Ahhh, Laurie. She may have been my first romantic crush. It was 7th grade - I was insecure (that's a synonym for 7th grade) and I didn't know how she felt about me. So one day I went to the store, I spent all the money I had - which wasn't much - on a little rhinestone necklace. And then I wrote this mushy little note to Laurie and put it in an envelope with that necklace. The next day, as I was sitting in study hall, (the only class we had together), I smelled that perfume. I knew Laurie was approaching. I handed her that love-filled envelope, which she took with her to her desk. The next day - study hall, approach of the killer perfume - my heart was beating out of my chest. Then, as Laurie went by, something very familiar appeared on my desk. It was that envelope - with the necklace and the note inside. Ouch. Of course, it didn't really bother me that much. Then why am I talking about it so many years later?
Well, I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You about "Handing Love Back."
It really did hurt - spending everything I had on someone I cared about, and having it just handed back to me. Jesus knows that feeling. Maybe from you. God's Son went out one day and spent everything He had on you - not with money at a store, but with His blood on a cross. The Bible puts it this way, "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 4:10). In other words, even though you and I did the sinning, Jesus did the dying. He paid the death penalty, not for any sins of His own - He didn't have any - but for every time you have lived your way instead of God's way.
No one has ever loved you like Jesus. He paid this awful price because it was the only way for you to ever have your sins forgiven, for you to ever be able to get into God's heaven. So He bought you a relationship with God - He bought you an eternity in heaven. But what He paid for with His life is a gift according to the Bible. Which means it's only yours if you take it.
Like that girl Laurie in 7th grade. And she chose to reject that gift and hand it back to me. Today there's someone listening right now who has done that to the Son of God, perhaps over and over again. You've heard what Jesus did on the cross for you, you've heard that He asks you to commit yourself to Him as your only hope with God, but you have, in effect, just said, "That's nice. No thanks." Or maybe you've just said, "Keep it for now, Jesus. I'll take it later." But no matter how polite you have been, you have rejected His love.
In our word for today from the Word of God in Matthew 23, Jesus says of people He cared very much about: "How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing" (verse 37). Listen - is Jesus talking about you? "How often I have longed for us to be together...but you were not willing."
There's only one reason Jesus has kept coming back - He loves you and He doesn't want to lose you. But some time will be the last time, because your heart gets too hard to respond, or because your heart stops and you've had your last chance, or because Jesus is calling one last time. Haven't you handed back His love too many times already? Today, one more time, He holds out His nail-pierced hand to you to give you His love and eternal life. It is time to take His love. Just tell Him, right where you are, "Jesus, I'm Yours, beginning right here, right now."
God's Son has loved you enough to spend His life for you. Now don't hand back His love.