Behold What Manner of Love
Text: 1 John 3: 1-3
Proposition: The extent of God’s love for us is astounding, it is lavished, it is a nurturing that shapes our very identities and readies us for what we can’t yet see.
Introduction: Last week was Valentine’s Day, a day that has ben mined by commercialism in the selling of cards, chocolate and caricatures of cupid. This year total planned Valentine's Day spending in the US and Canada is expected to top $19.6 billion. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of spending will be on spouses. Others on the gift list include family members, children's classmates, friends and even pets. It’s become one of those ‘tail wagging the dog’ things where the desire to express your love for another becomes an obligation that demands conformity in a commercialized culture. Perhaps it’s an indicator of two things: 1. Our deep need to love and be loved; 2. Our inability to really risk love in the way that we long to receive and give it. This morning I’d like to talk with you about love and look at it not through the eyes of sentimentalism or romanticism or eroticism or commercialism which exploits these very things. I’d like to look at love through the eyes of God, to see what He Who created it and knows it and expresses it, intends by it.
Author and Speaker Lee Strobel once said that love is the highest value in the universe because it existed between the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit long before any universe or humanity ever existed. Strobel went on to say that, “when God decided to create human beings, He wanted us to experience love. But to give us the ability to love, God had to give us free will to decide whether to love or not to love. Why… because love always involves a choice.” So God made us with the capacity of free will in order that love could be present and that love could prevail. Take a minute and read just three verses of Scripture with me, 1 John 3:1-3.
I. Behold, Look With Awe, Be Amazed, God’s Love Lavished On You.
That’s really the intent behind the words of the first part of verse 1, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” It isn’t just that God sees you and loves you, it’s the way that He has particularly chosen, in His free will, to love you. It is a lavish love, a love given out in a measure that overflows, it’s expansive in its design to give not just what is needed and no more but to give with a generosity that washes over us like a waterfall. What do I mean by that? Imagine the love that the Father had for the Son before the world ever was. It’s that expansive, lavish love that He pours out on those who would cry out to Christ to save them. The cross of Christ is that waterfall of love, the body and blood of Christ broken and spilled out. God gave Himself for us in an unrestrained manner, abundant life in the life of Christ. But there’s more, it isn’t enough to just provide the life giving water, something must also take place to make us want to drink. In and of himself man has no awareness of his sin nor of his need for a way past it. The lavish love of God needed also to create a thirst in man that he would even desire to drink this living water that God provided in Christ. I mean just look at the language in verse 1, ‘that we should be called children of God’. On first glance that word ‘called’ might be a descriptive term for how the church sees it itself. It might even refer to what God addresses us as, but I’d suggest its greatest inference is that you who know Christ as Savior are called, by God’s free will and to a certain extent by your free will, as an act of His lavish love, to be His in Christ. It’s that calling of you that draws you to come and awakens in you that spiritual thirst. The lavish love of God calls you to Christ because you would never have come to Him otherwise. And once you did come, just as I am as the old hymn says, you were never the same.
It’s what the last part of verse 1 is pointing to, “Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” This really nudges us to see something else, ‘to behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us’ is to see what moves us from being dead spiritually to being alive in Christ, from the place of being in the world and loving it to now being in Christ and loving Him. It’s the old question again, ‘Who do you love?’ Behold what manner of love this is, calling us, transforming us, commanding us and enabling us to such a degree that the world doesn’t know you anymore because it did not know Christ. Behold, see, be amazed at the lavish love that has called you to be children of God.
II. This Lavish Love of God Readies You For the Great Tomorrow.
Right now we are children of God because of our faith in Christ. Right this minute God has gone over the top and not only saves us in Christ, forgiven us all our sin, justifying us… He has also made us family. In Christ we are now wedded into the cohesion of the Trinity. We are reckoned to God as His children, co heirs with Christ. I like what David Guzick wrote about this, “We never once read of Adam being called one of the children of God in the sense John means here. He was never adopted as a son of God in the way believers are. We err when we think of redemption as merely a restoration of what was lost with Adam; we are granted more in Jesus than Adam ever had.” So to be family means not only a relationship change like when you become a son in law or a father in law, family to God means resemblance. If all that I have said so far is not astounding enough then consider what John says in verse 2, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Do you see the reference to resemblance, to how that too is part of being family in God’s mind. Let’s look at what this means. Though we are this moment children of God in position what will it look like in heaven, in the Great Tomorrow? John says it has not yet been revealed what we shall be and he’s right. The concept of heaven is littered with images of streets paved with gold, people playing harps in an eternal state of blissful unemployment. Why is that? Because it has not yet been revealed… so we’ve imagined a reasonable facsimile, which is not reasonable in any way. When Jesus is revealed, when He comes for His church, when the dead in Christ rise first, when we who are absent from the body but present with Christ at death, that’s when He is revealed and in that moment we shall be like Him. The wonder of the glory of Christ happens in that moment, for we shall see Him as He is. The inference is that we don’t right now, not in the same way that John is referring to. Listen to how Spurgeon puts this as he describes us, “Eternity is to be the period for the Christian’s full development, and for the sinless display of his God-given glory. Here, he must expect to be unknown; it is in the hereafter that he is to be discovered as a son of the great King.”
So why is it so important that we know about this great lavish love of God, why is it so critical for the Christian today? It’s the highest value in the universe, existing between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit before the world was. It exceeds hope and faith as that which outlasts all. It is what we were given free will for. It is one of the hardest things for us to do with each other even though we desperately long for it. Love, God’s love for us has called us to stop being who we once were and to risk being who we now are in Christ. The lavish love of God seen most exquisitely in the cross means He will spare nothing to win you, to save you and to keep you. The manner of His love moves you to being a family member in Christ, the thirst of your heart to belong is meant to be filled in that truth. It is a love that does not demand conformity but rather creates transformation that you would resemble Him.
Above and along with all these things is that if you will savor these thoughts on God’s great lavish love for you it will cleanse you. Consider verse 3, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” So let me ask you, ‘What is it that you have been hoping for?’ What would it look like to place your hope in the extravagant love of God? What do you need to let go of to do that? This last verse is God’s promise to you, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Oh, behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God!