Printable PDF: 5-2-2021 Easter 5 Sermon
David R. Clark ~ 1 John 3:18-24 ~ May 2, 2021 ~ Easter 5
DO YOU LOVE ME?
18Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 19This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
Dear beloved of God,
It’s a devastating question caused by a question. The question? Do you love me?
Husbands love their wives, but if a husband forgets his wife’s birthday or their anniversary, that could cause doubt. She might ask, “Do you love me?” Wives love their husbands, but if a wife tells all her friends how foolish she thinks her husband is, it might lead him to ask, “Do you love me?” That’s uncomfortable. On the shores of the Sea of Galilee Jesus asked Peter this same question three times. The Scriptures say Peter was hurt that the question was asked. So what if Jesus asks you, “Do you love me?”
- Love Jesus’ truth. (verses 18-21)
18Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 19This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.
When John talks about love, he doesn’t mean it to sound harsh. We are addressed as his “children” and “friends.” John shows we can answer, “Lord, we do love you,” because we know three great truths. The first is that we sin every day. Sin is the reason there is doubt about love. Jacob and Rebekah sinned when they conspired to steal the birth rite. Esau could easily have asked, “Do you love me?” Jacob sinned when he showed favoritism to Joseph. The jealousy of his older brothers made them question their father’s love. Where there is sin, there is no love for God or anyone else.
Which is why the second great truth is that God loves us. This is more than just words. His actions also show his love. God sent Jesus out of love. Jesus lived for our lack of love for God and each other perfectly. He paid for our lack of love through the cross. He loved us enough to rise so we could be saved. That is true love.
The problem is we don’t always feel loved. People don’t always feel forgiven. How can we feel loved when we still feel guilty for stealing a long time ago, or our acts of impurity from the past, or the times we should have shut up, but we barged right in? Even after we have been forgiven, Satan can tempt us to feel guilty for sins already taken away. That guilt keeps us from knowing God’s love.
Which is why John shares this third great truth: No matter what we think, no matter what our hearts tell us, God is greater than our hearts. His love for us is so great that even when we doubt, he remains faithful. God is more gracious to us than we are to ourselves. His love overcomes our hearts. God loves you no matter who you are or what you have done, whether you feel his love or not. That’s the truth about God’s love.
- Love Jesus with actions. (verses 22-24)
So do you love Jesus? The answer is not as simple as a card or call on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Many people at John’s time said they loved Jesus. But that’s all it was, words. When it came to putting that love into practice, it was difficult for people not to hold on to sinful attitudes or a sinful lifestyle. Yet, if asked they would say that they loved Jesus. So what does it mean to love Jesus?
22[We] receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
It’s pretty clear that loving Jesus is more than lip service. Loving Jesus is also about what we do. That means showing love to God by believing in him and keeping his commands. Which commands? We can start with, “having no other God,” “not misusing his name,” and “remembering the Sabbath Day.” They are crystal clear.
But loving Jesus doesn’t end there. John says later in this letter: whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:20 (NIV) Loving Jesus means loving him the way he wants us to, not the way we choose to.
We can start by having the Ten Commandments direct us in all of this. But that’s not the whole story. Perhaps a better way is to look to Jesus. Jesus certainly made clear what and how he wants us to love each other. When Jesus talked about love, he wasn’t talking about an emotion. He was talking about actions. Jesus didn’t say he loved us and then remained in the comforts of heaven with a bowl of popcorn watching to see how it would all turn out. He put you and me and our welfare and our needs before himself. He honored his Father in heaven with obedience to his purpose on earth and carried it out with great enthusiasm. This is the love we needed more than anything else. That is the love Jesus means when he asks us if we love him.
In a world of deception and self-interest, man-things are not clear. It also doesn’t help when people want to define “love” to mean whatever they want. This can do nothing but cause all kinds of questions for Christians. But here is one we will always be able to answer, “Do you love me?” We can say the same thing Peter told Jesus, “Yes, I love you, Lord. You know all things.” Amen.