Category: 1 John (page 1 of 5)

God’s Love Wins

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But completed love drives out fear. ” ~1 John 3:16-17

Confidence because we know that God is love. Blessed assurance about that coming day of glory. No fear because completed love drives out fear. Confidence that God’s love takes care of every single thing I might be worried about.

Everything we know about God and all the things we don’t yet know about God begin and end with his love. There’s nothing we can say about God or his character or his plans for his people without first considering his great love. Love is who God is and love is what God does. And God’s love is unrelenting. It never quits. It never slows down. It never gives up. And it never loses.

That kind of love drives out all fear.

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16

When the holy Creator of Heaven and Earth loves like that — selflessly, sacrificially — there’s nothing to be afraid of. His love gives us confidence because wherever there are problems or issues, wherever things go wrong, wherever things don’t work out, God fixes it with his eternal love.

Where there is rebellion, God doesn’t reject, he accepts. Where there are broken vows, God doesn’t bring justice, he delivers mercy and grace. Where there is conflict, God doesn’t fight, he defends and protects. Where there is sin, God doesn’t condemn, he saves.

“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” ~John 3:17

God is solving every problem, he’s restoring everything that’s broken, with his love.

And he wants you to know it. And experience it. He wants you to believe it and trust it.

Have you messed things up so badly and so much that you question whether or not God’s tired of loving you? Have you suffered so much pain that maybe you question whether or not you really love God? Or can trust that he really is love?

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~Romans 8:35-39

God’s love is undefeated, untied, and un-scored upon. God’s love conquers all. It triumphs in the end. His love is more important and more eternal than faith and hope. It stands above all the other Christian virtues. And it’s our number one tool in the toolbox for winning the world for Christ and his Kingdom. God’s love wins.

Peace,

Allan

Love Does Stuff

“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. 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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” ~1 John 4:7-11.

Words about love are beautiful. Love as a theory is compelling. As a concept, love is glorious and inspiring. It’s really nice.

But it’s also really safe. As an idea, love is non-threatening and non-risky. And it changes nothing. Love in the brain doesn’t do much for people or for the world.

You and I may think love, we may feel love, we may say love; but the Bible tells us that love does things. The love of God that’s been lavished on us in Christ Jesus is too powerful, it’s too full of holy potential, to be locked up like a prisoner behind our foreheads.

Love must be done — not just believed, not just admired, not just felt. It must do. Love can’t just be a noun, it must be a verb. It has to be expressed in tangible action.

This is how God showed his love among us: he thought good thoughts about us.
This is love: he felt love for us.
This is how we know what love is: God told us he loved us.

No! He sent. He gave. He sacrificed. He came here. He suffered and died. That’s love!

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother or sister in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.” ~1 John 3:16-18

Love will change lives, love will change our city, it’ll change the whole world; but love has to be expressed with action. Love has to do stuff. Our Lord says we are the salt of the earth. But salt unapplied is just as worthless as bad salt. You’ve got to shake it. You can’t leave it in the pantry. Jesus calls us the light of the world. But a light under a bowl doesn’t do a cryin’ thing. You’ve got to climb up on a table and shine.

That’s the call. That’s the command. Whoever loves God must also love his brother and sister (1 John 4:21). Making the decision to love God necessarily means deciding to love others. And when you do, it’s a mixed bag. Showing God’s love to others opens you up to the very best and worst of people. You’re going to experience help and hurt, fun and frustration, compliments and complaints. That’s just the way people are.

But showing that love of God to others is so invigorating. It’s so life-giving. Making the decision to love all people — even people who are not easy to love — brings into sharp focus the life-changing power of God’s choice to love us, when you and I are not always so easy to love.

“We love because he first loved us.” ~1 John 4:19

Peace,

Allan

Love Changes Everything

You’ve heard it said that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. You want to know how a guy is going to act in the future, you just look at how he’s acted in the past. That notion goes largely unchallenged. We accept it, we don’t question it. Why? Because of our own experiences.

Maybe you’ve dated a person who does something you just can’t tolerate — some behavior, some character trait, a bad habit — and you break up. Sometimes that person will promise to change: “Take me back! I’ll change!” After a period of time — six months, maybe six minutes — you take that person back. But before you can blink that person is back to doing the exact same stuff as before.

Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Your brother-in-law is never going to pay back the money he borrowed, that department store is not going to have the advertised item, and the Cowboys are going to rip your guts out in December. How do you know? Past behavior is the best indicator. You know what’s going to happen.

Or do you?

This seeming certainty of the formula seems to change when the love of God in Christ Jesus is involved.

Look at the woman in the well in John 4. She’s the town sleaze. She’s had five husbands, she’s shacking up with a sixth guy, and nobody will talk to her. We know her future, right? She’s going to run right through this guy number six and guy number seven and number eight, maybe a dozen of them, and she’s going to keep drawing water in the heat of the sun until the day she dies all alone in her guilt and shame.

But then Jesus goes out of his way to love her. He doesn’t just feel love for her, he shows it to her. He does something. He rearranges his travel schedule to get to her. He sits down and honors her with his time and full attention and conversation. He teaches her right there at the well and the town sleaze becomes a Gospel preacher! Her whole village believes in Jesus, the Savior of the World!

What about the woman caught in adultery in John 8? She’s about to be killed. And that might be the best thing for her. That’s what the Law says. If she’s not stoned to death, she’ll keep cheating, she’ll keep lying, she’ll keep hiding, she’ll keep sinning. We know this. Past behavior is the best indicator, right? But Jesus stands up for her against the authorities. He shows her his love by defending her, by believing in her. And she leaves her life of sin. She’s given the gift of new life by the love of God in Christ.

Zacchaeus is going to keep cheating people on their taxes, he’s going to continue lining his own pockets, and padding his profits and looking out for number one. But Jesus pulls him out of a tree, he eats dinner with him at his house, and he looks him in the eye and calls him a son of Abraham. And now Zacchaeus is giving half of everything he owns to the poor! He’s going back through his books and making things right, blessing others, realizing deep inside that it’s better to give than to receive.

The demon-possessed guy in the Gerasenes in Mark 5. His community has banished him to live in the cemetery. He’s not in his right mind. He’s got no name, no family, no clothes, no peace. The devil and his demons have successfully stolen from this man everything it means to be made in the image of God. What’s going to change? They’ve tried everything with this guy. He’s going to keep being scary and keep suffering and he’s going to die in his chains.

But Jesus gets in a boat and braves a terrible storm in the middle of the night to get to this guy. Our Lord goes to him and shows him his love and his power to change everything. He lets this man know that he matters to God. And that divine love of God drives those demons to the bottom of the sea and the next thing you know this guy is clothed, he’s in his right mind, he’s got a family, and he’s got a purpose. He’s preaching in the Decapolis, proclaiming the Good News all over the Ten Cities. And all the people are astonished.

Peter is a God-cursing, Christ-denying, lying scoundrel until Jesus shows him unconditional love and gives him unlimited forgiveness and changes him into a cornerstone of his eternal Church. John is a violent, volatile hothead — “Call fire down from heaven! Blow ’em all up! But the love of Jesus immerses him and changes him. And John winds up writing the most beautiful words we have in the Bible on love.

Past behavior is not the best indicator of future behavior. The love of God in Christ means the life you’ve lived to this point today is not the only life that’s possible for you. Or for your neighbor. Or your enemy.

Your church is filled with courageous people who used to be all kinds of unholy until the love of God in Christ changed everything. Our lives have been eternally changed by the love of God, so we have faith that the love of God can change all lives. Showing that love of God to others in faith is the whole point. Galatians 5 says the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love. Seeing the potential for God’s love to change everybody around you, to change our city, to change the whole world — that’s the invigorating challenge.

As John would say, we love because he first loved us.

Peace,

Allan

Love First

We all know what’s happening in our world, in this country. It’s not new. It’s just amped up to eleven on the ten-point scale and it’s louder than normal and it’s all around us all the time. There is division and strife and conflict. You can’t get away from it. Black and white, left and right, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative — it’s splashed across every screen and blaring from every set of speakers. You can’t eat a Twix bar without being forced to choose left or right. And you can’t turn on a football game on Sunday afternoon to escape from it.

And we’re all experiencing this together — all of God’s children, all of Christ’s disciples, all asking the same questions.

How do we handle this? What are we supposed to do? How do Christians engage this volatile culture? What do we say? How do we act?

I think most of us wish there was a third option, a different way, a way to be above all the conflict but still engage what’s happening in ways that matter.

May I suggest love?

Completely love. Love completely. Sharing the immeasurable love of God with others lifts us above the strife.

The world is squeezing us to make a choice between two options and we get in trouble when we don’t recognize that third way, that third and very different option that takes us high above anything else being offered: Love. Committing to love as our guiding principle, as our continuous posture, actually fulfills or completes God’s purposes for the love he’s lavished on us.

The Bible says we love because he first loved us. We love completely because we are so completely loved.

Peace,

Allan

Completely Love

It’s Missions Month here at Central — probably my favorite recurring season on our local church calendar — and our focus during these five Sundays is on the purpose of God’s great love.

“If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” ~1 John 4:12
“Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete in us.” ~1 John 4:16-17

God’s love is what saves us. The matchless love of God transcends the barriers of time and space to reach into our hearts and draw us in to a righteous relationship with him. God’s love achieves for us total forgiveness and absolute peace. Praise God! But God’s love, which existed for us “before the foundations of the world,” only realizes its true mission, it only accomplishes its eternal purpose, when you and I show that same divine love to others.

That’s the cycle. That’s the ultimate point of God’s great love for us.

This divine love that’s existed for all time comes from God. It is showered lavishly on us through Jesus Christ. We experience that love, we are saved by that love. But that love isn’t complete until we show that same love to other people. Or, to say it positively, like John: The whole point of God’s perfect love is fulfilled — it’s made complete — when we live to love others.

We love completely because we’ve been completely loved.

“We love because he first loved us.” ~1 John 4:19

When the world is hurting, God’s people should be healing. When the world is afraid, disciples of Jesus should be bold. When the world is confused, the Church should be clear. When people are surrounded by hate, we should be where they encounter God’s love. Completely.

Peace,

Allan

The Love of God and Your Group

loveperiodblueIdolatry of self is a root problem that keeps us from a supreme devotion and love of God. But a sin that’s just as dangerous, if not more so, is group narcissism. Idolatry of the group. Whatever the group — a political group, a religious group, a racial group — it’s an idol if it steals any of your allegiance away from God. A political party, a nation, a socio-economic group, a language, a Christian denomination — any man or woman belonging to any group is at least susceptible to thinking his group is superior to all other groups. My race is superior, my political party is righteous, my church is correct, my nation is best. If we’re not careful — better, if we’re not diligent — our devotion to a group can very easily compromise or even displace our primary love for God. When God’s platform comes into conflict with the group’s platform, we’re tempted to uphold the values and methods of the group over the ways and means and values of our God.

And they will come into conflict.

In fact, loving God is a gigantic threat to group narcissism. The groups can’t handle it. To love God first and most is to say there is another Power, there is a greater Authority, there is another One to whom all groups must bow. That flies right in the face of the idolatrous values of our society.

As disciples of the Christ, we declare that God has no equal, he has no peer. God alone is God. We cannot seek to find our worth or our identities by rooting ourselves in ethnic or political or geographic groups. We find our true identity in loving God. Period.

Loving God first will always mean loving others, too. It will always lead to loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. That’s not going to sit well with your “group,” either. This is why followers of Jesus can’t base their value on the political or social or cultural groups of the world: selfless, sacrificial love has almost nothing in common with the strategies and goals of the world’s groups. In fact, the two exist in constant conflict.

loveperiodglassWhen Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, we’ve got to remember that Jesus ate and drank with lepers and prostitutes. He spent his time taking care of the foreigners and the poor. He protected the vulnerable people on the margins and stood by those who had been accused. Jesus reminds us of the command to not kill and then he says, “You’re not even supposed to get angry.” He tells us when somebody hits me in the face, I’m supposed to turn the other cheek. He tells us not just to tolerate our enemies, but to actually love our enemies.

These are fierce teachings. This is a very difficult way to live. Christ Jesus has put before us a very hard path, a path that few have really tried to follow. To paraphrase Chesterton: “Christianity has not been tried and found lacking; it’s been found difficult and never really tried.”

It’s been so loud in this country lately, so angry and mean and hateful and loud, the idea of loving others has mostly been set aside.

“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 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 him. In this way, love is made complete among us…” ~1 John 4:15-17

The life-giving love that begins with the Creator flows to the Son. Jesus then takes that love and showers it upon us. And he tells us to show that same divine love to others. This heavenly love is completed, it’s fulfilled, when we give it to others. We’re the last link in this eternal chain of love. God’s love has not fulfilled its purpose, it’s not finished, until it’s coursing through his people and being lavished on every man, woman, and child around us.

God is not a man. He is not a state. God is not an institution or a party or a possession. He is the divine Creator and Father of us all. And he calls us to share his limitless love extravagantly with everybody.

Love doesn’t tear down, it builds up. It never divides, it always unites. It’s not terrified by terrorism. It doesn’t hate those outside the group. And love does not follow leaders or groups who promote hate and bigotry and division and violence as a way to get things accomplished.

Whatever you do as a child of God and follower of Jesus, make sure you love. If anybody tells you to do otherwise; if you get any email insisting that you forward something that’s not loving; if any leader or group urges you to act in any way toward anybody that’s not loving; you know that person or that group is not under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t let anybody ever stop you from loving. Don’t let anybody kill your love for anybody. Love everybody whether they like it or not. Love the people you’re told not to love. If you let anyone or anything keep you from loving, you’re cutting off the proof and the expression of God’s nature in your body and soul.

Peace,

Allan

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