Summary: This year, the key verse for our Vacation Bible School is 1 John 4:9 and the overall theme is “It All Comes Back to Jesus.” As we look at that text in its context this morning, we see that Jesus is love’s requirement, Jesus is love’s reason, and Jesus is
Well, here we are—ready to kick off another year of VBS. I don’t know how many children the Lord will bring us this year. I don’t know what their circumstances or backgrounds are going to be. I don’t know how conversations will go between the workers and the kids. But here’s one thing I do know. No matter how long they spend with us… each of those children is going to know that Jesus loves them. Now, how is that going to happen? Are we going to get in each one of their little faces and tell them that? I hope so, but probably not. Is it going to be evident in the decorations and stories and lessons and crafts and music and snacks and recreation? That’s what the intent is. But even so, that intent might be missed by some of them. So, if somehow, the kids miss out on the fact that Jesus loves them from all of those things, how are they going to know it? They’re going to know it the same way that anybody who walks through these doors knows it. They’re going to know it the same way that anyone we witness to knows it. The way that people will know that Jesus loves them is if they can see the way we love them and the way we love each other. But how is that possible? How is it possible for a group of people who are so different from each other to love each other? Because we have to admit that some people are pretty hard to love. I’m one of them. Some of the children who will be here this week might be hard to love. Some of their parents might be hard to love. But this whole passage commands us to love one another. So how is that possible? How is it possible for us to love each other when we are completely unlovable? That’s what this passage talks about. God has built each one of us with an inherent need to be loved. But at the same time, our sin nature makes it impossible for us to love in the way that He requires of us. Not only is it impossible for us to love in the way that He requires, it is impossible for us to love in the way that we need to be loved. So we’re in a mess. We talk about love all the time. If you turn on the radio, it won’t be long till you hear a song about love. Almost every TV show and movie deal with love. And all of them feed our appetite for something that, in and of ourselves, we can’t really give. And on top of all of that, Jesus commands us to love one another. So, what do we do? Unfortunately, most of the time, we come up with cheap substitutes to try to fill the void. Cheap substitutes like sex without commitment. Substitutes like “hooking up.” Substitutes like social clubs and becoming a workaholic. Substitutes like material things and money and prestige. Whatever you can think of, you can make it a substitute for truly loving one another. But there’s a better way. As a matter of fact, it’s the only way. The only way we can receive the love we long for is Jesus. And the only way we can give the love we’re required to is Jesus. That’s because Jesus is love’s requirement. Jesus is love’s reason. And Jesus is love’s result. First, Jesus is love’s requirement. Look back at verses 7-8.
Jesus is love’s requirement. Who is God? That’s one of those questions that small children can ask that will absolutely stump you. The reason that it will stump you is that it’s extremely difficult to answer. That shouldn’t surprise us too much. Because it’s even difficult to answer that question of yourself. If I was to ask you, “Who are you?” What would you say? Most of us would rattle off a bunch of stuff that we do. I’m a coal miner. That was the answer my grandpa would have given at one time in his life. And then he got black lung and had to retire. Then who was he? He had trouble figuring it out then. Well, I’m a husband and a father. What happens if your wife dies and your kids move away? It can be harder than you think to answer the question, “Who am I?” So how much more difficult is it to answer the same question about God? That’s why the Bible is so important. Because God reveals Himself to us in it. And He does it by giving us His attributes. The dictionary says that an attribute is “a quality or characteristic inherent in or ascribed to someone or something.” In other words, we describe who God is by naming His characteristics and qualities. God has many attributes, doesn’t He? He is holy and righteous and pure. He is good and gracious and merciful. He is also love. Verse 8 says that God is love. But look what else it says in verse 7. It says that the only people who can truly love are born of God. And then it gives the flipside in verse 8. If you don’t love, you don’t know God. In other words, here’s the standard. God created each of us. And as our creator, He has the right to demand certain things from us. One of the things that He demands of us is that we love one another. God is love. And because He is love, He requires love from His creation. That makes sense. But God knows that we are fallen, sinful creatures. And fallen, sinful creatures are incapable of the kind of love that God requires. We can catch a glimpse of it. We can work real hard at it. We can read books about it and train ourselves to act like it. And we can truly desire it. But we cannot truly love like God. That’s why God has to love through us. The only way we can truly love the way that God requires us to love is if He does it through us. The only way we can truly be loved in the way that we desire to be loved is if God does it through us. But how can that happen? It can only happen if we are truly born of God. Do you remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3? Nicodemus came to Jesus at night with some intellectual questions. Jesus dug down right past his questions and got to the heart of the matter. He said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” That really confused Nicodemus, because he didn’t understand the whole “re-birth” concept. So Jesus clarified. He said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” In other words, in order to live in this flesh, we are all born “of water.” We all are physically born from our mothers. But there is another birth. That is a spiritual birth. The Holy Spirit stirs our hearts and convicts us of sin and righteousness. He shows us where we fall short of what God requires of us. And as He convicts us, He enables us to believe the truths of Scripture. He enables us to believe that Jesus died on the cross as a punishment for our sins. He enables us to believe that Jesus rose again on the third day and lives today to give us new live in Him. And as the Spirit enables. And as we respond in faith to that enablement and confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and King and Master, we will be saved. We will be born again. We will be born of the Spirit. We will be born of God. And as we are born of God, we will love with His love. Galatians 2:20 says, “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the live which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” We are commanded to love one another. But we can’t love one another with our love. We just don’t have it in us. That’s why God has to do it through us. Through His Son who loved us and gave Himself for us. Are you having trouble loving each other? Well pastor, you just don’t know what they did to me. You just don’t know how bad they hurt me. You just don’t know what they continually put me through. Do you know what we put Jesus through? Do you know what we continually put Jesus through? Yet He loves us. He gave His life for us. He is love. And because of Him, we are called to love. And because of Him we are able to love. Jesus is love’s requirement. He is also love’s reason. Look at verses 9-10: