Identity Crisis: Loved

This morning, we continue our “Identity Crisis” message series where we are faced with that question, “When everything else fails, at your core, who are you?”  We’ve been reminded how we were created on purpose and for a purpose.

We learned of our need to be born again and how, at that  moment, we become children of God.  We were also reminded of the worship war raging and how jealous the enemy must be of us.  After all, God chose not only to create us in His image, but also for us to be His temples; filled with His Presence through the Holy Spirit.

This week, we’re learning about another identity crisis that exists both in the world and church; love.

You are loved by God!  Even if you are in complete and total rebellion, even if you deny His very existence, nothing can separate you from God’s love!  These words are so puny and don’t even begin to truly scratch the surface, but you are loved by God!

Sadly, love has been so cheapened by us.  We love summer.  We love tacos.  We love our car.  We love country music.  We absolutely love that dress and those shoes.  We love football.  We love just about anything and everything.  We say that sex is love.  Oh yeah, and we love that, too!

Love is not an emotion, not a feeling, not an opinion, and not a fleeting whim.  Love is not lust or happiness or comfort or pleasure or romance.  Love is so much more!  Love endures all emotions, all circumstances, and all seasons of life.  Love covers a multitude of sins.

True love, God’s love toward us, is so very much more than love as we understand it!  The enemy very intentionally has created an identity crisis regarding love.  If we truly understood the love of God, we would joyfully and fully surrender our lives into His trustworthy hands.  Our lives would be ones of true and pure worship and we would be unstoppable!

It’s like that line from the movie, “Princess Bride”; “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”  What is love?  Well, God not only displayed what love is from cover to cover of His word, He chose to clearly explain to us exactly what love is.

This is love.

1 John 4:10

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

This is love.  Not our love, not even our love for God, but God’s love for us.  Our love, even our most committed, sincere, passionate love is nothing in comparison to the enduring, eternal, unconditional love of God.  You are loved by God!

We have learned about some amazing realities about how we were created and who we are.  These are all expressions of God’s great love for us; created in His image and filled with His Spirit.  The greatest expression of His love for us happened when He sacrificed His own Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

We choose to sin, to reject God’s ways and to go our own way away from Him.  We break His law, His heart, His design, His ways, and His will for us.  He responds to this rebellion by lowering Himself to become one of us, living sinlessly, dying to pay the price that we owe due to our sin, and raising again to life.  He sacrificed Himself, taking on our curse, to right our wrongs and give us His blessings. 

This is love!  Love is sacrifice.  Love is commitment.  Love is unconditional.

We’ve heard it so many times, but this is what God’s love for us is like:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

This is love.

1 John 4:7-21

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

This is love!

We can only love others in this way because we have first received that love from God.  Having received that love, we can then love others the way that God loves us.

This is love!  Long before Jesus gave His life for ours, at the very beginning, God’s great love was being expressed.  In this familiar account, we learn much about what love is, how greatly we are loved by God, and how we can love better.

We now turn to the beginning and learn our first lesson in love.  Love requires a choice.  To truly love is to take on the risk of being rejected and to love anyways.  Love requires a choice.  God created mankind in His own image and gave him free will.  In this way, His creation could either choose to reciprocate His love or reject it.

Love requires a choice.  The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, in a moment, chose to reject God’s love.  They sinned.  They did the one thing that God told them not to do and ate fruit from that one tree…

Genesis 3:7-24

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

As is usually the case, we feel the weight of our sin and the foolishness of it all after the fact.  As they say, hindsight is 20/20.  Their circumstance hadn’t changed, they were always naked.  Their view of themselves, their identity, changed.  They were now ashamed of who they were created to be.  They did what they could on their own to cover up their shame.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Yes, sin separates us from God.  However, it isn’t God nor His love that flees from us or our sin, it is us who moves away from God.  It is us who go running away from Him trying to hide.  But God, out of His amazing love for us, pursues us and chases us down!

9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

Love, when rejected and betrayed, provides an opportunity for reconciliation.  God gave Adam a chance to confess his sin and to repent of it.  Instead of doing this and making his relationship with God right, he chose to defend his sin and began to blame, both God and Eve.  Instead of repairing that relationship and allowing love to cover sin, Adam chose to multiply sin and damage his relationship with Eve as well.

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

God also gave Eve the same opportunity to confess and repent, to allow God’s love to cover her sin.  She, following Adam’s lead, defended her sin and blamed the serpent.

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Love doesn’t punish sin, but a loving Father does discipline sin in the lives of His children.  Discipline is placing appropriate consequences in place in an attempt to prevent sin being further multiplied or repeated.  Often, this discipline comes in the form of natural consequences.

In this case, we’ll soon find that Adam was banished from the paradise of the Garden of Eden and out to the very same mud where God formed and created him.  There is something so significant about this!

Although discipline never feels like it, it is an expression of love.  We call it tough love.  God uses and gives us this tool to use.  It is to be used in anyone in authority toward those under their authority.  Parents and children, Employers and employees, Teachers and students, Police officers and citizens, and so on.  They all discipline those under their authority when necessary.  They should always be doing so out of love toward all of those under their authority and only for their ultimate good.

If we are God’s children, He will discipline us when necessary.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

Adam and Eve’s homemade leaf undies were insufficient to fully cover their sin and shame.  Sin requires a blood sacrifice as the consequences of sin are death.  God chose to shed the blood of an innocent animal to cover their sin and shame.  They saw firsthand the high cost of sin.  For us now, God shed the blood of His Son as Jesus willingly did to cover our sin and shame. 

Love covers a multitude of sins.  It does not enable sin, it does not multiply sin, it does not “put up” with sin.  Love calls sin what it is and then makes the sacrifice to cover it.  Love does not shame the sinner, love removes the shame of the sinner.  Love does not condemn the sinner, love pays the price to remove the condemnation of the sinner.  Love wins!

22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Love creates and maintains healthy boundaries to prevent sin from being multiplied.  God knew that if they sinned once, eating from a forbidden tree, that they would do it again, eating from the other forbidden tree. 

To prevent this from happening, God removed the temptation and did all that He could to put into place a boundary and to enforce that boundary.  This strong boundary that was put in place was a loving act that didn’t feel very loving to those outside of it.  They didn’t realize that it was for their own good that God did this.

After all, the tree of life didn’t have a boundary around it to truly keep Adam and Eve FROM it, it was to preserve that experience FOR them.  At the right time and in the right way, they would eat from that tree.  First, a sacrifice needed to be made to fully and completely pay the price for their sin so that they might be considered blameless and sinless. 

That tree is awaiting all those who put their faith in the sacrifice of Jesus.  One day, we will eat from this tree and experience eternal life.

Revelation 2:7

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

This victory is found in none other than Jesus Christ.  He is the one who lived this life perfectly, completely without sin, overcoming every temptation and weakness that we experience.  He is the one who made the sacrifice to cover our sin and shame.  He won the ultimate victory and then freely offers it to us.  To those who choose to receive it and to walk in it, they are the ones whom receive the victory and life eternal!

This is love.

1 John 5:1-5

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This is love.  We can find our identity in knowing that we are loved.  It’s such an incredible understatement.  You are loved by God!

God loves you so much that there is nothing that there is absolutely nothing that can ever change or stop that love.  Every situation is redeemable.  Every loss is reimbursable.  Every sin (except blaspheme against the Holy Spirit) is forgivable.  Every obstacle is removable.  Every day is a new day with new love and new grace and a new opportunity for us to reach our full potential.  This is all possible because of God’s great love for us!

Romans 8:28-39

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

More Than Conquerors

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;

    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

NOTHING can separate us from the great love of God!  You are loved!

We end with this prayer over you:

Ephesians 3:14-19

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.