Love Letters: God is Love II
Pastor Terry Inman
1 John 4 (NIV)
New Age Spirituality has been very popular sense the early 60’s. There is nothing new about it. It has its roots in ancient Eastern Religions. There are many garden varieties of mystics, psychics, healers, and pseudo prophets for profit.
Some of the better-known TV celebrities include, Deepak Chopra, actress Shirley MacLaine and the PBS pop-psychologist, Dr. Wayne Dyer.
You could probably through in Oprah here also. Now I know I may be messing with one of your favorite talk show luminaries but she regularly hosts new age personalities. A woman in her audience asked her about Jesus and she said, Jesus “can't possibly be the only way to God”. She was raised Baptist but clearly has developed her own brand of spirituality.
New Age aims to create a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas that is inclusive and pluralistic. God is in everything and everyone. We all have the potential to be our own God. Good and evil don’t exist; therefore there are no absolutes in morality. Jesus was not the Son of God. He was only one of many who have ascended to a higher level of consciousness. Through self-help we can be our own saviors.
Now why am I starting with this today? I don’t think any of us would claim to be new-agers but this warm and fuzzy spiritually has become so embedded in our hyper-inclusive culture that we may embrace some of it without knowing it. It is OK to say Jesus Christ the Son of God is the only way to the Father and still love and respect other races and religions.
As I have mentioned several times in this series much of John’s concern in these “love letters” is the false teaching that was potentially crippling the emerging church. These anti-Christ’s as he called them were similar to our new agers. They denied that Jesus was the Christ who had come in the flesh to die for humanity’s sins.
They claimed their inspiration came from esoteric experiences. They separated spiritually from personal morality and taught that we could live as we please as long as we had some consciousness of God.
Last week we ended with John’s first reference to the Holy Spirit at the end of Chapter three.
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 3.24 (NIV)
The evidence that we live in him is our obedience to his commands. The evidence that he lives in us is the presence of his Holy Spirit.
The Apostle Paul says it this way, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God…The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Rom. 8.14,16 (NIV)
These false teachers claimed to be inspired by their spiritual experiences.
I have heard some current charismatic speakers make fun of the need to quote scripture and site their own revelations as their authority. I’m not saying they are heretics but I would be very cautious about revelations that can’t be supported by solid biblical teaching.
So John begins chapter four with this fatherly counsel. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1John 4.1 (NIV)
Jesus warned his disciples that false spirituality would mark the end. “False Christ’s and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible.” Mark 13.22 (NIV)
John tells us how to spot a phony. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 1John 4.2-3 (NIV)
So what’s the primary litmus test for truth? It’s not a spiritual sensation, or even a personal revelation it’s the acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came as one of us. He died for our sins, He rose again, ascended to the Father and He will return to reign as king of kings!
Spiritual experiences do not guarantee that you are living in the truth.
The Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians about the misuse of spiritual gifts. As pagan’s they had been gullible and led astray by mute idols.
“Therefore, Paul writes, I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 1Cor. 12.3 (NIV)
If we really have the Holy Spirit living in us Jesus is our Lord. He is our master. He is in charge. He is giving the orders and not us!
We had a termite inspection at our house yesterday. The serviceman treated a small area way up in a dark corner of our attic. He said, “These little critters don’t like light and they eat from the inside out.” It’s not obvious apostasy that’s eating away at the church, its small compromises with the world’s thinking that gradually erodes the truth.
Reciting the Apostles Creed is a traditional church liturgy that maybe worth reviving. It helps us remember what we believe and why it matters. Here’s a recent video version of it.
If we don’t stand for something we will fall for anything. The Holy Spirit’s primary job description is to reveal truth. When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. John 16.13 (NIV)
We can’t discern truth from error unless the Spirit lives in us. John says, when the Spirit of truth lives in us we will overpower spiritual fiction.
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 1John 4.4-5 (NIV)
Earlier John said the whole world is under the influence of the devil. That’s external influence. But we have an internal influence. “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
John continues with this. “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.
This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. 1John 4.6 (NIV)
The apostle Paul explains this. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned…But we have the mind of Christ. 1Cor. 2.14,16 (NIV)
People of the world listen and accept falsehood because it generally supports their godless lifestyle. But the people of God march to a different drummer because God actually lives in us by his Spirit! We have the mind of Christ. We are born of the spirit. We think and act like Jesus.
We are not better than anyone else we have just responded to his grace.
John moves to his favorite subject, the imperative to love like God loves.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. 1John 4.7-9 (NIV)
John has been talking about truth now he once again turns to love. In order to reflect Jesus we need both. If you’re a believer that’s just into truth you may be right but not very loving. If you just want to love everything and everybody you may not be willing to tell the truth. “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Eph. 4.15 (NIV) God is a God truth and love.
True love is not a natural instinct it comes from God. When we really experience God’s love we can really give God’s love. God’s love is life giving! His love is more than an amorous emotion it is visible and tangible. He showed up. He sent his son to live among us and give us his life.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 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 4.10-12 (NIV)
When I laid eyes on Mary it was love at first sight. After 45 years it still is! But our love today has matured though the stuff of life. I was initially in love with her because she was in love with me. Which means I was probably more in love with myself? I am still learning what real love is all about.
God didn’t fall for us because we loved him. He loved us first. We love what we value. God was deeply invested in us. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son…for our sins.
Love grows when we value others more than ourselves. “Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another”. My brothers and sisters are valued enough to die for, I can love them with God’s love no matter what.
John summarizes two thoughts. His Spirit in us and his love in us is evidence that we are really his. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. 1John 4.13-16
Real love is reciprocal. The presence of his spirit is evidence that we live in him and he lives in us. According to John who was an eyewitness of his life, death and resurrection, Jesus the Son of God is the world’s savior.
When we personally acknowledge that he is God’s Son and that God lives in him and he lives in God, then we also live in God and God lives in us. We then personally realize and fully rely on his love for us. That understanding enables us to love everyone else.
Now John’s first love letter is coming to a crescendo. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 1 John 4.17 (NIV)
God is love. He is defined by it. Pure perfect love describes who God is. So when we live in God and God in us, our love for others is completed or matured. We are also confident that in the next world “at the day of Judgment” we will be with him because we are like him in this world.
You want to be like Jesus to this world. Just let the life and God and the love of God flow through you by His Spirit. The opposite of love is fear.
John says, we don’t have to fear judgment. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4.18
For lovers of Jesus Christ the final judgment is not a penalty but a reward!
Jesus has already taken the penalty for our sin, when we chose to believe in him, live in him and love through him we have nothing to fear.
Finally John says, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1John 4.19-21 (NIV)
My first rejection was in the fourth grade. This pretty little girl sat three seats behind me. I was just sure she would love me. On Valentine’s Day I passed a card back to her. Something like “you are just fine valentine be mine!” I turned around just in time for her to respond with raspberries.
I’m no fool I dropped her like a hot cake.
That’s what the world did to God. He loved us first. He gave us his son. Some could not receive and reciprocate. But John says, “We love because he first loved us.”
If you are finding it difficult to love someone who just doesn’t reciprocate. Give up your expectations and let God initiate love through you. If we can’t love the people we see, John wonders, how can we love the God we don’t see?
Most of our problems with loving people are because we are not fully convinced of our own value. We are having a difficult time receiving God’s unconditional love.
Somewhere along the line human love failed us. Maybe a Father or Mother, a friend, brother sister or lover let us down. Satan uses these human mishaps to mar our image of a loving God.
Today with the Apostle of John I want to invite you to let God love you first, just like you are, no expectations, no judgments, no rejection. God is love! He can’t be any other way, not matter what you do!