In this Thanksgiving season, we must remember the fundamental reason for why we should be thankful for the love of God. In one of my favorite sermons of all time, John Piper preaches,
“Thankful for the Love of God. Why?” And you might think, “That is so obvious. What’s the point? It’s plain why. To be loved is a wonderful thing. You don’t need any explanation, do you?” And my answer is it’s not obvious why we should be thankful for the love of God. It’s not. When you’re loved, you’re given something that is good for you, usually at significant cost to another. And the better it is for you, the more love and the more cost to the lover, the more love you feel. But it isn’t obvious what that gift is. It isn’t obvious why the love that God gives us and leads us into is good for us.
Let me get at it by comparing the issue of forgiveness. Why should you care about being forgiven? That’s not obvious either. Take a husband who has wronged a wife, perhaps even abused or just spoken cruelly, and he wants forgiveness, and he asks for it. Is that a good thing? Maybe. The question is, “Why does he want forgiveness?” Is it because his conscience is killing him and he is losing sleep at night? Is it because he’s getting an ulcer because of the tension in the air? Is it because he’s starting to be afraid maybe even for his life because she is so angry at him that he is not sure he wants to go to sleep next to her? Are those the reasons why he might want forgiveness? If so, I say there is no virtue in this. It is not obvious why you might want to be forgiven.
Of course, another alternative would be that he misses his wife. There is such an alienation; there’s such a distance between them. They can scarcely talk with each other. He wants her back. He loves her. He misses her. She doesn’t talk the way she used to talk. She doesn’t touch the way she used to touch. Is that good? That’s good. That’s real good.
You see, it is not obvious to say, “I want you to forgive me, God; I want you to love me.” Maybe it’s good, and maybe it’s not. So I asked that question…. “Thankful for the love of God – but why?” What’s your answer? Why do you want God to love you this morning? It might be a good answer, and it might be a bad answer. Why do you want God to forgive you this morning? It might be a good answer, and it might be a bad answer.
The love of God for you is the work of God at great cost to give you the gift of Jesus Christ to enjoy forever and all that he is for you in him. It is not mainly about escape from hell, though that is precious beyond words. It is not mainly about a conscience that is clear, though that is precious beyond words. It is not mainly about all the ways he heals your mind and heals your body and heals your relationships, though that is precious beyond words. But these are not the main thing. The main thing is 1 Peter 3:18 – “Christ suffered once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God.” To bring us to God!
Thankful for the love of God. Why? Because at great cost to himself, it brings us to God. It brings us to the splendor behind all splendor. You think the Alps or the Rockies are something? Do you think the Grand Canyon is something? You young people, do you think your favorite music group is something? These are echoes of splendor. And, of course, we all know – or maybe we don’t – that there’s a massive obstacle between us and God, and it is called sin. And the essence of sin is this: exchanging the glory of God for his gifts and creation. You are offered God for your fellowship forever, and you lay it aside and you take his gifts and say, “No thank you. I’m not interested in fellowship with you and enjoying you and being satisfied with you. I want your gifts – wife, child, the applause of men, health. That’s what I want.”
So I’m closing by asking you, “Would you want to be in heaven if Jesus weren’t there?” You could have all the health you wanted. You could have all the relationships with friends you wanted. You could have a clean conscience. You could have your favorite toys and recreation – just no Jesus. Would you want to be there? A woman came forward in our church two weeks ago whose tears were just running down her face. She quoted me that question that I had asked and she said, “Yeah, I would. I would, and I’m scared of myself.” She was honest, and we need to be honest.
God’s love is his doing everything it takes, even the death of his Son, in order to so work in you that you would stop feeling loved by being made much of and start feeling loved by the enjoyment of making much of him forever in all that you do.
So, this is good news, and I pray that you will see it. He came to his own and his own received him not (John 1:11). But to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God (John 1:12). And if children, then heirs, heirs of God (Romans 8:17). Whom have we in heaven but thee? And on earth there is nothing that we desire besides thee. Our flesh and our heart may fail, but you are the strength of our heart, and you are our portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26). You’re our inheritance forever.