Thursday, February 21, 2008

God loves you, He really does

Here are a few notes I typed up getting ready to preach last Sunday. I thought I'd just throw them out here, unedited, so enjoy or endure as the case may be. I'll add Sunday night's later.

We’ve just passed through Valentine’s Day. For many of us, it’s the time when duty demands we do something, anything! For others it’s a commercialized event to be avoided. For others it’s a painful reminder of what was or might have been. For others its great fun and candy and hearts, but most of the people who feel that way are under the age of 12 and are downstairs this morning. For all of us, however, it surely makes us stop and think of love.

For me, the review of love began a few weeks before Valentine’s Day and was not related to the day. As for many men, my wife got me thinking about it. She was the one who thought we needed some work in our relationship. Guys, if your wife says you need work in your relationship, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, we need to listen. Usually four weeks later I realize that something’s broken or missing, she’s noticed when the crack first developed. I remember sitting down recently, trying to plan something special for Sabrina during a time when we were not seeing eye-to-eye on who knows what. The absurdity of being at odds with the one that I only wanted to do good things for really challenged my heart to rise above the petty selfishness in my heart, the part of me that makes me want to fight back, to react with such childishness.

I turned to the scripture to see what love was all about. And eventually found my way to 1 John, so please turn with me this morning to that book and chapter 3.

The first thing we observe from these chapters is that God reveals his love to us by making us his children. Now, many people are children in the world, and most of us were children at some point, very few are so old that there is no one around to confirm this fact! But being a child and being blessed because we are a child is a different matter. Not all children today are glad to be here. None of asks to be born, and sadly some wish they never had been.

In Africa, the projection is that there will be 18 million orphaned children by the year 2010, their parents dead from AIDS, in some countries they tote machine guns like our children carry backpacks, 200 million are malnourished. Some places they have to live with the regret of touching mines that were never meant for them, dealing with the loss of limbs or scarring.

Here in Canada, they find our twelve year olds lying in the woods, they live lives of silent torture and sadness neglected by busy or abusive parents. But here, in 1 John 3:1, we have a vivid picture of why these other scenarios, on an earth racked by wrong, are so angering to us, so worthy of righteous indignation. We have an expectation of what it should be like to be a child. We have an ideal of how we want our children to grow up. Best of all worlds for our children is for them to be able to say, “God is my Father.”

Here we have the ideal father: involved, all knowing, all powerful, limitless resources, caring, perfect. Truly, the scripture should say, “behold what manner of love the Father has for us!”

Verses 16 and 17 tell us that we know how to put love into action because God first demonstrated his love for us by dying, sacrificing, laying down his life for us.
I recently read a new book from Annie Dillard, The Maytrees. In it, she writes of a couple who struggle to know if they are or ever were in love. Do we ever wonder about our own level of love? I’m not speaking of romantic love even here. I’m talking about our love that we have in us from the Father for our brothers and sisters. Do we wonder if we are showing our love? What is love? Am I in love? Was I ever in love? Have I fallen out of love? The answer to those questions must be filtered through the truest example of the love of God we know. Jesus gave up his life for us. We are shown the true love of God, and therefore true love, by seeing, thinking about, understanding more fully what Jesus did when he gave up his life for us. It seems as though “Jesus love me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” stands as true today as it did back in Sunday School.

Chapter 4:7 takes us to another level. Notice that love is of God, that God is love as seen in verse 8. Anything less, anything false, anything trying to disguise itself as love, but really is for personal gain, is not from God, is not God at work in our lives. Self needs to be eliminated from our relationships. What must rise to the top is service, sacrifice, true love. You will notice so many times through scripture the phrase “one another”. Serve one another, pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens, confess your sins to one another, love one another. Allowing yourself, allowing ourselves, to live for others, frees them up to live for us.

Verse 9 tells us that God’s love is shown to us by Jesus coming to the earth and trading his life for ours, giving us eternal life in exchange for our old existence. Notice that the verse even implies that we had no life before Jesus. And spiritually that is true. The scripture says that we are dead, outside of the blood of Jesus paying the penalty of our sin. We must have the punishment we are owed taken on by Jesus in order to open up the opportunity for us to get to heaven and eternal life. In fact, verse 15 and 16 even says that we prove that we know that God loves us by believing Jesus died for us. We have to stop paying lip service, and act, we must stop saying we know God loves us and prove it.

Verse 19 says that we love Him because He first loved us. This is true of genuine demonstrations of love anywhere. True acts of love, though often too hard to believe that they are true, will lead to loving acts in return. When we realize that God loves us, we can only react with genuine love. If we don’t respond to Him with love, it is because we don’t believe that what we are seeing from God is love.

Tonight we are going to look at the other part of love that is covered in these chapters. How the love we have for one another is played out, how the love of God is to play out in our lives, as we reflect him.

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