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October 17, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“We love Him because He first loved us.”—1 John 4:19 (NKJV)
As we’ve worked our way through John’s first epistle, a striking pattern emerges. Although the apostle has a lot to say about our Christian conduct towards one another, he first establishes the conduct that God has exercised towards us. To put it another way, John first focuses on our vertical orientation towards God and then addresses our horizontal orientation towards people.
We get a textbook example of this in the following few verses before us (1 John 4:19). Notice the vertical axis of love around which everything rotates, “We love Him (God) because He first loved us.” That’s worthy of being highlighted, circled, underlined, and anything else that someone can do to mark its importance.
Is there any truth in all the Bible more important than this one? God loved us first! If that isn’t so, then we shudder to think of the implications. If it were left to us to initiate the sacred bond of love with God . . . we wouldn’t. Our sinful nature is so corrupted, so twisted and selfish, that we wouldn’t be capable of loving God as He loves us.
Knowing this, He initiated! God did what we couldn’t: He loved us with a perfect love that transforms us from within and enables us to respond and reach back to Him in love. That’s our vertical orientation with God; now watch as John moves to the horizontal.
“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”—1 John 4:20-21 (NKJV)
Did you catch the shift? The exchange of love we experience within the context of our relationship with God doesn’t end there. God’s love is so powerful that it transforms the core of our being and begins to bridge out in the relationships we have with other people. And this isn’t negotiable—it’s an assumed reality!
I can’t write it without being reminded of how short I fall in loving others. But the Christian life is progressive. Even though we often stumble, we’re on a trajectory of growth in the things of God as He continues His work in us. This area is no exception. As we grow in God’s love for us, we can’t help but grow in our love (which is really His love) for those around us.
DIG: What pattern does John use in these passages?
DISCOVER: Why must vertical love come before the horizontal?
DO: Make a list of ways you can measure progress in your love for others.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.