After hearing this sermon by Dr. Garry Vermaas, I requested the notes. It was one of the best lessons on love I had heard. I broke it into two parts while sharing it here. Part 1: Why Do We Love? Part 2: How Do We Love? Before we begin, let’s do some internal reflection.
When we think about the following few keywords, what is the first word that pops into your mind? Go ahead and add your answers below.
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I have personally asked many people these questions and would also love to hear your answers. Please answer honestly; there is no judgment here. But what strikes me off guard is that nobody ever uses the word “love” to describe Christians, the church, or even themselves.
I was raised believing in Jesus. I grew up in Christian schools, attended many churches, and heard countless sermons. When I was 26, I was baptized and became a Christian, and since then have read all kinds of books and attended bible studies and classes about Jesus. And all those teachings were generally centered on becoming a better Christian. But at the end of the day, was I becoming more like Jesus? I would not use the word love to describe myself.
Who & Why Is John Important?
John played a pivotal role in the New Testament. John was one of the original disciples of Jesus and was with Jesus through all the years of his ministry; he even witnessed his death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven. Sadly, John watched as all of his friends were horribly murdered, and at the end of his life, he was banished to the island of Patmos and left alone. During this ample amount of alone time, he wrote a few letters (1st, 2nd, and 3rd John) that encouraged Christians to be Christians.
John could have written about anything. In his first letter, he even says that the world couldn’t hold all the things Jesus did if they were written down (John 21:25). So what did John choose to write about in his final days? What was his focal point? You and I could read just a few letters in about 45 minutes.
Simply put, John wrote to teach us and push us. He wanted us to love God and love others. And he also warned us about false teachings and to be on guard from these false teachers who are trying to distract us from loving God and loving others. To John, the most important takeaway message is to love God and love others, and to us, love isn’t even a word that crosses our minds when we are asked.
Why Do We Love?
1 John 4:7-12
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
To Know God
I imagine that you are like me and allow your brain to wander. I wonder about the fish that live in the deep part of the ocean that has a little light on the front of it. I mean, how does that work? Sometimes I think about how exactly does the squishy body of the caterpillar somehow break down and rebuild into a butterfly? These things are just nuts. I can’t figure out how any of it works. And honestly, what I am trying to do is understand God better.
John tells us in 1 John 4:7 that we will know God better when we love. And 1 John 4:8 tells us the opposite: if we don’t love, then we don’t know God. I think something in our minds is happening when we begin to love God and love others. Perhaps when we begin to practice Biblical love, we become humble, and our hearts begin to open to hearing the voice of God. We become teachable.
Because of God’s Love
John continues with 1 John 4:9 and tells us that God showed us love by sending Jesus. Have you taken a moment and thought about that idea recently? God could have chosen any plan, and the one he went with was:
- Send His son Jesus to earth.
- Show us how to navigate life and love others.
- Be brutally murdered by order of a man named Pilate.
- Became the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
- Laid in a tumb shortly before nobody could find His body.
- Resurrected and ascended back to God.
Simplistically put, that was the plan. God did all that so we could see the all-powerful, all-knowing, almighty creator of the heavens and the earth. Jesus came to say, “I choose you to know God.” But what does that mean?
The Truth About Adoption
I am the father of six children. Three of them are biological, and three of them are adopted. At the time of this article, my oldest adopted child was a teenager. However, when we adopted her, she was much younger. She didn’t speak my language. She didn’t enjoy our food and knew our customs. As a matter of fact, the first day she met me was the first day she was going to be with me for the rest of her life. She left everything she knew because of me. She left her friends, culture, teachers, language, etc. Imagine how that must feel for a child.
To be perfectly honest, she didn’t make life easier for me. When I moved her to a new house in an unknown country with people she had never met, she wasn’t as grateful as one might assume. She would throw things when she got angry. She would scream and fight when things didn’t go her way. Doors would be broken, and attributes and harsh language would be given. But can you imagine? Just be taken from the life you know forever. How difficult would that have been?
Maybe you have a child or adopted one? If so, you know that kids have to learn everything. They have to learn how to communicate. What foods to eat? And eventually learn moral and emotional correctness. Do you know how hard it is to explain to a child that doesn’t know English that they have to do the right thing because a man named Jesus says so? That isn’t very clear. How can I explain to any of the six children that a man named Jesus came and had to die to replace the Levi priest’s role because there was no freedom under the law? And now that we are free, we can serve King Jesus and obey him. That’s a little confusing to me.
Because God Chooses Us
As parents, we can’t do that. But what we can do instead is love our children. We can spend time with them. Every day we can choose them and make decisions to think about them. It’s not because of something they did or didn’t do. They certainly didn’t love us first, and because of that love, we love them back. We choose to love them first and choose them to be ours forever. With the love we show them, hope follows that someday our children will learn to love themselves, others, and God – because we first loved them.
1 John 4:10 says that God loved us, and that’s why we can love. He chooses us much like the way we choose our children. Just like our kids will know how to love because we loved them, we know how to love because God first loved us.
We Love Because Loving Makes Us Complete
Is it starting to make sense yet? As we continue reading, something even more incredible happens. In 1 John 4:12, he says that when we love each other, God lives inside us, and his love is complete. Wait, what? Did you read what I just read? That we complete God’s love.
What a plan! All of the creation draws us to God (Romans 1:20), the law taught us about God and our sinfulness (Romans 3:20), and Jesus came to show who God is (John 14:9), then he died to open up a way for us to reach God (John 3:16). Now finally, our love for God and others completed the relationship. God’s love is made complete in us. Halleluiah! What a plan!
So, Why Do We Love?
- 1 John 4:7: When we love, we know God.
- 1 John 4:8 When we don’t love, we don’t love God.
- 1 John 4:9 We love God Because He sent Jesus.
- 1 John 4:10 We love God because He chose us.
- 1 John 4:11 We love God because He loved us first.
- 1 John 4:12 When we love God, He lives in us, and His love is complete.
The next lesson is God’s Love; How Do We Love? (Part 2).
Bonus: Listen to the Audio of this message here: