Lent 2 March 12, 2017
1 John 3:16
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
144, 723 (alt. 158), 351, 175
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.
Prayer for the 2nd Sunday in Lent: O God, You see that of ourselves we have no strength. By Your mighty power defend us from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus, Dear Fellow Redeemed:
If someone tells us that they hate us, the natural, human reaction is to say, “I hate you too!” Hate breeds more hate. What applies in this world of sin, however, does not apply with God. Despite the fact that sinful mankind hated and is afraid of God, God did not return these feelings. Faced with man’s hatred, God showed only love.
Man’s natural spiritual condition is well documented in the Bible. Consider such passages as Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me.” Matthew 15:19, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Mankind is revealed in the Scriptures as sinful and spiritually ugly, for in man’s flesh, nothing good dwells (Romans 7:18).
Because man is unrighteous, it follows that man’s natural relationship with the holy God would also be imperfect and ugly. By nature man has no true fear of God, no love of God, no trust in God, no willingness to serve God. On the contrary, man’s old Adam is “corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Ephesians 4:22). By nature, man loves himself more than he loves God or his neighbor, for his body is given to “passion, evil desire and covetousness,” which Scripture calls “idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
Spiritually, natural man worships himself. He has become his own god. Worshiping himself, rather than the true God, man reveals himself to be spiritually in the dark, even as the Bible says, “The Gentiles [that is, the unconverted] walk in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened” (Ephesians 4:18).
Being spiritually darkened, man sets his mind “on the things of the flesh,” (Romans 8:5) not on the things of the Spirit of God, for the Scripture says that “these are contrary to one another” (Galatians 5:17). And so, being contrary to the Holy Spirit, man is at odds with God Himself, for the Holy Spirit is true God.
The Bible says that man is “dead in trespasses and sins,” and “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1,4). In Romans 8:7 we read that “the carnal mind is enmity [or, it has hatred] against God.”
Being fleshly minded, seeking his own gratification, the natural man hates God and works against the Lord. As one who hates God, the unconverted man is on the side of the devil, serving Satan, rather than God.
At times the world may be heard to wonder, “How could a God of love condemn anyone to hell?” Actually, it was man who condemned himself to hell by disobeying God. Man knew the consequences of his actions in the garden, for the LORD had said, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
Despite man’s rebellion and hatred, God promised and sent mankind a Savior from sin.
Why would God do such a thing? Why didn’t God wipe mankind off the face of the earth and start over? The Bible reveals the one word answer to this question. We find that word revealed in Romans 5:7-8, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The one word answer as to why God would send a Savior is “love.” The love of God is all-encompassing. God wants all people to enjoy the benefits of His undeserved love, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
On account of sin, we deserve only punishment. On account of His great love, God sent mankind a Savior from sin. God did not leave man to rot in hell. Anyone in hell on the Last Day will be there because he rejected God’s plan of salvation, for “God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
God’s plan of salvation is offered in the Scriptures for all, even as Paul writes, “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). During our lives we are confronted with the Gospel, God’s message of salvation. Through that Gospel the Holy Spirit works faith, and brings us to the knowledge of REAL love—the undeserved love of God, love that is sometimes referred to as “AGAPE” love (Greek for deep-seated spiritual love).
This AGAPE love is what is referred to in our text, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Because God’s love has been revealed to us in Christ, we, as believers, know true love, AGAPE love. Christ, in offering up His life for sinners, gave us the example of this perfect, unconditional love.
Even as He laid down His life for us out of love, we, as believers, are willing to even give up our lives for one another. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12). This example is also given for husbands in regards to their wives, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).
I am not telling you to be on the look out for opportunities to lay down your lives. But our Lord desires that our love for one another be so great that we would even be willing to lay down our lives for others, as our Savior had such great love for us that He laid down His life for us. We read of this love in 1 John 4:9ff, “In this is the love of God was manifest toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
During Lent we sorrow over the sins that made it necessary for Christ to go to the cross to suffer our punishment. Jesus Christ DIED on account of our sins.
However, we do not focus only on our sins. The main focus of Lent is the love of God shown to sinners in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. Thank God that He is not as sinful men, loving only those who love Him back. Though natural man hated Him, God loved man so much that He paid for man’s sin with the life of His only Son.
Let this ever be our light, not only in the solemn season of Lent, but as we walk through this sinful world, knowing the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ, confident in the salvation won for us on the cross. Confident that eternal life will be ours, for “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).
Praise God for His undeserved love, revealed in Jesus Christ!
See, from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine That were a tribute far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. AMEN. (TLH #175:3-4)
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.