Growing up, all of our girls participated in the “AWANA” program at our church. If you’re not familiar with AWANA, it could be described as a Christian version of the Boy and Girl Scouts. “AWANA” is an acronym that stands for “Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed,” from 2 Timothy 2:15. The children are encouraged to memorize Scripture in a fun environment.
I can still picture Laurel as an adorable preschooler in her royal blue “Cubbie Bear” vest. We were proud AWANA parents when she memorized her very first Bible verse: John 3:16. That is, until she decided her one verse was good enough. She was done! No amount of honey could entice this stubborn bear to memorize another verse.
Most of us, Cubbies or not, can recite John 3:16 from memory, right?
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (NASB)
I guess if you’re only going to learn one verse, John 3:16 is a pretty good choice.
Last week, as I prepared to teach my weekly Bible study, I came across a lesser known, but equally memory-worthy verse. I dubbed it “John 3:16 on Steroids.” Here it is:
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ… (Ephesians 1:4a, NLT)
Let that sink in. Yes, as John 3:16 states, God loved the world. But even before He made the world, before time ticked, before creation commenced…He loved us!
Before God said, ‘Let there be light!” He said, “Let there be love!“
Scott Olipint puts it like this:
“Most Christians recognize that, apart from Christ, there is no salvation. But far fewer recognize that our salvation had its beginning before time began. It was there that the triune God determined to love you for eternity.”
Wow! I knew from Scripture that God saw us before we were born (Psalm 139:15-16) and that He knew us before we were formed. (Jeremiah 1:5) But to love us before the earth existed? That kind of love is earth-shattering!
Let’s look at one more AWANA verse worth memorizing:
But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8, HCSB)
Billy Graham paraphrased Romans 5:8 like this:
“God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”
The God who purposed to love you before creation, proved His love for you on the cross.
If you ever question God’s love, you need look no further than that cross, driven into the ground like a blood-stained stake. There, as His Son endured an agonizing death, the Father declared His undying love…for you!
To fully experience this love, you need only…
- BELIEVE that you are loved. (John 3:16, Ephesians 1:4, Romans 5:8)
- RECEIVE His love for you. (John 1:12)
- TRUST that He will never stop loving you. (1 John 4:16, Jeremiah 31:3)
God determined to love you, and then He declared His love for you.
Maybe our little Cubbie Bear was right…
What more do we really need to know?
For God so loved…that He gave…
Spend a few minutes meditating on God’s overwhelming, never-ending love!