We have put our trust in his love
1 John 4:7–20
Occasionally I watch Christian testimonies on YouTube. I like to hear about the experiences other people have in their walk with God. I listen to how God has met with them and changed them. Sometimes a testimony is particularly relevant or interesting.
Just last week I was watching Tara tell about her experience of committing suicide and going to hell.
Before I tell you about her, I want to warn you. Testimony is not Scripture. It’s obvious really, but we need to remember this. There are people who believe that if they have experienced it, then that must be the way it is. There are people who listen to them and totally believe that what these people say actually happened, did exactly happen as they say it did.
If that were true, all the testimonies would agree. But they don’t. So we must venture carefully when we listen to testimonies and stories of spiritual experiences. We always have to test these things against the word of God in the Bible.
So now you are wondering. What did Tara say that I think accords with the word of God and is worth sharing this morning?
Tara said that after she shot herself, she went directly to hell. Tara said that the overwhelming thing about hell was the fear. Tara said that the fear didn’t just overwhelm her but she was actually changed into fear itself. She became a being of fear, and that fear burned like acid.
In Tara’s experience, hell was a place of total fear.
She said that then she went to heaven. It was the opposite of all that hell had been. Heaven was a place of peace and love. In heaven she felt overwhelmed by love. She felt as if she was actually becoming love itself.
Hell is where you will be after death if you are not in fellowship with Jesus.
Heaven is where you will be after death if you are in fellowship with Jesus.
You cannot get to heaven by anything you do. You cannot get to heaven by being good or obeying all the laws. On the other hand, you don’t go to hell because of anything you have done. People who go to hell, go there because they don’t follow Jesus.
Have you heard people say that they won’t believe in a God who would send innocent people to hell? I’m sorry, but we don’t get to tell God what he has to be like. We only get to learn what he is like from his word and from our relationship with him.
I went searching in my Bible and found a few verses that might help us.
I asked this question. Who is God?
The Bible gave me these answers.
In Exodus 34:5-7 God says he is, “The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty.”
God is not a man, but he is jealous. He protects us, feeds us, gives us strength and will be with us wherever we go.
John 4:24 – “God is spirit.”
1 Corinthians 14:33 – “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”
1 John 1:5 – “God is light.”
1 John 4:18 – God is love.”
Some of the verses describe the character of God, but John boldly goes straight to the point and says God is spirit, light and love.
Our next question has to be, what does God mean by these words? It is quite possible that what you mean when you say love is not what God means.
A dictionary will tell you for example that love is an emotion. The American Heritage Dictionary defines love as “an intense affection for another person based on familial or personal ties”. Often this ‘intense affection’ stems from a sexual attraction for that other person. We love other people, or we say we love other people, when we are attracted to them and when they make us feel good.
I don’t think that is at all what the Bible means when it says “God is love.” An example of God’s love in the Bible is that he sent his son to earth for us, because he loves us. Love is sacrificial. Love is giving.
Romans 5:8 says, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
Love doesn’t make any demands or set any conditions. We don’t have to do anything to get God to love us. God is love. God has loved us for as long as he has been God. When he created the universe, he made it because of love. He is light, so he filled it with light. He is spirit, so he made us spiritual beings. God created us in all ways to have a relationship with him.
When we are in a relationship with God, we are filled with spirit, light, peace and love.
When we don’t have a relationship with God, we experience the absence of light, peace and love. Without God we live in darkness, turmoil and fear. Darkness is the absence of light. Chaos is the absence of peace. Fear is the absence of love.
That is what our Scripture reading this morning tells us in verse 18.
“Perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”
Hell is full of fear, because the people in hell do not know Jesus and have not fully experienced his perfect love. There is no love in hell. Only eternal fear. There is no peace in hell. There is no light in hell. Hell is a realm of eternal darkness, fear and chaos.
Verse 15 says, “All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.”
This is what the Bible tells us. As we spend our lives walking in faith, we put our trust in God. We become like God. We become people of love and light and spirit.
John says in John 3:16 that “Everyone who believes in him [Jesus] will not perish but have eternal life.”
Greek has some unusual tenses and so ‘believe’ in this verse means not just believe, but go on believing until the last breath.
I don’t know how much of Tara’s experience in hell and heaven was real, but from the Bible we do know that she was right about the fear in hell and the love in heaven.
Verse 7 – “Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Everything God does is motivated by selfless love. The more we grow to know God, the more everything we do is motivated by selfless love. As we know him better, we become more like him. God’s love transforms us. We can totally trust God, because his motivation is utter selfless love. There is nothing to fear. Don’t you find it amazing?
These three simple words mean so much. They contain so much truth. God is love.
The more you know God, the more you will know the truth of these words.