Wow. That’s all I could say as I read this. I was planning on using this as just part of a post, but I’m just going with this today.
It’s all about love, and specifically the love of God. We still live with the picture of God as Zeus, God as the angry old grandpa. God ready to hurl lightning bolts at us for all the things we’ve done wrong. We live in fear and dread of this God. We come up with all kinds of systems and rules to try to stay on this God’s good side, because we know we don’t want to be on His bad side!
But, the old apostle John tells us that the God we serve is not a mean old Grandpa God. I’m going to tell you something you may not have known before. Sin is sin, we are all broken sinners. But God is not up in heaven waiting and wanting to punish you for your sin. He’s not angry with you. But, continuing with the Grandpa comparison, your Grandfather may have told you when you were young not to touch the stove. But at some point, you probably did touch the stove (little sinner that you were), and it burned you. Did being burned by the stove mean your Grandfather was mad at you? Or did it mean the stove was hot, and that’s what hot stoves do. Being burned is simply the result of not following Grandpa’s directions to not touch the hot stove, not an indication that anybody was mad at you.
So it is with our sin. We are much more punished BY our sins than FOR our sins. Relationships are ruined by sin, it doesn’t mean God is mad at you. It’s what happens when you don’t follow certain instructions. If you get caught drinking and driving, it will cost you much time, money and embarrassment. God’s not punishing you, you are just living with the consequences of not following certain rules about drinking and driving. When we do wrong things, live the wrong way, certain things will happen to us. That’s not us being punished by God for our sin, it’s simply what happens when we touch the hot stove.
We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. How much does God love us? “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NLT. He loves us so much He came down out of heaven to walk among the creation He had made. He loves us so much He took all of our sin, hate, scapegoating, hostility, and anger upon Himself, allowed us to hang Him from a tree to die. He loves us so much that He never stops giving us the grace and mercy we need until we finally do take the step of repenting and coming back to Him.
And – God is love. GOD IS LOVE. God is NOT anger, He is love. John said this first in verse 8, now again in verse 16. He didn’t want us to think it was some typo or something. If we live in love, we are living in Him, and He is in us. That is the entire point and purpose of Jesus coming to earth to be born of a virgin, suffer under Pilate, and die on a cross only to rise up again to walk among us. He came to reset the world not on the axis of hate, anger, force and violence, but on His axis of perfect love, forgiveness and mercy.
And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Isn’t the entire point of Christianity to be like Jesus? Is our love growing more perfect? If we are living in love, we have no reason to fear judgment day, because if we are living in love we are living like Jesus. So many people waste time trying to figure out when Jesus is coming back. I have news for your, the central confession of the Christian faith is JESUS IS LORD. That means right here, right now, Jesus is ruling the world from His throne of grace and forgiveness. He was crowned on the cross, confirmed in His resurrection, then promoted (ascended) to the right hand of the father.
We proclaim Jesus is Lord, but the evidence is against us. In America, we believe America is Lord, that we actually rule the world, we just need Jesus to sponsor us into heaven. I don’t know everything (much at all really), but I know this much – I’m supposed to be living as a Christian right now. Because Jesus is Lord right now. I believe this because I call myself a Christian. We might not see it right now, but somewhere in Hebrews it tells us that faith is the belief in things unseen.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. Just read that one again. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. That’s not me saying that. It’s not your pastor. It’s not some preacher looking for a love offering. It’s the apostle John, who walked with Christ, laid his head on His chest at the last supper, saw the crucifixion, that walked with Christ in His resurrection. If we are living in Christ we have no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we have fear at all, it is fear of punishment. If we fear His punishment, then we have not actually felt and known His love. If we fear Him, it’s because we still see Him as angry Zeus, ready to burn us up because we are breaking the Sabbath.
The opposite of this is also true. We live the opposite of this. Think about this for a minute – perfect fear expels all love. Perfect your fear and you’ll expel all love. Just look at our 24 hour news cycle. MSNBC, Fox News, CNN. They have 24 hours to fill. Do they appeal to your love, or to your fear? Keep watching these guys, keep perfecting your fear. They play on your fears, pound the drum, make sure we fear that group, that group fears you. Us against them. Scapegoaters R Us.
Look at our political process. How do politicians get votes. FEAR. Not love. We keep following our leaders, buying into the fear they sell us. It’s easy to stir up a crowd, just find some OTHER group to FEAR, scapegoat them for all your problems, and you can galvanize and motivate the masses.
But, FEAR and LOVE can not coexist.
We love each other because he loved us first. The only reason we can love, is because of His love.
If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers. John just refers to other believers here, maybe he had a specific point he was trying to make. But Jesus tell us to love God and love our neighbor. All of our neighbors. If we say we love God, but we don’t love our neighbor, we are a liar. God’s love is not in us. Don’t forget what the apostle Paul told us – “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 NIV. I can have all the faith, knowledge, and wisdom in the world, but if I don’t have love, I have nothing. Because God is love. And if I don’t have love, I don’t have him. And just what good is it to have the whole world and lose your soul?
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.”
1 John 4:16-21 NLT