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Sunday, 30 March 2014

A Demonstration of God’s Love. Acts 9:1-22 & Romans 5:8

“God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”
Found within this verse are 2 very powerful themes:

  • A demonstration of love.
  • A desperate condition.
A demonstration of love:

Notice that Paul does not say that God makes a demonstration as to what love is. This is not merely a way of showing how we should love each other. There is nothing human in this demonstration at all. The love demonstrated is God’s own love. This is divine love which by it from the very heart of God whose very nature is perfect love. It is from God to man, it is without any hint of selfishness. It is generous and lavish love from the heart of God who alone is perfectly holy. When we consider the truth about ourselves then we wonder at the very fact that God should even have a concern for us let alone that He might love us. 

Remember that to Him our sin is so odious that there is nothing about us that is attractive yet alone deserving of His love. But we do praise our God that He is not like us His love is an expression of His very character and despite who we are God loves mankind.

This begs the question “what is God’s love like?” Paul tells us that He demonstrates His love to us. We have just come through the season of Christmas where we have both demonstrated our love and have been recipients of a demonstration of love. We have given special gifts to and received gifts from those that we love. Our gifts are a demonstration of love towards those that we love. We would never dream of giving a bottle of poison but we might give a bottle of nice wine to those that we love: we give good things as a demonstration of our love to them. The bible teaches us that we are made in the image of God; our giving to others is an evidence of His character in us.

So what is God’s demonstration of love?
This is the most powerful demonstration ever made: Christ died! For us to fully appreciate the enormity of what this means we need to re-consider who Christ is.

Jesus Christ is:
  • God’s anointed One.
  • He is God’s own Son.
  • He is the One by whom the whole universe has been made.
  • He has always been and always will be in full fellowship within the Godhead.
  • He is God Himself and He is our Saviour (more of that later) and it is by His death that God demonstrated the fullness of His love for us. We all love Christmas and the reminder that Jesus became a man and of course this is a demonstration of God’s love but the fullness of His love is not clearly seen until Good Friday. The demonstration is completed when Jesus uttered the words “It is finished” and He gave up His Spirit and breathed His last. This is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love towards us.
The ultimate price paid by God simply because He loves mankind. Many might liken His love to the soldier that dies for His country but that falls far short of the reality. It might be likened to the man who dies protecting his wife but again it does not even reach the enormity of God’s love demonstrated in Christ Jesus. You see that the death of a hero is co-incidental. It just happens, the hero does not plan even for a moment that the outcome of his life might be to rescue people from their difficulties and when he does die it is because he believes in the cause and the worthiness of the recipients. It is entirely different for our God.

The demonstration of His love is:

Planned from before the world was created. It was decided upon in the courts of heaven with all of the events being organised by God. There is no element of surprise it is all carried out according to His plan and purpose.

The recipients are totally undeserving and completely hopeless. The very fact that the recipients of God’s love are hopeless and undeserving brings us to the other point of the verse.
Mankind is in a:

Desperate Condition.

Paul tells us that Christ died at a certain point in our experience. In Romans 5:6 he has already said that it was while we were powerless to do anything about our condition (sin) that god died for us in our ungodliness. It was whilst we were impotent in our ungodliness and unable to help ourselves that Christ died.

Today of course is the first day of 2012. Last night was the last of 2011 and I believe the most sentimental night of the year. At the stroke of midnight people hugged and kissed each other and raised a glass or two to their health and well-being. They made vows to be different, to be better and more loving towards each other! The looked back at the old year and through the words of Auld Lang Syne have vowed everlasting friendship to all. But have you listened to the news this morning? There are many of those same people now languishing in police cells for violence towards those whom they avowed their undying love. There will be today many violent break-downs of relationships and yet last night it was so different. The resolutions made to eat & drink less to be more thoughtful towards others etc. are already broken.

You see we are powerless to really change. The selfishness that is our character will not go, this is the great theme of the bible. Man is selfish (the bible word is sin) and he cannot do anything to change. He is powerless. It is this selfishness that is a problem to God. It is odious and he cannot be in its presence but yet it is whilst we are like this that he demonstrates his love towards all mankind. God has shown mankind His intentions towards them in the death of Jesus His Son. In Romans 5:10-11 Paul tells us that it is by the death of Jesus Christ that Christians are reconciled to God. In other words there is a way out of the impasse; we do not have to remain in our sinful, state. Something can be done about it but as Paul says we are powerless to do anything for ourselves. You see it is all accomplished upon the cross, the deed was completed when Jesus breathed is last, it was truly finished.
Paul teaches these great truths but how does he know it to be true? He knows it is true by experience and that experience is recorded in the passage before us in Acts 9

In verses 1-2 we can see Saul’s desperate condition. It was whilst he was breathing out murderous threats towards the church.

In verses 3-4 we see that in his helpless state, whilst he had no thought for Christ Jesus that God called to him. He had no thought or desire towards Christ and His church, Saul was totally depraved before God, he was bankrupt in his ability to be saved but yet God called him by His own grace.

In verse 5 we see the true ignorance of Saul. When he heard the voice of the Lord, Saul who had prided himself in his knowledge of God did not know Him at all. He was totally ignorant as to who God is. He was also completely surprised at the voice of God being that of Jesus of Nazareth whom he had been persecuting. This just proves that great knowledge of the bible and faith are not enough for reconciliation with God. If you are depending upon your attendance at church or your attention to Christian things then you are falling far short of reconciliation with God just as Saul of Tarsus was! You are also ignorant towards God.

In verses 5-6 we can see that Saul was convicted of his state before God. His pride was broken; he could no longer boast supreme faith and relationship with God. At the voice of the Lord Saul was a broken man!

In verses 7-9 we see Saul’s inability to do anything about his condition. He could hear but he could not see. He needed help to get to his destination. He could not even eat or drink he was so desperate about his condition! He was disabled but God was taking control of his life. It is a bit like when somebody remotely takes control of your computer, the cursor flashes across the screen pages pop up and the computer is being repaired by one with more knowledge than you have. Without their control they can do nothing to repair the damage. God needs to be completely in control of your life for Him to make the changes necessary and that is exactly what was happening to Saul of Tarsus. You see that whilst he was still powerless Christ died for Saul of Tarsus and he called Him and made him into the man that God wanted him to be!

There is one more important issue:

In verses 10-17 we find that the church was involved. Saul needed to belong to the church and the church needed to have Saul amongst them! How does that happen especially when the new convert is the church’s avowed enemy? Ananias was called by God to go to Saul; he went after questioning God about his safety and fond Saul to be a broken but saved man, no longer an enemy of the gospel but a brother in the faith. He found Saul to have a new vision of Jesus; he also learned something of the saving power of Jesus Christ. If God can save the likes of Saul of Tarsus then it is possible for Him to save anybody! The church also had to learn that they must accept all who are converted. Saul was to become the great Apostle Paul, the champion of the church and the gospel but first he must be accepted by God’s people. Ananias was instrumental in the church’s accepting of Paul.

We will consider the rules of acceptance next time but for today we need to remember that it was whilst all of us were still sinners that Christ died for us and that our salvation is under His sovereign control. It is Him that died, Him that calls and Him that saves us and all of that by His grace leaving us nothing to boast about. When He does that in anybody’s life then they immediately become a new creation. The old life of sin is gone the new life of righteousness in Christ alone has begun. All such people need the protection, nurture and love of the church and we must bring them in as soon as they are converted.

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