As we launch out into a brand-new year together, let’s return to our focus on apologetics, which is rooted in the Bible’s command to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
I believe that the most powerful apologetic in the world speaks to the deepest longing of the human heart: To be fully known and completely loved. This makes the Gospel, the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest apologetic the world has ever known.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
If the deepest desire of every human heart is to be fully known and completely loved — and we know that we have never experienced the depth of such completely unconditional love — how are we ever to experience what we desire most? We look to the God who is love (1 John 4:8). The Gospel is the solution to our search to fill this deepest desire of our heart.
Think about it this way: God so loves the people of this world that He sent His Son Jesus to die in the place of sinners who were running away from God. In spite of our willful rebellion against Him, God sought us, caught us, and bought us with the precious blood of His beloved Son . . . because He loves us!
Here is an important question to consider: When did God so love you? Was it when you first started thinking you needed to change your life? Was it when you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior? The answer is that there was never a time when God did not love you! Consider these words from the prophet Jeremiah:
“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’” (Jeremiah 31:3).
If God loved you with an everlasting love, that means He loved you before you even existed, long before you could have done anything to cause Him to love you. God “saved us and called us to a holy life” Paul wrote, “not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (2 Timothy 1:9). Christian, God never “started” loving you; He has loved you from all eternity!
The Gospel is the greatest love story ever told. It satisfies the deepest longing of every human heart. This is why our “Disciples Making Disciples” evangelism program asserts that we should not begin by telling an unbeliever that he or she is “a sinner in need of a Savior.” That’s true, of course, and an integral component of the Gospel message. However, in our post-Christian (and increasingly anti-Christian) culture, which reflexively rejects words like “sin” and “Savior,” we have found that beginning our message with a phrase like “You have sinned against holy God” is likely to generate flinty resistance. So we start with the third chapter of Genesis and Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden. And when we speak of God’s love, we go back even further — even before “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We go to eternity past and see that God has loved us with an everlasting love.
“May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus . . .” (Hebrews 13:20, emphasis added).
There has never been a time in all eternity when God did not love you . . . when He had not planned for you to be with Him . . . in spite of all our sin, which He hates with a holy hatred.
The Samaritan woman
One of the best ways to illustrate God’s love for sinful men and women is to relate the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, which is recorded in John 4:4-29. This woman, scorned by the people in her town because she had been married to five men and was currently living with a man who was not her husband, came to draw water in the middle of the day, when the heat would keep everyone else from coming to the well. Clearly she expected to be alone, but Jesus had set a divine appointment, and He engaged her in a conversation about salvation, speaking deeply to her heart. The woman ran back into town – straight to the people she had been trying to avoid — and told them all, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” For the very first time in her life, she had experienced the deepest longing of her heart: To be fully known, and completely loved.
This Samaritan woman went to the well “naked and ashamed.” She believed everyone in town knew her circumstances; she felt naked, and she was filled with shame. But after meeting Jesus Christ, she left the well “naked and unashamed.” She had met the Man who knew everything she had ever done, but did not condemn her. He spoke to her only in love, just as He speaks to you and me today:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!
Dr. Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach (www.thecrosscc.org). He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.
For more articles by Dr. Tommy Boland, goodnewsfl.org/tommy-boland