Family

Family
Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Nature of God: Introduction and Love


This week we begin a new series, The Nature of God and in this Introduction we look at Love. Our readings are 1 John 4:7-21Romans 8:38,39 and 1 Corinthians 13. As a scene setter let us remind ourselves of a truth contained in the very first chapter of our Scriptures, Genesis 1:26. As Maria von Trapp aka Julie Andrews sang so many years ago: "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start." Right back at the beginning:

"... God said, ‘Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness"

We have to get this clear right up at the start, this is foundational to the rest of the series: Humans are the image bearers of God on earth. We are icons.

Here is the definition of icon, according to Google
icon
ˈʌɪkɒn,-k(ə)n
noun
  1. 1.
    a devotional painting of Christ or another holy figure, typically executed on wood and used ceremonially in the Byzantine and other Eastern Churches.

  2. 2.
    a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration.
    "this iron-jawed icon of American manhood"
Notice in this next picture how the use of the word has changed over the last 200 years:
Use over time for: icon
This is of course because of the use of the word in computer speak: Click on the icon

I love this new use of icon because in the context of you and I being icons, images of God in the world around us, ... because what it implies (quite correctly) is this: "push his buttons and see how Christ would react in a similar situation." We are the image bearers of God ... this is what makes us different from animals, who are not created in God's image, and are not recreated in God's image through God's grace and our faith in the saving events of Calvary. But you and I are created in God's image, and even when shattered by sin are re-created in God's image. Jesus says: "You are the light of the world ... You are salt in the world." He never says: "You must be light" ... or, "You must try to be light" .... NEVER ... Rather, Jesus, who said: "I am the light of the world" says to you, to me, "You are the light of the world." 

Sisters and brothers in Christ, live into and out of the truth of who you really are in Christ. You are, you are, salt and light in Norwich.

Our subject is The Nature of God and I hope by now you can see where we are heading, we who are created and by faith recreated in the image of God.

When we look in the mirror, who are we meant to see? To put it another way, when the world looks at us, who are they meant to see? And the answer is: The image of God. And what does the image of God look like in the flesh? ... Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) and, ... now ... hold your breath because here's the punchline:



So, this series, The Nature of God, is about your and my real nature, if we have been baptised into Christ Jesus and baptised in the Holy Spirit; hence my teaching last week on Baptism into Christ and next week on Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Remember, this is the truth regarding our baptism into Christ: We have died and been buried with Christ ... we have been raised to new life in Christ. This is the beautiful, unbelievable, gracious truth of our baptism into Christ. So, the nature of God is our new nature in Christ. In the weeks ahead we are going to look at such things as holiness, mercy, grace, friendship, justice, faithfulness, forgiveness, compassion, creativity, comfort and unity ... all of them are characteristics of our natures when we are in Christ. There are perhaps 2 areas of God's character that we will look at that do not apply to us, namely his omnipotence and His omnipresence ... 2 out of 22.

Today: Love.

My one sentence sermon: God is love; in Christ, you and I are love.

Listen again to our reading, which is really the main part of my sermon:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (my words: that is worth meditating on) (Now, back to our reading)

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.


There really is little more to say on the subject of love and I really think that anything I add will just spoil. I will add Jesus words on love (from the Sermon on the Mount). Hear the word of the LORD, but put on your crash helmets and hang on to your seats:

 You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt 5:43-48)

Those are the words of Jesus to people like you and me. Please ... they are not my words to you ... Jesus Christ, Son of God, says to you and to me:

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Notice that the context of Christian perfection is love. The context of perfection in our Christian walk has little to do with sin and everything to do with love, and so Jesus says in His only other teaching on love in Matthew's gospel, in reply to a question regarding the greatest commandment that God ever gave: 
 ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’

I don't know if I've earned your respect yet to the degree that I can tell you how to behave, but if I have then I say this to you: 
Stop trying to sin less ... rather ... begin to love more ... and you will become everything God wants you to be.

We are looking at The Nature of God and because of His nature, God does not need your and my love. Within the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they are eternally happy because they love and glorify each other. They don't seek there own glory, they give glory to the others. And they are loving each other, and pouring out delight on each other because they are giving themselves to each other ... there is an other orientation, a sacrificial, service orientation in the very being of God. Why does a God like this want to create a world? Obviously not in order to get glory and adoration and love and worship because God already had adoration within Himself, love in Himself; the Father had the Son and the Holy Spirit loving and glorifying Him; and the Son had the Father and the Holy Spirit loving and adoring Him. This sacrificial serving and loving ... He had it within Himself. So, why create us? ... obviously not to get ... but to spread the delight, the love, the glory, He had. 

God is love ... and we become image bearers, icons, of God in the world around us, when we love as He loves ... an Oh, how He loves us.

As we come to the table of the Lord's Supper now, we come remembering how much He loved us ... how much He loves us ... and how much He wants us and has empowered us by His Spirit to love others. Receive this morning the love of God ... share in the week ahead, the love of God.


No comments: