Preached at the San Diego Rescue Mission on Wednesday morning, November 8, 2017.
Fear is a terrible thing, isn’t it? We get worried. We get afraid. We worry about what is going to happen. We worry about consequences. The Bible tells us that we don’t have to live in fear. Instead, we can live a life of love. A bold Christian life is a life of love.
As a teenager, we go through phases. For about two weeks, I went through a gangster phase. I figured that I had listened to the latest hip hop albums, and qualified. Some friends from Junior High School called me up, and asked if I wanted to be in their group. I said, “Sure!”
In New York in the 90s, gangs would wear colored beads to identify their gang. I had been hanging out with this group, and was supposed to get my beads on a Friday. My friend had told me that there was this other gang that had the same colors, but it was okay because our colors were in a different order. Well, that Friday I was with the group, when I saw a huge crowd of about seventy to eighty people heading in our direction.
The gang took my small group of about fifteen guys into this abandoned area. They started to pull out my friends, one by one, and began punching and beating them. My turn came. They started looking at my neck, and asked, “Where are your beads?” I told them that I didn’t have them. My friend said, “Yeah, he doesn’t have beads, he’s not with us.” They let me go.
I ran. I ran as fast as I could. It’s funny how, when you are in trouble, all of a sudden you become religious. I started praying as I ran, and kept looking back. I was scared. I made it home. The end of the story is that some of my friends ended up in the hospital.
Sometimes we get involved with things that we are not proud of. I’m not proud of those two weeks. We get involved with wrong things, and then we become afraid of the consequences. Is there a way that we can overcome fear? The Bible says that is begins by putting your faith in Jesus, and living a life of love.
We are in 1 John, chapter 4, starting in verse 7.
God showed His love for us through Jesus Christ.
The first thing John says here is that God showed His love for us through Jesus Christ. God showed His love for us through Jesus Christ.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:7-11
John says that God manifested His love for us through sending the Son of God into the world to give people life. God’s ultimate display of His love came through Jesus Christ. Man was desperately lost, desperately sinful. There was no escape for mankind from the eternal consequence of his sin. There was no hope. God was the only one who could provide hope for the world. So, God sent the eternal Son of God into the world. There was no other like Him. God was willing to sacrifice the best that He had in order to save us.
The Son of God took on flesh in Jesus Christ, and lived a perfect, sinless life. There was no sin in Him. The Son of God knew His mission, and did it with obedience to the Father, and immense love in His heart. Our sin drove Jesus to the cross, yours and mine. God spread the arms of Jesus Christ on the cross, and with every nail going through said, “I love you this much.” The pain of the sacrifice of the moment showed, as the Bible says the sky went dark for hours. God was willing to go through pain in His Spirit in order that you and I could have hope. He showed the immensity and power of His love in Jesus Christ.
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” The Bible says that the sacrifice of Jesus gave us life. In what way does Jesus’ sacrifice give us life? Jesus spoke about our need to be born again. We live physical lives, but in our natural sin state, we are dead spiritually. Our sin has separated us from God, so that there is no spiritual life in us, apart from Christ. God needs to create in us spiritual life. Our spirit man inside of us is dead. He needs to create a spiritual resurrection inside us. The Bible says that when we put our faith in Jesus, when we believe in Jesus, that He died for our sins, and rose again from the dead, when we surrender and make Him the Master and Lord of our life, we then start to live. The Holy Spirit comes into our life, and works in us to make us a new creation. Our spirit is resurrected, and we start to have real life.
We tend to think of resurrected people as walking zombies. They’re these people that are alive again, even though they are supposed to be dead. You’ve seen horror movies. They look miserable, like they want to be dead, and come out with this horrible stare. You hack off a limb, and they still come after you with one limb. The best zombies were in the Michael Jackson music video “Thriller.” At least those zombies danced. But zombies in the movies are not anything we would want to be. It looks miserable. You would probably say, “No thanks. I’ll remain dead.”
We can’t think of resurrection like zombies. Instead, the resurrection that we experience when we are born again is real. It is life as it is supposed to be lived, through Christ. It is the best life, because it is created and resurrected by God. It is God’s great love working in us, His good and perfect life working inside of us. It is life the way it is supposed to be lived. If God gives us new life, it is the best thing we will ever experience, because it is life the way our Creator meant for us to live.
How did God show His love for us? He showed it first. He showed it before we could do anything, or even ask for it. Have you ever been so lost, so hopeless, that you don’t even know what to ask for? You know you are in desperate need for something, but it feels so hopeless that you don’t even know where to start. If someone asked you, “What would fix it?”, would you know? Is it money? There are a lot of miserable people in Hollywood. They have all the money they can handle, they have fame and power, but life is still in chaos. You take a man like Robin Williams, who had everything you could ask for, all of the help in the world at his disposal, yet he was not happy. His misery left him hopeless, and he took his life.
God provided the solution before we asked for it. He gave us His love before we knew that we needed it. He loved us first. There is nothing that we have done to deserve Jesus. God gives a free gift of life, real life, to all who believe in Jesus, and make Him the Lord of their life.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Christian, since God loved us first, we need to love people first. We can’t wait for them to be nice to us, or be kind to us. God loved us first, before we were ever ready to believe in Him. We need to choose to love others first. We need to love God by putting our faith in Jesus and making Him the Lord of our life. We need to love others. Since He loved us first, we also should love others first.
God showed His love for us through Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit testifies of God’s love for us in Christ.
Second, the Holy Spirit testifies of God’s love for us in Christ. The Holy Spirit testifies of God’s love for us in Christ.
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide 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 the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.1 John 4:12-16
John says, “by this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” The Bible says that the Holy Spirit testifies of Christ. “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26). When we hear about Christ, when we learn about His great love, about how He died for us on the cross and rose again from the dead, the Holy Spirit confirms it in our heart, and convicts us of our need for Him. The Spirit of God works in us individually to bring us to Jesus. He convicts us of our sin, and of our need for salvation. He points us to Jesus.
When we put our faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes into our life, to give us the power to live the Christian life. When we were younger, you may have had a favorite toy that ran on batteries. I used to purchase remote controlled cars for my son, mainly because I liked to play with them. When the battery was fully charged, we would have fun driving the car around with the remote. But when the battery died, it was over. The car was lifeless, and useless. It didn’t go anywhere. It needed a new battery.
The Holy Spirit gives us a power to live that will never die. He resurrects our life, and gives us the power to live the Christian life. That power is lived out through the love of God in us. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” Even our confession, our repentance to God, our faith, has to be done through the power of the Holy Spirit. We could not have faith apart from God. Our belief in Jesus Christ is done through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s not something we could create or do on our own. God works through us to give us life.
The Bible says that God is love. When the Spirit of God works in us, He gives us a new love, because love is a core element of who God is. You begin to love people, because God is working in you.
Places like the San Diego Rescue Mission are built by people loving people. Love motivates people to give here, and to work here. Your stay here is motivated by the love the people had for people. Love motivates people to come work here. You can tell in the staff who are motivated to come to work because they love others. You can’t fake love. Love shows itself, and makes itself obvious. When someone is motivated by love, it makes all the difference.
The Bible says that to be motivated by love, you have to know God. God is love. Therefore, if you don’t know God, you can’t know true love. You might think you know love. Without God, all you can know is a shadow of love. People in this world are chasing a shadow of love. They try to find love in sex, or in other pleasures. But how many relationships break up? How many divorces happen? True love is only known when God is the center and focus of your life. God loved us first in Jesus Christ. When He is the Lord of your life, His love fills you, and makes you into a new, loving person.
God showed His love for us through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit testifies of God’s love for us in Christ.
Knowing Christ’s love gives us a bold Christian life.
Third, knowing the love of Christ gives us a bold Christian life. Knowing the love of Christ gives us a bold Christian life.
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:17-19
How do you live a strong Christian life? John says that as God works in your life, love begins changing you, and perfecting you. The Holy Spirit uses the word of God to teach us, and shape us into the people that God wants us to be. His work is a work of love that gives us a boldness in Christ.
When the disciples saw that Jesus was crucified, what did they do? They were afraid! They ran and hid. They were hiding out when Jesus appeared to them resurrected. The Bible says that after Jesus ascended, the disciples went to a place and prayed. The Holy Spirit came, and they had a new power. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that gave them boldness as they testified to others about Jesus, how he died for sin, and was raised from the dead.
The Holy Spirit works in the life of a Christian in the same way. As His love works through you, He gives us the power to live the Christian life. We become bold in Jesus, because we know the love of God. His love is wonderful, and exciting! John says here that the boldness of the Christian life lasts forever. The Bible says that all men will give an account for their life. When the Christian is before God, he can have boldness. Not because of anything about us. We are bold because of Jesus Christ. We are not worthy. We are bold because Jesus Christ is worthy.
Fear is a terrible thing. Fear paralyzes, and makes it difficult for us to move forward. We are afraid. We become afraid because we are worried about consequences. We are afraid to suffer. We are afraid that what we have done will come back to haunt us. Fear has to do with punishment. The Bible says that when you put your faith in Jesus Christ, when He has given you a new life, you don’t have to be afraid. Fear has to do with punishment. We can be bold in Jesus, because He has already taken on our punishment, and in exchange has given us His real life.
The love of God casts our fear, and gives us boldness in Christ. You can live a strong Christian life through depending on God, depending on His power, and depending on His faithful love. The Bible says that in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart, because Jesus has overcome the world. We are invincible until Christ takes us him. He perfects us in His love, and makes us a new creation.