God First Loved Us, Part 1
1 John 4:7-21
In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem writes, “God’s love means that God eternally gives of himself to others. This definition understands love as self-giving for the benefit of others. This attribute of God shows that it is part of his nature to give of himself in order to bring about blessing or good for others.” As we begin a study on salvation, it’s vital to understand the source of our salvation at the very beginning. While we are the recipients of God’s love, his love has everything to do with who God is in his essence, and not who we are or anything we have done.
1. When you read or hear about God’s love, what images or ideas usually come to your mind? What are some different ideas that unbelievers and nominal believers have about the love of God? Give some examples.
2. Read 1 John 4:7-21 and write down everything John says about God’s love. What do you think John’s key idea is in this text?
3. According to verses 7, 8, and 16, what is the ultimate source of love?
4. A loving God is unique to Christianity because love by its nature is focused on and given to another. Only a God who has existed eternally and relationally in three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is able to express love since love focuses on another. Read the following verses and write down what each teaches about love expressed in the holy Trinity*.
• Mark 1:10-11 –
• John 17:24 –
• John 3:35 –
• John 14:31 –
• John 5:20 –
• John 10:17 –
• Colossians 1:13 –
* “The love between the Father and Son also presumably characterizes their relationship with the Holy Spirit, even though it is not explicitly mentioned.” (Grudem) Some theologians have taught that the love between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit.
The following contains notes from a Father's Day sermon I preached several years ago on the power of men who study God's Word together. Again, these are just notes from my sermon, not an article, so it may be a bit choppy and aggravating in that respect. However, I hope there might be some words of encouragement for you.
Men + Bible = Strength
2 Timothy 3:14-17
June 15, 2013
When we first began our 52 Promises we had several sessions where we attempted to identify things we wanted to focus on.
The title of this sermon came out of one of those brainstorming sessions. And yet the title and focus of this sermon could just as easily be…
Women + Bible = Strength ·
Youth + Bible = Strength ·
Children + Bible = Strength
And they would all be just as true.
However, It’s Father’s Day and our PROMISE this week relates to our Men’s Discipleship ministry. So that’s the reason for the title and focus of the sermon this morning.
Here are a few facts about our men's ministry here at Southside...
12 ½ years ago ·
6 or 7 men… my house ·
Saw need for men to be in Scripture with other men… sharing things they wouldn’t share in co-ed studies or even with men in other settings.
(Even JOHN WESLEY had men-only and women-only studies and small groups, which he called BANDS)
Within just a few months… we had 18 men crammed into my living room. The men were inviting other men… on their own. A need was being met.
Finally, we had to move to the Family Life Center.
About a year later we added the Monday night men’s group.
There are different kinds of men’s groups. Some have only 3-4 men and provide a safe place for men to share with each other… confess struggles, hold each other accountable, etc.
Our men's ministry has plenty of prayer and concern for one another. (What John Wesley called “Watching over one another in love.”)
But the main emphasis in our ministry, from the beginning, has been STUDYING God’s Word TOGETHER. Men + Bible = Strength
Now, as I often say, we don’t study the Bible just so we can just learn a lot of Bible information and win Jeff Foxworthy’s Bible Trivia TV show. We learn the information for transformation.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:2…
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
A paraphrase of this verse is: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”
If men are going to prevent being squeezed into the world’s mold, to be conformed to the world around us, then we have to renew our minds. And Paul says this mind-renewal will help to transform our lives into the likeness of Christ.
The King James Version of the Bible quotes Proverbs 23:7 as saying, “As a man thinks, so is he.” In other words, our “DOING” usually follows our “THINKING.”
So we’re encouraged to renew our minds. But how? With what? Well, the “What”… is God’s Word. And an important part of the “HOW” is… with other men.
Proverbs 27:17 says,
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
I can’t tell you how much wisdom flows on Monday evenings and Wednesday mornings as men sharpen one another through study, encouragement, challenging one another, etc. I have learned so much from our men.
But we’re not just meeting together to share our own wisdom. We’re there to hear a Word from God. To get God’s perspective on whatever topic we’re talking about.
Our Scripture this morning tells us why that’s so important.
Let’s look at our text again (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
Scripture makes us wise for salvation through Christ Jesus (verse 15) ·
Scripture is God-breathed (verse 16) ·
Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training us in righteousness (verse 16) ·
Scripture equips the man of God thoroughly for every good work. (verse 17) Ephesians 2:10 says we’re created to do good works. Bible equips us.
That’s why we don’t just sit around and share our own opinions. We study God’s Word on our own… and then come together to hear from one another about what God taught us. And in the process, God takes that collective synergy and gives us even greater wisdom and understanding as his Spirit moves leads our discussion of his Word. To be sure, this takes humility and a teachable spirit, but we think it’s worth it.
What if there was a practical way a group of men could grow closer with God and become more and more the men God created, redeemed, and called them to be… in every sphere of their lives (Baxter)…
* In their private lives when no one else was looking
* At home with their families ·
* At work ·
* At church ·
* In the community
What could a man look like if his mind was renewed each week with a group of men who opened God’s Word together?
Men, we would love to have you come and join us… on MONDAY nights or WEDNESDAY mornings.
Our greatest desire is for you to know Christ and become all that God wants you to be, in every sphere of your lives.
We think our men's ministry here at Southside can be a great instrument in the hands of God to help make that happen.
Surely, for a life of growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, nothing can take the place of reading God’s Word and spending time in original, heartfelt prayer. Let me go on record as having said that right at the beginning. And I believe that with all my heart.
But following closely, at least for me, are the prayers, reflections, sermons, meditations, and other writings of saints who have walked oft and closely with the Lord…those who were saturated in his Word and who practiced his presence each day – all day – in every sphere of their lives. Such people minister to my soul in deep and profound ways.
Therefore, I unapologetically sponge off of others during my devotional time each morning and evening. This doesn’t mean I don’t read Scripture for myself. I do. And this doesn’t mean I don’t lift to the Lord my own prayers. I do that as well. But I have found my Scripture-reading and prayer life greatly blessed and enhanced by reading the God-centered, Scripture-directed thoughts, reflections, meditations, and prayers of others.
My prayer and thought-life are expanded well beyond my personal limitations when I read such devotional resources. In fact, I often find myself stopping in mid-sentence of someone else’s prayer…so I may lift my own prayer to the Lord. So too, sometimes when I read a verse or two of Scripture in a meditation, I can’t help but pause and pray that text back to God. Such is how the Holy Spirit uses these resources in my life.
It would be the height of arrogance and folly not to take advantage of other pilgrims of the Way – wiser and godlier saints – those who have gone before us as well as those who travel with us today. I know I have been immeasurably edified by the Holy Spirit through their written testimonies of God’s power and grace.
For example, if I hadn’t used other devotional resources this morning, I would have missed out on the following…
“…Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us do, that the Spirit of Wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“…Jesus Christ said, ‘When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what they right hand doeth.’ O God, grant that what I give may be given without self-congratulation, and without thought of praise or reward.”
“…Jesus Christ said, ‘What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ O God, give me grace so to live this day that, whatever else I lose, I may not lose my soul.”
“…Every morning I vow to love thee more fervently, to serve thee more sincerely, to be more devoted in my life, to be wholly thine; Yet I soon stumble, backslide, and have to soon confess my weakness, misery and sin. But I bless thee that the finished work of Jesus needs no addition from my doings, that his oblation is sufficient satisfaction for my sins.”
These thoughts, (and many others), have lifted my soul and led me to think and pray about quite a few things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise thought and prayed about. Such resources help move me from the tunnel-vision of my own limited, self-centered short-sightedness. They help me stay away from an exclusively "laundry-list prayer life" (i.e., a superficial “give-me-this-and-give-me-that” prayer list).
The last thing I would mention is that using such resources keeps my devotional time fresh. Without such tools, my prayer life could quickly grow stale, rote, and lifeless. But in and through his Word and prayer, as well as these other resources, God draws me closer to himself and enables me to become more like the man he created, redeemed, and called me to be. And that’s worth everything.
On that note, I post a "prayer journal" on Monday mornings to help you in your own prayer life. You can take a look at previous ones here. I've also recently started working on another devotional resource, which you can check out here.
Grace and Truth,
Matthew 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
1 Cor. 13:5 [Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
2 Cor. 12:20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.
Ephes. 4:26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
Ephes. 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Col. 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
1 Tim. 2:8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
James 1:19-20 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man,
do not associate with one easily angered,
Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?
Mockers stir up a city,
but wise men turn away anger.
A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control.
An angry man stirs up dissension,
and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.
For as churning the milk produces butter,
and as twisting the nose produces blood,
so stirring up anger produces strife.”
In the same spirit as what I call, Kingdom Discipleship, this is Session 1, from Tony Evans' video series, Kingdom Man. I'm not sure if the other five sessions are available online, but I thought this was worth sharing as it is such a vital message for men today to hear and embrace. Our culture is in desperate need for Kingdom Men who will faithfully follow the Lord Jesus Christ into every sphere of life.
Every now and then God is particularly good. Of course he’s always good, but every now and then his goodness is lavished in our lives in such a way that we immediately sense how undeserving we really are.
That was how I felt about 17 years ago when I stumbled upon a book that revolutionized my faith, ministry, and life. The book is entitled, The Micah Mandate, by George Grant. (Get this book!) It’s a marvelous, God-honoring study of what a biblical worldview is and how it should ignite those who hold it dear. Up to that point I had read every book around on the subject of Christian worldview, but those books seemed to only focus on the abstract and philosophical. Grant’s book expanded my world and broadened my horizons. He emphasized that worldview isn’t just something for the ivory towers of academia, but for all of life. Our worldview – our treasured faith – is for every sphere of life. I haven’t been the same since.
With that book's influence moving throughout my heart and mind, I began a weekly men’s discipleship ministry about a year later. My hope was that a few men would gather together around God’s Word and be saturated and transformed by it. I prayed that men would be renewed and revived. I deeply desired that biblical, God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled disciples would be born – men who would change the world – beginning with themselves, then in and through their families, workplaces, churches, communities, the culture, and then perhaps, one day, the world. God honors such efforts. Reformation and revival happens in such ways.
My hope for the men’s ministry way back then, as it is today, was for God to penetrate the hearts, minds, and souls of our men with his Word, so thoroughly, that he would cultivate in their lives a framework (worldview) for viewing, interpreting, and applying their faith in every sphere of life. God has been pleased to work mightily in the lives of many of our men in such a way. Soli Deo Gloria.
Grace and Truth,
Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work
by Tom Nelson
Below are some of the highlights from the first chapter of a great book entitled, Work Matters by Tom Nelson. I would encourage you to buy this book and read it a couple of times if you've ever spent much time thinking about the intersection of your work and faith.
Below are some highlight from the book that really ministered to me. They will bless you too.
Introduction: Connecting Sunday to Monday
When it comes to work, perhaps you are feeling a bit fogged in at the moment. It could be that your work has you simply living for the weekend. Maybe you are looking for some clearer direction about you work, and you need some timely wisdom to guide you.
I believe how we view our work and how we do our work matters a great deal more than we might imagine.
I have wrongly viewed some kinds of work as being more important than others. On several occasions in my life, I have drifted to the perilous edge of workaholism, conveniently making an idol out of my work. For way too long, I did not see work as an essential component of a broader, robust theology of Christian calling, nor did I see how the gospel transforms work. I failed to grasp that a primary stewardship of my pastoral work was to assist and equip others to better connect the professions of their Sunday faith with the practices of their Monday work.
The word vocation simply means “calling.” Properly understood, Christian vocation is centered in a sovereign God who calls us to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ and to follow him in the power of the Holy Spirit as his disciples. … We are and continue to be transformed in and through the power of the gospel. Our work, too, is transformed. When we come to the foot of the cross, we bring with us what we do as well as who we are. The gospel, properly understood, leads us to a seamless faith.
We all have a primary calling and a secondary calling.
Primary Calling – Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him and for him. First and foremost we are called to Someone, not to something or to somewhere.
Secondary Calling: Each one of us has also been given a secondary calling, and an essential aspect of his
particular calling is to do a specific work. A large portion of our time on earth is given to our work, and we should be wise to take this stewardship seriously.
What would it really look like if our Sunday faith connected seamlessly to our Monday work?
What are the important implications and opportunities that our work provides for us and for our world as we seek to live out a gospel witness and be a faithful presence in our workplace?
Chapter 1: Created to Work
“All vocations are intended by God to manifest His love in the world.” Thomas Merton
1. Created with Work in Mind
As human beings, we have been designed not only to rest and to play but also to work. From the very beginning of Scripture we see that the one true God is not a couch potato God, nor did he create a couch potato world.
God the Creator places a distinguishing stamp of uniqueness on human beings, one that sets humanity apart from the rest of creation.
Cites Genesis 1:26-28
The Genesis writer wants us to grasp the unique place of human beings in creation. We observe this uniqueness in two foundational ways
A.) First, humans are designed by God to exercise proper dominion over creation, which is a divinely delegates stewardship role.
B.) Second, humans are designed by God to be his image-bearers, to uniquely reflect who God is to his good world.
2. Image-Bearers of God
As image-bearers, we were created to mirror the glory and excellence of the triune God.
We were created to worship God and to display a glimpse of God’s glory to a vast and expanding universe.
3. Why Do We Work?
Scripture tells us that the most bedrock answer to the question of why we work is that we were created with work in mind. Being made in God’s image, we have been designed to work, to be fellow workers with God. To be an image-bearer is to be a worker.
We work because we bear the image of One who works. This is why the apostle Paul writes a group of first-century followers of Jesus who have embraced the gospel, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).
Paul does not rebuke those who, for various legitimate reasons, cannot work, but he does say that an unwillingness to work is no trivial thing. For anyone to refuse to work is a fundamental violation of God’s creation design for humankind.
Nelson has some powerful words on slothfulness or laziness as it relates foolishness and, ultimately, unbelief.
The work we are called to do every day is an important part of our image-bearing nature and stewardship.
4. Created to Contribute
First and foremost, work is not about economic exchange, financial remuneration, or a pathway to the American Dream, but about God-honoring human creativity and contribution. Our work, whatever it is, whether we are paid for it, is our specific human contribution to God’s ongoing creation and to the common good.
Work is an integral aspect of being human, an essential aspect of loving God and his created world, and a vital part of loving our neighbor as ourselves.
God created humans not only to worship him and to delight in him, but to make an important ongoing contribution to his creation. From Genesis 2 we see that the earth itself was created in order to be cultivated and shaped by humankind.
Not only would the crown of creation have joyful intimacy with their Creator, but they would also be given the joyful privilege of contributing to the work of God in his good world.
A biblical worldview begins not with human choice, but with a good and sovereign God who is not only the Creator but also the Caller. Here in the Genesis narrative, before humanity’s fall into sin and resulting corruption of the world and our work, we are given two bedrock truths regarding human work and vocation:
A.) We were created with an important stewardship in mind, to cultivate creation and to keep it; and
B.) We are commissioned by God to nurture, care for, and protect his creation.
5. A Stewardship Posture
A vital aspect of this stewardship is the essential work not only of tending things and making things but also of cultivating and creating culture.
The language of work as cultivation and creation in Genesis 2:15 is embedded in the Hebrew world avodah, which his behind the English translation “to cultivate.” It is rendered as “work,” “service,” or “craftsmanship” in many instances, yet other times it is translated as “worship.”
Whether it is making bricks, crafting fine linen, or leading others in corporate praise and worship, the Old Testament writers present a seamless understanding of work and worship. Though there are distinct nuances of avodah, a common thread of meaning emerges where work, worship, and service are inextricably linked and intricately connected.
God’s original design and desire is that our work and our worship would be a seamless way of living. Properly understood, our work is to be thoughtfully woven into the integral fabric of Christian vocation, for God designed and intended our work, our vocational calling, to be an act of God-honoring worship.
7. Work as an Act of Worship
So often we think of worship as something we do no Sunday and work as something we do on Monday. However, this dichotomy is not what God designed nor what he desires for our lives. God designed work to have both a vertical and horizontal dimension. We work to the glory of God and for the furtherance of the common good.
8. An Audience of One
Nothing we think, say, or do ever escapes God’s loving, caring, and watchful eye. Living before an Audience of One also means that all we do and say is to be an act of God-honoring worship.
Doing our work before an Audience of One changes what we do and how we do it. Living with this mind-set helps us connect our faith with our work, for we live before the same Audience on Monday at work as we do on Sunday at worship.
“Let the church remember this: that every maker and worker is called to serve God in his profession or trade – not outside it… The only Christian work is good work well done.” Dorothy Sayers
It is hard to imagine how our understanding of work and the quality of our work would change if we would truly live before an Audience of One and fully embrace the truth that the only Christian work is good work well done.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Col. 3:23-24)
9. Rethinking Work
If you understand that God designed you to contribute to his creation, you will take seriously how and where you are called to make your important contribution in the world.
10. The Office
Daily we are confronted by a sobering reality that our work, the workers we work with, and the workplaces in which we work are not as God originally designed them. In a myriad of ways we are painfully reminded each and every day that we live and work in a fallen and corrupted world. This is the inescapable reality to which we will turn our attention next.