November 18, 2007
Pastor Brian Shimer
"LOVING LIKE JESUS"
1 John 4: 7-21
- Would you open up your Redpraise books with me and sing a song that I used to sing at camp when I was a kid - yes it is that old - and is from this passage of Scripture: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He that loves not knows not God, for God is love. Beloved, let us love one another. First John Four: seven and eight!" (rp 62)
I bet you know this message by now - God is love! You know we have all heard this message for so many years we are like the cartoon character Linus who listens to his teacher giving instructions and only hears "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah" for saying we love God and others is just the language of the faith we have grown up with-who needs to say it anymore?
I mean really - look at all those boxes around you Brian. Isn't it obvious we are already loving others because of the love we have received?
Look at our dinner on Thanksgiving Day, the upcoming Christmas boxes, the multiple ways we reach out putting flesh on our faith in this God.
That is all true, I agree, but I still think we need to be reminded that God is love.
For, in John's day people disbelieved the truth about God -- they denied the need for fellowship, they denied that Jesus was God in the flesh, they denied the work of the Holy Spirit, they denied the Triune God. And today, we have people still denying the same things in world religions such as Islam and Buddhism and in cult movements such as the Jehovah witnesses. So, perhaps the message has not outworn its need to be heard.
In addition in John's world there was this guy writing about how God is so distant from us that there is no access to Him, and that this God did not personally create the world or people but some distant generation of angels from God created it. Indeed this guy's god had emanations that were begotten to him who eventually created angels and these angels many generations and the 365th generation from his first creation of angels created the earth. He said that is why there were 365 days in the year!
This man said that Jesus never really suffered, that God cannot suffer, and claimed that Jesus never resurrected from the dead (how can you come back to life if you never died?).
Today, there are people still saying these same things - some are modern day Gnostics claiming a special knowledge is needed to experience God. Some are those who are rewriting what is true seeking to affect Christianity.
So tell me - if God is some distant, untouchable, "out there" reality to this man, is it possible to have a relationship with God? Would you even want a relationship with such a God-distant, cold, uncaring, uninvolved in your life?
Against this John was saying: "Wait! That is not God this man is writing of! That is not the character of God."
How many of you have had conversations with other people or have encountered something in your experience to dark, so terrible you have wondered: "If God is love why has this terrible thing happened to me?" Or "If God is love why is there so much suffering in the world?"
This is the answer we have found in this book from John, the answer to where God is when it hurts, when all is dark, when there is no hope.
His answer echoes those of the Prophet Isaiah through whom the Lord said, "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the sprit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite" (Isaiah 57:15).
Where is God? The God of love, of suffering love, of sacrificial love, who came in the flesh, walked in the flesh, experienced all the extremities of living in the flesh is with you, beside you and inviting you to enter the comfort of his care.
What a revolutionary message this was - outstandingly different from what any of John's heretical contemporaries were saying and different from what we might even say when encountering hardships.
- God is Love. God is the God of relationship - first God with Himself, for to be love means God is more than one person. You cannot be love without someone with whom to share it. To say, "I am such a loving person" means nothing unless that love is being enacted into the lives of others.
No, God is the God of relationship with Himself as Trinity and then God is the God of relationship with us in order for us to experience His love and then express that love through us as we are in relationship with one another.
Beloved let us love one another for love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knows God, he that loves not, knows not God for God is love. Beloved let us love one another. 1 John 4:7-8
- I need to hear this, you need to hear this, we need to take it into ourselves - certainly the call to love others but more so the fact that the God we believe in lives in relationship, our God is Love. No one else makes such an audacious claim as this of the Christian faith. That God is love challenges everything.
We have just finished packing Christmas boxes for children around the world - one couple in our area packed 100 themselves! That is a $3000 commitment! We have packed these gifts for children we have never met. We have taken time to shop, find just the right things and put them into the box.
What is our hope as we send these away to those children?
Is our hope that the children receiving these boxes will think they were too precious to open and put the box with the gifts within it on a shelf and never open it? Just stare at the box.
Well, they could do that, but I would wager that would not be what you would hope for them nor is it what I would hope for them.
Is your hope that the child receiving your box will open it and then believe they have to do something to earn such a box of gifts? Perhaps they believe they have to behave extra nicely, or dress in a certain manner, or sing certain songs, or put on an affected speech? Would you want your child to believe he or she had to do something to earn what you have sent?
If you were with them you would tell him or her: 'Hon you cannot do a thing to earn this I chose all these gifts just because I love you and Jesus loves you.'
You might be disappointed that they thought they had to do something to please you since you sent the box all that way.
When what you really would want for them is just this: that they would open the box receive everything within it with joy and with abandon play and wear the clothes until they wear out and enjoy it all and on top of that, that they would meet and fall in love with Jesus who is your Lord as well. Then someday you will be able to meet them in heaven.
- But how many of us who love to give to others struggle in receiving anything for ourselves? How many of us say God is Love, yet, refuse the love He offers to us with excuses similar to those I have outlined with the children?
With such statements we refuse to let God love us and John writes in this chapter that we are meant to "know" - intimately be acquainted with God's love for us. And we are to be able to place our full trust in that love, be able to rely upon that love for us. This means we do not need to fret about whether or not God loves us, or if we have done enough to warrant that love. No, we can rest in the confident assurance that God does love us. And when we fall into or storm into sin, God's love has not changed. The consequence for our action will bring about punishment, God will convict our conscience in order for us to become aware of our sin and repent. But God has not stopped loving us.
God may love her, we think, but I need to work harder, I have to earn his love.
God loves him because he is so talented, etc, but could never love me with all the bad things I have done.
When our children make choices we wish they would not make does that change our love for them? Certainly not. We may have to place tough boundaries on them until we can again trust them, but our love will not change.
How much more will God love you - and how much more does God love you where you are, as you are while refusing to leave you where you are.
God's love is not a preventing love but a protecting and perfecting love. God loves you enough to help you grow and has placed you in this body in order for that growth to take place.
Have you received the love God has for you?
Do you believe it?
Do you think of God as way far off, distant, angry, revengeful?
Do you imagine that God is more frequently angry at you than glad to hear your voice?
Are you angry at God for something that has happened to you or to someone else and do you need to be reminded that God is still at work in that situation and is working on you as well, or else would not have used this situation to reveal your own heart needs?
Today is a great day to receive His love more deeply within. Today is a great day to begin to know this love that surpasses knowledge and to rely upon the love God has for you in order to walk in it.
I think God would have me be more like Kizzie our cat who loves to be loved. Kizzie seeks out a lap available to jump on in the most gentle manner in order to be loved. She loves being petted, held; she loves being close to others. She even got on Gabrielle's lap at the piano and joyfully endured her hair being brushed back and forth by Gabrielle's arms as she played scales on the piano. Kizzie seeks love and receives it. May that be true of you - that you go to God and receive the love God has for you, love that will change you and work through you.