1 John 4:7-12. A few years ago I heard a story about a UNC student who was in an ornithology class at UNC. Ornithology: study of birds. 
He thought it was an Easy – A but it turned out to be harder than he thought. Failed a couple of his quizzes; knew he needed to kill the final.

”You tell me, Professor, you tell me.”

Some tests are unfair.

The book of 1 John is a series of tests to see if you really know God But these tests, unlike the ornithology exam, are accurate; and I would say they are the most important tests you’ll ever take.

Is your experience with God genuine?

I told you the 1st week that 51% of the people in our culture believe they are right with God because they prayed a prayer, or got baptized, or confirmed, or whatever your tradition called it.

Plus, people in every religion say they know God.

But how do you know your experience with God is genuine? In Matthew 7 Jesus warns about a lot of people who on the last day will say to him ”Lord, Lord,” and expect to be received into heaven only to be turned away with the terrifying words, ”Depart from me, I never knew you.”

And they’ll say, ”But Lord, we prayed the sinner’s prayer.” And he’ll say, ”I never knew you.”

They’ll say, ”But Lord, we knew lots about the Bible. But he’ll say, ‘Yes, but I never knew you.’

They’ll say, ”But Lord, but we were in ministry.” In fact, if you look at it, this group in Matthew 7 was even active in their church’s prayer ministry-that’s for the ”cream of the crop” people. When you are part of ”casting out demon” squad in your church, that’s Varsity.

They’ll say, ”But Lord, we were moral.” And they were, but that didn’t prove that they knew Jesus.

That scene is not far from my mind whenever I preach and it probably shouldn’t be far from yours, either.

How do you know that you won’t be in that group?

1 John is written to help you know. 1 John 5:13: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may KNOW …

We’ve been in it for 5 weeks, and this is the last week.

1 John 4:7-21

John gives us 2 final tests in these verses. I want to walk through these verses to help you feel the weightiness of what John is saying, and then we’ll focus on the 2 tests at the end.

Let’s begin in vs. [7] Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

OK, so what here is the sign here that you know God? If we love one another, for whoever loves has been born of God.

[8] Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

This is 1 of the only times where God is identified with one of his attributes. It doesn’t say, ”God is loving,” but ”God is love.”

Now, don’t over–read that-he’s not saying the emotion of love is always God or that love is God’s only attribute. But what it does show you is that love is so core to God’s being that John feels comfortable identifying God with one of his attributes.

Theologians point out this is possible because God is a Trinity, meaning he is one Being in three Persons, and because of that, he has always existed in a loving relationship with Another.

Now, if you think about it too long your head explodes, but this is the nature of God and the foundation of our universe.

And if self–giving, self–sacrificial love is not at the core of our being, there is no way God is in us. That’s John’s big idea.

[9] In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him

Now John goes to describing God’s love. God’s love was not jus a feeling; it translated into an action in which he saved us, an action defined by grace.

[10] In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

God did the unthinkable.

The Creator God, after having been rejected by his creation, and who could have destroyed us all and started over, at no loss to himself, instead chose (out of compassion) to take on the penalty for our sin and suffer in our place.

A scorned king dying for unrepentant traitors; a Creator dying for his creation; a shamed father humbling himself before his arrogant, prodigal child; a betrayed lover offering himself as a sacrifice for the unfaithful, betrayer-would any o us have done that?

He wasn’t obligated to do it, and he didn’t need to do it, but he wanted to. He didn’t need us; he wanted us.

SO: The defining characteristic of God is love; and the defining quality of God’s love is the grace he showed to us.

That’s one of those things you should sit and meditate on for a while until it permeates all of your being.

Charles Spurgeon said that if there were one subject he would always speak of, but one he felt utterly incapable of, it was the love of God. One of the greatest orators who ever lived said that the love of God ”makes me back from this platform utterly ashamed of my poor feeble words. This love of Christ is the most amazing thing under heaven, if not in (all of) heaven itself.”

Martin Luther: ”If we had a full understanding of this love of God for men, a joy so great would come to us… that we would promptly die because of it. (I love ML) From this we see… how truly (dull our hearts) are, that only few of us taste even a few drops of this immense joy, not to mention the whole ocean of it.” ~Martin Luther

When I was a kid, we sang the hymn: Could we with ink the oceans fill, and were the skies of parchment made; were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade; to write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry; nor could the whole contain the scroll, though stretched from sky to sky.

Everyone in Scripture who gets a glimpse of the love of God has no words to describe. Paul says it surpasses knowledge. David says it is as high as the heavens and deeper than the deepest ocean.

All that we experience of it is but a fraction of what it is.

When Kharis was like 5 she was with me at the ocean and we got to a point to where it was just a little bit over her head and she said, ”Oh, Daddy, how deep!” And I thought, ”Child, you have no idea…”

[11] Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Ought. (Can I go on a rabbit trail for just a minute? Ought.

The Achilles’ heel of atheism or agnosticism or philosophical naturalism-whatever you want to call it is that is unable to provide a reason why we ‘ought’ to love one another.

Most agnostics will say that love is a good thing, and many of them are loving people-sometimes they act more loving than some Christians!

But philosophically they can provide no ”ought” for their love; no reason why love is good and right.

If we all evolved by purely natural processes from microbes, why ”ought” we to love one another? Why not let ‘the survival of the fittest rule all of our dealings with one another? And why would we ever choose self– sacrifice for one another, or show grace to each other, at great cost to ourselves?

You could say, ”Well, it’s best for the species if we all do that,” but-be clear-that’s not an ”ought,” that’s just fancy form of self–interest. I’m serving you because ultimately it’s better for me.

And by the force of that logic, if I became convinced that killing you would be better for me and I was stronger than you and could pull it off, then why shouldn’t I do that?

So when you are talking with someone (like Sam Harris or Bar Ehrman) who says they can be moral without believing in God-certainly they can.

Because God created us in his image we have moral impulses, and even an atheist can sense these impulses and obey them quite well-often better than some Christians, like I said; it’s just that they can’t provide a philosophical basis (an ”oughtness,” if you will) for their morality.

The Christian says that we ought to love because that’s the nature of God, in whose image we were formed, is, and how God has been toward us.)

And thus officially ENDs my RABBIT TRAIL

[11] Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another

So his point: the sign that you know God and have been born of God is that you love.

Now, let’s go on to vs. 13, because here John backs up, and he makes this same point from a different angle. He’s going to make the SAME point from a different stance: 1 – 2 PUNCH. [13] By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because h has given us of his Spirit.

Here John says, ”We know that we know God because his Spirit lives in us.”

Well, how do we know his Spirit lives in us?

Unfortunately, there is no Spirit reader (like a spiritual

Geiger counter-umm… ”the force is strong with this one,

Obiwan”).2 You can’t feel him kicking around in there like a pregnant woman can her baby. ”Ooop. Feel that? That’s a Spirit kick.”).

There are some people who say that the proof of the Holy Spirit is some magical sign that proves the Spirit is in you, like speaking in tongues or some kind of Spirit–prophecy.

(Ever met someone like that?)

The Bible never says that. In fact, in Matthew 7, when Jesus identifies that group that had false assurance, one of the things they pointed to was their mighty acts in the Spirit. They did many mighty works and cast out demons…So having spiritual gifts, or looking like you have them, is no proof.

Want to know how you know he’s in you? John himself tells you, next verses: [15] Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (if you look back up one verse to vs. 14, you believe the message that he is sent to be the Savior of the world.)

The evidence of the Spirit being in you is you recognize the truth about Jesus, that he is the Son of God sent to be the Savior of the world. That is the sign.

Now let me explain this for a minute, because you might say, ”Well, that’s not a very convincing sign-at least not to people on the outside.”

”I’ll prove to you that the Spirit is in me: I believe in Jesus!”

But it’s kind of like this: Imagine you were blind and in a room full of blind people who had all been blind all of their lives and you’d never known anyone who could see, and you’re not even aware there is such a thing as sight!

Suddenly you, and only you, are healed, and now you can see colors. And you’re trying to describe them to everybody, but they are like, ”colors”? They have no category for them. How do you prove the existence of colors to someone who has never seen anything?

You’d say to them, ”Well, I don’t know how to describe it… all you can do is hope that one day their eyes will ge opened, too, so they can see what is now obvious to you

That’s what conversion is. Conversion is new eyes to see the beauties of God’s grace; a new heart that senses your sinfulness and feels the weightiness of God’s glory and grace

[16] So we have come to know and to believe the love that God ha for us.

The evidence of the Spirit is a felt awareness of the love of God.The fullness of the Spirit is to be filled with a sense of the love of God.

It’s not primarily a bunch of tongues and prophecy. Tha stuff has got its place somewhere…

But the primary evidence is being filled with the knowledge of love of God.

BTW, let me show you where Paul makes this same point. He said, ”I pray that you… may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-20). The fullness of the Holy Spirit is being filled with the knowledge of the love of God.

That’s the point John has made. The sign that the Spirit is in u is we are filled with a first–hand, felt knowledge of the love of God.

So now John returns to the point he was making in those first verses (basically repeating himself). [16]… God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. Makes sense, right?

To be filled with the knowledge of the love of God shows that the Spirit of God is in you, and there is no way, John says, you can perceive the love of God without becoming a loving person yourself.

[19] We love because he first loved us. And [20] If anyone says, ”I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar;

It is inconceivable that you could encounter the power of that love and grace and not be filled with love yourself.

Anyone who is given a glimpse by the Spirit into the love of God walks away staggered, without words to describe it.

King David said, (Psalm 103) ”For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is God’s steadfast, never changing love for those who know him…” Think about that: as high as the heavens are above the earth.

How do you measure that? That takes an awfully long tape measure. Think of it this way:

To get to the edge of our galaxy, the Milky Way, traveling at the speed of light, would take 100,000 years!

– Light travels at 186,282.2 miles per second, which is so fast that in the time it takes to snap your fingers, light circumnavigates the globe half a dozen times.

– Traveling at that speed it would take you

100,000 years to get to the end of our galaxy.

And astronomers believe there are close to 80 billion galaxies in the universe (which amounts to more than 10 per person, by the way, most of which are bigger than our Milky Way, so I don’t think you’ll have to worry about running out of things to do in heaven).

– To get to the edge of our universe, they say, if you were traveling at the speed of light, would take 15.5 billion years.3

This is the analogy that God chooses to measure his love for you. Does that not blow your mind?

How do you get that kind of glimpse of God’s love and stay the same?

Paul said the love of God surpasses our knowledge, and if we could just get a glimpse of the height, the breadth, the length, the depth of God’s love for us…

Height: high as heavens above the earthLength: before the foundation of the world. I will never, no never forget you.

Breadth: Paul says he commandeers all things for his loving purposes in our lives; not one stray molecule in the universe which he does not marshal toward his good ends.

The depth.

– God knew what I was when he saved me. He saw all the messiness and sin and dysfunction in my life and chose me anyway!

– What if, when you were single, you had to

wear a little label around your neck spelling out all your annoying character traits (like the label on a carton of cigarettes). Warning: Moody. Ferocious morning breath. Snores. Lazy. Anger problems. Occasionally lies. You’d probably never get a date. When we are looking for that one whom we choose to love, it’s like a try–out. No one goes into a date with unconditional love. By definition, dates are conditional.

– I’ve only experienced one love in my life that wasn’t like that. When I looked at my child, I didn’t say, ‘Is this one worthy of my love?” No. I loved her because she was mine. At no point in her childhood would I look at them and say,

”Sorry, Kharis… this is just not working out. It’s not you, it’s me.” Actually, her faults, if anything, make me love her more. I have compassion on her and want to help her in her weaknesses.

– That’s how God’s love is for us. Tender, compassionate, unconditional. Like a father with a child, but a few billion light–year times more intense.

How would you encounter that and not be changed?

Paul said the first fruit of the Spirit is ”love.” 2nd one is joy; peace

Richard Baxter (Puritan): ”Is it a small thing in your eyes to be loved by God – to be the son, the spouse, the beloved, the delight of the King of glory? Christian, believe this, and think about it: you will be eternally embraced in the arms of the love which was from everlasting, and will

extend to everlasting – of the love which brought the Son of God’s love from heaven to earth, from earth to the cross, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to glory

– that love which was weary, hungry, tempted, scorned,

scourged, beaten, spat upon, crucified, pierced – love which fasted, prayed, taught, healed, wept, sweated, bled, died. That love will eternally embrace you.”

It is inconceivable that you could encounter the power of that love and grace and not be filled with love yourself.

Hit by a Mac Truck

Or here’s another story: 10,000 talentsMaybe how ingracious you are in your marriage shows you’re not saved.

Test 1: We know that we know God because we love one another.

How much do you love people?How much do you sacrifice for people?

[1 John 3:17] But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees hi brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

Where would you if Jesus used his resources the way you are using yours?

What is your giving like?

The whole trajectory of your life: is it to love and serve people or to promote yourself?

How quickly do you forgive?

Do you place more value on nursing your wounds or seeing someone come to good and restored to God?

Do you desire the good of other people? Are you interested in them? Do you pay attention? Do you serve?

Whom have you told about Jesus recently?

We give a lot of really bad excuses for our lack of evangelism: 1. People say: I don’t know how to. First of all, how hard is it? If you had been rescued from a burning building… not hard 2. Why don’t you figure it out? All the other things we figure out. TV and your remote.

The real reason we don’t share Chrsit is we value our convenience more than their conversion!

What does your heart do when you hear Jason share about Indonesia?

Spurgeon: how could we be saved?

The sign that we are filled with God is that we love-like God loves, and that reveals itself in how we give, and self–sacrifice, and forgive others, like Jesus did for us.

Now, that might send some of you into despair. You say, ”Do I love enough?” How do I know if I love enough?

The answer is no, which is why the basis of your salvation is not in how much you love, but on what Christ accomplished.

But as you believe that, you should see this beginning in you.

Do you see love growing in you?

Which leads me to one more thing I want to point out before I close. There’s one other thing that having our eyes opened to the love of God does for us, and it’s really important-I’m so glad that John put it in here in the midst of his teachings on love. [1 John 4:17] By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment… [18] 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.

Test 2: We know that we know God because God’s love has driven out our fear.

See that phrase? ”Fear has to do with punishment.”

When you are afraid of death it is because you fear punishment; rejection.

And that shows you haven’t understood, or believed, or grasped the gospel, which is that all sin and judgment and condemnation have been removed.

When you grasp the finished work of the gospel, fear vanishes. Of course you’re not loving enough. But you’re right to heaven is not based on how loving you are, but on Jesus’ finished work!

Most Christians are still scared to die…

I say, ”Do you think God will let you into heaven?” I hope so!

Church; Bible reading; bought girl scout cookies.

You still think it is something you earn.

I say it again: I as sure of heaven as JC is… ”What, because you’re so good; think you’re loving enough… Jesus is my salvation. I am as sure of heaven as Jesus is his position before the Father! I could no more lose my position in heaven than Jesus could lose his position before the Father.

The gospel produces simultaneously no fear and growing love. ONLY the gospel can produce the two of those!

When you believe the gospel, you have…

No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me. From life’s first cry, to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. (oh the width, the height, the breadth, the depth!)

No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand! Nothing can separate me from the love of God

Till he returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ, I’ll stand!

In Christ alone, who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe! This gift of love, and righteousness, scorned by the ones he came to save. (Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God!)

Till on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied! For every sin, on him was laid, here in the death of Christ I’ll stand!

Conclusion:

The two final things John identifies that prove you have genuinely experienced the one true God are both fruits of tasting of the love of God. Fearlessness and an overflowing sense of love toward others.

Are these things true of you?

Again, I’m not saying you’ll become perfect, by any means, but when you are born again you see the birth of these two things i your heart. Are they in your heart and are they growing?

What do you do if they are not? Believe the gospel. This is my mantra. Always has been; always will be. Whatever the diagnosis of what is wrong with you, spiritually, there is one prescription: believe the gospel.

The chair: it is finished… rest in it!

Don’t spend a lot of time analyzing what happened in the past. Was I really saved before? Was I sorry enough for my sin?

Remember: I asked you how you know you sat down?

That’s it. That’s the end of our series through 1 John. This is how God directs you to know for sure you are saved.

Invitation: (MUSICIANS)

Bow heads. I have a couple of questions.

How many of you would say, ”For the first time, I get it. I get it what it means to trust in Christ and surrender to him and during this series, for the first time, I am surrendering and believing.”

How many of you would say, ”I think I might have been saved before, but I’m not sure, but during this series I haved gained assurance of it because I now understand how you can be sure”?

Some of you need to be baptized. INDICATE THAT ON THE CARD

”I still doubt?” In my book, chapter 8… free on my blog, the City. You can also get the book

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About The Author

J.D. Greear, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, is the pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011) and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013). Two main things characterize The Summit Church: its gospel focus and sending culture. The gospel is not merely the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity, it's also the pool itself. Joy, reckless generosity, and audacious faith all come by learning more about God's extravagant love found in Christ. God has blessed the Summit Church with tremendous growth. Under J.D.'s leadership, the Summit has grown from a plateaued church of 300 to one of more than 10,000, making it one of Outreach magazine’s “top 25 fastest-growing churches in America” for several years running. J.D. has also led the Summit to further the kingdom of God by pursuing a bold vision to plant one thousand new churches by the year 2050. In the last ten years, the church has sent out more than 300 people to serve on church planting teams, both domestically and internationally. J.D. completed his Ph.D. in Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is also a faculty member, writing on the correlations between early church presentations of the gospel and Islamic theology. Having lived serving among Muslims, he has a burden to see them, as well as every nation on earth, come to know and love the salvation of God in Christ. He and his beautiful wife Veronica live in Raleigh, NC and are raising four ridiculously cute kids: Kharis, Alethia, Ryah, and Adon.

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