Michael Youssef - Love Gives - Part 2
By now I'm sure you've heard at least 100 times one of the following statements: "Christmas is the season for giving". I'm not gonna ask you to raise your hand. "The magic of Christmas". "Christmas miracles". Not only that, but at Christmastime, we see some of the most amazing transformation takes place in people who might be hard-driving or Scrooge-like, stingy, or don't even think of God and, for some reason around Christmastime, some big transformation takes place in their life. They become generous and thoughtful and warm and fuzzy and even give a little. And so, for a short period of time at least, everybody talks about the spirit of Christmas, right?
And I'm gonna come to that in a minute. What is that spirit of Christmas? But for those of us who know and love Jesus, the spirit of Christmas is 24/7 year-round. Why? Because we know firsthand that God loved, therefore he gave. Because we know firsthand, we have a firsthand experience of that indescribable self-sacrificing love of God because what we were like before Christ came into our life and how we could not even comprehend that anybody could love us like that and that is why Jesus said, "For God so loved the world, that he gave".
Now, whether the rest of the world understand this or not, I know we do. We know that the spirit of Christmas and the why it's called the season of giving and why we talk about the miracle of Christmas to those who know and love Jesus, every day is Christmas Day. Every day we wake up and we go and open, not a box, but a book. Every day we receive a gift. Every day, every waking moment, in fact, we are reminded by the Holy Spirit of the great gift because God so loved that he gave. Every day we are reminded from the Word of God that God's love was not a partial love, and it's not a partial love. God's love is permanently permanent and eternal and everlasting.
See, the irony of Christmas is that often the one whose birthday we celebrate is sort of left out in the cold while we give each other expensive gifts. To compound this irony, the season which supposed to intensify our rejoicing over God's gift of salvation, we find a large number of people become sad, depressed, lonely, despondent, and discouraged. And that's heartbreaking. And the main reason for this is the failure on the part of our secular commercialized culture that raises expectations beyond reality and we don't comprehend what the Creator God has done. In fact, the summary of the entire Bible, the summary of the whole Christian faith, is this: because God loved so much that he gave so much.
It is possible to give without loving. But it is impossible to love without giving. In fact, the more you love, the more you give. Your level of love is a barometer of the level of your sacrifice. And I'm talking about everything. I'm not talking just about giving things. I'm talking about everything. To those of us who are the recipients of that amazing gift of God, the gift of salvation, the amazing mercy and forgiveness of all of our sins, the amazing grace that promised eternal life, there is no option but to give of ourselves in gratitude. We don't pay God back. You can never pay in 20,000 lifetimes. But we give in gratitude and in thanksgiving. His example should be ours, his role model should be ours to emulate, his sacrificial love should be something that we imitate on a daily basis.
But, because of the influence of our secular culture, even among God's people, even the church, the moment you talk about sacrificial giving and people become very defensive. "Uh-oh, he's gonna preach on money. He's gonna preach on giving". Relax, I'm gonna collect your wallets at the end of the service. In all seriousness, giving under compulsion is not part of the Christian life. Giving under compulsion is not part of the Christian life. Why? Because God did not give and does not give under compulsion. And that is why this most familiar text, and it is so familiar that sometimes you see it even in stadiums or bumper stickers or even on some T-shirts. It's become so familiar that it really almost trivializes it, and today I want to take a very serious look at the clearest summary of the Christian faith, the clearest summary of what we are all about and the purpose of Jesus coming to earth.
By the way, you cannot find a statement like this, John 3:16, in any of the other religions. But our God is a loving God. Our God is a giving God. Our God is a sacrificing God. Our God is a condescending God. Our God is the one who reaches down to us in love, and that's what set the Christian faith apart. I wanna break down John 3:16 into three parts, so follow with me please: "Giving is God's nature. Loving is God's essence. Our salvation is God's desire, it's God's longing desire". Giving is God's nature. The Bible says out of pure love, he gave. What did God give? A token of himself? Ten percent of himself? A day out of his busy schedule? A few hours a day? What did God give? A pittance of himself? A gift that he received did did not want so he re-gifted it? A gift of which he had too many so he gave one away?
But listen to me. When God loved, he gave his all. In fact, he had nothing else left to give when he gave Jesus, his Son. When you and I give back to God, we know we can give so much, but probably not more, why? Because we have responsibilities. We have families to take care of. We have the family needs to meet. We have to provide for our daily needs. And so we divide and we measure and we plan. At least, my family's experience in the last 40 years, when we give God off the top, when we give God the first fruit, we found that we got more left over, not less. But when God gave, he gave his one and only begotten Son. Why? Because giving is his nature.
You see, the heart of Christmas, and you know this, it's not ho-ho-ho and Christmas cheers. The heart of Christmas message is that God gave his all. But just in case somebody kind of misunderstand me and think, "Well, Michael is just a Scrooge and he is poo-pooing giving and receiving of gifts," I'm not. There's nothing wrong with giving and receiving gifts. I love it, wonderful. As long as we don't receive the person whose birthday we are celebrating. Don't leave him out. "For God so loved the world, that he gave". So giving is his nature. Secondly, loving is his essence.
You see, when the Bible said God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only begotten Son, he was talking about people who were filled with enmity and hatred toward him, people who are prideful and arrogant and self-sufficient. He was talking about people who did not care for him, only for his blessings, people who have no gratitude in their heart or thanksgiving to God, people like me who snubbed God and ran away from God for a time, people who despised his love because he did not give them what they wanted, people who chose to worship his gifts but not him, the giver. That people was me. And that people is you. "And while we were yet disobedient sinners, Christ died for us". "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only begotten Son".
Hear me right, please. There was nothing endearing about us to God. There was nothing attractive about us for him to love us. Think about this, and think about it this way. God, the greatest lover; so loved, the greatest degree; the world, the greatest number; that he gave, the greatest act; his one and only begotten Son, the greatest gift; that whosoever, the greatest invitation; believes, the greatest simplicity; in him, the greatest person; shall not perish, the greatest deliverance; but have, the greatest certainty; eternal life, the greatest possession; amen and amen and amen, and thank God. Give him praise.
Question: where does this incredible, incomprehensible love come from? Where'd it come from? Not from anything outside of God. God loves because it is his nature to love. It is his essence. God's love springing out from beneath the everlasting throne. God's love overflows from the spring of infinity. There is no computation that can ever measure the love of God. And that is why the Holy Spirit who authored the Scripture, the Spirit of God, one of the smallest English words used in order to explain: "so". Can you say that with me? "So". He so loved the world, gives the greatest and the largest gift of all.
Beloved, listen to me. His love compelled him to do the unthinkable. His love compelled him to do the impossible. His love compelled him to do the incomprehensible. His love compelled him to do the undoable. Those who love much give much. Love can only be measured by the degree of sacrifice, by the degree of self-denial, that are entered into that expression of love. God's love for us is the kind of love that spared nothing, spared nothing, and gave everything. You see, when God wanted to communicate to our finite, limited mind, he wanted us to comprehend a little bit of what it is that for the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, when God wanted to communicate to us something that would be familiar to us, to help us understand, he chose the image of Father, Son. Giving is his nature. Loving is his essence. Our salvation is his longing, his desire. He longs.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only begotten Son, that whomsoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life". Don't miss what I'm going to tell you, please. Something that's propagated in a much wider scale than you'll ever imagine. Here's what the Bible did not say. Here's what Jesus did not say in John 3:16. He did not say: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son so that every man, everyone, everywhere, will have everlasting life". That falsehood is preached a lot, trust me. No, no, no, this is falsehood. This universalism is a false preaching. Love brought Jesus down so that only and only and only those who respond to his love will be saved from eternal damnation.
When God gave his Son, it was because those who will believe in him can escape the torment of hell. Why? See, salvation is his desire. It's his longing. He wish that everybody would believe, that is his longing. Who are the saved? Everyone who will respond to his incomprehensible love. Those who will come to him in humility and in gratitude and receive his gift. Those who realize that they're unworthy and undeserving of his love and that's why when God gave us his son, he did not give him to live in Caesar's palace. He gave him to be born in an animal feeding trough. He gave him to the carpenter's shop. He gave him to receive the lashing of the tongues and the scourging of his pure character by those who were into religion and religious people. He sent him to people who spread false accusations about him like the morning dew.
He sent him to hunger and thirst. He sent him to homelessness. He sent him to utter poverty. He sent him to receive the scourging and the crown of thorns here. He sent him to those when he gave his back to their smite, as Isaiah had prophesied, and his cheek to those who would pluck its hair, and ultimately he gave him to the cross where he, on his sinless, perfect body, carried my sin and yours. And the sin of whomsoever. Whomsoever, whomsoever, whomsoever. Question: who are the whomsoever? Those who would gladly receive him as their only Savior and Lord. Those who gladly love him back with all their heart. I'm trying to make the distinction between the false gospel that is preached a great deal about how Jesus died on the cross and therefore salvation was given to everybody in the universe.
It doesn't matter what you believe, whether you believe in Jesus or not. When Jesus said in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only one begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in him have eternal life," he was saying that he paid the price for that pardon, but until it is accepted, until it's accepted, until you claim that pardon, you're condemned for all of eternity. That eternal condemnation hangs on us, every one of us, as a dark cloud until we accept the pardon. Today, if there's anyone here at the sound of my voice or watching around the world live, who would say, "Yes, Lord, I humbly receive that pardon that cost you everything," that person, the Bible said, will be set free from sin and guilt for all of eternity.