Faithlife
Faithlife

For the Love of God

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Introduction:
I want to read a summary from the docu-drama titled A Cipher in the Snow. The documentary was originally written by Jean Mizer, then made into a movie, and summarized here by Gary Smalley and John Trent. These two men in their own book The Blessing summarize it with a graphic portrait of the painful consequences of living with with the belief that one is unloved.
Roger was a elementary childhood retreated into his own little world of silence and withdraw. Oblivious to the frolic and happiness of the children he was surrounded by at the bus stop, Roger stairs so lonely at the ground. It is there the other children are not noticed by him so he is not noticed by the others--it is almost as if Rogers is invisible to the other children--he never looks up at them and they never speak to him or even seem to acknowledge his existence. The school bus arrives, the children cowed on each one finding a seat with a friend--all except Roger. The last one on the bus, Roger steps on, looks briefly and expectantly into the faces of the other children, but no one beckons for him to join, so he slumps into a seat behind the driver. They travel only a few miles when suddenly Roger drops his books and staggers to his feet.
Standing now next to the driver, he has a wild and distant look on his face. Shocked by his sudden appearance and unable to get answers from Roger, the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road opens the door and Roger begins to walk down the steps of the bus and pitches forward into the snow.
Standing now next to the driver, he has a wild and distant look on his face. Shocked by his sudden appearance and unable to get answers from Roger, the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road opens the door and Roger begins to walk down the steps of the bus and pitches forward into the snow.
So in only a few months everything and everybody of value to Roger--his parents, his teachers and his friends had either been lost or taken from him with no place of shelter and no words of encouragement or comfort. Roger felt like a cypher, an empty zero. This sensitive little child wasn’t able to bear the pain any longer. So what conclusion they could come up with not being able to prove anything is Roger was not killed by infirmity or a wound, because no medical reason could be found for Rogers death, so they concluded he was killed by a lack of acceptance and a lack of love. The realization of that lack ate like a deadly cancer and after months of pursuing its deadly course it finally ate away his will to live. He died a cipher in the snow believing that he was totally alone and utterly unwanted and completely unloved. That is the record of a true story that actually happened to a young boy who actually died on the way to school one day. There are a lot of sad things to this boy’s story but one of the greatest tragedies is that Somebody, Somebody (our Creator Redeemer God, YHWH) that Somebody the most significant Person of all time really did love him. But for one reason or another no one bothered to tell Roger, because with God there are no ciphers in the snow.
To the bewilderment and shock and horror of this bus driver, this little elementary child named Roger is dead-- A cipher in the snow. No medical reason could be found for Roger's death but a teacher’s diligence uncovered the probable cause. This teacher discovered that Roger’s life had been systematically erased like a blackboard. The marriage of Rogers parents had disintegrated, and a new preoccupied stepfather never had time to fill the vacuum in Roger's life. More than that, resentful of any attention his new wife gave Roger, the stepfather limited their time together. Like being pushed away from a seat next to a fireplace, Roger was now left with only the cold ache of indifference, rejection, and loneliness. Roger’s hurtful home life led to apathy to his school work. Tired of his apathy, his teachers gave up on little Roger. Left him to work alone, Roger suffered silently and privately.
To the bewilderment and shock and horror of this bus driver, this little elementary child named Roger is dead-- A cipher in the snow. No medical reason could be found for Roger's death but a teacher’s diligence uncovered the probable cause. This teacher discovered that Roger’s life had been systematically erased like a blackboard. The marriage of Rogers parents had disintegrated, and a new preoccupied stepfather never had time to fill the vacuum in Roger's life. More than that, resentful of any attention his new wife gave Roger, the stepfather limited their time together. Like being pushed away from a seat next to a fireplace, Roger was now left with only the cold ache of indifference, rejection, and loneliness. Roger’s hurtful home life led to apathy to his school work. Tired of his apathy, his teachers gave up on little Roger. Left him to work alone, Roger suffered silently and privately.
So in only a few months everything and everybody of value to Roger--his parents, his teachers, and his friends had either been lost or taken from him with no place of shelter and no words of encouragement or comfort. Roger felt like a cypher, an empty zero. This sensitive little child wasn’t able to bear the pain any longer. So what conclusion the teacher and doctors could come up with, not really being able to prove anything, is Roger was not killed by infirmity or a wound, because no medical reason could be found for Rogers death, so they concluded he was killed by a lack of acceptance and a lack of love. The realization of that lack ate like a deadly cancer and after months of pursuing its deadly course it finally ate away Roger's will to live. He died a cipher in the snow, believing that he was totally alone, utterly unwanted, and completely unloved.
So in only a few months everything and everybody of value to Roger--his parents, his teachers, and his friends had either been lost or taken from him with no place of shelter and no words of encouragement or comfort. Roger felt like a cypher, an empty zero. This sensitive little child wasn’t able to bear the pain any longer. So what conclusion the teacher and doctors could come up with, not really being able to prove anything, is Roger was not killed by infirmity or a wound, because no medical reason could be found for Rogers death, so they concluded he was killed by a lack of acceptance and a lack of love. The realization of that lack ate like a deadly cancer and after months of pursuing its deadly course it finally ate away Roger's will to live. He died a cipher in the snow, believing that he was totally alone, utterly unwanted, and completely unloved.
That is the record of a true story that actually happened to a young boy who actually died on the way to school one day. There are a lot of sad things to this boy’s story but one of the greatest tragedies is that Somebody, Somebody (our Creator Redeemer God, YHWH) that Somebody the most significant Person of all time really did love him. But for one reason or another no one bothered to tell Roger, because with God there are no ciphers in the snow.
I believe this true story of Roger confirms that without love, life becomes unbearable, intolerable, unlivable, and in some cases even suicidal. I’ve heard somewhere that we can live about 40 days without food and go about 3 days without water (give or take a few days) We cannot survive over about 8 minutes without oxygen, perhaps a few moments longer depending on a certain set of circumstances for that to happen. But not even a second we could survive apart from our Savior’s love. We could not live long without the hope and the meaning or significance of being loved brings to our lives. In other words, we can do almost anything if we know somehow that we are loved. Conversely, we can hardly bear to live without any recognition of love.
Transition:
So this morning, let’s look at a familiar passage to EVERYBODY. This passage is one of the very first verses we usually memorize. Turn to
Dr. Douglas McLachlan calls this verse “probably the most profound statement of the redemptive love of God in all of scripture” I am convinced that this verse is a rescue verse for any Christian struggling deeply with the cares and worries of this life.
John 3:16 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NA27
οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλʼ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.
YHWH’s love through Christ is the solution to all of those critical predicaments that we face in life and in this one postcard verse is the answer.
We can see several awe inspiring qualities of God’s love for our fallen and sinful race.
For so (οὑτως γαρ [houtōs gar]) οὑτως is in the emphatic position—it’s the very first Greek word in this sentence—grammatically speaking, this οὑτως is the most important word. This use of οὑτως means “in this way or in this manner”. this is quite possibly the whole reason for verse 16 this is all about in what way does God love us. Everything else about this verse, then, is subordinate to the way that God loves us.
So how does YHWH love us cursed sinful, sin-filled worldlings?
God loves us personally - John uses His title “God” which is synonymous with His Name in the Greek. so John really uses His Name — there is no ‘YHWH’ or ‘Jehovah’ equivalent in the Greek language. In fact, God is so personal that he is the subject of these two main verbs here in this compound sentence: “God loved” and “God gave.” This is wonderful news that demands our praise! The Creator of the Universe has a personal investment in you and me! We are the recipients of the Almighty God’s loving and the Almighty God’s giving! Amen?!?
This idea of knowing and loving Our God on a personal intimate level is unique to the Christian faith! To prove this look at other religions: No Muslim gets to know the dead Mohammed and their Allah certainly isn’t loving. No Hindu gods are personal, plus how could they be when there are literally millions--330 million to be more precise. No communist gets to talk to Marxx or Lennon. No Buddhist got to know Siddhārtha Gautama intimately, personally, or with any relational aspect. The Buddha is famously quoted from his death bed to have said, “I am still seeking truth” Many idolize this statement, but it is a tragic statement! In stark contrast, God in flesh said, “I am the Truth” and that is something to love!
God Loves us!
We can see several stunning qualities of God’s love for our fallen and sinful race.
God Loves us!
God loved” ἠγάπησεν [ēgapēsen] ὁ θεὸς This is an AORIST ACTIVE INDICATIVE ἀγαπαω [agapaō] (as is the parsing of the verb “gave”), which speaks of a completed act in the past time (God sent Jesus). Verses 16–17 deal primarily with the Father’s love. “Loved” is the term agapaō. It was not used much in Classical Greek. The early church took it and filled it with specific meaning. In certain contexts it relates to the Father’s or Son’s love; however, it is used negatively of human love (cf. 3:19; 12:43; )
ὁ θεὸς This is an AORIST ACTIVE INDICATIVE (as is the verb “gave”), which speaks of a completed act in the past time (God sent Jesus). Verses 16–17 deal primarily with the Father’s love. “Loved” is the term agapaō. It was not used much in Classical Greek. The early church took it and filled it with specific meaning. In certain contexts it relates to the Father’s or Son’s love; however, it is used negatively of human love (cf. 3:19; 12:43; )
(as is the verb “gave”), which speaks of a completed act in the past time (God sent Jesus). Verses 16–17 deal primarily with the Father’s love. “Loved” is the term agapaō. It was not used much in Classical Greek. The early church took it and filled it with specific meaning. In certain contexts it relates to the Father’s or Son’s love; however, it is used negatively of human love (cf. 3:19; 12:43; )
Dr. McLachlan says “it’s worth giving a brief definition of the term like love.” He continued “Now I know it’s much easier to think about it--a lot easier define it then to practice agape love. It is easy for preachers like me to be experts in things we may never really have experienced. It’s easy to be definitional but it’s much harder to be demonstrable. But I think there is still value in the definition.” And this is how Dr. McLachlan defines love:
First, love is a radical change from self to un-self. I think that's what love is fundamentally the radical being change from self to un-self to very simple definition of profound implications. living out this is not easy at all because self is the cyanide of all meaningful relationships. It is the poison all meaningful relationships. so love is a radical denial of self. Do you want your marriage to last? forget about you—it is about your spouses’ needs, wants, and desires—you come second.
The second thing that love is, love is a selfless and sacrificial investment in the well being of another. It always has great personal cost because there’s no such thing as cheap love--it’s costly.
Often, love is with no hope of reciprocation. This was the case with our Messiah all the way to the cross—little to no hope of reciprocation from those around Him. Even His closest relationships abandoned Him at His death, nevertheless Jesus continues to love. He has this same love for us today.
So too, must we love others—even ciphers— with this kind of love that is selfless.
The world (τον κοσμον [ton kosmon]). In the 21 chapters of this Gospel, there are 79 references to the world-the cosmos. God loves the whole cosmos of men, including Gentiles, the whole human race. This universal aspect of God’s love appears also in ; .
2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV
that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Romans 5:8 ESV
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Think about how hard this really is! The world is ugly! The world is passing away, the world is immoral, the world continues on day to day without recognizing God. YHWH is either at best: irrelevant or at worst non-existant. Either way there is no reason to love God in the world system. In those 79 references, most are painting the ugly picture of this world. Paul agrees:
Romans 1:28 ESV
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
The Greek here in this verse means that they judged God unfit for them. The world does not want God! In fact, secularism is always at war with God—and this is why we must be set apart/be holy/ separate from the world. The word suffers from “me-ism” “it’s all about me!”
2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
What is “ the god of this world?” It’s the world system—the cosmos
This wording here also could be refuting gnostic dualism between spirit (good) and matter (evil). The Greeks attributed evil to any physical matter. For them, the human body (matter) in this present life on earth (physical) was the prison house of the divine spark in all humans (thanks to Plato). John does not assume the evil of matter or flesh. God loves the world (planet, cf. ) and human beings (flesh, cf. ). This may be another intentional ambiguity (double entendre)
However, God loves us universally!
So too, must we love others—even the unlovable— with this kind of love that is unbiased, without bigotry, despite any differences.
That he gave (ὡστε ἐδωκεν [hōste edōken])
Here is the action backing this love- a gift to prove his love—not that he had to prove it to us, but He did to put His word to work. Giving is concrete acts of love. Love is not an abstract thought and emotion but a real life “rubber-meets-road” action through our hands & feet. Jesus gave His love in actions: He came, He died, He rose, He lives! YHWH is a giver and satan is the taker. But instead of giving us things, because we don’t need more things, He gave of Himself, the thing we need most. We could have every thing we’ve ever wanted only to discover we don’t want anything we have. These things don’t love us and cannot satisfy us. Only Jesus can satisfy us/complete us.
So too, must we love others enough to give of our time, resource, of ourselves.
His only begotten Son (τον υἱον τον μονογενη [ton huion ton monogenē]) μονογενη This means “unique, one of a kind, the very best.” It should not be understood as “only begotten” in (1) a sexual sense or (2) the sense that there are no other children. It is very true that there are no other children just like Jesus; however, we are God’s sons and daughters when we come to know Him personally!
The greatest way we can love others is to show others the cost of the free gift of eternal life by sharing the Gospel no matter the cost to us. This is sacrificial love! The biggest price the Father could have paid, He did to show us His sacrificial love. We have His very best! This is good news to us!
John 15:13 ESV
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
yes God is asking us to lay down our life for him but it is nothing more than what he has done for us!
whoever believes in him” (ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν) 'Believes’ is a PRESENT ACTIVE PARTICIPLE, which emphasizes initial and continuing belief. This affirmation is repeated from v. 15 for emphasis. You must believe or God’s love will be meaningless to you! Thank God for the “whosoever”! the whosoever takes eternal acceptance! This must balance any overemphasis on a special group (racial, intellectual, or theological). It is not that “God’s sovereignty” and “human freewill” are mutually exclusive; they are both true! God always initiates the response and sets the agenda (, )
John 6:44 ESV
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
“whosoever believes in Him” This is a PRESENT ACTIVE PARTICIPLE, which emphasizes initial and continuing belief. This affirmation is repeated from v. 15 for emphasis. Thank God for the “whosoever”! This must balance any overemphasis on a special group (racial, intellectual, or theological). It is not that “God’s sovereignty” and “human freewill” are mutually exclusive; they are both true! God always initiates the response and sets the agenda (cf. 6:44, 65), but He has structured His relationship with humans by means of covenant. They must respond and continue to respond to His offer and conditions! See Special Topic at 2:23.
John 6:65 ESV
And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
but He has structured His relationship with humans by means of covenant. We must respond and continue to respond to His offer and His conditions! And, in loving others we cannot sidestep the belief/ the faith— Why?
shall not perish” (μὴ ἀπόληται) The clear implication is that some will perish (AORIST MIDDLE SUBJUNCTIVE) actually more then some, perhaps most because of unbelief. Their perishing is directly related to their lack of a faith response to Jesus. God does not cause, direct, or will their unbelief ( , ; ; ).
Ezekiel 18:23 ESV
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?
Ezekiel 18:32 ESV
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
1 Timothy 2:4 ESV
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
2 Peter 3:9 ESV
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Many have attempted to take this term “shall not perish” literally and thereby suggest an annihilation of the wicked. This would contradict and . Many people have committed to the ways of this world which its end is destruction; however, it take love to come and rescue us from utter, sure destruction and that is what Jesus has done—rescued us—we shall not perish! He is not done, he wants to rescue you now.
I.
Matthew 7:13 ESV
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
b. The Son will give his life (3:16b).
II. The Son will give his life (3:16b).
The gate to destruction is so wide you don't have to leave anything behind. You can bring all the baggage of this material world with you if you want. And with the crowds going in, it is easy to feel welcomed into destruction, “come on in, everybody’s doing it!” No, that is what Jesus came to rescue us/redeem us from this hell. If you were to leave someone with just the Gospel and they don’t believe, than the Gospel become as useful as another self-help strategy to them--all the while condemning them further into hell.
“but have eternal life” (ἀλλʼ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον) maybe more literally “but have life for all the ages” —not this age, not just the age to come, but eternally through the ages. This is YHWH connecting with us to fill us with everlasting life that we may be loved forever.

So What?

The Outline Bible Section Outline Three (John 3)

a. The Father gave his Son (3:16a).

b. The Son will give his life (3:16b).

The Father gave his Son and the Son gives his life for us. We are loved and we are told that here. There are no ciphers in the snow. There is no one created and unloved. So what are we then to do? We are to love back—reciprocate unconditionally. Do what the Personal/personable Holy Spirit did here and tell others that you love them. We must say “I love you” I must say it to my wife, I need to save to my children, I need to say to you as a people of God, and you need to say it to me as your pastor who loves you and then you say it to each of us here today because He loves you and we ought to say it to confirm His love in us.
Dr. McLachlan said it this way, “Love is never less than saying it but it's always more than a saying.”
II. The Son will give his life (3:16b).
Affirmation through words has to be supported by demonstration that is doing and that's exactly what The Father and the Son demonstrated for us so love one another as He has love you. Prove your love to God by obeying Him, serving Him, sacrificing comforts for the sake of the spread of the Gospel. Christ-like love always desires to do the right thing, and in the Christian world, the right thing is the Redemptive thing--the rescuing thing. God loves us personally we need to learn how to rub shoulders with people personally who have needs. I want you to pray to our the Lord, “help me to be alert in my little slice of the secular society, where you placed me, help me to be alert to somebody who is really hurting and might end up being a ‘cipher in the snow.’ Bring that kind of person across my path. Help me to see the unloved in the markets, at work, in my neighborhood, and even my family, or my extended family, perhaps among my friends, among my acquaintances wherever they happen to be, help me see them that I may love them and share Your love with them before it is too late.
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