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God So Loved the World

St. John 3.1-17 (KJV)

Rev. Keith R. Weise

Lent 2, series A
Lutheran Senior Services at Meramec Bluffs  
Ballwin, Missouri

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 

Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.

Invocation In the name of the father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Love makes the world go round.

Love conquers all.

All you need is love.

Over and over pop culture, poets, and regular old people like you and me, proclaim the power and wonder of love.  And love is indeed something we value very much.  We love our families and friends.  We love our favorite food.  We love good books and movies and television shows.  I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  I think it's probably safe to say that we love "love."  So it's not too surprising that Jesus' words about love are some of his most famous and best-known.  Speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus says:

[St. John 3.16 (KJV)]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

2 Here is love greater than all other love.  Certainly our love is genuine, and heart-felt.  But God's love is greater than ours beyond comparison, because his love is love in its purist, divine, heavenly form.  There is no greater love than the love of God. 

3 When we meditate on these words of Christ in our gospel today, we see what true, godly love really looks like.  It is not just emotional, romantic, or sexual love.  True love is not just some feeling inside our hearts or our bellies or our bodies.  No.  True, holy, godly love is characterized by what it does.  God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to be lifted up on the cross for our salvation.  God so loves the world that by his grace he gives everlasting life to those who believe in his only-begotten Son.  God so loves the world that he daily and richly gives us all that we need for this earthly body and life, and all that we need for the everlasting life of the world to come. 

4 Godly love is love that gives.  St. John makes this point very clearly.  He says:

[I John 4.10 (KJV)]

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

After revealing again what God's love for us is like, St. John reminds us to love one another. 

[I John 4.11 (KJV)]

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

Here, through St. John, God is calling us to love each other like He loves the world; like Christ loves usówith love that gives.  So St. Paul, when he writes of love, calls this godly love charity.  He says:

[I Corinthians 13.4-8a, 13 (KJV)]

Charity suffereth long, and is king; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Charity never faileth . . . And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Charity is nothing other than God-like, selfless, giving love.  It is the love which God bestows upon us in Jesus Christ, as he lives and dies for our salvation.  Charity is the love which Christ bestows upon us as he rises from the dead in promise of our own resurrection.  Charity is the love in which God the Father gives us his only-begotten Son to save us from eternal death and grant us everlasting life.  Charity is love that gives.

5 This love is the love which God demands of us.  Christ our Lord says:

[St. John 13.34-35 (KJV)]

A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Christ's commandment is that our love be no less and no different than his divine love.  Christ's command is that our love be a love that not only feels, but also gives.  Christ calls on us to love sacrificially, even to the point of giving up our lives for his sake, and for the sake of those we love in this life.  We are called, as St. Paul says, to love:

[Ephesians 5.25b-27 (KJV)]

even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

6 These words from our Lord and from St. Paul and St. John make it very clear that our love is not quite up to par, when measured against God's love for us.  Our love for God is not as pure and holy and zealous as it ought to be.  And neither is our love for one another charitable enough, generous enough, or sacrificial enough.  Perhaps we listen too much to the culture and the poets, and other regular folks like ourselves and learn our love from them, rather than from the Word of God, and Christ Jesus our Lord.  Perhaps we trust too much the feelings of our hearts or stomachs or impulses of our bodies.  Whatever the case, our love is inadequate and it is sinful.  So today Christ calls on each of us to repent of our sinful love.  Christ says, "Repent of the love in your heart that does not love me best and most.  Repent of the love in your gut that longs for earthly food and worldly possessions over the heavenly banquet and my eternal feast.  Repent of the love in your members that desires union with another over communion with me.

7 Today Christ calls on us to repent and hear these words: Sinners that we are, God still loves us.  And oh, what love he has for us. 

[St. John 3.16 (KJV)]

For God so loved the loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

God loves us so much, that he gave his only-begotten Son to suffer on the cross for our sinful, inadequate love.  God loves us so much, that he gave his only-begotten Son to die unloved, that our love might be redeemed and restored.  God loves us so much, that he gave his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord to die upon the cross to forgive our sinful love, and transform it by his blood into love that is zealous for God, and charitable, generous, and sacrificial for the sake of our neighbor.

8 So we do love like God: but only by his doing.  St. John also reminds us that

[I John 4.19 (KJV)]

We love (God) because he first loved us.

And so it is with our neighbor, as well.  Just as we love God because he first loved us, we love our neighbor, too, because God first loved us.  Surrounded by the love of God, it is good and right that we love so much of life.  Forgiven by Christ our Lord, it is right that we love our God above all else, for his love is the love that grants us forgiveness, redemption, and everlasting life.  Saved by such love, we give thanks today:

[St. John 3.16 (KJV)]

For God so loved the loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.



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