The Absolute Surety of God’s Love for Us. What More is there for us to say? What More is there for us to do now? 1 John 4:7-21

This probably comes as no surprise to you, but since covid-19 rearranged so many of our lives and schedules, we have changed how much time we spend looking at a screen, whether it’s a tv, smartphone, laptop, or computer screen.

As a whole, we are spending a significant amount of time on these devices.

With that increased usage comes an increase in our exposure to hateful and divisive behaviors.

Anger, violence, and unrest that is posted to social media platforms only reflects and magnifies the anger, violence, and unrest in our communities.

With all of this unrest in our global communities, some people may reasonably wonder exactly where God is in all of this.

Others are max tempted to question the quality and quantity of God’s goodness.

They might ask,

They might shout,

They might scream at the top of their collective lungs,

They might march in the streets, raising high signs of protest and indignation,

“If God is so good, then how can He allow all of this hate and violence to exist?

But just because there is human hatred and violence in our presence, this in no way negates God’s goodness and love.

You see, the world’s concept of love cannot hope to compare with God’s love.

I am referring to God’s love that was on display when He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross for the sins of the world.

We can’t do anything to deserve God’s love, but He loves us anyway.

God’s love abides forever, and He wants us to be sure of His love for us.

Today we will be using 1 John 4 for our focal passage.

John has already spoken to us twice on the theme of love as we looked at his writings in 1 John chapters 2 and 3.

Now he was dealing with the topic for the third time.

It is critically important here to know this about Scripture: when Scripture addresses a matter even once, it is important, but when God inspires a biblical writer to address a topic repeatedly, we should really sit up and take notice.

So, let us “sit up” and take notice once again to what God tells us about love.

1 John 4:7-10Amplified Bible

God Is Love

Beloved, let us [unselfishly] [a]love and seek the best for one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves [others] is born of God and knows God [through personal experience]. The one who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love. [He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature.] By this the love of God was displayed in us, in that God has sent His [One and] only begotten Son [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind] into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [that is, the atoning sacrifice, and the satisfying offering] for our sins [fulfilling God’s requirement for justice against sin and placating His wrath].

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Love is the very nature of God.

So, John writes,

“Love is from God, and love comes from God because God is love.”

Love is not just another characteristic of God among many.

It’s God’s very nature from which all the other attributes come.

Everything that comes from God can be attributed to His love for us.

So, if God judges, He judges in love.

That does not mean God condones sin, but in love, He is exposed to that sin and sent His son to die for sin’s penalty.

Most all of us are familiar with John 3:16, that says

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

1 John 4 verse 9, John is reminding us that God sent His one and only Son into the world so that we can know that God loves us.

The origin of Love is God.

Love began with God.

So, Jesus is the manifestation of God’s love.

God showed his love toward us by sending His Son to pay our sin debt.

How great is God’s love?

The answer to that is that God’s love is seen in the value of the gift: God gave His one and only Son (John 3:16-17).

And that is an extremely valuable gift.

So, God sent His Son as a demonstration of His love for us.

The Greek word used in 1 John 4 verse 9 for “only son” is the same word that was used to describe Abraham’s offering up of his only son, Isaac.

Let’s go back in Scripture several hundred years and I will explain that.

In Genesis 22, God tested Abraham.

He told Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, whom Abraham loved, to the land of Mariah and offer him as a burnt offering on the mountain to God.

Abraham did not question God but obeyed God immediately.

The story reaches its climax when Abraham, who had bound Isaac and laid him on the altar, raised his knife to the sky.

It was not until then that God’s angel called to Abraham, telling Abraham not to harm the boy.

Abraham proved his reverent fear of God.

God knew Abraham’s heart and knew that Abraham would carry out God’s order to sacrifice his son Isaac.

Then, in a beautiful display of His vast mercy and grace, God provided a ram to sacrifice in young Isaac’s place.

God, out of His love, provided the substitute sacrifice.

Do you and I see the similarities?

God spared Abraham’s son, but the difference is He didn’t spare His own Son on the cross.

God willingly gave His Son to die in our place, and Jesus willingly took the punishment for our sins upon Himself.

God did not do this because we are lovable, rays of sunshine on a stormy day.

By no means.

He loved and sent His Son to rescue us, not because we are lovable, but because God is love.

So, the greatness of God’s love is seen in the costliness of His self-sacrifice for us who are so utterly and completely undeserving.

So now with all of that in mind John writes,

“Let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1 John 4:11 – “Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.”

We’ve already seen in 1 John 4:7 the command to love one another.

John repeated that twice more here in 1 John 4 verse 11 and then in verse 12.

With this call to love one another as God loved us comes great responsibility.

We are to love others as God has loved us.

That is an enormously tall order.

Are we even capable of such an indescribable magnitude of Love?

God has loved us with a boundless, changeless, ultimate self-sacrificing love.

God still loves us in the same way today, as he seeks to display that magnitude of love through us.

So, we saw in 1 John chapter 4 verses 8-9, that God revealed His love when His Son, Jesus, became the sacrifice for our sins.

He took away our sin, but He didn’t just take away the bad.

He gave to us as well.

What did he give us?

Jesus gave us life that we might live through Him.

Now you are perhaps asking the inevitable question, what does that mean?

That clearly means that we are to live in Him, which means we are to allow others to see His love in and through us.

People should see Jesus’s love shine from us without us saying a word.

To love with God’s love gives evidence that we have a relationship with the One who displays His love through us.

Then, if we didn’t understand the positive side of that, John States it negatively in 1 John chapter 4 verse 8. “The one who does not love, does not know God.”

Now that all sounds pretty and nice doesn’t it?

But here comes the test.

Think about your relationships right now.

It is reasonably safe to say there is someone that you find difficult to love.

It is reasonably safe to say there is someone that you find impossible to love.

It is reasonable safe to say there is that someone you have no trouble hating.

Your instructions here are to ask God to help you love these individuals as He loves them.

Again, that is a pretty tall order.

Kind of like standing or sitting still as someone runs nails down a chalkboard.

But it is not something that, through God’s miracles, we cannot accomplish.

John goes a little deeper and says:

1 John 4:12 – 13 – “No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”

John reminds us here that no one has ever seen God.

So how do we even know that God is around?

Believers reveal the presence of God through the way they love one another.

The very fact that we love one another serves as evidence that God remains in us, and we remain in Him.

We embrace God’s love, He comes to live in us, and His love pours out of us as we love others.

So, when individual or groups of people see the mutual love given and shared between brothers and sisters in Christ, they see the display of God’s love.

A quick recap.

When we accept Christ as our personal Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us.

In that, we now possess the fruit of that spirit.

One of those fruits is love.

As a Christian, love is the fruit of God’s indwelling Spirit.

God is perfect in His love.

He Lacks nothing.

But God’s love is made complete when that love flows through us.

God has chosen to use His people as channels of His love.

So, we are to present ourselves to Him daily as instruments of His continual love.

When we love others, we cooperate with God’s redemptive plan for the world, so that others can be sure of God’s love for them.

Let me ask you.

If you ever plan on going to another particular church and you see the church members fighting and quarreling among each other, is that a church you would want to attend, give of your time, tithe and other material spiritual resources?

On the other hand, if you go to another church and the people are loving and caring and show a genuine love toward one another, is that a church you would like to attend and be part of, give of your time and tithe and material resources?

I rest my case.

And here’s the thing.

Putting God’s love on display is to be a continuous, ongoing activity.

Now we will all have to admit that there are times when it is hard to love, especially when we feel that we have been wronged or hurt by someone.

It is in those moments, in our humanity, that the last thing we want to do is express forgiveness and extend acts of kindness to that person.

But God has commanded us to love one another as God first loved us, and what God commands, He makes possible through the max example set by His Son.

Will we, do it?

Sadly, probably not!

It is in our sin nature that we simply find it much too easy to magnify hate.

Can we, do it? Can we unconditionally love one another as God first did?

Yes, we can!

If we willingly surrender our whole selves – hurts, hang-ups and hates too – and sacrifice all of those hurts, hang-ups and hates on the altar of His Mercy.

Psalm 103:1-5Amplified Bible

Praise for the Lord’s Mercies.

A Psalm of David.

103 Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is [deep] within me, bless His holy name.

Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And do not forget any of His benefits;

Who forgives all your sins,
Who heals all your diseases;

Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you [lavishly] with lovingkindness and tender mercy;

Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the [soaring] eagle.

So, we are to love, not for our enfeebled sake, but for the sake of Jesus Christ.

And the key to transforming boundless hate into loving others is in loving God.

Luke 6:27-36Amplified Bible

27 “But I say to you who hear [Me and pay attention to My words]: [a]Love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies, [make it a practice to] do good to those who hate you, 28 bless and show kindness to those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 Whoever [b]strikes you on the cheek, offer him the other one also [simply ignore insignificant insults or losses and do not bother to retaliate—maintain your dignity]. Whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. [c]Whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31 Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32 If you [only] love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend [money] to those from whom you expect to receive [it back], what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to receive back the same amount. 35 But love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies, and do good, and lend, [d]expecting nothing in return; for your reward will be great (rich, abundant), and you will be sons of the Most High; because He Himself is kind and gracious and good to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful (responsive, compassionate, tender) just as your [heavenly] Father is merciful.

The more we love God, the more of God’s love will flow out of us toward others.

Picture it as a garden hose attached to the outdoor faucet of a house.

When the faucet is turned on, the water flows.

The hose doesn’t produce the water.

It is only the conduit for the water to flow freely.

In ourselves, we might find it difficult, impossible to love, especially to love unconditionally, as God loves.

But when we are attached to Him, when we remain in Christ as Jesus said (John 15:1-5), His love flows freely through us.

And I would commend all of you reading this for your demonstrations of your sacrifices of unconditional mercy towards one another, love of one another.

God loves watching us constantly encouraging others. Writing notes, making phone calls, giving of your time, and just spending time with one another.

That lets others know we truly care. And remember what God has always said. If we want to make a lasting impact on our society and community, then just care.

Our lives ought to be characterized by daily acts of kindness.

We should serve in order to share Christ’s sacrifice that gave us salvation.

To love others is to seek their highest good.

God’s presence, God’s mercy, God’s love does not just seek to meet needs, but it aims to max exceed those needs in maximum abundance in the name of Christ.

Let me give you a biblical example.

The gospel of Mark 2:1-12, illustrates for us a crystal-clear example of loving sacrificial service with genuine gospel intent.

You might remember the story.

Four men carried a paralyzed man on a mat to meet Jesus, believing Jesus was able to heal the man.

But when they arrived, the crowd’s size made it impossible for the men to get their friend to Jesus.

But they refused to give up.

They would not be denied.

Their love for their friend compelled them to max out the extra mile.

They had that man’s highest good at heart.

The men climbed to the top of the house, removed the roof, and lowered their friend before Jesus.

And Jesus, who is love, not only healed the man but also forgave his sins.

What a beautiful example of tangible acts of kindness.

What a glorious example of seeking someone’s highest good.

If only you and I had such a story to tell …. imagine the max impact on others!

1 John 4:19-21 – “We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.”

John didn’t leave any gray areas here, did he?

Nor did he sugarcoat his words. “If anyone says I love God and yet hates his brother or sister he is a liar.”

Then to further stress that truth, John said, “For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

The statements strike to the core of the issue.

Of course, some would say it’s easier to love God because He first loved us.

But John argued just the opposite.

Logically, it’s easier to show love to people who are visibly present, rather than God, who is an invisible spirit.

So here is the issue.

A failure to love people whom we can see is a failure to love God whom we cannot see, and a failure to love is hate.

It gets down to this, we live out our love for God when we choose to love other people whom we would find it easier to rationalize and fully realize our hate.

Love overcomes hate.

There is so much visible hate in our world today that it is vitally important that Christians love one another. But our love should not stop with other Christians.

Impossible love needs to go out into the world and seek to win the lost to Christ.

Jesus came in human flesh because He loved us. He gave His life out of love for the lost, and we are to follow His example.

We, too, are to love the sinner.

We are to love the down cast and broken.

We are to love the weak and lonely.

We are to love the sick and needy.

We are to love the least of these as Jesus said. (Matthew 25:34-40)

So, to be sure of God’s maximum love, there is something we must do.

How can we be sure of God’s love for us?

Commit yourself to love like Jesus, who unselfishly gave His life for others.

Try to keep in mind and max love like the four men who did whatever it took to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus.

Practice sacrificial, transforming love like the Good Samaritan who willingly set aside the traditional hatred of others towards him, to meet a stranger’s needs.

This is the kind of love that grabs someone’s attention and changes the world.

By showing our love for one another, even those we declare our worst enemy, it will “heap coals on their heads,” help others to be sure of God’s love for them.

Maybe you have never felt God’s love. If you have not, is it because you have never asked Jesus Christ, God’s son, to come and pour his love into your life.

Why not do that now?

Stuff your pride under the chair and take that first critical step toward Jesus.

Your heart and your soul and your whole life will surely be glad you did.

Pray unto the Father and Author and Weaver of your life and ask Him to come into your heart and instruct and guide and love your life from this day forward.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Loving Heavenly Father, You have loved me with immeasurable love. You are love. I pray that I will be strengthened in my inner being – in my soul – with the love that is wider than I can understand, deeper than I am able to imagine, and greater than I could ever know. As You encourage and embolden me, may I more fully know the mystery of the Gospel as revealed in my life. In the love of Christ, I pray. Amen.

Happy Valentine’s Day! The Love of God in the Light of Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day is a special day for those in marriages where there is a mutually enriching relationship. It is a special for couples who are dating or engaged. It is a special day for dear friends. It is a day is for gifting with boxes of chocolate candy all wrapped with a red and white bow, flowers, loving cards, enjoyable times together, lunch dates and dinners all with the most romantic of flares.

But there are some people would like to ignore Valentine’s Day: recent widows and widowers, those living together who are estranged, separated or divorced, those struggling as single mothers or single fathers or anyone because of age, depression or infirmity who feels alone. How can those who are celebrating look at their celebration of shared love from another perspective? How can those who want the day to be invisible, live in their lives from another perspective?

The answer is contained in the pages of God’s Word to us. Whoever we are, we ought to try and remember we are first loved by Creator God at the moment of conception in our mother’s womb. This love remains a constant in our lives. The truth is: God’s love is our first valentine. So, whether we celebrate openly or simply desire the day to fall off the calendar, we can all celebrate God’s love on Valentine’s Day. We do this by reflecting on his word to each of us individually:

1 John 4:7-21 GOD’S WORD Translation

God’s Love Lives in His People

Dear friends, we must love each other because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, because God is love. God has shown us his love by sending his only Son into the world so that we could have life through him. 10 This love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if this is the way God loved us, we must also love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 We know that we live in him, and he lives in us because he has given us his Spirit.

14 We have seen and testify to the fact that the Father sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God lives in those who declare that Jesus is the Son of God, and they live in God. 16 We have known and believed that God loves us. God is love. Those who live in God’s love live in God, and God lives in them.

17 God’s love has reached its goal in us. So we look ahead with confidence to the day of judgment. While we are in this world, we are exactly like him ⌞with regard to love⌟. 18 No fear exists where his love is. Rather, perfect love gets rid of fear, because fear involves punishment. The person who lives in fear doesn’t have perfect love.

19 We love because God loved us first. 20 Whoever says, “I love God,” but hates another believer is a liar. People who don’t love other believers, whom they have seen, can’t love God, whom they have not seen. 21 Christ has given us this commandment: The person who loves God must also love other believers.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

We often think of Valentine’s Day as the day for couples to show their love to one another, but rarely do we use the day to remind us of God’s unmatched love for us, His children. For many single people, Valentine’s Day can be a bitter reminder of their singleness and desire for a relationship. Luckily, God doesn’t leave anyone, single or in a relationship, out of His unending love and grace.

In 1 John 4:8, the author says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

God is love itself. We wouldn’t have any conception of “love” at all if it weren’t for God, the definition of love.

God further defines love in the classic 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 passage that reads, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

God continuously describes love in this way, and then continually tells us that He IS love. This further emphasizes that God himself is all of these things.

God is continually and continuously patient and kind. He keeps no record of wrongs. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. God’s love is a perfect love that no one on earth could ever possibly emulate.

We frequently read this 1 John 4 and 1 Corinthians passage near Valentine’s Day or at weddings to remind us of what continuous and continual love should look like. We sin and tragically fall short, but God is the perfect demonstration of it.

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

In His continuous and continual love for us, He gave up His only son for us. He gave us eternal life because of His great and unmatched love for each of us.

The theologian C.S. Lewis once said, “He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less.”

Ponder upon and today meditate upon this thought: God loves you so much. If you were the only one on earth, He 100% still would have sent His son for you.

Mark 12:28-34 GOD’S WORD Translation

Love God and Your Neighbor

28 One of the experts in Moses’ Teachings went to Jesus during the argument with the Sadducees. He saw how well Jesus answered them, so he asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of them all?”

29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. 30 So love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second most important commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

32 The expert in Moses’ Teachings said to Jesus, “Teacher, that was well said! You’ve told the truth that there is only one God and no other besides him! 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus heard how wisely the man answered, he told the man, “You’re not too far from God’s kingdom.”

After that, no one dared to ask him another question.

So, on this Valentine’s Day 2022, remember to set your sights not on earthy relationships, but on the God above who loves far more fully and abundantly than we could ever imagine. Strive in your life to continually, continuously learning everything there is to know from God’s Word about His love for you.

Translate that knowledge and experience into your everyday life with whoever it is you may meet. Celebrate and share the perfect love of God in Christ Jesus. Love others in the exact same way in which God, through Christ first loved you! Pray openly or secretly, with those you meet today, “may God’s love embrace you not just on this Valentine’s Day but in every single moment of every single day!”

There is no such a time that is ever a bad time to express your love for someone, and if it takes a formal holiday like Valentine’s Day, to help you to express your affection to the loved ones in your life, then I’m all for it and you should be too. For the occasion: don’t just send a card or note that says “I love you!” Include a personal message from God’s Words of Love and Life, of Faith and Hope about what it is that you love about that person, why you find time to cherish them.  

Please, Do not put off saying “I LOVE YOU.”

For God’s Sake, do not assume someone knows how you feel about them. Tell them. Tell them right now. The matter of one person’s soul hearing God’s love for them should never be taken for granted. God’s first love transforms utterly. Give God, Give Jesus, Give God’s Holy Spirit the opportunity to grow loves seed. We plant the seed of His abiding love with our love we first received from God. Love is always meant to be communicated. Love is always meant to be known.

Try and imagine all those moments when you did not speak or hear of 1st love. Did you love the feeling? Do you regret not even knowing of all the feelings? I encourage each and every one who eventually comes to read this devotional to pick up their Bibles, clean, wipe the dust off the covers – learn of “first love” all over again. Reacquaint and refresh your hearts and your souls with His Truth.

“Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, you soul, mind and strength!”


In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

A Valentine’s Day Prayer

I said a Valentine prayer for You
and asked the Lord above
to fill your heart and bless your soul
with the precious gift of love.

I asked Him for sincere love
the kind that’s meant to stay
just like the generous love
You give to those You touch each day.

I prayed for love from family
and from every cherished friend
then I asked the Lord to give you
His love that knows no end.

By what standard ought We to Love all others? By Whose standard? We love only because God first loved us!

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

The eternal God loves us in three tenses: past, present and future – for He is the same yesterday today and forever. It is a divine love that cannot be compared with the inadequate love of fallen man, but is a love so penetrating, that He sent the unique, and only begotten Son of His love to be the propitiation for our sins.

That single act of the Father should stagger us to the core of our being… that our God sent Christ as a gift of His grace… to be made the penultimate curse for us – so that, for the sake of love we might be made the righteousness of God, in Him.

But having redeemed us He sent His Holy Spirit to abide in our heart and day by day, He seeks to transform us from ugly, bitter, antagonistic sinners into good, obedient and mature children of God, having the same, godly nature as the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.

But His love extends into the never-ending, eternal future, for no eye has seen, nor ear has heard – nor has it entered into the imagination of man the glories that God has prepared for those who love Him. Since the eternal God loves us in three, staggering tenses – the standard set, we ought also to love one another.

1 John 4:7-21 English Standard Version

God Is Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Today’s passage is all about love. The first couple of things that probably pop into your mind when you hear “love” likely involve romance, dating, marriage, I know because it did for me the very first time, I remember reading the text!

Today, we will be devoting our time to talking about a love that is much greater, very much stronger, and much more powerful than any love we could possibly conjure up or imagine we can bound within our human limits. The answer to “What kind of standard of love is that?” God because God is love, so God’s love. 

The New Covenant text for today explores the scope of God’s love and the vast implications of it: how that love was presented to us, how it was displayed in Jesus Christ, and how that standard of love both transforms and changes us.

A short caveat: for the organizational purposes of exploring these three topics, the verses referenced in this devotional offering might be a bit out of order, so just be aware of that. Man’s boundaries all come back to the center who is God!

How the standard of God’s love is presented to us

The first thing I wanted to take a look at today is how this beloved passage from 1 John answers for us the question of “How is/was God’s love presented to us?”

There are two verses in particular which begin to address that question today:

1 John 4:10Authorized (King James) Version

10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:19Authorized (King James) Version

19 We love him, because he first loved us.

What is so special about these two verses?

They both show the initiative of God. Who loved first? God loved first. This isn’t meant to be a dive into any meaningful discourse or theological discussion on predestination or whatever, but to really take a well-considered look at the initiative that God takes in setting before us, His children, his standard of love.

And this exercise of personal initiative is significant, because it shows reveals to us God is in no identifiable way shape or form passive. God does not just sit back and twiddle His thumbs and leave us alone to figure this sin problem out, but rather, He takes and is taking an indescribably active role in the redemption of his children. Let’s let our fingers wander back to the first couple of the books of the Bible and bring to remembrance some of the events and characters there.

The Creation Story. Who initiates it? Who speaks creation into being? God!

Noah and the ark. Who initiates there? It was God!

Abraham and his covenant. Who initiates there? Again, it was God!

Moses and the burning bush. Who initiates there? Once again, God! 

And once we realize this pattern in the Old Testament of God initiating and taking an unimaginably active role, we can recognize that it doesn’t end there. As we keep thumbing through the pages, God’s undeniably active role continues in the sweep towards the sacrificial work of Jesus on the cross unto Revelation.

How God’s love was displayed through Christ Jesus

And now, with God’s initiative in mind, let us advance our thoughts into and unto the second topic. We are able to allow our souls to genuinely and deeply appreciate how God displays his love through Jesus. Let’s take a look at our text:

1 John 4:9-10 Authorized (King James) Version

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

How was God’s love displayed and made known to us?

Through the death through which Jesus paid, and in return, the life that was given to us. His atoning death has led to the forgiveness of our sin. But what makes that love so grand and almost baffling? It’s that God is not obligated to send Jesus for the forgiveness of sin, he does not have to do it, but he does so willingly. He takes the divine initiative and unconditionally loves us first, even if it is for a people that do not––and may not–– ever, ever, ever love him back.

God’s standard of unconditional love inevitably transforms and changes us all

The final thought I wanted to take a look at regarding this passage is how God’s love transforms and changes us. At the beginning of this post, I had mentioned how powerful God’s love is, and this entire passage really brings that into focus:

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (1 John 4:8 AKJV)

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:11-12 AKJV)

17 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. 18 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. (1 John 4:17-18 AKJV)

20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21 AKJV)

Again, God’s love is never a passive love. And in that same way, God’s love does not act passively in us. It drives us, it transforms, and it changes us. It drives us to love one another (v.11), to care for our brothers and sisters (vv. 20-21), gives us confidence towards God even in judgement (vv. 17-18), and transforms us to be more like Christ (v. 17).

As God was willing to take and exercise His divine initiative to love and sacrifice His ONLY Son, for these people, surely, I can go out of my way to love them too. 

God’s love does not, has never and will never act the least bit passively in us. It constantly and continuously drives us, it transforms, and it 1000% changes us. God’s love is inevitable! It never changes! It can never change because our God never changes. God’s love is limitless! His love is not bound by our standards! His love can never be bound up or be held in bondage by frail human standards! These thoughts ought to just blow our minds outside the bounds of what we will tightly tape, wrap up securely inside gift boxes titled “impossible and possible.”

With what I fervently pray is a much better understanding today of how God exercises initiative in his love, how can we, today, take initiative in our love?

What does it look like to take initiative to love a friend in a mental health crisis? A difficult to talk to neighbor. A family member with different political views?

Maybe it is something “smaller,” like asking and then listening well to how someone’s been doing. Or maybe it’s something a bit bigger, like apologizing to someone, asking for their forgiveness from a mistake which caused them grief.

Regardless, we do not love because it’s something we have to do, or because we are obligated to do, but because God’s love drives us to do it. As much or as little as we follow Jesus, we serve a loving God who decided to take initiative to give His one and only Son as a “paid in full” ransom in exchange for many. And that should charge, change us, and transform us, to take some initiative of our own.

The only questions and answers we need to give a maximum accounting unto God for is: What did that God driven, Jesus loved, Holy Spirit inspired initiative look like? Did we recognize the divine nature of it? Were we obedient unto it or we all too deeply living and loving from deep inside our all too typical passivity?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, let us now collectively gather as the Body of Christ, God’s Ecclesia, in some prayer.

Gracious God, you give us the Word that turns us again and again to you. You give us Jesus who is the greatest manifestation of your word, your love and your purpose. Help us to live fully as baptized people, those grafted into Jesus the branch, the crucified and risen One. God of the risen Jesus, hear our prayer.

God of all dominion and power, God of love; we can love only because you first loved us. Empower us by your Holy Spirit to be and do the same. When we rest in your love, fear—though present—cannot overpower us. Help us to rest there always. God of the risen Jesus, hear our prayer. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen

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