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The Love God Has For Us (St. Luke 16.19-31)

First Sunday after Trinity

 “The Love God Has For Us”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor 

St. Luke 16.19-31; 1 John 4.16-21

06 June 2021

 

+ In the Name of Jesus +

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. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the Day of Judgment, because just as he is so also are we in this world. (1 Jn 4.16-17; ESV)

“So we have come to know and believe the love God has for us.” At some point in the past we came to know and believe this love that God has for us, and the apostle indicates we still know of it and are able to believe it. How and when does God give to us this love He has for us?

Abraham refers the Rich Man in hell and his lost brothers to them: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” God sends preachers of His Word so that men might abide in Him and His love.

What do they preach? The love God has for us. The Apostle John in the verses right before our Epistle reading: “We”, he says, the prophets of old and his fellow apostles, “We” have seen and “we” have testified that: “God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (atonement) for our sins… the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 Jn. 4.10, 14-15; ESV)

The prophets and their successors preached and testified for millennia to the Rich Man. We preach Christ crucified for sinners, is how the Apostle Paul puts it. That’s love. God’s love is expressed by preaching it to mankind. God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. That’s why the Apostle John can say with boldness, “God Himself is love.” Love is not something insignificant. You cannot praise love more highly than for love to be God Himself by definition. His every act, word, and thought is love. By speaking this way, the Apostle says and includes more than anyone could ever finish saying.

God being love itself includes that God loves the loveless, that He loves those who do not return that love back, patiently for years calling and beckoning and cajoling with a clear word: “Your Savior is coming. I so love you and the whole world that I am going to see my only-begotten Son lifted up on the tree, that whosoever looks to Him should not perish but have everlasting life – a free propitiation of all sin. Simply believe in your heart He is Lord and confess Him in word and deed, I will abide in you and you in me.”

But the Rich Man ignores the call of God and His preachers. God loves man so much He even gives man the free will to reject His love for them. The Rich Man instead feasts sumptuously every day dressed in king’s clothes. He may have been King Saul, King Herod, or Caesar himself. All at some point rejected the call of the one true God to lead a holy life here in time. Instead they lead a life of selfish decadence, love for one’s self taking precedence above all others, including that mask of God, that hosting of an angel unawares in the poor man named Lazarus, whose name means the “one whom God helps.”

This Rich Man was the Grinch who stole not just Christmas, but every day of the year from Lazarus and those around him, which is to say he took and took some more from God’s bountiful provision, while he never ever gave a thought or a crumb nor even a single drop of water for the neighbor in need God had brought near to him. He ignores Lazarus to the point where he allows him to die at his own gate among the dogs. So Lazarus is allowed to die; John the Baptist has his head lopped off and put on a platter by Herod; Saul throws his spear at David in a murderous fit and then attempts to hunt David down for years in a jealous effort to keep his throne. The Caesar and his man Pilate will crucify Love incarnate in the man Jesus of Nazareth on their grisly wooden cross. “For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 Jn. 4.20)

So do not feel sorry for the Rich Man condemned to hell and its fire. He was given the love of God. He was beckoned and so were his brothers. Abraham has no compassion and neither should he. It is too late. God is love. Whoever abides in love, abides in God, and God abides in him. On the flipside, since God is love, the devil works at nothing but the opposite, causing nothing except discord, murder, sorrow and all affliction in the world. Whoever abides in hatred and envy and selfish desires and the lusts of this world are ones who abide in the devil, and the devil abides in them. The devil is God’s enemy and has not the least spark of love in him. His children, like the Rich Man and his brothers, are the great numbers of this world who have no divine love, have rejected God, but only rob, steal, kill, destroy, and despise their neighbor.

So hear Moses and the Prophets before it is too late. Hear the call of Love Himself. Repent and believe His saving Gospel. Turn away from the world and its hatred and its loneliness and its ugliness and its darkness and cruelty and morbid selfishness. Love your neighbor enough to call them to hear the Gospel and be saved in Christ, the one who indeed died and rose from the dead for them.

Abide in Him who truly loves you, who simply is love. He does not stop loving you without ceasing nor doing good for you both in body and in soul. He pours out not just the sun and moon and heaven and earth for you, but all His benefits are daily before your eyes, if you only look at them: the whole heaven full of light, the earth full of foliage, grass, grain, and all kinds of plants, ready for your sustenance; likewise He gives you father, mother, house and home, peace, protection, and security through our governing authorities.

On top of all of that, He gave to you His own heart and His dearest Son, giving Him to shed His blood and die the most shameful death of all for you, even though you were born dead to Him, shameful, wicked, and unthankful. You are truly Lazarus, the one whom God helps. He makes you His own through the Gospel to rescue you from all misery and need, the call of the Holy Spirit made through that preaching of those prophets and apostles. What more should He do for you? Or what more and better could you desire? God is nothing except a fathomless depth of eternal love. Dr. Martin Luther says of God’s love, “Whoever does not see or pay attention to it must be either completely blind or hard and dead as stone.” [1]

The Apostle John says, By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the Day of Judgment, because just as he is so also are we in this world. (1 Jn 4.16-17; ESV)

“By this” is love perfected – God’s propitiation of our sins by the loving self-donation of His own Son to be Savior of the world, and our abiding in Him as confessing, baptized children of God, leading holy, repentant lives built on the foundation of Christ and His Word – by all this is love perfected, brought to its goal, finished – the word here is the one Jesus uses on His cross, “it is finished” and remains finished – with you.

That finished love is with you – even as you are still in this world and all the difficulty this sinful world entails – is in company with you, in companionship with you. You are baptized and abide with God. He abides with you: in Word preached, sins absolved, Christ’s Body and Blood given and shed for you to eat and to drink.

The apostle writes as though that loves walks arm in arm with you. He stands with you and the Bible pictures you already standing with Him in the heavenly places – Jesus offering your petitions freely spoken with boldness and confidence by the power of the Holy Spirit to the Heavenly Father. God hears your prayers and accounts you righteous for Jesus’ sake. As God’s love walks arm in arm with you, the coming Day of Judgment brings nothing for you to fear – abiding in Him and His love for you, God looks upon you as being as He is, so also does He account you to be. You are, abiding in Him, love. Even while yet struggling in this world, longing for heaven’s joy and final freedom from all that holds you back in this temporal life. God sees you as He is.

Dearly loved by God, Lazarus’s one and all, destined for Abraham’s bosom, boldly speak now the prayer of our hymns today, all so comforting, but pray again these stanzas with me now:

 

O sweetest Love, your grace on us bestow;

Set our hearts with sacred fire aglow

That with hearts united we love each other,

Every stranger, sister, and brother.

Lord, have mercy!

 

Shine in our hearts, O Spirit, precious light;

Teach us Jesus Christ to know aright

That we may abide in the Lord who bought us,

Till to our true home He has brought us.

Lord, have mercy!                                (Lutheran Service Book #768 stanzas 2,4; public domain)

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +

[1] Previous two paragraphs paraphrased/borrowed from M. Luther, “Several Beautiful Sermons from 1 John”, paragraphs 19 and 23, LW AE v. 78, pp. 372-374.

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