Summary: The key for successful Christian living is experiencing the love of God
Game shows are making their comeback these days. All America is tuning in to Regis to see who will be the next millionaire. The biggest game show in my growing up years was Match Game. The contestants had to fill in the blank to a sentence missing a word. They had to guess how the celebrity panel would fill in the blank and match their word. My sermon title this morning is a take off on Match Game. Knowing that I’m a big Beatles fan and knowing that we’re in the midst of a sermon series call “the greatest of these”, how would you finish the sentence “All you need is...”?
Did you choose the word love? Is that your final answer? Well let me give you one more try since we believe in grace. Reread verse 16 and apply the rule of logic if A=B and B=C, then A=C. If all you need is love, and God is love, then all you need is God. John was the disciple that Jesus loved. He talked about the love of Jesus more than any other Biblical author, but I’m sure if John was playing Match Game, he would have said, “all you need is God, for God is love. Know and rely on the love God has for us.”
The catch phrase “all you need is love” does have its roots in Scripture, as anyone can tell by reading John’s writings, or the summary of the Law. But the world has borrowed this Biblical truth and corrupted it. The world teaches us to love one another, but they ignore the first command, which is to love God.
John says you can love without experiencing God’s love first and relying on that love. You can’t experience lasting intimacy and true love with others, unless you experience and know the love of God. Experiencing and living in the love of God is what gives us all the energy to serve and love others. Without loving God first, all our love for others becomes idolatry, because we’ve set them above our Maker. Whenever we set a human relationship above our Creator, we’ve set it up to crash and fail.
So the key for successful Christian living is experiencing the love of God. Or to put it another way, the key is living in God’s love. This morning we want to reflect together on verse 16 of I John 4. “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.”
The language that John uses is here is very reminiscent of Jesus words in the gospel of John chapter 15. Jesus was leaving soon, but he used the illustration of the vine and the branches to give comfort to his disciples. He said I am the vine and you are the branches, remain in me, or as the KJV says, abide in me. He said, “Just as the Father loves me, so do I love you. Now remain in that love.”
According to Jesus and according to John the key to successful Christian living is abiding in the love God has for us. Our Bible study has been discussing the concept of abiding in Christ. The author of the book we’re reading suggests that the key successful Christian living is “abiding.” The next natural question for our group has been “o.k. now how do you abide.”
Abiding is a term that is hard to get a handle on. Does abiding mean that every waking moment we should be meditating on the nature of God? Does it mean we have to become monks and dedicate the majority of our day to prayer and worship? Does it mean we should meet daily with other Christians as New Testament believers did? Does it mean we should pray 3 hours every morning as Martin Luther did? How do you abide in Christ when you’re in a business meeting, or working on the computer, or vacuuming the carpet, or sitting in a math class? What does it mean to abide or remain in Christ’s love?
I don’t think Jesus and John were trying to create a great mystery here that we are supposed to solve. I think we have made it much more complicated than they ever intended it. John used a very simple illustration here to make a simple, but profound point. He said, “Live in” God or God’s love. Jesus said, “Abide or remain” in me.
Most of us, if not all of us, know what it mean to live somewhere or in a home. When we live in our homes we simply stay in and reside the safety and the confines of that home. That home provides protection, that home is where we are nourished. That home is where we entertain friends and family and enjoy fellowship and the love of human relationships.