God loves you enough to lose and at the cost of his only Son.
JANUARY 18, 2022
Justin Holcomb: God loves you enough to lose and at the cost of his only Son. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life
If you’ve suffered too long under a do more, try harder religion, Key Life is here to proclaim that Jesus sets the captives free. Steve invited Justin Holcomb to teach us this week. Justin is a priest, a seminary professor and the author of God With Us: 365 Devotions on the Person and Work of Christ.
Justin Holcomb: Thank you Matthew. My name is Justin Holcomb. And I have the privilege of teaching this week. And we’re focusing on something that are called the comfortable words. And these are four scripture passages that in the Anglican tradition, the minister reads after the confession of sin. And so it’s intentional, is supposed to be these four verses, always read and in this order. And if you’re taking notes, let me give you those right now. The first one which we discussed yesterday is Matthew 11:28. John 3:16 is the second, which we will discuss today. And then the third comfortable word is I Timothy 1:15. In conclusion of that is I John 2:1-2. And when you confess your sins, you’re confessing sins at God, neighbor, things done, left undone. I mean, it is, it’s pretty comprehensive and it can burden us down, but instead of driving your mind to a God, who’s ready to crush you and looking forward to it, some people need to hear the opposite of that because that’s not, God’s disposition. Many people have a picture of Jesus as if he’s annoyed with you and ticked that you keep coming back to him for forgiveness because if you were really serious, you’d get it together. But these comfortable words are presenting to you, something different, which is, and who in, a patient savior, who is merciful, gracious, abounding in love and faithfulness and eager to forgive sins because he paid the price. And that’s why Thomas Cranmer, the 1500’s leader of the English reformation organized these four comfortable words as he did. So, let’s jump in because we want to celebrate the fact that the good shepherd is bringing back his lost sheep by his self sacrificing love. And this second comfortable word, captures it very well, john 3:16. You know it, you love it, but let’s actually peer into the glory that is this verse.
For God. So loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Now in the flow of the comfortable words, this one is to depict to us God’s disposition toward us who are in Christ. While the first word focuses on the depth of human longing for good news, Matthew 11:28. This comfortable word focuses on the depth of God’s own longing to respond to our need. This shows us that God’s disposition toward us, is love. The divine desire in initiative to save his people is at the very heart of this passage. John 3:16 makes it clear that God, the Father moved by love, which is his very being, sent God, the Son into the world to become the visible embodiment of the divine Good Shepherd. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Gently fraying his lambs caught in the thicket of sin. He laid down his own life so that in the end he could bear his wandering creatures safely back home on his own wounded shoulders. So, let’s look at this. There’s certain parts of this passage that stand out, God so loved. When the Bible talks about the love of God, it frequently compares it to parental love. John Calvin describes this love as lavish, fatherly liberality. One of Calvin’s favorite words about God’s love and disposition toward us, is gratuitous. You know, over abundance, too much, gratuitous mercy, gratuitous promise, love, gratuitous favoring, goodness. The depiction of God, the Father is as an indulgent father. There’s an overabundance of love from God. There’s a too muchness. It’s over the top. There’s an overflow, more than you need. It’s not like God is scraping the bottom of a barrel of love and giving you the scraps that he could find, rather there is more than you need. Let me tell you a story that I think captures God’s love. My daughter, when she was in kindergarten and we held her back a year because we wanted her to be a leader and her birthday’s in September. So, it worked out fine, but she had a close friend named Isabel. And this girl was made fun of and excluded by some of the other children in class. And my daughter wanted to include her and use her influence to help build some friends around her. And so, the class had this competition one day and there were two teams. My daughter was the anchor of team one and Isabel was the anchor of team two. And the competition is tied, the winner between Zoe, my daughter and Isabelle determines the winner between the two teams. And so, when I picked up my daughter from school, the teacher through tears of joy explained to me the setting of what happened. And she said that Zoe, my daughter went fast enough to look like she was trying to win, but slow enough that her friend, Isabel would win. And the competition ended with Isabel winning, securing the victory for her team. And then the group of children cheering her name in excitement. And I was so proud of my daughter. At dinner, I told this story to my wife and our other daughter, and I said, Zoe, why did you do that? Like you like to win. And she said, I love Isabel enough to lose. The second gift of the comfortable words is that God loves us enough to lose at the cost of his only Son. And this love is persistent. You may be thinking, what if I don’t deserve it? What if there are things in my life that make it inappropriate that I should receive this love and that is the scandal in the point of Jesus saying that God so loved the world. That’s actually really interesting in the passage. God, so loved the world. This isn’t the first time the world is mentioned in John. John 1:9 says that Jesus was coming to the world, but that the world did not know him and that the world rejected him. So, when we see in that passage, that God so loved the world, what should be echoing in our memory is that, is the very point that he loved the world that was determined to rebel. God’s heart is more determined that he still loves the very world that rejected him. But he loved the world and he still came to be a gift of the Father. This shows how expansive and vast this love actually is. And another scandal, is not just that he loves the world, that the Father gave the Son, the innocent to save the guilty. The innocent, only Son of God is given over to death, so we can have life. The only Son means, that as one of a kind, unique. This highlights the costliness of the price paid for you. I Peter says, that as the precious blood of Christ and why? So that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life. We’re called to believe that Jesus was sent for us. His very purpose was to die upon the cross, so that when you face the cross and all of the images of how awful it is, the thorns on the brow, the nails in his hands and feet, the blood pooled beneath him. You believe that it’s the penalty for your sin, that is on him. And it is the expression of his glory. Jesus came to be a curse so that we might look to him and live. So, believe that your sin is on him and any barrier that’s between you and God is gone. If we look at him and see our sin on him, God looks at him and pardons us. So, now we can look back at Jesus Christ as a double-take and focus on him and not ourselves and see his glory and worship him for his kindness and love toward us. But what does all of this mean for you? I think it means at least one thing, that no matter what you’ve done, God’s love for you in Christ is secure. All your failures, stumbling, sin and willful disobedience doesn’t change the fact that he loves you to the end. And if you have faith in his Son, Jesus Christ, his love is yours for eternity. You’re now free to live from the burden of sin any longer because it’s been taken care of, instead of morbid introspection, that’s kind of self-absorbed and self-focused, you can look to him, who is your pardon. The game is no longer score-keeping, but worship. One of my favorite hymns about the secure love of God was written by George Mattheson.
Oh, love that will not let me go.
But there’s actually a sad story behind it. As a young man, George had only partial vision and he was engaged to marry the love of his life. All was going well with the engagement until he told his fiance that he just learned that he would soon be totally blind. George’s spirit collapsed when his fiance was unwilling to be married to a blind man and broke off their engagement and left him and returned the ring. It was in the pain and heartache of that very experience that he consoled himself in thinking of God’s love, that is never limited, never conditional, never withdrawn, never uncertain and never forsakes. And it was out of that experience that he wrote the hymn Oh Love that Will Not Let Me Go.
Oh, love that will not let me go. I rest my weary soul in thee. I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths it flows, may richer, fuller be.
With his fiance, it was a love that quickly let him go. With God, it was a love that wouldn’t. And because of the love with which God loves you, there is nothing in all creation that will be able to separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Let’s pray. Grant us oh Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts, for as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength. So, you never forsake those who make their boasts of your mercy. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
And once again, that was Justin Holcomb, teaching us further about comfortable words. Today, giving us a fresh look at what is probably the best known verse in the Bible, John 3:16. More from Justin tomorrow. Hope you’ll join us then. Have you ever known a controlling Christian? You ever wonder why they do that? Could it be that one of the bad side effects of moralism, the idea that our good works earn us God’s love, is that the moralist thinks he should run everybody’s life. And thus a controller is born. Well, Chad West offers a fascinating insight on this, in an article he wrote called Why Controllers Control. You’ll find it in the new Key Life Magazine. If you’re tired of the controller in your life, why not claim your copy of that magazine right now? Just call us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail Steve@keylife.org to ask for the magazine. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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