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7th Sunday of Easter

To Him who loved us and has freed us from our sins by His own blood, to Him be power and glory forever and ever, Amen!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, air is an essential component of our lives, isn’t it?  We need air to live and to breathe.  Air is all around us and we enjoy it.  But air can also cause problems especially when it is mixed with something.  For example, about this time of year many people suffer because the air carries pollen and allergens, if you’re driving on the road and you drive by a dead skunk- the air isn’t very pleasant smelling.  And yet there are times when air can be quite pleasing.  For example just after a fresh rain the air is clean and crisp, or when the air carries a pleasing aroma of some fragrance or flower.  I went to school in the same town as a Nestle Chocolate factory.  I remember every now and then when the wind was right I could smell the sweet smell of chocolate- almost like just drinking it in.  Those pleasing smells permeated the air.

In a way there is an “air” or atmosphere that exists in every home, in every family.  This atmosphere can be very warm and sweet and pleasing or it can be foul or stale or cold.  What is in the air of your family?  The key fragrance that makes any home pleasing and enjoyable is love.  Now this love is not just any kind of love or love defined by human standards, rather, this is the love of the One who created love, who is love’s author, it is God’s love.  So how can we ensure that our homes remain sweet smelling and fragrant and filled with true love?

God gives us the answer in 1 John.  “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”  God wants us to realize who we are: people in whom He lives.  People in whom God the Holy Spirit lives.  Now, this isn’t just some pious wish or some happy thought – it is the fact.  Through faith God’s Spirit lives inside of you.  He has made His home in your heart.  But really?  How can we be sure?  “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.”  Our faith rests on historical facts, it is not some giant leap or wishy-washy hope.  So the very fact that you acknowledge and confess that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior is proof that God does live in you.  God tells us, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3).  God lives in us and He does things in our lives: He causes us to be loving and caring to other people- that’s evidence that God lives in you.  An unbeliever in whom God does not live, can only do everything for selfish reasons.  But notice what else that means: If you acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and Savior, then you’ll act like it.  You can’t say, “Jesus is Lord, my Savior, He is the world to me, and He lives in me” and then go out and act totally differently.  That’d be like a husband who promises and vows to his wife that he’ll be faithful to her to death and then goes out and cheats on her.  Your confession and your actions can’t be inconsistent.  Yet so often they are, aren’t they?

Even in Christian families, so many problems can occur.  Brothers and sisters can have disagreements and get into fights.  Husbands and wives can get into sharp arguments and word wars.  Parents can lose patience with their children and let anger out in words or actions.  Children can disobey their parents and purposefully ignore them.  All these things can cloud the air within a family and make it hard to breathe and hard to live.  Even though we know God lives in us, each one of us too easily forgets that and acts out with selfishness that results in anger and pain.  And we all know all too well how difficult it is to live in a home when sinfulness pollutes the air.

Yet what’s astounding, though, is that even though our hearts still wreak with sinfulness and selfishness, our hearts are un-breathable and unlivable because of sin, that in spite of who we are, God chooses to remain in us, to live in us, to make His home in our hearts!  He continually, day after day, never stops living inside of us.  Why?  In order to make the air of our lives and the air of our homes clean with His presence.  You see, it’s realizing that God lives in us that motivates us to live like Him.  If you realize that God is living in you, will you want to say that hurtful, angry word?  If you realize that God is living in you, will you want to ignore your parents?  If you realize that God is living in you, won’t you want to be kind and compassionate, loving and caring?  Live as lived in!

You see, the fact that God lives in us changes our outlook on life and our attitude with those who are our family.  It is this love of God that changes us.  Do we want more breathable air in our homes?  Do we want an atmosphere of love to live in?  Then we don’t look to ourselves, rather, we look to the source of true love, the author of love itself, we look to God’s love.  “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”  If we want love to grow in our homes and in our lives, we look to God’s love.  The more we know and learn and appreciate about God and His love, the more we’ll reflect that love in our lives.  Take a married couple for example.  The longer a husband and wife live together and share things together, the closer they get.  They get this mutual understanding and begin to know what the other is thinking before words are even spoken.  We have this same intimacy with God as we live in His Word and grow closer to Him.  As we immerse our lives in Him we begin to think His thoughts and His ways, which are always loving and good.

In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Love and fear are opposites.  Think about God’s love for you in Christ where He shows you how valuable you are to Him.  If you are afraid because Judgment Day scares you it’s because of sin.  Perhaps there’s some sin that is still pestering you, a sin that keeps you up at night, a sin that you’ve tried over and over to forget, a sin that the devil never lets you forget, it is sin or sins like that that give you fear when you consider Judgment Day.  “Will God on that final day hold me accountable for that shameful thing I did, that careless word, the lack of love I showed, the failure I’ve committed in the family God’s given me…will God on that final day single me out and call my name and convict me of my failure before the whole human race and heavenly host?  Will he?”  If those fears are present in our hearts the reason is not because of God but because a lack of trust in Jesus’ blood.  Do you think Jesus lied when He said, “It is finished”?  Do you think God is kidding when He says He bought you with something more precious than this world has ever seen, Jesus own blood?  Wondering if Jesus has or has not paid for your sins is actually robbing God of glory.  Jesus’ sacrifice was fully sufficient, was fully capable, was more than enough to wipe your sins- every one of them- completely away!  Jesus died on the cross, Jesus rose from the dead and because of that God says, “Your sins are forgiven completely, you are no longer guilty, I’ve forgiven and forgotten your sins, I’ve removed them as far as the east is from the west, I don’t see your sins because you stand before me looking like my perfect Son Jesus, heaven is your eternal home, your free gift.”  Because of God’s love you stand before God looking like Jesus, then there’s absolutely no reason to be afraid on Judgment Day.

That’s the key: properly valuing Christ’s blood gives you the most confidence and the best assurance in life ever.  No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what atrocities you’ve committed and shameful acts you’ve done in the past, Jesus has paid for them all with His blood, His life and death.  Be at peace!  Live in response to that!

One way to live in response to God’s love is in parenting.  Children need to know that their parents love them unconditionally.  There’s a security blanket that covers them and removes fear from their lives.  If children grow up in a household with no security and they don’t know that their parents love them unconditionally, they will live in fear.  They’ll always be waiting for the blow to fall on them.  That’s tough air to breathe in!  Now parents have the awesome privilege in life to be God to their children.  In all that a parent does in interacting with their children they follow God’s pattern.  God doesn’t let us run rampant in our sins, He gives us His laws to protect and bless us.  God disciplines us when we disobey with painful consequences of our sins so that we learn to keep away from them.  God loves us unconditionally.  His love for us will never run out or be used up.  He longs for our eternal good.

If we want our lives to be filled with peace in the face of fear, with love for other human beings, with love especially for those God has chosen to place closely around us, then we focus not so much on us, but on God, not so much on how we could be showing others love better, but on how God has shown us love perfectly.  Finally, “we love because He first loved us.”  Our love for each other is a response to the love God has shown us.  As we focus on God’s love we learn some amazing things about His love: It’s giving- it gives us His most important “possession”- God loved us so He gave up His own Son.  There are no boundaries to God’s love, no limits, no steps He won’t go through for us.  God’s love is so great that He’s willing to endure pain for the ones He loves.  God’s love is unconditional – it isn’t our response to His love that moves Him to love us- He loves us because He loves us.  God’s love begins not with us, but in Him, He chooses to love us in spite of who we are, in spite of the fact that we were His enemies.  God’s love is patient, kind, it rejoices in truth, protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres, it doesn’t envy or boast or be prideful or self-seeking or easily angered.  So let us love each other as we are loved.

God has picked us dirty, rotten, filthy specimens for His home.  God has chosen to perfectly love us with a selfless, limitless, boundless, giving, and unconditional love.  Focus on that.  Think about those things.  And live in response.  Then the air of your family and your home will be permeated with sweet, fragrant, and pleasing love.  Live as lived in, love as loved.