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THE MASTER MOVE

by Dr. C. L. Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, March 6, 2016

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10).


I went to UCLA for college, away from my parents, and so I was alone. There I pushed myself harder and harder – and I was alone. I wanted to be an intellectual, and took a lot of classes – and I was alone. I wanted to make money, and worked a lot of hours – and I was alone. I worked through the summer, through Easter break, even on holidays like New Year’s and Christmas – and I was alone. I worked all night, even in the winter when it was raining and no one was there. I turned on a radio and kept myself warm with a heater. I was making money. I was becoming a success. But I was alone.

One day something happened that made no sense to me. I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a Christian family’s house. I went there, but I thought, “I don’t belong here. I’m not part of this family. What am I doing here? Why? Why?”

It didn’t make sense. I hadn’t done anything for them. They weren’t related to me. They should have left me alone. That’s where I belonged. It was illogical. I didn’t see that they were showing Christian love to me, when I was lost and lonely and had no place to go. They loved me when I hadn’t loved them.

Later I gave a name to what they did. I called it “the master move.” It was an illogical move, but there it was. It was like a move that a chess master does, that no ordinary player would think of. But it got me to think about the Christian faith which I had rejected.

Love was given to me by people I hadn’t loved. “The master move” was a good name for it. What they did came from the love of the Master – from Jesus Christ, and from God His Father. They were doing what their Master did. It was God Himself who loved people who didn’t love Him. Our text says,

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10).

God sent His Son to die for you and me, because He loves you even if you don’t love Him. That is illogical, but there it is! It is the “master move.” It is the move of the Master. The love of God for people who don’t love Him isn’t something abstract. It isn’t words, or a theory. It was put into action. Our text says,

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10).

Whoever you are, Jesus loves you even if you don’t love Him. If you’ve been coming to church without being converted, and words like salvation don’t move you, He loves you. If you’ve lived without going to church and hardly thinking about Christ, He loves you. If you’re an unbeliever who rejects the Bible and Christ Himself, as I did – He loves you. This morning I want to bring out two points about the love of Christ.

I. First, the love of Christ for His friends.

Jesus had a lot of friends. The Bible says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly” (Proverbs 18:24). Christ was a friendly man. He was close friends with Lazarus and with his sisters Mary and Martha. The Gospel of John says, “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus” (John 11:5). When Lazarus died, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). People said, “Behold how he loved him!” (John 11:36). Then Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. But He loved Lazarus long before then.

Christ’s closest friends were His Disciples, who were with Him in ministry and companionship for three years. The night before He was crucified, Jesus ate the Passover dinner with them. We call it the Last Supper. The Apostle John was one of the Disciples there. He wrote of the love Christ had for them,

“Before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).

John said over and over that Christ loved him. John is called “the beloved disciple.” In the Gospel that he wrote, John told of Christ’s love for Him. At the Last Supper,

“There was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23).

That Disciple was John. Later in his Gospel John wrote of himself as “the other disciple, whom Jesus loved” (John 20:2). Again he wrote, “that disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:7). At the end of his Gospel, John identified himself as that disciple. He wrote, “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things” (John 21:24). In modern English it means, “I am that disciple.” “It was me.” “Jesus loved me.”

At the Last Supper, Christ told His Disciples to love others as He loved them. He said,

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34).

Again, Jesus said to them,

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love” (John 15:9).

Again, He said,

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Then Christ told them what it means to show love. He said,

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

When I was a child in the San Francisco area I read a story in the Chronicle, the newspaper there. A man in the street was almost hit by a car. But his friend ran out into the street and pushed him away. The friend was hit by the car and died, instead of the first man. The man who was rescued paid to print a Bible verse in the Chronicle every day for a year. I saw it day after day. I read over and over, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That man died in the place of his friend. And Christ laid down His life in your place.

That verse was printed to remember a man who loved his friend. Jesus loved His friends, even when they didn’t love Him. One of His Disciples was Judas. That man took money to betray Christ. He led the soldiers to where Christ was in the Garden of Gethsemane, and they arrested Him. You might expect Jesus to be angry with the traitor. But instead,

“Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come?” (Matthew 26:50).

The Scofield note on this verse is very moving: “Perhaps the most touching thing in the Bible. The Lord does not disown Judas.” He called Judas “friend” when the man had betrayed Him.

Another of the Disciples was named Peter. You might expect Christ to be angry with Peter too, for Peter denied Him three times. After Christ was arrested, Peter said three times that he didn’t know Him. After the third denial, the rooster crowed as Jesus had said would happen. Then

“the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter....And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61, 62).

Ah, how Jesus looked at Peter! There was no anger in that look, but only a loving reminder. C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), the Prince of Preachers, wrote,

I see in that look, first, that which makes me exclaim – What thoughtful love! Jesus is bound, He is accused, He has just been smitten on the face – but His thought is of wandering Peter.... Our blessed Master is thinking of Peter and His heart is going out towards His unworthy disciple... Jesus always has an eye for those for whom He shed His blood... I see, then, in our Lord's looking upon Peter, a wondrously thoughtful love... [Peter] had acted most shamefully and cruelly and yet the Master's eyes sought him out in boundless pity! (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, sermon 2,034, preached July 22, 1888).

Christ loved Judas though Judas had betrayed Him. He loved Peter though Peter had denied Him. He loved people who did not love Him. Christ was a perfect example of the love of God,

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us” (I John 4:10).

II. Second, the love of Christ for His enemies.

We can understand how someone would love his friends. Jesus knew that. He said,

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy” (Matthew 5:43).

It was as though Christ said, “Yes, people can understand that.” But then the Master went further. He told His Disciples to love their enemies. He said,

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Again, Jesus said,

“But love ye your enemies... and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful” (Luke 6:35-36).

The Amish people live on farms in the Eastern and Midwestern parts of our country. They have a simple life-style. They do not use the machinery and electronics of the modern world. Many of them are true Christians.

A few years ago a man went into an Amish school in Pennsylvania and shot ten girls. He said, “I’m angry at God and I need to punish some Christian girls to get even with Him.” Five of the girls died of their wounds. But the Amish did not respond in anger. We read,

      The afternoon of the shooting an Amish grandfather of one of the girls who was killed expressed forgiveness toward the killer... That same day Amish neighbors visited the [killer’s] family to comfort them in their sorrow and pain... Later that week the [killer’s] family was invited to the funeral of one of the Amish girls who had been killed. And Amish mourners outnumbered the non-Amish at [the killer’s] funeral (“Amish Grace and Forgiveness,” http://lancasterpa.com/amish/amish-forgiveness/).
      Even before they had finished burying their five slain children, the Amish did the unthinkable: They established a fund for the family of the man who lined their daughters up against a chalkboard, bound their feet and shot them, one after another. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 7, 2006).

Can you imagine such a thing? Why would they do that? “Many reporters... asked, ‘How could they forgive such a terrible, unprovoked act of violence against innocent lives?’... The Amish culture closely follows the teachings of Jesus, who taught his followers to forgive one another” (“Amish Grace and Forgiveness,” ibid.). There’s the answer! They loved their enemy because they were following Jesus!

Jesus loved His enemies. He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. The next day He was crucified. Roman soldiers pounded nails through His hands and feet. But Christ was not angry with them. He shouted no curses, no condemnation. Instead, Jesus prayed for the people who had crucified Him. The Bible says,

“And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him...Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:33-34).

Jesus prayed for “them” – the same people who had just crucified Him. He loved His enemies.

The passage of Scripture Mr. Prudhomme read tells us of this kind of love. It says,

“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure [perhaps, maybe] for a good man some would even dare to die” (Romans 5:7).

I told you about a man who died to save his friend from being hit by a car. Such sacrifice is amazing, but we can understand it. But the love of God goes far beyond that. The next verse says,

“But God commendeth [shows] his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Even though we broke God’s law and set ourselves against Him, God loves us. He sent His Son Jesus to die for you and me. The same passage says,

When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10).

The love of Christ for His enemies goes beyond reason. We deserve judgment, not love. But Jesus loves us. Christ died on the Cross to pay for your sin. He shed His Blood to wash your sin away. He had no sin of His own. He loves you and died for you, even though you didn’t love Him. That is the “master move” that passes all understanding. But there it is. Jesus loves you.

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation [payment] for our sins” (I John 4:10).

Whoever you are, Jesus loves you. He loves you even if you have not loved Him, even if you hardly ever thought of Him, even if you lived your life without Him. He died on the Cross to pay for your sin – because He loves you. He shed His Blood to wash away your sin – because He loves you. Trust Him. He loves you. If you are ready to trust Jesus, go to the back of the auditorium. John Samuel will take you to a quiet place where we can talk. I pray that you will trust Jesus today. Amen.

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(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Romans 5:6-10.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Nobody Loves You Like Jesus Does” (author unknown;
as sung by George Beverly Shea, 1909-2013).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE MASTER MOVE

by Dr. C. L. Cagan

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10).

I.   First, the love of Christ for His friends, Proverbs 18:24;
John 11:5, 35, 36; 13:1, 23; 20:2; 21:7, 24; 13:34; 15:9, 12, 13;
Matthew 26:50; Luke 22:61, 62.

II.  Second, the love of Christ for His enemies, Matthew 5:43, 44;
Luke 6:35-36; 23:33-34; Romans 5:7, 8, 10.