Sunday Sermon: ‘The Love of God’

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Ephesians 3 :14For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

If I had to try to summarize this prayer into one sentence it would be – “I pray that you will come to realize just how much God loves you.” I know that’s an oversimplification of this great prayer, but I believe it is the heart of what Paul was trying to say.

How much does God love us? Jesus said – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [1]  God loves us so much that He gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

I. God Loved Us When We Were Dead in Sin

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

A. Condition of the Person Who Doesn’t Know Christ

In these verses Paul describes three spiritual conditions of the person who doesn’t know Christ.

1. They Are Dead in Sin

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…

To many it may seem strange to refer to someone being dead who is still alive and walking around. How can we be both alive and dead at the same time?

The Bible teaches us that there is more than physical death. The book of Jude refers to those who are ‘twice dead.’ There is physical death, but there also spiritual death.

In Genesis chapter 2, Adam and Eve and enjoying their relationship with God every day. The Bible speaks of the presence of God walking about in the Garden of Eden every day. But then one day, when God came to have a time of fellowship with Adam and Eve, He couldn’t find them. “Where art thou?” God cried out. [2] Where was Adam and Eve? The Bible says that they were hiding from God. [3] Why were they now hiding from God? It was because something drastic had happened in their relationship with God. They had been disobedient to God and ate of the forbidden fruit and now sin was standing in the way of them knowing and loving God. God was no longer their friend. He was now their enemy.

God told Adam that he would die on the day that he ate of the forbidden fruit. Yet, if you carefully read your Bible, you will see that Adam lived for hundreds of years after he ate of the fruit. How could Adam be alive and dead at the same time? Adam remained alive physically for hundreds of years, but he became dead spiritually the moment sin entered into his heart.

Paul refers to a time when ‘we were dead’ in our trespasses and sins. The death Paul is speaking of here is not physical, but rather spiritual. Spiritual death is the inability to know or please God.

2. They Are Defiant in Their Spirit

Before someone receives Christ as their Savior, they are not only dead, they are also defiant. Paul refers to us once being the ‘children of disobedience.’

Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

In Ephesians 4:18 describes those who don’t know Christ as having ‘minds full of darkness’, ‘being separated from the life of God’, and ‘hardened in their hearts.’  Rather than wanting to love God and serve Him, we want to serve ourselves. Paul describes us as –

a. Walking According to the Course of This World

The ‘course of this world’ refers to the lifestyle and philosophy of this world. Scripture teaches us that the ways of this world are in direct opposition to the ways of God, and someone who become a friend to this world becomes an enemy to God. [4]

b. Walking According to the Control of Satan

Paul tells us here that those who are living according to the course of this world are actually living under the power and influence of the devil. “…according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”

If we could pull back the curtain and look at what’s going on behind the scenes, we would see that this world is following the schemes of Satan. 2 Corinthians 4:4 refers to Satan as being the ‘god of this world.’ Satan is the leader behind this rebellion against God. We read from 1 John 5:19 that ‘the whole world is under the control of the evil one.’ Satan is the one who is control of this godless world system and many are following him, even though they don’t know it.

3. They Are Doomed to Be Destroyed

Ephesians 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Not only were we once the children of disobedience, we were also the children of wrath. In other words, if we kept following the path we were on, we were destined to be destroyed.

The wrath Paul refers to here is the wrath of God. The wrath of God is not a topic that we like to talk about. We would much rather focus upon His mercy and grace. Yet we cannot fully appreciate God’s mercy and grace without considering His wrath.

Who is God?

a. God is Loving and Good

When we refer to the wrath, we do not mean that God is angry, and vindictive. Scripture teaches us that God is the exact opposite. The Bible describes God as –

Deuteronomy 4:18 For the LORD thy God is a merciful God…

Psalm 86:5 For Thou, LORD, art good…

1 John 4:16 God is love…

The Bible teaches us that God is good, loving and kind. Yet the Bible also tells us that God is pure, holy, and just. One of the best words to describe the moral aspect of God is that He is righteous. To be righteous simply means to be right. God is right in everything He does. Everything God does is perfectly correct.

b. God is Holy and Just

Because God is righteous, He requires His creation to be righteous. The Bible describes God as being light and in Him is no darkness at all. Because God is light, He will not associate with that which is dark. [5] Because God is righteous, He will not tolerate what is unrighteous.

The Bible says – “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” [6] God will not sweep sin under the rug. Sin or unrighteousness is offensive to God and His just nature requires Him to deal with it. How will God one day deal with that which is unrighteous? As you get near the end of your Bible you read that Satan and his demonic angels will be cast into a lake of fire and afterwards, all those who have never received Christ as their Savior will stand before God and eventually be sentenced to spend eternity in hell also.

B. The Choice of God to Love Us

Though we all have sinned and fall short of fulfilling the purpose for which God created us, God still love us. God does not love our sin, but He loves us and He desires to save us. Paul writes –

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins,  hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

II. God Loved Us and Made Us Alive in Him

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

God would have been perfectly just in judging us for our sins. God could have said, “That’s it; you failed and now you’ll have to suffer the consequences.” Yet God didn’t. God did not leave mankind in this hopeless state.

Paul begins with the phrase – ‘But God…’   We were helpless and hopeless, but God came to our rescue. The One who had every right to condemn us came to save us. That’s why Paul later states in Romans 8 –

Romans 8:31 … If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. NIV

A. God is Merciful

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy…

What is mercy? Mercy is the desire to help someone who is in need. For us, God’s mercy is Him holding back His judgment in order to offer to us the opportunity to be forgiven.

What motivates God to show mercy to those who deserve judgment? Paul tells us that it is His great love for us.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us…

B. God is Loving

Paul tells us that it is God’s great love for us that motivates Him to show us mercy. It is the love of God that causes Him to hold back His righteous anger so that He might try to save us. The Bible tells us that God does not want anyone to spend eternity in hell, but instead to turn from their rebellion against Him and be saved.  [7] Though some see God as being very stern and stiff in the Old Testament, the Bible tells us that even then God’s desire was for men to be saved.  We read from the book of Ezekiel –

Ezekiel 33:11 …‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

It’s much like the story of the prodigal son told about in Luke 15. The son became very independent and rebellious and he demanded to do his own thing. Reluctantly the father let his son go, yet the story seems to indicate that every day the father was watching the horizon, hoping for the day when his son would come back home.

One day the son came back home. He was filthy dirty where he had been eating with the pigs and he saw himself as no longer to be worthy to be called a son. “Just make me as one of your hired servants” the son intended to say to his father. Yet the Bible says that even while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. And “being filled with love and compassion for him, the father ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” The son said, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.” Yet the father said, “Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.” [8]

The son expected to be condemned, yet the father hugged and kissed him. The son intended to become one of his servants, yet the father treated him like royalty. That’s mercy!

Why did the father show such mercy to his son? It was because he loved him. The love of the father motivated the father to show mercy instead of judgment.

C. God is Gracious

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

God loves us, yet His love does not save us.  The holiness of God will not allow Him to say “I love you too much to punish you.” Justice must be served.

God is merciful towards us, yet His mercy does not save us. God does not say, “Let’s just let bygones be bygones.” God’s desire to be merciful does not allow Him to simply sweep sin under the rug. Sin must be judged and punished.

What then does save us? It’s God’s grace.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

What is grace? Some have said that whereas mercy is God holding back what we deserve – which is judgment; grace is God offering to us what we don’t deserve – which is complete forgiveness.

There are two important truths that we need to understand about the grace of God:

1. It is a Gift Offered to Us

Paul writes – “…it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”(Ephesians 2:8-9)

2. It is Offered to Us Because of the Sacrificial Death of Jesus Christ

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened (made us alive) us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

‘In Christ’, ‘with Christ’, and ‘through Christ.’ It’s all because of Christ. My friend, if you want to know whether or not God loves you – look at the cross. If you want to know how much God loves you – look at the cross. Jesus said – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [9]  God loves us so much that He punished His Son in your place.

CONCLUSION

My prayer has been that God would use this message this morning to open someone’s eyes to see His great love. I’ve prayed that God would help them to see how much they desperately need His love and rather than rejecting Him, they would run to Him. Jesus said –

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:17-24)

Jesus said – there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)

 

 

 

 

[1] John 3:16

[2] Genesis 3:9

[3] Genesis 3:10

[4] James 4:4

[5] 1 John 1:5-6

[6] Hebrews 4:13

[7] 2 Peter 3:9

[8] Luke 15:11-24

[9] John 3:16

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