How Greatly Am I Loved?
Happy Wednesday, everyone. For a few weeks, we have been looking at a two-part sermon Pastor John delivered in the spring of 2010. Today’s episode is the final installment of clips from those two messages. Historically, this pair of sermons is interesting because they come in the days leading up to his eight-month leave of absence, time away from the pulpit to work some things out in his own heart and in his family. We’ve talked about this leave, and lessons he took from it, particularly in three episodes of this podcast: APJs 138, 220, and 1227. As you know from those episodes, if you’ve heard them, it was a defining season for him.
The precursor to that leave is these two sermons. And they’re interesting because in them Pastor John explains what makes him tick. Why does he do ministry the way he does? He explained in these sermons, as we saw in APJ 1769. And then we looked at a related theme. God makes much of us. He does. He really does make much of us. So why does God make much of us? That was APJ 1772. Then we looked at how God makes much of us. In six or seven profound ways, God makes much of his children. Pastor John substantiated that claim in APJ 1775, which led to last week’s conundrum. There we looked at whether or not God ruins his love for us by loving us for himself and for his own glory — a key question to answer, and it was answered last Wednesday, in APJ 1778.
Today we finish this little miniseries of sermon clips by looking at how profoundly we are loved by God. Oh, how Pastor John wanted his church to feel the gravity of God’s “great love” to us in Christ, as Paul called it in Ephesians 2:4. And here’s how Pastor John did it in the following clip from his April 25, 2010, sermon, as he leaves for eight months. Here’s he is, expounding 1 Corinthians 1:26–31.
In these six verses of 1 Corinthians 1:26–31, Paul describes at least (it depends on how you divide it up) four ways that God loves us — loves you personally. And by you — let’s get this clear now — I don’t mean everybody. God doesn’t love everybody in the same way. The kinds of love that are described here are for those who have been awakened in their heart to see themselves as desperate sinners in need of a Savior, and Christ crucified has shone for them as their wisdom and their power. And he has become compellingly true, and beautiful, and attractive, and valuable, and you have received him, and he is yours, and you are his. That’s who I’m talking about.
I hope the rest of you who aren’t in that category will be drawn in by this message. I’m sure not everybody in this room is in that category. There’s just too many of you, and there’s lots of people of all different kinds. And so my prayer is that those of you inside will feel massively loved in fresh new ways, and those on the outside would become so jealous and envious that you would be drawn in.
Why God Loves Us This Way
What we have in these six verses is four ways that he loves us and then a double purpose for why he loves us this particular way. So, two things: four ways that he loves us, and a double purpose for why he would love us that way. It’s a how question and a why question. Got it?
How does he love me? Why does he love me this way? The answers to those two questions are here in this text. So let’s take it in reverse order. Let’s go to the purposes first, a double purpose for why he loves us in these four ways.
Eliminate Boasting in Self
The first half of the double purpose is 1 Corinthians 1:29: “so that” — some kind of result or purpose is coming — “no human being might boast in the presence of God.” So the purpose of God in loving us in these ways is so that we will be loved in a way that does not incline us to boast in ourselves in the presence of God. That’s the purpose of loving us this way. So that no human being will put their arms in their suspenders and say, “What a good boy am I?” in the presence of God.
“God will not let you ruin the experience of being loved by God by converting it into an experience of boasting.”
He loves us so much that he will not let us ruin the glorious experience of being loved by turning God’s love into a reason to boast in ourselves. He loves you too much. He will not let you ruin the experience of being loved by God. He won’t let you ruin it by converting it in our fallen way into an experience of boasting in the presence of God in ourselves. He loves you too much. He will not let that happen to you. He will come at you from every side imaginable to kill that in you.
Promote Boasting in God
So that what? The second half of the double purpose is found in verse 31: “so that, as it is written, ‘Let everyone who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” So, you see the contrast: in verse 29, his purpose in loving us this way is so that nobody will boast in the presence of the Lord, and the positive way of saying it in verse 31 is so that the one who boasts, boasts only in the Lord.
We’re going to boast in the presence of the Lord. We’re going to brag on God forever and not on ourselves. We will not boast in our own doing. If we stand in front of a mirror in heaven and like what we see — which I suppose we would if there would be mirrors (I don’t think there would be mirrors in heaven; just an opinion) — if we stood there, we would say, “Praise God.” That’s what we would say.
So, there is the double purpose in the text for the four ways that I’m now going to show you that he loves you. First, so that you won’t boast in yourself in his presence — or, putting it positively, so that you will boast in the Lord. Oh, that this church would be resounding in hallways and small groups and families with boasting in the Lord.
Speak well of the Lord. Say much about the Lord. Talk about his deeds. I just read this morning in my devotions, “You have made me glad by your works” (see Psalm 92:4). And I spent about two minutes, I suppose, just naming them and being glad, sitting on the couch — just being glad in the works of God. Name them; exult; boast in God. Forget about your painful self for a moment; it just might get well.
How God Loves Us
What are the four ways that you are loved in this text? I’ll name them, and then we’ll look at them. Number one, God chose you. He loved you by choosing you. Number two, he called you. Number three, he put you in Christ. Number four, he made Christ your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. That’s it. Those are the four ways in this text that God loves you. Let’s take them one at a time.
He Chose You
Number one, God loved you by choosing you.
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are. (1 Corinthians 1:27–28)
Very clear: “God chose.” If you are Christ, he chose you. He leaves some unchosen; he chooses others. If you are in, he chose you.
In fact, if you asked him, “When did that happen?” This word in the Greek for chose is only used one other place outside this text: Ephesians 1:4, which was the text we looked at last week. “God chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Only in that place in Paul does it occur, and therefore, I take it to mean that he chose you, he chose you, he chose you (in verses 27 and 28) — meaning, from eternity.
That’s why, in Romans 11:5, when he uses the noun, not the verb, he calls it the “election of grace,” meaning that when God stood in eternity and contemplated you, he contemplated you as needing saving in Christ. I get that from Ephesians 1:4–7, where we are chosen in Christ. We don’t need to be chosen in Christ if we aren’t sinners. We need to be chosen in Christ if we need righteousness, if we need forgiveness and redemption.
“You are spectacularly blessed for nothing in yourself. This love is absolutely unconditional.”
He contemplated — he saw all of us as unworthy of being chosen. Nobody is wronged if they’re unchosen; you are just spectacularly blessed for nothing in yourself. This love is absolutely unconditional, without any exception. O Holy Spirit. If it doesn’t happen right now, let it happen later tonight or later this week. Sooner or later, come and pour this being loved from eternity.
I don’t know about you, but I was really helped by my sermon last week. I’ve been just sitting around saying, “He chose me in love. He created me in love. He sent Jesus in love. He died for me in love. He keeps me in love. He made much of me by sitting me on his throne. He made much of me.” I’ve just been going all through that, just preaching to myself. I need as much help as anybody. So I’m preaching the same sermon.
He Called You
Number two, God loved you by calling you. So first, he chose you, and now, secondly, God loved you by calling you. First Corinthians 1:26: “Consider your calling, brothers.” That’s what I’m asking you to do right now: just do some considering right now. And the first thing I suppose you’d ask is, “What’s he talking about? My job — a carpenter, nurse, teacher, homemaker?” No, that’s not what he’s talking about.
People of the Call
How do you know that’s not what he’s talking about? Well, mainly I know because of 1 Corinthians 1:22–24. Read this, and consider your calling, brothers and sisters.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles [or Greeks; he’s using them interchangeably], but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
So when the called look at Christ crucified, they don’t see a stumbling block; they don’t see folly. They see power. So there are three groups in those verses: (1) Jews, (2) Gentiles, and (3) called. That’s not quite accurate, is it? Let me say it a little more carefully. There are (1) Jews who are not called, (2) Gentiles who are not called, and (3) Jews and Gentiles who are called. Those are the three groups. Are you with me?
We’re considering our calling. We’re obeying verse 26. There are Jews not called, Gentiles not called, and Jews and Gentiles, some of whom are called. And then he describes the response of each to the cross. To Jews, a stumbling block. “Crucified Messiah? Never heard of such a thing.” To Gentiles, foolishness. “A dying god? Silly. Mythological.” To the called, power. “My God.”
Power of the Call
What kind of call is that? I’ll tell you what kind of call it is: it’s the kind of call that creates what it commands. The call gives light. The call creates sight. The call raises the dead. “Lazarus, come forth.” He didn’t decide to. The call raised him from the dead.
Let me give you an analogy that could be misleading. It helps me, just to get your head around it, because lots of you have never been taught about the call of God — the mighty, effectual, irresistible, powerful, saving, awakening, life-giving call of God that saved you. You’ve never been taught about this. So you need a little analogy to help you. “What is he talking about? I’ve never heard anything like this. I thought I just believed in Jesus.”
Suppose somebody is asleep, and you want to wake them up. What do you do? Well, you bend over — they’re sound asleep — and you say, “Wake up!” And they bolt right up. Now, what are the dynamics of that moment? They were sound asleep and — bang — they were awake. Did they hear the call and say, “I’ll think about that before I wake up, and then I’ll decide if I want to wake up”?
That is a good analogy. When God issues a call to your dead heart and says, “Wake up,” you wake up. You did not make yourself a Christian. Just face it. You didn’t make yourself a Christian, which is why you should feel so incredibly loved. In fact, if you need a text to say that, just go to Ephesians 2:4, where Paul says, just as clearly as can be, “Because of his great love.” It’s the only place he uses that phrase in all of the New Testament. Because of his great love, he made you alive when you were dead.
So, if you have any spiritual life in you at all, you have been greatly loved. It’s called regeneration. It’s called calling. You have been called, and you are greatly loved in this calling.