Familiarity to a Bible verse can breed negligence.
We’ve see it on Tim Tebow’s eyepaint and memorized it in VBS when we were four years old. But we should not approach John 3:16 lightly, as Spurgeon said, “like children, playing marbles with God’s diamonds.”
“For God so loved….”
We can never get over that truth. We can never get past it and on to deeper matters.
There is still an untouched uncharted ocean that dwells within John 3:16. This love that God loves with is an “agapao” love, or the most emphatic form of love. It’s not just that God loved the world, it is that he intensely loved the world. And the force of the word is coupled with way he loved (so loved), literally meaning,
“God intensely loved the world in this way….”
God is not your distant deadbeat dad. God is a God who loves. That means He feels. He knows devotion. He knows affection. He knows heartache. He has emotions.
Stop reading, turn the computer off, and let that settle down into your soul deeps.
The transcendent One is an emotional being. Human emotional makeup is so twisted with jealousy and prone to instability. But we have emotions only because our gracious Originator had them first. And it is He who has granted them to us.
Unlike us, the Father is neither stoic nor unstable with His emotions. God’s emotions are perfect. His love is a perfect love (1 John 4:18). His jealousy is a perfect jealousy (Exodus 34:14). When He loves, He does it with precise intensity and purpose. He’s not a distant watchmaker or security guard with mace spray. He doesn’t dwell in a cloud of unknowing.
He burns with perfect passion.
He delights to love;
He delights to manifest this love to the world.
“For God so loved the world…”
This love was meant for the world. Not for Jews only, or Americans only, or the Reformed only.
The redneck dude that cut you off in traffic and showed you his tall finger.
The online bully chick who is spreading nasty Facebook rumors about your sex life.
The Pharisee. The prostitute. Republican. Democrat. Even the Independent. Rich. Poor. Catholic. Atheist. There is no distinction in the kingdom of free grace. Divisive human categories be damned.
We’re all in this great cosmic mass of fallen humanity together.
“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son….”
This is a love grounded in action. For an infinitely less significant analogy imagine this: You are a powerful King and you beckon your only son and heir of your throne for a mission. You tell him:
“There is something I want you to do for me: I have some enemies who want to wipe us from the earth and murder our family name. Now, I want you to go and die in their place, so that they can have eternal life and inherit my whole kingdom.”
That’s what the Father and Son did at the cross; and incalculably more than that times a billion billions.
This is a face melting, soul rocking, mind exploding divine arrangement.
My sons would stay home safely in my arms forever before I would ever imagine sending them to die for a thousand martyrs or missionaries. But the Father’s love was too great. God sends his son to die not for the nice and clean, but the vile and dirty. His love is altogether not like any we have experienced. There is no category for this love in the shallow human realm of categorizing.
God’s love is grounded in a decisive sacrificial act, not just a thoughtful feeling or obligatory side hug.
God the Father looked at his perfect, precious Son in one hand, and the snarling mass of wretched humanity in the other, and he literally crushed the blessed Son with a holy hand meant for us (Isaiah 53:10). This was the blessed eternally begotten Son, ripped from the bosom of the Father to endure an agonizing hell for mankind.
The ugliest most beautiful sight in the universe.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
All the flimsy little preconceived groups we place people in are futile in eternity. It may be red state/blue state, black/white, rich/poor, or any other temporary niche. But there are essentially only two enduring groups: Those who will perish without the Son or those who will live with Him. Those who acquire God’s deserving justice or those who acquire God’s undeserving mercy.
In one thousand years nothing else will matter above that.
We are not left to our own devices. God graciously provides a means for us to accomplish His eternally good end. The God who loves and gave lavishly out of that love says, “Believe in Me. Trust in me. Put your faith in Me.”
There is much that the word “believe” entails. It is a type of believing that perseveres for Christ. It is a type of trusting that exalts with joy in Christ. It is a type of faith that knows the dead heart can only be raised with the power in Christ. And part of that believing is a repenting before Christ.
Maybe repentance is the gift we really need this Valentine’s Day. Whether we’re married, dating or single:
Repent for chasing lesser lovers because I believe Christ is not sufficient for all my needs.
Repent for allowing a fallen culture to tell me singleness is the same as aloneness.
Repent for my part in contributing to the commercialization and plundering of the word “love” in society.
Repent for believing God’s love is a reflection of human love and not the other way around.
Repent because the love of God set forth in John 3:16 has been memorized by me, but has not yet been fully realized in me.
The Gift Of Ugly Love
The best gift we can get this Valentine’s Day is not sex, roses, cheap chocolate and steak dinners. The world says love looks like a suave young couple dressed to the hilt, holding hands, giggling, and exchanging flirtatious glances with one another over candlelight.
God says love looks like a single Jewish man, stripped and forsaken, beaten like a rented redheaded step mule, and scorned by all, even his own Father (Isaiah 53:10-11). Do we desire the pretty former love over the ugly latter? May God grant us the gift of repentance if we do (2 Timothy 2:25).
And may we again return to the precious stones of our childhood, where the lost can become found all over again; And where the beauty of ugly love is the most precious priceless diamond we can receive.
What’s a way you can share this gift to others this Valentine’s Day?
PS. I’ve violated one of my main blogging rules with the daunting length, forgive me, as I believe the topic is worth it.