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Friday, June 7, 2013

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

When someone asks me a question about a theological issue, it’s usually not an easy one. Many of them boil down to some version of this classic problem: If God is good and God is all-powerful, then why is their evil in the world? All Christ followers need to grapple with this question. It provokes many to question God’s love and we need to know how to talk credibly about this. Here’s how John Stott says it:

 . . . personal tragedies, floods and earthquakes, accidents cost hundreds of lives, hunger and poverty on a global scale, the cold vastness of the universe, the ferocity of nature, tyranny and torture, disease and death, and the sum total of the misery of the centuries—how can these horrors be reconciled with the God of love? Why does God allow them? The Cross of Christ, p. 212.

Stott goes on to explain that there aren’t easy answers to these questions, but there is objective evidence to lay next to these great difficulties. That evidence is the cross. It is Jesus death on the cross that instructs us on what love actually is. 1 John 3:16a says (NIV) 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us . . . We think we know what love is. We use the word in different ways, but when pressed, it’s hard to know how to define it. The apostle John boldly claims that what Jesus did on the cross is the way we know what love really looks like.

We tend to think of love as something that happens to us over which we have little or no control. We love ice cream because it taste good. We love a particular kind of music or book or movie because its what we are in to. Sometimes we think we love a person because they are attractive and because we meet each other’s needs for affection and affirmation, but it when that person ceases to provide those things, we stop loving them, that wasn’t real love. That’s not the sort of love God demonstrated by sending Jesus to die for us. His love is a determined and decisive; it cannot be squelched or put out. It can't be frustrated by the actions of the one loved. His love is sacrificial, unconditional, and seeks out your highest good no matter how you respond to it.

These things are on my mind because I’ve been wrestling with a seemingly unrelated problem. How can we help young people negotiate a world in which crazy abuses of technology are in some cases the price of popularity and acceptance? Shallow solutions won’t do. I’ve been putting forward this argument for a few weeks: Only the gospel has the power to change the heart of any person to want to honor him. I’m basing this on Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes . . . ” The gospel is the power of God for salvation. The gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ is the only thing that has the power to bring about the salvation of our souls. There is a tendency to think that this power in the gospel is only useful to a person in their initial conversion, but that is not so. The gospel continues to work on our souls to accomplish spiritual progress in us. The deep ongoing work that the gospel does in the hearts of those who have already experienced salvation is the only weapon that also has the power to block the tremendous flood of pressure to misuse technology. So, I’ve been walking through a series of sermons which seek to apply the gospel to the challenge of helping young people negotiate their use of technology. You can see the scripture, outline and discussion questions for Sunday’s message at BethanyPlace by clicking here.

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