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Love: God’s Greatest Gift – “Deep Love”

Sharing God's Word, Living His Love
Love Gods Greatest Gift 3

1 John 4:1-11

April 28, 2024


If you were to see an old, run down house like this (show picture) in your community what would you think?  If you are like me you think, “Look at that old, neglected house.  Windows are broken, the paint is peeling off, the roof is caving in, and the yard looks awful.  Why don’t the owners knock that thing down and just level it?  It’s dangerous, it’s an eye-sore, it’s certainly not worth saving, and it makes the neighborhood look bad.”  But what I find amazing is that with many of these home improvement shows on television today, such as “Fixer Upper, This Old House, Extreme Makeover,” and many others, the stars of these shows will look at an old house like this one, but in their minds they will see this (show picture).  A beautifully restored home that will become the envy of the neighborhood.  They know with a lot of hard work and a lot of money, they can take that old run down house and make it look more beautiful than ever.  In other words they see potential in these old neglected homes to look new once again.

I think the way that the stars of these home improvement shows look at these old dilapidated houses is the way that God looks at us, no matter how old or broken or morally decayed we may be.  God looks at each one of us with a deep love and He sees our potential, He sees us as valuable, important, and worth saving.  He remembers what we were meant to be.  He remembers His original design for us as He put us together in our mother’s womb.  He spares no expense in saving us, including giving up His own Son, as He works to restore us to His original design.

John put it this way in verse 10 of our second lesson: “This is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  God’s restoration of us begins when He sends His Holy Spirit into our hearts and we come to faith in Jesus.  For many of us this restoration process began at our Baptism.  It was there that God washed away our sins, filled us with His Holy Spirit, and brought us into the loving care of His “community” known as the church.  At that moment, in our Baptism, we are saved from eternal destruction; but the work, the restoration process, doesn’t end there.  Having been saved, the Lord begins to work at rebuilding our lives by using people and events to shape and refinish and polish us.  One of the main things John mentions in this text that needs to be fixed in all of us is love.  Love was meant to be an integral part of us, and integral part of our foundation; and John wants us to understand that without God’s love, we were destined collapse, to fall apart, and to wither away to nothing.  But God found us and restored us by bringing us into a relationship with His Son, Jesus, who died for our sins.  Therefore, we ought to be loving others in the way God loves us.

The problem is we don’t seem to truly understand what love is and it’s almost like it has become a rather meaningless word in our lives.  If you look up the word “love” in any kind of dictionary you will find all kinds of definitions that refer to a fondness for others.  Such as, 1) An intense affectionate concern for another person.  2) A feeling of warm personal attachment.  3) A beloved person – often used as a term of endearment.  4) An intense sexual desire for another person.  5) Cupid – the god of love in classical mythology.  None of those definitions encompass the love that God has for us.  The sacrificial nature of Christ-like love appears to have been lost in our claims that we “love” our favorite food or sports team.

We mentioned last week that love is not a feeling.  It is not something we do only when we feel like it or only to those who are nice to us.  Love is a way of life, it is an action.  John said that God showed His love for us by sending Jesus to die for our sins.  That’s certainly more than “an affectionate concern or fondness for another person.”  It’s like the difference between a wedding ceremony and a marriage.  A wedding ceremony is easy.  On one day, two people publicly proclaim their love for each other, they receive blessings from their families and friends, and they seek God’s approval upon their union.  Marriage, on the other hand, is more than one day.  It is a lifetime commitment that binds two people together so that they may build each other up, and support and encourage each other through their words and actions regardless of their circumstances.  So what John is saying is that Jesus’ love lasts forever and it is a deep love that cares for every person regardless of ethnicity, position, education, or economic status.  It is a love that demands that we give up our own self-interests, that we remain faithful even in the face of pain; and that we give of ourselves even when we don’t feel like it.

But some people just don’t know how to love.  They express love in inappropriate ways and they end up passing on their love-deficiency they learned as children to their children.  So to help us understand love, Jesus clearly demonstrated what His love was all about.  In particular, one aspect of His love involves simple, physical affection.  All of us, especially children, need lots of physical interaction.  We need to be touched.  This is one of our most basic human needs.

Jesus loved to touch people.  He loved to gather children in His arms and touch them.  Often when He healed people – the blind, the deaf, and the sick – Jesus didn’t just stand off at a distance and command people to be healed, He would touch them to bring them healing.  He put mud on the eyes of a blind man with His hands and gave him sight.  He put His fingers into the ears of a deaf man and instantly the man could hear again.  He touched the sick when no one else would touch them and completely healed them.  In each case, Jesus’ personal touch made it clear that He truly loved people.  Just like an old dilapidated house is not going to be restored by simply looking at it; someone has to work on that house.  They have to get their hands dirty.  They have to strip, sand, and strengthen that house in order to restore it.  Love requires touch, it requires work.

Another way we express the love of Jesus is through our words of encouragement. Common sense would tell this would be an easy way to show love, especially for parents.  But for some reason it is hard for some parents to be supportive of their children.  I don’t know why that is, but at the same time I don’t know why it is so easy for some parents to be critical of their children.  I remember seeing this a lot growing up playing Little League Baseball.  We had several boys on the team whose parents would just berate them when they missed a ground ball, and some of these parents would constantly yell at the umpire.  It was during those moments that I was very thankful that my parents were never like that.

I know it’s easy for us to talk about “love” here in the church, because the real challenge comes when we leave this place and go out into a world filled with cruelty, hatred, betrayal, and rejection.  But as we leave here today, remember that Jesus does not send us out alone.  He offers to us His body and blood here at this altar in bread and wine as a sign of His love, to forgive our sins, and to strengthen our faith.  In other words, we may come here on a Sunday morning broken down and feeling like we are ready to collapse.  But God always sends us out from here forgiven and fully restored so that we can go and share God’s love with others who are hurting, feeling abandoned, and in need of restoration.  After all, we are all in this together.  The book of Romans tells us that “there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace that came through the redemption of Jesus Christ.”

You may see many people who look like worn down, dilapidated homes, with lives that appear to be beyond repair, but just as broken down, beat up homes can be restored, broken lives can be healed and broken hearts can be mended as we love one another.  We must all learn to see people, whose lives are in varying states of repair, in the way God sees you and me – with love and understanding that they can be restored in Christ Jesus, just as you and I are being restored in Him every day.  And someday, at the end of time, when Jesus returns, all of us, whom God designed and built, will be fully restored forever.  On that day, everyone will see what God has always seen in people – temples made in His image who were worthy of restoration and love.

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