From the moment that you’re born and take your first breath to the moment you take your last breath every person on this planet is in a passionate pursuit to be loved.
As a two year old, all of us had that moment when we got afraid in the night and we ran and climbed in bed searching for comfort, to belong, to be cared for, to be affirmed, to know it’s safe.
Then we got a little bit older, and we went to school and we were a pre-teen and we just longed for that one friend, or that one group, that would just accept us. And then the magic of teen years happened and the search intensified, the hormones kicked in and we wanted a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, and felt crazy until we found one.
And then in the young adult years what happens? The search even more intensifies. And you’re looking for that life partner, who are they?
By mid-life we have been there and done that for a while and we’re desperately searching for love, and finding people that won’t look just on the outside, who won’t love us for what we’ve done or what we have, but are willing to just care about us. No strings attached.
The flip side of mid-life is you’re looking for people who will love you in spite of what you’ve done and just will care. And then the day comes, the search continues all the way to the very, very last years. And we get old. And we’re longing for people that won’t put us out to pasture. We’re longing for people that will remember we have something to offer, even though our bodies don’t work so well and our minds aren’t as sharp.
I want you to know every person is desperately pursuing to be loved. Every day. You’ve developed your own story and you’ve taken a light like I have and you take you’re little light, with your background and you say, “This is how I’m going to get loved.”
Now here’s the question: Do you have enough light in your little torch, in your little view, to solve that issue? And if you look around at most marriages, in most families, in our journeys the fact is we don’t.
Imagine, if you will, instead of me and you with one little light, I came from a certain family, from a certain part of the country, with a certain world view, like everyone here. And everyone here is passionately, “Who will love me? Who will accept me? Do I have value? How much education do I need to have? Will I do this? Will I do that?”
All of us have this one little light. But here’s what I want you to get: Until you understand the big picture story of God’s love for you, you will search in vain. And you will have one disappointment, after the next disappointment, when the one person doesn’t come through, and the job doesn’t come through, and what you thought you would do, or even if you do it and find it’s empty.
Here’s the last part of our series on Sharing the Love and I want to take you on a journey to explain to you the story of God’s love. The big picture. It’s contained, many of you, I’ve watched you on planes. You read a paperback like this, a fiction usually or a romance novel. I’ve watched some of you knock it out in two or three days.
Well, this is the greatest romance novel, paperback I have in my hands ever written. It’s God’s love letter to us. But the difference is is that, I don’t know about you, there’s a lot of hard names in here, and it covers a lot of space, and a lot of years, and at least the first time I opened the Bible, I didn’t have a clue of what it really said or what it really meant.
In fact, my experience is most authentic, Christ-followers don’t know too much about the Bible these days either.
And so what I want to do is I want to give you the entire Bible. And I want to give you the overview. And I want you to see that God has a story and there are four acts in His story. Like in a great play.
Act one opens up and act one is how it all began. In the Bible it opens in Genesis chapter 1, and it talks about creation. God wants you to know in His love story He made you for Himself.
Now think of that. If you go out at night, or early in the morning as I do sometimes, and you look up and you see the stars are really bright and then you realize that this one little planet and this one little solar system is in a galaxy. And our galaxy, supposedly, has about a hundred billion stars and some project that there’s a hundred to two hundred billion galaxies and the God that spoke and all that came into existence, the pinnacle of His creation was you. Man.
And He didn’t just make you and then go off and let you run your life, He made you for Himself. He cares about you, He loves you. God created, originally, a perfect relationship, and a perfect world giving and receiving perfect love.
It started in a garden. Our first parents. Intimacy. No shame. No guilt. Absolute connection, love, affirmation, authenticity that both went vertical and horizontal. Love gives life that leads to relationship.
At the heart of everything the God of the Bible talks about He loves us, He created us, so He gives life. He breathed into us and there was life and it created relationship. And so God would walk in the garden. What that means and how it looked, I don’t know. But He wanted connection. He made us for Himself.
And the result of that is purpose. Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are His workmanship,” or “His work of art.” We’re His masterpiece. And he says, “We’re created unto good works before the foundations of the earth we should walk in them.”
God has a plan. There is a purpose. History is linear. It started one place, it’s going somewhere, you are a part of it, you were made for Him, and what most people don’t know is you really matter. And there’s a plan for you.
After He said, “Let us make man in our likeness,” when the Triunity of God created all that there is, the next thing He said, “And let them rule over the earth and the fish of the sea.” You’re made like God, you can think, and feel, and choose, and create, and there’s a plan.
And a lot of people never, never, never know that.
He’s a good God with a good plan. That’s act one. It goes from Genesis chapter 1, Genesis chapter 2.
But act two is a bad part of the story. It’s ugly. Act two is how it all went wrong. The theologians call it “The Fall.” See, God’s love isn’t some sort of plastic, superficial love. It’s a love that’s real. And the love that’s real has to give people the opportunity to accept it or reject it.
And so God allowed us to choose or reject His love. In this perfect environment where we had all that we needed as mankind, God gave the option to turn away, to reject Him, if we so chose.
And the choice of Adam and Eve, our first parents, was to reject God’s love, which ushered in sin, and death, and selfishness in every relationship, separating us from God, ourselves, and others.
See, love gives life. But love also gives freedom. Freedom that leads to consequences. I mean, you can put a bird in a cage and say the bird loves you but you know when you open the cage it’s when they have the freedom to go wherever and fly back, there’s a relationship.
And God didn’t create little robots, or little machines, or little people that, “I love you, God. I love you, God. I do whatever you want.”
He gave you, He gave our first parents, He gave all of us the freedom to accept or reject… because He wanted legitimate, from our heart, moral beings who had the opportunity to love Him.
And our first parents rejected His love, and as a result, we get to inherit some good things and some bad things.
Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” And the result is separation.
Now, the way the story goes is there was deception, and there’s evil, and there’s an enemy called Satan. And he fooled and tricked our parents and yet they made a willful choice and as the separation occurred God said, “In the day that you sin or eat from that tree you’ll surely die,” but if you read the story and you read the paperback version what you’re going to find is the moment they sinned they didn’t fall over dead physically but they were separated, then, spiritually.
They were taken out of the perfect environment. The perfect relationship was broken. And they were separated.
I remember, as a young pastor getting a call from a guy that had become a good buddy and just was a great guy, and from all outward circumstances you’d think the beautiful wife that he had, and the couple little kids that he had, and things were going great, and he gave me a call on the phone and, by the way, some of you who think us pastors know a lot, we’re learning.
But I’ll tell you, the first time things happen there’s times where, when you get off the phone and someone says, “So and so committed suicide,” or, “They lost a baby,” or you get a call like this, you just pray like crazy, “Oh, God, I don’t know what to do.”
And this was one of those calls and I was a very young pastor. He said, “Man, I gotta talk to you.” And we found ourselves sitting across from one another and then he pulled out a sheet of paper. And I said, “What’s that?” He says, “That’s what was stuck on the refrigerator when I got home today.” “I don’t love you anymore. I’m gone, I’m never coming back.”
He said, “I got home and that was on the refrigerator. I didn’t even know we had a problem. We didn’t even have any big arguments. She’s gone, and all of her stuff is gone, and most of mine. And I don’t know where.”
They’re separated. Can I tell you something else? Just as the God who created you made you for Himself and loves you when you sin, when you walk away from God, when you do your own thing, when you do things that hurt other people, you know how God feels? God feels, He’s a being, He’s a person. He feels like that man when his wife walked out on him. There’s separation. God’s heart gets broken.
The Bible says that He grieves. And so act one is creation, and love brings life, and life leads to relationship. Act two is a sad one. Act two is that love gives freedom, but it leads to consequences, and death, and separation.
And then act three is really, it’s the big act. If you get the novel and, by the way, if you’ve never read it you really should. I was eighteen before I ever opened a Bible.
But act three starts from Genesis, end of Genesis chapter 3 and goes all the way to almost the end to Revelation chapter 20. And act three is the exciting part. This is how God’s love rescued us.
You’ve heard it before, you’ve seen it but, “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friend.” That’s the test of love. You’re willing to give your all. God, the Son, took on human flesh. He came to earth. Fully man, fully God. He lived a perfect life to reveal God’s heart. That’s Jesus.
And then He offered His life as a sacrifice and a payment for the sins of all people, of all time, that whoever would choose to receive new life may have it.
See, love gives forgiveness that leads to peace. The whole point, God knew He would give us freedom, God knew that with that freedom all-knowing, all-powerful, even outside of time, gives us that freedom, that from the foundations of the earth said, the high price tag of our freedom would mean evil, and suffering, and a fallen world, of course, but it would mean for Him, that God the Son would come and lay down His life to rescue us, to redeem us.
That word “redeem” is something is bad, and broken, and torn. It gets bought back, it gets repaired. You want to know what God’s really like? He’s not some invisible force, it’s not some invisible list of rules, or morality. That’s not at all what Jesus taught. It’s not about religion. It’s not about trying to be good.
It’s about reestablishing the connection, and the heart, and the relationship between your Creator and you. That was always God’s purpose.
But when sin entered the world every one of us in this room, right? We lie, we pretend we love people more than we do. When people don’t come through for us we try and act better than we are. We sin.
I mean, how many people are here from parents who divorced and you thought things would never be that way? How many of you have had someone walk out on you? How many of you had a business partner who lied to you? How many of you have had a boyfriend or a girlfriend that cheated on you? I mean, it’s a fallen world.
Jesus came and lived a perfect life to say, “This is the Father’s heart. He wants to repair.” If you want to know what God is really like it’s Jesus talking with a prostitute. How does He respond to her? It’s Jesus helping a poor person. It’s Jesus here with religious people who try and put burdens on people and He cuts them off at the knees and says, “I’m looking for what’s happening in people’s heart and their life.”
And so He gives forgiveness. It’s a gift and it leads to peace.
But notice, the result is reconciliation. That just simply means that you become friends again with God, when you’re reconciled. Some of you have been through a very difficult time in your marriage, you were separated for a season, and what’s it called when you probably go to some counseling, you probably realize, like most of us, you have a lot of baggage.
And then you begin to learn to communicate, and then you forgive one another, and then you’re reconciled. And if you’ve ever been separated, the wounds were really, pretty deep and there was some anger, and there was some hurt, and there were times where you were just enemies.
And when the love gets restored, you’re friends again. And that’s what act three is.
Notice what the Scripture says, II Corinthians 5:17 and 18 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,” if anyone would understand that act two doesn’t have to be your life story, but you can turn from your sin, and ask Him to forgive you, based on what He did on the cross. If you’re in Christ, here’s what He promises. “He’s a new creation: The old is gone, the new has come!
And all this is from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ.” And then I love this, “And then He gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
There is this amazing thing I never heard of. I grew up in a church that was out to lunch, that didn’t believe or teach God’s Word, and people said one thing and lived another way. So, I rejected Christianity, I rejected God.
But then I met a group of people that understood about the love of God, and they lived it out with their life, and with their lips, and they introduced me to His Word, and they were the conduit of that love into my heart, that changed my life.
That’s the ministry of reconciliation - that your neighbors, and your coworkers, and your kids, and your friends, and your schoolmates would understand they would have the living Jesus inside of you, living it out, imperfectly but with progress, to let them know that they’re loved.
I mean, everyone is looking for love, right? There’s not a lot of competition when you start loving people. And there’s something amazing that happens when you become a conduit of the love of God, and you see people’s lives transformed.
Because when you are forgiven, and you have peace, then you actually can give away something that you never could before. And it’s powerful.