A. … is all you need?
All you need is love. So sang the Beatles.
Love, love, love. love is all you need.
Well, not quite.
Though we are created by God to love and be loved. To love Him and love others. And to enjoy His love. And enjoy the love of others.
Though you just have to glance at the Middle East at the moment to see how well that’s working out. Our world is marked by strife, conflict, wars. Hatred.
B. Is Christ’s command
Though this shouldn’t be so in God’s family. ‘cos we’re under God’s command.
John 13:33-34 “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Love for God’s family is the evidence we know God.
So, in God’s family, what does love look like? And how can this be a challenge? As well as a comfort?
And that’s where 1 John chapter 3 comes in.
If you purchase a new car. You may be asked what ‘optional extras’ you want.
Tinted windows? Leather seats?
But some things aren’t optional.
Imagine the salesperson asking,
‘would you like four wheels with that?’
Or ‘would you like an engine?’
‘may I interest you in a gas tank?’
Without those things your car won’t go. It’ll be dead.
When it comes to true Christianity love isn’t optional.
Without love. Our faith is fake, dead.
John says in chapter 2.
2:10-11 “Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness “
Those in the light love. Those who hate, they’re in the dark.
For those who follow Jesus love isn’t optional.
In the first half of chapter 3 we saw how god’s children take on the family likeness of righteousness. In the second half of the chapter it’s love that is the family likeness. Like father, like son. Verse 10.
Verse 10-11 “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. [ why? ] For this is the message [verse 11, the message] you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”
It isn’t negotiable. It isn’t optional. Love is a command.
John presses home the lesson with a story of two brothers. In verse 11, the message ‘to love’ is from the beginning. But so too is a story of hate.
The first human family. Adam and Eve, their two sons. The first brothers. Cain and Abel grew up alongside each other. They eat together, play together, share a room together. They’re each other’s only friends.
And yet. The first child born into this world was a murderer. The second child, his victim. And so, verse 12.
Verse 12 “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”
Brothers Cain and Abel. The same physical father. Adam. But different spiritual fathers. Abel. Righteous. A child of God. Cain. Belonged to the evil one. Unrighteous, unsaved.
The story’s in Genesis 4. Where Cain and Abel both offered sacrifices. Abel offered a blood sacrifice for his sins. Cain offered a product of his own labour. Abel, righteous and obedient. Cain, evil, proud. An example of lawlessness. Which isn’t simply breaking rules as much as it is making rules. Coming to God on your own terms. Deciding for yourself. Living as you please. As you choose. You’re the king. Not God.
When our relationship is broken, so are all other relationships. Cain. Jealous, resentful, angry, bitter. Invites his brother to go for a walk. Out into the field. And murders him.
God is the giver of life. Cain takes life.
And when confronted he says;
Genesis 4:9 “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
My brother’s protector? Carer? Yes, you are. You’re meant to love him. You’re meant to look after him. And no. You haven’t.
And so John says to us;
Verse 12 “[don’t] be like Cain “
Don’t nurse envy, resentment and anger towards a brother or sister. ‘cos, verse 15.
Verse 15 “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer “
Don’t fill your heart with hate. ‘cos that’s as good as murder, as good as taking life. And it shows we ourselves are as good as dead.
Anyone who hates. Verse 14.
Verse 14-15 “Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates/[murders] [does not have] eternal life “
Taking life is evidence we may not have life. It’s high stakes. A matter of life and death.
So, love isn’t optional.
Now there’s another lesson on the flip-side. Which is surprising. But shouldn’t be. And it’s this. Where love isn’t optional, Hate is inevitable.
Cain hates Abel who loves.
You’d think haters would hate others who hate. That there’d be an internal civil war among haters. But haters hate people who love God. Who love like Jesus.
Dale Carnegie wrote the best-seller, ‘how to win friends and influence people.’
Yet, verse 13. Righteous Abel who loved God was hated. Therefore.
Verse 13 “[Don’t] be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.”
Jesus told his followers.
John 15:18-20 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it’s own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. If they persecuted me, [they’ll] persecute you also.”
Ironic. Surprising. But we shouldn’t be. ‘cos we’ve been told.
Hate is inevitable. ‘cos love ain’t optional.
Love for each other is evidence we know God.
Verse 14 “We know that we have passed from death to life, [verse 14] because we love each other.”
And so we come now to what love looks like. We know it doesn’t look like Cain. We’ve got the negative. But what’s the positive? What’s love?
Well, our world loves love. It’s in love with love.
But John’s not talking about a soppy sentimentalism. I love soppy and sentimental. But love is not a warm fuzzy feeling. It’s not a ‘hallmark card’ kind of love. Words on a page.
Love ain’t sentiment. It’s sacrifice. It’s off the page. And taking action.
A. Love of Christ
John draws a stark contrast. Verse 16. Cain hates. Cain murders. Yet.
Verse 16 “This is how we know what love is: [How?] Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
Jesus the Christ. King of the universe. Almighty God.
Entered our world. Emptied Himself. Humbled Himself. Became one of us. Died. Laid down His life.
For who? Good people? Lovely people? No no no.
Sneak a peek at the people around you. On your left. And right. Jesus died for them. For us. Unlovely. Unrighteous. Enemies. God loved us who hated Him!
What a contrast between Cain and Christ! Cain sees Abel’s righteousness and is filled with hate. Christ sees our unrighteousness and is filled with compassion. Cain offers a sacrifice on the basis of what he wants. Christ offers a sacrifice on the basis of what God wants. Cain in hate takes away life. Christ in love gives His life. And gives life. Hate kills others. Love sacrifices yourself for others.
How do you define love? The cross. How do you measure love? The cross.
The cross is the ultimate example of our hatred against God. And the ultimate example of God’s love for us.
God does not merely mouth, ‘i love you’ from the security of heaven. He shouts ‘i love you’ from the anguish of an old rugged cross.
He does not simply remonstrate about His love.
Romans 5:8 “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Love is sacrifice. Selfless sacrificial action.
B. Love like Christ
For followers of Jesus, it’s God’s love we’ve come to know. And it’s that love we’re meant to show.
Verse 16 “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And [verse 16 ] we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
We’re called to love like Christ. So what might that look like for us?
It’d be easy to daydream and have lofty love aspirations. So John gets practical. He grounds it everyday life. In family life. God’s family. In loving our brothers and sisters.
When we see someone in need? Someone who needs love? What might we do?
Do you avoid them? Perhaps you feel some frustration. Perhaps you look away. Perhaps you think there’s no pay off for you? Perhaps you remind yourself of how full your diary is? Perhaps you remind yourself of all the other good you are doing, and give yourself a ‘pass’ on this one.
God wants us to feel compassion. To be deeply moved. A compassion that wells up in generosity. That seeks to meet need. That indeed begs to meet need.
Verse 17-18 “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
See feel act. See the need. Feel compassion. Take action.
Imagine for a moment.
Guy doesn’t up.
Blood on his face.
Clearly in pain.
On runs a medic.
But when he gets there, he stops to chat to the captain.
Who asks him, ‘how you doing?’
‘what’s your first aid knowledge?’
‘how long you been a medic?’
‘what hospital you work at?’
‘Tell me what you know about brain injuries?’
Words words words.
He ain’t loving that injured player until he does something.
Giving your live, sacrificial love, is seen in a million different ways. Some kids at school need to be taught ri? Or kids at Kids Church? I can do that. Might have to give up an hour of something else. Someone sick or lonely? I can visit. Or cook a meal. Might cost me some extra groceries. And time in the kitchen. Someone struggling? I can listen, care. I can make a call.
You see, love is very practical, very down-to-earth.
C. Love at MPC
Well, how’s our love here at MPC.
I thought I’d email some people yesterday asking them to apply this to us.
And there’s so much to be encouraged by. Here’s some comments I received.
All the support that just happens amongst the church, not always seen.
Ministries that are inclusive and family orientated
One-to-one Bible reading and prayer groups happening around the church – investing in the spiritual growth of others.
More people wanting to serve and volunteer.
More people wanting to share the gospel.
Doing family things together [church family dinner]
Playgroup. YC. KC. RI. GG’S. Prayer team.
Gary Hartin running the service at Moonah Park. And visiting older members.
Meryl following up on young adults.
Kind encouraging letters.
Meals for those doing it tough.
Warm and welcoming church.
Responding with love to various emergencies.
And here’s comments of how we can be doing better.
Growing others/Discipleship – small groups, mentoring etc.
We should be holding each other accountable: having hard conversations in a loving way instead of speaking of [others] behind their backs. not perpetuating gossip and slander.
Make an effort to get to know people after church.
Practice hospitality. Inviting people into our homes.
We are slow to publicly, as a group acknowledge our failures and sins.
Caring for those on the margins.
Well, the last few verses speak of the fruit of love. Confidence.
Remember, John is writing to some people who are uncertain, unsettled, uneasy. Wrong teaching had made people question their faith and salvation. John’s explicit purpose for writing, chapter 5 verse 13, is that they won’t just know Jesus, they’ll know that they know. They need to be re-assured. To be put at rest.
Through evidence of their own love! Verse 19.
Verse 19 “this [referring back to love for brothers/sisters, this love] is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence “
Sometimes we may doubt our own salvation ‘cos we feel our own guilt intensely.
We may feel like a derelict building.
Falling apart, shaky foundations, floorboards lifting, walls crumbling.
Verse 20 “if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”
God knows better. We may be unsure. But God is sure. He has confidence in our salvation.
Our feelings are subjective. God’s saving work on the cross is objective. As is our love.
When your heart condemns you, remind yourself that God doesn’t.
Now at other times we’ll have a humble confidence.
Verse 21-22 “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask “
Confidence before God leads to confidence to ask God. Anything we want. And ‘cos we seek.
Verse 22 “because we keep his commands and do what pleases Him. [He gives us what we ask for.]”
A criminal may be arrested. Charged. Put on trial.
In the dock.
We’re all sinners in the dock.
Yet Christ takes our place.
So that we may be.
Confident in Christ.
1 John affirms what the rest of Scripture teaches. We are saved by Christ. And our salvation is shown in that we believe in Jesus, love one another, and live in the light. Righteously.
Verse 23 “this is His command: [verse 23] to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.
And all that’s possible, not through our own strength, but through the spirit of God. We’re indwelt by the Spirit, and empowered by the Spirit, to believe, to love, to obey.
Verse 24 “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. [Verse 24] And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the spirit He gave us.”
God is working by His Spirit to bring us to belief in Christ, and to grow us to be more like Christ. To trust Jesus. And to love just like Jesus.
Well, let’s wrap up.
I trust we may feel challenged by God’s Word and Christ’s love. A love expressed in sacrificial action. A love we’re meant to reflect towards our brothers and sisters in Christ.
And I also hope we feel comforted. Re-assured. of God’s love. And re-assured by His love that overflows from us to others.
I don’t know where each of you in your journey. Where you stand in relation to Christ.
I wonder if perhaps life has let you down, you’re struggling along, and perhaps in it all you feel un-loved. That somehow God is distant. Unbothered.
Perhaps you’re weighed down by guilt. Failure. Sin.
Perhaps you’ve never known forgiveness. You’ve never know true love. Love that’s full of truth and grace and wonder.
So, may I ask you.
Do you wanna know God’s love?
If so, will you run to Jesus. His ready to embrace, ready to forgive.
And Once you and I know God’s love. Deep, profound, rich, extravagant. His love will overflow, from us to others. Gripped by His love, compelled by His love, you and me, we’ll show His love, and share His love.