First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (4th Sunday in Advent, December 20, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“God’s Love Revealed!”
1 John 4:7-12; 18-21
The Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, (1886-1968), is regarded as one of the greatest Reformed theologians of the 20th century. One of Barth’s accomplishments is his Church Dogmatics. You may be interested to know that Barth’s Church Dogmatics runs to over six million words and 8,000 pages ~ one of the longest works of systematic theology ever written. When Barth visited the University of Chicago in 1962, students and scholars crowded around him. At a press conference, someone asked, “Dr. Barth, what is the most profound truth you have learned in your studies?” Without hesitation Barth replied, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Karl Barth, the greatest mind of the 20th century, was impacted and touched most, not be reading theology, but by the simple gospel truth, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
Today is the Fourth and last Sunday of Advent. The Season of Advent takes us from hope, to peace, to joy, and now to love. LOVE is celebrated as the theme of this Sunday. I am grateful that on this Fourth Sunday in Advent we get to focus and reflect on God’s love. I believe that we, as a church, and also as individuals, need to come back to the foundation. What is this all about?
Sometimes we just need to step back and ask ourselves: what is this all about? Someone said that sometimes we need “a gospel reset.” And if we are hitting that reset button, we need some kind of “truth” or “main idea” or “start screen” that sets us straight and tells us where to go. I believe this Forth Sunday in Advent takes us to that main idea, to that start screen. It takes us to the magnitude and wonders of God’s love.
If the birth of Christ tells us one thing about God, it tells us that our God is a loving God. When humans failed to reach God because of our spiritual blindness, God reached out to humanity. When humanity failed to find God, God left His glory in heaven and came down to earth to search for us. When we couldn’t figure God out, He revealed Himself to us; he lived among us; walked down our streets; our eyes have seen Him, and our hands have touched Him. The incarnation of Jesus Christ reminds us that God absolutely loves us. Yes, it’s hard to wrap our heads around this amazing truth because it seems too good to be true.
So as we ponder God’s love on this Fourth Sunday of Advent, please allow me to share with you this morning two short observations from First John chapter 4.
First: Be Assured of God’s Love
The Apostle John speaks of God’s love not as much as an attribute of God, but as part of God’s very nature. “God is love,” says 1 John 4:9. John wanted his audience to capture this transforming truth and to be assured of God’s love. 1 John 4:16 states, “We have known and believe the love that God has for us.” John says you’ve got to know that love and to believe it. It’s so sweet. It’s so good. “I have known God’s love and I’ve got to believe it,” John says. I wish that you would do too.
For some people, this truth may sound elementary, it’s a Sunday School lesson. And indeed it is, but it’s also a lesson that we need to learn over and over again. In fact, when it comes to the challenges and problems we face in our lives today, a lot of it has to do with us not really knowing that God loves us; a lot of it has to do with us not grasping the love of God. How many times you’ve asked yourself if God loves me, why I am going through all these difficulties, trials, and tribulations? If God loves me, why things are going south? If God loves me, why my health is failing?
John wants us to be assured of God’s love because God’s love transcends our circumstances. The more we are assured of God’s love for us and of how much we don’t deserve it, the more we are humbled and filled with joy, and then the more we are poured out in love for others, which all amounts to magnifying the glory of God. Be assured of God’s love.
Second: God’s Love is Demonstrated
But you may ask yourself, why we can be assured of God’s love? First John chapter 4 gives us a few reasons why we can be assured of God’s love. John says, God’s love is demonstrated and displayed. God’s love is a person. We can see this right here in 1 John 4:9, “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.” “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son,” says John in his gospel 3:16.
What the apostle John says in his gospel and letters is also echoed by the apostle Paul in Romans 5, which again is super clear. In Romans 5:8 Paul says: “God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ is where we see the love of God displayed. Jesus Christ is the most vivid display of God’s love.
What John is saying — and what actually the whole New Testament is saying — is that we don’t ever have to wonder if God loves us. We don’t have to scratch our heads about this because when we ponder the mystery of God’s incarnation, it’s impossible to miss the point. It’s impossible to miss God’s love. God has made it so clear that we never have to question His love. God has shown His love for us. He has made it plain. He has spelled it out. God has demonstrated His love for you. How? When Jesus came down from heaven and died for you.
Friends, as you leave this house of worship today, I want you to know that you’re loved. You’re loved beyond measures. The evidence of God’s love is not the smooth sailing, but the scars on Christ’s palms. They will never fade away because they are the sign and seal of His everlasting love. We have done nothing to earn God’s love and nothing we will ever do that might cause God to stop loving us. So day after day after day we are called to reflect God’s love. When we use our time, talent, and treasure to expand God’s kingdom, we reflect God’s love for us. When we love one another, we reflect God’s love. When we love the stranger and unloved, we reflect God’s love. There is no fear in love. There is assurance and affirmation. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.