Hello Project Ezra, and happy Valentines Day weekend. Our Valentines Day reading is a little bit shorter than normal, but I think very appropriate for the holiday. It is 1 John 4:7-21, and though you may not recognize the verse reference, you will likely recognize the verse when you read it. It talks about the love of God, and how our love is evidence that we have been born of God. 1 John focuses heavily on the evidence of true faith in the life of the believer. This is not faith by works, but works, which flow naturally from true faith, as an evidence of the truth of that faith. But more than that, this passage discusses the greatest evidence of God’s love for us.
The love of God is a very popular subject these days, but there are a whole lot of unbiblical ideas about how God’s love practically works itself out. Most commonly, people believe that God’s love cancels out His justice. It is said that God is so loving, that He could never possibly send anyone to hell. Some, even within the church, perpetuate the idea that God, instead of giving us justice, gave us mercy because of His love for us, that God set aside His justice for our sake. This is not only not biblical, but I believe it is patently anti-biblical. It is not the case that God ignored justice to show us mercy. God could no more be unjust than He could be unloving. God poured out His justice on Jesus Christ on the cross, so the legal demands of justice could be satisfied. Because of that sacrifice we receive mercy through faith in Jesus Christ. THAT is the greatest demonstration of His love!
Consider these verses:
1 John 4:10 - In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Romans 5:8 - but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Galatians 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Ephesians 5:2 - And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Colossians 2:13-14 - When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
The last verse, from Colossians, may seem out of place since it doesn’t talk directly about God’s love. But it does talk about the legal requirements of the law, which were satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice. It is also expressed in 1 John 4, in the word propitiation, which speaks both of appeasement and reconciliation. Nothing else demonstrates His love more vividly. God owes us nothing, and would have been perfectly justified to punish every one of us for our sin. But instead, he stepped in and took that punishment, paid that fine so that we could go free and be brought into fellowship with Him. John chapter 15 says “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
So I would encourage you to emphasize the love of God in the cross of Christ this week. Love is a glorious thing, and one that we should take pleasure in. So encourage people not to think only of the worldly, temporary love that is the focus of the holiday. Ask them to consider the great and eternal love of God, and how He showed that love to us, true love in it’s purest form. By God’s grace some may, out of love and gratitude for God’s gift of His Son, turn to Him in repentance and faith.
I am currently working through the details for another possible Project Ezra weekly reading, which will involve larger portions of scripture over a longer period of time, and hopefully will help build relationships at your local fishing hole. More details will be forthcoming, and I would very much covet your prayers for wisdom in this. Thanks so much for your faithfulness in sharing God’s word.
For the praise of His glory,