(…continued) Keller reminds his listeners that they grew up in a culture that has for centuries been grounded in and shaped by Christianity, and whether they know it or not, their idea of a God of love comes from the old, old story of Jesus and his love. Such an idea is found nowhere else. They may think they have rejected the Christian faith, even as they cling to its most basic precept: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” No one or no other book has ever told such a story.
What is that story of God’s love? It is the story of God himself, who left his perfect home in heaven, in order to join us in the messiness and sadness of life in this world, made wicked by our sin. Jesus chose to be born in the most humble of circumstances, grow up as a normal child, and then for three years teach his message to the world. Jesus spent his time with the poor and downtrodden and sinners of every kind. Young and idealistic New Yorkers like that. And then would get Jesus in trouble with the both the religious and political establishment. They like that too. But Jesus would not back down; they like that too. And so Jesus went to the cross, and his first words from the cross were words of reconciliation and peace, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And Jesus turned to the repentant thief on the cross next to him, another outcast, and said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus was inclusive of all, and welcoming to all. And Keller’s 20-something New Yorkers like that too. Throughout his ministry, Jesus was open to those of every age and race and nationality. But to everyone he said, “Come to me.” He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” He said, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in me should not perish but have everlasting life.” And then Keller tells them how Jesus rose from the dead, and why they can believe that really happened, and how that validates everything Jesus said and did. And he tells them that is why we should listen to everything Jesus says, whether we like it or not. If Jesus is God, we should listen up; and they do.
You are right, Keller says, God is love. But we’ve heard that from Jesus and from no one else. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we see the suffering, sacrificing love of God.
Forgiveness always has a cost. There is always pain when someone must be forgiven. You know that if you have ever had to forgive someone who has hurt you. In the agony of Jesus on the cross we see made visible the suffering that is always in the heart of God over the unfaithfulness of the people he created.
Keller invites his cynical, young New Yorkers to let him know if they can find such love of God anywhere else. They can’t, and they come by the thousands to find and worship Jesus in that congregation that still proclaims that truth.
Christ is the King, for all time and in all places, even in New York. Believe in Jesus and you will be saved.
I John 4:7-19 — Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.
Matthew 11:28 — (Jesus said), “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
John 14:6 — Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Philippians 2:5b-11 — Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus loves me this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.