- Sermon Notes
Live in Self(less) Love
I John 4:16-21
April 16, 2023
Jesus was asked in Matthew 22, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
We should love. The first command has been taught on much. But then Jesus adds that the second is like the first. Love your neighbor as yourself. In other words, one love will flow from another.
What did Jesus mean when he said you should love yourself? This is an interesting thought. All kinds of books have been written on loving yourself, growing yourself, how to be your best self, how to prioritize yourself. There is even a 365-day Self Love Journal! Is this really what Jesus meant or is there something deeper?
Luke 6:45 says that the good man from the good treasure in his heart brings forth what is good. So, one can only love from love on the inside. If you hate yourself, it is impossible to love others because there is no source of love to love from.
The problem is that self-love can be very distorted. When it is focused on the self it becomes selfish.
Self-love fluctuates because it is based on your opinion of yourself. When you do something great, the inner dialogue is “I am amazing. How great I art”. When you do something stupid, the inner dialogue says, “I can’t believe I did that! I am so stupid!” Inevitably, we do many things wrong. This leads to self-doubt. Many have done so many disappointing things that they start to hate themselves.
In some, this negative emotion is then shielded by anger or pride so as to cope with the feelings of insecurity about the self. So being rooted in self-love is not the answer.
So what is the answer? The passage we are looking at today gives us the answer. We should be defined by love, but the love that defines us is not an emotion, but a Person.
We need to see ourselves from God’s perspective anchored in what He says about us sober-mindedly.
We were never made to love from ourselves as the source, but from God as the source.
We will see that only when we are rooted, grounded, and found in this love can we truly love ourselves in the right perspective and love others. This will lead us to start loving selflessly.
I. Believe the Love God Has For Us
We just celebrated Passover weekend and the resurrection of Jesus which focused on the ultimate evidence of God’s love: The sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
A. Faith is essential to love
- Vs 16 – we have come to know and believe the love which God has for us.
- “How great the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure,” go the words of a worship song we love so much.
- God’s love is indeed vast beyond all measure, but we must believe in its vastness and that He extends that love to us.
I John 5:4, For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.
- But many people do not have the faith to see the vastness of God’s love. They see God as an angry God and are locked into that mindset.
Illus – In 1741 Jonathan Edwards preached what was probably his most famous sermon, which was called, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
This has come to represent hell-fire and brimstone sermons with such lines as, “You are ten thousand times more abominable in His eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.”
- In contrast, this Psalm of David captures the heart of God beautifully.
Psalm 103:1-7,8,10-12, Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle. The Lord performs righteous deeds and judgments for all who are oppressed. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear (revere) Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
Romans 2:4, Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
- Understanding this stirs up faith and trust in God’s love.
B . God is love
- This is who God is. It is what defines Him, and this is what motivates His actions toward us.
- Our human understanding of love can never fathom the depth and breadth and height and width of God’s love. This is why Paul prays this prayer in Ephesians.
Ephesians 3:17-19, and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
- No earthly expression of love comes close to expressing God’s love because it is who He is.
- These are the themes that John is emphasizing, that this is who God is; God is love and God is light.
John 3:16-21, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
Illus – Cockroaches are a perfect illustration of something that is of the darkness. When a light is switched on cockroaches scurry away. Many are running from God and want to live in the darkness. But there comes a time when they are disillusioned by this life.
- There is a point by which the lost can be changed. Firstly, when they see the futility of this life.
Illus – Many today see the result of shunning God from society. They got what they thought they wanted, but it didn’t turn out the way they envisioned it. They see brokenness and unraveling. They start to look for hope that is real again.
- Secondly, when they see the love of God.
- When God’s light shines on that which is wrong in a person’s life, it is not to condemn and ridicule, but to convict, love, forgive, and restore. For example, the woman caught in adultery.
Illus. There is a powerful testimony of the head of the satanic church in South Africa who came to faith when he experienced the love of God…
- God’s love is so powerful that he can change a cockroach into a butterfly – that is true metamorphosis.
1 John 4:8-9, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
- Not all light is of God…
Illus – False doctrines are like bug zappers, it’s light, but it’s not good. Many try to draw into religion that focuses on our works and merits to be acceptable to God.
I John 4:1, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
C. He loves us in every season
- A great lie of the enemy is that, when you go through difficult times, God has stopped loving you. If he can get you to doubt God’s love for you, he will be successful in driving a wedge between you and God.
- The truth is that He loves us in every season and through every season.
- Paul drives home this truth in Romans 8.
Romans 8:35, 37-39, Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- God’s heart is that through these times we will be anchored in His love, move, and grow through it. We should not doubt His love and let our circumstances be the barometer of our feeling loved.
II. There is No Fear in Love
A. Perfect love casts out all fear
- At the end of every life comes an accounting, a face-to-face meeting with the Lord Himself.
- But love is perfected in us that we may have confidence in the day of judgment.
- It means that love has accomplished what God meant for it to do; it has given us confidence that we will still be abiding in God’s love when the day of reckoning comes to each of us.
I John 2:28, Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.
- John says that perfect love casts out all fear.
- What that means is that if love fills the heart, there is no room for fear.
- “Fear involves punishment” is not quite accurate, it is better to say, fear torments or fear imprisons.
- There is an eternal application and a present application. We are confident on the day of judgment, and we are confident now to the point that we are freed from the prison that fear brings.
Illus – Fear often involves the unknown. There is fear of darkness or fear of swimming because of what might lurk in the water, of fear about what might happen in the future. But if God’s love is accomplished, it casts out fear.
- Shame is the other lie the enemy uses. He condemns, telling you that God will never be able to forgive that thing. He makes you ashamed so you would shy away from God.
- Yet we have all the examples of those in the word that has done shameful things, but when they repented and turned to God, He forgave and used them mightily.
- We have the examples of Abraham who was a liar, Moses who was a liar and a murderer, David was an adulterer and a murder, Paul, who was a murderer and persecutor of the church, and so the list goes on and on.
- It is never God’s heart that we should sin, but He is a God who forgives and redeems. All the ‘Hall of Fame’ Heroes of the Faith in Hebrews 11 failed at some point, but what made them heroes of the faith is that they repented, stood up in faith and trusted in the mercy, grace, and goodness of God and His heart to forgive, reconcile and use them.
- What the enemy meant for evil, God turned for good.
B. We love because He first loved us
- We know what love is because God has demonstrated it without question.
I John 4:10-11, 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
- It’s not just that we love Him, but we can love others because we have received it, we know what love is.
App – When we were lost and destroying our lives, God loved us until we were changed; that is truly love.
When we were making destructive decisions, there were those who loved us until we were changed.
There are so many who are lost and destroying their lives and what they need is to be loved into changing direction in their lives.
How can we judge when we were also on a road of destruction?
C. Love selflessly
- To love your neighbor as yourself means that we love from the foundational truth that God loves us. His love becomes our standard. When we are defined by God’s love for us, it becomes the driving force within us.
- When we understand that those who are lost are not grounded in the understanding of the love of God, it will change our perspective. This is why Jesus said, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.
- Many who are not saved don’t have the capacity to love as it is difficult to love from brokenness and hurt. If the source of the internal well is hate and bitterness, love cannot flow from it.
- God’s heart is that they will come to a realization of His love and also surrender to Him so they can be healed and forgiven.
- God telling us to love is not an opinion or an option, but a command.
- Verse 21- And this commandment we have from Him, that the ones who love God should love his brother also.
- We are not to do this from our own power. Godly love is a work of the Holy Spirit.
Gal 5:22, The fruit of the Spirit is love…
- It is the fruit that the Holy Spirit cultivates in our hearts. When we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us how God sees others, it will change our perspective and how we love.
- Today God’s love for you is revealed through His word. Build your life on that truth and foundation.
1 John 4:16-21 NASB
16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in 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, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one 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, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.