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“God loves the world this way” – John 3:14-21; Numbers 21 / March 10th, 2024 / Fourth Third Sunday in Lent / Hope Lutheran Church, Rev. Lucas Andre Albrecht

Text: John 3:14-21
Theme: “God loves the world this way


Transcript of the sermon.

Watch it: (Starting at 30’10”)

Intr – Dear friends in Christ, try to remember the last time you said or heard somebody saying to you: “I love you.” Try to remember; maybe this morning even, maybe last month, maybe 10 years ago (I hope not…) When somebody says, “I love you”, or when you say I love you to somebody, these words create something in you or in that other person, right? Unless that other person is not somebody who really loves you, then you know it’s kind of fake. But if it’s true, just by the fact that they say, I love you, something kind of happens in your heart, happens in your life. You know that you are loved by someone and those words mean more than words.

Now, what if people say I love to you, I love you frequently, but that’s all that happens; I love you. Next day, I love you. But you don’t really see any acts of love coming out. What happens if it happens like for that husband whose wife complained to him about, “you never say you love me.” And he said something like, “remember what I said on our wedding day?” “Yeah, I remember you said you love me.” “If anything changes, I’ll let you know.” This is not how it works, right? When you love a person, it’s very important to say that you love them. But also love is not just a linking verb. Love is an action verb. When you love something or someone, usually you take action upon that thing. Otherwise, love can be even called into question. Is there really love there or is it something else?

We heard from the Gospel today, God loved the world so much that he gave his son. That’s the top three or top one verse in the memory of every single Christian. We all know that God loved the world.

Did he just say I love you to you or did he act? We know the answer. God not only promised us that He will love us, he promised right off the bat to Eve, right after the fall into sin. And along the way, he proved his mercies and love. And if you read the Psalms, they keep recalling to the people of God how God was merciful and loving to them leading up to the point that when Jesus comes, that’s the highest promise ever that is fulfilled. God says that he loves you and God acts.

Now this verse usually is translated as God loved the world so much or God so loved the world. It kind of stresses intensity, right? Actually, the Greek word that introduces the verb is a pronoun saying this or this way or this is the way. So I would say a different translation and perhaps even more precise is God loved the world this way. How is it that God loved the world? That he gave his son. Sometimes we hear lots of talk about love, how God loves everybody, how love is love and so forth. But the Bible is very precise. God’s love is immense, unfathomable, unimaginable, but it’s very precise because God has loved the world this way.

This is what we have to recall and to revisit what that verse says because sometimes you just take it for granted. It’s something just natural. God loves the world, right? But look to which extent he went to show his love for you. He sent his only son to die on a cross. Whoever of you is a parent, can you imagine giving one of your kids to die for people who don’t deserve it? Even for someone who deserves, you wouldn’t do that. Imagine for other people. So this is what God does. He shows His love. He speaks and he acts.

One of the ways to recover how this verse is striking and is precise and sometimes goes against the grain of our rationality is recalling the Old Testament reading. Remember, the people were there disobeying God and then fiery serpents come. They pray to the Lord and the Lord provides a deliverance. What did the Lord do? Did he ask Moses, “pronounce these words and people will be healed”? Did he say, “Moses, bring the pipe piper to play the pipe and then the snakes will follow him”. like in the fable? No. Did something from heavens came down and provided the deliverance? No. God gave a precise way to Moses. He said, lift up this fire serpent on a pole and whoever looks to that fire serpent will be saved.

You may think that’s kind of odd. It is in a way. God could have done it in a million different ways, but that was the way that God proposed to the people. If you look to the fiery serpent, you will be healed. You won’t die. So God told Moses, “I love my people this way that they look there to that fiery serpent.”

This is what Jesus is recalling. Just as that fiery serpent was lifted up on a pole, so the Son of Man will be lifted on a pole on a cross. So whoever looks to him is saved. Whoever looks to him, not somewhere else, not to words coming from heaven, not from human opinions. God tells you that he loves you and this is the way he loves you: He gives you his son. So his words have power and effect because he told you that he loves you. That’s true. But also his actions show this love into practice and show ways in which your God loves you better than yourself.

This is very comforting. We live in an era of that song kind of captures the essence of some of the spirit of our time. It’s a song that goes, “I can buy myself flowers, write my name in the sand, talk to myself for hours, I can take myself dancing because…” Then she says, “I can love me better.” There was this trend that I saw people were marrying themselves. And I don’t know if you saw this a couple of years ago, people would join friends to an event where they would marry themselves because “I’m the best person to be with” type of thing.


I understand where all those things come from, but they are not comforting. I understand you. Sometimes you need to assert your self-esteem. You want to be seen by who you are. But God sees you better than yourself and God can love you better than yourself. So we can sing the song as, “God can love me better; God can love me better.” Because He can. He is the one who knows you better than yourself, knows your shortcomings, your sins, your problems, and he still loves you. Think about people that you kind of stop loving or don’t want contact anymore because they did so much to you. You know, this is how we are. We sometimes don’t want contact. God continues to look after us, even when we do things that go against His will, even when we don’t do what he asked us to.

So this contrasts with the Old Testament reading reminds us that God loves the world. That’s pretty beautiful, but it’s this way: It’s exclusive. It’s Jesus and no other else.

So your church is good, it’s nice, but she can’t save you. Your pastor may be nice, but he can’t save you too. Your good intentions, the way you behave against your neighbor, towards your neighbor, it’s nice, but it can’t save you. The way you do some rites and practices, they are good, but they can’t save you. Even Martin Luther, Martin Luther can’t save you. Even “believing” can’t save you. You know, “the most important thing is to have faith.” Well, where is that faith located? So the only way that God provides for us to come to him is Jesus. Jesus and his love.

From there, we are called to love God back and love our neighbor. That’s the summary of the law. God loves us this way. Now we have many different ways of loving God back and loving our neighbor back.

Sometimes we affirm we are in Christ. We love God. We will do everything for Him, and we will stand in our faith. Now, I remember that story about the boy, the guy who sent to his loved one this note saying something along the lines of, “my darling, I love you. I will go to the ends of the world just to be with you. I’ll fight dragons and monsters just because of my love for you. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do just to be at your side and love you forever. truly yours, (so and so).” “P.S. I’ll come to see you on Thursday if it’s not raining.”. Right? I love you, God. You are the God of my life. I’ll stand for you. But then the slightest thing happens in our way, all of the sudden we get a setback…. God does not stop loving you then. He will continue to love you. He will continue to forgive you and to bring you back to the reality that you can love him back. As he loves you, you love him back, and you love your neighbor. And your faith goes into practice.

Those words won’t save you. Jesus will save you, but he sends you to love your neighbor, to be present in your community or wherever you are there with your vocation, to show love to those people there. God loves the world this way, Jesus, but you have so many ways of showing this love and reflecting this love to others.

And still one last word. I started by saying that words have power, but they need actions. Sometimes we go too much to the other side, like if there’s no actions, words don’t matter. Or like the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words cannot hurt me.” Well, actually words, they have the power to create things, to provoke realities. I’ll give you an example.

Imagine if this guitar here was mine. If any of you would come here and pick it up and walk away with it, what would that be? Theft, right? You’ll be stealing something that doesn’t belong to you. But what if I said to any of you, just come here and take it, I’m not using anymore, take it home. You do the exact same action and walk away with it. Is it still the same thing? No. My words created a different reality. Now you can walk away with it, because those words made the same action to be different.

This happens in many ways in the world. Like when a couple is getting married here, and if you were here, you cannot walk up here and say, I declare you married. The person who is here has the authority to say, and when they say you are now married, that happens. That’s the moment when it happens. I saw this video from Brazil: they go into the notary, and then he asks, “do you take so-and-so as your husband?” And she just thought of a joke and says, “No… I’m joking. Yes.” Then the notary says, “no, no, no. Your first word was no. This is canceled. Go home and apply again. Here, your word has value.” She said no, so it’s no. Go home and apply again and come and say yes, because here, words create the action.

If that’s for us humans, much more for God’s word. Don’t forget that God acts in your life, but His words continue to bear power. When a pastor, for example, because he has the command of God says, I forgive you all your sins, or I baptize you in the name of the Father, or this is my body and my blood, the same happens. If the words are not there, it’s not happening. But because the word of God is there, it is creating the reality.

So God’s word tells, “I love you and encourage you”, and as you read the Bible, and as you listen to a sermon, and as you walk on in life with God’s word, remember, it bears power. It bears power to create things in your heart, to maintain things in your heart, and of course, he will show this in actions too. God loved you this way.


Cc – Jesus, his word and his action create that reality for your heart. Now go and show this love this way in many ways into the world. Amen.


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