1 John 4: 15-21
15Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
16We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
17By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
19We love, because He first loved us.
20If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
21And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
I’m gonna be honest and say I’ve struggled with that second verse for a long time. I’ve always wondered what John meant by saying it is perfected in us, because even though we are saved, we still sin. We still don’t always act like Christ and occasionally (some more than others) don’t exude God’s infinite love toward others. So how then, is God’s love perfected in us? It’s hasn’t been until today that God revealed to me what this means.
First of all, let’s look at verse 15. It has taken me a long time to realize that even though the bible talks about physical acts: confession, baptism, prayer, reading the bible, etc. the point behind it is the condition of your heart when you do these things. I “accepted Christ” as a boy and have considered myself saved ever since. I did not, however, understand what exactly that meant or looked like. Looking back, I feel that it was something I did out of innocence. I didn’t truly understand what I was saying and since everyone in my family was “saved,” it seemed like the thing to do. Granted, from that moment I realized Christ died on the cross for my sins and that by believing in that and accepting it, I feel I was saved, but something was still missing. I didn’t own it. I didn’t completely let God into my heart. Either I didn’t fully grasp that concept or I refused to. Either way, I believe God kept me that much in the dark for His purpose, because I’m sure I wouldn’t have taken the journey I did and therefore would have lead a whole different life and would be in a completely different place today, physically and spiritually.
So, what does it mean for God to abide in us and His love being perfected with us? It means we fully understand the TRUE nature of love. Remember before we talked about God being love, the Originator of love, and that even those who are not “believers” still have a part of him since they too are able to love to an extent? God’s love being perfected in us means we fully grasp what love is. Even 1 Corinthians 13 is just a glimpse of what love is. The gravity of Christ’s sacrifice pierces our hearts. To me, recognizing the fullness of this is when I fall on my knees in worship. It’s when tears flood my face in awesome wonder. It’s realizing that pure love and that try as I might, I cannot achieve that love and that our amazing God deemed me worthy of receiving that love.
In verse 17, John talks about our confidence on the day of judgement. First I think about times in my life when I knew I did something wrong and I cowered. I tried to stay away, sometimes did things like lie or cheat just to avoid punishment. I compare that to the piercing feeling of God’s love and I imagine that when I am there at the judgement seat, I will fall on my face in tears of thankfullness for the judgement of “not guilty,” knowing full well what should be done to me.
It is this judgement that has already been declared for us, if we are willing to accept it. Many Christians today walk around hanging their heads with doubtfullness, guilt, regret, and shame for fear that they are not good enough. We are good enough through Christ and if we get ahold of that, if we claim our salvation the way God wants us to, then we can live a life of freedom right now instead of having to wait. Verse 18 tells us There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. So what is there to fear? For if our God is for us, who can stand against us? Choose to live in the freedom of His love, not in the fear of our own iniquities.
What are you afraid of?