25 - 1 John and The Litmus Test of LoveLove is probably the most used and most abused word in any language and any cultureWe use it for all sorts of thingsWe love pizza and fast carsGuys use it for a short-term hormonal reaction to achieve a sexual conquestWe use it for superficial encounters “I love ya man!” Also a life-long commitment of sacrificial service. First John has been given to us to help us understand how to define love – and to encourage what the Bible defines as love. There are many passages that I could have used today, but I chose 1 John 4:7-11.
Begins with John’s encouragement to love one another because love proves that we truly belong to God
Believers (“Dear friends”) are called to love one anotherGod is love and you and I are called to love.
Remember the Greatest Commandment The greatest commandment is NOT the greatest suggestion!Love is God’s bottom line – His supreme test of our obedience.
Remember Paul telling the Corinthians that the only things that are going to last are faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love. Given the supremacy of love and the Biblical ethic we need to be really sure we know what the word means.
As the world defines “love” it wants to water it down. *The world wants to turn love into something remotely resembling sentimentality. * The world wants to define love as good feelings some of the time when it’s self-satisfying and in my self-interest. * All you have to do is listen to some of the modern wedding ceremonies and hear the vows being said, “Till love does us part.”
The world knows very little of any concept of love that, for example, sees God disciplining those he loves. The world wants to water down the definition of love.
Unfortunately the church, much of the time, is guilty of doing precisely the same thing. * We know we are to love one another but we water the word down to the point that it’s “I like you,” at least some of the time. And love rarely extends itself to how we relate, for example, to the unlovely, to the outcast, to the unusual, to the different kind of person. Our definitions of “love,” in other words, are all messed up.* Even when we go through regeneration, even after we are born again the power of sin still clouds our perception; the power of sin still clouds our judgment. The world continues to exert its influence on us externally through the media, internally through our hormones and therefore we cannot start with ourselves. We cannot start with the world when we try to define “love.” We have to start with how God defines “love.” And this is exactly what John does.
Why John insists that love is defined, first and foremost, by GodHe insists that love is defined, first and foremost, by God, not by me and not by the worldThat’s what he’s doing there at the end of verse 8 when he says, “God is love.” Notice that John doesn’t say that God loves us. He does. But that’s not the point he’s making. He’s saying God is love. He is the essence. He is the wellspring. He is the fountainhead of love. He is the definer of love. God is love and it is the quality that it is his alone to define. So what is his definition? Well, that’s what verses 9 and 10 are all about.
He continues in 1 John 4:9 “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.Then, in John’s typical redundant style, he repeats the thought in verse 10, just in case we missed it.
Now John doesn’t explicitly define “love,” does he? But John does implicitly define love by looking at the effects of love. And he’s saying if you look at what God’s love drove him to do, then you can understand love. So what did love draw God to do? God’s love drew him to “send his one and only Son into the world.” * Reminiscent of John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.* I always thought that it was interesting that with the same reference, but in 1 John 3:16, you have the same message, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
What is love? Verse 10: Love means that “God sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” What the NIV calls the “atoning sacrifice”, other translations call “propitiation” or “expiation”. Do you remember the word “propitiation?” It’s the Greek word ἱλασμός – one form of ἱλαστήριον, that we learned several months ago. That ἱλαστήριον,refers to actually what happened on the cross and so when Jesus died on the cross, when God sent his Son, he was our propitiation, one way of translating ἱλαστήριον. He averted God’s wrath against sin.
When God sent his Son to die, he died as our expiation, he died to forgive us our sins; he died as our “mercy seat.” The mercy seat is no longer the cover Ark of the Covenant where the blood is sprinkled once a year for the atonement of Israel’s sinsRather the mercy seat, the ἱλαστήριον, is the cross where Jesus’ blood was spilled for the forgiveness of our sins. God’s love propelled him to send his Son to take care of our sin and to provide a place for forgiveness. This is God’s love in action. God loves, he gave. Love, in part, is giving oneself for the benefit of another. There’s more to love than that but this is the point John makes here. God’s love propelled him to give his Son who died on the cross for our sins; love is seen most clearly, not in the resurrection, but in the pain on the cross as Jesus died. That’s at least part of God’s definition of love – giving of yourself to meet the needs of others.
There is no place in John for some “mystical” understanding of love. “Ohhhhh, I love you. Ohhhhhh, I love you! I just feel so good about you. I just love you!” There’s none of that in John. God loved and he gave. God’s love is concrete. God’s love has feet to it. It acts. Nowhere more clearly in John than 1 John 3:16-18.God’s love propelled him to concrete action and he gave to meet the needs of your life and mine.
John calls us once again to love as God loves – 4:11Having defined, at least in part, what Biblical love is, John then again calls us to love as God loves.
Love begins with God, doesn’t it? We have a song #379 If That Isn’t Love:He left the splendor of heaven,Knowing His destinyWas the lonely hill of Golgotha,There to lay down His life for me.If that isn't love the ocean is dry,There's no stars in the sky, and the sparrow can't fly!If that isn't love then heaven's a myth,There's no feeling like this if that isn't love.That’s where love begins; it begins with God, the definer, the reservoir, the wellspring, and the fountainhead of love.
Love begins with God – it flows from God to us, but only to us who are children of God, only those of us who are born of God. * 1 John 3:1* This is why the verse in chapter 4 verse 19 is so well known: “We love – NOT because of some intrinsic ability given to us in the evolutionary process by which we innately understand that we are most satisfied when we give to others – but because he first loved us. We love because God, the wellspring of love enables his love to flow from him to us who are the children of GodThe only reason we can love in the fullest sense of the word is because God loves us and he uses us as a conduit of his love.
Ultimately, that means that God’s love flows through us to other people. Just as we see God’s forgiveness of our sins and therefore we forgive so also we see God’s love in the pain in the cross, and we are able to love one another.Not only does God’s love flow through us to others, God’s love must flow through us to others. The phrase, “Let us love one another” in verse 7 and the words “we also ought to love one another” in verse 11 are not suggestions. The Greatest Commandment is not the “Greatest Suggestion.” It’s a commandment. It is a commandment upon which heaven and hell wait and watch. 1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (given God’s concept of love)
John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.If we do not love we do not know God. If we do not know God we do not have eternal life. It’s really that simple. God’s love must flow through us to one another. Think about it. If I don’t love you, I can’t go to heaven. If you don’t love me, you can’t go to heaven. Anyone who does not love does not know God. If you don’t know God you don’t have eternal life. Pretty simple.
What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us?Especially considering the messes that the world and you and I have made with the concept of love? There are a gazillion things that we can say. We can talk about the joy that is evident in a person’s life when God’s love is flowing through him. We can talk about the freedom that is there when God’s love flows through us. But those aren’t the points that John is making. There are at least four indicators in the epistle, the letter, of John as to what it looks like for God’s love to flow through us. Let me tell you what they are.* First, it means that we’re obedient. 1 John 5:2-3Ergo, if we are not living in obedience, God’s love is not flowing through us, right? What else does it look like for God’s love to flow through us?
Second, it means that we love our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:14 tells how we can know we are true disciples of ChristSee, our love for one another is part of our assurance that we truly are Christians; our lives have changed so that we love now in a way that we could not love before because now we love as a conduit of God’s love flowing through us to one another. And we see that and we go, “Wow. God’s Spirit is at work in me. This is amazing!” We love one another.
Third, we don’t live in sin. Many, many verses but look at 1 John 3:9 The idea in Greek is that no one born of God makes a practice of sinning. No one keeps on sinning, because God’s seed abides in him and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. We don’t live in sin.
Fourth, it means we don’t love the world. 1 John 2:15Now that’s just the highlights from 1 John. If God’s love is flowing through us we are obedient to his commands, we love our brothers, we don’t live in sin, we don’t love the world. Our love, which comes from the fountainhead of God, is the conduit through us that has feet. It is concrete. It is real. And it moves us to action.
John sees the world in black and whiteJohn sees the world in black and white, doesn’t he? There’s very little gray in John’s outlook of life. Either your father is God or your father is Satan. There. That’s it. Either you walk in darkness if you walk in light. Either you hate your brother or you love your brother. You love the world or you do the will of God. Either you practice sinning or you practice righteousness.
Life isn’t always in black and white, is it? And that’s part of the challenge of understanding John; is to understand that. For example, we’re called to love one another but John knows that we’re going to fail; that’s the gray area in John. And so he says if you fail there’s forgiveness. Life has some gray in it and the need for forgiveness is evidence that John clearly understands that.
Love is the giving of oneself for the benefit of the other. God’s love must flow through God’s children to our brothers and sisters. There are many things that I do not understand about love. It’s one of the reasons it’s been a frustrating topic. For example, I don’t know how I can give of myself for the benefit of the other when doing that it brings me into conflict with doing it to someone else. Sometimes when you feel like you’re to give to aid this person what you’re really doing is hurting another person. That’s a struggle. I’m not sure how to work that out. I’m not sure how to function daily in life when you have to expend a tremendous amount of emotional energy necessary to put other people’s needs ahead of your own. There are many things about love that are still a mystery to me; probably always will be a mystery but there’s at least three things that are clear.
1. Not easyIn fact it is impossible on our own, isn’t? If we do not draw from the wellspring of God’s love we will not ultimately love. It’s hard to love some people, especially when they’ve hurt you deeply. And you’re supposed to love them. But you know, shock of all shocks, there are probably some people who likewise find it impossible to love you. Remember, if you don’t love me you can’t go to heaven. It’s hard work. It’s impossible work, in fact. It’s only achievable drawing from the love of God, enabled by the Holy Spirit. Doesn’t happen any other way.
2. Don’t water down the definition of love to “like.” As hard as it is and as frustrating as it is we must accept God’s definition of love. It is so easy for love to slide down the ladder to like. And we read the Bible; the Bible says, “love one another” and we say, ‘we are loving one another because we like them.” The Greatest Commandment is not to like God; it’s not to like one another, the Greatest Commandment is to love God above all else and then to love one another. We must accept the Bible’s definition of love.
3. Do you really love others?We must look deep into our hearts. The most frustrating thing in this sermon is that these are words we’re so familiar with and concepts that we too loosely toss around. But my prayer this whole week for my life and for your life, “God, I don’t want someone to hear the words of your Scripture and say, ‘Well, I love my fellow believers. I don’t hate anyone.’” My prayer has been that in my heart and in yours, God’s Spirit would be saying, “Really? Really? Are you sure you love them? Are you sure that you’re not wishing the worst on that person?” And all I can urge you to do is to listen to the Spirit and to look deeply into your heart. And maybe it means you need to call someone this afternoon and talk to them because love always moves to action. It moved God to give his Son and it must move you and me to action. If it does not move you to action, if it does not move me to action it is not love. Right? There’s nothing that comes through clearer in this passage in 1 John than that fact.
John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” What is at stake is not your feelings and mine. What is at stake is not your comfort and mine. * What is at stake is the success of the gospel, as far as it depends upon us in this world; that when people look at us living in unity, when they look at us actually loving each other with a supernatural love that can’t be explained by evolution, they will know that we are his disciples. That’s what is at stake, for his glory and his glory alone. Do you love your brothers and sisters? What have you done for them? You can’t go to heaven if you don’t!Before you can love your brothers and sisters, you must love God. Do you love God? Have you obeyed him? If you don’t obey him, you don’t love him – and if you don’t love and obey him, you can’t go to heaven.
120708 nt vistas 25 the litmus test of love 1 john
1 John 4:7-8 Dear friends, let us love oneanother, 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.
Matthew 22:37-40 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with allyour mind. ’ 38 This is the first and greatestcommandment. 39 And the second is like it:‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these threeremain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
World’s watered down definition Sentimentality Good feelings “Till love does us part”
Hebrews 12:5-6 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you assons: “My son, do not make light of theLord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
Church does the same thing We love Sin clouds• The loveable • Our & likeable perception• But not the • Our unlovely judgment
1 John 4:9 This is how God showedhis love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
Love is defined by God’s action John 3:16 “For God so loved the world 1 John 3:16 “This is that he gave his one how we know what and only Son, that love is: Jesus Christ whoever believes in laid down his life for him shall not perish us.” but have eternal life.
1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that heloved us and sent his Sonas an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Romans 3:25-26 God presented him as a sacrifice ofatonement, through faith in his blood. He didthis to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Hebrews 9:5, 11, 15 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory,overshadowing the atonement cover. … 11 WhenChrist came as high priest … he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made ... 15 … Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them freefrom the sins committed under the first covenant.
1 John 3:16-18 This is how we know what love is: JesusChrist laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him,how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
1 John 4:11Dear friends, sinceGod so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Love begins with God 1 John 3:1 How great is the love the Father has 1 John 4:19 Welavished on us, that love because hewe should be called first loved us. children of God! And that is what we are!
A command, not a suggestion If we do not love, we do not know God• 1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
A command, not a suggestion If we do not know If we do not love, we God, we do not have do not know God eternal life• 1 John 4:8 Whoever • John 17:3 Now this is does not love does eternal life: that they not know God, may know you, the because God is love. only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
God’s love flowing through us means 1 John 5:2-3 This is how we know We are that we love the children of God: obedient by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome
God’s love flowing through us means We love We are our obedient brothers 1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
God’s love flowing through us means We love We are We don’t our obedient live in sin brothers 1 John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.
God’s love flowing through us means We love We are We don’t our obedient live in sin brothers 1 John 2: 15 Do not love the world We don’t love the or anything in the world. If anyone world loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For John all is black and white Your father Satan God You walk in Darkness Light Your brother Hate Love You love World Will of God You practice Sin Righteousness
Life isn’t always black and white 1 John 1:8-10 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
WHAT CAN WE UNDERSTAND? God’s love must flow through us!