Real Love: What is True Love?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

1 John 4:7-12


What exactly is real love? Is real love a relationship between two people? Is real love Tom Holland and Zendaya? Is real love found in a movie? Is real love what you keep searching for? The next few weeks as we approach and pass Valentine’s Day, we are going to talk about love – and what God’s Word says about love. 

The easiest phrase to be used by students today is “I love you.” In the year 2022, that phrase is thrown and tossed around like an opened bag of candy. The hope of course is that if we are actively using that phrase, that we would actually mean what we say to the fullest. We conducted a very unofficial survey of our students regarding what they believe about love and relationships in connection with God’s Word. 

Out of those who responded, sixty-six (66) percent of them stated they believe true love can exist in a relationship whether the people in the relationship are Christians or not. Fifty (50) percent of the responses said that it is okay for them to be in a dating relationship with someone who is not a Christian as long as they are trying to witness to them. This is problematic when looking at Scripture and seeing what true love really is. When we look at 1 John 4, we learn more about what it means to have authentic love in our hearts.

God’s love should shape how we view love and relationships. 

The umbrella assumption of each of these statements is that real love is taking place. However, when it comes to being in a relationship, or thinking through this word “love,” it is incredible how we have made this word mean next-to-nothing as a society. 1 John 4 says pretty bluntly what love should be and where it comes from. Why? Because this “love” that we talk about can only come from God. 

Real love comes only from God (1 John 4:7)

1 John 4:7 says that we are called to love one another. Now, we are – we have established that. But that next phrase is what we are going to focus on: “for love is from God.” Everyone, not just your friend, not just your boyfriend or girlfriend, not just your husband or wife, but everyone who “loves” is born of God and knows God. Now, we know that not everyone on this planet who says “I love you” is born of God. But, one who is born of God and loves someone – has true love. So based on that, we can see that real, authentic love doesn’t come from the heart of a random person who is “loving” others – but it comes only from God. This means there are relationships that are supposedly based on “love” that aren’t really, because that love is not coming from God. 

Real love doesn’t exist without God (1 John 4:8)

Here’s the reality of what God’s Word tells us – no matter the relationships we are in, if we are not saved, we do not have the true love of God living inside of us. If we don’t have the true love of God living inside of us, then we are not physically capable of true love. 

This means that even in the best, most “healthy” boyfriend-girlfriend relationship – if you don’t have Christ, true love isn’t there. When true love isn’t there, it makes it fragile, and breakable. And even more than that, when we physically and spiritually aren’t capable of providing true love to the person we claim to “love,” sin can follow. This leads to broken relationships, destructive and harmful relationships. 

Real love was displayed by Christ (1 John 4:9-10)

The best example of true love displayed in Scripture was by Christ Himself, and John reminds us of that truth. God the Father gave His only Son, Jesus, as a living sacrifice, to be crucified on the cross, so that we may be forgiven of our mistakes and sins, and have everlasting, never-ending life with Him in a real place called Heaven. 

For myself, this has encouraged me to think twice before loosely saying I love something or loosely informing someone of my “love” for them. Real, true love is displayed by Christ on the cross, for He gave His life for us. It would be wrong for me to use the phrase “love” for something so loosely. May we be challenged to understand that true love has come, and is available for all of us. May we choose to accept it – and to live displaying it to others.

Authentic: Call to Action

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

James 2:14-17 (ESV)


Last week, we discussed accountability. The beautiful thing about authenticity bringing accountability is that in Christ we are born into a second family of Believers who seek to live for the glory of the Lord. That second family should hold us accountable. One of the biggest ways we must hold each other accountable, is to simply ensure that we are all living an active and real faith. 

In college, I pursued a degree in communication. In doing so, I had the opportunity to learn about how we utilize social media in our current society. Of course in school, you learn new terms and words in almost every class you take. In one of my classes, a key word struck me: slacktivism. Here, we are simply going to use Google’s definition of slacktivism:

“the practice of supporting a political or social cause by means such as social media or online petitions, characterized as involving very little effort or commitment.” (Source: Google)

What slacktivism essentially means is that you can post that you are for something on social media all you want – but if you follow through with any deed, are you accomplishing anything? I can post one caption per day on Instagram saying I am for rescuing puppies, but if I don’t follow through with any sort of action, does it really mean anything? 

Your faith in Christ must bring you to action.

I believe this is easily relatable to our faith in Christ. We can claim we follow all we want, we can post that we Believe and worship Christ all we want, but if we don’t follow through, does that mean anything? James 2 gives us some pretty clear and in-your-face words when it comes to Scripture. Simply put, a faith in Christ that is not joined by deeds is essentially dead. This passage in James 2 focuses primarily on feeding the hungry and clothing the poor. If we are given an opportunity to show the love of Christ to someone in need, and we have the ability to meet that need, why would we pass up the opportunity to put our faith in action? 

Likewise, in what is commonly known as the Great Commission in Matthew 28, we are not called to sit still and share the Gospel – but rather we are called into action to share the Gospel. Yes, that means maybe one day, we have to give up watching Netflix all day for the sake of putting action to our faith. 

One of the most prevalent issues with our students is the ease in which that idea of slacktivism is available. It is much easier to share a post on Instagram than it is to share the Gospel. If you don’t post that you are for something – you must be against it. If you don’t share a certain post – you must not believe it. Pressing share or submit takes little-to-no commitment or effort, as the definition describes. Our faith should never be that way! We must put real-life action to our faith because a lack of faith has real-life consequences. 

Sharing a post on social media isn’t action in our faith, sharing the Gospel and loving others is. If we get that part right, even though we aren’t perfect, we then can say that our faith is authentic, and if it isn’t authentic – it might as well not be there at all. 

Authentic: Be Accountable

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” 

Galatians 6:1-2 (ESV)


Recently, I had the privilege (or misfortune) of watching the annual disappointment that is the Dallas Cowboys. For the 1,000th (seemingly) consecutive season, their quest for the Super Bowl ended in disappointment. This year, the collapse was exceptional! Their playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers was capped off by 14 penalties! Now, 14 penalties in any game is a LOT! But 14 penalties in a playoff game is even worse! A penalty in a game of football is given when a player or coach violates a rule in the game’s rulebook. Yes, violations happen in every game. But fourteen? 

Fourteen penalties in a game screams one thing: a lack of accountability to stay within the regulations. Now, our life as Believers should not be seen strictly as a regulations book that we must follow. But when the Lord calls us to live a life free from sin, we should do everything in our power to keep ourselves free from it as much as possible! This is done through accountability. Accountability means that someone is bound to hold you in-check! 

Being A Christian Doesn’t Mean Things Will Be Easy

Just ask King David. Things were going pretty well, until 2 Samuel 11, when temptation arose. He gave into the temptation, and sin ensued. Yes, we find freedom from our sin, but that doesn’t mean temptation will completely disappear! The phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” a phrase that has often been debunked, should remind us that temptation is always going to be there, but the Lord will always provide a way out of that temptation. That is the true freedom we have from sin (Galatians 5:1). 

Accountability, even when things aren’t easy, leads us to this idea of responsibility. As Christians, in our walk with the Lord – we have the responsibility to do everything we can to keep the faith even as we walk and navigate through temptation and sin. 

Being A Christian Doesn’t Mean You Won’t Sin

And yes, sometimes, just knowing that way out of temptation is not enough to keep you from giving in. You, just like me, are going to mess up! Even the Super Bowl champions get penalized – it happens! Perfection isn’t – and never will be – the goal in our walk with the Lord. The goal is to simply daily seek to be more and more like Christ, as we are made in His image.

But, even in our struggle, even in our sin – we should have brothers and sisters in Christ who, albeit gently, should bring restoration to our hearts through the love of Christ Jesus. As Paul writes in Romans, should we go on sinning so grace may abound? No! But rather let us heed the words of Jesus and do everything we can to “Go and sin no more.” 

Being A Christian Means You Have a Second Family

This is the fun part! Paul writes in Galatians 6:1 that we will find brothers or sisters in Christ caught, and even stuck in sin or transgression. We can even expect that to occur. But the even more significant element of this, is that the family of God should be there for the brother or sister caught in transgression. 

“The one who is spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” What a beautiful picture. We encouraged our students last night to expand their view of family to include their youth group and their church. When they become a Believer in Christ, we are born into the family of God – that even when we mess up, we have a second family that is there for us ready to pick us up again! Even moreso, that family should do it with a spirit of gentleness, knowing the fragility of the escape from temptation. 

Being A Christian Means You Should Have Accountability 

With a family of Believers around you comes accountability. In a spirit of gentleness, your second family can keep you in-check. Even more so, Paul writes that we are called to “bear one another’s burdens” and in doing so, we fulfill the Law of Christ. When we bear one another’s burdens, we are seeing the strongholds in their life, while simultaneously acknowledging our own shortcomings, and coming alongside them in love, humility, and community.

This upcoming Sunday we are beginning to walk through accountability on a deeper level with our students. During our new REFUGE time they will have the opportunity to have an accountability partner. This accountability partner will walk alongside them, walking through triumphs, struggles, trials, and joyful moments. Grieve with those who grieve, mourn with those who mourn, rejoice with those who rejoice. Bear one another’s burdens.

Do you have someone who will help provide accountability in your life? If you don’t, use this as an encouragement to seek it. As we said to our students yesterday, authenticity brings accountability, and accountability will bring authenticity.

Authentic: Being Real on Social Media

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:21 (ESV)


Playing the part is an easy thing to do. Day after day after day, keeping yourself in front of other people displaying a certain look, sharing the right photograph, and portraying the exact persona you want to. Its social media. 

Social media – especially for Believers – can be a polarizing topic and at times can be difficult for youth leaders, parents of students, and church staff to navigate. 

Our goal as Believers is to communicate the Gospel to a lost and dying world. While social media can be a tool for us to accomplish this goal, it is far too easy for us to utilize social media in a way that is not God-glorifying. On that note, our Gospel authenticity can be hindered or amplified by our use of social media. 

For students – it is even more difficult to utilize social media in a God-honoring way. This was the main discussion of the second week in our Authentic Midweek series. How can we glorify God and display Gospel authenticity in how we use social media?

The overarching answer comes from Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

If our “treasure,” (meaning what is championed in our heart) in this case is the satisfaction we receive from positive social media feedback, our heart will follow and continuously seek this satisfaction.  This means if we seek after social media praise – our hearts will crave social media praise. But, likewise, if we seek after Christ Jesus – our hearts will crave more of Christ Jesus. 

In short, our hearts should not treasure the positive reinforcement we receive from our Facebook page or from our Instagram post – but it should treasure the love Christ Jesus has for us and the responsibility He has given us to share the Gospel. 

This week, it was important that while spending time talking about authenticity in social media, that we give students practical tips for how to honor God with their social media use. That being said – this doesn’t just apply to students, but to any Believer seeking after the Kingdom first. Our authenticity in our faith should impact how we use social media.

Our Gospel authenticity should impact the way we speak on social media. 

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” -Proverbs 18:2

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” -James 1:19

For students (and us as well), we can say whatever we want by tapping our fingers against a screen a few times. That doesn’t change the fact that sometimes – we just shouldn’t! At times, it might seem like the right thing to do to express our opinion about something to others. But Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that while things may be allowed, it might not be beneficial. Is engaging in certain argumentative conversations going to be fruitful for building one another up? This doesn’t just go for social media arguments, but for conversation in general! We must decide if we are honoring God with our words before pressing send.  

Our Gospel authenticity should change the amount of time we spend on social media.

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” -Colossians 4:5

“Look carefully at how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” -Ephesians 5:15-16

Social media is an element of life that can quickly become an idol and we might not even realize it. The more time we spend mindlessly scrolling through TikTok or Instagram, the more we simply aren’t making the absolute best use of our time. Like Paul writes in Ephesians, we must be wise in how we spend our time and how we walk with the Lord – because those who don’t believe are watching us. They can see whether or not we are truly living differently. If we seek authenticity in our walk with the Lord – then we should be seeking His Word and not the latest TikTok trends. 

Our Gospel authenticity should affect what we post on social media.

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” -Luke 6:45

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” -Colossians 4:6

One of the most common aspects of social media today is sharing others’ posts. This is often a meme, video, or photo. More often than not, the post being shared is someone else’s words or thoughts, that you happen to agree with. It is incredibly easy for us to share a post, meme, or video filled with vulgar content and shrug it off because we weren’t the ones to originally post it. We must understand as Believers that just because we weren’t the ones to originally say it doesn’t mean we aren’t sharing it out of the abundance of our hearts. We must let the Gospel impact what we share.

The reality is people who are not Christ-followers watch and see what we post. What we post as Christians can mold their view of Christianity from a distance. Jesus Himself notes that what is spoken, which for us can be extended to what we post, is out of the abundance of the heart! If what we speak (which we referenced earlier) and what we post on social media is what is truly in our hearts, may the words that come out of our mouths and may the posts we press send on be seasoned with salt! May grace abound, and not the darkness of our sin. 

Our Gospel authenticity should guide what we view on social media. 

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” -Psalm 119:37

“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” -Ephesians 5:4

This is one of the hardest parts of social media – controlling what we see. In the age of numerous unsolicited advertisements and algorithms – it is getting harder and harder to control what arrives on the screen before our eyes. But that shouldn’t stop us from taking the steps we need to avoid taking in sin through social media. This may include unfollowing or removing accounts that are causing you to stumble. If simply removing accounts doesn’t help the situation, it is time to delete the app and seek accountability. 

Gospel authenticity in our social media use is hard enough for us adults, let alone our students. We must model this as Christians so that the children and teenagers who look up to us can see the Gospel being lived out in every part of our lives. May we treasure being faithful in all areas of our walk with the Lord and not the glory that comes with Facebook likes. 

Instead of spending time scrolling endlessly, may we live with thanksgiving being endless in our hearts. Scripture calls us to speak boldly, not for our sports team, not for our opinion, and not for the latest TikTok trend, but for the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Our social media interactions should reflect a life that has been transformed by the Gospel and is seeking to live authentically for His glory.

Authentic: Be Different

In our student ministry, we are beginning the year by looking at what it means to be truly authentic in our walk with the Lord. Come alongside us as we seek to build up passionate Believers who are authentic in every part of their relationship with God.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)


During the first installment of Midweek in 2022, we played one of my personal favorite games that we’ve played in our student ministry: Headline News: Real or Fake? The simple task given to the player is to decide whether the headline read aloud is real, or completely made-up. Some of the headlines given, as crazy as they sound, are true – which makes the game a difficult one at times. 

Behind the fun of the game, there is a larger lesson at play. 

For every Believer, we have to at some point decide – is our commitment to growing in our relationship with the Lord going to be real or fake?  

The truly committed Believer in Christ must instill a mindset that glorifies the Lord and impacts life daily. There are two initial truths that we must recognize as Believers when thinking about our Gospel authenticity. 

We must live differently than the world.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” -Philippians 2:4-5 (ESV)

This begs the simple question: would someone be able to tell you apart from a non-Believer? When we confess our trust in Christ, this changes and transforms every part of our being. This is a great calling to live differently. 

Yes – that means posting differently on social media (which we’ll get to next week). Yes – that means approaching daily tasks differently. Yes – that means letting go of worldly pleasures that might be allowed but not exactly beneficial. This is incredibly important to instill in our students today, but how are we to instill this truth if we first do not exemplify that? 

The best part is when we give our whole self to the Lord that we live so differently that we shine like stars in the sky! People see that. People notice that. 

We must live pure before the Lord.

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” -Romans 2:4 (ESV)

Like the passage referenced from Philippians, we must be drawn to repentance daily before the Lord. We must understand each day how much we should be reliant on the Lord for our daily wisdom, strength, and ability to withstand temptation before us. 

His kindness, not his judgment nor shame, leads us to repentance. Part of being real and being authentic is actually striving for purity before the Lord. To translate: if we seek to be real with our Heavenly Father, it will be much easier for us to be real around others. The good news, however, is that even when we fail at that, He will be patient with us, He will be kind to us. 

To sum things up, if someone who needs Christ was to see you now, would they see a Believer who is living authentically for Christ, or would they see someone who puts on the religious show without actually living differently?

Discerning the answers here is much like the game we played. The main difference is, it is real life – and it is much easier to tell the real from the fake.

What Are You Thankful For?

The blessings of the Lord are ever present and new every morning. The question is are your eyes open to see them? Sure, it is easy to focus on the obstacles that lie before you and a challenge to turn your eyes to your heavenly Father. But when your perspective shifts from yourself to the Lord your eyes are open to His active hand in your life. 2019 has been a monumental year in the life of our church and we want to share what we are thankful for as we look back. 

The Lord has been performing miracles within our midst all year! We have scene renovations to: three bathrooms, a breezeway, our gym, and our kitchen! Also our Children’s Wing, Youth rooms, and College room have been updated, renovated, and cleaned up! God is truly at work within our facility which we are very thankful because each space helps us better serve our Lord and community!

God continues to open doors for us to better serve our community! As a church we are knee deep in the midst of revitalization and have sought to consolidate within our campus as much as possible. The Lord worked through this process for our church to house a food pantry! God continues to bring ministries to our church to serve along side of us as we seek to reach our community. God is so faithful.

As the pastor of Exchange, I could not be more thankful of our congregation! The faithfulness they embody as we continually step out in faith to follow the Lord is inspiring. The heart of our congregation is to love God and love our neighbor for the glory of God! This is not just a saying but a way of life at Exchange. God is working through our church in remarkable ways and it is fun to look back and see the wake of His mighty hand. What a blessing. What an honor. And what a joy to serve and shepherd this flock of believers. 

-Jon Johnston, Senior Pastor

The definition for thankful is “conscious of benefit received; expressive of thanks; well pleased.”

I am thankful for the people who are called to work in our Children’s Ministry, who love the Lord and who love working with children, and I am thankful for the children He has blessed us to love.  Thank you for the people who love the Lord and want to serve Him by making updates to our Children’s area.

Another area to be thankful about is Whiz Kids. We have two other sites besides ours that meet in our facility. He has provided people who love the Lord and want to help the children learn to read. He has also provided people at each site who minister to the kids by teaching the Bible to the kids each week.  Not only are they receiving help with reading but they are learning about Jesus. We reach over 50 kids each week through this ministry.  

Some days such as today when my computer is not cooperating and I get frustrated, I forget that God has provided me with a job, a computer to use and great people to work with.  Thankfulness is an attitude no matter what our circumstances are. So during this season of Thanksgiving, let’s have an attitude of gratitude and be thankful for everything around us which includes family, friends, coworkers, and everyone that we come in contact with so they can see Jesus in us. It’s much easier to smile than it is to frown and more rewarding to be nice and considerate to others than to be a grouch, even though sometimes that’s exactly what we feel like being.   

May this season of the year remind you of all that you have to be thankful for and that others will see Jesus in you as you interact with them.

-Billie, Children’s Director and Financial Secretary

I am incredibly thankful for the provision of God in our Church and in my life. Throughout 2019, there have been blessings that couldn’t be counted both within our family and within our Church. For our Church, God continues to provide new ways for us to reach our community and unexpected blessings that remind us of His glory. I am thankful for the unique ways God is using our resources for His good. 

In 2019, our student ministry was able to have our room renovated, take leadership students to Super Summer, build community with one another through the launch of a girl’s Bible study, and solidify a core group. It has been an incredibly exciting year in this ministry. The Lord has provided the ability to launch a brand new college-age ministry at Exchange, the Collective, and we have also been fortunate to add members to our musical worship team. These moments in 2019 have displayed God’s character and His passion to see the Church built. 

And personally, I am also incredibly thankful this year that God has blessed me with a wonderful wife. I see God’s faithfulness through her kindness and the example she displays for others. She has been supportive of every step of our work in ministry, even in the launches of new ministries, and continues to be an encouragement to me every day. 

Even the small things in life can be examples of God’s provision. For you, maybe it is your family. Maybe it is the friend of yours who is always there to lift you up when you need it. This year, I pray that we would seek God’s provision, and have faith that He will provide. It might not always be provided in the way we hope or think of, but His provision is perfect. As the season goes by, let us recognize that, praise Him for it, and seek out ways we can bless others in this time of thanksgiving. 

-Preston, Student and Worship Director

Happy Thanksgiving from the staff of Exchange Avenue Baptist Church!

Come Serve With Us

Jesus, the Son of God, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords did not come to this earth to be served but rather to serve.  The heart of our Lord was that of a physician who sought the sick, poor, and needy. The greatest act of service is seen in His death where He paid the ultimate price for a sin debt that only He could pay and in doing so paved the way for sinners to unite with a holy God.

The heart of Jesus’ earthly ministry was one of service and seeking out those who needed help. Exchange Avenue Baptist Church is in downtown Oklahoma City where there are many who are in need. God is moving through our church as we are seeking to be the light of life to a dark and hurting part of the city. God has opened the door for us to serve our community by meeting practical needs and providing the opportunity for love to be shared through food, a hug, remembering someone’s name, prayer, and sharing the gospel. A small church in downtown OKC is now having a significant impact for the Kingdom of God and we are seeing our community respond in mass. On a monthly basis we serve 1,200-1,500 people who step foot on our campus, in our door, and into our lives. 

As God continues to move within our midst, I want to invite you to join us on mission. Join the work that God is doing! Please pray for us as we are on the frontlines of ministry serving all who come our way. Please pray that God would give us His wisdom and discernment. Pray that God would send His Spirit that we might see an awakening in our community by God drawing people to Himself. Please pray the gospel ministry of Exchange would push back the darkness within our community that enslaves. Please pray!

You could also join us on mission! We need you! There are weekly and monthly opportunities to serve! God is moving within our midst and I would love to have you take part it what He is doing!

For gospel advance,
Jon Johnston

Opportunities to Serve

Weekly: 
Monday Night Community Dinner: 6pm-7pm

Monthly:
Food Pantry: 2nd and 4th Monday of each month 3:30pm-5:30pm
Mobile Market 2nd Wednesday of each month 1pm-2pm

How Great is the Love of God

“See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children – and we are!” -1 John 3:1 (CSB)

Over the past two months, our student ministry has been walking through the book of 1 John. This book is often overlooked when it comes to our view of what real love is, especially in the world we live in today. What exactly is this love 1 John speaks about? What exactly does this love – that is so heavenly and so divine – do for us?

For many, especially students, it is hard to grasp that this Godly love is not simply a feeling we work to receive through a relationship or through romance. Rather, this divine love calls us to live a transformed life. Below, I’ve spelled out a few significant reminders of God’s love. Today, I hope this encourages you to live a life with a heart fully and completely transformed by the perfect love of God.

1.      God’s love is perfect

“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear…” -1 John 4:18 (CSB)

I always sought out perfection in elementary school, whether I recognized that or not, and in elementary school math, that wasn’t hard for me. Math was fun! I would gain enjoyment from completing all of my multiplication tables and getting that ‘100’ on the assignment. In my elementary school mind I had achieved perfection – the endgame. Perfection, which is not only something we cannot achieve – the endgame for some – is something God has always had and always is.

His love is perfect. It is as complex yet as simple as that. We cannot achieve perfection. Even those of us who claim “I love everybody,” cannot have a love that is so perfect. Even so, the things (and people) in this world that drive us so crazy or harm our attitude, cannot stand against the perfect love of God.

But even better than that, His love actually casts out fear. The things of the world that scare us, or simply make us worry, can be driven out by the perfect love of God. This verse explains why fear grips us so much, as well.

“…fear involves punishment.” -1 John 4:18 (CSB)

The difference between math in elementary school and math in high school is significant. It is a lot more complex, easier to mess up, and for me much more confusing. When I took a math test in high school, I would actually fear it – a long cry from my attitude towards math tests in elementary school. I feared getting a bad grade. Why did I fear this? Because fear has to do with punishment. I knew that if I consistently got 65s on my math tests, I would ultimately receive punishment.

That is one of the mesmerizing things about God’s love – it doesn’t instill fear in us – it instills a peace, because that fear has been driven away. Punishment no longer exists for us because of Christ!

2.      God’s love shows that we belong to Him.

“Dear friends, we are God’s children now…” -1 John 3:2 (CSB)

God’s love is an other-worldly, divine, perfection. And that is the love that is displayed for us – His children.

One of the most gut-wrenching things to see in student ministry is when a student is struggling to find belonging in their life. Whether that is belonging in school, a friend group, or even in their own families, teenagers spend a lot of time growing up searching. We are all no different. We want to belong. We want to find meaning. We long to belong to someone or something.

Yet, our God’s love is so perfect, that it not only provides us with this meaning and purpose, but it also provides this supernatural love that brings us peace, joy, and a Heavenly Father to belong to. Church, may we rest daily in the simple truth that we are His – and we can have great joy in the love of God.

We receive this perfect love, but when we are saved, we also receive a family, the family of God. How great is that? That the love of God is not only perfect, it doesn’t just help provide meaning, but it actually gives us a family of believers to lean on and belong to! This is something to rejoice in.

3.      God’s love is seen through action.

“If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him – how does God’s love reside in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.” -1 John 3:17-18 (CSB)

Not only is living out our faith by way of our actions a command from Scripture, it is the proof that the Holy Spirit is working through us. This is incredibly important when it comes to our relationships with other believers, yes. But, even more than that – it is evidence of God working through us to those who don’t believe.

When there is a claim you don’t quite believe, maybe a news story without any sources, or an academic paper using Wikipedia for information – you naturally want reliable evidence to back up the claim. I often ask our students, if we are not practicing putting the love of God into action, what, then, truly makes us different from those who do not believe? God’s love in us is proof to those who might not believe. If we have this claim that Christians are different and are filled with a divine love, we should be displaying real proof by our actions, not a Wikipedia-esque mostly true love. May we strive to display proof of God’s love through our actions and not simply just in our words and speech.

As our student ministry has been walking through 1 John, it has convicted me to live out God’s love in a real and tangible way through my actions. May we treat God’s love as though it is perfect and share this love with others as though it has truly transformed our hearts. Oh, how great is the love of God.