John 4:16 – So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love. And whoever abides in love, abides in God, and God abides in Him.
So, God is love. It’s not that He has love or is loving, but is love. It’s who God is. It’s how He operates, how He thinks, how He makes decisions. It’s His fundamental way of interacting. And because God is love, He proposed to do a loving thing. That’s all He ever does, because that’s who he is.
He wanted a family. He wanted a God family – not a family of angels or animals or any other kind of creature, but a God family – a family of beings like God is. And He wanted this because God’s life is fantastic! And because He’s love, He wants to share it with somebody – with His new family. And to accomplish His plan, one of the things that He did was create a large number of beings called angels. Now, angels are to help Him manage His plan, but they’ll never be God. They’ll never be a part of that family the way we’re going to be. They deliver messages and watch over us and many other things that we don’t know about – aren’t aware of – because God hasn’t told us. But they are immortal and they have free will. They’re not physical and they also have free will. And God loves them and they love Him.
Unfortunately – or maybe, fortunately, as it turns out – God’s plan in the distant past suffered a crisis. Where there had been peace, there developed rebellion. One of the most beautiful and powerful angels of God attempted to take God’s place. We can only imagine the heartbreak that God must have experienced over that. The One who became Jesus, while He was mortal, recalled to His disciples, “I saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” Now the loving God has an immortal being who will be forever contrary to Him and to His precious family. So, in His mind, we can imagine that He wondered if His new family would suffer the same fate. How could He be sure that His newly born children, who would be like Him – would be God – would also become love and never turn away from Him?
So He crafted a plan. He created His first children lovingly in His own image, but He withholds from them eternal life. He makes them mortal. And He places them in a physical place – on the earth – in an idyllic Garden, where they experience life with God. But He knew that they would be at risk, as were the angels. So, He does something only God could imagine to do. We can read about it in Romans 8:20.
Romans 8:20-21 – For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
So, He knows that none of us asked for things to be the way they are now. The whole creation, He subjected it to futility by allowing that serpent into the Garden, and we didn’t ask for it to be that way, and neither did Adam and Eve. But it says that He subjected it to the influence of the devil in hope that the creation would be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. So, He allowed the fallen angel – now Satan – to tempt Adam and Eve – his first children. And, as we know, they chose to believe the lies of the devil and they rejected the things that God told them – the truth of God. And, in this way, God turned over His kingdom on earth to Satan, who we are told is now the god of this world.
Why did He do that? Well, because Adam and Eve broke their agreement with Him. So, this world now is deeply influenced by Satan’s attitude and His ways of operating. And the perfect environment for His mortal family members that God created is now corrupted. And that becomes a perfect environment for us to struggle against the attitude and approach of the devil, which is the opposite of how God is. God is love. The devil is not.
So, we get to live in this world and we get to see the fruits of it. We get to see what happens when people don’t live God’s way. And while living in the ugliness of it, we, as members of His church, experience the good of living according to God’s way, which is the way of love. Since Adam and Eve rejected God’s way of love, God did not let them eat of the tree of life when they were in the Garden there, and they died in their sins. And we learn from that, that the fruit of sin – which is breaking God’s law of love – is death. And, since all men die, all come under the death penalty. It wasn’t just Adam and Eve that died. It’s been everybody since then.
And just to cinch this down a bit tighter, let’s remember, according to the Bible, what sin is – 1 John 3:4:
1 John 3:4 – Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness.
So, if you want a definition of what sin is, it’s the violation of the laws of God. So, God’s law is an expression of His love. It leads to good things. And lawlessness – breaking the law – leads away from the attributes of God to what we see in the world today. And it also requires the death penalty. If you’re not going to follow God’s way and commit to Him, you’re not going to live forever with Him. It’s just that simple.
This is the sad story of how incredible suffering reigns and how death has become a part of every human life. This is also why non-believers scoff at Christians and ask us, “What kind of God would allow all this terrible stuff to happen if He had the power to stop it?”
Once Adam and Eve sinned, God did not hate them. He loved them. We see Him making clothes for them and teaching them and caring for them after they had rejected Him. But He did turn them out – out of the Garden – into a life of their own choosing. They believed they could choose how to live better than God. They listened to the devil and chose to go His way, instead of God’s. Now, that hasn’t proven to be true. One of their sons killed his brother, and it was the one who was the rebellious one against God who killed the one that was willing to do things God’s way. The bad kid killed the good one. So, that doesn’t seem fair.
And we also know that God made them a promise. In spite of all these things, He told the devil, in Genesis 3:14 and 15 – with Adam and Eve listening apparently:
Genesis 3:14-15 – …all the days of your life, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and your offspring and her offspring. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
So, that’s the first prophecy about the coming of Christ. Yes, Adam and Eve made a mistake, but God has not forgotten them. And there will come a time of vengeance and a time of setting things right. God promised to send someone to crush the serpent’s head and turn all the people of the earth back to God who loves them – to buy them back from the god of this world. It says that we’ve been ransomed. Well, you have to be kidnapped to be ransomed, so Satan hijacked Adam and Eve – kidnapped them – to his way. And He also is going to send someone to wreck the devil’s plan. His plan is to get us all to sin so that we come under the death penalty. So, somebody’s going to come and pay the penalty their sin – that’s what He was telling them – and cover them with His grace.
So, that’s why we attend Passover. Look in John 12:32 – John quotes Jesus – Jesus saying:
John 12:32 – And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.
He’s going to do something that’s so powerful, so loving, so spectacular that people will be moved – moved – to draw close to Him and away from the devil. And that was His own death.
So, we’re required to observe our Savior’s death. And those who are not called now tell us God is removed from our suffering – that He doesn’t care about us, that He’s a monster for allowing all this bad stuff to happen – if He even exists. But the truth is, He sent His only Son, who stepped right into the middle of the devil’s wrath as a human being, and experienced the worst of it, to save us. We can know that He’s been fully engaged and He understands what it’s like to be human and to suffer. He’s told His disciples, the night before He died, in John 15:13:
John 13:15 – Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down life for his friends.
There you go. We’ve been told traditionally that Passover is a time when we acknowledge Christ’s death and our responsibility in it. He wouldn’t have had to die if we hadn’t sinned. And we have been told – and it’s true – that we’re not to come to the service lightly, but to examine ourselves to see if we’re still in the faith. And that’s all true and necessary. I’m not taking away from that. I just think that there’s one other thing we’re to learn from this experience. And that is, that we are loved. And no matter what we have done, we’re loved beyond any doubt, beyond any measure. God is going to have His loving family, in spite of the sins that we have committed – devil aside. And we see that He’s willing to pull out all the stops and go to any lengths to make sure that this happens for us. That includes the death of His own Son.
In Matthew 22, Jesus was talking the law of God, and He said that it could all be boiled down into a few words:
Matthew 22:37 – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
What God is doing here is to require us to love Him the same way He loves us – with all His heart. In Philippians 2:5, we can read:
Philippians 2:5-8 – Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. Now, on the other side of that, we know someone – another spirit, the devil – who did think it was something to be grasped. He tried to throw God off His throne. But Jesus, instead, emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
So, Jesus is not like the devil. He’s a servant. He loves us. He’s not trying to kill us. He’s trying to save us. And He sacrificed Himself completely and gave up His eternal life to save us. And now, because of His stunning success, He sits at God’s right hand, alive forever. He paved the way for us to be in God’s presence as well. He’s the firstborn of many brethren.
Thinking about what it means to, as Paul said, empty Himself, He, in becoming mortal, gave up eternal life. I mean, you can’t be a human and live forever. And He wasn’t still up there in one form and down here as a mortal. He became mortal and came down here. And while He was mortal and He was on the earth, He was not up there. So, the whole plan hung on His ability to live sin free. Otherwise, He would have died, and that would have been the end of it.
So, what a demonstration of faith that is for us in the power of His Father! And that is love. And we’re told that we need to participate at Passover in the body and the blood of Christ. So, we take a little wine and a little bread. And what that means is, we have to be willing to die for God and trust that we will be resurrected from the dead, just as He was. God, in our commitment to Him, is asking us to demonstrate the same kind of sacrificial love that Jesus extended to us. So, that’s when we demonstrate to Him that we will never succumb, never give up to the influence of the devil in our lives. We’re going to listen to God, not the devil.
Just as God the Father empowered Jesus while He was here on the earth with an abundance of influence through the Holy Spirit, Jesus told us that we also have access to that same Spirit. He said that, if we will love God, He and the Father will come live in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And, as we gather here, two days after the Passover service, what main thing can we point at to prove that God is going to do what He says? John 3:16 – a scripture that you can see at almost every sporting event in the United States – very common, very well-known:
John 3:16 – God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but may have everlasting life.
That’s why He did it. And He did that because He’s love. So, what I’m trying to say – the title of the sermon is The Main Reason We Keep the Passover – right? All those things we’ve been taught about coming and being worthy, and that Christ died to save us from our sins, and all those things, those are all true. But there’s something underneath that that’s more important even than that. Paul said that there is faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. And love is what drives that whole process. It’s how much God loves us.
Many people think they already have everlasting life. They think they have an immortal soul. But repeatedly, through the scriptures, we’re admonished to seek after eternal life. So, it doesn’t make sense that we would already have it.
Look in John 3:1:
John 3:1 – Behold, what glorious love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God.
We’re going to have everything under us. Right now, there’s God the Father, and Jesus Christ is under Him. And Jesus has everything. But when we’re born into the Kingdom, we’ll be under Jesus, and everything else will be under us. That’s just fantastic! It’s amazing! Once the earth is no longer a part of the picture – which we know it’s going to go away – there’s much, much more out there, apparently, that is even greater than that.
As we saw earlier, God in His love is creating a family. And we are that family. It’s not going to be just eternal life that He gives us – like an angel – but life as a God being. We won’t be just sitting on a cloud playing a harp. We’re going to be doing stuff that’s amazing!
But what does all this really mean as we live our lives every day? It’s been said that every time we meet somebody, we have no idea of the war they’re fighting. In other words, life is hard for everybody. And it’s supposed to be like that. That’s how God is testing us to help us prepare to be eternal beings in His family.
Have you ever studied anything about the Navy SEALs? SEAL is always in caps because it’s an acronym. I don’t remember what it stands for now. You can tell me later. The US Navy SEALs are the elite fighting force in the world. I remember some years ago I was at Double Eagle Airport, which is a little tiny airport west of Albuquerque. Small planes fly in and out. We went out there one day because by friend, Bob, used to be a pilot. There was supposed to be some fire-fighting planes out there he wanted to look at. When we got there, they were there, but there were also nine of these dual-rotor Chinook helicopters – the great big ones. And as my friend, Bob, and I were looking at them, the pilot – one of the pilots – came out and started talking to us. He took us inside and he let us play with the Gatling guns – unloaded, of course. I asked him about the payload. How much could one of these things hold? He told me the pounds, and I said, “Well, what does that relate to?” And he said, “It could carry over a hundred men, all with 130-pound packs on them.” I said, “130? They can carry 130-pound packs?” And the pilot said, “Those guys are animals. They can run up a mountain with that kind of load.”
Do you know what they have to do to qualify before being able to do that? Well, they put those guys up for six months in a luxurious bed and breakfast. They feed them sumptuously, give them everything they want, all kinds of recreation, full cable, all they want to eat and do and drink. It’s like a six-month long party. Do you believe that? If you do, I’ve got a bridge you might want to buy. Of course, it’s not like that. Men have died in SEAL training! It’s torture! Because that’s what it takes to be a SEAL. You don’t get to be a SEAL sitting around enjoying life. You have to suffer in order to get that good.
So, it shouldn’t surprise us that God has His own training program for us. It’s called life. It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be filled with trials. We’re told that Jesus learned from the things that He suffered. Even God learned something from the experience He went through here on earth. It was intense. It’s also been said that God is not interested in what we can do. He can do more. He’s interested in what we can take. And being able to resist temptation and trials and fight against the lies of the devil is how we get stronger spiritually. See, He’s looking for somebody that’s never going to back away from Him – to give up on Him, to quit, to stop being a loving being.
When we get discouraged, we just need to keep the big picture in mind about what’s going on here. No, God’s not against us. No, He’s not angry with us. No, He hasn’t given up on us. He’s just perfecting us.
There’s a scripture that helps me do that. It’s in Romans 8:31 – Paul said:
Romans 8:31-39 – What then shall we say to these things? He’d just been talking about trials. For if God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare even His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how shall He not also grant us all things together with Him? Who shall bring an accusation against the elect of God? It’s God who justifies. So, any accusations people make are essentially meaningless. Who is the one that condemns? It is Christ who died, but rather who was raised again, who is even now at the right hand of God and who is making intercession for us. What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Accordingly, it is written, “For your sake, we are killed all the day long. We’re reckoned as sheep for the slaughter.” That’s right. But in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love the God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Paul wrote that, and Paul told us that he faced wild beasts at Ephesus. We know that he was shipwrecked and in the night in the water for three days and three nights. We know that he was beaten many times and left for dead one – it was so bad. He was beheaded in Rome by Nero, we think, in 55 AD. Nero was able to separate his head, but he couldn’t separate his faith, because Paul knew Jesus. All the disciples, except John, were murdered by Rome. And not one of them gave up their faith. They never caved in to it. They all were seeking that better resurrection. Jesus and their relationship with Him made an indelible impression upon them.
So, that’s why I say the most important part about Passover is that. Because of what Jesus did in His death for us, we can enter into God’s family, if we endure to the end. And that endurance is pictured in the rest of this whole festival season – Days of Unleavened Bread – a major theme of which is living as sin-free beings, thanks to Jesus Christ – not because of our own works, our own character, but because of the forgiveness extended to us because of what Jesus did. The most important thing that draw us all there is the love demonstrated by Christ’s sacrifice for us. So, let’s hang on to that.
Don’t forget to check out our Website, liferesource.org. Lots of encouragement there.