1 John

1 John 4:7-21

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: 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 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

***

John, again, goes deeper into the greatest test of true faith: love.  He explains that the only true love is the love that God had for us when He sent His son as a sacrifice for our sins.  So true love is sacrifice.  It is not just saying the words “I love you”, or just doing some good thing for our family or neighbors – it is sacrificing our own lives, even pride, to give them the gospel message.  True love is true saving power.  If you give your friend a drink of water but do not offer them the living water of God’s truth, then you do not love them.  Love turns a passing conversation into an eternal look at salvation.  Love looks at a fellow Christian and offers them grace at their faults, and points to scripture for sanctification.  Love turns a man from God’s wrath to God’s grace.

The Apostle explains in verse 10 that this love is not of our own doing.  In fact if we truly look at what has happened we can see that God is the one who loved us first.  Each of us was already separated from God; dead in our sins – destined for wrath.  But God, who gives mercy to whomever He wishes, chose us out of death and gave us life.  How can a dead man decide to love God, someone he has never seen?  If a man is dead, he is unable to do anything – thankfully God is able to do everything.  He can turn a dead man into a living man.

So just as God came to us – when we were dead and unable to live – we ought to go to those around us and show them the same love God showed us.  This love is the Gospel.  It is the only means to salvation.  Our stories may sound transformative but in truth, anyone can change themselves.  The one thing they can never do for themselves is escape that eternal judgement that is coming.  God gives us a job and great privilege to share His Gospel message with others.  Then, when the message has gone out, God is the one that does the work.  We only deliver the package – but God opens it for the person we gave it to.  This is love.

10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55

That driving force that makes us want to share God’s message of hope and salvation is His Spirit inside us.  We have been justified and know without a doubt that God has done this.  This assurance of His love for us gives us the power to live a life devoted to Him.  It is the love of the Father that motivates us to move forward each day, and to share that love with others.  We live in a constant awareness of what God has done for us – and because of that awareness we desire to know Him deeper and deeper.  We live in that love, as verse 16 confirms.  Just as Jesus was sent to tell about what He would do, we are now living as He lived – telling others about Him, and what He has done.  Each day we are brought closer and closer to Christ as we walk in His steps, and the more we become like Him the more we are unafraid to tell others His message.

As John says in verse 18, when we love our neighbor (by telling them the Gospel) we should not fear.  By relying on God to give us strength the fear is driven out and we can clearly communicate what Christ has done.  Why do we fear?  We don’t want anyone to think odd of us.  But this fear is not of God, and if we understand the love God gave for us, then this fear will be pushed out.  How can we fear when we know who we are in Christ?  What can stop us?  Who can take away the gift that God has already given?  If God is all powerful, and He is for us, who can be against us?  Is anyone able to tell God what to do, or take away the gifts He gives?  This is our strength, that God loves us and we are already His.

So we share this love with others because we have been given it by God.  Justification from sin.  Eternal salvation from hell.  If we have this we have no choice but to share it.  If we claim we have this love – this salvation – but we cannot share it with others, or even refuse to tell others about our beliefs, then we really don’t have it at all.  How can you share about something you don’t have?  As Paul says in Ephesians 1, this love from God is a mystery made known only by Him, thru Christ.  If you have been given this love you will want nothing more than to live in it, and share it with all you hold dear.  And as Christ commanded thru the Father: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40

Personal testimony: I have been pondering these verses for about a week now.  I would start to write and then not feel like I was doing the text justice, so I waited.  Yesterday I helped my friend work on a small office build-out.  While we were talking we got on the subject of God and he said that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs about their ‘personal god’.  This man says he is a believer in Christ, that he is saved, and yet he does not desire to read God’s word, or to tell others about Him.  I have always been confused about whether or not my friend was truly in Christ.  Now I understand why I’ve felt that way, and now John’s letter is understandable to me.  This man does not share God’s love with others because he has not been given God’s love.  The mystery has not yet been revealed to him.  As I began to understand this while with my friend I shared what Christ has done.  I shared that God commands for us to read His word, and to live as Christ lived.  How did Christ live?  He lived a life devoted to sharing the things of God.  I will never stop sharing with my friend about what God has done and how He loves us, but I must leave this matter in God’s hands.  I will pray, and I will wait on the Lord.

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. – Isaiah 64:4

***

Lord’s Day 9

26. Q.

What do you believe when you say:
I believe in God the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth?

A.

That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who out of nothing created heaven and earth
and all that is in them, 1
and who still upholds and governs them
by his eternal counsel and providence, 2
is, for the sake of Christ his Son,
my God and my Father. 3
In him I trust so completely
as to have no doubt
that he will provide me
with all things necessary for body and soul, 4
and will also turn to my good
whatever adversity he sends me
in this life of sorrow. 5
He is able to do so as almighty God, 6
and willing also as a faithful Father. 7

– See more at: http://www.heidelberg-catechism.com/en/lords-days/9.html#sthash.atozAaC7.dpuf

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