Sermon January 19, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1428

January 19, 2020 1 John 4.7-21

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“Love Perfected”

 

7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9In 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. 10In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20If 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. 21And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

 

 

  • The Love Chapter

 

I wanted to begin this message talking about how we have labeled, most Christians have labeled, 1 Corinthians 13 as the love chapter. There are certainly good reasons for this and I am not going to seek to debunk that label or argue against keeping that label. 1 Corinthians 13 begins by saying that without love, all else is worthless. It describes love as patient and kind and not arrogant or rude. It says that love is everlasting and of the three attributes Paul writes about - faith, hope, and love - the greatest is love. So, in many wedding ceremonies, this is the chapter you will hear read. In conversations about love, this is one the first biblical passages listed. That’s fine and dandy! It is a wonderful passage for love. But it is not alone.

1 John 4 is also a great love chapter. It reiterates Jesus’ command that we love one another. John directly connects our love to God’s love in such a way that without God’s love we would not have the capacity for love. When he states that God is love, he reveals that God is the source of true authentic love. We will look more at 1 John in a moment.

 

In the end, I believe that every chapter in the Bible is a love chapter. The Bible is the revelation of God’s love for us. Most Bibles translate the Hebrew word hesed as steadfast love, as the steadfast love of God. I would invite you to read through the Old Testament and double underline every time you come across the words steadfast love. One of the essential texts for this love is in Exodus 34.

 

Exodus 34.5-7 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

 

Steadfast love is used 195 times in the Old Testament and 127 of those uses are in the Psalms.

 

Three verses in the Psalms speaks of the unmeasurable love of God, 36.5; 57.10, and 108.4...Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

 

The most extensive use of steadfast love is Psalm 136. Every verse (26 verses) finishes with the refrain “for his steadfast love endures forever.” The message of the Psalm is that everything God does or has done is motivate by His great love. Creation, exodus, promised land, deliverance, food, provision, everything is attributed to God’s great love. Those who say that the God of the Old Testament is the God of wrath and the God of the New Testament is the God of love, in my mind, they have not read the Old Testament very closely. This is why I would suggest that all the Bible is an expression of God’s love, because that is God’s own attribute toward His people and the world.

Not to leave out the New Testament, the entirety of the New Testament is summed up in John 3.16 that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. It was out of His love that Jesus was sent. His love forgives our sin. His love shows us mercy. His love judges, provides, disciplines, encourages, exhorts, convicts, grants, answers, responds...that is, His love does it all.

If God is so deeply motivated by love, it begs the question of us, what motivates our actions and speech? Something to think about.

 

  • The Love Connection

 

Let’s talk about the love connection, not the TV game show! John connects our love with God’s love. 7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. The reason we are called to love one another is because love is from God. We might say about that one verse that love is not something we conjure up on our own, but it is given to us from God. Apart from God’s love we are incapable of loving.

 

10In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Verse 10 also hints to this conclusion that it is not that we have loved God and He responds with love, but that love is defined in His love for us in sending His Son to atone for our sins.

 

John 15:9-10. 9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. Stay connected to the love of the Father and the Son and the Spirit. How? Keep commandment. Do them! Love them and live them! These Words we call the Bible, connect us to God’s love and enable us to abide in God’s love.

 

  • The Love Source

 

11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. The source of love is God. Because God is the source of love, our real, genuine, and authentic understanding of what love is must be directed to God. That is, we look to God to define our love – our love expressed in return to Him and love to and for one another. We might break down that love to one another even further to talk about love for spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, strangers, and to give a biblical category, neighbors. Every relationship we have is to reflect God’s love for that person in how we love that person.

This can get a bit complicated when referring to enemies or people who are hateful to us or to people we don’t want to love. Our level or depth of love will vary, of course, but should always reflect the love God has shown to us.

 

19We love because he first loved us. This verse is even more succinct in naming the source of our love. We love because...the reason, the cause of our love is that He has loved us first. Paul adds in Romans 5.8 that God loved us even while we were sinners. God is not just a good example of love, not just a model to look toward to get a few ideas of how to love, no, He is the source in the sense of making love possible in us. James Smith writes this, “we are loved into loving.” Smith writes about how a mother will look into her infant child’s eyes and smile with such a love that the child will smile back. Love is awaken in the child by the mother’s love. So too is our love awakened by God’s love for us. “He first loved us” is the smile of God that evokes the smile of love in our hearts (p. 111-112, You Are What You Love).

 

  • Love Perfected

 

17By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

 

John says that love might be perfected in us. Perfect love will cast out fear. If we fear, we do not yet know perfected love. Wow!

 

Let’s back up a bit as see what perfect love looks like. Look beginning as verse 12,

 

12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

 

If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. Perfect love is only possible when God abides in us. We know that God abides in us by the Holy Spirit, by confessing that Jesus is the Son of God, and by knowing and believing God’s love for us. Now, I just want to expound on one phrase in all of that, “by knowing and believing God’s love”. I am convinced that knowing God’s love for us is so profound and so deep that words are insufficient to capture that love. We try so hard to capture the love of God and even the love we share among our relationships, but words come short. There is something within us that simply enables us to know.

Remember when Peter met with Jesus on the beach in John 21 after the resurrection. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Jesus. Three times Peter said he did and Jesus says, in essence, then show me by feeding my sheep. We can say all the words we want but until we show it, it is not really known. Until we love one another, abide in God, believe it above all else, have it perfected in us so deeply that we can truly fear not, until then, we are just going through the motions.

How can we get this perfected love in our hearts? Some of that answer is revealed here in 1 John: loving one another with a love born of God; live through Jesus; abiding in God; knowing and believing the God loves us. I keep coming back to the John 15.9-10 passage I read earlier, particularly verse 10, 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love. Central to our love is this sacred holy Word. To abide is to dwell in, live in, reside in. As Psalm 1 encourages, meditate on it day and night. It is not just a feeling of love, but an action that includes obedience to the Word, discipline and self-control in life. The Scriptures shape how we think and who we are becoming and how we love. The Scriptures are living and active, given to train us to love more deeply and with the love with which God has loved us. God’s love is perfect. God’s love is the only love that might be perfected in us and the Bible promises us that this is the case when we live by those passages like 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4 and every other passage that draws us to love with the perfect love of God.

 

 

 

 

 
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