My message today, for this Valentine Day Sunday, Is titled… “Let Love Lead The Way” And the rest of mytitle is, “It’s a Way Of Life”….But if we don’t understand it, then how can we live it out!? Today I want to share real stories about real people as they let love lead the way in their everyday situations.
But first my Valentine Joke for today……Grandpa John was celebrating his 100th birthday and everybody complimented him on how athletic and well-preserved he appeared. "Gentlemen, I will tell you the secret of my success," he told them with a cheerful voice ."I have been out in the open air, nearly every day for some 75 years now." Everyone was impressed and asked how he managed to keep up his rigorous fitness program. "Well, he said, you see my wife and I were married 75 years ago. And on our wedding night, we made a solemn pledge to one another. Whenever we had a fight, the one who was proved wrong would have to go out and take a 5 milerun." (Let’s all read it together) John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” If it was a popularity contest, John 3:16 would win hands down. John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the Bible. It is by far, the most well-known passage in Scripture, and rightfully so… John 3:16 perfectly summarizes the central message of the Bible. It has been called the little Bible. It is the gospel in a nutshell. In a real sense, if you edited down the Bible to this one verse, you would still have enough gospel to save the world.
John 3:16 is not just about the fact that God loves you… It is really about HOW GOD LOVES YOU!
Some years ago, as many of you know, Gary Chapman wrote abestseller titled “The Five Love Languages”. Chapman argues that people communicate love differently, that each person has a natural and distinct way in which he or she gives and/or receives love. Each one expresses itself differently, as Physical affection, verbal expression, acts of service, providing, giving gifts, opening opportunities, and spending time are just some of the common love languages that we all have.
There are folks that clearly love one another, but yet they don’t FEEL loved, because they don’t understand the “HOW” of each others love…. He gives love by slaving at a job which he hates. She receives love by how much time he spends with her. So, he feels unloved because she doesn’t appreciate his efforts at providing for her. She feels unloved because he doesn’t spend more quality time with her. They love one another, but they are not speaking the same love language and how each one loves.
My point here is that this could be the thing that causes many folks to struggle with the love of God…. We misunderstand God’s love, because we don’t know GOD’S LOVE LANGUAGE, so we can’t comprehend the “HOW” of His love! The truth of God’s love is hidden within the nature of God Himself.
Whether we realize it or not, we may have humanized God to the point that He ceases to truly be the God of John 3:16 to us. You see, this verse not only tells us that God is love, but that He loves the WHOLE WORLD! And our humanness has difficulty getting our heads around that! Sobecause our humanness can’t grasp that, we fail to transcend our limited boundaries… As little Bobbie said… “Lord, how can you love the whole world, I have a hard time just loving my sister, Judy”…..
First John 4:8 says, “God is love.” That means He is the beginning and the end of love… He is the highest height and the deepest depth of love. He is the length and the breadth of love. He was love before there was an object of that love. So, Love created the heaven and the earth Love created every creature that was made. Every sunrise and sunset, every night and every day are the product of love. Love created Adam and Eve then breathed itself into them so they could operate in that love. Listen, the spark of life in every human being who ever lived, was an expression of His love!
If it has anything to do with God, it has everything to do with love. Mercy is God’s forgiving love. Grace is God’s undeserving love. Peace is God’s comforting love. The will of God is about experiencing the love of a surrendered, submitted heart.Providence is God’s inescapable love. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s tested, tried and proven love.Sanctification is about being set apart for His love. Heaven is God’s elevating, intimate, all embracing love. Eternity is God’s unending forever love.
We tend to humanize God’s love and send it through our own limited, narrow lens of love. Scripture is clear, that God loves Israel, but Orthodox Jews, misread it, So they concluded that God lovedonly Israel. John 3:16 absolutely must have blown Nicodemus awayto think that God loves the very people who are the enemies of Israel. How can Jesus be Messiah when He loves the enemies of the Jews. We still struggle with the fact that He loves our enemies just as much as He loves us. That He gave His life for the guy that cussed us out, and threatened to rearrange our face! And yet there it is…. “God so loved the world”!!!
Romans 5:7-8 says: “For rarely will anyone choose to die for a righteous person—though it might be that for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God loves the whole world. He can’t help Himself!! It’s imbedded in the nature of God!
“God so loves the world, is a remarkable statement, not only in terms of how big the world is, but also how bad the world is. Think about that in personal terms. There are people who love and respect you, but if they knew certain things about you, they might change their minds about you. We all have our flaws and our places that might not do well in the spotlight. God knows everything about you there is to know, yet God loves you totally and completely!!. This should be the true source of our self-esteem and our confidence. God loves us.
Martin Luther said it well: God does not love us because we are valuable; we are valuable because God loves us. You may have heard the story about the woman who wrote a sweet loving letter to her ex-fiancé that went something like this: Dearest Jimmy, No words could ever express the great unhappiness I’ve felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you’ll take me back. No one could ever take your place in my heart, so please forgive me. I love you, I love you, I love you! I am yours forever, Signed, Your one and only Marie. P.S. Congratulations on winning the state lottery”.
If you don’t know how God loves then you will misunderstand that love, and fail to fully appreciate it…. John’s statement does not simply say God loved the world.
It says, “God SO LOVED the world.” That little Greek word “so”(Hoo-to) means “ After this manner.” Our English translations obscures this term somewhat, and we read it as “God loved the world so much,” but it is actually speaking of how God loved us, not just how much God loves us. The message of the text is “This is HOW GOD loves the world.”
God’s love language is that He loves (the kosmos) unconditionally…. At a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what made Christianity unique from other religions was the incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus, but someone suggested that other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another scholar said that it was the resurrection. But another scholar said that other religions have people returning from the dead. Then, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, and sat down and during a lull, in the debate, he asked, “what’s is all this rumpus about?” “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity” they told him….“Oh, that’s easy,” Lewis told them. “It’s grace”. “Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comesat a great cost, but it’s free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.
Philip Yancey once wrote: “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.” We simply and freely receive that love….
How does God love, He loves SACRIFICIALLY. He pours out that love by giving, by serving, and by sacrificing, which is the character of true love. Here it is again, just 24 words which reveal so much….“For God so loved the world, that He gave (the ultimate gift) His only Son.” How many know, we would think of it as bad manners to give a gift to someone and leave the price tag on it, (unless you’re Minnie Pearl) but this is exactly what God did when He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ. God wanted us to know what it cost Him to love us and purchase our salvation. So He left the price tag on the FREE GIFT of His love!
When I went to the auto dealership to get a car. They weighed my debt against my income, and decided how much I could spend for a car. There were some folks who were so wealthy that the price didn’t even enter into their purchase. They just picked up the phone and got whatever they desired. So, can you imagine if you wanted to buy the most expensive car, or an incredible house, or a yacht and all you had to do is tell them to put it on someone’s bill who was a billionaire! Just put it on the tab.
When our sins are added up, all our failures, and every bad decision we’ve ever made, and it’s compared to our righteousness, our holiness or our worthiness, there is a huge short fall. But He did something incredible. He added up the total righteousness, the holiness, the worthiness of Christ and against that, He wrote these words, "Transferred to the account of Charles Elliott." That’s mercy. That’s grace, that’s the miracle of sacrificial love. Before I did anything, He provided it, I simply receive it, and live it out and give it out to others.
How does God love, He gives without measure.
A couple who were in love were talking and the girl said “Sweety pie, if you had 3 cars, would you give me 2”. Swooning, he said “Aww, baby doll, you know I would. She said, “Sweety pie, if you had 2 houses, would you give me one.”… He said “Aww, baby doll, you know I would”. She said, “Sweety pie, if you had 10,000 dollars, would you give it to me”. He said, “Now, baby, I really have to think about that one, you see, I HAVE 10,000 dollars!”
The Father was willing to give His ONLY SON! That’s what John 3:16 tells us. When you give to someone out of your abundance that is one thing; but when you give all you’ve got, that is quite another. If you had several vehicles it might be seen as a noble thing thatyou gave one of them to a family who had none. But if you were to give them the only vehicle you had that would be without measure…. God didn’t have a back-up. God didn’t have a spare. But He loved us so much that He was willing to give us the only one He had.
How does God love, He Loves Personally… This is not some abstract concept. It isn’t just a philosophical theory or a theological narrative. God’s love was made manifest in this world through the person of Jesus Christ the only Son of the Father. Jesus Christ came into this world to reveal to us the love of God in a personal way, in human form. A little child was trying to quote John 3:16 in the King James Version, which says, “his only begotten Son.” But the child misquoted it and said instead, “His only forgotten Son.” It was one of those slips of the tongue that carried more truth than we would care to admit. Because for the majority of the people in the world today, Jesus Christ is truly forgotten. His life is forgotten. His love is forgotten. His sacrifice is forgotten. It is our mission as Christians – as God’s ambassadors – to help them to rememberHow God loves!!!.
More than fifty years ago, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a young sociology professor assigned his class the project of interviewing 200 city youths residing in Ghetto districts. Then he asked them to predict their future. Students predicted that ninety percent would serve time in prison. Twenty-five years later the same professor contacted each student and asked them to track down the original boys and discover what had happened. One hundred eighty were located and only four had ever been in jail. Why were their predictions so far off? Looking for common factors, over 100 of the boys mentioned the strong influence of a teacher they all had in common. They then located the teacher, a seventy-year-old Sheila O’Rourke, in a Memphis nursting home. Puzzled by the interest in her, she could only exclaim, “All I ever did was love them all as if they were the only one.” John 3:16 declares what every human heart—whether it understands it or not—wants to hear and needs to hear… GOD LOVES YOU! In fact, as Saint Augustine said, God loves all of us as if there was only one of us to love. Oh my, Helpus to love more like you love, Lord!
How does God love, He makes Himself accessible…. He touched the untouchables, the outcast, the leper, the up and outer and the down and outer, it didn’t matter. (Covid wouldn’t have kept Him away)
I came across the story of Joe, who was a hopeless alcoholic. Joewas miraculously converted in a street outreach mission. He entered the mission as a derelict and dirty win-o for whom there was little future. But in Christ, everything changed. Joe became the most caring person at the mission. He spent his days there, doing whatever needed to be done. Whether it was cleaning up vomit left by some alcoholic, or scrubbing toilets after men had left them filthy, Joe did it all with a heart of gratitude. He could be counted on to feed any man who wandered in off the streets, get them cleaned up and tucked into bed when they were too drunk to take care of themselves. One evening, after the mission speaker delivered his evangelistic message to the usual crowd of homeless drunks and derelicts, one of them came down to the altar and knelt to pray. Hecried out for God to help him change. The repentant drunk kept shouting, “Oh God, make me like Joe! Make me like Joe! Make me like Joe!” The minister leaned over and said, “Friend, wouldn’t it be better if you prayed ‘make me like Jesus?” After thinking about it for a few moments, the man looked up with a puzzled expression and asked, “Is He like Joe?” Wow!
Oh, how God loves us! He sends you sunrises every morning and flowers every spring. If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If he had a wallet, your photo would be in it. Whenever you want to talk, He’s there to listen. He knows what you need before you need it. He can live anywhere in the universe, and yet He chose your heart. He has entered into our world and He longs to enter into the nitty gritty of our lives.
Jesus didn’t come into the world in order to rebuke you, He came to rescue you. He didn’t come to criticize you, He came to cleanse you. He didn’t come to punish you, He came to pardon you. He didn’t come to destroy you, He came to deliver you. How does God love….We can expect God to keep His word. He is faithful and just. When He says He will allow us to pay the penalty for sin, He will. When He says He will forgive our sin, He will! He will keep His word in each case, but make no mistake about it. God is love, but He is also Holy and Righteous. Unresolved, unrepented sin demands a penalty. We can choose or refuse this great gift of His love. We can choose freedom over bondage, we can choose forgiveness over unforgiveness, we can choose sin over righteousness, we can choose heaven over hell – we can choose God over Satan – *…….The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love”
June 25th, 1967, The Beatles first sang the song “All You Need is Love.” The BBC had commissioned The Beatles to write a song for the United Kingdom's contribution on the first live global television link. The Beatles were asked to come up with a song containing a simple message to be understood by all nationalities. It was to be a clear message saying to all the world, that love is everything. It was seen by an audience of over 400 million people, in 25 countries.
Let me compare each of us to a filter which God’s love must flow through. If the filter is clogged with sin, unforgiveness, anger, guilt, unworthiness, bitterness and shame, then love will be unable to flow fully and freely. Repentance before God unclogs our filter so that we can begin to love who God loves, how God loves. John 3:16 is the answer for marriages, broken relationships, how to do life, and it is the answer for Washington DC, and governments world wide. It’s the greatest peace accord for mankind. Would you turn to someone and tell them, “Clean your filter, it may be clogged up”
Jesus Qualified how we are to love, when He said in Matthew 22:37, “‘You shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
That’s, how the Lord says a Christian loves! Gregory Cole writes….”The love I need more than anything is Your love. Without Your love, no other love will ever be sufficient. And with it, every other love becomes richer and truer and more life-giving than it could have been otherwise. We have learned all our best loves from You: the love of faithful friends, of spouses, of parents and siblings and children. Love that commits. Love that sacrifices. Love that lays down its life. You authored each of these loves, taught us how to recognize them and long for them and give them away. Our best efforts at Valentine’s Day are just a fraction of the wholeness of love. So, today, let everything I see remind me of Your love. Let today be a day for Real love. Big love. Your love”.
Pastor’s Prayer…. Lord, as we conclude today, we want to take this moment to check our filter. If there are things that may be clogging it up, sin, unforgiveness, bitterness, guilt and other things that we need to let you clean out, allow the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit free us to love in greater measure. Lord Jesus, help us all toremember and embrace the overwhelming love You have for us, all of us, as though there were only one of us. You know that those days when we struggle to love, and when we may feel so limited in our love, is when Your special love is what we need the most. I know You hear the desires of our hearts when it comes to earthly relationships, but in Your love, we can feel fulfillment, joy and purpose every day of the year. Help us to always remember that no matter what…. Your love is enough for every level of relationshipwe enter into. Thank You for capturing our hearts and transforming our every day lives into mountaintop moments thatinspire us to choose Your higher love over and over again. Bless our married love, our family love, our friendship love and our love for all those You love, that it may live out through us, and look more and more like You. –In Jesus’ Name, Amen.