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52 Major Stories of the Bible - Lesson 51

Christian Love

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.

Bill Mounce
52 Major Stories of the Bible
Lesson 51
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Christian Love

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?


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  • Genesis 1 is the foundational chapter for the entire Bible. It not only tells us how everything started, but it establishes the basic teaching on who God is and who we are in relationship to him.

  • On the sixth day of creation we learn that people are the apex of creation, stamped with the image of God. This is the source of human dignity, and it is why we pursue spiritual growth, so we will look more like him.

  • Genesis 3 describes how Adam and Eve sinned, how their sin broke the relationship with God for them and for all people, and God’s promise of a redeemer.

  • Genesis 6–9 is not a children’s story. It shows God’s anger against our sin, and yet also shows that he is a redeeming God. Like Noah, it challenges us to step out in faith.

  • Genesis 12:1–15:6 focuses on one man, Abraham, who is part of the fulfillment of the promise God made in the Garden to redeem humanity. Abraham must do two things: believe, and act on that belief. When he does, God makes an eternal covenant with him and with all his descendants, Israel and the church. We too must follow the pattern of our father: believe, and act on that belief.

    The authors of the New Testament refer to Abraham as the person with whom God made the covenant as the father of the nation of Israel. At the time God established the covenant, the man's name was Abram. God changed it later to Abraham and that's how he is referred to in subsequent references.

  • The story of Joseph in Genesis 37–50 is an account of God’s faithfulness to his promises to Abraham, his omnipotence (all-powerful), and his omniscience (all-knowing). Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but God worked through their evil to accomplish good — the salvation of the entire nation of Abraham’s descendants. We too are called to faith in God’s promises.

  • In Exodus 7:14–Exodus 10, we read of God’s salvation of the Israelite nation. The Egyptians had enslaved them, but through Moses God punished the Egyptians with ten plagues and secured the Israelite’s freedom. God is faithful to his promises, and all praise and honor go to him.

  • The Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20, are not rules to follow, but they give form and structure to how our love for God (the Shema) should manifest itself in how we treat God and others.

  • Moses wants to see God. Exodus 33 contains the account of how God could not let Moses see him or Moses would have died; but he does allow Moses to see the back of his glory. This is the essence of Christianity: a desire to see God. After all, God created us to have fellowship with us. We were created for community with him.

  • The book of Leviticus is consumed with the holiness of God, that he is separate from all sin. The sacrificial system teaches us that sin violates God’s rules, which extracts the high cost of death.  But Leviticus also teaches us that God forgives, that a sacrifice can pay the penalty of our sin (if we repent), and in so doing prepares us for the cross of Jesus.

  • The Shema is the central affirmation of the Old Testament: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). It calls us to rigorous monotheism in which we refuse to worship idols of any shape.

  • The book of Judges shows the necessity of covenant renewal, how each generation must decide for itself if it will follow God. Once the Israelites were given the Promised Land, for the most part they failed to renew the covenant and failed to receive the blessings from God. The same is true of our own families.

  • I Samuel tells of the shift from the nation being ruled by Judges to that of a king. Israel was supposed to be a theocracy, a kingdom ruled by God, and so the people’s desire for a king was a rejection of God. Saul, the first king, did not learn the lesson that God is still king, and what matters for us is to remain faithful. Unfortunately, many people make the same mistake as Saul.

    Update: When Dr. Mounce refers to "theodicy" at the first of the lecture, he means, "theocracy." We have updated the outline and the transcription. We will update the audio when we are able.

  • This is not a story primarily about a young man defeating a great warrior (I Samuel 16-17). It is an account of how faith propels us to trust God, no matter what the appearances.

  • Psalm 23 is David's cry of faith that his divine Shepherd will provide and protect him in all situations, and that God is lavish in his love for his sheep.

  • Psalm 51 gives the pattern for true biblical confession, which admits our own guilt and God's justice, makes no excuses, and appeals not to our good works but to God's mercy.

  • Solomon was the wisest of all people, and yet he died a fool because he ignored his own advice (Proverbs). It is not enough to know the truth; you have to do it. Wisdom begins with knowing that God knows best.

  • Job learned that bad things happen to good people and bad people alike. The question is, will you continue to trust God in the difficult times? Is he worthy of our trust when we don’t know all the answers and our lives are filled with pain?

  • 1 Kings 14–18 tells the story of Elijah and his battle with false religion. The word of the day was “syncretism,” the mixing of two religions. In our day, we are faced with the same challenge, especially the mixing of Christianity and secular culture. Elijah challenges us to not have divided hearts or divided loyalties.

  • Isaiah 6:1-8 tells us of Isaiah’s visit to God’s throne, and there we learn the true meaning of worship: the cycle of revelation and response. As God reveals himself to us, and we must respond appropriately. It asks the question, ”How big is your God?”

  • Isaiah 52–53 give us one of the most exact and theologically helpful looks into the death of Christ. Isaiah prophecies about a servant who was to come, whom God would punish for our sins. This, of course, is a prophecy about Jesus. Here we learn that there is no sin God cannot forgive, and that peace comes not from within ourselves but from outside, from God.

  • Micah prophesied three sets of what we call a “Woe” (judgment”) and “Weal” (restoration). The Israelites believed all they had to do was go through the external motions of worship, and then they could live any way they wanted the rest of the week. This brings judgment, but with judgment God promises a future restoration.

  • Hosea prophesied to people who were caught in persistent sin. Their sin caught them in a downward spiral beginning with idolatry and enforced by luxury. But even at the bottom of spiral, after the people have experienced the necessary punishment, God is still present to forgive. Sinners are called “whores,” living unfaithful lives.

  • Habakkuk asks the question of why do the wicked appear to flourish and the righteous suffer. At the root of his question is whether or not God is righteous. Because Habakkuk asks in faith, God answers his question by telling him to wait. Eventually, the wicked are punished and the righteous are rewarded. In the meantime, the righteous person lives by their faith that God is a righteous God. 

  • Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied before and during the exile, when God’s people were conquered by the Babylonians, preaching God's judgment as well as the promise of hope. The hope was the New Covenant where God's law would be written on the person's heart and empowered through the work of God's Spirit.

  • The book of Lamentations teaches us that there is an end to God’s patience with sin. It is a national lament in which Israel expresses their deep sorrow over sin. It starts by being honest about the cause of sin, not blaming anyone but themselves. But it concludes by expressing their faith in the God who forgives.

  • Back in Genesis 3:15, God promised to do something about sin. The Old Testament shows God working to keep his promise, a promise that is eventually fulfilled in Jesus Christ. But unlike popular expectation, Jesus was more than just a human being. He was fully God at the same time he was fully human. But it is not enough to know these facts; you must receive God’s blessing in order to walk in relationship with God.

  • The Old Testament ends on a note of promise, that God would send Elijah to prepare the people for their coming savior, the Messiah. This Elijah turns out to be John the Baptist, who prepares the people by teaching them about repentance. Much to their surprise, the people learned that being born Jewish was of no advantage, and that they too had to learn that they have nothing of value to offer God if they are to enter his kingdom.

  • Perhaps the most common term used about Christians is being “born again,” or “reborn.” This comes from the account of the Jewish leader Nicodemus. Jesus tells him that if he is to enter God’s kingdom, he cannot get there naturally, through what he can do. Only the supernatural work of God’s Spirit in making us new — so new that it is a rebirth — can accomplish our salvation. All this is explained by the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16.

  • Do you want to be blessed by God? Jesus tells us how this happens with eight statements at the beginning of his famous “Sermon on the Mount.” Contrary to popular belief, blessing comes through recognizing our spiritual depravity, mourning over our sin, and as a result being meek, pure in heart, and pursuing peace. How will the world respond? It will persecute you, which is also a blessing.

  • Jesus teaches us that prayer begins with us orienting ourselves to our heavenly father, being most concerned with his glory and the advance of his kingdom, and concludes with our admission of total dependence on him for our physical and spiritual needs. Prayer is primarily about God.

  • Worry carries the illusion that we have some control and that worry can accomplish something. Of course, it can do no such thing. Disciples are to have unwavering loyalty to God. As we see Gods care of his creation, we can rest assured that he will also care for us. Our focus is to be on his kingdom and his righteous; in return, he will simply give us what we need.

  • Many years before Christ, God told Moses that his name is “I AM.” Jesus picks this name up to assert that he is in fact the Great I AM, and as such he says things like, “I am the bread of life,” “I am the light of the world.” The mystery of the Trinity is that there is one God, and yet God is three – Father, Son, Spirit. This is difficult to understand, and yet we should not expect to know everything there is to know about God.

  • When Jesus calls us to follow him, as one person has said, he bids us come and die. Die to our personal ambitions, and live daily as one who has died to himself and lives for God. Only disciples are in heaven.

  • What is the single most important thing you can do? What is the central thing required of us by God? It is to love him him with everything we are. Our love must be emotional (not just obedience) and it must be personal (loving God and not things about him). But if we love God, we must then love our neighbor.

  • Two major events await the disciples: the destruction of the temple and Jesus’ return. There will be signs, warning them to flee Jerusalem, which happened in A.D. 70. But there are no warning signs for when Jesus will return and this age will end. The disciple’s role is not to wonder about when this will happen — not even Jesus knows — but to live a life of preparedness.

  • In Jesus’ last teaching before his death and resurrection, among other things he taught the disciples about the coming Spirit who will convict the world of its sin, show the world Jesus’ righteousness, and convict the world of its coming judgment. We know this “Spirit” to be the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.

  • The greatest act of salvation before the cross was God freeing the Israelites from Egypt. To celebrate that event, God instituted the Passover celebration, commemorating God’s graciousness act of passing over the Israelite houses and killing the first-born of only the Egyptian homes. But now God is about to perform and even greater salvation event, Jesus dying on the cross. Christians are to celebrate Passover not looking back to Egypt but looking at Jesus’ death and forward to his eventual return.

  • The death and resurrection of Jesus is the culmination of not only Jesus' life but of all history to that point. Jesus died on the cross so that we can be friends of God, and he was shown to have conquered death by his resurrection from the grave. The temple curtain, which symbolized the separation between God and people, was torn in two, from the top to the bottom, and we can now live in direct relationship with God.

  • Jesus’ final act on earth was to commission his followers. Their central mission is to make disciples. They are to make new disciples by sharing the gospel and baptizing them; and they are to make fully-devoted disciples by teaching people to obey everything Jesus taught. Because God is sovereign over all, we must do this. Because he will never leave us, we are able to do this.

  • During the Jewish festival of Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, Jesus’ promise was fulfilled and the Holy Spirit came and empowered all of Jesus’ followers, giving them supernatural power to, among other things, speak in human languages they had not learned. Peter explains the phenomena as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and then preaches the basic message found throughout Acts: Jesus lived, died, was raised form the dead, and therefore all people are called to repent of their misunderstanding of who Jesus is.

  • The church is not a building or an activity. The church is the sum total of all true believers. Christ is the head. We are the body. We are a family. We are the temple of God, the place that he inhabits.

  • Justification is the doctrine of being declared not guilty of our sins. It is a work of God alone; we do not help. In Romans 1:16–17 and 3:21–26, Paul makes it clear that this declaration of righteousness is based not on what we do (“works”) but on what we believe about Jesus (“faith”), that Jesus did on the cross for us what we could not do for ourselves.

  • We are not only saved by God’s grace, but his grace continues to sustain us throughout our life. One way that God’s grace shows itself is in how we give, financially. God’s grace enables to to both want to give and to be able to give. If someone is not giving, they should wonder about the condition of their heart and why God’s grace is not active in it.

  • In Romans 5–8, Paul reminds us of the many reasons why we are joyful. We are at peace with God. We are reconciled to him. We have been set free from sin. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit lives within us. We are adopted into God’s family, assured that we are his children. This is the joy of the righteous life.

  • Paul wants the church in Philippi to understand humility. They should agree on one central focus, and that is a humility that stems from a right understanding of who you are in Christ. As an example, we look no further than Jesus, who is God, lowering himself to be human, and in return being exalted. In response, we should take great care at working out the implications of what it means to be saved.

  • Christians are people of the book. We believe that all of Scripture came from the very mouth of God. It is true in all it affirms and authoritative over our lives. The challenge is to come to the point where you really believe this.

  • The book of Hebrews is a deep theological study on the superiority of Christ over everyone and everything else. Interspersed throughout the teaching are the “Warning” passages in which the author encourages his readers to not fall away from their faith. If people do leave the Christian faith, they can have no assurance that they truly are Christians.

  • James tells us that there is nothing more difficult to control than  the tongue. It destroys people’s reputation, often under the guise that what is being said is accurate. We are hurt, so we verbally lash out. We want to be well thought of, so we feign piety. The only way to gain any victory over the tongue is to work on the heart, since it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks. Unfortunately, gossip often is the natural language of the church, but there can be victory.

  • 1 Peter asks one of the fundamental question of life is, how can an all-powerful, all-good God allow pain and suffering. It helps us grapple with this question by pointing our attention to the realities of our lives, especially the fact that we are exiles on earth and our true home is heaven. We are to recognize in the midst of suffering that God is still at work for our good.

  • 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.

  • The Bible closes with the prophecy of how all things will end. While there are many questions as to the precise meaning of this book, it’s central message is crystal clear. God will not keep us from suffering and persecution; it is going to get worst; God calls us to be faithful in the midst of our pain. If we are faithful to the end, we will be rewarded. This is what we are waiting for, a new heaven and a new earth where there will be no pain, no sorrow, no sin. The Garden of Eden will be restored, at last. We were created for fellowship with God, and we long for the day when Jesus will return again and take us home.

English | HindiSwahili

The Bible is one continuous story filled with adventure, heroes and villains, triumph and defeat, good and evil, love and jealousy, plot twists and ultimately, a happy ending. As you read each of the short Bible stories along the way, you begin to see how the Bible stories combine to form the structure of the one big story. The individual characters and their experiences of tragedy and triumph draw you into their Bible stories and help you see the overarching themes of cosmic love, judgment and redemption.

Telling stories is an effective way of communicating ideas so you remember them. Immersing yourself into the 26 Bible stories from the Old Testament and 26 from the New Testament helps you to understand and internalize the character of God, the splendor of his creation, his love for humans, the evil and destructiveness of sin, the wonder of the plan of redemption and the completeness of restoration at the end of history.

Each of these stories can be considered as Bible stories for kids because the plot and main teaching of the story is something that most children will understand. They are also Bible stories for youth and adults because if you are wise, the examples you see and the lessons you learn will guide you for a lifetime.

Click here to see how you and your small group can study these stories together.

Recommended Books

52 Major Stories of the Bible - Student Guide

52 Major Stories of the Bible - Student Guide

52 Major Stories of the Bible - Student Guide

<p>Course: <a href="https://www.biblicaltraining.org/52-major-stories-bible/bill-mounce">52 Major Stories of the Bible</a></p>

<p>Lecture: <a href="https://www.biblicaltraining.org/john-and-christian-love/major-stories-… John and Christian Love</a></p>

<hr>
<h2>"Love"</h2>

<p><br>
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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h2>Believers (“Beloved”) are called to love one another (4:7-8)</h2>

<p>“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.”</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>The World Waters it Down to “Sentimentality”</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>The Church Often Waters it Down to “Sentimentality”</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h2>John insists that love is defined, first and foremost, by God</h2>

<p>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.”</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>God’s definition of love? — 4:9-10</h3>

<p>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.”</p>

<p>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.”</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>No place for a mystical definition of love</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>John calls us once again to love as God loves – 4:11</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>Love begins with God and flows through us</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us?</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h4>Obedient (5:2-3)</h4>

<p><br>
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?</p>

<h4>Loving our brother (3:14)</h4>

<p><br>
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.</p>

<h4>Don't live in sin (3:9-10; 2:29; 5:18)</h4>

<p><br>
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.</p>

<h4>Don't hate our Brothers (4:20-21; 3:5; 5:1)</h4>

<p><br>
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.”</p>

<h4>Don't love the world (2:15)</h4>

<p><br>
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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>Why the World's Love doesn't Save (4:7b)</h3>

<p><br>
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 does 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.</p>

<h2>John sees the world in black and white</h2>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>Careful: life isn’t always black and white</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>Careful: not to dismiss the clear teaching of 1 John</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h2>“Love is the giving of oneself for the benefit of the other”</h2>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>Not easy</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>Ignore the message because the language is so strong</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>Do you really love others?</h3>

<p>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?&nbsp; 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.</p>

<h2>What is at Stake?</h2>

<p><br>
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</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h2>I. Believers (“Beloved”) are called to love one another – 4:7-8</h2>

<p>“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.”</p>

<h3>A. Supremacy to the command to love</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>B. World would water it down to something resembling “sentimentality”</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>C. Church often does the same thing</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>D. Why John insists that love is defined, first and foremost, by God</h3>

<p>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.”</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.”</p>

<p>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.”</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>E. No place for a mystical definition of love</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h2>II. John calls us once again to love as God loves – 4:11</h2>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>A. Love begins with God</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>B. Ultimately, God’s love flows through us to others</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>C. God’s love must flow through us</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>D. What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us?</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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?</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>E. What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us?</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>F. What does it look like for God’s love to flow through us?</h3>

<p>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.”</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>G. John sees the world in black and white</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<p>Careful: life isn’t always black and white</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>Careful: not to dismiss the clear teaching of 1 John</p>

<p>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.</p>

<h2>III. “Love is the giving of oneself for the benefit of the other”</h2>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>A. Not easy</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>B. Ignore the message because the language is so strong</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<h3>C. Do you really love others?</h3>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.”</p>

<p>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.</p>

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