Sunday, February 17, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "God Is Love"

“God Is Love (Part One)”
Essential Christianity: 1 John
February 17, 2013
1 John 4:7-12

We’ve turned the corner on the second half of 1 John and can almost see the end from here–though we do still have several weeks to get there. I expect to end just before Resurrection Sunday.

Our series has been called “Essential Christianity” because we’re learning what is essential to be and to believe to be a Real Christian.

Don’t worry, we won’t play “What the Essence” today, that was too much running for me! 

But we have been learning about the essentials of Christianity.

Today, we will get hear one more.

It is one of the most simple and, at the same time, amazing truths in the whole Bible.

Are you ready for it?

Here it is.

“God is love.”

Believing that “God is love” is one of the essentials of essential Christianity.

God is love.

This is John’s “Love Chapter.”

We know the Paul’s Love Chapter is 1 Corinthians 13.  One year, we memorized it together.

This is John’s Love Chapter–the chapter in all of John’s writings that talks the most and the most deeply about love.

And it says (twice), “God is love.”

And there is too much here to cover (in the way that I want to) in just one week, so we’re going to divide it up into two messages.  This week, Part One, verses 7 through 12. And then, we’ll plan to finish the chapter next week with Part Two.

“God is love.”

Now. That’s not all that God is. John has already given us a simple and startling statement that begins, “God is...” What?

“God is light.”

He is perfectly good, perfectly holy, perfectly glorious, perfectly radiant.

God is light.

And now, John tells us something more. “God is love.”

I’m going to start with a trick question today.  Ok?  Are you ready?

For the last 3 weeks, the main take-away from each sermon has been a simple sentence that you could ask each other at the Sunday dinner table and anyone could remember and repeat.

The first was “Love Your Brother.”
The second was “God Is Greater Than Our Hearts.”
The third was “Test the Spirits.”

Here’s the trick question.

What takeaway sentence should be the main application in our lives of this paragraph of holy Scripture?

Now, remember, this is a trick question.

What would you say?

The obvious answer is “God is love.”

And that’s the title of today’s message and is something that God, John, and I all want you to remember!

But the key takeaway application in this passage is, “Love one another.”

V. 7, “Dear friends, let us love one another.”
V.11, “We also ought to love one another.”
V. 12, “If we love one another.”

Three times John repeats it. I think he means it.

“Love one another.”

This is not the first time in this letter that John has told us to do that, and it won’t be the last.

John says that Christian love for our Christian brothers and sisters is ESSENTIAL to Christianity.

Love one another.

Easy or hard, we all need to do it.

In verse 7, he emphasizes it in a way that is hidden in our contemporary English Bibles by saying, “Dear friends, let us love one another.”

The “Dear friends” used to be translated, “Beloved, let us love.”

Loved ones, let us love!

That’s what Christians do.

Love one another.

But John goes further here than he has so far in telling us exactly why we should love each other and in doing so he goes really really deep to the very character and heart of God Himself.

Why should we love one another?

I think John gives us at least 5 reasons.

#1. GOD IS THE SOURCE OF LOVE.  V.7 again.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

One of the hardest things about preaching 1 John is that John says some of the simple and most profound things. What does the preacher say about them?  How can I get out of the way and let these elegantly simple but profoundly amazing truths speak to us again?

John says that the beloved should love one another.


“Love comes from God.”  King James, “Love is of God.”

If there is any true love in the world, it finds its source, its origin, its generation, its birth in God.

Love comes from God.  That’s where it comes from.

Lots of things come from God. In some sense, everything good comes from God.

But love is special.  Particularly holy love. That’s a gift from God alone.

And John says, v.7 again, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

Now, that sentence, if it was alone might lead you to think that anyone who ever did a loving thing was been born of God and has a relationship with God.

That’s not what it’s saying.  John has made it clear just a few verses before and will again just a few verses from here that to be born of God and have a relationship with God you have to know and trust Jesus.

But those who claim to know and trust Jesus but have NO LOVE are fakes.

Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  The opposite is also true. V.8

“Whoever does not love does not know God,”

Love is essential, and if you don’t do it, you aren’t real.

“Whoever does not love does not know God,”

Why?  Everyone together!

“...because God is love.”

We should love one another because...


Not only is He the source of love, but He is love Himself.

God is love.

I don’t know what to say about that.

It is just so profound.

I will say this, we can get some wrong ideas about what that means.

I remember talking to one clown, literally, he was a clown with me on the circus that I used to travel with Summer of 1993, and I was trying to explain the gospel to him.

And he said, “Oh you and I believe the same thing.  God is love and love is God.”

Oh. No. That’s not what I believe.

I don’t believe that love is God. That makes an idol out of love. Romance becomes central to life. And anything that you decide that love is becomes what you worship.

No, love is not God.

But God is love.

Another mistake the people make is to think that “God is love” means that that’s all that God is.  “Well, God is love.” “God is loving.”

You can boil God down to one thing–love.

But that’s not all that John has said about God.

He said, “God is light.” And that’s saying that God is holy. That God is good.

He’s not just loving. He is good, and holy, and perfect, and righteous.

You can’t boil down God to just being love.

He is all of those things and more and perfectly that.

The Bible also says that God is holy, holy, holy.  

And those things fit together perfectly in God. They are not at war.

God is holy, holy, holy, and God is love.

Another mistake is to think that saying, God is love means that God is somehow made of love.

If you opened Him up, so to speak, and saw what he was made of, it would be love.

But, I don’t think this is saying that love is God’s essential nature as much as it is saying that love is what God is all about.

Love is what He is best at.
Love is what He does.
Love is what God is all about.
He’s always doing it.
He’s perfect it.
He is love personified.
He is love in action.

This goes right to the character and heart of God.

If you said, “Keith is streetrods.”
Or you said, “Dan is motorcycles.”
Or you said, “Curt is sports.”
Or you said, “Tim is hunting.”
Or you said, “Matt is books.”

God?  Oh, God is love.

And love, not just as a feeling or a word, but an action.  V.9

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”


God manifested His love.

He didn’t just talk the talk, He walked the walk of love!

“He sent his one and only Son [only begotten] into the world that we might live through him.”

Sounds like John 3:16, doesn’t it?

Just that it says “sent” and not “gave,” but they mean the same thing in this story.

“[God] sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

And in doing that He showed his love to us.

And we all know this. We talk about it every week here at church.

Many of us have grown up knowing this, “[God] sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Let’s never get used to this idea.

This is amazing.

That God would have a son.

That God would send His son.

That God would send His son to give us life.

And we know how He did that. He gave up His own life.

And He did it FOR US!

This is amazing; no matter how much we already know it.

#4. GOD LOVED (EVEN) US! V.10. 

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

John can’t get over that.

And hopefully we won’t get over it either!

God loved US?

We didn’t love God!

We hated God!

We were all rebels. We were all sinners. We were all, like Steve Sorenson said last night, “broken by sin.”

And God loved us?

God sent His son (one and only son?!) into the world that WE might live through him?

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

A propitiation.

An offering that propitiated God.

That satisfied God’s just anger for our sins.

Because God is just.  Not just light, not just love, but just.

He is righteous.

He doesn’t just love. He hates. He hates sin, thank God!

And we were all sinners.

But He loved us so much that He gave His own Son to die in our place.

May we never get tired of that story!

And may it motivate us to love each other.  V.11

“Dear friends [beloved!], since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

If God would do this, then we should do that.

I was surprised when I read v.11 this week that John didn’t say, “Since God so loved us, we ought to love God.”

Isn’t that true?

Sure it is.

We should love God because God loved us.

But that’s not where John goes.

John says, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

And I think that part of why he says that is that it’s not easy to love other Christians.

Remember the key takeaway application of this paragraph is to love one another.

If God has loved us, then we will be loving.

“Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

Turn that around. “Everyone who has been born of God and knows God, loves others.”

God’s love changes us and enables us to love the unlovable.

Just like we were.

So, the point is not, “I just love this church! The people here are so great.”

The point more is, “God is calling me to love my brother or sister in Christ that so often drives me nuts.”

Who do you need to show love to this week?

Not the easy ones.  The hard ones.

Remember that you once were a hard one yourself.

But God loved you anyway.

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

One more reason why. Number Five. Because...


“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

I’m not sure of all of what that means, but it sounds glorious.

God is invisible. No one has ever seen Him.  But we make His love visible when we love one another.

God (somehow, mysteriously) lives in us and (let this one blow your mind) His love is perfected in us, completed in us.

Not that His love was imperfect before, but as we love, His love reaches its completion, its purpose, its fulfillment in our hearts and lives.

I want that.

I want God to live in me and for His love to be complete in me.

And I want that for our whole church.

For God to live in us and for His love to be made complete in us.

Because God is love!

And therefore we should love one another.

Let’s get started.