For The Love of God
by Pastor Jurgen Rausch
Dec. 15, 2013
“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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Jn. 3:16-17
On this third Sunday of Advent we consider the love of God. I love the theme of advent. Love the idea of hope (Christ in us, the hope of glory) inspiring us to lean into our future. Love the idea of good news of great joy that makes us be evangelists to the world.
An Expression of Love
But most of all, I love this morning’s theme of love. It captures best the essence of his coming. The birth of Jesus is foremost an incredible expression of love, the likes of which this world has ever seen.
In the words of the song writer Dottie Rambo:
“He left the splendor of Heaven, Knowing His destiny, Was the lonely hill of Golgotha, There to lay down His life for me. And if that isn't love then the ocean is dry, there's no stars in the sky and the little sparrows can't fly. If that isn't love, then Heaven's a myth; there's no feeling like this, If that isn't love”
Everything about his birth spells the love of God! Why would the Father send his Son into the world knowing precisely what would happen to him except that he so loved us? Why would the Son of God agree to come knowing his final destiny was the lowly hill of Golgotha, except that he loved us so much?
You need to realize that he didn’t come because that is what he does. He doesn’t go visiting planets in the universe. He didn’t come because he loves the planet (he does love the planet but not enough to die for the natural world) nor did he come to give us an example of selflessness and show us a pattern whereby we can live our lives by. All noble things, but none are the reason why he came!
Instead he came to earth because of his great love for humanity:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (Jn 3:16)
The word “world” here means not the planet or the natural environment but instead in the words of Marvin Vincent, the word “world’ means “the sum-total of humanity in the world”.
In other words, God so loved the sum total of humanity in this world that he gave his one and only son!
It had to have been his love that motivated him especially as we consider the cost of his coming. What else would possibly have motivated him?
Coming to the Lowly Stables.
Think of the worst place on earth you could go to, the worst slum on the planet, the most desolate place in the world and imagine a life there. Now multiply that a million times and maybe you come close to what it took for Jesus to come here.
Paul tries to capture it; he really does, in his immortal words of Phil 2:
“Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Phil 2:5-6)
Coming to this planet was bad enough. When all you have ever known is heaven, coming here, even at its finest moments, would be awful.
Even the most prestigious places on the planet would have been horrible alternatives to the splendors of heaven but consider what he came to, namely the lowly stables of Bethlehem!
From the splendors of heaven to the lowly stables of Bethlehem – could it have been more extreme than this?
God came to Bethlehem
Lest you think that this is drastic, it goes even further. It wasn’t just anyone in heaven. It wasn’t as though Jesus was one of God’s angels or a creation of heaven. It wasn’t as though the Father had many sons and Jesus was one of them.
You need to realize that when Scripture calls him “the son of God” or “the one and only son” that it does not refer to a created being as though a child is somehow born and thus another created being. He is not one of heaven’s created beings.
The expression “son of God” refers not to creation order as though he is created but to roles played out and responsibilities assigned.
His role in this salvation story is to be the son; which takes nothing away from the fact that he is not only part of the triune God but that he is God himself. He is as much God as the Father is the God and as the Spirit is God. The three in one, the mystery of who God is!
Jesus is not only the Son of God; he is God! Referring to Jesus as the Word, John says:
“At the beginning was the Word, and he Word was with God, and the Word was God….through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Jn 1
Paul also clearly captured the sense that Jesus was God. Writing about him in Col 1, he said:
“For by him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth He is before all things and in him all things hold together….” Col. 1:16
What I am trying to say is, that the one who left the splendors of heaven for the lowly stables of Bethlehem was none other than God himself.
That’s how far this went!
Born as a Human
Yet unbelievably, it went even further!
The stables at Bethlehem were bad enough. The fact that it was God himself who came was sufficiently unbelievable.
But then when he came, he laid aside the garment of deity and was born, as any human baby would, of his mother Mary the way all children are born!
He was not a little God-baby, shining, radiating as only God can and thus unbelievable different from all the other babies. He was an ordinary human child who acted just like any other baby. Needed his mother, was vulnerable, was hungry & thirsty and filled his diaper.
He was not born a tiny Superhero but as ordinary a baby as any baby was.
“He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant; being made in in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself….” Phil 2:7-8
This is known as the Kenosis of God. “Kenosis” which is Greek means “self emptying”. God the son laid aside the garments of Deity, left the splendors of heaven and was born in a borrowed crib in the lowly stables of Bethlehem.
Can the contrast be any more extreme? If you think that the answer has to be no, then you’ve got another thing coming.
A Servant of Man
You might think if he became man then at least he must have been the prince of man!
And once again he takes our breath away by coming not as prince but as servant.
This is unbelievable but he actually lowered himself below the status of man. He who should have been the prince of man, becomes the servant of man and as such becomes the sacrificial lamb for our sins, taking on our refuse.
“He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” Phil 2:8
He came to die on a cross. Death by cross was the most distained, most despicable death of all. It was the death of a thief and criminal. His crime? Your sins and my sins upon his back.
That’s how far this went. Unbelievable, isn’t it? Makes you want to sit in stunned silence as we ponder this.
What would possess God to leave the splendors of heaven, strip off his deity, be born as an ordinary baby in the lowly stables of Bethlehem, destined to be the servant of man and dying the most despicable of deaths, as a criminal?
That’s the big question. Isn’t it? Why?
If That Wasn’t Love
Brings me right back to what I said earlier, namely, at its core it’s not about joy, nor hope, nor even peace. At its core it’s all about the love of God!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” John 3:16a
God so loved “the sum-total of humanity in the world” that he gave himself for us.
This love of God is incredible. It is not only far-reaching, limitless and inexhaustible but God’s love is fierce, strong and delivers. It is known as the agape love of God!
“The word translated ‘love’ is the noblest and strongest in Greek. It connotes an act of the will rather than the emotion, whim or infatuation and its measure is defined in terms of the results” Charles Tinney
God shows his love in an act of the will, rather than feeling and it is measured by its tangible accomplishments. I don’t know what feelings, if any, that he had. I do know that he was relentless, determined and his mind made up. That is the kind of fierce, unwavering love I am talking about.
How did God show his love toward us? He rescued us from our greatest need, delivered us from our greatest struggle and freed us from the strongest chains!
“Whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” Jn 3:16
God so loved the sum-total of humanity in this world that he stepped into the time continuum and came into this world to take the penalty of our sins upon him, so that we could be given the chance to be born again, start all over again and push the reset button!
Pushing the Reset Button
Just like Nicodemus, who was the one that triggered this conversation in Jn 3, was given the chance to push the reset button.
Don’t you love the idea of setting the reset button in your life? Starting all over again with a clean slate? In the spiritual sense you have that opportunity.
Contrary to what most would have assumed, He didn’t come into this world to condemn the world, or to finish it off, but to save the world.
“For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him” Jn 3:17
How great, how measureless his love is!
“This is how we know what love is Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” I Jn 3:16
In the next chapter he says:
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” I Jn 4:10
To atone for our sins: That is his offer! It is extended to all the sum-total of all humanity. None is excluded. Not the vilest offender. Not the sweetest of prince; and certainly not you!
The love of God, this strong, tangible and result-oriented, deliverable love is inclusive, far reaching and embraces all!
I love the inclusion of the “whosoever”. Who is included in “whosoever”? The real question is who is not included? Whosoever is whosoever J. All are welcome.
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Jn 3:18
God condemns no one. People condemn themselves by their own unbelief and unwillingness to accept the love of God.
Who would be crazy enough not to accept the love of God? Why would anybody not want to push the reset button?
This then, is what I would suggest, as the message of the season: God came into this world because he so loved us and saw our struggle with sin. He came with the offer to take our sins away and invites us to push the reset button!
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.