Are you a loving person?
Do you see yourself as someone who people would describe as loving? I’m not talking about warm and fuzzy, but loving… stubborn, sacrificial, I care about you and what is best for you and will do whatever I can to see that you get it– loving.
As we look at God – what about God stands out most prominent to you?
Did you know that when you truly know God and see him for who he is – then you know and see love itself? That’s right! John tells us that God IS love. Yet, many people see God in distorted ways. Some, even Christians, would probably not say that “loving” is the first idea that comes to mind when they think about God.
I heard about a man who lived a long time before Walmart or modern transportation and this man had never seen or tasted a banana. At some point someone who knew him sent him some bananas and told him how much they liked eating them. He took one and washed it and then bit into it skin and all. After about three chews he spit it all out in disgust. To his dying day he thought that bananas were bitter and gross tasting. He never properly tasted to see.
The Bible tells us in Psalms 34:8 O taste and see that the Lord is good! How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. And…
1 Peter 2:2-3 says: like newborn babes long for the pure milk of the word, that you may grow in your salvation, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
What kind of taste has God left in your mouth? What is God most like to you?
I would suggest that you learned this by what you saw and heard about God from others who taught you about him. Whoever you listened to and believed has shaped your view of God.
1 John 4 begins by warning us not to believe or listen to everyone who talks about God. He warns: many false prophets have gone out into the world. Then he tells us the first way we can spot a false prophet: they don’t talk about Jesus correctly. They leave the wrong taste in your mind and heart about God by what they teach about Jesus. You see, the way we know God is love is primarily and centrally through Jesus. Then in verses 7-15 John makes this clear and crucial connection between knowing God’s love in Jesus and what that does to us. It shapes and determines all our relationships. Listen as I read it again.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so 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 atoning sacrifice for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is 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 bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
Can you see it here? Can you see that God shows us his love by sending Jesus to give us life, to atone for our sin and to be our Savior? That’s love! The truth about Jesus leaves the taste of God’s grace and goodness with us. Not only that, but when we believe, receive, and obey this gospel of God’s grace – guess what? Others will see God’s love in us! How? By our love for each other! Isn’t that great! See what a premium God puts on loving each other?
We are born of God and know God – vs 7
God abides in us and his love is perfected in us – vs 12
On the other hand,
If you don’t love you don’t know God – vs 8
Now just listen to the benefits of living in God’s love – vs 16-19
16 And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
17 By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
19 We love, because He first loved us.
We have confidence on the day of Judgment – vs 17
Fear is cast out of us by love – vs 18
God loves us first so that we can love others like him – vs 19
So what happens if we don’t show God’s love to one another? Well, just listen to 20-21:
20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
How important is it that we love our brothers? Did you know that you can’t be a saved, member of the body of Christ, his church, if you don’t love others? That’s right! You can’t love God and you can’t know him and abide in him unless you love your brother. I’m not making this up. It’s right there in your Bible too.
Do you ever hear: “Oh, I love so and so, but I just can’t stand to be near him or her”? Excuse me??? Is that how you are toward Jesus? “I love the Lord, but I just can’t stand to be with him”? Just imagine if God were that way toward you!
Jenny and I have been reading through the Bible together and we just finished Exodus. Listen to how God responded when they made the golden calf in chapter 32.
35 Then the LORD smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made.
33:1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, "Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ’To your descendants I will give it.’
2 "And I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.
3 "Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, lest I destroy you on the way."
4 When the people heard this sad word, they went into mourning, and none of them put on his ornaments.
5 For the LORD had said to Moses, "Say to the sons of Israel, ’You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you. Now therefore, put off your ornaments from you, that I may know what I will do with you.’"
The Bible describes a dynamic relationship between God and his people. God loves us, and he can also become angry with us. Do you want mercy from God? Show it to others! Do you want grace from God? Be gracious. Let me say this as clearly as I know how:
If there is a Christian that you “love” but you just can’t stand – you’d better start working things out! Your so called love might just turn to bitterness and hate otherwise, and you will incur God’s wrath to boot.
It is that kind of attitude that leaves a terrible taste about the Christian faith with others.
It is that kind of action that leaves a bad taste about God in the hearts and minds of those that witness it.
You can’t have confidence on judgment day and be like that.
You can’t be like Christ in this world and live that way.
Instead of tasting like the banana, that is tasting like the peel. On the other hand…
The more you and I reflect God’s love in this world and take refuge in him, the more we will taste his goodness and grace and leave that taste with others.
So, how do you get God’s love and grace so that you can have it for others? It doesn’t come from you, but to you from God. Remember the gospel: God demonstrated his love for us when we were lost, powerless, enemies, sinners, godless.
Jesus died for you and me when we were hateful, unholy, unloving, disobedient.
Therefore, believe it, receive it, put it into practice toward others and see for yourself what God will do in you. God breaks us open, pours us out, cleans us up, and fills us to overflowing!
Only when we are broken and emptied can we be purified, justified and sanctified by God’s love.
Listen to Titus 3:3-7
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.