The Love of God

Steve Viars June 30, 2007 1 John 4:16

 

- Several years ago Bible teacher John MacArthur was on a cruise where he was the featured speaker and well known musician Bill Gaither was providing the special music...

- at one point in the trip, John asked Bill what he believed were the greatest Christian lyrics ever written...

- without hesitation, Bill Gaither began singing the words to the well known hymn...

The Love of God

      The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell;

It goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell.

The guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win;

His erring child He reconciled, and pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong!

It shall forever more endure the saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry.

Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sly.

O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong!

It shall forever more endure the saints’ and angels’ song.

- this summer we’re doing a study entitled Reaching New Heights in Our Knowledge of God

- the point is that the source of motivation and sustenance for all we’re seeking to do as a church this year is a growing knowledge of our God...

- without that, everything we’re doing is simply human activity...and we will run out of gas long before the job is done...

- or we will do it in a way that lacks mission, or purpose, or clarity...

- or worse, we’ll fail to work in a way that gives glory to God...and our efforts won’t help others come to know the Lord better...[repeat series title]

- with that in mind, would you open your Bible this am to I John 4 [page 186 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]

- while you’re turning there, let’s talk a minute about the overall series...

- we’re 4 weeks into this now, so let me just ask you...have you been finding specific occasions where you could link a particular attribute of God with a situation your were facing, or a conversation you were having, or a decision you were making?...

- that’s the point of the study...not simply knowing more facts about God...but by knowing them in a way that produces change...that helps us connect the dots from who He is to how that impacts the way we live...

- so far we’ve studied:

The Holiness of God, The Faithfulness of God, The Sovereignty of God, and The Presence of God

- in the Scripture we find men and women who let these kinds of truths impact them in specific ways...

- Isaiah – Isaiah 6:8 – Here am I Lord, send me.

- that was spoken in the context of God’s holiness---it amazed Him that a God who was holy would make a provision for his forgiveness and then an offer to allow him to serve

- he connected the theological dots....

- not surprisingly, we see the apostle Paul doing the same thing...when he wrote the book of I Corinthians which was going to be a very confrontational letter about ways many of the people in that church needed to change..

- speaking of the possibility and necessity of their future growth, he said...

- Paul - 1 Corinthians 1:9 - God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

- in other words, your ability to respond properly is not based solely on your own faithfulness, but on the faithfulness of our God...[trying to help them connect the dots]

- orMordecai [Queen Esther’s uncle, who counseled Esther to speak to the Persian to preserve the lives of the Jewish people in that land at the risk of her own life—he made that appeal on the basis of the sovereignty of God when he said...– Esther 4:14 – And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?

- orKing David – who was able to say...Psalm 23:4 - Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, [why?]for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  [in other words—he viewed His fears through the lens of the promised presence of God...]

- and the question for all of us is...are we doing that?...

- are we really...Reaching New Heights in Our Knowledge of God...in a way that is making practical difference in the way we live and minister each day?...

- I’m happy to tell you that today we have the privilege of studying The Love of God from a passage of Scripture that is a marvelous explanation of this truth...

- read 1 John 4:7-21 [encourage folks to follow the argument carefully]...

- now, please don’t gasp, but from these verses, let find 6 ways to think about God’s love for us.

- and just so you know where this is going, we’re going to talk about:

I. The Centrality of God’s Love

II. The Manifestation of God’s Love

III. The Objections to God’s Love

IV. The Purpose of God’s Love

V. The Response to God’s Love

VI. The Power of God’s Love

I. The Centrality of God’s Love.

A. Clearly stated in this passage.

- there is no question that we are very near the heart of the attributes of God because John goes so far as to say...

- I John 4:8 – God is love.

- he makes the same statement in verse 16...

- not, He is loving...but, He is love...

- now, I hope immediately we would start grappling for a definition...

- love is a big word—what exactly is John talking about?...well, God’s love is...

B.  Defined by John’s use of a word which at the time was relatively uncommon.

- in Bible times, the typical words that were used for love were either eros [erotic love], or phileo [brotherly love and affection]...

- both words are important and a part of human life...

- but when John speaks about God’s love...he uses the word agapn...which language experts tell us was not a very common word until the NT made it so...

- Donald Burdick explains that this kind of love has 3 components:

1. It is spontaneous

- in other words, it initiates the process, not on the basis on any perceived value or thought what might be received in return...agapn love reaches out first

2. It is self-giving

- For God so loved the world, that He gave...

- the worlds love is often the opposite of that...it is very selfish...

- so when I young man is trying to convince a young woman to be sexually active with him before marriage by saying “I love you”...that’s a lie...or its certainly not biblical love...

- a more honest thing for the young man to say would be “I love me...and I want you”...

3. It is active.

- this is not mere sentiment...

- nor is it something a person passively falls into...we fell in love...in was either that or a mud puddle [you have to fall into something]...it just happened...

- which is why so often when people with that view end up falling out of it...

- we are talking about a sacrificial choice that someone makes to meet the needs of another person with no thought or concern for what might be received in return...

- and John says...God is that...God is agapn...God is love...

- now, I realize there are some who would say – I love the fact that God is like this, and that’s all I want to talk about...that is a very dangerous position which is why we also have to emphasize...

C. This is not all that could/should be said of God.

- there are plenty of other places in Scripture that use the exact same construction “God is _____”...but there’s something different in the blank...

- John himself does that in this very book...I John 1:5 – God is light...

- so which is it?...it’s both...all of God’s attributes have be understood in concert with one another...

- we should probably also add this...

D. It is not theologically accurate to say that “the New Testament God is a God of love while the Old Testament God is a God of something else.”

- we’ve chosen to study a NT passage this am, but the truth is that the doctrine of the love of God is a major emphasis in the OT as well...

- for example, Psalm 136:1 - Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

- and you may know that that Psalm has 26 verses...and do you know what everyverse ends with?...the same refrain---for His lovingkindness is everlasting...

- conversely, there is plenty in the NT that speaks about God’s wrath and His judgment of those who reject His love...

- like this... Hebrews 10:31 - It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

- so studying a topic like this is all about balance and interpreting Scripture in light of Scripture...in fact, we could say it this way...

- that is why Paul said...Romans 11:22 - Behold then the kindness and severity of God...

- now, with that level of balance, let’s come back to the emphasis of the text...God is love...

- and while His holiness separates Him from his creation because of our sin...His love reaches down to us, it extends...it stoops, it offers a solution to the dilemma...

- and friend, do you realize this morning that because of the holiness of God and because of the sinfulness of man, God would be perfectly just in viewing sinners with the utmost contempt...there would be nothing unjust about that at all...

- thank God for what we are studying this morning...it is our only hope...God is love...

- now, the text also emphasizes...

II. The Manifestation of God’s Love.

- that is the point of verse 9 – His love is active...

A. God sent His Son.

- love without action is meaningless sentimentality...

- the message of the Bible is...don’t just say it, show it...

- 1 John 3:17-18 - But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?  Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

- and verse 10 adds this crucial point...

B. To be the propitiation for our sins.

- 1 John 4:10 - ...He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

- the word means “satisfaction”...

- a penalty had to be paid for our sin...

- that is a crucial aspect of this topic...

- many people want to say---God is God of love, so He looks the other way...or He grades on a curve, or He forgives everybody regardless of whether the core problem was ever truly addressed and solved...

- that’s not love...that is a gross perversion of the gospel...

- God’s love is much better than looking the other way or grading on a curve...

- God’s love motivated Him to make the ultimate sacrifice...the death of His Son in your place...

- and of course then every person has to make a decision about that...

- will you admit your need, and accept God’s love by His definition and on His terms...by trusting what Jesus Christ did on the cross as your only way of forgiveness and change?...

- this is where theological liberalism is especially onerous – they speak of a supposed love of God without emphasizing the supreme manifestation of that love in the finished work of Christ...

- now you might say, but PV, aren’t there some objections to this doctrine...there sure are, let’s talk about them for a moment...we’ve all heard statements that start with...well, if God was a God of love, He wouldn’t...

III. The Objections to God’s Love.

A. If God was a God of love, He wouldn’t allow trials.

- have you ever heard that?...have you ever thought that?...

- this is an important point – genuine love does not always give you what you want to have, but it always gives you what you need to have...

- it doesn’t always tell you what you want to hear, but it always tells you what you need to hear...

- it doesn’t always take you where you want to go, but it always takes you where you need to go...

- that is why the writer of Hebrews says that there are 2 things you should never do during a time of trial...

1.  Don’t despise it – don’t regard it lightly as if God had nothing to do with it...[12:5]

2. Don’t become bitter [12:15]

- why?...Hebrews 12:6 – For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.

- and when you despise trials, or become bitter because of them...at the very time God was trying to love you the most, you recognized it the least...

- and whenever that is the case, we need to change our definition of love...

B. If God was a God of love, He would not send people to hell.

- well, you can be sure that God does not take pleasure in the just and logical consequences to those who spurn His offer of love and forgiveness...

- Ezekiel 33:11 - Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live....

- God’s love tempers what must occur if He is also just...

- John MacArthur said it this way in his book on this subject...Love surely tempers even God’s judgments.  What a wonder it is that He who is a consuming fire, He who is unapproachable light, is also the personification of love!  He postpones His judgments against sin while pleading with sinners to repent.  He freely offers mercy to all who will repent.  He shows lovingkindness and goodness even to many who steel their hearts against Him.  Divine love not only keeps divine wrath in check while God appeals to the sinner—but it also proves that God is just when He finally condemns.

- now, let’s take it one more step logically...what is...

IV. The Purpose of God’s Love.

- and perhaps we should say, one of them...

- we’ve already seen that God’s love is what motivates Him to reach down and seek to draw men and women to Himself...

- but please consider this verse...

- Ephesians 5:25-27 - Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

- do you see the point...God’s love is a purifying kind of love...

- and the question I would want to ask each one of us this morning is...are you allowing the fact that God is loving motivate you to greater Christlikeness?...

- can we just talk about that directly for a moment...some folks do the exact opposite...they actually take advantage of God’s love...

- let me try to illustrate that from a human perspective...

1. In marriage, some people actually take advantage of the fact that their spouse is a believer and loves them with a godly love...

­ - some people say things to their believing spouse they would say to an unbelieving one...

- or they do things to their believing spouse they would never do if they were married to an unbeliever...

- do you know, because the unbeliever would throw them out on their ear, that’s why...and I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, I’m just saying that it’s a fact...

- and the point is...instead of allowing that spouse’s godly love and commitment to be a motivator to greater love and commitment on their part, they actually take advantage of it...

2. Some people do the same thing if they work for a Christian boss...

- they say things they would never say if their boss was unsaved...

- or do things, or fail to do things...that in a typical work environment, they would be sacked before the end of the day...

- so instead of being motivated by their boss’ love, they actually take advantage of it...

- that is a despicable thing in a marriage, and a despicable thing in the workplace...

- but do you know where it is worse?...when it happens in a person’s relationship with the Lord...

- if the fact that God is love results in spiritual mediocrity on the part of His people...then it has had the exact opposite effect of what was intended...

- so, what is the response to all of this?...what are the take-aways?....

V. The Response to the Love of God.

- the text answers that question...

A. Learn to abide in God and His love.

- 1 John 4:16 - God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

- that’s just another way of stating the first great command – love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength...

- He is worthy of that kind of adoration, and that kind of allegiance...

- can I just ask you...do you commune ever day with the Lord?...

- do you faithfully pray to Him?...do you communicate?...

- do you spend time in His Word...

- it’s like any relationship---you have to take steps to cultivate it...

- would you be able to say this morning that your love for God is growing?...are you reaching new heights in this area of your life?  [if not, what needs to change?]...

B. Learn to love others.

- the second great command – love your neighbor as yourself...

- beloved, let us love one another...

- and that is repeated throughout the passage?...

- why does God have to keep telling us that?...because we’re not very good at it...

- that brings us around to part of what we are celebrating today---the Grand Opening of the Faith Community Center...

- I’m convinced of 2 things...many people in our community have concluded...

1. God doesn’t love me [at least not in the way we’ve studied this am]...

2. The church, God’s people, don’t love me either...

- the community center is our attempt to dispel both wrong notions...

- we want to model and reflect the love of God to every man, woman, boy, and girl who lives around us...

- I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the way you as a congregation have chosen to show love in a demonstrable way to the people of our town...

- Our church family made financial commitments 2 ½ years ago for this project...and you have kept your word...

- over 3 million dollars has been given...and some folks are continuing to fulfill their commitment throughout the remainder of this year and that is an important part of the plan...but I want to thank you for your faithful generosity...

- God has richly blessed us...

- thank you also for volunteering...[

- we had to make a decision about who would cut the ribbon 

- Notice also the way God chose to bless us in surprising ways since this started [Bethany Farms, VOH – take a tour this afternoon]...

- could also mention July 4th --Galatians 5:13 - For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

- might say – PV, this is hard...

VI. The Power of God’s Love

- let me leave you with this simple but important phrase in the text...

- 1 John 4:9 - By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video