He Did This Just for You
--Dan Lightfoot 1444
Song 133, v. 3 -- The Love of God -- Could we with ink the ocean fill, & were the skies of parchment made; Were ev'ry stalk on earth a quill, & ev'ry man a scribe by trade; To write the love of God above Would drain the ocean dry; Nor could the scroll contain the whole Tho' stretched from sky to sky.
The love of God is such a common topic among us that it becomes commonplace. Just a fact. A=B, B=C, C=A, & therefore…! We can even quote John 3:16 with a detached air. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
But that means that God so loved me…
And you feel the depth of that love as Jesus looked over the city of Jerusalem and wept uncontrollably, for He knew the judgment that was coming. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! (Lk. 13:34).
You see His love in the father who longed for the return of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11ff. Max Lucado retells the story with a modern version of a father & his daughter.
I. The Parable -- GOD'S LONGING FOR YOU
Five-year-old Madeline in her father's lap. Christmas dinner is over. Joe looked across the table at his mom. "Looks like you filled us up. Don't think we'll be able to do anything tonight but go to bed." Madeline put her little hands on either side of his big face. "Oh, but, Poppa, this is Christmas Eve. You said we could dance." Joe feigned a poor memory. "Did I now? Why, I don't remember saying anything about dancing. " "But, Poppa," Madeline pleaded, "we always dance on Christmas Eve. Just you & me, remember?" A smile burst from beneath his mustache. "Of course I remember, darling. How could I forget?" And with that he stood and took her hand in his, and for a moment, just a moment, his wife was alive again, and the two were walking into the den to spend another night before Christmas as they had spent so many, dancing away the evening. They would have danced the rest of their lives, but then came the surprise pregnancy and the complications. Madeline survived. But her mother did not. And Joe, the thickhanded butcher from Minnesota, was left to raise his Madeline alone.
II. That scene begins to express GOD'S AMAZING LOVE
A. The love of a parent for a child is a mighty force.
1. The infant offers his parents absolutely nothing. No money. No skill. No words of wisdom. To see an infant lying in a bassinet is to see utter helplessness. What is there to love?
2. Whatever it is, Mom and Dad find it. Just look at Mom's face as she nurses her baby. Just watch Dad's eyes as he cradles the child.
3. Jesus once asked, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Lk. 11:13)
B. But what happens when the love isn't returned? What happens to the heart of the father when his child turns away?
Rebellion flew into Joe's world like a Minnesota blizzard. About the time she was old enough to drive, Madeline decided she was old enough to lead her life. And that life did not include her father. Joe didn't understand the late nights & the poor grades. And, most of all, he didn't know when to speak & when to be quiet. She, on the other hand, had it all figured out. She knew when to speak to her father-- never. She knew when to be quiet--always. Her words, & her time, were for the lanky, tattooed kid from down the street. He was no good, and Joe knew it. Christmas Eve's dinner was painful… Madeline played with her food and said nothing. Joe was heartbroken. He would have given anything to know how to talk to this girl who once sat on his lap. Soon the relatives arrived, bringing with them a welcome end to the awkward silence. Thinking she would be honored, he turned and walked toward his daughter: "Will you dance with your Poppa tonight?!' In full view of the family, she walked out the front door and marched down the sidewalk. Leaving her father very much alone.
III. GOD'S ENEMIES
A. According to the Bible, we have done the same. We have spurned the love of our Father. "Each of us has gone his own way" (Isaiah 53:6, NCV).
1. The apostle Paul takes our rebellion a step further. We have done more than turn away, he says; we have turned against our Father. "We were living against God" (Rom 5:8, NCV).
2. He speaks even more bluntly later, when he says, "We were God's enemies" (Rom 5:l0). Harsh words, don't you think?
a. An enemy is a hostile adversary. One who offends, not out of ignorance, but by intent. Does this describe us? Have we ever been enemies of God? Have we ever turned against our Father?
b. Have you ever. . .
...done something, knowing God wouldn't want you to do it?
...hurt one of his children or part of creation?
...supported or applauded the work of his adversary, the devil?
...turned against your heavenly Father in public?
c. If so, have you not taken the role of an enemy?
B. According to the Bible, we are "by nature children of wrath" (Eph 2:3).
1. It is not that we can't do good. We do. It's just that we can't keep from doing bad.
2. "There is none righteous, not even one . . . All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:10, 23).
C. Some would disagree with such strong words. They look around and say, "Compared to everyone else, I'm a decent person."
1. You know, a pig might say something similar. He might look at his troughpartners & announce, "I'm just as clean as everyone else."
2. Compared to humans, however, that pig needs help.
D. Compared to God, we humans need the same.
1. The standard for sinlessness isn't found at the pig troughs of the earth but at the throne of heaven. God himself is the standard!
2. Our God is a perfect God, untainted by sin, untethered by mistakes.
3. Where we see nothing but murky waters, he sees nothing but purity.
4. Where we dwell in darkness, he dwells in light.
5. God never sins. And we have never not sinned.
6. God has lived a sinless eternity; I'd be thrilled with a sinless hour!
a. But I've never had one. Have you? Have you ever gone 60 minutes with only one sin? Me neither.
b. For the sake of contrast, let's say you did. Let's say you lived a life in which you averaged only one sin an hour. Do the math!
c. An average life span of 72 years would mean 630,720 sins. Let's round it down to 600,000.
7. Now envision the moment you stand before God. He is a perfect God, remember, & heaven is a perfect place.
a. And you? You would be perfect, too, except for the 600,000 failures on your record. Separating you and God is an insurmountable flood of imperfection and sin.
b. We have a problem: We are sinners, and God says "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23.
8. What can we do? How does God react when we become his enemies?
Joe tried so hard. He made her favorite dinner--she didn't want to eat. He invited her to a movie--she just stayed in her room. He bought her a new dress--she didn't even say thank you. Then, one day she never came home. A friend saw her and her boyfriend in the vicinity of the bus station. Ticket to Chicago.
IV. THE WAY HOME
A. The most notorious road in the world is the Via Dolorosa, "the Way of Sorrows." Traditionally, it is the route Jesus took from Pilate's hall to Calvary. The path is marked by stations frequently used by Christians for their devotions. One station marks the passing of Pilate's verdict. ….the appearance of Simon to carry the cross. ...Two commemorate the stumble of Christ, another the words of Christ. ...14 in all, each one a reminder of the events of Christ's final journey.
B. The route is not accurate, of course. Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70 & again in A.D. 135. So, no one knows the exact route.
C. But we do know where the path actually began.
1. It began, not in the court of Pilate, but in the halls of heaven. The Father began his journey when he left his home in search of us.
2. Armed with nothing more than a passion to win your heart, he came looking. This is the heart of the Christian message.
3. God became human. ...born in an ordinary stable to ordinary parents.
4. But his was an extraordinary purpose. He came to take us home to heaven. His death was a sacrifice for our sins.
5. Jesus was our substitute. He paid for our mistakes so we wouldn't have to. Jesus' desire was singular--to bring his children home.
6. The Bible has a word for this quest: reconciliation. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself' (2 Cor 5:19).
a. Reconciliation restitches the unraveled, reverses the rebellion, rekindles the cold passion, reunites the estranged.
b. Reconciliation touches the shoulder of the wayward and woos him homeward.
The scrawny boy with the tattoos had a cousin. The could sleep at his place. But they had no skills, & there were no jobs… but you don't think of things like that when you're intoxicated on freedom. The cousin changed his mind. And the boyfriend left. Madeline found herself facing the night with no place to sleep & no hand to hold. ...homeless shelter… then, dancing in a bar… Hunger has a way of softening convictions.
V. PRIDE AND SHAME
A. Pride and shame. They are sisters. They appear so different.
1. Pride puffs out her chest. Shame hangs her head.
Pride boasts. Shame hides.
Pride seeks to be seen. Shame seeks to be avoided.
2. But don't be fooled, the emotions have the same parentage. And they have the same impact. They keep you from your Father.
a. Pride says, You're too good for him. Shame says, You're too bad for him.
b. Pride drives you away. Shame keeps you away.
3. If pride is what goes before a fall, then shame is what keeps you from getting up after one. Ever wonder why you can't confess your sin & return to your Father?
One day the cousin brought letters. Not one, or two, but a box full. All addressed to her. All from her father. But she could not bear to open the envelopes. She knew what they said; he wanted her home. But if he knew what she was doing, he would not be writing. But there were occasions when she longed for her father's touch. Like the time she saw a dress in the clothing store window. Seeing her weary face reflected in the store window, Madeline realized she'd give a thousand dresses to feel his arm again.
A. We all make choices. Sometimes wisely, sometimes not.
God gives eternal choices, and these choices have eternal consequences.
B. You've made some bad choices in life, haven't you? You've chosen the wrong friends, maybe the wrong career.
1. You look back over your life and say, "If only I could make up for those bad choices."
2. You can. One good choice for eternity offsets thousands of bad ones on earth. The choice is yours.
* Since Jesus came to earth, this eternal choice has been available to us.
1. And yet we wonder how some can choose eternal life and some reject it. We wonder how two men can see the same Jesus, and one choose to mock him and the other choose to pray to him. I don't know how, but they did.
2. That's what happened at the cross. There were two other crosses on the hill the day Jesus died. Two criminals, suffering the same death. And those two crosses remind us of one of God's greatest gifts: the gift of choice. One chose Jesus; the other merely mocked him.
3. When one dying criminal prayed, Jesus loved him enough to save him. & when the other mocked, Jesus loved him enough to let him.
a. He allowed him the choice.
b. He does the same for you.
A few days before Christmas Eve another letter arrived. "A couple of days ago a big man stopped by and asked me to give this to you," explained one of the other dancers. Madeline swallowed hard and opened it and removed the card. "I know where you are," it read. "I know what you do. This doesn't change the way I feel. What I've said in each letter is still true." She pulled a letter from the top of the stack and read it. Then a 2nd and a 3rd. Each letter had the same exact sentence. Each sentence asked the same question.
Within an hour she was on a bus. "I just might make it in time." She barely did. The relatives were starting to leave. Joe was helping Grandma in the kitchen when his brother called from the suddenly quiet den. "Joe, someone is here to see you." Joe stepped out of the kitchen and stopped. In one hand the girl held a backpack. In the other she held a card. He saw the question in her eyes. "The answer is 'yes,"' she said to her father. "If the invitation is still good, the answer is 'yes."' Joe swallowed hard. "Oh my. The invitation is good."
And so the two danced again on Christmas Eve. On the floor near the door, rested a letter with Madeline's name and her father's request. "Will you come home and dance with your Poppa again?"
VII. HE DID THIS JUST FOR YOU
A. Why is the cross the symbol of our faith?
1. One beam horizontal, the other vertical. One reaches out like God's love. One reaches up as does God's holiness.
2. One represents the width of his love, the other reflects the height of his holiness The cross is the intersection of both.
B. The cross is where God forgave his children without lowering his standard.
1. How could he do this? In a sentence: God put our sin on his Son and punished it there.
2. "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor 5:21).
3. Another version reads, "Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so that Christ could make us acceptable to God" (2 Cor. 5:21,CEV).
4. Envision the moment. God on his throne. You on the earth. And between you and God, suspended between you and heaven, is Christ on his cross. Your sins have been placed on Jesus. God, who punishes sin, releases his rightful wrath on your mistakes. Jesus receives the blow. Since Christ is between you and God, you don't. The sin is punished, but you are safe, safe in the shadow of the cross.
C. Why did He do it?
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son . . . (John 3:16).
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