Sunday 2nd May 2021

 

Sermon: Gods Greatest Gift.

The Bible tells us that God is a gracious God who lavishes his love on us, that he is rich in offering forgiveness and that his mercies are new every morning.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who don’t see God as a generous God who lavishes his love on us. Instead, they see God as more of a clenched-fisted tightwad who gives very little and keeps most of the blessings to himself. And if you want to leverage any blessings out of the hands of God, you need to achieve a certain level of goodness. So a lot of people spend their lives trying to be good enough because if you’re good enough then maybe God will notice you and pour some blessing out on you.

And so what happens is that this thing called Christianity becomes a system of checks and balances where the good things I do are used like a kind of currency that I can cash in to get good stuff from God. So if I’m experiencing good things in my life, like a successful career along with financial stability,a good family, good health, people who like me, it is probably because of my goodness and God is blessing me. And if I’m experiencing bad things in my life it is probably because I’m a bad person and God doesn’t love me.

Therefore, We spend our life trying to be as good as we can, (going to church as often as we possibly can, reading my Bible every day and night, praying always not just when we need help, serving the work of the church in our community) because at the end of the day if we are good enough then hopefully God will love us and bless us.

How many of us here this morning have been of that opinion or mindset?

Myth Busters

Well today we’re going to explode this myth and we’re going to do this by looking at probably the most well known passage in all of scripture, John 3:16.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. (John 3:16, )

Now, what we’re going to do is break this passage up into three parts and then spend some time looking at each part. And as we do this, hopefully we’ll see that our God is not a God of checks and balances and that our God is not a legislator, but rather that he’s a God of grace, which means that nothing we do can make God love us more and nothing we do can make God love us less. He just loves us and his love is always there.

God Loves the World

So let’s look at John 3:16. It says, For God so loved the world . . .

The Good

Now let’s stop there for a moment and let’s think about our world and the people that live in it. And as we think about the people in our world, I think you would agree with me that in our world there are some really good people, people who are kind, generous, forgiving, caring, merciful, encouraging, and loving.

How many of us would say that we know some people like this? All of us I would imagine.

The Bad

Now just like we would all agree that there are some really good people in the world, I think we could also agree that there are some pretty bad people in the world, people who are mean, selfish, unkind, uncaring, unforgiving, cruel, unsympathetic, hateful, and impatient.

How many of us would say that we know some pretty bad people? Let’s be honest about our answer. How many of us would say that within ourselves we have the capacity to do some pretty bad things? (Obviously some of you have the capacity to lie).

God Loves Them All

Now let’s look again at John 3:16. Notice what it says. It says that” God so loved the world”. Notice that it does not say, For God so loved the good people. Or God so loved the people who go to church, or the heterosexual people, or the hard working people, or the white people or the Black people. It says that God so loved the world.

In other words, God loves all people. That means that there is not an individual on this planet whom God does not love which is a remarkable statement, especially when you consider the original context in which it was spoken.

Nicodemus

You see when Jesus first spoke these words; he was speaking to a Man by the name of Nicodemus. And the Bible describes Nicodemus like this: Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. (John 3:1 )

Now if you know anything about the Bible, you will know that the Pharisees believed that the reason why God loved them was because of their ability to follow a list of religious rules and codes.

As a matter of fact, the apostle Paul who was a Pharisee before he became a Christian captures this thinking when he says, If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: I was circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; he lived in regard to the law and was faultless. (Philippians 3:4–6 )

In one of his parables, Jesus quotes a prayer the Pharisees would pray and this is what he says. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ (Luke 18:11–12)

Quick To Judge

Does this prayer sound a little egotistical and big headed to anyone? So, how many of us are glad we’re not like that Pharisee?

You see how easily we fall into the system of checking our deeds of goodwill and balances? You see how quickly we look down on others and condemn them, and how quick we are to compare ourselves to others and think ourselves more deserving of love based on what we do?

He Loves You Because He Made You

 Nicodemus is being judgemental and looking down on others whilst putting his good points to the forefront. And Jesus looks at him and says, “Nicodemus, you’ve got it all wrong. God does not love you because of your religious accomplishments; he just simply loves you because he loves you.”

And it has nothing to do with your successes or failures. It has nothing to do with being good or bad. It has nothing to do with being deserving or undeserving. God just loves you because He made you. And nothing you do can make God love you more, and nothing you do can make God love you less. It is all about grace.

For God so loved the world. He loves the good, the bad and everyone in between. And how much does he love them?

He Gave His Son

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…

Let me say this again. He gave his one and only Son.

Now what kind of a person deserves that kind of a gift? What kind of a person would you give up one of your children for? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t give up one of my children for anyone. So this gift of God is mind-boggling. It is incomprehensible.

Childlessness and Death

And if it is incomprehensible for us, think of what this would have been like for a Jewish person like Nicodemus. Because, you see, for a Jewish person, children were not just valuable because they were your children. They were priceless because they were like life itself.

You see, to have children was to have a future, a heritage, a hope. It meant that life carried on. To have no children was to have no future, no heritage, and no hope for life. In other words to have no children in a Jewish culture is equivalent to being dead.

Abraham As Good As Dead

Remember Abraham had no children? Here’s how the Bible describes him. It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going…And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead... (Hebrews 11:8;12,)

So to have no children was to be as good as dead. And the Bible says that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. In other words, when God gave up his one and only Son, he wasn’t just giving up a precious child; he was giving up his future, his heritage, his hope, his life. He was giving up everything.

Your Only Son

Now let’s return back to the story of Abraham for a moment. You remember that Abraham had no children. He was a good as dead. So God comes to him and promises him a son, and 25 years later Isaac is born.

Well, a few years after his birth, God comes to Abraham again and says  “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”" (Genesis 22:2,)

So Abraham does as God says. The next day he takes Isaac and heads up to Mount Moriah. Now the Bible does not give us all the details but somehow Abraham was able to tie up Isaac and lay him on the altar. And then he raised up his knife and just before he plunged it into the chest of his son, an angel stopped him and said, Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son. (Genesis 22:12,)

Jesus the Ultimate Substitute Sacrifice

And then God provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice for Isaac. This ram would point to Jesus as the ultimate substitute sacrifice, so that whenever we go through times of doubt and despair, or when we enter times of fear or failure, fear of losing our jobs and homes, fear of failing relationships all we need to do is go to the cross, and say, “God, even though I don’t always understand your ways, I know that you still love me because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Again think, what kind of person so deserves   that you would give your child to them? No one.

And what kind of person is so deserving that God should give his one and only son to him or her? No one.

You see, you will never understand how much God loves you until you first understand how much God loves his Son.

So if we are so undeserving, why would God give us his Son? For that, let’s look at the passage again.

So We Won’t Perish

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. (John 3:16, )

So the reason why God gives us his one and only Son is so that we won’t die. And the reason why we’re dying is because of this thing called sin. And sin is basically the inability to love perfectly. Every time we get the love thing wrong, every time we are impatient, selfish, unforgiving, every time we distort the truth, every time we gossip etc.-- every time we do this--we die a little inside, because no one feels fully alive when they live like this.

And not only do we die inside a little, we contribute to the death of this world. And every time we contribute to the death of this world, we stand guilty before God and we deserve to be punished. And the punishment we deserve is death because if you contribute to death you deserve death.

But the good news is that death isn’t what God wants for us, he wants to give us life, so much so that he was willing to give his one and only son to take the punishment that we deserve and to die in our place in order that we can live.

Only Believers Benefit

Now unfortunately not everyone is going to benefit from this gift because, according to the Bible, the only people who will benefit from this gift are those who believe in the gift.

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. (John 3:16,)

Believing In Lynx shower Gel and Range Rovers

So what does it mean to believe in Jesus? It means you submit yourself to Him and allow Him, by His Spirit, to make a difference in your life. Allow him to take control of your everyday living

For example, if I told you I believe in using Lynx shower gel, I’m telling you that I submit myself to Lynx shower gel and allow it to change my life, so that I am no longer dirty or smelly anymore but now I’m clean and smell great, and if the TV adverts are anything to go by I should attract a lot of female admirers.

 

Or if I told you I believe that driving a Range Rover is the best, I’m telling you that I am submitting to the Range Rover brand and I’m allowing it to make a difference in my life, instead of sitting in a garage waiting for repairs, I am sitting head and shoulders above other drivers on the road driving a reliable vehicle.

Believing In Jesus

It’s the same way with believing in Jesus. If I tell you that I believe in Jesus, I’m telling you that I’m submitting my life to him and I’m allowing him to make a difference in my life.

And how does Jesus change our life? Well according to the Bible, if we believe in Jesus, if we submit to him and allow him to make a difference in our life, then we no longer have to fear condemnation, because we know he loves us, and we know that he forgives us. And we should know that no matter how badly we mess up and no matter how many mistakes we make he’ll always be there for us, ready to pick us up when we ask him to.

In the very next sentence after John 3:16, Jesus told Nicodemus For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:17,)

We should not condemn ourselves

This means that we no longer worry that we are not good enough and we don’t have to beat ourselves up with condemning words and think that of all the people of the world, God probably doesn’t love us.

It is simply not true, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him, whoever submits to him and allows him to make a difference in their lives will not perish but have eternal life.

And the more I believe this, my friends, the more I believe that God loves me and forgives me. Every day he offers me a new beginning to live in his grace. That is most certainly going to affect the way I relate to others.

Not Condemning Others

In other words, the more I believe in Jesus, the less likely I am to condemn others and to be critical of them, or to judge whether or not they are worthy of receiving love based on how good or bad they are. And I’m not going to prop myself up on some self-righteous pedestals and point condemning and accusing fingers at others who in my opinion don’t measure up, whether because they have made bad choices, or they were born and brought up in the wrong neighbourhood  or they might not be as far along the spiritual Road as I am. And why don’t I do this? Because the Bible says: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," (Romans 8:1,)

You see the more I believe in Jesus, that is, the more I submit myself to his love, and the more I let his love change me, the less hateful, unforgiving, worried, fearful, condemning and critical I’m going to be. Instead what will flow out of me will be things like love, joy peace patience kindness, forgiveness, generosity, self-control, and integrity.

Like A River

You see in many ways, God’s love is like a river in a desert. Now imagine yourself in that desert and you’re dirty and you’re hot and you’re thirsty. What do you need to do in order to experience the cool, refreshing, cleansing, thirst quenching waters of the river?

You don’t have to do anything. Just walk in. You submit to it, and you let it flow over you. You let it wash the dirt off, you let it refresh your soul, mind and heart, let it quench your thirst.

It’s the same way with God’s love. The only way to experience the healing and cleansing power of his love is to surrender to it. And then let it flow over you.

And as it flows over you, it will change you and it will shake stuff loose in your life like pride, anger, hatred and jealousy. And you’re going to look at that stuff and you’re going to say, “I don’t want this in my life anymore.” And so you let it go, and you let God fill you with his love. And the more he fills you, the more alive you’ll be. So I leave you this morning with 3 questions.

Number one do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe in his love? Do you believe in his grace? Or are you still stuck in the system of hierarchy and condemnation? The Bible says: 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. (John 3:16,)

Amen.