The Advent of Love
Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: 1 John 4:7–10, Hebrews 2:17
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. 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. - 1 John 4:7–10
Dozens of times in this letter alone John uses the word “love.” Primarily he speaks about: God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for one another.
Love has no better example than Jesus.
Giving definition and expression through the world.
Where is it that we learn what LOVE is? So often we can use this word in flippant ways - consider things that you ‘love’ about this season in the year (assuming that you do…).
Consider the food, atmosphere, events, individuals that you may claim to love. I know for myself… ‘love’ can be a word I use in a variety of contexts - for example - I ‘love’ a Sunday afternoon nap to the soundtrack of football… and, if you want to know how much I love it, just try to wake me up during that nap!
Yesterday morning our men were gathered and talking about the subject of love - both our receipt of God’s Love and its application to our lives
Tonight, as pastors and deacons we’ll be out celebrating Christmas together - I love being together with this team, we’ll have a great time out and then dinner together and I’ve no doubt it will be rich and meaningful and I’ll experience the goodness of God through that because it’s a part of how He’s designed us - in his love.
But, even tonight -or, in the weeks ahead- amongst my own family, amongst friends and co-workers, the fullest example, definition and expression of love can be lacking.
If we were to look to each other, even the healthiest of relationships, we’d still be found wanting for a good definition of Love.
There are various forms of love: intimate forms of love, familial forms of love, brotherly forms of love that unites us as believers together in the church… and then there’s a unique form of love, a divine love that supersedes all other loves.
It is God’s Love because He IS love.
Love is not GOD (that would be idolatry) But God is, at his core - his essence - LOVE.
Love does not define God -rather- God does define love.
Jesus is our example of Love
Our loving others gives evidence that we know God
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. - 1 John 4:7–8
Love is not like other subjects. It cannot be understood and then practiced. It really can only be fully understood by practice.
1 John affirms that the essence and evidence of Christian living is love.
We are commanded to love one another, and John gives two reasons for doing so.
love has its source in God
whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
Let’s look at first reason; love has its source in God.
Just as light radiates from the sun, love radiates from God’s very nature. Love is not a sentimental, squidgy, emotional word.
It is more than a description of how you feel. “Love” is a word that involves your emotions, but more than that the Biblical concept of agapē is a love that is unconditional, a love that seeks the highest good for the one who is loved, a love of total commitment.
When God loves in the Bible, he does not say: “I love you if . . .” or “I love you because . . .” There is nothing in us that would cause God to love us. We are born sinners.
God’s love for us does not have anything to do with something in us that caused God to love us.
God’s love for us is motivated by who he is, not by who we are.
God loves because it is his nature to love. He desires that we know him.
We who are exhorted to love are already loved by God. This is the basis for the command to love others.
John is not speaking of our love as only an imitation of what we see in God, though that is true. Our love is not an imitation from a distance but participation from within.
He is not speaking of our love as only gratitude or mere emotion. John’s concept of love goes much deeper than that.
He wants us to see that - God’s love is creative! It actually produces its likeness in us!
We love from God’s fullness and not for it as some ideal to achieve to quench the thirst of our own emptiness.
Stable, faithful Love that differs from the fleeting nature of feelings:
Feelings come to us. Agapē comes from us.
Feelings are passive and receptive. Agapē is active and creative.
Feelings are instinctive. Agapē is intentionally chosen.
We fall in love, but we do not fall into agapē.
Our choice to love doesn’t come from: weather, digestion, good vibrations, heredity, or environment but from our own heart, the center of our being.
The second reason we are commanded to love one another is that “whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
The presence of love in your life is an evidence of your experience with Christ.
John does not mean that anybody in the world who has a feeling of love for somebody else is a Christian. John is talking about the relationship between God and believers.
Now, If you have children, they possess your DNA. Your children have your nature, which has been genetically passed on to them.
John is saying that a similar thing is true of those who have been born of God.
Everyone who has truly been born of God partakes of his nature of love.
Intentional, sacrificial, creative, divine, transforming - this is the love that takes on the form of a baby in a manger.
This is who Emmanuel is - God [of Love] with us!
Next, John reminds us that this is God’s only - best understood as unique - son.
When we read that word ‘only’ we should understand…
There was and is no one else like this Son.
You might begin to hear the words of John 3:16 ringing in your ears.
Jesus is the one who could uniquely mediate this love between the heavenly courts of the God who is Love and the Earth that he created!
Jesus gives love a rich, unique & divine definition
Love is seen in the atoning death of Jesus
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. 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. - 1 John 4:9–10
A couple of interesting words are used in this passage that could use some clarity for us today: MANIFEST & PROPITIATION
Manifest: this can be a popular word today, oddly enough I’ve even seen it in books as they’re working to help give shape to ‘setting your mind to something’. I think that’s an interesting use of the word - but, perhaps unhelpful because it puts us at the center of conjuring something up in order to experience seeing it happen.
I think a helpful way for us to understand this word in it’s biblical use here is: ‘to make visible, to make plain’
I’m grateful that I don’t have to ‘manifest’ the love of God - that would require my thinking it into existence, then faithfully-living up to a place of deserving it from the universe.
No, IN CHRIST, God makes his love plainly seen and known to us… he does so for a reason: PROPITIATION.
There’s a word for you - it really just means to make an ‘atoning sacrifice’ but it’s fallen out of popular use today. Imagine walking into a meeting and saying: Sorry, I’m late, I know I need to propitiate for that time. (meaning we’re going to do something to gain favor, or get back into good graces).
Perhaps you are, or you know, a person that comes into the office bearing treats or caffeine to propitiate something like… having everyone stay later or come in earlier. That’s a form of propitiation.
But Jesus’ makes plain, makes visible, a propitiation that goes beyond falling out of favor with someone in a way that we can ourselves make amends for… it’s a falling out that we cannot overcome because of our sin - that is, missing the mark before a heavenly throne - that we need propitiation for.
PERHAPS YOU WONDER: Why is it necessary that there be “propitiation” for our sins? Why doesn’t God just wave it off and forgive everyone’s sin?
Let me answer this question with another question.
Why doesn’t the state of Florida simply make charges disappear that tend to lead the front page of newspapers -or- are the lead items on the evening news?
I think we can agree, in many of those cases; To do so would be a tragic violation of justice.
If God were to do the same for our sins - WAVE THEM OFF WITH NO COST OR CONSEQUENCE, it would be a denial of the seriousness of sin and a gross going against the jealous nature of his justice.
Sin is so bad, that it leads to a state of affairs, where the Son of God himself ends up being crucified.
Isaac Watts, in his Christmas hymn Joy to the World (which is based on Psalm 98) captures this truth for us in the oft-unsung -or if sung, perhaps misunderstood- 4th verse like this…
Joy To The World: Verse 4
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders wonders of His love
The WONDERS of God’s Love consists in this:
- He loved us before we loved him
- He proved his love by sending his son who is our atoning sacrifice
Consider these verses:
God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness. (Rom 3:25)
Therefore, He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Heb 2:17)
He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
Just think about the fact that God provides the satisfaction for sin Himself, through his only son, and what that teaches us about God:
teaches us that God personally hates sin.
teaches us that sin is serious.
teaches us the greatness of God’s love is that He provided the offering to turn God’s wrath away.
teaches us the truth that Christ’s death satisfied the Father and was a substitution for sinners.
teaches us that God’s holiness required satisfaction and that God’s love provided satisfaction.
You may think that this seems harsh but, you need only look to the cross of Jesus Christ and the reality of hell to see that God isn’t messing around with sin!
Perhaps you’re here today and you think - Chris, you have no idea what I’ve done - who I’ve been to others I was supposed to love. The hurt I’ve inflicted on others -or- had perpetrated against me… hurts so deep that Jesus love doesn’t seem to be enough.
And you’re right, I don’t know what you’ve done - or what’s been done to you… but I also don’t see those conditions for receiving the divine love of God.
Scripture doesn’t tell us to be good enough, not broken enough, emotionally stable or intelligent enough - we’re simply told this:
we’re never enough and he’s always enough!
Who are we to add conditions to the unconditional, divine-love of God?!
Ty Cobb was one of the all-time greats in the game of baseball.
.367 lifetime batting average, with 4,191 hits and 892 stolen bases.
He won nine straight batting titles.
also the meanest man in baseball.
Known for stopping at nothing to win, he would insult, humiliate, and even injure other players in his quest for victory.
Even his own teammates once rooted against him when he was in a tight race one season for the batting title.
unprovoked racial slurs.
three wives, all of whom he verbally and physically abused.
constantly involved in fistfights, arguments, and tirades against fans and players.
When he died, he had in his possession millions in stocks, bonds, and cash because he was an early investor in Coca-Cola. And yet it would be hard to find a more apt specimen of what we would know as total depravity - I think today we’d just say he was ‘bout to be ‘cancelled’.
Not long before he died, Cobb was visited by a Presbyterian minister named John Richardson.
Cobb, rather curtly, told the preacher to leave. But, two days later he returned.
This time Cobb listened as Richardson explained to him the plan of salvation. Hearing of Christ’s love for sinners and how he had come to die for the likes of Ty Cobb - and as he heard, he became overcome with emotion.
Richardson continued to explain the necessity of repentance toward sin and faith in Jesus as the only way of salvation. Cobb told the preacher he was ready to put his complete trust in Jesus Christ as his Savior.
Two days before he died, Ty Cobb told Richardson, “I feel the strong arms of God underneath me.” because… “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.”
No one has ever sinned themself beyond the love of God. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more than he loves you right now. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any less than he loves you right now.
Today, you can receive God’s divine love offered to you through Jesus Christ as a free gift.
You may think, I thought I was invited here to hear a nice Christmas message, hang out with some fun people, etc. - but perhaps you’ve been invited here, or even just stopped in as a most loving expression of the divine love offered to you through Jesus Christ.
In other words, whoever invited you or initiated that you turn your vehicle in here today loved you so much that they wanted to be sure you heard and knew of this love and the salvation provided in Jesus Christ.
- It’s as simple, yet profound, as this:
- acknowledging your need for a savior.
- Believing that Christ’s work was accomplished on your behalf and it alone is enough to save you.
- Confessing your sin before a Holy God and receive the mercy provided through his son’s sacrifice.
If you’ve never taken that step today, I pray that you’d give us the privilege of praying with you shortly - we’ll receive communion together in a few moments and -if that’s you- I hope that you’ll receive it for the first time realizing it represents Christ’s work FOR YOU!
Jesus empowers love’s expression throughout the world.
God’s love produces genuine change in us.
When we respond to God’s love, we are able to become loving people. This is why John speaks more than once in his letter about love being “perfected” in us (2:5; 4:12, 17). By “perfected” John means that love has reached its aim, purpose, and goal for our lives. You cannot command unsaved people to love others. They may or may not do it. But you can command Christian love.
As one who has been born again, I now have the capacity to love. Though I am tempted to act like my old unsaved self, as a Christian I recognize I have no right to live like an unsaved person. I must live like the Christian I am.
Galatians 5 calls us to LOVE (divine love - agape) as a fruit (evidence) of the spirit at work in our lives. In this way we are called to participate in making the love of God manifest to the world around us, even today!
Perhaps you’re here today and the practical application of this is to repent of not loving others well.
Perhaps you’ve focused so much on being “right” with the truth that you’ve ignored being loving.
I’d invite you to consider that there’s a wrong way to be right in the life of the believer.
It’s a tension that we live in, but God so richly provides and equips us for.
You too can repent today of being unloving as an example of the love that you’ve received through Christ.
You can also pray for the power of the Holy Spirit that your friends, families, classmates or co-workers would experience Christ’s love firsthand through you … so your witness is strong this year - this brings God glory as his fruit is born out in our lives as ambassadors of his divine love!
Love has no better example than Jesus.
Giving definition and expression through the world.
I’d like for us to take a moment and reflect on this song that sums up the work that Christ accomplished on the cross - as the only one who could accomplish propitiation on our behalf.
You can stay seated for this but, I trust that reflecting on this.
Perhaps even being led to repentance because of Jesus life, death and resurrection.
Will lead us to rejoicing-through-receiving.
Reminding us of the source of the love that we’re called to both enjoy and express in this season…
In the book of Jude, in verse 21, in the midst of his exhortation to persevere, we are challenged to
‘keep yourself in the love of God.’
We realize; Were it not for God, we would be falling from grace every waking second. It is he who keeps us from stumbling; it is he who qualifies us as blameless. So Jude wants to ascribe to God all that he is due:
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. - Jude 24–25
So today, church: keep yourselves in the love of the one who keeps you… and may God bless you this week, as you live for His Glory alone!