Vol. X — No. 27 July 6, 1969
1 John 4:16-21
And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, 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 casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
Fellow Redeemed: confirmands, relatives, and friends of the confirmands—grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
While I will this morning address my sermon directly to the confirmands, I do not exclude the rest of you. Those of you who were confirmed in past years can profit by reliving that day and renewing your confirmation vow. And those of you who are not yet confirmed can profit by thinking ahead to the day when you will be confirmed.
God is love, and you, my dear confirmands, are recipients of His love. In His love for you He has brought you to this day which we call your confirmation day.
In love He brought you into the world with a healthy mind and body and has preserved you. In love He has given His Son Jesus to redeem you and all the world from sin, death, and the power of the devil, so that you can through faith in Jesus confidently look forward to living your life here on earth under God’s blessing and forever after with Him in heaven. In love He has given you parents, who are concerned about your spiritual and eternal welfare, who have instructed you in the Word of God at home, at Sunday School, confirmation class, and through regular attendance at worship services in God’s house. Through this instruction in His Word God has made known His love for you in Jesus. And now you have in your study progressed to the point where, in the opinion of this congregation, you have learned enough to make your personal confession publicly for Christ and to examine yourself for a profitable partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
In other words, you are present here this morning because, after learning of God’s love for you, you choose to live in God’s love. May the Holy Ghost attend us as we consider—
Love can neither be earned nor demanded. It can only be freely given. For that reason living in God’s love means first that you humbly confess your unworthiness of His love. You cannot live in God’s love so long as you in any way think that you deserve His love or are worthy of it. You must learn sincerely to say with Jacob: “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant.” Gen. 32:10. Also with St. Paul: “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
Such a humble confession of unworthiness comes only as you turn in repentance from the natural pride and arrogance of your old adam. For by nature you, as we all do, will want to flatter your own ego. You will want to think highly of yourself as though you deserved God’s love. But such pride is a false pride. There is no basis for it; for you have neither made yourself, paid for your own sins, nor brought yourself to faith in Jesus for life and salvation. All that you are or ever will be is a free gift of God’s love for you. Thus a life of living in God’s love means a life of humbly accepting God’s love for you in Christ as a free gift of His grace.
To live in God’s love means secondly that your future is secure. We read in our text: “Herein is love made perfect, 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 casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”
God’s love for you in Christ is sure and certain. It is so great that He gave His most precious possession, the life of His only begotten Son, to redeem you from death and damnation. Having given His own Son for you He would not waste that precious gift by rejecting you. St. Paul asks: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” and “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
The answer, of course, is obvious. Since God gave His Son in order to save you from death and damnation He will also give you everything which will bring you safely through the temptations of this world in order to bring you safely home to heaven. All things will work together for your good.
Because of His love for you, you are in this world as God is. That is, you are safe in His care as He is safe from harm. As God cannot be harmed, so you cannot be harmed. As God’s enemies cannot overcome Him but will in the end be overcome and destroyed when their day of grace runs out, so your enemies can never defeat you. You are in this world as God is, because He cares for you. That makes your future in the world sure and certain.
Furthermore, your eternal future is also sure. Because of God’s love you not only need no longer fear the day of judgment, but you can approach it with boldness. Dressed in the cloak of righteousness which God has given to you in Jesus, you can step before the throne of judgment with the confidant assurance that God can not condemn you, any more than He can condemn His own holy Son. You can confidently sing with the hymn writers:
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
with joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in that great day.
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully thro’ these absolved I am
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
God has made His love for you sure and certain. And the certainty of His love will cast out all your fear. If you are tormented by fears for this life or the next, it is only because you do not completely trust yourself to His love. Turn to His Word. Search it. Continue in it, and you will know the truth which sets you free from all fear.
You cannot truly receive such love without giving love in return. For that reason living in God’s love means thirdly that you love God, “We love him,” says John, “because he first loved us,” God’s love for you will kindle in you a love for God, just as surely as the heat from a burning match will kindle fire in a piece of paper.
Your love for God will express itself in the various ways outlined in the first table of the Law, The first commandment says: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Your love for God will move you to reverence Him as the Highest Being. You will not give any of the idols worshiped by men equal place with the living God, as is done in the religions of so many semi-religious organizations as the lodges. You will not willfully give His honor to anyone or anything else.
The second commandment says: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” Your love for God will move you to treat His name with respect. Just as people show respect for our country by using the stars and stripes as it should be used, so you will respect God’s name by using it as it should be used: for prayer, praise, and giving of thanks. And just as people show disrespect for our country by trampling on the flag, so men show disrespect for God by dragging His name through the mud of vain cursing, swearing, witchcraft, lying, or deceiving by His name.
The third commandment says: “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.” Your love for God will move you to gladly hear His Word and do it. Just as people show hatred and disrespect for a speaker by refusing to come to hear him or by booing him, instead of politely listening to him, so men show disrespect for God when they do not gladly assemble for the preaching of His word and humbly obey it. Love for God, who so dearly loved and loves you, will move you to keep on trying to live according to this first table of the Law.
You cannot, however, love God without also loving those whom He also loves, namely, each and everyone of your fellow human beings, as we read in our text: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen: And this commandment have we from him that he who loveth God love his brother also.”
Consequently, to live in God’s love means fourthly that you love your neighbor as yourself, according to the second table of the Law. Your love for God will move you to honor His representatives: your parents, pastor, teachers, government officials, and elders. Your love for God will move you to help your neighbor in every bodily need instead of seeking to hurt or harm him; to lead a chaste and decent sex life instead of committing adultery and fornication; to help your neighbor improve and protect his property and business instead of stealing from him or allowing others to steal from him; to speak well of your neighbor, defend him, and put the best construction on everything instead of gossiping about him, slandering him, and knocking him; and to fight against all temptations for discontent and envy instead of coveting your neighbor’s inheritance, wife, servants, or cattle.
My dear young confirmands, because of your instruction in the Word of God you can well say with St. John: “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in lovedwelleth in God, and God in him.”
You are this day choosing to live a life which is different from that which most of your fellow men choose to live, as day is different from the night. It is the path of love, of living in God’s love, of humbly accepting His love and gratefully expressing your love for Him. It is a path which leads to an eternity of living with Him who has so loved you that He gave His Son for your redemption.
May the Holy Spirit graciously sanctify and keep you on that path of love, even as He has called you. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.