1 John 4:16-19 So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because he first loved us.
Do you know and believe the Love God has for us? Some people donít know the love of God, they only know the God of wrath who punishes sins, others donít even know this about God. And while there are some who have heard that God is love, they donít know the love of God, and whatís more to the point, they donít believe it either.
You see, if you really know the Love of God in Jesus Christ, you also believe, you believe because the love of God in Jesus Christ is transforming. For God creates faith, it is part of his great gift of love. Godís love transforms, it may accept us, just as we are, but it also knows what we are to be, and works to shape us, to that by grace through faith we might grow in the new life that is ours in Jesus Christ, and might grow into all that a child of God is, by the grace of God. For our life is not static, we are always in becoming, changing from one thing to another, being changed from sinner into saint, by the love of God in Jesus Christ.
If we love, because God first loved us, we also believe, because first, God believed in us, believed in us enough to send His only Son to suffer and die for our sins, that we might be born again, and that we might have forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.
And still, some are afraid. They are not certain they know the love of God in Jesus Christ, they are not certain they believe that they are really the children of God. They are not certain that their sins are forgiven. They are not sure that God is preparing a place for them in heaven. What is this fear about?
Our Text tells us, fear has to do with punishment. You see, when God created us, within our hearts he put a knowledge of his commandments; things to do, and not to do. To sum the whole, we would remind you of the word which says: Be Ye Perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect. To expand this, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. For if you do not love your neighbor, whom you can see, how can you love God?
But that brings us full circle, for our question turns on how can we love, at all? By ourselves, we cannot. We love God because He first loved us. We also love our parents, because they first loved us. So it is that our love, always begins as a response to being loved. And in this season, you might well think of love as a seed which is planted, and takes root, and grows, and in the end, bears much fruit. Any seed which is planted, does not remain what it was, but becomes a new thing. And that seeds grow, is not because seeds try so hard to grow, but because it is the nature of seeds to grow, so love, is made to grow. And love comes to us by example. First in the love God has for us, and also in the reflection of the love of God, which we see in our parents love for us. We have seen Fathers who have loved their wives as Christ has loved the Church, and loved their children so as to train them in the way they should go. We have seen a motherís love, and how it can make bad things better, so many things which can be healed with a kiss.
So it is in seeds of love, that parents train up their children in the way they should go, teaching them that both God, and the world have expectations of how they should live, and training them in this. The world sometimes thinks it cute when other peoples children misbehave or show a total lack of manners. But the world has a double standard, for it will not well tolerate bad manners or inappropriate behavior, for the world KNOWS there is a right and a wrong. So even when the world teaches, that children should be left to discover their own values, at the same time it makes plain that those who fail to discover the prevailing values will be heavily penalized. And this is where the unchangeable nature of God, really helps, for Godís rules have been plainly given, and have remained the same since the creation of the world. So parents teach these things to their children in love, and for their good, reinforcing what God has already written in the heart.
And while sometimes children obey simply out of the fear of punishment, as they grow in love, they grow in a desire to do those things which will please their parents. Children always know that it begins with the basics, do what is expected of you. Pick up the clothes, make the bed, pick up the room, do your chores. And then they say what more can I do? So they make cards, and pick flowers and wrap presents, and return to their parents a portion of the love, that they have received.
When it comes to loving God, is it really any difference, we begin with the basics, and we strive to keep the commandments, and in love, we return a portion of the love where with God has loved us. And we keep growing in faith, love and service, guided by the word and the indwelling spirit, we keep growing into the fullness of what it means to be a child of God, by grace through faith, in the love of God that comes to us in Jesus Christ.
love is patient, love transforms, love grows and is perfected, love believes, love never fails, for it abides until the end.