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Jesus' Eternal, Unconditional Love

March 16th 2014 by VicarCalvin Kapels

Love is a hard word to define, especially in our world/culture. Jesus defines love by showing His eternal, unconditional love for us and we now share in that same type of love for Him and for one another.

Lent 2-“Jesus’ Eternal, Unconditional Love”-John 3:1-17**-March 16, 2014 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16, perhaps the most memorized verse from the Bible. Maybe even the first Bible verse you memorized. Even people with little Church background often know that 3:16 has some importance to being a Christian. John 3:16 is a summary of the Gospel that we preach week in and week out, and is our hope and joy day in and day out. Yet, when working on a sermon for today, I purposely planned to overlook 3:16. I thought it is too common, most people know that verse and what it means, we have heard that verse over and over again, we have it memorized, it’s written on our coffee cups, we have that verse framed and hanging in our home, people hold signs of 3:16 at ball games, its everywhere. And yet, as much as we hear it, see it, and think about that verse; I think we have lost focus on what love in that verse truly means. This might be the best time of the year for sports, March Madness, College Basketball’s Championship Tournament. People love their teams, they get all dressed up in their school colors, paint their face and hair (glad you got the red and blue paint washed off this morning) , and scream at the top of their lungs to cheer the team they love. And if your team wins, you love them because they have made you happy. But if they lose, then you’re not so happy and it is hard to love that team. Don’t get me wrong, I love sports, I love basketball, I love ice cream, I love my wife, I love my kids, I love a warm spring day, I love Jesus, I love Church, I love this Church, I love, I love, I love….we use “love” so much, it is hard to understand what love means.
In our world/culture, “love” is mostly used as an emotion word. Love is something that makes you feel good, something that makes you happy and in return you love the things that make you happy. If that is our deepest understanding of love, we are doomed to fail. In fact we are born to fail. We are all born sinners, enemies of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh”. Sinful people give birth to sinful people. All people are sinners, our grandparents, our parents, and now you and me; all sinners in the family tree beginning with Adam and Eve who ate of the fruit from the forbidden tree. That first sin led to the fall of creation, it led to our fall and that original sin is what makes us doomed to fail; and that doesn’t seem right so we try to do something about it. Just like Adam and Eve, we make excuses for our sin; the woman gave me the fruit, it’s her fault. The devil tricked me into eating the fruit, it’s his fault. I was born this way; it’s not my fault that I sin. We see these excuses play out in our world/culture. An excuse for homosexuality is that I was born that way, it’s genetics that cause me to “love” and desire someone of the same sex. An excuse for divorce is that “I just fell out of love with that person or God wants me to be happy, doesn’t He?” An excuse for pre-marital sex is that “I love him/ I love her”. An excuse for being stubborn, quick tempered, selfish is, “That’s just the way I am!” We make excuses to justify cheating on tests, “Well I was just too busy to have time to study.” We make excuses to justify lying. “Well I don’t want to hurt someone or make them unhappy so I have to lie.” We make excuses for missing Church, “I’m a good Christian, I know enough, I have John 3:16 memorized. Do I really need to go to Church every week? And if I go to Church every week, do I really need to stay for Bible study? And if I do all that one day a week, do I really need daily devotions at home?”
By making excuses for our sin, we are able to “love” what we do, what makes us happy. If love is just an emotion, if our only understanding of love is something that makes me happy, then we have a shallow understanding of love and an understanding of a love that won’t last. That is a scary thought. Think about the mistrust, the worry, the doubt, the insecurity that only an emotional love creates. If your understanding of love in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world” is that type of emotional love, “love that makes me happy”, love that takes the things of God that make you happy but reject the things of God that don’t make you happy, then you don’t understand the depths and joy that an eternal, unconditional love brings.
Love in this world, love according to our flesh can leave us hurting. There are people who have had relationships broken, where love didn’t last; whether that is dating, marriage, friendships, working relationships, someone or something we “love” has left us, let us down, hurt us. You cannot find lasting hope and joy in a love based on our flesh, on our own desires and happiness. Love isn’t just about happiness. Happiness comes and goes, it’s an emotion based on your own desires. Eternal, unconditional love is the type of love that brings joy in your heart; joy that gives lasting hope, joy that is eternal.
Think about the love Jesus has for you, think about His Passion journey; His love is more than an emotion, more than just being happy. Is Jesus happy that He suffered and died for you? Do you think Jesus, who is true God, who was in the beginning before all time, was happy to humble Himself to become true man to come down here to be born in a manger? Do you think He was happy as He was fasting in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights? Do you think He was happy being rejected time and time again as He preached about the Kingdom of God? Do you think that He was happy that His friends, His disciples were struggling to realize who He is and what He must do? Do you think He was happy when one of His friends betrayed Him? Do you think He was happy as He was being whipped, mocked, and spit on? Do you think that He was happy as nails were driven through His hands and feet and a crown of thorns were placed on His head? Do you think He was happy as all of the sins, all of our sins; past, present, and future, were placed on Him? The answer is no! That type of suffering wouldn’t make anyone happy. Jesus’ love for us was deeper than happiness. Jesus went through all that because He loves you; in John 3:16 that word “love” has nothing to do with a self-satisfying happiness. It is a love that is completely selfless a love with a deep passion and commitment to you. Jesus’ love is an eternal, unconditional love. He is going to love us even when we don’t love Him back, even when we mess up and sin, even when we don’t make Him happy; He is going to love us. He has already seen the worst, the ugly side of each one of us here. There is nothing that we are hiding from Jesus that He doesn’t already know about and yet He still loves us. He loves us so much that He is working in our hearts to come to Him and repent of our sins so that He can forgive us and strength to live a new life by the power of His Spirit.
Our hope our joy is that God loves us so deeply, that He loves us so much, that He came to us. Jesus suffered and died and rose again for you and me because only He could save us. Jesus humbled Himself, endured temptations, rejection, betrayal, Jesus endured being beaten and mocked, Jesus was crucified because He loves you with an eternal, unconditional love. Nothing can stop His love for you. And because of that love He accepts completely unlovable sinners like you and me. In His love He makes us His dear children-we belong to Him. And now, because we are His, He has placed that same eternal, unconditional love in our hearts. Not only has God given us His Son, He has given us the Holy Spirit to sustain and share that love.
“That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” We are born into a new life, into an eternal, unconditional love that is our sustaining hope and joy. We are born of the Spirit in baptism where God declares us His own, we are strengthened in the Spirit when we read and hear God’s Word proclaimed.
Through baptism, through God’s Word; our faith and trust in God is growing into a deeper love; an eternal, unconditional love for God and for each other. Eternal, unconditional love is what is needed in this world. We, who know what eternal, unconditional love looks like because of our Lord and Savior Jesus first loving us, can confidently show that love to others through the fruit/the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

So that eternal, unconditional love that the Holy Spirit works in us can be shown to others as we love and are patient with that classmate or co-worker of ours that always seems to try and bring you down. Eternal, unconditional of love is seen in the self-control that we have when it comes to not being quick tempered or stubborn, not giving in the excuses of the flesh, but living in the gifts of the Spirit. Eternal, unconditional love is seen in asking for and forgiving someone so that peace is restored in the relationship. Eternal, unconditional love is seen in the kindness and goodness of giving to the needy, of feeding the hungry without expecting anything in return. Eternal, unconditional love can always be seen and felt; in the good times and in the bad.
Eternal, unconditional love says I see that you are struggling in life/ with sin. I see you are hurting. I see the worst side of you. But, I am not going anywhere, I love you! God so loved the world and saw that it, that we had fallen; that we sin, that we suffer. He saw that we need a Savior. So He sent His Son. That whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus says, “I’ve seen you at your worst. I know at times there is suffering and sadness. I know your sin and struggles. But, there is joy; I love you with an everlasting love. That is our hope and joy-God’s eternal, unconditional love for you and me in Jesus and the life we live now and eternally through Jesus. Amen.

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