Text: 1 John 4:7-21 — Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 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. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Introduction: If you were to read Galatians 5:22-23 right now you would discover nine characteristics that describe the nature of God. They include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Each one tells us something about the essence of who God is. Now, just so you know, He’s not limited to these attributes, but any description of God would fall short if it did not include them. Since they are a part of His divine essence and are sourced exclusively in Him (you can’t go elsewhere to find them), God is the only One who can give these fruits to someone else. To put it another way: Since they are His to begin with, He alone can share them with the rest of us. And because He is gracious and kind, both believers and unbelievers get to experience them in various ways throughout their lives. But only Christians, those who have been adopted into His family and in whom He dwells by His Spirit, have an unlimited supply of each to share with others.
In our 10th message in the series called Vital Signs, I want us to consider the first piece of fruit which comes to us by the presence of God in our lives which is UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. What this means is that love is not something that is drawn out because someone has done something to earn it. There are no conditions to be met to receive it from God. So far in our study of 1 John we have already seen that the Apostle has mentioned love in 2:10; 15-17; and 3:11-18. And now here in chapter four he brings it up once again. We could argue that he seems to be consumed by it. Some have defined love as self-sacrifice for the good of another or, for those of you who think that’s overly simplistic, seeking to do the highest good for someone AS DETERMINED BY GOD regardless of the cost to oneself.
Love is one of those things that may be hard to put into words, but we tend to know it when we see it. Listen to what a group of children, ages 4 to 8 said about it after being asked, “What does ‘love’ mean?” (1) Rebekah, 8, said, “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So, my grandfather does it for her all the time—even when his hands got arthritis, too. That’s love.”; (2) Billy, 4, said, “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”; (3) Bobby, 7, says, “Love is what’s in the room at Christmas, if you stop opening presents and listen.”; (4) Nikka, 6, says, “If you want to learn to love better, you should start with someone you hate.”; (5) Tommy, 6, says, “Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.”; (6) Cindy, 8, says, “During my piano recital, I was on a stage, and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me, and I saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. And I wasn’t scared anymore.” In case you didn’t notice, each comment had something in common with all the others … these children described love as a tangible (real and definite) expression that focused on blessing others without any consideration for receiving something in return.
This morning, I invite you to join me as we look at what the Apostle of Love (that’s how John was known in the early church) says about where love comes from, what it looks like and how it changes us.
Where does love come from? (1 John 4:7-8 — Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love). Love comes from God in the same way that heat and light come from the sun. They naturally emanate from it. And because God’s nature is to love, when we’re born again, that nature is imparted to us so that we possess the capacity to love the way He does. In fact, it is the proof that we’ve been born of God. John the Apostle had previously written in His Gospel that God is Spirit (John 4:24). Earlier in this letter, he described Him in another way … God is light (1 John 1:5–in Him there is no darkness at all). Now he says that God is love (4:8). Listen: You can search the universe and find all sorts of evidence of His love because every action that God takes is a loving action. But what you will not find is a source of authentic love other than that which comes from God. John says it very plainly … love is from God!! This is why he can also say that everyone who loves has been born of God. It’s his way of saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. If love comes from our Heavenly Father, then only those who belong to Him can love the way He does. In negative terms and using the Apostle’s words, “anyone who does not love does not know God.” Now there are a few points to consider with this declaration: (1) the Scripture isn’t teaching that anybody who loves is a child of God as if that’s how we become His children … by loving someone. No, we’re saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. (2) we also have to recognize that non-Christians have some ability to love. How is that possible? Like all people they, too, are made in His image (Genesis 1:26 — As God is love, so we have the ability to love, yet imperfectly because of our fallen sinful nature) and experience His common grace (His love in the form of favor/blessing). So even unbelievers possess some capacity for loving others, though it is limited by its refusal to include God as the ultimate object of their affections. (3) a person cannot come into a real relationship with God without being transformed into a loving person. When we make the decision to follow Christ as Savior and Lord we become partakers of God’s divine nature which includes His love. (4) a Christian’s capacity to love another is only limited by the degree to which he truly experiences God’s love for himself. It is when we know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge and we are filled up to all the fullness of God (that’s Paul’s language in Ephesians 3:18-19), then we are able to love someone else the way God loves us. Illustration: Consider the example of a man named Hassan John, a Christian pastor from Jos, Nigeria. Regarded as an “infidel” by members of Boko Haram, a Muslim terrorist group, he has a price on his head of 150,000 Naira (about 800 American dollars). As an Anglican pastor and as a part-time journalist for CNN, the 52-year-old Hassan has often been surrounded by violence and bloodshed in northeast Nigeria. He’s seen friends shot dead or injured in front of his eyes. As a reporter, he has often rushed to the scene immediately after bombings. He has narrowly escaped death himself. Hassan said, “You see it again and again and again. You get to places where a bomb [planted by Muslim extremists] has just exploded. There are bodies all over the place. You visit people in the hospital. You go back and meet families, you cry with them, you console them, you do the best you can with them all the time.” But this violence and hatred has not stopped him from reaching out to his Muslim neighbors who need Christ. After he helped a small Muslim girl who could not go to school because her father had been killed in the violence, he started to reach out to other orphan children. Soon he was helping 12 Muslim women, then 120. Then young Muslim men in the area are starting to ask if they can find help as well. (A part of) Hassan’s evangelistic outreach involves eating meals with Muslims. Hassan explained, “You see in Nigeria that is a big thing. You don’t eat with your enemy because you are afraid that you will be poisoned. Now [in an attempt to share the gospel,] Christians build friendships with Muslims; it is just so marvelous.” That is the principle of love (in order to love others, we must first be loved by God) fully on display in a child of God and it serves as a great example to all of us.
What does love look like? (1 John 4:9-10 — In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins). God’s love is most clearly seen in what He did for us. He took the initiative to send His Son into the world, not because we were so deserving of it, but it was the required price for the atonement of our sins. It demanded that Jesus, as a man (that’s what John means when he says Jesus came into the world) would satisfy the just and holy wrath of God poured out on all sinners by dying our death so that we could share His life. Now through faith in Him, God forgives the sins of His beloved and remembers them no more against us (Hebrews 10:17)! Sadly today, some writers have questioned why God, who is love, needed to sacrifice His Son to satisfy His wrath. In fact, they’ve suggested this makes Him less loving. Christian scholar I. Howard Marshall responds to this kind of thinking … “TO REMOVE (THE ATONEMENT) FROM THE BIBLICAL TEACHING ON THE NATURE OF GOD’S LOVE IS TO WATER DOWN THE CONCEPT OF LOVE BEYOND MEASURE.” What makes it so remarkable is that God is not only the One offended but He is also the One who atones for the offenses of those who have sinned against Him. That is the perfect picture of love. Illustration: If we understand what God has done for us, the extent to which He was willing to go to show His love, it would seem impossible for us to want nothing to do with Him, yet that doesn’t stop many people. Listen to this story: In May, 2016 an Israeli man petitioned for a restraining order against God. Apparently the plaintiff, identified as Mr. David Shoshan, represented himself at a court hearing in Haifa, a port city in the north of Israel. The report noted that God was not present to defend himself. (Of course, many believe God was present but didn’t feel a need to defend himself). Mr. Shoshan told the court that God had been treating him “harshly and not nicely”—though no specific details were given about what exactly had happened to make him feel this way. Mr. Shoshan also explained that he had made several attempts to contact police to report God’s alleged crimes, and that patrol cars had been sent to his house on 10 occasions. Police advised Shoshan to try taking out a restraining order. The request for one, however, was denied by the presiding Judge Ahsan Canaan, who said the request was “delusional” and that the petitioner required help from sources outside of the court. I would say with certainty that he was delusional. He had been deceived by the Evil One (Revelation 12:9 — He leads the whole world astray) into thinking that God was anything other than One who loves Him fully and completely and has demonstrated this most clearly in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on his behalf. SUMMARY: Well, so far we’ve talked about the principle of God’s love — in order to love others, we must first be loved by God — and the picture of God’s love — seen so well in the atonement — now let’s consider the practice of God’s love.
How does love change us? (1 John 4:11-12 — Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another God abides in us and His love is perfected in us). This is John’s way of saying that love is now as much a part of our nature as it is God’s. This is the confirmation that God abides in us and His love is being refined and perfected in us. And since it’s impossible to see God, the only way people can detect His presence is by experiencing His love through us. Unconditional love is the dead give-away that we are Christ-followers. This past week I met with someone who works with a fellow who has same sex attraction. My friend did not attempt to hide his faith in Christ, but simply determined to love everyone in his path including this guy. This meant taking him a thanksgiving meal at work because he had a twelve hour shift that day. The fellow was dumbstruck by what a Christian had done for him. He said, “You know, I want to hate Christians, but you’re making it really hard.” That’s how God’s love changes us.
Applications: So, we’ve looked at where love comes from (and how it becomes ours); what love looks like and how love changes us. Now let’s finish with some concluding thoughts from verses 13-21 as John summarizes what he’s aid about love and truth, love and confidence and love and conduct.
· Love and truth go hand in hand (1 John 4:13-16 — By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 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). Four times (3 in his gospel and 1 here in this letter) John’s refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth. Here we’re reminded that as those born of God we have God’s Spirit living inside us. He leads us to accept the truth that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses these truths abides in God and He in them. And when we abide in God His love abides in us. If you want to be the most loving person you can be, you must fill yourself with the truth about Jesus Christ.
· Love and confidence go hand in hand (1 John 4:17-19 — By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. Some people I know profess to be Christians but are still very fearful of facing God one day in judgment and giving an account of themselves. These verses remind us that the more God’s love is manifest in our lives, the less fear we have of His judgment. In fact, if it were possible to love perfectly, we would have no fear at all as perfect love casts out fear altogether.
· Love and conduct go hand in hand (1 John 4:20-21 — If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother). Anyone who says, “I am a Christian, yet I hate my brother” is in a dangerous place with God. The word “hate” is used positively in the Bible in places like Romans 12:9 where we’re told to “hate what is evil and cling to what is good.” But nowhere in Scripture are we called to hate another human being, especially a brother or sister in Christ. If your heart is filled with hate for others this morning, please hear my warning. God is love and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. That’s what sets Christians a part.
Conclusion: One day, C.H. Spurgeon, regarded by many as the greatest preacher of the 19th century, was walking through the English countryside with a friend. As they strolled along, the evangelist noticed a barn with a weather vane on its roof. At the top of the vane were these words: GOD IS LOVE. Spurgeon remarked to his companion that he thought this was a rather inappropriate place for such a message. “Weather vanes are changeable,” he said, “but God’s love is constant.” “I don’t agree with you about those words, Charles,” replied his friend. “You misunderstood the meaning. That sign is indicating a truth: Regardless of which way the wind blows, God is love.” If you start there … with the thought that God is love … and you humbly come near to Him through Christ … you will know His love for yourself and you will be a loving friend to others.