This Wednesday I sang a little song with the weekday children during the chapel time. We sang the line, “God is Love, God is Love.” Notice the line doesn’t say God is a form of love or God represents love. . . No it is GOD is LOVE. My contention is that until we have a relationship with the Father (God) through the Son (Jesus) empowered by the Spirit (Holy Spirit) we can never truly know what LOVE is. We have all kinds of experiences around us that are forms of love but never the true love like God’s Love.
All of us go through times of doubt in the spiritual journey, seasons where it seems like we don’t really know God like we thought we did. It’s a normal part of the spiritual journey for us to struggle with doubts about our faith, doubts about whether we’re truly following Jesus Christ or not. If you’ve struggled with those kinds of doubts, that’s probably a pret-ty good indication that you are following Jesus, because people who don’t follow Jesus Christ really aren’t all that con-cerned about it.
These seasons of doubt cause our hearts to condemn us, our feelings accuse us of not being Christians, of being failures, of not measuring up. God’s invitation to love so radically impacts us and we realize how far short we fall, and often our hearts become anxious and even condemning, and we wonder if we truly know Christ the way we thought we did. So John (we have been studying 1 John each Sunday) wants us to put that struggle in proper perspective, that it’s not whether our feelings are at rest or whether our feelings condemn us that determines whether or not we’re on this spiritu-al journey, but it’s whether God has received us through our faith in Jesus Christ.
You see, God is greater than our feelings, he is bigger than our emotions of doubt or assurance, and what God thinks carries more weight than what I’m feeling at the moment. So how do we set our hearts at ease? By remembering that our assurance doesn’t rely on our emotions but on God and then by pressing forward to obey God’s commands. John sums up God’s commands in the words “believe” and “love.” The order is vitally important, that we first trust our lives to Jesus Christ, we place our faith in him to forgive our sins and to bring us into a relationship with God built on grace. Then once we do that, we launch on a spiritual journey of loving other followers of Christ, to walk together on this journey we’re on. Believing comes first, then belonging. We first establish a personal relationship with God through belief in Jesus Christ, and then we find ourselves on this journey the bible calls church, of walking this journey together.
More and more people in our culture are trying to live the spiritual life alone–just by believing but not by belonging, or by just being spiritual (I hear that one a lot these days, “oh they are so spiritual.”) –yet John says that both are vitally important to live the spiritual journey of the Christian life.
So here we find another way our love for others demonstrates our faith. Is your heart at rest before him, are you filled with assurance and peace. God’s inviting you to an even greater level of boldness and confidence in loving others, that this will enable you to ask God for what you need to love with confidence, and then as you see needs you’ll want to meet those needs. God looks to our obedience to his commands to believe and to belong with each other as a demon-stration of our faith. How do we demonstrate our Christian faith in a world that’s going crazy? The primary means is by our love for each other. When we love each other we demonstrate our difference to the world, we demonstrate our care to Christians, and we demonstrate our obedience to God. When we refuse to love each other we demonstrate our resem-blance to the world, we demonstrate our callousness to Christians, and we demonstrate our rebellion to God. Which kind of statement do you want to make?
Pastor Mark Gough