1 John 4:17-21
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What a cool day at Grace Chapel—this morning we opened the new Children’s area and started a secure child check-in system. While that is cool, what is greater is that people all over this campus have been haring from God’s Word; we’ve worshiped in song; we’ve prayed to a living God and we’ve had the Holy Spirit in our midst. God is good.
I am a firm believer that we could do church with nothing if we had to. However, just like I can have life without my house, my home makes it possible for me to enjoy family, fellowship, study and do life. In the same way, a church is not a building, but we are grateful for what God goes gives us to carry out ministry to the fullest and reach as many people as possible with the message of the Gospel. Amen? Thank you for your support.
Here are some picture of the new Kid’s area. If you get time to check it out, please do so. I want to thank Scott Leggett, Jamie Tressen, Susan Beck and many many others on staff and in our congregation who worked hard to pull this off… Thank you.
Let’s pray and praise God for what He has done.
Well, as some of you know, my dad was extremely intentional and creative in teaching us the Bible when we were kids. He would do something called “Family Nights” with us every week where he would use object lessons to teach us from the Bible. One summer night he said, “To night we’re starting family night outside…” That was odd as we were all pretty easily distracted kids, but we went with it.
My dad put us out in the front yard while he went in the back yard. Also odd. He then told us each to come to the gate and knock. Being the first born, I was usually the first Guiney Pig for all my dad’s lessons. So I approached the old wooden gate, knocked nice and loud and then suddenly my father, who is no small man, appeared behind the gate with a booming voice, a book in his hand and a smirk on his face.
“Who Is it?” He asked. “It is me, Josh…” I said. Then he began to leaf through the book as if He was looking for something. He came to a page, stopped, ran His finger down the page and said, “Ah, yes, I see you here… You may come in.”
I had no idea what was going on, but I felt some sort of relief that my name was in His book and I could come in. He proceeded to do this with all my siblings until each one had entered the gate.
As with most of his lessons, we got to the end and were like, “Okay dad, that was fun and all, but what was the point?” He sat us all down and read from a Bible:
Revelation 20:15, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
He explained that “The Book of Life, mentioned in Revelations two times and in Philippians 4:3 is the set of names of those who will live with God forever in heaven. It is the roll of those who are saved by Jesus Christ. He then explained not everyone will enter the “Narrow Gate” (Matt 7:13-14) but only some will be given salvation in Jesus Christ.
His illustration begged the question, (theme) will I be fearful on the day I meet Jesus face-to-face of whether or not I am accepted and forgiven or cast away and punished?
The truth is, all of us should ask that same question—what will we face on the day we see Jesus for ourselves? Our high-tolerance culture likes to believe that everyone will be accepted no matter their lifestyle choice, religious choice or salvation experience. And while I too hate the thought of anyone not being accepted, the Bible records Jesus Himself saying to to some He will say, “I never knew you…” Even those who cry “Lord, Lord” or do great things in His name. It is only those who have a saving relationship with Christ who will enjoy His presence, Heaven, for ever.
Now, before you are perturbed by the fact that only those who know Jesus will be welcomed in and you start thinking about who you think will not make the cut, look at your own heart first. God’s grace is not something to judge others with—we don’t determine who gets it and who doesn’t, God does. We should be grateful anyone gets it at all. So start with your own heart as we encounter today’s passage. Are you embraced and embracing a loving God or are you living in fear of what He will say to you when the end of your life comes?
Please turn with me in your Bibles to 1 John 4:17-21. Only one chapter (2 messages) from the end of this precious book as we do our exegetical study of it. It is important that all of you see the passage, so if you’d like to use the Bibles in the seatbacks, you can turn with me to page 1023 or follow along on the Bible App under the Live Events section. I don’t want you to take my word for it; I want you to see God’s word. Let’s read the first two verse, 1 John 4:17-18:
 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
No fear in love. This is a primary benefit and point John is making in this passage. These two verses are the concluding statements of what it means to be found in “Perfect love.” There are four assertions found in the Bible as to what having “perfect love” means:
- First, Perfect love is found in those who obey God’s commands. Over in 1 John 2:5 the author wrote “God’s love is perfect in us… whoever keeps His word.” If you don’t really care what God’s Word says, or you pick and chose what parts of your life you will give to God, you are not going to experience or live out the perfect love of God. AS John said before, If you are going to say you are all in, then be all in with Christ or don’t be in at all (chapter 2).
- The second assertion as to what it mean to have perfect love is found in 4:12—God’s love will be made visible to others by the way you live.
- I recently wrote a note to a couple in our church who have been so loving to my wife and I over the last 10 months. In the note I wrote—and meant— “You make God’s love real in our lives.” It is true, when someone loves with a deep love that comes from God, they make the God I cannot see seem so real and only a touch away.
- The third and four assertions are new: The third is that we will have confidence on the day of judgment and this is a byproduct of perfect love.
- Finally, we will have no fear of the future when we meet God personally.
John Piper said, “Verse 17 tells us how to have something everybody wants to have. And verse 18 tells us how to get rid of something everybody wants to get rid of.”
- 4:17 – Confidence: we all want it, long for it and especially want it on judgment
- 4:18 – Fear: we all don’t want fear, especially fear related to punishment.
John has mentioned this thought before, but only briefly. In 2:28 he told us that if we love genuinely we would not “shirk back” on the day of Christ’s appearing. There will be not trembling because we’ve been caught hating, self-serving or ignoring. We won’t want to hide in shame, but will be excited to say to God, I love you, I am glad you are here…look at these others that I love because you have first loved me!
Here is main point of this passage, right up front. You can:
Have Confidence in Christ So You Don’t Fear the Future.
The day of judgment is real and you have two options: fear it or look forward to it. Run away from it, deny it or embrace it and acknowledge it. John wants us to have confidence as it approaches to know, we are all good. No fear.
When you were a kid, did your mom ever say to you, “I am going to tell your dad when he get home”? Didn’t you hate that! For me, I was like, no, just spank me now… don’t tell dad, please anything but tell dad. Why? Because (1) I didn’t want to disappoint my dad. But also (2) my dad’s hands were much bigger and his spankings were much harder.
That fear we felt as a kid of the impending judgment of our Father is what John is saying we can avoid with our heavenly Father. I am not going to take you to all the passage in the Bible that deal with a final judgment, but we see enough evidence of it in John’s letters alone: 2:28—don’t shrink in shame at His second coming; in the Gospel of John 5:22 (27 through 30)—“The father has given all judgment to the son”; and in 8:16 and 12:31-33. All of this makes it clear that we are going to be judged by Christ when he appears. Jesus is always seen as the agent of divine judgment in John’s writing. God gave Christ this job of judging the World.
It reminds me of a preacher I read about, Dr. Ian Paisley, the fiery Irish cleric and politician who was preaching one Sunday on the end times, and in particular on the Day of Judgment. As he reached the climax of his address he said that on the Day of Judgment “there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth” as he was making use of the term from Luke 13:28. At which point an old woman put up her hand and said “Dr. Paisley, I have no teeth” Paisley replied “Madam, teeth will be provided.” Love that.
But, truth be told, there will be wailing, grinding teeth and guilty souls. Yet this passage is saying that we have nothing to fear if we have a saving relationship with Jesus. It says “We are like him” which we’ll unpack more in a moment. For now, suffice it to say, what a sweet privilege it is that we are adopted in the family of God through Christ and when He comes to judge, He will not see us as separate from Him but a very part of Him.
We can have no Φοβος—phobos—Fear
This word is the word from which we get “phobia”. It is a paralyzing fear, a perpetual fear that we hope will not come true. He is saying that we have nothing to fear because God’s love, perfected in our life, casts out fear. Fear is not active and ongoing.
Rather, we can think of the love that is in our life as an active manifestation of the love of God. The love came from God, was shown through Christ and is actively being manifest in the life of the believer. Once we fully understand God’s love, we do not need to be afraid of God—afraid is the unhealthy form of fear—but rather, have His love in our life to know we have been accepted and are welcomed into a loving yet reverent relationship with Him.
The type of fear that is meant here is the fear of punishment and the only other time we see this word “punishment” is in Matthew 25:46 when he says that ‘some will go away into eternal life and others will go into eternal punishment.’ If we are given life, then we are forgiven the punishment we deserve. That is why John loves that Word “Propitiation” mentioned in verse 12—God “appeased” God’s own wrath, Jesus took our punishment.
Get this clearly—love and fear cannot co-exist
Aristotle said, “No one loves the man whom he fears.” But a better statement for our context could be “No one loves the God whom he is afraid of.” We are told in scripture to fear God—have a reverence for Him—this is the beginning of all wisdom. But we are never to be afraid of Him.
We cannot have God’s love and fear His punishment at the same time. If we know we are loved, we will trust the hand that teaches us, rebukes us, corrects us and comforts us… because it is all the same loving hand of God!
The one who fear punishment has not yet been perfected in love is John’s way of saying, when you really get this, you will not have any fear. Perfected love has a deep sense of His love for us. John already wrote, “How great is the Father’s love that He has lavished upon us” (3:1). When the realization of God’s love permeates our kind and heart, the fear of God’s judgment is removed. This is “Perfected” love… the judgment and wrath is finished.
I have to point out to you another Greek work here: Τετελειωται—tetelisti—Perfected
The word “perfect” is teleios (τελειος), “that which is complete, brought to its fullness.” It is the very same word that was Jesus’ last on the cross— “It is finished.” Don’t miss the power here—His love is “Perfected” and “Finished” here in you! I love that.
So let me drive this home, right from this passage with some statements about where my confidence comes from, in this life and the next, right from this passage:
First, my confidence comes by understanding I am LOVED.
When verse 17 says, “His love is perfected in us… so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” He is saying that even though the realm of humanity that is often hostile and alienated from God, we are not. We are in the world, but no longer of it, but are abiding in God. A proper and powerful understanding many be: As you are in this world that is far from God, have confidence that you are accepted and already being made like Christ. God doesn’t see you as the rest of the world who does not know Him.
We have been loved. The source of our confidence arises out of the love relationship we share with God. This could be illustrated by a lover who is confident that they are loved. They will enter the room filled with others with confidence because they are owned and loved. They will be themselves in the presence of their lover, because they know the love is not conditional. Morning breath, dried drool on their face, say stupid things or make regretful mistakes, but not be shaken because they have the love of the other person.
In the same way, we can have confidence when it comes to meeting God because, if we have saving faith in Him, we have been welcomed in. Also, we can have confidence if we, like Christ, love others as Christ loved us. When the coming of Christ happens, we do not need to be ashamed of our selfishness or lack of love, if we’ve given all we can to other people.
My confidence comes by understanding I am ADOPTED
We can have confidence and not be ashamed because we are counted as sons of God like him [Christ]. ROMANS 8:15 says,
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”
We are “as he is” means that believers are on the earth and still counted as sons and daughters of God, as Jesus Christ is. We call him “Abba” and “Dad” just as his real only true son refers to him. I don’t shrink back and question whether He loves me, if I have truly put my faith in Christ, then I know I am counted as His.
Some of you are banking on a hope that you already are adopted in. You think that your own righteousness or even your childhood church attendance is giving you salvation. It is only by you saying, “Jesus Christ, I believe you are my savior… that you died for my sins and rose again…” it only by true faith that you have been saved. Not your parent’s faith, not your favorite pastor’s faith, not your “I am an American and celebrate Christmas” kind of faith. True saving faith says, “I am all yours God, please be all mine!”
Saving faith should be the fruit of realizing you’ve been so deeply loved. Look at this next two verse where John repeats his most important point again:
 We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
John is once again underscoring His connection between perfect love for God and others as a way to have assurance in our faith. He rewinds the tapes again to We love because He first loved us. This is not only a statement that says we should love because He first loved us, but that we can love and can have assurance because we have been so deeply loved.
John carries the point further by stating yet again (as He did in chapter 2 and eluded to elsewhere) if you are going to hate some and claim you are from God; you are lying to all us of. Loving others is a natural outflow of how you have been loved.
If you live a lifestyle of hate, meanness or self-centeredness, you are harboring something in the place that love was meant to occupy. Just as he said that fear and love cannot coexist, so hate and love cannot coexist. You can’t say “I love God” and “I hate so-and-so”. Love and hate cannot coexist in the life of a believer.
Get this point: Love and hatred cannot co-exist
More people have been brought into the church by love than anything else in the world. And sadly, more people have been driven away from the church by the hardness and ugliness of so-called Christians than by all the doubts in the world.
If you are truly going to live a lifestyle of love, you must do some major self-reflection and ask, where is hate dwelling in my life. Do I hate certain people? Do I hate parts of certain people? Do I display distain and dislike in my tone of voice or actions?
Loving people is not just a suggestion as to how we are to have confidence, it is a command of God. Look at verse 21:
 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
For a person to have assurance of their salvation themselves, and to give it to those around, they must display a willing obedience to obey the commands of Christ.
The reason we CAN love is explained in verse 20—he first loved us. But the reason we SHOULD love is found in verse 21: it is a command. John noted this command of Christ several times in his gospel. Jesus was quick to say that we could and should express love to him by obeying His commandments: John 13:34—A New command I give you; 14:15—If you love me; 15:12—My command is this: love one another as I have loved you; 15:17—this is my command. All of this calls us to put love in action, not just give it lip service or sentiments but true action.
So then how do I have confidence that dispels fear?
I must realize that love without action destroys assurance. If I want to have confidence, then I live a life of authentic love—first to God and then to others. I don’t have to walk around scared, wondering if God is punishing me in this life or will later after life. I can have assurance that God is with me if I (1) have true faith and (2) am living it out in sacrificial love. A. W. TOZER said it well,
“Before the judgment seat of Christ my service will not be judged by how much I have done but by how much of me there is in it. No man gives at all until he has given all. No man gives anything acceptable to God until he has first given himself in love and sacrifice.”
I can Have Confidence in Christ and not Fear the Future if I give and give and give and do so without selfishness but with total generosity, just as Jesus did for me. Don’t be the person who doesn’t demonstrate God’s love to others when it has been so generously shown to you.
That reminds me of one closing story: There was a drive thru coffee shop in Portland where a woman decided to pay for the person behind her. Much to the drive thru barista’s surprise, she willingly rang up the drinks for her and the car behind her. When that person came to the window the barista joyfully said, “Here is your drink, the person in front of you paid for your drink!” to which the person in that car said, ‘well, then I will pay for the person behind me.’
That kept happening. For 2 hours and 27 minutes, no one paid for their own drink, but they all paid for the car behind them. Amazing. However, then there was one dude who came through and when told that someone paid for his drink he “said, cool. Thanks!” and the barista said, well don’t you want to pass it on to the car behind you…” and he said no. Don’t be that guy.
You have been so deeply loved by God—not a stranger in a drive through—but be willing to pass God’s love on to everyone you know. In doing so, see this as fruit of the love of God in you.
Finally—in closing, let me say, if you don’t know the love of God, today is your day. Don’t live without it anymore. Life is too hard as it is; put your faith in Christ.
Remember, Love is perfected in God, not you. You will never be perfect, but Christ is and Christ in and through you can allow His perfect love to bring the invisible God to the tangible world we live in. All you have to do is have faith.