God’s Love is So Great, Sermon 03/31/2019

Ps. 32:1-11; Lk. 15:1-3 & 11b-32

The Scripture says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him won’t perish but will have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Look at the very first phrase: “For God so loved the world”, not just one nation, not just one culture, not just one denomination, not just the attractive people, not just one little corner of creation, but the whole world! As the famous spiritual puts it: “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” One sad thing that happens to us human beings is that we often forget the bigness of God’s love, and we become small and selective in our loving, limiting our love to only a favored few. Not so with God. God’s love leaps over every barrier to embrace every person.

First letter of John 4:9-10 says, “This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent His only Son into the world so that we can live through Him. This is love: it is not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.”

In the gospel of Luke 15:1-2, Jesus is criticized for associating with sinners. The religious leaders were always careful to stay “clean” according to Old Testament law. In fact, they went well beyond the law in their avoidance of certain people and situations and in their ritual washings. By contrast, Jesus took the concept of “cleanness” lightly. He risked defilement by touching lepers and by neglecting to wash in the Pharisees’ prescribed manner and He showed complete disregard for the sanctions against associating with certain classes of sinners. He came to offer salvation to sinners, to show that God loves them. Jesus didn’t worry about these accusations. Instead He continued going to those who needed Him, regardless of their sinfulness and the effect they might have on His reputation.

In the gospel of Luke 15:11-32, God the Father joyfully accepts the returned sinner. God is like the loving and welcoming father of the Prodigal Son who is received with love and acceptance.

Jesus said, “A certain man had two sons. They younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ Then the father divided his estate between them. Soon afterward, the younger son gathered everything together and took a trip to a land far away. There, he wasted his wealth through extravagant living” (vv. 11-13).

The son’s attitude was based on a desire to be free to live as he pleased. That is not so different from the desires of most people in our world today.

“When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need” (v.14). “He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.” So he got up and went to his father. “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him” (vv.14-20).

The son, after failure, loss, hunger, and despair, came to father’s home. The son’s response to his father’s action was one of confession and repentance. Then the celebration began, because a son who was dead had come back to life- a son who was lost had been found.

Dear friends! It should never have been called the parable of the Prodigal Son, for the son is not the hero. It should be called the parable of the Loving Father, for it tells us rather about a father’s love than a son’s sin. It tells us much about the forgiveness of God. The father must have been waiting and watching for the son to come home, for he saw him a long way off. When he came, he forgave him with no recriminations.

God’s love is constant and waiting. He will search for the lost ones. God wants them to come home. God grieves over every loss and rejoices whenever one of his children is found and brought into His kingdom. He is the Father who can not be happy until his wondering children come home.

Dear friends! We have seen how God is moving toward us, seeking us, calling us and enabling us to come to a new life. The God revealed in Jesus Christ loving, holy, great, good, and gracious. It is in the living God of grace and glory that faithsharing is rooted. We are to share our faith with others. We have the best news of all for the world. It is a message of hope for all who are discouraged. It is a beacon of light for all who are stumbling in the dark. We have a beautiful story to tell.

There was an old man walking along the beach. He noticed a young man who was picking up starfish washed ashore and was throwing them back into the ocean. The old man asked why he was doing this. The young man replied that the starfish would die, if left to the heat of the sun. To live they must get back into the water. The old man then commented that there were many starfish scattered along the beach. It would be impossible to throw all of the back. “What difference can you make when there are so many?” the old man asked. The young man held one in his hand, looked at it, flung it back into the ocean and said, “It will make a lot of difference to this one.”

Dear friends!

The world is big and full of people, but somewhere there is one in need of our witness. For that one person, you can make all the difference in the world. Witnessing is not an option. There is no way we can escape this responsibility and opportunity. We cannot assign the task to others. Witnessing is part of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

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