I. When they met she was just fifteen and he was sixteen. They dated throughout high school. He was a football player and she was a cheerleader. Nobody was surprised when they married after graduation. Four years and two babies later, she stood in her kitchen with the dirty dishes in the sink, a crying baby on her hip and a pile of dirty laundry in the corner. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. She didn’t really think about leaving – she just did it.
That night she called her husband relieving him of his fears a little. “I was worried. Where are you?” he said. She ignored his questions. “What’s going on? What are you doing? Where are you?” She just hung up the phone. Over the next three months she called him about once a week to let him know that the kids were ok, but when he would ask where she was she would just hang up. The frantic young husband borrowed $1,200 from his family and friends to hire a private detective to find her. Four days later she was located. Borrowing more money he flew to where she was. He found her living in a cheap motel in Des Moines.
As he approached her room there was doubt and fear in his heart and perspiration on his face. With his hands shaking badly he gently knocked on the door. When she came to the door he couldn’t remember his prepared speech and simply blurted out, “I love you. Won’t you come home?” She stood there for a long moment and then melted into his arms. They wept for a long time and then they left the motel . . . together.
One night, several weeks later, after the kids were in bed, he took her hand and led her out onto the front porch. They had yet to discuss the incident fearing she would leave again. But, he had to know, “Why wouldn’t you come home? Why, when I told you that I loved you and missed you and wanted you to come home, why didn’t you come back?” She cuddled up next to him in the dark and the cool of the night and said, “Because before, those were only words; but then you came for me.”
In Romans 5:8 the Bible tells us, ”But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is my favorite Bible verse because until I was twenty-six years old I was like the wife in this story. I was on the run running away from the One who loved me the most in this world; because until then, ”I love you, I miss you, and I want you to come home,” were only words to me, but then he came for me.
I had been living a very sinful and self-centered life. I started drinking and smoking when I was about fourteen or fifteen; using and dealing drugs by age of nineteen while I was serving in the Army and I continued living a very immoral lifestyle in my early twenties. But all the while I was a “sinner” Christ was coming for me, to not only tell me that He loved me, but to show me His love for me and to free me from the living hell I was experiencing.
He’s done that for you too. Right now he’s gently knocking on your heart’s door. No matter what you’ve done or how far you’ve run from him, He loves you and wants to restore a loving relationship with you. Will you let him come in? If you already have, do you love him with a love that will die for him too? If you love him you will demonstrate it by loving others the same way he loves them.
II. God’s Covenant Love for You - Verse 6
Covenant Love is unconditional love and it never gives up. My wife and I gave our daughter a “True Love Waits” gold ring for her twelfth birthday and we told her that although we wanted her to wait to give herself to her husband on her weeding night that no matter what she did we would always love her. We told her, ”There is nothing you could ever do to cause us to stop loving you.” Our love for her was not a conditional love.
This is unlike the more common love we find in our culture today called Contract “love” which is conditional. In this kind of a relationship the relationship will continue only for as long as both sides keep their side of the contract. “I will do A and B if you will do X and Y,” for example. If either side violates the contract, the other side is free from any responsibilities. We see this in marriages when one of the partners breaks the marriage contract by having an affair. The other partner is released from the marriage without any sense of responsibility to stay and to work things out. This is largely why we have a 50% divorce rate in our country today. Most people who get married are entering into marriage contracts instead of marriage covenants. This is also why there are so many broken friendships and church hopping. Instead of working to restore relationships, people just leave in search of other friends or other churches.
Covenant Love is why God sent Jesus to die for our sins. He didn’t have to do that. If it was a contract, once we sinned, God would have been released from loving us. Instead, he pursues us sacrificing even his own son’s life to restore a relationship with us. In the Book of Hosea God wants to show His Covenant Love for Israel so he had his prophet marry a prostitute. In 3:1 the Bible says, “The LORD said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods . . . ‘“
When we love others with a covenant love we are saying, “I will love you and I will seek reconciliation with you no matter you do. I am not saying I will let your abuse me. There will be consequences for your sinful behavior; but that the way of reconciliation, if you want it, is open.” This kind of love is very costly as we see in Romans 5:8. It hurts and it costs the death of our self interests because the most important thing is the restoration of the love relationship.
Max Lucado in “The Grip of Grace” tells the story of a man who went to a family therapist about a troubled teenage girl he was in the process of adopting. She was very destructive, disobedient, and dishonest. One day she came home from school and ransacked the house looking for money. By the time he came home she was gone and the house was in shambles. His friends urged him not to finalize the adoption. “Let her go,” they said. “After all, she’s not really your daughter.” His response was simply, “Yes, I know. But I told her she was.”
God has made a Covenant to adopt us as His children. And his covenant is not revoked by our rebellion. As Max says, “It’s one thing to love us when we are strong, obedient, and willing. But when we ransack his house and steal what is his? This is the test of love.” I don’t know about you, but before he finalized my adoption as his son, I had torn things up pretty well; and while I was tearing thing up, he was dying for me; to show me his love for me.”
God won’t force you to become a member of his family. He will only adopt you if you let him. But, he wants to adopt you more than anything. No matter what you have done or how far you’ve run, he has come for you!
III. You Need His Love - Verses 7-8
These verses show the dramatic contrast between our human love and God’s covenant love. We might be motivated on rare occasions to make the ultimate sacrifice for a righteous person - someone we might respect for their outward integrity. But for a good person, someone who is particularly close to us, maybe a fellow soldier serving with us in combat or one of our children, we would be much more likely to be moved to die for, but even then, it would need to be someone we feel close too. This is a far cry from those Jesus was willing to and did die for; ungodly sinners! Sinners are neither righteous nor good. They are wicked and vile. They are God’s enemies who refuse to worship him! This was how I was before I received Jesus as my Savior.
We have three wrong perspectives about sin and salvation. The first is that we think, “I’m a good enough person to go to heaven. I don’t need to become a Christian!” God says that we are all sinners who fall short of his Glory (3:23). He says that no one is good enough to get into heaven on his own.
Secondly, we think that “some people are too lost to be saved. We think that some people are just evil and they deserve to go to hell.” I don’t know who is on your list but rapists and child abusers made mine.
Thirdly, some people think to themselves, “I’m too sinful, too lost; too evil and I have done too many awful things. I don’t deserve to be saved. Not even God could love me after what I’ve done!” A couple had an argument, and now they were driving down a country road, not saying a word. As they passed a barnyard of mules, the wife sarcastically asked, "Relatives of yours?" "Yep," the husband said, "In-laws." (From Mikey’s Funnies) The point is that when it comes to sin, and meaning no disrespect to mules, we‘re all related!
What is really amazing about God’s love is that he loves even the vilest human beings as much as he loves every human being, unlike us (conditional). Max, again in “The Grip of Grace” drives this point home very clearly. He says, “You know what disturbs me about Jeffrey Dahlmer? What disturbs me most are not his acts, though they are disgusting. Dahlmer was convicted of seventeen murders. Eleven corpses were found in his apartment. He cut off arms. He ate body parts. My thesaurus has 204 synonyms for vile, but each falls short of describing a man who kept skulls in his refrigerator and hoarded a human heart. He redefined the boundary for brutality. The Milwaukee monster dangled from the lowest rung of human conduct and then dropped. But that’s not what troubles me the most.” Max goes on to tell us what troubled him the most, “His conversion. Months before an inmate murdered him, Jeffrey Dahlmer became a Christian. Said he repented. Was sorry for what he did. Profoundly sorry. Said he put his faith in Christ. Was baptized. Started life over. Began reading Christian books and attending chapel. Sins washed. Soul cleansed. Past forgiven.”
What disturbed Max was that God loves Jeffrey Dahlmer as much as he loves anybody. “But that’s the problem,” Max says. “God doesn’t compare us to (people like Jeffrey Dahlmer). They aren’t the standard. God is. And, compared to him, Paul will argue in Romans 3:12, ‘There is no one who does anything good, not even one.’” No one is good enough to get into heaven on his own and no one is too lost to get in, because God’s love is that big! For us to say either, “Everyone can be saved anyway they like because they are good compared to others,” cheapens Jesus gift of his life to save us; and to say, “Someone is too lost to be saved,” diminishes God’s love for us.
The one right perspective about God’s amazing love for everyone we see in Luke 18:9-14. In this story we find a Pharisee who is a righteous man, a good man, a man who felt good about himself compared to everyone else, especially the tax collector. People looked up to and respected him but I doubt any would die for him! The Tax collector was an extortionist, the scum of society; a first-rate sinner! Compared to the Pharisee, he was worthless. But, what happens when Jesus does the comparing?
In his book, “What Jesus said about Successful Living,” Haddon Robinson says, “In God’s presence the Pharisee thought he was something when he was nothing (so he didn’t sense his need for anything from Jesus), while the Tax Collector while he was in God’s presence knew he was nothing and needed God’s mercy.” This account reminds me of John Newton who wrote the awesome hymn, “Amazing Grace.” He was a slave trader when God caught up to him and saved him. Listen to his own words, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see,” Mr. Newton, like the Tax Collector came to realize that he was just a sinner and without God’s love and grace and mercy; without God’s willingness to forgive him of his wicked deeds, he was hopelessly lost. He was what Matthew 5:3 says we all must be if we are going to be saved, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Haddon Robinson defines being poor is spirit as the ability “to recognize your desperate situation and then to cry out for God’s mercy.” This will only happen when we see our situation from God’s perspective. Mr. Robinson uses the following illustration to help us see what he means. “Mt. Everest is approximately five miles above sea level and the Philippine Trench, five miles below. If a diver could look from the lowest spot on earth to the highest, the ten-mile view would be enormously different from what a person can normally see. But, if we stand on the sun and look at the earth, we would probably say it was as smooth as a billiard ball. With that perspective, we would not see the ten-mile difference between Mt. Everest and the Philippine Trench. The differences that matter on the planet don’t matter if we are in outer space. The mistake we make is to see our sin or the sin of others from our human point of view. But, from God’s perspective, these differences are inconsequential. It is our sense of bankruptcy that counts. “
Are you standing with the Pharisee saying, “I’m a good person compared with everyone else I see around here?” Or are you bowing with the Tax Collector and saying, “I am a sinner and I need your forgiveness?”
IV. Your Response to His Love - 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.”
We appreciate what Jesus did for us and we love him and others more the more we appreciate our sin. I’m stunned by his love for me. While I was living that putrid sin-filled life, Jesus was giving himself unselfishly for me. I love him and I love others as a result of realizing his amazing love for me.
Jesus gives us a wonderful picture of this love in Luke 7:40-47. What is your response to Jesus’ love for you? Are you like Simon? Are you judgmental of others because you see yourself as better than them? Are you critical of what goes on because you know better what is best? Are you defensive when the word of God convicts you of your sinfulness and do you argue with God about it? Is Jesus welcomed into your life and given the freedom to do what he wants with it? If you are like Simon, then pride is very much at work in your life.
Or are you like the woman who is humble and grateful and can’t believe that she’s been forgiven after all she’s done. She knows that she doesn’t deserve the love Jesus’ loves her with. Are you overcome with emotion and generosity? The difference between the two characters in Jesus’ story is that one realized her need for Jesus’ mercy and sensed his love for her while the other didn’t.
V. Won’t You Come Home?
Remember the young wife who ran away from home and then was probably too ashamed to come home? Would her husband be able to forgive her and could they have a life together after what she had done? Then he borrowed money and went to great lengths to find her and to go get her to convince her of his love and to restore their relationship and to bring her home. This is what God has done for you because he loves you and he wants to restore your relationship with him. He wants you to come home.
Will you open the door and melt into his arms today. Pray this prayer with me: Lord, I know that I am a sinner and I need your forgiveness. I want to turn from my sins. I believe that Jesus died on the Cross for me and was raised from the grave. I believe that he is alive and wants a relationship with me. Right now I ask you to come into my heart and life. I give you control of my life. I want to trust you and follow you as Savior and Lord. Amen.
If you have already come home to Jesus for salvation but the closeness of your relationship has faded because of some sin in your life or just through neglect, God wants to renew the intimacy of this relationship with you today. If you would like that too, please pray with me: Dear God, I know I have sinned against you and I’m ashamed of my sin; especially after all you have done for me. I want to renew our once close relationship. So, as your servant David once prayed I pray, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Thank you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.