1 John 4:17-5:5 | Abide in Me - No Fear in Love
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 John 4:17–5:5
By way of reminder, 1 John was written 30-60 years after Jesus’
resurrection by John the son of Zebedee, a man who intimately
knew Jesus, including being present with Jesus while most others
fled during his brutal and agonizing crucifixion.
So he writes and speaks not as one who’d just podcasted a few of
Jesus sermons and was now regurgitating those sermons to others,
but as one who’d dwelt with Jesus and was now powerfully indwelt by
Jesus’ Spirit. As an elder-statesman of this early church that’d been
troubled by false teachers and schism, his appeal and exhortation to
them was to Abide in Christ. To remain in Him. To not depart. To wait
on Him through thick and thin. To rest and find shelter and life in Him.
To give you a little bit of roadmap for our time today, I want to unpack
that concept of Abiding in Christ as it relates to 3 things: The
JUDGEMENT OF CHRIST, the COMMAND OF CHRIST and the
LOVE OF OTHERS. We’ll try and tackle questions like should
followers of Christ experience any fear? What does obeying God’s
commands look like? How do we best love others? That’s a lot to
cover so let’s get started.
THE JUDGEMENT OF CHRIST
1 John 4:17-18
 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence
for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear
has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected
If I were to ask for a show of hands here, I bet nearly every hand
would go up if I asked if you’ve been afraid or felt fear in the past 30
days. It’d be a similar response if I asked you about the last 7 days. If
I’m honest, I’ve felt some in the last 7 minutes. Fear is a common
feeling and human emotion.
Embarrassing confession. I’m a huge wuss when it comes to scary
parts of movies. If I happen to be watching a suspenseful movie by
myself, I’ll often fast forward past the scary parts, see when the bad
guy jumps out from hiding, then rewind to where I was - don’t judge. I
don’t need those extra stress hormones coursing in my body.
On a much more serious level than movies, very close friends of ours
are currently going through a separation in their marriage, and Carly
and I are tempted to fear, fear that one or both of them will choose to
end their marriage rather than fight for it. We have to fight that fear by
pleading with Christ to intervene and heal their marriage.
I’m sure you have other such life experiences that cause you anxiety
and fear. Will the lab tests come back positive or negative? Will I be
able to make rent this month? Will I like the kids in my classroom this
year or the new neighborhood my family moved into? Those are
legitimate questions and common fears.
So what was John saying to these believers 2000 years ago and what
is he saying to us today? If perfect love casts out fear and IF whoever
fears has not been perfected in love, are we to conclude that Christ’s
perfect love doesn’t dwell in our hearts if we’re fearful at times. Are we
somehow faulty Christians?
No, I don’t think that’s what John is saying, and I think the answer is
found in verses 17 and 18 “…By this is love perfected with us, so that
we may have confidence for the day of judgment…for fear has to do
with punishment” . One of the recurring themes throughout 1 John is
the return of the Lord and the Day of Judgment. In chapter 2.28, John
writes “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears
we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his
John seems to know that the return of Christ is not something that
this flock of believers is looking forward to. They’re fearful of it.
They expect to be ashamed by the state that Christ will find them in,
so much so that they seem to expect to be punished in some way.
That’s what their fear is rooted in – the fear of being punished.
If we’re honest, we’re not that different from them. Like some of you, I
grew up in the church, and my recollection is that it was a good, loving
church. I regularly heard about the love of God, and yet from roughly
7 years of age through my early 20’s, one of the dominating images
of God in my heart and mind when I pictured him looking at me or
thinking of me was one of disappointment and disapproval. There was
a scowl on His face, arms crossed, shaking His head.
In my mind, I could never seem to please or satisfy Him. I was always
sinning and screwing up, and He would, in my mind, begrudgingly
forgive me. As a young adult mired in sin, if anything negative
happened to me, I always felt like I deserved it – this was my
punishment for my sin. Maybe after 3 or 4 days my sentence would be
served and I would have paid off my debt to God. That was my view of
God as a youth and young adult.
On occasion, as a father of 4 I catch myself perpetuating this with my
boys. I can growl and bark like the best of fathers or give a look of
utter disappointment to try and modify their behavior rather than do
the harder work of pursuing and drawing out their heart. That’s a
continual battle I fight.
Praise Jesus that this is not who the Father is in reality! If you’re in
Christ, you don’t have to guess what His disposition toward you is.
You don’t have to wonder if he’s just waiting to take you out behind
the woodshed. You don’t have to decide that the lack of His felt
presence is Him giving you the cold shoulder for your failures.
Yes, our God is holy and has a just, pure and right wrath against sin.
Hebrews 10:31 says “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of
the living God.”
But John is saying here, “ I was there. I saw with my own 2 eyes. I
heard with my own two ears. I saw the sky grow dark I felt the earth
shake. I witnessed the wrath of God for your sin and mine being
poured out to the very last drop on our Savior. And I heard Jesus say,
“It. Is. Finished. We don’t have to fear eternal punishment anymore if
we’re in Christ!”
In Romans 8:1,32-35, Paul puts it this way:
 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in
 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us
all, how will he [the Father] not also with him [Jesus] graciously
give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God's
elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ
Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was
raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is
interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of
So there is no longer any fear of punishment for those who are in
Christ. He bore the full and complete punishment for our past, for
our present and for our future sin – Satan and our flesh can’t
condemn us any more – Christ Jesus is the one who died in our place
and rose victoriously.
So that’s amazing news that we can face the return of Christ without
fear of punishment because we’ve been adopted as God’s sons and
daughters. But let’s face it, you and I don’t do a great job of setting
our hope on the return of our King. We’re reasonably ok with life as
it is now. We tend to live for today, not tomorrow. So does John have
anything to say to us? YES!
It’s often tempting to attribute whatever hardship and heartache we
face in this life as the punishment of the Lord – punishment for sins
we’ve committed. But that’s not the gospel. The good news of the
gospel is that in the same way that eternal life begins the moment
He regenerates your heart and you repent and trust in Him, escape of
His eternal punishment starts at that very same time.
Punishment has to do with retribution and recompense and paying
back. But there’s nothing to pay back. Christ’s death is sufficient. It’s
complete. If you and I experience any hardship in our lives, anything
bitter, it’s NEVER because we’re being punished, even if we just
committed adultery last week. Even if we just robbed a bank. Even if
just got in a huge fight with brother or sister. If we’re in hidden in
Christ, it’s impossible for the Father to punish us. That would cheapen
and dishonor His Son’s sacrifice.
No, anything bitter we experience is not the punishment but the loving
discipline of a loving Father. That’s not just semantics. There’s a world
of difference. Punishment is retribution. Discipline is refinement.
Discipline is His discipling of us. Discipline is the refining of a Father
who wants nothing but the best for us and nothing but the best
from us, and He’s willing to put us in the crucible to burn away the
impurities and see more of His Son shine forth in us.
Johns says in v17 that, “as he is so also are we in this world.” But
what does that mean exactly? At least 2 things stand out: Trial and
Temptation. John also wrote in chapter 15:20 of his gospel, “
Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater
than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute
Jesus was and is the perfect, blameless son of God who enjoyed
perfect fellow ship with the Father. And yet, during His life, he was put
through trial after trial. People hated him. Maligned Him.
Misunderstood Him. Tried to throw him off of a cliff. Called him demon
possessed and more. Daily life was no cake walk. He was tried
And He was tempted. Scripture records that right after his baptism, the
Spirit led Him to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. None of what
he experienced was to punish him. Rather, the Father was showing
forth Christ’s glory and perfection in the way he endured these trials.
And that’s His same purpose for us in hardship – not our
punishment but His praise.
Believing this changes our view of hardship and bitter circumstances.
We stop asking as often, “what did I do or how did I screw up to
deserve this mess I’m in,” and we start asking more often, “Father,
would you show me how you’re refining me through this? Show
me how this trial will bring you fame. And yes, if there is sin in me that
has led to this, please show me so I can repent and walk anew?”
With the fear of punishment, both future and present removed, life just
looks different. We can have more hope and confidence, not that
things will be easier. The fact is they might actually get harder. But
there’s a peace and a confidence and a joy and a settledness that we
can claim and cling to when we know God is only and always for us,
not against us. His perfect love casts out all fear.
THE COMMAND OF CHRIST`
The perfect love of Christ not only casts out fear but that same love
also casts out hatred. Turn with me again to 1 John 4, picking back up
in verse 19:
We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, “I love God,”
and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother
whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And
this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must
also love his brother. 5: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the
Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father
loves whoever has been born of him.
To repeat myself again: the perfect love of Christ that casts out fear
casts out hatred as well. John graciously doesn’t leave his readers
with merely the psychological sense of peace in knowing that the
wrath of God has been averted from them and they’ll never face
punishment. Peace with God is the root that leads to the fruit of
transformed relationships in the body of Christ.
John isn’t satisfied with a Christianity of individualism because it’s
antithetical to the gospel. “Well, I’m squared away with God and feelin’
A-OK, so I guess that’s that!” That’s no Christianity at all. John
doesn’t mince words here. If you try to say you have a deep affection
for God but you’re a jerk to everyone else, especially to those in the
body, then you’re a LIAR. Plain and simple.
He doesn’t leave any wiggle room for us. He doesn’t say, “well, you
might be a little mistaken, your thinking is a little off there. I think
possibly you’re confused.” Nope. When we live that way, John tells it
like it is. We. Are. Liars.
That smacks our PacNW passive-aggressive sensibilities in the face
with its bluntness. It seems harsh. But he’s spot on for 3 huge
1. v19 – We love because He first loved us. That’s an unalterable fact
of reality. The fabric of the universe is woven out of this fact. The only
reason there is any goodness, any beauty, any love in this world is
because you and I have been pursued and wooed by an initiating,
First-moving, never-relenting God who is love. That’s true in His
common grace that is upon every single human on the planet and it’s
especially true of those He’s regenerated and placed His Spirit within.
So when we’re hard hearted, rejoicing in another’s misfortune,
covetousness of their blessing, or just indifferent to their existence,
we’re speaking bold-faced lies about our Triune God. “He hasn’t
lavishly loved me. He hasn’t shed His grace upon me richly. I don’t
need to give any kindness or love to anybody because God hasn’t
been sufficiently kind or loving to me. My tank is empty.”
That’s a boldface lie about the character of God. We love because He
first love us. Love exists because He first loved. Because He IS the
source of love itself. We’ve been lavishly loved by Him.
2. The second reason he’s spot on is because it’s easy to be esoteric
and intangible with our love. It’s easy use high-falutin language that
makes you sound spiritual. It’s easy to talk about what the Lord was
teaching you in your quiet time with Him. But it’s HARD to love His
My wife and 4 boys were camping with her parents at Birch Bay this
past week, so I had the house to myself Tue through Thur, which was
great in terms of prepping for this sermon. I had some sweet time with
Jesus in the Word, praying and singing to Him with my guitar just
belting it out. It felt great.
Then they came home Thursday night and all that sweet love for the
Lord was sorely put to the test with the reality that there are 6
beautiful, wonderful and sinful, broken people living under our roof.
It’s in the communal nature of life - in our families and with our
roommates and our co workers that we come face with the fact that
our love for Christ isn’t nearly as perfect and devoted as we think
it is. John wants to make sure we don’t get overly spiritual in our faith
and reminds us that our love for Christ is inseparable from and only as
deep as our love for other people.
3. The 3 rd reason John is spot on in calling us liars is found in 5:1:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God,
and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of
him. In short, John is saying we’re family! Yes we should love every
image bearer of God, but we should ESPECIALLY love our brothers
and sisters. Why?
Because it’s through God’s family and the ways we relate to each
other in sacrificial love that we’re witnessing to the watching world
around us that it’s great to be adopted into the Father’s family. That
doesn’t mean we have to like everyone, but we should be practicing
love as a means of demonstrating that God is in the midst of our
quirky family. He is the glue holding us all together and that for the
outcast and the brokenhearted and even the self-righteous, there’s
room for them at the family table.
These are good reasons that John points out for why would should
show love to each other, but at the end of the day, John knows our
fickle hearts, so he doesn’t just leave it to us to deduce the wisdom of
In case we’re not adept at reading between the lines, John, takes
away any options we might feel we have about choosing not to love
others and tells us in simply in v21 that this isn’t a suggestion, it’s a
In Christian culture we often like to say, “Christianity is about
relationship, not a religion.” There’s a lot of truth in that phrase and
rightly tries to convey that man can’t earn right-standing with God
through our own effort. But I think if we’re honest, in our anti-legalism,
consumeristic culture we’ve gone the other way.
When relationships get challenging and feel worn out and broken,
we’re apt to pitch them in the garbage and get something new. So we
need to be reminded what our Creator and Redeemer requires and
expects. We need the Command of Christ to love our brothers and
sisters to combat the temptation to follow our feelings and just cut and
We don’t just leave churches when another member offends us. We
don’t just sulk and give our spouse the cold shoulder when we feel
hurt by him or her. We love. We admit fault and forgive others their
faults. We share our hurt but also invite others to share their hurt
without us getting defensive.
We remember that God is the most offended party in any of our
sinning, and yet He relentlessly pursues us. So John is saying that
one of the surest ways to truly love the Father is to obey his command
to love your brothers and sisters who are part of your blood-bought
THE LOVE OF OTHERS
Moving on to our third and final section, let’s dive deeper into how we
love others well and deeply. Turn in your bible with me again to
 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we
love God and obey his commandments.
 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.  For everyone
who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the
victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  Who is it that
overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is
the Son of God?
We’ve all heard it said before that “beauty is in the eye of the
beholder”. And there’s truth to that. The way one person would want to
decorate their dorm, or apartment or house is often completely
different from the way someone else would. We’re house hunting right
now and looking at home upon home on Redfin quickly underscores
the truth of that. Wow! But the flaw in that cliché is that it implies while
there is a subjective aspect to beauty, there’s no objective grounding
to it at all. It’s 100% relative.
In the same way, we live in a culture and world system that would
likewise say “love is in the heart of the lover”. And again, there’s
some truth to that. Most of you have heard of the 5 Love Languages,
which simply says that humans give and receive love in 5 different
ways, and each person has their primary way. Buying my wife flowers
or other gifts doesn’t really speak to the core of her heart, but my
spending quality time with her or speaking specific words of
affirmation does. So there’s some subjectivity to loving others well.
But what John has to say here about loving others flies directly in the
face of the culture we live in that is constantly redefining what love
is. John says there is in fact, an objective, enduring measure and
standard of love. Even to those of us with a Christ-centered worldview
are caught off guard by John’s prescription for what loving others well
Church did you catch it when we read verse 2? By this we know that
we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his
commandments. Right after John exhorts us to obey Christ’s
command to love; he exhorts us to love Christ’s command to
obey. We obey Christ’s command to love others BEST AND MOST
FULLY by loving Christ’s command to obey God. Yes, there’s a
certain circularity to it, but that’s because loving God and loving others
is so interconnected.
But this makes complete sense. We’re no good to others if we aren’t
firmly rooted and tethered to Christ ourselves. For those who’ve flown
on a commercial airline before, we’re all aware of the obligatory
preflight safety spiel that flight attendants give before take-off, which
includes instructions that in case of the cabin suddenly depressurizes,
you’re to put the oxygen mask over your face FIRST before trying to
help those around you. You won’t be any good to anyone in need of
help if you yourself are starved of oxygen fighting for consciousness.
Jesus put it this way in John 15:5
amthe vine; ayou are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I
in him, he it isthat bbears much fruit, for apart from me you can
For apart from Him, we can do nothing. We love others the best and
most deeply by living a life of obedience to the Father. I need you, we
need each other to live lives of obedience in the Spirit because we’re
all part of the same body. Our individualistic culture wants us to
believe the lie of “live and let live”. The lie that how I live my life only
affects me. It doesn’t have any effect on you at all. LIE!
We’re a body, a living organism that’s not compartmentalized but
interdependent on our other members. If my heart is clogged.my other
members are in trouble. If my skin has cancer that goes untreated,
my organs are in trouble too. If you’re not right with God and I come to
you with doubts about God or with my struggling marriage, you won’t
be in a position to love me well and give me what I ultimately need,
which is the mediated presence of Christ. The body suffers.
I’m coaching our older two sons rec soccer team right now. Games
don’t start until early Sept but we’re a new team and we’re in rough
shape. I keep giving the boys “commands” at the end of each practice
– “I need you, your team needs you to be doing conditioning and skill
building at home. You’re not going to get enough of a work out on just
Tue and Thursday.”
Now these are 12 year old boys and it’s summer time. They’re not
“obeying” my commands at this point, so come game time, they won’t
be able to love their teammates well by providing the support they
need when the pressure’s on.
And I get it for these boys and I get it for us. Who feels like obeying
any commands. What a joy-kill. What a burden! John knows the
human heart and cuts us off with that line of thinking. In verse 3 he
declares that his commandments are not burdensome.
Jesus doesn’t sugarcoat things for us He acknowledges that to walk in
His footsteps does require being yoked to him. But listen to his words
in Matthew 11:28-30
 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your
souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
As a people alienated from our Creator, we have this burden in our
sinful flesh that continually tries to justify our existence to the world.
We see that lived out on social media, we see that in our accumulation
of possessions and pursuit professional achievements and more.
We’re a tired and weary people to whom Jesus offers the rest of
That sounds counter-intuitive. That sounds contradictory. How can
obedience give rest? How can His commands not be burdensome?
There are several reasons, but I’ll just give two.
The first is that simply that God’s words say His commands are
meant for our life and flourishing. Ps 19:7 is just one of hundreds
of examples: “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” Do we
believe our emotions or God’s Word.
The second reason is that God’s commands aren’t burdensome is
because He’s the one who HAS fulfilled them in Christ and who
actively fulfills them by His Spirit who dwells in us as we submit to
Him. He doesn’t just give a command and then step back and remove
Himself. Paul says in 1 Cor 15: But by the grace of God I am what I
am, and that’s all I’m ever going to be. I don’t need to exert myself
because God is gracious and forgiving.” NO!!! Paul says,
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward
me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of
them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
So indeed, walking in obedience to the Father, contrary to intuition
and culture and our flesh, leads to life and joy and rest for our souls,
not to being weighed down with heavy burdens. And that obedience
includes spending time with him regularly reading His word and
speaking with Him in prayer. It means gathering with the saints
regularly, like we’re doing this morning. It means daily examining our
hearts and repenting of sin. It means forgiving others and asking
forgiveness. It means all these things and more.
One of the exciting things about obedience, is that when it flows from
a right heart, it’s an evidence of our union with Christ. John says in
chapter 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if
we keep his commandments. Notice John doesn’t say that we will be
saved and adopted IF we keep His commandments. NO. Obedience
flows from adoption, not adoption form obedience. There’s no way
of earning it. He’s saying, you’ll know you’re a part of the family when
you start looking around not to be served and have your needs met
but when you start trying to find ways to obey and to contribute. So
take heart whey you choose obedience rather than what seems easier
or less burdensome – that’s His grace working in you!
In closing, we’ll get to respond to God and His Word in few more
moments. If you don’t know God as your Father and Jesus as your
Savior yet and you sense a fear of your temporal and eternal
punishment, I hope that you’ll respond to His word by repenting of
your sin and putting your trust in Him. If that’s you this morning, come
talk with me or pastor Chris or pastor Randy about what God is doing
in your heart and how He’s calling you to trust in Him this morning.
If you are in Christ, let’s respond to His grace and goodness by loudly
singing His praise from glad hearts, by giving generously back to him,
and by coming humbly but confidently to the table knowing that there’s
no longer any fear of punishment, but that we’ve been empowered to
live an obedient life of love for others for His namesake.