Currently, we are on a series that I have entitled “God Loves You!” where we are camping on the subject of God’s love for us. I’ve given this series this title because it is so important that we let it sink into our hearts that God doesn’t just love us but that He loves YOU and ME.
You see, it is easy to gravitate towards believing that God loves all of us without it ever dawning on us that God loves each of us individually. In other words, He’s not just all about His overall plan and things that pertain to His kingdom’s cause; He actually cares about you as an individual and loves you personally.
I’ve found that this is where the real disconnect is with a lot of people—they can believe the truth that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, but they never come to realize that God so loved them that He gave us Jesus. This is where receiving His love for us individually comes in—which is what this teaching is designed to do. Yes, I believe the Lord wants you to know today that He loves YOU! He came for YOU! He died for YOU! He rose for YOU! It was all for YOU!
As we started off talking about in this series, this is what is important for us to both “know” and “believe.”
We talked about how the Bible’s use of “knowing” is different than the way we use it in the world today. In the Bible, “knowing” something is to have an experiential and intimate knowledge of something. So, we need to have an experiential knowledge of His love for us to where our hearts have been impacted by it and we haven’t just mentally accented to some fact.
We made the point that while many Christians might claim they know God loves them, what most have done is simply mentally accented to the fact God loves us. In other words, they have come to agree with some facts that they have heard or read, but how many of you know that there’s a big difference between knowing something in our heads and experiencing it in our hearts?
But we saw how it is also important that we believe the love that God has for us. So what this means is that while it is great that we come to experience the love that God has for us, there is also a place for believing in this love whether we ever experience it or not. In other words, while God definitely wants us to experience His love, we need to avoid gravitating towards needing to feel it or have any other evidence of it in our lives. That is not when we are to come to believe the love God has for us.
We learned that the reason this is important for us to understand is because what so many Christians want is other manifestations of His love for them—like financial, emotional, or physical provision. However, this is not the primary way that God has chosen to manifest His love. Sure, He has promised to provide for us and heal our bodies, etc., but these are not meant to be the manifestation of His love that we look to; only the Cross is! In other words, the only evidence of His love that we need is the giving of God’s only begotten Son. And this is how God chose to manifest how much He loves us.
But there are many who want God to prove His love for them, basing His love for us on their circumstances. Saints, the only proof we need that God loves each and every one of us is the fact that He gave us His Son. The disciple whom Jesus loved said that this is the manifestation of God’s love for us (See First John 4:9). It’s not our circumstances or our situation. It’s the Cross, and the Cross alone.
But like we learned a couple of weeks ago, even though our circumstances & situations shouldn’t be things we base God’s love for us on, the fact is with most people, they do. And the reason for this is because of what the vast majority of people believe about God’s “sovereignty.” So we dispelled a lot of popular theology out there about who God is and how He operates because this is one of the greatest obstacles to understanding God’s love for us.
You see, if I believe that God is the One who is “in control” of all that happens in my life, including the bad things, then how am I going to believe He loves me? Sure, someone might say, “That’s because in His love for you, he knows what’s best for you”, but is that true? It’s certainly not true in this world we live in. There is no parent who throws their children to the wolves because they love them. So let’s not overcomplicate this whole thing: If God is love and He is good, let’s give ourselves enough credit to know what is good and what is bad, what love looks like and what it doesn’t look like.
And last week, the Holy Spirit led me to share a testimony of how He taught me about how faithful His love is. It was powerful and it was a great example of how it doesn’t matter how far gone we think we are, God’s love is the most faithful kind of love that there is!
Church, God IS LOVE and He IS GOOD, and we need to understand that. Then and only then, can we know and believe the love God has for us! Amen?
SO LOVED THE WORLD
So this week, let’s look at a very popular & powerful Scripture that most of us in here are very familiar with—John 3:16.
Now even though we might have heard many sermons on this verse and can even maybe quote it—that doesn’t mean we “know” it. My prayer today is that the Holy Spirit will reveal the wonderful truths contained therein and help us to see God’s love in a special way through it.
Now this verse describes His great love for us that motivated all He did for us in Christ Jesus, but I want us to begin in the couple of verses before because I believe they give us better insight into what Jesus said in the 16th verse …
John 3:14-16 reads — “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Now we know what happened in the wilderness, don’t we? The people became impatient and began to speak against God and Moses. And when they did this, the Lord sent venomous snakes that began killing the people. So when the people asked Moses to plead with the Lord to take the snakes away, God told Moses to make a snake and put in on a pole so that everyone who was bit could look on it and live.
So here Jesus is showing us that this bronze serpent that was lifted up and put on a pole was a type of Christ who would be lifted up on the Cross. What’s interesting to me is that here in John chapter 3, Jesus equates “believing” with the “looking” that we see in this story. So evidently, a big part of believing is what you are looking at. You see, the children of Israel were simply told to look at that bronze serpent if they had been bitten and they would live. Here, Jesus says that we must believe on what Jesus would do for us on that “pole” in order to have eternal life. So where our focus and attention are set is obviously a big part of faith.
Now what I find interesting about that story in Numbers is how guilty the children of Israel were, yet God provided a means for salvation from the serpents. In other words, they were ungodly and deserved judgment, yet God heeded the intercession of their high priest, Moses, and offered them a way for mercy. Well, that echoes something I see in John 3:16 that I’d like us to highlight about God’s love for us!
Again, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
So Jesus starts off by saying, “For God so loved the world …” Now it would have been enough for Jesus to tell us that God loved the world, but He went as far as saying that He SO loved it.
You know, we can go around saying that we love our spouse, we love our kids, we love coffee, we love pizza, etc. We throw all of those same things under the same category that we call “love”, but do you know how one might differentiate their love for one thing from another? They might say, “I so love” this or that. What are the things that you so love? Well, I’d imagine it would be the people or things that are on a completely different level than the other stuff you like or enjoy, right?
I’m sure there’s certain foods that we love but others that we “so love.” We might say, “we love Chinese food” but we “really” love Italian. Then there’s certainly people that we love but others that we “so love.” Like we might say we love a certain friend, but we “dearly” love our child or grandchild. These are the ways that we might differentiate a general level of love for something or someone and a more special level of love.
So God “so loved” you like you really love your most treasured thing and like you dearly love the most precious person in your life. But here’s a big difference between God’s love and ours—Jesus said that He so loved the “world.”
So what did Jesus mean by the “world.” What is the “world”? Was He talking about this planet? No, of course, we know that Jesus was not just talking about the earth itself—although His sacrifice did pay for the redemption of this physical world we live in as well.
The Greek word for “world” is the word kosmos and describes this world in a wide & narrow sense. It can describe this planet and the universe around it (i.e., the physical world we live in), and it can also describe the inhabitants of this world and the things which concern us.
Now we know that all of these things that kosmos describes were thrown into a cursed, sinful state through the sin of Adam, right? This is when death entered in, which is why everything physical & natural is passing away. It’s why every physical inhabitant of this world and why the earth itself are destined to die. But again, this condition of the world is not because we are without fault—for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is none good, none righteous. We are all guilty and worthy of condemnation & damnation. Yet this “world” is what God so loved! In other words, He didn’t so love a world that was perfect, that loved Him in return, and was worthy of that love. No, God so loved the very creation that rejected Him, sinned against Him, and was following the flesh & satan. That’s who & what God “really, dearly” loves. Amen!
What this means for you and I is that God’s love for us is not based on merit. It’s not determined by us. It’s solely based on the way God feels about us—even in our fallen, sinful state. Thank You, Jesus!
And what makes this Gospel even “Gospelier” is that God so loved His creation that had become wicked & corrupt that it motivated Him to do something …
John 3:16 goes on to say that God so loved the world “that He gave His only begotten Son …” So God—because He loved us so much—gave His very best, most prized thing, described as His “only begotten Son.”
So I want you to see this: God so loved the place & people who certainly did not deserve it, who were lost & enemies of their Creator and destined to die for our sin, that He gave us the most precious thing that He could ever have given us, His only Son, so that we could live together with Him. Now that’s love, church! That’s the greatest example of love that you will ever find!
NOT ONLY THAT
Now let’s look over at Romans chapter 5 because I believe the apostle Paul describes all of these things best there …
Romans 5:1-11 says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
So the apostle Paul starts off by saying, “Therefore, having been justified by faith …” As I like to say, when you see the word “therefore,” you need to find out what it’s “there-for.” And in this case, I see this statement as being a summary of what he had been teaching in the previous two chapters. Yes, in Romans chapters 3 & 4, Paul was attempting to explain to this body of believers how righteousness never could come by the law but could only be obtained by faith. (I’d encourage you to study these two chapters in depth in your own time as they are critical to our faith).
So when Paul said here, “having been justified by faith,” he is establishing the truth of how one is now made righteous in the sight of God—by faith in the Lord Jesus.
Then he goes on to say, “(Therefore) we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now the “peace” that is being spoken of here is not to be confused with the peace of God. This is referring to peace with God. That describes the peace we have with our Heavenly Father and our Creator. In other words, “through our Lord Jesus Christ” God is not mad with us. There’s no longer a great divide between us and our Creator. Why? Because the sin issue has been taken care of through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.
Not only that, but Paul goes to describe that “through whom (Jesus) also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Glory to God, in Christ Jesus, we also have access by this faith into this grace in which we stand! Now to have “access” denotes favor. Say we were to give you a key and alarm code to the church building, then you have “access” right? Well, that obviously means you are trusted by us, that you are important to us, etc. So if we have “access” into this grace in which we now stand, that means God trusts & values us. We have great opportunity & responsibility in Christ!
So do you see where this is going? Regarding the grace that we’ve received in Christ Jesus, it’s one thing on top of another. We’ve been justified! We have peace with God! We have access into this grace! Yes, we’ve received all these things and so much more through our Lord Jesus Christ! Glory to the Lord!
Speaking of glory, we also can rejoice in our hope of God’s glory that is to come! I’ll tell you, church, we have a lot to be thankful for in Christ Jesus! There’s so much that we have received, are receiving, and have to look forward to receiving.
Then in verses 4-5, Paul says, “And not only that …” as in, “But wait! There’s more!” However, in these next two verses, he begins talking about the grace that is found in trials and tribulations when he said, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
You see, church, there is even grace found in the difficult times. Why? Because we have the opportunity to grow spiritually through natural/physical adversity. So even in tribulations, we have reasons to rejoice—because of the perseverance, character, and hope they can produce in us.
And how did all of this grace get provided for us? Through the great love that God so loved us with! Amen! In other words, all of these wonderful & amazing things that have been provided for us in Christ, were given in the giving of His only begotten Son. And what motivated Him to give us Jesus? It was how He “so loved” the world.
Which is the point Paul went on to make in verse 5: Romans 5:5 says, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Now I will come back to this verse at the end, but one thing that is noteworthy about this verse is that it is obviously referring to God’s love for us. Yes, this is the love of God that the Holy Spirit has poured out in our hearts. The reason I know this is because of what Paul goes on to say in the following verses …
Verses 6-11 say, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” Wow! There are some powerful truths contained in these verses! Let’s look at them …
The apostle starts off in verse 6 by saying, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” The words “without strength” describe those who are weak, infirmed, and feeble, and saints, this was most definitely all of our conditions before we met Christ. We were powerless to help ourselves (as one translation says), we were sick in need of a physician, and we were too feeble to walk without Him. So when we were in this helpless, weak, and infirmed condition, Paul says, “in due time” Christ died for the ungodly. That means “at the right time.”
On a side note, the thing we can learn from this is that when we were at the end of our rope, at our weakest moment, that’s the “due time” for Christ to show up on the scene and help us. So if you are nearing the end of yourself and just don’t feel like you can do it any longer and have no more strength, then rejoice—because that’s the “right time” for Christ to give you the power & strength that you need. Amen!
Well, in this case, who was it that was “without strength”? It was the ungodly! This is who Christ died for! It wasn’t for those who were okay or not as bad as others. No, it was for the pure, unadulterated “ungodly” person. This is what God did in His love—He died for the ungodly! This is what Paul goes on to further explain in the following verses …
Verse 7 goes on to say, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.” The word “scarcely” describes “barely, rarely, or hardly.” So this shows how even for a person who is considered righteous (i.e., a good, moral person who does right by people) will hardly ever find someone to die for them. But Paul goes on to describe how a person who is considered to be a good person will not have too many people who would dare to die for them either. So in this world, we will hardly ever see someone lay down their life for a good or righteous person outside of a person who is physically related to them.
And that’s the point—in this world, you will be hard pressed to find that kind of love—one willing to die for someone else, even a person who is considered to be a person worth dying for. But as Paul goes on to say in verse 8— “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Have you ever thought about this? Christ did not die for us when we were at our best; He died for us when we were at our worst. It was when we were sinners, not when we were righteous. So if He loved us enough to die for us when we were sinners, then I wonder what His love will do for those who at least desire to love Him in return.
But that’s the way most of us think, isn’t it? If I could just love God more and be more a good & righteous person, maybe God would love me in return. No, that’s not how it works. The truth we have revealed to us here is that God demonstrated the kind of love He has for us by sending Christ to die for us when we were still sinners. Glory to God!
In verse 9, he goes on to say, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”
I love this “Much more then” phrase! He’s using a brilliant argument to show that if Christ would dare to die for us when we were still sinners, then there’s “much more” we expect Him to do for us through that same love! And in this case, it is this— “having now be justified (or made righteous) by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” In other words, if He loved us enough to die for us when we were lost in sin, then how much more can we expect Him to save us from the wrath of God that is to come?
Church, how many good, well-meaning Christians fear the judgment that is to come? They are terrified that they haven’t done enough and are in danger of being judged. But do you know what the Bible teaches us about the wrath of God? It teaches us that it’s not aimed at the redeemed. It’s not targeting those who are justified. No, the wrath of God is reserved for those who have rejected Jesus and the salvation He purchased for us.
Isaiah chapter 54:4-10 shows us what God’s covenant of peace, purchased by the blood of Jesus, looks like: It says, “‘For your Maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth. For the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused,’ says your God. ‘For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,’ says the Lord, your Redeemer. ‘For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has mercy on you.”
Church, this chapter follows what Jesus was going to do for us on the Cross! So this is the result of our new & better covenant, called here our “covenant of peace.” Praise the Lord!
Then in verse 10, we see Paul continuing to make his argument-- “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Here, Paul clarifies what we were when we were “sinners” & “ungodly.” He says here that we were God’s “enemies.” Wow, that puts a different spin on the way we view the ungodly sinner, doesn’t it? We all were once God’s enemies. Yet, through His great love, Jesus died for us and reconciled us to God! This is that covenant of peace referred to in Isaiah chapter 54—the gospel of reconciliation where you and I now have peace with God through what Jesus did for us on the Cross.
Furthermore (or as Paul said, “much more”), having been reconciled to God (which denotes we are no longer enemies, but at peace with Him), we shall be saved by His life. This “life” spoken of here is the resurrection life He experienced, so Paul’s point is that if we experienced reconciliation with God through Jesus’ death, what we can we expect to receive through His life is even more evidence of Christ’s love!
Then Paul says again, “But wait! There’s more!” by saying, “And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
So now we are back to rejoicing: Earlier Paul said that we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Then he said we rejoice in tribulations. Now he said we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ! Why do we rejoice in God through the Lord Jesus? It’s because He so loved us enough to send Jesus for us! Thank You, Father!
YIELDING TO HIS LOVE
But in conclusion, I want to draw your attention back to verse 5 where Paul says that the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit …
Saints, what a glorious promise we have here! That means that all of us who have been born again & filled with His Holy Spirit have resident in our hearts God’s amazing love for us! So it’s the Holy Spirit who helps us to experience the love of God.
Now the term “poured out” is used in other places to describes how Jesus’ blood was poured out for us, how the bowls of God’s wrath will be poured out during the tribulation, and even how the Holy Spirit Himself will be poured out on all flesh under this new & better covenant.
So let’s look at this latter example of “pouring out” because I believe it shows how you and I can experience more of God’s love in our lives: When the Holy Spirit is poured out on us in what we call the baptism of the Holy Spirit or being filled with the Holy Spirit, does this mean that He just takes charge in our lives and starts making us do things in our lives? Of course not! The Holy Spirit is the perfect gentleman, so even though He takes abode in us, we must yield to Him. We must be led by Him. And we must learn to follow His directions. Amen?
Well then, it’s to be understood that if this is the way it is with the One who has been poured out on us, then it must be similar with the thing that He pours out in us—the love of God. Amen? Yes, church, we must yield to and be led by the love God has put in us like we yield to and are led by the Spirit.
You see, some of us have never learned how to yield to certain aspects of God. It’s there. It’s available. But it must be submitted to and learned to be led by. And it’s definitely that way with God’s love too. We must learn to receive, submit, and yield to that love in our hearts. Then, and only then, can we begin to experience it in our lives.
I’ll tell you—I am thankful for the infilling of the Holy Spirit, but it wasn’t until I learned how to be led by Him and how to yield to Him that I started experiencing all the fruit He was meant to produce in my life. Likewise, I believe that we need to learn similar things about the love God has for us so that we can experience all the fruit of His love.
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