MAIN TEXT: 1 John 4:10-12
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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
When we think about the word “love”, we don’t have to search too far to discover that this word means many things to many people. Yet, there is a pervasive reality of our existence that is only made sense of in light of love.
Love is the key that unlocks the door to ultimate reality.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Love is truly at the heart of the universe. So, if love is the key to understanding the world as it truly is, it must unlock the door to all that is good, true and fulfilling.
Our text for today displays for us three aspects of love that will help us grasp the depth of this love that we were designed to flourish within. Those three aspects of love as seen in 1 John 4:10-12 are:
The Source of Love
The Spur of Love
The Surprise of Love
John is going to explain to us the structure of love and we will see that understanding the structure of love is key to seeing God as He has revealed Himself.
The Source of Love
When we speak of love, we must understand that love does not begin with us. The source of love is found in God alone. He is the only source of love. He is the only fountain of love. This was one of the fantastic discoveries (or recoveries) of the Reformation is that we can’t begin with ourselves when trying to get to God. God has to make the first move toward us. As John states, God moved first by sending Christ (1 John 4:10). True love is seen in this act by God on our behalf. So, based on this reality, we ought to see that we don’t begin with our love, but rather with God’s love.
God shows us His Love by sending Jesus to be our sacrifice and to appease God’s righteous wrath (anger) that is toward the corruption of the good that He created. Christ took the punishment of sin on himself. He exhausted God’s hatred of sin perfectly and finally. Beseech God to drown sin (yours and the worlds) in the sea of His infinite love!
The Spur of Love
So, if God first loved us and gave Himself for us, “we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). The logic of John, who wrote this letter, is that God’s move toward us in love spurs us to love one another. This love that we express is a result of and ought to follow in alignment with the love that God has displayed for us and in us.
The great commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). This is the clearest command in the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible is the Great Commandment boiled down to “love God”, but it is boiled down to just “love your neighbor”.
There are six New Testament passages where all of God’s commandments are summarized. They are called the summary of the Law and the Prophets. Three of these say that the summary is to love God and love our neighbor. In fact, Mark 12:29 says that the most important commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and the second is to love our neighbor. But three other New Testament passages say that the summary of Scripture is to love our neighbor but leaves out what Jesus called the most important of the two.
Love God and Neighbor
Why the difference? Perhaps God understands that we will think we have fulfilled the whole Law when we love Him and that loving God will cause everything else to work out, including loving our neighbor. I believe God wants to get our attention–to emphasize that we cannot really love Him without loving our neighbor. Loving our neighbor is the principal way God desires for us to express our love for Him. Loving God is the greatest command and loving our neighbor is its greatest expression. Thus, loving our neighbor is the simplest summary of all of God’s commands. It is, in effect, the summary of the summary!
As we love our neighbor, this becomes the litmus test for our love of God. It helps us to measure our true love for God. This is far easier said than done. Love is hard!
The Surprise of Love
The last verse of our text seemingly drifts off subject, but John is actually helping us to grasp in greater fullness the point of loving another person. The point here is that to love another person is to see the face of God.
The means to deeper intimacy with God and greater witnessing power is loving your neighbor with self-dying love. In other words, the pathway to knowing God is not simply a moving to God based upon His love, but having an understanding of His love deepens as we learn to love others. You will not experience a furthering in your knowledge of God unless you love your neighbor.
As you move toward others in love, you will experience pain. Love demands that you move toward pain, not away from it. Love demands that we seek the good of others. Through this, we discover that our joy is bound up in the good of the other as you express the love that has displayed for you to others. You will be happier in being a giver than a receiver.
To love one another is to see the face of God!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: 1 John 4:10-12
Define love (in your own words). What examples of love do you see in culture (movies, music, art, etc.)? How do these compare with your definition?
How does John describe love in his letter?
When you think of the reality that God is the only true source of love, what does that do to your thinking about the Gospel?
Take your remaining time to discuss how all the commands are summed up in “love God” and loving God is expressed through loving our neighbor.
What is one Bless Rhythm (above) that you can apply to your life to love your neighbor?