Sermon:         It’s Not a Choice Scripture:       1 John 4:7-21 Preacher:       Rev. Michael Bodger Location:        First Presbyterian, DeLand Date:               April 29, 2018 Our scripture reading today comes from 1 John 4 and we encounter a familiar topic, it is all about love. It’s not a new topic for us, in fact, agape, the Greek for the sacrificial love is something we have spoken about before. What is different is the fact that it is mentioned some 27 times in our passage alone and a total of 60 times in this short letter of only 5 chapters. This sacrificial love is a love that has to be worked on, it is not easy and we get distracted. The 6 verses before our text today, talk about the spirits of this world and the Spirit of God. That the Spirit of God abides in those that confess that Jesus Christ has come from God and greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. We are told to test the spirits to see if they are from God or they are of the world trying to deceive and disrupt. Love in our text is a choice and an action, not a mere feeling. So open up your bibles this morning and listen to what the Spirit is telling the church this day.   Read 1 John 4:7-21   Our passage today is split into two portions and it outlines the way in which we can stand over and against the ways of the world – love. The first, covers verses 7-12 and they tell of the manifestation of God’s love among us. The second, covers verses 13-21 and they delve into the mutual dwelling of God and the believer. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed with the love that John tells us about, because it’s a love that God pours down upon us, a love that we cannot fully understand. Yet John tells it to us for a purpose. The purpose is, to tell us that there is a consequence of receiving the love of God, expressively and only revealed in Jesus Christ, and that is, that we have to live it out in our lives. It is wholly based upon the fact that because of God’s love for us, our love for one another is made possible. The reality is, we are being told nothing new, but we are reminded for we often forget or are seduced by the spirits of this world.   We start out by being told, Beloved, let us love one another. Why? because love is from God. The Greek for beloved is agapetoi, the very first word elicits the understanding that we are loved, and as a result, let us agape, let us love one another. So, how is it even possible to have this measure of love in our lives. Now there is another chapter on agape love in scripture and it comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13. The Corinthians passage focus’s on how love is exhibited in our lives, in contrast to how the world functions. It tells that love never ends – it’s a continuum, and it is something we have to work on. Our text today does something different. It goes back a step or two. It brings us to the foundation of why it is even possible for us to exhibit agape love at all and why it is paramount that we do so.   Love is from God, and…. God is love and the only way that it is possible for us to even try to understand, to comprehend this magnitude of love, is that God has chosen to reveal it to us. If God had not done so, the depth of God’s love could never have been fathomed. We would have had no knowledge of the love that is required from us, the manner of love that we are told to live out by Paul in 1 Corinthians.   God’s love, we are told, was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.   From the outset of humanity, God loved us, and in and through Jesus Christ, God shows us not only how to love God back, but to love one another as well. God’s love has been ever present throughout history, but could not be fully understood until Jesus Christ came and lived amongst us and not only that, but died and rose from the dead, an atoning sacrifice for our sins……God so loved the world. In the sending of God’s Son into the world, the revelation of God’s love was made. Is that even news to us today? Is it something we simply take for granted? What’s more, Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  We are loved and so should love one another – it’s a simple equation – it’s not difficult – unless we are asked to put it into practice – and of course we are!   If love is from God and God is love, and if everyone who loves is born of God then it follows that anyone who manifests this love has God living on the inside of them – and the only way that is possible, is to believe in Jesus Christ – so that we might live through him. Without the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ, we cannot love as God intended, but love only as the world knows how to love – which is a broken and twisted love. The manifestation of God’s love amongst us ends in these words, No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.   The sign of God’s continued presence in this world is that we exhibit love for one another as we go about living our lives, broken as we are, which is nothing more than a reflection of God’s love for us. Now that doesn’t mean that we will always see eye to eye. It doesn’t mean that we won’t go around upsetting each other. That’s bound to happen, because we are broken people. What it means is that we are all works in progress and we know that God lives in us, when we show love for one another. When we do show God’s love, we live into the manifestations of love we read about in 1 Corinthians 13, Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.   In living that way, then God’s love is perfected in us.   Then we come to Verse 13, and the text makes the shift to us. The next 8 verses enlighten what it means for the mutual dwelling of God’s love with Christ followers and our response.   Our ongoing relationship with God continues as we love one another. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. Not only that, but it comes in combination with the fact that we   do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.   Our knowledge of God’s love comes from the Holy Spirit within us, who reveals to us Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and in this, and only when this is the case, do we know the love that God has for us, even if we cannot fully understand it or put that depth of love into practice.   God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.    The understanding of God’s love cannot come in any other way - So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.   It’s why we are called, it’s why we are sent, to tell others about the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – so that others would come to understand the very love that we ourselves have received. That message can come as simply as expressing the love of God in what we do and what we say as we encounter others. As we believe in Jesus Christ, we come to understand that as a part of our being, we are to love one another,   It’s Not a Choice! It is who we become! At one and the same time, we are the beneficiaries of God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ and then we turn around and become the agents of God’s love in a world that does not understand what love truly is. It becomes a part of our Christian DNA to show others the love God has for us in and through Jesus Christ?   Then as if not only to confirm this, but to re-iterate it once again, our text continues,   God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. They are words that cannot be separated from the understanding we have in Jesus Christ as the expression of God’s love revealed to us, so that we know the depth of God’s love.   Do you get the impression that John feels this is important?   What’s more, there are consequences of how we go about living. It’s something we seldom like to hear about, because we fail to wrap our minds around the concept that a loving God would in some way or other judge us or judge others, yet when God does so, it is done in love for God is love. God’s judgment can be done in no other way and that is difficult for us to conceive, let alone acccept.   Love, we are told, has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world.  We must love one another, because as we exhibit loving one another, then we can approach any judgment with the understanding that we have endeavored to love others like God loves us, because as God is love to us, so we are love in this world to one another. If that is the case,   There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.   We are a work in progress, being gradually made perfect every time we exhibit love to one another, and provided we continue to do so, even as we fail along the way, then we have nothing to fear. Fear comes only as a result of not putting into practice loving one another as we are commanded to do. Do not fear any punishment – instead simply .love one another.   [1]A boy and his father were driving down a country road on a beautiful spring afternoon, when a bumblebee flew in the car window. The little boy, who is allergic to bee stings, was petrified. The father quickly reached out, grabbed the bee, squeezed it in his hand and then released it. The boy grew frantic as the bee buzzed by him. Once again the father reached out his hand, but this time he pointed to his palm. There stuck in his skin was the stinger of the bee. “Do you see this?” he asked. “You don’t need to be afraid anymore. I’ve taken the sting for you.” In so doing the father showed a microcosm of Jesus’ love for us   Loving others is a part of who we are in Jesus Christ.   We love because God first loved us.    Whilst we were still sinners, Christ died for us. People need love especially when they don’t deserve it. We were on the list of the untouchables, on the list of those unworthy, on the list of those who were unloving and unlovable by a God who could not abide with sin. God’s love in Jesus Christ shattered that status – God came to us first and loved us – and in so doing made us worthy of love, God did so far before anything we could ever do to make us worthy of being loved by God – and the truth is that there was nothing we could have ever have done to make that happen.   We are God’s children as a result – God’s love came first.   What would the world look like today if we were to put into practice the same pattern that God used? Loving those we consider as untouchables, those on our list of unworthy, on our list of those who are unloving and unlovable. Those who we disagree with, those we argue with, if we did that, would the world be transformed with a love that comes from God alone in and through Jesus Christ, just as we are transformed by knowing him?   God loves us the way we are, [2]God loves us despite who we are and God loves us too much to leave us that way – can the same be said for us as we encounter others in this world? Is our love for them too much to leave them that way? Others, that we don’t want to upset by telling them about Jesus Christ, others that we are afraid to tell because of their reaction to us? Do we envisage that when we tell others, it is not in an accusatory, threatening way, but it’s done in a loving way, because that’s how God told us. God said, I love you, here’s my revelation to you about just how much.   [3]Madelaine L’Engle said, “If you are going to care about the sparrow, you can’t pick and choose who’s going to be the sparrow!”   The last two verses need no explanation based on all that has already been said,   Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.   The love God pours out upon us comes into each and every one of us. It came down to us in the form of Jesus Christ and it transforms us and fills us up. As we go about living our lives, the love we are filled up with, should spill over onto everyone we encounter. The good news of God’s love for us in and through Jesus Christ, is that it is not confined or constrained to the pages of history, it is not a one time event in our lives, it’s an ongoing expression and it is in you, it is in me, it is in us as a community, that God’s love finds its present and future proclamation in this hurting and broken world. Love that is for you and for me and for the whole world.  We cannot contain it for ourselves, you see the spilling over well. It’s Not A Choice, sisters and brothers, it’s who we are – and all of God’s people said - AMEN   Bibiography   The New Interpreter’s Bible. Complete Twelve Volume Disk. Abingdon Press. 2002   Michael D. Bodger, M.Div. Pastor & Teaching Elder First Presbyterian Church 724 North Woodland Blvd. DeLand, Florida 32720  © 2018 Michael D. Bodger. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, DeLand, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved. [1] 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories. BakerBooks Christianity Today 2008 [2] 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories. BakerBooks Christianity Today 2008 [3] 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories. BakerBooks Christianity Today 2008