Unconditionally by John Burke

We had an amazing Easter at Gateway Austin this past weekend! From Good Friday to Eggapalooza to the Inspire Services, we remembered and celebrated all God has done for us through Jesus!

John Burke shared at the McNeil campus. You can watch or listen to his message at www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

I shared at the South Campus. You can listen here:

Here are some of the truths that we shared:

“My dog has a greater capacity for relationship than a goldfish, but with greater capacity for love, comes greater capacity for pain and suffering. A goldfish doesn’t disobey, run away and chase cars, chew your shoes, or almost get killed fighting other dogs. But is it worth the risk? Yes!

You can’t love without risk of pain, but Love is always worth the risk.

Loving people has an even greater reward, but an even greater risk.

Here’s what’s strange about love: not even the best human love fully satisfies our desires to know and be known, love and be loved. We can imagine unconditional love. We dream of it, we strive and work and pray for it. We want it, expect others to give it to us, but honestly, we can’t give it either.

I’m convinced this craving for unconditional love is what motivates everything we do. Why is Unconditional Love what we seem to long for? Maybe it’s because we were created with the capacity for a higher love than humans can ever give.

2000 years ago Thursday, Jesus gathered with his close friends for what would be his last meal. He knew the next day, he would be Crucified. Jesus said that night:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:9-13

The next day, that first Good Friday, Jesus’ disciples would fully understand this love that comes from God. A love that gives and serves and sacrifices, even his own life, for the good of others – unconditionally.

Humans don’t naturally do this very well. We have a hard time laying down our pride in a fight with someone we love, much less laying down our lives. We have a hard time sacrificing a point in an argument, much less sacrificing ourselves. We struggle to lay down our preferences or let go of our need to control each other’s behavior, much less sacrificing everything else. See, this unconditional love we all crave and demand, it’s not something we naturally do left to our own devices.

That’s why Jesus reminds them again and again, you can’t do it alone. You can’t bear fruit of unconditional love, apart from staying connected to the Source of all Love. Maybe that’s our problem.  We were created by God, to experience His unconditional Love. We long for something this world can’t give because we were given the capacity to Love God. He’s hard-wired us for a Greater Love than humans can ever give.

Maybe that’s why love is so difficult and painful. Maybe that’s why we’re so restless.

John was the youngest disciple who followed Jesus. He refers to himself as “The one Jesus loved.” What John experienced from Jesus was the kind of unconditional love that makes you feel like You’re the only One He really loves. John later writes: 

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:7-8

If God IS Love then all the love we’re seeking ultimately comes from God.

Easter is the proof of God’s Unconditional love for all humanity.

Isaiah lived 680 years before Jesus was born and wrote these prophetic words:

Who has announced this from antiquity? Who has told it from then? Is it not I YHWH? And there is no other God beside me; a righteous God and a Savior; there is none beside me. Turn to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth.  – Isaiah 45:21-22 (680 B.C.E. Dead Sea version)

Remember, this is not Christian, we’re reading directly from a copy of Isaiah carbon dating before Christianity, and God’s heart is for all the earth.

[In] Galilee of the Gentiles–The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…Because a child shall be born to us and a son is given to us and the government shall be upon his shoulders and he shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and his peace there shall be no end. – Isaiah 9:1-6, (680 B.C.E.—Dead Sea version) 

So here’s what Isaiah says, Mighty God will reveal himself to us as a child, live in Galilee, bring peace and justice to humanity eternally but not before demonstrating how much he loves us—enough to suffer more than anyone has suffered.

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and be very high as those who were astonished at him are many; because his visage [appearance] was marred more than any man. – Isaiah 52:13-15 (680 B.C.E. Dead Sea version)   

Isaiah tells us why He did it:

Surely our griefs he is bearing and our sorrows he carried them and we esteemed him beaten and struck by God and afflicted. And he is wounded [pierced] for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities, the correction for our peace was upon him, and by his wounds he has healed us. All of us like sheep have wandered [away] each man to his own way… He was cut off from the land of the living…If you will appoint his soul a sin offering he will see his seed [children] and he will lengthen his days and the pleasure of YHWH in his hand will advance. After the toil of his soul he shall see light and he shall be satisfied…for the sins of many, he bore. – Isaiah 53:4-12 (680 B.C.E., Dead Sea version) 

When we receive this unconditional love, and when we learn to live out of this unconditional love—it changes everything for us. His Unconditional Love Redeems Our Mistakes. John goes on to say:  

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. – 1 John 4:9-10 

As we learn to live with God’s love—He can lead us to take the mistakes we make, and learn and grow from them.  We’re no longer bound to our past.  Even past mistakes can be used for good in our future.

God’s unconditional love secures your identity so you don’t have to keep trying to prove you’re valuable. Living out of God’s view of us gives us the security to love others more unconditionally.

Learning to live in God’s unconditional love sets us free of all our fears so we can risk to love others more and more like God loves us. John concludes:

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. – 1 John 4:18-19 

If you know the Creator of the Universe loves you, no matter what, then we have nothing to fear, not in this life, not in the life to come. We are free to risk, free to love, free to sacrifice, because what we long for most can never be taken from us. You are loved unconditionally!”

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