The economy of love

The world would think that love is something that we do to somebody else. But God says no, that’s not where the treasure of my economy, the reserves of my economy, rest. The reserves of my economy do not rest in the fact that you love me; The reserves of my economy rest in the fact that I loved you, and that I gave my Son for you as a propitiation for your sins. And so, he brings up sin: we have a problem, and our problem is sin. And people who are in the world’s economy listen to things that the world says, and the world’s economy says, “Well, I don’t really want to talk about sin.”

This is a transcript of a sermon preached by Pastor David Max Curell on March 10, 2013 at Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana.


1. The specific economy that hates God
1.1. A girls’ bill of rights
2. This is love
3. We are all perpetrators
3.1. The cost of fixing it
3.2. Our sin
4. Propitiation
5. God gave his Son!
6. Then we have love


I want to give you greetings from Pastor Bayly. Our senior pastor who typically preaches here is away for a time of writing, and so he’s been very busy; he has thousands upon thousands of words written, and he’s read some of them to me—and it’s going to be a great encouragement when he gets this finished—so please pray for him and ask God to help him to finish this work that he’s working on.

This morning we’re going to read 1 John 4:1–5:4; but before we get into that I want to talk a little bit about the economy.

Now if I say the word economy, many of you have thoughts that come into your mind immediately:

  • Some of you are thinking of how well or unwell the nation is doing economically at any given time.
  • Some of you think about how many miles per gallon your car gets.
  • Some of you think about which seat you’ll buy on the airplane, the 17″ wide seat or the 19″ wide seat.

And so we understand economy in many different ways.

Well there’s a way that’s kind of fallen out of vogue—in fact the dictionary says it’s obsolete–and that is that economy can be used to help us understand what a household is. So for instance, God has an economy, his people are the household in which he dwells, and so we are in God’s economy as Christians. So this morning I want us to think of economy in that way; because there is not only the economy of God’s household, but there’s an economy that’s outside of God’s household, that hates God’s household—and that’s what we’re going to read about in our passage. So let’s read 1 John chapter 4 and following…

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we 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 beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in 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. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.

1. The specific economy that hates God

The Bible uses the word world in many places, and usually it’s the same Greek word for the various uses translated ‘world’—the Greek word kosmos. But this Greek word has many meanings, and we understand the meanings by the context.

We have words like this in English. For instance, we use the word party, and we have many meanings for the word party, but we understand which meaning is being used by the context that it’s used in.
And so,

  • we have political parties;
  • we have birthday parties (not the same);
  • we have interested parties;
  • we have guilty parties.

We understand that there are many uses of the word ‘party’, and we figure them out by the way they’re used in the context. Well, kosmos, the word for ‘world’, is used in the Bible in many different ways, and we have to understand how it’s being used from the context.

  • So in the Bible it could mean the cosmic universe. My mother-in-law was telling me that she’s been listening to stars singing—she found a website where they record the radio frequencies of stars and they’re making music from them—so you’ve got the cosmos, the world.
  • Then you have ‘the world’ used in the Bible to refer to the earth—this world, this particular planet;
  • You have ‘the world’ used in the Bible to refer to mankind—all of man;
  • You have ‘the world’ used in the Bible to refer to a system or an economy that hates God;
  • And you have ‘the world’ used in the Bible to refer to God’s particular, peculiar people who love God—or God’s economy.

So in the text this morning, ‘the world’ is used to refer to the specific economy that hates God. So it’s contrasting the people who are from the world who listen to the world; and the people who are from God who listen to God—it’s talking about people who listen to the world’s economy of understanding things, and the people who listen to God’s economy of understanding things. And what is it that those from the world are saying, and what is it that those from God are saying? Well those from the world, according to the text, are saying something like, “Jesus did not come in the flesh;” or they might be saying, “Jesus is not the Son of God;” or they might be saying, “God’s commandments should not be obeyed, but should be ignored or opposed, or we should engage them selectively—the ones we like we’ll participate in, the ones we don’t like we won’t participate in. We’ll like the Sabbath as long as we don’t have to go to work; we won’t like the Sabbath if that means coming and worshipping God with his people
instead of going to play soccer.” And so we look at the law selectively.

The world says its words of opposition to God’s economy every day. How many times a day and in how many ways does the world say its opposition to God? How many times and through how many influences are you told by the world to oppose God and to change your direction if in fact you are a Christian. Ten times? Twenty times? A hundred times? A thousand times? A million times? We are in fact bombarded constantly, in the context of this world, to try to turn our attention away from God and away from his economy.

1.1. A girls’ bill of rights

I was having a discussion with somebody about an institution like Girl Scouts that works with young girls (this one wasn’t Girl Scouts). And so I went on their web site this past week and I wanted to find out what they had to say about what they believed and what kind of economy they were coming from—what their worldview was. And so they had a girls’ bill of rights on the site, and this was the first thing under the girls’ bill of rights. It said:

Girls have the right to be themselves and to resist gender stereotypes.

Now remember that the defining characteristic of being a part of this organization is that you are a girl. And so it’s almost as if the bill of rights’ first statement is saying,

Girls have a right to be girls, and to resist being what girls are: that is, girls.

It’s very strange. Now the defining characteristic of being a part of this organization is that you’re female, and yet some of the most basic things connected to being female are not present at all in any way. If there’s anything singular about being female, it’s the fact that you can be wife or a mother—you can bear children. And as I read through the list of all the like 30 board of directors, they had all of their titles. There was one man, and everyone else was a woman (which is not surprising)—but everyone listed their name and their title. And one right after another it said, mother, and housewife; mother—no! Remember, they’re all women, but nobody even asserted in any place that they had any participation in the single greatest and most distinctive thing that a woman can be in this world, as opposed to a man. Nobody referenced their children—it was all CEO, president—and of course you see that they’re proposing something, and it’s part of a worldview, it’s part of an economy, and it’s part
of the very economy that’s being referenced in our text this morning when it says people who hear what’s spoken by the world and listen to that. What’s one simple thing the Bible says about women, about female? It says,

From the beginning of creation God made them male and female. And for this cause shall a man leave father and mother…

Who were male and female,

…and the two shall become one flesh. Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh.

We’re going to see this wonderfully demonstrated in the proclamation of the wedding ceremony today as we talk about this very issue, as Jake comes and leads us in the wedding. And so what you have here is just one thing that God says about female, but what God says about female is just one thing about God’s economy—and there are thousands and millions of things that God says that are true about his economy. And things that are said in opposition to that would be the economy of the world—that’s what our text is getting at.

And so those who are from God, our text says, are saying things like this: “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” “Jesus is the Son of God.” They might be so bodacious as to say, “I love God!” That’s what it says in the text. And then it talks about what it means to really love God. The household of God operates by faith. It says in 5:4,

this is the victory that has overcome the world

‘The world’ being that economic system that is opposed to God.

This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

This is what we come here and confess, week after week. This is what we live in our lives. The household of God operates by faith. The household of God has commandments: we’re to love God and to love one another. Those are the two greatest commandments as listed in the Scriptures.

2. This is love

Our text contains a couple of verses that pull the big picture of the household of God into a more concise statement. In 4:10-11 it says this:

In this is love, not that we 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.

So what the text is saying is, In this is love.

Does the world have a concept of what love is? Does the economy that’s opposed to God that’s being contrasted here in the text with God’s economy have a thing that they propose to us is love? Well yes of course, the world talks about love all the time:

  • The world talks about sexual gratification as love—that’s very, very common.
  • The world talks about allowing someone to do whatever they want to do as love, so if you’re tolerant, if you’re permissive, if you don’t say no to people, that that’s love.
  • The world talks about a barter system (and really this is not talked about, because we kind of feel queasy when we live this way)—the system of “well if you treat me nice, I’ll treat you nice.” It doesn’t sound that good when you actually articulate what it’s built on, but that’s really a lot of the foundation of what the world understands love to be: “If you treat me nice I’ll treat you nice; we’ll have a good relationship together.”
  • And the world might even have some very noble forms of love that it might appreciate if someone actually lays down his life for someone else, in the case of a fireman going back in for the second child that’s in the building and suddenly he loses his life, we all look at that and say, that’s very noble, that’s courageous, that’s love—

But even that is not what’s being talked about here. God is giving a definition for love. He says, “In this is love.” Here in this statement is contained the treasury, the reserves, of God’s economy, of God’s household. So the United States is supposed to have a treasury—we’re supposed to have reserves. Have you taken the tour of Fort Knox? I think there is actually one gold dollar coin somewhere in there. But there used to be a huge treasury, a huge reserve of gold, that was the wealth of the nation, kept against all of our debt. Well, God has a treasury, and he says, “In this is love. In my economy, the true economy where the only true love can be, here it is: in this is love.” Well, it’s not that we loved God! And that was important for him to say, because he wanted us to understand that it isn’t something that we would automatically think it is, because that’s how the world would think it is.

3. We are all perpetrators

The world would think that love is something that we do to somebody else. But God says no, that’s not where the treasure of my economy, the reserves of my economy, rest. The reserves of my economy do not rest in the fact that you love me; The reserves of my economy rest in the fact that I loved you, and that I gave my Son for you as a propitiation for your sins. And so, he brings up sin: we have a problem, and our problem is sin. And people who are in the world’s economy listen to things that the world says, and the world’s economy says, “Well, I don’t really want to talk about sin.”

I recently heard a policewoman say that a certain person wasn’t really responsible for a crime he had perpetrated, because he himself was the victim of an earlier crime. So I’m standing there, the person is standing there who committed a crime, the policewoman is standing here, and she looks at me and a couple other people are there, and she says, this person is not responsible, because somebody committed a crime against him, and so he’s just a victim. I’m thinking, Whew—I’m off the hook! We’re all off the hook! Look around—wave at all the victims. Anybody not had something perpetrated against you? Anybody here couldn’t somehow connect everything wrong you’ve ever done to something that’s been done to you? And so the world says, “I want to make it everybody’s fault.” And so why do we have police? I guess it’s for traffic control for the victims—just letting the victims pass each other in an orderly way.

This is not the biblical worldview. This is not the economy of God. The economy of God says that we are all perpetrators—every one of us. Who’s responsible for the problem of sin? I am. You are. We are the ones responsible for the problem of sin.

3.1. The cost of fixing it

How bad of a problem is this sin? You can usually tell how bad a problem is by what it takes to fix it. So just get that in your mind. I was reading this past week about the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. What an incredible thing. And so a year later, in 2012, they were doing a recap and figuring out everything that had happened, and here’s how the tolls were in 2012. There were 15,000 dead; 6,023 injured; 3,282 still missing (that was a year afterward). And so that’s quite a catastrophe. Then they had to somehow compute the whole matter of the debris. How much debris was there? 25 million tons of debris—and a full year after the earthquake and the tsunami they had been able to dispose of 5% of the debris. That’s a lot of debris! How does it translate into money, how many yen? 17 trillion yen, which in US dollars is about $222 billion. That’s how big the mess was in Japan after the earthquake and the tsunami.

3.2. Our sin

How does the sin of the world compare to the earthquake in Japan? It’s hard for us to compute, because we think, that’s some other scale; but the reality is, if you can assess the intensity of any problem by what it takes to repair it and you can assess the intensity of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan by what it takes to repair it and how much damage was done, how do you assess the sin of the whole world—what is the cost of its removal?

Hebrews 10 says,

it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING THOU HAST NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY THOU HAST PREPARED FOR ME”

Jesus came into the world, God prepared a body for him; verse 10,

By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

It took the body and blood of Jesus Christ to pay for the sin of the world. It took the offering of Jesus Christ.

4. Propitiation

The text has an archaic word in it there in verse 10. It’s the word propitiation: God made Jesus to be the propitiation for our sin. We don’t use this word. We don’t talk about propitiation, because it’s not a word we understand much anymore. Propitiation means atoning sacrifice, but what does that mean? It means that there is wrath that has to be appeased. We have a God who is absolutely holy and absolutely just. When sin is committed, God must judge the sin. He has no choice. It’s not a bad thing that God has no choice; it is in fact one of the most wonderful things about God that he has no choice, that he’s absoultely holy and absolutely just. And this God when we sin, must judge us for our sin.

It’s kind of like what happens when lightning hits the electrical system of your house. What happens if it’s not stopped in some way is it goes in and it fries everything. Well God looked at our sin and he said, I’m just, I must punish this sin, these sinners. But I love them, and I’m going to show them what love is. “This is love: not that we loved God” We didn’t have any inclination to love God. We were just listening to the world. We were just listening to everybody that was opposed to God. Love isn’t that we loved God; love is that he loved us and gave Jesus Christ to be the atoning sacrifice, to be the one who would take on himself the wrath of God for our sins. And so God punished Jesus Christ like if you remember fuses in the old fuse box, if the electricity comes into the house the lightning hits the house and it hits the fuse box, the fuse may burn up and its sacrifice saves the rest of the electrical system. Well that’s very kinda like what I’m talking about. God sends his Son to be the
propitiation. He’s the one that bears the wrath of God. He bears it instead of us. It’s hard for us to understand, because we don’t sacrifice—most of us have never gone out and taken some food and sacrificed it to an idol or God, and so we’re a little bit removed from that idea.

On Friday night Lucas was talking to me as we were driving down to Evansville about a book he’s reading called Monsters of the Id—the “Id” referring to Sigmund Freud’s concept of the subconscious, the unconscious—and the book proposes that the monsters that we view in horror movies are simply monsters that we present ourselves with to deal with the sins in our lives, the things in our unconscious that are bothering us. And so movies, for instance Alien, are helping us to process the fact that we abort our children. (And if you’ve ever seen Alien you might say, “Oh!”) This is a guy’s idea, but I thought how similar the monsters and terrors we create for movie screens to the monsters and terrors that you can see if you look at pictures of temples and idols in other countries—in India, and some here in the U.S. They’re terrible, they’re monstrous-looking, they’re blood-sucking monsters, blood lust. And so we look at this on the screen, we go in and we bring our food to the
monster—it’s popcorn and Pepsi—and we sit there and we scare ourselves, and it’s a way for us to appease something inside. I don’t know if that’s true, but I tell you, it’s very interesting, because you’ve got to wonder why we look at this stuff.

When Jesus comes to be baptized, John the Baptist says, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” What is he saying? Jesus is the One who bears the sin of the world. He carries it away, it’s his body that’s broken, that carries away the sin of the world. Sin isn’t just collective. It isn’t just all our sins. It’s your real sins and my real, literal sins.

What was the cost of the removal of our sin? God gave his Son.

5. God gave his Son!

When my son Ben, who’s now 27, was born, I remember driving home from the hospital at 6 or 7am, I’m tired, it’s true, and so it’s easy for me to be emotional—but I thought to myself as I’m driving home, “I have a son. I am a father, and I have a son!” And of course I had known about God’s economy; I had known about God giving his Son; and it suddenly struck me: “God gave his Son!” And I started crying. I couldn’t imagine giving my son. And we usually think about Jesus as coming as a spotless Lamb—and it’s true, he is. 1 Peter 1:19 says it was

with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ…

…that we were redeemed. He is precious; he is holy. He is spotless.

But how difficult was it for God to send his Son—have you ever thought about it? Do you think that God is above caring for his Son? Do you think that God thinks Jesus to be special?

Do you think I thought my son to be special? Now it’s an analogy, it’s a type—my relationship to my son. But let me tell you something: if I have the feelings I have toward my son, you can’t imagine the feelings of holy God Almighty toward his Son—you understand? And so God says, “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation” as to reject his Son? What does he say about his Son? He says that he is “as a living stone, precious in the sight of God”—precious meaning he is God’s favorite. He’s not just the chief cornerstone; he’s not just the watershed; he’s not just the one where peeople come to him and either say, “I reject,” or “I receive;”—he is all of that; but he’s God’s favorite. God calls him his dearly beloved Son. And this is the Son that God did not spare; God did not hold him back. God said, “I will give my own Son so that you will live through him.” So we have sin; God says, “I will show you what love is: not that you loved me but that I loved you; I’ll give you my Son; he is
precious to me; he is beloved of me; he’s my favorite—I’ll give him to bear my wrath on your behalf. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what God has done for us sinners—God has given his Son to bear our sin.

This is God’s economy: I’m declaring to you today that God has given his Son to cover your sins. What will you do with that? The Bible says we’ll take one choice or another. One choice is to reject his Son; but let me tell you something: to reject the Son of God is to reject that one that is so precious to him. It’s not simply to be left in your sin, which means God’s wrath remains on you and you have to pay for your own sin; but you’ve increased his wrath exponentially, because you pay for your own sin, and one of your own sins is that you have rejected his love for you by giving you his own Son, his own favorite, his precious Jesus. You see?

And so this morning I want to tell you: believe on Jesus Christ. Receive Jesus Christ! Do not neglect the salvation that God has provided for you. He has provided a great salvation for you. Believe! All it takes is for you to give up! You know, when you’re in the system of the world, all you’re doing is fighting against God; and when we stop fighting against God and believe on his Son, what we do is give up. We say, “I give up, world, and I resign myself to you, God; I will be in your house, Lord.” And God receives us as sons, and it’s beautiful.

And in that context, then we have love. So 1 John 4:11 says,

if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

6. Then we have love

How do we love one another? We love one another using the reserves. It’s such a beautiful thing to think about what God has done in laying aside love in such a huge quantity as the love he gave us in Jesus Christ. It is out of the love that God gave to us through Jesus Christ that we love one another.

And so if you’re here this morning and you have never believed in Christ as the son of God, I invite you to believe, I invite you to receive God’s forgiveness for your sins through Jesus Christ.

And if you’re here this morning and you have believed and you’ve said, “I love God,” but you’ve been hating your husband or your wife or your brother, I want to tell you that you’re not demonstrating love for God because you’re not demonstrating accessing his economy—you’re using completely different currency.

God has love for us to give to one another, and that love comes from the reserves, the reservoir, of Jesus’ love that was given to us as he died for us. And so this morning I invite you: believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Believe that he has appeased the wrath of God for your own sins—he has been the propitiation for your sins. Receive the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. Receive forgiveness of sins. Receive an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith. And then in this economy, love one another—love your brother.

Let’s pray. Father, we thank you for your mercy to us. We pray that you will remove from us those tentacles and vestiges that remain of this world and of this world’s economy. Have mercy on us, O Lord. We ask you to forgive our sins and to be kind to us. We ask, Lord, for anyone here who has not confessed Jesus Christ and believed and received the gift that you have given in loving us for themselves, that they would do so. Father, thank you, we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

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