Once upon time, a small country Baptist church called a young preacher right out of seminary. The pastor search committee was impressed with his knowledge of the Scriptures and his preaching ability. His professors highly recommended him. Being a small church, they felt fortunate in being able to call such a gifted young man.
His first sermon to his new flock just wowed the congregation. Many in the church congratulated the pastor search committee for finding such a skilled preacher. The next Sunday came and the new pastor preached exactly the same message, though only a few realized it. The third Sunday, the new pastor preached exactly the same message. This time, more than a few people recognized it. Some began to wonder if their new pastor had only one message. The forth Sunday, the new pastor preached exactly the same message. Now even the deacons were aware that the message had not changed in the month since they had called their new pastor. They approached the pastor search committee as to the issue. They were dumfounded at what was taking place. After all, his professors had recommended him as an astute student of the Scriptures as well as a gifted orator. It fell upon the chairman of the search committee to approach the young man. He inquired, “Pastor, in the short time you’ve been here, many of us have grown to love you and we appreciate your leadership. However, you’ve preached the same message four Sundays in a row. Is there a problem?” To which the pastor responded, “No, there’s not problem. As soon as you all begin doing the first sermon, I’ll preach a new one.”
That story actually has some grounding in history with the preacher in question being the Apostle John himself. The 4th century Church Father, Jerome, tells the following story: “When the blessed evangelist John the apostle, had lived in Ephesus into his extreme old age and could hardly be carried to the meetings of the church by the disciples, and when in speaking he could no longer put together many words, he would not say anything else in the meetings but this: ‘Little children, love one another.’ When at last the disciples and bothers present got tired of hearing the same thing again and again, they said, ‘Master, why do you keep saying the same thing?’ John replied with a saying worthy of him: ‘Because it is the Lord’s command, and it is enough if it is really done.’”
So if this morning’s message seems redundant with some of the others I’ve preached from 1st John, I’m probably being faithful to the Apostle’s writing. For throughout the text this strong theme of the necessity of brotherly love is repeated over and over and over again.
So this morning, let’s revisit the subject of Christian love and discover four new truths about it.
I. CHRISTIAN LOVE COMES FROM GOD
- “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:7–10, NIV84)
A. THE SOURCE OF CHRISTIAN LOVE IS NOT OURSELVES, BUT GOD
- verse 7 is explicit, Dear friends, ... love comes from God
- most of you probably know, but let me repeat it anyway—the word for love here is not eros—the Greek word which refers to sexual love
- the Apostle John is not talking about sex
- unfortunately, we live in a culture where love have become synonymous with sex
- ILLUS. We’re all familiar with the term making love which is just a euphemism for let’s have sex.
- agape describes the kind of love God had for sinners when Christ died on the cross
- it is not sentimental love, it is not sexual love, and it is not brotherly love
- it is supernatural love
- it is a love that the Holy Spirit puts in your heart upon your regeneration, and only the Spirit of God can make it real to us
- it is the love of self-sacrificing service
- “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12–14, NIV84)
- “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7, NIV84)
- it’s a kind of love the lost person cannot experience let alone express
- the Apostle is insistent on this—let us love one another ... Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God
- you cannot neglect a self-sacrificing relationship with the family of God and at the same time have absolute confidence that you are a Christian
B. THE SOURCE OF CHRISTIAN LOVE WAS MANIFESTED IN CHRIST JESUS
- John tells us that not only does love comes from God, but that He sent His Son into the world that we might live through him—v. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him
- as we experience Christ in us, and seek to live for him, we will naturally radiate His love for the Apostle John says God IS love
- to live out that love we must first begin to grasp it, and when we grasp it we cannot help but live it out.
- when we realize God loves us in spite of all our sin and disobedience, we’ll love others in spite of all they do that doesn’t please us
- the Bible says God hates divorce—but if you’ve been through divorce, I want you to know God loves you
- the Bible says God is truth and He hates lies, but if you’ve lied God still loves you
- the Bible says gossip is sinful, but if you’ve cruelly injured someone else with your words, God loves you
- the Bible says God’s people should be honest, but if you’ve cheated on your taxes, God loves you
- the Bible says life is sacred to God, but if you’ve had an abortion, God loves you
- “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:8–12, NIV84)
- but remember, like Jesus’ conversation with the women caught in adultery in John 8, he commands that we repent and sin no more
- repentance and confession is one of the ways we express our love for God
- “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10, NIV84)
- you say, “But pastor, I’m only human, I don’t have that kind of love.”
- that’s right and that’s why this love can’t be a matter of a pastor’s guilt trip or a self help program
- it has to be the real deal, flowing from Him, through you to the people around you
- ILLUS. My dislike for my future brother-in-law.
- Jesus said, I am the vine and you are the branches, remain in me and you will bear much fruit
- the fruit of love only comes about as we draw closer to Jesus
- and when that fruit is lacking it’s not time to try harder to love, but time to draw closer to Him, confess your lack of love and ask Him to grow love in you
II. CHRISTIAN LOVE REFLECTS GOD
- “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:11–13, NIV84)
- in the same way that we cannot see the wind but we can see what the wind moves and in that way know its strength and direction, we cannot see God, but we can see what the love of God does in and through us
- the Apostle John’s argument here is astounding
- what he is telling us is that we, the Church, the blood bought ransomed of God are to be the very image of God to the world
- the world cannot see our God, but they can know He is real by watching how those who claim to know Him relate to those around them
A. THE WORLD SHOULD SEE CHRIST IN US
- ILLUS. Mahatma Ghandi, Hindu and leader of the Indian people famously remarked “I Love your Christ, but I do not love your Christians.”
- that statement is a stunning truth that grieves the heart of God
- it begs the question: Are we reflecting an appropriate image of God as a church?
- if those still seeking the truth about Jesus were to look at us would they see the image of a Savior they would want to give their lives to?
- the lost must see Christ in us
- ILLUS. You’ve all heard preachers say, “You life is the only bible that some people will ever read.”
- preachers say that because it is true!
- the world needs to see Christ in us ...
- not just in our sermons, songs and Sunday school lessons
- but in our meetings and private conversations, in the thoughts we entertain and the looks we give
- does the love that drove Jesus to the cross abide in you and abound though you?
- if Jesus is Lord in this place and among this people, his love will be reflected here
- but that is not enough
- what about in our homes?
- what about in the workplace?
- what about in our schools?
- what about in our clubs and community organizations?
- do others see in you the Jesus who died for sinners?
- if not why not?
- all you can do is confess the lack of it and draw closer to Jesus, the true vine and let the fruit of His love grow in you
III. CHRISTIAN LOVE GIVES US CONFIDENCE BEFORE GOD
- “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:16–18, NIV84)
- we rely on His love both for salvation and as the supply of Love that we give to others—for the capacity of God’s love is endless
- we are utterly dependent upon His love because in ourselves we aren’t capable of the love He expects us to show
- when we are hurt, we want to hurt back
- grace is not our native language
- but we need to give grace as much as we need to receive grace
- when we truly manifest the love of God we have confidence before him
- because we know that grace is real when we see it operating in us
- if I can forgive one who has injured me then I know grace is real
- if I am not able to do that than
- #1 I have trouble really believing in grace, or
- #2 I must question whether I have received grace
- ILLUS. Jesus once told a story about a man who had incurred an astronomical debt which he could not pay back. He went before the man who had lent him the money and begged to be released from the dept. Unbelievably, the lender the lender forgave him. Later, the lender found the man harassing a another man who owed the borrower a pittance. The original lender was outraged and rescinded his offer of forgiveness and had the man jailed.
- “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” (1 John 3:14–15, NIV84)
- consider this: How will it go for you on that great Day of Judgment if God’s grace is measured out to you with the measure you have used?
- do you need to confess your lack of love and draw close to Jesus this morning?
IV. CHRISTIAN LOVE PROVES WE KNOW GOD
- “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:19–21, NIV84)
- finally it comes once again to this simple point that reverberates like the beat of a bass drum throughout 1st John
- if you know God you will love your brothers
- if you do not love your brothers you don’t know God
- Jesus said whatever you have done to the least of these you have done unto him
- he also said whatever you have not done to the least of these you have not done to me
- to withhold love from any human being, most especially from Christian brothers and sisters is to withhold love from God
- love is the great commandment that motivates the great commission
- without Love we are not like Christ and therefore not Christian
- there are, I believe, three kinds of Christians
- those who are secure but not sure
- those who are sure, but not secure
- those who are secure and sure
- category one are conscientious believers in Christ who are saved but who lack assurance of their salvation
- category two are professing Christians who insist that even though they are living in sin and absent from the church that they’ll make it because, after all, they walked an aisle and said a prayer when they were twelve
- category three are born-again believers who enjoy a warm, secure relationship with Christ and with fellow believers
- do you need assurance that your salvation is authentic?
- examine your relationship with other believers—And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother
In 1 Corinthians 13 we get a pictur of love’s importance. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1–3, NIV84).
It doesn’t matter if doctrine is perfect. It doesn’t matter if we have the most talented musicians on the face of the earth. It doesn’t matter if we have a sound exegetical explanation of the Word in the service twice a week. If we lack love we are not the Church of Jesus Christ.