Oh! The Love of God!

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1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poorand give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Today we are wrapping up a four week series on the greatest thing this world has ever known: love.
And what we have learned so far is that love is anything but crazy or little.
We learned that the love of the bible is not what he world calls love, but is all those things I just read to you instead.
We learned that a marriage, when done God’s way, has this kind of love right in the center.
And we learned that in order to walk in this love, to live in this love, we must yield to the Holy Spirit, and when we do that on the inside it will be evident on the outside.
So, we’ve defined it. And we’ve seen what it looks like in action in us humans. Both in a marriage and in general.
Today, I want to close out this series by attempting to show you what God’s Love is really all about.
Strangely, this is both an easy and a difficult task. It’s easy because there are plentiful scriptures about it to choose from, and it is difficult because…how do you fit something infinite into a 40 minute talk?
It’s like that popular song that says “I could sing of your love forever…” Ironically that song is only about 4 minutes long…
Another difficulty is where to begin? With something that is infinite and has no beginning or ending, how does one begin describing it?
In fact, this was my challenge this week. I’ve known for awhile how I wanted to end this talk – but how to begin? After much wrestling and procrastinating, I finally decided there really is no better way to describe God’s love than with his own words…the words of the Bible.
So, let us see what He says…
Through the Psalms of David we get a glimpse:
Psalm 36
5 Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
    You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
God’s love reaches to the heavens.
 
It is priceless and unfailing.
Psalm 103
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
God’s love is compassionate and gracious.
God’s love is slow to anger.
God is abounding in love.
Again as far as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for us.
Like a good father is for his children, God is for us.
His love is from everlasting to everlasting.
 
Infinite.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
 
God’s love is not only HUGE, it is for US, for OUR BENEFIT.
These are beautiful depictions of the love of God. Of its grandeur. Of its magnitude. And of its unending and personal nature.
But there is one that trumps them all.
John 3:16
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
There is a reason why this is the most famous verse in the Bible. It speaks of the greatest act of love the world has ever known.
And while that is an amazing verse, and rightly cherished by so many, it doesn’t really tell the whole story.
Arguably the best description of God’s love for us is found in
Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This is a profound statement, and an even more profound reality. Here we see God’s love as NOT just some infinite concept of FELT and GENERAL love but love that is DEMONSTRATED and PERSONAL!
 
And oh what a demonstration!
Christ
– the one and only Son –
not only was GIVEN,
but DIED.
And not only died
but died FOR US!!
John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus, the Son of God, laid down his life for us, to call us friends. AMAZING!
In fact, if it weren’t for this we really wouldn’t know what love is.
1 John 3:16
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
And not only did he die, and die for us, but his death was anything but quick and painless.
Isaiah described it hundreds of years earlier:
Isaiah 53
4 Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
He was pierced.
He was crushed.
He was wounded.
He was killed.
FOR US!
IN OUR PLACE!
If that were not enough, there’s more!
It is not just that he died for us, though that is infinitely amazing, or that his death was so brutal, but WHEN He died for us. Not WHEN in a history of time sense, but WHEN in a before and after sense.
The full context of the Romans statement sheds some light on the profundity of what Christ has truly done!
Romans 5:6-8
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Christ did not die for good people.
Christ did not die for a bunch of people who asked him to.
Christ did not die for a world full of people praising his name and cheering him on!
He died for his enemies! The SON OF GOD died for the UNgodly.
He died for us while we were shaking our fists at him.
While we were snubbing our noses at him.
While we were whoring ourselves out to the god of this world!
The real God, the one who made us, the one we have wholesale rejected from the beginning of time, died the death that should have been ours.
While we were still sinning.
God the father sent His son to die for us.
God the Son willingly laid down his life for us.
And no greater love has anyone than to lay down their life for a friend.
There is no greater love than the love of God.
This is why Paul wrote at the end of Romans 8…
Romans 8:35-39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Indeed, we could sing of His love forever.
But, Do you know why God’s love is so inescapable?
Do you know why there is nothing you or anyone else can do that will make Him love you and I less or more?
Because it’s true. His love for you will never waver or change. Even if you reject him. Even if you continue sinning. There is no depth that you can go to escape God’s great love for you.
But, do you know why? Do you really know why?
Sure, you may have been listening to me for awhile and know that God’s love, Agape love, is not a feeling, but a choice. So God perhaps chooses to love us. Which is true, but it’s deeper than that. It’s even more solid than that.
After all, if he chooses to love us – then couldn’t that mean he could also choose to not love us? While that is actually not possible for God because he does not change or make mistakes – we as fallible human beings may and often do still think it’s possible that we could somehow lose God’s love.
But it’s impossible to lose God’s love, and here’s why...
It’s all there in John 3:16.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Now, this is about to get deep…you’re about to never look at this verse the same way again…
How do we typically read this – the first part?
“God SO loved the world…”
As in, God loved the world SO MUCH, with such intensity, with such magnitude, that it CAUSED him to give his Son over to die for us. It gives us warm feelings to think that God has such warm feelings for us. Because even though we KNOW that God’s love is not primarily a feeling, we’ve been so indoctrinated in our culture that it’s hard for us to think otherwise. So, we read this verse and perhaps even swoon at the notion of how MUCH God loves us.
And while it is true that God loves you INFINITY MUCH, that is not really what this verse is saying – at least not how you think, anyway.
That word, “SO”, is unfortunately a holdover from the KJV bible even in all of our modern translations. Perhaps they couldn’t part with it because of how famous the verse is, I don’t know.
Now, technically the word “SO” is an accurate translation from the Greek, strictly in terms of definitions. BUT, the common usage of this word back in 1611 was very different than how we use it today. So, while it held the correct MEANING back then, it no longer does today – at least not in American English.
The Greek word translated here as “SO” is οὕτως, which is NOT a word denoting magnitude like how we use it, as in SO MUCH or SO HUNGRY, but it simply means “in this manner.”
So, John 3:16 is NOT saying that “God loved us SO MUCH!!” It’s saying that “God loved us SO, THUSLY, IN THIS WAY.”
In fact, in the Greek this is the first word of the sentence.
The Greek language relies less on the order of words than English, but often the word that is being emphasized comes first.
And in this case, the Greek actually says:
IN THIS WAY God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son…
This is why there is nothing that can separate you from God’s love in Christ Jesus, because it is not just a feeling, no matter how great, it is something that has happened. It is a fact. It depends on nothing. It just is.
For example: you were born. It’s a fact, nothing anyone can do can change that and you can never get away from it even when you die.
God’s love is a fact.
It is not only what God is (God is Love) – which would be inescapable as is.
It is not only endless and immeasurable,
God’s love is an ACTION that happened and cannot be Unhappened. 
 
So no matter where you go, or what you do, the fact of God’s love for you cannot change anymore than your birthday can change.
And if that doesn’t blow your mind, then maybe this will…
This was Jesus speaking in John 3:16. The living, breathing Jesus – speaking of God having loved (aorist tense) the world and having gave (aorist tense) up his son to die for us.
This act of love is not something that happened in 1st century Palestine.  This is something that happened at the creation of the world, and was only then being actualized in real-time. The infinite Godhead – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – form eternity past, before God ever even said “let there be light” he gave up His son to die for us.
Paul spoke of this in
2 Timothy 1
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
From before the beginning of time, which means eternity past, God had already loved us in this way, that he gave his one and only son, so that whoever puts their faith in him will not be destroyed but have eternal life.
This is why Paul was so convinced:
Romans 8
38…that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And as if that were not enough….
That God’s love is eternal and infinite and immeasurable and simply a fact that happened in eternity past so that it is completely inescapable..
As hard as that is to fathom, there’s more…
God’s love is also UNIQUELY PERSONAL. This indescribable love is not just a blanket love for the whole world and you get a small piece of it. ALL of that love is directed at YOU, PERSONALLY.
David spoke of this so eloquently in the 139th Psalm.
Psalm 139
1 You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
It doesn’t get more personal than that. God knows you inside and out because He made you with great care and purpose.
 
God’s love is not only personal, it is purposeful.
Paul said it in the verse we covered in 2 Timothy:
2 Timothy 1
He has saved us and called us to a holy life
He not only saved us for heaven in eternity – he saved us for here and now.
Ephesians 2
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
That last verse says it. We are not only saved for the endless bliss of heaven. We are saved, created anew in Christ Jesus – to do good works in this life, which God prepared in advance for us to do. In fact, he prepared these good works for us at the same time that he gave his son for us – in eternity past the whole plan came to be.
So David was right when he said,
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
And what do those days contain?  Jeremiah wrote of this:
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
God planned and prepared an amazing life for you and for me before the creation of the world.
 
And when Adam and Even and everyone else including you and me decided to reject that plan and make up our own, when we sinned and deserved death, eternal death for our actions, God already had the plan in place for Jesus, his son, to die that death in our place. 
 
So that we could be with him forever in heaven, but also, so that his ORIGINAL PLAN for us, his handiwork, his masterpiece, could be fulfilled as we put our faith in Christ and allow God to CHISEL us into the image of his Son.
This is another thing Paul talked about in
Romans 8
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
I’ve spoken on this before. The GOOD that God works for in all things is the good of us, his chosen, to become like his Son.  Because that is what we were made to be.
Lest we forget. We are created beings. God made us to love us. We are his crowning creation, the only created thing that he made to bear his image. We are his masterpieces and of endless worth to him.
That’s right, you are of INFINITE worth to God. The value of a thing is the price it will bring, and God gave his infinite Son, and Jesus gave his infinite life for you. So, while John 3:16 isn’t really saying that God loved us SO much, it actually is because of what was given.
And he did all of that so that you and I could live the life He had planned for us from before time began.
Now, I know I’ve covered some heavy stuff today. It’s hard for us to imagine eternity past and how time works for God. But hopefully I have been able to give you a picture of just how amazing God’s love really is.
It is eternal and big and inescapable, which is amazing! But I believe the most amazing part is how personal it is. And in order to hopefully help you see that for yourself, I want to show you a video that, if you let it, might just change your life!
Let’s Pray
Oh what manner of love the father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, that we should be called his masterpiece, his beloved, his chosen ones, his friends.
In Romans 2, Paul tells us that the purpose of all this love, all this kindness of God is to bring us to repentance. To cause us to change our minds. To convince us that He is good and worthy of our praise and devotion. To help us see that everything else we chase after are lies that do not love you. But God has shown us, shown you, by an action that cannot be changed, that he indeed loves you with an everlasting love.
Will you love him in return?
Ephesians 3
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And 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—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.