Summary: An Easter message about God’s love from John 3:16
“What’s Love Got to Do With It?”
INTRODUCTION: Do you believe God is a loving God? Some of you have a knee-jerk “yes” response, because that’s what you’ve been taught to believe. But do your actions & attitudes reflect that? Down deep, do you really believe that God is a loving God? And that as a loving God, He loves you?
ILLUSTRATION: In "The Wizard of Oz," Dorothy, the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man arrive at the legendary Emerald City to meet with the Wizard. The Wizard is reputed to hold the power to solve each of the travelers’ problems. But to enter his presence, they must first traverse a long, dimly lit, gothic hallway. The Lion is not alone in his cowardice as they enter the large inner sanctum. They are greeted with an explosion and billows of green smoke.
When the smoke finally clears, a giant, menacing, bodiless head shouts, "I am Oz, the great and terrible! Who are you?"
Dorothy attempts a response, but the Wizard booms, "Silence! The great and powerful Oz knows why you are here! Step forward, Tin Man."
The Tin Man approaches this ominous-looking figure with great trepidation, only to hear the Wizard say, "You dare come to me for a heart, you clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk?"
The other travelers are met with similar greetings. To the Scarecrow, he shouts, "You have the effrontery to ask for a brain, you billowing bale of bovine fodder?"
To the Cowardly Lion, Oz shouts, "And you, Lion?" The poor Lion is overcome with fear and faints.
This, unfortunately, is similar to the unflattering caricature summoned up by many when they think about God. The Wizard puts on a (false) show of power & majesty, but there is no love, no grace, no mercy.
Is that your image of God, deep down? Or do you really believe God is a loving God?
In several places, the Bible gives an awesome picture of the holiness of God and the reverence he rightly inspires. To Moses as well as in visions given to Isaiah and Ezekiel, God manifests himself with fire and smoke and authority. That is who God is. But God is also loving and compassionate and good. And Easter proves it! There’s a verse in John that makes this case neatly and succinctly. It’s John 3:16 [READ]
I. GOD CANNOT LOVE YOU MORE THAN THAT (16a)
A. The Greek construction behind “so loved that He gave” emphasizes the intensity of the love, and “His one and only Son” stresses the greatness of the gift. The Father gave His best—his unique and beloved Son.
B. ILLUSTRATION: In 1989, 96 fans were crushed to death in a football [soccer] stadium in Sheffield, England, and another 200 were injured. At one of the hospitals where victims were taken, an attending surgeon spoke to the parents who had come to find out the fate of their children. The surgeon read the names of those killed and expressed his sympathy. He said that he believed that God understood the parents’ grief and was with them in their time of need. One father bitterly responded: "What does God know about losing a son?"
C. The "world" in John is a symbol for all that is in rebellion against God, all that is loveless and disobedient, all that is selfish and sinful.
1. When we read therefore in John 3:16 that "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son," we are not to think that God’s love is being praised by reference to the world’s bigness, but by reference to its badness.
2. This ugly, sinful, rebellious world, this sewer of infidelity, this glut of endless selfishness, this habitation of cruelty, this lover of violence, this promoter of greed, this maker of idols—this world God loved, and loved so much that he sent his Son to save us.
D. ILLUSTRATION: The mother of a nine-year-old Kentucky boy named Mark received a phone call in the middle of the afternoon. It was the teacher from her son’s school.
"Mrs. Smith, something unusual happened today in your son’s third grade class. Your son did something that surprised me so much that I thought you should know about immediately." The mother began to grow worried.
The teacher continued, "Nothing like this has happened in all my years of teaching. This morning I was teaching a lesson on creative writing. And as I always do, I tell the story of the ant and the grasshopper:
"The ant works hard all summer and stores up plenty of food. But the grasshopper plays all summer and does no work.
"Then winter comes. The grasshopper begins to starve because he has no food. So he begins to beg, ’Please Mr. Ant, you have much food. Please let me eat, too.’" Then I said, "Boys and girls, your job is to write the ending to the story."