Fall 2008 Chapel - October 22nd

Fall 2008 Chapel Address - 10/22/08

Listen to the recorded version here:

God Loves You

 

This is what I need to say first.

Sing, Jesus Loves Me

I.          God Loves You. 

                        God Loves You.

                                    God Loves You.

You and I live in a conditional world.

            A world of expectations and accomplishments

            And standards.

                        The reality is, that some of us have been loved less

            When we didn't measure up,

            When we fell below the expectations of our parents or

            Our friends, those folks whose love we sought

And whose love we expected, they withheld love.

We live in a conditional world.

            You may be thinking, you're right about the world in general but that's not the world of the Body of Christ or NNU.

I have to tell you that in different seasons of my life I've been involved in college admissions, and I've seen folks come through my door and share with me the resume of a 17 year old.  And parents would apologize for what their child didn't accomplish, for not having a well-rounded resume.

If I can meddle even further, you live in a conditional world right here at NNU,

            There is more posturing and pretending and posing in the first semester of the freshman year, than any other time in the college experience.

            We're putting on faces, and telling the legend of our life back home,

All to create the image of a person that can be accepted, and though the freshmen males won't say it, a person who is worthy of love.

            For some of you                   

                        Major isn't working out

                        Roommate isn't working out,

back home is calling you, asking what have you done for me lately.

All of those things we do, to be accepted, to be welcomed, to be thought of well, to in the end feel as if we're loved, are conditions for love.

And I am here this morning to say,

                        Before there is anything else, there is God and His love.

                        And after everything else, there is God and His love.

God loves you. Period.

            Separate from your performance.

God loves you.

            Separate from your major or your GPA.

God loves you.

Does that sound "right" when I say it?

            It does to me.

                        Why does that sound so right

Because, we're dealing with the author and giver of love.

II.         God Is Love. 

The love we receive from Him is different than the world's contrivance of love.

            Think about it;

Who defines love in our culture?  Who writes the definition, what is our visual aid for the world's concept of love?

            MTV, Real Life?

            Madonna, How many versions of love has she explored?

            Snoop Dog

            Brangelina

            Flavor Flav

            Brittney and K Fed

Bless our feeble attempts to entertain ourselves and in the process find love.

            We settle for acceptance based upon condition,

            We scramble for human touch that grabs and gets without commitment.

We live in a world where hedonism and narcissism have been foisted upon us as the proper heirs to an image of love instead of looking to a love based upon the creator of all things. 

Do we realize that God is the author, the inventor of love?           

Listen to the words of I John 4:7-10

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God.  Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much He loved us by sending His only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him.  This is real love.  It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.                             

The love described in this passage is not a conditional love.  This is "God love". 

And it's there for you to enjoy.  God's love is not conditional.  I repeat, for those of you who don't wish to be nice or loving to yourself or anyone else, God's love is not conditional.

It doesn't work that way, the getting, the receiving of God's love doesn't come to us with condition.

It's not like God's decided to be nice to you because you were nice to Him first. 

God loves you, because love is His very nature, His essence.  It's not merely something He does, it's fundamental to who He is. 

God is love. 

And God loves you. 

And He has tangibly expressed that love in His Son Jesus Christ. 

Furthermore,

III.        God loved you before-

Hear Romans 5:6-8

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good.

But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.                              

I'll say it again,

            God loved you before-

Before what? You ask.

            Before you did anything that could have colored His opinion of you.  He has always loved you.  He will always love you.

            What a minute.

            Hold on there.

You're new here.  You don't know me.  You don't know what's happened to me.

            You don't know what I've done.

            You don't know my story.

You're right.

            I don't know.  But this isn't about me.

This is about God.  And he knows, and it doesn't cause Him to withhold His love.  Some things may sadden Him, some things may cause Him to express His patience, but nothing you have done, nor anything that has been done to you, will cause God to withhold His love for you.

IV.        God loves you.

So maybe it's time we started living in His love.

I want you to hear these words, written by Brennan Manning:

WITH A STRONG AFFIRMATION OF OUR GOODNESS AND A GENTLE UNDERSTANDING OF OUR WEAKNESS, GOD IS LOVING US, YOU AND ME, THIS MOMENT, JUST AS WE ARE AND NOT AS WE SHOULD BE.  THERE IS NOTHING ANY OF US CAN DO TO INCREASE HIS LOVE FOR US, AND NOTHING WE CAN DO TO DIMINISH IT.

What's important to remember, is that Brennan was a stone drunk alcoholic.  If ever there was someone who had done enough for the fountain of God's love to be turned off, he fit the bill.  And yet, he has experienced the relentless love of God, the conditionless love of God, the boundless love of God.

My friends, I had an inspirational message prepared about how to "live a godly life", but as I rehearsed it in my mind and my spirit, I felt checked.

I needed to say this first.  Because this comes first.

Before there are steps of a disciple there is the humble admission that even though I don't deserve His love, I receive it.  I find comfort in its warmth and acceptance.

Let me read you another passage from First John:

                        I John 4:15, 16 

All who proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.  We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in Him.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.                               

You see, the God who loves us, has taken up residence in us.  The God who is love lives in us who profess Christ and welcome Him in.

So here's what I'd like to do.

            I'd like to carve out a little slice of silence.

            And invite you to center your thoughts on God and His love for you.

Here's another insight from Brennan Manning:

We must allow God to see us and love us precisely as we are.  The best way to do that is through prayer.  As we pray, the unrestricted love of God gradually transforms us.  We open ourselves to receive our own truth in the light of God's truth.  The Spirit opens our eyes to see what really is, to pierce through illusions so that we can discover we are seen by God with a gaze of love.

I want to invite us to silent, private prayer, just you and Him.  I want to direct your thoughts and your prayer with the words of Henri Nouwen:

SEASON OF SILENT PRAYER

1.  Let yourself be loved by God.

I am Your God, you are my child.  How can you ever doubt that I will embrace you again, hold you near.  I am a God of mercy and compassion, of tenderness and care.  I so much want you to be close to me.  I know all your thoughts.  I hear all your words. I see all your actions.  And I love you.  Do not judge yourself.  Do not condemn yourself.  Do not reject yourself.  Let my love touch the most hidden corners of your heart and reveal to you your beauty, a beauty that you have lost sight of.  Come, let me wipe away your tears, and let my mouth come close to your ear and say to you, "I love you, I love you, I love you." Nouwen

Sing, Jesus Loves Me