God’s Loving Presence

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December 18, 2016

1 John 4:12-16

Allen Burns

Scripture Reading: 1 John 4:12-16 Sermon Title: God’s Loving Presence Sermon Text: 1 John 4:12-16 MAIN IDEA:  Confess Jesus as Savior of the world to receive the loving presence of God. The Spirit of God’s Presence The Confession of God’s Presence The Love of God’s Presence     NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." I provide this manuscript as a courtesy. I do not follow the document word for word during the message. I also do not write the document with the intent of publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Thanks for understanding.  


Celebrity encounters

Perhaps you wonder what we talk about during elder meetings. Let me share with you a recent elder meeting discussion. Rick said that he saw Tom Hanks at a grocery store. To which I replied, “I shook Bob Dole’s hand in Gypsum Kansas.” Then, Zane said, “Well, I played on the football team with Tim Tebow in High School.” Not to be outdone, Neil responded with, “Garth Brooks eats with our family every Thanksgiving and he brings the pies.” But, Gary, quietly and humbly reminded us that Condoleezza Rice and Wendy are best friends. She sends her private plane to pick up Wendy and they go shopping together on Fifth Avenue all the time. While Condi served as Secretary of State, Gary continually provided wisdom for her most difficult decisions. (Note: this is totally fabricated) What makes each story great is the more famous the person and the more intimate the encounter. There is a big difference between seeing someone at the grocery store and being best friends. Hopefully, by this point, you are asking yourselves, “what does this have to do with the message?” The point I am making is the intimacy of the encounter brings legitimacy to the testimony. Gary and Neil can speak first-hand about Condi and Garth, Zane’s encounter is limited to the football field, but Rick and I can’t tell you anything about Tom or Bob that the general public doesn’t already know.

The testimony of John

This brings us to the testimony of the Apostle John. John had the amazing privilege of having the closest relationship with the Son of God over any person (to which someone may respond except Jesus’ parents). John is the first disciple called by Jesus to follow Him. Everywhere Jesus went, John went. He ate meals with Jesus, walked with Jesus all over the Holy Land, and he was an eyewitness to all of Jesus’ miracles and teachings. During the Last Supper, John reclined on Jesus bosom, and as Paul Biebel likes to remind us, “John listened to the heartbeat of God.” John has the privilege of saying, “I am the one whom Jesus loved” (Jn. 13:23). When Jesus went to trial, John followed Him and observed the proceedings. In the darkest moment of Jesus’ life, John may say, “I am the only disciple who stood by at the crucifixion.” John writes: When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. (John 19:26-27) John is the only person who may say, “Jesus asked me to care of His mother.” When Mary Magdalene reported Jesus’ tomb was empty, John may say, “I outran Peter to the tomb, I looked in and saw it was empty and I believed.” When it comes to encounters with people of importance, nobody outdoes the Apostle John. Because of that, we should listen carefully to what He writes. John is the foremost authority on how we may have fellowship with God.

God’s Present: His Presence

Last week we looked at the testimony of Matthew and his testimony about how God promised to be present among people. Matthew proves how Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to be present among us. God promises His presence and He fulfills His promise in the person of Jesus. This week, we examine a letter written by the Apostle John who testifies that every Saint may know, not only does God make Himself present among mankind, but we may have fellowship with God.

John desires for us to have fellowship with God.

Listen to how John begins his letter to the churches in 1 John: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. (1 John 1:3-4) John says, I heard God. I saw God. I touched God. God has eternal life and He gave it to us, His disciples, and we proclaim that same eternal life to you. Also, what we have seen and heard, we proclaim to you so we may fellowship together. John proclaims that all of us, he, the Apostles who saw Jesus, and the Trinity, may all be in fellowship with one another. John, inspired by the Holy Spirit says: “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.” If we embrace what John is telling us and we understand what it means to have fellowship with God, our joy will be made complete. Let’s think about this in the context of the Christmas season. Joy is often spoken of this time of year. We sing, “Joy to the World” and “Joy, Joy, Joy.” Joy is theme of many songs of Christmas because of the ultimate gift God offers mankind; the gift of Himself. No gift will give us greater joy. If we receive the gift of God, our joy is made complete. Complete joy is fullness of joy. It is impossible to find more joy than complete joy. John desires for all the Saints to have complete joy by understanding how we may go beyond being in the presence of God to also having in fellowship with God. Throughout his letter, he tells us how our fellowship may be made right. John uses different words, such as fellowship, abide, know, but they mean the same thing. Here are examples of how John talks of ways for us to be in fellowship with God:
  • If we walk in the light, and not in darkness, we have fellowship with God (1:6-7).
  • We know Him, if we keep His commandments (2:3).
  • If we keep God’s word and walk as Jesus walked, we know Him (1 John 2:5-6)
  • If the gospel abides in us, we abide in God (1 John 2:24)
  • If we abide in sin, we do not know God (1 John 3:6)
It is because of John’s letter; we may know if we experience God on a relational level.

God’s relational presence (not His omniscience)

When we speak of God’s presence this morning, we are not referring to God’s attribute of omnipresence. God is ever present everywhere in the material and spiritual world. When we speak of God’s presence, we are speaking of God’s presence in a relational experience. For example, we can be physically present with people, but not committing ourselves with our presence. We have a saying, “he is in his own little world” or, “they wouldn’t give me the time of day” which means somebody may be physically present, but they are not interacting relationally, with others in their presence. God’s gift of His presence is that we may have a relational interaction with God. Not only is God present, but we may have a relationship with Him.

How do we know we have a relationship with an invisible God?

Notice how John begins the passage. He starts by saying, No one has seen God at any time (1 John 4:12a) We may not see God’s presence. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that God is Spirit (John 4:24). Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians and Timothy that God is the “invisible God” (Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17). God is invisible, we do not hear His voice, we do not see Him in the room, we do not touch or smell God. Because of this, it is difficult to know we have a relationship with God. God doesn’t want us to look at one another the same way we look at children who have imaginary playmates. God wants us to know we may have a relationship with the invisible God. He is present and He loves us. God inspired John to write so that we may know the truth. We may not see God; however, we may know we have a relationship with Him.

Three SIGNS to know if you have received the gift of God’s presence

In the passage we will be looking at today, we will learn how we may know that we have received the gift of God’s presence. Three signs give assurance of the presence of God. If you examine your life, and you find these signs to be true, it is John’s desire, and mine, that your joy is made complete.

The Spirit of God’s Presence

The first sign of God’s presence in our life is the Spirit of God’s presence. John writes more about God’s Holy Spirit than any other writer in the Bible. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit (1 John 4:13). God gives us His Spirit as a gift. If we have God’s Spirit, we are abiding in God and God is abiding in us. It is in John’s Gospel we learn of what Jesus told Nicodemus about the Spirit of God. Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going.” In other words, we may not see the wind, but we see the direction and the effects of the wind. We hear the wind at work. We see how the wind moves the trees. It is the same with God’s Holy Spirit. We do not see the Him, but we witness the effects of His work. If we see His work in our life, He is present. Here are evidences of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. The first work of the Holy Spirit is that He convicts us of our sin (Jn. 16:8). He works in us to give us a sense of shame and guilt about our sin. When we sin, the Holy Spirit does not allow us to enjoy the experience of the sin as we thought we might. We agonize that our relationship with God is bruised. People in the world do not feel a sense of guilt or shame over sin. They enjoy their sin and some even flaunt their willful disobedience to God. God’s Holy Spirit works in us to conviction us of sin give us an ever-increasing desire for holiness. Another way the Holy Spirit works in our life is to guide us into truth (Jn. 16:12). Because of God’s Holy Spirit, we may understand God’s Word. He is the writer of Scripture and He reveals to us the truth of His writings. Our flesh does not understand spiritual things, but the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and illuminates our mind so we may understand and know the truth of God. God’s Holy Spirit glorifies Christ (Jn. 16:14). When we glorify Jesus it is by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. In this letter, John writes, “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2). When we have joy in singing about Jesus or when we are glad to hear His name, it is due to the work of the Holy Spirit. People in the world don’t have the joy of exalting Christ. They desire to silence people who speak of Christ. The reason we have joy is not of ourselves, but of God. There are other evidences of the work of the Spirit in people’s lives, but these three are the most pronounced and most common. If we experience the work of God’s Spirit, then we may know God is present. God abides in us; He made a home in us, and we make our home in Him. The testimony of the Apostle John is that we may know of God’s relational presence in our lives when there is evidence of the work of God’s Holy Spirit.

The Confession of God’s Presence

The second sign which John testifies is that there is a confession of Christ. John tells of his confession and the confession of the other disciples. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14) John testifies God sent Jesus to be the Savior of the world. John heard the words of Jesus when He said, For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17) John witnessed the signs and miracles proving Jesus is sent by God. John witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus and knows Jesus died for our sins and rose again so that we may have eternal life. It is John who tells us that he heard Jesus say, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) John is an eyewitness to Jesus pleading with His Father in the garden, the trial, crucifixion, and the empty tomb of Christ. John talked with the resurrected Christ and ate fish with Him. John saw Jesus ascend into the clouds and say I am coming back again. John testifies that the Father sent Jesus to be the Savior of the world. John also knows and understands that those who confess Jesus just as he confesses Jesus may know they have received the gift of God’s presence. Just a few sentences earlier, John writes, “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2). It is the work of God’s Spirit in us that we confess Jesus is God in the flesh. The confession of Christ as Savior is absolutely necessary in order to have a relationship with God. Therefore, John writes again in this passage: Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (1 John 4:15) John is a witness to Jesus prayer in the Garden. He heard Jesus pray to the Father that all those who believe in Him. He knows it is the will of Jesus that those who confess Jesus is the Son of God have the indwelling of God. Listen to the words Jesus prayed regarding those who believe in Him as Savior. Jesus prayed (that all those who believe in Jesus)… may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us (John 17:21) This is an amazing prayer request by Jesus. When we confess Jesus is the Son of God who came to save us from our sins; God joins us together, so we become one with one another and one with the Trinity. When we put our faith in Jesus as Savior, we also have faith in our union with the Trinity. Jesus prayer does not go unanswered. The same faith we have that Jesus is Lord is the same faith for us to believe in our fellowship with God; that God abides in us and we abide in Him. We may know by our confession of faith that we have fellowship with the presence of God.

The Love of God’s Presence

Last, but not least, is the third sign of God’s presence in our lives, which is the presence of love. John tells us of two ways love is a sign of our fellowship with God’s presence. The first is that we have love for one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12) We may not see God; however, we may know God abides in us if we love one another. When God abides in us He makes residence. When He first moves in, it is not a place He finds comfortable. God finds no pleasure in walls painted with the color of bitterness. He takes offense at front lawns adorned with angry bushes and the backyard pool filled with sarcasm. God doesn’t want to lounge on furniture which reeks with the smell of hatred. God moves in and fixes the place up. God perfects His love in us. God does an extreme makeover. People who used to know us, come over and spend time with us and say, “I love what you have done to the place.” And our response is, “it is not I who made the place better, it is my new roommate who is making all the changes.” Love is a fruit of God’s Holy Spirit. Our love for one another reveals the tree of God’s Spirit has taken root. The roots of God’s divine nature is taking over. When we are filled with love for God and love for others, people look at our “life-tree” and see that our branches are laden with the fruit of love. As we walk about in our life our branches are filled with the fruit of love, then we may know God is present in our lives. As Jesus says, “for the tree is known by its fruit” (Mat. 12:33). The fruit of love is present and it gets better every year because God is a great gardener and He is perfecting the fruit of His love in us. Our love for one another is not pithy or tasteless, but it is a love which is alive, vibrant, nourishing, and increasing as it becomes perfected. Because God is perfecting His love in us, we become better at loving others. We find ourselves showing kindness to others so that they say, “I wonder what got into him.” When God abides in us, and He perfects His love in us, we look at people in a different way. Because love is patient, the annoying trait or habit in a person no longer drives us crazy. We grow in compassion, mercy, and grace. Our love for one another is evidence of God’s presence. In addition to our love for one another, we also find ourselves abiding in the love of God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16) Let’s look at the first sentence, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.” The subject of love in this portion of the text is not the love we have for others (as in verse 12), but the love God has for us. We, the saints, know from experience and by faith the love God has for us. We put our faith in Christ, and we believe He died for us. We believe Christ’s death is a demonstration of God’s love. Because of our faith in Christ, we know and believe in God’s love for us and that we are objects of God’s love. Our belief in God’s love for us extends beyond the cross and our salvation. We believe God’s love for us is continuing. We pray and ask God for His help because we believe and depend upon His continuing love. We suffer through hardship without complaining or being bitter because we trust in a loving God who is working all things for good. John writes and says that our belief in God’s love is a sign of God’s presence in our lives. God is love. In other words, the love God demonstrates toward us is who He is. God and love are inseparable; they are one and the same. Wherever God exists, His love exists. It is impossible for love to exist without God. We see God’s presence most profoundly in the blood of His Son upon the cross. God displayed evidence of His love and presence when He bruised His Son for our sins. We believe in God’s demonstration of His love. We abide in God’s love. Those who abide in God’s love, find God’s love to be a place of satisfaction and contentment. Humans seek love. We look for love, and we desire to be loved. God desires we find our satisfaction in His love first and foremost. He wants us to abide, to make our self at home and satisfied in God’s love. When we abide in God’s love, we have no need to look for another love. Our search for love has found a home. We are not moved away. Life events and difficulties don’t move us away from staying in the love of God. We find our joy in the demonstration of God’s love on the cross. We believe it to be the greatest demonstration of love ever shown. He need not prove His love by offering a greater sacrifice, because we believe the sacrifice of Christ is supreme. Because we abide in God’s love, and God is love, therefore we abide in God. When we abide in God’s love, we abide in God and God abides in us.


We are blessed God has given us people like John who lived with Jesus during His entire ministry. John loves God and His Lord. John loves the church. John desires for us to know Jesus is the Son of God and in believing in Him, we may have life in His name (John 20:31). John wrote this letter to the church so we may be assured that God is present in the lives of the Saints. In these verses, John gives us three ways we may know God is present in our lives. The first evidence of God’s presence is that we are given God’s Spirit. We know we have God’s Spirit if He is convicting us of sin, helping us understand the Scriptures, and working in our lives to bring us to an ever-increasing level of sanctification, then we may know God’s Spirit is evidence of God’s presence. The second way we may know God is present in our lives is our confession. We confess before men that God sent Jesus as Lord and Savior. Our confession of Christ is as honey upon our lips. When we confess Christ, God places us in union with Him. We abide in Christ, and Christ abides in the Father; we one in Him. Third, we may know God is present because love is present in our lives. We are filled with love for God and love for one another. God is working in our lives so that our love is becoming perfected. People look at our lives and see an increasing number of our branches laden with the fruit of love. Not only do we love one another, but we also find joy in abiding in God’s love for us. His love is satisfying. If we examine our life and we find these signs to be true, it is John’s desire, and mine, that our joy is made complete. We realize God’s presence is completely undeserved. None of us are worthy of God’s relationship. We are struck with humility and thankfulness. We have gained everything there is to gain. Without God’s fellowship, our joy is incomplete. With God, our joy is completed. We have received the greatest gift of all gifts. We have received the gift of God’s presence.