Today on Summit Life, Pastor J.D. Greer talks about experiencing God. The fullness of the Spirit is to be filled with a sense of the love of God. A lot of people define fullness of the Spirit as a bunch of tongues and prophecy and that stuff has got its place somewhere. But the primary evidence of being filled with the Spirit is when you are filled with the knowledge of the love of God. Welcome back for another week of teaching here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer of the Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.
As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovich. You know, I think we have a tendency to use the word love pretty loosely. I can say, you know, I love tacos, I love dogs, I love my kids, I love my husband. And all of those things might be true for me, but they're obviously not the same kind of love. So what does the Bible mean when it talks about loving your neighbor?
How do we define that kind of love? Pastor J.D. unpacks that for us today as part of our teaching series called Assured. If you missed the first part of this series, I just wanted to remind you that you can always hear previous broadcasts at our website, jdgreer.com. Right now, grab your Bible for today's teaching titled Assured because of our love for others.
First John chapter four, if you have a Bible, First John chapter four, we are concluding this weekend our series called Assured in which we have studied through the book of First John together. A few years ago, I heard a story from one of our UNC students who had signed up to take an ornithology class at UNC Chapel Hill. You say, what is ornithology?
Ornithology is the study of birds. He thought that it would be an easy A, a great way to pad his GPA. And he thought it looked halfway interesting. He said, I could not have been more wrong about the nature of this class. He said, it was the hardest class that I took in college.
He said, the first three tests, I completely failed. He said, learning about all these birds. He says, my professor was a bird fanatic and I would never have the excitement about birds that this man had.
He said, when I came into the final exam, I was doing so poorly that I knew that if I did not get a high A on the final exam, I wasn't even going to pull a C in the course. He said, so of all my exams, he said, I studied the most for this one. He said, I had mastered everything I thought you could know about birds. I knew what birds lived in what part of the world. I knew what birds were almost extinct.
I knew what the threats to birds around the world were. He said, I thought I was prepared. He said, I walked in, sat down and in that exam room was only one thing displayed on the screen. He said, and it was a picture of 35 sets of bird legs with one question, identify, your final is to identify these birds by their legs. He said, I was absolutely furious. Bird legs? He said, are you serious?
This is what our final exam is. He said, I haven't looked at any bird legs. He said, I shut my thing and I raised my hand. I said, professor, this is not fair. The professor said, I told you that everything was game.
You should know it. He said, no, this is not fair. I refuse to, I'm not even going to, I'm not going to put the first answer down because this is not fair. And the professor said, fine, you don't do anything. You're going to get a zero.
He said, fine. I might as well take a zero. He said, I'll slam my book shot, my test book. I grabbed myself, walked out and said, professor said, fine. As of right now, you fail this course.
You get a zero. What's your name, son? He said, I don't know, man. You tell me, you tell me what my name is. Part of that story may not be true, but the primary point I'm trying to make is that there are some exams that may not seem fair, right?
There are some, we all have had that experience. First John is a series of exam questions that are fair because it is examining you about what I would submit to you as the most important test you are ever going to take in your life. And that is the test of whether or not you actually know God. John is writing to a group of people who think they know God. They're very religious people. He's not writing to irreligious people. He's writing to help you examine yourself whether or not you actually know God. I told you the first week of this series that 51% of the people in Riley Durham believe that they are reconciled to God and write with him because they prayed a prayer to ask Jesus into their heart or they got baptized or they went through confirmation or whatever your tradition called it, but they believe that that's what secured their relationship with God. That's just Christians. And then you've got people who aren't in the Christian religion who are in other religions who feel like they know God because of the basis of what their religion has taught them to do to know God.
And you say, well, why would you say there's cause for alarm? Jesus said, Matthew 7, that on the judgment day, there was going to be a humongous throng of people who were going to stand at the judgment seat thinking they're about to go into heaven. Many of them will look at Jesus and they will say, Lord, Jesus, we're ready to be received into heaven and they'll be turned away from heaven with the terrifying words, depart from me.
I never knew you. And they're going to object. They're going to say, but Jesus, we asked you into our hearts. And he's going to say, yes, but I never knew you. And they're going to say, but we were moral.
We were the best people in our society. He's going to say, yes, but I never knew you. And many of them are going to say, but we were involved in our church. We were involved in ministry in our church.
He's going to say, yes, but I never knew you. In fact, remember I told you this, Matthew 7, they weren't just involved in the low key ministries. These were people that were involved in the demon casting out ministries. Now, I don't know what you know about church ministry, but when you get tapped to be on the demon casting out squad, that's varsity. Right? We think that you're cream of the crop. When we say, hey, there's a guy that's got a demon, I want you to go to his house and throw him out. Right?
That means that we think about as highly of you as we can think. These were people that had engaged in that level of ministry, and they are going to be turned away from heaven with the words, I never knew you. How do you know that you were not going to be in that group? That's what the book of 1 John has written to answer. How do you know that your experience with God is actually genuine? The key verse in 1 John, 1 John 5, 13, I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
And again, I would submit to you that it is the most important test you will ever take. 1 John 4, verse 7, John is going to give us two final tests in these verses. I'm going to walk you through these verses. I'm going to take some time to do that because I want to show you how John builds this argument out.
And then at the very end of the message is what I'm going to give you our two points and talk about them for just a few minutes. 1 John 4, verse 7, so that's where we'll begin. Verse 7, Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. All right, church, what here is the sign that you know God? It's not hard. You love one another.
That's right, very straightforward. Verse 8, anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love. This is one of the only times, by the way, where God is identified with one of his attributes. It doesn't say that God is loving. It says that God is love.
Now, don't overread that. He is not saying that the emotion of love is itself God or that love is God's only attribute, but what it does show you is that love is so core to God's being that the Apostle John, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, feels comfortable identifying God with one of his attributes. Now, theologians point out that this is possible because God is a trinity, meaning that he is one being who has eternally existed in three persons, and because of that, God has always existed in a loving relationship with another.
Now, if you think about that for too long, your head will explode, but this is the nature of our God, and it is the foundation of our universe. And what John is saying is if self-giving, self-sacrificial love is not at the core of our being, there is no way that God is in us because God, at his core, by the nature of the trinity itself is self-sacrificing love. That's John's big idea in this passage. Verse nine, in this the love of God was made manifest.
Remember the word manifest? It means you know it, you feel it. 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. Now, John goes to describing God's love. God's love was not just a sentimental feeling. God's love translated into an action in which he saved us, an action which was framed by and defined by grace. Verse 10, in this is love, not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation.
Remember that word? Essentially means payment, propitiation for our sins. God did the unthinkable. The creator God, after having been rejected by his creation, who could have destroyed us all and just started over at no personal cost to himself. He created us with a word the first time.
He could destroy us with a word and then recreate a whole new race of people with another word, but instead chose out of compassion to take on himself the penalty for our sin and to suffer the shame and the pain and the torment for our sin for us and our place. A scorned king dying for unrepentant traitors. A creator dying for his creation. A shamed father humbling himself before his arrogant prodigal child. A betrayed lover offering himself as a sacrifice for an unfaithful betrayer. Would any of us have done that?
No. He was not obligated to do it. He did not need to do it, but he wanted to do it.
He did not need us, but he wanted us. So the defining characteristic of God is love, and the defining quality of God's love is the grace that he showed to us. That's one of those things that you should probably sit and meditate on for a long time until it just permeates your entire being. This love of Christ is the most amazing thing under heaven, if not in all of heaven itself.
You're listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer and a message titled Assured Because of Our Love for Others. We'll be right back with the conclusion of today's message, but first let me remind you about this month's featured resource. You know, our greatest joy comes not when we are working extra hard, you know, doing things to impress God, but when we are humbly serving him from a place of gratitude for what he's already done for us. In the Gospel Bible study, Pastor J.D. wants us to see that the difference maker is the Gospel itself.
This amazing gift that God has given us doesn't merely punch our ticket to heaven, but it is actually the driving force of everything we do as believers. For your gift of $50 this month, we'll send you the video teaching on DVD along with five Bible study guides for you and four friends. So give us a call today.
There's only a few days left with this resource, and our number is 866-335-5220. Or go online to jdgreer.com to reserve this Bible study today. Martin Luther, the reformer. If we had a full understanding of this love of God for men, a joy so great would come to us that we would promptly die because of it.
I love Martin Luther. From this we see how truly dull our hearts are, that only a few of us taste even a few drops of this immense joy, not to mention the whole ocean of it. It is something that whenever someone gets a glimpse of it in the Bible, the only thing that they can say about it, it is indescribable.
That's literally what Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says. It's what John is saying when he says, Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us. No one's ever known this kind of love. It is a love that is as high as the heavens are above the earth. It is this love that he says is deeper than the ocean itself. I remember taking my daughter to the beach, my oldest daughter when she was probably three, four years old. One of the first times that she could remember going to the beach, and I'm walking her out into the water holding her hand. We're about two feet deep.
It's come up to about her mid-waist when a small wave comes and washes over her head. She immediately says, Oh, Daddy, too deep, too deep. My child, you have no idea how deep this ocean is.
You think that three feet has become too deep. That is us when we taste even a little bit of the love of God. We say it is so amazing. It is so beyond our comprehension. But those who have seen and known the love of God know that all the words that we have to describe it fall so far short of the actual reality. It's indescribable.
Verse 11, Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought, therefore, to love one another. Ought. Can I go on a rabbit trail for just a minute? Just a minute, I promise, just a minute. For those of you that are linear thinkers and don't like rabbit trails, come back in about 90 seconds, okay?
Give me just a minute on this because this is something that's really important. Ought. The Achilles heel of atheism or agnosticism or philosophical naturalism or whatever you want to call it, is that it is unable to provide a reason why we ought to love one another. Most agnostics, atheists, will say that love is a good thing and many of them, hear me, are loving people.
Sometimes, in fact, they act more loving than a lot of Christians that I know. But philosophically, they can provide no ought for their love. No reason why love is good and right. If we all evolved by purely natural processes from microbes, why ought we to love one another? Why not let the survival of the fittest, why not let that rule all of our dealings with each other? Why would we ever voluntarily choose self-sacrifice for one another or show grace to each other at great cost to ourselves? Now, I've had people say back to me on that, well, it's best for the species if we all do that, all right? But be clear, that's not an ought. That's just a fancy form of self-interest. I am serving you because ultimately it's better for me. And by the force of that logic, if I'd become convinced that killing you would be better for me and I was stronger than you and could pull it off, then why shouldn't I do that? Why ought we to love one another? So when you're talking with someone like a Sam Harris or a Bart Ehrman who says they can be moral without believing in God, listen, certainly they can.
They can. Because God created us in his image and because of that we all have moral impulses. And even an atheist can sense these impulses, know that they're right, and obey them quite well. Again, often better than some Christians.
It's just that they cannot provide a philosophical basis, an oughtness, if you will, for their morality. The Christian says that we ought to love one another because that's the nature of God in whose image we were formed and it's how God has been toward us. Therefore, we ought to be like that toward each other and thus officially ends my rabbit trail, okay?
So come back if you checked out there for a minute. Verse 11, beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. So his point that he's made is that the sign that you know God and the sign that you've been born of God is that you love. Now, let's go to verse 13 because here, watch this, here John is going to back up and he's going to make the same point from a different angle. I told you that if you're a linear thinker, John can frustrate you a little bit because he's over here, then he's over here, then he's back over here, but it's kind of like, it's like he's almost like he's composing music. And what he does here is he makes a point and then he rewinds himself, you know, backs up, and he's going to come at it from a different angle, but you'll watch he'll make the exact same point.
In fact, he's going to repeat himself at the end here. Here we go, verse 13. This is the one, two points. This is the two points. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us because he's given us of his spirit. All right, let's just follow that as logic. All right, we know that we know God.
How? Because his spirit lives in us. Well, how do we know that his spirit lives in us? Unfortunately, no one has come up yet with a spirit reader like a, you know, like a Geiger counter of some kind where he's like, oh yes, the force is strong with this one, Obi-Wan. That would be awesome if someone invents that, but we don't have that. You cannot feel the spirit kicking around in you like a pregnant woman feels her baby.
You know, ooh, feel that. That's a spirit kick right there. That proves he's in there. All right, there are some people who are going to say that the proof of the Holy Spirit is some magical sign, like, you know, speaking in tongues or prophecy that proves the spirit is in you.
You ever, you ever met somebody like that? That's how I know the spirit is in me because I speak in tongues or I can make some prophecy of some kind. The Bible never tells you to look at that as a proof that the spirit is in you.
Never. In fact, Matthew 7, the passage I quoted earlier, what was one of the reasons that the people who are turned away from heaven, what's one of the reasons they think they're going in? Because they had spirit power.
Because they prophesied. So, so, so having spiritual gifts or looking like you have them is no sign that the spirit is in you. It's not proof. You want to know how you know that the spirit is in you?
You want to know? Well, look at what John says. He's the one that brought it up, not me. Don't stare at me.
Look at him. Verse 15, whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, look at the next phrase, God abides in him. The spirit of God lives in him and he in God.
Verse 14, you believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world. The evidence of the spirit being in you, listen, is that you recognize the truth about Jesus, namely that he is the Son of God sent to be the Savior of the world. That's the sign that God's spirit is in you. Now, let me explain that for a minute because some of you are like, well, I don't still feel like that's a very convincing sign. You know, I proved to you the spirit is in me.
I believe in Jesus. And you're like, somebody on the outside may not be that convinced of that. But it's kind of like this. Imagine that you were blind and you were in a room full of people who were blind and none of you had ever known any people who could see and none of you had ever been able to see and so you're not even aware there's a faculty of sight, right? And then all of a sudden, you and only you are healed from your blindness and now not only can you see, you can see the different hues of various colors. And now you're trying to describe to a room full of people who have never even heard of sight and doesn't know it exists what a color is. How do you prove to them the existence of colors when they've never seen anything? What you would end up saying is, I don't know how to describe it to you.
I'm not sure you have categories for it but I have seen it. And all you can do is hope that one day their gay eyes get open to see the the plain obvious things that you now see. That's what conversion is. Conversion is new eyes to see the beauties of God's grace. Conversion is when the spirit of God gives you a new heart that senses, get this, the gospel senses your sinfulness and the beauties and the weightiness of God's grace and suddenly you have eyes to see what was there all along.
You were just blind to it. So when the spirit of God comes in you, you begin to see the gospel. Verse 16, so we have come to know and believe the love that God has for us. The evidence of the spirit is a felt awareness of the love of God. The fullness of the spirit, listen, the fullness of the spirit is to be filled with a sense of the love of God. A lot of people define fullness of the spirit as, you know, a bunch of tongues and prophecy and that stuff has got its place somewhere. But the primary evidence of being filled with the spirit is when you are filled with the knowledge of the love of God.
You need me to prove that to you? John's not the only one who makes this point. Paul makes it. Ephesians 3.18, watch this, I pray that you may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge. Watch the next phrase, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. The fullness of the Holy Spirit is being filled with the knowledge of the love of God. Being filled with God is when your heart can sense and feel and taste the immensity of the love of God that Paul says surpasses all knowledge. That's the exact same point John just made. The sign that the spirit is in us is that we're filled with the first hand felt knowledge of the love of God. So now, watch this, now John returns to the point he was making in those first verses.
Watch, he'll just repeat himself. Verse 16, God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God. God abides in him.
That makes sense, right? To be filled with the knowledge of the love of God shows the spirit of God is in you. And John says, listen, there is no way, there is no possible way that you could have encountered the love of God. There is no way that the spirit of God could have opened your eyes to the love of God and you could have tasted of the spirit of God which is by definition love and not become a loving person yourself. Verse 19, we love because he first loved us and we have perceived that.
And verse 20, if anyone says, I love God and hates his brother, he is a what a liar. It is inconceivable that you could encounter the power and the love and the grace that God has and not become filled with that love and grace yourself. We love because he first loved us. You can't truly encounter the power of God's love and grace and not also be filled with that same transformational love yourself. Pastor JD Greer asking us today, have you really experienced God's love on Summit Life? So JD, we often hear you say that we cannot earn God's favor. There's nothing we can do to become more accepted in God's sight. But is there a right way to work for God?
Yeah, we got to be sure. First off, God doesn't need us, but even though he doesn't need us as recipients of his grace, he uses us. And as an act of worship, the Bible says we want to offer our lives in response to him proclaiming his worthiness and then also as an act of love to others, seeking to love them the way that he has loved us. I continually go back to 1 John 4 19.
We love because he first loved us. It's the love of God for us that creates love for others in us. And so you're going to find that as a Christian, your greatest joy comes when you are living like Christ, not when you are accumulating and running that race of endless acquisition of stuff, but when you're pouring your life out for others. It's what you were created to do.
It's what being like Christ is and where Christ is, is where joy is. So one of the things we're making available this month is something that I produced a few years ago called the Gospel Bible Study Kit. And I'm so excited, Molly, we are bringing this back out. We would love to provide this for our partners. You can just reach out to us and reserve your copy of this Bible Study Kit. Just go to JDGrier.com. We thank the Lord every day for our faithful partners because we truly couldn't do this without you. As always, you can visit us at JDGrier.com or call us right now at 866-335-5220.
That's 866-335-5220. I'm Molly Bittovitch reminding you to join us tomorrow when we'll conclude this powerful study in 1 John titled Assured. Join us Tuesday, same time, same place for Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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