|Posted on October 3, 2018 at 10:30 AM|
Jesus left us with the new commandment to love others the way he does. But for those of us who find it difficult to actually love others like Christ, the apostle John gives us hope. After pointing out the root of the problem by telling us, “he that loveth not knoweth not God” (1 John 4:8), John goes on to describe several specifics about God and his love we need to experience. First, he defines love not in terms of our performance, but in terms of God’s performance in Christ. God loved us by sending his only begotten son into the world so that we might live through him. “Herein is love” John says, “Not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4: 10). To experience fully the unconditional love of God we must quit looking at our own performance and focus on his. He doesn’t love us because we behaved ourselves more than others, but rather because he has made us to be lovable! And how did he do that? He sent Jesus to be the propitiation for our sins! This means that he took care of our sin problem by the sacrifice of Christ so that he is both fair and free to love us. God loves us right now as much as he ever has or ever will because of who he has made us to be in Christ.
Second, John addresses the problem of not being able to see God. Even though no man has seen God at any time, when we love one another, “God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4: 12). Here the focus is on our experience when we love others. It begins with the knowledge of dwelling in God and God dwelling in us. How do we experience that? “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us his spirit.” (1 John 4:13) The same Comforter that Jesus promised his worried disciples in the upper room convinces us that we are in God and he is in us. While individual experience may vary because we are all unique individuals, it is the job of the indwelling Spirit of God to teach us, guide us into all truth, remind us, and make Jesus real to us. It is the Spirit of Truth that bears witness with our own spirit that we are the child of God. It is his job, not ours, to convince us that we are loved of God.
At this point John gives his own personal testimony to assure us of the reality of God’s love. He says, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4: 14-17). Simply agreeing with God by faith that Jesus is who he said he was, the Son of God, we are born of the Spirit and receive a brand new eternal life. Because we have been joined to Christ as brand-new persons, the Father loves us just like he loves his only begotten son, Jesus. What makes our love “perfect” or mature is that we are confident in our new identity, and not afraid of the Day of Judgment. We are no longer obsessed with our own performance or worried about impending judgment for our failures. Our focus is on all that God has and continues to do for us by his mercy and grace despite our natural dysfunction and sin.
Finally, John reveals the root cause of why we cannot love others as being fear. What motivates immature believers is fear, not faith, because they have not an experiential knowledge of God, who is love. John says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4: 18). The solution to our inability to love others, then, is our experiential knowledge of God’s unconditional, sacrificial, initiating, eternal, and intelligent love. By believing in who God has made us to be as brand-new persons in Christ we may be assured that God has and always will love us. John tells us that, “He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4: 18) meaning that he remains incapable of loving others. But when we receive the love of God by faith in our new identity, that fear is replaced with hope (a joyful and confident expectation of our future). Having such “boldness in the Day of Judgment” we are free to care about and love others. Let us love one another.