Baby, don’t hurt me! Sorry, I couldn’t help it. When we think of love, often a song or movie will pop into our heads. We may think of our spouse or children, our dogs and cats, or pizza. But what is love? The bible talks a great deal about love. 1 John 4 says that, “God IS love.” We think of love as in two people who love each other. I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family! But God’s love is different. His love is unconditional. Most people know John 3:16, even if you don’t believe in God or have any church background, you have probably seen it on a sign at a sporting event. John 3:16 NLT says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” This is a verse that I have heard and read so many times that I just tend to gloss over it. But here lately, God has been trying to open my eyes to what love truly is, His love. John 3:16 has a couple words that really stand out to me. It says, “God so loved the WORLD,” it also says, “EVERYONE”. WORLD, EVERYONE, those words are powerful when you think about it in the sense of God’s love. 1 John 4:10 NLT says, “It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” It’s not that we loved God, but He first loved us. Before we loved Him, He loved us. When we were still lost to sin, He loved us. Before we acknowledged Him as Lord, He loved us. When we didn’t even believe that He existed, He loved us. Even when we are actively rebelling against Him, He loves us. God loves the worst sinner just as much as the He loves the most evangelical preacher. Hates the sin, loves the sinner. That’s what the Good News is, God’s love. Before Jesus Christ, we were dead to sin. Doomed. But God loved us. He SO LOVED us that He sent His Son, Jesus, to take our place. Instead of us being nailed to a cross bleeding and humiliated, God sent His only Son so that we could have life and have it abundantly! He did this not only for the “good people” of the world, as if there were any, but He did this for EVERYONE. The drug addicts, the liars, the drunks, the sexually immoral, murderers, and thieves….everyone. God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, not just the “acceptable” sins, all sins, so that we may have eternal life in Him. That is the Good News. God offers a gift, a gift of love, true love, all you have to do is accept it.
“Many people, including some of the Jewish leaders, believed in Him. But they wouldn’t admit it to anyone because of their fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.”
John 12:42-43 NLT
As much as I hate to admit it, this passage rings just as true for me, and I’m sure many others, today just as much as it did back when it was written. No, I’m not worried that the Pharisees are going to throw me out of the synagogues. But I am worried that if I start speaking up about God or my beliefs in Jesus that many of the people, who’s opinions for some strange reason I strongly care about, are going to think less of me. Why? Why do we care so much for the opinions of man? So many times I will be hanging out with friends or loved ones and some kind of conversation about religion or church will pop up and I just remain silent. I can hear God telling me to say something, nudging me to speak up, and more often than I would like to admit, I just shrug my shoulders or shake my head. Why is it so hard to speak up and spread the Good News? I mean, that’s the whole reason we are here isn’t it? Jesus Himself said in John 13 after He had washed the disciples’ feet, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” Jesus said to do as I have done to you, and I’m pretty sure He wasn’t scared to talk about God. I think most of us have the same problem as the Jewish leaders that were afraid to admit their belief when Jesus was still walking the earth, we love human praise more than the praise of God. We love to hear someone tell us we’re doing a good job or well done! And sadly, when we start witnessing to people about God, the chances are that we are not going to hear those words. Which brings me back to my original question, why do we care? Why do we care what people think? As true followers of Jesus Christ, we know where true blessing comes from. Jesus said in John 13:17, “You know these things-now do them! That is the path of blessing.” If we truly follow Jesus, truly believe Him and His word, we have to start saying something. We have to speak up for Jesus. I myself am tired of taking the easy road, looking back on past conversations and wishing I would have said something differently. Think about the mess we would be in today if Jesus had chosen not to speak up. He knew what the outcome would be if He listened to God and He did it anyway. Knowing full well that His actions would ultimately lead to His own death, He chose to still speak up for God and die on the cross for our sins. Why? Because that was the very reason He came, to save our souls.
“All those who want to be my disciples must come and follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And if they follow me, the Father will honor them. Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from what lies ahead’? But that is the very reason why I came! Father, bring glory to your name.” John 12:26-28 NLT
The passage says His soul was deeply troubled. I’m sure that if we knew that our actions were going to lead to beatings, torture, and a painful and humiliating death on the cross, most of us would probably not do them. But Jesus did. He knew the outcome and He did it anyway. He did it so that we may have eternal life. So that we could be saved. He did it, not just as a get out of hell card, but so we may have a truly joyful and abundant life. Jesus loves you, and if you will truly give your life over to Him you can experience the blessings that God intended for each and every one of us.