July 18, 2015
Message, Tim LaFleur, Discipleship Pastor
During these days, we have been talking about The Cross, God’s Wisdom and Power. The Cross, God’s Wisdom and Power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.
We learned last week that not everybody will embrace the message of the cross. Do you realize that? In fact, most won’t. Some stumble over the cross. Some laugh at the cross. But some see the cross for what it truly is. They embrace the cross and through embracing the cross of Jesus and the gospel, it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
We have also been challenged to share the gospel of Christ with everybody, everywhere. We have been challenged to boast as believers only in the cross.
I trust this past week that you have reminded yourself of the truth of the gospel. You have reminded yourself of the message of the cross, the wisdom and the power of God.
A beloved seminary professor is celebrating his retirement after many years of teaching, faithfully teaching theology in the seminary. A young professor comes to him and says, Listen, we are going to assemble in a moment. We are going to have this party for you. And here is what I want you to do. I want you to be thinking about your greatest theological insight. This guy was loved by everybody. Think about your greatest theological thought and your greatest insight when it comes to your relationship with God. And when the man stood up, here is what he said. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Can you imagine that?
But think about it for a moment. Have you ever wondered, does God really love me? I am not just talking about the Sunday School answer. I am not just talking about what we say at church. But really, in your heart of hearts, coming to a place where you ask yourself the question, I think it demands an answer. Does God really love me? Does He really care?
Jesus told His disciples in John 15, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” You see, Jesus declared over and over again as He worked with the disciples about the Father’s great love and the love that He had for the disciples. I have called you friends. I love you. You are not just a servant. You know what the Master is doing. I am disclosing it for you.
So Jesus declares His love for His disciples. But He also declares His love for us. Turn if you would to Romans Chapter 5 and Verses 6-8. Romans Chapter 5 Verses 6-8. When you get there, say “word.” Romans 5:6-8. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person someone would dare even to die – but God shows His great love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” I like the translation that says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Listen my friend, Jesus not only declares the love of God before you, but He also demonstrates His love by going to a cross. And when you think the cross of Christ, I want you to think the love of God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
And so God declares His love for lost sinners through the death of His Son. I want to tell you, Friend, God loves you. He has got an amazing plan and purpose for your life. Would you come into a relationship with Him? I am going to be calling you at the end of this service to experience that love, to experience the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
I like what Alexander Maclaren said in his classic sermon, “The Cross, Proof of God’s Love.” “When I see Christ on the cross, when I see the dying Christ,” Maclaren says, “I see the boundless love of God with no limits, a love that extends to even me.” Is that what you see?
When I was a teenager, there was a popular picture that said, I asked Jesus, Do you really love me? And Jesus spread His arms and said, I love you this much!
If you have your copy of the Word of God, turn if you would to 1 John Chapter 4. That is where we are going to spend the remainder of our time, in I John Chapter 4 Verses 7-11. Look at it. When you get there, say “Word.”
You know, during these days, we have made much of Christ’s death on the cross bringing glory to God. Guys like John Piper and others have really focused on the fact that Jesus did what He did because God’s glory was at stake. And we have made much of that. But listen, I think we need to recapture something about God’s great love for us motivating Him to send Christ to the cross. Yes, He died on the cross in order to bring glory to God. Yes, He saw the joy before Him as the glory He would bring to the Father. But I want to tell you, my friend, according to the word of God, God sent His Son because He loved you, Amen? And you and I need to remind ourselves of that, we need to be reminded of the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Look at the Scripture.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and whoever loves is born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not know love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son,” His unique one of a kind son…I like the translations that say only begotten Son, “that we might live through Him. In this is love,” look at Verse 10, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation,” you can put in parenthesis, atoning sacrifice, “for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us,” look at Verse 11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, (what?) we also ought to love one another.”
The title of the message tonight is, “No Greater Love.” Lets go to God in prayer. Father, we ask that You would give us a grace to experience Your great love. I ask, Father, that You help me to present this in such a way where You might be glorified and that the people might know that You love them with an amazing love. Give us grace, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
My goal tonight is simply this, I want to help you to see the great love God has for you so that you might find salvation and acceptance. Not only salvation but also for the believer, acceptance in Christ alone. As we examine this passage of scripture, I want you to see three amazing aspects of the love of God. Three amazing aspects of the love of God. If you are taking notes, and I hope you are, the first aspect is this: God’s love is a seeking love. God is the one who takes the initiative always. The gospel and the good news of the gospel is not that we went out looking for God. The good news of the gospel is that God came looking for us. Amen? The scripture says in I John 4 and 19, “We love Him,” why?, “because He first loved us.” God is always the one who takes the initiative.
Listen, you didn’t go out looking for God. God came looking for you. Amen? And I am so glad He did. The old puritans called Him, the Hound of Heaven. And once He gets on your trail, watch out. Watch out.
Howard Hendricks tells the story about a young man named Bill. Let me tell you abut Bill. Bill has a girlfriend and some of you guys wish you had a girlfriend, but Bill has a girlfriend and the parents are trying to break them up. So what Bill does, is he takes his girlfriend and they take off. Well, they notice that the police are after them. The law is after them. Bill thinks they are after him because the parents want to try to break them up. But here is the deal, Bill just went to the doctor for an ailment and the ailment was diagnosed as cancer after his disappearance. And so here is the deal, he was trying his best to elude the police lest he lose his love while they were trying their best to find him lest he lose his life.
Howard Hendricks said, “Bill is representative of every person who thinks that God is up in the sky with a stick and the moment you make a wrong move, He will bop you on the side of the head.” God is not after you to punish you, my dear friend, God is after you because He loves you and if you let Him, He will change your life. Do you realize that? Think about your Old Testament saints and Paul in the New Testament. God’s love is a seeking love. He sought Elijah in a cave. He confronted Moses out in the wilderness. He burst into Isaiah’s presence as he worshiped. He found Jonah in the belly of a great fish. He touched Saul on the road to Damascus. Sometimes when you least expect it, God will tap you on the shoulder and He will say, I love you, and if you let Me, I will change your life. God’s love is a seeking love.
Listen, God seeks after lost sinners. You know, when I got saved, I was a part of a religion that didn’t talk about being born again. It was a liturgical type of religion and I was engaged and involved. I was becoming a teenage alcoholic. I swore that I would never be like my parents. And a lost friend invited me to go to a Christian camp so that I could be a partner in crime with him. If I had been the director of that camp, I would have kicked myself out of the camp because I was a mess. I challenged authority. I had bad words that came out of my mouth. We got high on the way to camp, if you can imagine that. I mean, that is not a very good camper who would get high on the way to camp. But God literally moved me 70 miles from my hometown, used a lost guy to invite me to this camp. I came to this camp. I heard the message of the gospel and I have never been the same. I was gloriously saved. You tell me that God doesn’t seek after lost sinners! The good news of the gospel is not that we have sought after God, but He came looking for me. Amen? Thank God.
God’s love is not only a seeking love, but listen, God’s love is a saving love. Look at Verse 10 of I John 4. “In this is love, not that we loved God,” notice, “but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” You see, God’s love is not only a seeking love, but listen, it comes with power to save. And here is what happens when you truly experience the love of God through a relationship with Christ, your chains are broken. You are set free by the power of God. That is what happens when a person comes. Sins power is broken when a person comes to Christ. He is the propitiation, the Word of God says, for our sins.
Now that is not a word that is used much today. We might hear it at church or a Bible study or in theological circles. Grudem talks about propitiation and others. It depends on what systematic theology you are studying. But propitiation is a big deal in Scripture. So you need to know what it means. Here is what propitiation means, you need to write it down. You could substitute the words, atoning sacrifice, if that will help you. But here is what it means. It means the work of Jesus Christ by which He satisfied the holiness of God so that He could extend mercy to lost sinners. The work of Jesus Christ by which He satisfied the holiness of God so that He could extend mercy to lost sinners.
That old puritan, John Owen, helps us here. And he summarizes propitiation with three statements. Notice the first statement. “There is an offense to be removed.” It ought to be on the screen. There is an offense to be removed. Sinners have offended a holy God. There is an offended person, the second statement, to be dealt with. God is holy. You know that. If there is nothing else you ought to know about God is that He is holy.
Do you recall when Isaiah caught a glimpse of the glory of God, the cherubim were surrounding the throne and they were shouting with a loud voice to one another, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. You know the character of God and holiness is kind of an overarching theme of all that God is and all that God does. He is holy. He is holy. Amen?
Now, sinners have offended a holy God. The person who has been offended has to be dealt with. And listen, God is holy. And we have offended His holiness. He wont wink His eye at sin. Do you know that? The soul that sins, Ezekiel would say, shall die. For the wages of sin is (what?) death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now notice the third statement. The offender must be pardoned. God is holy. He wont wink His eye at sin. And in order for God to be satisfied, in order for His holiness to be satisfied, an acceptable sacrifice must be given to bring atonement for the sin of the person offended. And for you and I, Friend, that sacrifice is Jesus. Jesus.
I like what John Stutz said, “At the cross, divine mercy and divine justice are equally expressed and eternally reconciled.” Think about this. Divine love and divine wrath are both evident at the cross. But here is what Stutz goes on to say, “Divine love triumphed over divine wrath through divine self-sacrifice.” Here is what happened. The love of God triumphed over the wrath of God through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Why? Because He absorbed the full wrath of God. Do you recall when Jesus hung on the cross, He said several things, but one thing He said was, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” At that moment, God the Father thrust the wrath of the sin of the entire world upon His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He loved you enough to take it. He absorbed the full wrath of God, the sin of the entire world on your behalf and mine and He Himself is the propitiation, John would say, for our sins, but not for ours alone, but for the sins of the whole world. That is how much God loved you.
And so when Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” That is when the Father put the sin of the entire world upon Him and Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sin and mine when He died at the cross. He became that atoning sacrifice that would please the Father. He satisfied the just demands of God. He satisfied the holiness of God. He satisfied the righteousness of God and now He extends mercy to lost sinners. And listen, don’t harden your heart if you are here today. If you have never been saved, you desperately need to come into a relationship with Jesus because He can do for you what you cannot do for yourself, only Jesus.
Let me tell you something else that happened at the cross. When Jesus hung on that cross, as you recall, He said, “It is finished.” It is finished. It stands finished and it will forever be finished. What was finished? The work of a atonement. The work of salvation was accomplished by Jesus Christ on the cross. You can’t save yourself. Only Jesus can save your soul. Why? Because He satisfied the just demands of God. The great word of the gospel is not do, do, do. The great word of the gospel is praise God, it is already done! Amen! And you and I can find relationship with God through Jesus.
God’s love is a seeking love. God’s love comes with power to save. John Studd, Sr., the father of C.T. Studd was a wealthy aristocrat in London, a very astute and successful businessman. He has a vice. He was a gambler. And one day he lost a bet to a man and his payment for the debt, he had to go to hear the crude American preacher who was in town. The preacher’s name, you know it, was D. L. Moody. Well, when he got to the meeting place, he was going to pay his bet and then leave. The crowds were so great, they had to usher him to the very front row. After the meeting, he went and saw one of his friends, the guy he lost the bet to and he told the guy, he said, “Listen, that fellow told me everything I had ever done.” So he went the next night and the next night and the next until he finally committed his life to Jesus. It was said that Studd did more for two years for the cause of Christ. He died only two years later. It was said he did more for the cause of Christ in two years than most do in 20. He led his family to the Lord. Out of that came the great missionary, C. T. Studd. He shared Chrsit with his tailor. He turned his estate into a meeting place for Bible study. When his coachman was interviewed at his funeral, the coachman said this and I quote, “Although there was the same skin on the outside, there was a new man on the inside.” I want to tell you, that is the difference that Jesus makes. Amen?
God’s love is a seeking love. John has told us. God’s love comes with power to save and transform our lives through a relationship with Christ. And God’s love ought to be shared. Look at Number 3. God’s love ought to be shared.
Look at the Scripture. “Beloved,” look at Verse 11, “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Turn in your Bible, if you would, to John 13:34 and 35. You see, what John is saying here is that when you and I truly experience the love of God through Christ, the only response that makes sense is that you and I ought to be able to share that love with others. You see, we receive love from God. We receive as Adrian Rogers said, “A love worth finding and now we are free, because the Christ who lives within us is able to work through our lives so that we can share His love with others.” Do you see it?
So we love because He first loved us. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. Now look at John 13:34 and 35. Are you there? Say “word.” “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, that you also are to love one another.” Now notice 35, “By this will all people know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Do you see it?
A watching world is looking at your life. Do you know that? People on the outside of these walls, you know, it is one thing to love the believers here at Brainerd. It is quite another thing to love folks on the outside of these walls, in the workplace, in the marketplace, in the neighborhood, in the family. Sometimes it is tough to love even family members. But I want to tell you something, the Christ in you can love them.
Look at I Peter Chapter 4 and Verse 8. I Peter Chapter 4 and Verse 8. When you get there, say “word.” Peter is talking about the Second Coming of Christ. He says in Verse 7, “But the end of all things is at hand.” And in Verse 8 in the ESV, I tried to memorize it in the ESV because I know that is your favorite translation here or I have been told that. “Above all, love one another earnestly since love covers a multitude of sins.” Do you see it? Peter says, above all. He is talking about the Second Coming of Christ and what should we be doing until Christ comes back. One of the things we ought to be doing and he puts it as the first importance above all, love one another earnestly. Above all, the New King James, “Have fervent love for one another, for God…have fervent love.” Love covers the multitude of sins. God uses our love for one another to cover sin, he says.
Listen, love is the greatest thing. Did you know that? It is the greatest assurance. “By this we know that we have passed from death into life because we love one another.” It is the great commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” It is the greatest evidence. “By this we know that we have passed from death to life,” and then he says, “By this will all men know that you are My disciples if you love one another.” It is the great motivation. The love of Christ compels us to go. It is the greatest virtue. “Now abideth,” the Old King James, “faith, hope and charity or love, but the greatest of these is love.”
If you have experienced the love of Christ, give it away. Give it away. Let me share a couple of walking points with you as we go.
First walking point is this: Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. If you are in Christ, if you are a child of God, if you have truly been born again, there is absolutely nothing that can separate you from that love. Look at Romans 8: 38 and 39. Romans 8:38-39 The Scripture says, “for I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing,” notice that phrase. “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Aren’t you glad? Nothing can separate you from His love. Nothing! That is a word somebody needs to hear tonight.
You have been struggling, you have been tired, you have been fed up. You are wondering if its worth it to keep on keeping on. I am going to tell you, it is because you have a God that loves you with such a love that there is absolutely nothing that can separate you from it. Nothing.
The second walking point and then I am done. In Christ, you are a accepted. The Scripture says, we are accepted in the beloved. In your translation, the ESV, look at it. It is Ephesians Chapter 1 and Verse 16. Ephesians 1 and Verse 6. “To the praise of His glorious grace,” I am going to give you time to turn there. When you get there, say “word.” Ephesians 1:6. “To the praise of His glorious grace, by which He has blessed us in the Beloved.” Now listen, that it not the best translation. NASV, New King James says, “He has accepted us in the Beloved.” And in that paragraph, you were appointed before you were ever saved. You were adopted and you are accepted. And this is the blessing of the Father, according to the writer of Ephesians, Paul. And here is what he is saying. He is saying that when you and I are in Christ, Verse 3, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly realms. It is all yours. And one of the tremendous blessings that you have is your acceptance in Christ. Those of you who know me well, know that I am an identity man. I want believers to know who they are in Jesus Christ.
And here is a couple of questions that you are going to have to ask yourself at some point. The first one is this: Does God fully accept me? And if He does, second question, on what basis? Does God fully accept me and if He does, on what basis? Listen, does God fully accept you? Does God love you unconditionally? Does He fully accept you? I believe, according to the Word of God, the answer is yes. And on what basis? The finished work of Christ because when the Father looks at you, He sees His Son.
Now you ought to rejoice about that. You ought to rejoice that when God looks at you, when He looks at your life, even though it is messed up at times, when He looks at you and I as far as our standing in Christ is concerned, He sees His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen, here is a word for you. You are not loved or accepted on the basis of your performance. You are accepted on the basis of Christ’s finished work.
Remember the great word of the gospel is not do, do, do. The great word of the gospel is, it is already done! You are a beloved child of God. And when He looks at you, He sees the finished work of Christ. He sees His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and you are accepted in Him. You are not on probation. You are fully accepted and loved.
Someone might ask or question, well, if that is the case, can I just go out here and do what I want? Paul addressed that in the book of Romans. “Should I continue in sin that grace may abound?” No, no, no, no. Because you have experienced the grace of God, you ought to live like it, amen? Your only response to the grace of God ought to be to bring glory to God. In light of all that God has done, you live in His grace, by His grace to bring Him glory.
But on the question of God’s love and acceptance for you, don’t believe the lie of the enemy. God loves you. I trust that you have come into a relationship with God who loves you so much that He would send His Son to die for you.