************ Sermon on 1 John 4:13-21 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on March 22, 2020

1 John 4:13-21
"God is Love (2)"

John tells us God's love is a complete love, a perfect love. It is a love to which nothing can be added. It is a love that cannot be improved upon. It is a love from which nothing is lacking. It is a love over the top. It is a love to the max. It is a love that especially shows itself in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.

We looked at this love last time and we look at this love again today. There are three points: first, love's assurance; second, love's fearlessness; third, love's source.

I Love's Assurance
A Our first point is love's assurance. How do we know we belong to God? How do we know "we live in him and he in us"? Some would argue that the coronavirus, AIDS, SARS, deaths, and other events show God has abandoned us.

So how do we know we belong to God? How do we know we are in Him and He in us? First, because God, out of love, has given us His Spirit.
(1 Jn 4:13) We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

God does this out of love. The presence of the Spirit is a necessary part of our salvation. The Spirit's presence is an act of love.

But now another question: How do I know for sure I have received the Spirit? I can't see the Spirit. I can't feel the Spirit. Jesus told Nicodemus that the Spirit is like the wind (Jn 3:8). It blows here and it blows there. You don't know where it is blowing from. You don't know where it is blowing to.

So how do I know I have the Spirit? Not because you experience His impulses. Not because you hear His voice. Not because you feel His prompting. Verses 14-15 tells us how we know we have been given the Spirit:
(1 Jn 4:14-15) And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. (15) If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.
You know you have the Spirit if you confess Jesus is the Son of God. You know you have the Spirit if you believe the Gospel. Belief in Jesus, acceptance of the Gospel, is proof of the ministry and presence of the Spirit. Because you couldn't do this, you wouldn't do this, apart from the Spirit. How do I know I have the Spirit of God? Because I believe what can only be believed if I have the Spirit.

Realize, congregation, remember, congregation, that sinners are dead in their trespasses and sins. They are blind. They are deaf. They are unable -- unable to believe in Jesus, unable to accept the Gospel, unable to repent and believe.
(1 Cor 2:14) The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Do you believe? Do you believe the Gospel? Do you believe all the Gospel? That the Father sent the Son? That the Son took on flesh? That the Son is the Savior? That salvation is by grace through faith and not by works? All of this is proof that God -- out of love -- lives in you, abides in you, in and through the Spirit.

B But there is more to the answer. How do we know we belong to God? How do we know "we live in him and he in us"? Here is the second part of the sequence: if you have the Spirit, you have the love of God because God is love.
(1 Jn 4:16) 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.

What happens if you have the love of God? You love God. You love your brothers and sisters in Christ. You love your neighbors. Your life is characterized by love. Not by complaints. Not by attacking those around you. Not by focusing on yourself and your problems. Not by anger and hostility. You know you are belong to God if your life is characterized by love. You will love the way God loves. You will love the Son as the Father loves the Son. You will love those who belong to Him. You will even love enemies the way God does.

When you look at your life, what do you see? Do you see love? When others look at your life, what do they see? Do they see love? If you love to worship God, if you love the fellowship of the saints and sacrificially serve one another, this is evidence that the God of love is in you.

In this season of Lent, do you see love's assurance? Because of the Spirit the love of God is in you. And you know, you know, God is with you and in you.

II Love's Fearlessness
A Our second point is love's fearlessness. People find so much to fear in today's world: coronavirus, stock market, presidential election, China, Iran, ISIS, family members in harm's way, business shutdown. Hoarders are emptying grocery store shelves as quickly as they are being stocked; people wonder will there be something left for me: bottled water, paper towels, toilet paper, fresh fruit and vegetables. Even children are scared because of everything going on.

People are scared but they are being scared of the wrong thing. People are scared but they don't realize what it is they should really fear. The biggest and most important fear anyone should have is of God and His judgment. People fear they will lose the world but give not a thought to losing the soul. The scariest thing possible, my brothers and sisters, the scariest thing possible is not the coronavirus or a stock market crash or a business failure. The scariest thing possible is to face the judgment throne of God without Christ at your side. The scariest thing possible is to be in the hands of an angry God with no way to appease His anger.

B Here is good news for you: Christians have no reason to be scared about God's judgment. Listen to what John says:
(1 Jn 4:17-18) 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. (18) There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Consider the five members who have died this year: Celia Groen, Virginia Senior, Larry De Hoog, Bernice Visser, Nellie Prys. None of them feared the day of judgment. None of them.

When the Spirit has done His work and your eyes have been opened and your mind had been enlightened and your dead heart has been made alive and you have come out of darkness into life, then you do not fear the judgment. When the Holy Spirit has caused you to believe the Gospel and God abides in you, you have confidence as you face judgment. When the very love of God is in you, when that perfected and completed love is in you, you are able to bravely face what comes after death.

John uses the word "confidence." Christians have confidence as they face the coming judgment. This is not the first time John has said this.
(1 Jn 2:28) And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

(1 Jn 3:21) Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God ...
And now John uses the word "confidence" again. Meaning "boldness." Not cocky. Not over-confident. But bold and confident.

If you know you are God's, if your heart is filled with His love, then you can enter His presence with boldness and confidence. You can stand before His judgment throne with boldness and confidence. And, you stand there without fear.

C Why? Why can you enter His judgment room with boldness and confidence? Are you ready for John's answer at the end of verse 17? "Because in this world we are like him." "Because in this world we are like him."

Like who? Like Jesus. We can enter the heavenly law court with boldness because we are like Jesus.

In what way? In what way are we like Jesus? Like Jesus we enter the judgment room clothed with righteousness. Righteousness. What does it mean to be righteous? It means to obey God's law. It means to obey God's law perfectly. It means to be as perfect as Christ Himself. Jesus loved God with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength. Jesus loved people perfectly. Jesus obeyed all God's commandments and not a thought came to His mind against any of them. That's what it means to be righteous.

However, none of are righteous. Because all of us are sinners. As Paul tells us in Romans 3:
(Rom 3:10-12) There is no one righteous, not even one; (11) there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. (12) All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.
I am not righteous. You are not righteous. None of us are righteous because we are sinners. We are all sinners and no sinner is righteous.

And, yet, "in this world we are like him." Here I need to tell you the amazing and wonderful news of the Gospel. I am not righteous -- in and of myself. You are not righteous -- in and of yourself. But you and I are righteous in Christ. In Christ. Because of Christ. Due to the work of Christ. The love of God has perfected us, completed us.

Any why can we stand there without fear? Because the love of God has removed all fear. Fear has to do with punishment. But Christ, out of love, has been punished in our place. So there is no fear. Rather, there is righteousness which makes us acceptable before God.

Christians don't fear the return of Christ. Christians don't fear standing before the judgment throne of God. Rather, they long for it. They say, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (Rev 22:20). Come quickly. Come soon.

The saint who fears Christ's return may not be a saint at all. Because the saint loves His appearing and can hardly wait for it.

Do you see, congregation, do you see how God wants us to live in times like these? With confidence. With boldness. Without fear. Filled with His love. Overflowing with His love. God wants us to have the confidence that comes from His perfect love. Something to celebrate in this season of Lent.

III Love's Source
A Do you want this love we've been talking about? Do you want this love that assures you that you belong to God? Do you want this love that takes away the fear of judgment? Of course you do.

Let me tell you how to get it. From God. Verse 19: "We love because he first loved us." It is not something we grab or take. It doesn't start with us. It never starts with us. It needs to come from God. It needs to start with God. He needs to work on us and in us with His electing love.

B Is He working in you? Well, how do I know? Look at what John says in verses 20-21. Negatively, you don't have God's love if you are not loving to your brother or sister. Positively, you do have God's love if you are loving to your brother or sister.

Is He working in you? Examine your life. Look at your words and your attitudes. Look at your behavior.

Love, dear brothers and sisters, is not an emotion. It is not a feeling. The love we are talking about is not the love between a husband and a wife. It is not the love that a family shares. It is not the love that children share with parents. It is not the love between friends. We are not talking about any of these human loves. Rather, we are talking about the love of Christ in the heart of believers. A perfect love. A complete love.

It is this perfect, complete love that gives us the assurance of belonging to God, that allows confidence in judgment.

Is this love yours?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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