Fourth Sunday in Lent: Making Eternal Judgments

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“How Does This Really Affect Me?” John 3: 14-21 

Once again we are mesmerized by the words in the Gospel of John. Some would say it is the greatest love story ever told! Many will find competition in that statement. Some will say Elvis sang a better love song, or Connie Francis won over our hearts when they added the lyrics to “love is a many splendored thing”, or more recently when we heard the pop lyrics say to us, “What’s love got to do with it?” We spend a great deal of time battling over love and the essence of what love is truly about. 

But this morning we have in the gospel a love story that supersedes all other love stories, a love story that is eternal in nature! We have the ultimate sacrificial love story. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son”. What greater gift of love has ever been given? 

We, who have been and are a part of the Christian faith however, seem to take this lightly some times. We tend to think that because we have heard the story so often it somehow becomes engrained in us and we don’t need to be reminded of the true essence of this story. Which in turn, is actually the opposite; because we live it, we need to be reminded of the story more often!! We take it for granted. We take for granted that love permeates our world and nothing can rock that world!! We hear countless stories of how nothing can shake our being when it comes to love and it will never be shaken in our lives. 

I’m reminded of the story of the grandmother who had her two grandsons shopping in the grocery store; both boys discovered a new word to use when upset with each other. As they started for the store, they suddenly became angry with each other. “I hate you!” and “I hate you, too!” they yelled back and forth. “That’s not very nice,” the grandmother said. “I’m certainly not going to take two little boys who hate each other to McDonald’s for lunch.” Five year old Jamie quickly backed down. “I don’t hate you, Billy.” But Billy, with the clear logic of a three year old, responded, “I still hate you!! And I’m not hungry!!” 

Often times we are construed by the words we use in the context of our being. Sometimes we are swayed by how we really feel by our outside circumstances. We notice this morning in the text that John doesn’t refer to himself by name, but in the context of “the disciple who Jesus loved”. 

It is with those three little words, “I hate you”, the perception of Billy’s understanding of love and our perception of love is turned upside down. This not only happens in the story of the young grandchildren but in the midst of our adult lives when circumstances and words make our life, for lack of a better descriptive term, “a living hell”. What the Christian must lay claim to is the ultimate proclamation that God loves us beyond all hatred and self-proposed affliction. 

As I said before, love has a unique way of making the statement. As one commentator put it, “God’s kind of love is unselfishness which results in doing the best for one another, even at the highest personal cost, without requiring or expecting payback”. 

Humans have a tremendously difficult time understanding this concept. We are such a “pay back” society. It is difficult to understand this without expecting or wanting something back in return. But this love from God through Jesus, this “agape” love, is connected with the nature of God in three unique ways; God’s omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. 

Omniscience is the God concept of all knowing, knowing everything about you. That is what God is able to do! God does not forget!! The pastor was visiting the couple in their home for dinner one night and throughout the dinner, the husband referred to his wife with many endearing qualities, “Dear One will you please get us some more coffee, Thank you Love of my life.” When the wife went into the kitchen, the Pastor said to the husband, “Bob, it’s wonderful that after more than fifty years of marriage you are still calling your wife by all of those endearing names-love, sweetheart, punkin’ etc., The husband looked at the preacher and said, “actually about ten years ago I forgot her name, can you help me here?” God does not forget anything about us. God knows us! He knows everything about us and yet he still went to the cross for us. That’s love, that’s AGAPE love, the unselfish love!! “The love of God is tied to omniscience of God in that God knows all about everybody. He not only knows the bad stuff we’ve done, and the good stuff we’ve been commanded to do, but left undone; God also knows our trouble. He knows when the world has beaten us down and it feels like it’s time to give up. He knows when we are at the breaking point. That’s why He went to the cross for you!

The second way that God continues to love us is through His Omnipotence. God is all powerful; He can do with strength whatever strength can do!! He had the strength to come down off that cross, but he didn’t!! 

One of the things that we as humans fail to realize is that God’s strength and power is like no other strength that we know or can understand. We are limited in our knowledge concerning this divine strength. We are bound by our understanding of human strength, by what we can do as humans and limited by the divine strength. 

Finally, God loved us through Jesus and His Omnipresence. He loved us because He was here for us. Jesus was not a fictional character who attempted to love us through some “super power”. He came to love us through a connection we know as “human”!! 

One of the unique things we as humans have is our ability to develop relationships with others. God through Jesus did the same for us. 

A few years back, I had the opportunity to hear Tony Campallo tell a story of the conversion Joe. In the context of the story, the message of the cross becomes clear. 

“Joe was a drunk, miraculously converted in a street outreach mission. Before his conversion he’d gained a reputation as a derelict and dirty wino for who there was no hope.
But following his conversion to Christ, everything changed. Joe became the most caring person at the mission and in the area surrounding the mission. He spent his day there, doing whatever needed to be done. There was never anything he was asked to do that he considered beneath him. Whether it was cleaning up vomit left by some sick alcoholic, or scrubbing toilets after men had left them filthy, Joe did it with a heart of gratitude. He could be counted on to feed any man who wandered in off the streets, undress and tuck him into bed, when he was too out- of-it to take care of himself. 

One evening, after the mission director delivered his evangelistic message to the usual crowd of sullen men with drooped heads, one of them looked up, came down to the altar and kneeled to pray, crying out for God to help him change. The repentant drunk kept shouting, “Oh God, make me like Joe!! Make me like Joe!! Make me like Joe!!” The director leaned over and said, “Son, wouldn’t it be better if you prayed, ‘make me like Jesus?’” 

After thinking about it for a few moments, the man looked up with tears in his eyes and asked, “Is He like Joe?” 

Is He like Joe? Is He like Mark? Is He like William? Is He like Doug? Is He like Ellen? Is He like Harry? Is He like Ivan? The answer is yes!! Jesus loved us with His dying and resurrection so that we would join him in His omnipresence around the world. 

The invitation is to all who will: “...so that whosever believes in him...” The omniscience of Our Lord did not keep Him off the cross! 

The omnipotence of Our Lord wouldn’t let Him leave the cross!! 

The omnipresence of my Lord Jesus is my joint inheritance with Him and with You!! 

The invitation is open to all who earnestly repent of their sins and seek the salvation of our Lord. 

Come, let us feast at the Table of Our Lord. AMEN.