Thursday, May 22, 2014

How Can God Be Love?

          You might recall about five years ago, Apple had a series of commercials for the iphone.  They featured the tag line, “There’s an app for that.”  The point was that no matter what you wanted to do, you could find an application on your iphone to help you do it.  Can’t remember where you parked your car?  There’s an app for that.  Need to find the nearest gas station?  There’s an app for that.  Need to kill some time while you wait in line?  There are multiple apps for that.  There are apps to help you get to sleep and to help you wake up; Apps to motivate you to work out and eat healthy, and apps to help you find the nearest, cheapest junk food; Apps to help you plan a vacation, learn a new language, and meet your soul mate.  But is there an app to teach you how to love?  Jesus said the most important thing in life—true success—is to love God and love our neighbor.  He also said that when we show love to others, especially to the poorest and most downtrodden people, we’re showing love to Him.  So if we want to be joyful, successful people in an earthly sense, and prepare for eternity, we will focus on love.  Can an iphone help us do that?  I went to the app store on my iphone and searched “love.”  I wasn’t happy with the results.  So I typed in “how to love.”  Without getting specific, let me just say that was a mistake. There’s no app for that.  I’ve never seen a continuing education course on how to love.  Nor have I ever seen an expert on Oprah or Dr. Phil who claims to be able to teach us how to love. 
             1 John was written to a church that was dealing with false teachers.  Their main question was, “How do we know who’s really one of us, and who is just a wolf in sheep’s clothing?”  You might be surprised at what John says.  He doesn’t draft a long doctrinal statement and say, “Make them sign this.”  He very clearly says the people who belong to God will be distinguished by love.  They may be doctrinally sound and morally above reproach, but if they aren’t loving people, they aren’t saved…don’t let them teach.  He doesn’t just say that here; look at 2:9-10, Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.  Or 3:10, This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.  There’s more where that came from.    
            What the world needs more than anything else is the love of God.  We are studying the attributes of God this year, and for the next three weeks, we’ll be looking at His love.  We’ll do that by studying six verses in 1 John 4.  We’ll deal with the greatest evidence of His love next Sunday.  Two Sundays from today, we’ll talk about how we should live if we’re loved by God.  But this Sunday, I want to talk specifically about the love of God, as explained in 1 John 4:7-8.  We have to be clear what we mean when we use that word, love.  We’re not talking about the kind of love we have for our football team, our video game system, or that cup of frozen yogurt we’ll enjoy this afternoon.  We’re not talking about the kind of self-centered love that we tend to celebrate in songs and movies; a love that’s based on you looking a certain way and making me feel a certain way.  We’re not even talking about the kind of love a grandparent has for his grandkids, a very permissive, “aw shucks, aren’t you adorable” kind of love.  We’re talking about the love we see in God Himself.  In fact, v. 8 tells us God IS Love.  That doesn’t mean He is an impersonal force.  It means that love itself is defined by what we see in God.  Everything He does is motivated by love.

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