**The audio recorded in Mono instead of Stereo. We’ll get it fixed. Apologies… —WRM
1 John 4.7-21
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so 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 atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
This entire text is filled with love: God’s love for us, our love for one another, abiding in his love, etc etc. But for me, v.12 just sticks out like a sore thumb. The beauty of this verse is that it basically sums up all that comes before it and most of what comes after it. Take comfort in the fact that it does get a little confusing sometimes, so this verse may be our calm in the midst of rough waters as we try to make heads or tails of the text. So here’s three things for us look at.
I. Seeing God
Seeing God proves difficult for those seeking proof or evidence of his existence. Many of us have heard others say, “You know, I just find it hard to believe in a God I can’t see. If there were a clearer picture of God or if they Bible did a better job of explaining God to me, I might get it.” So, the one thing we need to understand to help them and even us sometimes is understanding how God has chosen to present himself to the world.
Much of God’s witness to himself today comes through what we talked about last week, that the proof and evidence of God’s existence and his activity in the world comes through the life and vitality of the Church. If we, as God’s chosen vehicle for ministry and love, will place him at the center of our lives and do all things from that place, then we will give the world all the evidence that it needs to see God alive and well in the world.
But there is an important challenge for us here. This idea puts a lot of responsibility of God’s success in the world on us. Well, yeah, because God has chosen to use the Church as his representative in the world. The Church is meant to be the Body of Christ, meant to both harbor and distribute God’s presence through it’s love and ministry to the world. Does the Church misrepresent God sometimes? Of course it does. We as fallen people, though Christ has redeemed us, still fall back into our worldly ways and choose to place things above God. The great human struggle from the very beginning has been the problem of idols. At times we hold issues, politics, and even religiosity above our Creator. Eve chose the forbidden fruit over God’s protection. Abraham had Ishmael instead of waiting on the promise of Isaac. God told Moses to command the rock in the wilderness to pour forth water for the people, but Moses struck it in his own power and God kept him from the Promised Land because of his actions. We all have things that we do in the midst of our service to God. Thanks be to Him for his love and forgiveness. And so as we show this same forgiveness, the world can see God’s love in the midst of God’s activity through his Church.
II. Loving One Another
Loving one another is difficult, I know, but most of the time, that difficulty comes through our pulling out love for one another from the wrong place. Often times we try and love other people with our love, a fallen and pitiful excuse for ‘love.’ But if we dare place God at the center of our lives and love with the divine love, then the world will see Jesus alive and well, changing hearts daily. But, not only will the world see but they will know because we have love for one another that spills out from among our own community and into the lives of those around us. Part of my selfish goal for this church is that each of us will begin to see one another in ways we never did before; that we’ll get to know each other in deeper ways through the experiences that are created through ministry. But in order for us to do that, we first have to have a community. The foundation that exists at New Liberty already is amazing.&nb
sp; The people of this church are beyond kind and warm, always providing when there is need. But the catch for us in making a real and significant difference in this community will be in how we come together to make lasting changes. We must move from loving with a local love, a love that comes from us, and beginning to do so with an out-of-town love, a love from above. God’s love comes from a place that is deeper and stronger than any of us could ever hope to have or try and create. Taping into that love, though, is much simpler than we realize. In Jesus, we have a direct connection; a lifeline that reaches from the depths of our sinful valleys and extends to the highest and holiest places of heaven. Christ is the bridge that carries the love of God to each of us, and that love is his presence that has been given to us, the Holy Spirit.
And so if we will begin to love one another through the Holy Spirit—the unconditional and grace-filled companion from God—we can then allow the love-from-above to grab the hearts of those seeking evidence of God through our fellowship with one another. But you know that means we have to get OUR hearts right. Love for the world begins with love for each other. St. Augustine likened God’s love in his people as a fire that starts in a single place and then spreads outward and beyond to consume a great area. I’d say he’s right and we’d be wise to understand that God’s love begins within us through the Holy Spirit.
III. His Love is Perfected in Us
The last thing for us to take way from this verse may be the most important lesson. We read, “and his love is perfected in us.” Some of your translations will say ‘completed’ or ‘made complete’ and I think that is a good rendering of the text because what you need to know about this is that when God starts his work of love within you and you abide and remain in him, God is faithful to see that work to completion. Paul wrote to his beloved Philippians in 1.6, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” We can have faith that the One who sustains the burning sun and the spinning galaxies will also hold us close to his heart and work us into the people that he intended from our mother’s womb. God is sanctifying us, setting us aside from the world, taking our redeemed hearts and letting his divine love work us into shape, a godly shape, one that is evidence of his presence and activity in the world. But that molding and shaping comes, not with a casual agreement, but through surrender.
None of us wants to give up what we think is important, be it goods, politics, ways of living, but if we are to have the love of God at the center of our hearts then there is no room for these other roommates. God does not share our hearts with other tenants, paying rent that serves our selfish needs. But rather it is us who serve him, laying down our supposed rights and privileges and allowing God to redefine what our rights and privileges are. We have a new identity in Christ, one that differs from the world in most ways. There should be very little resemblance between the life of a citizen of the world and the life of a citizen of the Kingdom of God. You are other-worldly, giving of yourself and your heart so that God may be known and others be blessed by the love of God in you. And so as Paul says in Philippians 2, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Know that God has not done all that he has, especially in Jesus, to only bring you a little ways. God has created, walked with, and committed to…restoring his people and filling them with his presence so that we may be one with our Creator. Jesus came to die for our sins AND to give us hope through his resurrection, pointing us toward our own defeat of sin and resurrection in Jesus. Without the resurrection there is no hope of death being defeated for us. But praise be to God for his overcoming death in Jesus Christ.
So folks, let me leave you with this: why do we come here Sunday after Sunday? If for no other reason than for this: to be reminded of who created you, to be urged to turn to him, and to be challenged to live a life beyond the bonds of this world. Go and live today, showing the world the love of our awesome and wonderful God. Amen.