March 23, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Genesis 12:1-3; John 3:14-17; I Corinthians 13:4-13
So, What’s the Story? “Let’s Talk about Love”
“God of justice and mercy, You count our tears and hear our prayers. Fill us with Your light, O God, and help us to trust Your promise and not be afraid. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen .”
Today’s message is called “Let’s Talk about Love”. And after last week’s message on our sin-filled human condition, this message probably sounds like a relief!
Most of us want to be loved. Most of us want someone we can love. Most of us are fairly lovable. Most of us have our moments when we are not very lovable.
So what is this thing called “love” we talk so much about? And how do we know when we are in it?
The fact is, and I say this at each and every wedding I officiate at, the most powerful way most of us know that we are truly loved is in marriage. On a wedding day, a man says to his bride, and a woman to her groom, that of all the possibilities and options, “I choose you.”
Families have to love us; friends get to go home at night; but spouses are another matter all together. Jennifer could have married anyone, or chosen not to marry, rather than marry me. But she chose me until death us do part, and those who know me know that’s true love.
Shakespeare has tried to describe this kind of love; Harlequin has defrauded this kind of love; the movies have tainted this kind of love. There are love stories all around us. [Fiddler on the Roof references to marriage]
But surely the greatest love story of all is the story of God’s love, a story as wide as creation, as dramatic as anything Shakespeare has ever thought up, and as personal as you and me. The best love stories in print and on film are mere echoes of this far greater story of God’s love for His people.
In these weeks leading up to Easter we are taking the time to look at the whole Bible and see how, from Genesis through Revelation, it is knit together as a singular story covering thousands of years written by dozens of authors across hundreds of miles.
On the day of Jesus’ resurrection, He walked with two of His disciples from Jerusalem to Emaus and explained to them, from Moses and the Prophets, how He was the ultimate fulfillment of everything Scripture talks about. So this week, we are looking at the biblical theme of love, and seeing how it follows from Moses to the Messiah to you and me, from eternity past to eternity next – and beyond.
The story of God’s love is really a fairly simple story – it’s the story of God choosing to love His people, and that choice is repeated and clarified as biblical history unfolds.
In the beginning, God displays His love for all humanity by providing a perfect and beautiful world for us. Unbelievably, Adam and Eve reject God’s love when they decide to reject God’s Word. God excludes them from the Garden, but He continues to love them. In practical ways, He loves them in the simple act of covering their nakedness with clothes.
God’s love continues with marking Cain so no one will harm him, and then Seth, and all the generations down to Noah. And then God shows His love by saving Noah and his family from destruction, and then He particularly blesses Shem, Noah’s son, and the generations that descend from him.
Let’s jump down to Genesis 12. In this story God’s love comes into sharp focus with God’s call of Abram out of idolatry and into covenant relationship with Him. God chooses Abram and his descendents, to be a great nation, and He calls them to be a blessing, an expression of God’s love, to the whole world. Listen to Genesis 12:1-3 …. —-
1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
- The promise of God’s love is duly kept in this story. God completely fulfills this promise. He sets His love on Isaac, then on Jacob, then on Jacob’s descendents who are called the Israelites.
- God rescues them from slavery in Egypt, and sets them apart with the 10 Commandments.
- And God gives that nation a covenant and calls them to be a blessing, an expression of God’s love to the whole world. The class that I’m taking on Monday nights uses the phrase, “We are blessed to be a blessing.” Think how wrong it would be to receive the greatest blessing ever, and to not share it with others, with everyone!
- Like Adam, the nation of Israel rebels against God by turning to other gods, idols that their own hands have made; and God responds by judging Israel, but throughout the judgment God continues to love His people.
Now, let’s jump 2,000 years. Scholars tell us that Moses lived about 2,000 years BC, and tradition says that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible, so for the sake of simplicity, let’s jump the 2,000 years from Moses to Jesus, where we find yet another “story-telling of God’s Love” in John 3:14-17 …. —-
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
- At the same location that God showed His love to Abraham and Isaac by stopping the sacrifice on Mount Moriah, God showed His love to the world by not stopping the sacrifice of His own Son for the sake of His people!
- Suddenly, into this seeming picture of love’s labor lost, comes the greatest demonstration of love the world has ever seen. God sends Jesus, the Son whom He has loved since the beginning of eternity past.
- Jesus lives the life of loving obedience toward God that we should have, but didn’t. Then He takes upon Himself our penalty for spurning God’s love by dying our death on the cross!
There’s a reason why, I think, the Bible seems to use marriage as an illustration of God’s perfect love for us. The Bible begins with a wedding – Adam and Eve, and there are several wedding analogies throughout Scripture where God’s love for His people is compared to a marriage, Christ is called the bridegroom to His bride the Church, and the Bible closes with heaven being described as a wedding feast!
It appears that marriage matters to God – not that everyone must be married, but that those who are married need to know that it matters. God created marriage, and therefore only God has the right to define marriage.
That’s nearly a tangent, so I won’t go any further, except to remind us that, just in case we haven’t yet figured out what God’s love story means and looks like, God gave us the Apostle Paul to define it for us – in several ways. Paul wrote, that “while we were yet/still sinners, Christ died for us”, “confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your hearts that God raised Him from the dead, and you shall be saved!”, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life inChrist Jesus our Lord.”
But his clearest definition of God’s love is in I Corinthians 13. Listen to these words which we normally only hear read at weddings – Paul did not intend that they be wedding words, they’re appropriate for weddings, but he meant them for all of life. Hear the Word of God defining “Love” from I Corinthians 13:4-13 …. —-
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
With all that said, the world still asks that, if all this is true, then just exactly who does God love?
Let’s take these biblical theological truths, and answer that question.
1) We have all probably heard the Bible verse that says “God is love” (what it actually says is, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” [I John 4:8]). But, what does that mean?
First, it means that the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father. And somehow, in a mysterious Trinitarian formula, both the Father and the Son are wrapped in the love of the Holy Spirit. Love is bound up in the very nature of the Trinity. God is love; and God cannot be God without love.
What this suggests is that, at the end of the day, life and love is not about me! It is about God. If we can find love firmly established in the nature of God, then there is hope, despite what we encounter here.
2) Second, God loves the world in two ways.
First, God loves creation! The Scriptures are filled with God’s love for His creation!
Second, God loves rebellious humanity. God loves the world that hates Him, rejects Him, and even denies His existence! Jesus died for rebellious humanity. There is no love greater than that!
3) Third, God loves His own people distinctively!
Not only does God love the world, God loves people. Throughout the story of God’s love, God makes a distinction between people and then He places His [unique] love on the ones He has chosen. The biblical language for this love is “election”. In Deuteronomy 7 as the Israelite people are standing on the brink of the Promised Land, Moses says, “6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
7 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. 10 But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him. 11 Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today.”
Why did God choose Israel? Because they were better than anyone else? Because they were bigger than the others? Because they were more righteous? No. No. No. God chose them simply because He loved them! And He loved them simply because He did!
4) Fourth, God loves sinners!
Romans 5:8 tells us, “God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were yet/still sinners, Christ died for us.”
So, why does God love? Three quick reasons: God loves because He chooses to love! God loves because God loves His Son. God loves because God is – Love.
And the Good News is that, to our eternal joy and happiness, our lives can be caught up in that incredible story of love! As we saw earlier, the Bible begins and ends with a marriage. The first marriage in the Bible was an arranged marriage – Adam had no choice! Adam was given Eve as his wife. [In Fiddler on the Roof, after the second daughter decides to marry a man without even asking permission Tevye asks, “Did Adam and Eve have a match-maker? I guess they did – and it looks like these two have the same one.”]
But the last marriage is very different. The last marriage is between Christ and His people. And as we’ve seen, we were chosen from before the foundation of the world. The last marriage in the Bible, the last marriage in all of history, is not an arranged marriage. It is a marriage for love.
If you are a Christian – know that you are loved! God has chosen you … because God is love!
If you are not a Christian believer, but you think you might want to be – know that you, too, are loved. God wishes that no one would be outside His love – all you need do is accept it, and then know that God has chosen you … because God is love! Amen.
Lawrence, Michael; Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church; Crossway; Wheaton, IL; 2010; Pp. 141-152.
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Faith Alive Resources; 2012; P. 358.
Stein, Joseph; Fiddler on the Roof; 1964.
Wheeler, Mark; The Ledger newsletter; Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church; 03/2014.