All You Need is Love
1 John 4:7 – 5:21
All You Need is Love
All you need is love ...
40 years ago this year, the “Our World” television special was aired. Some of you may remember it! It was a project conceived by the BBC, in which 14 nations contributed to a live 2 and a half hour TV event, broadcast to 24 different countries.
Australia was one of the contributors, and there was a segment about some Melbourne trams,
One about some research the CSIRO were doing,
One about the Parkes radio telescope,
And the whole 2 and a half hour show was broadcast here.
It was considered a huge technological achievement at the time. Nothing like it had ever been attempted previously,
4 different satellites,
10,000 technical staff working behind the scenes, to bring the show to an estimated 700 million people across the globe.
Today though, the broadcast is most famous, for the very last segment that went to air.
The organizers had wanted something uplifting to close the show, and so a band called The Beatles were asked to write a song with a positive, encouraging message. And so they gave the debut performance of a song called “All You Need is Love.”
The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein later said, “The nice thing about (the song) is that it cannot be misinterpreted. It is a clear message saying that love is everything”
And of course, the song was a hit, wasn’t it? Topped the charts, and is often included in lists of the most popular and most influential songs of all time.
And actually, if we read these last couple of chapters of the Apostle John’s letter to some Christians, it certainly sounds like John agrees with The Beatles, or maybe that they got their idea from him.
See there in verse 16 of chapter 4, God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them
John, who was an eye-witness of God come in the flesh, as he says in the opening of this letter, he seems to be saying, “if you love, then you’re in God.
And certainly if you’re a Christian person, which I imagine most of us here this morning are,
Or even if you’re not, and there’ll be some here today in that category, perhaps you’re here because you want to find out about God,
Well, in God sounds like what we want.
And the way to be in God, is to love.
All you need is love.
How do we know what love is?
What’s being asked of us?
Sometimes when I’m take a wedding, I share with people what little kids have said love is.
Brian, aged 9 says “Love is when you give someone a ring. And then you have to hold hands a lot to make sure the ring doesn’t fall off!”
8 year old Carolyn says, “My mum says to love someone who’s kind. That’s who I’ll love, someone who’s kind of tall and handsome.
Christine, aged 9 says, “Love is when people order one of those desserts that is on fire. They like to order those because it shows what their hearts are, on fire."
But what if we want a slightly better definition, or picture of what love is?
Well, fortunately for us, John gives us 4 pieces of the puzzle, that we can put together, to see a picture of love.
To love is to first know God’s love (4:7 – 10)
So see in verse 7, that to love, is to first know God’s love.
It’s quite a commonly known attribute of God, God is love.
It’s even one of the arguments being used in the debate about re-defining marriage right at the moment, isn’t it? “God is love” we’re told.
Well, John says it here, at the end of verse 8, God is love.
But it doesn’t stop there. Verse 9, God shows his love.
27 times from verse 7 to verse 21, the NIV has the word “love”, or “loved.” Sometimes it’s referring to God’s love, sometimes it’s our love that’s on view, but John’s big point in these opening verses is that our love is only ever a reflection of God’s love, which means that if we want to truly love, we need to first know and experience God’s love.
This is the foundation for everything else John says, so we’ll spend a fair bit of our time here.
If we say that God is love, or that love comes from God.
The implication is that God’s love can be known somehow, that God demonstrates his love to people.
It’s not love if it’s never shown or demonstrated
The reason we can say that God is love, is because God has put his love into action.
Look at verse 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
God sent his Son, Jesus into the world, to die in our place, because we deserve death, for our sin and rebellion against God.
So the sad irony is that anyone who chants that phrase, God is love, but wants nothing to do with Jesus, that person is cutting themselves off from the knowledge and experience of God’s love in all its fullness.
If with one breath you say, “God is love”, but in the next you say, “I don’t need Jesus, I don’t need him to die in my place”, well you’re turning your back on the ultimate demonstration of God’s love.
So those of you who are married, imagine saying “I know my husband or wife loves me,
But then every time they give you a gift, you chuck it straight in the bin,
Every time they try and speak to you, you just turn up the volume on the TV,
Whenever they walk into the room, you put your hands over your ears!”
If we were to see you doing that, we would have to say, you don’t really know what you’re talking about!
You obviously don’t understand the love that you say you know!
No, John says in verse 10, This is love:, this is how we know what love is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
So for John, to say God is love is not a comment just about the essence of God, an ontological statement if you want to use that kind of term, but it’s a record statement of how God has acted in history.
We cannot know the love of God, without knowing the demonstration of that love, in the cross of Christ.
If the Beatles singing All You Need is Love was not really your thing, maybe Foreigner in 1984 is more up your alley. I wanna know what love is, they pleaded.
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me
Straight to number 1 on the charts!
Well, Foreigner, I’ve got good news for you!
Someone has shown us what love is! God sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
According to John, if Jesus hadn’t come into the world, verse 9, and died in our place, we wouldn’t know what love is, we wouldn’t have the whole picture.
Love has been displayed more clearly in the life and ministry of Jesus than at any other time in history!
If you want to work on your love,
If you want to be more loving,
If you want to me more able to love those around you,
This is where we come to sharpen our understanding.
I thought it was interesting, that Mick Jones who wrote I Wanna Know What Love Is, said later I think there was something bigger than me behind it., it was probably written entirely by a higher force.
Well, maybe or maybe not, but certainly if we want to know what love is, We look at the way God demonstrates his love, by sending Jesus to step into your place and mine,
Take on himself the punishment we deserved, for living in God’s world with no regard for God.
If we want to love, we first need to know God’s love for us in Christ Jesus.
So that does that mean for us?, for how we love others?
It’s good in theory, that’s where we look to see love, what does it mean in practice?
Well, we’d have to say that God’s kind of love is costly, isn’t it?
God sent his one and only Son into the world.
I’ve pointed out before that in the Greek language that the New Testament is written in, the order of the words in a sentence is less important for the meaning of the sentence than it is in English. Which means you can rearrange the words in your sentence if you want to draw attention to this word or that word.
John puts the words his one and only Son right at the beginning of the sentence.
Right up front, this is personal. This is costly.
God’s love cost his Son his life.
And if that’s how we know what love is, then we can be pretty sure that our love for people, and our love for God, it’s going to cost!
To truly love someone, might cost us comfort, our love might lead us to do something we really would prefer not to do,
Our love might cost us financially! That’s what giving to the work of the gospel is, isn’t it? We love those who are far from Jesus, and so we go without, we give money that, actually, we could spend any number of ways, but we give, so that other people come under the sound of the gospel.
Our love might cost friendships.
I entirely expect that if the letter you’ve got from me today gets circulated more broadly, then my efforts to love my same-sex attracted friends and family, by refusing to encourage them in the direction of temptation and sin, that will be the end of certain friendships.
Truly loving someone with the kind of love God has shown us in Christ might cost you your reputation,
There may be a cost to you family,
Love like this may even cost our lives.
That’s what God’s kind of love is like.
Looking at the pattern of God’s love also shows us that love is other person-centred.
Often in the way we hear love being spoken about in our world, “I love you” simply means “you make me feel good.”
You know, “I like the feelings I have when you’re around.”
But the love that God demonstrates is for the good of others. Verse 9 again, He sent his one and only Son into the world, for a purpose, that we might live through him.
Our love, then, is also to be other-person-centred.
And thirdly, real love, God’s kind of love is matched with holiness.
Love is to lead people out of sin.
Look at verse 10, God’s demonstration of love means that the terrible stain of our sin is taken away; He sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Love doesn’t tolerate or encourage sin, but always points people away from sin.
And so we see the foolishness of those arguments which
I’m sure we’ve all heard, that go something like “if you really love someone, you won’t confront them about their sin, you won’t tell them they have to stop doing something”
God’s kind of love hates sin!
It drives out sin and overcomes sin!
If God’s love shown to us in Jesus is the definition of love,
The type specimen of love, You know a type specimen, don’t you? The display of some species in a museum, that is the definitive example of that species, and any other one you find has to be compared to that to see if it’s legitimate, to find out if it’s the real deal,
If the death of Jesus in the place of rebellious humanity is the type specimen of love, then to say that it’s loving to be silent when people make wrong, sinful, or foolish choices, is nonsense!
We’re told today that if you really love someone you’ll agree with all their choices. That’s utter rubbish!
No parent thinks that, do they?!
Parents love, and so warn their children about all manner of wrong, sinful, or foolish choices, don’t they?
Love, according to a Christian definition, and according to God’s own example, is that when you see someone doing wrong, you give of yourself, no matter how costly, in order to do something about it.
God’s kind of love isn’t based on merit.
God doesn’t love us because we deserve it!
And yet often our love is merit-based, isn’t it?
As long as that person pleases me, I love them.
While having them around makes me feel good about myself, I’ll love them.
But God’s kind of love doesn’t work like that. In fact God’s love involves a deliberate choice to love people who don’t deserve it.
That’s why in the Anglican marriage service the bride and groom don’t say “I do.” They say “I will”.
It’s the parents who say “I do”. The pastor asks “who brings these people to be married to each other?”
I had to learn that question in Spanish when Chad and Carolay got married! And my Spanish was obviously passable because Caroly’s dad got up and answered, “I do”! Or maybe he just figured that was the only Spanish in the whole service so that was his cue!
But we don’t particularly care if the groom says “I do” love her today.
Of course you love her today! She’s spend all morning and half the night getting ready for you!
If all of us are going to gather at your wedding, we want to know that you will love her, when she doesn’t deserve it!
When she’s hogging the TV remote,
And leaving her socks on the floor, and all that.
That’s God’s kind of love.
That’s the kind of love God has shown us.
We sing a song about it some Sundays. Matt Redman’s “this is how we know”
This is how we know
This is how we know what love is
Just one look at Your cross
And this is where we see
This is where we see how love works
For You surrendered Your all
If we really want to love, if we want to love with authentic love, we first must know God’s love shown to us in Jesus.
To love each other is to make God’s love complete (4:11 – 12)
The second picture of love we’re given here, is that to love each other is to make God’s love complete.
It’s kind of surprising language, I think, isn’t it? To talk about God’s love being made complete, as if it were lacking something, and we just need top up, what God didn’t quite get finished.
But look there at verse 11 of chapter 4. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
And it’s not a mistake! John talks about love being made complete on 3 other occasions. And each time, the meaning is the same as here. We could say, “his love is truly exemplified in us”,
Or “his love reaches true perfection in us”
Or “his love achieves its goal in us”
Jesus enduring the penalty that you deserved, for living in God’s world with no regard for God, that might be the ultimate example of love,
But it’s not the end of God’s love.
God’s love didn’t stop there.
God’s love continues to have an effect, and he expects that we who have experienced and known his love, will demonstrate that same love to others.
That’s what God wants his love to achieve.
We might say that our experience of God pouring his love into our lives, is not so much like pouring a bucket of water into another bucket, so that one’s now filled and the process stops. No, it’s more like pouring a bucket of water into a teacup, which overflows into many, many, more teacups.
John who wrote this letter, is of course, the author of John’s gospel. And in his account of Jesus’ life, he uses almost identical words to say that no one has ever seen God, but that Jesus, God’s only Son, has made God known.
Here though, it’s not the Son who makes God known, is it? But the church! That’s an interesting development!
God’s love is seen in our love,
Because our love is actually God’s love,
Imparted to us by his Spirit, verse 13.
So think about what this means for us, TMB, September 2017,
If we love one another, like this, teacup overflowing into teacups, then if someone were to step into this community,
Walk in Sunday morning,
Join a Bible study group, whatever it is,
They should be able to encounter God’s love, in Christ, demonstrated in the way we love each other.
Now, of course, I’m not talking about us dying for other people’s sin.
But if we’re serious about loving each other with the costly, other-person-centred, holiness-driven love that we’ve known in Jesus,
Then John’s saying that people will get a taste of just how much God loves them, his love, made complete in us
That raises, the stakes, somewhat, doesn’t it?
Our love isn’t an optional extra,
“It’s been a big week, and I’m pretty tired and exhausted, costly, other-person-centred love is going on the back burner this week.”
David Jackman, a British pastor and Bible teacher, says “the church is (God’s) audiovisual presentation to a dying culture”
Our love is the proof that God lives in us,
and our love is the fulfilment and the goal of God’s love
To be loved is to be free from fear (4:16 – 18)
The next 2 pieces of the picture we’ll look at more briefly.
John teaches us that to be loved is to be free from fear.
Read with me from the second half of 4:16 I if you will God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 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,
So God’s love makes us to look back, to the cross
It makes us to look around us in love to other people, as we work out how we can love them and show God’s love to them.
But here we find that God’s love also gives us a view forwards.
God’s love for us, gives us confidence about our future.
Because of God’s great love, and the cross leaves us in no doubt about the depth of it, we know God’s not just joking when he says he loves us,
His love cost Jesus his life, and so loved, so much, we have no reason at all to fear need judgment. When we stand before God on that last day, when everyone is called to account, what will we have to be afraid of? Well, nothing! We know that we’re the ones God loves.
Occasionally when I’m driving along, I’ll look in the rear view mirror and see a police car behind me, and I’ll start to just feel a little afraid.
I don’t know whether you’re like that! I haven’t done anything wrong, but just the presence of that car behind me makes me a little nervous.
So imagine how I felt when one pulled up in front of my house one day! I wanted to hide behind the couch and pretend no one was home, but I’ve seen in the movies how the police kick down the door and stuff so I didn’t!
But I know numbers of people who have police officers in their family, and so when they see the car pull up out the front, they don’t get nervous at all!
They know them,
They love them,
They’re not frightened in the least.
Friends, love for God and being afraid of God cannot coexist in the same person.
The Bible does use the word “fear” to talk about a right awe and reverence for God, but that’s not what’s being talked about here.
John’s saying, if you know God’s love, you don’t need to be frightened of God.
You don’t need to fear God’s righteous anger at sin,
And I think perhaps the application of this more than anything else, for us, is that we don’t need to fear death, which brings us face to face with God.
There was an article in The Guardian a couple of months ago. It began like this, “The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else,”
And the proof of this, the author says, is that “It’s a fear strong enough to compel us to force kale down our throats,”
Or there was some research recently published in the journal Psychological Science, the author of which states, death “isn’t as universally bad as we think it is”.
Well John’s point is, if you know God’s love, death is absolutely not as bad, as we think it is.
We don’t need to fear standing before God, because in God’s eyes we are like Christ. Verse 17, right now, in this world, we are like Jesus.
If you know God’s love in Jesus, when God looks at you, he’s not quite sure whether he’s looking at you, or looking at Jesus!
That’s not entirely accurate! But you see the point, don’t you?!
That’s how God sees us;, like Christ.
And that’s how God will see us on the day of Judgment;, Like Christ.
Is Jesus afraid of his Father? Not at all? Well we are like him. That’s how God sees us.
No Christian, no one who has ever experienced God’s love at the cross of Christ ever has need to picture God with a big stick, waiting to get his hands on us on the last day.
Those articles in the Guardian, and the psychology journal, are all about shaping our feelings so that we’re not afraid of death.
Well summoning up a particular set of subjective feelings is not the solution to being freed from the fear of death.
Instead we need a right understanding of this objective reality.
If you’re someone who struggles with this,
You easily slip into fear of God,
You worry about what will happen on that last day,
You worry about death, because it means coming face to face with God.
If that’s you and you’re not a Christian, please consider the cross of Christ, the place where God’s love was demonstrated so clearly, in removing the stain and guilt of our sin.
The love of God in Christ is the only reason we can ever have, for confidence before God.
And if you are a Christian, you struggle with this, and you find your heart filling with fear and dread if you ever think about coming face to face with God, then the thing to do is still the same;, please consider the cross of Christ, the place where the depths of God’s love for you were demonstrated so clearly, in removing the stain and guilt of your sin.
If that’s how much God loves you that he went to those lengths for you, you have nothing to fear from him.
To love God is to love his people and obey his commands (5:2 – 3)
Finally we come to chapter 5 and the last piece of the puzzle.
This one is particularly about our love for God. And that is, to love God is to love his people, and to obey his commands.
Read with me from verse 2 of chapter 5, This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world.
Do you see, in a context, rather like ours, where there were many claims to “true faith”,
Many people telling Christians “what love is, ”
All kinds of people claiming to truly love God,
Notice how closely John links loving others, loving God, and true fellowship with God.
They’re so closely linked that he goes a full circle!
We know that we love God’s children,
because we love God,
and we carry out his commands.
And this is what it is to love God,
To obey his commands.
I think probably all of us would like to be more loving towards others, especially other Christians, God’s people, if only because that seems to be what the Bible is telling us to do!
And so if we tried to develop a test for that, I wonder what it would be?
How can I know that I’m loving, and the children of God is not just limited to our church, but neither is it less than our church, so let’s think about this family here as a good place to start.
How do I know that I’m loving the children of God at TMB?
Well John tells us, doesn’t he? But it’s not the answer I expect.
Verse 2 again, This is how we know that we love the children of God:, by loving God and carrying out his commands
Obedience is the test of love!
You can know that you’re loving your family here at TMB, if you love God and keep his commands.
And John doesn’t just say, “keep the commands that are specifically about relationships with others”,
No. All God’s commands are on view.
Because of the way God’s family works, if you reject any of God’s commands,
If you thumb your nose at any part of his Word, not only are you putting yourself in peril, you’re not loving the other members of your family here.
It’s how come it’s entirely right and appropriate for you to ask me, “Clayton, how are you going, carrying out his commands?” And not because I’m the pastor, but because I’m one of the children of God. And how I’m going with that, will be a measure of how I’m loving you.
And maybe I might ask you the same question. “How are you going, carrying out his commands?”
There’s a conversation for morning tea afterwards, isn’t it? Maybe we should try it out.
Our love for God’s people shows the genuineness of our love for God, because we’re obeying him who commands us to love with costly, other-person-centred, sacrificial love.
Friends we must love God,
And we must carry out his commands,
And they are really one and the same thing,
2 sides of the same coin.
Once upon a time I said I loved my wife, Kathy. I stood up in front of a crowd of people at Trinity City, it was Saturday December 22nd 2001 and said I loved her. I’ve said it a few times since then, of course, but there’s one occasion that stands out in my mind.
I didn’t just say that, I can assure you that my love for Kathy is real, and the reason you can know it’s real is that I didn’t just say it.
My love for Kathy shapes daily decisions.
She may say it should shape them more than it does, but it does shape them!
How I spend my time,
How I spend my money,
What we do on our holidays,
The decision to replace the wedding ring that I lost!
My love for Kathy shapes my choices and behaviour.
My love for God could do no less.
To love God means making choices.
To love God shapes my decisions.
To love God is to obey his commands.
There was a man named Jerome who was a Christian minister back around the 5th Century AD. These days people call him Saint Jerome, and he’s famous especially for translating the Bible into Latin.
But in one of his commentaries, Jerome relates a story about the Apostle John, the story was so well-known it had kind of become legend by Jerome’s time.
John was very old, he was so weak that he couldn’t really come and preach any more, so he would get some young men to carry him in to the congregation he was a part of in Ephesus, and all he would say is this, “Little children, love one another”, and then he’d sit down!
Little children, love one another!
That was the sermon!
If that was all you got for the sermon, maybe you’d be quite pleased! maybe you’d feel a bit ripped off!
But according to the story, John’s congregation did get a little sick of hearing these same 5 words all the time, and so they used to ask him, “why are you always saying this?” And John would reply, “Because it is the Lord’s command, and if this is all you do, it is enough.”
If this is all you do, it is enough.
In effect, he got there 2000 years before The Beatles;, Love is all you need.
Do you think we see loving one another as important as John did?
Would we say, “if this is all you do, it is enough?”
Now, of course we’ve seen that John had a very clear idea of what love is, and he points us to it.
And love doesn’t mean sin doesn’t matter, or that love somehow trumps obedience.
So we know that Jerome’s story can’t possibly mean that as long as we love, nothing else matters,
But perhaps it is true,
That if we love, as God did,
God’s kind of love,
That would be the sign that God is truly at work in us,
That he truly lives in us,
That we really are his people,
Assured of forgiveness,
Adopted into his family,
Living without fear.
And that, most certainly is enough!