Charles Stanley - The Love Of God
You know, Jesus talked to a lot of people in His life, all different kinds of people and all types of people. And one night He had a visitor. And this visitor said about Him, "We know that you're a man come from God. For no man can do these works that You do except God be with Him". So He complimented Jesus, starts the conversation, and Jesus immediately said, "Except a man be born again, He cannot see the kingdom of God". And that began the conversation of Jesus explaining to Nicodemus what the new birth was about; what salvation was about, though he was a very highly educated and respected Jewish Rabbi. And so they kept talking and I'm sure that everything that was said, it's not recorded in the Scripture, but certainly enough of it is.
And so, when He comes down to this part, He reminds him of the nation of Israel disobeying God and they were in the wilderness all bitten by snakes and all kind of things happening. And so God told Moses, He said, You make a serpent, brass serpent. Put it up on top of a pole so it can be seen by everybody. And then if people will look and believe for God's healing and saving from these serpents, I'll save them. So he did and that is what happened. So he said after that, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;" now He's talking to a Jewish Rabbi who doesn't understand all this. And then Jesus gave us this memorable verse, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.
And then He continued with these verses. He said, "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only, Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come in to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices," listen, "he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested, and having been wrought in God".
If you'll think about it, in all this entire Bible, the most memorable verse in here, Jesus spoke to a Jewish Rabbi. Let's say it together, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life". And if you'll think about it, if you had only one verse to give someone to lead them to Christ, that one verse, and think about there are sixty-six books in the Bible; thousands of verses; multitudes of sayings of Jesus, the Apostle Paul and the apostles. And you can boil it down to one verse and there it is, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life". Period. That's enough. That's enough to save all the six and a half billion people in the world. And Jesus gave it to one Jewish Rabbi one night over two thousand years ago. But it's one thing to be able to quote it.
The question is, Do you understand what it means? So I want to answer that question by answering five questions. And the first of all, Who is this God? He said, For God so loved the world. Now there are many gods out there. All the different religions have different gods. But it's interesting that as you listen to people talk about their god, there are so many things that are absent. What does God say to them? How does God feel? Does God have a will? And you and I could ask lots and lots of questions about those gods and the answer is no, because there is only one true God. His name is Jehovah. He's the God found in the first verse of the Bible, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth".
So that the first mention of God in the Bible, God is active. He's doing something. And the Bible doesn't just say, In the beginning God, period. In the beginning, God is creating the world. He's starting humanity. He's starting life and He's starting it here on earth. You and I serve the only true God. And so when the Bible says, "For God so loved the world," who's loving the world? Not somebody created by man, but the God who created all of this; who is behind it all; who's in the middle of it all; and who'll bring it all to climax. You and I serve the eternal living God. And this book is an expression of God. It's an expression of His love, His goodness, His mercy, His judgment, His kindness, His condemnation, His discipline. Here is the living Word of the living God. And how grateful we ought to be to be able to say, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son".
And so what He does, He takes him all the way down in his Hebrew knowledge till He comes to that sixteenth verse. And then He gives us the most memorable verse ever given among men. And think about it. If you only know one verse, whoever you're talking to; you could be talking to somebody from China, from Japan, Iran, South America, all these, anywhere, one verse is sufficient. What god, what god has a message in one verse that can change their eternity? Only the God of the Bible. So he says, "For God so loved the world".
Now, I want us to look at the character of this love, because what kind of love is this? Well, I want us to contrast human love and divine love. Human love is an intense affection for another person, based on feelings and emotions that can change from one moment to the next. It's conditional. That's the thing that gets us in trouble. Do you love me conditionally or unconditionally? What do I have to do to get you to love me? And if a man has to ask a woman that or vice versa, there's something wrong. What do I have to do to get you to love me? And the truth is, God's love's not that-a-way at all.
So, what about God's love? God's love is pure. It's just pure love. It's lasting and unconditional, not based on what we do or not do. It's eternal. It has always existed, And the best example of that is the Prodigal Son. He left home with everything going his way. He had everything. He walked away and spent his life, ending up in a hog pen and wasting away, not only his money but his life. When he decided he couldn't handle any more of that, and remembered that he had a loving father back home, he starts back up the road. And before he can get to home, the father, whom he's rejected, running, running toward him; throwing his arms around him and hugging him and loving him. And listen, he didn't just start loving him, he never stopped. And here's the most beautiful example of unconditional love. We don't love God to get Him to do anything. We receive unconditional love; unconditional love means there are no conditions, no conditions.
You say, Well, now there's got to be some condition. I'm coming to that. There are no conditions. The love of God, the love of God, plays the biggest part here. In order to still be the truthful God that He is, somehow in some way He had to pay the price for your sin; or you'd have had to pay the price for it. So here's what He did. He brought into this world His Son, born of a virgin because He was God in the flesh. And Jesus grew up, not just to be a teacher; He grew up for the purpose of dying; and for the purpose of dying as a sacrifice. Dying as a substitute, a substitute for you and me.
So that when you and I come to Him asking Him to forgive us of our sins, He has the right to do so. Why is that? Didn't He say, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die"? Yes. Then how can He forgive me? Here's the reason. Because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into this world for the primary purpose of dying on the cross, listen to this, as our substitute to atone for, to pay the price for our sins. His death was a sacrifice, an atoning death, so that God can look upon us as sinners; and when we ask Him to forgive us of our sin, He can forgive us and still be true to Himself because He has already paid the penalty for your sin.
When you trusted Him as your personal savior, what happened? His atoning death atoned for your sin and made it possible for God to be the just, righteous God that He is, and at the same time forgive you of your sin. We are totally, absolutely dependent upon the death of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Listen, you can't match that. Jesus Christ, the born, listen, the virgin born Son of God, came into this world for the purpose of living and dying as a substitute for your sins and mine. He paid the price. And so when we talk about what the Bible means, "so loved," that's the character of God's love. It was sacrificial love, not human love, not conditional love, but sacrificial love.
And so this is the reason, listen to me carefully. When I think about the millions and millions and millions of people who go to a priest, or some religious authority and confess their sins and walk away and think they're forgiven, No! No, no, no, no, no! You can't find a single verse in the Bible that says I or anyone else can forgive your sin. I may forgive you for mistreating me or whatever, but your sin is against God. And for you to be forgiven, God must forgive you. And for God to forgive you, His Son must have had to die. And He died with you and me in mind. That's the sacrificial, all-sufficient, atoning death of Jesus Christ. That's the character of the love of John three sixteen. That's why it's so precious.
Then I think about also the object of His love. What did he mean when he said, "For God so loved the world"? Let me tell you what that does not mean. That does not mean that God loved the trees and the bees and the mountains and the oceans and this and that, in other words, He created all that. That's not what He's talking about. For God so loved the world, listen, that encompasses every single person who has ever been born; every single person who will be born until the day and moment Jesus Christ comes again, His love has covered all that.
You say, Well I must be in good shape. No, no, no, no, no. The fact that He loves you is His indication of His attitude toward you. Loving you does not mean that God overlooks sin. And I'll tell you why. He could not be God, watch this carefully, God couldn't be the God who loves you as we've just talked about. He couldn't be a God who loves you if He overlooked your sin. He loves you, but in order to have a relationship with Him, you must trust His Son as your personal savior. The fact that He loves you is this way. He wants it to be this way, that you respond to that love by giving yourself to Him.
So, when we think about the object of His love, it's pretty evident that it's the fact that God is loving us as persons. And when I think about, all that is said in that verse, over and over and over again. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son". Here's a gift, the gift of all gifts. He didn't just give us something. Jesus came Himself, listen, this was God in the flesh who came to give Himself for you and for me. There is no greater gift. The only begotten Son of God. The only begotten Son. And He lives within the heart of every single believer. He is God's gift to us. So when we read that verse, "For God," the only true God, "so loved the world," wow, what a love, "He gave," that is, "He gave His only begotten Son," and listen to what he says, "that whosoever believes in Him," he didn't just give Him, but who believes in Him.
Now belief in the New Testament isn't just hand you something. Belief in the New Testament encompasses more than that. To believe in Jesus is to believe the fact of who He is, the Son of God, and as a result of that, acknowledging your sinfulness and surrendering yourself to Him. Whosoever, listen, whosoever believes in Him. Not intellectual belief, oh, I believe in Jesus. I've had people tell me that all my life. Oh I believe in Jesus. No, you believe about Him. You don't believe in Him. If you believed in Him, you'd surrender your life to Him. So to believe in Jesus is to acknowledge your sinfulness, your need of Him and to surrender your life to Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, the only savior. The only One who's gone to the cross and paid your sin debt in full. And the only One who's been resurrected to prove everything God said is true. There's no God like that.
So the question is, He said whoever believes in Him would not perish. Whoever believes in Him would not perish. There's no greater love than that. So we come to the purpose of God's love. Look at this, "For God so loved the world," that included you, "He gave His only begotten Son," to you, that's Jesus, "that whosoever believes in Him," recognizes who He is, the Son of God; surrenders your life to Him, you will, "not perish, but have eternal life". So watch this, you don't have but two choices. Now listen to me carefully. You may be one of those persons who's close to death. I don't know. I meet people all the time who say, My mother, my grandfather, my mother, my father, they used to watch you all the time and they were watching the day they died, the month before, whatever it might be. Whosoever believes in Him, watch this, "Shall not perish," but you will if you don't know Him, "but have eternal life".
Now it's real easy to say, I believe in God. When you're on a deathbed and they've got tubes hanging out of you; you're breathing by oxygen they give you; and your time's running out, let me ask you a question. What are you going to depend on? Which way are you going? You're going one of two ways. Everlasting life or to perish. Now, somebody says, Well I believe I'll just turn to nothing. No you won't. It means by perishing, you're going to be eternally separated from God. But look at all that I've given and look at all that I've done. No, no, no, no, no. Money and good deeds didn't get you saved or won't get you saved. There's only one thing gets you saved, and that's the cross of Jesus Christ. When He died on the cross, that made it possible.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say, If you do the following things, you'll be saved. "Not by works of righteousness, which we've done, but according to His mercy, He saved us". Therefore, when you die, you're going to one of two places. You're going to heaven or you're going to hell. You say, Well, I don't believe in hell. Jesus didn't argue that. He just stated the fact. You're either going to perish. You say, Well I just believe I'll just become nothing. No you're not. God created you to live forever one of two places. Heaven, eternal life means life with no end. And all of us who've trusted Jesus Christ as our savior, our name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. And when we die, we don't have to worry. You know why? Because we're really not going to die. We're going to stop breathing and start living. That's what's going to happen to us.
Now, you see, I didn't say that, Jesus said it. Listen, Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life". Jesus came to give mankind eternal life. He gave it then; He gives it now; and you can have the gift of eternal life by simply asking Him on the basis, that is, understanding on the basis. You say, Well, did you understand that when you got saved at twelve? No I didn't. I didn't understand all that. But this I do remember. I remember when the lady quit preaching, I felt conviction. If you'd have said, Well, explain all that. At twelve years old, I couldn't explain that. I just knew that I needed to be saved from my sins. And according to what she said, if I would ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins and receive Him as my savior, I'd be saved. And that's exactly what I did, on my knees among five of my Sunday School friends, who were around me praying for me to get saved.
And I've never questioned it since. And you know what? I've never thought about anything in my life except preaching the gospel. And I got saved at twelve and I didn't decide, Well, what am I going to do? God just sealed my heart for Himself. When you trust Jesus Christ as your personal savior, you are sealed, watch this. The Bible says by the Holy Spirit, how long? "Until the day of redemption". You can't be lost. You've got to break the power of God, the Holy Spirit, to be lost. Sealed unto the day of redemption as a child of God. So you have two choices. You can either die and perish, forever be separated from God, how foolish. Or you can die and start living eternal life. Which would you do?