The Great Great Love of God

Learning to have eternal confidence in the love of God.

Dick Lincoln
Oct 13, 2019    31m
In this sermon Pastor Dick Lincoln teaches us that we can have confidence in the love of God. He uses scripture to illustrate that God loves us where we are in our brokenness, we do not have to be perfect to experience this love. We just need to accept Jesus as our savior, and we can have the love of God in our lives. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Dick Lincoln: 00:00 Really glad to be with you today, and I want to talk with you about the love of God today. About the great, great love of God. I don't know whether you are ever uncertain about whether God loves you, or anybody else, or the world in general? But you read the paper and you look at the way Republicans and Democrats seem to hate each other, not just disagree with each other. The way various parts of the Arab community seem to hate each other. I mean, I remember a song that the song ended with, the Dutch hates South Africans and South Africans hate the Dutch, and I don't like anybody very much. It seems like we're back there now. And you just wonder if the love of God is real, where is it? Whose heart does it indwell? I doubt that there are many people who are at this church or any other church who have come to the conclusion that God does not love, but I do understand how anybody can wonder about it.

Dick Lincoln: 01:05 Now I want you to understand that if you are a person who is struggling with whether God loves you, or loves babies who are getting dreaded diseases, or whatever it may be that you see that troubles you. I am here to argue with you today, and I want to argue with you for your sake. Not for the sake of argument, but because if you don't have confidence in the love of God, you are missing the greatest underpinning, the greatest foundation for your life that you can possibly know. Because if you're not confident that God loves you, then every ill wind that blows into your life is going to make you uncertain again. But if you are confident in the love of God, and in the grace of God, and the goodness of God, then when the life tumbles in, you say to yourself, life has tumbled in, this is tough. I don't like it. I wish it weren't so, but this I know, I know that my savior lives , I know that my Lord loves me, and I know that he will not let me go. And it makes an enormous difference in the way you handle life's tribulations, which are real for every human being. No amount of going to church, or tithing, or loving people, or going on mission trips, or anything else can keep you from experiencing the tribulations of life. If you're a person who's pretty confident in his love, or very confident in his love, I hope that what I say to you gives you more reasons to be confident in it, and indeed expands your sense of the great, great love of God for you.

Dick Lincoln: 02:46 Now, the passage of we're gonna look at today is my favorite passage of scripture in the whole Bible, it's the first 14 verses of John. I fell in love with this probably in about 1971 as a student at Southwestern Seminary, because our president, Dr. Naylor, used to recite this passage of scripture every semester, and he's the greatest reciter of scripture that I've ever listened to. I remember the first time he got up, "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The saying was, "In the beginning with God." And he had a way of saying it, that you could just see the sweep of God's power over time, in the universe. And when he got finished the first time, I just thought, what a great God, and I want to learn that passage of scripture. And I hope that you are memorizing long passages of scripture, verses are great, but passages that tell a story are phenomenal. So this passage of scripture has been my favorite for a long time, and not one time does it mention the word love. And yet it is the foundation of my belief in the love of God, and I hope it will be one of the foundation stones for you by the time I get through. It shows us that God loves you and always has. Let me show you the reasons I find in this passage of scripture for why I don't just believe that, I feel that, I know that, and I'm confident in that makes an enormous difference in my life.

Dick Lincoln: 04:28 First reason is, this passage shows that God reaches beyond perfection to brokenness, it's a pattern in his life. The first verse describes the incredible perfection of God, "in the beginning was the word, the word was with God, and the word was God." Now in this situation, there is nothing to argue with God, disagree with God, refuse to believe in God, rebel against God, sin against God, there is none of that. None, that cost him his son's life, it's not there, everything is perfect. There is God the father, there is the word, who as it tells us in verse 14, the word became flesh, so we know that the word of God is Jesus. And in Genesis 1:1 we see that, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and the spirit of God hovered over the deep." So in the first three verses of Genesis 1, we see the father and the spirit. So in the beginning there is the father, there is the son, there is the Holy spirit, there is this triune God that if you think about too much is guaranteed to give you a migraine, but if you trust is guaranteed to give you joy. So we see that in the beginning is this sheer perfection, all power is there, all wisdom is there, all perfection is there. Why would you change that? Can you imagine that? If you ever had a perfect life in your family, can you ever imagine saying to your wife, you know what, honey, this has been nice, but I'm sick of it, let's mess this up. You'd want to keep it that way, wouldn't you? But God doesn't.

Dick Lincoln: 06:29 Verse 3, "All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made." Now what was made is a mouthful, because what was made was Dick Lincoln, George Wright, Patty Lincoln, and every one of us sinners. We question God, we disagree with God, we get it wrong what God wants. He makes it clear to us what we are to do, and we think, he just wasn't talking about me when he said, love your enemies. If he had known about my enemies, he would never have said that. Yeah, he would have. So God made people who will question his wisdom, rebel against his rules and laws and will. Why would he do that? He did it because he loves too much, He loves too much to keep it to himself. He didn't just want to share his perfection with the perfection of the Son, and the perfection of the spirit. He wanted all three of them, together in one, to share that love with creatures who needed it. And therein lies the secret of the belief in the love of God, that the love of God comes not from the lovability of humans, not from the lovability of the world or the universe, it comes from beloving character of God, which never changes. Nothing you can do can stop God from loving, and the only thing that he has to love in the universe is imperfect. Isn't that amazing? But it ought to be the most assuring thing you've ever heard, because on your most awful day when you are at your absolute worst, you never need to doubt that God knew exactly what he was getting into when he made you exactly what he was getting into, and he sent his son into the world and he did it anyway because he loves you.

Dick Lincoln: 08:39 Let me give you an illustration, and this was an actual illustration about a real person that I know. Imagine having three children, and you love these children in an amazing way. And this guy, when I used to hear him talk about his children, I've never heard a man talk about his love for his children the way he did, it was truly unconditional. He never said, I love my children, but. It was always just I love my children. He found the good in them, and they were amazing children. He said, I used to get invited, my wife and I, used to get invited to every young adult Sunday school class in our church. The request was always the same, please tell us how you did this, tell us how we can make our children be that way. And when his oldest child was married, his second child had just gotten out of college, and his youngest child was just starting college. After about a month of the empty nest, at breakfast one morning he looked across the table and said to her, honey, I miss the kids. She said, honey, I do too. He said, let's start over. She said, I was thinking the same thing. So they had three more children. And I thought when he told me what he'd done, I thought, are you out of your mind? Do you not understand that terrible twos is universal, that adolescents are the same yesterday, today and forever, do you not understand that? He did understand that, and he didn't care, he loved too much, his wife loved too much to want to stop at three. That's what these first three verses of John 1 tell me about the great God that we know through Jesus. God loves too much to leave you boiling in imperfection while he enjoys his perfection, your brokenness is his project. He is at work in you to will and to do for his good pleasure. He loves working your brokenness out.

Dick Lincoln: 11:05 Number two, he joins us in our darkness. In him was life, the life was the light of men, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not comprehend it. Life here is the word that refers to full and meaningful life, the kind of life that only God has completely, but the kind of life that is offered to us in Christ. Not just life that lasts forever, or life that is forgiven, but life that is growing in character, and in love, and in understanding. In him was that life, and that life was the light of men. In other words, when it comes to you, it shows you what you could be. And then it says, "And the light shines in the darkness." Not shone, shines. It's still going on, it's still shining in the darkness. Every place where Jesus is preached, the light is coming in, and some people are hearing God loves you and God wants you to have the light of eternal life and your life. And so his life is light, and it shines in your darkness. Now, this is another thing I wouldn't do if I were God, and we can all be glad I'm not. I would have said, you know, I'm over here in the light. You're bumping your head on walls and knocking people down that you don't mean to, and it's because that's what happens in the darkness. We do things that were even shocked at some of the things we do.

Dick Lincoln: 12:39 But the Bible says, we're not in the darkness by accident. Here in his judgment, it says, that God sent the light into the world and people preferred the darkness to the light. That's all of us. We have all preferred the darkness to the light. God tells us to do something that's not that hard to do, that makes us feel better when we live that way, that makes other people feel better and do better when we live that way. And we say, I could do that, but I don't feel like it. And we've all seen that happen over and over again. Why does an older sister enjoy hitting her baby brother in the head with a block? I don't know, but every one of them does, and so do big brothers. We all prefer the darkness to the light, little children do, teenagers do, young adults do, I can tell you 71 year olds do. Now, if I had been God, I would've said, you're living down there where life's a mess, you've made it that way, that's what I call darkness. I'm over here in the light, come on over. But he knows nobody would come, we'd all say, you know the lights kind of scary, you can see what goes on over there. We've gotten used to this, we'll just stay here. Here's a way you can think about darkness and light. Darkness is life as it is, and should not be. Light is life as it could be, and should be. So when you are in the darkness, even if you've gotten used to it, God is reaching into you. He is willing to come into the darkness where people get crucified for their efforts, and he is willing to bring you out and bring you over to the light.

Dick Lincoln: 14:45 Number three, I know God loves me, and you, and the world, because he sends witnesses to the unbelieving. Now we've already seen that he sends the light, isn't that enough? Apparently not, wasn't enough for me, so God sends witnesses. Why does he do that? Because witnesses are hard to argue with. Now, most of us heard things when we were kids, like an imaginary mother saying to an imaginary child about an imaginary Freddy, why can't you be like Freddy? Well, I don't know, I'm just not Freddy. And what do you mean anyway? Well, when Freddy comes home, he doesn't have to be told, he starts his homework. He doesn't do another thing until his homework is done. He cleans his room every day. Why can't you be like Freddy? He never talks back to his mother. Why can't you be like Freddy? Now, when your mother gets through with that with you, do you want to be like Freddy? No, you hate Freddy. Anybody with a lick of sense hates Freddy. I hate Freddy now, don't bring Freddy up to me. Some preacher that's better than me, leave me alone.

Dick Lincoln: 16:02 But when somebody comes along and says, you know what, I remember when I had the problems that you had. And it was hard for me to get over, and there was a side of me that didn't want to, but I read a book and it helped me know how to do it. Now, you're talking to somebody who's a fellow struggler, and you're talking to somebody who's got some help. And you may not be ready to read the book yet, but it'll make a much bigger impression on you than Freddy. And part of the problem with the light is, we're in the darkness, and the light looks to us like a further evidence that something's wrong with me. And nobody likes that, just like nobody likes Freddy. But when somebody comes along and says to you, I'm one of you, let me tell you about something that I have seen. Witnesses are powerful. That's why you're called to be witnesses, to bear witness to what you have seen and what you know. And that's what John the Baptist did. There came a man sent from God whose name was John, he came to bear witness of the light, that all through him might believe. So it was not enough that there just is the light of God. God is not going to do it on his own. He's going to do it through a witness, that's why you go on mission, that's why you love your city, it's why you do the things that you do as a church. God bless you as you do it. The world needs witnesses.

Dick Lincoln: 17:30 Let me give you a hypothetical example of why this works. I don't believe in Superman, do you? George, you've got to get to work. The same thing happened at, everybody looked at me like, ah, you don't believe in Superman. Come on, you don't believe in Superman, he's a comic book hero, right? But what if you met somebody that you didn't think was crazy, and he said to you, I know you don't believe in Superman, I want tell you something. I met him the other day, I heard him (flying sounds), and he landed right in front of me. And I said, are you really Superman? And he said, yeah, here's a gun, shoot me. No, I won't do that. He said, no, go ahead, it'll just bounce off. So I shot him, it bounced right off. Now, if I didn't think you were crazy, I still would not believe in Superman. But the next time I heard something going (flying sounds), I'd look up. Wouldn't you? And we have the feeling that when we bear witness to the light, that if we don't get an instant response, we get discouraged. But the truth is the witness, when somebody that is believable, tells you about anything, you can disbelieve it, but it's impossible to completely discount it. It will stick back there in your mind, and someday the gospel will bear fruit. So God sent a witness, one of us, to tell us about the light. The Lord Jesus Christ, the life that he brings and promises. And I know that because God sends witnesses, puts churches in the world, that he loves me. Every church that loves the Bible is evidence of the love of God.

Dick Lincoln: 19:29 I also know that God loves me, because he loves me when I am willfully blind. This was the first long passage of scripture that are memorized, and the first person I recited it to was Patty. And I came home from work and I said, I want you to listen to what I have learned. And I was sitting in a house that I had been the contractor for, and I had hired the subs and bought the materials and supervised construction. And as I was reciting these verses to Patty, and I came to these verses, "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world did not know him. He came unto his own, but his own received him not." I began to weep uncontrollably. Patty said, what's wrong? I said, I never seen this in these two verses before, but here I am in a house that I didn't pay somebody else to build, I contracted it myself. I was out here every morning, and every evening I hung the wallpaper, I worried about the prices, I organized everything. It was hard to do, I enjoyed doing it. Imagine my coming home one day and I turn a key in the lock, and it won't work. And I knock on the door, and you come to the door and crack the door open and you look out and you say, who are you? And I'd say, what do you mean who am I? I'm your husband, I'm the father of our two children, I'm the guy that built this house. What in the world do you mean, who are you? I don't know. you, get out of here, this is our house, my two children live here with me. You're not welcome here, get out. How would I have felt? When I know that I know you, and I know that you and I made these two children together, and you and I worked to build this house. And now you're telling me you don't know me, and I'm not welcome in this house. That's what we did to Jesus. He made everything, and we didn't even know him, we didn't even recognize him. He came unto his own, the Jewish people, as a Jewish man, and the Jewish Messiah. And his own didn't receive him to this day, they reject him as a group. But to as many as received him, to them, gave he the power to become the children of God, even to them that believe in his name.

Dick Lincoln: 22:03 Brings me to the fifth reason I know he loves us. He offers us a way out. When I was a kid I was pretty willful, I got a lot of spankings. And my parents would say to me afterwards, are you ever going do that again? Well, I mean, are you going to say yeah, I think I will. No, I'll never do that again. But all the time inside myself, I was thinking, I don't know why I did it in the first place. I didn't really mean to do it in the first place, I don't know what I could have done to stop me, because I didn't really recognize. How can I make the promise that I'll never do it again? But since I don't want any more trouble, I'm going to make the promise. But can I keep it? I never had any belief that I could. The Bible says, that he makes a way out of the willful blindness that caused us not to recognize him, and that way out is Jesus. As many as received him, Jesus is talking about himself, as many as received the word, to them gave he the power to become the children of God. He offers us a way out of darkness, into the light. Out of sin, and into salvation. Out of hell, and into heaven. He offers us a way out, as many as received him. You must receive him.

Dick Lincoln: 23:40 Baptism, you can't receive baptism unless you are old enough to decide for it. And I understand, I mean church's mean well by engaging in infant baptism, but my friend, if you are trusting something was done for you when you could not receive Jesus, you need to make sure you have received him. I don't think it matters what your baptism was like very much, but what does matter is have you received Jesus on the basis of repentance from your sin and faith in him. And he tells us here what it means to receive him, as many as received him, to them gave he the power. He doesn't give you the power, and then you receive him. You receive him, and then he gives you the power. To as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the children of God, even to those that believe in his name. He could have said this another way. He could have said, now I want to make sure you understand, I'm talking about those who have believed in my name, that's what this means. So receiving him by trusting him is the way out of darkness into light, out of hell and into heaven, out of sin and judgment and into salvation, and the love of God.

Dick Lincoln: 24:58 The way out is Jesus. He tells us in verse 13 just to make sure you understand, I'm not talking about those who were born of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man. I'm talking about those who have been reached by God, and brought out of darkness by the power of God. When he says not of blood, it means it doesn't matter who you're related to, your relatives can't save you. In Judaism, what made you a child of God was being related to Abraham. Not so with Christ, what makes you a Christian is receiving him, not who your parents or your grandparents were. It is not a result of the will of man, you can't will yourself into salvation, you can't will yourself into betterment. Only God can will you into salvation, but of God, only God can do this work. I remember when I came walking down the aisle of a fairly small Baptist church in Tampa, Florida, thinking I've tried everything else, I've got nothing to lose here, but I cannot imagine that anything that I do at the head of that aisle is going to make any difference in my life, I've tried everything. And this guy's saying, come forward and you can be born again. Made no sense to me, but it was real. When I received him, he began making change in me that I had utterly failed to be able to make in myself. And then when you receive him, he makes sure that you know he is wonderful. When I was standing at the front of the church being introduced, a line of people formed to come across and say, welcome, we're glad you're here. And my wife took me by the hand and said to me, the Bible says, the angels in heaven rejoice when one sinner is converted, the angels in heaven are rejoicing right now because of what has happened to you now. A week ago, I would have thought that's the most cornpone piece of garbage I have ever heard of. That day, my eye filled with tears, and I'd never realized how much God and the angel band cared for me. But that day it was real to me, that is how wonderful God and all of heaven's population is. And since then, notice it says, "The word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory." Glory as the only begotten from the father, full of grace, full of truth. We beheld his glory. The word glory is a word that means, so unbelievable that you can't quit talking about it. There aren't many things in life that are that great, the love of God is, the grace of God is, the truth of God is, the saving grace of God is. It is so amazing. This happened to me in 1970, 50 years later, I can't talk about it in a normal voice. I remember what it was like to be lost in the darkness, lost in sin, separated from God, not able to get my life going. I had no [inaudible] in myself, no full and meaningful heaven life and myself. I had only biological life, and just getting by somehow. And now all of a sudden my life was new and different, and things were changing.

Dick Lincoln: 29:03 God loves you. There are six reasons here for you to be confident that God loves you. Pick any one of them, trust it fully, paint over with it whatever it is that makes you wonder if God really loves the world. There are plenty of things here in this life that make it easy to believe that we're on our own and nobody cares for. But let me tell you something, in this book, there are a lot of things that are way more powerful than any of those things that worry us, so will you believe that today. If you're a believer and you would like to come and kneel and pray and say, God, I am really so bothered about, and then you fill in the blank for whatever it may be, you can come and kneel and pray here. If you're a person that is here this morning, and you would like to come and be born again, Pastor George is going to be here at the front, he will be glad to receive you, I'll be here to help him if there are others who want to come. If you would come and respond to God's invitation to you to know his love, to walk in his love, to the confident in his love, would you come and either receive him or turn something over to him that may be blocking your sense of his love.

Dick Lincoln: 30:26 Let me pray with you. Father, thank you for your love, thank you that in love you made us, thank you that in love you enlightened us, thank you that in love you came to us, thank you that in love you work in us. Thank you that it gives you pleasure to work with sinful people like us, thank you that we can know that love, and trust in it every day. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206