Joy of Love

John 3:14-16

A soldier received a ‘Dear John’ letter while serving overseas.   Not only did his girlfriend break up with him but she asked for her picture back so she could use it as her engagement photo.   The soldier was heartbroken.  But his buddies came to the rescue. They collected pictures of all the soldier’s girlfriends and placed them in a shoe box and attached a note that read: “Please find your picture and return the rest to me.  I’m sorry but I can’t remember which one was you!”

A picture can say a lot.   Most people carry pictures of loved ones in their wallets or on their phones.   And these pictures are an expression of how much they’re loved.   In the Bible, John 3:16 has always been THE snapshot of how much God loves us.  This morning let’s stand as we honor God with the reading of His Word.

Let me ask you, “How can we learn to love the world… like God loved us?”   This passage not only says that God loves us, but that we NEED that love.   And how we achieve that need is  introduced…in a most unusual way.

Jesus tells Nicodemus in verse 14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”   A Serpent?   A snake lifted up in the wilderness?   Does that really have anything to do with the “Joy of Love”?   Well, it does…just trust me.

You see when Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, they rebelled against God.   They were filled with bitterness and complaining. The Bible says they spoke against God and against Moses by saying, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” (Numbers 21:5)

Their constant complaining angered God, so He decided to get their attention.  The Bible says, “Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’  So, Moses prayed for the people.  Then the LORD said, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”   So, Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” (Numbers 21:6-9)

Jesus was telling Nicodemus that the Children of Israel sinned against God, and their sin brought poison into their lives.   And there are many today…suffering from the bite of Satan.   His venom has damaged and destroyed millions of lives and countless families.  When will we learn that sin is a poison and it will destroy us.  But for those who want to live, is there a cure?

As we read in v 14, Jesus said: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”    Upon the cross…Jesus was “lifted up.”   “Lifted up” so that anyone who calls upon Him would be saved from the poisonous sins that controls their lives.

This morning, Jesus is telling you, that the ONLY way to be healed of the sin that is poisoning your life, your family, your relationships, is to lift Him up.   To meet Jesus at the cross… to kneel at His feet and ask for His forgiveness.   Then we need to lift Him up in our lives.   Everyday Jesus should be our top priority.   Everyday we should strive to be more like Him.   Everyday we should be praying and talking to Him.  Everyday we should be reading God’s Word and learning about Him.   Everyday we should be dying to our old selves and being reborn in the likeness of Him!   Everyday!   Everyday!   You will find the “Joy of Love” in Jesus Christ.

In truth, that’s the ONLY way we can love this world…like God loved us.   “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”   God loved us, so He sent His Son to be lifted up so that we could look upon Him.   To see Him…to be like Him.   But I’m afraid there are a lot of Christians who don’t do that…they don’t “lift Jesus up” for others to see.

I read about a waitress that said some of her worst customers show up after church.   She said they complain about everything, rarely tip, and would often leave notes saying, “You should be in church.”   She said once a preacher’s wife looked at pregnant waitress and noticed no wedding ring, said told her, “You need to get married.”

Now, were they right?  Shouldn’t the waitresses be in church?   Shouldn’t the young pregnant girl be married?   I can’t disagree but I can disagree with their method.   You don’t “lift up” Jesus by putting others down!   God so loved the world that He GAVE His Son.  You’ve got to GIVE them God’s love…Give them His mercy…not sit in judgement.

Just look around, people are hurting.  They need a hand up…have need compassion…they need God’s love.   So how can we “lift up” Jesus to them?   First, Jesus MUST be “lifted up” in your life.   If you’re “lifting Him up” everyday…then you KNOW…He’s the answer.   The answer to pain, suffering, loneliness, betrayal, anger, addiction, rejection, and anything else Satan has.

Christina was a teenage girl who lived in a village near Rio de Janeiro.   Like most teenagers, she was bored and felt her strict parents were stopping her from enjoying the excitement of the big city.   Then one morning her mother found Christina’s bed empty and she knew where she had gone.   Knowing the dangers of the big city, she packed a bag and headed for the bus station. Along the way, she went to a photograph booth and had several pictures taken of herself.

For many days, she placed her picture all over Rio…but she never found her daughter.  With a broken heart, she headed home.  Months later, Christina slowly walked down the hotel stairs.  She was defeated and worn down…by the life she was living.  Her eyes were tired and filled with pain and fear.  She longed to go home, but she thought it was too late…they’d never take her back.

When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she looked at the lobby mirror and suddenly noticed a small picture of her mother lodged in the corner.  She quickly grabbed the photo and written on the back were these words: “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.”   Christina packed a bag…and went home.

God has left us the same kind of picture.   A picture of His love on the cross.   And on that picture is this message: “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.”