Greetings! Welcome to Lechem Panim.
Years ago I worked at an Apple retail store. And during my time there I had an atheist acquaintance I used to work with that I tried to witness to. And he was open to Christianity, but remained unconvinced. But I will never forget what his chief struggle was. It wasn’t any of the typical things you might think an atheist would struggle with; the problem of evil in the world, or anything like that. No, it was something else. The primary thing he just could not get past and accept was the fact that the God of the universe would ever lower Himself to care for people like us to the depth and to the degree that the Bible says He did. For my friend, that seemed very un-God-like.
And you know I think you can even be a Christian and struggle with this question. I know sometimes I have questioned and even doubted God’s love for me simply because of how unworthy I feel of that love. But one of the things we will unpack as we begin to move through this passage today is that God loves us not on the basis of who we are, but on the basis of who He is. He is not just “loving”; no, He is love. He defines love. And though it is one of the clearest Biblical teachings, the doctrine of God’s love for us is at the same time one of the most profound truths and (at times) the most difficult to accept.
God is Love — Have you ever wondered why it is that God loves us? Or, on a similar note, why did He create us? Have you ever wondered why God created man? Is it because one day He just got bored and lonely and decided to create us for entertainment; or for company? I mean if God has always existed and existed before we were created, what did He do? Does God need us? Was He compelled to create us because, by Himself, He was deficient? Is He like some kind of Ferris Bueller character that says to us, “You complete me.”? Does God need us? That is an interesting question because of what is revealed to us in…
1 John 4:7-8 (ESV)-- 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
God is Love— Now notice that it doesn’t say that God is loving. No, it says God is love. He is the very definition of love. This is something that sets Christianity apart from every other religion. God is not merely loving; He is the very definition and source of all love.
Requiring and Object-- Now love, as we all know, requires an object. You cannot love; truly love by yourself. Love is something that is demonstrated by your actions in another person’s life. Love is not a feeling. It is an action verb. Well, let me ask you this. Long before man was created; long before the world was created; long before heaven and angels were created, was God still love? That is what Christianity teaches. But the question then becomes, “Well, how could God be love before there was anything to love?” How could God be love before there was an object that could receive that love?” Now you can say that God was not love until He created man, but that is not what the Bible teaches because then that would mean that God had to change at some point; and the scripture is very clear that God never changes. It says in…
Malachi 3:6 (ESV)-- 6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
James 1:17 (ESV)-- 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
The Triune Nature of God-- So how could God be love from eternity? How could He possibly be love before there was a single created thing? Well the answer lies in the unique Christian doctrine of the Trinity. God is not one person, but three; God The Father, God The Son, and God The Holy Spirit. And so rather than being just one, God is three. God is a community of persons who live in constant communion; a fellowship of love with one another; and have done so from eternity. And so God has always been love in Himself because all three persons of the Trinity have always existed and have each poured themselves out in love to the others.
The Most amazing thing-- Now this is important in answering our first question: Does God need us? Because one of the most amazing things we come to know about our relationship with God is that while we need Him, He does not need us. He is already a community of persons in Himself (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). He doesn’t need our companionship, our worship, or our prayers. Rather, He is sufficient; He is complete in Himself. So why then did God create us? Well, while our minds cannot even begin to grasp the depth of that love and every aspect of it, we do know one thing about it: IT CANNOT BE CONTAINED. IT CANNOT BE CONTAINED. You see, God’s love is always growing; always expanding. It is so selfless that it is always seeking for new beings to love. Why? Because God’s love is always creative; it always bears fruit. It always desires to expand. And so because God is that kind of love, He wanted to produce more beings who might be recipients of the overflow of His love. God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness...” The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit wanted to allow their love to produce a fruit. And so they created man. And that is the defining characteristic of Biblical love; Godly love always bears fruit.
Humanity the Overflow of God’s Love-- Humanity is the fruit of the overflow of God’s love. And, because Biblical love is always fruitful, so was mankind to be fruitful. Just as God is plural, yet one, so man was to be plural, yet one. Man was to cleave unto His wife and become one flesh. And that relationship was meant to bear fruit. The first command given in all of scripture was to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, .…” (Gen. 1:28 ESV)
Fruit Now Born Through Pain-- But then of course man sinned. And sin changed everything. Adam and Eve did what they thought was best for themselves rather than what was in God’s interest or each other’s interest. And the result of that sin was that we became separated from God. But it is interesting how the curse immediately affected them. Adam would work the ground, which would no longer easily bear fruit. Eve, who would become the mother of all living, would from this point onward experience pain in childbirth; at the very point of her fruitfulness. God would still allow them to bear fruit; fruit from the ground and fruit from the womb, but that fruitfulness was now limited and associated with pain and toil. And that is what sin does; it always touches us at the point of our fruitfulness.
Love as Christ loved us— Now God could have turned His back on us. He could have said, “You are no longer my children. I am going to leave you to the death that your sin has produced, which will be the end of you.” But He doesn’t. Instead, He begins to show His true Father-ness; the depth of His love for us.
1 John 4:9-10 (ESV)— 9 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. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Frequency of the World Love-- Now in verses 7-21 the word “love” appears 27 times. Now there are many words for love in the New Testament. But I looked every one of these up in Greek. They are all agape. Well, what is agape love?
The Boy Rewrites the Story of The Ant and the Grasshopper— I remember reading a story a number of years ago. [The mother of a nine-year-old boy named Mark received a phone call in the middle of the afternoon. It was the teacher from her son’s school.
“Mrs. Smith, something unusual happened today in your son’s third-grade class. Your son did something that surprised me so much that I thought you should know about it immediately. The mother began to grow worried.
The teacher continued, “Nothing like this has happened in all my years of teaching. This morning I was teaching a lesson on creative writing. And as I always do, I tell the story of the ant and the grasshopper:
“The ant works hard all summer and stores up plenty of food. But the grasshopper plays all summer and does no work. Then winter comes. The grasshopper begins to starve because he has no food. So he begs, ‘Please Mr. Ant, you have much food. Please let me eat, too.’”
Then I said, “Boys and girls, your job is to write the ending to the story.”
“Your son, Mark, raised his hand. ‘Teacher, may I draw a picture?’
“ ‘Well, yes, Mark, if you like, you may draw a picture. But first you must write the ending to the story.’
“As in all the years past, most of the students said the ant shared his food through the winter and both the ant and the grasshopper lived. A few children wrote, ‘No, Mr. Grasshopper. You should have worked in the summer. Now I have just enough food for myself.’ So the ant lived and the grasshopper died.
“But your son ended the story in a way different from any other child, ever. He wrote, ‘So the ant gave all of his food to the grasshopper; the grasshopper lived through the winter, but the ant died.’
“And the picture? At the bottom of the page, Mark had drawn three crosses.”]
Defined by the Cross-- You see agape love is the deepest kind of love; it is self-sacrificing love. And it is defined by Christ’s own love demonstrated for us on the cross. And it is a love we are called to as well.
1 John 4:11-12 (ESV)-- 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
By The Spirit-- Now the only way for us to love self-sacrificially not only those who love us, but even those who wound us (just like Christ loved those and prayed for forgiveness for those who were at that time wounding him on the cross) is by the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can enable you to love like that. So if you are loving like that, then that is strong evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in your life. But the self-giving, sacrificial love of the cross is the standard. And you and I can know that love. But it must begin with your own relationship with Jesus; you have to come to the point where you accept and receive God’s love for you in and through His Son Jesus Christ; and the sacrifice He made for you on a personal level. Only then can we fully reflect a love that is (like Christ’s) perfect and complete. And though we may never understand why God loves us (at least FULLY), we CAN know that He loves us. Let’s embrace that Love today. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.