Exploring 1 John Session 27: 1 John 4: 16-21

 

Exploring 1 John Session 27:  1 John 4: 16b-21

 This session is a continuation of our last. If you missed session 26 you will find it advantageous to review what we discovered about love.  John continues to explore the incredible love of God and the implications of such a revelation.  John again assures us that deeds of love are the objective evidence that we are living the way God intends.  A major takeaway from this session is how to take up permanent residence in a life of love.

1 John 4:16-21 (MSG)

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.  We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First, we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

20 If anyone boasts, "I love God," and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won't love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can't see?

21 The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You've got to love both.

 

God is love.  What a statement!  That God is love may be the key to understanding the reason God created.  “Love must have someone to love and someone to love it” (William Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT).  That God is love may be the key to understanding why humans are endowed with free will.  “Unless love is not a free response it is not love” (ibid.). That God is love may be the key to understanding God being continually present in the Creation, intervening in human history to redeem and restore (1 Peter 5:7).  That God is love may be the key to understanding why God wants all persons to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).  That God is love may be the key to understanding why the scriptures hold the promise of eternal life (John 6:40).

 God is love.  It’s love that calls you to repentance (Romans 2:4).  God the Holy Spirit speaks truth into every human heart (prevenient grace).  Love woos the heart.  You are free to reject or respond (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).  When you respond to the overtures of love you are drawn closer to God.  As you draw closer the gospel is revealed to you.  The revelation resonates within and what did not make any sense before, suddenly does.  Is it doing so now in you?  If so it is by acknowledging your need to enter into this love, believing that Jesus makes it possible for you to do so, committing yourself to live a life of love as demonstrated by Jesus, that you can ask God to make His love complete in you.  Your new spiritual journey begins.  You can start living in love today.  If that is your choice, let me know, I want to help you make your home in God.

 “God is love,” then love is perfection.  It is the informing virtue, the foundation, for everything that is right and good and just. To live in love is to be immersed in the perfecting love of God.  In love, God transforms the believer into wholeness, whole in the sense of complete, maturing, in harmony with God’s original intent for humanity (Romans 12:2 & 2 Corinthians 3:18).  To make your home in love is to make your home in God, which allows God to make His home in you (Revelation 3:20).  The result is holiness, the continual daily transformation into love’s image.

 God’s love is extended to every human being (Revelation 22:17b).  Even though now the gates of grace are wide open John reminds us that a day of accountability is coming.  Judgement Day is when our deeds are evaluated (Revelation 20:12).  When my day of accountability comes, I want Jesus standing by my side, advocating for me.  John tells us if we have taken up permanent residence in the life of love we have nothing to fear on that Day.  Jesus reconciled all.  For those walking in the light, physical death is just another step into a fuller understanding of God’s boundless love.

John provides two indicators that we are walking in the light: no fear and deeds of love towards others.  When you are secure in the love of another you never worry about your standing with them.  You know that your heart is safe in their hands.  You know that they are there for you.  You know arms of love will wrap around you to comfort.  You know hands of help will be there in times of need.  “When love grows, fears go.”  This love is the basis for the peace Jesus gives to all who follow (John 14:27).  There is no punishment for those who walk in the light.  I try not to condemn myself, but I find myself doing so for failure to love God and love others.  When I get down on myself, I remember that as a Christ-follower, there is forgiveness and the power to get it right the next time.  No need to berate oneself. No need to hide from God like Adam did, rather we can run to God, find the resources we need to overcome our sins, and live our lives to the full. 

 The default position in the Jesus denying world is love for self.  Self-love that is self-centered is a stumbling block.  You are to love yourself, but righteously.  Instead in a Jesus denying world this natural inclination can grow so large that nothing else is as important as what you want as you disregard what others need.  It is to partake of an anti-Christ spirit to say you love God, but then do nothing to meet the needs of others.

 Having received God’s love, embracing God, secure in God’s love, we are empowered to love even the unlovable.  There is joy in seeing the smile on someone’s face which is a reward for your service.  But even if there is no appreciation expressed there is the reward in knowing you’ve done right.  Loving the unlovable, loving the lovable, sacrificing to meet needs, is only possible when you take up permanent residence in a life of love.

 Permanent residence, that’s your home, not a hotel room, not a rental, not a vacation home, permanent residence is the place you live.  You can acquire permanent residence in a life of love: “777 Love’s Lane, in the City of Love, in the Kingdom of God” (Psalm 68:6).  To live a life of love you need to embrace the love that God has made possible for you to be lavished in.  It is by making the gospel truth, your truth:  Acknowledging, Believing, Committing and Asking God to receive your faith.  God does accept your faith and we refer to this as being saved.

 Your faith has moved you into the neighborhood.  You are now a child of God, a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  You begin taking off the old ways of a Jesus denying world and putting on the new ways of a follower of Jesus (Ephesians 4:22-24).  You are learning how to walk in the light.  As you walk in the light you mature.  You continue to grow spiritually.

 To live a life of love you must overcome egoism, that selfish desire that demands service.  As you mature in your faith the Holy Spirit will reveal to you a battle of desires (Galatians 5:17).  There is a war between your old way of pleasing self, and your new way of living in love (Romans 12:1).  When you see this conflict within, it breaks your heart because you realize that you’re falling short of fully living a life of love.  Egoism must be overcome.  To overcome egoism you must partner with the Holy Spirit to repent and to present yourself as a living sacrifice to God. Jesus presented himself to the cross of “Not my will but thine” you present yourself to God with the same determination.  When God accepts your sacrifice it is by the power of the Spirit that egoism no longer can hijack your best intentions, now you decide as the responsible party for how you live your life (Hebrews 10:16). This is the glorious freedom [https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Glorious_Freedom/]that is yours in Christ which we refer to as being sanctified (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

 Having acknowledged, believed, committed, and asked God to receive you have you since asked God to sanctify you?  Has the Holy Spirit revealed this battle of desires within?  If so, God is calling you to a deeper commitment, an even more intimate relationship with Him, a clearer understanding of what it means to be a Christ-follower.  Right now you can make the decision to present yourself as a living sacrifice.  You do so in Godly repentance.  Godly repentance is motivated by your desire to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and when you discovered that you did not it broke your heart.  You have no desire to ever again harm the relationship that is yours in Christ.  So your love for God moves you to repent.  Repentance always requires deeds.  The deed now is to consecrate yourself to living for the Holy One.  It’s yet another sacred vow to live a life of love, that’s your desire, greater than serving yourself, greater than the desire to have others serve you.  This is what is meant by making one’s self a living sacrifice.  The Holy Spirit honors your commitment with a special grace that prevents egoism from ever hijacking your intentions and motivations.  Now you choose to love and obey, or not.  You’ve been empowered to be a spiritual adult.  Think it through, a spiritual adult has adult-sized responsibilities.  If you decided to take this next step in your spiritual journey, let me know, so I can encourage you.

 It is by being saved and sanctified that one takes up permanent residence in a life of love.  Taking up residence in a life of love you do the things that deepen and build your relationship with God and others while refraining from anything that would disrupt those intimate relationships.  You grow more comfortable with the neighborhood, more familiar with the lifestyle of love.  You both arrive and continue on an endless exploration, for the love of God knows no bounds.

 The Apostle Paul prayed for us:

Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 You take up permanent residence in a life of love by allowing God to save and sanctify.  Those are your blessings to embrace.  Life in your new neighborhood, in that permanent residence of love will become more beautiful as you practice the 7 habits of a disciple.  It is through your reading and studying the scripture, it is through your conversations with God, we call that prayer; it is through your hanging out with fellow residents or fellowship, through your celebrations which are acts of worship, through your continued obedience by keeping our vows, and it is through those times of deep serious discussion or contemplation, that you take full advantage of the blessings of the new place in which you now live.

 John has told us yet again that God is love.  I must assume that those who fled the congregation because they were swayed by Gnosticism, must not have been very loving towards those that stayed with the original message.  History informs us that there was a man named Cerinthus who was very pro Gnosticism and John didn’t even want to be in his presence because of his argumentative, sarcastic, and toxic behavior.  Cerinthus stirred up trouble for John and the congregations he mentored.  Making trouble for people is not what those who are walking in the light do.  We who walk in the light are to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). 

 Romans 12:17-19 (MSG)

Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."

 John insists that if you hate a brother or sister in Christ, you are not walking in the light; you haven’t taken up permanent residence in a life of love (1 John 4:21).  You may not particularly like a brother of sister, you may not want them around, you may fervently disagree with them, but still, even if you do so kicking and screaming, you’ll meet their need as the opportunity arises.  That’s what love does.

 To move into the neighborhood of love you need to be saved.  Acknowledge, Believe, Commit to the gospel.  Ask God to receive your faith.  To take up permanent residence in love you need to be sanctified.  When you see the battle of desires, repent, consecrate, ask God to give you that pure heart that overcomes the power of egoism that can pull you astray.  Saved and Sanctified, both gifts of God, both yours to embrace or reject.

 I want you living next door to me in God’s kingdom, so I urge you to embrace the gifts, God will bestow when you seek them with all of your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

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