“How do I know that I have seen God for who he is?”
As a church we’ve been working our way through Marks Gospel. We’ve met a blind man who Jesus caused to see, although it was a two stage miracle with the man’s vision blurred at first. We heard about a man who was both deaf and mute. Jesus healed him so that he was able to hear and talk again. Then there was the man who was isolated from his community because of leprosy, a disease that labelled him unclean. Jesus healed him too.
As well as healing the sick, Jesus has taught the crowds and fed the hungry in their thousands.
Meanwhile, Herod has been watching on. This so called King was confused by Jesus. Who was he? How did he exercise such power and authority? Herod had imprisoned and executed John the Baptist. And so his sensitive conscience led him to conclude that Jesus was some kind of re-incarnation of the prophet, come back to haunt him.
As we’ve looked at these events it has got us asking: “What is it that stops me from seeing/hearing/trusting/worshipping God for who he is?” So it is right to ask the question “How do I know that I have seen Him?”
Here is the answer. “You know by how you live” In other words, What you believe will affect how you live
A. What does the Bible tell us?
If we know God we will love each other (v7-8)
Why is this so? Well John gives us two reasons.
- Love comes from God
- In fact God IS Love
Note here that God IS love. This is something essential to his character. This does not mean that it is the only thing we can say about him or even the most important thing. However it is something only Christians can say. This is why the doctrine of the Trinity is so wonderful. There wasn’t a point where God thought “Oh you know what I think I’ll start loving now.” He always has been and always will be love
When I was little we used to sing a song in Sunday School to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon” (I kid you not). It went something like this.
“Love is like a circle, a circle big and round
For when you see a circle no ending can be found
And so the love of Jesus goes on eternally
For ever and forever, I know that God loves me”
There was a point in my life when I started to love my wife, Sarah. I could not love her before that point because I did not know she existed. There was a time when I didn’t love and there was a time when I started to love. God’s love is not like that. There wasn’t a day when he discovered love As that little song puts it so simply, like a circle, God’s love is without beginning. This means hat His love is alwso without end. There isn’t a day coming when He will stop loving you.
How does God show His love? (v9-10)
This is so important. People see the phrase “God is love” and use their ideas of love to define what God can and cannot do. “A loving God would not ….” “A loving God would…..” So how do we know that God Is Love? The answer is that God sent his one and only or only begotten Son
Note (v 1-6) that this is so crucial and central to the Gospel. Even back in John’s day there were people who wanted to deny this. That’s why John says that this is the central test that someone is speaking the truth from God.
The Son came as a “sacrifice of atonement.” (NIV 1984). The Greek word here is hilistarion. This is sometimes translated as “propitiation”. In Greek and pagan religion, the propitiation was an offering designed to appease angry gods. It turned their anger away.
So we might say that Jesus offered his life as a sacrifice so that the penalty for sin is paid and God’s righteous anger is dealt with. His wrath is turned away.
“Hold on” you say “….God’s anger, –what has that got to do with love?” The answer is that love and anger have a lot to do with each other. A fluffy image of God does not really give us a God who is love. Think of someone or something that you truly love, your wife, husband, child, parent, best friend or football team. . Now how do you feel if someone else acts to hurt them? There’s a natural, righteous anger which motivates us to act on their behalf to speak up for them, to defend them.
It is right to talk about a loving God’s righteous anger. This I the God who acts to defend what is right, to protect those he loves, his creation, his people, his Son. But you know, when we talk about God like this, we can make the mistake of seeing him in the same way as those pagan gods neeing a sacrifice to appease them. There are two vital differences.
First of all, those gods were angry for no reason. They were unpredictable. Often, they were believed to be fighting amongst each other and poor human beings simply got in the way. This is different from the loving creator God whose anger is righteous and just.
Secondly, in the Gospel, we don’t have to offer the sacrifice. We don’t do something to try and pay God off to appease him. Rather, God himself acts to provide the sacrifice.
So we know that God is love and that God loves us now because he HAS loved us –at a specific point in time and space.
B. What should we do?
Remember the answer from before? The response to knowing that God loves us is to love one another. This is how we know that we know Him. This is how we show that we love him. So how do we love each other? Here are some important ways that we do this in the local church.
- We love by giving time to encourage each other. For example, we can join a small group, we can pray for each other, we can take time to say something encouraging o another believer.
- We love practically. We ask the question “How can I help?” This starts within the church family but overflows. That’s why we help practically with food bank vouchers and why we love our community through toddlers groups, children’s clubs, a community café, individual acts of neighbourliness etc.
- We love by showing hospitality. This does not need to involve preparing a large meal for many guess. Hospitality simply means giving our time for others, opening up our lives to them.
These are all great ways of showing love but there is one way which is really important. You see, we have only truly loved someone when we have helped them to see what God’s love is like. In other words, we’ve got to tell them the Gospel. Now some of us are direct, to the point, plain speaking with no time for small talk and just get stuck in. Some of us need to warm up to a conversation and we do the small talk – it takes us a little longer to get to the point. That doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we get to the point.
Who are you seeking to tell about God’s love? Why not pray for the opportunity to do so this week?