How God Loves the World
“For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life”. (John 3:16)
Thousands of people have been saved by this wonderful verse, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands- by simply reading it in the Bible. This one verse tells us some very important things about the love of God. It tells us that our salvation begins in God’s love. We are not saved because we love God; we are saved because God loves us. Our salvation begins in God loving us and it ends in our loving God.
The first thing our text teaches us about God’s love is that the love of God is universal. “God so loved the world- not some part of it, not some elect people or some select class. God loves the rich,but God loves the poor, too. The rich need to hear the Gospel just as much as the poor, and they are not nearly as likely to. If some poor man who did not even know where he was going to sleep tonight stood up to receive Christ, many people would not think it amounted to much. But God would be just as pleased to see the poorest man or woman accept Christ as he would to see the richest millionaire come to Him. God loves the man who can’t read or write as much as He loves the most brilliant scientist or philosopher on earth.
Is some university professor were converted, some people would be delighted. They would say, “Oh, a wonderful thing happened. One of our learned professors was converted.” But if an illiterate person accepted Christ, some people would not be nearly as impressed. The most wonderful thing of all is this: God loves the poor as much as the rich, the uneducated as much as the educated, and the unrighteous as much as the righteous
One night I was visiting one of the members of my church, and his little girl was playing in the room. The child did something naughty, and her father called out, “Don’t be naughty. If you are a good girl, God will love you, but if you are not, God won’t love you.”
I said, “Charlie, what nonsense are you teaching that child of yours. That is not what my Bible teaches. It teaches that God loves the sinner just as truly as He loves the saint.”
It is hard to make people believe that God loves the sinner and the outcast. The Bible emphasizes this truth the most.
Because we live in a world of conditional love and acceptance, we find it hard to accept that the love of God knows no boundaries. From childhood we are taught that love is given to those who act properly. The imaginary figure of Santa teaches every child that they will receive gifts based upon their conduct. The little song that is sung says “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why. Santa Clause is coming to town. He sees you when you’re sleeping, he know when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been good or bad so be good for goodness sake.” All this implies that those who are good are rewarded and those who are bad are punished. Some parents use God as though He is the one who rewards and punishes behavior. All the time instilling a false image of God and His love. Even pastors and churches often give the impression that God only loves those who do good, live right, or fit the mold of Christianity. Even those who have been saved often question the love of God for themselves and for the unbeliever. Many people feel uncomfortable even coming to church because they do not feel they are good enough. We even make jokes about the roof caving in if certain people were to enter the church building.
Sadly we have given the world the image that the church is a collection of a select group who at least have the appearance of having their act together. We are viewed as a museum of saints rather than a hospital for the sick. I think in some form the most frequent question I am asked as a pastor is: “Does God really love me and if so how can He love somebody like me?” This usually comes at a time of failure.
To use an old, oft repeated expression about God’s love when someone asked Jesus how much He loved them, He stretched out His arms on the cross and said, “This much.”
The love of God is immeasurable and beyond any human comprehension. We understand the conditional human love that responds to acceptable actions and can be revoked when the actions are unacceptable. We don’t understand the love of God that begins when we are at our worst.
Many of you have heard me say, “God loves you the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way.” You see the whole process of salvation is the work of God helping you to become the best you that you can be. This is not solely to please God although He is pleased when you live in a manner that is best for you. His laws are not to press us to conform to some standard for acceptance but to help us live a better life. Even when we fail to live up to expectations, He never ceases to love us.
He loves even the sinner who rejects Him. He loves those who reject Christ and subject themselves to the full justice of a holy God. Even those who die in their sins and spend eternity in hell, God loves. God loves those whom we cannot love; those who in our view deserve no love; those whose actions are so horrific that we feel no punishment is suitable for them. God loves the unloveable. We dare not confuse His love with the worldly definition of love which says, “If you love me, you will let me do as I please.” Which of you would believe that a parent who loves would allow their child to live without correction or discipline. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where a child has been allowed to act in atrocious ways and wondered why the parents are allowing such conduct. Most of us believe that the parent who loves their child will teach and train that child to live in a decent way. Why are we so confused when God disciplines those whom He loves. Let us be clear on this matter. The consequences of discipline are connected to the actions. In other words, we don’t get some disease because of our conduct unless the disease is a consequence of our actions. The purpose of the discipline of God is to correct a destructive behavior and like a parent, the Holy Spirit first tells us the action is wrong through conviction. Should we ignore that conviction, just as it is if we ignore our parents instructions, discipline follows.
I say all this to refute the idea that God is some harsh, vengeful, judgmental Being that far too often is the perception of the world.
Paul sums up the love of God this way:
“While we were still helpless [powerless to provide for our salvation], at the right time Christ died [as a substitute] for the ungodly. Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to willingly give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a good man [one who is noble and selfless and worthy] someone might even dare to die. But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified [declared free of the guilt of sin] by His blood, [how much more certain is it that] we will be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more certain, having been reconciled, that we will be saved [from the consequences of sin] by His life [that is, we will be saved because Christ lives today]. Not only that, but we also rejoice in God [rejoicing in His love and perfection] through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received and enjoy our reconciliation [with God].” (Romans 5:6-11)
Sing with me:
Jesus loves me this I know,
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
For the Bible tells me so.
Dr. John Thompson