This morning, on the second Sunday of Advent, we light the “Bethlehem Candle”. This candle is lit in remembrance of the birthplace of Jesus—Bethlehem—and symbolizes Love. In the sermon today, we shall discuss 1 John 4:7-12 and see the difference between what the world calls love and truth love. Then see that true love begins with God, is received from God and changes us.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
What is Love?
Contrary to what you may have heard, love is not simply a feeling. Feelings are present, especially in the beginning, but love is more than feeling a particular way towards someone. Don’t base love on your feelings because you cannot trust your feelings. Feelings ebb and flow and are not a sufficient anchor for something as great as love.
This is why it is unhelpful to say things like, “I am in love with you.” What does it mean to be “in love”? If you can be in love can you then be out of love? What happens when you don’t feel in love the next day? Do you stop loving? Basing your love on feelings is like basing it on beauty. If you base love on beauty, then what happens when you stop thinking they are beautiful? This is not love and there is a better way.
This is Love
Love is not a feeling that you fall into and out of, but a commitment. Your love is not something you give and take based upon favorable or unfavorable situations or circumstances. Love is a deep commitment that is rooted in the love God. Love is not something we summon within ourselves, but is something that begins with God, flows into us and changes us.
Begins With God: “Not that We have loved God”
True love begins with God. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us”. All that is good is this world is a result of God’s grace upon us. Because of sin, we love ourselves most and do not love God. We live for ourselves and seek our own good. But “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:4-5). Paul says in Romans 5:8, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Received from God: “But that God has loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”
God has demonstrated His love to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus has shown great love through being the propitiation for our sins. We may not be familiar with the word propitiation; it means to “appease one’s anger or wrath”. This is important because Romans 1:18 tells us that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Propitiation is important because God’s anger must be appeased. Why is God so angry? Because He is repulsed by sin and hates it. The Prophet Habakkuk wrote that God is “of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Hab 1:13).
God’s wrath is revealed against evil and there are only two ways for God’s anger to be appeased: your death or Christ’s death in your place. Jesus was sent to appease the wrath of God against sin: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). When we are saved, we are changed
Changes Us: “Let us love one another”
The love we receive from God comes into us and changes us. We truly begin to “live through Him” (9). This change is demonstrated through our “love for one another” (7). It is clear that “anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (8). The love of God given to us through Jesus Christ overflows in our hearts in love for others. John makes his point even clearer when he writes, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (11). In fact, God’s love “is perfected in us” when “we love one another” (12).
This Christmas season, let us all reflect on the great love of God in giving us our Savior Jesus Christ. He satisfied the wrath of God against us through His death. Jesus rose again from the dead to give us the righteous life that is pleasing to God. If God loved us so greatly, surely we can love one another.
Let us not love as the world loves, based on feelings and emotions; rather let us love as God loves, based on grace and commitment.