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God’s Love and Our Emotions Luke 23:26 Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill Probably the most real moment all our lives will be the moment of death. Really, because it’s there that you forget all your pretenses, and all your big talk, and it’s there that you have to be what you are so the moment of death is very real and the moment of death really shows what a man or woman is. And I’d ask you just to look for a moment at words that I think we’ve looked at before, that a man spoke at the moment of death. It’s Luke 23:46, “Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last.” So I don’t know if you’ve seen people dying, but there are always people who die in great pain and then there are others of us who die with great freedom from physical pain. But it seems that there always comes a moment there, just before death, when your senses are able to be gathered together and you can declare what you really are. And of course at that moment, only one person loomed large in Jesus’ eyes. Really, only one person’s love mattered to him at that moment. It wasn’t the love of the Jewish people, and it wasn’t the love or hatred of his friends and disciples, it wasn’t the love or hatred of his mother, it was the love of his Father, his dear Father our Creator. And he lived and died dependent on that Father’s love just the way we are meant to live and die ourselves. We said last Sunday that there’s only one place to receive that love and that is in Jesus. There’s only one way to receive it and that is by identifying ourselves completely with Jesus’ death to all other loves. That’s the only way to actually experience the love of our Creator for us. Now loved ones, what is that love like? What is God’s love like for you and me? Well, Jim and Kris, when were you married? About October ’75 I married Jim and Kris and God has given them a wee gift and here he is and maybe he’ll compete with me, but here he is David. David, there he is, you are a famous fella. And maybe you should stand Jim and Chris so everybody just sees you. You’ll hate it. Good. You can imagine the love they have for him and you know that old Kris probably knows exactly when he’s restless during the night. She knows exactly where he plays during the day. She knows everything he does. She knows what he eats. She knows when he sleeps. Just loves him with all her heart and you know how precious he has to be to them. And I reckon they’re just, oh I think praying and trusting God, that he’ll grow up and live a beautiful life as a man of God. I want you to imagine something that might happen, say in 20 years’ time whenever he grows up. Imagine that in 20 years’ time he’s given his life to Jesus and that Jim goes in with David to a hospital someday and they find there an old drunk, an old drunk who has raped and stolen his way through life. Who has drunk and murdered his way for years. And the old drunk’s heart now is just broken and battered and is hardly pumping any blood at all. And they’ve just dragged him off of skid row really, because he’s about to die. And the only thing that will possibly save him is a heart transplant and the doctor says to Jim, “David’s heart is one of the few that will work.” And Jim gets together with David, that dear little fella there, 20 years hence, and he talks it over with him and Jim says to David, “Would you let this fella have your heart so that he’ll have enough years to have a chance of dealing with Jesus?” And little David agrees and he goes on the operating table and the old drunk goes on the other operating table, and the heart transplant is made. And then can you imagine Jim sitting at the bedside of David, now a 20 year old man and seeing him struggling, breathing out his last with that old broken battered damaged heart that he now has from the old drunk. And the old drunk comes into the room and can you doubt that that old drunk knows that this Jim loves him with all his heart? Can you doubt that? You just couldn’t. When you can imagine the love that Jim and Kris have for David and then if they were to do a thing like that for some old bum who really had destroyed his own life, that old drunk would have no doubt that he was on the receiving end of love that was real. Now loved ones, when you think of God’s love this morning you just have to get out of your mind the idea of some impersonal philosophical transaction that has taken place somewhere in the cosmos. In fact, the situation is exactly like the one that we’ve outlined. God had far more love for Jesus than Jim or Kris have for David and that relationship was far warmer than any we can imagine. God said that. He said, “This is my beloved Son,” and you can almost feel the pride of a father in a sense, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And that son was the apple of his eye as David is probably the apple of Jim and Kris’ eye. And yet when it came to the time when the Father saw that the only hope that we would have of ever receiving his life is if we were given the very heart of his Son Jesus. At that moment, God didn’t hesitate and in actual fact, it’s even worse than the analogy that we used about David because the old broken hearts that you and I have developed, these old hearts that are so drugged and addicted to man’s praise and man’s condemnation, these old hearts that are so addicted to sensual pleasures and physical possessions, these old hearts that have become useless for any kind of outgoing life at all, they actually have not only to be placed in Jesus’ own heart and cause in fact his death, but they themselves have to be exterminated. And really it isn’t quite like the analogy we moved with David, it’s slightly different. It’s as if God took that broken old heart of yours that is so addicted to man’s praise and so addicted to its own way, that with it you can only go to one place and that is into hell. God took that old soul, or old personality, or heart of yours and put it into his Son Jesus and he knew that the chemotherapy that he would use to destroy that would actually destroy his own Son. And so when he looked at his Son on the cross he saw him dying because of the pain that was caused by the burning Spirit of God as it put an end once and for all to that heart you have developed inside yourself. And that’s really what the death of Jesus is about. That’s why the Bible says, “God made him to be sin who knew no sin.” That’s what it means. God took your heart and transplanted it into Jesus so that he could burn it out into destruction there and purge it. And that was the pain that Jesus felt when he cried out, “My God, why has thou forsaken me?” Because even he felt the tremendous pain that was caused by that x-ray of the Holy Spirit getting to work on the heart that you have developed. But that’s God’s love for you, you know. And that’s what is meant this morning when we say that God’s love in Christ is to you personally. It’s that kind of love. It’s not a love that costs nothing, it’s a love that costs everything, that destroyed the warmth of a family the way it would destroy the warmth of this dear family here. And that’s what is meant when we say that God loves you personally. He loves you in fact, as much as he loved his own Son. That’s it. He loves you as much as he loved his own Son because he was prepared to let his Son be destroyed so that that selfish heart inside you that is given over completely to dependence on people, and to things, and to experiences, and all kinds of outward things that makes you a slave to them, that heart was put into his Son Jesus and destroyed there. And God loves you therefore, as much as he loves his own Son. And loved ones, I honestly think that if you’re sitting there this morning and you’re trying to wheedle out of this situation, you’re really – it’s really like that old drunk coming into Jim and saying, “Thanks for your son’s heart,” and then going out and getting drunk and murdering and raping his way through the rest of his life. It means the sacrifice may as well not have been made. It means that as Jim puts the body of his son into the ground he senses the terrible futility of it. And really you can sit here very sophisticated this morning in Minneapolis here in the United States of America and you can go out of this room and really just continue to live that rotten selfish in turned life whereby you suck love from everybody and you’ll suck security from everybody but really you may as well be the old drunk who is saying, “Thanks,” and then going out and living the whole life over again. And of course, you can imagine the pain that must be in the Father’s heart as he sees you do that. Loved ones, God loves you as much as he loves his own Son. He loves you as much as he loves his own Son. I think you see a lot of you have an almost satanic talent for agreeing with that in regard to everybody else in the universe. I mean, it is almost satanic that you can listen often to that statement and you can say – and there’s something inside you that ticks and says, “Well yeah, that would be lovely if he loved me that way.” Well certainly he does love the world that way because John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” So I’m glad he loves the world and loves everybody but loved ones, he loves you, and me, and you, and you, he loves you that way. It’s not everybody else. If you had been the only person in the whole world with a selfish rotten heart that was enslaving your life God would still have let his Son die so that he could destroy that heart in him. God loves you that way. It’s really important for you to realize that God is able to do that. God is the Creator of the whole universe, he made it all. He made everything in it and so he can conceive of it all, he can understand it all. And I think sometimes your mind doesn’t rise to that that computer we have is not one of the biggest computers at all but it takes five million bytes of information, five million different bytes they call it of information. Now that’s just a computer. Now the Creator who made us knows everything and can conceive of everything at one moment and he can see the whole world at this moment and he knows all the details of it and he controls it all. And that’s why he has the ability to see each one of you. You know, we kind of think, “Oh well four billion people in the world,” but loved ones, four billion is nothing. There are billions, and billions, and billions of details that the Creator looks after in this universe. Now maybe you’d look at one of references that states that, it’s Psalms 104 if you look at it. Psalms 104:14, “Thou dost cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man’s heart. The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon which he planted. In them the birds build their nests; the stork has her home in the fir trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the badgers. Thou hast made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. Thou makest darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep forth. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. When the sun rises, they get them away and lie down in their dens. Man goes forth to his work and to his labor until the evening.” And a million other things our Creator controls and he can see them all and see the details. But the amazing thing is this, that you, you yourself, I mean you may think, “Oh for goodness sake I’m just one of a bunch here and one just of a larger bunch outside,” but do you know that you’re different from the whole of the creation? That you’re the only creation that is made in God’s own image? You are actually made in the image of God. That’s what it says, the Bible way in the beginning of Genesis 1 says, “God spoke,” and presumably to his Son and he said, “My Son, let us make man in our image.” And so we are the crown of creation loved ones. And it’s important for you maybe to just see that, those of you who don’t realize, we were the greatest thing that God made and it’s in Genesis 1:26. Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,’” and then you see He put us over the whole universe, “And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” And you are special to God. And really I think if the old evolution game has done any harm, it’s stolen from some of us who absorbed so much of it in high school it’s stolen from us the realization that we are vitally different from animals and plant life. And you are loved ones there is no animal that has the self-critical faculty that you have. There is no animal that can worship as you can. You are different from everything else in creation and you are in fact the whole purpose that God had in making creation so God has a different attitude to you. You’re special in his life and in his mind and he loves you. And you know loves you not just in a general sense, but if Kris knows when David needs food, if she knows when he’s restless at night, if she knows where he’s playing, if she knows what clothes he needs, so does your Father. Your Father loves you as much as he loves his own Son and he takes the same care of you. You know loved ones, honestly I don’t want to insult you but you’re just dumb if you keep on thinking that God started the whole thing and has left you to make it on your own. Can you not see that the whole thing is held together by his hands, or by some power? I mean, it’s only last week that we’ve learned that the dust bowl is almost repeating itself in the western states. The earth is so dry that the earth is just blowing off with the snow. Now do you see that if God stopped maintaining the balance of nature the whole thing would fall apart? You only have to look at your own life, how many times could you have been killed, how many times could you have made the wrong turning into a car? How many times have you got passed an intersection and you’ve said, “Ah that was almost it”? And loved ones, you have to face it, that there is somebody somewhere, either that or you are the luckiest person but there is somebody somewhere who has the whole thing in his hands and holds it together in this precarious balance of nature that exists. And loved ones, that someone watches you day after day, after day. That’s it. That’s what his Son said. His Son implied to us that his Father did not just watch the stars, and did not watch just the main movements of the great nations, but that his Father watches individuals’ day-by-day. Now loved ones, you need to look at that again with me because I think this is where – well, this is where sister’s parents are in agony and how many of the rest of us? How many husbands and wives have been in strain because the bank account is low? Well you know it would almost be like all of us standing up here if I asked you to stand up if you’ve ever allowed strain to come into your home relationship because of the state of your finances or your possessions. And loved ones, it’s so vital to see that God loves you enough to be concerned about those and it’s Matthew 10:29. Matthew 10:29 and the tiniest bird in the whole universe, he knows when it dies. He knows when it dies. Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will.” Not a sparrow dies unless God allows it to die and if he allows it to die he knows the plan he has for it because he is a loving God. And not a sparrow, loved ones, dies without God knowing. And you know, Verse 31, how many sparrows do you think you’re worth? “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” And loved ones, that’s the truth, God not only destroyed his own Son for you and loves you as much as his own Son, but he loves you more than well what would you say, three billion sparrows? And he knows when one falls to the ground. Now, could you get that into your head? When a sparrow falls to the ground the Creator knows. Isn’t that amazing? He knows when a sparrow falls to the ground. Now, does he know when you have gone from blue into red or from black into red? Yes he does. He knows immediately that bank account is turned, he knows. In fact, he knew before it happened, he saw the trend. Does he know how you’re feeling this morning? Of course he knows. If he knows as relatively simple an organism as a sparrow he certainly knows a complex an organism as you. In fact, the truth is, and you know, this is so funny that you and I have difficulty getting a hold of it, but the truth is that your wife, or your friend may know when you go to the barber’s or the hair dressers but God knows how many hairs you got cut off. That’s right. And you know, Jesus – it’s so ridiculous isn’t it, it’s so corny that Jesus had to mean it because it was such a ridiculous way to put it but you know, you see it there in Verse 30, “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” And loved ones, that’s true. God loves you and knows everything about you and is vitally concerned about how things are and he’s walking side-by-side with you. You know how Kris does it with David, I imagine, you know how she tries to get him to do things and she’s there every moment and if he looks as if he’s falling she’s right there and so is any mum or dad. We’re dealing with the most beautiful, most wonderful, most loving Father that ever existed and do you not think he’s walking that way with you? Do you not think he’s walking right alongside you and when you look as if you’re going to stumble he’s right there? Of course he is. He watches you day-by-day loved ones. And really Jesus said there’s a way for us to walk in the face of that reality and its there, if you’d like to look at it in Matthew 6:25 and this is really it. Matthew 6:25, and this was this only begotten Son whom God gave for you, this is him speaking and he knows his Father and he says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father fees them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Then in 34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” And I think some of you will feel, “Well, maybe for Carter and maybe for good people, maybe for righteous people, maybe for famous people, maybe that’s true.” Loved ones, if that’s the case why did Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, the express image of our Creator, why did he spend all this time with the little nobodies in the world? Why? I mean, that’s the truth, that’s what his enemy said about him I think its Matthew 11:19. Matthew 11:19, “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” And the truth is that God loves you. Whatever you’re like this morning, whether you’re the rottenest person here in this room, whether you’re the most unknown person here in this room, whether you’re the most unimportant person in the whole universe, God loves you and he knows you personally and to him you are the dearest person he ever created. God loves you like that loved ones. And of course the amazing thing about that love is that it’s different from all other loves. If you depend on your father’s love even, your earthly father’s love there comes times when he gets impatient with you or when he’s not there to help you. If you depend on your wife’s love there comes times when she doesn’t understand what you’re experiencing. She tries to love you but she can’t love you. If you’re depending on your roommate’s love, or your friend’s love there comes times when they aren’t there and it’s hard for them to keep the love the same all the time. Loved ones, would you look in James at the special thing that’s different about God’s love. It’s James 1:17. James 1:17, “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Your Father loves you the same all the time. And so if you get up in the morning and you’re depending on a sun shining day to make you feel good you end up with highs and lows. That’s what this part of the verse of Romans 8:9 is talking about our emotions because it says, “That nothing will separate us from the love of God neither height nor depth.” And if you’re depending on sun shining day or snowy day, whether there’ll be snow on the slopes or whether they won’t, if you’re depending on external things you’re up and down all the time. It depends on whether the thing was good you have an emotional high, you have a height an emotional low you have a depth. It’s the same if you’re dependent on people, if you’re dependent on other people’s love for you they smile at you you’re up there, they frown at you you’re down there. Your life is a continual switchback experience. But do you see that if you begin to live your life, an inner life, an interior life in your spirit preoccupied with your Father’s love for you, preoccupied with what he wants to do with you today, preoccupied with what he plans for you today, then do you see you at last come onto a constant? And it’s possible to have neither heights nor depths that separate you from that love of God and that’s the promise, that neither height nor depth will separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. And if that’s a promise there’s a condition. What is the condition? The condition is that you would start concentrating on your Father’s love for you instead of on other people’s love. That’s it. What you look at will run your life. That’s right. Tomorrow through the mail comes the bank statement. If your eyes are on that and if you depend on your bank account for your security, if you have said, “Yeah, well all this is true enough but I’d rather look after my own security,” and so obviously your money is your security, do you see that that bank account determines whether you have a high or low that day? But do you also see that if that bank account comes and it just looks bad but you are used continually to believing in your Father’s love and looking up to him immediately and saying, “Father, I know you’ve clothed the lilies of the field. Father, I don’t see how we’re going to get through this but I know you love me otherwise you wouldn’t have allowed your own Son to die for me. Father, I know you love me so thank you. I don’t know how this is going to turn out but I know you want me to rest in your love and rest in the peace that you are going to pull this through in some way that I don’t understand.” Then loved ones, you walk in peace. It’s the same in regards to your friends. I mean loved ones we’re at the mercy of the media who encourages all the time to be preoccupied with what everybody else thinks of us. Do you see that you’re just the play thing of other people if that happens? Don’t you see you’re the play thing of the next person who smiles at you, or the next person who frowns at you, the next boss who criticizes you, or the next teacher that praises you? And the only way to walk in the love of the Father is to begin to teach yourself inside, to begin to look at things that are unseen, the attitude of your Father Creator to you. And loved ones, that’s the way God wants us to walk, really, in dependence on him and his love. I know that you’re – I’ve sat where you sit and I know – I know the feeling that goes through us, it goes through us, but other people aren’t living this way, and is it real and does it really work? Loved ones, it’s real and it works. There are hundreds of us even in this room who can testify to that. But you, to make it work in you, have to start depending on your Father’s love. Start being preoccupied, “Lord, what are you thinking of me?” Start treating him as a warm loving father person and not as a philosophical idea in your head and start dealing with him as your Father. And loved ones, you really will begin to find a life that is without heights or depths. Really, it’s possible. So I really pray – in thinking of that I don’t know, I look over and I think of the little one here who thinks, “Well, it’s true for everybody but me.” Well loved ones, if you’re thinking that then it’s you I’m speaking to, God loves you. Your Father loves you and he does know about your clothes, and he does know about the car, and he has planned a way out. But, he wants you to look to him instead of fretting yourself by looking at the external things. Stop looking at the things that are seen, that’s the key, and start looking at the things that are unseen. The dear Father that you remember Manley Hopkins says in one of his poems, “That hovers over the world,” that dear Father that hovers over the world and has his hands around your life, really. Now loved ones, if all you do is take those ideas you haven’t even begun. You need to begin tomorrow morning to get up and say, “Father, thank you that you love me, thank you that you’re taking care of this whole day and Lord, I want you to show me in your word what way you want me to behave this day.” And then open that dear word there and start a relationship with your Father as the one who gave his Son to die for you to change you. Let us pray.