What are your thoughts and feelings about one day standing before the God of Heaven and Earth? Does standing before God frighten you? Perhaps thrill you?
Of course, non-believers are exempt from this question as they give no thought about ever standing before God. They can take up the question with God, later. But how about you who do believe in God? For you, I have wonderful Gospel good news about that momentous day.
We read this astonishing good news in 1 John 4:16-18: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on that day of judgment, because as he is, so 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 reached perfection in love.”
Notice that the apostle John begins with the foundational truth, “God is love.” That is where all our thinking about God must begin. “God is love.” Love is not a quality of God or something He possesses. Rather, love is God’s very essence, His being. God can no more stop loving you than God could stop being God, or stop being all-powerful and all wise. Love is who God is.
The thought of God as love moves John to talk about God’s love “perfected among us.” The Greek word translated “perfected” (teleios) means “reaching a goal”, or “finishing” and “completing” something. It is the word Jesus cries out on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Jesus was telling the world that in His death God’s redeeming work was finished, having reached God’s goal.
John, known as the Apostle of Love, is saying that God’s love reaches its goal and is completed among us in this: “that we may have boldness on that day of judgment.” God’s love for His children does not stir fear about judgment day, but rather gives us boldness about standing before Him. That is the very reason Christ came, and why He lived and died and ascended to God’s right hand: so that as God’s beloved He might welcome us Home. This is love perfected, love that has reached its goal, so that we stand with boldness before our Abba Father.
“Because,” John adds, “as he [Jesus] is, so are we in this world.” Here is the rich meaning of our salvation. God the Father looks at us in the world as He had looked at Jesus: “holy and blameless before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4). What Jesus is by His eternal nature, God’s Son, so we are as His children, by grace. We are loved by Father as Jesus is loved by Father (John 17:26). We have boldness before God!
John continues, reassuring, “there is no fear in love, but perfect (teleios) love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). God’s love for us has reached its goal and is made perfect among us as it casts out fear. For, “fear has to do with punishment.” When we let God’s love in, fear goes away.
We need not fear about our past as our Savior has taken away all guilt and shame. Nor do we need to fear our future as Jesus is with us to the end of time (Matthew 28:20). And we need not fear about the day of judgment; our Savior has taken our judgment upon Himself. I delight in how Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf captures the wonder of God’s love in his hymn, “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness”, translated into English by John Wesley:
“Bold shall I stand on that great day;
who can a word against me say?
Fully absolved through these I am
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.”
Name and reflect on the thoughts and feelings today’s reading stirs in you. Take a few moments to talk with God about them.