We live in a world where the love of many has grown cold, but for the Christian that should not be so. “…because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Rom. 5:5) This is the sure test that we have been saved by our Lord Jesus Christ and put into His Kingdom. This is only the first test of many that the Apostle gives through his little letter. It’s this test of love for the brethren that will concern us this morning. Jesus said, “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) So let’s look at this love that Jesus Christ expects from all of His disciples. A love that is greatly needed in today’s world.
“Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (I John 4:7)
This is not a human love, such as, Eros which is a love that comes from pre-biblical Greek, which is not found in the New Testament. Eros is self-acquisitive, even in its highest Platonic form, with the “I” at the center. It is a possessive love- a selfish love that longs only to fulfill its own desires at the expense of others. It is not even the love we call Philos which is a friendship love. At best this love has an element of deep feeling for one’s friends. But neither one of these loves adequately describes the love that comes from God.
So what is God’s Love? It is an Agape love, which is a self-giving love, with “God” at the center. (See I Cor. 13:5) To fully understand this love that God has causes us to fall on our knees with adoration and praise. God thinks nothing of Himself but longs to give all that He has to the well being of His creation and especially the creature made in His own image. In the world love is usually self-taking, whereas God’s love is self giving – always giving of self for the good of others. This is God’s love. This is who He is, that’s all He does – He lives to love.
It also suggests a volitional act in the loving care of his children. (See John 21:15-17). God’s love is never conditional, but it is an act of His will to care for things that He has set His appreciation on, such as His own children. He wills to love His children even before they became His children to set them free and give them what they need for life. Love is feeding the sheep because God knows they need it. I wonder if we ever take the time to see what our neighbor needs – by simply asking, then fulfilling that need. Jesus said that the Father knows when a sparrow falls to the ground and we are worth more than many sparrows. In love He is constantly concerned with our well being. He even has the hairs on our head numbered. Wow! That’s what I call loving concern!
It is a love that has a consuming passion for the well being of others. Perhaps all of history will demonstrate that God never gave up on man but continued to pursue him even though man turned away from God every chance he got. We see this all through the Old Testament. God would forgive his children; give them a fresh start by providing for their every need. Then they would once again turn away from God and put their trust in other gods (with a little g). Yet God continued His holy pursuit to bring them back to their state of original creation – which is having a loving dependant relationship with the Father. This agape Love declares the very essence of God’s character. This love is never absent as a factor in his every word and deed.”
Love is present in his justice. God is a just God, He must punish sin. We all have seen the effects of sin in our world today. In His love He brings justice upon the world – for true justice will always allow man to reap what he has sown. What would we think of a judge who would let off a murderous pervert without making him pay the penalty for his grievous sin? God judges the whole world in love.
Love is present in His wrath poured upon the world. God’s wrath can be described as allowing man to seek deeper and deeper into his sins and the consequences of those sins. Why does God do that? Because He desires that they repent. Friends, God loves us! In His love He allows the world to sink deeper into its own sin hoping they will repent.
Love is present in the discipline of His children. I have personally seen this a number of times in my own life. God the Father will always discipline those whom He loves. What father would not discipline his own children? I know in the raising of our children there were times when they needed discipline. I simply did not want to do it, but I forced myself to do it for their own good. God disciplines us out of His love.
And this love is most assuredly present in the salvation of man. We will speak more on this in the next point, but for now just let me say that it was the love of God that caused Him to send His only begotten Son to save a dead humanity destined for hell. Friends, He never stops loving. This is His “distinguishing mark” as it is with those who are His children. God is love, which tells us the kind of person who presides over the universe – Amen!
The source of agape love is from God. This is not a love that can be conjured up by man. It must come from God. Friends, God’s love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. (See Rom. 5:5) If God is not there then His love is not there! This is a gift of God. He imparts to His children a part of who He is. If I wanted to give my children a lasting legacy of who I am, then I would desire that they would copy at least one of my attributes. And if we love with agape love then we have been born of God and we know God, that is, we have an intimate relationship with our Father. Our love comes from God. It’s the kind of love that will break down barriers, bring healing to a broken heart, and bring restoration to an individual dead in his sins.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (v8) The argument is plain and compelling. For the loveless Christian to profess to know God and to have been born of God is like claiming to be intimate with a foreigner whose language we cannot speak. We simply cannot be a Christian and not love as He does. His love in us compels us to love one another. The longer we walk with Christ the more we become like Him. In time there will be a family resemblance. We will love as He has loved us. If we do not love, it would be like having parents that don’t look anything like us. It’s only natural that God’s children will learn to love as their Father in heaven has loved.
We must not fail to manifest the nature of God whom we claim as our Father. Love is as much a sign of the new birth as is righteousness. (See I John 2:29) Yet we live in a world that has forgotten how to love one another. And here is a bigger tragedy; we live in a church that has also forgotten how to love one another. And this is our sure test that we are saved in-Christ. Friends as we shall see the world (fallen humanity) cannot love one another with God’s love. Neither can we, unless God is living in us through the Holy Spirit. The greatest expression of God’s love is the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ to save us from our sins.
“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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”. (I John 4:9-10)
Why did God send His Son? So that we might live through him. Friends, the Bible says, that we were dead in our trespasses and sins. And a dead person cannot save himself, nor can he bring himself back to life. But God’s love was expressed in sending His only Son so that we can have life. This is a true expression of agape love. It is a self—sacrifice, the seeking of another’s positive good at one’s own cost. It cost his Son His life on the Cross so that we can have life in Him. In this phrase atoning sacrifice for our sins we find the deeper meaning of the term love: it means forgiving the sins of the beloved and remembering them no more. Wow! Our sins were cast as far as the East is from the West. He passed over our sins by forgiving them – by pardoning our sins that stood against us. This is what God has done for rebellious mankind: He pardons their sins against himself at his own cost. The depth of God’s love is to be seen precisely in the way in which it bears the wounds inflicted on it by mankind and offers full and free pardon.
Love is demonstrated in what Christ did on the Cross for a world that did not deserve to be saved. The Bible says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) Someone may die for a righteous man but never does one die for a wicked and vile person who deserves judgment and not redemption. Yet, that is exactly what the love of God did for us. We were enemies of God, yet He gave His Son as an act of love by removing our sins and reconciling us to Himself. Also, God is said to love the Israelites, not because of their superiority, but because He loves them. The Bible says, “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh King of Egypt.” (Deut. 7:7-8) This was an act of God’s will to love the nation of Israel. This is how He loves us, because He has chosen to love us not because we deserved it.
The chief characteristic of agape love is giving without ever expecting anything in return. This is how God would have us love one another. Try loving those who cannot give anything in return. Try loving those for whom society has rejected completely. Try loving those who Christ died for. It’s giving to those who cannot give back. God is not a respecter of persons. Everyone in the world looks the same to Him. The only difference is those who are saved and those who are lost. But even beyond this, giving is an act of the will, not emotions, sentimentality, or feelings. Christ said that I freely lay my life down. No one can take it from me, including all the power of Rome; He laid His life down freely for us. This was an act of the will. This is how God’s love works. It always must begin with the will, not the feelings or the emotions. The world loves one another because they feel like loving. But for the Christian demonstrating God’s love it’s different. It must always begin with the will.
I have counseled young married couples who have said they no longer love one another. That they have fallen out of love and there is no need for biblical counseling. And I have told them that the love we should have for one another must always begin with the will. When we do that, then we allow God’s love to flow through us to the other person. And when you do that, the feelings and the emotions will soon return even greater than they were before. Why, because we feel the love of God flowing through us to others – and that’s awesome!
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (I John 4:11-12)
The unseen God, who revealed Himself in His Son, is now revealed in His people when they love one another. God’s love is seen in their love because their love is His love imparted to them by His Spirit.
1. God wants His children to be like Him in every way. He is Holy, so we should be holy. He is Merciful, so we should show mercy. And He is love, so we should love others in the same way the God loves us. Now that we have seen God’s love and the demonstration of that love, we are brought to the last point – in that we also must demonstrate the same love of the Father as His beloved children. What Father does not want His child to be just like him? I always thought it would be nice that one of my boys would grow up and be a preacher like his dad. This is the greatest compliment that a son can pay his father to be just like him. In the same way, God the Father wants his children to be just like Him – especially in this love for one another.
2. Loving one another is a strong apologetic. Now that the Son has returned to the Father, God is made known on earth by those who through faith in His Son have become His children – if they love one another. The love of God displayed in His people is the strongest apologetic that God has in the world – Our love for one another will impact the world for Christ! Jesus Christ said, “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). Yet, we live in a world where the love of many has grown cold. This should not be for the true church of God. We should continue to demonstrate His love even in the worst of times. It will have the greatest effect upon the world and fallen humanity.
3. If we continue to love – the more we love the more we are made complete in love. God keeps filling us with his love. This is the best part. We simply cannot out love God. The more we love others, the more God pours his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Friends, this is how God still continues to love the world – through you! And when we allow His love to flow through us to others around us – there is no greater joy because His love is made complete in us. We simply do not experience the fullness of God’s love because we don’t let it out to others around us. The more we give the more we get!
Let’s continue to love even the unloving. God wants to love others through you. Trust God to keep loving others even in the face of opposition or persecution. There is nothing stronger than the love of God. God’s Love will overcome the world. God’s love which originates in Himself and was manifested in His Son is perfected in His people.
We have spoken a lot about love this morning but I have not told you how to do it. I would like to tell you that it is simple to love your enemy, to love those who despitefully use you, or even to love those who hate you. The how to is simple in that we follow the commands of God that tells us how to love one another, which we will look at this evening. However, it’s not really simple because it is a matter of the will. The will is another matter. Our will must die to the will of God. This happens when we die to self. This happens when we pick up the cross and follow Him. It can happen for you this morning. You can get up wherever you are and surrender your will to the Lord.