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How Great a Love, Part 1

From the series He Holds Me Forever

How many times have you said to yourself, “If I’d only known -” Knowing changes our conversations. It changes our attitudes. Knowing changes our priorities. In this program, Theresa Ingram talks about one of those priceless, “If I’d only known -” revelations about the greatest love we can ever know.

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Message Transcript

I want to tell you a little story just to start off. Several years ago, back in Texas at a little church where Chip was the pastor, I met a twelve-year-old girl and her family began to attend the church where we were and I had her in my Sunday school class. And as I got to know this little girl, my heart was just drawn to her in a real special way.

She was growing up in a very dysfunctional family. She had some other siblings in her home, two of the older children had already been taken out of the home because of abuse. And many times, I heard that the discipline that she was given, she was told that if she didn’t listen, then they would put her away someplace.

And she didn’t know what it was like to be wanted by anyone. But God drew my heart to this little girl and I wanted to do something for her, I wanted to help her in some way.

And as I had her in Sunday school class I thought, Well, you know, I know that there are some problems here but maybe I could teach her how to read. And so, I started meeting with her once a week and we started with the very basics of the A, B, Cs and we started writing A, B, Cs and learning the sounds of the letters and learning how to read.

And every week when I met with her, I would give her a hug and I would tell her encouraging words and tell her how much that she meant to me. But she didn’t respond to the hugs that I gave her and to my expressions of love for a long time.

But I kept on hugging her every week. And one day, she put her arms around me and she gave me a great big hug. And her life began to change. She did learn how to read. And she was married and she had a little girl of her own and she is living a very good life because she learned how to receive love and how to express love to others.

And so, love is a very powerful thing. It’s a powerful thing. And every day, God puts His arms around us and He wants to tell us how much He loves us and He wants to give us a great, big hug.

Too many times, we miss the signs. We don’t realize that He’s there. And it’s hard for us to remain in the realization of His love. And how many times does He hold out His arms for us and we run another way?

Or how many times does He bless us with material things in our lives and we get enamored with the gift and forget the one who gave it to us? And how many times in our lives do we go through our daily lives, day by day, and we miss the signs of His love?

Well, that’s what we’re going to look at. We are going to talk about how God loves us and our heavenly Father’s love is a lot different, it’s greater than the love that we receive from our earthly fathers. Many of us were raised in homes where our earthly fathers didn’t know the Lord, they didn’t have a relationship with the Lord. And so, they didn’t know how to love us in the way that a father who knew the Lord would.

And maybe they were unable to express it. They didn’t know how to express it. And maybe they were neglectful or abusive or demanding or too strict. And they didn’t know how to show love to you as you were growing up.

Or maybe you were raised in a home with a godly father – you know, some of us had very godly fathers. And they followed after the Lord with all of their hearts and they showed us their love. But even that love, even that love of a godly father, even though it’s a picture of the kind of love that God has for us, that love is so much smaller than the love of God for His children, because God’s love is perfect, His love is greater, and better than any earthly father could ever give. It’s the kind of love that can change a person’s life. It’s a powerful love.ty76

And so, we’re going to talk about how He puts His arms around us and He shows us His love.

And so, if you want to open up your notes to the first lesson here, How Great a Love, we are going to look at how much God loves us.

In 1 John 3:1, it says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God.” And that is what we are. It says, “How great is His love.” This love is a unique kind of love. It’s a love that, it’s beyond what we can even imagine. It’s an out-of-this-world kind of love. It’s a love, as we talked about, that’s greater than an earthly father has for a child.

And it says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us.” He calls Himself our Father. It’s an affectionate term as a father to a child. And it says He lavishes His love on us. He pours it out on us. It’s given generously to us, that we should be called children of God.

And this “children of God” is the title for believers. That’s who we are if we have trusted in Christ as our Savior. We are children of God. And it’s – God has brought believers into a loving, intimate relationship as children with their Father. And it’s an amazing thing when you think about, that the God of the universe would adopt us as His children and allow us to call Him “Father”.

In fact, our self-identity, who we are, is based on the very fact that we are children of God. We belong to Him. We are daughters of the King. And as daughters of the King,

We are heirs, we inherit all the blessings of heaven, everything that heaven has to give is our inheritance.

And it says, “And that is what we are.” It repeats, the fact, it’s a fact. We are children of God. And He loves us. He pours out His love upon us.

Well, what kind of love is this then that comes from God if it’s so great and it’s so different, what kind of love is it? Well, there are four kinds of love in the Greek language. And one of those is eros. And that means sexual passion. It’s a need kind of love. It’s based on the physical attraction and fulfillment. And then there is storge, which is a family devotion to one another. And then phileo, which is friendship. It’s brotherly love. It’s that companionship kind of love.

But then there’s agape. It’s the divine love. It’s a giving love. It’s used exclusively to characterize the love of God. Agape love. And agape love is a part of the very nature and being of God. It’s a part of who He is. Agape love is a giving love. It’s unselfish. It’s a love that gives, even when the object of its love doesn’t respond. Think about that.

That’s divine. It doesn’t come naturally to us as believers. But we can experience this love in our lives and we can give that kind of love to others as God gives that to us as He pours that out in our hearts.

And so, the definition of divine love is that highest and noblest form of love that sees something infinitely precious in its object. And that’s who you are. That’s what He’s saying to you that when He looks at you, you are infinitely precious to Him. That’s how much He loves you.

Well, divine love is defined by the way it is expressed to us, by the way it is expressed to those He loves. And so, we are going to look at: how is it expressed? How does God express His love?

Well, first of all, God’s love for me is a giving love. It’s a giving love. And we are going to look at two ways that He gives us His love. First of all, it is given sacrificially, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

You know, it’s hard to imagine why the Creator of the universe would desire a relationship with us so much that He would sacrifice His own Son on the cross to die for us, to bring us into relationship with Him. That’s hard to imagine that He would do that. That He exposed Jesus to rejection and to physical suffering. All these things, the wrath of God was poured out upon Jesus for our sins. And it could only have been because He loved us so much that He would do that. And if we ever doubt that God loves us, all we have to do is remember Jesus’ life and His death on the cross and if we want a symbol, if we ever want a symbol in our mind to remember how much God loves us, the symbol would be the cross. He has proven to us His love by dying on the cross.

He paid the greatest price He could ever pay to give us the greatest gift that He could ever give. It’s a love so great, it’s a love so great that on His way to the cross, do you know who He was thinking about? He wasn’t thinking about Himself. He was thinking about you and me on His way to the cross. That’s how much He loves us.

Max Lucado says, “He chose the nails because He couldn’t bear eternity without you and because He chose the nails, He has opened the door of heaven forever.” What a wonderful promise.

So, God’s love is given sacrificially. He sacrificed His Son. And it’s given with us in mind to give us the very best that He could ever give us.

And then secondly, it’s given unconditionally. In Romans 5:8 it says, “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” God showed us His love by sending His Son to die for us while we were ungodly, while we were undeserving, while we were His enemies. He died for us while there was nothing in us that could ever merit that kind of a love.

And He died for us when we were unworthy of His love. And all we had to do was receive it. That’s all we had to do.

And before we accepted Christ, there was nothing, there was nothing that we could ever do to make ourselves right with God. Nothing in ourselves to ever make us gain His favor, make Him love us. There was nothing we could do. But the Scripture says that He loved us first before we, before we ever knew Him or before we ever loved Him. And I thought about a newborn baby, how the parents when that baby is born and when they are really small, they loved that child so much. But the child at the time is unaware of the parents’ love.

And that’s how it is, how God loved us. He loved us so much before we even knew Him, before we were even aware that He loved us. In 1 John 4:9 and 10 it says, “God showed how much He loved us by sending His Son into the world to die on the cross, that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love: it is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

And then in Deuteronomy 7:7, “The Lord did not choose you and lavish His love on you because you were larger or greater than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations.” He was talking to the nation of Israel here. And Israel was the smallest of all the nations. There wasn’t anything great about these people. He said, “It’s just because I loved you. Simply because I loved you.”

And so, He doesn’t love us because we are good people. He doesn’t love us because we are kind to others. He doesn’t love us because we come from a good family. He doesn’t love us because we are great in any way. But He says it’s simply because He loves you.

He loves you, He loves you, He loves you. And that’s all there is to it. And so, He loves you unconditionally and it’s a gift that was purchased at great cost by the cross of Christ. And the only response that we have is to either receive the gift or reject the gift.

You see, that’s the only response that we need to make and it’s so simple. And so, then if God loved me so unconditionally before I became a Christian, guess what, He still loves you today unconditionally after you’re a Christian. Some of us forget that.

It seems like for many people, it’s easy for them to accept the unconditional love of God at the time of their salvation, but then they live the rest of their lives as children of God trying to earn God’s love. How many of us do that?

You know, He loves me when I read my Bible and when I don’t. He loves me when I am in a good mood and when I’m in a bad mood. And He loves me when I fail and when I succeed. He loves me. He loves me when I sin and disappoint Him and let Him down and He loves me when I obey and I’m just doing great. I’m living such a righteous life. He loves me all the time.

And He doesn’t love me because I’m good. He loves me because I’m His child. He loves you because you’re His child and you belong to Him. And as we, by faith, received the gift of God’s love and forgiveness, at the moment of salvation, then we need to live by faith our Christian lives in the fact of God’s love.

You see, it’s a fact. And that it’s unconditional. Every moment of every day for the rest of our lives. How many of you believe that? We need to take that to heart as a fact.

And we might look at our lives and all we see are the failures in our lives, we see how we messed up, we see all the things that we need to change. But God looks at our life through the cleansing blood of His – of Christ on the cross, of His Son.

And He looks at us and sees a person who is in process and who is going to fall down sometimes. I know I do, all the time. But He sees His precious child when He looks at you. And He loves you more than you could ever imagine, and He’ll never stop loving you no matter what. No matter what you ever do.

Well, God’s love for us is a giving love. But His love for us is also a boundless love. It has no boundaries. Ephesians 3:14 through 19, “When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from the glorious, unlimited resources He will give you mighty inner strength through His Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand as all God’s people should how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it, then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

The apostle Paul was writing this, and he was in house arrest in Rome at the time, writing this letter to the Ephesian church. And Paul obviously had a grasp in his life of God’s love for him. And he also had an understanding of how important it is that the Church, that believers have a grasp and understanding of how much God loves them.
And so, he prayed this prayer and he prayed and asked that believers would have a solid foundation for their lives. That even in the midst of great persecution and suffering that these people were going through, that they would have a foundation and understand God’s love in their life, because it would make all the difference. And that they would be able to say at all times, no matter what they were going through, “He loves me. I know that He loves me.”

And he says, “May you have the power to understand as all God’s people should how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is.” You see, it’s all encompassing.

And if you look at your notes there, how wide is His love? How wide is it? Well, it’s wide enough to reach every person in the whole world. It’s that wide. There’s not a single person on this earth that God does not love and that He does not desire for them to come into relationship with Him. Not a single person!

God loves the man dying of AIDS in Africa. He loves the homeless child in Romania. He loves the people in India and China and El Salvador and Mexico. He loves everyone. There’s no person in this earth that God doesn’t love.

That’s why we send missionaries to all the lands of the world, because God loves them and that’s why we share about Christ with our neighbors and our friends and our family that don’t know the Lord, because God loves them. You see, His love is wide enough to reach every person in this whole world.

And His love always pursues them. He keeps searching for that one last sheep to come into His fold. And He doesn’t stop searching until everyone has had that opportunity to come into His fold. And it makes Him so happy. It makes Him so happy when His people come back to Him, that He says in the Scriptures that He throws a party in heaven when one of them come to know Him.

And can you remember the day that you asked Christ to come into your life? Well, there was a party in heaven. There was a celebration of the angels. Anytime one of His people come back to Him and become His children, the children of God.

Well, and He continues as you have become His children, He continues to rejoice over you the rest of your life and He will pursue you the rest of your life. So, it’s wide enough to cover every person in the whole world.

Well, how long is His love, then? Well, it spans all the ages past and all the ages to come. His love spans the length of our lives and into eternity. It’s that long. He goes with us into the future and He never stops loving us.

In Jeremiah 31:3 it says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” With an everlasting love. An eternal love. “And with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” And His love is so long that it goes with you the entire length of your life and into the future.

But it’s also so long that it will never fail. It will never fail. Nothing can ever exhaust the love of God. Nothing. And over and over in the Scriptures, we read about God’s unfailing love, about: His love endures forever.

He never runs out of it. It’s never exhausted. There’s more than enough for every child, for every child.