Church Matters (Part 5)

Listen to the message

Sunday 3rd July 2016- Justus Swart

1 John 3:1-3, 16; (Matt. 11:28); (Matt. 7:7); 1 John 4:16-19; Eph. 2:10; Rev. 1:17-18; Job 38:1-21; Matt. 5:46; (John 19:30)

God’s Awesome Love!

John calls our attention to love. We realize that we do not deserve God’s love, but we get it by surrendering to Him. This is how God deals with us. When we come to God He will give us this all-encompassing love. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure (1 John 3:1-3). And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:16-19).

This is the highest quality of love in the universe. How do we get to it? And how do we make this something that is real to us? John created a very detailed picture of God’s love throughout this whole book using vivid imagery of family and brotherhood. John uses intimate language and carefully avoids anything that will cause God’s love seem mechanical, scientific or forced. It is only in His presence that we find the removal of sin and the removal of condemnation and it is replaced with acceptance and His righteousness. This love is so powerful and so complete that we can only piece it together in little bits with our finite minds. This love fills the void and makes us whole. It is something that embraces all of who we are. It is something that makes us feel safe to be who we are. It is something that encourages us to accept ourselves. John tells us that God, and only God, is love.

God is love, love however is not God. The feelings and things we experience and call love is something many celebrate and deify. People would say, “Forget all religion and all that goes with it, love is the only thing that matters”. In so doing they make love a deity, making love their god. In the Bible we see that we have to come to God to find love. Love in the English language is limited to only one word. In the Greek language there are five words that describe the different types of love. Love is a complicated thing for us to define. We cannot separate love from God. In these Scriptures John gives us a break down of that love.

1) Perfect love is made complete among us (1 John 4:16). It is a life of harmony and peace with your neighbour. It is the acceptance we find within the Church community, the people around us. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs love is referred to as a sense of belonging; to feel a part of something. We need a place to express this desire for human connection. It is a need to be a part of something which is tangible and real and where we find that sense of belonging. When that happens, is love made complete amongst us. Nobody can accomplish this on their own. You cannot chase your rainbow to find your little pot of gold and your little bit of love just for yourself. No, you can only find this together. We are reliant on the person sitting next to us. That is where we find relationship, value and connection. Through Jesus Christ we are made part of His Church, the body of Christ. Through that we have access to this amazing and incredible love that John says God lavishes on His children.

2) We will then have confidence on the day of judgement. Once we surrender to God we get confidence back as it is no longer about what we can do, but what He has done on the cross for us. It is no longer striving, working and labouring to find peace as it is found in surrendering to God. We receive self-acceptance once we surrender and allow the work of the cross to be our banner. We are now identified with the crucified Lord. He has received judgement on our behalf. We now stand in confidence that we are justified before God. In Jesus we find our justification from sin and that is His righteousness allows us to stand on the day of judgement with total confidence. Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Maslow refers to this as esteem. (The ability to look at yourself and see someone of value). This esteem that we have is no longer based on ourselves and what we can do, but it is based in Jesus and the works He has done. To look at one’s self is to see something Christ has taken possession of and restored all value. We are made in His image. Once we see ourselves, not according to our own achievements but according to God’s perspective we are free to accept the love which He bestows on us. If we do not, we will always feel undeserving, and unable to receive that love because we have not done anything right. But as we identify with Jesus we are free to accept this love. We have confidence that our God has placed immeasurable value on us. The easiest thing to do is to compare ourselves to other people. When we do that we break ourselves down or we identify ourselves with our failures and it slowly chip away at the value God has placed in us. God is saying that this love gives you confidence on the day of judgement because you are His. God gives us this confidence but it is not the kind of confidence that puffs up our ego or gives us a type of arrogance. No, rather it feeds the deepest seated hunger we have to love ourselves. We would think most people struggle to love other people but mostly people struggle to love themselves. Love your neighbour as yourself. Once you know how to love yourself, once you know that you can accept yourself without being arrogant, you are free to be a vessel for that love towards other people. We can only truly love others when we have accepted ourselves and once we have learned to love ourselves. How do I accept all the things I did wrong, how do I accept all the things going on in my life? How do I look at all these circumstances in my life and believe I am valued? People become extremely good at hiding the fact that they have not accepted themselves. To be able to love and accept yourself as of immeasurable value allows you to love other people the same way.

3) There is no fear in love. We all experience fear; a fear that grips your soul, a dull ache that permeates your thoughts, a hushed voice speaking constantly, never loud enough to be identified and dismissed. It is a slow expanse of space that separates you from everything around you; never moving fast enough to make you aware of it. It robs you of freedom and binds you into inactivity. It cripples generosity and it corrodes your joy. It keeps you guessing and it never allows you to feel assured, or feel confident in what you are thinking. You always have doubts and feel far away from everything. You feel disconnected and you fear that you are not good enough. This is the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as self-actualization. This the ability to reach your full potential; to be all you are supposed to be, to be all that you were created to be (Eph. 2:10). That is your potential. The only way for us to achieve this full potential is for us to shake off our fear and get rid of the fear that weights us down and holds us back.

It could be:

– The fear of failure.

– The fear of stepping out of your comfort zones, breaking old habits, letting go of something that you have known forever.

-It could be the fear of having to rely on faith with no tangible, substantial evidence that things are going to work out.

-The fear of having to let something go that is so strongly identified with yourself.

-The fear of what others might think or say.

If this fear, regardless of what it is, stops you from being all God intended you to be, it is not from God. This fear wants to cage you in, making you feel as small as possible. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18). God created you and everyone else with the inbuilt ability to live out your full potential, to do the good works which He has prepared for you in advance. He is not in the business of creating deficient things. God does not create anything that is lacking. Within you is a perfect soul. He has made you uniquely qualified to reach the full potential which is specific to you and your life, connecting you to your master plan. He has plans for us we cannot fathom at the present moment; and sometimes what we have in our lives seems like a limitation or feels like a hindrance. But he has placed the same amount of potential in you as the person sitting next to you. You are created in His image and His purpose is unique for you.

Why is it that God calls some people home before they have lived a full life? Why does it seem that some people are taken too soon? We know that death has been defeated on the cross. Death therefore can no longer triumph over us. All death and disease serves one Master and that is the same God being spoken of here, who is love.  Fear is removed as we see that even in death God can unveil the fullness of our potential. Death serves God. No matter what happens, death is subject to the laws of heaven. It never surprises God, yet it surprises us all the time. He calls us according to the potential He placed in us and according to His will for your life. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:17-18). This is referring to Christ Himself. He is the First and the Last. He is our beginning and He is our end. We are born from Him and we will return to Him. The circle is made complete. Because He died and returned to life He is in a unique place and now holds the keys of death. When we are faced with these circumstances the immediate question we ask is, “Why? Why did this happen to me? Why is this happening to my family? Why is this going on?” We might think that if we had an answer we might somehow be satisfied. But we should replace the question with something else; replace “Why?” with “Whom?” Who is it that holds time in His hands? Who is it alone who can write in the book of life?  Who is it that can say, “Before I made you, I have known you”. Job started asking these questions about his situation and his life (Read Job 38:1-21). This is the same God John is speaking about, whom is love. We may never know the mind of God, but we trust in His unfailing love. His presence has existed before time itself and this presence drives out all fear. As we surrender ourselves to this love we see that the God who holds the key to death is love incarnate. When we surrender ourselves to Him, fear has no choice but to release its grip from us. It is bound the same way as death by the laws of heaven. Perfect love drives out all fear. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16). Love is to surrender our lives into the Almighty hand of Jesus Christ. What we ought to remember: love is not occasioned by a perfect situation.  We do not release love on the basis that everything we perceive is accepting and kind and wonderful. Do not love only the people who love you. That is easy; also the pagans do that. No He is calling you to love your enemies, love where you are shown resistance, and where it feels like there is just nothing” (Matt 5:46).

Love is not a gift we give to those we feel deserve it. Jesus so loved the world that He gave although the world knew Him not. You cannot keep love to yourself. Love means surrendering. When we read about Job we read that God spoke out of a storm. The situation was not perfect. We are not surrendered to the storm (Job 38:1); we are not given over to chaos; we are surrendered to the Voice in the storm. This storm or chaos is not our ultimate destination, but rather the Voice speaking to us from within. We are patient within the storm although we are surrounded by earth-shattering noise or deafening sounds, there is a Voice which is the voice of God. Our assurance is this, the love of God, the love He has so freely lavished on us, is more powerful than anything. Church matters because we hold this kind of love for the world, for our neighbour. We are the recipients of this love, and we discharge this love to the world. Through us God makes His love available to the world. As we reflect on these words take this into your heart, love is made complete among us. Love gives us confidence in the day of judgement; for this love drives out all fear.