I John 4:16-21
What an exciting day when a woman hears the words, “I love you, will you marry me?”
Soon after that great effort is put into wedding plans and before long the big day arrives.
As the bride waits in the back to walk down the aisle, she hears that the groom has not arrived yet and she waits.
As time passes and he does not show up, she begins to worry about what has happened to him.
Finally the message comes through.
He has changed his mind and is not coming.
Can you imagine the devastation?
Ever since the proposal she has looked forward to living in a loving relationship and now she discovers that it will not happen.
She feels abandoned, she feels unloved.
How awful it would be to realize that you are not loved as you thought you were.
That may be one of the worst possible experiences of betrayal of love, but it is not the only one.
In fact, there is no guarantee that any of us could not experience something similar.
In human relationships love sometimes fails, but do we ever feel that God has stood us up at the altar?
We expected Him to show up and our expectations were not met!
Do we ever wonder if God still loves us?
The good news is that God is the only one with whom we have a solid guarantee that He will not ever stop loving us.
This morning, I would like to examine I John 4:16-21 where we are invited to think about the promise of God’s love for us and also to consider the freeing and wonderful implications of knowing that we are loved.
I. We Know and Rely on God’s Love vs. 16
!! A. God is Love
The proper starting point for a discussion about love is not us, what we feel or experience, what we want or what we should do, but God.
The starting point for a discussion about love is the recognition of the truth that “God is love?”
But what does it mean to say that God IS love?
What is the difference between saying I am a man and I am a canoeist.
If I say that I am a canoeist it means that this is an activity that I learned, that I enjoy, that I have taught at camp, but it isn’t more than that.
The truth is I had never been in a canoe till I was a teenager.
Some days I go canoeing and some days I don’t and when I get old it may be that I will not be able to get into a canoe.
Being a canoeist is something I do not something I am.
On the other hand I have always been male and always will be male.
There is never a day when I do not function according to being male.
It is part of my essential being.
I believe that “God is love” is like the phrase, “I am a man” because loving is not just something God does, it is essential to his being.
Love is a part of God’s character.
The difference is significant because it assures us about what we can expect of God.
It assures us that it is completely within God’s character to love.
It assures us that we can expect that God will act in a loving way.
It means that we should not be surprised that God will do that which is loving.
If love was merely an activity of God, we would not have these assurances.
There would be doubt about whether he would choose to act in love today or not.
But when we recognize that love is a part of God’s essential being, we know that every day, He will always operate out of this part of his being.
God will always love because He is love.
Just before this phrase in I John 4:13-15 we read that God has demonstrated His love most clearly and powerfully by sending His Son to be the Saviour of the world.
The motive for sending Jesus was love.
The method by which He came was a loving action.
The result of the coming of Jesus was a demonstration of His love for us.
God is love and has demonstrated His love most clearly in Jesus.
!! B. Knowing We Are Loved
Since God is love and has acted in love, we read in I John 4:16, “We have come to know the love God has for us.”
The verb tense of the word “come to know” is perfect.
A perfect emphasizes the present state of things which result from a past action.
The past action of God was the sending of Jesus and because God sent Jesus, we know today that we are loved and we continue to live under His love.
A few months ago I participated in a study which someone was doing as a part of their requirements to finish their Master’s Degree in Sociology.
They were studying the impact of having been a refugee from Russia during the Second World War.
She interviewed those who had been refugees and their children.
So she interviewed my mother and me.
Although it wasn’t my experience, one of the things she discovered was that the children of such people were often not told by their mothers that they were loved.
The trauma of loss during the whole experience somehow made it difficult for the mothers to tell their children, “I love you.”
Although they knew they were loved, it was not often communicated.
Nothing like that has happened in our relationship with God.
God is love and has communicated it to us and so we have come to know the love God has for us.
Do you know that you are loved?
Do you live daily in the knowledge of the love God has for you?
!! C. Relying on Love
But the text also says not only that we know that we are loved, but also that “we have come to rely on the love God has for us.”
Once again it is a perfect tense verb which communicates that the love God has demonstrated still impacts us today.
The knowledge of God’s love for us leads us to the place where we rely on that love.
Those of you who have been to Living Fountain Bible Camp have probably had a chance to go on the zip line.
As long as you are standing on the tower, you are on a solid structure.
It is like being on the ground, no problem, quite comfortable, but it is quite a different thing when you step off the platform and there is no longer anything solid beneath you and you have to rely on the harness and the cable to keep you up.
I have watched people hesitate, back up and even quit because they were unable to step off and rely on the harness and the cable.
I think we sometimes feel that way about relying on the love of God.
It is a scary experience and we often doubt and sometimes we want to quit and rely on what we can see before us.
But when we come to understand the love God has for us and know that He demonstrated that love by sending Jesus, we come to the place where we are able to rely on the love God has for us.
If we know that we are loved, we have confidence to walk into the future assured that we walk in His love.
!! D. Living in Love
Since God is love and since we have come to know and rely on His love, the text goes on to speak about living in love.
When we know that we are loved and when we rely on God’s love, we will find ourselves living in love.
Over 11 years ago a number of you helped us move our belongings into 498 River Rd. South.
Since that time, that is where we have lived.
That is home and when we don’t need to be somewhere else that is where we are.
God has built a house for us and that house is love and we are able to live in that house.
The Greek word conveys the idea of abiding, of remaining in one place, of living in a place.
It is like moving into the house of God’s love and living there and finding that in such a relationship of relying on and living in His love we are living in a relationship of intimacy with God.
That is the idea that I believe comes across when we read, “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”
What does this mean practically?
It means that we live with the assurance that we are loved.
It means that we love God.
It means that love is the defining characteristic of our life.
Barker says, “The sequence of thought is this: First, we must know and rely on the fact that God loves us.
Second, we come to realize through relying on his love (or having faith in his Son—the meaning is the same) that in his very nature God is love.
Third, we discover that to live in God means to live in love.
The fellowship we have with the Father and with the Son (1:3), the fellowship in which he lives in us and we live in him, is perceived as nothing other than a fellowship of love.”
Practical Implications of Living in Love
Now if we are living in love because we know and rely on God’s love that has powerful implications for life.
Two implications are mentioned in the verses which follow.
!! A. Love Overcomes Fear vs. 17-18
There Is No Fear in Love
The first implication described in I John 4:17, 18 is that love overcomes fear.