What is Love?
1 John 4:9-10
In 1 John 4 we find an incredible passage of Scripture about the love of God.
The very concept of love is one of the most permeating themes in modern society.
Many of us remember a song that The Beatles sang about love in the sixties.
In the midst of the Vietnam era their message to a hurt and frightened world was, "all you need is love…love is all you need.”
If you go to online book retailer Amazon.com, there are at least 32,507 books currently in print with the word "love" in the title (over 145,000 that deal with the subject of love) and over 11,000 music CDs with "love" in the title.
If you were to do a Google-search on the internet, you’d discover at least 121,000,000 web-sites that that use the word "love" as one of their key words.
It is unmistakable, how important love is to our culture -- to people in general.
But with all this information available, love has also become a very confusing subject.
When I watch TV, or scan magazines in the checkout lines, it’s clear that our society has a very poor understanding of love.
Recently, I heard about a single mother with two school age children. This mother had a busy social life -- too busy, in fact.
Because the children got in the way of her fun, she loaded them up with cough medicine.
With the kids drugged to sleep, she and the boyfriend of the day were free to do what they will.
Now, I venture to say that if the authorities were to intervene to rescue those children, this woman would protest, "I love my children!"
With humanity so confused about love, who is to say what love is?
The answer is God!
One of the simplest and yet most profound definitions of love is found in 1 John 4: "God is love."
Let me invite you to read this message with me, and discover the depth and meaning of God’s love...
Read 1 John 4:9-10 and pray.
The message of Easter ultimately is about love…and seeing that love defined by action.
As we celebrate what is commonly known as “Palm Sunday”, I want us to focus on the event that defined that week for many:
-The crucifixion of Christ and how his death actually brings forth life and how a cruel Roman symbol of hate and oppression now represents love.
Three truths this morning that will help us better understand what love is.
First of all, it…
1. Begins with God
Read vs. 9
For us to fully understand and comprehend the story of Easter, I think we first of all have to get a grasp on another story for another season…Christmas.
I know, it’s Easter…the crucifixion and the resurrection should be our focus, and I agree, they should be.
But as we focus on the cross and the empty tomb, in our peripheral vision should be the manger. (Show slide)
Read Matthew 1:18-23.
This gift of love begins with God.
John 3:16 tells us that.
He gave His Son as that gift.
Not that we deserved it, in fact, we don’t.
Romans 5:8 tells us that.
Never has anyone been so unworthy of anything as we are of God’s love.
There are none righteous, and all of our righteousness is only as good as filthy rags, and our sins are deserving of death.
But God loves us.
God loves you.
Do you really understand and comprehend that this morning.
That God loves you more than you can imagine, more than you deserve.
That is part of His nature, love.
1 John 4:19 tells us that.
He is the very image of love.
That is why He gave.
God is love…beginning, end and encompassing.
The world can only guess about what love is, and has done a pretty shoddy job at defining it…it has more to do with lust and less to do with love day by day.
But not God; He defines it because He created it, it is part of who He is…His nature.
God is love and love begins with God.
And what He gave because of that love is our 2nd truth this morning.
What is love?
It begins with God but it is also…
2. Manifested in Christ
Read vs. 10.
Remember John 3:16 that we mentioned earlier.
Christ is the gift that God gave. (Show slide)
He came to this earth as a baby…born of a virgin, and without sin.
He lived a sinless life and at the age of 30 He went to His cousin John the Baptist to be baptized Himself as an example for us.
For the next 3 years he went from town to town, city to city, village to village…and He preached, He taught, He healed, He performed miracles that could only be described as being from God.
Which is fitting, because He came from God…and He is God.
In fact, one of the clearest pictures of who Jesus is actually found in the OT prophetic writings of Isaiah.
Read Isa. 9:6-7
Did you see those descriptive words that Isaiah used, handed down to Him from God to describe the coming Messiah?
Keep in mind that Isaiah was a Jew preaching to Jews…Jews who understood that there is but One true God.
Yet this God said He would send one who is to be called “Eternal Father” and “Mighty God”; so either this God is schizophrenic or He is eternally triune.
And since my vote is for the latter, this tells me that when God’s love was manifested in Christ, it was because He is God.
John the Apostle, under the direction of the Holy Spirit spells this out a bit more in John 1:1-3, 14.
And then Jesus futher reveals this after His resurrection, read John 20:24-29…stop at 28.
Notice what Jesus says in vs. 29, “NO! Don’t say that about me! Don’t you know better?”
No He didn’t!
He didn’t correct Thomas or reprimand Him, but says this in vs. 29.
God’s love is manifested in Christ, because of who God is, and who Christ is…eternally triune in nature.
And in Jesus we have a physical picture of God’s love…and probably more so on the cross.
And that takes us to our third and final truth this morning.
What is love?
It begins with God, it is manifested in Christ and third, it is…
3. Evident on the Cross
Read vs. 10.
The word used here is “propitiation”; if you are using the NIV, like our pew Bibles it says “atoning sacrifice for our sins”…which is an OK transliteration of the word, but not the best.
Just curious, has anyone used the word “propitiation” in any day to day conversations this past week?
Probably not, unless you are some pointy headed scholar or a want to be theologian in a seminary.
But this is the word we find in Scripture, so we should understand at least a basic meaning of it.
This word “propitiation” in its roughest form means “an appeasing, the means of appeasing”…a condition must be met for an action to take place.
In our case, our sins must be paid for.
Our God is just, but he is also the judge and jury.
And as a just judge he must convict of sins and require an appropriate penalty.
This God is also eternal…and His laws are eternal, as a result, that eternal aspect must be taken into account when judgment takes place.
And the weight of that eternal justice is so heavy, that only one who is eternal could stand the enormity of it.
And that is where Christ comes in. (Show slide)
No one killed Jesus.
No one was responsible for His death.
He gave Himself up.
In the Garden of Gethsamene He willingly went with the roman soldiers.
When He was drug from kangaroo court to kangaroo court He didn’t defend Himself when He could have.
When they struck His face, ripped the flesh off His back with the cat of 9 tales and forced the thorns into His brow…He could have fought back, but didn’t.
And that humiliating trek to Calvary, His body beaten and bloodied, with the weight of His own death literally on His shoulders as He carried the cross…it didn’t have to happen.
But it did.
Because God loves you.
That is why when we read about Jesus hanging on the cross, He took a deep breath, and looking out at the masses said in Luke 23:34, “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”
He knew that His death was the propitiation, the appeasing of God’s justice and judgment for sin.
Not His own sin since He was sinless, but for yours and mine…and that of all mankind.
Read 2 Cor. 5:21, “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
God loves you, not because you are good…because you are not.
God loves you, not because you deserve it…because you don’t.
God loves you…can you wrap your mind around that?
God loves you!
Nothing you can do will change that…but to deny that love brings about the judgment.
John 3:17-18 says, “For God did not send His Son into the world that He might judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (18) Anyone who believes in Him is not judged, but anyone who does not believe is already judged, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.”
What is love?
It begins with God, the God who loves you, and it is manifested in Christ and made evident on the cross where Jesus died.
This is the Sunday we recognize as Palm Sunday, the day Scriptures tells us that Jesus triumphantly rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey for what would be his last few days of life on this side of Calvary.
If you are familiar with the story, as Jesus rode in the people laid down palm branches and leaves and cried out, “Hosanna”. (Show slide)
We can read about it in Mark 11.
Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to the highest!
We have sang that phrase, read about it in Scripture and seen it in Easter pageants…but do we really know what that word means?
Hosanna…it’s a word of praise, right?
They were praising Jesus as He entered into the city…not really.
The actual definition of the word “Hosanna” is “be propitious”.
Remember that propitiation we talked about a second ago.
In modern language it means “Save us”.
When Jesus rode into the city they were saying, “Save us!”
“Save us in the highest…save us!”
This morning if you have not placed your faith in Christ, I want to invite you to cry out “hosanna”…asking the Lord to save you.
The great thing is, He will.
Scripture says in Romans 10:13 that who ever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
Today I invite you to be part of the who ever and cry out “Hosanna, Lord save me.”
If you have already found faith in Christ, maybe you need to cry out “Hosanna” this morning too.
Maybe there is some vice in your life that has become an addiction and you need to cry out, “Hosanna…Lord save me”; He will.
Or maybe it is an attitude that has become out of control in your life, then cry out “Hosanna…Lord save me” and He will.
What ever it is that you need the Lord to save you from today…if you cry out “Hosanna…Lord save me” you will find His triumphant entry into your life.
Triumphant because Christ is the one who lived, died and rose again.
Lived the life you can never live and died the life you deserved.
Because God loves you.
That is what love is.
And I want you to experience it this morning.