Getting to the Bottom of Love: Part 3 (1 John 4:1–16)

1john4_192The life of a Christian who abides in God’s love is a potent witness for God in the world. Men cannot see God, but they can see His love moving us to deeds of helpfulness and kindness. The world will not believe God loves sinners until they see His love at work in His children’s lives.

A female Salvation Army worker found a derelict woman alone on the street and invited her to come into the chapel for help, but the woman refused to move. The worker assured her: “We love you and want to help you. God loves you. Jesus died for you.” But the woman did not budge. As if on divine impulse the Army worker leaned over and kissed the woman on the cheek, taking her into her arms. The woman began to sob and like a child was led into the chapel, where she ultimately trusted Christ.

“You told me God loved me,” she said later, “but it wasn’t until you showed me God loved me that I wanted to be saved.”

Jesus did not simply preach the love of God; He proved it by giving His life on the cross. He expects His followers to do likewise. If we abide in Christ, we will abide in His love. If we abide in His love, we must share this love with others. Whenever we share this love, it is proof in our own hearts that we are abiding in Christ. There is no separation between a Christian’s inner life and his outer life.

Abiding in God’s love produces two wonderful spiritual benefits in the life of a believer: he grows in knowledge and he grows in faith (1 Jn. 4:16). The more we love God the more we understand the love of God. And the more we understand His love the easier it is for us to trust Him. After all, when you know someone intimately and love him sincerely, you have no problem putting your confidence in him.

A man standing in the greeting card section of a store was having trouble picking out a card. The clerk asked if she could help and he replied: “Well, it’s our fortieth wedding anniversary, but I can’t find a card that says what I want to say. You know, forty years ago it wouldn’t have been any problem picking out a card because back then I thought I knew what love was. But we love each other so much more today. I just can’t find a card that says it!”

This is a growing Christian’s experience with God. As he abides in Christ and spends time in fellowship with Him, he comes to love God more and more. He also grows in his love for other Christians, for the lost, and even for his enemies. As he shares the Father’s love with others, he experiences more of the Father’s love himself. He understands the Father’s love better and better.

“God is love,” then, is not simply a profound biblical statement. It is the basis for a believer’s relationship with God and with his fellowman. Because God is love, we can love. His love is not past history; it is present reality. “Love one another” begins as a commandment (1 Jn. 4:7), then it becomes a privilege (1 Jn. 4:11).

But it is more than a commandment or a privilege. It is also the thrilling consequence and evidence of our abiding in Christ (1 Jn. 4:12). Loving one another is not something we simply ought to do; it is something we want to do. Some practical applications grow out of this basic truth:

First, the better we know God’s love the easier it will be to live as a Christian. Bible knowledge alone does not take the place of personal experience of God’s love. In fact, it can be a dangerous substitute if we are not careful.

Helen came home from a youth retreat greatly enthused over what she had learned. “We had some terrific sessions on how to have personal devotions,” she told her sister Joyce. “I plan to have my devotions every single day.”

A week later, while Joyce was running the vacuum cleaner, she heard Helen screaming, “Do you have to make all that noise? Don’t you know I’m trying to have my devotions?” And the verbal explosion was followed by the slamming of a door.

Helen still had to learn that personal devotions are not an end in themselves. If they do not help us love God and love one another, they are accomplishing little. The Bible is a revelation of God’s love and the better we understand His love the easier it should be for us to obey Him and love others.

A second application is unless we love the lost, our verbal witness to them will be useless. The Gospel message is a message of love. This love was both declared and demonstrated by Jesus Christ. The only way we can effectively win others is to declare the Gospel and demonstrate it in how we live. Too much “witnessing” today is a mere mouthing of words. People need an expression of love.

One reason why God permits the world to hate Christians is so that Christians may return love for the world’s hatred. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me… But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:11, 44).

“Pastor, the Bible tells us to love our neighbors, but I doubt that anybody could love my neighbors,” Mrs. Barton said at the close of a Sunday School lesson. “I’ve tried to be nice to them, but it just doesn’t work.”

“Perhaps ‘being nice to them’ isn’t the real answer,” the pastor explained. “You know, it’s possible to be nice to people with the wrong motive.”

“You mean as though you’re trying to buy them off?”

“Something like that. I think you and I had better pray God will give you a true spiritual love for your neighbors. If you love them in a Christian way, you will not be able to do them any damage,” the pastor pointed out.

It took some weeks, but Mrs. Barton grew in her love for her neighbors; and she also found herself growing in her own spiritual life. “My neighbors haven’t changed a whole lot,” she told the prayer group, “but my attitude toward them has really changed. I used to do things for them to try to win their approval. But now I do things for Jesus’ sake because He died for them—and it makes all the difference in the world!”

In this paragraph of John’s letter, he has taken us to the very foundation of Christian love. But he still has more to teach us. In the next section, he deals with our own personal love for God and how God perfects that love in us. These two aspects of Christian love cannot be separated from one another: if we love God, we will love one another; and if we love one another, we will grow in our love for God. Both statements are true because “God is love!”

Read more of this article here: Part 1; Part 2.

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About Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr.

Pastor Joe has been serving in Christian ministry for 15 years. He desires to nurture and disciple believers, helping them experience a deeper level of commitment and faith in the Lord. He is the author of "Back to the Basics: A Guide for Christian Living." Through a commitment to servant leadership, he strives to proclaim relevant Bible truth, equip the saints for effective ministry, and build up the body of Christ. Married eleven years, Pastor Joe and his wife live in New Jersey and have two children.
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13 Responses to Getting to the Bottom of Love: Part 3 (1 John 4:1–16)

  1. Pingback: Getting to the Bottom of Love: Part 3 (1 John 4:1–16) | A disciple's study

  2. Too much correcting, too much contention and strife, not enough Love…hardly enough patience and Love. Love waits for us patiently. Whether found in throes of woes, or in hands releasing stones. Touching faces, embracing foes, foot-washing between toes…Loving those…that yet slumber…without expectation, without recompense, in obedience. (Anthony Gomez)

  3. Thank you Pastor Joe, a great message on Love, great insights and great Truth.

    I Love you Pastor Joe so I came to visit you, I didn’t wait for you to make the first move or to show me first that you Loved me. Love pursues , Love embraces, Love puts the Loved one first, Love does not wait, it is eager to give Love. What an example God has given us, He did not wait for us to repent first, He sent Jesus so we could.

    God does not permit evil so we are can be put to the test, He tolerates it, He is patient not wanting anyone to perish. If we suffer for doing good, He is not Happy Clappy about it, do we delight to see someone we Love hurting. He does not allow us to suffer alone, He gives us the strength to endure and because He Loves us, we too in Christ Jesus Love fully, having His seed or Nature we can be no other way. 1John 3:9

    1 John 4:17-19 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. There is no fear in Love; but perfect Love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in Love. We Love Him, because He first Loved us.

    Christian Love from both of us – Anne.

  4. Let us not study virtues. The Greeks did that. The early Church rehearsed the life, self-offering and sayings of the Master. They discovered progressively that as they “soaked” they received impartation (gifting) of His life, love, long-suffering, loving-kindness, mercy, commission etc.Let us forget as teachers the alliterated list of must-do’s and should not’s. That is for the classroom and not for the place of waiting and worship. Zoe, the God kind of life and love comes to us as does the wind, and we pass it on with delight.

  5. May the Lord bless you and your message.there is a war on our Christianity. Blessings jalal Michael

  6. Do you suppose it seemed like a really good idea? Did he have an epiphany of some sort? A revelation? And don’t you think it could happen to any one of us at any given time chastised in Love by a Sovereign God? Why was Jesus veiled on the road to Emmaus with the two disciples, why the subterfuge? Why did Pharoah, a defeated foe take up arms and pursue the Hebrews unto his own demise?
    God willed it and many cannot see “the last as first, and the first as last” the “johnny come latelys”, ushered to the fore why him, why her…I know scripture by heart…my mouth breaths Gospel truths “haven’t i been faithful all these years?” like “heir” then why? If you knew the answer, you would only have to face your own shame and you so blindly rail against.
    Anthony Gomez…”Love more than anything else is TRUTH.”

  7. Pingback: What Love is All About All The Time | Freedomborn … Aussie Christian Focus

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