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Its All About Love

March 20th 2011 by Joel Schultz

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life! These are perhaps the most recognizeable words in the Scriptures. These are words that epitomize the season of Lent for we are saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus alone and not by our works. Read or listen to find out more...

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Lent 2A – John 3:1-17 – “Its All About Love” – 3/20/11 Our text today is taken from the Gospel reading - John 3. When I ponder this marvelous, self-reflective season of Lent, my thoughts are often drawn to this text and the oh so familiar verse: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” This text epitomizes the season and we meditate further upon.

On Ash Wednesday, we pondered the miracle of darkness as Jesus hung on the cross and I asked if you have ever been on a cave tour when the lights were shut off. At Silver Dollar City there is a cave called Marvel Cave. It is a spectacular place with many natural wonders to behold. But, probably the most memorable part of the tour was when the guide turned out all the lights. I guarantee that I have never experienced that kind of darkness anywhere else. One literally can not see our hands in front of our faces. It would have been impossible to move safely. Complete darkness!

Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council learned about complete darkness. He came to Jesus one night under the cover of darkness. He knew Jesus was from God because of the great things Jesus had done. But he must have been confused by Jesus’ message. You see it didn’t quite gel with the Jewish religion of the day. Just as Nicodemus came to Jesus in the dark so the Jewish leaders were in the dark concerning God’s plan of salvation.

The religious leaders looked to works as the way to become right with God – following the law and doing all the prescribed ceremonies and rituals. The problem of course was that no one, not even the religious leaders, could keep the law perfectly. When it came to salvation they were in complete darkness.

So, Jesus shed light on God’s plan of salvation and showed Nicodemus that God’s plan is not centered on the law but on the gospel – God’s love. Jesus directed Nicodemus to his well-studied Scriptures for understanding. Jesus had Nicodemus recall the events of our OT lesson today. The Israelites grumbled against God in unbelief. God sent His judgment in the form of poisonous snakes. For those who repented of their wickedness, God provided forgiveness.

He drew an analogy between the act of Moses lifting up the brass snake in the wilderness and His own saving work for the world. The snake was lifted up on a pole; Jesus was to be lifted up on a cross. Everyone who looked in faith at the snake was healed from the bite of deadly snakes. Everyone who would look to Jesus in faith would be saved from the bite of eternal death and have eternal life.

Salvation is all about love – God’s love for a world trapped in the darkness of sin and death. It’s a darkness that was caused when Adam and Eve fell into sin. It’s a darkness that we are born with. And it is a darkness that we continue to struggle with each day.

Consider where the darkness overshadows the light in your life. We think and say and do inappropriate sinful things. Name a commandment and we’ve broken it. In these sinful bodies we struggle between the darkness of sin and death and the light of the Christ and His salvation daily.

But thanks be to God, that His love is not conditional on us – our thoughts, words, and deeds – for if it were we would be left out in the darkness like the Jewish leaders.

God’s love in Christ Jesus is a purposeful resolve. It doesn’t base its actions on how likable or worthy the object of love is; it acts in the interest of its object. God hated sin, but He loved the world, which was trapped in sin, so He dealt with sin.

God’s love brought results. He offered the ultimate sacrifice for the world He loved. Like the bronze snake was lifted up in the wilderness, so Jesus was lifted up on a cross. Bruised, broken, and bleeding – God gave His one and only Son up to death on the cross – a sacrifice to pardon those He loves.

St. Paul echoes this plan of salvation wonderfully in Ephesians 2: “For it is by grace (God’s undeserved love) you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). The whole thing comes as God’s gift. Its all about love!

And because of that love, Jesus says, “Whoever believes in [the Son] is not condemned” (v.18). We stand covered in Christ’s blood and righteousness, not condemned but innocent! And He brings us into the light of life.

That’s what Jesus says in vs. 21 of our text, “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.” Those who believe in Jesus live in the truth. The light of Christ shines on, in, and through them. Drawn to Jesus, we do works that manifest the presence of God’s love in our lives. We do those good works [of love] God has planned for us.

Christ’s love compels me to .....apologize...confront in love...reconcile....not hold on to a third party healer ...

There are those who are undoubtedly upset at me. There are those who are undoubtedly upset at others. IT OUGHT NOT REMAIN LIKE THAT AMONG THE FAMILY OF FAITH!!! – among those who have been brought into the light by the love of God in Christ Jesus. Christ’s love compels me to do what Jesus says in Matthew 18 and go in love to my brother, sister, friend, pastor, teacher, neighbor who has wronged me and speak the truth in love – to forgive in love – to reconcile in love.

In a way, God has your whole life on videotape. No amount of darkness has escaped the camera lens. But as repentant people of God, clinging to Jesus in faith, we need not fear the segments of sin. We don’t even need to fast forward through them because the cross of Christ and the love of God has edited out our dark deeds forever.

But here’s the question: What will be left on the videotape? What has God’s grace edited into your life? What does He still want to edit into your life? Those are questions that should consume our interest. You see, living by the truth and coming into the light means that we desire to do what God is anxiously, willing, and bountifully enabling us to do. Paul says in our Epistle lesson, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

There is a reason so many people are familiar with the words of John 3:16 and why it epitomizes the season of Lent – Its all about love – God’s love for you and me in a Savior lifted up on a cross for our sin. It tells of a love we long for and need. It tells of a salvation we don’t deserve but receive by grace. This story of God’s love is a story of love that is not only poured out from the cross on us and in us, but also through us. Jesus loves you with all His heart. Live in that love; grow in that love; and serve Him in that love. Amen.

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