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The Love Blog: 1 John 4:11-21 (concluded)

April 5, 2007

By what is love perfected?  By the indwelling of the Spirit of God love is perfected with us.  Now notice John has changed prepositions again.  We might have expected by this love is perfected in us, but he says “with us” using a far less common preposition in his writings.  I looked at all the occurrences of this preposition in the book and found that it is always used of our fellowship with one another.  1:3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you so that you too may have fellowship with us.  1:7 if we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another.  So John is here saying in 4:17 that by the indwelling Spirit of God the love we have for one another in our fellowship is perfected, comes to maturity.

And this makes sense if you think about it.  What is it that makes us sometimes unloving toward one another?  What is the primary fount of our selfishness and grumpiness toward one another?  Is it not at root a lack of peace and joy in our own hearts that comes from not believing the love.  From not knowing and relying on the love of the Father for us and for the Son that dwells in us.  If we really trust the love of God that is in us we cannot help but become loving people.  We cannot help but become like Jesus who loved his Father and who loved us for the Father’s sake.  And as we see this progressive transformation taking place in our hearts, verse 17 continues, “we may have confidence for the day of judgment because as he is so also are we in this world.”  Our assurance of salvation grows as we see ourselves becoming more like Jesus.  But where this assurance is lacking, our lives are not characterized by love but by a fear that makes us preoccupied with ourselves and securing our own happiness instead of having a security and satisfaction in the love of God that overflows in love to others.  And so John continues in verse 18…(read)

When you are filled with the Holy Spirit who is the Divine Love for the Son and for you in the Son, fear is cast out.  It’s a strong word.  It is flung out of doors.  Why?  Because fear has to do with punishment.   So if love casts out this fear, then it must be that love has nothing to do with punishment.  There is such a thing as loving discipline for the good of the beloved, but there is no such thing as loving punishment.  Punishment is not given for the good of the punished.  Punishment is given for the sake of retributive justice.  And the good news is that if you are a Christian, if you are in Christ and Christ is in you by His Spirit, then God will never punish you for your sins.  Why not?  Look up to verse 10 (read)  propitiation = sacrifice that takes away wrath.  Jesus suffered on the cross the punishment for the sins of all those who would believe on Him.  So there is now no condemnation, no punishment for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Now the ministry of the Spirit is to open your eyes to see and your ears to hear and your heart to believe this amazing love.  When you are enabled by the indwelling Spirit to trust this love of God that sent His Son to be the sacrifice that forever took away your punishment, fear is cast out. And we are able to grow in Christlike love for one another.

Now those who struggle with a guilty conscience will be thinking this way.  I admit it! I admit it!  I still fear, I’m not perfected in love.  But what do I do?  You tell me that I need this assurance in order to love, but yet I need to be growing in love to have this assurance. So I’m stuck.  How can I get past this sticking point?

Verse 19 “we love because he first loved us.”  God takes the initiative to make you a person of love.  He sent His Son to die for your sins, He sent His Spirit into your heart to fill you with the love of God.  Believe the love.

As we sing, “Thy love to me O God, not mine O Lord to Thee, can rid me of this dark unrest and set my Spirit free.”   You can’t will yourself into trusting this love.  But you can pray for the Spirit to shed abroad this love in your heart and you can read the Scriptures through which God will answer this prayer.  Seek and you will find.

So here is the first application.  Meditate much upon the love of God with which he has first loved us.  And I would encourage you today to do this especially in light of what we’ve seen about the Trinity.  Think about the fact that the Father has sent His Son and that the Father has sent His Spirit.  He has sent his Son to be the propitiation for your sins, and He has sent His Spirit to assure you of his love and to catch you up into the love that flows between the Father and the Son in whom you are loved.  Pray for this revelation to cast fear out of your heart.  And don’t demand instant rapture.  Wait upon him, trust him for it, don’t panic, He will certainly answer your prayers.  His love is perfected in us by the indwelling Spirit setting you free to love Him and to love your brothers.  This is His will, this is His ultimate purpose, you don’t have to talk him into it, you just have to trust him for it.

And for the second and concluding application, we read verses 20-21. (read)

It isn’t just wrong, it’s ultimately impossible to love God and not love His people.  The two greatest commandments, love God and love your neighbor are really one and the same.  Remember that Jesus said the second was like the first.  Just as God’s love for Jesus and God’s love for you are the same love because you are in Jesus, so your love for Christ and your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ are one and the same because they are in Christ whom you love.  Your brothers and sisters in Christ are being transformed into the image of Christ. They are like him in this world.   The love of Christ in their hearts is the closest you can come to seeing God in this world, so if you love God, you must love them.

But if you leave here merely with the resolve to try harder to be more loving to your brothers, you will have missed the whole point.   For this love does not originate in ourselves, it comes from God.  We must seek first to know and believe the love that God has for us, yea, even in us, and then we will love one another.  So if you are having a hard time loving a brother or sister in Christ, this reveals that there is something lacking in your love for God.  Go to God first and ask him for a fresh revelation of his love so that you will be filled with this perfect love that casts out fear and stirred to love God and your brother.

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