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Love. What is it Good For?

December 31, 2023 Preacher: Chris LaBelle Series: Various Messages

Topic: Love Scripture: 1 John 4:7-10

Sermon Transcript:

The portion of the Bible I am reading is the beginning of three letters written by the Apostle John. John is writing to a group of Christians who are being influenced by all kinds of false teachings and doctrine that undermines the true Gospel. This passage specifically addresses love as a characteristic of a true believer. More specifically, the example of love found in Jesus. As we turn the clock on 2023 and look ahead to 2024, I also want us to think about how we can experience God’s love and love one another during this holiday season. Let’s read. 

 

Reading: 1 John 4:7-10 ESV, Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

 

Relevance: As we walk through this passage this morning, I want us to consider what love means, as a major characteristic of God, and how we should love one another, especially during this holiday season. For some, Christmas and the New Year is a time of joy and jubilation. A time to look ahead, but for others, it is a time of grief and mourning. Love then, is all the more important as we venture into a New Year through this temporary place called earth as the body of Christ. 

 

Three Truths About God’s Love: (1) Born-Again Believers Love Like God; (2) Unbelievers Cannot Love Like God; and (3) God’s Love is Revealed Through The Gospel.

 

Transition: The first truth of God’s love is that Christians love like God.

 

  • Born-Again Believers Love Like God. (v.7) 

 

  1. Christians are to love one another, because God’s love is in us.
  1. Those who are born-again experience God’s love and know him relationally.

 

Explanation: John here addresses the fellow believers in sincerity. He calls them beloved. People that he loves dearly and has a special connection with. Christians that needed to hear this message of love. He first encourages them to, 

Verse 7a. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God…” 

The foundation of our faith is founded on love. Let us first examine what love is not.

  • Love is not dependent on our feelings. Love as defined by the world is dependent on our feelings. To have a strong warm fuzzy feeling about something or someone is often the determining factor in whether or not we pursue those things. We love this or that and in our fleshly response of feelings and passion, we pursue them with reckless abandon. The world is telling you to embrace those things, never-minding the potential destruction that it could bring. Listen, I love a McDonald’s McChicken. It’s a comfort food. If I wanted to, I could go there everyday and snag one of those up. Every time I drive by those golden arches, I think, “what would a tasty peppered deep fried chicken patty with mayonnaise and lettuce, between two toasted buns do for me right now?” What’s the outcome of that? It makes me happy for 5 minutes and then the feeling is gone. The tasty sandwich of poison would also kill me sooner than later. 
  • And the world doesn’t just do it with food. Think about what the world says about sexuality, gender confusion, abortion, promiscuous sex, the ridiculous excessive betting that they are pushing. They tell you to pursue your own truth for the sake of loving yourself and fulfilling your purpose in life. They tell you these things can bring you happiness and make you feel good, without telling you about the road of destruction that it leads to. 
  • God’s love is much deeper and richer than how the world defines it to be.
  • The sum of God’s character is love. He defines it fully. He sets the standard on what that looks like. What is true biblical love? It is used 10 times in this passage alone. It means to “have a warm regard for and interest in another, cherish, have affection for, love.” We see love as a major theme throughout this letter and Scripture. Ultimately, the standard of love is set by the God-man Jesus Christ. Let’s see how it is defined in God’s Word.

 

Corroboration: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” 

1 John 3:1 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” 

Later in this chapter we see that Christ’s love is “perfected in us” (v.12). 

*Deal with this further*

 

Explanation: What is John getting at exactly though? He is saying that only those who are born-again can experience this love. Love is from God and if that is the case, only those who are in the faith. Only those who are in Christ can love like God. Look at the remainder of 

Verse 7b, … and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 

God’s true love does not happen naturally but is motivated by something supernatural. How do we become born-again? God first draws us. It is then that we begin to believe. It is faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for our sins. After you have received that, how do we love? I believe it is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. 

 

Illustration: I came across an interesting story from an article in Our Daily Bread, it reads, “During World War II, Hitler commanded all religious groups to unite so that he could control them. Among the Brethren assemblies, half complied and half refused. Those who went along with the order had a much easier time. Those who did not, faced harsh persecution. In almost every family of those who resisted, someone died in a concentration camp. When the war was over, feelings of bitterness ran deep between the groups and there was much tension. Finally, they decided that the situation had to be healed. Leaders from each group met at a quiet retreat. For several days, each person spent time in prayer, examining his own heart in the light of Christ’s commands. Then they came together. 

Francis Schaeffer, who told of the incident, asked a friend who was there, “What did you do then?” “We were just one,” he replied. As they confessed their hostility and bitterness to God and yielded to His control, the Holy Spirit created a spirit of unity among them. Love filled their hearts and dissolved their hatred.

When love prevails among believers, especially in times of strong disagreement or extreme circumstances, it presents to the world an indisputable mark of a true follower of Jesus Christ.”

 

Application: Like the author who published that story and John who is delineating between false and true believers, let us be marked by the true love of God, through the reliance and power of the Holy Spirit. Christians must press into the love of God through prayer and meditation. We must look to the Scriptures to see the character of God and His great love for us and other people. May the work of His character in us, compel us to not only love one another, but love even the world.  

 

Transition: If Christians are the ones who can practice and experience the true love of God, what about unbelievers? The second truth of God’s love is that unbelievers cannot love like God.

 

  • Unbelievers Cannot Love Like God. (v.8)

 

  1. Those who are not born-again cannot experience the true love of God.
  1. Unbelievers are not capable of loving like God. Nature of man.
  2. The Law exposes our sin.
  3. Consequence of sin. 

 

Explanation: After John states the purpose of love and it’s true source, he then flips it on its head. Verse 8 says, Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. So, John, are you telling me that unbelievers have no ability to love at all? Are you saying that only Christians are able to love and the world is just a horrible place full of evil? The answer is yes and no. We know that all people have the capacity and ability to love someone. We see it in our day to day lives. Whether it be through humanitarian efforts, or bringing a gift to someone else, the love of a father to a son, etc. However, the kind of love that John is speaking of here is otherworldly. It is supernatural. It is spiritual. It is selfless. Everything that encompasses God is representing of His love for creation and for His glory.

 

Illustration: The commentator writes, “It is true that the words God is love mean not that loving is ‘only one of God’s many activities’ but rather that ‘all his activity is loving activity’ and that, therefore, ‘if He judges, He judges in love’. Yet, if his judging is in love, his loving is also in justice. He who is love is light and fire as well. Far from condoning sin, his love has found a way to expose it (because he is light) and to consume it (because he is fire) without destroying the sinner, but rather saving him.”

  • Those without the Spirit of God in them cannot walk in this love. One of the false teachings plaguing the church during John’s time was the idea that people can be redeemed by reaffirming their inner light. The idea that people are “good” by their own will.
  • We live in such a time where everyone thinks they are a good person. That you can know God from any avenue we such choose. We think we are doing God a great service by being nice and never ruffling the feathers of truth. By affirming and participating in every kind of sin this world has to offer to avoid conflict. Many believers have also fallen prey to wanting to become relevant in this culture. 
  • What does the Bible say about all of this?

 

Corroboration: Romans 3:10-12 says, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” This is not an easy truth to hear. Long before any of us were born into the world, God created this world and everything in it. He fashioned man from the ground and woman from the man and called it all very good. God gave authority of this world over to Adam and Eve and what did they do? They disobeyed God and squandered it. Sin entered the world and thus we too were born sinners. We disobeyed our parents, we lied, we cheated, we stole. We were sinners in our core. Before any of us were pulled out of the darkness, the only ability to love others was because of God’s common grace. And I think we often forget that there is a lost world in need of God’s supernatural grace. And there are many false leaders, televangelists, and others seeking to preach to you a different gospel, a different love, that flies in the face of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Something that mimics that supernatural love only God can provide. 

Illustration: With 2024 right on the horizon, that means we have an election this year. I have no doubt in my mind candidates from both sides will and are currently jockeying for position and paying good money to convince you of their love for you as a people.

  • These candidates often promise you a salvation of sorts. That they will save this country. Provide healthcare for all. Put a few extra dollars in your pocket. Make your life comfortable. They will bash other candidates to make themselves look better. They will even drive us to hate the other candidate, and people who support him/her, in the process.  
  • I believe that we should participate in government. That we should as the church, in good conscience, vote and help to influence the nation in doing so. So, go and vote. Speak truth where there is conviction. But don’t be deceived and bogged down by the distractions and division this election will no doubt bring. 
  • None of these candidates can provide the love or fulfillment that only Christ can offer. None of these candidates can save people. Only Jesus can.
  • Let us remember our call as believers. To reach the lost through the preaching of the gospel. How? By walking in the love of Christ.  

 

Application: If there is a true source of love (found in Christ) and a counterfeit love this world offers, let us have discernment as a body of believers over what is true and what is false through accountability and reading of Scripture. The knowledge of a counterfeit love should also not blind us to the call of making disciples and reaching the lost. Not every person we walk with knows God. I pray for myself and this church that we would seek those who are lost, no matter the perception of lost or saved. I also encourage you guys to evaluate your lives to determine whether the things you are seeking in this world resemble a true love, or a false imitation. If what we are celebrating during the holiday season points others toward Christ, or the false, temporary idols of our day. And in all of that I want us to see that we cannot will our love towards others outside of God’s help.

 

Transition: Considering this, if love is the foundation and we cannot do it on our own, how can we live it out? What is the solution? The third truth about God’s love is that God’s love is revealed through the gospel.

 

  • God’s Love is Revealed Through the Gospel (v.9-10)

 

  1. Christians can love because of their unity in Christ.
  1. Spirit of Christ inside believers.
  1. God sent His son as an act of love to save sinners.
  1. Propitiation.

 

Explanation: The entirety of God’s love stems from the gospel. Jesus exemplified this in His earthly ministry. He fed the poor, healed the sick, raised the dead, discipled others, loved His enemies, etc. Because of this love and the Spirit within believers, Christians can live this out as well. Verse 9 says, In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” When you are born-again, the old you is dead and the Spirit of Christ raises you up as a new person. A new creation. 

  • Let’s think about this for a minute. When we were born into this world we were completely dead spiritually. This broken relationship stems back to the beginning with Adam and carried until Christ saved each one of us individually.
  • When God saves you, He is literally killing you. When you are saved, you participated with Christ on the cross. All the sins you committed in the past, are currently doing now, and will do in the future was put on Jesus 2000+ years ago. After that happens, you have become a new creation. The old you is gone and the new you exists now in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17, 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Ephesians 4:20-24, 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

  • What does it mean to be renewed in the spirit of your minds? What does it mean to be created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness?

Colossians 3:3, For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

  • The only person to perfectly resemble the image of God is Jesus Christ. He is the image of the invisible God. And for us now, being hidden with Him means we look like Jesus! The image bearers of God that was perfectly created at the beginning, tainted by the sinful nature of Adam, has been made perfect again by the potent and sufficient work of Jesus in the gospel. When God looks at you, He no longer sees a wretch destined for hell. He in His nature of love cannot do that anymore, because The Father sees His perfect Son in our place. 

 

What is this gospel then? What does this gospel tell us about God’s love? Living out the love of God can only be accomplished through a sacrifice. Through a propitiation. 

Verse 10, 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

  • Listen, we didn’t offer anything to the table in our salvation. We didn’t love God first. Left to our own devices, we will try to fill that gap with any and every sort of garbage our heart conjures up. 
  • It was God who loved us! The Father who sent His Son to this earth. He loved us! It was Jesus, who lived the perfect life and suffered for us. He loved us! It is the Holy Spirit dwelling inside who connects us to this great love. And because of His great love, demonstrated through the work of the gospel in our lives, we have no choice but to cleave to Him! It’s irresistible! This love exceeds and blows away any attempt from ourselves, the world, or others to provide for us. The fleshly pleasures of this world is paltry to the amazing grace we experienced at our justification. The counterfeits of this world through getting drunk, having sex with multiple partners, making lots of money falls way short of our unity and walk with Christ through the Spirit in sanctification. Nothing we create here or gain here will follow us after we die, but the hope of the resurrection, with new bodies, in glorification. 

 

Corroboration: John 3:16 says, 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. This is the truest act of love that anyone could ever offer. This is not some mushy gushy superficial act of love that we see in the world or in our Disney movies, or with Santa climbing down our chimneys delivering gifts. This is the willful and bloody act of sacrifice by a God who loves people and desires that all be saved. 

 

Explanation: If you don’t believe me, look at the definition for propitiation. The word means, “a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it to favor.” It is us about to get punched for our sin, and Jesus stepping in to get clobbered. 

  • Now we all remember Mike Tyson right? One of the most feared boxers the world has ever seen. Tyson finished his boxing career winning 50 of his total 58 fights. Out of those 50 wins, he knocked out 44 of his opponents. It is clear that Iron Mike had one of the most powerful punches the boxing world has seen.
  • Now imagine for a moment that Mike Tyson is our sin. Our whole life consists of getting clobbered over and over again by Mike’s hooks and uppercuts. We are battered, bruised, and bloodied by our own sinful nature when we come into this world. If you are here, alive, and don’t know Jesus personally, you have by God’s grace survived all but one round against your sin. Here’s the good news. Jesus has preemptively stepped in for this last round and allows Mike to pummel him to a once and for all final knockout. In fact, the blows were so severe, Jesus died because of it. 

You see, all the sin of the world was laid upon Jesus at the cross. And He suffered tremendously to bear the weight of that. God in the flesh suffered a horrible painful death, so that you and I might be delivered from our old life of sin. My sin, your sin, your little sins, big sins, etc. All of God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus on that day because of God’s love. He loves you and I. This is the gospel. God’s love is ultimately fulfilled in this gospel. God in His great love created the world and it was good. Man had a relationship with God until Adam and Eve messed it up. But God always had a plan from the beginning to send His Son into the world to redeem sinners back to God. And that’s why we celebrate the birth of Jesus. That’s why we look to Resurrection Sunday as Immanuel (God with us) entered the world, lived the perfect life, was rejected by His own people, put on a cross and suffered, died, and rose again three days later. Because of His death, burial, and resurrection, God gives us a way out. This isn’t just fire insurance either. We can enter into a relationship with Jesus with the Holy Spirit dwelling inside those who have put their faith and trust in Christ. We can walk joyously with our heads high in the darkest of moments and painful circumstances. When someone betrays us. Or a loved one passes away. We can seek the Lord when the pain gets real loud. When we have made a mess of things, we can turn to the hope that we have in Christ through repentance. We can selflessly love others the same way that God loves us. But none of this is possible by our own strength and the spiritual battle we find ourselves in is not an easy task.

 

Application: How do we respond to this? If you are a Christian, seek out opportunities to love one another. Spend time with one another. Include one another. Share a meal with one another. Become unified as a church. Invite others to church. Remind one another of the rich grace of God found in Christ. His great love for us!

Clarification: As I conclude here this morning, I want us to consider how we view the love of God. Not from our own personal opinions or the opinions of the world. But how the Scriptures define it as such. 

- For the Christian, we can experience the love of God, because God has put a love inside our hearts. He loved us, so we can now love Him. We have a power within us through His Spirit to compel us to love others. For many, there is a lot of grief and mourning. Christmas may have looked differently for you. The New Year may come with loss, or you have been with loss for quite sometime. For those struggling, I pray for comfort and peace beyond understanding. That we would all look to the New Year through the scope of God’s ultimate plan for redemption. The salvation of the world through the birth of the Messiah. The perfect love demonstrated to us through Christ being sent down and the sacrificial death He died to redeem us back to Him. There is no greater love.   

- For the unbeliever, even though you have the capacity to love, you cannot love nor can you experience God’s true love without being born-again. In fact, you stand in the judgment of a Holy God as enemies of a rebellion against Him in Adam

- The Bible calls you to repent of your sins and believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The opportunity to make a decision is here this morning. The day of salvation is here. Pull out the white flag and surrender. Repent and believe the gospel. 

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