Summary: Belief in God's sacrificial love opens the window to eternal life.
“Treasuring God’s Sacrifice”
Sometimes getting fresh air into our home or office is pretty simple. All we need to do is open the window. Nicodemus and Jesus were working on a project; it was called eternal life. As John describes their encounter he teaches us that BELIEF IN GOD’S SACRIFICIAL LOVE OPENS THE WINDOW TO ETERNAL LIFE. “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.”
It begins with the REALITY OF GOD’S LOVE. How would you describe God in one word? Powerful? Wise? Omnipresent? Omniscient? Omnipotent? Faithful? All of these are correct and are important attributes of God. But the basis upon which all of these other attributes operate is love. THE ESSENCE OF GOD IS LOVE. “For God so loved...” Theologian Karl Barth was once asked what, out of all his theology, was the most important thing to know. He responded, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”
And this love is not an ordinary love - it is beyond all human comprehension; it is unfamiliar and foreign to us. It’s outside of our human experience. The Bible tells us God’s love is unfailing, that while his punishments go to the third and fourth generations his love goes to thousands of generations, and that God is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. It reminds me of Thomas Edison. Six months after the death of his wife he began looking for a new mate. Although portrayed as a man of solitude, Edison actually had a fine research team that did great work for him. Since their methodology was so effective he decided to use similar strategy and organization to find his new wife. So he had a group of friends in Boston organize the search. They held dinner parties at which Edison could meet many eligible women. But this highly organized, rational approach came to a crashing halt when Edison fell head-over-heels for an eighteen year old girl from Ohio. She was everything he wasn’t – religious, cultured and beautiful. Plus she was young enough to be his daughter. Edison was smitten. Until Mina Miller agreed to marriage he played the lovesick fool with outrageous behavior more typical of a teenager. He could not concentrate on his research and wiled away his time writing love notes to this eighteen year old. Finally she consented. And it was truly an act of love on her part. She was never bothered by his poor hearing or even his chronic halitosis. She repeatedly brushed the dandruff off his coat. She loved him for who he was. We mortals do strange things when in love. And so does God. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). The essence of God is love.
And THE EXTENT OF GOD’S LOVE IS THE WORLD. “For God so loved the world...” God loved that which he created, which is reasonable enough. But He loved that which He created even though it was diametrically opposed to him. How much love do you have for people who have rejected and opposed you, who hate you? Let’s get inside God’s heart. (Isaiah 1:2-6, 18): “Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth! This is what the LORD says: “The children I raised and cared for have rebelled against me. Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them.” Oh, what a sinful nation they are—loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the LORD. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why do you continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel forever? Your head is injured, and your heart is sick. You are battered from head to foot—covered with bruises, welts, and infected wounds—without any soothing ointments or bandages.
This is an indictment against the world, against us! Yet we are loved. “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” To know we’re loved when we’re good is one thing, but when we’ve been bad? As children, it was nice to be loved when we picked up our clothes and cleaned our rooms, but wasn’t it even better to be loved even when were standing in the corner or in some other way being punished? To be loved when we’ve blown it is overwhelming. It’s the father of the prodigal son greeting the rebellious, wasteful son with an embrace, a kiss, and a banquet! I will never forget the time I did a funeral for the father of one our church members. The father did not attend our church and I had never met him but I agreed to do the funeral. To make a long story short, somehow the wrong first name was put into my notes and as I was delivering the meditation I began using the wrong name! Never have I felt so horrible, so humiliated, so embarrassed! I had royally blown it! Big time! In a colossal way! I wanted to crawl into a hole, be covered up, and never appear again! But you know what? The son, daughter-in-law, and wife barely batted an eyelash. They reached out to me, forgave me, accepted me, and to this day still love me. I began to sense what the young prodigal must have experienced from his father’s kiss. I gained a new appreciation of the extent of God’s love. With Paul I pray that “…you, being rooted and established in love, may have power ...to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge ...” My you be filled this morning with the reality of God’s love.