Today’s Scripture Focus: I John 4:7-21
People have many ideas in their heads when they picture God—some think of an old man in a robe and beard, others picture a vast nothingness. Some, depending on their age, think of George Burns or Morgan Freeman! A popular song in the 90s asked “what if God were one of us?”. The truth is, most people would not want to follow a god that was just like them. New Age philosophy is built around the concept that God is nature and worshiping the creation rather than the Creator. When we try to discover what God is really like, we err when we make God too personal (“God’s just like us!”) or not personal at all (“The universe is god.” )
I John 4 reminds us that it is not important to know what God looks like (v 12). What matters is God’s nature and actions. God is love. The word “love” appears 43 times in I John. The questions facing the I John community were 1) how can we know God and 2) how can we know we have the truth? Those who had splintered from the church in Ephesus claimed to have special secret knowledge about God. They claimed that God could be physically seen, but you had to join their special group in order to see God. John reminds his beloved children that no one can see God, but the way we know God is to act like God—by loving one another.
How do we know God is love? Because before we loved God, God sent Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (v. 10). Some versions use the word propitiation here. A propitiation is that which satisfies guilt. Humanity had been guilty of breaking relationship with God since the beginning, and could do nothing to make it right. God, in love, allowed Jesus to satisfy the wrath that guilt justly brings. God is holy and won’t allow sin; God is just and won’t let sin go unpunished. But, above all God is love. God, through Jesus, took our punishment for us! Therefore, we need not fear God’s wrath, for God’s perfect love casts it out.
We don’t have to live in fear and doubt. We can know we have the truth if we love the way God loves. John doesn’t mince words: if we say we love God but don’t love each other we are liars! Those who don’t love should live in fear of Judgment, that time when all will stand before God and account for their action. However, if we live according to the law of love, we need not fear Judgment; we can know in our hearts that we have the truth if we love, and we have the power to love because God first loved us. John Wesley called I John 4:19 “the sum of all religion” – We love because He fist loved us.
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
Can you think of other places in the Bible that talk about love? Have someone read a couple of them.
How is God’s love different than love in our world today? If we love one another the way God loves, how will it look different than if we love one another the way the world loves?
Do you struggle with believing that God loves you? Is it hard for you to love someone right now? Go back and reread today’s scripture focus, but this time replace the word “love” with the word “fear” every time it occurs. Do you think this is how some people view God? Is it possible that our inability