The Seventh Sunday of Easter

May 16, 2021

1 John 4:13-21

God’s Love Has Goals for Us!

 

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  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 him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  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.  If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command:  Whoever loves God must also love his brother.  (NIV1984)

 

 

Dear fellow worshipers of our living Lord and Savior,

 

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

 

What are your goals in life?  The way in which you answer that question is determined by where you are in the various stages of life, isn’t it.  For very young children their goals usually center around eating, playing and being assured that they are loved.  For school age children their goals usually center around doing well in school, finding and keeping friends, making it to summer vacation, spending time with their family and friends— the people they love.  When a person reaches the young adult stage of their life their goals tend to center on finding the right job and finding the right person— someone to love.  By the time a person reaches middle age their goals very often center on taking care of the people they love, their children and their parents, and preparing for retirement.  After a person has retired their goals tend to center on remaining healthy and spending as much time as they can with the people they love— their children, their grandchildren and their friends.

 

While our goals change as we progress through the various stages of our life, there is one constant.  It is love.  No matter whether we are a young child, a mature adult or a retired person, love not only plays a very important role in our life, but it also has a huge impact on our goals in life.

 

Love and goals.  Those are the two words we want to focus on this morning.  To be even more specific, today let’s see how this portion of God’s holy Word focuses our attention on this truth:  God’s Love Has Goals for Us!  We’ll highlight three of those goals this morning.  First let’s see that because of His great love for us, God’s goal for us is that we remain in Him.  Then let’s see that because of His great love for us God’s goal for us is to replace our fear with confidence.  Finally, let’s see that because of His great love for us God’s goal for us is that our love for each other binds us together as a family.

 

John begins our text by reminding us of a glorious objective truth.  He writes, “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”

 

In all three of these verses the word which is translated as “lives” very literally means, “remain, stay, abide; live, dwell.”  In His great love for us God has “given us his Spirit.”  Through His precious Means of Grace (the Gospel in Word and Sacrament) God the Holy Spirt “lives” in us, He “remains” in us, He “abides” in us.  It is the “indwelling” gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to “see and to testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.”  It is the “indwelling” gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to “acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God.”  This is not something that we did, my friends.  This is not a conclusion that we came to all on our own.  This is purely the result of what God has done.  He fulfilled His Plan of Salvation for this world by sending His Son to be the “Savior of the world.”  He sent the Holy Spirit into our heart to give us the gift of saving faith.  He is the one who established a loving relationship with us— a relationship that guarantees to us that through faith in Jesus, the Son of God, we “know,” we “rely” on the agape love that God has for us!  (Pointing to the cross)

 

Because “God is love,” God’s goal for us is that we “remain” in His agape love.  Why is that God’s goal for us?  John answers that question when he says to us, “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”  The only way for us to “remain” in God and for God to “remain” in us if we “remain in the sphere of” His love”!  How do we “remain in the sphere of” His love?   That brings us right back to where we started, “We know that we live/remain in him and he in us, because he has given us his Spirit.”

 

We “remain in the sphere of” God’s agape love by maintaining a strong connection to the power of the Holy Spirit— as He comes to us through His holy Word and His holy Sacrament.  For a long time I have taught God’s people that as Christians we are always growing.  The only question is:  Are we growing stronger or are we growing weaker?  If we are reading and studying our Bible on a regular basis, if we are receiving the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis then our faith is growing stronger!  If not— then whether we realize it or not, our faith is growing weaker!  Because of His great love for us, God’s goal for us is that we use the spiritual food that He has given to us to nourish our faith so that we will always “remain” in Him and so that He will always “remain” in us!

 

Because of His great love for us God’s second goal for us is to replace our fear with confidence.  Look at verses 17 & 18 of our text.  John writes, “In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The man who fears is not made perfect in love.”

 

These two verses gave me our sermon theme for today.  The reason I say that is because in these two verses the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle John to use one of my favorite Greek words— three times!  As a verb this word paints the picture of “reaching one’s goal.”  As a noun this word refers to the “goal.”  In verse 17 John very literally says, “In this way, love is brought to its goal among us….”  In verse 18 the words “perfect love” very literally refers to a “perfected love” or, “a love which has reached the goal God has in mind.”  And when we read, “The one who fears is not made perfect in  love,” very literally this reads, “The one who fears has not reached the goal in the sphere of love.”

 

Now let’s take the picture that word paints for us and put it into context.  What is John talking about here in this portion of our text?  He is talking about “the day of judgment.”  Because of His great love for us, God’s goal for us is that when we stand before Him on Judgment Day we will be filled with “confidence” and not “fear.”  How is that possible?  We are poor, mortal sinners!  God is holy and just, righteous and perfect!  It’s only possible because of the cross of Jesus Christ!  (Pointing to the cross)  Through faith in what the Son of God has done for us we have the “confidence” of knowing that the “punishment” that we deserved to receive because of our sins, that “punishment” has already been paid— in full!  Yes, my friends, God’s love for us “reaches its goal” for us when we have the “confidence” that our eternal salvation is complete!  It is secure!  It is ours!  Through the power of the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament our fear is taken away and we are given the “confidence” of knowing that Jesus is not only “the Savior of the world,” but He is our Savior!  Through the power of the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament our fear is taken away and we are given the “confidence” of knowing that our crucified and risen Lord is preparing a place for us in our heavenly Father’s Home!  Our name has already been engraved on the door and when the time is right, the Son of God will fulfill His promise to us, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).  That’s the “confidence” that God’s agape love gives to us!

 

God’s final goal for us is found in the closing verses of our text.  John writes, “We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command:  Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

 

I don’t know how the Holy Spirit could have possibly made His point more clear or more powerful than He does with these words.  The agape love that God proclaims to us through the cross of Jesus Christ (Pointing to the cross) not only motivates us to reflect that same agape love in our relationship with Him, but it also empowers us to have that same agape love for others— especially our fellow Christians.  To harbor hatred in our heart towards someone whom God loves this much (Pointing to the cross) is completely incompatible with having agape love for God.  Just as Christian faith and prejudice cannot survive side-by-side in our heart, so also love for God and hatred for others cannot survive side-by-side in our heart.

 

That impossible scenario is why God’s goal for us is to let His agape love for us bind us together as a family.  God’s family is the family to which we belong now, and it is the family in which we will remain for all of eternity.  It is a family where God is our Father, Jesus is our Brother, and the Holy Spirit uses the power of His Word and Sacrament to strengthen our bond of unity.  It is a family in which the dominant family trait is love— agape love.  God loves us and we love Him.  We are loved by our brothers and sisters in Christ and in turn we love them.  That’s God’s goal for us!

 

No matter what stage in life we might be in, we all have goals.  While our individual goals will vary, and while our individual goals will change over the course of our life, there is one common denominator that runs through them all— love, agape love.  My prayer this morning is that these inspired words of the apostle John will remind you that God’s agape love has goals for you and with His guidance and with His strength you can achieve those goals!

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen