Sermon series: Knowing God
- Walking by Faith in the Wilderness
- Knowing God Loves Me
- Is Being Good Enough?
- The Character of the Savior
- It's a Wonderful Life
This model sermon, based on Psalm 103, uncovers and reminds us of God's endearing love from one of the Old Testament's most stirring passages.
Several years ago, a student in seminary class stood to his feet and announced to the professor, "I don't believe in God!" The professor, unraveled, replied, "Describe this God you don't believe in?" After the student had described an unlovely and vengeful God, the professor confessed, "I don't believe in that God either. My God is a God of love."
I. The description of God's love (vv. 8, 11, 13, 17)
How do you describe a rose to a blind person? How do you describe Handle's Hallelujah Chorus to a deaf person? How do you describe the thrill of down hill skiing to one who has never walked? How do you describe the impeccable, infinite love of God to impure, finite humans?
One of the most vivid characteristics of God is that he is a God of love. The Psalmist was descriptive in recording the love-nature of God. He stated that he was "full of faithful love" (Psalm 103:8), "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him" (Psalm 103:11), "As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him" (Psalm 103:13), and "But from eternity to eternity the LORD's faithful love is toward those who fear Him" (Psalm 103:17).
II. The definition of God's love (v. 2)
The point is not simply that God "loves," but that he is love itself. Love is not merely one of his attributes, but his very nature. The Scripture say, "And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him" (1 John 4:16). To say that God is love, is not to imply that love is God. There is a difference like there is a difference in me saying my dog is a girl and my girl is a dog. God is love means that God wants the very best for you. God has your best interest in mind. He wants to give you good gifts and provide you with "all his benefits" (Psalm 103:2, NIV).
III. The benefits of God's love (v. 2)
The Psalmist uncovers all the phases of life that God's love has touched and in turn benefited and blessed the recipient.
A. Spiritually (v. 3, 12)
Spiritually God's love removes the barrier that separates us from him by canceling the debt of our sin so that we can enjoy a loving relationship with him. God's love removes our sins as though they never existed.
B. Emotionally (v. 3)
Much of our physical and emotional illness is due to moral failure. In removing the sin and guilt from our lives God's love brings healing to our emotional life.
C. Eternally (v. 4)
The pit is the pit of death. God's love rescues us, fallen humanity, from our own bent on destruction, and grants us eternal life.
D. Authoritatively (v. 4)
God's love places a crown of royal glory and authority on us. God's love ". . . made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father" (Rev. 1:6). He have been crowned with his love and given a new citizenship on this earth and in heaven.
E. Physically (v. 5)
Like a father he desires to give us good gifts of strength and endurance. Jesus, the embodiment of God's love came enjoying life, and he wants his children to do the same.
F. Judicially (v. 6)
Here we find a major difference between divine love and what so often passes for love among people. Often, love is expressed as that virtue that accepts everything. But, God's love always makes judgment calls. Divine love hates what is wrong and embraces what is right.
IV. The knowledge of God's love
What do I know of God's love?
A. God's love is all consuming
God's love touches every part of our life. Nothing - no calling or circumstance, no adversity or advancement, no pain or promotion, no status or station - escapes the brush strokes of God's love. God's love bleeds into every fabric and fiber of our lives.
The number of times the three-lettered word "all" is used in this text reminds us that God's love is all consuming. His love touches every area of our lives. There is nowhere we can go to escape his love. There is no problem that we will encounter that is not touched by his love. There is no advancement that we will make where God is not already there. Even when our world falls apart, we can say, "God, I don't know why this is happening. I don't understand it, but I'm sure glad to know you love me."
We are like the little boy who got separated from his mother in the mall. He was looking around for his mommy, and getting scared. He began to cry because everyone was a stranger and everything looked so confusing and every store was packed and he didn't have his mommy. But all of a sudden, his mother found him and picked him up. He is eyes began to dry, not because his surroundings were changed, but because of whose arms he was in.
When you have someone who loves holding you, it doesn't matter anymore what everyone else does or what the circumstances are or what the future holds. When you are in the arms of a loving God, when you have been consumed with his love, you share in his benefits. It's all right.
B. God's love is personal
The Bible cuts through all the philosophical abstractions and declares that God is a Person. As a personal being God is capable of loving and being loved. And as a personal being he loves each one of us intensely personally. God's love is not simply for mankind as a mass. It is not a sentimental, vague, diffused feeling - something like Charlie Brown's attitude when he says, "I love mankind; it's people I can't stand." God really likes individual people.
Notice again in Psalm 103 the number of times the personal pronouns "me" and "my" are used.
When Karl Barth, the famed German theologian, visited the United States, a student at a seminary supposedly asked, "Dr. Barth, what is the single most important truth you have learned as a theologian?"
Barth replied, "The most important thing I have learned is this: 'Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.'"
"Jesus loves me" is the central affirmation of the Christian faith and the cornerstone of the nature of God.
When God says I love you, he is saying that you matter to him. You are a person of worth. You are valuable to him. Regardless of what others think, in his eyes you are wonderful.
C. God's love is beyond comprehension (vv. 13-14)
Amazing, isn't it? God knows me and still loves me. God knows that I am a sinner, yet he forgives; I am diseased, yet he heals; I am in a pit, yet he pulls me out; I am ungrateful for his good gifts, yet he gives them anyway; and I deserve justice, yet he grants mercy.
Like a father's love for a wayward and rebellious son that waits anxiously for him to return home so he can grant him a new start, is God's love for us. It is beyond comprehension.
Vietnam veteran and Air Force Colonel John Mansur tells about an eight-year-old orphan girl who was wounded after a misdirected mortar attack. An American Navy doctor and nurse were called. They surmised that the little girl would die if a blood transfusion did not take place. A quick test showed that neither American had the correct type, but several of the uninjured orphans did.
The doctor spoke some pidgin Vietnamese, and the nurse a smattering of high-school French. Using that combination, together with much impromptu sign language, they tried to explain to their young, frightened audience that unless they could replace some of the girl's lost blood, she would certainly die. Then they asked if anyone would be willing to give blood to help.
Their request was met with wide-eyed silence. After several long moments, a small hand slowly and waveringly went up, dropped back down, and then went up again.
"Oh, thank you," the nurse said in French. "What is your name?"
"Heng," came the reply.
Heng was quickly laid on a pallet, his arm swabbed with alcohol, and a needle inserted in his vein. Through this ordeal Heng lay stiff and silent. After a moment, he let out a shuddering sob, quickly covering his face with his free hand. His occasional sobs gave way to steady, silent crying, his eyes screwed tightly shut, his fist in his mouth to stifle his sobs.
The medical team was concerned. Something was obviously very wrong. At this point, a Vietnamese nurse arrived to help. Seeing the little one's distress, she spoke to him rapidly in Vietnamese, listened to his reply and answered him in a soothing voice.
After a moment, the patient stopped crying and looked questioningly at the Vietnamese nurse. When she nodded, a look of great relief spread over his face.
Glancing up, the nurse said quietly to the Americans, "He thought he was dying. He misunderstood you. He thought you had asked him to give all his blood so the little girl could live."
"But why would he be willing to do that?" asked the Navy nurse.
The Vietnamese nurse repeated the question to the little boy, who answered simply, "She's my friend."
That's a glimpse of the kind of incredible, incomprehensible love God has for us.
"No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). If you want a visible definition of love, look at what God did for us in Christ. "But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!" (Rom. 5:8). If you really want to understand love, don't listen to love songs, or people who throw the term love around. If you want to get to the depths of what it means to love and be loved, look to the cross of Christ, because there God's love came to mankind. The cross is the ultimate expression of God's incomprehensible love to mankind.
If you ever wonder if God loves you look to the cross. The cross is God's way of saying, "I love you this much," with his arms outstretched. God's final words to us are etched on a Roman cross. They are blood red. They scream to be heard. They say, "I love you."