Posts Tagged 1 John 4: 8

Magnified

1 John 4: 8

God is love.

Every congregation around the world has talked about this passage of scripture. We have heard time and time again that God is love but its deepest truths have yet to permeate our Christian cultures and our individual hearts.

To know God is to love. Every person who says they know God must have come to know Him as love. We must, at the very deepest levels, understand that He loves us, but further, we must grasp what it means for God’s nature to be love. Anyone who does not know love, does not know God. It is that simple.

I am listening to an audiobook, a work of fiction. The fictional world in which the characters live is populated by many different people all, who serve different Gods. The overtones of religious hypocrisy are rampant. It caused me to think of our God and our expression of who He is. The atrocities perpetuated by the characters in the book in the name of their Gods, unfortunately, mirrors the same challenges the church of Christ has endured. For me this has become a simple matter, at least theologically. Evangelism must be based in love and motivated by love. All else is both meaningless, at best, and damaging.

In driving through town one day, I saw a car painted with, what was clearly meant to be, an evangelical message. However, the words did anything but magnetize one towards Christ. In fact, I, a Christian, was repelled by the message, even offended. Presumptively, the person driving the car, the one who painted the message, was attempting to populate heaven. The message was not filled, however, with the essence of God which is love.

Sooner or later the church must decide and subsequently adopt an attitude and philosophy of love. We must first, give ourselves over to God’s love, allowing Him to love us in our deepest thoughts and feelings. As we allow ourselves to receive uncompromising love, we will be competent to tell others about the love of God. Only love draws people to God. Theology does not and hell does not. Even the promise of heaven is too vague for most people to appreciate and fathom. We needed acceptance when we were lost and flailing. We found that in our Father who accepted us as we were, even with all our scars and blemishes. We fail, however, to extend that same grace to others and I believe it is because we have yet to fully immerse ourselves in the love the Father offers us.

To my way of thinking, there is no evangelism outside of love. The world does not need us criticizing and damning them. They are not drawn to condemnation nor do they see us as more holy than they when our dialogue is full of hateful expressions instead of love. Don’t tell me you love God when you spit vitriol at His children. It is a vulgar lie. We can no longer afford the luxury of pious self-promotion while people are dying and going to hell. Others are leaving the church because they see hate and judgment. If the church is to grow and function as it was meant to, then we must make the choice to love. It is not our job to decide who goes to hell. Our job is to make hell a wasteland. Eventually, as a body and as individuals, we must embrace love and allow it to color our lives. If God is love, then our only choice is to exercise love. If we are to march in the name of our God then we cannot kill, steal or destroy in His name. This is the message of our times. The first step of this age is: embrace love. Let it fill you and let it be reflected in you. We can’t be mean-spirited and imitate Jesus. We can no longer afford to cause harm in the name of Jesus. That is not his way nor our commission. The gospel is good news and all people, when they encounter us, should have a brush with unfathomable love. Jesus told people that the Kingdom of God had come near them. People will only see the Kingdom and its power when we accomplish step one, adopt love. There is no step two until we achieve step one. Let love guide you, let it fill you. Let God be magnified by magnifying love.

Saved from Wrath

1 Thessalonians 5: 9

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It surprises me that there is still confusion over God’s feelings towards us. Even people who have John 3: 16 memorized still talk about God’s wrath and about how He is going to pour out His wrath upon us. Well, this verse would seem to lay aside that perspective in favor of a God who loves us and intended to save us, even to save us from Wrath.

God is love (1 John 4: 8) and everything He does is from the vantage of love. Our crimes demanded punishment but because He wanted to spare us from our just due, He sent Jesus to take all of the punishment, all of the wrath upon himself. We have been pardoned. The jail cell doors are thrown open wide. We are free. We are excused from the prison cell and invited into the throne room. God saved us from the sentence levied against us by condemning Jesus. Therefore, we are no longer destined to or for wrath but rather our destinies are salvation, love, hope and peace through the grace of our Father and the triumph of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Love is in the house. Love demands kindness, not wrath. Love demands gentleness. Let’s get a revelation of our Father. He is gentle and kind, not angry. Any anger He had, He poured out on Jesus. Sometimes I think we do “Him” a disfavor by attributing the male pronoun to Him because the Bible reveals that He is male and female. Were we able to comprehend Him in His fullness, I think it would be easier for us to attribute His nurturing nature to His every thought and gesture. He is the strong warrior who protects us from the storm but He is every bit the tender soul who cuddles us in warmth and affection. He is the most emotionally expressive person you will ever meet. In fact, He is so effusive with His declarations of love that He will embarrass you.

You were not destined to endure anger or wrath. You were and are destined for greatness in Christ Jesus through the love and salvation bought for you at the cross and in truth, at the dawn of time. You are destined to sit on your heavenly parent’s knee and receive comfort and the outpouring of incomprehensible love. Receive love and abandon fear of wrath. Receive the fullness of Salvation.

God Is . . .

1 Corinthians 13: 4

Love is patient . . .

Would you like to know the character traits of God? Did you realize they are listed in the Bible? Yep, they are. You see 1 John 4: 8 tells us that God is love. Then we read here in Corinthians that “love is” patient . . .. So translate that and you get God is patient. Are you with me?

You can prove He is patient. One way is by reading the Bible. When you read the Old Testament you begin to wonder how humanity survived. The people sorely tried God’s patience but His patience won out and here we are. Then read the New Testament. Was not the people’s treatment of Jesus enough to provoke even the most patient of people? Yet God’s love prevailed. He and Jesus endured the ignorance and abuse hurled at them for the prize set before them. And what was that prize? Us. Wow. That doesn’t sound like much of a prize to me; certainly not reward enough to endure the cross. Apparently, that is what love does.

Another way to prove God’s patience is to look in your own life. Sometimes as I look back in my own life I shudder at my complete foolishness. I shout, “Glory” to God that He had the patience to wait out my wandering years and “Thank you Lord,” for His continuing patience as I try to find my way daily. Do you feel the same way? Can you feel His patience and love coating you right now as you think about the trials you put Him through? He will never fail you, never forget or forsake you. God is patient.

Good God!

Isaiah 63: 7

I shall make mention of the lovingkindness of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has granted them according to His compassion and according to the multitude of His lovingkindness.

I am involved with a group of believers who are exploring God’s goodness through the revelations of Bill Johnson as shared in his book, God is Good. This prompted a conversation with a minister friend. Together we agree that if our ministries can lead people to the understanding that God is good, then we will have been successful. As you attempt to communicate God’s goodness, you find that words fail. Just look at Isaiah’s paragraph above. How many ways and how many times does he have to say God is good for us to get it? It seems like Isaiah just can’t say it well enough or big enough to suit himself. He uses the words: lovingkindness, great goodness, compassion and the multitude of His lovingkindness. Can you see how he struggles to convey the great kindness and love of God? Why is this so difficult to convey and to receive?

I remember as a small child we used to say a very simple prayer and believe it, “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for this food.” God is great! God is good! You know, some adult had to teach us that prayer. Do you think the adult believed the words? Why do so few adults, particularly Christian adults believe these words now? Weren’t we taught that God is good? How is there even space in the Christian world for Bill Johnson to write a book on God’s goodness? Shouldn’t we all be so steeped in this very basic principle as to make his book unnecessary? I wish! By the way, it is a good book and I am enjoying it. I just don’t like that there is any revelation here for any of us.

How is this hard? God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son . . . (John 3: 16). We sure can quote this verse and make signs and placards bearing its words but miss its message. If your personal theology has no other linchpin that this one, let it be that God loves you. Grasp with your heart, mind and soul that He is all good all of the time. He only has good plans in mind for you. Well, now I sound like Isaiah. There are not words enough to satisfy the communication of His great goodness. Maybe it’s best if I defer to the Apostle John who said it best, “God is love” (1 John 4: 8)

Here Comes the Judge – Not!

John 12: 47

I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.

In his unforgettable characterization, Flip Wilson said, “Here comes the judge!” Jesus might say, “Here comes the Savior.”

I was reading the story of the Samaritan woman when today’s verse came to my mind. The account of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman is found in John 4, verses 1 – 42. Many people came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah because of this woman. She was an evangelist for Christ even though she had three strikes against her. First, she was a Samaritan, a race despised and disdained by the Jews. Second, she was a woman. As such she was at best a second class citizen; at worst, a non-entity. Then there is strike three. She was apparently living with a man who was not her husband. Strike three, you’re out!

But wait . . . Jesus evangelized a city through this misfit. How can that be? She was the disfavored of the disfavored. Why did Jesus show her acceptance? Why didn’t he try to correct her of everything she was doing wrong? Why did he even condescend to speak with her? One thing is clear to me, as I read this tale; one of us has the paradigm wrong, either Jesus or me.

Many of us, while good intentioned, operate under a wrong mindset. We mistakenly believe that we need to judge and correct in order to save. That is not, however, the model Jesus set for us. In his book, judgment is correlated with damnation. Love is connected to salvation. Let me ask you this question? Which model do you think is most effective? John 4: 39 reads, “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” Jesus ended up staying in that Samaritan town for three days at the insistence of the residents all because one unlovely sinner spread the gospel. Because Jesus showed her kindness and acceptance, especially in the light of her living arrangement, she evangelized a town.

Love is the greatest force on earth. God is love (1 John 4: 8) and love is God. Mountains can be moved by applying this, the greatest power on earth. It was love that sent Jesus to earth and it was that same love that caused him to choose the cross. HE DIDN’T ENDURE THE CROSS TO JUDGE US BUT RATHER TO SAVE US. He went to the cross so that we could be free of the judgment that was due us. He removed the judgment from our shoulders, indeed from our lives, and took it on himself. He is called the savior. That must have meaning. In his own words, he describes himself as our savior, not our judge. He has the right to judge us because the Father gave all judgment to him (John 5: 22). He chose not to exercise that authority but rather to spend his life and death in removing judgment from us. That is one powerful testimony. Tell that to a sinner. Tell them that no one is judging them. Tell them God loves them and sent His son to save them rather than judge them. Tell them Jesus wants them to spend eternity with him in heaven. That is the good news of the Gospel.

In Hot Pursuit

Proverb 21: 21            NIV

He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

Yesterday we saw from verses 17 and 18 of Proverb 21 that the pursuit of pleasure leads to poverty. Today we are fortunate to get to see the other side of the coin. If we wish to have abundant life, prosperity and honor then we must pursue righteousness.

Now, before we fall on our faces, let us review our thinking on righteousness. Many of us were trained in the notion that righteousness equates to good works. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, that kind of “righteousness” is repugnant to God. It is a rancid odor in His nostrils. Righteousness, in a word, is Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5: 21 reads, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This means that Jesus, who is and was the righteousness of God, traded his righteousness for our sin. He became our sin so that we could become the righteousness of God. Therefore, our pursuit of Jesus, is necessarily a pursuit of righteousness.

There is an interesting passage about this very topic from the Apostle Paul. “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone” (Romans 9: 30 – 32). The stumbling stone was Jesus. I find this passage amazing. The Israelites, the chosen ones, who pursued righteousness through their works failed while the Gentiles who by faith sought Jesus attained righteousness. Wow!

Shall we, though, take it one step further? The verse for today also says that those who pursue love find life, prosperity and honor. This one is really easy, isn’t it. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4: 8). Yeah, you don’t need a theology degree in order to knock this one out of the park. God is love. Therefore, if one pursues God, then that is a pursuit of love and thus the result is life, prosperity and honor. 1 Corinthians 14: 1 says “Pursue love . . ..” It really is that simple.

So, what is the conclusion of all this? Our happiness, prosperity, peace, joy, well-being, life, and honor are found in the pursuit of the Father and the Son, merely in the pursuit. It is not in the tracking down or even in the finding. Your Father and God does the revealing. Your only part is to pursue. “If you seek Him, He will let you find Him” (1 Chronicles 28: 9).

Faithful Fear

Job 3:25

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.

It is a spiritual law that those things which we greatly fear, we will attract to us. Why? We meditate on it. We roll it around and around in our minds until it takes on a life of its own. As we think on that thing of which we are afraid, we experience many of the same emotions and almost to the same intensity level as if they really happened. In our imagination they are real and they have life. The next thing you know we start spitting that unbelief and fear out of our mouths. Language is how God created all that is. Our words have tremendous power in our lives. So when we harbor fear and dread in our hearts we continually give it life until we finally give birth to that which we have most feared.

But take heart! Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4: 18) and God is love (1 John 4: 8). God is that perfect love which has been shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5: 5). Cast all of your care upon him; cast all that you fear into his hands because he cares for you (1 Peter 5: 7). You now have no reason to fear. He has taken all of the fear unto himself and given you his perfect love in its place. Meditate on the depth of God’s love for you and you will be so full that there will be no place for that fear any longer. Bless God!

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