July 30, 2006

The Love of God

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: The Attributes of God Scripture: 1 John 4:8


The Love of God

1 John 4:8
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

This morning's sermon focuses upon arguably the most cherished topic of all humanity. We are partial to speaking about it and have even come to adore the word itself. Though the term is often difficult to describe, every human senses it, and every human needs it to live a healthy life. The subject I am talking about is love. And this morning, we will look directly into the heart of God.

In 1 John 4:8 the Bible makes a declarative statement. It says, "God is love." This means love finds expression in everything He says and does.

At first thought we couldn't imagine existence under the reign of a God who was tyrannical, wicked, cruel or domineering. When we hear that God is love, we take great comfort in this awesome truth. But as we begin to ponder this glorious and unfathomable topic, we activate secondary thoughts that begin to frighten us.

First, we rightly see our sinful nature against the backdrop of a holy God and wonder how we can expect to receive God's love when we deserve His judgment. How can God love those whom the Bible calls "children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3) and still be a God that is just and serious about His holiness?

Most people do not ponder this dilemma because they do not worship the God of Scripture. Ben Mitchell said, "The kind of love that (describes the god people worship today) is more akin to sentimentalism than God's holy affection. If love means God abandons all of His other attributes, then love itself is deified. The love of God does not dictate that He abandon His justice or holiness… God does not allow unregenerate sinners to do as they will, worship what they wish, live as they please, and still go free. In the divine scheme of things, sin demands punishment. The rebellion of self-worship requires wrath."

There is also a second concern as well. When we consider God's love we remember all those who have claimed to love us in the past. In some way all of them at one time or another have let us down or broken our heart. It has been said that those whom we love the most have the greatest potential to bring us the greatest pain. For this reason many have run from the bonds of love.

C.S. Lewis remarked, "To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal" (The Four Loves, 1963, p. 111-112).

So if God demands all of my heart, how do I know I can trust His love?

How can God love sinners, and how do I know God's love won't let me down. These are the two questions I'd like to address this morning as we continue our study on the attributes of God.


Let's begin with the first concern entitled, "How Can God Love Me?"

As I have stressed throughout this series, we will never rightly understand ourselves until we understand the attributes of God as they are given to us through the Scriptures.

For instance, it is only after we see His transcendent holiness, His desire for moral perfection, and His inability to tolerate, much less look upon sin that we will begin to realize how far short we fall from His glory (Rom. 3:23). Only when we see who God really is will we realize our impossibility to keep His law perfectly and His impossibility to extend love when His justice demands the extension of His wrath. This chasm that separates sinful man and a holy God is of infinite proportions and should cause us, as it did other biblical figures, to tremble. Regardless of what other humans may be proclaiming, we do not deserve God's love nor can we do anything to earn God's love.

You don't have to take my word on it. Listen to what the Bible says: James 2:10, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." Therefore, 1 John 1:8, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us" (cf. Ecc. 7:20). So the result is Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death." What kind of death? Among others, spiritual death, as defined in Matthew 25:46 as "eternal punishment."

The Bible does not describe God and humanity as two lovers holding hands strolling down a moonlit beach. On the contrary, we oppose His lordship with every fiber of our being, and He rightly exercises judgment for our sinful rebellion. The Bible uses terms like "alienated" (Col. 1:21), "enemies" (Rom. 5:5) and "(un)reconciled" (2 Cor. 5:20) to describe our relationship. Far from being recipients of His love, we are agents of His wrath. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Rom. 1:18).

So here is the million-dollar question? What must happen in order for us to be right with God, to change our standing from enemies to friends? Some would say: "God must turn His wrath into love." Unfortunately, that statement is as flawed as that common saying you hear in the gym: "We must turn our fat into muscle."

Muscle and fat are two separate properties, just as wrath and love are two separate responses. In order for muscle definition to be visible, fat must be removed. In the same way, wrath needs to be removed for humans to experience God's love that is being obstructed.

It is no different than the sun that ceases to be because it is hiding behind a cloud. We don't change the clouds into a sun, we simply have to remove the clouds to see the sun that was always there shining brightly.

So how does that happen? How can wrath be removed to see and experience God's love? Well, wrath is God's righteous reaction against sin. So if our sin can be removed, the wrath will be removed and we will be the pure recipients of God's love.

How is wrath removed? The answer is found in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ took our place on the cross. He gave His life and spilt His blood on our behalf. Ephesians 5:2, "Christ…loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."

After Christ accepted our sins upon Himself ("He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf" - 2 Cor. 5:21a), the wrath of God which we deserved was spent on Him. Listen to Romans 5:9. "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 that "Jesus…rescues us from the wrath to come." And the Bible says through faith and repentance we can receive this free gift of forgiveness (Jn. 5:24).

So we can say wrath is removed and God's love is now available without measure thanks to the work of Jesus Christ. But we can also say it was God's love that moved Him to send Jesus Christ in the first place. 1 John 4:10, "This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

I believe James Boice summarized this well. "We are reconciled to God, not because Christ's death somehow changed God's attitude toward us, but because God's love sent Christ to make the way by which sin, which bars us from the realization of God's love, might be removed forever" (Foundations of the Christian Faith, p. 333).

A.H. Strong said, "God required satisfaction because He is holiness, but He makes satisfaction because He is love" (Source Unknown).

Deep down inside we all want to see the love of God. But it is hard to see the love of God in nature when you encounter tsunamis and earthquakes. It is hard to see the love of God in humanity when you encounter wars and abortions. It is even hard to see the love of God in churches when you encounter backbiting and selfishness. Do you want to know if God loves you? Do you want to see the love of God? Then look no further than the cross. Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (cf. Eph. 2:4; 1 Jn. 4:19). Contrast your great sin and His great sacrifice and there will no longer be any doubt in your heart.

Jerry Bridges said, "If we want proof of God's love for us, then we must look first at the Cross where God offered up His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Calvary is the one objective, absolute, irrefutable proof of God's love for us" (Trusting God, 1988, p. 138). Kent Hughes remarked, "The Cross is the ultimate evidence that there is no length the love of God will refuse to go in effecting reconciliation." Augustine once called the cross "a pulpit" from which Christ preached God's love to the world.

As a matter of fact, it is difficult to find a single verse in the entire New Testament that speaks of God's love outside the context of Christ's sacrifice. A classic example is John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (cf. Gal. 2:20; 1 Jn. 4:10; Rev. 1:5).

So as we conclude the first concern, we know that God can love fallen sinners without compromising His holiness through the work of Jesus Christ.


The second concern, "Why can I trust God's love?"

As I said earlier, we have all been hurt by those who have claimed to love us. So if I give God all of my heart, how do I know He won't let me down?

Much of this skeptical thinking comes from the fact that we have created a god in our own image and have not allowed Scripture to define His character. So let's look at four dimensions of God's love from the Word of God and determine for ourselves if God's love is a love we can trust.

First of all, the Bible says that God's love is giving.

It has been said, "You can give without loving but you can never love without giving." True love must give and since God is the epitome of true love, He demonstrated His love by giving us the greatest gift possible: Jesus Christ.

Yet we must go even deeper. True love gives and the greatest gift we can give someone is our self.

A minister was once talking to a couple who were having difficulties in their marriage. There was much bitterness and pain, coupled with an acute lack of understanding. At one point in the exchange the husband spoke up in obvious exasperation. "I've given you everything," he said to his wife. "I've given you a new home. I've given you a new car and all the clothes you can wear. I've given you…" The list went on. When he had ended the wife said sadly, "That much is true, John. You have given me everything - but yourself."

The Bible says, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). In giving us Christ, the Triune God gave us Himself.

And if God is the essence of all goodness, what greater gift could we ever want than God Himself? John Piper said, "What could God give us to enjoy that would prove Him most loving? There is only one possible answer: Himself! If He withholds Himself from our contemplation and companionship, no matter what else He gives us, He is not loving."

Therefore in Jesus Christ we see that God's giving is practical, compassionate, unsurpassed and sacrificial, always exercised with our greatest interest in mind. So building on this love demonstrated at Calvary we conclude with Paul, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things" (Rom. 8:32)? The Supreme gift itself is the guarantee of every other. Surely we must conclude if He gave for our greatest need, He is able to provide for our lesser needs.

J.I. Packer said, "We know that those who truly love are only happy when those whom they love are truly happy also. So it is with God in His love for us" (Knowing God, p. 124). Remember Christian; you matter to God. All resources are at His disposal and He is giving His very best for you even when you don't feel it, to be happy in Christ for your sake and His!

Second, God's love is infinite (Lam. 3:22; Jn. 3:16; Eph. 2:4).

Ephesians 3:18 encourages us "to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth (of God's love)." Ironically, it is asking us to know the unknowable. In other words, in our walk with God we should be coming to a greater understanding of His love, which can never be ultimately fathomed. Because the highest mountain cannot reach its heights, the deepest ocean cannot delve its depths and the furthest crevice in space is not far enough to define the love of God!

When we say God's love is infinite, we are saying He loves without limit or measure. We are saying that no human tongue can express or human mind can comprehend this love. There is nowhere we can go and nothing we can do to remove ourselves from this love. There is never a split-second when God ceases to love us or exhausts His love for us or extends to us anything less than His very best. John 17 declares that He loves us as much as He loves Christ!

George Tersteegen once penned:

Thou hidden love of God, whose height,

Whose depth unfathomed, no man knows,

I see from far Thy beauteous light,

Inly I sigh for Thy reprose;

My heart is pained, nor can it be

At rest till it finds rest in Thee.

Or how about that famous third stanza from Frederick Lehman's classic hymn:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Romans 5 tells us that the infinite love of the infinite God "has been poured out within our hearts" (Rom. 5:5).

A third reason we can trust the love of God is because God's love is eternal.

When we say God's love is eternal we say it has no beginning and subsequently will have no end. Jeremiah 31:3, "I have loved you with an everlasting love." Psalm 106:1, "Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting (cf. Psm. 100:5; 136:1). Because there is no end to God's love Romans 8 declares, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39).

I believe the greatest proof and guarantee of God's eternal love is His sovereignty in salvation. In Ephesians 1:4-5 we read, "Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will" (cf. 2 Thes. 2:13).

In other words, the Bible declares that God called us to Himself in love due to His own sovereign good pleasure (cf. Dt. 4:37; 7:7-8; 10; Dt. 10:14-15; Rom. 9:13). Therefore since we did nothing to receive His love, there is nothing we can do to lose His love. If He loved us before we came to Christ, He will certainly love us now that we are believers. Our salvation is part of an unbreakable chain that guarantees His love from eternity past into eternity future (Rom. 8:30).

What was there in me that could merit esteem,

Or give the Creator delight?

T'was even so, Father, I ever must sing,

Because it seemed good in Thy sight.

A.W. Pink

Most of what we enjoy in this life will pass away, but God's love for us will endure forever as we are "eternally embraced in the arms of…love" (Richard Baxter)!

Fourth and lastly, God's love is without influence.

After all we have covered already, this final aspect is a self-evident conclusion. Since God's love is giving, it must supply. Since God's love is infinite and immutable, it is without change (Mi. 7:18). And since God's love is eternal, is has no end. We are secure in the uninfluenced love of God not because of what we are but because of who He is.

Let me ask you a question:

Let's say one day you had a wonderful day in the Lord. Woke up and enjoyed a meaningful quiet time in prayer and Scripture reading. Served the Lord wholeheartedly at work. Shared Christ with a few individuals at lunch. Encouraged some fellow believers from church and spent meaningful time with your family.

But the next day things weren't as positive. As a matter of fact, just the opposite occurred as the day before. You disregarded spending any time with the Lord. You were a terrible testimony at work. You shied away from some clear opportunities to share Christ. You ignored your spiritual family and yelled at your spouse and children.

Let me ask you, which day did God love you more? If you pick one day over the other, you are working on performance and do not understand the free, unconditional, unevoked, uninfluenced love of God.

Sure, obedience is commanded and expected as a result of God's love for us (Jn. 14:15). And any disobedience brings God's displeasure, forfeited blessings and rewards, consequences of sin and potentially His discipline. However, that is not my point. What I am trying to stress is that once we are a child of God, there is nothing we can do that would cause God to love us any less. Therefore it is not about winning His love, it is about accepting His love! Isn't this how good parents love their children? Should we expect our heavenly Father to do less? Listen, regardless of our actions, God loves His children as much today as He did yesterday and as much as He will tomorrow.

The Bible says, "We love (Him), because He first loved us" (I Jn. 4:19). His love for us was not based on any conditions in the past and it will not be based on any conditions in the future. From God's perspective, there is much in us that makes us unlovable. But since God has chosen to love us, He will continue to do so as long as He is love (1 Jn. 4:8). Remember beloved by God, God now accepts you not because of what you do but because of what He has done in Christ on your behalf.

Because God's love is giving, infinite, eternal and unconditional, based on His unchanging character, we can trust Him for the love we share in Christ.

What mighty love is here displayed

By Thee, the Father's only Son,

When Thou didst bow in death Thy head

To purchase thus a world undone!

The ransom price - Thy own heart's blood

There shed for me, O Lamb of God.

O Love that moved Thee thus to die

To fit me for the land of bliss!

The law demands to satisfy

No price was found but blood like this.

What sorrows rent that form divine

To bear away such sin as mine?

The scourge, the spitting and the thorn -

What word can well explain the half

Of all Thy grief - the bitter scorn,

The nails, the spear, the mocking laugh;

Thy pains and cries upon the tree?

"Why has my God forsaken Me"

By Thee are all my needs supplied:

Thou hast for me the victory won.

Thy cross my refuge, let me hide,

For I am helpless and undone.

I and Thy wounds my healing see

And know that Thou hast (lovest) me.

Author Unknown

other sermons in this series

Aug 6


The Greatness of God

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Isaiah 40:25 Series: The Attributes of God

Jul 23


The Faithfulness of God

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Deuteronomy 7:9 Series: The Attributes of God