God’s love is unequaled in all creation and in all created beings. Here are five sermon illustrations that you might be able to use for a message.
1 – A True Definition of Love
Too many people believe and sometimes teach that love is a feeling or emotion. Yes, feelings and emotions are involved in love but the greatest part of love is action oriented. Love is a verb (what you do) more than a noun (a feeling). Many marriages, even among Christians, are failing because they value feelings over actions. I have counseled many couples who say that they don’t feel the love that they once did for their mate. They fell “out of love” but there is really no falling out of or falling into love. We can fall out of bed or fall in the bathtub but typically we grow to love someone over time. This love for another grows from what we see them do for us and for others.
Now, imagine if Christ, just before the cross, went to the garden and thought; I hate this feeling, I don’t feel like doing this, therefore I will base my decision upon what I feel. If that had happened, we’d all be hopelessly doomed to hell. The good news, of course, is that Jesus resisted and fought back His feelings and even though He prayed three times to have the cup removed, He was more interested in doing the will of the Father than what He felt like doing…thankfully.
Jesus displayed His love by willingly going to the cross and dying for sinners and those of us who were still His enemies and desperately wicked (Rom 5:8, 10). So we must preach that love is not dependent upon feelings and emotions because feelings are one of the shallowest and most unreliable of all human emotions. Instead, we must emphasize that love is a choice more than a feeling because feelings are subjective while love is objectively displayed in actions.
The bottom line is that love is what a person chooses to do, not what a person chooses to feel. God so loved the world because He felt like it? Yes, He does love us but that love required action and that included the supreme sacrifice of His only Son’s life. That was the ultimate love in action.
2 – Undeserving Mephibosheth
When [God] had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will’” (Acts 13:22).
So when David finally became king over all Israel, he inquired if there were any left of Saul’s house or family by saying:
Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake” (2 Sam 9:1)?
Normally, this would be bad news for the former king’s family because the new customarily killed all remaining relatives to remove the threat of any of his heirs from retaking the throne or stirring up trouble in the kingdom but David didn’t operate that way.
Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, ‘Mephibosheth!’ And he answered, ‘Behold, I am your servant.’ And David said to him, ‘Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.’ And he paid homage and said, ‘What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I'” (2 Sam 9:5-8)?
Notice the humility of Mephibosheth. In one of the kindest acts in all of Israel’s history, David said:
All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson. And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table” (2 Sam 9:9b-10).
What a picture of the love of God. We are all helplessly crippled by sin. We must humble ourselves before our king as Mephibosheth did before David. Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, who for years relentlessly pursued and tried to kill David was provided for and placed at the king’s table as David graciously said he “shall always eat at my table.”
Mephibosheth was treated like the king’s son, he was accepted graciously at the king’s table, he was able to be in the king’s presence, and he was able to be provided with all that he needed for the rest of his life even though he was helpless to do anything else. Mephibosheth couldn’t even provide for his own living. Wasn’t that us before we were saved? Now, we can dine at the Lord’s Table, someday at the great marriage feast with the King of kings, and we will forever abide with Him, even though helpless, cripples (by sin) who could never survive in our own strength or by our own means. When I read about Mephibosheth I think of his name as “me”-phibosheth.”
3 – Don’t Try This at Home
Many years ago, before the sensitive and politically correct society in which we live today, there was a boy who was continually in trouble. He was forever breaking the rules and always getting into trouble at school. His father could not understand why. He provided for him in every way with a good home, he spent time with him fishing and going to his ballgames, and he showered him with his unconditional love, but the father just couldn’t figure out why the boy wouldn’t mind? He had been raised in the church and had even been in Sunday school for five years. His father was consistently reading the Bible to him and his father had never provoked him to anger. His son’s behavior was a mystery to him.
One day when his son was upstairs playing around with his baseball, which he’d been told repeatedly not to do, he ended up breaking one of his bedroom windows. The boy was ten year’s old and certainly knew better because his father had told him time and again to not play ball in the house. The father headed upstairs and took off his belt. The boy knew what was coming so he voluntarily bent over and kneeled next to his bed but the father said, “Son, here, take this belt” which his son did.
Then his father took off his shirt and kneeled down on the bed and said: “Son, I want you to give me seven lashes with this belt across my back.” His son started to cry and said that he couldn’t do it. His father kept insisting until the son finally relented and started hitting his father across the back with the belt but it wasn’t hard enough.
He said, “Harder son, harder!” When the boy finally lashed the belt across his father’s back seven times with greater force the father asked him “Son, do you know why I had you do this?” The son said “No.” The father said, “When Jesus went to the cross for us, He took the worst punishment that has ever been inflicted upon any man. He was pummeled, He was beaten, His beard was plucked out, and He was punished like no one has ever been punished.
Who do you really think did this to Jesus?” The boy, still whimpering, hesitated and finally said he thought it was the Jews or the Romans but the boy’s father said, “No, it was God the Father who punished Jesus for everything that we have ever done wrong and or will ever do wrong in the future (Isaiah 52:14-15; 53:1-12). He took the punishment that He didn’t deserve to save those who didn’t deserve saving. That is how much the Father and Jesus loved us” (John 3:16). It was God’s love most gloriously displayed for us who deserved actually His wrath.
The boy was shaken deeply by this lesson and from that day forward, the boy never seemed to get into the same amount of trouble again…not perfect but changed. Maybe it was because he wasn’t sure how his dad would react again. The boy didn’t ever want to use the belt on his dad again although the father never said anything more about it. Whatever it was, the message of God’s love displayed on the cross by Christ forever changed this young man and it has forever changed us. The boy was not perfect after that, by no means, but neither are we after being saved but that doesn’t take away what was accomplished at the cross.
If we are to preach on God’s love, I believe we must emphasize that love is active, tangible, and action-oriented. Love is a choice one has to make, not so much a feeling we choose to have. Is there any greater love than one that was displayed on the cross?
Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13).
The opposite of love is not hatred because in hatred there are at least some emotions but the opposite of love is indifference. If we are to teach about God’s love, we should focus on what God does more than what God feels, not that God doesn’t feel love for us but God’s feeling love for us was not enough to save us. It was God’s love that cost Jesus His life and that cost must be acknowledged with the express desire that we will “love one another just as [Christ] loved [us]”. And that type of love, the agape love, comes with a high price but a price that is every bit worth it, wouldn’t you agree?