Why do the Flames exist? Part 2 – How does God love us?
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed 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. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:7-12 (NIV)
Last week we looked at this same passage and talked about the idea that love comes from God; that God is love. But it is impossible to talk about God as the source of love without also looking at the way He demonstrates this. For love and promises are empty and hollow unless they are shown to be true through actions. This passage talks about Jesus as being the way that God has shown his love to us. The proof that God’s very nature is love is that God sent his only son – part of himself – to die on the cross for us; for you and for me individually.
For a lot of people, this is a message that very easily becomes stale. John 3:16 is now so well known, that it becomes cliché, and boring, and same old same old. And yet, the fact that God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to save us from the punishment we deserve for sinning, is what the entire Christian faith pivots around. And is, I think, the most important news a person could receive.
So, why then are our ears, minds and hearts closed to what is both the most incredible and life changing concept we could be exposed to? I think there many reasons why, but today I think this passage highlights three things in vs. 9 and 10 that we need to think through in order to be struck by what the Gospels say about Jesus.
The first thing to think through is that we need saving. And it revolves around Jesus being an ‘atoning sacrifice for our sins’ in vs. 10. ’Atonement’ refers to the payment of a debt. The bible makes clear to us that though God created the world and us perfect, our free will brought sin into the world. And ever since, sinning has become our nature and has thrown our world into a state of desperately needing a saviour. Obviously not all people believe in God, but most people recognise the direness of the world in it’s current state. Our politics, our care of the environment, our treatment of the low and the oppressed, illness, broken relationships and our own personal worries, concerns and fears; the world is not a perfect place, and we are not a perfect people. Despite being created by God, we continually decide that we actually know better the way life should be lived and what is more beneficial to us. We choose not to rely on him, but instead push against his wisdom for our lives or flat out ignore it. And this is sin. Not acknowledging who God is, and instead relying on our own strength and power to do our lives. The bible elsewhere teaches that the result of sin – a life of choosing not to enter into a relationship with God – results in an eternity of separation from God. But God loved us so much that He sent His son Jesus into the world to save us.
And this is the second thing to think about; saving us cost God a lot. Jesus was the ‘atoning sacrifice’, and a sacrifice is by it’s definition sacrificial – it costs a lot. It cost God his one and only perfect son. Part of himself; Jesus was fully God and fully man. God took great delight in Jesus; when he was baptised God said “This is my son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased”. Jesus was perfect and did not need to die. It cost Jesus everything; his life, a horrific death, and separation from his Father. Jesus prayed before his death, ‘Father take this cup from me’. Jesus coming to us was not easy, it was sacrificial, it cost a lot.
The third thing that this passage gives us to think about, is that Jesus died so that ‘we might live through him’ (vs 9). What does that mean? Quite simply, Jesus death changes the trajectory of our lives that sin had place us on, and instead tied us to God and eternal life with him. Helpful youth group leaders often talk about the result of atonement being ‘at-one-ment’ with God. A perfect world where there is no suffering, pain or inequality, and where we can live in a perfect relationship with our creator.
I get that we all have a lot going on and that finding the time and effort to take a step back and think through big picture things is always very hard. But I guess my challenge to you today, no matter where you stand in relation to the Christian faith, is have you thought well through these three things lately; that we are sinful and need a saviour, that Christ came as that saviour at great expense, and that his death and resurrection gives us eternal life with God. If you haven’t, can I encourage you to? Because it is God’s ultimate act of love.
If you do have questions about these things, please ask me or come along to Church with us Sunday night, 6.30pm at Barneys on Broadway.
Joe Hockey, club chaplain
first published 14-4-2018