God’s grace helped me to understand better –among other things – a great and glorious truth of His Word and His character by using the behaviour of a cat: Some friends of our daughter, knowing that she likes very much dogs and cats, offered her two cats, a female and a male. She, not being able to take care of them always, because of her frequent work journeys, asked us to keep them at home… temporarily. But – as it happens very often, a lot of temporary things are more permanent than the permanent ones – these cats were, in a certain semi-obligatory way, adopted by us, her parents. One of them loves me very much and is very attached to me. Wherever I sit down she comes to sit on my knees. When I get up, she comes to sit down on my chair and waits for me, when the conditions lend themselves, she jumps gently on my shoulders around my neck and begins its purr. Its attachment to me made me think: But why this small animal loves me so strongly and is so attached to me? The answer that came quickly to my mind was clear and simple: “because it is you, John, that you have first loved it. You take care of it, you caress it, and you protect it. Its «confidence» in your love for it creates in it a feeling of reciprocal love and of security…” Why do small children love their parents, become attached to them and feel their protection? Because it is their parents who have first loved them. Besides, they know well that their parents will do everything they can to rescue them from the danger and they will even go to the point of sacrificing themselves to save them! Their «faith» in their love casts out their fear! What a marvellous lesson did I receive from these simple images, which are and can be applied – mutatis mutandis – for the Lord and His children!!!
These thoughts helped me to understand better the passage of the Bible in 1John 4:14-19 that tells us: “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” (1Jo.4:14-19).
The central idea of this passage, written by an ocular witness, is God’s love that has been proven by the sacrifice of His only Son that became the Saviour of the world. Those who have believed in Him, confessed Him and loved Him from all their heart have nothing to fear! The faith in God’s perfect love for us and our fear cannot live together in the soul. They are incompatible! Also, God’s love for us is and must be reciprocal because He first loved us! Our faith in His perfect love for us casts out all fear! Why? Let’s examine this passage closer. We note:
I. God’s work for us and in us
The first two verses 14 and 15 speak to us about the greatest and most marvellous event of history: God the Father, the Creator of this world, gave Ηis Son so that whoever believes in Him is saved! Yes, saved from eternal death! The consequence of this eternal salvation is that God, who regenerated he who believes in Him by His Holy Spirit, comes to abide in the believer and the believer in Him. This expression, very «condensed», recalls to us what the same apostle, John the apostle, declared in his Gospel: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him……… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and WE will come to him and make OUR home with him.” (Joh.14:21-23). Can we imagine what a great privilege it is that the God of the universe comes to stay in us? In other words, the Trinity comes to live in the believer’s heart! Incomprehensible, incredible but true! I do often wonder, dear friends, if we are conscious of the divine presence in us, around us, that His eyes are on us and that God observes us everywhere and always! Did we ever hear what Abraham heard? “…walk before Me and be blameless”? (Ge.17:1). When God saves a human being, He changes all and accomplishes a miracle in him. Actually, it is about the New Covenant established and ratified by Christ’s precious blood (Mt.26:28; Mrκ.14:24; Lu.22:20; 1Co.11:25). The Mediator of this new everlasting Covenant (Heb.13:20) is Jesus Himself (Heb.12:18-24). The most important arrangements of this Covenant by which God abides in the believers are:
1. God removes, pulls out, removes the heart of stone, the hard, twisting, mean and perverse heart and He puts a new heart of flesh, a tender and honest heart (Eze.11:19-20 and 36:25-27);
2. In this new heart, God puts his laws, He writes His laws, in order to serve Him in spirit and in truth. These laws are only arrangements of the moral law of God. He gives them a new spirit of good faith and of good will that love to do God’s will ALWAYS, so that God may bless them in several ways (Heb.10:16-18; Heb.8:10-12; 2Co.3:3; Joh.4:23-24; Jer.31:33-34; Eze.11:19-20 and 36:25-27);
3. God’s Spirit removes the veil and all other difficulty having to do with the comprehension of His Word. His Word becomes then comprehensible and the spiritual blindness disappears. Then, His children do not need to be taught because they have received the unction that teaches them all things (2Co.3:13-14; 1Jn.2:20, 27);
4. God puts his HOLY fear in their heart so that they do not move away from Him, as it is written: “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.” (Jer.32:40; Heb.10:16-18; 8:10-12). Why does He put in us His fear? So that we do not depart from Him. Hallelujah! In Pr.16:6 is written: “In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; and by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil.”
5. God does not only put His fear but he adds love for God and for our neighbour. He circumcises our heart and the heart of our posterity so that we love our God with all our heart and all our soul so that we may live (De.30:6);
6. All these blessings and privileges are due to the fact that He has forgiven us our sins in a perfect way by His Son’s sacrifice. God bestows the forgiveness and the complete oblivion of the sins so that He may remember them no more (Mic.7:18-19; Heb.10:12);
7. He has granted us the power against the bondage of sin, of weakness and passions as it is written in the Bible in several places (Rom.8:2; 1Jo.1:9 etc). In other words, a complete deliverance to all those who approach Him; He does not only grant them the forgiveness but also the purification and the deliverance from sin! (1Jn.1:9);
8. He guarantees the everlastingness and the indestructibility of His people. Let us listen to what Jesus says: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand………” (Joh.10:27-29). If we are, indeed, sincere and honest with Christ, He guarantees us the eternal life; God protects His children from all evil and from the hatred of the Devil to bring them safe and sound in His kingdom. Paul wrote: “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom………” (2Tim.4:18). This assurance belongs to all true Christians! In addition, He comforts us by saying that “………For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” (1Joh.3:8-9). On the other hand, He states and warns us: “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” (1Joh.5:18);
9. He neither leaves us nor forsakes us! In Heb.13:5 is written: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb.13:5)
II. Consequences of this love and of His abiding in us
Since God is love and this love abides in us, it means that God has been poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom.5:5) so that we also may become as He is: The children of God look like their parents: full of love, holiness and forgiving spirit, participants of the divine nature (2Pet.1:4)! If we love God and we are attached to Him, we will not have anything to fear on the Day of Judgment. Have you ever seen someone that is harassed by the thought of the day of the judgment or someone that believes that he has blasphemed against the Holy Spirit and that consequently there is no more salvation for him? How much is he tormented by this idea and in what anguish is he? He is, to a certain extent, already punished in Hell!!! This does not happen in the true believer: Instead of fear, anguish and anxiety, he has the peace that surpasses all intelligence because there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Ro.8:1). There will be no fear when God’s books will be opened! He is kept in perfect peace because his trust is in Him (Isa.26:3, 12). If we love Him, He promises us deliverance, protection, answers to our prayers, help in the distress, glory, longevity and the full enjoyment of His salvation (Ps.91:14-16). Why, therefore, be afraid of the Day of Judgment? Yes, the fear is not in the love! Faith in His perfect love for us casts out fear …” He who is in fear is not perfected in his relation to God. “… If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…” (Ro. 8:31-35). Why would I fear, therefore? Our duty is, therefore, to love God with all our heart! Let us not love in words and with the tongue, but in actions and in truth. To raise the hand to say that we love God is not sufficient and does not constitute proof that we love Him. He who has His commands and keeps them, it is he that loves Him! (Joh.14:21).
III. All these blessings are based on the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus TC \l3 “
Numerous other promises are also intended for those who have been purchased by Him. God puts his children aside for Himself and sanctifies them; He regenerates them and adopts them; He justifies them; He has plans for good for them; and He makes all things co-operate for their good. He is and remains their God for life and for death. He guarantees them the resurrection, the eternal life and promises them that one day, when they will see Him, they will be like Him! Hallelujah! Why, therefore, have fear? He has first loved us! Our faith in His perfect love for us casts out all fear! “So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Héb.13:6).
Let the Lord speak to our hearts and show us if our faith in His perfect love is appropriate and let us obey His Word. Amen!