JESUS IS GOD'S LOVE FOR YOU
These are my teaching notes for the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, April 14.
INTRODUCTION: ALWAYS LOVED
Read John 3:13-18.
I can't remember a time, ever, in my whole life, when I did not feel God's love. Even before I was a believer. Even when I wanted nothing to do with God, I still felt his love in my life. When I was younger, I didn't know what it was, but I just had this constant feeling of safety. Now I know that it was Heavenly Father's presence and his care for me. Is that normal? I'm not sure if other people have had the same experience? Have you?
Several of the Psalms picture God as a mother bird, with wings outspread over her little chicks. I have felt that warm, protective, love from God my whole life. I have always been in the shadow of his wings. (See Psalms 17:8, 36:7, 57:1, 61:4, 63:7, 91:4)
God's love is a precious reality. I want you to experience it with me. John 3:16 provides insights into God's love. I've picked three and I believe they will be very encouraging to all of us. If you've wondered if God loves you ... wonder no longer. He does.
1. GOD'S LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL
"God so loved the world ..."
This part of John 3:16 tells us WHO God loves. You might find this surprising. He loves the world. It's a word that means the whole world; that is, everyone without exception.
I looked up the world clock online. This month, the world population will reach 7.7 billion people. God loves each and every one of them. If you could line up 7.7 billion people, and God walked down the line, he would look each person in the eye and say, "I love you. I love you. I love you." 7.7 billion times.
It's great that God loves the world, but you will want to make it personal. God loves you. You'll want to agree with the Apostle Paul who wrote, "He loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Do you receive that? Tell your children God loves them. Tell your friends and co-workers. Tell the world.
The tense of "loved" tells WHEN God loves. God loves always. The tense of the verb in Greek (a constantive aorist) tells us that God's love is eternal, inexhaustible, total love. It's an unending, mighty, waterfall of love. Jeremiah 31:3 tells us, "I have loved you with an everlasting love."
This is a bit mind-bending. God's love had no beginning and it will never end. God loves because he is love (1 John 4:8). You could say that he can't help himself. Love is what he is and so love is what he does - all the time.
This phrase also tells us HOW God loves. That little word, "so" is there to tell us how much God loved us and the way he loved us. We'll see that in the next part of the verse 16.
2. GOD'S LOVE IS SACRIFICIAL
"that he gave his one and only Son ..."
We know how much God loves us by the way he loves us: he gave his Son. But what does it mean that "God gave"?
A lot of this is mystery to us, but what we do know is amazing enough. Here's how God gave: The one and only, unique, Son of God came down from heaven in great humility and became one of us. He became flesh and blood for us, and lived among us and was crucified for us. The Bible calls the death of Jesus Christ a sacrifice:
(Romans 3:25) "God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith."
Long story short, this is how God gave his Son: He sacrificed him to take away our guilt and to pay the penalty we should have paid, but could never pay-off, for our sins. I don't understand all the details, but this one thing I know for sure: God's love is for real. Look what it cost him: the greatest gift of all.
Sometimes theologians ask, for whom did Jesus die? Verse 16 makes the answer obvious to me. Just follow the logic: God loves the whole world with such intensity - all 7.7 billion of us - that he gave Jesus to die, by necessary implication, for the whole world. No exceptions.
That's made even more obvious in the final part of verse 16 ...
3. GOD'S LOVE IS PERSONAL
"that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life ..."
This final phrase in John 3:16 repeats verse 15: "that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him." Why the repetition? Well, think about. Why do you repeat yourself? For emphasis, right? You're saying, "THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT. LISTEN UP."
OK, so what's so important here in verses 15-16 that it needs to be repeated and emphasized so we'll listen? Jesus is saying to each one of us personally and individually: "Believe in me and I'll give you eternal life."
In John's Gospel, believing is more like trusting. It's definitely more than knowing certain facts about Jesus. Verse 14 shows us that. Back in Israel's history (Numbers 21:5-9), a swarm of snakes attacked their camp and started biting people and they were sick and dying. God told Moses to make a snake and put it on a pole and lift it up. They weren't healed by thinking, "Ah a snake on a pole." No, they were healed by trusting God's promise that looking to the snake on the pole would heal them.
In the same way, everyone who looks to Jesus in faith is healed from their sin problem. Faith is knowing the facts (God loves you. Jesus died for you) AND acting on the facts (Jesus, please forgive my sins and make me right with God). The literal translation of this part of verse 16 goes something like this: "whoever believes INTO (Gk - eis) him." It's the idea of commitment, committing yourself you Jesus. When that happens, the Holy Spirit moves into your life and you move into new life with God that starts now and goes on forever.
This is where it gets personal. YOU have to look to Jesus to be saved. No one can do that for you. Not even God will do it for you.
EVERYONE who believes (verse 15) means that this offer is open to everyone. No exclusions.
WHOEVER believes (verse 16) means the offer is open to you and only you can refuse it. But why would you refuse God's loving gift?
So, what is your personal response?
CONCLUSION: RECEIVE HIS LOVE
Two thousand years ago, Jesus arrived at the gates of Jerusalem. He was riding on a donkey and he was hailed as the promised King of Israel. We call it Palm Sunday because the people waved palm branches and laid them down in his path (Matthew 21:1-9). That was Sunday. On Friday, Jesus was condemned, crucified, dead, and buried. Love sent Jesus down from heaven. Love led him to Jerusalem. Love drew him to the cross. Love kept him on that tree. Love for you, and you, and you.
God loves you. He always has and he always will. Don't write yourself off. Don't limit God's love. It is so wide, it includes the whole world, including you. So, picture God giving his Son for you. Picture the Son dying for you. Picture all of your sins nailed to the cross with Jesus. Picture living in the forgiveness and peace of eternal life. All because of God's love. But don't leave it there. Do something about it. Believe in Jesus, trust him, commit yourself to him for eternal life.
I was at a conference in a church and they had written their mission statement on the wall for all to see: "Our mission is to experience God's love and to give it away." That's a beautiful idea. Let's do that. The world needs to us to tell them, "God loves you. This is how he loves you." The Apostle wrote about experiencing God's love. First, he writes about living a life of love for other - rooted and grounded in love, then he writes about experiencing Christ's love for us:
(Ephesians 3:17-19) "I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge."
John Stott, in his excellent commentary on Ephesians wrote:
"... The love of Christ is 'broad' enough to encompass all mankind, 'long' enough to last for eternity, 'deep' enough to reach the most degraded sinner, and 'high' enough to exalt him to heaven."
There is nothing better than this; nothing more healing; nothing that will fill you with more strength and confidence; nothing that will so soften your heart for others. The love of God will draw you deeper into the heart of God to know him as he truly is, the God of eternal love.. Pray for this experience of God's love right now. Let's wait on the Lord together until it happens.