Hope you all enjoyed the Super Bowl last week. "I only caught the first half, there was some paint drying that I DID NOT WANT TO MISS." Wow. If that game was boring to football fans, imagine how it felt for the rest of us.
I have just a couple announcements - We've made some changes to our coffee bar. We're now selling einstein bagels, and pastries and yougurt partfaits. As well as little bear coffee
Also, we like to able to update you when something great is happening in the lives of our church members. The Medina family has opened their home to a beautiful mom and daughter from El Salvador. I think we have a picture. So that's mother Yeni and that's baby sophia. Baby sophia is here to receive heart surgury. So the medina family stepped up and opened their home to them during the surgury and recovery time. And mama Yeni was happy to hear that the church would be praying for her precious baby's heart surgury which is February 20th. That's for your prayers. And way to go Medinas for being the hands and feet of Jesus. Great family.
Series: Only Love is Real
I'm looking forward to the next 3 weeks as we FLY through the book of 1st John.
I think most of us came to scientology through the back door. And that back door has a name: Tom Cruise. It's a sudo religion created by a science-diction writer named Ron Hubbard, who passed away 1986. When asked about Jesus he said:
“Jesus never existed as a person but rather he is an electronic idea, implanted by the true powers of the universe into the mind of someone between incarnations about 600 B.C. This implant is labeled R6 and occurred while this person between incarnations was watching a mad man, or something. Jesus is nothing more than an electronic, mystical, biological implant and the implant has all the characteristics of a pedophile.”
I know that’s incredibly bazar and blasphemous. But my point is that if we don’t accept Jesus, or God in general for that matter, as he is revealed in scripture, then we’re free to do exactly what Ron Hubbard did: Create our own idea of Jesus. That looks how we want him to look. Or worse, looks like a more powerful version of us. So it’s important that we get God right.
Scripture - sacred
And that's precisely why the scripture is so sacred for the Christian because it points us to God, and let's us see him. And the book of 1st John, in particular gives us some language for the reality of God that we don't get anywhere else in the bible.
A few introductory comments on the book of 1st John
It's a Cyclical Book
But the book of 1st John is cyclical, so it's have these loops where it's discussing the same few topics from different angles.
And so we thought instead of going verse by verse through the book, that we'd jump around a little so as to cover the major themes. And again, with 3 weeks, there's a lot of great stuff we had to leave out.
And the book of 1st John is 2,100 words. The average reader reads at around 200 words per minute, so that means that for the average person, it takes just over 10 minutes to read the entire book. And of course in these early churches, there were large portions of the people who couldn't read, so it would be read aloud in it's entirety. We're not gonna do that in this series for the sake of time, but let me encourage you to read the entire book through at least once during this series.
I would also encourage you to get in the habit of bringing you bible and reading along with us. 99.9% of the time I'll be reading from the NIV. One of the reasons I try to stay consistent with that is so that you can read along and become familiar with reading the scripture for yourself.
(Turn 1 John 4)
While they're turning there, let me take just 1 minute to explain to you about this man John:
I want you to picture him sitting there in his rocking chair, looking over his life. He's the only one of the 12 to have the opportunity to mix the experience of being with Jesus and the wisdom that comes from living nearly a century on this earth.
Flashback - 70 years
Brother James - “sons of thunder”
“Want us to call down fire from heaven and consume them?” - "No you lunatics."
Flash forward to end of his life
Writes: 1st, 2nd, 3rd John.
Message - changed…
3 most radical words: "God is Love." - Twice
And John of all people, come and bring us 3 of the most radical words in the history of the world: "God is Love." He says it twice in 1 John.
Oldest disciple, writing at the very end of his life. Look at what he says:
Dear friends, (1 John 4:7a)
Notice those first 2 words. 'Dear Friends'. Many of your bibles will say 'Beloved'. The greek word here comes from the word 'agape'. So 'agape-d' ones. So beloved here is a much better translation. I love the NIV, but it's not at it's best here. - I think it undersells what John is writing.
Given the context here, this isn't talking about Johns friends, it's talking about those who God loves.
let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7b)
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)
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. (1 John 4:9)
Here, 'one and only son' is the greek word 'monogenese'. Sometimes translated 'only begotten' or 'one and only'.
It's saying 'Jesus is the only one is his category'. He's one of a kind.
We also get from this word 'genes' the English word 'Genetics'. The genetics of Jesus are unique. He has his fathers DNA.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)
Notice that pattern, since God loved us we ought to love one another
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:12)
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 them. (1 John 4:16)
There is no fear in love. (The greek word for fear is 'Phobos', from which we get which word? Phobia.) But perfect love drives out fear, (1 John 4:18)
The greek for 'drives out' is a rare bible verb that usually only applies to exorcisms. I love that. When perfect love shows up, it performs an exorcism on our souls and casts out fear. And the more we embrace love, the more fear is driven out.
because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
I love this. That God's answer to fear is to make you into something else. God is always in the process of remaking us. Not into someone we're not, but a better version of ourselves. A you that's not as afraid as you used to be. A you that's not as insecure as you used to be. And how does he do that, according to John? By making us perfect… in… love.
So "God is Love" but what does that really mean?
Love is who God is, always has been and always will be.
Love is not just how he relates to us, God was love before we existed. It's not something he DOES it's who he is. So for example, I can love you. But that doesn't mean I AM love. God, though, is different. God's ESSENCE, who he is at the deepest reality, is love.
His essence is summed up in 'love'. There's nothing to add to it. God has power, and we worship him in his awesome power. And we celebrate his power. But God is not power. God is Love.
There is nothing in God that's not ultimately an expression of love. God is not 98% love and 2% something else. Everything he does is an expression of love. It cannot be otherwise.
Sometimes people will come up to me and say 'I know God is love, but you have to BALANCE that, right? He's not just love, he's also wrath, justice, judgement.' No no, you don't balance the essence of who God is. His DNA is love. And EVERYTHING else is an expression of that love.
Love isn't something that exists IN God, and sometimes his love tank is full, and when we're stupid and make bad decisions his love tank starts to empty, and then we do the right thing, we buy a homeless person lunch and now God's love tank is starting to fill up again.
Love is not a separate thing from God that he has, sometimes more or less of. It's who he is. His essence is love. For God to love less is for God to abandon who he is.
Let's say I was to go to a fellow theist, which means someone who believes in God, but not necessarily a Christian. Now let's say that I say 'God is Love' to them. Almost all theists, almost all people of all religions would agree with that statement.
The difference is: Only the Christian has evidence that that's true. There's something in the human heart that wants to WISH God is love. We feel like God SHOULD BE love, but only in Jesus can we SEE that it's true.
If we trust in Jesus, we don't have to be afraid of God, and we don't have to be afraid of other people. So listen, I want you to like me. I do. I think all healthy people would prefer being liked. But at the end of the day, if you DON'T like me, I'm ok.
I'm so glad I'm not what people say about me on facebook. I'm so glad I'm not what some preachers say I am. My esteem needs are met in Jesus. When you let the love of God form your identity, life gets a lot more simple. "I only exist because pure love called me into existence."
Some of us, the voice we hear, is not the voice of love, it's the voice of fear. Not so much the fear of God, but of others. Spending so much time trying to impress and show your value to the world. And living in this state of fear of not measuring up.
Not appearing successful enough, not appearing manly enough, not appearance sexy enough, smart enough. Not living up to people's expectations of you. B/C lets tell the truth: Even in the best human relationships, what we experience as love is pretty conditional.
I love you so long as you perform in the way I think you should. And we feel that if we were to get outside the expectations and do the wrong thing, that we would no longer be loved or accepted. Which, often times, is true.
"I love you so long as you do what I think you should do." Human love can be a fickle thing.
Not all expectations are bad, that's not the point, I'm saying that everyone has a different set of expectations, and even when you're young, it doesn't take you a real long time to start to learn what those things are. And it doesn't take long for us to begin to perform so that we live up to other people's expectations of us.
Me : Early pastoral ministry - family left
I remember years ago when I was just starting out in pastoral ministry, and there was this big high profile, influential family that had been coming for years that left the church because of me.
They took their students out of the youth ministry and the entire family left.
And they wrote an email to pastor Marshall blaming me for it.
I remember how strange that was for me, and when I was a processing all that, I was talking to Pastor Marshall and he told me something I'll never forget. He said 'It's a lot easier to please God than to try to please everyone else.'
And I tell you what, living for other people's approval will steal your joy.
You wanna know one thing I love about little kids? They're not obsessing over what people think about them. I think one of the times when that childlike joy starts to die is when you learn what it means to be cool. Coolness is the enemy of joy. That's something you can post online. I truly believe we weren't created to spend so much time analyzing what everyone thinks about us. Always trying to dress the right way, and talk the right way. And act the right way.
But the love of God, I am telling you, can be constant source of esteem and value. And it's actually possible to be motivated by that love that God has for you, more than you're motivated by the fear of what other people think. I'm telling you, it's possible.
This is an amazing pattern that we're gonna look at.
When John's talking about God's love for us, you'd expect him to say something like: "God loves you, therefore you should love… God" / God cares for you, therefore you should care for God. / Laid his life down for you, therefore you should lay your life down for God
That's not what John says. He says 'God loves you so much, and that's why you should love…. Everybody else.' That pattern happens over and over in 1st John.
I want to get rid of an old paradigm and replace it with an even older paradigm.
(Not This / But This Diagram)
God is: (a list of things) And love is certainly in there. He's a loving diety, but he's also sovereign, holy, merciful, wrathful, righteous, etc. And when you sum those all up, you get who God is. "Yes yes, love is a part of that, but don't overemphasize it, or you'll get imbalance." Actually, when you stray from love in the slightest, that's where you get imbalance.
But instead, what we learn from scripture is that: God is… Entirely Love That's it. That's his essence. Everything else is an expression of his essence. His holiness, his mercy, his justice, his wrath, etc.
That's saves us from an incredible amount of uncertainty when life's circumstances get bad. And so I don't have to read the tea leaves of my life to try and determine whether or not God loves me today just as much as he did yesterday. You don't have to wonder: "Hmmm… Well maybe God is allowing this to happen and this is me experiencing his… justice, or his… wrath. I thought he loved me before, but now things are going bad, now I'm not sure."
Everything God does in our lives, including his discipline, is an expression of his love. Everything. "But pastor David, what I'm experiencing right now certainly doesn't FEEL like love." - Well yeah, not everything that happens to you is because God is doing it. But if it's God who is doing it, you can be confident that it's out of his love.
(Prepare - communion)
There is very little in the Christian faith or life in general for that matter that's as important as understanding God's love for you. It shapes everything.
God's love is personal.
I like to say: "God really likes you." Because love can be so vague that it means almost nothing. It's like God's love is an ocean, and we're all in it SOMEWHERE. But it changes when you realize that God doesn't love us all in some super generic way, he loves you specifically.
Better word : Ancient / Timeless
A better word is "Ancient" or Timeless". You'll never find the beginning and you'll never find the end.
God is not inconsistent There's a lot of people here who had inconsistent fathers. You'd show up after school and sometimes he'd be there and sometimes he wouldn't. He'd say you were gonna go do something fun and sometimes he'd show, other times you'd be sitting there alone on the curb and he never came.
I don't know who I'm talking to here, but God's not gonna quit on you. You may quit on him, maybe multiple times, but he won't quit on you. Amazingly, the Jesus who was abandoned by humanity to die on the cross, is the God who promised that he would never leave you.
And I'm done talking, I just want you to know, there's nothing you can do to escape the love of God. God's love for you doesn't go up and down depending on the day, God's love for you doesn't go up and down depending on what you do. God doesn't love you for all the good you do. God loves you because God is love.
Different - Communion - own time - come to table.
We're going to do something different from communion this morning. It's something I've wanted to try for a long time. Instead of passing out the communion elements, we've set up tables at the front and what I'd like you to do, in your own time, is to come up to the table and receive communion.
And I know that it seems like a very ordinary act. But it's one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith is that coming to the table of one of the ways we participate on the body and blood of Jesus.
So come up in your own time and receive communion up here at the front, and as we finish, you can continue in worship or you can be dismissed.