Rig, our 5 year old son, loves to play with his super hero action figures. He lines them up all the good guys, and the bad guys. He props up his bat cave in one corner, and the batmobile in the other. Dinosaurs perch from the bed overlooking the floor, while stuffed animals take their place around the dresser. I have come to realize that there is no rhyme or reason to the order. It changes daily. Ryder, his 3 year old little brother, mimics every move Rig makes. When Rig makes a noise, so does Ryder. When Rig launches a frontal attack, so does Ryder. Unfortunately, Ryder has 2 figures that join the battle every night: Buzz Lightyear and Woody. I don’t have the heart to tell him that woody doesn’t stand a chance against Superman, Batman, or the Green Lantern.
I don’t participate in the super hero battle much. I just spend my time watching, listening, and engaging in the conversation. “Daddy , did you know that Robin can jump really far without getting hurt. Daddy, daddy watch Buzz fly from the bed.” I’ve learned a lot about love over the past 5 ½ years of being a dad. The one thing I’ve learned thus far is this: for a 5 year old and a 3 year old boy, there is no better way to show them I love them than to spend time with them. Walking up to their room to play with them is better than any gift I could purchase or anything I could do for them. Being present and participating in their lives is the primary expression of your love for them.
How has God the father shown his love for us? I want to show you the greatest expression of Gods so that you will be compelled to extend that love to other people around you.
1 John 4:7, “ beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
Verse 7, “beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
John outlines the attitude we should possess as Christians. Even though you can be doctrinally Right about something, you can respond in a loveless, careless, and harsh manner. The word love is not eros–sexual love, or philo –brotherly love. It’s agape love–unconditional love. Human love is usually dependent upon something. “i love her because she is gorgeous.” “I love him because he is handsome.” “I love her because she is intelligent.” “I love him because he is wealthy!”
Why would God love you? You and I are sinners who rebel against a Him. He doesn’t love us because of anything we can do for Him. What could we give a Righteous God? God’s love for us is motivated by who he is, not by who we are.
Let me summarize what is being said, “love is not only the evidence for our salvation, it is an expression of our salvation. Our love is the effect of our new birth from God. After you were born again, you became a window through which God shines out into the world.
Verse 8, “anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
God’s love can transform a hateful person into a loving person. He doesn’t say, “God loves.” he says, “God is love.” Love doesn’t define God. God defines love. God doesn’t fall in love; He is love.
He doesn’t just extend love. He exudes love. It’s not one of his activities, but all of his activity. Therefore, we, as God’s children, should display the characteristics of our Father. Here is the 2nd of 3 definitions of God. He already explained that, “God is light” in 1 John 1:5 which was his theme from 1:1 to 2:2. Now he says, “God is love” which is the theme from 2:3 to 4:21. In chapter 5, he will give us the final definition of God, “God is life.”
The great philosophers, Ringo Star and John Lennon of the Beatles were close when they sang, “all we need is love.” A Biblically accurate statement would be, “all we need is God.” When you have God you have love. To know God is to know love.
Verse 9, “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.”
John now gives proof of God’s love. He highlights the uniqueness of Christ with the word monogenes which is translated “only.” It’s used 9 times in the New Testament and 5 of those by John. John is the only one to use the word in reference to Christ. It is made up of two words that we have borrowed from Greek. Mono means “one,” and genes is the word from which we get our word gene. Jesus is the “one of a kind,” unique son who shares in the very nature of the Godhead in a way that no other created being shares.
There are other created sons as Adam was, and as believers are by new birth, but God had one, unique Son who descended to earth, went down into death, and rose triumphantly as the Morningstar of all of creation.
How did he get here? God sent him. The word sent is apostolos where we get apostle. Apostle means a “sent one who represents another.” Here is how the verse reads “God apostled His Son who in turn apostled (sent) his disciples.” God’s love is demonstrated by sending his Son.
We should be taken back by this. If anyone is going to reconcile in this relationship it should have been man, not God. We caused the problem.
Imagine leaving church this morning and backing your car into the car behind you. You get out of the car and realize that the car you smashed into is a brand new red Ford Mustang that was purchased as a graduation gift for a young girl in our church. Does she get out and say, “oh, excuse me, I am so sorry you bumped into my car”? No. She gets out in shock as you apologize to her for your actions. In our relationship with God, we are the ones who sinned. We initiated the problem. We transgressed. We rebelled. We caused the pain. We made the mistake. We produced the grief. We turned from him.
But God didn’t wait for stiff-necked, sinful humans to reconcile with him. He initiated the negotiations. He paid the price for our debt in full by sending his one and only son to stand in our place and on our behalf.
Verse 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.”
The purpose of his coming was not the incarnation, but the propitiation. This is the ultimate expression of love.
John 15:13, “greater love has none than this than to die for his friends.”
The hebrew word for propitiation is atonement. In the Old Testament, propitiation brought to mind the “Mercy Seat.” In the Holy of Holies there was the ark of the covenant. On top of that Ark there was a highly decorated lid crowned with 2 cherubim of solid gold, facing each other and looking down upon the lid of the box. The Ark was a beautiful thing, for it was all made of acacia wood, and covered inside and outside with gold. The lid was called the ”Mercy Seat”. The nation of Israel met God through the high priest. Once a year, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, bringing blood to be sprinkled on the Mercy Seat as a covering of the sins of the nation.
That meant that the nation was accepted by God for another year, but they would need to repeat the act the following year. They repeated the process until Christ came. Propitiation means “to appease someone’s wrath.”
Why is it necessary to appease God’s wrath? Can’t God just wave his hand and wash away our sins?In the same manner, the judicial system didn’t turn a blind eye to Jeffrey Dahmer for killing 17 men and boys. Justice has to be served. If God doesn’t punish sin, He would give the appearance of being unjust and minimizing sin.
God’s wrath is His response to our sin. He hates sin and sinners. Robby, I thought you just said, “God is a God of love”? Yes, He is. “how can Ge be angry with sinners if He loves them?
In order for God to be just, He must punish sin. The problem is that man cannot and will not seek after God for forgiveness. So God draws sinners to himself through grace. He does for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves: He payed the price for sin by sending his son to die on the cross and be the propitiator for our sin. Anselm Rightly said “only man should make the sacrifice for his sins because he is the offender. But only God could make the sacrifice for our sins since He has demanded it.” God gave us his Son, and His Son offered himself.
If you want to know how much God loves you, look to Jesus. He absorbed the wrath that was meant for us on himself. Look to innocent man on the cross between 2 thieves. Watch how He responded to corrupt leaders who accused him of crimes He didn’t commit. Listen to the prayers He prayed for the men abusing him. Gaze into His agonizing eyes while being humiliated for your sin and mine. Listen closely to His final cry, “it is finished!” If you want to know how much God loves you, look what Jesus did on the cross for you and me.
Verse 11, “beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Love is not just gift from God but a duty to live out. He doesn’t give us a formula for loving others. He simply says: “we ought to love.” We love because God’s love dwells in us. Love is a non-negotiable necessity for a Christian. John calvin said “if anyone separates faith from love it is as if he were trying to take away heat from the sun” Godlike living demands Godlike love. Love is not optional. We are expected to love one another. If the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves, then the greatest sin is not to do it!
Through Christ, we are able to extend love to those who are unlovable at times. One misconception of the Bible is how we view the 12 disciples who followed Jesus. I thought they never disagreed, sang Christian songs around the campfire, and roasted marshmallows every night while listening to Jesus teach. You had 4 fishermen. Bayou boys are tough. There was a zealot. You had an accountant in the group. Always seeing things as black or white. Questioning and doubting every decision they made. Then you had a devil. They were jealous of one another, envious, selfish, upset, and pessimistic.
Picture the scene in the upper room with Jesus in John 13 when He gives them the new commandment. Peter looks over at John and thinks, you mean I have to love Mr. Perfect, that guy who has his head in the clouds? John looks at Peter and thinks, you mean I have to love that Mr. Personality over there? The one who never shuts up. Matthew looks at Thomas and thinks, you mean I have to love this cynic? He questions everything. Thomas looks at Matthew and thinks, I have to love the one who asks, “what is this going to cost?” The command to love another was as challenging for them as it is for us.
Many years ago, in Stanford hospital, a girl name Liza was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. He hesitated for a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, ‘yes, I’ll do it if it will save Liza.’“ as the transfusion progressed, he lay in a bed next to his sister and smiled, the entire time his blood traveled from his body to hers. He was excited to see the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, ”will I start to die right away?’ The doctor, with a puzzled look responded, “son, you aren’t going to die. You are just giving sister some of your blood that you don’t need.” the young boy misunderstood the doctor; he thought he giving his sister all his blood.
This story illustrates the extravagant love of God. “this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:12–13).
Jesus gave us all of his blood so that we could live. Shouldn’t we love others? We love the unlovable because God loved you first.
At Brainerd Baptist Church, we are always up for a challenge. 3 years ago, we participated in the gift of love envelopes. Last year was the 10,000 gifts campaign. Here is the challenge: for the next 7 days, I want you to be a love bearer to everyone around you. You are obligated to love everyone you come in contact with. You cannot say anything derogatory. Nothing negative. No gossiping. No backbiting. When someone cuts you off in traffic, no response. Just a wave. When someone talks negatively about someone else, you say, “no. I don’t want to hear it.” Only positive things. I tried this 2 weeks ago and found out that you speak less when you can’t say something positive. Momma always said, “if you don’t have anything to say nice, don’t say anything at all.”
This will remind us how unloving we can be at times.