Thursday, January 20, 2011

Clarifying God's Great Love

Excerpt from "This Is Love," a sermon on 1 John 4:7-11 I preached Aug 15, 2010

“God is love.” He is loving by nature. So let’s flesh that out. What does that mean? That’s just kind of a fuzzy thought right now.

We can sharpen that picture by coupling it with some of God’s other attributes or perfections. One of the things that A. W. Tozer emphasizes in his book on God, and one of the things that Pastor Ryan has stressed in this sermon series, is that God’s attributes do not compete with another. They work in perfect unity.

So let’s look at God’s love in light of some of his other attributes.

It’s a holy love.
A lot of people believe that God’s love makes him a sweet old grandfather in the sky who winks at sin and says, “Boys will be boys.” Do whatever you want; he’ll let you into his heaven. No big deal.

That’s a false view of God’s love. For not only is God loving, but he is also holy. So his love is a holy love.

A full understanding of love needs to reckon with verses like these:

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (1 Cor 13:6 NIV)
The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. (Heb 12:6 NIV)

God doesn’t wink at sin.

God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way.

Parents love their little babies, even when they have more food on their face & clothes than in their tummy, and even when they leave presents in their diapers. But does parental love mean that they will continue to allow their children to be messy and diapered? No, because parents love their children they train their children in neatness and manners, and they take their children through potty-training. It may not be fun, but it’s still a manifestation of love.

Loving parents often push their children, many times against their kids’ wills, in order to help them succeed in life.

“God is love” doesn’t mean that God’s never stern, that he’s never harsh; he certainly can be.

Jesus loved Peter, but he rebuked him, “Get behind me, Satan. You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

A lady in our church, Sharon, told me recently that when she saw Callie’s fingers reaching for the fan, she was quite firm with her. Was that because Sharon is mean-spirited? No, she did it because she loves Callie. Love sometimes wears a stern face.

That God’s love is a holy love means it’s a pure love, and it doesn’t tolerate impurity, either, in its objects. But because it’s love, that means that God does all he can to satisfy his holiness in a way that also promotes the welfare of the person he loves.

Love found a way, to redeem my soul,
Love found a way, that could make me whole.
Love sent my Lord to the cross of shame,
Love found a way, O praise His holy Name!
(Avis M. Christiansen)

It’s a faithful love.
God’s love never falters. Human love falters. We drop the ball, so to speak.

I love my wife, Sara. Pastor Ryan in his last few sermons mentioned his 36th wedding anniversary. So now I’ll mention mine. On Tuesday Sara and I celebrate 19 years of marriage. And I do mean “celebrate.” She is my delight, God’s very good gift to me. I love her. But my love falters. There are times when what I do is not in her best interests.

But God’s love never falters. He never drops the ball. Everything he does for you is always, always, always for your good. He is never malicious toward you. He doesn’t ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed and take it out on you. That’s human love; but that’s not God’s love.

It’s an eternal love.
God’s love will never quit.

I’ve said it before. When we’ve been in heaven for 10,000 years, we’re not going to wake up some day to hear God say, “That’s it! I’ve changed my mind. I’m sending you all to hell. You people are driving me nuts!”

It’s a wise love.
Our love isn’t always a wise love.

Sometimes, out of love for someone, we do something stupid that doesn’t really help them at all. Like the little boy who brings his mommy a bouquet of flowers, flowers he picked from her flower garden.

And sometimes we’re concerned about someone, and they’re in trouble, and we don’t know how to help them. We love them, but we don’t know how to help them.

But God’s love is a wise love. God is never stumped on how to love you. He always knows precisely what you need. Many times, you don’t know what you need. But God does.

It’s a truthful love.
God is truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
God does not tolerate deception or lies. The devil is the father of lies, according to John 8:44.

Some people think that love involves lying to people in order not to hurt them. That’s not love.
Some people think that love sometimes means allowing people to continue to believe the lies they’re living. That’s not love.

On some occasions, Jesus told the truth and lost would-be followers. Did he love them? Yes. Did he lie in order to keep them? No. Did he soften the gospel by telling them something that was more palatable? No.

Consider this exchange between Jesus and the rich young ruler in Mark 10:

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

How wonderful is God's love for us!

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