I’ve been on an intense personal journey for the last long while and find that the hiatus has been good. I don’t expect to blog every day, but the posts should come quick regularly from here for the next while. I have preached on a number of occasions since the last post and yet didn’t feel like posting them. Not really sure why.

So when i looked today at my last post which happened to be titled “God is… Love,” it seems strange to me that here i am with my latest sermon titled, “So, He loves us?” If time permitted, i would transcribe the audio and post that version here instead, simply because of how the sermon ended up flowing. Nevertheless, my prayer is that your heart will be affected by the words presented here…

So He Loves Us?
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Sermon from John 3:16 for Our Foundations Series: Topic – God’s Love

1. Introduction
In February of 1993, British police arrested and charged two ten-year-old boys with the murder of a two-year-old. The boys said they were innocent. They said that they didn’t do whatever they were accused of doing.
The trial lasted two weeks, and while it was going on the young boys were questioned a number of times about what had happened. The boys didn’t answer the questions the same way every time and this puzzled the police. The police had video footage evidence that the boys had in fact taken the two-year-old.

The height of the trial came when the parents of one of the boys told him that no matter what happened, no matter which way the trial went, regardless of any of the things going on, the parents told him that they will love him. Because of the love of the parents, the boy confessed that he had killed the two-year-old. The parents of this boy didn’t know the truth and it didn’t matter to them. No matter what they still loved their son.

The same thing could be said about God, except he knew we would mess up. Unlike the parents of these boys, God knew how the situation would end up. But that doesn’t matter to God. He loves us anyway. At the end of last week there was brief mention about the fact that God loves us, and that is what we’ll be talking about today. I read a quote a few weeks ago that said, “There is a great battle in the church to define what “loving God” means. We must define love on God’s terms or according to the Bible.” I’m going to steal the second part of that quote for our take home point today. So, if there is one thing that you should take home today it is this: We must define love on God’s terms or according to the Bible.

We’ve been going through a series the last few weeks called Our Foundations. Pastor Abe has been going through some of the foundations about God over the last few weeks. He talked about creation and some other things which I won’t get into here. I invite you to visit our website where we have the audio from the last few weeks to get caught up on what he’s talked about.

2. Sermon Body – John 3:16
We’re going through this series on Our Foundations and the question we’ve been examining over the last few weeks is: Why believe in God? As I said, today we’re going to talk about God’s love. My prayer for today is that if you are, can I say “a seasoned veteran” in your faith?, that you will walk away with an even greater appreciation and love for God than you had walking into these doors this morning. But if you’re here today because someone promised you lunch, and you’re just really skeptic about faith, God, and Christianity, my prayer is that you won’t just write off what is said as hogwash. I pray that you will sincerely evaluate what we talk about today.

What I’d like to do today is draw your attention to what could be called the most famous verse in the Bible. Do you know what the most famous verse in the Bible is? John 3:16! Right! Some of you might have it memorized. Do you want to recite it with me?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

For God…
As I said, over the last two weeks Pastor Abe has been talking about the foundation of God’s existence so I won’t get into that today.

For God so loved…
But this verse says, “For God so loved…” Have you ever tried to define, or maybe even try to understand why the word “so” is in this verse? Jesus could just as easily have said, “For God loved…”
I did some digging around and found out why this word “so” is here. There are two reasons. The first reason the word “so” is found in this verse is because of the magnitude of God’s love. Let me give you an example.
Have you ever been hungry? It’s funny because whenever someone’s hungry they don’t say, “I’m hungry,” do they? They usually always say, “I’m so hungry.” Or here’s another one. You never hear someone say, “That guy is crazy.” They always say, “That guy is so crazy.” It’s the same with God’s love. God so loved…

So that’s the first reason. The second reason the word “so” is in this verse is that it actually suggests the way in which God loves us. You could say it like this: “The way that God loves us is like this, he sent his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him won’t perish, but have eternal life.” The word “so” points to the way that God loves us.
Look at what the verse says though: God so loved…

You might look at this and say, “Yeah so, what’s so great about that?”

In order to fully grasp the fact that God loves us you have to understand something about the culture and the time that Jesus is saying this in.
How many of you have ever seen this picture? (show picture of Zeus); or what about this guy? (show picture of Poseidon). These are just two of the gods that the Greeks worshiped for thousands of years before Jesus was born.

There are actually a whole bunch of these gods that were worshiped during that time. The thing is though, that the people were afraid of these gods. Literally. It was believed that the gods had absolutely no interest in people and that they just wanted to use people. The people prayed to these gods and obeyed them because they were afraid they would be killed. They were never sure if a god like Zeus was going to hit them with a lightning bolt.
That was the type of culture these people lived in. So along comes Jesus and says, “For God so loved…” There is a good chance that Jesus was laughed at for this. In the mind of the people of the day, gods don’t love. God’s kill, or at least strike fear into their subjects. What Jesus says goes against everything that the people truly understood about gods. But Jesus says, “For God so loved…”
For God so loved…
So let’s talk about love. And I want to preface this part of the discussion. If we can agree with the past two Sunday’s foundations, and accept that God existed before there was anything and that God created everything, including love, then we must define love on God’s terms or according to the Bible.
You know, as long as I can remember I’ve heard it said that 1 Corinthians 13 is the love chapter of the Bible. Many Christians would probably say that. But I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. In my opinion, the greatest verses on love in the Bible are in 1 John 4:7-21. Now just to clarify for those unfamiliar with the Bible. In the early part of the NT there is the book of John. Near the back of the Bible are three little letters that are referred to as 1, 2, & 3 John. And it’s in 1 John, the first of these three little letters near the back of the Bible, that John writes this amazing passage about love.
In my opinion, 1 Corinthians 13 is a lot less relevant without 1 John 4:7-21. So here’s part one of your homework assignment this week to go home and study these passages because I’m not going to go through them in any great detail today.
The problem with any kind of discussion about love today is that we use modern definitions of love and attribute them to God. So the way we understand love is how we try and define God’s love toward us. And that’s a mistake. We must define love on God’s terms or according to the Bible.
There is a verse in 1 John 4, verse nineteen that says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” According to this verse, the only way that we have the ability to love is because God first loved us. And if that’s true, then what the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 begins to make more sense. But I’m going to let that thought hang in the air for just a minute and address one more thing.
For God so loved the world…
In order to go any further, we need to talk briefly about who God loved. John 3:16 tells us this, “For God so loved the world…”
If God and the Bible are new things for you, you might struggle a little with some of the language in it. Let me give you an example. Over the last number of years there has been a great push to make sure that the language of the Bible is gender inclusive. So in the older versions you might see the word “man” somewhere, and now in the updated versions you might see the phrase “man and woman.” In this case, the word “man” is inclusive to encompass the human race, but the change is done anyway.
In John 3:16 we have one of these words. “For God so loved the world…” is not meant to be taken literally. Yes he loves the world, the earth, the planet we live on. Pastor Abe talked about this last week. After God finished creating he said that it was good. But the word “world” in John 3:16 doesn’t mean the earth. John uses the word “world” to describe the human race; all of humanity. You could say it this way, “For God so loved humanity…” God loves people. You and me. In fact, God loves us so much, what did He do?
He Gave
“For God so loved the world that He gave…”
Have you ever gotten a present? When? For your birthday? Christmas?
Why did you get a present? It isn’t so much that you got a present because it was your birthday or Christmas. The real reason that you got a present is because someone loved you enough and thought you were special enough that you deserve a present. Or maybe you gave someone a present. Someone was special enough to you that you thought they deserved a present.
God did the same thing. He loves people so much that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

You could say it this way: For God loves people so much, they are so special to Him that He wanted to give them a present. That present was His only Son, so that people could have a forever relationship with Him.
I’m going to finish this foundation of God’s love today by asking you to turn to 1 Corinthians 13. I mentioned this passage earlier and now I want to go back to it. In 1 Corinthians 13 the apostle Paul gives us the biblical definition of what love is. I’ll read it from the New Living Translation. Starting at verse four Paul says,

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

Remember that we must define love on God’s terms or according to the Bible. So what if we take the definition of love that Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 and apply it to John 3:16:

For God is so patient with people that He gave His only Son…
For God is so kind to people that He gave His only Son…
For God is not jealous or boastful or proud that He gave His only Son…
For God is not rude with people that He gave His only Son…
For God does not demand His own way with people; He didn’t make a bunch of robots that He gave His only Son…
For God was not irritated with people that He gave His only Son…
For God does not keep a record of being wronged by people that He gave His only Son…
For God does not rejoice about injustice that people create but rejoices whenever the truth wins out with people that He gave His only Son…
For God never gives up on people that He gave His only Son…
For God never loses faith in people that He gave His only Son…
For God is always hopeful of people that He gave His only Son…
For God endures through every circumstance with people that He gave His only Son…

When you define God’s love according to His terms, you come away with a new appreciation for the foundation of belief in His love for people.

And that’s the second part of your homework this week. The first part is to read 1 John 4:7-21 and 1 Corinthians 13. The second part is to sincerely evaluate God’s love for you. You can do this through prayer, even if you are skeptical or even if you are struggling. Just say something like, “God, this whole love thing doesn’t make sense to me. Will you show me what you mean when you say you love me.”