~ Love ~
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
1 John and the dynamic of salvation
This morning is our fourth and final Advent Sunday before Christmas and as I have planned to speak on the love of God this morning, my mind kept going back again and again to 1 John. So I what I would like to do is start in 1 John and let John’s teaching there shape our thinking as we then head over to Philippians 2.
In 1 John, John lays out for us the reality of what it means to be a child of God. John tells us that there are really only two kinds of people in the world: those who know God and those who don’t.
What I would like to do is try to summarize some of the major doctrines of 1 John for you in 5 points. I am hoping that this will help us get a biblical framework as we head over to Philippians. What I’ll do is give you a summary statement for each of these 5 points of John’s teaching (and these statements grow right out of the text of 1 John) but I will give one or two verse to support it.
The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
1 John 5:19
“We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
We have seen this biblical truth before. We considered in together during the first week of advent. The great problem for all humanity is not that we just need some moral teaching or a good example. No, because of the Fall everyone is born in the grip of sin and are children of the Devil (3:10). We are blinded by our sinful hearts and so lie in the power of the evil one. Our great problem is that we have dishonored God, rebelled against God, sinned against God, and deserve His wrath. Our great need is divine grace. Our great need is a Savior.
God is love.
1 John 1:8
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love”
Humanity lies in the grip of sin and darkness and deserves wrath, deserve death, but God is love.
God manifested (showed) His love in this way:
- He has sent His only Son into the world (4:9),
- the Son came in the flesh (4:2),
- Jesus Christ the only Son is the eternal life (1:2),
- the righteous One (2:1)
- and the propitiation for the sins of the world (2:2), and
- God did this that we might live and be called children of God (3:1).
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.”
1 John 2:1-2
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may nor sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
1 John 3:1
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.”
So, we are sinners all, in the grip of sin, deserving death, and lie in the power of the evil one. God would be just to utterly destroy us all.
But God is love and has not abandoned the race of men in that ruined condition. God has shown His love by sending His only Son to be our Savior, to absorb God’s wrath, to deal with sin, that we might no longer be children of the Devil, but children of God.
But John has not finished. He defines who the children of God are:
- The children of God are those who have been born of God (2:29),
- that is they are from God (4:4) and
- the children of God have the love of the Father in them (2:15),
- that is they have been anointed by the Holy One (2:20),
- that is they have God’s seed abiding in them (3:9),
- that they have been given God’s own Spirit (3:24 and 4:13).
1 John 3:9
“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”
So, the radical difference between the children of the Devil and the children of God is that the children of God have been made alive by the Spirit of God, that is, they are born again, born of the Spirit, born of God – they have been granted new life. And the children of God have been given God’s own Spirit who now lives within them. These are the children of God.
But how do we know if we are children of God? How do we know if we are born of God and have the Spirit of God in us? Well John says that when one is born again and has the Spirit in them the Spirit will manifest Himself in their lives.
In what ways? John answers:
- We know we are children of God if we believe in the name of Jesus Christ (3:23)
- hope in Christ and his appearing (3:2-3),
- walk in the light (1:7),
- confess our sins (1:9),
- practice righteousness (2:29),
- purify ourselves (3:3),
- have fellowship with one another (1:7),
- walk in this world as Christ Jesus walked, with the character of God Himself (2:6; 4:16 and 17).
- We know we are children of God if we love one another (3:10, 14, 23, 4:7, 11, 19, 21, 5:10).
1 John 3:10
“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
And so there are only two kinds of people on this planet. Those born only of the flesh, children of fallen Adam, in the power of the evil one and those who have been born again by the Spirit, children of God, who believe in the only Son from the Father and who have God’s own Spirit living within them.
And how can we know which we are?
If the Spirit of God is in us, we will be a peculiar kind of people. Not sinless. John is careful to remind us that we are not without sin (1:8-10). But we will be a peculiar people. We will believe in Jesus, love Jesus, hope in his appearing, and we will desire to live in this world as He lived in this world: namely in holiness and love. The great mark of the children of God is that they have God living in them and so they love one another.
Christ’s Love, our salvation and our pattern:
With those truths in our minds I want to go to Philippians and consider more closely the love of Christ as it is our joy and salvation and as it is the model of the love with which we are to love each other during our short time in this world.
I am going to read from Philippians 1 and verse 23 down into chapter 2 and finishing at verse 8. This is the Word of the Lord.
“21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. 27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
So, here is what I would like to do. I would like to consider Christ’s love from two crucial angles:
- His Love means our eternal joy, our salvation
- His Love is the pattern we are called to follow
Christ’ Love means your everlasting Joy:
We saw in 1 John and we see here in Philippians that what God did in sending His one and only Son and what the Son did in willing becoming the required servant and humbling himself even to the point of death, was the decisive victory over sin and death. Christ accomplished the work of redemption. God’s wrath was poured out at Calvary for everyone who will believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ!
When we think about the love of Christ the first category in our minds should be that His very great love moved Him to secure our salvation from sin and death. We did not simply need moral teaching we needed a Savior who would keep the righteous requirements of the law in our place and bear the curse of the law in our place and Christ Jesus is that Savior. He did once and for all what no other could have done. We can be called children of God only because of this immense love.
Christ did not simply set a good moral example of what love should look like. He did do that! But if that was all He did – we would not be saved.
He showed His love for us by actually accomplishing the salvation of sinners by actually taking what was die to us upon Himself. He did what no other could do.
The first category we should have as we think about Christ’s incredible act of love is that it was an utterly unique and saving act.
Christ’s Love is the Pattern we must follow.
But even as we say that, we know the salvation which Christ accomplished once and for all, radically changes who we are. This very great salvation is not simply forgiveness for past sins. We saw in 1 John and we see here in Philippians that this very great salvation accomplished by Christ fundamentally changes who we are. The children of God are a radically different kind people. They are a spiritual people. We have been recreated after the image of the one who save us.
We have the very Spirit of God within us and so Paul says in Philippians 2:5:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,”
There is a certain kind of mind, a certain quality of thinking, a certain kind of orientation that we have in Christ Jesus. Christians are given the very Spirit of Christ. Christians love each other as Christ loved them. So, yes Christ is our glorious pattern even as He is our unique Savior.
We are going to spend a few minutes pondering what Christ our Lord did for us but as we do I want to make sure that we have both those categories in our minds.
Christ’s Love as the Saving Standard
So I want to land on Philippians 2:5 and following. What love is this?
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
So let’s make sure we understand what Christ’s love moved Him to do for us.
Verse 6 says that Christ Jesus was in the form of God. What does that mean? Notice that his being in the “form of God” is contrasted with the fact that he took the “form of a servant” and was “found in human form.” Christ became a true servant in nature and position and privilege. Paul is communicating that Christ Jesus was, before He took on flesh and became a servant, He was God in form, that is, God in nature and position and privilege. The only Son from the Father for eternity past has existed as God, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. He has existed, perfect in power and righteousness, the Almighty King and Creator.
But this passage says He did not consider that position, that equality with God, which was His, something to be grasped, clung to, or preserved at all costs. Because of His great love He emptied Himself. He set aside His indescribable position and privilege, and the exercise of His divine power, and took the form of a servant. He who was the powerful Word that created all things, entered humanity.
The incarnation alone is love beyond our understanding. If Christ had entered humanity with every earthly comfort and honor and privilege, He would have still been stooping in indescribable humility. Every moment he was on earth was an expression of love. His entire mission was one of unceasing humility.
But our need was such and His love was of such quality that He even humbled himself becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross.
He who deserves all praise and honor and power and privilege and position and glory willingly suffered indescribable depths of pain for your soul. He did for you what only he could do for your everlasting joy.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
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.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.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Indeed, this is Paul’s point in Philippians. If we know the love of Christ for us, if we are children of God, if we cherish God’s love toward us in Christ Jesus, we will become different kinds of people toward one another.
We are to walk in this world as Christ walked in this world. Every second he was here was humble work for the everlasting joy of God’s people.
The apostle Paul followed Christ’s example. Paul models this in the first chapter of Philippians. Paul says he would rather depart from this world and be with Christ for that is far better, but to remain in this painful world is more necessary on your account (1:24). So, Paul says the reason he will remain on this planet, alive in this painful body is not for his own comfort or praise or pursuits – in fact, he says the Christian life is labor and conflict. No, his joy is in heaven, his hope and peace is in Christ and to depart to be with Him is Paul’s great desire, but he stays here for one purpose: the progress and joy of God’s people (1:25).
So it should be with us.
We, brothers and sisters, are called to pour out our entire lives, like Jesus did for us, for the progress and joy of God’s people. How easy it is to forget and lose sight of this. Christians are called to enter uncomfortable places with uncomfortable people. We are called to take up our cross daily and follow him to Calvary.
What does this look like in the day to day hustle and bustle? It is not every day that we are called to die – or is it? Even though we may not be called to die physically we are called to die to ourselves for the good of others.
In Paul Tripp’s book, Broken-Down House: living productively in a world gone bad, Tripp has a section where he speaks very practically about what he calls cruciform love, that is cross-shaped love. I’d like to quote a few of the many practical ways Tripp suggest the love of Christ should be shaping our everyday relationships. I offer these for your consideration.
What does it mean to be committed to cross-shaped love?
- “It means not keeping yourself so busy with you and yours that you have no practical time to love others.
- It means being committed to knowing people, because you can minister only in very limited ways to those whom you do not know.
- It means being willing to have your life complicated by the needs and struggles of others.
- It means being perseverant and patient even when the love you give is not returned.
- It means resisting the temptation to be judgmental, self-righteous, and critical.
- It means overlooking minor offenses and fighting the temptation to become bitter or cynical.
- It means being lovingly and humbly honest in moments of misunderstanding; more committed to reconciliation than to being right.
- It means admitting that you are still learning to love as you have been loved.
- It means being willing to own up to your sin and admit your faults.
- It means moving beyond simply surrounding yourself with people whom you find comfortable and likable.
- It means being willing to have your schedule and plan interrupted and altered.
- It means being willing to grant and seek forgiveness.
- It means weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice.
- It really does mean looking out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.
- It means daily remembering Jesus, being in awe of the gift of his love, and living thankfully.” (Paul Tripp, taken from pages 172-174).
As we rightly celebrate the glory of Christ’s birth, do we see both the indescribable gift it is for us, and the essential call it is to us?
Let’s celebrate and love and adore the gift of our Savior and let us press on to be like him. If God so loved us, we also ought to pour out our brief lives to love one another.
Andrew “Andy” Murray was born and raised in New Hampshire. His father, pastor Loren Murray, served Fellowship Bible Church in Chester, NH. At six years of age Andy trusted in Jesus Christ and was baptized. He was brought up “acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” At the age of 12 his father was in a fatal car accident. Reflecting on the loss of his dad Andy writes; “I see now the wise and loving hand of Christ in my life, as He used this event to, shape, mold and press me toward Himself. It was this event that sparked in me an earnest desire to know God from His Word. By His grace, this desire has continued to grow.” Andy met his wife, Elizabeth, at Philadelphia Biblical University (now Cairn University). They have four wonderful boys. Visit Windham Bible Chapel.