The witness of Jesus
Listen for the word sent
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Truly the will of God is to give - to each of us He has given this universe - this earth; this vast creation was prepared for us - to us He gave existence and life - and a consciousness, free will and the possibility to be like God - His very image.
He continually gave to His first creatures - Himself - His very best - to bless them in every way but not to force His will upon them. Man turned from His limitless offer of life and fellowship.
God continually wants to give us His very best today, but first the price of sin - unbelief and rebellion against God had to be paid. Knowing that no one could meet the holy and righteous demands of His law and holiness - His love was so great that He was willing to pay the price Himself. From the foundation of the world, in the mysterious councils of heaven these things were decided and God so loved His creatures that He was willing that His only-begotten Son would lower Himself to take upon Him the covering of flesh and live unto God the perfect and righteous life that no other could ever live and that He was willing to suffer at the hands of His own creation even to the cruel death of the Cross of Calvary.
If you ever wish to know the love of God, look upon His Son, Jesus Christ. If you ever wish to know that God loves you personally look upon the life of Jesus Christ for it was lived for you, and look upon the death of Jesus Christ, the crown of thorns, the pierced hands and feet, the scourged back, the cruel mockery of men: it He bore for you and for me.
Why - so we might be saved, right? What was the purpose of living that life, and dying that death - truly it was to restore fellowship with God, that through Christ's death we might have forgiveness and a continuous life of fellowship through continued forgiveness - for this is truly the immeasurable quality of God's love - His grace so surpassed our understanding - Christ's life and death has such infinite value that it paid the price for all the sin all men had committed, were committing or would ever commit - only each person had to turn to God and with outstretched and empty hands, accept this gift of love.
Yet as Christians, we must never forget or get past the fact that the only fellowship we have or ever can have, is never on our own nor can we please God by what we do - but only through Christ - in Him in heaven is our righteousness, our sanctification, or redemption, our salvation, our hope, yes our very life. Let me state clearly - we have no fellowship with God except through Jesus Christ. We are no longer under condemnation - nor will we ever face judgment, but we have received the adoption of sons - joint heirs with Christ of all that God has.
God no longer judges us for He judged us in Jesus Christ nearly 2,000 years ago and we were judged not guilty for Jesus paid with His life's blood the price for us. We have a life of continuous sonship, continuous forgiveness as we continue to confess our mistakes and inability to live sinlessly. This is the law of love. God holds no bitterness, no grudges, they are removed as far as the east is from the west.
Our own children have done many things that needed forgiveness and our limited human love has a great God-given capacity to forgive most anything from those we have - even when it hurts us personally.
As children of God, through Christ, His forgiveness goes beyond any such limitations.
Truly God wishes the very best for us - but the best for us is His will and in order to enjoy the blessings that He created in this world and life we must follow His plans.
If we were lost and wished to find our way from where we were to the other side of a great complex of buildings and walks and parks we would eagerly take a map and guide made by the architect and builder of the place. We would even appreciate the notes of a person that had crossed before us.
From the beginning of time God has given man His word that he might have a map and advice how to walk through the pilgrimage from earth to heaven. The Holy Spirit has been the guide all the way. God told and showed men where the blessings were on the way, long life, happiness, peace, prosperity, love, fellowship, etc... All man had to do was to follow God - follow His Word - but to man this was too hard - the bad word - obedience! Trust God - that He is true, faithful, unchanging in His Holy ways, that His promises will stand forever.
To say, it's my decision, to say I will decide is really saying - I do not trust God - I do not trust His Word - I will find out for myself. A great deal of the Scripture records the sad cycles of questioning God, to doubting, to turning from Him, to distress and turmoil, to destruction and affliction - then repentance and obedience for a time and the cycle repeats.
But it does not have to be so - and thank God that the Scriptures also include great men of faith that continued in fellowship with God and show us God's ways.
One thing that needs to be made clear is what the Scriptures mean by the word love. Unfortunately in our American English, love has so many meanings and shades of meaning that we are almost driven not to use the word, so that we won't be misunderstood. The New Testament Greek word used to express the love of God is specific and can be defined as an act of the Divine will, in deliberate choice, made without known cause except that which lies in the nature of God Himself. This love of God was perfectly expressed among men in the Lord Jesus Christ, whereby God sought the welfare of all. It must also be remembered that this love is not because we are worthy or have any merit in ourselves. God's love is action, doing that which is best for others.
God loves us only because He has chosen to do so, and He loves us only through His Son, Jesus Christ. All that we have from God comes to us through and in Jesus Christ. We are to pray to the Father in His name, that our prayers may be heard in heaven.
Our response to God for all these gifts of love and blessing and of life itself in Jesus Christ can be nothing but thanksgiving and gratitude - yes love toward Him for what He has done for us. He calls us to trust Him with our very lives that He may give us the best gifts - and the most precious and greatest of which is Himself. In order for us to know Him and receive of Him we must believe what He says and follow His instructions - yes obey His Word. Though Christ is no longer on earth, He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us the power to do all that He has commanded us.
Listen to the words of Our Saviour.
"44 ¶ Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.
45 And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.
46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.
50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak."
"1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
8 ¶ Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?
10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.
12 ¶ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
15 ¶ If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 ¶ I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
Our other response to the love of God in Jesus Christ is a direct commandment which Jesus spoke many times: John 15:12 -
"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you."
To follow this commandment we must obey. To obey as has carefully been pointed out earlier, we must clearly understand how we are to love one another. Jesus said it is as He has loved us, and He was expressing the very love of God. Let us work this out - we are to love one another as God loved us - as God now loves us and will forever love us: It is through Jesus Christ. It is a conscious act of our wills to do good to others, to seek their best interest. To love each other is not if we feel like it or if they are loveable or like us, or for what we might get in return.
We must love others because we decide to do it. That we will seek to be helpful and forgiving.
We must see them through the very eyes of Christ. We must never forget that Christ died for them too. We still sin and need forgiveness ourselves. God forgives us through Christ. What right do we have to withhold forgiveness to one for whom Christ died when God does not? Do we set ourselves above God?
Jesus didn't say it would be nice if we had a lot of warm feelings toward each other and went around hugging and putting on. He commanded us to love one another as He has loved us.
The more we know Jesus Christ and are more aware of His greatness and majesty and righteousness and holiness the better we see our own imperfections and temptations, yes our continuing sinfulness - we are continually made aware of our need to be thankful for God's love in giving His Son for us.
This is indeed the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we are responsible for sharing with the whole world - yes, where men need the Good News of forgiveness and love. How can we sincerely and truthfully share the love and forgiveness of God in Christ with others if we deny love and forgiveness to our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we dare to hold grudges when God does not? Do we have bitterness and hurt feelings because of what others have done to us - when God has forgiven us everything that we ask Him to?
This we need to seek God's forgiveness about - we can have no real fellowship and growth with God if we do not love others as He loves us. We must repent and obey.
Listen with your heart to the words of our Saviour, Jesus as the Holy Spirit ministers in spirit and truth:
"9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12 ¶ This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another."
Let our lives be a living epistle and a witness to God's love for us in Jesus Christ. Let the prayer of our hearts together and alone be that of the writer of Hebrews in chapter 10, verses 22-25.
"22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised;
24 and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
This article was written by my father T.O.D. Johnston, who was licensed to preach the Gospel by Paran Baptist Church on May 26, 1979. He has been a student of Scripture since 1972. View more lessons at his Bible Study Lessons page.