by Pastor Stephen Muncherian
Text: John 3:16
What does it mean that God loves us? John 3:16 states the Christmas message - and the entire Gospel - very simply:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life"
"For God so loved the world..." You can put your own name there - you are a part of the world that Jesus came for. For God so loved - Steve - or Aram, or Anoush. Its so easy to say and so hard to understand. What does it mean that God loves us?
Dick Hillis - in his book, "Love is a Costly Thing" - writes about a mother lying on the ground. In her arms she held a tiny baby girl. "As I put a cooked sweet potato into her outstretched hand, I wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift. The sweet potato could help so little. But, it was all I had.
"Taking a bite she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her babyís mouth, she forced the soft warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive.
"Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few minutes the baby was asleep. I later learned that during the night the motherís heart stopped, but her little girl lived."
Love is a costly thing. Unselfish - without sin - it gives without care for itself. True love may be glimpsed in others - but it is only seen in God.
I wonder about this. God in His love for us gave His own Son. I have two sons. And I love them very much. And if there was only one? Would I be willing to sacrifice my son for God - for a friend - for an enemy? How many of us would give our son to die? There was no higher proof of Abrahamís love for God than when he gave God his son - his only son - Isaac whom he loved.
I read a story of how a family was reduced to absolute starvation - and the only possibility of preserving life was to sell one of their children into slavery. The hunger was unbearable - and the children pleading for bread was tearing their hearts apart. So they considered it.
But which child? They had four sons. Not the first-born. And the second was too much like the father. The third was like the mother. And their youngest - the baby - how could they part with him? They concluded that it was better for all of them to die together than to part with one of their children. We can feel the struggle of this family.
What does it meant hat God loves us? God so loved us that He seemed to love us better than His only Son, and did not spare Him that He might spare us. He permitted His Son to die so that "whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life"
God gave His Son to exile among men - to be born in a manger - to work in a carpenterís shop - to be among scribes and Pharisees - and their cruel tongues and slander. He gave His Son to hunger and thirst - amid poverty and desire. He gave Him to be scourged and crowned with thorns. He gave Him to die on a cross - crucified. And on the cross - Jesus cries out "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani" - "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Mark 15:34) God hides His face from Him. God gave Him to be made a curse for us - gave Him that He might die, "the just for the unjust, to bring us to God." (1 Peter 3:18)
How many of us would give up our first born and only son for this? What was there in the world that God should love it? There is so much to warrant His displeasure - wrath - condemnation. Are any of us worthy of this love?
Maybe we cannot understand what it means that God loves us. His love is beyond our experience. And yet, we need to accept His love - and trust Him - to believe in His Son Jesus as our personal Savior.
I read a story of a young man who had quarreled with his father and left home. He continued to keep in touch with his mother, and wanted very badly to come home for Christmas. But, he was afraid his father would not allow him. His mother wrote to him and urged him to come home. But, he did not feel he could until he knew that his father had forgiven him. Finally, there was no time for any more letters. His mother wrote and said she would talk with the father. If he had forgiven him, she would tie a white rag on the tree which grew beside the railroad tracks near their home, which he could see before the train reached the station. If there was no rag, it would be better if he went didnít come home.
So the young man started home. As the train drew near his home - he was so nervous he said to his friend - who was traveling with him, "I canít bear to look. You look and tell me whether there is a rag on it or not."
So his friend looked out the window. After a while the friend said, "Yes, I see the tree."
The son asked, "Is there a white rag tied to it?"
For a moment the friend didnít say anything. Then he turned, and in a very gentle voice said, "There is a white rag tied to every limb of that tree!"
In Jesus, God has removed all the condemnation and made it possible to come freely home to him. Why and how - we really do not understand. His love is too deep - to pure - to holy. But He has.
In Godís eternal purpose - Jesus was given before the foundation of the world - and God continues to offer His Son today. "God so loved the world that He gave" - and still gives - "His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life"
Communion is the celebration meal of Godís love - Jesus born in a manger - crucified - resurrected - returning. The Apostle Paul says, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lordís death until He comes." (1 Corinthians 11:26) The communion table before us is the celebration of those who have responded to Godís love.
If we havenít experienced true love - and how can we in this world? Its hard to trust God when He says, "I love you - return to me - trust me with your life?" His love is hard to understand. But in Jesus - in the manger - and in communion - we see His love.
This morning you have an opportunity to respond to Godís love. You might want to say a prayer like this, "God, your love is hard to understand. But, I see what you have done for me in Jesus. I donít deserve your love - but I accept it. I trust Jesus as my Savior and give my life to you."
For God So Loved the World
by Edward F. Markquart
For God So Loved the World
by Grover Gunn
Series: John 3:16 - The Danger: Perishing
by John Piper
Series: John 3:16 - The Design: Love
by John Piper
Series: John 3:16 - The Duty: Faith
by John Piper
Series: John 3:16 - The Destiny: Eternal Life
by John Piper
The Offer (John 3:16)
by Stephen Muncherian
Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for the 3rd Sunday after Denaha (Baptism of our Lord)
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