In the 1980’s, Tina Turner asked the infamous question, “What’s love got to do with it?” According to John, it has a lot to do with it. The key passage for today is 1 John 4:7-16.
This month Skip has been preaching out of First John, a series about Learning to Love God’s Way. It seems to me that love is a funny word. We use it to describe the intense feelings that we have, but the word is somewhat limiting.
In the New Testament, there are primarily three separate words used for LOVE, and all of them are translated into English as “love.”
- Agape is a word used to describe the unconditional love that God has for us, a divine sort of love that comes from the nature of God.
- Phileo is more of a brotherly love; like Philadelphia is actually the city of brotherly love.
- Eros is a word use to describe the intimacy we find within marriage, like the erotic love that binds together a husband and wife.
We use the word love today in regard to things like, “I love my wife” to “I love the Auburn Tigers,” to “I love pizza.” It would be a good thing not to confuse my love for Kim and my love for pizza by using the word phileo or even eros.
Love can also bring up WARMTH as we think about that special someone in our lives, or it can bring FEAR, and maybe even COLD SWEATS because we know this relationship is getting serious.
So today, I’m going to talk about love. Now men, I know this is a tough topic for all of us. We are not too strong on expressing our feelings. Our wives and daughters can be crying over something and we have no clue what to do or how to make it better, so most of the time, for good or bad, we just leave them alone.
And then there’s the church. It’s a place that is FULL of feelings. When we begin to understand the sacrifice of Christ, and the depth of love that sent Jesus to the cross, it is emotional, and we don’t often know what to do with that emotion. So, if we are unsure or uncomfortable, we simply do our best to avoid the situation. That’s tough when it comes to church. Let me tell you, I’m uncomfortable talking about love; I’m no expert and I don’t have it all together when it comes to love, but this letter of First John is WAY TOO FULL of love to simply ignore it.
I sense that many men don’t come to church because it’s just not all that manly to hear about a guy name Jesus who loves us. We sing about love, in public, and declare our great love for Jesus, who after all, is another guy. Wrapping his arms of love around us just seems uncomfortable to men who are not yet believers. At times I wonder if we need to “man up” the church so that we don’t set up unnecessary barriers to reaching unchurched men for Christ. But today, this message is about the Love of God, a love that so many people often do not understand.
John had a lot to say about love, he comes back to this theme over and over in this little book. The Holy Spirit obviously wants us to understand love from a much deeper perspective.
Let me submit to you that there are two things about love that I notice in this chapter:
- What Love Proves
- What Love Produces
What Love Proves (1 John 4:7-11, 14)
How often do we read stories or watch movies that have a theme of proving one’s love or loyalty? How many times must we QUALIFY our love since it can mean so many different things to different people? For instance, conditional love sets up restrictions. It says,
- I will love you BECAUSE; (you have done something for me in the past).
- I will love you IF; (you will do something for me in the future).
But I doubt many of us enjoy this conditional form of someone’s love, because it appears to be a selfish kind of love. People will love someone else for what THEY get out of it. We don’t find this sort of love in John’s letter. I think the better way to describe God’s love is: “I love you ANYWAY.” JJ Heller has a song on K-love and she puts it this way: I will love you, for you. Not for what you have done or what you’ll become. That is God’s kind of love. So, what exactly does love prove?
1. Our love for God is proven by our love for one another (1 John 4:7-8, 11): 7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.
- Love is a Test: Love is actually a test of our fellowship in God, and our worship of God, because John tells us that “God is Love” (1 John 4:8). Love is at the center of God’s being; it is his nature. Since God’s nature is love, it becomes the ONLY test of the reality of our spiritual life. If God is living through us, his love WILL shine through.
- Love is a Guide: Not only is love a test but love is a Guide. Think for a moment about sailing. A navigator depends upon a compass to help determine his course, but why a compass? It’s because a compass determines our direction. The needle points north. Why? It’s because the compass is responsive to the nature of the earth. God’s nature is love and it acts as a guide in life, so we act out his love the way he has already demonstrated his love.
- Love is Responsive: Not only is love a test and a guide, it is responsive. Since the nature of God is love; then the person who knows God and has been born of God will respond to God’s nature. As a compass naturally points north, a child of God will naturally practice love.
- So this type of love for one another is proof of our love for God and is a test of a sincere and true faith. Believers claim a special relationship with God, having become “born of God” (1 John 4:7). If we are children of God, we share his divine nature. Although we are not perfect, we have a higher calling in life, to become more into the image and likeness of Christ.
- Not only are we born of God but we have the capacity to know God. This word “to know” (in 1 John 4:7) is much deeper than to simply have an intellectual understanding of God. The word has been used in Genesis 4:1 to describe the intimate union between the first husband and wife. So, “to know God” signifies a DEEP relationship with God, to share his life and to enjoy his love.
- John goes on to tell us that the one who does not love God, does not know God (1 John 4:8). To me, this indicates the lack of a personal experience with God. How could someone know God yet not love as God has commanded? It could be that this person has the knowledge in his head, but he has never allowed that knowledge to travel the 18 inches down into his heart. This person has sincerely deluded himself into believing he is one of God’s children. This is a dangerous position to be in. Our eternal destiny hangs in the balance!
2. God’s love for us was proven by the sacrificial death of Christ (1 John 4:9-10, 14): 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
- Love is Real: John tells us, “THIS is REAL love.” Not “I love you because,” or “I will love you if,” but “I will love you unconditionally.” Romans 5:8 tells us that God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Now that’s real love. Bruno Mars sings about a girl he’s in love with, “I’ll catch a grenade for ya, throw my head on a blade for ya, jump in front of a train for ya,” but Jesus willingly gave his life so that the whole world might have everlasting life through his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection.
- Love is Active: Not only is love REAL, but it is also ACTIVE. All you need to do is look at Paul’s description of love to discover that love is NOT a feeling, or an emotion; it is a verb, and it is active. Here is what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13: 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Now that doesn’t sound like an emotion or even a warm fuzzy feeling when she walks into the room.
- Love was Sent: Not only is love REAL, and ACTIVE, but it was also SENT to us from the Father. Did you notice that three times in three verses John mentions that Jesus was SENT? We know that Jesus was BORN into the world, that’s the essence of the incarnation; the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Children are BORN into the world, but John says Jesus was SENT; God had a mission from the beginning to reconcile all people to himself.
- Love was Sacrificed: So, love is REAL, it is ACTIVE, love was SENT, and it was also SACRIFICED. We may have asked the question at some point in our spiritual journey, “Why did Jesus have to die?” “Was there not some other way?” Look again at 1 John 4:9, it says, God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. His death was NOT an accident; it was intentional. A sinner’s greatest need is for life (according to Ephesians 2:1) because, without Christ we are dead in our sins. So, it is ironic that Christ had to die in order for us to have life. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
God is love. Have you really grasped the impact of that message? Have you embraced the love that God offers? Singer/songwriter, Chris Rice, understood this fact when he wrote a song called, Untitled Hymn, the first verse goes like this:
Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!
God is love, and his love allows us to be reconciled to the Father. John challenges us to love others because God so loved us anyway (1 John 4:11, 7). Remember we are not saved by loving Christ, or loving others, or being good (or believing that we’re better than the next guy). We are saved only by believing in Christ, trusting Christ, receiving Christ. Once we understand the magnitude of his sacrifice, our normal response must be to love God, and to love others. This is a spiritual transformation that takes our heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh.
Hey, let me bring this to a close, so I’m going to save the second part of this message (What Love Produces) for some another time. Right now, we need to focus on our relationship with God. In this passage, John tells us what love proves:
- Our love for God is proven by our love for one another: If we say that we love God, let’s evaluate our current relationships: spouse, kids, neighbors, co-workers, your boss… are we demonstrating an “I love you anyway” sort of love?
- If not, what personal changes do you need to make?
- Who do you need to go to, in order to reconcile a relationship?
- Who do you need to forgive and demonstrate the love of God?
- God’s love for us was proven by the sacrificial death of Christ:
- Do you not yet understand the magnitude of God’s love for you?
- Have you experienced God’s love first hand? Or have you just become familiar enough with a few Bible stories? Maybe your faith is really just second-hand, like people in your family believe, so maybe that covers you good enough. Don’t deceive yourself with poor theology.
- God wants to take all the scraps, the left over pieces of the broken dreams of your life, and all the junk, and make a great piece of art, a masterpiece that resembles the one who sacrificed himself so that you may have life.
- So, have you embraced the love of God and personally accepted Christ as your Savior? That was the reason he was sent, to take you from death into life, to save your soul, and give to you everlasting life that can start right now.
- Or perhaps you have been playing around with church just being close enough to be comfortable with God.
*The more we love God, the more we understand the love of God.
*The more we understand God’s love, the more we will love him and love others.
If you need to know more, or get things right with God, don’t delay. Don’t put it off another week.
If you need to receive Christ, I’m asking you to move out from where you are and come up toward the stage area and talk about getting right with God.
If you need to recommit yourself to Christ and begin demonstrating God’s love or get involved in God’s mission in this congregation, don’t leave this building the same as when you came in. It’s time to make a change.
If you have been debating on whether to join this church, what better time to unite with this congregation than right now? Get involved and connected to what God is doing in this place. He has created you for good works, acts of kindness and love, and for service within a local body of believers. Let the Love of God make something beautiful in your life.