Summary: Everyone loves love! We want to be loved and we want to give love. The problem is—our love is often lacking. This four-sermon series explores 1 John in order to discover a love that's truly worth having and giving: real love! PowerPoint available.
REAL LOVE (3)
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 6/2/2013
The Bible has a lot to say about love. Jesus said that the greatest commands ever given were to love the Lord with all you heart and to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29). Paul wrote, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT). Peter said, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV).
In fact, the word love appears over 600 times in the Bible and no one in the Bible has more to say about it than the apostle John. He’s even called the apostle of love and his first letter is often referred to as the epistle of love.
Two weeks ago we read a portion of the second chapter, where John describes the Lord of Love—Jesus—as the source of real love in our lives. In other words, our love for God and for our neighbor is empowered by our intimacy with Jesus. On the other hand, our lack of love is a sign that we are growing further from Jesus and that the love of God is being eclipsed in our hearts.
Later in that same chapter, as we saw last week, John describes the wrong kind of love—a worldly love which is diametrically opposed to God’s love. This worldly love manifests primarily through three love-killers: carnality (which is really lust not love), covetousness (which is a love of stuff), and conceit (which is the love of self). This worldly type of love can corrupt, corrode and eventually crush the love of God in our hearts.
Today, I’d like to look at the third chapter of 1st John and discover what else John can teach us about real love. So let’s look at 1 John 3:16-22:
This is how we know what real love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. (1 John 3:16-22 NIV)
In this passage, John describes three characteristics of real love. First, John says that real love involves sacrifice.
John starts this section of Scripture by telling us that we know what real love is because Jesus sacrificed his own life for us. We’ll talk more about that sacrifice next Sunday, but notice immediately after that John turns this around on us and says, “We too, then, ought to give our lives for others!” (vs. 16 GWT).
Real love means being willing to sacrifice your life to save someone else’s. Jesus said essentially the same thing during the Last Supper. He said, “The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them” (John 15:13 GWT).
I am reminded of the guy who shows up at heaven’s gates. Peter asks him, “Before you can come in, I’m supposed to ask did you do anything self-sacrificing or noteworthy to show that you loved God and loved others?” “Well,” he replied, “There was one thing. I saw an old lady that was being harassed by a motorcycle gang—real Hell’s Angels type. So, without thinking, I went right up to the biggest meanest looking one with arms the size of trees and tattoos decorating his entire body and told him that they had better leave her alone or else. And while I distracted them, the old lady was able to get away.” Peter said, “Wow sounds pretty courageous. When did this happen?” And the guy answered, “About 3 minutes ago.”
While they probably didn’t have to worry about motorcycle gangs in John’s day, the need to lay down their lives for their fellow believers was very real. When John wrote this letter, the megalomaniacal emperor, Nero Caesar, had risen to power. Because Christians refused to worship Nero as “Almighty God” and “Savior”, he blamed them for the burning of Rome in AD 64 and instigated three-and-a-half years of persecution that claimed the lives of thousands of Christians including the every single one of the apostles except for John himself. According to Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian working for Roman, Christians were thrown to the lions, beheaded, and even burned alive to give lit to Roman revelries. These Christians died because of their love for God, but also because of their love for each other. They refused to give each other up.