We continue with our study in 1 John 4, beginning this morning with verse 7 and ending with verse 21. If you remember, John interrupted his own teaching on love as the mark of a true Christian, and he inserted the qualification of having the Spirit of God.
This morning, we will look at some principles about love from 1 John 4:7-21. Let me read that for us.
Before we look at the source, the sacrifice, the succession and the security of love, let’s begin by reviewing the relationship between love and the Spirit of God. We see this in verses 7b, 12, 13 and 16b.
John teaches that we know that we belong to God by our ability to love. And we have that ability to love, because we have the Spirit of God in us. Just because you use the word, "love," often or that you do acts of compassion now and then does not automatically make you a child of God.
I know certain non-Christians who are more loving than certain Christians, but non-Christian love is motivated differently than Christian love. And motive is important.
Anyone can love a likeable or generous person. Most parents, whether they have the Spirit of God or not, do love their own children, sometimes out of duty, societal pressure or the hope of future support from their children. And some who have the value of compassion will carry out heroic acts of love in response to pity or guilt for the weaker or endangered person.
But only the person with the Spirit of God can love when he or she has no such motivation to love. Listen to the words of Jesus in Luke 6:32-36, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners’ lend to `sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father (in Heaven) is merciful."
This kind of love comes from belonging to a God who loves. (If you were not here last week, you just received a mini-review of last week’s message because John thought this review was necessary. Now, onto the source, the sacrifice, the succession and the security of love.)
First, John wants us to remember that the source of love is God. We see this in verses 7a and 8.
When I hear from people who do not believe in God, I often hear that their image of God is a Cosmic Kill-joy or Cosmic Child Abuser. The job of their God is to take away their fun, make them do what they despise and at best, withhold what they really want in life. God to other people is like the security guard at a department store. He’s irrelevant until something goes wrong or until they do something wrong. If you tell me that you don’t believe in or trust God, I probably won’t believe or trust in the God you don’t believe or trust in, either.
John gives us mind-shattering description of God. The essence of God, John says, is love. In fact, God is the source of love. You might disagree that we receive and learn to love through those who loved us. But where did they receive and learn to love? Where did the first man or first woman receive and learn to love?
Genesis 3 records the love of God to the first man and first woman despite their rebellion and failure. We need to realize that even banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden is love. How terrible if God did not permit Adam and Eve to experience the consequence of their sin. God’s love is not negligent or overly permissive. God disciplines those He loves.
God is love. We can have great comfort knowing this eternal truth. Everything God does is done out of love. God does not love us more, when we are good, and God does not love us less, when we are bad, because His love for us does not depend on us but on Him. 2 Peter 3:9 reminds us, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (that is turn away from sin and return to God)."
God’s love is so great, that not even our sins or Satan can separate us from the love of God. Jesus’ death on the cross enabled forgiveness of sins and destroyed the work of Satan. Only our unwillingness to return to God will separate us from God for eternity, and that’s hell.
God is love, and He is the source of love.
Second, John wants us to remember the sacrifice of love through Jesus Christ. We see this in verses 9, 10, 14-16a.
I recently discovered the teachings of Ray Stedman, the founder and pastor of 40 years at the Peninsula Bible Church. If he were alive today, I would call him up and ask him to be my mentor. In one of Stedman teachings, he quoted Dr. Eric Hutchinson’s insight into what was going on during the hippie days in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco.
Dr. Hutchinson said, "The proclaimed doctrine of the hippies, that they turn away from a hateful, unloving world and establish their own society of love, as they call it, seems to me has to be either selfish, materially erroneous, or completely hypocritical. I think it is selfish, in the sense that it is no great problem to love those who share the same viewpoints and habits as oneself. It is a greater sacrifice and constructive tolerance, to love those whose point of view is radically different."
"To escape the responsibilities of loving those whom we do not like by alienating oneself from the rest of society and entering a self-made ghetto, strikes me as being about the most ignoble form of self-centeredness that one could conceive -- quite the opposite of the society of love. It is in fact the worst kind of childish, sulky withdrawal from a society that one cannot control and that one is unwilling to convert."
God didn’t simply tell us He loved us, who were rebellious and unwilling, but He came. He risked contamination and rejection, and He suffered in the form of a man, even to the point of death on the cross. That’s the sacrifice of love. He entered our society and gave of Himself.
When Billy Graham was asked whether he would love his son if his son were homosexual. Billy Graham replied that he would love his son even more because his son would need more love.
We needed more love than all of creation could provide, so the Creator came Himself to demonstrate that love. Paul noted in Romans 5:6-8, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Jesus Christ is the sacrifice of love from God.
Third, John wants us to remember the succession of love in the child of God. We see this in verses 11, 19, 20 and 21. By succession of love, I am referring to what follows as a result of being loved by God.
If we truly understand that the cross on which Christ died was meant for us, but because of His love for us, He died in our place, we would be forever changed. We would love even the most unlovable.
On February 9, 1960, Adolph Coors III, millionaire head of Coors Company, was kidnapped and held for ransom. Seven months later his body was found on a remote hillside. He had been shot to death. Adolph Coors IV was then fifteen years old. He lost not only his father, but also his best friend. For years Adolph Coors IV hated Joseph Corbett, the man who was sentenced to life for the slaying Adolph Coors III.
In 1975, almost 15 years later, Adolph Coors IV became a Christian. Yet, his hatred for Corbett, the murderer of his Dad, still consumed him. Resentment kept his faith from growing. He prayed to God for help, because he realized how his hatred for Corbett was alienating him from God and from others.
Adolph Coors knew he needed to forgive Corbett to move ahead with God. So he visited the maximum-security unit of Colorado’s Canon City penitentiary to talk with Joseph Corbett. Corbett refused to see him.
So Coors left Corbett a Bible with the following inscription: "I’m here to see you today, and I’m sorry that we could not meet. As a Christian I am summoned by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to forgive. I do forgive you, and I ask you to forgive me for the hatred I’ve held in my heart for you."
Later Coors confessed, "I have a love for that man that only Jesus Christ could have put in my heart." (Adapted from James S. Hewett’s Illustrations Unlimited)
Are there people you simply don’t believe you can love? That’s a lie from the devil. You may have no control over whether someone loves you, but because you have been greatly loved by God through Jesus Christ, you are able to love even your enemies.
I sometimes hear Christians doubt God’s love because they do not see God giving them wealth, health or happiness. John would say, "The evidence of God’s love in you is not material or emotional, but a power to love others unconditionally."
The Christian’s love is the succession of love from God.
Fourth, John wants us to remember the security of love in relation to God’s judgment. We see this in verses 17 and 18.
Maybe you’ve heard the "good news, and the bad news." The good news is that you’re going to Heaven; the bad news is that you’re going on Monday.
The truth is, if you’re going to Heaven, no bad news of any eternal significance will ever follow. Hebrews 9:27-28 tells us, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." The sacrifice of love through Christ takes away the judgment of God and provides salvation instead.
Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:56, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." In other words, death is not so fearful when we will not be punished for our sins, because our punishment is paid for by the love of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Christian businessman, Charlie Tremendous Jones, used to get onto airplanes with his favorite line to the pilot, "Sir, I want to tell you about the perfect life insurance in case you don’t get me to where you’re going, this will get you to where I’m going." Then he would proceed to tell the pilot about the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
The Christian’s eternal security is insured by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Let me close with a practical definition of love. The definition is not original with me. God’s Spirit guided the Apostle Paul to write this in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
To make this definition personal, simply replace "love" and the pronoun, "it," with your own name: Dana is patient, Dana is kind. Dana does not envy, Dana does not boast, Dana is not proud. Dana is not rude, Dana is not self-seeking, Dana is not easily angered, Dana keeps no record of wrongs. Dana does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Dana always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
John has reminded us the source, the sacrifice, the succession and the security of love. And Paul from 1 Corinthians 13 has given us at least 15 applications for the principle of love. And you will be tested on every one of them, as soon as we leave this room.