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The Flow of Love

By J. Mike Minnix
Bible Book: 1 John 2 : 3-11
Subject: Love; God's Love
Series: God's Dear Children
In the few verses before us, John uses the word know at least five times, and he does so with
the idea of that word being presented even more often. The word know is used in 1 John alone
over 25 times. The fact that John uses the word know so often tells you that God is concerned
that you and I have a definite knowledge of our salvation and of Christ. The word know means
to experience not just to have a set of facts in mind. The word is used, for example, of Mary
when it is said of her that she was with child but had not known a man. This did not mean that
she had no knowledge in her head of a man. Of course she knew many men in her family and
community. She was even espoused to Joseph to be married. The passage meant that she had
not had physical union with a man. Now I say this so you will get the picture and meaning of this
word know. It is a powerful word in the Bible, often meaning far more in the text than in does
in our common language use today.

God desires that you know that you are saved. He desires that you know Christ personally, not
just in your mind. John is writing about this in the passage before us and as he writes John
reveals something very important. He shows us the flow or direction of Gods love in the life of
true believers. Gods love is not static. Look at Ephesians 4:16, From him the whole body,
joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as
each part does its work. We are to grow in love! Johns concern is that we know we are saved,
and that we go on in the love of God to maturity rather than sliding back into our old way of life.

Why do some people serve the Lord for many years only to fall away from service and worship
later on? There must be many reasons but I believe our text today reveals that there is one root
cause or element involved. To know this cause or element, is to be armed and warned regarding
our own propensity to turn away from the Lord. Isaiah said, We all, like sheep, have gone
astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all
(Isaiah 53:6). The songwriter penned,

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love.

The best of us can fall back from a faithful walk and work for God. We are warned, Let him that
thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. If we are in danger of reversing our commitment, of
backsliding on God, how can we avoid such a tragedy?

John points out in our text for today that Gods love flows upward! Water normally flows
downward, but Gods love flows from the least position of faithfulness to the greatest level of
faithfulness and joy. If we would have stick-ability and tenacity in our Christian life, we must
move in the flow of Gods love to the highest and holiest level.

One night a little boy feel out of bed. His father raced into the room to find the little guy crying
and trying to climb back up into the bed. The father asked, Son, what happened, why did you
fall out of bed? The little boy answered, Daddy, I guess I went to sleep a little too close to
where I got in.

Many Christians get into Christ, but then they do not go on in Christ and progress to the
place where God has planned. Such Christians hibernate in a state of suspended animation on a
spiritual and divine love level. Dont misunderstand me, I dont mean to say that they arent busy
for the Lord. On the contrary, such a person may be very busy in Gods work and yet still be very
far from what he or she is meant to be. No, I mean that they do not go in the flow of Gods love
to the deeper waters.

In Ezekiel 47 the prophet is shown a stream of water flowing that is ankle deep. Then the water
grows and it is knee deep. Then it rises again till it is waist deep. At last it is deep enough to
swim in. This is a good picture of the proper Christian life. If we stay near the shore in the ankle
deep water we will eventually get out of the water all together. If we go on into the depths of
Gods love, we will find a river in which to swim - a stream never ceasing. So lets look at Johns
description of this flow of love.

The flow of Gods love begins with our acceptance of our obligations to obey Gods
commandments. Now what does that mean? The lowest level of our relationship to Christ is the
level of obligation. That is, we are going to do what he says whether we like it or not. We simply
make self give in to the Savior in order to be obedient. This is one of the signs that we belong to
Him. Think of an example. A father tells his son to cut the grass. The boy does not want to do it,
but he belongs to his father, he knows the consequences will not be good if he does not do it, so
he does it. He may pout about it. He may complain about it. He may whine about it, but he does

Everyone of us understands this feeling on a human level. In a home you have certain
responsibilities which you may not like, but you do them just the same because you are part of
the family and you realize your obligation. The lowest level of Christian service is to obey the
commandments of God out of obligation. This is not bad, in fact it may well be a proof that you
belong to God, just as your action of doing what you may not like reveals that you are part of a
family. But we can also say that this is not the highest level of love. This is not the most noble
reason for service.

When someone does something out of obligation, he or she is more likely to stop doing it. A
husband that does things for his wife out of obligation might be more easily led astray in his
sexual and moral life. The same is true for a wife. There are times we don't feel like doing what
we should, and devotion under those circumstance is good and necessary, however, when
everything we do becomes obligation, we are moving toward failure. If that is where you are in
your marriage, you need to stop and deal with it. The same is true in your spiritual life. If you
only serve God because you feel an obligation, you are not living in the highest and best flow of
divine love; and , you are much more subject to drifting away from the Lord when love is not
motivating your actions.

That brings us to our second level in the flow of Gods love

Please note an obscure but important distinction in 1 John 2:5. Here John changes terms in a
subtle but significant way. In verse 3 John spoke of obedience to the commandments, but in
verse 5 he speaks of keeping the word of the Lord. The term word is vastly different in the
Greek from the word command. There is a powerful lesson here for serious Children of God.
What is it?

Lets take our earlier human illustration as an example. Let us suppose that the same father in
our grass cutting story comes home one day and says to his wife, Honey, I dont know how I am
going to get that grass cut. I have work to do this evening, and tomorrow I have that important
meeting. If I wait till next week the house will look terrible. I know I dont have time but it really
needs to be done and it is really troubling me. At that moment the teenage son is coming down
the stairs from doing homework. He hears the conversation. Even though he has plans to go
fishing with some friends, he quickly steps into the room and says, Dad, dont worry about that
grass, I will cut it. The father says, But I thought you had plans? The boy responds, I did, but I
can go fishing some other time, I will take care of the yard.

Now I know that story doesnt happen very often in most households, and that is just my point.
It doesnt happen in the household of God very often either. We usually end up begging people
to take on the difficult tasks. Sometimes we have to shame people into serving, or we have to
pull on their heartstrings. Once, when we couldn't get enough workers in our preschool care
during worship, I actually brought a cut little child out in the service and made a plea for workers
while holding up the child. It worked! Simply asking for workers was not enough - we had to find
a way to tug at the hearts of our members to get more workers. Can you imagine someone
going to the preschool care leader and saying, "I've been thinking about you lately. I know you
have a tough job. Do you, by any chance, need another worker during the worship services once
or twice a month?" If that happened, we might have to take our preschool leader to the hospital.

Look in the Bible at Isaiah, however, and you will see an example of a higher level of love for
God. When God said, Who can I send and who will go for us?, Isaiah said, Here am I, send
me. God did not call Isaiah by name, rather Isaiah had just gotten close enough to the Lord to
hear God's heartbeat and he was ready and willing to drop everything to do Gods will.
Hallelujah! This is the second glorious level in the flow of Gods love.

We should be in such fellowship with Him that we hear His heartbeat and give ourselves to His
purposes. In Revelation 12:17 we read, Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went
off to make war against the rest of her offspring-- those who obey God's commandments and
hold to the testimony of Jesus. Note that the devil went after those who obeyed His
commandments and who held to the testimony (evidence that they hold to the word) of Jesus.
What am I saying? There is an enemy who will do everything to keep you from this level of
serving Jesus. He will seek to discourage you. He will tempt you. He will accuse you. He will try
to keep you busy with other things. He will do all manner of things to keep you from enjoying
your relationship with the Lord. Why? Because those who remain at the obligation level are
much more likely to fall away from faithfulness to service and worship than those who serve the
Lord through motivation. Those who move on to the motivation level are more likely to be
strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

Marriage is no different. A husband when is motivated to love his wife will sense her needs.
When a husband sees his wife pouting around the house, he will usually ask, "What's wrong?"
When she replies curtly, "Nothing," you can be sure it is something, and it is likely something she
wanted you to see without her having to tell you. Love in a marriage requires a closeness that
recognizes the needs of the other party. It means that we care enough - that we are motivated
enough - to know the need of our spouse without words be exchanged to share it. Those who
love only on the level of obligation will almost always miss these cues. Keep love alive! When
you do that, you maintain a motivated love-life that will result in sensing and knowing the need
without being told. Husbands and wives have needs they don't like to advertise - they just want
the one they love to care enough to be aware of it without being told.

I love the story of the man who was running from a bear. A man behind a fence saw it and yelled
for the running man to speed up. The man yelled back, "I've got to jump and catch that high
limb." The man behind the fence yelled, "You can't catch that limb." The running man jumped
and missed the limb - but he caught it on the way down!"

Motivation is a wonderful thing, and when it comes to love it is absolutely necessary. It makes
the difference in long term success, whether in your walk with God or you life with your spouse.

Now let's think about the highest form in the flow of love.

We come now to the highest level of service in the love of God. John says that those who claim
to be His must walk as He walked. Now there is a challenge for you. Walk as Jesus walked

i. In purity, He walked.

ii. In compassion, He walked.

iii. In love, He walked.

iv. In sacrifice, He walked.

v. In abandonment of self, He walked.

vi. In perfect submission, He walked.

He said, I always do what pleases the Father. He said, Whatever the Father says, that I do.
He did not do these things out of obligation, not even out of motivation but in demonstration of
the divine power of the Father. How do I now that? Listen to what He said, If you have seen me,
you have seen the Father. He demonstrated the very nature of God. The fullness of the
Godhead indwelt Him. He possessed the divine nature and He presented the divine nature.

Now I may be able to live in obligation. I may even be able to produce a measure of motivation.
But in myself I cannot produce the demonstration of the nature of God. Only God can do that
through me. I am helpless to be like Jesus unless I get so near to Jesus that He can produce
Himself through me.

John deals with this in one area, the area of brotherly love. He states clearly that we must love as
Jesus loved. How did He love? He loved even until death. He loved those who did not
understand Him. He loved those who lacked faith. He loved Peter when he sank in the water and
even when he denied the Lord on the night Jesus was betrayed. He loved with a love that is from
above. To love like that we must have that love from above. It is not your love, it is His!

i. When I am living in obligation, God is working on me.

ii. When I am living in motivation, God is working in me.

iii. But when I am living in demonstration, God is working through me!

In order to love as we should, we must be filled with the Spirit of God. This requires a submission
of self so that the Spirit can control us. When a person is filled with an earthly spirit, like alcohol,
he is controlled by it. It changes his speech, he behavior, his attitude, and even his walk. That is
exactly why Paul tells us not to be drunk with wine, which leads to excessive evil behavior but to
be filled with the Spirit of God. Paul was making a comparison. He wanted us to understand
what it meant to be filled with the Spirit of God. It means to have God in control of our lives.
Being filled with self will lead one to selfish behavior. Being filled with greed will lead one to
desire earthly gain above all else. To be filled with ambition will lead one to put position above
people. To be filled with lust will lead on to be filled with passions that only satisfy the body.
But, to filled with the Spirit of God will lead a person to love the way Jesus loved. Self, with all
it's attending tendencies toward egotistical behavior is subjected to the will of God when the
Spirit of God is in control.

Jesus said, By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. A
church needs a love from above. We cannot succeed by living by obligation. I believe that is why
many have fallen by the wayside. They never got beyond the legal level of serving God. You can
serve in many positions in a church under obligation, and yet fall away. Why? Because you are
not being empowered by a strength outside of yourself. You can serve by motivation. But
motivation is a tricky thing. Peter claimed one minute that he would never desert Christ. He
claimed that he would go with Jesus to the death. The next minute he was a coward denying he
ever knew Him. What happened? Personal motivation failed him. But when you serve in
demonstration, the power of God is at work through you. You have yielded yourself to Him.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:2, Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us
as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. For us to live such a life, we must come to a point of
total commitment to Him. This is not a commitment to the church, though that will be part of it.
This is not a commitment to the law, though that will be a part of it. This is a commitment to
HIM! To love Him. To know Him. To walk with Him. To have Him live out His life through us. This
love will reveal itself in church, in the home and in every area of your life.

Paul wrote it like this, For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in
heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen
you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts
through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power,
together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all
the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or
imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in
Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

The greatest love every demonstrated was revealed in God's great gift of His Son for our
salvation (John 3:16). He didn't just say He loved us, He gave the best heaven had to redeem us.
Let our love be like His - or, as much like His as is humanly possible! Let's get in the flow of love
by allowing the flow of His Spirit to fill us, control us and move us to demonstrate it in our
everyday lives.

Someone here today has never accepted Christ as Savior and Lord. You can come to Him today
because He loves you. He gave Himself for you! Turn from your sin, confess Him as your Lord
and receive Him as your Savior.

There are others today who are redeemed, but you need to place self on the altar today and
allow the Lord to fill and control you. Since are very close to Valentine's Day, let me add a word
for married couples. There are married couples today who need to take each other by the hand
and come forward to renew your love. After years of marriage it is easy to take your partner for
granted. Today is a good day to bow here and thank God for your spouse, and to renew your
love before God. Ask Him to give you such an awareness of your spouses need that words will
not always be necessary for a proper response to meet that need.

Someone here today may be carrying a grudge because of what someone has done to you.
What if God had held a grudge against you. After all, you broke His Law and deserved His
judgment, but He loved you and wooed you till you came to accept the love He revealed at the
cross. Lay down that burden you are carrying. Let God's love flow through you. You can do that
today - right here - right now!

Extra Illustrations:
During the reign of Oliver Cromwell the British Empire ran into a shortage of currency. They
desperately needed money in order to survive. Representatives were sent out to look for
currency, or for silver that might be made into currency. None could be found, except in the
statues of saints in the churches. When this was reported to Cromwell he said, Let us melt
down the saints and put them into circulation. We need God's love to melt us down and put us
into circulation today!


When J. Wilbur Chapman started out in the ministry, his preaching was weak and unmoving. He
was discouraged and ready to quit. A few men in the church determined not to let him quit and
pledged to pray for him. Soon his preaching changed. There was a love in his preaching which
had never been known before. He went on to be one of the greatest evangelist in America
during his day. In fact, some say that he was the Billy Graham of his generation. It all began
when love won out over judgment!


A farmer used to have a testimony that he was not making much progress but he was
established. One day his wagon was stuck in the mud. A friend came by who had never been
comfortable with the farmers testimony. The friend said, Well, I see that you are not making
much progress, but you must be happy because you are well established.

Once a mother was having a hard time getting her son ready for school. Nobody likes me at
school, he said, and the teachers dont like me and the kids dont like me, and bus drivers dont
like me and the superintendent is threatening to kick me out. His mother said, Youve got to
go. You have a lot to learn. You have a lot to offer. Besides, you are 35 years old and you are the