5-27-2018 Wake Up! 1 John 4:17-19
Wake up! wake up! If I could sum up my experience this last week into just two words, then it's wake up. Christianity in America as a whole has fallen asleep and certainly we here at Grace Baptist Church are guilty of walking around too drowsy. I feel that it is impossible to encapsulate the depth of God's work on my own heart this past week in the few moments we have together this morning.
A few years ago, a young & successful executive named Josh (not me) was traveling down a Chicago neighborhood street. He was going a bit too fast in his sleek, black, 12-cylinder Jaguar XKE, which was only 2 months old at that time.
He was watching carefully for kids darting out from between parked cars & slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed that one spot, no child darted out, but a brick flew out & - smack! – it smashed into the Jag’s shiny side door.
He slammed on his brakes to a screeching halt & his gears shoved into reverse, tires spinning and smoking until the Jaguar was back to the spot where the brick had been thrown.
This Josh jumped out of the car, grabbed the guilty kid & pushed him up against a parked car. He shouted, “Who are you? And what the heck are you doing?” Building up a head of steam, he went on. “That’s my new Jag, & the brick you threw is going to cost you a lot of money. Why did you throw it?”
The kid trembling now: “Please, mister, please…I’m sorry! I didn’t know what else to do! I threw the brick because no one would stop.” Tears were dripping down the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car.
“It’s my brother, mister,” he said. “He rolled off the curb & fell out of his wheelchair & I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy pled, “Would you please help me to get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt & he’s way too heavy for me.’
Moved beyond words, the young executive tried desperately to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. Straining, he lifted the young man back into the wheelchair & took out his handkerchief & wiped the scrapes & cuts, checking to see that everything else was okay. He then walked with them to make sure that the younger brother was able to get them back home all right.
My first question to you this morning to think about is- does it take something like a brick thrown at you to wake up?
That Josh never did fix that side door on his car. He kept the dent to remind himself not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at him to get his attention again.
Most of you probably already know by now that I spent a week in Chicago at the Moody Bible Institute at their annual Pastor's Conference. It was a culture shock—not shocking because of the varieties of ethnicities, not shocking because of the dense urban surroundings, not shocking because I became like a dorm student—well maybe that was a little shocking, but really it was a spiritual culture shock. Shocking in one sense that even in a dense urban area, there are still rather large remnants of those who love our God that come together and also shocking too was the degree of love and devotion that some have today.
This trip was an investment that you made in me, the church made in me, the deacons made in me, and one that my wife made in me. This morning I'm confident to answer you to say God has used and blessed this investment! It is a sincere desire of mine that all of you could have a similar experience at least once in your life. I would recommend for you—even those that are “full of years” to attend a good Bible College conference, and although I know it is not required at all for the faith, I haven’t found a suitable substitution for the experience of a Bible Institution whether a conference or for classes.
Ill. If the world is spiritually a desert— dried up and dead, then as we run into other believers during the week, it is like a wonderful oasis of living water that wells up as we fellowship together one-on one. Church, then, is a large swimming pool with a banquet of living bread surrounding that pool, as we feed off of the living Word, and fill ourselves full to overflowing with love, and fellowship, and of the Spirit. Well… then there’s Bible College— and the best analogy that I could give here is as if some spiritual giant unleashing a fire hose on you knocking you off your feet as you fall back onto the dead, dry ground of the world.
To say the least, this last week’s experience has given some more color to this passage that we’re going to be in this morning. 1 John 4:17-19
17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.
You might be thinking to yourself right now, “when is the Apostle John going to get off of this love subject?” We’ve talked about love last week, the week before, the week before that... okay John, we understand, we get it—you’ve belabored this point! Let’s move on to something else… but he doesn’t — and so shouldn’t we! Why? Well, because even with all the repetition--all through this letter, I still don’t think we get it! I still don’t think we understand! Do we really love God? do we really love others?
I would like to do something a little unorthodox for us this morning and go through these verses in reverse order so we’re going to start with verse 19 to answer the two questions: Do we really love God? And do we really love others?
I. Do We Really Love God? (v.19)
I. Do We Really Love God? (v.19)
Don’t be so quick to answer this question too flippantly because we tend to answer yes without thinking through what it means to deeply love YHWH
We love because he first loved us.
ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν, ὅτι αὐτὸς πρῶτος ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς “We, we love because He loved us first.”
Believers’ love, whether for God or for others, is based on God’s love for them. God’s love is the source, the initiator. People cannot love this way on their own; it happens as a result of his loving people first (see 4:9–10). God’s love is far above all human love. Because believers abide in God and thus abide in love (4:16), God’s love fills them and overflows from them. Such “otherworldly” love then becomes the characteristic of God’s people. They can love as He loves.
Dr. Bob Utley says: “God always takes the initiative (cf. John 6:44, 65) but fallen mankind must respond (cf. John 1:12; 3:16). Believers trust in His trustworthiness and have faith in His faithfulness.”
I met a Pastor Richard this past week. His skin was as black as skin could possibly be and his eyes were staring right at mine fixed so tightly as if I couldn’t look away—so I said, “Hi I’m Josh.” Immediately, I could tell he wasn’t from America as this Pastor Richard grabs my arm and doesn’t let go and he introduces himself with a heavy African accent. He goes on to tell me how back at his home in Uganda, he is caring for 13 churches in his village and surrounding area, and then continues to tell me the basic needs of each church. One of these churches needs a roof, but no roof right now doesn’t stop them from worshipping our Lord—even in the rain! they just crowd over to the walls for some protection as the dirt floor turns to mud. and he goes on telling me about how all the churches have at least a couple Bibles, but they desperately need more. The local police there approaches Pastor Richard asking where to get Bibles and so he gives the police a handful of Bibles and that police officer tells the other stations about this and they go to Richard begging him for even more Bibles. You see everybody there goes to a Christian church usually by walking over 10 miles to get there. The preaching is at least two hours long and that does not include the worship music and dancing, nor even the prayer times. In fact, there is a prayer meeting there EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE WEEK where quite a few people show up just to pray.
Why? Why do these believers from Uganda worship God so fervently and devoted daily? It is for this very reason, Richard tells me since Jesus died for them, they wouldn’t do any less. In other words, “[They] love because He first loved us.” They wholeheartedly believe these words here in 1 John and elsewhere in these scriptures to the degree that changes their priorities and lives to the point that it is very contagious. It is because of that very love that even though Richard and I were strangers moments before, now we are brothers! He treated me truly like I was his closest friend.
Back here in Kingsford Michigan, do we really love God to the point that we would be willing to walk several miles everyday joyfully or to have a worship service with hours of preaching in the rain and mud— if that’s what He called us to? Such love overflows to others who experience God’s love as well.
II. Do We Really Love Others? (v.18)
II. Do We Really Love Others? (v.18)
If we fully believe and live out verse 19, then verse 18 is a cake walk.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Again, like with last week in verse 12, the word perfect here is the same word and it has more of the idea of completion and maturity. Believers are becoming like God so they certainly need not fear his judgment. To be fearful here is to lack confidence; and to lack confidence is to show that God’s love has not been perfected. Believers ought not be afraid of the future, eternity, or God’s judgment, because of God’s love. They know that he loves them perfectly (Romans 8:38–39). They can resolve any fears first by focusing on God’s immeasurable love and then by allowing him to love others through them. God’s love will quiet fears and give confidence.
Although this verse is dealing with the terror fear of God, it makes sense that as we have no fear our Creator we don’t have to fear anybody else as well. This is great news! If someone is threatening us we have nothing to fear! And I think that the same is true with us being scared of other people shows love is not perfected in us. This would then apply to to those who are too scared of giving their testimony, their witness, or giving the pure Gospel to a stranger. We should never fear a stranger and we should never fear giving the gospel to a stranger. I mean really what’s the worst thing he could do, kill us? kill our family? Jesus even says that really isn’t a big deal: Luke 12:4-5
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
Wait, why would John be saying in our passage we shouldn’t fear God while Jesus is saying we should fear God?
the easiest explanation is that John is talking to only Believers while Jesus is talking to a group of predominately unbelievers.
I also met Pastor Williams from India last week, and just like with Pastor Richard, Pastor Williams had his eyes fixed sharply on my eyes but I could see even before talking to him that Pastor Williams’ eyes had a different look-- a look of genuine concern-- the look of deep pain and desperation. Pastor Williams begins to tell me in his deep deep India (n) accent that he is very concerned and worried for the church in India. Somewhere between 1.5 to 2% of India-(n’s) are Christians out of the 1.3 billion people. He continues on to tell me that the Hindu people there are very friendly except when you teach/preach Christianity. The Hindus expect any American that comes to visit to be a Christian but they do not tolerate any native of their own country to be Christian. As Pastor Williams told me this his eyes were beginning to water slightly. He has been receiving death threats which really concerned his children. And he doesn’t care much about protecting his own life other than what will happen to his church if he’s killed? Even if he isn’t killed, will some of his own church members be killed? His children now live in the United States but he and his wife are still living in India.
Pastor Williams is now home faithfully preaching. Why? Why with such risk? Simple, because "there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Sure he is worried about his wife and his congregants, but he is fearless.
He ended our conversation with begging me to come out to visit him and his church. In fact, if I do, he will invite 5,000 other young men my age to hear my preaching for a three-day crusade that he hopes will be this coming January. We need to start praying!
So What? (v.17)
So What? (v.17)
So how do you apply this love later tonight? tomorrow afternoon? so on and so forth.
By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
When we come to know God as Father, we no longer fear Him as judge. Most, if not all, conversions to Christianity involve fear—fear of judgment, of condemnation, of hell. However, a wonderful thing happens in the life of redeemed humans: what starts with fear ends in no fear! This really is the gospel message in Evangelism: we should go out and tell people fearlessly that they should be terrified of God, but that they don’t have to be terrified, they could be fearless by fearing YHWH (in the Proverbs sense of fear).
God never meant for people to live in terror. There was no fear on earth until Satan and sin entered the world (Gen. 3:10). Adam and Eve were afraid and hid. Judgment is coming, and anyone who has never trusted Christ ought to be afraid. But Christians need never be afraid to meet their Lord (2 Tim. 1:7; Rom. 8:15) nor fear any man.
Because of this mutual indwelling—God, the Spirit abiding in believers and they abiding in Him—the believers’ love grows more perfect until completion. This perfection happens as each believer’s relationship with God, who is love, grows. His perfect love becomes free to work completely in and through them.
This perfect, mature love produces believers who will not be afraid on the day of judgment. On that day, God will require all people to account for their lives. Those who have followed him will live with him forever. Yet God’s people don’t have to wait until that day to find out if they “made it.” They have that confidence now.
The “as He is so also are we” might mean that us believers are now completely like Christ, however experience says that we have a long way to go. So this phrase likely has more to do with believers’ standing or position before God. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, God transfers Jesus’ righteousness to believers (a.k.a. justification, Romans 3:22–26), thereby enabling them to stand before God with confidence whether in this world or the next.
This morning, I would like to believe that I’ve thrown some pebbles at you to get your attention, to try to wake you up. But I have a couple bricks that I am about ready to have thrown. In two weeks, Pastor Richard will be here to throw the first brick, and then the week after, he will throw a second brick. Invite your Christian friends to this unscheduled revival and wake up! What I think is the Lord’s humor is that we never scheduled a Revival at Grace, and one in ends up almost falling right into our lap. Northland used to teach that you could never really schedule revivals because real revival starts with God’s work in our own hearts yet they still scheduled a Revival week. Now it is our turn, scheduled by God, so invite your friends and family to come hear Pastor Richard.