As we prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I would like to share a word of cosmic comfort with you from the One who loves you exceedingly abundantly above all that you could ever ask or think. The apostle Paul prayed that God’s people would be able “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18). In other words, the love of God in Christ Jesus truly is beyond our imagination!
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
John 3:16 is probably the best-known passage in all Scripture, even among unbelievers. There are times, however, when we tend to breeze past verses that are so well-known and so frequently repeated; they can lose their message and ministry in our lives. So let’s take just a few minutes to slow down and look closely at these words from Jesus.
First, notice that the love of God in His Son Jesus is a gift to us. There is nothing we do to invite it. There is certainly nothing we do to deserve it. There is nothing we can do to earn it. It is simply a gift from God to undeserving sinners like you and me. Second, this gift comes to us through belief, not behavior. We simply need to believe that Jesus is who He says He is and did what He said He did on our behalf.
God could have dealt with us in a variety of ways that had absolutely nothing to do with love. Remember, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, it was a deliberate willful, rebellion against His loving and gracious provision. Adam and Eve were unfaithful to God, the One who created them in His image and gave them the gift of life itself. God could have responded with judgment. God could have responded with wrath. He could have responded with contempt. At the very least, God could have responded with disappointment. But He did none of these things! God responded with love, because God is love (1 John 4:16). God demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus into this world to pay the penalty for all of our sins, so that we could live in intimate, personal relationship with Him throughout all eternity.
Valentine’s Day is a time when we express our affection for others by giving cards, candies, and gifts; many of these reflect mere sentimental feelings. Not so with God! His love acted decisively in history and in our hearts. God’s agape love is sacrificial. God so loved that He willingly and intentionally sacrificed His Son in order to pave the way for a love relationship with sinners like you and me, who were in desperate need of a Savior. Here is a passage of Scripture that best describes God’s profound love in the most personal way:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
The great apostle Paul said that Jesus loved me and gave himself for me! When we planted Cross Community Church, my mentor and spiritual father Dr. Ron Kovack connected these words from Paul to John 3:16. “It is one thing to know that ‘God so loved the world,’” he told me, “but it is another thing altogether to know that God so loved me!” Dr. Ron encouraged me to teach this verse to others by personalizing it. That is what the apostle Paul did, and that is what we are to do too.
Here is something to remember as we bring this word of encouragement to a close. Everything God does in your life, He does out of love. When the sky is blue, the clouds are fleecy, and the sun is brightly shining, it is because God so loves you. And when the sky is dark and foreboding and the storm winds howling, it is because God so loves you. When you are delivered from the attacks of the devil, it is because God so loves you. And when you mess things up, it is because God so loves you. Everything God does in your life He does because of His love for you.
Never forget this: When God gave His Son Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins, it was not a measurement of our value, our worth, or our significance. God gave His Son “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8) and “alienated from God” (Colossians 1:21). No, the death of Jesus Christ was simply an expression of His unconditional and unending love, for God so loves you.
I pray this truth will be a source of both encouragement and empowerment for you to live the life God is calling you to live for His glory and the good of others, with freedom and faithfulness to the One who so loves you right now and will continue loving you throughout all eternity.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!