Text: 1 John 4:7-21
The reality that God loves us is a common theme in todays Christian culture. Even unbelievers have an expectation that followers of God would show themselves to be loving. One of the great charges brought against the church is that we aren’t loving of people who believe or act different than we do. In truth the church has often had to walk carefully to show love to sinners, but not to condone the sin.
Jesus is our example. The people of His day were just as much sinners as folks today, but there was no mistaking that Jesus loved people.
He healed the sick.
He touched the leper.
He associated with sinners and tax collectors.
He allowed a woman of poor reputation to touch Him,
He even let her anoint Him.
The people He criticized the most were the religious snobs
of His day, who were so interested in being ‘pure for God’ that they refused to associate with sinners. Jesus hung out with the down and out, not so much with the noble and pious. Christians today would do well to reflect on whether they are practicing the same kind of love that Jesus demonstrated.
In this passage John once again wants to encourage believers and imbue them with confidence regarding their salvation. His letter repeatedly emphasizes this theme. In today’s passage we see three proofs of God’s love toward us, and three fruits of God’s love in us
Proof of God's Love Toward Us
Salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus
He has given us His Spirit
He perfects His love in us
The first proof of His love is seen in the sacrifice of His Son Jesus to be the propitiation for our sins. God’s justice requires that the sinful rebellion of mankind be punished. Yet God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to meet the His standard of justice, to pay the penalty for sin. John writes in verse 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.”
The second proof of His love is God’s great grace and kindness in giving us His Spirit, which give us life and lives within us. He doesn’t merely forgive us, He begins the process of restoring and perfecting us. Verse 13 says, “This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”
The third proof of God’s love is that He overcomes our shortfalls. He lives within us to perfect us in love. He works in us to make us love as He loves, as Jesus loved. Verse 16 says, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected in us.” God’s abiding presence in us works to conform us to be like Jesus, to act like Jesus, and to love like Jesus. John concludes verse 17 by saying, “because as He is, so also are we in this world.” The proof of God’s love is that He is perfecting love in us, He is making us more like Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
Having thoroughly established the proof of God’s love, John also shares the impact that God’s love should have in us. God’s love is intended to change us, to bear fruit in us. John mentions three specific fruits of God’s love to look for in the life of the believer.
Fruits of His Love in Us
A growing and active love for others
Confidence on the day of judgment
A life without fear
First, he writes, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” God’s clear example of selfless love toward us ought to motivate us to show the same grace and compassion to others. This is not often the case. He has commanded us to love one another. The love that we are to have for others is a love that flows from God within us and shows itself in words and deeds. There is a great hypocrisy in the church today. In church, we proclaim our love for all peoples, but in life (and on Facebook) our actions and words often expose the lie of our heart.
Secondly, John clearly says that if we abide in Him, and He abides in us, then God will perfect His love in us. One result of this is that we can have confidence on the day of judgment. “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment.”
The final fruit of God working His love in us is the fading feeling of fear. When we grasp the magnitude of God’s love for us, we quickly realize that we have nothing to fear. The one true and sovereign God has expressed His love to us, has saved us from sin, has given us His Spirit, and continues to work in us. How will He who has given us all this, withhold any good thing from us. (Ro 8:32) We read in Deut. 31:6, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” A Christian ought to live in confidence, not fear. What can man do to us?
God has proven His love in many ways, but most fully in the cross of Jesus Christ. We who are called to be followers of Jesus ought to reflect the love of Jesus to others in the same manner that Jesus showed love. Ultimately, we need to see the dignity, value, and image of God in every person. We need to extend love, grace, and compassion to all, especially the less fortunate. We need to understand that those in the greatest poverty are those who live without ever hearing the gospel!
John Piper writes, “When we try to say that we are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, and yet we do not devote our lives to the eternal good of other people, there is a deep contradiction within (us) that gnaws away at our souls and dissolves our confidence and leaves us feeling weak and inauthentic.” (Emphasis mine.)