Summary: Discover the keys to love: Source, Sacrifice, Succession and Security.
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)."