Lecture 51: Christian Love

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Lesson

The letter we call 1 John is primarily about love. We have been loved by God, and so we should love others as well. Love is not  some simplistic emotion but it involves action: God loved us and therefore sent his Son. Love is the giving of oneself for the benefit of the other.

51. Christian Love

Outline

I. Believers (“Beloved”) are called to love one another – 4:7-8

A. Supremacy to the command to love

B. World would water it down to something resembling “sentimentality”

C. Church often does the same thing

D. Why John insists that love is defined, first and foremost, by God

E. No place for a mystical definition of love

II. John calls us once again to love as God loves – 4:11

A. Love begins with God

B. Ultimately, God’s love flows through us to others

C. God’s love must flow through us

D. What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us? Number One and Two

E. What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us? Number Three

F. What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us? Number Four

G. John sees the world in black and white

III. “Love is the giving of oneself for the benefit of the other”

A. Not easy

B. Ignore the message because the language is so strong

C. Do you really love others?

Transcription

Course: 52 Major Stories of the Bible

Lecture: 1 John and Christian Love


"Love"


Love is certainly the most used and abused word in any language and any culture. The definitions of love range from a short-term hormonal reaction to a superficial “I love ya man!” to a life-long commitment of sacrificial service.

We have been given First John to help us understand how to define love and encourage us to love. There are many passages that I could have based this talk on, but I chose 1 John 4:7-11.

Believers (“Beloved”) are called to love one another (4:7-8)

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Notice the supremacy to the command to love. God is love, and you and I are called to love. Remember, the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Remember Paul telling the Corinthians that the only things that will 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 sure we understand the word.

The World Waters it Down to “Sentimentality”

The world defines “love” in a watered down way. The world wants to turn love into something resembling sentimentality. The world wants to define love as good feelings some of the time when it is self-satisfying and in my self-interest. I may sound a little bitter, but all you have to do is listen to many 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.

The Church Often Waters it Down to “Sentimentality”

Unfortunately the church is often 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 is “I like you,” at least some of the time. 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 and judgment. The world continues to exert its influence on us externally through the media, internally through our hormones. We cannot start with the world or ourselves when we try to define “love.” We have to start with how God defines “love,” which is exactly what John does.

John insists that love is defined, first and foremost, by God

He insists that love is defined, first and foremost, by God, not by me and not by the world. That is what he does at the end of verse 8 when he says, “God is love.”

Notice that John does not say that God loves us. He does love us, but that is not the point he is making. He is saying that 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.

God’s definition of love? — 4:9-10

So what is his definition? Well, that is what verses 9 and 10 are all about. He continues, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” Then in typical John’s redundant style he says, “In this is love, [colon] not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

John does not explicitly define “love,” does he? But John does implicitly define love by looking at the effects of love. He says that 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 Only Son into the world.” A verse that is obviously reminiscent of what John wrote in his gospel in John 3:16. If you read the footnoted translation in the ESV, it is something like “God loved the world in this way: He gave his only Son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.” I always thought that it was interesting that with the same reference, but in 1 John 3:16, you have the same message, “By this we know love that he laid down his life for us.”

What is love? Verse 10: Love means that “God sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Do you remember the word “propitiation?” It is the Greek word “hilasterion” that we learned several months ago. Hilasterion refers to what happened on the cross, and so when Jesus died on the cross, when God sent his Son, he was our propitiation, which is one way of translating hilasterion. He averted God’s wrath against sin. When God sent his Son to die in the world he died as our expiation, he died in order to forgive us our sins. When God sent his Son into the world he died as our “mercy seat.” The mercy seat is no longer the top of the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies where the blood is sprinkled once a year for the atonement of the nation, Israel, but rather the mercy seat, the hilasterion, is the cross on which the blood of his Son was spilled for the forgiveness of all of our sins. God’s love propelled him to send his Son who willingly laid his life down to take care of God’s wrath, to take care of our sin and to provide a public place for forgiveness.

This is God’s love in action. God loves, he gave. At least as a partial definition of love is the giving of oneself for the benefit of the other. There is more to love than that, but this is the point that John is making here. Just as God’s love propelled him to give his Son who willingly died on the cross for our sins, so also you and I are to willingly give ourselves to meet the needs of others, for the benefit of others. Love is seen most clearly in the pain on the cross as Jesus died, not in the resurrection nor the joy of the resurrection. That is at least part of God’s definition of love, a willingness to give of yourself for the benefit of others.

No place for a mystical definition of love

Notice that 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 is none of that in John. God loved and he gave. God’s love is real. God’s love is concrete. God’s love has feet to it. It acts. Nowhere more clearly in John than chapter 3:16, “By this we know love, that Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him how does God’s love abide in him?” John answers that it does not. “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” God-love and 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 – 4:11

Having defined, at least in part, what Biblical love is, John then again calls us to love as God loves. Chapter 4:11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Love that begins with God, doesn’t it? The words of the song caught my attention: “Kindle a fire that flows from your throne.” That is where love begins; it begins with God, the definer, the reservoir, the wellspring, and the fountainhead of love.

Love begins with God and flows through us

Love then flows from God to us, but only to those who are children of God, only those of us who are born of God. Chapter 3:1, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.” This is why the verse in chapter 4 verse 19 is so well known: "We love because he first loved us." We love because God, the wellspring of love enables his love to flow from him to those who are the children of God, and the 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.

That means that God’s love ultimately 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” in verse 7 and the words “ought” in verse 11 are not suggestions. The Greatest Commandment is not the “Greatest Suggestion.” It is a commandment upon which heaven and hell wait and watch.

1 John 4:8, “Anyone who does not love does not know God.” And in his gospel, John completes this thought in 17:3, Jesus says, “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God.” 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.

I have a friend who likes to remind me, “Now Bill, you have to love me or you are not going to go to heaven.” Think about it. It is a rather annoying thing to hear from time to time, but true nonetheless. I mean, in a kind of colloquial way, is that not the message of 1 John? “Jeff, if you don’t love me you can’t go to heaven.” Anyone that does not love does not know God. If you do not know God then you do not have eternal life. Pretty simple.

What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us?

If God’s love must flow through us, then it is pretty important that we know what it looks like. What does it look like for God’s love to be present in our life, especially considering the messes that the world and I have made with the concept of love? We need to have a pretty clear picture of what God’s love looks like; what it looks like to have God’s love flowing through us. Again, there is a gazillion things that you 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 are not the points that John is making. There are at least five indicators in the epistle of John as to what it looks like for God’s love to flow through us. Let me tell you what they are.

Obedient (5:2-3)


It means that we are obedient. In chapter 5:2-3 John writes, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” That is how you know you are loving the children of God. You love the children of God when you are obeying his commandments. Verse 3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” Ergo, 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?

Loving our brother (3:14)


It means that we love our brothers and sisters. Chapter 3:14: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, [this is how you know that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ] because we love the brothers.” See, our love for one another is part of our assurance that we truly are Christians; that we look the fact that 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. We see that and say, “Wow. God’s Spirit is at work in me. This is amazing!” We love one another.

Don't live in sin (3:9-10; 2:29; 5:18)


We don’t live in sin. Many, many verses support this, but look at chapter 3:9, 10: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil. Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” We do not live in sin.

Don't hate our Brothers (4:20-21; 3:5; 5:1)


It means that we do not hate our brothers. Chapter 4 starting at verse 20: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him; whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Don't love the world (2:15)


It means we do not love the world. Chapter 2:15: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Now those are just the highlights from 1 John.

What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us? It is joy, freedom. It is exhilarating, right? When you look at someone and realize that you really do love them as unlovely as they are, you go, “Wow, God’s Spirit is at work in my life.” But it also means that if God’s love is flowing through us, then we are being obedient to his commands, and that means we love our brothers, we do not hate them. It means that we do not love the world. It means that we do not live in sin. 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.

Why the World's Love doesn't Save (4:7b)


Parenthetically, I want to mention that this is why the world’s love is not a saving love. Verses like 4:7 are often misunderstood. “That whoever loves has been born of God.” I imagine many of you have known people who say, “Well, I love. I love, and I am going to go to heaven. God would never send me to hell. He’s a loving God.” It is this diseased definition of love that doe not move us away from sin; that does not move us toward God. That is ultimately nothing more than sentimentality. Rather, the kind of love that saves, the kind of love that verse 7 is talking about, is the kind of love that comes from God and comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Chapter 3:23 is an important verse: “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.” So many people want to put the emphasis on the second half, "Well, I love." But that is not the full commandment, just like the Greatest Commandment is not to love your neighbor. The Greatest Commandment is to love God as he has defined love, as he has defined himself through his only Son Jesus Christ and then how that love flows through us to others.

John sees the world in black and white

John sees the world in black and white, doesn’t he? There is very little gray in John’s outlook of life. Either your father is God or your father is Satan. There. That is it. Either you walk in darkness or 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.

Careful: life isn’t always black and white

John sees the world in black and white. But, I think we have to be careful because life is not always in black and white, is it? That is part of the challenge of understanding John. For example, we are called to love one another, but John knows that we are going to fail, so he says if you fail there is forgiveness. But love one another. First John 1:8, 9: “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Life has some gray in it and acknowledging the need for forgiveness is evidence that John clearly understands that.

Careful: not to dismiss the clear teaching of 1 John

Yet we must also be very careful not to dismiss the very clear teaching of 1 John. Because it is true, is it not, that your father is either God or your father is Satan? There is no third family around. That is a true black and white statement; you are either of God or of Satan. I can only assume that John was heavily influenced by Jesus, because Jesus said the same kinds of things. Jesus loves to talk in black and white, “If you are not for me, you are against me.” There is no fence, no middle ground. If you are not actively pursing him then you are fighting against him. We must be careful not to dismiss the clear teaching of John. If you hate, it means that you do not know God. If you are a child of God, it means that you simply cannot continue in your sin.

“Love is the giving of oneself for the benefit of the other”

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. This is one of the reasons it has been a frustrating topic for me. For example, I do not know how to give of myself for the benefit of another when doing so brings harm to someone else. There are many things about love that are still a mystery to me, but there are at least three things that are clear.

Not easy

It is not easy. It is impossible on our own, is it not? This is why when we do not draw from the wellspring of God’s love we will not ultimately love. It is hard to love some people, especially when they have hurt you deeply, and you are still supposed to love them. But you know, there are probably some people who likewise find it impossible to love you. Remember, if you do not love me then you cannot go to heaven. It is hard work. It is impossible work, in fact. It is only achievable when drawing from the love of God, enabled by the Holy Spirit.

Ignore the message because the language is so strong

A second thing that I do know is that we cannot water down the definition of love to “like.” As hard and 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? We read the Bible and it 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 is 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.

Do you really love others?

And thirdly, we must look deep into our hearts. The most frustrating thing in this sermon is that these are words we are so familiar with and concepts that we too loosely toss around. My prayer this whole week has been that God’s Spirit would be saying, “Really? Really? Are you sure you love them?  Are you sure that you don’t hate them? You’re sure that you’re giving yourself to meet their needs? Are you sure that you’re not wishing the worst on that person?” to each of us. All I can do is to urge you to listen to the Spirit and to look deeply into your heart. Maybe it means that 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. It is not love if it does not move you to action. There is nothing that comes through clearer in this passage than that fact.

What is at Stake?


Let me close with this. Do you know what is at stake in this commandment to love? There are many things I think, certainly including our obedience to Christ and the blessings and cursing that come from being obedient or not being obedient. The verse that my mind keeps going back to is in Jesus’ prayer (John 17) where Jesus is praying for you and for me. In 17:21 his prayer is that those of us who have become believers in Jesus Christ through the missionary work of others “that [we] may all be one [unified] just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us [in other words, it’s a prayer for unity among the church] that [here’s the purpose] the world may believe that you sent me.” Verse 23: “…that they may become perfectly one so that the world m

Love is certainly the most used and most abused word, I would guess, in any language and any culture. The definitions of love range from being a short-term hormonal reaction to a superficial “I love ya man!” to a life-long commitment of sacrificial service.

1 John has been given to us to help us understand how to define love. And 1 John has been given to us to help encourage us to, in fact, love. There are many passages that I could have based this talk on, but I chose 1 John 4:7-11.

I. Believers (“Beloved”) are called to love one another – 4:7-8

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

A. Supremacy to the command to love

Notice the supremacy to the command to love. God is love and you and I are called to love. Remember the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

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.

B. World would water it down to something resembling “sentimentality”

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. I may sound a little bitter; but all you have to do is listen to many 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.

C. Church often does the same thing

And 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.

D. Why John insists that love is defined, first and foremost, by God

He insists that love is defined, first and foremost, by God, not by me and not by the world. That’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 this the love of God was made manifest among us [I wish there were a colon there] that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” And then in typical John’s redundant style he says, "If you didn’t get that, let me say it again.” “In this is love, [colon] not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

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 only Son into the world.” A verse that is obviously reminiscent of what John wrote in his gospel in John 3:16. And if you read the footnoted translation in the ESV it’s something like “God loved the world in this way: He gave his only Son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.” I always thought that it was interesting that with the same reference, but in 1 John 3:16, you have the same message, “By this we know love that he laid down his life for us.”

What is love? Verse 10: Love means that “God sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Do you remember the word “propitiation?” It’s the Greek word “hilasterion” that we learned several months ago. Hilasterion 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 hilasterion. He averted God’s wrath against sin.

When God sent his Son to die in the world he died as our expiation, he died in order to forgive us our sins; that when God sent his Son into the world he died as our “mercy seat.” The mercy seat is no longer the top of the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies where the blood is sprinkled once a year for the atonement of the nation Israel, but rather the mercy seat, the hilasterion, is the cross on which the blood of his Son was spilled for the forgiveness of all of our sins. God’s love propelled him to send his Son who willingly laid his life down to take care of God’s wrath, to take care of our sin and to provide a public place for forgiveness.

This is God’s love in action. God loves. He gave. So, at least as a partial definition of love I’d like to suggest that love is the giving of oneself for the benefit of the other. There is more to love than that, but this is the point that John is making here. Just as God’s love propelled him to give his Son, who willingly died on the cross for our sins; so also you and I are to willingly give ourselves to meet the needs of others, for the benefit of others. Love is seen most clearly, not in the resurrection, not in the joy of the resurrection, but love is seen most clearly in the pain on the cross as Jesus died. That’s at least part of God’s definition of love, of willingly giving of yourself for the benefit of others to meet the needs of others.

E. No place for a mystical definition of love

Notice that 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 real. God’s love is concrete. God’s love has feet to it. It acts. Nowhere more clearly in John than Chapter 3:16, “By this we know love, [this is how we know what love is] that [Jesus] laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him how does God’s love abide in him?” And the answer in John is that it doesn’t. “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” God-love and God’s love propelled him to concrete action and he gave to meet the needs of your life and mine.

II. John calls us once again to love as God loves – 4:11

Having defined, at least in part, what Biblical love is, John then again calls us to love as God loves. Chapter 4:11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Love begins with God, doesn’t it? The words of the song caught my attention: “Kindle a fire that flows from your throne.” That’s where love begins; it begins with God, the definer, the reservoir, the wellspring, and the fountainhead of love.

A. Love begins with God

And then love flows from God to us, but only to us who are children of God, only those of us who are born of God. Chapter 3:1, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” This is why the verse in chapter 4 verse 19 is so well known: “We love [‘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.’] Not! No, we love 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 God and the 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.

B. Ultimately, God’s love flows through us to others

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.

C. God’s love must flow through us

Not only does God’s love flow through us to others, God’s love must flow through us to others. The phrase, “Let us” in verse 7 and the words “ought” 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, “Anyone who does not love [given God’s understanding, God’s definition of love] does not know God.” And in his gospel, John completes this thought in 17:3, Jesus says, “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God.” 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.

I have a friend who likes to remind me, “Now Bill, you have to love me or you’re not going to go to heaven.” Think about it. It’s a rather annoying thing to hear from time to time; but true nonetheless. I mean, in a kind of colloquial way is that not the message of 1 John? “Jeff, if you don’t love me, you can’t go to heaven.” Anyone that does not love does not know God. If you don’t know God, you don’t have eternal life. Pretty simple.

D. What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us?

If God’s love must flow through us, then isn’t it pretty important that we know what that looks like? What does it look like for God’s love to be present in our life, especially considering the messes that the world and I have made with the concept of love? We need to have a pretty clear picture of what God’s love looks like; what it looks like to have God’s love flowing through us. Again there’s a gazillion things that you 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 five 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 of all, what does it look like for God’s love to flow through us? It means that we’re obedient. In chapter 5:2-3 John writes, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” That’s how you know you’re loving the children of God. You love the children of God when you’re obeying his commandments. Verse 3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” Ergo, 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?

Number two: It means that we love our brothers. It means that we love our sisters. Chapter 3:14: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, [this is how you know that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ] because we love the brothers.” See, our love for one another is part of our assurance that we truly are Christians; that we look the fact that 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.

E. What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us?

Number three: We don’t live in sin. Many, many verses but look at chapter 3:9, 10: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, [and by the way, we were pretty loose in our translation of these verses because they are so easily misunderstood. Word for word it says, ‘No one born of God sins.’ But I think the idea is that no one born of God makes a practice of sinning. No one keeps on sinning] for God’s seed abides in him and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil [sometimes you may get annoyed with me saying there are two kinds of people. Well, I get it from verses like this. Either God’s your father or Satan’s your father. One of the two. And this is how you know.] Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one [nor is the one] who does not love his brother.” We don’t live in sin.

F. What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us?

Number four: It means that we don’t hate our brothers. Chapter 4 starting at verse 20: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother he is a liar.”[Wow, not a very sensitive way to talk]. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him; whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us? It means we don’t love the world. Chapter 2:15: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Now that’s just the highlights from 1 John.

What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us? It’s joy. It’s freedom. It’s exhilarating, isn’t it? When you look at someone and you realize that you really do love them as unlovely as they are, you think, “Wow, God’s Spirit is at work in my life.” But it also means that if God’s love is flowing through us, we are being obedient to his commands, and that means we love our brothers, we don’t hate them. It means that we don’t love the world. It means we don’t live in sin. 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.

Parenthetically, I just wanted to comment that this is why the world’s love is not a saving love. Verses like chapter 4 and the second part of verse 7 are so misunderstood. “That whoever loves has been born of God.” I imagine many of you have known people that have said, “Well, I love. I love. I’m going to go to heaven. God would never send me to hell. He’s a loving God.” And it’s this diseased definition of love that doesn’t move us away from sin; that doesn’t move us toward God. That ultimately is nothing more than sentimentality. Rather, the kind of love that saves, the kind of love that verse 7 is talking about, is the kind of love that comes from God and comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Chapter 3:23 is an important verse: “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.” So many people will want to put the emphasis on the second half, ‘”Well, I love.”’ But that’s not the full commandment. Just like the Greatest Commandment is not to love your neighbor. The Greatest Commandment is to love God as he has defined love; as he has defined himself through his only Son Jesus Christ and then how that love flows through us to others.

G. John sees the world in black and white

John 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 or 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.

Careful: life isn’t always black and white

John sees the world in black and white. And I think we have to be careful because life isn’t always in black and white. That’s part of the challenge of understanding John, 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. But love one another. 1 John 1:8, 9: “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Life has some gray in it and the need for forgiveness is evidence that John clearly understands that.

Careful: not to dismiss the clear teaching of 1 John

Yet we also must be very careful not to dismiss the very clear teaching of 1 John. Because it is true, is it not, that your father is either God or your father is Satan? There’s no third family around. That’s a black and white statement and it’s black and white true, you’re either of God or you’re of Satan. And you know I can only assume that John was heavily influenced by Jesus because Jesus said the same kinds of things. Jesus loves to talk in black and white, doesn’t he? “If you’re not for me, you’re against me.” There’s no fence. There’s no middle ground. If you are not actively pursuing him, you are fighting against him. We must be careful not to dismiss the clear teaching of John and if you hate, it means that you don’t know God. If you are a child of God, it means that you simply cannot continue in your sin.

III. “Love is the giving of oneself for the benefit of the other”

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 to 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 are at least three things that are clear.

A. Not easy

It’s not easy. It is not easy. And in fact, it is impossible on our own, is it not? This is why 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, 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.

B. Ignore the message because the language is so strong

A second thing that I do know is that we cannot 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, is it not, for love to slide down the ladder to like? 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.

C. Do you really love others?

Thirdly, 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, perhaps, too loosely toss around. But my prayer this whole week for my life and for your life, is “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 don’t hate them? You’re sure that you’re giving yourself to meet their needs? 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? It’s not love if it doesn’t move you to action. There’s nothing that comes through clearer in this passage in 1 John than that fact.

Let me close with this. Do you know what’s at stake in this commandment to love? There are many things I think. Certainly our obedience to Christ and blessings and cursings that come from being obedient or not being obedient. The verse that my mind keeps going back to is in Jesus’ prayer in John 17 where Jesus is praying for you and for me. In 17:21 his prayer is that those of us who have become believers in Jesus Christ through the missionary work of others “that [we] may all be one [unified] just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us [in other words, it’s a prayer for unity among the church] that [here’s the purpose] the world may believe that you sent me.” Verse 23: “…that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them [that’s you and me] even as you loved me.”

The word “love” doesn’t occur in John 17 but John’s epistle makes it very, very clear that the bond that unites believers is the bond of love. What is not at stake is your feelings and mine. What is not at stake is 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, John 17, say that God the Father truly sent God the Son. Our participation in the gospel and the growth of God’s kingdom is all tied up in the commandment to love. That’s what is at stake, for his glory and his glory alone.

Assessment

Name Description
1 52 Stories of the Bible - Assessment for Lesson 51 - Christian Love

52 Stories of the Bible - Assessment for Lesson 51 - Christian Love

Duration

32 min 40 sec

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