Summary: A sermon that uses river analogies - i.e Revelation 22 psalm 46 and Ezekiel 46 to talk about how to understand God's love in a white water world

1 John 4

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Seeing God Through Love

12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

The Consummation of Love

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him[b] because He first loved us.

Obedience by Faith

20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can[c] he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

Trust the river

There is something about rivers in the scriptures in Revelation 22 and Ezekiel 47 there is this amazing picture of a river flowing out with beauty and healing in the waters. But when you try to navigate the rivers of life there are some harsh lessons to be learned. For example -

Ever Kayaked down a river – astonishing things can happen – Once when I panicked the current took the canoe down and stayed down for a long time – fortunately I was,by then, hanging from the branch of a willow tree. at other times you are just calmly going along long serene stretches of water, then anything might happen - a waterfall for example – Here is what that felt like to one person.

“Riding a kayak over a waterfall isn’t just a matter of flinging yourself off a cliff, but there’s a moment when that’s exactly what you’re doing. Just before you get to the lip of the falls, all you see is the horizon line, quivering at the edge of a big empty space. It’s like those ancient maps that show parts of the world getting swallowed up by the ocean. I had reached the end of the earth. The whole world just dropped away, and I felt very small. And then I really had to pay attention because I was falling facedown into a speck of water seven stories below me.

“I snuggled into the kayak. I was sitting cross-legged with my knees hooked under the sides. You have to tuck your body in right before you land, altering the direction of the kayak slightly so it will hit the water at the right angle. But if you tuck in too soon, you’ll lose your grip on the kayak—like flipping over the handlebars on a bike.

“It takes such a long time to fall. I counted one, two, three, four. I felt a little sick to my stomach, but I couldn’t take a breath, because I was falling so fast.

“I tucked in and set my angle for landing. I went from hurtling down inside a curtain of falling water to being enveloped by the white water, to bobbing on the surface of a pillowy white pool. My touchdown was actually very soft, like landing in bubbles. I was exhilarated when I finished, then totally exhausted for the next two days. It was a completely satisfying experience. I might do it again someday. Just walk out one afternoon and do it.”

Glissmeyer is a nursing student at Columbia George Community College in The Dalles, Oregon.

I think understanding God’s love is a bit like that we understand and espect the serene stretches but struggle to comprehend his love when we face sudden – dangerous and even deadly drops.

I wonder which part of the river experience you might remember most?

All are valid and it would be bland and ordinary if you were just doing long slow stretches.

Today we want to talk about the compassion of God.

God’s compassion has to be viewed both in light of the long slow stretches of life where light bounces off the water and the surrounding forest of life and also the times we are doing high fall stuff plunged down 7 stories when our emotions are still a kilometre back on the calm spots and it as at such moments that we cry out to God why? We can then think do I really know his love at all?

The cannoest has to Trust the river.

The Human has to learn to trust God. In canoes it helps to learn about the river. In Christian life it is really important to learn to know about his compassion particularly when you are confronting rapids rocks and waterfalls in life.

In our bible readings this morning there are some profound insights into the compassion of God. Insights that will help us when we enter the rapids.

Guides know their river.

People who guide others down rivers get to know their river inside out they know where the rapids are and they know which bits are calm – they know how undertows operate so hopefully whatever happens they know how to cope with what is coming up.

For the Christian it is not exactly the same but we need to understand the nature and the character of God’s compassion so that we are well equipped to cope with the wild rides through the white water moments of life.

In such a moment we might like to take heed of these words - Proverbs 3:5-6New International Version (NIV)

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

The first thing we know of God’s compassion from 1 John this morning is Compassion or love in all it’s various shapes and forms originates from God.

Verse 7 says “love is of God;” When you understand that, you will begin to comprehend how involved in God’s love you really are. When someone loves you, a parent: a sibling – a friend you already are in the river of God’s love – Love is from God.

While it is the natural human inclination to love often we express our attempts at love through brokenness – so a man robs a bank to get money for his partner as an act of what he considers love but that is not what love is – it is in fact what love isn’t. A young man expressing vows of love to a girlfriend but refusing to commit himself to her and then abandoning her leaving her high and dry – that is not love either.

Such expressions of love are like attempting to canoe down a highway – weird – but not love at all.

There is an old song from the twentieth century that says

I've looked at love from both sides now

From give and take, and still somehow

It's love's illusions I recall

I really don't know love at all.

I think that is the confession of most of us – We don’t know love at all.

1 John 4New King James Version (NKJV)

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love

God is love – to really understand love the real starting point is not life. It isn’t even your dictionary or thesaurus, it is God Himself. To understand love we need to get to know God for God is love.

1st point take time to get to know God.

You can’t trust the river of life and love that you are in until you get to know God.

To get to know God you need to take time for him – you need to set aside time at the beginning or the end of your day. When you spend time with God you become flooded with his love.

Hosea 6:6, God is clear: “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

In order to understand God’s love we need to

• Come to Him honestly. Confessing your sins and inviting Jesus Christ into your heart requires you to be vulnerable. • Understand your reliance upon Him. Joseph did that even when the river of life took him into a prison,


• Become interested in what interests Him. Do you have a desire for spiritual insight and godly wisdom? If so, the Lord wants to satisfy that yearning within you.

• Know His Word. By reading the Bible, you open your heart to Him. He has given you the Holy Spirit to help you understand His Word, and He wants you to meditate on it so you can apply it to your life.

• Observe His characteristics and ways. Read the promises God makes in His Word. Ask Him to remind you of how He has already worked in your life—with all the wisdom, love, and power you will ever need for any challenge you will ever face.

• Begin walking with God. It is amazing how you understand another as youwalk with them

Your knowledge of the Father grows as you recognize His love for you. God delights in your joyful praise and worship of Him. Psalm 46:10 says, “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” As your knowledge of Him deepens, your ability to trust and obey Him will increase. (adapted from Charles Stanley.)

The first point of understanding God’s compassion then, is spend time in getting to know God. When you know him you understand his love so much better.

Secondly Your circumstance doesn’t change the fact that God’s love for you is everlasting!

We are in this river of life and love wheather we want to be or not. But understanding the permanence of God’s love makes a huge difference.

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him[b] because He first loved us.

So often in your life you will hear the statement – If God is a god of love then how come?

Only by understanding how great and eternal is God’s love for you can you understand His love/

The Apostle Paul suffered incredible hardship!his sufferings from 2 Corinthians chapter 11 I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. By the time he is finished you realise that most of Pauls Christian journey has been like White water high risk Christianity. With such a legacy of suffering – if anyone has the right to make the:”If God is a God of love.”- would think Paul would but instead he says:-

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

This is not to take away from the pain of difficult losses and circumstances but when you know God’s love it changes everything.

So often in life when things get really hard we feel that God has abandoned us. But when you understand the compassion of God things change

Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a lovely family. All his children except his wife perished on ajourney across the Atlantic in the largest sea tragedy ever before the Titanic sunk.

In the midst of this incredible tragedy Spafford wrote “It Is Well With My Soul” while on this journey.

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say,

“It is well, it is well with my soul!”

It is well with my soul!

It is well, it is well with my soul!

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—

My sin, not in part, but the whole,

Is nailed to His Cross, and I bear it no more;

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live;

If dark hours about me shall roll,

No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life

Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

He wrote this mid Atlantic on the way to comfort his wife. You can’t endure such a massive seven story drop on the journey of life unless – unless you know the real love of God!

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, shall keep your hearts, your minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:7.

This raises another point that the great Apostle John brings to our attention – There is no fear in love.

Thirdly – In the river of God’s love all fear is gone.

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him[b] because He first loved us.

That is what encouraged Mr. Spafford to say

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.


It is well with my soul,

It is well, it is well with my soul

It was perfect love that allowed Jesus to hang from the cross stained in his blood. You see it was the garden that Jesus was confronted with the choice love for the Father and love for you and me or to give in to fear. In the garden Jesus said – Yet not my will but your will be done and beads like blood fell from his head because friends when fear and love meet then fear wants to dominate and what happens here with Jesus – as I see it – was love won over fear and love needs to win over in your life

There is a river of love within you and just because you come to a waterfall there is no need to abandon trust – because in a very real way when you trust in God you are trusting in love- God is love and as Paul says in the 1Corinthians 13 passage Love never fails.

But when you get into a boat – like the disciples, in Matthew chapter 14 - and you have been with pure love in the person of Jesus and suddenly he is not with you anymore and the storm comes and you wonder where love is and you think you are going to die and your mind brings to your memory of others who have perished and the icy grip of fear paralises your rowing arm and you are frozen in your seat and the wind increases and the waves roll over you and you are paralised and all is lost then you look up because love is walking on the water and the icy grip on your arm weakens and slowly subsides as does the storm around you and soon you are walking on the water with love and it is only when you look at fear again that you begin to sink but love lifts you up and you, Peter, can face tomorrow with Jesus.

People who say if God is a God of love simply do not know God. As someone once wrote – Your God is too small.

None of that is to belittle or reduce the agony and pain of human suffering the vast pain of death and disease the incredible agony of injustice, brutality, and immorality when they come your way.

And spurious love – the loss is great but the antidote of love is greater and the healing ointment of God is adequate for every situation

Stephen in Acts chapter 9 – He was leaping over a pretty hefty waterfall. Facing an angry group of religious leaders and preaching a very very very unwelcome sermon – they became murderous. And in the middle of that murderous attack God who’s unrelenting love had pursued Stephen just gave Stephen such an amazing glimpse into heaven and whatever was coming to him – freefall into a very deep pool – Stephen just looks into his next destination – heaven open and is mesmerised by love and the worlds petty violence fades into insignificance in the face of unrelenting love

Because perfect love casts out all fear.

Your faith in Christ Jesus puts you in touch with the compassion of God and it is that compassionate love which not only drives out fear but equips you to face a wicked and difficult world and you will look into heaven.

The compassion of God will be best understood when you get perspective on this world and the next and your live and when you do oh you get love.

There is a river of love – 800 years before Jesus the Prophet said

Isaiah 55:1

"Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost.

What are the waters waters of love – when you come to God’s waters love will flow into you

If you follow Jesus then he said: ? John 7:38 ?

New International Version

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them."

But you can only trut the river of God’s love when you know God to the degree that you can trust His love.