IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




What's Love Got To Do With It?

Date: Jun. 7, 2020

Author: Bob Henkins

1 John 4:7-21

Key Verse: 1 John 4:11

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Has anyone heard of the cartoon “Love is…”? This was a popular comic strip that came out in the 1970’s. It all started from a series of love notes from cartoonist Kim Casali to her future husband that were eventually published in a booklet and later in a cartoon strip in newspapers. They were simple, short, expressions of her love. As you might have guessed it, love is the topic of our passage today. Since we finished our study of the book of Mark last week and we’re planning on going over our key verse next week, so we needed to find a passage to fill in for this week. We thought love was an important topic to think about given everything that has happened since the pandemic began up to the events last week. Early on around the middle of March, when Coronavirus has been declared a pandemic we saw some acts of kindness and compassion from companies and individuals and it was encouraging, but it quickly evolved into selfishness and hatred and lately there has been such a lack of basic love. People started panicking and went out to the stores buying up all the hand sanitizer, N95 masks and toilet paper. Some hording supplies started practicing “retail arbitrage” by selling masks, sanitizer, and other necessities at huge markups on Ebay and Amazon. Their selfishness and greed became evident for all to see. And later there was the George Floyd incident, police violence, protests that turned into looting and violence. Right now, our country seems more divided than ever and this division is very harmful. If a sports team is divided and not united, they cannot win. Therefore, I think we need to come back to love. Not something superficial or fake, but genuine and real. Sometimes love is simple, other times it’s complex, but you cannot deny that it’s a powerful thing. Having it, has changed lives, losing it has started wars, experiencing it can bring salvation. Often, love is fleeting, but other times it’s eternal. In our era, life moves fast, and we’re easily distracted. So, from time to time we need to be reminded just how much God loves us and in turn how we should love Him and love one another. That’s why the title of the message this week is “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”

To encompass all these aspects about love, we chose a passage from the book of 1 John. Let me give you a few details about the book of 1 John to set the context. Although the author is not clearly identified in the writing like Paul does, most first century church leaders indicate that 1 John was written by the apostle John hence the name of the book. He was the brother of James, one of the sons of Zebedee. And if you remember at the end of study of Mark, we heard the name Salome mentioned, she was one of the women who went to put spices on Jesus’ dead body, well she may have been John’s mother. The book of 1 John is difficult to date, but it is believed to have be written around 70-100 A.D. And although the target readers are not clearly identified in the text; it was sent to many different early churches to be read aloud, so it is believed to have been written for all believers. John’s purpose for writing the book was to confront Gnosticism during their time. Gnosticism is the belief that only spirit is good, and the body is evil. This was harmful because people would abuse themselves in the name of God. So John wanted to expose these false teachers and give the readers assurance of their salvation.

The question “What is love?” can be one of the most difficult questions to answer. Most people think they know what love is but, truthfully, it’s difficult to give a PROPER definition of love. Before we try to know what love is, first we have to know where it comes from. For this let’s take a look at verses 7-8. “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.” From these two verses it’s clear to see that the source or origin of love comes from God. Proud people think that love comes from THEM, and while it’s true that we can do somethings with our love, realistically it’s difficult to maintain. So, spiritually speaking, love comes from God. If you glance through this passage the word “love” appears 27 times and God appears 20 times. The implication we get from this is that God and love are related. In fact, this passage clearly states: “God is love,” not once, but twice in the hope that it will sink into our thick skulls. Since God IS love, he becomes the source of PURE, GENUINE, LASTING love. Just as a battery is the source of power in our cell phones, or the engine is the source of power in our cars, God IS the source of love in our lives. If you want something, it’s best to go to the source to get it because the source is where the greatest supply and the purest form is going to be found. If you want water, you go to a water source and if we want to love we have to go to God. In fact, God is the spring of living water (Jer 2:13). 

But as we know, in the world there are many counterfeits. And some counterfeits are SO CLOSE to the original that we’re EASILY fooled. And some people don’t care if they don’t get the original because a copy may be cheaper and easier to get. But why would you settle for an imitation if you can have the real thing, cheaper and more available? I was looking at getting an authentic WS jersey the silky-smooth soft ones “Cool Base” but they are SO expensive ($240) but I found a web site that sells imitation jersey for $20, I was really tempted, but they were just a little off, and looked a little goofy. But what if I could get the authentic one for less than $20, I would jump at that in a heartbeat because it’s the REAL thing. If the source of our love is not God, the REAL thing, then ultimately, we’ll find that our love will be limited in some way and unsustainable. When we think about the topic of love, most people think about the romantic side of love, or the emotional type of love. While this can be really good, and we need it, if that is all we have, it will EVENTUALLY fall short because frankly our emotions are fickle and unreliable and can change like the wind. An example of this can be found in King David’s family between his children Amnon and Tamar. Amnon fell in love with his half-sister Tamar and became so obsessed with her that would do anything to get her. So, he devised a plan and faked sickness and asked his father if he could get her to take care of him. And when the chance came, he forcefully raped her. But afterward, his attitude changed, the Bible says he hated her with INTENSE hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her and said to her while she was still in the bed, “Get up and get out!” (2 Samuel 13) Thankfully, God’s love is completely different, his love is genuine, real and will never let you down because God is faithful, consistent and unchanging (Heb 13:8).

When God is the source of our love, our supply is unlimited. We don’t have to go someplace to get recharged or filled up like we do with our cars. Not only that, when God is the source of our love, we actually get to KNOW HIM better, because in order to genuinely love others, we HAVE to draw near to God and RELY on him to do it. And when you’re working closely together like that you naturally get to know God a little better. When we love deeply, not the shallow superficial kind, we begin to understand God’s heart and how HARD it is to really love genuinely. To be consistent, compassionate, and patient is not always easy. Usually we can take just so much and then we want to explode. But in the process of experiencing this, we become more thankful to God because we realize just how hard it is to love, it must have been just as hard for him to love us and yet he still bore with all our rejection, failures and short comings. If you want to get to know someone better, trying doing what they do. For example, if you what to understand your parents better, then you need to have kids. If you want to know what it’s like being an athlete, you need to go into training and compete. Likewise, one way to know God is to love others just as he loved you. The reason we know how to love in the first place, is because God put it in our hearts when he made us.

The Bible describes what real love is like: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor 13:4-7) I think everyone likes these verses, even people who don’t believe in God. I’ve seen them used in cards and on web sites. They have become the definition of love. Everyone wants to be loved like this, but it’s really hard to love others in this way. And in some rare cases love can go beyond this. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13) This is the ultimate expression of love. Verse 10 shows the ultimate expression of God’s love, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” God’s love is the highest expression for love there is. He gave up his one and only son, whom he loved, so that our relationship could be restored. “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.” (v9) This shows that there is nothing that God would not have done to bring us back to him. God didn’t hold anything back from us. He did this out of his amazing love for us so that through Jesus’ sacrifice, we might have eternal life. God’s love is not grounded in human virtue or good deeds, but it’s rooted in Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sins. True love requires a tremendous life-giving sacrifice. This is the ultimate expression of love and it becomes the definition of TRUE love.

Sometimes we can find similar examples of people willing to give their lives for someone. We usually find in between soldiers where one makes the ultimate sacrifice for another, or between family members. Stories like these always catch our attention because they are so rare. (If you ever get the chance to see the movie Hacksaw Ridge, I encourage you to do it. It’s about PFC Desmond T. Doss – because of his belief in God, he refused to carry a gun and became a medic – he risks his life on many occasions but the movie is about a battle on 400 ft cliff on the island of Okinawa. As the soldiers climbed the cliff known as Hacksaw Ridge because the heavy casualties inflicted there, He was trapped on the cliff with a bunch of wounded men after his battalion had retreated. He risked gun fire and grenades but managed to save 75 men by lowering them one by one down the 400 ft cliff. This story shows his bravery, determination, love for God and his fellow soldiers)

But here is where we reach the limits of human love and we see the immensity of God’s love. God’s love goes even farther than this. Jesus said, “43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:43-48) Who can do that? I have run into some pretty terrible people in my life who have done some nasty things to me. And even though I wouldn’t call them friends, I wouldn’t call them my enemies either. An enemy is a strong word. Amazingly God extends his love even to his enemies. The Bible tells us that “While we were sinners, God’s enemy, Christ died for us (Ro 5:8). Sinners are those who have rejected or disobeyed God, and thus became his enemy, and yet he still gave his life for us. This is easy to say and hard to do, but Jesus gives us the example even as he hung on the cross, and his enemies were below him divided up his things and taking them for themselves, he said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 23:34) Jesus practiced what he preached.

God’s love is so great that it makes us complete. Take a look at verse 12. “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 look at verse 16. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” Sometimes man’s love can be incomplete. This can be so irritating and unsatisfying like finishing a puzzle only to find that you’re missing several pieces. Or when you’re watching ma movie and the end is cut off. Both of which happened to us. The puzzle was recent, we found a couple of pieces that fell on the floor that had been chewed up by Tibs. The second happened many years ago, the first time Julia and I watched “Forest Gump,” our VCR died right in the middle of it. To be left incomplete is so unfulfilling.

However, when we love, God’s love is made complete in us. The cycle starts with God loving us, and it’s completed when we love others. This cycle reveals our love for God and that he lives in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Verse 13 tells us, “This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.” We are complete, when God lives in us and we live in him meaning that we are in agreement with each other. It’s like a marriage, where the two become one. Another sign that God lives in us is when we acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. (v14) Like when Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, Jesus said that could have only been revealed to him by God in heaven. (Mt 16:17) This shows how God was living in Peter.

Another way we are made complete in God’s love is found in verses 17-18. “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Through God’s love, we don’t have the fear of judgment. When we are caught disobeying the law, we are fearful because of the judgment we will receive. But when God’s love is complete in us, we are not afraid of judgement anymore because Jesus paid our price as an atoning sacrifice, so we are no longer under God’s judgment and have been set free. Not only that when we love others, we are actually fulfilling God’s law. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Ro 13:8-10) Perfect love drives out fear. Also, it’s comforting to know that nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Ro 8:39)

Finally, we come to John’s point. Let’s take a look at verse 21. “And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” Ultimately God has given us his command to love others. And when we obey his command it is one way that we reveal we love God. So how can we love God? First off, we can’t hate. Verse 20 says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” Therefore, we need to forgive people. How can we love if we don’t forgive? Also, we need to rely on God’s love to love others. (v16)

If we rely on our love, we already know those limitations (selfish, changes, not genuine), so we must come to God for wisdom on how to do this. It means we must overcome our emotions. When we reach our limit, and it happens, we must come to God in prayer and ask for his help, just like Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane. Ultimately God must be living in our heart for us to be able to love others. That’s why Paul longed to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. When God lived in Paul, he was compelled to love and live for others. He was driven, compelled, not because he HAD TO but because HE WANTED TO do it. Paul said, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Cor 5:14-15)

So, coming back to the question, “What’s love got to do with it?”, love is the reason for life…

In our times there is such division between us. So much so that we take differences to be division. Part of our love limitation is that we almost seek to find differences and then pick on those who are different from us. Sometimes we take this too far and can’t love them because of a difference that we can’t accept. We have all kinds of divisions; race, age, politics, social economic status, denominations, even in our own ministry sometimes there are divisions; HQ vs local chapter, missionary vs native, sometimes we even divided by what PC and phone type you prefer. But the real issue goes MUCH deeper than hatred and division. It goes all the way to our own sins and rebellion against God that cause us to hate and divide. This originated with Satan for he was the first to rebel against God. A divisive spirit is from Satan, and he has already won the battle because you are looking at the wrong front. Truthfully, Satan doesn’t have to do all that much pushing, we already seem predisposed to fighting with each other. We have to understand that we are in a spiritual war. Flesh and blood are not our enemy (Eph 6:12) but the spiritual forces of evil. Therefore, we must recognize when someone is trying to divide us with lies and fake news. We need discernment and wisdom. You must recognize it and cut yourself off from their influence. We need to look for solutions instead of fighting. But most of all we need to look within ourselves and see ourselves honestly as we are before God. We need to realize that God loves us, and the begins the process when we repent of our sins first and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. When we do so, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to help us overcome our sinful thoughts and desires and grow to act like Jesus, who gave his life for those he loved. The love of God truly unites us because Jesus’ death, resurrection and life is the ONE THING that is for ALL people. Christ’s love is the cure for division. That is the only way to overcome all that is going on. Just imagine is people acted out of love for one another, the world would be a completely different place. If we truly acted out of love for one another, crimes against each other would stop. We wouldn’t need security systems or locks because we wouldn’t take other people’s stuff. We wouldn’t need passwords that we always forget because we wouldn’t have to worry about identity theft. We could walk around at night without fear of being robbed. The police would treat people with respect and dignity, and they would really “serve and protect”. Probably their jobs would even evolve into different ways to serve and protect. If we truly loved one another we wouldn’t have to protest, because those in charge would listen to the people’s concerns and true justice would exist. Just imagine what our would COULD be like if only we loved God and loved one another.

However, the reality is that we live in a fallen world where sin is everywhere. So, the real question becomes, how do we move forward to make this fallen world better? And I believe the answer is that we have to direct our love toward the people around us. Love is action, we can’t just love with just emotion, with just a warm fuzzy feeling inside of us, we must love with actions and truth, to become a person of action like Jesus. 1 Jn 3:18 tells us, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” Even married people fall out of love all the time, if we want a lifelong commitment it must go beyond just our feelings, it becomes a decision for us to love one another. Love must be action otherwise it could fade according to your fickle feelings. Therefore, practically speaking, we must not envy or dishonor others. We must not keep a record of their wrongs against us but forgive. We must not delight in evil or boast. Instead we must be patient and kind to each other. We must be humble and always trust, protect, persevere, hope and rejoice in truth.

In his book, John addresses his readers as “Dear friends” over and over again, how nice it would be if the whole world were dear friends and not advisories. Therefore, I will end with, dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (v11)

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