“Love From Above “ Lent 2 Feb.

17, 2008 John 3:16

“God loved the world in this way—He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” A few days ago we celebrated St. Valentine’s Day—at least the commercialized version of it. But do you know the story of how this came to be? If you listen to Trevor and George in the morning you do— George told the story on Thursday. It goes like this; During the Roman Empire one of the emperors discovered that soldiers didn’t fight as well if they were married. So he outlawed marriage for soldiers. Valentine, who was a bishop in the church, didn’t agree with this, and so he would secretly perform weddings for lovers. The emperor caught wind of this, and had Valentine thrown in prison. While waiting to be executed, Valentine purportedly healed the blind daughter of one of his jailers. After the healing, and just prior to his execution, Valentine sent a letter to her, encouraging her in faith in Christ. And he signed it—from Your Valentine. Though Valentines day has come to be celebrated in a very worldly way, the origin is very Godly. For St. Valentine gave his life for the sake of love—not love from below, but LOVE FROM ABOVE. We are familiar with the love of the world. We know that it is imperfect, temporary, and painful. We know the pain that comes from being parted from a loved one, either temporarily or permanently.

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We know the agony of putting SO very much into loving others—oftentimes with little or no appreciation. We know the suffering that results in good love gone bad—perhaps ending in divorce or some other heartache. But this kind of love—the love we are most familiar with—is not love from above—it is love from below. It is worldly love. It is not the love of God, but the love of man. It is not pure and holy love, it is love tainted with sin. It is not selfless love, but selfish love. It is not giving love, it is getting love. It is the kind of love that is focused on temporal things, not eternal truths. And therefore, it is not really love at all—it is another four-letter word beginning with the letter “L”—Lust. The lust of the world is based on the temporary desire we have to fill the empty void that we have within. God’s Word speaks of the love of the world, and calls Christians out and away from it. 1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything I the world—the cravings of the sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father, but from the world.” Do you want to know if you love the world? It’s easy. Think of the first and greatest commandment: “Thou shall love the Lord your God and serve Him only.” Now Think of anything that you love more than God. Think of anything you want to have more than heaven.

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Think of anywhere you want more than His kingdom. Jesus said, “Seek First the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” But God goes a step further. Not only does He say that Christians are not to love the world, but that when we love Him more than the world, the world will in turn hate us. John 15:18ff. If you are not hated by the world, in some form, then perhaps you don’t love God. Sounds harsh, doesn’t it—but don’t shoot the messenger; Cuz this is Jesus talking! We don’t hear pastors talking like this very often. You know why? Because we want people to love us. Funny how even in the church we measure success by worldly standards—by how popular the pastor is, how many great projects and programs he has his people pursuing. And yet, we don’t see that with Jesus. The world hated Jesus. The love from below can’t tolerate the love from above—and that is why it can’t tolerate you—or the One who loves you, Jesus Christ. But Jesus Christ IS the love of God in the flesh; and Jesus Christ SHOWS the love of God to all flesh. It took God in the flesh to do so, because the love of God is SO wonderful and SO different from worldly love, that human beings couldn’t have understood it otherwise. In fact, the love of God is SO unique that it even has it’s own word—a word that you may have heard before—agape. John 3:16 places emphasis on this word by placing it before the words for God, or only begotten, or believing. Agape is the word used for the pure, holy, divine love of God. C.S. Lewis calls it “Gift Love.” I like that—the love of man is “Get Love”—the love of God is “Givt Love”. We love—or lust after-- what is attractive and desirable—be it a person or a thing. Something that will “love us back”. But God loves that which is undesirable—that is why we see Jesus calling simple men
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for disciples, hanging around with the sinners and tax collectors, and being crucified between two criminals. And this is why Christians have always made it a priority to serve the poor, sick, and needy. Unlike man, God does not find something loveable, something that will love Him back, and then show His love to is. Rather He generates love in and for that which He delights. We see this in the creation of Adam and Eve—We see this in the regeneration of Holy baptism. Many Christians believe that baptism is an expression of our love for God. They’ve got it backwards—baptism is first and foremost an expression of God’s love for us, in and through which He gives us life. That’s why Jesus compares it here in John chapter 3 to New birth. Giving birth is perhaps the closest example we have this side of eternity to the pure, giving love from Above. But just as the birth of a baby is a tremendously painful experience, so too it was painful for God to love us—The love of God hurts. For God loved the world IN THIS WAY-only son. Jesus—the second person of the Trinity, was sent from heaven. We don’t think of this as hurting—perhaps because we tend to become overly sentimental concerning The incarnation—But it hurt the Father to send His Son away from home. As parents, we know the hurt that comes from seeing our children grow up and leave home. But for some of you who waved goodbye to a son or daughter who was leaving to fight in a war, that pain was almost unbearable. He sent His one and

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That gives us an idea of what it was like for the Father to send His Son from heaven to earth. He was sending His Son for the specific purpose of dying. It is on the cross that God made the ultimate sacrifice in the Name of Love. Love for the Father. Love for the World. Love for you. “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” And this, dear friends, is what distinguishes Christ from all other religious leaders-- and Christianity from all other religions. Yes, there are many other holy men who did and said great things. But none of them made the final, once and for all sacrifice for sin. And yes, there are many religions that require their adherents to make a sacrifice for God. But only in Christianity do we see God Making a sacrifice for us! And yes, there are other religions in which people give their lives for the sake of their religion. But these are examples not of the pure love of God—but of the impure hatred of man. Christ and Christianity are not like this. For in love, God Himself considered others better than Himself. He came, in love, not to take life, but to give it. For we follow the One who wept over Jerusalem and at the death of His friend John. Jesus gave of Himself, willingly allowed Himself to hurt and be hurt for the world—for the sake of love. And one of the great privileges of being a Christian is that we do the same. We pour ourselves out for others, as Christ did, knowing that like Him, we may get nothing in return—we may even get hurt, but that we will love anyway. The nature of Christian love is NOT that we insulate ourselves so that we can never be hurt, but rather that we make ourselves vulnerable—the Gospel gives us that freedom. For ironically,
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it is only in that pain that we can experience the comfort of Christ and full glory of the Gospel. As Lewis says, “The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the dangers and hurts of love is in hell. Listen to what St. John writes in his first epistle: 1 John 4:19-21 But here’s the problem—we often-times put the cart before the horse. Instead of seeing that love for others comes first from being loved by God, we try hard at loving others in the hopes that it will create greater faith and love toward God. I see this principal at work in the church, and in my own life, all the time. We concentrate first and foremost on what we are doing for others—rather than on what God has done for us. In order to give the love of God, we must first receive it. And that is why, dear friends, that it is absolutely essential that we be here, in God’s house, to relish time in His presence, just as we would our beloved, and to receive the gift of His love. We need to hear Him tell us He loves us in His Word. We need to see His love—not only as we look here (altar), but as we look at one another. Yes, dear friends, we NEED to be here in God’s presence on Sunday, and Wednesday, and at every opportunity offered— not to work, not to play, but to pray—to receive His gift of love. To share it with others. There is so much more that I want to say—but you wouldn’t love me very much if I kept going. So let me again remind you of how great the love from above is. The Father has lavished it upon us —and now we are called children of God. Or, in words you have
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heard before, but which never get old or mundane, the words of John 3:16—say it with me. “God loved the world in this way, that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.

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