Summary: This is about God’s free gift of salvation.
He doubted God. He was a rebellious teenager. He didn’t do drugs or anything like that. This guy was mostly attitude with a foul mouth. He grew up in the church, but it never seemed real. He would endure church on Sundays. He wasn’t sure God could exist. There was too much fun to be had. He had sat and listened to countless sermons about God and Jesus and salvation, and everything else. He had been to camps, retreats and everything else. Nothing seemed to get through to this self-centered, self-absorbed guy.
He had dreams of being on the Olympic track team. He was too worried about other things to really care about what Jesus had done for him. He heard sermons on love and graces, as well as sermons on judgment and punishment. Nothing seemed to help.
He knew what was right. He knew it, in his mind, but he didn’t really care about it. He didn’t embrace it. Then one day, it hit him. He wasn’t going to make the Olympic track team, especially when he could barely break 5 minutes in the mile. High school would soon be a memory, and real life would begin. Despite the fact that he had heard about the Good News, he didn’t listen. It is possible to hear without listening. He realized one day that God really did love him. He stopped and embraced it.
This is my story. I was “Joe Average Church kid.” I knew what to do, but it wasn’t in my heart. It wasn’t real. But, God loved me anyway. God loves those who do not love him. He loves everyone, and is drawing people to him. Theologians call this “prevenient grace.” It’s a preventing grace. It what God uses to call those who don’t him. I knew about God, but I didn’t know God. It was this preventing grace that kept me within earshot. God’s desire to have a relationship with everyone.
Turn with me to Ephesians 2.
Read Ephesians 2:4-10.
God’s love is so much more than we can imagine. The difference between Christianity and every other religion is the love of God. Christianity tells us that God loved us “even when we were dead in our trespasses.” Before we loved God, he loved us. Before we even knew about God he loved us. Christianity is the story of God reaching down to man. All other religions talk about people trying to reach God.
There was a man in another part of the world that was trying as hard as he could to stamp out Christianity. He had been given a license to kill Christians. He observed the gruesome murder of a Christian man. He was convinced that he was doing the right thing. He was a terrorist of sorts. He heard about a Christian uprising in a near by city, so he hopped into his jeep with his loaded AK-47. He was headed to exterminate Christians. Then suddenly a bright light stopped his jeep. God spoke to him. He told him that he loved him and had a special plan for his life. Here is a man who had been gunning down God’s people, but God loved him. This man was the Apostle Paul.
God’s love is not based on our actions. It is based on the fact that we are his creation. God creates us, and therefore, he loves us.
Sometimes it’s hard for us to understand that. It’s easy to understand that God loves the people we know. Most of the people we know are decent, honest people. They may or may not be Christian, but most people are decent, law-abiding people. It’s not at all difficult to realize that, even though they don’t love God, God loves them.
Flip the coin. As this crisis in Iraq was heating up, I heard an interesting statement. A new reporter said that Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi deputy prime minister, was a Christian. We understand that the term Christian has been somewhat politicized. But, that got me to thinking. God loves Tariq Aziz. God loves Saddam Hussein. God loved Mohammed Atta. God loved Adolf Hitler. God loved Joseph Stalin. God loved __________. Fill in the blank with the worst person you can think of. This passage is often applied only to us. God’s desire is to have a personal relationship with every member of the human race, regardless of how “bad” they have been. He took a murderous zealot in the apostle Paul and turned him into the greatest missionary of all time. Think about that, a murderer wrote 13 of the 27 New Testament books, and the Book of Acts is largely devoted to his exploits.
No one is beyond the love of God. If Adolf Hitler repented and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, then he is in heaven.