By nature love always demonstrates itself and as such testifies of its source and purpose. So what does that say about how we love? #WhatIsLove #1John #DareToVenture
- Message: Love's Manifestation
- Life Group Discussion Guide: Abiding in Christ
- Deep Dive: Why Must the Church Meet Together?
- ASL Edition Premieres Sunday @ 11am
Seriously, What is Love?
1 John 4:12-16
It's kind of funny how a woman can tell another woman is pregnant. Isn’t it kind of wild? Keri will be like, something’s telling me a certain woman is pregnant. And then bang, we find out she is. There is something that other woman see and pick up on.That cues them to their own experience. That is, something is being manifested by a woman that tells the other women she’s pregnant.
Now, women have a keen sense of seeing extremely subtle things that men don’t see. We rely on the more obvious manifestations. That’s why I tell my wife I don’t know what she’s thinking unless she actually tells me! Men don’t have a female mind reader! Ha!
So, when it comes to being able to tell if a woman is pregnant, we rely on more obvious things like an obvious pregnant belly. Because that’s an obvious manifestation right! Right?
I’ll never forget the day my dad asked a woman after church when she was going to “have that baby?” A question that from my vantage point made perfect sense to me as well! But then as if it was in slow motion, the lady answered, “six months ago!” I immediately walked the other direction and left my dad standing there alone!
It was a lesson I got to learn at the expense of my dad. That not every manifestation of pregnancy is an actual manifestation of pregnancy! Ha!
Today we continue our study of what love actually is. We live in a world that has redefined love and mislabeled it. To the point that we aren’t really even sure what it is any more. We know we want it and we know we need to give it. But our understanding of it is so jacked up that we find ourselves seeking after what is actually not love and working our butt’s off to give others something that’s isn’t love either.
So, today’s passage takes us to 3 characteristics of how God’s love (actual Love!) truly manifests itself. So you can tell the difference between an actual pregnant belly and a non-pregnant belly! What is actually love and what is not!
1 John 4:12-16 gives three characteristics of the manifestation of God’s love.
The 1st characteristic of the manifestation of God’s love is that,
The lost world sees God through the manifestation of His love from believers. (4:12)
12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides (more on this word in a minute) in us and his love is perfected in us.
In John’s Gospel he records Jesus as saying, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
So, Jesus was clear that that we would be known as His based on how we love each other. But in 1st John 4:12 John clarifies why. If we truly love one another in the way God loves us, it’s because God’s love is being perfected in us. Meaning He is truly in us. The God who is love is actually in us and transforming us into His image.
As such, He, who is invisible, is made visible by His love manifesting itself through us.
That is, the love of God that is not of this world. Is, in fact, alien to it. This love is perfected in those who actually know the God that is unknown by the people of this world. And as such manifests itself through us giving the Lost World a visual testimony of the God they do not know! The one who cannot be seen is seen through those of us the world can actually see!
How many times have we heard the story of people who have no faith in God whatsoever. However when they saw how a Christian loved a neighbor or the how a church loved their community. Or how a church loved each other in a crisis. And most importantly how a Christian loved them, they finally began to be open to believing that Jesus Christ is God and that as such He loves them, died for them, and wants to save them – the gospel!
God is literally made visible to a world that cannot see him by his love being perfected in us and us manifesting itself to them through us!
The 2nd characteristic of the manifestation of God’s love is that,
God’s love is manifested to believers by the gifts He gives. (4:13-15)
The 1st gift John points to, is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit abides in all who surrender their life to Christ. (4:13)
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
One of the ways you manifest love towards somebody is you give them a gift. In God’s case the gift He gives is Himself! The Holy Spirit dwells in us and as such abides us! This is the new covenant of God in Christ that all who are in Him receive the Holy Spirit.
A minute ago we sang a song that had the line “Pentecostal Fire Stirring Something New”. That phrase means a lot of different things to different people. But what does it mean in the Bible? Well. over the last few weeks I’ve referenced the story of Pentecost a few times, but when I was meeting with some of our pastors they felt like this Sunday would be a great time to take you a little deeper into that story. Ironically next Sunday is the day of Pentecost.
To do that we need to start with the final words of Jesus to His disciples before He ascended. Acts 1:3-9 says,
3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." 9And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. (Acts 1:3-9)
From there they did what Jesus said and went back to Jerusalem to the Upper Room (presumably the same one they had had their last meal with Jesus before he was arrested and crucified) and committed themselves to prayer. They even dealt with an elephant in the room by replacing Judas with Matthias. They continued praying for what many believe to be 9 days. They prayed until something happened of eternal significance on the Day of Pentecost.
Before I read this understand what the day of Pentecost is all about. Pentecost was a festival established in the law given to Moses for the people to praise God for the grain harvest. Therefore it was celebrated seven weeks after the first sickle was put to the harvest of Barley. But it was not simply a celebration of God supplying the nation with grain, from which they made bread, but more importantly a celebration of God establishing them as a nation that owned the bread. They were no longer making it for Egypt, but God had made them a nation for Himself!
It is ultimately why Pentecost became a celebration of the giving of the law. The Passover and Pentecost were all part of remembering that God had brought the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and fulfilled his promise to Abraham and establish them as a nation. Not just an ethnic group but literally as a nation! One that is officially organized and governed as a people with land and borders. The land and borders did not come until God raised up Joshua, but the law given to Moses officially formed them and governed them as an organized people and recognizable state! They were no longer an ethnic group to serve another nation, but they were themselves a nation! It was the Mosaic law that clearly established this and set them apart as a nation belonging to God! So, ultimately the day of Pentecost was a celebration not just of God supplying grain but more importantly God establishing them as a nation and thus a celebration of the law given to Moses!
Ok, so why is that important? What does that have to do with the manifestation of the Holy Spirit? Well because Jesus said I have come to establish a new covenant. By that He absolutely meant that He was fulfilling the covenant God made with Moses and replacing it with something better! The law that formed the nation of Israel, whereby God was going to send the promise of His Son, was fulfilled when The Son came! The Son did not come to prosper the state of Israel through better obedience to the Mosaic law, but rather to usher in the Kingdom of God that was not for the physical descendants of Abraham, but rather, for all those who are called out by God from every tribe and tongue to be his children forever. They are saved and redeemed because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross!
Now, the sign of that new covenant being inaugurated was the promise of the Holy Spirit. That is that the Holy Spirit would dwell in all those who are in Christ and not simply on a select few as we see in the old testament. That the Holy Spirit would come and literally abide in all the children of God in the same way. The old testament prophets pointed to this very clear sign as a testimony that the kingdom of God was manifested! It’s in an Acts chapter 2 that we see the fulfillment of the promise. The promise that Jesus told them to wait on. The promise that declared the church had been born!
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians--we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" (Acts 2:1-12)
So the phrase Pentecostal Fire is not a phrase to reference some wild event in a worship service but God literally fulfilling His promise to send the Holy Spirit to live in All who are in Him To literally dwell in us.
To empower us to love Him and others.
To convict us of sin and empower us to overcome it. To no longer be ruled by sin and death and Satan, but to be able to live in submission to Christ. Something we are fully incapable of without Him giving us the power to do so!
To empower us to live out what God has called us to do!
To even give us gifts that accomplish the mission of Christ on earth!
He was given to comfort us by literally being God in us right now! The Covenant of God to abide with us forever. Eternal life begins not after death in a place called heaven, but right now. The eternal God living in all who are His!
God has clearly manifested His love towards us in that He has sent the Holy Spirit to live and abide with us now!
The Pentecostal Fire is the Holy Spirit who is stirring in us to know and love God and declare that love to the world by how we love others. Which as Paul said in 1st Corinthians is the greatest gift the Spirit gives us!
The 2nd gift John points to that manifest God love is salvation.
We are saved by grace through faith in Christ! (4:14-15)
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.
Everything in life has to be earned. At least it’s supposed to be, but that’s not our subject today. So just follow me here for a second. If you work hard you are rewarded with a pay check from your employer, but if you keep messing up you get fired!
Likewise, in principle, if you love others well, they will love you back. But if treat others poorly they will not love you back. We all generally get that.
So, think about this. We never love God well. We never meet his standards and that includes even after we give our lives to Christ. At no point has anybody in the Bible truly faithfully loved and obeyed God and so I shouldn’t be shocked that I truly don’t either. Even as somebody who is sincerely committed to try!
But God, does not love us based on our love for Him. He does not save us based on our ability to meet His standards. Rather He sent His Son to pay the penalty of our failure, to suffer the consequence of our actions. Why? Because He loves us!
And as such, what God requires of us, is not for us to love Him enough to deserve His Love for us, but rather for us to commit ourselves to love and follow Him. As such by faith believe that Christ’s death and resurrection are a clear testimony of His eternal love for us that has forgiven us of our sin and accepted us in our all our weakness and failures!
That we who have never met God’s expectations. That never truly love Him, are indeed love by Him forever! If that’s not a manifestation of love I don’t know what is!
The 3rd characteristic of the manifestation of God’s love is that,
You can only experience the manifestation of God’s love if you abide in Christ. (4:16)
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. (4:16)
The key to understanding this entire passage is to understand the word abide.
To abide is to be so connected with someone that you are literally being shaped by them. That you are dependent on it. That you can’t live without them.
When Jesus spoke of abiding in Him, He used the illustration of a vine and branches. Abiding is where those two come together so much so they become one!
It is of such unity that if you tear a healthy branch off of a vine, part of the vine comes with it, because they literally become one.This is the John 15 picture of abiding. And it’s the picture of what eternal life actually is in John 17!
So, point being this then. God is love. Therefore in order for us to have love manifested in our own experience, we have to be living experientially in Him. Abiding in Him. It's not just that you believe and check a box, but your life is being wed to, conformed to, shaped by, connected to, identified by, and literally consumed with Him! Abiding in Him!
If you truly abide in the one who is love, then love will truly be manifested in your life!
So, this begs the question! If God is the only pure testimony of love and everything the world offers as love is a counterfeit then the love it shows just isn’t the real thing, right? So,
Which God is your love a manifestation of, the God of the universe or one with your own name?
As we talked about last week the world loves but the world does not know the love of God until it enters into a relationship with Him. When they see us loving one another they begin to get a glimpse of who He is. But they cannot experientially know God’s love until they have surrendered their life to him. The same was true for us. We did not experientially know God’s love until we finally believed the Gospel (the truth about who Jesus is, His death and resurrection) and as such submitted our life to Him.
So I meet people all the time who tell me they’re Christians and that they are even mature Christians. But they show no fruit of the universal sign of a mature Christian. That is the love of God flowing in and through their life. Manifesting itself to others, to the church and the lost world!
So then we need to examine what our love is pointing people to. Because that is what we will find it to be manifesting. If our love is the love of God then it will point others to the unseen God. However if our love is a love of the eyes, flesh and boastful pride of life, it will ultimately then be manifesting us. And it is us that everybody will be being pointed to!
So I really should have asked, “when people look at you, who do they end up looking at, you or Christ?”
This Week's Music
© 2020 Music by Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin by Essential Music Publishing) Bethel Music Publishing. CCLI Song No. 7149088. Words and music by Chris Brown/Steven Furtick/Brandon Lake
Bryan & Katie Torwalt
© 2018 Jesus Culture Music, Jesus Culture Music Group, Capitol CMG Genesis, Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin by Capitol Music Publishing) Richmond Park Publishing (Admin by Essential Music Publishing) Heavenly Junkie. CCLI Song No. 7120794. Words and music by Ran Jackson/Ricky Jackson/Bryan Torwalt/Katie Torwalt
King Of Kings
© 2018 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Fellow Ships Music, So Essential Tunes (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC). CCLI Song No. 7127647.
Words and music by Scott Ligertwood/Jason Ingram/Brooke Ligertwood.