Summary: We often hear it said, “God loves you.” And that is certainly true. But I wonder how many really dig into the Scriptures to grasp the full impact of what it means for God Almighty to love us. Let’s do that now. The Bible’s answers are amazing.
My late wife bore us two sons and two daughters. I love them very much. My mind can’t even grapple with the thought of giving them over to execution for some other people’s sins. But God the Father did exactly that! He loved us (“the world”) so much that He willingly gave Jesus His Son to be tortured and murdered on a cross so that we might in turn be saved and have eternal life through Him. That is God’s love seen at the most astounding, sacrificial level. Why did He give Jesus to die for our sins? Because “God so loved” us lost sinners that He didn’t want us to stay lost in our sins.
God doesn’t save us because of our good works or any “righteous things” we do. Ephesians 2:8-9 says we are saved by grace through faith, not by works. Likewise, the apostle Paul reminded us that He saves us as an expression of His “kindness … love … [and] mercy” (Titus 3:4-5), not because of our works.
Our salvation is entirely an act of His kindness, mercy and love. Remember from our opening verse that God’s love for the world was the motivating reason given for His sending Jesus to die for our sins.
Now that is true love! And God demonstrated it. How? By giving Jesus to die for our redemption while we were still sinners. As Paul wrote, a few among us might be willing — “very rarely … possibly” — to die for a good, righteous person. But by sharp contrast, God the Father and Jesus His Son showed their love by Christ’s death on the cross for lost, unrepentant sinners.
God doesn’t love us just to get us saved. The God who loves us desires for Himself a “holy people.” In these days we live in, it is fashionable — sad to say, even in some churches! — to minimize, or to ignore or (worse yet) to mock God’s consistent biblical calls for a sanctified, pure, holy people.
Many of you are parents. You love your children and want the very best for them. Isn’t it your desire to see them grow up to be decent, honorable, upright citizens? Of course. It makes no sense to think that God desires any less for His children. In fact, the Bible spells out clearly that our loving God desires “a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 2:27). God loves us enough to want us to be holy.
I’m a dad, and I truly love my kids and my 24 grandchildren. But under the pressures of life, of advancing age, and other distractions, sometimes my love isn’t expressed perfectly. Not so with God! His love for us, the Psalmist declares, is so big, so all-encompassing, that it is described as reaching to the heavens. That tells me that God’s love for us is infinitely large, it knows no bounds, and it is not affected or diminished by the trials and troubles of this world. You can’t deplete God’s reservoir of love for you. It’s always brim full.
We’ve seen that God’s love for us is so big it reaches to the heavens. But is it reliable? Can I always count on it? Absolutely! Whereas our love as mortal humans can vary from time to time, God’s love is declared to be “unfailing love.”
I lived for many years in Alaska and spent lots of time fishing in wild country. I learned to be on the alert for bears (they love the same salmon I was fishing for). The protective care of a mama grizzly/brown bear for her cubs is legendary. If you threaten her little ones, nothing(!) will stop her from defending them with her life. I’ve seen film of a sow grizzly ferociously and successfully attacking a much larger male grizzly who posed a threat to her cubs. Her “love” for her offspring reminds me of God’s love for us — it is big and it is “unfailing.” There is no more secure place to be than in the hands (John 8:28f) of the God who loves you.
I was about 6 years old. My dad took us swimming in D.C.’s Ambassador Hotel indoor pool. I was a non swimmer, so I stayed in the safe shallow end. But somehow I accidentally stepped onto the sloped bottom of the pool and began to slowly slip into deeper water. I looked frantically towards Dad, but he was already rushing to me to rescue me. Thankfully, a man standing in the water near me saw my distress and pulled me out before Dad could get there. But to this day, some 70 years later, I recall vividly seeing my Dad — who always loved me with all his heart — charging towards me to rescue me.
Whenever your “foot is slipping” (as mine was in that pool) — naturally, emotionally, spiritually, whatever — there is a loving God in heaven. And because of His “unfailing love…[He will] support” you. He’ll lift you up when you’re bogged down in any way. Just call upon Him. He loves you, and He will help you.
My dad lived to age 95, then peacefully went on to His Lord in heaven. Mom died at 94, also after a life of serving the Lord. Both of them deeply loved us kids to their dying days. When my first son was born 40 years ago, both Dad and Mom flew from New York all the way to where we lived in Alaska to rejoice with us over our firstborn. And for many decades, no matter where I lived, a Sunday rarely went by without a phone call from my loving Dad and Mom. I’ll always remember Dad’s cheerful greeting: “Hi, son!”
For more than 60 years Dad and Mom showed me their heartfelt love. Their example helps me to understand that the perfect Father — God in heaven — is inseparably tied heart to heart with all who come to Him through the saving grace of His Son Jesus Christ. Yes, He loved the world enough to send His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins and to bear the punishment for our sins upon Himself. Then out of His Fatherly love God calls us to come to Him for salvation through repentance from sin and faith in the Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). When we do that, we are born again and become sons and daughters of God Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:18), and we walk in the full measure of His love for us. No devil or evil person or anything else can separate you from the unfailing love of God your Father.
A good father loves, trains, and disciplines his children. God the Father does the same. He “disciplines those he loves.” If you’re feeling the Lord’s chastening, if He’s putting the heat on you to correct some faults, don’t despise or resent that discipline. In fact, it’s a sure sign that God does love you, that He “delights in” you.
Just as with us natural parents, God our Father wants the best for His children. He wants us to grow into mature, fruitful Christians. And to that end, every living one of us needs God’s shaping and His transforming of us into Christ’s image. Don’t you want your children to turn out to be godly citizens? It’s the same with God, and that sometimes requires that He discipline us for our good, in a fatherly desire to have us put away carnality from our lives.
The apostle John exclaims in amazement, “What great love the Father has lavished on us!” How? By making us children of God, not just in some indeterminate future, but NOW! — “And that is what we ARE!” God loves you so much that He wants all who have come to Him through Jesus Christ to know that you are His sons and daughters. That confidence remarkably removes the fear of death and gives the believer great trust in the certainty of eternal life with God after we pass on from this brief earthly life.
The God who loves us backed it up with action. He didn’t just, as some humans do, “talk a good game.” He went all in, sending His beloved Son Jesus from heaven to earth to die as the acceptable sacrifice for our sins. This, the apostle said, is true love: “…not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son…for our sins.”
We were lost in sin, separated from God, without hope in the world. God looked down upon a lost world and decided to send the only Solution — His beloved Son Jesus — to bear at the cross the guilt of our sins. He loved us enough to do something to resolve our lost condition by sending the Redeemer to earth. And that is showing His love as proof to every generation of our opening verse — “God so loved the world that He gave” His Son for our salvation.
A final word to those who have known the Lord but are backslidden like the prodigal son of the parable. Notice the father’s reaction to the returning, repenting son. He ran to him, embraced him, and kissed him. Then he had everyone celebrate with a feast. This parable shows how great God’s love is for His children who are backslidden. If that’s you, then you can receive the Father’s love and forgiveness simply by doing your part, as the prodigal son in the parable did. Verse 17 says, “He came to his senses.” So he got up from the misery he was living in and “went to his father” (20). And he sincerely repented: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.”
If that’s you, if you’re a backslidden Christian, don’t waste another minute. Drop everything. Tell God the Father once again that you accept Jesus’ death on the cross for your sins. Ask God to forgive those sins, and sincerely determine to walk away from them and towards God. He loves you and will receive you back, and as in the parable, heaven will be celebrating!
If you’ve never before asked Jesus personally to be your Lord and Savior, you can do that right now. It will be the single greatest decision you’ve ever made. To help you make that commitment to God and to Jesus, please allow me to refer you to a short message from the late evangelist Billy Graham. You’ll be forgiven, you’ll be born again, and you’ll become a son or daughter of God with eternal life in God's presence awaiting you beyond this life. For Billy Graham’s help in praying a saving prayer, please click here. God bless you!
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©2019, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons &
Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.