August 22, 2021
1 John 4:16 (NIV)
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
We need to get clarion clear on one thing, and that’s the point and purpose of where this whole second half of the gospel challenge is headed.
The second half of the gospel is about love—not soft, squishy, sentimental love, but hard, substantial, mountain-moving, world-changing, life-transforming, power-filled love. We live in a world consumed with and broken by the love of power. We are inheriting a kingdom being established on and built up by the power of love. Jesus brought his entire program down to a single command: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
Without the love of God, no matter whatever else we are and have done and have become, we are nothing. See also 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
Love is the challenge. Love is the course; indeed it is the whole curriculum. But this is a very particular kind of love. It is a transcendent, otherworldly love. This love of God is the substance of the sovereignty of God—the very bond of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Look at how the Apostle John put it in his short sermon near the end of the Bible.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:16. And that’s it isn’t it? The first half of the gospel is coming to know and believe the love that God has for us. The second half of the gospel is becoming the love of God for others.
Let me close this bit with a caution. Please do not dismiss this as the flowery hyperbole of a soft gospel or as some kind of naive emotional tribute to a fluffy idealism. The love of God is the gospel, period. The love of God is the first half, the second half, and the third half of the gospel.
John Wesley, writing in the midst of a great awakening in 18th century England, and reflecting on the deepest bedrock reality of the Gospel, wrote:
One cause of a thousand mistakes is this: . . . not considering deeply enough that love is the highest gift of God; humble, gentle, patient love; that all visions, revelations, or manifestations whatever, are little things compared to love; and that all other gifts . . . are either the same with or infinitely inferior to love. Therefore, you should be thoroughly aware of this – the heaven of heavens is love. There is nothing higher in religion; there is, in effect, nothing else; if you look for anything but more love, you are looking wide of the mark, you are getting out of the royal way. And when you are asking others, “Have you received this or that blessing?” if you mean anything but more love, you mean wrong; you are leading them out of the way, and putting them on a false scent. Settle it then in your heart, that from the moment God has saved you from all sin, you are to aim at nothing more but more of that love describe in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. You can go no higher than this, till you are carried into Abraham’s bosom. (“A Plain Account of Christian Perfection”)
Heavenly Father, thank you for your amazing love, which saves the world, and transforms our lives, and renews all of Creation. Your ways are perfect. If I’m honest, though, something in me doesn’t want it to be about love. I want it to be about power, or prosperity, or defeating my enemies, or moving mountains, saving the world, or being recognized for doing great things for God. I want to want for it to be about love—about your love for me, about my love for you, about your love for others, and about my love for others. Come Holy Spirit and make it this simple and this comprehensive. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
What is it about “Love” as the core of the core of the gospel that you resist? What would you like it to be instead?
For the Awakening,