Love Letters: God is Love I

Pastor Terry Inman

08-25-2013

 

1 John 3  (NIV)

Just about every wedding I attended In the 70’s somebody sang “Wedding Song” recorded by the popular folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Paul Stookey who became a believer in the late 60’s wrote it for Peter’s ceremony. It hit the top 40 almost instantly. Here’s the opening lyrics…

“He is now to be among you at the calling of your hearts.
Rest assured this troubador is acting on His part.
The union of your spirits, here, has caused Him to remain.
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name,
There is Love. There is Love."

This is the theme that John comes back to again and again in these three Love Letters. Love for one another is the best evidence that we know God. The next two chapters could be summed up in this verse.  “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:12 (NIV)

As I have mentioned before, this first letter could be divided into three slices; God is Light, God is Right and God is Love. Today we will study the “God is Love” piece beginning with 1 John 3:11-12 (NIV)

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.  1 John 3:11-12 (NIV)

Again John takes us back to the beginning. Several times he has mentioned something they had heard or been taught from the beginning.

In the first verse of these letters, he features Jesus as the “word of life”. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 1 John 1:1(NIV) 

Again in (v.5) he says they knew from the beginning God is Light. In (ch. 2) he reminded the Fathers they had known Jesus from the beginning.  

Also in (ch. 2) he cautions the church, “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you.”  1 John 2:24 (NIV)

In these letters John is refuting the false teachers who were accusing him of adding to the Gospel. It was actually these heretics that John calls anti-Christ’s that were distorting the original truth.

From the very beginning God’s Light and God is Love. Unfortunately hate was also around from the start.  Last week we saw that the Devil has been around a long time. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  1 John 3:8 (NIV)   

John also takes us to the beginning to illustrate hate. Cain’s lack of love for God, ended in murderous hate. John says, Abel’s actions where righteous and Cain’s were evil. Righteousness elicits hatred from the Devil and from the children of the Devil. Darkness cannot tolerate the light.

If you are in the light you will love but there is no guarantee it will be received or reciprocated by everyone. John continues… 

Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. 1 John 3:13-15 (NIV)

We are living in a time when the anti-Christian rhetoric is getting louder. John is not saying everyone hates Christians, but whenever we expose darkness with light, we shouldn’t be surprised by animosity. Here in the west we may experience embarrassment or harassment but it doesn’t come close to the persecution, imprisonment and martyrdom of others.

According to John love for each other is evidence of our spiritual life…we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.

Loving our brothers will not give us spiritual life that comes from faith in Jesus. But loving once another is the result of spiritual life. Spiritually speaking, if your not loving you may not be living.

A couple weeks ago I stated that the absence of love is hate. Now John raises the bar, he compares hatred to murder. Hate is an intense dislike or distaste. Have you ever wished some one would just drop dead? To hate is to despise and dispose of a relationship. It’s to live like they don’t exist.  

Hate is the expression of spiritual death. Love is the expression of spiritual life. Cain sacrificed his brother’s life out of hate. God sacrificed his son’s life for us out of love. John describes what love looks like. It’s not just something we feel its something we do.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  1John 3:16-18 (NIV)

Laying down our lives gets pretty down-to-earth here. It’s laying down our agenda and sharing our emotional and material recourses. It’s what the good Samarian did. He inconvenienced himself. He went out of his way. He contributed his time, his donkey, and his money to care for a man in need.

Love is denial of self for another’s gain. It is doing what Jesus himself would do. Love requires more than idle talk or exalted theology. It demands simple acts, which anyone can see, that meet the needs of brothers and sisters in distress.

Now if your thinking yea if people really loved me they would be helping me out right now. Then you’ve missed the point. Love is not thinking about our self at all. That’s an entitlement mentality. Love is giving--not getting.

I like the way Paul puts it…”Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil. 2:3-4 (NIV)    

We don’t always know who to help and how to help. There are many who are chronically dependent and take advantage of generosity. First we need to help the people we know and love. John says, love “sees” the one in need and is motivated by love and compassion to do something.

After several years of praying together several of us Fremont Tri-Cities Pastors took a next step and created a joint ministry that would serve the un-met needs of our community. Compassion Network is 0not just another place for free good or services. It is a tool for connecting Christians with people in our communities that need assistance and relationships. It is a means for fulfilling our mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Lori Heinemann is our Compassion Network Liaison. Stop by to see her. Give her your email so we can send you a list of serving opportunities. You can also quickly fill out the “Yes I am willing form” that will help us know how to better connect your skills and interests with the needs.    

The best way for our incredibly diverse community to see that Jesus laid down is life for us is to see how we lay down our lives for them. “let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth”

How do we really know we are living in and acting out the truth? John says, “This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:19-20 (NIV)

How do we have confidence when sometimes our hearts or thoughts are self-critical? John’s answer is simple. God knows everything! He knows more about us than we know ourselves. It’s not what we think or feel it’s what we do with our love for God that counts.

Acting on our love for God by loving one another in tangible ways will conquer self-doubts. John again uses his familiar terms of endearment. In these letters he has called his readers, Dear Children, Brothers and now Dear friends. We have confidence; we belong to God’s loving family!

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.  1John 3:21-22 (NIV)

When we love one another we are keeping his commands and doing what pleases him. So we can ask and receive because it will be with-in his will.

Jesus told his disciples they could ask the Father for anything in his name and he would give it to them. That was not a blank check it was as he was sending them out to do what he had commanded.

John finishes this chapter by clarifying the commands of Christ.  Keeping them gives us confidence to stand before God and ask for what we need.

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.  1 John 3:23-24 (NIV)

John concludes by reiterating God’s commands; believe in his son Jesus, and to behave like Jesus: living like he lived and loving like he loved!       We can’t so do it on own. Let Jesus live and love in us and through us. How do we know he lives in us? We have the Holy Spirit on the inside!

When we believe in Jesus Christ and we receive his love for us his Spirit is born in us and we are able to love like he loved. God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Rom. 5:5

Last week Vern and Jim the leaders of Celebrate Recovery met with me for a few minutes. They shared with me some incredible stories of God’s life and love being manifest in this Harbor Light support ministry.

If there was ever a ministry in our church were radical love for one another is being lived out it’s here in these Friday night gatherings.

I would like you to hear a couple great stories!