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TEXT: John 3:16
SUBJECT: The Passion of Jesus Christ #6: God's Love
Tonight we come to Chapter 5 in our study of John Piper's book, The Passion of Jesus Christ. In fifty short chapters, Dr. Piper tries to explain why God sent His Son to the cross. We know why others did it: Judas did it because he loved money, the Rulers did it because they envied the Lord, Pontius Pilate did it because he was scared and cynical, Herod did it because he was disappointed in not seeing a magic show, the people did it because they were foolish and easily manipulated. In short, men sent Him to the cross because they're fallen away from God and under the power of Satan.
But, unlike men, God isn't sinful or deceived. Yet, He too, joined in the sufferings and death of Christ. And more than joined in, He decreed them and saw that they occurred just as He wanted them to.
Would you kill your own son? I wouldn't. But God did. The book tells us why. The answer is not complete-no answer that we could come up with would even scratch the surface of God's mysterious wisdom. But, complete or not, the answers given are true-true because they come right out of the Bible.
Why did Jesus Christ suffer and die? The answer we look at tonight is maybe the most wonderful of them all-and also the most sobering-
Christ suffered and died to show the wealth of God's love and grace for sinners.
The believer cannot think of the cross without thinking of Christ's love. John 15:13 has it,
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.
Our Lord's willing death dispels all doubts about His love for sinners. He loved His neighbor as Himself-and more than Himself! But His was not the only love displayed on the cross. And His human love for us was far less than another love found at Mount Calvary. I mean, of course, the Father's love for us proved by the Gift of His only begotten Son! Look at how fine a point Paul put on it, using 'God' and 'Christ' in the same sentence, Romans 5:8,
But God demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Three chapters later, he makes the same point, this time in words even more vivid and moving, Romans 8:31-32,
What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not, with Him, freely give us all things?
God is 'for us", that is, He loves us. And we ought to know His love-and trust it-because it is so immense that it turned Christ over to the abuse of wicked men and unclean spirits!
Good parents know that dying yourself is easier than handing your child over to torture and death. But that's just what God did!
Thus, in this chapter, we're not talking about Christ's love for us in going to the cross, but the Father's love for us in sending Him there. That's the topic for now.
All Christians agree that the cross proves the love of God for us. But other things do too. In telling us to love our enemies and be kind to people who don't like us, the Lord says that God loves His enemies and is kind to people who don't like Him. He shows them His goodness by
Causing the sun to rise on the evil and making the rain fall on the unjust.
Every breath you draw proves God's love. Every time Adolf Hitler's heart beat, he should have felt the love of His Maker. But the love of God seen at the cross is far greater than His love seen at any other place. Of that love, Piper says,
The measure of God's love for us is shown in two things. One is the degree of His sacrifice in saving us from the penalty of our sin. The other is the degree of our unworthiness that we had when He saved us.
The wording is a little clumsy, it seems to me, but you know what he means. The greatness of God's love is seen in (1) Whom He sent to the cross, and (2) For whom He sent Him to the cross.
WHOM HE SENT TO THE CROSS
Whom did God send to the cross for your salvation? Had He sent Judas Iscariot or Pharoah or Hamaan or some other notorious criminal, it would have been an easy choice for Him to make. As bad as we are, we're not as bad as these men were.
But it wasn't a Herod or a Balaam who went to the cross in your place; it was God's Son.
We can hear the measure of His sacrifice in the words, 'He gave His only Son' (John 3:16).
To a good father, 'son' is a word very dear to him. Even disappointing sons are deeply loved. Think of the Prodigal's father and how he longed for his son's return, and how eager he was to overlook his folly and restore him to his place in the family-with no questions asked!
The father in that story is God! And if He loves runaway children, how much more does He love the Son who made Him proud from all eternity?
The love between human fathers and sons is a blurry, faded, and washed-out picture of God's love for His Son. But it was this Son-the Son of His love-that He sent to the cross for the forgiveness of your sins.
It's hard to read the story of Abraham and Isaac without chocking up: Take your son, your only son, the son you love, and offer him to Me as a burnt sacrifice. Abraham was willing to do that, but God was more than willing: He did it.
If I told you, I love you so much I'll give you a penny! That is an act of love, but the love isn't worth much because a penny's not worth much.
If you ever doubt the love of God, just remember He did not spare His own Son.
Jesus Christ is not only God's Son, but He's also the Christ. Piper says,
We hear the measure of His sacrifice in the word, 'Christ'. It is a term of great dignity. The Messiah was to be the King of Israel-indeed, the King of the world.
Millions of Englishmen have died for their king, but here's a King who died for millions of Englishmen-and not only Englishmen. God killed the King to save His subjects-and not the best ones, but the worst-not the learned and the wealthy and the upright, but the ones in prison.
Add to this, the kind of suffering and death to which He sent His Son. Piper says,
When we consider the horrific death by crucifixion that Christ endured, it becomes clear to us that the sacrifice the Father made was indescribably great.
I wouldn't let my son die a peaceful death at 103 to save a man who hated me. But God sent His Son to an unpeaceful death at 33 to save the world that hated Him!
How much does God love you? Enough to give up His Son, who is also the King, to a death no one outside of hell can imagine.
Christ suffered and died to show the wealth of God's love.
Underline the word, 'wealth'. Not just His love, but 'the wealth of His love' is demonstrated on the cross.
FOR WHOM HE SENT HIM TO THE CROSS
If the quality of Christ proves God's love, so does the quality of sinners. Piper has it,
The measure of His love for us increases when we consider our unworthiness. 'Perhaps for a good person, one would dare even to die-but God shows His love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us' (Romans 5:7-8).
To sacrifice one good thing for another is quite reasonable. Two good friends invite me to dinner on the same night. I sacrifice a steak with the Jones' for a lobster with the Smith's. Hearing that story, would you admire me for my great love? Of course you wouldn't-steak with the Jones' and lobster with the Smith's are more or less equal goods.
But what if I turned down both invitations to eat Spaghettios with my worst enemies? You'd probably think I was out of my mind. But what if I told you that, even though the Smiths and Jones' are my best friends and that steak and lobster are my favorite foods, I'm going to choke down Spaghettios with the Taylors because I want to win them to God? You'd probably think I loved them. And you're right.
This is what God did for us. He didn't sacrifice His Son for the Holy Spirit, for they are equally pleasing to Him. He sacrificed His Son for sinners, for people who know all about Him, and hate Him from the bottom of their hearts!
He did this-not because He was out of His mind-but because He loves sinners.
Does this prove that sinners ought to think highly of themselves? Does Christ's death mean we're valuable? Piper's heard all this, and firmly answers it,
I have heard it said, 'God didn't die for frogs. So He was responding to our value as humans'. This turns grace on its head. We are worse than frogs because they have not sinned. God does not have to die for frogs. They are not bad enough. We are. Our debt is so great, only a divine sacrifice could pay it. It is not us. It is 'the riches of His grace'. It is not a response to our worth. It is an overflow of His infinite Divine love.
The Bible is true and reliable. If we had no proof of God's love except the Bible said 'God is love', we would have every reason to believe in His love. But actions speak louder than words. God doesn't prove His love by saying He loves us over and over again. He proved it by sending His Son to the cross in our place.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
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