Wooing Us to Heaven
Today is Valentine’s Day!
Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone.
I hope you and your sweetheart have a great one, insofar as you can under the circumstances.
For those of you without sweethearts right now, I hope you have a great one, too!
This is the day in which many of us have certain expectations for there to be some romantic overtures to be done by our sweetheart.
There may be many on this day who ask that special someone out for the first time, or who even propose marriage.
There may even be some who are getting married today.
But do we just fall for anyone who says, “Love me” or “Marry me”?
No, we ought to be selective when it comes to those we date and certainly to those we marry.
What sets others apart so that we might choose them?
Several factors, I’m sure, but one of those is if we are wooed.
It’s nice to be wanted, isn’t it?
Typically it’s the men who do the wooing, so I will use language to reflect that.
Women, isn’t it nice when a man shows that he wants you?
Well, of course that depends on a lot of factors, too.
How is he wooing you? Is this someone you might be interested in? Are his advances welcome?
But generally speaking, women like to be wooed.
It communicates to them that they are wanted and, if done right, then you can enter into a relationship with that person.
It’s not unlike the relationship we have with God.
He wants us, and it’s nice to be wanted, isn’t it?
So what ways might He show us that He loves us, in what ways does He “woo us to heaven”?
As the song states, it is through the “wonderful words of life.”
This morning, we are going to look at the ways in which God shows that He loves us, including by those wonderful words of life.
The root word for “providence” is “to provide.”
And the traditional role for the man of the house is to provide for his wife and his children.
Does God provide for us? Oh yes, indeed, He does.
There is another excellent illustration I’ve heard recently that may help us to understand this point further.
We have been focusing on this illustration of two sweethearts, one wooing the other.
But in this other illustration, it is of a father who is forced to be absent trying to gain the love of his children.
It starts off like this: Imagine a father of triplets whom he has never met, because on the day they were born, he was horribly burned in an accident.
His entire face has been scarred in hideous ways; his mouth and neck have been damaged, so he can no longer speak without sounding terrifying.
Doesn’t that remind you of the reaction the Israelites had at the base of Mt. Sinai when the Lord began speaking to them? (Deut. 5:24-26).
They were clearly afraid of the voice of the God that brought them up out of Egypt and out of bondage.
And in our illustration, if the burned and disfigured man tried to approach his children as toddlers, they would be terrified and cry uncontrollably.
If he tried to force them into a room to make them realize he was their father, they would have a hard time getting past the fear of his appearance and speech.
Since he can’t get near them at such a young age, what can he do?
He can provide for us.
This father might work and send money, groceries, and gifts to his children.
He would have to sign his name to them so they would know these gifts were from him.
The potential suitor may provide for the one he adores, too, proving that he is capable of providing for her and a potential family.
Doesn’t our heavenly Father do the same? Doesn’t He provide for us?
He delivered the Israelites from slavery and oppression, He gave them bread falling from heaven, He didn’t allow their clothes to wear out for 40 years, and He gave them a land flowing with milk and honey.
Beyond these special gifts, He has given all of us this world to cultivate and grow.
Regardless of who you are, God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45).
We have the sunshine, the birds, the beautiful mountains, the sandy beaches.
We can enjoy this life God has given to us!
Some lives are certainly harder than others—most of us certainly have it easy here in America.
But even in the most difficult of circumstances, there is always some beauty to see in the world.
There is ugliness, sure, but God didn’t give any of that to us (James 1:17).
He gave us a perfect world, one that, after He created it, He said it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).
The Apostle Paul writes of God that He is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).
Do we stop and ask ourselves how amazing that is, how loving that is?
All Creation sings of His love for us!
Through His gifts, He is wooing us to heaven.
The ugly side.
Natural disasters do occur, things we have no control over.
They are often called “acts of God,” as if God calls these things upon us because He hates us.
But really, these natural disasters occur for various reasons.
Perhaps He is punishing us or judging us—punishment is in the purview of the father just as much as providence (Prov. 3:11-12).
Perhaps He is testing us—such tests help us to grow and prove to ourselves what we can do, building our confidence (James 1:2-4).
Another way He woos us is through His words.
When you were interested in someone, how much did you enjoy receiving correspondence from them?
When I was in high school, I would write long emails to the girls I was interested in, we would go back and forth.
That was back in the age when email was the really big thing.
I was coming of age in that time, and even wrote letters on paper early in high school.
I’m sure many of you enjoyed similar correspondence when you were younger.
You were all giddy with excitement when you received a letter in the mail (or email in your inbox) from you-know-who.
In the burned and disfigured father analogy, surely the father would write letters or send messengers (prophets) to his three children.
He would tell them about himself, tell them that he loves them.
He might even say that he will see them when they are ready for it.
In that letter he might give advice and share some nuggets of wisdom that he’s learned over the years.
He might even given instructions on how to conduct themselves.
Well now, that sounds like the Bible, doesn’t it?
The Bible is just such a book!
The very fact that a book like this exists is proof of itself that there is a God and He loves us!
I don’t have time this morning to go into the proofs of the Bible’s validity, but rest assured, every word in it is dripping with love.
Even a book like Lamentations? Yes, even that! For why would you cry over the loss of a city unless you loved it?
Haven’t you ever heard or uttered the phrase, “This will hurt me more than it hurts you”?
We don’t take particular joy in punishing our children, but we recognize it as something that is necessary for their betterment.
We find that is the exact point of such a sad book, that it shows the immense sadness of our God over the punishment that must be exacted upon His children for their betterment.
And as the song we sang earlier states: “Christ the blessed One gives to all, wonderful words of Life; sinner list to the love call, wonderful words of Life. All so freely given, wooing us to heaven; beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.”
These wonderful words of life do indeed woo us to heaven, just as one writes a letter to woo his would-be sweetheart.
David acknowledges this love even while on the run: “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You” (Psa. 63:3).
When we read the Scriptures, we are reading God’s love letters to us!
When we study the Scriptures, we gain a greater understanding of His love for us, and of the very concept of love.
When reading and studying, let’s have that same excitement we do when we would receive that letter from that special someone.
In that letter that we call the Bible, God has written to us of His providence and also His sacrifice.
Sacrifice comes naturally to anyone who truly loves or has truly loved.
It’s hard to find someone who wouldn’t do anything or give up anything for their children.
The most heart wrenching yet endearing tales I hear are about parents who go hungry so their kids won’t—perhaps your parents were like that, perhaps you have had to be with your children.
I truly hope they appreciate the sacrifices you were willing to make for them, and if you’re aware of your parents doing that for you, chances are you do appreciate it.
But it’s more than just sacrificing a little bit of food and perhaps some amenities, you sacrifice your entire life to the raising of this child.
You work hard hours to provide for them, you spend your time off with them, helping them, teaching them—when they are a newborn, you need to feed them every couple of hours, sacrificing rest and sleep in those early weeks and months.
Really, it is a life-long endeavor! Even after the child becomes an adult, you may still need to help them out from time to time—sometimes with big things.
How much do we sacrifice for our sweethearts?
Compromise is part of any successful relationship, is it not?
You can’t be stubborn and uncompromising in everything; there’s always a little give and take.
There are things you must sacrifice or must be willing to sacrifice for the one(s) you love.
Paul even wrote to husbands saying, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25).
There is that idea of sacrifice, and just as the husband must be willing to sacrifice to his wife, Christ most certainly did.
The sacrifice of God.
So if God loves us, you would expect Him to provide for us (which He does) and to let us know of His love (which He does through the Bible).
But He also sacrificed a great deal for us (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8).
He sacrificed His own Son!
In order to express God’s sacrifice, one of the illustrations we were encouraged to use on mission trips went like this:
Say there is a plague that is ripping through the village—how appropriate this illustration is today.
Everyone is infected and will die if nothing is done about it.
The only cure exists in the blood of your only son, and he must die for everyone to receive it.
Would you be willing to sacrifice your son for others?
Well, God did—that plague is sin and the only cure is in the blood of His Son.
In the abstract, you see the logic of it, but when you bring it down to reality, it seems unimaginable.
The boy you have nurtured and loved, fed and sacrificed for, must be killed.
Most people would say to find your cure somewhere else, but God did it for you and for me.
If this sacrifice doesn’t woo us to heaven nothing will.
And of course, Jesus went willingly Himself as we see throughout the Gospel accounts.
And in the passage we read earlier from Eph. 5:25, He “gave Himself for her,” for the church, for His bride.
What about our response?
Not everybody will be wooed, just as not everyone will be wooed by the advances of others.
But God did and does all of these things for us regardless of our response.
He still provides for our material needs regardless of our faithfulness to Him.
As we read earlier, He “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
This is not always the case, for the Lord promises that if we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all our necessities will be provided for (Matt. 6:33).
But even the wicked sometimes prosper.
He still wrote those love letters to us, the Bible—and it’s available for all to read and learn from.
And He still sent His Son to die for us all: “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
He died for everyone, that sacrifice is meant for everyone, regardless of our response.
Of course we must respond if we are to receive the benefits of that sacrifice.
What of the response of the triplets of the disfigured father?
One child becomes disinterested.
She has never met this father and doesn’t see him as something she needs to be a part of her life.
She focuses on her toys or favorite kid shows.
The second child doesn’t understand why her father never visits.
Surely he must be doing selfish or evil things instead of spending time with his family.
She looks at the collection of letters he sent, but doesn’t think it’s enough.
Over time, his lack of physical presence makes her bitter.
By the time she is becomes a teenager, she no longer cares why he was absent.
Instead, she has convinced herself a real loving father would never abandon her.
So the letters must be from an impostor who is pretending to be her father.
The third child, however, receives the letters and studies them.
As a child, she doesn’t understand why her father will not visit.
But she still desires to be with him, so she reads the letters that say that her father loves her.
She believes his promises that they will be together one day.
She waits and does everything she can to be with her father.
Finally, when she is in her teens, she has matured enough so that her father comes to her.
But now she has gotten to know his heart, so his appearance doesn’t frighten her.
They are able to live together in happiness.
This isn’t a perfect illustration, but I think it’s a good one.
Which child will you be? The disinterested one, the bitter one, or the hopeful one?
The hopeful one will read the gospel and obey it. Will you do that this morning?
Will you be wooed to heaven?