1 God s Love Leads Us to Love One Another Sermon Series: Focus: See Clearly Why We re Here Korey Van Kampen Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church (WELS) Flagstaff, AZ September 23, 2018 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen. So what would you say if one of your children, grandchildren, niece, nephew came up to you and asked, "What's love?" Probably depend a little bit on the circumstances of that question. I mean, are you talking about, like, the way that I say I love pizza? Are you talking about the way I say I love my wife? Or the way I say I love my brother? Or the way they say, that a person might say, "I love my best friend? "Or my sibling, or my relative?" Or so on like that. The relationship would have a great bearing on how we we'd answer that question, what is love? And love, I would say, looks a lot different in each one of those scenarios, right? I don't treat pizza the same way I treat my wife, and that's a good thing. She's happy about that and so am I. But if you looked at that hymn that we just sang. If you had it open in your hymnal. If you, I know you put them away already, but if you wanted to reopen to that spot, the top right corner of the page has the theme of the hymn, and the hymns in the hymnal are grouped by theme. Did you notice the theme of this hymn that we sang? Theme of the hymn, see, now you learned something about the hymnal, too. The theme of the hymn was Christian love. And so today we ask, well what exactly is Christian love? And what makes Christian love different from the kind of love that a husband and wife show, the kind of love that a brother and sister show, the kind of love that best friends show, and so on. Have you ever stopped to think about just what exactly is Christian love? We can talk about it a lot, but do we ever define it? That's what we'll see today in this section from First John that we're going to look at, 1 John 4:7 to 12. "Dear friends, let us love one another, "for love comes from God. "Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. "Whoever does not love does not know God, "because God is love. "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. "And this is love: not that we loved God, "but that he loved us and sent his Son "as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. "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." And this is God's word.
2 And so as we start to take a look at these Bible verses, the first thing that we want to see is the source of Christian love. Where does it come from? How do we get it? And the source of that love is, it's God. He says very plainly, "Love comes from God." Well, then, how can God be the source of our love? Well he says it later on in the same section, quite simply and plainly, "God is love." And so what that's saying then is it's more than just that God is loving. It's more than just that God created love. And it's more than just that God shows love, or that God gives love, or any of that. No, what that means to tell us is that at the very essence and the very core of his being, God is love, that love is at the very center of his character, that it defines who God is and what he does. See God is a relational being. The Bible describes God as being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all of whom have lived, and live in perfect love and perfect harmony and perfect communion with one another. And they've been doing that since before the beginning of time, and in that way love is at the very center of who God is, and at the very center of everything that he does. And so then, God is love. Well what does his love look like? What we see is that it's a love that acts. It serves, it does, it gives, and John lays it out very plainly, he says, "This is how God showed "his love love among us: "He sent his one and only Son into the world "that we might live through him." Now this is probably the most fascinating truth of all the Bible, even though it can be often the most easily forgotten or neglected truth in all the Bible. It's just that God loves. He sent Jesus into the world. Now, why would he love? Why would he send Jesus into the world? Well maybe you think if you stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon, either the North or the South Rim, and you look out over that vast space, and you say, "Well, OK, I could see why God would love this world." Or you get to the top of the peaks, and you look out over the landscape of Northern Arizona, and it's just beautiful, and you can see, you know I could see how God would love this. But turn on the news and what do you see? Conflict, hatred, crime, murder, discord, violence, and so on. We see a world that's not perfect, a world that in many ways isn't beautiful, a world that's marred by sin and death. You know, it would make sense for God to love a perfect world, but what about the world that we live in? I think we could understand if God was actually really angry when he looked out at this world, because it was perfect, and what's happened to it? What have we done to it? And yet, God loves. And he loves so much that he sent his one and only son, that he sent Jesus, his most trusted and treasured relationship in the world. He sent him into the world to deliver us from the death, and to deliver us from the violence caused by sin, and to bring us with him to life forever. So what does God's love look like? It looks like that. God's love looks like a cross. It's a self-giving, a self-sacrificing love, a love that holds nothing back if that's what the beloved needs. And so then that's God's love, that's what it looks like. So then what is Christian love? Christian love is what God's love leads us to do. John says, "Love one another, for love comes from God." You see a sure
3 sign of knowing God's love is then passing on that love from God to the other people in your life. Passing it on to them in the way that you think about them. Passing it on to them in the way that you speak to them, and in the way that you speak about them, and also passing it on to them in the way that you treat them. And this is a reciprocal love. He says, "Love one another." That is to say it's love that is both given and received, and that's why he says, "Love one another." It's not meant to be that there are those people who are meant to give the love, and then there are others who are meant to receive it. No, everyone is called both to give and to receive. And this love, then, is a reflection of the love that receive from God. It's not something that we are supposed to work up on ourselves on our own, and get excited about. It's not even something that we can work up in ourselves on our own. No we can simply pass on to others the love that we've received from God. In that sense each one of us is like the Moon. The moon has no light of its own. The moon can only pass on the light that it receives from the Sun, and so in the same way, we can only pass on the love that we have received from God. And it fact, that's what we're called to do. We're called to reflect God's love for us. We're called to show love in same way that God has loved us. Jesus says, "As I have love you, so love one another." And so what that means, then, is our love, Christian love is self-giving, self-sacrificing, gracious, serving, and not just to people who are good and kind to you, but even to people who aren't. And not just to people who are easy to love, but to love people even when it's challenging. And we're not just to this love even when it's convenient, but to do it even when it's highly inconvenient, because when you look at how God has loved you, that's exactly how that love came. And so then Christian love is a lot more than just having some warm, fuzzy, happy feelings about your fellow Christians. It's a lot more than just being nice and kind to them, though that's a part of it. Christian love is not affirming everything that there is to know about a person. What Christian love means, then, is to put the needs, the concerns, the wants, the desires, the dreams of others ahead of your own. What it means then is to look at their life and to look at their thoughts and their experiences, and to say, "Those person's experiences are more valuable "and important than my own." What it means then is to have a genuine vested interest, rather than just a passing one, in the welfare of others, to work for their good. So that means then, to love one another is to share joys, to share griefs, to share blessings, to share challenges and so on. And when we love one another like this, then that's a mark of knowing God. John makes it very clearly, "Those who know God, "love one another." Now think about that kind of love. Is that easy? Saying it's hard might be one of the greatest understatements that mankind has ever heard. Well why is it hard? It's hard partially because of who the people around us are, right? But it's also hard, partially because of who each one of us is. See, sometimes the people, sometimes the Christians that God places into your life, sometimes they have personalities that rub you the
4 wrong way. That rub you the wrong way, don't they? You see what looks to you like arrogance, or pride, or abrasiveness, or coldness, or dishonesty. Or you see people being passive-aggressive or inconsiderate. In short, what are you seeing? You're seeing sinners acting like sinners. It's hard to love sinners sometimes, isn't it? A lot of times it's hard to love them. Well that's the people around us, but at the same time it's hard to love because we can be a little slow to open ourselves up to others. We can be a little slow to jump in and help because it might get to be inconvenient, it might get to be a burden on us occasionally. Or it might inhibit us from doing all the things that we want to do, and that we want to accomplish in a given set of time. You see, we can so fill up our daily life with activity, and pleasures, and so on that we don't leave ourselves a lot of time to love other people. But to truly love one another we must know on another. We have to let other Christians in. It's pretty tough to pray for someone if you don't know what their blessings and challenges are. It's pretty tough to serve someone if you don't know what their needs are. And it's pretty tough to see their life and thoughts as valuable and important than their own if you have very little interaction with your fellow Christians. Yeah, sometimes people are hard to love, because we're sinners. And sometimes we just don't want to do the hard work of loving one another. But you notice here in this section John doesn't place any qualifications, he doesn't let us off the hook. He just says, "Love one another." And when we consider how hard it can be, whether it's because of ourselves, or whether it's because of others, we might start to wonder if when John said that stuff about whoever doesn't love doesn't really know God, we might start to wonder if he's talking about me, or you might start to wonder if he's talking about you. And it's when you're there, when you're doubting God's love for you, that's exactly when you need to remember, that the most important aspect of Christian love is not how well we reflect God's love to others. The most important aspect of Christian love is God's love for you. As John writes very plainly, he says, "This is love: not that we loved God, "but that he loved us and sent his Son "as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." You see, God sent Jesus into the world because he knew that there was no way we would ever be able to love like he does. He know that there's no way that we'd ever be able to love one another as he has loved us, but that's precisely why Jesus came. And that's precisely why Jesus died. He died as an atoning sacrifice. Something that atones is something that takes two sides that are at odds, and it makes them right again. And that's what Jesus did by his death. Jesus, when he died, he died under all of our lovelessness. All the times that we failed to love, all the times that we didn't want to love, all the times that we were the ones who were hard to love, that's why Jesus died. And because he died on that cross, we're forgiven, forgiven of it all, every last bit of it. And because he died, by faith in him God now gives you and I the record of people who do love perfectly because that's how Jesus loved. And by faith in him, that record of perfect love from Jesus has been given to each and every one of you. God now sees each and every one of you as his child, his son, his daughter, who loves one another, who loves others
5 perfectly. And you see in this new status that we have before God, sins forgiven, this new status of standing before him as perfect and righteous, not because of what we've done, but because of what Jesus has done for us, it sets us free. You see, now we can love other people, not because it's going to earn us a higher place in heaven. We can love other people not because God's going to shower extra blessings on us if we do, but because we are perfect now before God. We're free to love other people just because it's for their good, free to love them for them rather than loving them for ourselves. And so as we think about how can we grow in love for one another, I found two really important factors. Yeah, there are lots of different ways, lots of different opportunities, lots of paths that a person can take to love one another. But the two factors that I came back to repeatedly, once, that I came back repeatedly over and over again, is that for us to grow in love for one another, that Christians need to get to know one another, that love grows in a setting where I get to know my fellow Christians, and my fellow Christians get to know me. And the same for all of you, where you get to know your fellow Christians, and they get to know you. They get to see a little glimpse into your heart and into your mind, and even into your soul. So that's the first factor, knowing one another. But then the second factor that goes with it is also a setting where we can grow in God's love for us, because it's God's love for you that empowers you and strengthens you and gives you the ability to show love for one another. And so what we need to grow in love for one another is a setting where we we can get to know one another, and a setting where we can grow and fill up in God's love for us. And that helps us to grow. And it's in light of both of those things that here we're launching a new ministry really this fall. We're calling it Growth Groups. The idea is that we grow in God's word, and we grow in love for one another. Well what's a Growth Group? It's a group that meets once a week for about eight to ten weeks, just depending on the course of the study. The idea is they'll meet at different times, different places, the aim being to give people a number of options to make participation as easy as possible for as many people as possible. And the idea being that every individual can pick the opportunity, the place, the time, et cetera, that works best for you and your schedule. So we'll have a round in the fall, eight to ten weeks, a round in the spring, eight to ten weeks, and a round in the summer, eight to ten weeks. And what those groups are going to do is in general they're going to work through a book. The book's going to be Bible-based, one way or another. Usually you'll read a chapter or two at home. I'll say, "Read it with a highlighter." Then come back and let's talk about did you have any questions on what you read? What did you find particularly insightful, something that you hadn't heard before, or something that just really spoke to your heart in a way that was powerful? What did you learn from it, and so on. You see, as we gather around God's word, and as we talk about God's word with one another, it's going to fill us up with his love, and it's going to grow in us an ability to
6 love one another. The other thing with these studies, since you're looking through a book, there's a big worry that everyone has about Bible study that goes away. And the big worry that everyone has about Bible study is that somebody is going to ask you a question and put you on the spot, and you're not going to know the answer for it, right? I'm not going to ask you how many of you have felt that way cause all of you have at one point or another. Well, when you're discussing something that you've read, and you're discussing, "Hey, I highlighted this section, and this is why." That's not a concern any more. So you don't have to worry about getting put on the spot. You don't have to worry about not knowing the answer, because the book has the answer, and if the book doesn't have the answer, there's always, you know, "We'll reach out to Pastor, "we'll shoot him an , we'll give him a phone call, "and we'll get the answer from him." And so, at the end of that group time, then there's time for prayer, where we can say, "I have a friend who's really struggling with this." Or, "I have a relative who's going in for surgery," and so on. Or, "I've been really struggling with this temptation, "I've been struggling with this challenge in my life." Where we can pray, pray for one another, and pray for our friends and so on, where we can bring before God our needs, our cares, our concerns, and we can also give thanks for blessings, and the idea is to do this in an informal, comfortable setting, where we can relax and just get to know one another, and get to know God better as well. You see, through these groups, we can come to know God and his love better as we grow in his word. We can come to know one another better, and we can come to better pray for and support one another as well. And so this fall, just a little nuts and bolts, we'll have three groups going, this fall. Hopefully as each session goes we can add another one. It would give you more opportunities, more times that work for you, more topics that you might find interesting. Our hope and goal is that we can reach at a place where every person in this church wants to, that's the key, wants to participate in one of these at least once a year. We had one group meet over the summer. It was well-received, gave us some good feedback to make sure we're hitting the target. The idea is that we want to grow in love for God, grow in love for one another, and so in that, you get a little urging from me. Give these groups a try. There's a signup sheet right out on the ledge in the entryway. And so we tie this all back. What does Christian love look like? Christian love is a group of people, a group of Christians putting one another first, a group of Christians saying to each other, "You first, you first, you first." It's a group of Christians serving, caring, forgiving, helping, praying for, supporting and guiding one another. And why? It's all because this is how God has loved you. See, when we do Christian love, when we put it into practice it's pretty amazing. If you look at the final verse of our text, it tells us what happens when we put Christian love into practice. It says, "No one has ever seen God; "but if we love one another, God lives in us "and his love is made complete in us." See, God is by definition invisible, he's a spirit. We can't see him with the naked eye, nor can we see
7 him with a microscope, with a microscope or with a telescope, or a mass spectrometer or anything like that. But when we love one another the way that God loves us, he, in a way, becomes visible. He becomes visible through us, through the way that we love one another. But even more than that, his love is made complete in us. That is to say, his love reaches it goal, it accomplishes its purpose in us. What that means to say is that, when God loved us, and when he sent Jesus to save us from sin, he never meant his love to stop there. Instead, he meant for that love to be passed on. And it is then, when that love is passed on, that that love reaches its goal. So the more that we fill up on God's love for us and Jesus, the more then we are empowered to love on another. And so, friends, as we declare the saving work of Jesus, as we reflect on that saving work of Jesus, may that grow in us love for God, and may that love for God also lead us to grow in love for one another as well. So may God so grant us that and bless it. Amen.