A sermon on 1 John 4 v. 7- 21, first published in the Baptist Times on December 3rd 2009

 The sermon outline

 When it comes to any discussion of fears, there are a thousand and one to choose from. Pick anything you like, and there’s sure to be a phobia with its name on – from homichlophobia (fear of fog) to phobophobia (fear of fears).  On this occasion we are looking at just two fears – one of which is common to every human being, and the other which afflicts people of faith especially.

 Am I loved? – is a fear which affects every man, woman and child.  It may motivate the teenager to join in with the gang to make sure they don’t stand out.  It may drive the business executive to agree to all sorts of less than moral things because they don’t want to make waves.  Sometimes it also drives the unsuitable volunteer – offering their services for anything and everything in order to ensure that non-one thinks less of them for not joining in.  To all these people John writes that God has already shown his love.

 Do I love God? – is a fear which afflicts many Christians.  In trying to combat it they may do all sorts of bizarre things – from reading their Bible longer than they can concentrate to prove that they love him, to adopting a language in prayer which is not their own in order to depict a depth of devotion they do not feel.  John provides a simple antidote to this.  The touchstone of our love for God whom we cannot see is, quite simply, our love for the people whom we can see.

 Scriptural issue

  •  It is worth using a good commentary here in order to understand John’s use of tenses.  ‘Loved’ in v. 9 is in the aorist – meaning an action which was performed once and for all.  V.10, on the other hand, is in the perfect tense – indicating an action which is over and done, but whose benefits linger on.
  •  The intensity of this letter should all be read in the light of John’s intense experience of Christ, as outlined in 1 v. 2 – 4.

 

Current issues

  •  Fear about being unloved can lead to all sorts of untoward behaviour, from inappropriate intimacy to deliberate isolation.  The phrase from many an old Baptist Covenant to ‘watch over each other’ is a reminder to be vigilant.

 

  • In the current economic situation – what do people fear most about losing their jobs? (Note that it might be much more than the loss of income)

“No matter whether they lift your mood or leave you unmoved, the unassailable facts of the death and resurrection of Jesus stand as proof of the love of God for you”

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