1 John 4:16-21
June 24, 2017
All right. The letter of 1 John written by none other than really the famous Apostle John who was one of the closest disciples to Jesus. He had a very special relationship. He often referred to himself as the Apostle whom Jesus love.
When John wrote this letter, that actually was the main theme in the letter, the Love of God. That was the main thing that he wanted them to grasp and to take hold of for their lives because they were being troubled by these false teachers who wanted to draw them away out of the relationship that you have with God.
So, he's going to establish them on this rock and draw them back into the understanding of the priority of God's love in their lives because here's the thing; God never intended to be your religion. God wanted, intended-- it was just very hard to have a relationship and it's hard from the beginning, it wants to draw you into that relationship in how you see God, how you approach God, how you relate to God, has everything to do with how you see Him; how you understand Him.
The whole point that he's trying to drive to us is that God loves us like a father who loves His son, like this depth of love after us, even to the point that He says you can call him Abba. We don't use that word today, so it's kind of foreign to our general use.
But the word Abba was very common for them because every child learned it because it's like today, a child learns to say papa or daddy or something like that. Well, in those days, everybody, all the babies learned to say Abba.
In fact, if you think about it, it's like one of the easiest things for a child to say Abba. You can almost say it without trying. So, the babies, the young children would call their daddy Abba and he says I want you to have a relationship to God that's so intimate and trustworthy that you can draw nearer and call him Abba; daddy.
That reminds me, a little funny story. My wife's dad was a chiropractor and when my wife surely got old enough, then she wanted to work in the clinic. So, she found it's a little awkward when-- because she's used to calling him daddy.
So, a phone call comes in and "I like to speak with Dr. Dunn." So, she goes knocks on the room where he's in and she says, "Someone's on the phone for you, daddy." She says, "Oh, this is a professional environment." So, she thought she'd try "Dr. Dunn." She says, " It just didn't sit with me. I just couldn't do it. He's my dad."
So, she finally settled on Dad; it sounded a little more mature than Daddy, but it was far more intimate than Dr. Dunn.
To me, that's kind of a nice illustration because how you see God is how you're going to approach Him on what kind of relationship do you have with Him. There's a church in Mexico where the people walk on their knees on this pilgrimage and they walk the entirety. I mean, some of them walk for miles because God is to be honored and He's ominous and He sits on the throne on high and they will-- their knees are bleeding sometimes to show their dedication and their honor. They crawl on their knees on the way.
I just think that God has a kind of a different relationship than that. If you think of Him as your dad, as your Father, he would never want you to do that. He wants you to draw near to Him. God shows us a different relationship. God most certainly does sit in throne on high in glory and majesty, and He certainly is a judge of all the Earth, but He has invited you to have an intimate relationship in the nearness of God that you can even call him Abba.
My earliest memories of my pastor. I was four or five years old. I actually don't remember his name. I don't even remember the name of the church, but I remember him because I remember that we would wrestle with him. He's the pastor and he would just sit on the steps after church and my brother and me, we just sit there and wrestle with him.
See, to me, that was a really great experience and here's why; because the pastor, to me, kind of like he represented, he was like God's representative to me. I loved the fact that he represented God as someone who is approachable, someone who was delightful, someone who was gracious, kind, and loving because that's the way a father is. I needed that. I really needed that because my father was none of those things. He was none of those things.
I. Believe God’s Love for You
To have that from the pastor, it probably set my life on the course that it did; something marvelous. You see, there was actually a very special relationship that Jesus had with children.
So, you kind of sense that relationship. Do you remember the time that the children, they were trying to come and they wanted Jesus to kind of lay hands on them and the disciples try to prevent them, "Don't bother the master." And Jesus said, "Don't prevent the children from coming to me for to such as these belong to the Kingdom of heaven."
I love that picture. I just think whenever Jesus saw children, I just think His face lit up. Maybe I just imagine that. To me, I just think God loves kids. I just think He's got a special place in His heart because I think it's that picture of that nearness and intimacy that describes our relationship.
There was another time when-- remember on that amazing powerful day, it was when Jesus came into Jerusalem riding in the fall of a donkey. We call it the Triumphant Entry. He goes into Jerusalem riding in the fall of a donkey. He goes into the temple and talks about power and authority. He sees His people taking advantage of those that are coming to worship and the money changers and those selling doves at exorbitant prices. He just said, "Get out of my Father's House. This is my Father's House. When you have made it a den of robbers and the power and the authority." And He turned over their tables and "Get out."
Then He says a short time later-- the children saw Him in the temple and they call out to Him, "Hosanna." They were in the crowd. So, they're "Hey, there He is. There He is. There's Jesus. Hosanna, Son of David."
I just imagine Jesus is lighting up. "Oh, hi kids. God bless you." You just see this contrast. You see this contrast. You see His power, His authority, and then, "Oh, hi kids."
I love that picture to me because it represents the special place that God has in His heart for children and it pictures for us that special place that God has for us in His heart and He wants us to understand and grasp the kind of love that He has for us.
So, that's really the theme in 1 John 4. Let's begin in verse 16. "We have come to know and have believed the love which God housed for us." Now, that is a great way of saying it. We have come to know and we 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. 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. 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.
We love because He first loved us. He pursued us. He initiated. He was the first. He poured it out and then we responded to that. We love because He first loved us. Here's the thing. He's asking us to love. He's asking us to love Him in return.
What is the desire of every parent for their children? I mean, every parent that's any parent at all loves their kids. I mean, just love those kids. Now, what is it that you want from those kids? Just love, just everything that comes from love is what we want and God is wanting us to love Him, to ignite that love in us.
Now if someone says-- by the way, verse 20, I got to remind you, John is called the Son of Thunder. He doesn't hold anything back. Let me just tell you in advance verse 20 is a little strong because here's John, Son of Thunder, just calling it straight out. He says-- now, listen, if someone says, "I love God," which is a wonderful thing to say, and the right thing that God wants for us to say.
But if someone says "I love God," and then he hates his brother. Yes, well, he's a liar. There's John, bold John, let me just call it straight up. Yes, he's lying. That can’t be so. For the one who doesn't love his brother, who he has seen, cannot love God whom he's not seen and this commandment we have from Him, this command that we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother.
So, I mean, these are really great verses for us, that really capture for us the kind of relationship that God wants for us. I love particularly in verse 16 where he says, "Believe God's love for you, believe God's love." You've come to know, you've come to believe this love.
He demonstrated, the Scriptures says, God demonstrated-- He proved His love. When Christ Jesus died on the cross, when we were yet His enemies, He proved His love. So, He said, "You know and you believe in that love when you make it personal, when you believe that love for yourself."
A. Faith is part of love
So, here's the thing that we got to grasp and what He's showing us that faith is a part of love. You believe. Faith is a very important part of love and he's showing it to us right here. You believe there's a God? Wonderful. That's a kind of foundational faith. You believe there's a God. Wonderful.
But there's greater faith than that. Well, you believe that God is loving? Wonderful. You do well. But there is greater faith than that. See, when you believe that God’s love for you never fails, that nothing can separate you from God's love, which is found in Christ Jesus our Lord, then you have made it personal, then you have believed in God's love.
This a critical thing. Faith is an integral part of love. In fact, Romans 8, famous Romans 8, these verses really help us to see it, "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?" Well, tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword?
He says, "Hey, in all of these things--" Look at this phrase; "In all of these things, we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us, for I am convinced. I am persuaded. I know this. This is lock-down for me. I am persuaded 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."
Now, that is a big, big, verse. Now, unfortunately, many people, when they experience those things, you just list it out there. When they experience tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or perilousness.
Many people, when they go through those difficult things, they doubt God's love. "If God loved me, then why did He allow me to suffer?" I kind of spoke on that last week in regards to the purpose out of the things we endure in this life. But many people, they shipwreck their faith, they're not overwhelmingly conquerors, their shipwreck in their faith, because they can't connect--
In their minds, that doesn't compute. If God loves me, then He should put a hedge around me and I should never encounter any difficulties or trouble and I should be walking around in the bed of roses and everything should smell nice in my life; it doesn't compute for them.
Paul, who knows of something about this, is writing this so powerfully to help us grasp. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. In fact, when you go through these difficulties of life, we can even overwhelmingly conquer. We can be overwhelmingly victorious because of God's love that never fails.
I believe in God's love. I can be absolutely victorious even in the difficulties. It doesn't shipwreck my faith, my faith is what guides me through it. So, there’s the important aspect that we want to understand, We've come to believe in God’s love. Jesus said, "God love the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever would believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."
When you notice what Jesus did not say. Jesus said, "God loved the world so much that He gave his Son." Jesus did not say, "God hates the world so much." He didn't say, "God is so angry with the world that He sent his Son." God is so angry with you that He sent his Son. He's going to teach you a few things.
I don't think that's what it says. I think God loves the world so much that He sent His son. John 3:17, now we know I would just go to John 3:16. Well, here's John 3:17; "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world." Well, there it is right there. "But that the world might be saved through him."
One of the most famous sermons, perhaps it is the most famous sermon in the history of the United States, it happened in the great awakening, this was 1741. Jonathan Edwards, a famous-- again, probably the most famous sermon in the history of United States and the title of it kind of gives you the entire theme. The title of the sermon was Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
In it, his point was that he represented God as being angry with sinners who were barely hanging by a thread over the fires of hell. Now, certainly, God is very aware that people are sinners. But what does the Scripture say? Tells us that God loves sinners.
See, when God sent his Son into the world, the world was pretty messed up place. When God sent his Son into the world, there were sure a lot of sinners in that world. In fact, I suggest to you, there's still a lot of sinners in our world now. God's heart for those sinners is to go and get them, to redeem them, to pursue them. He knocks on the door of their heart. He calls out to them. He wants to reconcile sinners to Himself. When one sinner repents, the angels of Heaven rejoice.
See, we got to understand the perspective. I love John's heart here. Romans 2:4, "Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness, tolerance, and patience, not knowing that it is the kindness of God that leads you to repentance." It's God's love. God pursues you with His love. God does not pursue you with His anger. God pursues you with His love. We need to understand that.
Now, does God know that there are sinners? Of course, He knows, that's why he's pursuing you because if He doesn't pursue you, you don't have any hope. There's not a sinner alive that can save himself. God knows that very well. So, that's why he's pursuing because He knows you’re lost without it. There is no hope without God doing something about it. So, God is on the hunt. God is on the move. God is going after them because God loves them.
B. God is love; it’s who He is
So, it's important for us to understand why. He tells us in the next verses why. He says, "Because God is love, that's why." "God is love," he says, it's who He is. In other words, it's His nature to love. That is the highest definition of God's character is love.
In Greek, there's different words for love. In English, we have one word. Unfortunately, we just have one word, love, and we use it for way too many things. We love our dog. We love our wife. We love our favorite football team. You better mean something different with every one of those things, but we use the same word, love, but in the Greek, they had many different words; it's just like--
In Oregon, we have all kinds of different words for rain. In Alaska, there's many different words for snow. Maybe we can relate to this; in the Northwest, there are many words for coffee. In the old days it was just coffee, but now, there's many words. There's latte. There's cappuccino. There's macchiato. There's Americano. Hey, it's just coffee, but we've got all these words for it.
Same thing idea in the Greek, but the word here is a very important word; it's the word agape; it's a kind of love that gives, it's others-centered, others prioritized. God loved the world so much; agape. God loved the world so much that He gave His Son to die on the cross. He took our burdens upon Himself so that we might be free so that we might live, we might have life, and he who the sun sets free is free indeed.
In John 15:13, Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than this than he laid down his life for his friends. There is no greater love." So, much of what is called love in our culture today. So much of what is called love is actually self-love.
Young couple falls in love. What does that mean? He saw in her someone who he felt could meet his physical and emotional needs. She found in him someone she felt could meet her physical and emotional needs. So, they're in the relationship for what they can receive rather than what they can give.
See, there is a higher love and this is the higher love that God wants us to pursue. There is a higher love that gives itself away; it's born out of the nature of love itself, within a person's heart. When God transforms a person so that they have more of God's nature, God's character, their character and their nature is transformed so that out of that transformed nature, they become themselves a loving nature, a loving person that wants to give that love.
Therefore, relationship is not based on what I can get; it's based on the fact that I love to give. There's a higher love that's willing to sacrifice. God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, but behind that phrase, behind that verse is a very big sacrifice. The love was demonstrated in that Christ died for us, even when we were yet his enemies.
In my statement, I mentioned in my statement to the jury, if you're new and you don't know what happened, you might listen to the message last week. But our daughter was killed.
So, in my statement to the jury, I had the opportunity to speak to them and one of the questions I asked them was this; "What is the value of life?" We need to understand the value of life because certainly, this man who took our daughter's life, doesn't understand. What is the value of life? The value of life is found in the word love; it's contained in the word love.
As I was speaking to the jury, I gave an illustration. I mentioned our granddaughter, Avia, when she was five or six, she came to me with an unusual question. She says, "Grandpa, do you love me so much that you would die for me?"
Well, that was kind of strange coming from a five-year-old or a six-year-old, but I said, "Yes. I do love you so much that I would die for you. Why do you ask that?" She says, "Well, my mom said that she loved me so much that she would die for me." And I was surprised and then she said, "Oh, yes. Well, Dad loves you that much, too. Go ask him. So, I did. I went and asked Dad. I said, 'Do you love me so much that you'd die for me?' He said, 'Yes, he loves me that much.' So, now, I'm asking everybody."
So, "I, too. I love you so much that I would-- go ask grandma. She'll tell you the same thing."
What does that mean? It means that the value of life is found in the word love. Because you love the other person to such a degree that you would sacrifice your own life, you would give up your own life if it could save the other one.
II. Love is a Transforming Power
You see, there is the point; love is much more than many people understand it to be because love-- and this is the thing we have to grasp. Love is a transforming power. Love is a transforming power.
Here's my point; John is taking us somewhere with these verses. There is a point that he is bringing us to. He wants to apply something to our lives. He says, "God is love; it's who He is, it defines His nature."
Love defines His nature but love does not define our nature. We were born selfish, self-centered, self-focused, but so much of self is self-defeating and self-destructing. So much of self is hurtful to others and thus, hurtful to ourselves.
In God's love, God loves and it's God's love that moves us from where we were self-focused, self-pleasing, to become more like him, to have his nature in us to love, that you are transformed when you abide in when you stay in that relationship to God who is love, you become that which is changed by that love so that you're moving from the self-focused, selfish, self-centered person that we were born to be into the nature of God who redeemed us to be transformed.
A. God’s love is perfecting you
So, here's the point he's trying to help us to understand, verse 17, "God's love is perfecting you." God's love is having an effect on you. "God's love is perfecting," he says, but by what? By what he said in verse 16. "God is love and the one who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him."
Now, the word translated there, perfected, it does not carry the idea here of becoming a perfect person; that's not what it means. What it means is that it is accomplishing a purpose. God's love is perfecting us; it is accomplishing a purpose. What is that purpose? Transformation.
God wants to take us from the nature that we were born into, which is frankly a pretty big mess, into the nature of that which is transformed by the power of God in us. When you abide in His love, something happens, there is a transforming power Tonight, when we were worshipping and the Holy Spirit was moving in His place, God was inhabiting the praises of His people and love was being ignited.
So, that's what worship is about, isn't it? It's about bringing your heart into a place of love, adoration, thanks, and giving God praise because your heart is enlarging. He is infilling and therefore, there is something that's happening. Even tonight, right? Tonight, we're hearing God's Word. God sends forth his word by His Holy Spirit and His word is such that God is the word. When you speak forth His word, it is God's presence that is being, therefore, transforming in us.
Tonight, even as we're receiving His word, He by His spirit is doing something in us. When you abide in His presence, when you abide in His love, something is happening. We're moving maybe in small steps. "From glory to glory," He says. But it's a very important process.
God's love is perfecting you. God's purpose is to transform us from being defeated and to be victorious, from being self-focused to being those that are loving to the point that of sacrificing. Self-centered into considering other people is more important than ourselves. We're all on a journey. We're all on a journey of being transformed by God's love in us.
See, what he tells us and Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, "Love is what makes us something." Love is what makes you something because, he says, 'Without love you're nothing." Which is a pretty bold statement but there's Paul. He doesn't hold anything back either. 1 Corinthians 13:2. "Hey, if I have the gift of prophecy and I know all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains but do not have love, I am nothing."
I don't want to seem critical at all but I know people who try to be-- make it famous that they are filled with the Spirit. They try to make it famous that they're filled by the Spirit and yet, they speak very harshly to people around them.
Well, wait a minute. I thought I read somewhere, perhaps it was Galatians 5 that the fruit of the Spirit, the result of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control; that the effect of the Holy Spirit-- you want to be famous that you're filled with this Spirit famously? Then it ought to be seen in how you love.
Your relationships should be affected by the Holy Spirit's infilling, is the presence of God. God's love is perfecting you, he says. "The one who abides," verse 16, "The one who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him."
B. Be all in, love with all your heart
See, this is what he's driving us to. He's driving us to a point. Here it is; be all in. In other words, love with all of your heart. Be all in. You see, it doesn't work to say "I love God" if you're not all in, if you don’t love with all your heart.
What was the greatest commandment Jesus was asked? What is the greatest of all the things that God has ever said to us? Jesus responded, "The greatest, the first, the foremost, the highest of all that God has ever said is to love the Lord your God with just a small fraction of your heart." Is that what He said? No, I think He said something different. He said, "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart." Be all in. It doesn't work to say you love God if you’re going to be half in, quarter in, a tenth in. I’ll give God a tithe of my love.
Okay. Well, God doesn't want a tithe of your love, He wants all of your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13, "For I know the plans that I have for you." We know this verse. We love this verse; it's found in Jeremiah and it gives us great hope and promise.
"I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare, it means good, and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you and you will seek me and you will find me when you search for me with all your heart.
You see, He's calling us into that relationship of abiding in dwelling and He's defining it there by prayer. Here’s just an insight that I think we really must grasp. The point, please, just let this digest for a minute.
The point of prayer is not praying. Can we just settle on this for a second? The point of prayer is not praying. The point of prayer is to be with the Lord with all your heart. Amen?
Sometimes, people-- well, I want to pray, whatever it is, 10 minutes or I want to pray 15 minutes. Okay. So, you're 10 minutes into this 15-minute thing. Okay. I'm 10 minutes in, I've got five more minutes. Okay, let's start over again.
So, what am I illustrating? I'm illustrating someone who's praying to pray, but when you pray to be near, when you pray because of relationship, that is a wonderful thing. It's like kids, there's a big difference between your kids if they're being nice because they want something. You ever have that happen?
You parents understand this, right? Your kids come to you and they're being nice. He’s like, "Hey, Dad, how are you doing?" "Okay. What do you want?" "Oh, no. No. No. I just-- how are you doing?" "Okay. I was born at night but it wasn’t last night. Okay? I know that you're up to something, so what is it?"
There's a transformation I see in my kids because you've been there, right? I love as they get older, particularly, they just settle into this-- I just authentically like being with you. When's the next thing? We're kind of the hub for family gatherings, which I love.
As people are saying goodbye, oftentimes, it's like, "Okay. When's the next one? When's the next? When are we doing this again? When are we getting together again? Because this is awesome. I love the fact that we do this. This is great. When is the next one?" Isn't that what God wants? It's like, "Church is over already? When's the next one?"
Sometimes on Facebook, I do can check Facebook. Sometimes on Facebook, some folks in the Church will sometimes say, "Yes church tonight. Yes." They'll go, "Church." I'm thinking, "Yes, because this presence of the Lord that delights us all." Right? There's that hunger that comes. So, here's what he-- it says, in John 5, Jesus kind of uses this; He speaks to it.
John 5:39-40, he says-- look, you read these Scriptures. Great. You read these Scriptures because you-- but listen. He says, "These are the scriptures that testify about me and yet you refuse to come to me." He said, "I don't understand that. These Scriptures that you read. You want to read these Scriptures. Great, but don't you see that these Scriptures testify about me and yet you won’t come to."
C. Perfect love casts out fear
It's like I think Jesus is saying, "I want you to come to me. I want to have a relationship with you. I want you to draw near." Then he gives us this hope. He says, in verse 18, "Perfect love casts out fear." I don't want you to have a relationship where there's fear.
Now, I know there's a Scripture that says, "We ought to fear the Lord," but it doesn't mean fear in the sense of cowering, terrorizing fear. What He means by that is awe and respect. If anyone ever had a good Dad, if you've ever had a really good Dad, you know that there's two things that are true. One; you respect that Dad. If you’ve ever had a really good Dad, you respect that Dad. Secondly, you’re absolutely convinced he loves you. There is no questioning that whatsoever. You know it; it's locked down. You are convinced of it.
So, perfect love casts out fear, verse 18, "There is no fear in love." Perfect love cast out fear because fear involves punishment and the one who fears isn't perfected by love, hasn't been transformed by love."
Fear is a terrible thing. Many people are held captive, like in a prison of fear. God doesn't want-- God did not give us His Spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.
See, if love is transforming you, He says, "Then you can have this confidence even on the day of judgment." You can have this confidence. Why can you have such confidence on the day of judgment?
Many people, when they think about the great day of the Lord, the Judgment Throne of God, that is an ominous fearful thought. In fact, in Revelation 6, it kind of describes those who don't know God, those who have turned their back on God, for them, it will be a pretty fearful thing actually, a pretty ominous thing.
Romans 6 says, "And they hid themselves in the caves among the rocks, in the mountains, and they said to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the lamb for the great day of the wrath has come and who is able to stand.'" It is an ominous thing but if you truly believe in God's love, if you truly believe that God was your Abba and then nothing can separate you from the love of God as found in Christ Jesus and you can completely count on that love, then you can stand on the other day of judgment.
Because the judgment that you deserved already fell on Jesus who loved you so much that He sacrificed Himself that your sins might be removed and then placed on the cross of Calvary where Jesus paid it all; in the great demonstration of His love so that you can have confidence on that great day that you are standing as Jesus is-- I love that verse, verse 17, "As he is so also are we."
His Righteousness is given to you like a gift that you can have the confidence. What a beautiful thought. If you received Him fully and you're dwelling and abiding in that love, you will be transformed by that love. Someone says, "Well, you know, I'm not being transformed."
Can I invite you to dwell closer? You need to dwell in the presence of God's love, because I'm telling you what? Love is a transforming power. You're just a little too far away from God. That's the problem. You're not going to be transformed when you're out there hanging in the weeds. He wants you to draw near to the throne because He's your Abba. You're not talking about the throne, He says, "You come up here and sit on my lap. I love you and you are my son. You're my daughter and my love for you will never fail." Let us pray.