The Resource For Love
Tim Temple

Introduction

These days we often hear about militia groups that get together and consider themselves at war with the U.S. government and who usually withdraw from society into a little compound somewhere and form their own nation and do not have anything to do with anybody else. Many times, unfortunately, these groups claim to be Christians, and some of them probably are, but to withdraw from society like that is the antithesis of everything that Jesus taught about relationships with other people.

The Apostle John has been pointing out in this letter that it is easy to love those who love us and who share the same viewpoint with us, but that is not really love. Yet, because of the various pressures in life and our own personalities, many of us stand in great danger of adopting the same attitude that some of those fringe military groups adopt of just pulling away and not having anything to do with anybody that we don't absolutely have to and not having anything to do with people who are not just like we are. We withdraw ourselves from contact or concern about any person or group who doesn't fit our particular pattern of preference. When we do that, we are displaying the same kind of lovelessness and rebellion against society as those groups we criticize for doing that.

God is saying here in chapter 4 that that is not what love is, that the love Christ exhibited in coming to die for us and the love that He asks us to exhibit in our lives is not that kind of thing of just loving those who love us and who are like us.

Last week we saw what Godlike love is. It is the acceptance of another person just because he is a person, not because of his status, not because he dresses the right way, not because he has the right place in society, not because he has the same level of accomplishment that we do or because he is the right color of skin or whatever. It is not loving people selectively, but recognizing the worth and the value of other people as people, as creatures of God, as people who either need fellowship with other Christians or who need to know about Christ if they don't know Him already. Love is the acceptance of an individual simply because he is an individual.

It is so easy for us to move along in life, accomplish whatever we accomplish in life and find our niche where we are comfortable and then not pay very much attention to the people around us; and when we do pay attention to them, maybe largely subconsciously, we put them in their little category, their little box, and we treat them accordingly. If their box is important enough, we interact with them and are polite to them; but if their category or their box is not important enough, we can be completely rude to them without even realizing it. They don't matter to us; we have no interest in them. John is telling us that if that is true of us as believers in Jesus Christ, we have a great lack in our lives; we have a great deficit in our relationship with Him. Love is a willingness to be kind to other people, to fellowship with them and talk to them, to share our lives with them whenever it is appropriate, simply because they are fellow members of the human race. It means that we do that without requiring that that person change before we establish that kind of relationship. That is what Christian love is all about.

Also John brought out very beautifully in the section that we looked at last week that this is the nature of God's love toward the world. Where would we be if God treated us the way we treat some of the people around us? The world of human beings, from God's point of view and really from our point of view, if we are honest with ourselves, is not beautiful; it is really an ugly thing that God looks at, this human race. Hidden just under the surface of every human being are all kinds of wickedness and bitter thoughts and attitudes. Behind even the outward appearance of some of the most gentle and gracious personalities are thoughts and desires and reactions that are ugly and vicious. They are kept under control by the Spirit of God or by sheer willpower on the part of the person, but all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All of us know things about ourselves and have feelings and thoughts about ourselves that we know, whether anybody else knows or not, are displeasing to God.

By God's grace, He has forgiven those sins and He has given us the grace to work on those things. We may be in the process of becoming more like He wants us to be, but as a group, human beings are failures in God's sight. Yet, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. He accepts us; He has contact with us. As John said, “He manifested His love in the sending of His Son. This is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” He came into the very world that He had made as one of the creatures, not as the Creator, then died here in the most ignominious and shameful way—hanging on a cross. That is the nature of God's love for us. He became a propitiation—a satisfaction— for our sins, taking them all on Himself. His total willingness to do that demonstrated the kind of love that God has for us.

The Resource For Love

John says where God's life is, God's love will be. He says in chapter 4, verse 12:

I John 4:

12No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

It is these two themes, God's love for us and God's abiding in us, which now form the subject of this last paragraph of chapter 4, that we want to look at today. In verses 7-12, we saw the reality of love, the realization of love and the response to love. Today we want to see the resource for love in verses 13-16. The first resource for love, John says, is our spiritual birth through the Spirit. How can we be loving to other people? That just seems so much like a cliche because Christians talk that way so much, but here we have one of the resources, one of the ways, that is possible. Look at verse 13:

I John 4:

13Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
14And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

We are going to talk about both of the verses, but look at verse 14 first. He says, “We have seen and testify that the Father sent His Son.” John is referring to himself, I think, and to the rest of those original eleven disciples. The Apostle Paul says, “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son. I can write this to you because it is first hand knowledge on my part. We apostles understand that we are of God and that we abide in Him.” How do they know that? Well, if you will notice in verse 13, he said, “Because he has given us of His Spirit.”

Notice carefully that it does not say that He has given us His Spirit. He says, “He has given us of His Spirit.” It is true that God did give them His Spirit, and He gives us His Spirit when we accept Christ as Savior. On the day of Pentecost, all of those apostles and other believers in Jesus Christ received the Holy Spirit. He came upon them, and Jesus had promised that He would. When He came upon them, all of their doubts about Jesus Christ were forever settled. In fact, in the day after they received the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit made Christ even more real to them than He was when they were with Him because they now had the mind of Christ. They were able to understand spiritual things because they had the very Spirit of God living in them; and since that time, every one of us who accepts Christ as Savior receives the Holy Spirit. One of the things that we receive at the very moment of salvation is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. So there was a sense in which they came to know Jesus even better after He was gone and they received the Holy Spirit than they had known Him while He was here on the earth. The Holy Spirit had convinced them they were of God, so they had received the Spirit, but what he is talking about here is something different. He said in verse 13, “He has given us of His Spirit.” A more literal way to say it is, “He has given us something out of His Spirit.”

What is that that He has given us? This is where the context helps us again. The context is always so important in understanding any passage of Scripture. What has he been talking about? Throughout this whole chapter, he has been talking about the love of God, so what John and the other apostles were given out of God's Spirit was love. God gave to them and God gives to us out of His Spirit His kind of love, the love that God had for us and other people.

Paul says the same thing a little more specifically in Romans, chapter 5, verse 5. He said:

Romans 5:

5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Peter says the same thing in I Peter, chapter 1, verse 22:

I Peter 1:

22Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

The purifying of our souls comes with salvation, and one of the results of our salvation is that we have unfeigned love coming out from within us, the love of God, as Paul refers to it in Romans, chapter 5, verse 5. That is what John is saying, “We the apostles received.” We receive that because we receive the Holy Spirit, too. As I have mentioned several times as we studied our way through chapter 4, you and I have the ability to love the unlovely, not because somehow as Christians we just decide that it is the godly thing to do and I will just grit my teeth and love that person even though I can't stand them—no. We have the ability to love other people because we have the love of God, God's kind of love poured out in our hearts. Peter said there in chapter 1, “See that you love one another.” In other words, we have this God kind of love given to us by God, given to us out of His Spirit, and now we need to see to it that we love one another.

Just as God does with so many things, He gives us the ability, but He also gives us the choice. He gives us the ability to say yes or no to Him, but He gives us the choice of whether we are going to say yes or no to Him. He gives us the ability to love other people even though they are different from us, but He also gives us the choice of whether we are going to let that love of His flow out to those other people. That is what John is saying here. The very important fact of the resource for God's kind of love, the kind of love that accepts other people for what they are, regardless of what they are really like, is that it a product only of the Holy Spirit.

In verse 14, he carries it a step further. He has said that that is our resource for love, but notice in verse 14:

I John 4:

14And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

“We apostles have seen Him. We beheld Him. We touched Him. We companied about with Him. We knew that He was the Son of God, and then later we saw that he rose from the dead. Now we testify that He was sent as the Savior of the world.” Of course, that kind of understanding and that kind of witnessing came after they received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. As a part of that, they also had the evidence of His love by the Spirit and they began to pour out with great power the testimony about Christ that came with the Holy Spirit.

Let me digress just a moment from this subject of love and point out a couple of things about verse 14, even though they do not fit directly with what we are talking about here. Notice he says, “The Father has sent the Son as the Savior of the world.” You see, the Lord Jesus Christ did not become the Son of God. There are those who say that Jesus Christ was such a godly man and a great human being that He became the Son of God and that God made Him His Son. There are even people who believe in Christ as Savior who may have not thought it through, but subconsciously think that Jesus Christ became the Son of God. No. He was the Son of God already. The Father sent the Son. He was already the Son, and God sent Him into the world. That emphasizes the value of our salvation. It was purchased not by one who became God, but who was God. He came into the world as God. The Father sent the Son into the world.

That may seem like a minor distinction, but if you meditate on that, you will realize that our salvation does not come from someone who was like us and became a Son of God. We are sons of God also, but we became sons through Jesus Christ. He was the unique Son of God. He was the only begotten Son of God. He was the Son of God when He came and that is why we worship Him. He had every right to stay in Heaven where He was. He did not for any reason need to leave Heaven and come to earth. He had nothing whatsoever to gain by coming as Savior. The Father sent the Son.

This also says, in verse 14, that He sent the Son as the Savior of the world. Now think carefully about this. This verse does not say that He sent the Son to save the world. He sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in His death on the Cross made it possible for every person in the world to be saved, no matter how wicked or terrible or what kind of failure he was. Jesus Christ made it possible for every person to be saved. However, He is not going to save everybody. This verse does not say that Jesus Christ came so that everybody would be saved. “He came into His own, and His own received Him not.” There were people in His own day who didn't accept Him, and there have been people in every generation of humans down through the years who have chosen not to accept the salvation that Jesus Christ offers, even though it is available to everybody. He saves those who accept the gift. He is the Savior of the whole world, but He does not save the whole world. He saves those who come to Him and respond to His drawing and respond to His wooing, who accept by faith the fact that He died for them. That is why it is important for you and me to continue to tell others about Christ, to give the message of salvation, to plant the seed for someone else perhaps to tell them. Jesus Christ is the Savior, but only those who trust Him as Savior will be saved. He is the Savior available to the whole world, but only those who come to Him in faith will be saved.

Faith In The Son

Coming back to our text, John says that this realization that happened to the apostles will happen to you if you believe. The second resource of love is belief in the Son. Birth by the Spirit, in verses 13-14, and now faith in the Son. Look at verse 15:

I John 4:

15Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
16And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

When you believe and confess that Jesus is the Son of God, it proves that God's life is in you. Paul tells us in I Corinthians, chapter 12, that no one can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit, so this is not just saying, “Yes, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” It means that I accept Him as my Savior. I understand that He is God and that He makes me a part of the family of God. God says that when you believe that, it proves that God's life is in you and where His life is, His love will be, because He is love and love always follows the life of God. Love is part of the life of God; therefore, you and I, who know Christ as Savior, will begin to love other people. Maybe some of you who became Christians as adults remember that change of attitude that began to take place. For some people, it takes place more quickly than others, but if you can remember the time of your salvation, you can probably also remember that it gave you a different viewpoint about other people. You began to relate to other people differently, and more and more as you grew in grace, you began to realize that you can relate to another, even though he is not like you because Christ died for him. Those thoughts and understandings began to come to us because when we have God in our life, God's love is part of that equation. John says that that is a mark of our salvation. Faith in Christ produces love. Your faith in Christ produces the love that enables you to accept people without discrimination.

We really need to understand that in these days in which there is so much talk about love and so much misunderstanding about love and so little activity of love. Love comes from faith. If there is not this relationship of faith in Christ and belief in the Son of God, there cannot be the life of God, so there cannot be the love of God. There can be this human emotion that we call love and that Hollywood hypes to a greater extent than it ever really takes place in any individual's life, but there cannot be this love that God has—love of the unlovely, love of others who are not in our place in life, who are unlike us. When we accept Christ as Savior, that, too, becomes a part of our life and our ability.

Results Of This Love

In verses 17-21, John goes on to show us the tremendous, practical results of this love. We have the resources of love in our salvation, but now the results of this kind of love. First, in verse 17, he says:

I John 4:

17Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

“We may have boldness in the day of judgment,” he says. One of the things that we know as we study the Word of God is that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” so it is easy for us as Christians to sometimes not think too much about the day of judgment. Yet there is a day of judgment coming even for us as believers. I think that deep down inside, every human being realizes that there is this coming day of accounting ahead. For unbelievers, it is that day when they will stand before God and explain why they should be allowed to come into Heaven and give an account of themselves to God. For believers, there is the Judgment Seat of Christ which takes place after we are in Heaven, but gives us the responsibility of seeing the poor choices we made, the things that were not done out of the motive of pleasing Christ and to see, in a sense perhaps, what life could have been. There is that kind of accounting. Although it will take place in Heaven and it will include rewards for those things that we have done to honor Christ, every human being faces this day of judgment. For some, it will be that place where they find, by God's record book, that they are not going to be able to come into Heaven because no matter how many good works they did, they did not trust Christ as Savior. For believers, it will be seeing what life could have been had we devoted our lives and our motives to pleasing Him in everything that we did. Every human being faces judgment.

Jesus went into great detail about the judgment in Matthew, chapter 25, using the illustration of sheep and goats and the dividing of those two. The interesting thing is that the point that He used in that illustration was of people who did what we would think of as little things for other people—visiting people who are in prison, taking care of the sick, helping people who are helpless, giving a cup of cold water in Jesus' name. The point that Jesus made there is that it is not those little things that save us, but it is those little things that give demonstration that we are saved. Even the smallest things, as well as the big things, that we do in Christ's name with the motive of pleasing Christ, are proof that we know Christ and that we are accepted by Him. Expressing God's love to others in a tangible way, whether it is to somebody within our own family or some stranger, John says, gives us confidence about the day of judgment. If we have accepted Christ, we have nothing to worry about in terms of getting into Heaven, but we can have confidence about the Judgment Seat of Christ as we know that we have been expressing God's love in whatever little or big way God may give us the opportunity to do. It gives us boldness; it gives us confidence in the day of judgment.

When we stop to think about that kind of thing, we can't help but ask ourselves, and I hope you are asking yourself right now, how am I doing in that? What opportunities have I had that I have just blown right past because I am so busy thinking about my agenda and my needs and maybe even my responsibilities that I haven't taken a moment to think about that person who is in need? Maybe he just needs a friendly, warm hello. Maybe he just needs a pat on the back, or maybe he needs something bigger; but how am I doing in expressing the love of God in tangible ways to other people? John says that love is perfected as we express ourselves in tangible ways to other people and that gives us confidence in the day of judgment.

There is a second result of this. If you pass that test, as you give it to yourself about responding to the needs of other people, you will understand what John means by the wonderful little phrase that he inserts at the end of verse 17. There he says:

I John 4:

17…because as he is, so are we in this world.

You know, that almost seems tacked on there at the end of verse 17, and it is easy to just read right past it without thinking about it, but there is one of the most profound statements in the Word of God even though it is stated in the simplest kind of way. Every word is a monosyllable. “As he is, so are we in the world.” What does that mean? Why do I say that is so significant? It means that Christ is now within us, but He is invisible. Christ is in us, that is how Christ is, and we are in this world. In other words, we are Christ to other people. We don't go around claiming to be Christ, and we don't go around claiming to be the Son of God; but in terms of what other people see of Christ, that is what they see in us.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I am not involved in church because of all the hypocrites that are there.” We can debate about that. We can give reasons they should. You are going to deal with hypocrites anywhere you go; why should church be any different? On the other hand, sadly enough, there is too much truth in that statement and people perceive that in us, and they see if we are hypocrites.

The Holy Spirit, writing through John, says that Christ is in us and as Christ is, so are we in this world. The secret of Christian living is not in some feeble effort that we take to try to do something that is an imitation of Christ; the secret of Christian living is to realize that Christ is living in us and to just let Him live out His life through us. To listen to that little nudge, that little whisper, that He gives us—do this; say that; pay attention to that person; think about that need. He speaks to our hearts in those ways. The secret of Christian living is simply letting Him live out His life through us, doing those things that He would have done, doing those things that He through His Holy Spirit reminds us to do.”

You see what confidence that can give us about the day of judgment. If our lives are centered around doing those things that He wants to do through us, we have nothing to worry about concerning the Judgment Seat of Christ. If He is going to look at my life at the Judgment Seat of Christ and He is going to see the activity of Himself in me, then He won't deny Himself at the day of judgment. We can be confident that whatever we are doing that stems from letting Him live out His life through us is totally acceptable to Him, and therefore we can have confidence in His presence. That is the first result of putting love on display.

Love Casts Out Fear

The second thing that that kind of love accomplishes is in verse 18, and that is it casts out fear. Look at verse 18:

I John 4:

18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

This kind of love that John is talking about accomplishes something not only for the future, but for now. It has a very practical impact. It casts out fear now in this life, not just in thinking about the future, but in living this life day by day. Before we look further at this, we need to understand that the word torment comes from a Greek word that means “to limit or to restrain.” John is saying that fear has limitations. Fear imprisons us. Isn't that true? All of us have certain fears about certain things—things that we dread, things that we don't want to have to go through. If you think about that, fear puts limits on us. I have a fear that my family knows about and there are some funny stories about things that I have done just out of the fear of putting myself in a situation where that might take place. Fortunately, it is mostly just funny, but fear limits me in some of the things I could do. There are some things that I have to make myself do because of this one particular fear.

Fear limits us, and if you think about the fears and the phobias that you have, the same thing is true. It is something that we all experience. Why is that? John puts his finger on it: “He who fears is not perfected in love.” If we love God enough and if we love other people enough, whatever that thing is that we are afraid of will not keep us from taking that action, extending that effort, whatever it may be, to express God's love to someone else, in spite of the fact that we may be afraid. Notice what it says: “It is perfected.” God's love is perfected in love. You may find yourself in a situation where you are just afraid to love. Maybe you are afraid of being hurt again; maybe you are afraid of being rejected or being rejected again because you have been in a situation like that and you tried to express love and it didn't seem to work and you were embarrassed or you were hurt. You are afraid and you want to stay away from that kind of situation, but listen, the Holy Spirit, speaking through John, said, “You go ahead and do that thing, and your love will be perfected as you do it and the fear will dissolve.”

That doesn't mean that you will not have the fear again, but it means that as you step forward to do whatever God is leading you to do in affirming another individual and expressing love to another individual, whatever form that may take, God will overcome the fear. Love is perfected and your love will take shape and take form and take growth. It is not easy to do. Pride and selfishness are all wrapped up in fear. They are a part of that, and they keep us from expressing love; but God says that if you move forward and take advantage of that opportunity, take that step of faith and love in that situation, whatever form it may take, God will take care of the fear. As you continue to do that, you will find that fear growing less and less. It may take some time, but perfect love, mature love, casts out fear, God says. You may have to begin slowly at first, maybe just something like saying a kind word to someone, but if you will do that, you will find your heart flooded with relief and with peace and deliverance. Little by little, as you continue, you will be set free and be able to do what you were intended by God to do and to be what you are intended to be.

Concern For Others

Finally, in these last verses we find the third result of putting love on display and that is concern for others. We have seen that love produces confidence about the day of judgment and casting out of fear and now we want to look at concern for others. Look at verse 19:

I John 4:

19We love him, because he first loved us.
20If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

I like John's bluntness. He takes off the gloves here and lays it right on the line. He says, “Look, where does love come from anyway?” That is what we have been talking about in this whole chapter, isn't it? We have been talking about the source of love. He says, “Don't forget, we love because He first loved us.” Technically, in the original text it doesn't say, “We love Him because He first loved us.” It just says, “We love because He first loved us.” We love Him because He first loved us, but we love in general because He first loved us. Love begets love. If you know the love of God, you know how fully He accepts you, Even when you are as unlovable and as miserable as you were and are, He yet takes you and forgives you. He loves you and He lives within you. If you understand His love, you can love, because you have been loved. “We love,” God says, “because He first loved us.”

Then John really takes the gloves off. He says, “Look, don't kid yourself about this.” It is very easy to kid ourselves about this subject of love, but if you can say, “I love God,” and yet you hate your brother (maybe not your sibling brother, but if you hate another person), if you say you love God and you simply cannot have anything to do with this or that person, John says you are kidding yourself. You are a liar. You are not a child of God. How can you love God whom you cannot even see and not love your brother whom you can see? You can see his needs; you can see his shortcomings, you can see how much God loves him. How can you say that you love God, and you can't love your brother? That is not God's kind of love.

God never gives a commandment without also giving us the ability to keep it. His commandment in this case is, “He that loves God ought to love his brother also.” If we have the life of God in us, and we do, the Scripture makes it abundantly clear, we can show the love of God, no matter how tough that situation may be. In the pressures of life and the differences that we face with other people, we often want to find an excuse for lovelessness. We want to rationalize away that responsibility we have; but if we believe the Word of God, it is not that we cannot love that other person; it is that we will not. Let's face it, John deals bluntly and directly and honestly with us.

Conclusion

I want to say this as kindly as I can, but I want to say it as directly as I can. If you find that you simply cannot love other people, if there are individuals or groups to whom you simply cannot relate, I want to tell you on the authority of the Word of God, there is a good question of whether or not you have really accepted Christ as your Savior. You need to deal with yourself very carefully about this. Examine your heart before God, and if you know that you have trusted Christ as Savior, stop saying, “I cannot love that person. I cannot love that group of people.” Stop saying that. If you have truly accepted Christ as Savior, you cannot say that because God's love is in you, and you need to let it come out. If you cannot stop saying that, there is a possibility that even though you may think you have trusted Christ, you really haven't, and you need to do business in your heart before God. If you love Him and you know you do, if you have trusted Him as Savior, you can love your brother and you must.

Maybe you can't do it out of love for the other person, but out of love for the Lord, take those first few tentative, childlike steps of faith in showing love to that other person and you may be surprised to find that God will take over and do things in your own heart that you never even imagined possible. We love because He first loved us.


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