes perfect sense with Joseph Smith’s correction that no one sees God, “except them who believe.”

Day 5

1 John 5 – As I exercise faith in Jesus Christ and am born again, I can overcome the world.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. As you read the Epistles of John and Jude, seek inspiration about how you can show your love to God. Record these impressions and act on them.

This chapter deals with two concepts many have problems grasping. What does it mean to be born again? How is that done? And what does it mean to overcome the world? What is the world anyway?

Let’s work backwards and address these ideas in simple terms. The world is everything that is born of our mortal state. It comprises the philosophies of men, the attitudes about life being restricted to just our time in mortality. The world is Satan’s domain. He controls the push for all things associated with the desires of the flesh. And all things associated with the flesh are selfish and self serving in nature, as well as temporary in nature.

When we are baptized and converted to the teachings of Christ, we start to have an increased desire to see beyond the limits of mortality and into the eternities. Conversion includes gaining an increased desire to obey God’s commandments because we are looking forward to the rewards we will receive for our obedience in the next life. Those who experience conversion are no longer mentally and spiritually confined to just our time in mortality. We begin to see ourselves as the eternal beings Christ teaches us we are.

Conversion can happen all at once, but that is unusual and rare. More often than not, conversion happens a little at a time. It takes faith, work, and obedience to the commandments. As God demonstrates to us that His commandments bring us happiness, the Spirit opens our spiritual eyes to begin to comprehend more of the truths of the gospel. We begin to gain confidence in our faith in the Lord, which strengthens that faith for even greater tests to come.

The point of this process of becoming converted is that conversion is the gradual transformation of a person who is governed by the passions and desires of the flesh into one who is governed by a love of God and His commandments. We learn to love God, and in the process we gain a greater and greater desire to please Him, for in pleasing God we find joy. It is this process that saves us, and it is this process that makes us more and more like Christ, himself.

Scripture Study and Home Evening

1 John 2:8-11 – Walking in the light

It is easy to underestimate the power of Christ’s light and how direct of an effect it has on each of us. As an example, think of the two signs given of Christ’s entry into this world. In Bethlehem there was a bright new star for all to see. In the Americas there was a whole day, a night, and a day with no darkness. It was like noon for more than 36 hours. Yet when Christ died and left this world there was damage and destruction in Jerusalem, but three full days of such total darkness in the Americas that no fire could be made and no light seen that whole time.

Is it any wonder that such signs would follow he whose light infuses the entire universe and gives it life and being? Light is truth. Just as we cannot perceive our way through a darkened room and easily navigate obstacles in the darkness, so too can we not easily navigate life without the truth that comes from God – specifically Jesus, our Christ or Savior. His role as Savior is to provide the door and the path back to our Father in Heaven. It isn’t any wonder that the scriptures abound with verses that tell us that he is the only means by which we can return home. Without Christ in our lives we are hopelessly lost in the darkness of ignorance, disconnected from our Father’s love and mercy.

The activity discussed in today’s lesson gives everyone a physical demonstration of what it is like to lack Christ’s physical light. But think of the darkened room as life. Try navigating a new room you’ve never been in before without any knowledge of that room or what it holds for you. Are there drop offs? Stairs? Ledges? Are there places of safety and comfort? Anything could be encountered and would be a complete surprise without knowledge that comes either from sight or information. Both are forms of light.

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

New Testament 49