Based on: 1 John 4:13-21
Was there ever a relationship that you were unsure of? Perhaps you just offended a friend and you didn’t know if you were still friends or if that person even wanted to see you again? Now just imagine the relationship Adam and Eve had with God before they sinned. It was the closest relationship possible – God lived in them and they lived in God. God blessed them with everything they needed and more, and God was pleased with everything they did. Pleased, that is, until they ate the fruit God told them not to eat. This action was a revolt against the God who gave them every good thing they could imagine. They realized they had ruined their perfect relationship with God, and they were afraid. They had no hope of restoring this relationship on their own. Yet, in love God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to restore this relationship. Now as a believer in Jesus Christ we have this close personal relationship with God. God lives in us, and we live in God. We know this is true by God’s display of love and we can see this from our own display of love.
How do we know that our relationship with God has been made right again? When we look with our eyes at the world around us we see cancer and car wrecks and murder. Tragedy strikes our own lives, and if it isn’t something major then it is the little problems that eat away at us day after day. Even when we look inside ourselves we see the refuse of our own sinful thoughts. What is in us is not God pleasing and our conscience convicts us. Can our relationship with God really be as good as John says when he writes, "God lives in us and we live in God?"
John knows what he’s talking about. He saw firsthand the one sent to fix this relationship. John wrote, "We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the savior of the world." This savior is Jesus Christ. John stayed with Jesus throughout his ministry. John was there and saw Jesus hang on the cross and die. John touched Jesus after the resurrection and can verify that Jesus is alive. John is a reliable witness to the events that brought us back into fellowship with God – a reliable witness to God’s display of love for us.
We know God lives in us and we live in God because we see God’s display of love. As we look at baptism we see the water that washes away our guilt before God and makes us his child. As we look at the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, we are looking at the body and blood of Jesus that paid the penalty we deserve for our sins. As we read and study God’s Word, God displays his love for us in the story of Jesus Christ his Son.
Through these things God the Father gives us his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works through baptism, the Lord’s Supper and God’s Holy Word to create and strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. It is only by this Holy Spirit that we can acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. When we confess in the creed, "I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” we have proof that our relationship with God is good. For God tells us "If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God."
What about those day-to-day problems and the tragedy in our life – the car wreck or even the cancer? What about the feelings of guilt that I carry with me as my conscience reminds me of my sin? John reminds us, "Perfect love drives out fear." Because of God’s perfect love for me, I do not need to fear what the problems or tragedy or cancer or guilt will do to me. Fear and love are not compatible. John says, "there is no fear in love." "Fear has to do with punishment," and I have proof that God lives in me and I live in God. God does not and will not punish me. Everything that happens to me is only allowed by God’s perfect love. We have that beautiful promise from God, "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Rom 8:28)
But am I still afraid? Sometimes I am. I am a sinner and my love for God is not perfect. I still fear that my work will not get done on time, that I might get sick, that the Lord may take one of my children away from me, that my sins are just too big to forgive or any number of other fears. But God keeps his promise and uses even these fears to pull me closer to him. To get rid of these fears I go to God’s Word and to the sacraments where I see the display of God’s love in Christ Jesus and where the Holy Spirit works to strengthen my faith in God’s love and drive out fear. Now I, along with all believers, can have confidence even on the Day of Judgment that God lives in us and we live in God. Christ has restored our relationship with God.
We know and believe the love God has for us. He tells us about his love in his Word and through that Word and the sacraments God’s Holy Spirit creates a faith that confesses Jesus Christ as God’s Son. Here is proof that God lives in us and we live in God, and now we can see the results of this relationship in our own display of love to others.
John said, "We love because he first loved us." This love from God wells up inside of us and overflows to others, especially to other believers. It will just happen as we focus on God’s love for us. This love that we display is modeled after God’s love – it is selfless and self-sacrificing, unlike the love of this world often based on selfish desires. Seeing this display of love in our lives, we say, “God lives in me and I live in God, because if that were not true I would not love like this.”
Our love for others is not optional. We are told, "If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar for anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother."
Perhaps the question comes to mind, "Do I love my brother?" Do I love my brothers and sisters in Christ who share this sanctuary with me? Do I display my love by encouraging them in their faith or to gently leading them back to Christ when they sin? Do I love my brothers and sisters in Christ who are spread throughout this country and the world? Do I display my love by remembering them in my prayers or supporting them with my offerings? "Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him."
I must admit that my display of love to others falls far short of God’s display of love for me in Christ. Even though we might look at our own display of love and wonder if God in fact is still living in us, let us look to God’s Word and to the sacraments and be assured of what God has done for us. He has forgiven us for our imperfect display of love and by his perfect love we are filled with love which overflows to others.
Our relationship with God is restored. God lives in us and we live in him. Even though sin clouds our view of this relationship and fears rise in our hearts, we have the same relationship with God that Adam and Eve had before they sinned. God does bless us with every good thing and because of Christ God is pleased with our display of love. In heaven it will be clear that God lives in us and we live in God.