An obvious question to ask is, ‘Where can a person find out what God wants him or her to do?’ John provides the answer to this question when he refers to truth indwelling a person and to a person keeping God’s Word. The Bible is the only means of information regarding divine requirements.
Today it is possible to have plenty Bibles in our homes, but not to know the Bible very well. Because we have personal copies we may lose sight of a very important detail, which is that the important place in which to keep God’s Word is in our hearts. Having several Bibles on a shelf will not keep me from sin, but having God’s Word written on our hearts will prevent us acting in disobedience.
Understanding what the Bible requires from us is not the same as knowing what the Bible teaches about certain doctrines. It is possible to have excellent head knowledge and not have any of the Bible in one’s heart. How does the Bible get into both our minds and hearts? One answer is memorisation accompanied by meditation.
If we were to take one verse a day, we would learn 365 verses in a year. This would mean that last year, for example, we could have learned and meditated deeply on several books of the Bible. We could have memorised all of Paul’s prison letters (Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon) last year.
In addition to memorisation and meditation there has to be implementation. A good response to discovering a divine commandment is to perform it. For example, if we read that we are to love our enemies, then we should go to a person who has done something bad to us and show our obedience to God by doing something good for that person. I’m quite sure that such a commandment will then be written permanently on your heart. Instead of immediate application of a divine instruction, we tend to wait for an opportunity to obey it, but often when such an opportunity arises we have forgotten about the commandments that are applicable to it.
John informs his readers that such a lifestyle indicates that the believer has a maturing, developing love for God. (It is not entirely clear whether the phrase ‘the love of God’ refers to our love to God or to his love for us, but the context would suggest that it is our love. In any case, in what sense can God’s love for a person be said to become perfect since it already is perfect!) Such an obedient person has the confirmation that his faith is genuine and that he has the grounds for expecting that divine consolation and strength will be given to him.