This is our final sermon in our series "Things God Can't Do." Hope you have enjoyed the series. We started out with God Can't Break a Promised. We learned about God has to keep his word. Then we talked about God Can't Fail. Nothing's too hard for God. We had God Can't Abandon You. He will always be by your side. Last week we had, God Can't Remember the Sins He Has Chosen to Forget - the worst title ever. God is anxious to forgive and intentionally forget your sins, and today we wrap up with God Can't Stop Loving You.
God can't stop loving you; love is important. The number one song in August 1967, was by the Beatles. Anybody want to guess what it was? All You Need Is Love, right? Any Beatle fan would get that eventually - remember that song? When I checked on Amazon for books with the word love in the title, I got 297,000 almost 300,000 books with the word love in the title. If I type "love" into Google, I got 8.3 billion hits. I didn't check them all out. Love is important to us. We spend a lot of our time talking about love, dealing with love, wondering how we get love and it just goes on and on and on. And we kind of messed it up.
You look at our media today. We see that we have equated sex and lust with the word love and that has altered what we understand about love and that has dramatically affected our relationships with each other, with our parents, with our spouses, with our children and it has affected our relationship with God, too. We don't understand love very well and when we say God loves you, or God is love, we all say yeah, I've heard that before and it kind of like water on a duck's back. It is just often gone and we kind of don't know what to do with it. And sometimes we misuse love a little bit, because some of us might be tempted to kind of be here on one side and kind of be like the spoiled child which says God loves me, I can do whatever I want, it's not gonna matter, right. And others of us are way over on the other side and we say, God could never love me. I was the bad kid. And it is hard for us to come down somewhere with a balanced view in the middle.
You guys have seen the movie, The Wizard of Oz, right? We have Dorthy, the lion, scarecrow and the tin man and they are going to the Emerald City to see who? The wizard! And they get there and they head down this dimly-lit gothic hallway with billowing green smoke. And then this bodiless head appears and everybody is kind of scared, not just the cowardly lion, but all of them are kind of timid and we hear this head say, I am Oz the great and terrible, who are you? Dorothy attempts a response and the wizard booms, “Silence! The great and powerful Oz knows why you are here, step forward tin man.” And the tin man approaches with great trepidation, only to hear the wizard say, “you dare come to me for a heart, you clinking, clanking, clattering, collection of caliginous junk.” Yes, I had to practice that.
Others are met with the similar greeting. And to the scarecrow he shouts: “You have the effrontery to ask for a brain, you billowing bale of bovine fodder.” And to the cowardly lion Oz shouts: “And you lion...” And the lion faints. And unfortunately, many of us have the same view about God. He's a little bit scary and I don't want to have to be in front of him, because he's the great and terrible.
Now, it's good to have a little bit of appropriate awe for the Almighty, but I don't think we need to be scared of him. I don't think we need to be scared of him, but the scene in the Wizard of Oz kind of represents how we view him. Is that how you view God or do you really believe that God is love? It's a difficult question.
Now trying to talk about God's love in one thirty minute sermon, is a little bit like trying to get a college degree in about a minute. You just can't do it; you just can't do it. So I saw this quote by A.W. Tozer who has forgotten more about God that I probably will ever know and this is what he said. He said: "I can no more do justice to this awesome and wonderful topic than a child can grasp a star. Still by reaching towards the star, a child may call attention to it and even indicate the direction one must look to see it. And so I stretch my heart toward the high, shining love of God so that we might be encouraged to look up and have hope."
I can't tell you everything about God's love this morning, but we're gonna take a minute and look at a few things, so take out your sermon notes. We've got a lot of stuff in there again, because I want you to be able to share this with your friends and we want to talk about this. I also want you to open your bibles to 1 John. We're gonna go to a lot of text today, but we want to keep our bibles open to 1 John. We're gonna look at a couple of different ones in there this morning. The first one is 1 John 3, so you can get to that and while you're doing that, let's look at point number one.
Point number one is, God's love is personal and universal. Everybody got their bibles open to 1 John 3? 1208 in the pew bible, way towards the back - 1 John 3:1. Let's read this together: See what great love the father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God and that is what we are. When you are a child and your parents love you, do you know it? Yes! Is there any doubt? When you're a kid and you go home, you wonder, does mom love me today? If your parents love you, you know it. It's personal, you have felt it. You understand it. You don't worry about it at night. Now, I realize there are some kids who have grown up in less than desirable homes, but if you've got good parents that have put some love on you, you know it. There is no doubt. God's love is the motive behind creation, that's why he created us.
Psalm 119:64 says: The earth, oh Lord, is full of your steadfast love. The Psalmist saw God's love in the meadows, in the forests, in the birds and he understood that God created out of love. That is the universal law. God created you and me and everyone here because he loves us. It's just that simple. People say why am I here? What is the meaning of the universe? You are here because God loves you. There is a very simple answer to that question. That means, every person is important to God and that is very difficult to deal with, because that means we are all important and that's cool because we like each other. We all look pretty good. We all say hi to each other. Sometimes you get a hug or a kiss or handshake, pat on the back and it's easy to like each other, but what about the people you don't like? What about that person at work that's just a pain in the neck? What about that neighbor with that dog that barks all night long? Those are the easy ones, because that means rapists are important to God. Mass murders are important to God. Thieves are important to God and that's really difficult for us to deal with sometimes.
God loves everybody. We're all important. Look at what Luke 12 says: Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows. Now I know some of us, it's easier to count the hairs on our head than others, but the point is that God cares about us. By the way, how many of you have seen the movie Brave or heard about the movie Brave? It's in the theaters right now - a little girl. Do you know how many hairs are on head? One hundred and eleven thousand, seven hundred and seventy-eight. When you have a computer modeling, you know exactly how many hairs are on her head, but for the rest of us it's a chore to count all those hairs. It's a chore to count all those hairs, but God's message remains the same. He loves you so much, he knows everything about you.
John 10:14, 15 says: I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me. Just as the father knows me and I know the father and I lay down my life for the sheep. Here in modern America, we lose so much about this illustration, because who here has ever seen a sheep live and in person? How many of you have ever seen a flock of sheep in the field? More than I suspected. See, there are some things we need to know about sheep.
1) We've talked about this before. Sheep are dumb and when God says you're like the sheep, that may not be the best compliment you've ever gotten. Sheep are so dumb, when you take them to the meadow to eat, the shepherd has to go through the meadow and pull out all the weeds that might harm the sheep because they will eat them. Most creatures won't eat something that's harmful to them, not sheep. If it's there, they’ll eat it. Sheep won't drink from moving water, so you've got to find still water for them to drink from. They are helpless. They can't defend themselves from anything and so it takes a lot of work to care for these helpless creatures. It's a fulltime job, 24/7. You can't go to sleep at night, because the sheep will wonder off.
2) It says that he knows us by name. Now in the parable where the shepherd loses a sheep, he knows that he is supposed to have 100, he looks at 99 and he knows that one is missing, but God says, I am the good shepherd and I know them by name. Having worked on a farm where we had 300 cows, we did not know all the cows by name. They had name tags on their ears and we didn't know all of them by name. You knew some of them by name. You knew the friendly cow, you knew the mean cow, but all those cows in the middle, they all kind of looked the same, they all kind of acted the same, but God says, I know them by name and when one is missing, it's not just that one is missing, I know the one named Armando or Pete is missing. I know the one named Suzie or Maria is missing. I have no idea what you name sheep, but whatever. God knows their names and he knows when one is missing.
3) The third thing that we learn from this text is that he gives his life for us. Now most shepherds did not give their life for the sheep. If you were a shepherd, that was one of the lowest jobs in society you could have. That was bottom of the rung and you don't give your life for the bottom rung job. That's just not what you do and so if wolves came and attacked, or bear came and attacked, you might try and defend the sheep, but if things got too wild and crazy, guess what? You look for numero uno and you go hightail it out of there and save yourself and oh well, too bad for the sheep. They're dumb any way, but God says, I give my life the sheep, not a sheep, not just a certain one, but the sheep all of the sheep. Everyone is included. It's a universal law.
Now this is good stuff. You have friends and family who need to hear this, because they don't know. We've heard it so many times, it just seems like it's old news but there people in the world that do not know this. Let me give you an example. In 1989, ninety-six fans were crushed to death at a football field, what we would call soccer stadium, in Sheffield, England and another two hundred were injured. At one of the hospitals where the victims were taken, the surgeon read the names of those killed and expressed his sympathy. He said he believed that God understood the parents' grief and was with them in their time of need. And one father bitterly responded, what does God know about losing a son? People do not know. God knows what it's like to lose a son. Furthermore, God knows what's like to lose a son and have it be our fault. God knows what it's like to lose a son and have it be our fault and still love us. That's pretty amazing news and you have friends who need to hear that news.
2. God's love is unconditional; God's love is unconditional. If you've still got your bibles opened to 1 John 4:7-11. It's kind of small up there but it's in your sermon notes. Hopefully you've got your bible opened. Let's look at this together. It says: Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from where? God! Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God and whoever love does not know God because, why? God is love. This is how God shows his love among us. He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him. This is love. Not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. What do you learn from this text? God is love. Whom does God love? Us! And what should we do about it? Love one another. People say the gospel is hard. Seems pretty straightforward. The hard part is loving all those people who are kind of unlovable, right? That's the hard part. God loves us, God cares for us. God well never hold back his love for you because his nature is love and he can't do that. The only thing God will do is stop talking to you about it. You say God I've had enough, I just don't want anything to do with you. God says, all right and he pulls back. He still loves you; he still cares about you; in fact he cares about you so much that if you don't want him to bother you, he won't bother you, but he still loves you. There's no way you can make him stop loving you.
There was a Baptist pastor during the American Revolutionary War, his name was Peter Miller. He lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania and he enjoyed the friendship of George Washington. In Ephrata also lived a man name Michael Wittman. He was an evil-minded sort who did everything he could do to oppose and humiliate the pastor. During the war, Michael Wittman was accused of being a traitor and was captured and at his trial it was proven that he had given the British invaluable assistance on numerous occasions, not just once. He was found guilty of spying and sentenced to hang to death. On the evening before his execution, an old man with white hair asked to see Washington, giving his name as Peter Miller. He was ushered in without delay, for Miller had done many favors for the army. Now he had a favor to ask of Washington. He says I have to come to ask for the pardon of Michael Wittman. Washington was taken aback. Impossible! Wittman has done all in his power to betray us, even offering to join the British and help destroy us. He shook his head and said, in these times we cannot be lenient on traitors and for that reason, I cannot pardon your friend.
Friend?! He is no friend of mine. He is my bitterest enemy. He has persecuted me for years. He has even beaten me and spit in my face, knowing full well that I would not strike back. Michael Wittman is not a friend of mine.
Washington was puzzled. Then why do you want me to pardon him?
I do want you to pardon him and I ask it of you as a great personal favor.
But why? I ask it because Jesus did as much for me.
Washington went into the other room, came back in a moment with a paper on which was written a pardon for Michael Wittman. My dear friend, he said, placing the paper in the old man's hands, I thank you for this example of Christian charity.
We are supposed to love one another even the people who love us. That's hard; that is hard, but that's what we have been called to do. And that day Pastor Peter Miller took Michael Wittman home. Not as an enemy, but as a friend. I searched on the Internet and I couldn't find what happened to them after that story. I hope they were friends. I want a happy ending at the end. Linda won't watch the movie with me if it doesn't have a happy ending at the end. So we need a happy ending at the end.
Is there anyone at your job, or your school, or your neighborhood, or maybe even your family that is difficult to love? The bible is clear. We are called to unconditionally love and that's hard sometimes, but that is what we are asked to do.
There is another text that we have heard before and this comes from Romans 5 and it says: You see at just the right time when we were still powerless Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die, but God demonstrates his own love for us in this. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. When did God love us? When we were sinners. When we were opposed to him. When we were on the other side. If you are a basketball fan, this week has been a busy week. People trading and guys moving from one team to another. And you know that when certain players are on that other team, you hate that guy, you can't stand that guy, but if he gets traded to your team, what happens? I'm so glad we got that guy. God loved us when we were still on the enemy's team. We were on the other side. We didn't have to do anything. We didn't have to join his team. We didn't have to sign up. God loved us before any of that happened. That's good news. That's important news.
3. Last thing this morning. God's love is proven. It's important to have a love that is proven and you know that it's real. We all know John 3:16, right? Let's say it together. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Do you know 1 John 3:16. Open your bibles to 1 John 3:16. It's easy to remember because we all know John 3:16. And then you can find 1 John 3:16. It says: This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. How do we know what love is? We have an example. It was proven for us. Continuing it says: And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him. Dear children let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
It does no good to talk about love if you don't do something about it. There is an old Christian song that says Love is a verb, it's not a noun. It's supposed to have an action. It's supposed to do something with it. I have friends that tell me the gospel story is too crazy to believe. They say, I've read that book and I just can't believe it. And you know what? I understand what they're saying, because when you think about it, at the superficial level that most people look at the story, and you say wait a minute, God almighty in heaven comes to earth; born in a barn; walks around for a couple years; royally ticks off the establishment; they kill him; he rises from the dead and goes back to heaven. I don't believe it. I've heard people say that. Because that story is way out there. Almost every story that you go and see in the movies is more believable than that one. But that story is true. That story is proven. That story makes a difference. God didn't die in vain just because the religious leaders were upset with him. God showed us a better way to do it. He proved his love to us. So what are we supposed to do? Show our love.
Let me give you an example how one guy did that. His name is Fr. Maximilian Kolbe. He was a Polish priest who was arrested by the Nazis in World War II for harboring Jewish refugees and distributing anti-Nazi propaganda. On May 28, 1941, he was transferred to Auschwitz and his calm dedication to the faith, brought him the worst jobs available in the camp and more beatings than anyone else. On one occasion he was beaten so badly, he was left for dead. The prisoners smuggled him into the camp hospital where he spent his time recovering, listening to confessions. When he returned to the camp, Maximilian ministered to other prisoners, including conducting mass and doing communion with smuggled-in bread and wine.
In July 1941, there was an escape from the camp. The Nazis decreed the ten prisoners would be executed for everyone that escaped. One of the people that was chosen to be executed was the father of some young children. His name was Francis, and Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take Francis' place. At first the Nazis tried to starve Fr. Kolbe to death, but that took too long, so they gave him an injection and killed him. Pope John Paul II canonized Maximilian Kolbe as the saint of the Roman Catholic church and a martyr of charity in 1982. And I wonder what did he think when he volunteered to take that young father's place. What I know is, Fr. Kolbe understood, he understood what God's love was. It had been proven in his own life and he proved it in his life and I hope none of us are ever in a situation like that.
But we are called to be demonstrators of God's love. We have received God's love and therefore we have to give God's love. It's not just something you can continually take and harbor. You've got to let it flow out as well. Fr. Kolbe understood that, for where God is, love is and if God dwells in us, love dwells in us.