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For God So Loved The World

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For God So Loved The World     5/12/2007

Read John 3:16-17

ILL. "Mommy, what does God look like?" asked 5-year-old Timmy just as He put down his peanut butter sandwich & took a big swallow of milk.

"Well, God is a Spirit & we can’t see Him in the same way that we see people," his mother began, not knowing quite where to go from there.

"But if we can’t see Him, how do we know what He’s like?" he persisted.

"Well, suppose you were blind," she said to Timmy. "Would you be able to see Daddy, for instance?"… He shook his head. "But would you know what Daddy is like?" He thought for a moment, then nodded his head.

"You’d know what Daddy is like by the things he says, wouldn’t you?" He nodded again…

 "And we know what God is like, too, by the things He says in His Word. And you’d know that Daddy loves you, because he would tell you so & do everything he could for you."

"That’s how we know God loves us, too… He tells us so, & He has given us so much to help us have a wonderful life… But most of all, He gave us Jesus to take away our sins & to show us what God is really like."

"And even though you couldn’t see Daddy - if you were blind - you could hear his voice & feel when he is near. And in the same way, through Jesus we can hear God’s voice & feel Him near, too…

That’s why, even though we can’t see God, we can be very certain what He is like."

…Little Timmy picked up his sandwich… "I know," he exclaimed, "We don’t see God outside… We see Him inside."

Timmy’s right, isn’t he?

… In the 4th chapter of the Gospel of John, vs. 24, Jesus says, "God is spirit, & His worshipers must worship in spirit & in truth."

We have heard that verse many times, haven’t we?... But have we ever stopped to think what it means?

 It means that God is not a created physical being…

 We inhabit a fleshly body… We are fixed to a specific location…

 But God is spirit, & He is not limited to the restrictions of a fleshly body.

God is omnipotent, omniscient, & omnipresent… That means He is all powerful… He knows everything… & that He can be everywhere at once.

On our side that creates a bit of a problem…

 Because God is spirit & we are flesh we have a difficult time reaching out to Him…

 I can’t touch Him physically because He is spirit…

 I can’t hear His voice audibly because He is spirit.

But Scripture says that I can be ministered to & lived in by His Holy Spirit…

 I can know His will for my life & I can feel the gentle tug of His Spirit.

… In 1 John 1:5, John tells of another characteristic of God…

 He says, "This is the message we have heard from Him & declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all."

That sounds like good news…

 "God is light."… We like light…. We like the sunshine…

 Scripture draws a contrast between light & darkness… between holiness & evil… between purity & sin…

 So when Scripture says, "God is light." It means that God is pure & God is holy.

ILL. I’m sure that we have all had the experience of going into a dimly lit room or going outside in the dark and trying to see something…

 But we have a difficult time until our eyes adjust & we become accustomed to the darkness…

Tragically… that is exactly what has happened to us in this world…

 We have grown accustomed to the darkness…

 We have grown accustomed to sin & evil…

 So we may feel like it is not necessarily good news that "God is light" because God’s light exposes our sin… & we come face to face with the fact that outside of God we’re lost & without hope in this world.

… That is what makes John 3:16-17 the most beautiful & best-known passage in all the Bible…

 Listen to it again… "For God so loved the world that He gave his one & only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him."

"God loves us."

Those may be some of the sweetest words ever to greet the ears of humankind…

 To know that God loves us is a very special thing.

But not just us… God loves everybody - regardless of the color of their skin or where they are socially or economically - regardless of race or gender…

 God’s love is for everybody & it is important for us to realize that.

But here is the problem…

 Whenever we speak of God’s love we tend to let the pendulum swing too far in that direction… We rightly proclaim that "God is love," but we often ignore some of the other characteristics of God…

 And in doing that we tend to give God a grandfather image.

ILL. Bill Cosby once said… "Grandparents are the biggest hypocrites in the world… There is just no way that the grandparents of my children could be the same parents who raised me, because they are so very different."…

You see… we turn God into a big grandfather in the sky who loves us so much that He can’t possibly have a place as awful as hell… And many peopple decide that since "God is love" He surely will just save all of us.

… Far too often, when we talk about God’s love we tend to forget His other characteristics of righteousness & justice & power.

If we just look at the sovereignty & justice of God we see a God who is compelled to judge us & to throw us into hell…

 But when we put sovereignty & justice & love together then we see God anxious for us to come out of darkness & into the light.

 So God… in His love for us… couldn’t stand idly by while our sins condemned us for all eternity…

 That is one of the great qualities of love… love doesn’t just stand there - it must do something to show its love.

ILL. I read about a boy who had been born blind…

 One day his mother was trying to describe to him the color of his eyes… His eyes were blue… But how do you describe blue to someone who has never seen blue?

How do you describe a sunset to someone who has never seen a sunset?

For that matter, how do you explain the delicate taste of a fine piece of food to someone who has never tasted it?

SUM. You see there are certain things in life that must be experienced…

 That is why God showed His love to us by sending His only Son… God saw the sin that was ruining our lives & He had to do something.

And when we experience God’s love then we can’t stand back either… We must do something about it, as well.

…As we look at God’s love there is a 2nd thing we find out…

 His love is not something that we earn…

 The Bible doesn’t say that "man so loved God that God was compelled to love him back."

No… the Bible teaches that "God so loved us, that He gave His only Begotten Son."

we can’t earn that kind of love… we can’t look nice enough… we can’t witness to enough people… we can’t give enough…

 It is God’s free gift to all who will receive it, & all who will experience it in their lives.

It is important for us to stand back & bask in the light of God’s love & then allow it to become a part of our everyday lives & to realize that it is God’s gift… God’s unspeakable gift to each one of us.

ILL. There is an old story about a man in China who was walking on a rain slick road… He lost his footing & fell into a ditch filled with mud… He kept sinking deeper & deeper in the mud. The more he struggled to get out of the ditch, the deeper he sank.

the story says that as he was sinking in the mud Buddha came by…

 Buddha looked at him & said, "My what a predicament you are in. Here is a paper that tells you ten ways to get out of ditches."

 The man started reading & he tried all ten ways to get out of the ditch, only to discover that the harder he tried the deeper he sank.
Then Confucius came along & looked at him, & said, "You are in a terrible condition, but I have good news for you… If you’ll take 5 steps toward me, I’ll take 5 steps down to meet you, & then together we will walk out of the ditch."

But the man said, "I couldn’t even take the 5 steps… The more I struggled the deeper I sank in the mud."

Then Jesus came by… Jesus looked at him, took off His crown & His royal robes, & got down in the ditch with him & He pushed him until his feet were on solid ground once again.

SUM. "From sinking sand He lifted me… With tender hands He lifted me… From shades of night to plains of light… Oh praise His name, He lifted me."

 That is what love means.

 It means that Jesus Christ has lifted us out of the muck & the mire of our sin… & He has put our feet on solid ground.

…Then too… God’s love is inevitable… because God’s nature is to love.

 "God is love" & He is always true to His nature.

We expect a man to act like a man…

 We expect a woman to act like a woman…

 We expect a dog to act like a dog… & we expect a pig to act like a pig…

Now… we don’t expect a man to act like a pig… although sometimes we are surprised.

…When we read that "God is love," we expect Him to love…    & He doesn’t disappoint us.
… He loves & His love is inexhaustible… His love keeps on loving even when it is not returned…

 His love is given even when we become angry & rebel against Him…

 His love is always there for all who will accept it.

ILL. There is an old, old story that I don’t know whether it is true or not… But the message of it is true… And I don’t want you to miss that message.

It seems that a number of years ago a man came out of his home one day & met a boy with a cage full of birds… so many birds that they were just stacked up on each other and could not hardly move…

 He asked the boy what he was going to do with the birds…. And the boy said I am just going to  just keep them in captivity until they die…

The man said, "Well, I like birds. Would you sell them to me?"… The boy said, "You don’t have enough money to buy them."

The man said, "I’ll give you $2 for them."

 The boy said, "That’s not enough."

 "I’ll give you $4," said the man… "That’s not enough, either."

"Well, how much do you want for these birds?" asked the man.

 The boy said, "You won’t pay that much."… "How much money do you want?"… "If you want them it’ll cost you $10," said the boy.

 Well, the man did pay him that much & then took the cage & opened its door & set the birds free.

ILL. Another story says that Jesus was walking in the corridors of eternity… He came across Satan with a cage full of human beings.

 "What are you going to do with those people?" Jesus asked Satan.

Satan said, "I’m going to keep them in captivity… I’m going to entice them to sin. And they’ll sin more & more, without ever realizing that the wages of sin is death…. And so they’ll die in their sins," he said.

Jesus said, "I want to buy them… I’ll give you all the gold in the world."… Satan said, "That’s not enough."

"I’ll give you the cattle on a thousand hills," Jesus said…

 "That’s not enough, either."

 "Then how much do you want?" asked Jesus.

Satan said, "You’ll never pay the price… because I want your blood… I want your life… I want it all."

So Jesus went to the cross & He died so that He could open Satan’s door & set us free.

That is how great God’s love is…

 And He offers that love this evening to each and every one of us.

Maybe you have heard about it & you know all the facts, but you have never experienced it.

 We invite you to open your heart & your life to Jesus…

God’s invitation is an invitation of love… It always is, & He extends it to all His children - to you…

 He invites you to come, because God is love… Will you come as we stand & sing?

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