God Loves You SO Much
The 4th Sunday in Lent
God Loves You SO Much
Text: John 3:14-18
A lost mother. Lost jobs. Undiagnosed sicknesses. Surgeries. Cancer threats. Actual cancer. Cancer remission. Endless doctor appointments. Struggling families. Strained families. Separated families. Children traveling the country. Children traveling the world. Children in trouble. Financial stress. Possible foreclosure or eviction. Hurt feelings. Crushed emotions. Sleeplessness. Exhaustion. Depression. Guilt. And tears. Oh the tears.
All very real things in our world. But did you know, every one of those things I mentioned someone in this room is experiencing right now? There are some very heavy hearts in God’s house today. There’s pain and hurt. There are broken relationships and broken homes and broken hearts and broken spirits. Life is tough and it is weighing heavily on many of us.
We try our best to put on a smile. We pretend like everything is normal. Meanwhile inside there is an avalanche of anxiety, a tornado of turmoil, and a hurricane of hurt. But how long can we really go on like this? How much more can we really take? How long before we have a nervous breakdown or we just go nuts and scream?!
We can’t run away from it, can we? No matter how much we fake it or ignore it or intoxicate or medicate—we can’t avoid the truth. Sin and death are everywhere. As much as I want my life to be perfect and run smoothly, it won’t. Not ever. As much as I want my family and friends to go on living forever, as much as I want to go on living forever, we won’t. We all will die at sometime.
Doesn’t it leave you feeling rather hopeless and helpless at times? Most of these problems that I’ve mentioned and we deal with are almost completely out of our control. Sickness. Cancer. The economy. Disaster. Death. Those are things you can’t prevent. Other things we can prevent but our sin and the sin of those in our lives makes those other things near impossible to prevent or change too. And that hurts.
It hurts to realize that this world is broken. Ever since Adam and Eve’s sin, paradise was lost and this fragile world has been fracturing more and more. It hurts to realize that not only is this world broken, but I am too. Yeah. Hopeless and helpless. That about sums it up.
We need something else. We need something more. We need someone to hold us, to comfort us, to love us in all this trouble. We need God.
But why would God love us? Puny little pipsqueaks of his creation, running around haphazardly in chaotic self-indulgence. If he wasn’t God he would probably laugh as he looks down at us. He tells us what to do, but we don’t always listen. He tells us he’s there, but we don’t always believe him. He gives us answers, but we want more.
Would you love someone that constantly ignores you, disobeys you, dishonors you, misrepresents you, takes your name in vain, thinks other things are more important, and sometimes wants nothing to do with you? Why would God love sinners? He shouldn’t. We wouldn’t. But yet he does. That’s the incredible thing. He does. He does love us.
Sometimes Satan might get our minds in a tizzy though. He whispers in our ears non-stop: “You? Why would God love you? Look what you’ve done. Look at your life. No way. Maybe other people. But not you. Why would God love you? Why would anyone love you?”
And sometimes we start to believe this. That’s when the sadness and the hurt and hopeless and helpless feelings begin. “Maybe God doesn’t love me.”
But I want you to listen and listen carefully to the most special and precious words you could ever hear. You’ve heard them before. But listen again and enjoy every last word: “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.”
If you’re feeling sad, if you’re lonely, if you’re depressed; if you’re aching, if you’re hurting; if you’re anxious, if you’re worried; if you’re feeling guilty—ask yourself this one question: “Do I live in the world?” It’s an easy question, right? Of course you live in the world! Well then of course God loves you, too.
Jesus’ words are so plain and simple. That’s the beauty of it. It’s simple and easy. God so loved the world. The whole world. Every last person. That means you, too. He loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. And because he gave his Son, whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Whoever believes in him. Anyone and everyone who believes in him shall not die but live. That means you, too.
You see, this is the only way things would work out for us. We’re hopeless and helpless, a lost cause—kind of like the people of Israel. What a mess of pathetic sinners they were (just like us)! When God sent poisonous snakes as a consequence for their rebellion, they were goners. But God had mercy again. He gave them something—something to save them and something to teach them to stop looking down at themselves and to look up to him. He had Moses lift up a bronze snake in the desert on a pole and all who looked up to it didn’t die but lived. No matter how badly they sinned, anyone and everyone who looked up to the snake was rescued by God’s mercy.
This is the only way it would work for us too. That’s what Jesus taught Nicodemus. Here’s the first verse of the gospel today: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Just like the bronze snake for the Israelites, God gave something to the entire world—something to save us and something to teach us to stop looking down at ourselves and to start looking up to him. Someone had to to be lifted up to take away sin and God’s wrath and anger. Someone had to be lifted up to take our place. Someone had to win us life instead of death.
And so, “God so loved the world—every last person in the world, you included—that he gave his one and only Son,—Jesus Christ—that whoever believes in him—anyone and everyone, no matter what they’ve done or how they’ve sinned, you included—shall not perish but have eternal life.”
That’s how great our God’s love is. He didn’t have to love the world. He shouldn’t have loved the world. But he did. He didn’t want us to die, just like he didn’t want the Israelites to die in the desert. Look at verse 17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” God’s loving intention is not to condemn the world but to save the world, because he loves the world. All the world. Including you.
But understand something very important. Verse 18: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” God’s free gift of love to this world is his own Son Jesus Christ and eternal salvation to all who believe in him. But if someone doesn’t believe in God’s love, if someone doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ as God and Savior—then that person doesn’t get the free gift. That person is condemned.
I could write you a check for one billion dollars. That would be both incredible and very loving. But if you finally don’t believe me and take the check, well then you lost my free gift.
In the same way, if someone ends up in hell that’s not God’s fault. Remember, God so loved the world—the whole world—that he gave his one and only Son to everyone. But if someone doesn’t believe in God’s love or God’s gift, well then they lose that gift. That doesn’t mean God is unloving. That just means that person was unbelieving.
So ask yourself this: Do you believe that God loved this world? Do you believe that God sent his Son Jesus to this world? Do you believe that Jesus was lifted up on the cross to pay for the sins of the world? Oh and one more questions: Do you believe that you are in the world?
Well then good news! Because you believe that, you know that God absolutely and unequivocally loves you and that your sins are absolutely and completely forgiven and that you absolutely and definitely shall not perish but have eternal life.
Every day you can wake up knowing that you are not alone. You don’t have to face this world by yourself. Someone does care. It’s God. He loves you.
And when you have pains and problems, when you lost a friend or lost your mother, when you are battling sickness, when you are looking for a job—someone does want to listen. Someone does want to listen to your problems. And that someone will also help you with your problems and work all things for your good. Why? Because he loves you.
And when you’re stuck in a rut, or when you’re feeling especially guilty, or when Satan comes and whispers in your ear again, then you can take a deep breath and smile because you know. God so loved this world—God so loved you—that he gave his one and only Son. And if God is for you, who can be against you?
On August 8 last fall, I told you about my friend from high school Nicole. Nicole and her husband were so excited to be parents for the first time. But after troubles with breathing after delivery, their daughter Olive lived less than two days.
Nicole has been so brave sharing her story and trying to battle through the sadness to grasp that God still loves her and her husband, and God loved Olive enough to adopt her through baptism and then quickly bring her quickly to her heavenly home.
Last month I checked in with Nicole to see how she was doing. She told me she had been going to church twice a week reading her Bible once or twice a day—amazing steps of faith in God’s love. She even told me she had asked God for more ways to grow and learn. And what happened almost the next day? She had a miscarriage and lost another child.
Oh there is so much hurt. Hurt like many of us are feeling right now. No sinner living in a sinful world will ever escape hurt and pain. That’s the doom and fate of all dying sinners.
But that doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us. Quite the opposite. God does loves us, and he loves us very much. We know that’s a fact because 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.
Yes, life hurts so much sometimes. But God loves you so much that he doesn’t want you to have pain. He doesn’t want you to suffer. He doesn’t want you to hurt. He doesn’t want you to die. God loves you so much that he gave his one and only Son so that you could live. God gave his Son so that you could have peace and joy and happiness with no more sorrow and no more tears. God loves you so much and wants you to experience that so much that he simply offers it to you for free. Every day and in every way God loves you and wants you to live with him and experience real happiness. That’s a fact. Know it. Believe it.