For the Love of God
(1 John 4 & 5)
Introduction: The word "love" means so many things today that sometimes it is almost meaningless. What does it mean to have a God who loves us? What is required of us when we are called upon to "love our neighbor?" What kind of love is expected of us? Is love a substitute for obedience? Let's dive into our lesson about God's love and see what we can learn!
- Love's First Cause
- Read 1 John 4:7&19. Why do we have the capacity for love? (We have the ability to love because God first loved us. Love comes from God.)
- In what way(s) did God love us? (Read 1 John 4:9-10. Jesus gave up His comfort and His life for us. This sacrifice allows us to "live through Him.")
- Read 1 John 4:8. John says that knowing God causes us to be able to love others. If we don't love others we don't know God. Why is that? (Knowing the sacrifice that God made for us changes our attitude. Sometimes little things can change your attitude. A number of years ago I was in the bathroom with my boss. There was a waste paper towel on the floor, which he picked up and threw in the trash. Although I was a neat person, and always put my waste paper in the trash, I did not usually pick up the litter left on the bathroom floor by other slobs. Seeing what my boss did made such an impression on me that I started picking up litter that I saw on the floor. His actions changed my attitude.)
- Read 1 John 4:11. Why is this statement true? Why does God's love for us help us to love others? (This is much more than the example that my boss gave me by picking up litter. In that situation I simply did what he did. In the case of God loving us, it is a much greater thing for the King of Kings to love us than it is for us to love those who are like us.)
- Our Love For Others
- Read 1 John 4:20. What do you think about John's logic?
- What does being able to see someone have to do with love?
- Is it your experience that it is easier to love some people once you get to know them?
- Do you find that it is more difficult to love God because you have not met Him?
- Would it help you to love God if you knew what He looked like?
- Do you know someone who had a friendly smile when you first met, but when you get to know them you realized they are really vicious?
- If you answered "yes," to the question just above, then what is John's point? (I think John is making two points. First, he says that God's love for us is the source of our love for others. Second, he suggests that love comes from a relationship. If we have the love of God in our heart, we will show that love to those with whom we have a relationship. If we do not love those around us, then we do not have the love in our heart that comes from God.)
- Let's jump back to 1 John 4:12 because it is related to what we have just discussed. How can we make God's love complete? Explain how that can happen. How can you make God's love complete in the life of someone else? How can you make God's love complete in your own life? (This a continuation of this idea of loving a God whom we cannot see. If we show love towards others, this helps them and us to understand the love of God. We are God's agents to show love towards others. We are the "face" of God's love. Showing love to others also teaches us about God's love. Ask any parent if parenting taught them anything about God. The answer will be "yes.")
- Read 1 John 4:21. Is our love for those around us a test of our love for God?
- What command do you think John is quoting? (Matthew 22:37-40: Love Lord with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves.)
- Let's jump ahead a chapter in 1 John. Read 1 John 5:1. What does it mean to be born of God?
- If we are born of God, are we then children of God?
- What child is being referred to at the end of verse 1? Is this referring to Jesus or is this referring to everyone born of God? (I think it refers both to Jesus and to everyone born of God.)
- John has now suggested a new reason for us to love others. What is it? (That we are all related to each other as children of God. If you, child, love your father, then you will love your brother or sister.)
- Is John's statement about family relationships true in your experience? (I don't think so. Just because you love your father doesn't mean you have great affection for your brothers and sisters.)
- If John's statement is not true in the abstract, what is his point? (We only become a child of God by believing and accepting the sacrifice made by Jesus on our behalf. As we, brothers and sisters, accept that sacrifice, we should have an unselfish, loving attitude towards others who made the same decision.)
- Our Love For God
- Read 1 John 5:3-4. In the introduction I suggested that love can mean so many things that it can become meaningless. Here, John gives a very specific definition of love for God. What is it? (Obeying God's commands.)
- Do you agree with that definition of love for God?
- If not, what definition would you substitute?
- Parents, do you agree with this definition of love when it comes to your children - those who obey love you? Those who don't obey don't love you? (Assuming the parent's commands are as reasonable as God's commands, I agree completely. A child who disobeys loves himself more than he loves his parents. No parent wants to feel unloved, and therefore this may be a hard message, but I think it is true for both parents and God.)
- Why do parents give commands to their children? (Because they love their children and want the best for them.)
- How can John say that obeying God is not burdensome? If we are out there proving our love to God, shouldn't it be heavy lifting? (You can look at verse 4 in two ways: all the children of God overcome the world or becoming a child of God overcomes the world. The first says that overcoming the world is a test to show you are a child of God. The second says that the act of becoming a child is also the act of overcoming the world. Since John says our "faith" is the victory over the world, I think the second interpretation is correct. Accepting Jesus by faith, triggers both God's grace to us and an attitude of obedience on our part. If we realize that God gave us His commandments because He loved us and they are in our best interest - well, that certainly lessens the burden of obedience.)
- Read 1 John 5:5. What does verse 5 do to help us understand verse 2? (Verse 5 makes verse 2 plain for us. It makes clear the answer to the discussion we just had - that belief in Jesus is the key to overcoming the world and obeying God's commands.)
- Let's skip down to 1 John 5:10. What does it mean to have Jesus' testimony in our heart? (This is the attitude I was writing about earlier. Becoming a child of God is not just a verbal thing, it is a change of attitude. Earlier in the quarter we learned that this change of attitude is called repentance.)
- Read 1 John 5:11-12. In addition to giving us love and His Son, what else does God offer to give us? (Eternal life!)
- Friend, do you want love and life? God offers these wonderful things to those who believe in His Son, repent and obey. Why not decide to follow God today?
- Next Week: Loyalties