1 John 4:10-12 – This is love!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 12, 2012 AM
What does it mean to have a servant’s heart? It is more than good intentions or having a strong desire, it is an eagerness to act no matter the cost to yourself because at its core is the willingness to sacrifice. Jesus teaches us firsthand what it means when he related that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 NIV) Paul wrote that “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant!” (Philippians 2:5, 7 NIV) There is a greater concern for self-fulfillment in today’s Christianity than there is in self-sacrifice. A servant’s heart comes from loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves! This is a servant’s heart! This is love!
In the few verses we will take a look at this morning we are astounded when John defines for us exactly what love is for the believer. Let’s take a look at what John wrote concerning this is love…
One day, during a short break from construction work, he picked up a scrap of paper and while seated upon an empty lemon crate, Fredrick Lehman began to write a hymn. The third stanza had been garnered from the Jewish poem, written by a Jewish German Cantor in 1050 AD, that had so impacted Lehman after he first heard it, that he decided to write a hymn incorporating the words.
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
John would tell us…
I. This is love, not that we love God! (v. 10)
1. The ungodly only want God’s love when it benefits them!
1) John makes it clear what unconditional love; a love that cannot be matched in worldly today terms is all about, namely, “not that we love God, but that he loved us!” It is a love that is antecedent to the love of his people; it existed when theirs did not; when in fact they were without any love for him at all and were his enemies! Paul tells us that, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” (Colossians 1:21 NIV) He reminds us that, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:1-2 NIV) So little did we care about God’s love that “we were by nature objects of [his] wrath!” (v. 2:3) Paul goes on to explain this mystery and how we really did not give a hoot about it when he writes, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV) “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.” (1 John 4:9 NIV) The wonderful good news is that God “sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” while we did not care, would not care, could not care! This is love, not that we loved God!
EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes for Our Daily Bread about a friend of his whom “described his grandmother as one of the greatest influences in his life. Throughout his adult years, he has kept her portrait next to his desk to remind himself of her unconditional love. ‘I really do believe,’ he said, ‘that she helped me learn how to love.’ Not everyone has had a similar taste of human love, but through Christ each of us can experience being well-loved by God. In 1 John 4, the word love occurs 27 times, and God’s love through Christ is cited as the source of our love for God and for others.” This is love, not that we loved God! (Adapted from “Well-loved” by David McCasland, Our Daily Bread, December 5, 2011)
We all want the love of another, but it is often far more difficult to return that love in some tangible way. We are selfish critters by nature and only look out for our own best interests. From the womb to the tomb we often live each day looking for only what is best for ourselves. Far too often our motto is, “What’s in it for me?” So when John writes us about what God’s love is all about and how we know God’s love, we discover that…
II. This is love that we ought to love one another! (v. 11)
1. How you love a fellow believer says a lot about your faith!
1) “Beloved”, which is the wording that John uses, since we who were once the objects of God’s wrath have now experienced for ourselves his grace and mercy, and we are his “beloved”, we should therefore “love one another!” This follows the same Old Testament ideal set forth in the Shema to “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV) and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18 NIV) These were later reaffirmed by Jesus in Matthew 22:37, 39 and Mark 12:30-31 as the two greatest commands of God whereby all other commands derived. God’s love for us should be our grand motive to love others, especially fellow believers! We should love one another for God’s sake since he first loved us (v. 19), the notion here is one of continual love! In other words our love is not to be conditional on whether we have experienced or received any benefit from the other person, the admonishment is only that they are fellow Christians! If you dear warrior of the Lord who were once in sin have experienced the saving love of God you must, no matter what, love your fellow soldiers! Jesus stated, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV) This is love that we ought to love one another!
EXMAPLE: One of the biggest problems the world has with Christianity is how Christians treat their own. People who study sharks tell us that they are most likely to attack when they sense blood in the water. The blood acts as a trigger to their feeding mechanism and they attack, often in a group, creating a deadly feeding frenzy. Blood in the water marks the vulnerability of the target. Sadly, this is sometimes how people in the church respond to those who are hurting. Instead of being a community where people are loved, cared for, and nurtured, it can become a dangerous environment where predators are looking for the “blood in the water” of someone’s failings or faults. And then the feeding frenzy is on. Instead of kicking people when they are down, we should be offering the encouragement of Christ by helping to restore the fallen. Of course, we’re not to condone sinful behavior, but this is love that we ought to love one another! (Adapted from “Feeding Frenzy” by Bill Cowder, Our Daily Bread, January 28, 2012)
It is easy for the world to say, “I love you man!” but only mean it for the momentary emotional minute. True Godly love comes from the inner being of a person who has been so dramatically spiritually changed that their whole being is different towards others. Continuing the thought he had just presented, John continues his ideas on what love truly is for the Christian. He tells us that…
III. This is love that his love is made complete in us! (v. 12)
1. Love is completed when we are changed!
1) Missouri is known as the “show me State.” Sometimes it seems as if the entire rest of the world has adopted this slogan for their own when it concerns their spirituality. However, this is impossible unless you are willing to accept the testimony of others, because “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see!” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) In fact, John bluntly remarks that “No one has ever seen God.” Certainly Moses got a whiff of God’s glory as he passed by him, but even he was not allowed to actually see God. No unholy human could withstand the holy presence of God. Yet, John remarks that we can know for sure if God lives in us “if we love one another” because of the inner change that has occurred. John would clarify this by writing, “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (v. 13), this is how God’s “love is made complete in us!” We can love others who are hard to love because his love lives in us through his presence. Later John would declare, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20 NIV) You cannot say you love God who is love and then hate your fellow spiritual sibling in the Lord! If you do there are only two possible certainties: Either you are a liar or God is. John says you are the liar. Dear child, God’s love so changes our human condition from the inside out that we can now love those whom we could not beforehand! This is love that his love is made complete in us!
EXAMPLE: Years ago, Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, saw a sign by the road: “End of Construction—Thank you for your patience.” Smiling, she remarked that she wanted those words on her gravestone. After her death in June 2007, her desire was carried out. Her grave marker bears the Chinese character for righteousness (Mrs. Graham was born in China), followed by the words that made her smile. You know what, today we are in a “construction zone” and while God may not be finished with us yet, this is love that his love is made complete in us! (Adapted from “End of Construction” by David McCasland, Our Daily Bread, September 14, 2008)
This is love, not that we loved God! This is love that we ought to love one another! This is love that his love is made complete in us!
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.