God IS Love

God Is Love (1 John 4:7-10)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, March 5, 2023

David Jeremiah writes:

In the days when the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody was preaching in Chicago, a poor drunkard stumbled up the steps to the front door of Moody’s church. The man pushed the door open, scanned the room, and saw no one inside. His eyes, however, were drawn to a large sign hanging above the pulpit that read “God Is Love.” It struck him—with anger. He slammed the door, and staggered down the steps, muttering, “God is not love. If God was love He would love me, and He doesn’t love a miserable man like me. It isn’t true.”

He went on his way, but those words were burning inside him, God is love. God is love. God is love… He couldn’t resist, Was it true… is it possible? After a while he turned around, retraced his steps, and entered the church again—confused and desperate. By now the people had gathered, and as Moody began to preach the man slipped into a seat in the back corner. He wept during the entire sermon as anger and confusion began to give way to joy and hope.

Afterward, Moody made his way to the door to shake hands with the people as they left. But the man didn’t leave. He remained in his seat, weeping. Moody came over, sat down beside him, and asked, “What are you crying about, my friend? What was it in the sermon that touched your heart?”

“Oh, Mr. Moody, I didn’t hear a word that you spoke tonight,” the man responded. “It’s those words up there over your pulpit, ‘God Is Love,’ that broke my heart.” Moody sat down and explained to him the depths of God’s love. The man listened and gave his heart to God, understanding for the first time that God really did love him.[1]

Today, we begin a series titled, “God Loves You.”

Today, my theme is God is love.

Let’s look at 1 John 4:7-10:

1 John 4:7–10 (ESV)

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.

  1. God is love. That is what this passage says. The theme of the passage is that God is love.
    1. Look at verse 7 from the beginning John writes that we are to love one another. I am going to come back to that in a minute.
    2. Why are we to love one another? John tells us.
    3. We are to love one another because love comes from God. One of the arguments for the existence of God is that we do have the ability to think of right and wrong. Isn’t that amazing? Where do we get this idea of love? Even animals to some degree have this understanding of love and what is love. Humans most always do. We get this from God. God gave us the ability to love. God not only gave us the ability to love He crafted us with a need for love. A few years ago, I read: “Growing up, I felt like the only way I could be happy with myself was if someone else loved me. I’ve always attached myself to people because that’s where I found my love. I’ve got a lot of insecurities about the way I look. That’s why I work out so much. And I’m always comparing myself to other people, wondering if I’m good enough” (Pussycat Dolls’ Nicole Scherzinger, Vibe, May 2007, pg. 36). We desire and need love. A child needs the love of his mother. A wife needs the love of her husband.
    4. So, we see in this passage that God is love. Now, I need to park here for a short moment. God is love, but this cannot be reversed. God is love, not love is God. That sounds nice but it is not true. Love is not God. But God is love in that love is one of many of the attributes which define who God is. In fact, the same article I referenced earlier also gives some attributes of God. Dr. Tim Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary writes:
    5. WHO IS GOD?
      God is a personal being, infinite in love, knowledge, and power. He is perfect in wisdom, goodness, righteousness, justice, holiness, and truth. God is both the creator and sustainer of the universe. He is the final goal and judge of the universe, infinite and perfect in all his attributes.[3]
    6. Bobby Murphy, “‘God is Love’ doesn’t equate Him with love; it identifies love as an attribute of His.”[4]
    7. God’s love is not separated from His other characteristics. God is just, etc.
    8. So, God is love and the passage says that everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Okay, does that mean that everyone who does an act of love is of God? Does everyone who does something nice get a free pass to Heaven? Really? I bet that everyone does something nice at some point in their life, right? The key point in this passage is that it says that everyone who loves has been born of God… This passage is talking about a rebirth in Jesus Christ. God is love and love proceeds from the Father, so God gives us the ability to love and because of that when we are reborn from God we love and we know God. In fact, our love shows that we know God. Jesus said, they will know you are Christians by your love (John 13:35).
    9. Later in verse 16 John reiterates this message: 1 John 4:16 (ESV) 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.
    10. Again, David Jeremiah: In the Bible the love of God is like a multifaceted diamond: Each glistening facet reveals some blindingly beautiful truth about God. For this is where the quest for love leads—to an encounter with God Himself. To begin to understand love, we must begin to understand God. And to begin to understand God, we must begin in no other place than the revelation of His love in the Bible.[6]

So we are called to copy this love of Christ.

  • We are to emulate God’s love.

I heard that Alexander the Great had a soldier who bore his name who was unfaithful in duty and demonstrated cowardice? And Alexander called him in and said, “Either change your behavior or change your name.” And I think that, in a sense, is what John is saying here. If you’re going to call yourself a Christian, if you’re going to say you are God’s and you belong to God and you truly are His, then conduct yourself as He would, with love.[7]

  1. In verse 8 John repeats that God is love right after saying that the one who does not love does not know God. This sounds like it is pretty critical that if we claim to know God we love.
  2. Look at verse 9, it reminds me of John 3:16 as it should: 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.
  3. God desires a relationship with us and that is why He took action. Jesus is God’s one and only Son or better translated unique Son. God sent Him into the world in order to show His great love for us. Praise God!
  4. Verse 10 shows us that God initiated this relationship with us: 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. 
  5. God’s love for us is unending:
  6. Again from David Jeremiah quoting Brennan Manning: When the Bible tells us that God’s love is unlimited, I think it means God’s love is something like the love of the mother in this story told by Michael Brown: A friend told me about a boy who was the apple of his parents’ eyes. Tragically, in his mid-teens, the boy’s life went awry. He dropped out of school and began associating with the worst kind of crowds. One night he staggered into his house at 3:00 a.m., completely drunk. His mother slipped out of bed and left her room. The father followed, assuming that his wife was in the kitchen, perhaps crying. Instead he found her at her son’s bedside, softly stroking his matted hair as he lay passed out drunk on the covers. “What are you doing?” the father asked, and the mother simply answered, “He won’t let me love him when he’s awake.”[9]
  • What does this mean for us?

Contemplative author and speaker Brennan Manning calls this concept “love without motive.”

He writes: As a man, I love the Jersey shore, Handel’s Messiah, hot fudge, and my wife Roslyn. I love what I find congenial or appealing. I love someone for what I find in him or her. But God is not like that. The God and Father of Jesus loves men and women not for what He finds in them, but for what He finds in them of Himself. It is not because men and women are good that He loves them, nor only good men and women that He loves. It is because He is so unspeakably, unimaginably good that He loves men and women in their sin. It is not that He detects what is congenial and appealing and He responds to us with His favor. He is the source of love. He acts: He does not react. He is love without motive.[10]

  1. We must love people as well.
  2. In loving people this will show that the love of God is in us.
  3. If we are born of God, as in re-born that means that we must love others.
  4. This must shape our emotions in loving people in our thoughts.
  5. This must shape our intelligence in that we understand that we love because God created us in His image and God is love, but also knowing that God has rebirthed us in His Spirit and we are to imitate God (Ephesians 5:1-2).
  6. This must shape our actions in that our actions are loving others as God has loved.
  7. We must think thoughts that love others.
  8. We must take every thought into captivity (2 Cor. 13:5).
  • We must think Biblical thoughts (Phil 4:4-13).
  • We must seek God’s Kingdom (Matthew 6-7).
  • We must love others which compels us to evangelism (Matthew 28:19-20).
  • David Jeremiah writes: This is the most important fact in your life. God loves you. The eternal, self-existent Being who created and sustains everything that exists dearly loves you. The profound thought of God’s love should begin and end your every day. It should define your every goal, your every action. And He doesn’t merely like you when you do well; He is personally and passionately committed to your good, even when you fail. God loves you. What would happen if that three-word sentence became the theme of your life—if you let it change everything about you and your world?[11]

The implications of God’s love are astounding: we are fully and completely loved by God, despite our unworthiness of that love. This perfect love casts out the real fear of being rejected by God on the basis of our failures, whether past, present, or future. If God has loved us so generously and sacrificially, the only legitimate response is to love our neighbors. We can’t simply choose to love “good” people or people with whom we agree. We can’t reserve love for those willing to repay it. If we are to love like God, we have to be willing to be wounded.

God’s great love for us…

In her autobiography, Over Mountain or Plain or Sea, Trula Cronk, who served as a missionary in India for twenty-four years, tells of a little girl who visited her house one evening and stayed just a little longer than she intended. Darkness fell, and she was afraid to walk home. Trula explained that she should not be afraid, saying, “Dolan, God loves you and He will take care of you as you walk to your house.” The little girl replied very solemnly, “No, memsahib, God does not love little girls.”

 Trula Cronk was never able to forget that misguided statement, and it made her want to tell all little girls everywhere that God is love, and He does indeed love them.[13]

[1] Jeremiah, Dr. David. God Loves You (pp. 1-2). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

[2] http://timothytennent.com/2013/06/21/who-is-god/

[3] http://timothytennent.com/2013/06/21/who-is-god/

[4] Page 91 of Bobby’s Book “20/20 vision”

[5] Jeremiah, Dr. David. God Loves You (p. 4). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

[6] Ibid, page 6.

[7] http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/62-34/manifesting-perfect-love-part-1

[8] Packer, J. I.. Knowing God (p. 45). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[9] Jeremiah, Dr. David. God Loves You (pp. 19-20). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

[10] Jeremiah, Dr. David. God Loves You (pp. 8-9). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.; Brennan Manning, “Living as God’s Beloved: An Interview with Brennan Manning About How We Can Experience God’s Love,” Discipleship Journal, July/August 1997, accessed December 28, 2012, http://www.navpress.com/magazines/archives/article.aspx?id=11697.

[11] Jeremiah, Dr. David. God Loves You (p. 3). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

[12] Ibid, page 8

[13] Ibid, (p. 2)

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