Be Thankful for God’s Love
Rudyard Kipling was an English writer who penned The Jungle Book among other stories. I read a story this week about a meeting that he had with a reporter. Apparently the reporter said during their conversation, "Mr. Kipling, somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over a hundred dollars a word.” With that the reporter reached into his pocket and pulled out a one hundred dollar bill and gave it to Kipling and said, "Here’s a hundred dollar bill, Mr. Kipling. I would like to get one of your hundred dollar words." Mr. Kipling looked at that hundred dollar bill for a moment, folded it up and put it in his pocket and said, “Thanks."
The word thanks is a hundred dollar word. Very often a word of thank’s is too seldom heard and too rarely spoken and too often forgotten. There is an old saying that there are two types of people in this world, those who know how to be thankful and those who don’t.
One of the themes in Scripture is that God’s people should always be a thankful people. We have been given so much we should always possess a spirit of thanksgiving. As we wrap up our series on being thankful, it just seemed appropriate to talk about our need to be thankful for God’s love.
God’s love is the only reason we exist. If His power is the how of creation then His love would be the why. God’s love is the purest, deepest and most unconditional kind of love. While there is no attribute of God that is so widely believed as the love of God. At the same time, there is no attribute of God that has been so badly misunderstood.
Human love is generally a response to the conditions and circumstances around us. We love because someone pleases us or because they’re good looking or because they make us laugh. By contrast, God loves us because that’s who He is. It was Matthew Henry who said, “God not only loves His saints, but He loves to love them.”
One of the clearest passages in the New Testament on God’s love is Romans 5:6-8. The apostle Paul who was overwhelmed by God’s love wrote: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:While we were still sinners, Christ died for us
In our text Paul writes about the four truths concerning our standing with God. First in verse 6 he says that says that we were powerless. That word powerless describes someone who is sick and feeble or those who have crippled by some kind of disease. Paul uses that word because he knows that we can’t change our basic nature on our own. Specifically we have no power to come up with a plan of justification on our own. If we are left to ourselves then none of us are able to do even one small thing to please God or achieve salvation.
The phrase ungodly in verse 6, is even more pointed. Paul is saying that we didn’t even have a desire to change in the first place. We are not only helpless, but also vile and obnoxious. The word ungodly indicates that we were both irreverent and sinful, and have deliberately withheld from God what is rightfully His.
Next Paul says in verse 8 we are sinners. Our greatest need is found in that we desperately need to make a change, but we are so blinded to our present condition that we don’t know we need a change or where to even start to change. Don’t fool yourself and think that God or the body of Christ got lucky that you picked our team. You weren’t righteous or good when Christ died for you. You had totally missed the mark.
Finally Paul just cuts to the heart of the problem in verse 10 when he says: we were enemies of God. Because of the choices that we had made in our lives, because of our selfish motivation and desire to always do what our sinful flesh desires we have declared ourselves to be the enemy of God.
We struggle with that truth, because we like to think that we are pretty good people. We have told ourselves that because we just sin in little ways then we are okay and just need a little saving. I mean we might have told a little white lie, or coveted something small. It’s not like we have murdered anyone or set up a ponzi scheme that swindled old people out of their retirement money. Those folks are the real monsters, we are just ordinary sinners. We have never made ourselves God’s enemy.
Paul disagrees; he says in Ephesians 2:3 that we were by nature objects of God’s wrath. The truth is we rebelled willfully against God’s commands, broke His moral law, and acted in total defiance of His will for us. No matter how good a person you want to be or even claim to be, the harsh reality is there is no reason for God to love you. You are not a naturally lovable person, and neither am I. Sin has infected our lives so much that it has distorted even the parts we think are beautiful. Sin uglyfies everything it touches.
The good news is that even though there is not a single reason for God to love us, He does because that’s His nature. That’s the kind of God He is. He loves us because God is love and He can’t help loving us even when we are His enemies. His love is greater than our sin, and He loves us in spite of our sin. The good news is that not only does God recognize that we have a problem, He went through extraordinary measures to fix the problem.
The first house where Trista and I lived had a pot in the cabinet under the sink. After we moved in we noticed the pot and realized why the pot was there. There was a leak in a joint in the the drain pipe and instead of having the joint repaired someone merely placed a pot under the sink to catch the dripping pipe. They recognized the problem but didn’t do anything to fix it.
When I mentioned this to our landlord they had someone come out to fix it. While I was expecting the plumber to merely replace the joint that was leaking, our landlord went to extraordinary measures. They had the entire sink, the bottom of the cabinet, and all of the plumbing under the sink replaced. It was not enough to notice the leak, or to fix what was broken. They went through extraordinary measures to fix the problem.
That’s what God does with our sin problem. He doesn’t just recognize there is a problem, He doesn't just fix what is broken. God gives us an entirely new existence. God’s solution to our problem is extravagant because that is the unconditional nature of God’s love.
Anytime we are tempted to doubt God’s love for us, we need to go back to the Cross. If you don’t really believe that God loves you, think about this: If God loved me enough to give His Son to die for me when I was His enemy, surely He loves me enough to care for me now that I am His child.
One of the aspects of love is that it always leads to action. Love is not able to stand still, it requires some kind of movement. It’s impossible to just say you love someone without demonstrating that love in tangible ways. God loves you so much that He was moved to action, He did something on your behalf. Remember John 3:16 “God so loved the world that He gave …”
As we close out this morning, I want to give you a few ways that you can put action to your love and thanksgiving for God.
First we can Love Him most.
Matthew 22:37-38 sets the standard for us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” If we say we love God, then we better put Him first by obeying Him.
Usually when we approach this passage we talk about the different ways that we can love God ... heart, soul, and mind. But in this season of thanksgiving, I want you to notice something else, the word all. That one little word has big implications. Jesus is talking about how much we love God. Do we have intensity in our desire for God or if it’s just a passing thing?
When John is addressing the 7 churches of Asia in the book of Revelation he mentions the Church in Ephesus. Now Ephesus was struggling, but not because they weren’t doing things right or doing the right things, but because they had lost their passion in their relationship with God. Listen to what John writes in Revelation 2: I know what you have done—how hard you have worked and how you have endured. I also know that you cannot tolerate wicked people. You have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not apostles. You have discovered that they are liars. You have endured, suffered trouble because of my name, and have not grown weary.
Here was a church that was doing the right things, the things that God commanded. And not only were they doing them, they were doing them well. Then we get to verse 4: However, I have this against you: The love you had at first is gone. On the outside it looked like everything was going well. They put on their best clothes on Sunday’s and went to Bible Class and worship. They sang, read their Bibles, bowed their heads for prayer, and took communion. But God was disappointed with them because they had lost their passion for Him. They were so involved in programs and ministries and teaching and doing things that they forgot why they were doing these things in the first place.
It’s important to remember that Passion will always lead to obedience. While obedience rarely leads to passion.
Next we can Love Others.
1 John 4:11: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” A little confession here is that when I read this passage I usually think about the folks that I love, my friends, the people that I have so much in common with, and folks that have shown themselves to be lovable and pat myself on the back. I think of the folks who are easy to love and feel a little justified. But that’s not what He is saying.
All of us are attracted to people that are easy to love. But that is not what our text is talking about. It does not say, love the ones that we like the best, or who are easy to love. It doesn’t even say love the ones that loved you first. It says love the people that God loves, love everyone. Love the ones we don’t mesh with. Loving the ones who persecute us. Loving the ones who have never done anything to deserve our love.
It is easy to love God. Our actions may not show it, our attitudes may not display it, but with everything that He has done for us it is easy to love Him. It’s those other guys that are the tough part. We struggle to love other people because of jealousy, hurt feelings, our friends don’t like them, misunderstandings, a different political or religious view, or the fact that we just don’t like them.
Maybe one reason we struggle to love one another stems from the fact that we start out with the habit of receiving, not the giving of love. We didn’t become Christians because we gave God our love. We became Christians because He first loved us. We receive His love.
When I first became a Christian my church poured out their love in my life. Folks hugged me and welcomed me into the family. They poured love into my life in the way they taught and trained me, and I spent a lot of time receiving and not doing a whole lot of giving. It wasn’t long until I thought this was the way it was supposed to be. I had changed the command to Love one another as I have loved you to say, Love one another as they love you back. And if they don’t love you back, all bets are off.
There will be times that you’ll feel unappreciated and taken for granted. You’ll not feel as loved as you should be. When that happens you should love others anyway. There are going to be times when we are frustrated because we are not receiving love the way we want to, but love anyway. Remember that God never called you to receive love, He calls you to love. Our love for God should lead us to love others who have been created in His image and who are the objects of His affection; even those who you would consider an enemy and persecute you.
That’s why we pray for Isis and other extremist in this church. That’s why we pray that God will pour out his love in their lives and they will realize that the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob is the one true God. We pray that they will repent and come to God and learn to love God with passion and in turn love others as well. We pray for their souls and their hearts. Because that’s the best way to love.
Finally we show our thanksgiving for God’s love when we are Compelled to Tell Others.
We read in 2 Corinthians 5: For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died…we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.
We are not called to come and meet at a building, punch our card and then go out and live our normal lives. We are called to see people, not as their worst decisions or mistakes but as an opportunity to be salt and light in a world that is crying out for a Savior. We are called to stop seeing folks as they are, and start imagining them the way that God sees and created them to be. How different would your life be if you were the representation of Christ at your place of business, schools, neighborhoods, the grocery store, and home.
Jesus didn’t come to to establish program; He came to allow us the freedom to imagine how life will be in Heaven. Then we have the freedom to share that vision with those trapped here in this broken world. Isn’t that what He meant when He prayed, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven?
You need to share the love of Christ with the single mother who works two jobs to support her kids.
You need to share the love of Christ with the drug addict who can’t stop his habit.
You need to share the love of Christ with the young person who struggles with self esteem.
You need to share the love of Christ with the young couple who lives together and has never been exposed to the best way to build a home.
You need to share the love of Christ with the man who does not respect his boss, so he steals from the company and from his coworkers.
You need to share the love of Christ with the housewife who goes out searching for some excitement in the arms of a man that belongs to someone else.
You need to share the love of Christ with the alcoholic who is ready to admit he needs help.
You need to share the love of Christ with the boy or girl that is really struggling with homosexuality or gender confusion and they just need someone who is willing to show them some love and kindness.
You need to share the love of Christ with the person who is always there, always contrary, and just drives you crazy.
I am often drawn to Ezekiel 34:16 where God says He will, “Search for the lost, bring back those that stray away, put bandages on those that are hurt, and make the weak strong." Those of us who are loved by God are the ones He sends out to bring the lost home. God has given us the personal responsibility to reach these hurting people. We need to understand that the church above all else is a place for people who have problems.
Joe Aldrich says, “Evangelism is what spills over when we bump into someone.” My prayer for this church is that we will allow God’s love to fill us up so we can spend time with lost people, and watch His love spill over into their lives!