Monday, September 15, 2014

God Loves You: Jesus Loves Me…and You

I love the fact that my children are at church among God’s people, when they could be so many other places, what a blessing that is! I remember several years ago when Kim and I were living in Stamford, Texas. We were new parents. Just a few months earlier, our lives revolved around us! Then, those two girls were born and EVERYTHING changed! One of my favorite memories from those days took place every afternoon after the girls learned to crawl. They would crawl around everywhere, chasing each other, chasing Kim. Well every afternoon at around 5:00, I would come through that front door. I wouldn’t come in the garage door, but instead I came through the front door, because I knew that is where the girls would be. And I knew that is where they expected Daddy to come in. Every day, I would open the door and they would crawl toward me at mach speed. They’d lift up their hands, they’d grab my legs, and they’d say, “I want to hold you,” and for the next few minutes, I was in heaven!

Francis Chan, in his book, Crazy Love, makes the statement…
“There is nothing that compares to being truly, exuberantly loved by your children.”
I think I agree. To be loved like that is an amazing feeling. To LOVE like that is an amazing thing.

Have you ever loved anyone like that? A reckless love, a love of total abandon, a love that defies reason. Do you love God? I mean really love God. Do you love God so much that you would rather be with Him than do anything else in this life? Do you crave time to spend with Him? Do you make time to spend with Him? Now, obviously, those are rhetorical questions, and I do not expect you answer those questions out loud. So, if you’ve already answered them out loud and embarrassed yourself, I’m sorry. But be honest with yourself. Do you really love God more than anything else? If you are unsure how to answer that question, or, if you are unsure how you would answer that question, honestly, let me ask you this: Why is that question so difficult for us to answer? Maybe it’s because we do not understand how much God loves us.

I’ll be honest, the whole metaphor of God as Father was a difficult one for me to understand until about 13 years ago. Not because I had a bad father. On the contrary, I had a wonderful father, a father that loved me and protected me, and a father that chose my family and me over his job or anything else. I had a hard time understanding that metaphor because I had never been a father. Over the last few years, I have come to understand why God uses that metaphor to describe His love for us. I cannot imagine many bonds as strong as that between a father and his children. I would die for my children, and I wouldn’t think twice about doing it. If God loves me half as much as I love my children, then I am indeed blessed!

But the reality is that I am a sinful, imperfect man whose love is also imperfect. How much more does a perfect Father love His children? I want to stop where I am, however, and make a couple of disclaimers. First, I realize that not everyone is a father. Does that mean you cannot fully grasp the love of God? No, not at all. Father is simply a metaphor God uses in Scripture because it is common to so many of us. Second, I know there are people that have a hard time with the metaphor Father because their own earthly fathers did not fulfill their duties. Some of you were abused by your fathers. Others watched your father hurt your mom or your siblings. Some of you had to hide while the liquor inside your father made him do all sorts of things. Others of you barely saw your father at all. So, I recognize there are many in here that may have a hard time making sense of this metaphor. All I can do is say, “I’m sorry you were treated that way.”

But let me introduce you to a different kind of Father.

  • A Father that is always there.
  • A Father who will never hurt you.
  • A Father who will never leave you.
  • A Father who will always love you.

If you’ve never met your Father (or even if you have), listen to the depth and breadth of His love for you.
As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:26–46, NRSV)
God, our Father, did this for us. Brothers and sisters, that is love!

Do you love God? I’ll be honest: some of us think we love God, but we respond to Him out of guilt or fear. Martin Luther was a great example of this. Luther was born into a family that expected great things from him. He went the university and studied law. He was to be a lawyer! One evening he got caught in a horrible thunderstorm, lightening all around. He really believed God was trying to kill him! He was scared to death of God. So, from the midst of this storm, he cried out to God, “Save me, spare my life, if you do, I’ll become a monk.” Well, Luther lived, and the rest is history.

Some of us have that view of God. We serve God or go to church or do a number of things because we fear the alternative. We are scared that if we do not obey or serve or love, God will condemn us to hell. Or, we obey or serve or love out of guilt. We don’t really want to do these things, but we feel like we are supposed to. Our culture, our family, or even our God expects these things of us. But, for some reason, our hearts are not really in it if we are really honest with ourselves. Let me present to you an analogy from one Father’s perspective.

What if your children said to you this afternoon, “I will obey you, but only to get my allowance,” or, “I’ll love you as long as you don’t punish me”? I have to ask this question: Is that really love? I don’t want to guilt you into anything. In fact, I want to suggest that guilt has no part of this discussion. I’m not going to tell you, “Read the Bible so that you’ll learn to really love God.” I’m not going to say, “Wake up early and pray more so that you’ll love God more.” A response to God out of guilt is not love.

But, I do want you to be honest with yourself. You don’t have to answer out loud. You don’t have to tell anyone your answer to this question. But I want you to be honest with yourself. Do you really love God? I’ve recently reflected on another question: Why do my children love me? Why did my girls at such a young age crawl to me at mach speed? Why did they do that? It’s simple: They loved me because they knew I loved them. Our love for God should not be motivated out of fear or guilt, but instead out of our realization that He loved us first. I’m convinced that if we could come to grips with how much God loves us, we would love Him in return. In fact, we wouldn’t be able to stop ourselves from loving Him.

I have an assignment for you this week. I want you to find 30 minutes this week to get by yourself. When you are all alone, no radio, no TV, no book, no anything, reflect on this question: How much does God love me? You might want to make a list of the ways God has expressed His love to you over the years. You might need to reexamine parts of your life, focusing in on the ways God was there when you didn’t even know it! Church, when we begin to understand the answer to that question, we’ll all be crawling at mach speed to our Father.

No comments:

Post a Comment