Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered October 20, 2007 by Pastor Don Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

God is Very Good

1 John 3:14-16

(RealAudio Version available)

In our backyard we have a barn and my wife was in Africa about three weeks ago and so it got dark one evening and wasn’t time to go to bed yet so I decided to go out there and sit in the opening to the barn door and just pray. It was a clear night, the stars were out and the barn door faces the North Star, Polaris. And so I had been there for about half an hour praying to my God and I was praying very specifically about a matter. And I said, “Lord if You, I don’t want to ask You for a sign, but it would be neat if I could just see a shooting star.” I hadn’t seen any all evening. And no sooner had those words been spoken from my heart that right where I was looking a shooting star came by. The only one I saw all evening. I thought, goose bumps, you know. “Lord, thank you. thank you so much.”

He’s so good. He just answers our prayers. And the answer did come. I was just so impressed to have that relationship with God. It’s neat. We serve a great God. Don’t you think we do?

One day in the spring time I was invited out to somebody’s house. We were living in Michigan, and this was the house of an avowed atheist. I had never been in the house of an atheist in my life, at least somebody who claimed to be an atheist, and this, had I not been acquainted with God, I would have been shocked to see as I pulled into his yard that the atheist had trees that were alive. They had green leaves on them. He had flowers around his house that were blooming. I thought, “How could that be?” When I walked up to the atheist’s door, his cat rubbed against my legs like Christian cats do. I couldn’t believe it. The thirst of the plants in his garden had been quenched by the same shower that gave rain at my house. His canaries sang just as beautiful as my mother’s canary. Apparently God treated the atheist just as nice as God treated me.

But I should have known that because God is like that. God is good. Look at Matthew chapter 5. God is so good. This speaks about our heavenly father. Matthew chapter 5, verse 45. It says here, "Your Father in heaven, He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good. And sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." God is like that. He loves everybody. Our God is kind, and generous to the person who brings him joy and equally kind and generous to the man who grieves his heart. God loves the head elder of this church. But no more than God loved Adolf Hitler. You may say, Well, Pastor you’re wrong about that.” Well. “God could have made His sun to rise without such a splendor in the skies. He could have made His sun set without the beautiful colors of the sunset. God could have made the corn to grow without that sunny golden glow, or the fruits without whose colors bright so pleasant to the taste and sight. God could have caused the apple trees to bloom without the scent that doth perfume those dainty blossoms pink and white that fill our hearts with sheer delight.” But God didn’t because God is good.

His love is shown by so many things that we see in nature that he has made. The bad things of life that come from the inventor of evil, the devil, are sort of watered-down by the Lord. I think that God put flowers on the Devil’s thistles, and God caused roses to bloom on the Devil’s thorns. These things testify that God is tender. He loves us with a fatherly care. His desire is to make us happy. Look at First John in your Bible. Chapter 3. First John three and verse one. It says, and I’ll give you a chance to find it here, first John three verse one. There you’ve got it. "How great is the love of the father that He has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God?" And that is what we are. God lavishes His love upon us. He’s so good.

If we could just realize the rich unconditional love with which God loves us I doubt if anybody would be an atheist. Because he would realize how good that God really is. We must really be worth a lot in His sight. You are worth a mint. He calls as the apple of His eye. He’s in love with us. He ever lives to show us His love. John 3:16 says, "for God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever," what? "Believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." God does not love them based on their goodness. God loves them unconditionally because of His goodness. It does not say that God so loved Christians. No. It does not say that God so loved the church. No. It says that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son. He sends His rain on Christians and on atheists. He sends His rain on Seventh-day Adventists and on Jehovahs Witnesses. And on Mormons, and Lutherans, and Baptists and atheists.

We’re extremely valuable to God. God has invested a lot in us, and Jesus would not have died for junk. We are a treasure in His sight. We are of great worth. Now I have an idea on how you can be a millionaire. Quicker than you could ever imagine, you could become a millionaire. Do you know how to do it? If you could purchase some people at what they think they are worth, which isn’t very much, and sell them for what God thinks they are worth, which is quite a bit, you could make a mint. You really could.

Some people can be purchased by one bottle of alcohol. That’s all it takes. They can be purchased by one moment of sin. That’s all they want, is pleasure. To the football coach a member of the team is worth maybe 5 yards. To the employer a clerk may be worth $300 a week. To your child, you may be worth the price of some toy that that child wants. But to God you are worth everything. And He paid a high price to redeem us. Salvation from sin is free, but the price that God paid for that salvation is extremely high. We cannot be purchased with money, and we cannot merit eternal life by our moral excellence. However, it’s free-ness does not mean that it was cheap. Jesus paid for it with His life. With His blood. God desires that we would understand the depth of His love for us.

If you wanted to go to the Super Bowl and you were the only person in the world that wanted to go, the ticket would probably be pretty cheap. But if everybody wanted to go to the Super Bowl, the tickets could become very valuable. Super Bowl prices when it gets right up to the Super Bowl, are as high as $600 apiece. But, the highest price paid for a Super Bowl ticket, according to ticketsnow.com, was $201,250. Two hundred and one thousand, and two hundred and 50 dollars for a 20 person suite. So that’s only 10 thousand and 62 dollars and 50 cents apiece. That’s what they paid. That’s amazing.

You know, if you attend an auction, and you’re bidding on something, and suddenly a millionaire starts bidding on the same thing, you can be sure of one thing. The price is going to go up. And it’s going to be more than you can afford. But let me tell you about the most important auction. Your auction. You are being auctioned off. And both the devil and God are attending your auction. Both are bidding on us. But I’ll tell you that God has more money. Praise the Lord. God has more money. Our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. His streets are paved with gold that you can see without a magnifying glass. So who do you think is going to get the winning bid? God. If you don’t resist, you’re going to be saved. Jesus did not come and die on the old rugged Cross for trash. To be saved, all we have to do is come to Him and accept Jesus as our Savior and we will have eternal life. Come just as you are as that old song says, “Just as I am”.

You know, in some churches it hasn’t always been the case that God accepts us just as we are. You remember Mahatma Gandhi? Famous man. In his autobiography he says that he got to reading the Christian Bible. And he read a lot of it. And he thought, “you know this could be true. Hinduism might be wrong.” And so he decided to attend a Christian church. He was deeply touched by the Bible. Christianity seemed to offer the real solution that the caste system did not offer. And so he went to a nearby Sunday-keeping church. And he attended the services and he decided to ask the minister a lot of questions about Christianity, but when he entered the sanctuary the people there refuse to give him a seat. They said why don’t you go worship with your kind? So he left. He said, “they have a caste system too”. And he became famous. Oh that that congregation had been friendly and warm.

There are many who seek acceptance today and we’ve got to be loving and kind and accept them. Come over here to First John chapter 3, verse 11. It says, and we’re going to read 11 and 14 and then John 3:16. First John 3:16. Our scripture reading for today, beginning with verse 11, which we did not do. "This is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." Verse 14. "Anyone who does not love remains," where? Where does the person that doesn’t love somebody else remain? In death. Remains in death. And then First John 3:16. "This is how we know that we love Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brother." We should not treat others as they treat us. Matthew seven, verse 12, says, "In anything do unto others what you would have them do unto you, for this sums up the law and the prophets." That’s the golden rule. Treat others like you would wish that they would treat you.

You know I’m glad to be a Seventh-day Adventist. Because anybody is welcome to our church, whether they’re white, or red, or yellow, or whatever color they are. Any color. Any race. They’re welcome here. I’m very pleased to have that.

My wife and I were assigned a church in South Flint, in Michigan. And we pastored there in the South Flint church for several years, and one day we were doing one of my favorite things. I like to greet people. I like to shake their hands and give them a warm welcome. And we were out there in the lobby, and my wife was with me, and we were greeting people. And we noticed something strange that we had never seen before. Out in the parking lot two big motorcycles came in. And each motorcycle had two riders. You’ve been to the South Flint Church before. And each of the riders was dressed in a black leather motorcycle jacket. They had black helmets. Black leather pants. Black boots. They were big people. And they were headed toward our church. Our nice little church, you know. And the men were big. One must have been 6 foot six. They had very long hair. They had beards. We didn’t know what to do. Several mothers in the lobby, I saw them take their children quickly back to the Sabbath School departments down that hallway. I saw some of the bigger deacons standing by the wall just in case. Didn’t know what in the world was going on.

Well these strangers walked right up our sidewalk and came to the door of our church and one of our especially outgoing greeters opened the door for them. And they came into our church. And they expressed a desire to attend our Sunday school, they said. And our divine service. So we welcomed them and we showed them to the sanctuary. They went in and they sat on the back row. Well it wasn’t long before the warmth of the sanctuary got to them, and the black leather jackets came off, exposing arms with big tattoos on them. And we thought, “Oh, boy! We are in for something here.” Bold tattoos. Those big men sat right there through the whole Sabbath School, through the class which happened to be in the sanctuary. They sat there through the sermon. Through the benediction. After everybody was ushered out from the front, finally got to the back and it came our turn to greet them, and they said, “We really enjoyed your Sunday school. And your divine worship.” And after we talked for some time we could see that they were sincere. And so we invited them home for lunch. And it felt kind of funny to be driving the station wagon with our three kids in the back and these two big black motorcycles following us. I didn’t know if some of the church members were watching or not.

They followed us all the way to our house, and we had a nice lunch. My wife is a great cook. And they stayed all afternoon asking questions about the Bible. We set up Bible studies. We learned their names. Fred and Judy, and Lee and Connie. Later they were baptized. They joined our church. They had to quit their jobs because Sabbath keeping, of course, they didn’t have a job, and so both Fred and Lee decided to become Seventh-day Adventist pastors. And they moved to Andrews University, and took up theology. All because somebody wasn’t afraid to open the door and accept them. I am so thrilled to be a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in a Seventh-day Adventist church that accepts everybody. If somebody comes in that door and they want to worship with us, let them in. Welcome them with your warmest welcome.

First John four, verse eight. "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." And Luke 6:31. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them." Christ’s love can be seen in our attitude. If we are forgiving, people will see that He is forgiving. Oftentimes people look at people to figure out what God is like. God so loved you that He gave His only begotten Son that if you believe in Him you will have eternal life.

Love is a rare commodity. There was a family of four. Four sons, plus a mother and a father. A family of six. And they were experiencing very hard times, back in the war. And they decided that it was so bad that they would sell one of their four sons to get enough money so they could eat, because if they didn’t they were all going to die. And they were just literally out of food. They didn’t have anything. And so they went over the names, over and over. William, Carl, Heinrich, Benjamin. Perhaps if they had more boys they could give up one. They thought, “We only have four, which one are we going to sell?” And they never could figure out which one to sell. So they decided they wouldn’t sell them. And somehow they ended up not starving. Help finally came.

But you know, all good parents are like that. They would never sell one of their sons. Except God is not like that. Because God gave the only Son He had to die for you, that if you believe in Him, you might have eternal life. That’s what God is like. God is a parent that’s willing to even give up His Son to save the world. That’s amazing. And He did it while we were yet enemies. Romans chapter 5 and first 10. Our good God treats us better than we deserve. And let’s respond by treating Him better than we have. Let’s respond by praying. By attending church. By loving others. And what can we give? Well perhaps you could give money. You could give time. You could give service. When you give greatly, then you will be blessed greatly. God is good. God is a God of love. God loves you. I think we need to be more loving. We need to be more kind. More accepting of others.

We went over to Africa, my wife and I are. And we found some people over there who were very loving, and others who were a little bit unlovable. And we tried to love them. We tried to show them the love of Jesus. And that’s what you do when you’re a missionary. You show others the love of Jesus Christ. The love that He has for you. And that’s what you do when you’re a pastor. You try to show others God’s love.

I think the greatest thing that a pastor can do is to lead his people into experiencing what God is really like. God is not harsh. God is not a dictator. God is not after you to harm you, but He’s after you to bless you. He’s after you to save you. He wants you to be in His kingdom. He wants you because He loves you. And if you just love Him, if you respond to Him, He will respond to you. It is His love that draws us, and that love is always there.

I preached a sermon about God’s unconditional love one time, and one of the members came up and said, “You know, God does not love us unconditionally. You have to do certain things and then He’ll love you.” My Bible says, and I want you to look at this text in Romans. Come over here to Romans chapter 5. I want you to read what this actually says. Romans five and verse 10. Look at verse 10. "For if, when we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more having been reconciled shall we be saved through His life." When were we reconciled? The very first part of that verse. When we were what? When we were praying every day, reading our Bible, paying tithe, reading the Adventist Review. Is that what that says? This says, "If when we were God’s enemies we were reconciled." He died for us when we were His enemies. He loved us. God so loved the world! Everybody in the world.

Let me tell you about a boy named Danny. Danny could hear, but he didn’t have any ears. He was born with no ears. How would you like that? There were holes in the side of his head, and he could hear, but people thought he looked strange. And he did. He had no ears. Some of us look… my uncle had ears that stuck straight out. He would lie on them at night, try to iron them down, and in the morning they’d be sticking out like flags. He was embarrassed. But Danny had no ears. Just holes. And he was not like a normal person. All his life he endured ridicule. Rejection. Because he was not normal. People would say, “What happened to you?”

Thankfully, he had loving parents. You know your parents except you like you are. That’s how God accepts you too. And when Danny was in high school, the doctors told him that it was now possible, that if they could find a donor, that he could have new ears. Well he got excited about that. But the doctor said, “You know, ears are hard to transplant. It requires just exactly the right donor. And if somebody was totally compatible and was willing, at their death, to donate their ears, he could have ears.” Well that was exciting, but donors were extremely scarce. Danny graduated from high school. He never dated anybody. Nobody was wanting to date him. He graduated with honors. He buried himself in his studies. He was accepted at a university thousands of miles away. He kissed his parents goodbye, and he began college as a normal student. Except he didn’t have ears. And he had no friends. It was hard to fit in because of his ears, or his lack of ears.

Well one day he got a phone call from his dad. And his dad said, “Son. A donor has been found. Head to the hospital right away, in the university where you are.” So he did. He went there. And he checked into the University Hospital. And then a few hours later he had brand-new ears. At least they told him he had ears. He had big bandages on the sides of his head. And eventually the bandages came off and sure enough he looked, he stood in front of the mirror, looked at himself and he had ears. Two ears. It was so beautiful and so wonderful. And he must’ve stood in front of the mirror for an hour or half, just looking at himself. Did you notice your years this morning, by the way, when you got up? Did you pay any attention to them? He was just enthralled with his new ears.

A few weeks later Danny received another phone call from his father. “Son, your mother has become very ill and she may not live through the night. Can you come?” He said, “I’ll be right there.” He got an airplane ticket. Got there as quick as he could. And when he got there, his father met him at the airport and said, “Your mother has already died.” Already died.

Together they went to the funeral home. The funeral directors had already taken her away. So the next morning they went into the funeral home to look at her. They had her fixed up. And Danny leaned down to kiss his mother. Took his hand and brushed aside her hair to kiss her on the cheek, and noticed that she had no ears. She was the donor. His mother’s incredible love provided Danny with new ears.

And I will tell you that it’s our Fathers incredible love that provides us with eternal life. God demonstrates His love for us in this, that while they were still sinners, Romans five verse eight, Christ died for them. God loves you. I hope that you love God with all your heart. And that you never ever turn your back on him. God is good. He’s very good.

Let’s sing our closing hymn. Number 1 hundred 87.

Hymn of Praise: #33, Sing a New Song to the Lord
Scripture: 1 John 3:14-16
Hymn of Response: #187, Jesus What a Friend for Sinners

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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 11/10/07