Sunday, 24 May 2009 00:00

The Practical Impact of "God Is Love"

I John 4:7-12 (ESV)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not love God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

One of the attributes of God is that He is love, as John writes "God is love" (I John 4:8). He does not say "Love is God." Love is an attribute of God, an integral part of his very essence, but it is not a definition of God. That God is "holy" is even more indisputable than that He is love. Love is being able to give of oneself for the benefit of others.

  1. When you and I love others we are giving evidence of being born of God.
    To be born of God is what John calls "the new birth" or to be "born again" (John 3:3). It's a little like God leaving His mark on His children, or, if you will, a "divine gene." The central truth of Henry Scougal's work The Life of God in the Soul of Man is that "true religion is essentially an inward, free, self-moving principle of divine life." Christianity is not mere formalism, or mental assent, or even methodical discipline. The essence of true Christianity is that you really care about the people of this world. "Anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (I John 4:8).
  2. You and I are given the command to love others in order to empower us to love.
    "Beloved, let us love on another" (I John 4:7). Now if you are smart, you might be asking "Is loving others the mark of God's life in me or the method to obtain it?" Well, obviously, as we have seen above, loving others is the mark of God's grace.
    1. God's commands will powerfully transform the wicked heart.
      When the Word of God is preached to dead people who are unable to submit to God (Roman 8:8), the Word itself can create the capacity to submit and believe. Lazarus is the prime example of God's powerful word transforming the dead.
    2. God's commands will personally test the regenerate heart.
      "Why command a person to love who can't help but love?" Because there are occasions when the child of God loses perspective on his or her identity. This is the genius of biblical ethics—become who God has made you to be Legalism boasts in obedience and lawlessness belittles obedience—but those sinners who have been transformed by the love of God simply, humbly obey.
  3. The model we have been given that illustrates love is Jesus Himself.
    In verses nine and ten of our text we have probably the greatest statement regarding the love of God—"In this is love"—God showed, God sent, God came, God loved. The Greek word hilasmos is translated propitiation. It was used by the pagans to "appease and render favorable the gods." Of course, the Creator God is not interested in our gold or silver, the works and labor of our hands, but He loves us and did for us what we couldn't do for ourselves. He came to live and die under the law for us.
  4. When you love others like God loves you, people see God in you.
    "No one has ever seen God." (v.12). Does that verse seem out of place? Not really. The immortal, invisible, infinite transcendent God abides within each of us. There is a great deal of truth in the old song, "You're the only Jesus some will ever see."

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