By Nicole McLeod
“Because God First Loved Us…” 1 John 4:7-19
These 12 verses give us a starting place for Fall devotions, and a powerful exhortation to love one another as God loves us, as they reveal the nature, power and scope of God’s love for us, and the effect it has in our lives when we believe and receive it. And it is a timeless and very timely subject to us all as we continue to face all the “changes” going on – in and around us - in our world today, as Pastor George said Sunday. It is essential that we truly understand and trust in how much God loves us!
Here is the outline for our study this morning:
- God the Father is the Source and Giver of love (7-8, 16, 19)
- His love was displayed in Christ His Son and upon the cross (9-10, 14-15)
- His love expressed in and through us, by the power of His Holy Spirit (13-19) - We see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit leading us to live a holy life in love.
- We love, because He first loved us (19)
1 John has been called “The great book of love”, perhaps because love is mentioned 46 times in 135 verses. And it is with a loving and assuring pastoral tone that the Apostle John this letter to the church, and he refers to them as “dearly loved little children” of their Heavenly Father. The feeling is of a family letter in which he reminds the children of the importance of “walking in the light” by obeying God’s commands (ch.1), of “walking in righteousness” (ch.s 2-3), and of “walking in love” (ch. 4), - our Morning Devotions theme this Fall. Some of us may be just learning to walk, some toddling, and some maybe even running well, but as God sees us all and our world today and how we respond to things, it is clear that He is calling us all back to love, and to walking closely with the Lord who will help us live a life of love… even walking through uncertain times.
I love reading Johns writings and hearing the love for the church in His words. Even into his old age, John devoted his life to teaching the church the truth in love, encouraging them to live Christian the life and always “ love one another”.
Here is a quote from the (5th century) church historian Jerome, in his commentary on Gal. 6:10*: “The blessed John the Evangelist lived in Ephesus until extreme old age. His disciples could barely carry him to church and he could not muster the voice to speak many words. During individual gatherings he usually said nothing but, "Little children, love one another." The disciples and brothers in attendance, annoyed because they always heard the same words, finally said, "Teacher, why do you always say this?" He replied with a line worthy of John: "Because it is the Lord's commandment and if it alone is kept, it is sufficient." * (the source for this story was possibly Hegesippus 's Memoirs via either Clement of Alexandria or Origen.)
John begins this letter, called 1 John by stating his goal, (1:4) “These things I write unto you that your joy may be full.” … So, it’s my prayer, this morning that we too will find joy in his message about God’s perfect love, and may God use this to refresh us, inspire us and fill up our hearts with His love.
Pray: Lord bless your Word now to us all as we sit at your feet. Jesus, teach us to love as you love, and lead us into this Fall study, in Your Name. Amen
1. God is love
1 John 4:7-12 “ 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. 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 has been perfected in us. ”
“Beloved, let us love one another…” is a timeless - and timely - message to the church, and this phrase is repeated 3 times in vs. 7-12 …perhaps to press the point home to listening hearts. In the ancient Greek, it reads… agapetoi agapomen, “those who are loved, let us love.” John then tells us why, because love is of God’s very own nature, and is the evidence that we are born of God and know Him personally. John’s point is that love is born in us when Christ comes in to our lives, and is the evidence of the work of God in us. Love changes us from the inside out. And he states that if we do not have this love in us,we do not know God – because God is love.
The root word John uses for love in these verses is Agape. This is the God-kind of love and is brought to us in Christ, when we receive Him. Agape is a benevolent, self-giving and self-sacrificing love, that gives without demanding or expecting anything in return. It is filled with kindness, compassion, undeserved mercy and grace. It seeks the highest good of the other. Agape is a forgiving love, a redeeming love, a sanctifying love, a compassionate love, and broken-heart healing love. It reaches out with the gospel invitation to the unloveliest sinner, and with love to the most undeserving enemy. It speaks the truth in love, and warns, and pleads with people to turn to Christ, and it shows compassion to the lost, and the least and seeks them out. And it’s a love that knits us together with God in Christ, and with others.
And John says this love is of God (7). He is the source, originator, the initiator and the substance of this love. This love of God is unending, unfathomable, unselfish, unmerited, unconditional and supernatural.
And then he says that God is love (8). Theos – Agape – Esti God, love is! Love describes the character and heart of God, and as combined with His other Holy attributes, we can say God ‘s love colors and illuminates His very being and everything He does.
By contrast, human expressions of love, love for one’s family and friends, falls into the category of what Scripture calls “natural affection ” (Romans 1:31 and 2 Tim. 3:33) Expressions of “natural affection,” or human love, can be wonderful, and there are many Greek words to describe these different expressions of human love, but they are, at their core, of a human origin. And unfortunately, we sometimes try to love and serve others from the depths of our human love, causing disappointment to ourselves and others.
God is the source and center of true Biblical Christian love. John was with Jesus when He said to His disciples, on the night of His betrayal, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another as I have loved you.” God’s love is the mark of a true Christian. Jesus qualifies the sort of love he means, when he says to love, “ as I have loved you”. Agape.
2. His love was displayed in Christ His Son. (Vs. 9-11)
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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
God shows His love “towards us” in sending His only begotten Son to earth. A picture of Agape sacrificial love that lays down its life for people, even people that do not, and may not––love Him back.
Romans 5:8-10 “ But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies , we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Testimony: Today is the 1-year anniversary of my father’s going to be with the Lord. All his life he lived as a self-made man, an ambitious man who liked public acclaim and received it. He was a great man,and has a truly wonderful obituary, but in honesty, he was a complex father… and he resisted and rejected Christ, and the gospel for the greatest part of his life. But one day, when he was 94.5 years old, I drove up to visit him in SF for my hour visit, and we opened the bible and read these words, John 13:1… which says “ …. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” … and this touched my dad! He knew he was nearing his own end, and the light of the gospel shone into his mind and heart, and he prayed with me, a prayer of repentance to God, and asked to receive Christ as his Savior. And when he passed away, age 95 and 2 months, all the family commented on the changes -, the kindness that was growing, and how he always had his Bible open and was reading it to the end. The love of the Savior won his resistant heart. Praise God for the power of His unfathomable gracious saving love.
The cross is like a plus sign. It reconciles sinners to God and people to one another with Jesus at the center. If our relationship with God is strong (the vertical line), the blessings will also extend to those around us (the horizontal line). And when we struggle with others on the horizontal line, we go back to God for strength to help us. The cross reminds us of the high price that was paid so that we could be forgiven, and have this relationship with God. Because of love, Jesus came to save sinners like us. On the cross, He stood in the gap, and saved us, and redeemed us with His precious blood. We need to look often to the cross when we struggle with strained relationships, and struggle to love or serve one other. We must go again to Jesus, for the power to love is in the love He gives us.
1 John 4:11 “ Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
If God was willing to take the initiative to sacrificially love us, then …by humbling ourselves, and laying down our own attitudes and opinions of others, and by asking the Holy Spirit to help us yield to His powerful love in our life, then surely, we can extend His love as well. God help us to love…
1 John 3:16 “ By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
1 John 4:12 “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.”
May our lives reveal God’s love to them as we walk in the light, walk in the Spirit and walk in love. God’s love is perfect, but it is still growing and maturing in us…
3. God’s love is expressed by Holy Spirit in and through our lives (vs. 13-19)
1 John 4:13 “ By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” Agape love, John has told us originates with the Father, is manifest in and through the Son, characterizes our lives by the Holy Spirit.
Romans 5:5b “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
The Holy Spirit dwells in us and fills us with God’s love for God and people near and far. He is working in us, and through us helping us grow and change over time, producing “fruit of the Spirit”… “… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and temperance…” Gal. 5:22 and fruit is important. John 15:16 Jesus explained to His disciples… 16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.
It is the Holy Spirit who also empowers our witness and gives us power to love the world around us.
1 John 4:14-16 “ 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.
And love gives us courage and confidence to face the future
1 John 4:17-18 “ 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. 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.”
Christ took our punishment upon Himself, so any fear we have of the future and of facing the Judgement of God, is overcome by knowing and believing God’s perfect love in Christ is at work in our lives. With His perfect love assuring us, we can face the future with boldness and confidence.
WW “If people are afraid it’s because of something in the past that haunts them, or something in the present that upsets them, or something in the future they feel threatens them, or it may be a combination of all three. A believer in Jesus Christ does not need to fear the past, present or future for that person has experienced the love of God, and this love is being perfected in them day by day. ” Amen.
Though in Christ, we will not face “the judgement”, we make it our aim to be well pleasing to Him, knowing that we will give an account of our lives at what 2 Cor. 5: 10-11 calls the judgment seat of Christ, so we surely want to walk in the Spirit and walk in love. 1 John 4:19 “We love Him, because He first loved us”
4. “We love Him, because He first loved us” (19)
Everything starts with God’s love for us, and with understanding that God loves first. He is the initiator of a loving personal relationship with us. He reaches into our darkness with the light and love of Christ and by grace, we respond, we receive His life changing love. And out of the overflow of love we receive from God in Christ, we then love the Lord, His church, our families, and all of those around us and throughout the world. It is God who gives us His love for them and helps us to love them too. And this is what really stood out to me in John ch. 4, vs. 10 and 19 (10)“…not that we loved God, but that He loved us” and (19) “We love Him, because He first loved us”
Because He first loved us , we now love Him! And we do, don’t we. Its why we are here and why we come every Tuesday. We love to be in His presence, and think about Him, talk about Him, worship and sing to Him together, learn from Him, pray to Him, serve Him and grow in knowing Him. We love to be where everything is focused upon Him, and that’s what we do here on Tuesday mornings. And when we are hurting, or struggling we come here knowing that someone will listen, care and pray with us and remind us that God loves us and is gracious and patient with us, that He has power to help us. And we hope you will continue to come join us every Tuesday as we continue this series of studies in Walking in Love.
* Closing questions: to think about….
1. How do people know you love God? 1 John 3:18 “ My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” Love is something we do, even in the day by day and mundane circumstances of life. Every friend and family member – from the youngest to the oldest - provides us with opportunities to put on love and serve one another in love, remembering the verses in where Paul beseeches believers Eph. 4:1-3 “ …to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Lord help us to do this …
2. Since God shows the initiative in loving, what are some ways that we can take the initiative to show God’s love to someone? The best means we have of thanking Him for His love for us is by letting Him love others through our lives. I thank Him for loving me, and I am sure you do too.
3. Do you see loving the people God has placed in your life as a calling to be lived out? And could it be that the difficult ones have been placed there to help our love to “mature” ☺, to help our faith stretch or grow? Perhaps they are there for us – not against us - as things may appear. We naturally love people who are like us, or who agree with us, who see things as we do, or are in “our group”. God’s love extends beyond all those barriers, to people quite unlike us. Life is full of difficult circumstances and people, so the kind of love Christ displayed calls for self-denial, prayer, humility, and deliberate decisions and a conscious effort, with the guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit.
4.Jesus calls us to loves people, who like us, do not deserve his love… example: Jesus shocked his listeners when he said in his sermon on the mount: Luke 6:27-28 Jesus told his followers 27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. So, He gives a 4-step plan… love, do good, bless, and pray for them… he continues in vs. 35b “…hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
So, who is it in your life … Is there someone that comes to mind who you have been struggling to show God’s love to? Can you spend time praying for that person, Ask God to help you and enable you, with Christ’s love, to find a way to love, do good, bless, and pray for, and then…see what happens…….
5. And what about “righteous anger” we may feel towards people who stand up in society as God’s “enemies”, or people in positions of political leadership who use power for evil and not for good ends. Are we willing to pray - God open their eyes and save their souls, with Christ’s love?
6. Pray: At church on Sunday, I accidently opened the wrong Bible app on my phone, and what came up was the national day of prayer 2019 prayer guide and the title of it is: “ How to Pray Love One Another into the 7 centers of influence in America.” I thought that was amazing in light of what we are talking about today. Now is a particularly good time to pray for all who are in positions of power and influence as scripture tells us to. I have attached it to the outline and may God use it to help us pray. May God’s love be at the core of our Christian experience and at the center of all we do and say. May He have mercy upon us all and help us love as He would have us love.
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 “And may the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His Saints.”
Click here for the NDOP 2019 Prayer guide…