Dear Radio Friends,
Today our meditation in the Word of God is taken from the familiar words of I John 4:7, 8: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
The proof of being a child of God is that you love your Christian brothers and sisters, your husband or wife, your church, your fellow believers. John says that those who are born of God or, in the words of chapter 3:14, those who “have passed from death unto life,” are those who love one another. John says that those who know God, who possess the true, personal, saving knowledge of God as the God of their salvation will be those who love one another.
We may put it this way. Those who have been brought truly, experientially, and personally into the covenant of God’s grace, into that wonderful bond of fellowship and love with God, those who are in that covenant will also love one another.
Are you a genuine Christian? Are you born of God? Do you walk with God? You say, “Pastor, how can I tell? What evidence will there be? How do I know that God dwells in me?” And the answer of the Word of God is: “Do you love your brother and sister in the Lord Jesus Christ?”
The love of which he speaks, of course, is not the love of the world. It is not the make-believe love of our human nature. It is not rooted in ourselves. It is not a love that picks and chooses. It is not a fad. It is not something that grows old. Do you love as the world loves? Jesus says (Luke 6:32), “For if ye do good to [love] them which do good to [love] you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same.” But do you love with God’s love, the love that is invincible, sacrificial, patient, faithful—the love of God?
We come before this Word of God today and as we do so, we confess that we, by nature, hate. That is what it really is. It is not simply that we do not like someone, or that we are selfish, or that we are inconsiderate. No. The Word of God makes very plain that our sin is that we by nature hate one another. We come, by the grace of God, to God today because we seek His mercy. We come to confess our sins. And we come to confess for He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. We come always, as children of God, to look at the cross and to bow before the love of God and to be cleansed from all of our sins and to be renewed. And we pray, “Lord, subdue, put to death, our selfish, dead hearts and give us to love even as Thou hast loved us.” And God’s promise to all repentant sinners is that He will renew them in His love through His Word, that they may love one another.
Those who are born of God love one another. John is telling us, first of all, that there is an unbreakable, or inseparable, link between these two realities: being born of God and loving one’s fellow believer. You cannot tear those two apart. Wherever you find the one, you find the other. We read, “Everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.” Are these people born of God, regenerated from above? Then they will, they do, love one another. Do these people evidence that they love their brother and sister with the love of God, do they show the love of Christ to each other? Well, then it is because they have been first born again by the grace of God. God has joined them together and they cannot be put asunder.
To be born of God means a spiritual resurrection. The Scriptures tell us that we are born dead in trespasses and in sins (Eph. 2:1). We are born of the flesh. We cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). We are born in spiritual death. We are, apart from the grace of God, born spiritually dead sinners. To be born again is to be graciously given the new life of Christ. It is to be raised out of death into life. It is a wonder-work of God, a resurrection. It is to be born again with the life of Jesus Christ, the life that is not of this world, which is a perishable and defiled life, but the very resurrection life of Jesus Christ, so that we shall never die. Those who are born of God spiritually, those whom God, by sovereign grace, has given the life of Christ, shall never die. Their physical death is but the beginning of eternal life.
Now, says the Word of God, those who have been born of God love one another. Not: they should. Not: well, you would certainly expect that they would. No, there are no riders; there are no conditions; there are no stipulations. These two are linked together: those born of God love one another. Why? John says, because God is love; because love is of God. The very being of God is love. And if you are born of God, you too will love. That love is from God means that God’s nature is pure, good, holy, and light. It means that God cleaves to Himself with joy. God rejoices in Himself. He loves Himself. Love is of God. Just as light is from the sun and heat is from the fire, so love is from God. It is part of the very nature and being of God. You get light from the sun; you get heat from the fire. So love, true love, is alone from God.
Now, in our new birth, this love of God becomes what we are. It is a real, living connection to God. The love of God is something that God has given when He regenerates us. God then dwells in us and His love, says John, is perfected, or worked, in us. When you are born of God, the Holy Spirit is given to you, and the love of God (Rom. 5:5) is shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit who is given to you. As a child in the womb is conceived by the parents and receives life of the parent, so those born of God receive of God His love, and they love one another.
And, says John, God’s love has been manifested. That is, it has been shown in the sending of His Son. God’s love for us was not some vague, airy, indefinable something, but it was a concrete, real, visiblesomething. John goes on in verses 9 and 10 of I John 4 to say, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation [or the covering] for our sins.”
What does that mean? It means that you and I have sinned against God. We have neglected Him. We have sought satisfaction without Him. We have not sought His glory. We are rebels against Him, and our sins deserve His holy wrath. They deserve eternal punishment. But God has demonstrated His love in that He sent His Son to endure the wrath that belongs to His children. By this we know the love of God: that He has given His Son to be the propitiation for our sin. God’s love, then, was real and glorious. It was His invincible will to save His children, chosen from eternity by gracious election, who were sinners. God’s love is concrete.
And note something that the apostle John is stressing. Not that we love God (v. 10), but that He loved us. John is guarding against something. What is that? Well, he sees something in us that we are prone to do. We are prone to spoil the love of God, to mar it, to take some credit for it. We say, “Yes, God loves for sure, but we love too. We moved toward Him. We considered Him.” John says, “Don’t do that. The origin of love is not in you.” We are prone to think that God’s love was conditioned, that it was influenced by us, that God was willing to love if we did this or that, that we had to first catch His eye. John says, “No, not that we love God, but that He loved us.” The love of God is one-way, sovereign, gracious, and particular. And your love for God is the fruit. Your love is the echo. Your love was given to you when you were born again. Your loving Him is the gift of His love to you. It all is of God.
And then, says the apostle, those born of God love one another. He says, “Beloved, let us love one another.” That means that love for one another arises out of the inward impulse of the new birth of Christ. In verse 11, John says, “We ought also to love one another.” And that means that love for one another comes out of an impulse of the life of Christ. Love for each other is not from an outside constraint but from an inward desire created by the Holy Spirit. Love for one another is not this, that we say, “Well, I suppose I don’t have a choice here. I must. I concede that in the light of what God has done I should. And I would love that other person, too, if that other person wasn’t so—sinful, so irritating, so unworthy, so offensive, so hurtful.” That is not what it means to love one another. And if love is something you feel you must do, that it is merely done out of outward considerations, for what others might think, then you and I do not know God.
When John says, “Let us love,” he means that we should do this in the way that a fish swims, in the way that those who are alive breathe, in the way that an orange is sweet and has vitamin C, in the way that a baby is born with the impulse to suck, in the way that a plant’s leaves will always turn toward the sun. This is a glorious reality. Those born of God are given a new life, a new impulse within them. Christianity is not moralism. It is not a life of outward forcing and constraining. It is a life from within. It is born again of God. It is to know the love of God personally. And that love works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. It is God’s work. It is all of His grace. And by that grace an impulse is given to us. It is not a perfect impulse, we must constantly fight and struggle and resist the old man of sin. But we are given a new beginning, a sincere resolve that we shall love one another.
Love one another by rejoicing in and thanking God for His work in your brother and sister. In I John 3:11, 12 we read that we “should love one another, not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” Do we understand that? Why did Cain murder Abel? Why did that happen? You say, “Well, because Cain was bad.” Yes. But something happened in the human heart. Something happened in Cain’s heart that is true across the board, in every man’s heart of himself. That is this. When we rub up against something good, we do not like it. And we do not like it because it reflects on us. We want to destroy it. We shatter the mirror that reflects unfavorably upon ourselves.
The human heart is easily angered by those who do well. You do not want to be around them. They bug you and you avoid them. And you counter with criticism. You feel a need to tear down and to point out their weakness. Instead of learning to be humble and to give thanks for the accomplishments of the other, we see that others who are successful are a threat to us. That is the nature of our human sin. God said, “Cain, if you have a good brother in whom the Lord works, don’t kill him. Learn from him.”
Young people of the church, if there is someone who is good and pure and holy and kind in your school, do not kill him. Do not ridicule him. Do not poke fun of him. Love rejoices, we read in I Corinthians 13, in the truth. Love is not jealous. Love is not arrogant. But love rejoices in God’s work. Do not be resentful. Say, “Brother, I thank God for the grace that He works in you. And I wish I was more that way. I want to be around you. I want to learn of the grace of God active in your life. You don’t grumble like I do. You seem to focus on God’s blessings more than I do.” Love for one another rejoices in the work that the Lord is performing in your brother or sister.
Still more. Love for one another is a love that will be seen in very deed and truth. The apostle says in I John 3, “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” Now that does not mean that you cannot love by talk. You can love with your tongue. How powerful is the tongue, and how wonderful it is as an instrument of God’s praise and to build each other up. But John means that love is not just talk, when deeds need to be done. If we just talk when there is something that needs to be done, then we are not loving. Love is seen in deeds. We get up off our seat and we help. We make a meal. We offer to babysit. God’s love is seen in deeds.
God’s love is seen in what He did—He gave His Son. So also we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren, says John. Love is to be sacrificial. Love costs something. Jesus died for us. He did not just talk. He died.
So love is the grace of God whereby, looking to the cross, we make a conscious choice to lay down our life one for another.
Do we choose our own comfort? When it becomes very difficult to love one another and it becomes very costly, do we bail out? Do we say in marriage, “I’m not in it for this! I didn’t know this when we got married. I’m just not suited for this. I’m not going to!” Then God says, “Wherein do you differ from the world?” Love is of God. And he that is born of God loves his brother and sister.
Let us love, even as He has loved us. Let us look to the cross, the cross that cleanses and renews. And let us ask God to confirm in us that we know Him and that we are indeed born of Him. Lord, give me the assurance that I know Thee, and give me the assurance that I have been born of Thee. Lord, give Thy love to abide in me.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word and ask for its blessing now upon our hearts in this day. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.