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JESUS CHRIST OUR GIFT OF LOVE (PART IV)

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

22 DECEMBER 1991

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

1 Samuel 15:22
Psalm 80:1-7
Isaiah 9:6
Micah 5:1-5a
Galatians 5:22-23

Preparation Verse: (1 Samuel 15:22)

“Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”

As we have been saying, Jesus Christ is God's gift of love. He's our gift of love, if we care enough to receive Him.

And 700 years before the world first received this Gift of Love, the prophet Isaiah said (9:6) that He would be known as, "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." He is all of these things and more.

The prophet Micah also speaks of the love gift of the Prince of Peace.

As we read these verses from Micah 5:1-5a, consider the fact that if we require the gift of peace, we most likely have done something to lose it along our way.

1. Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter of troops;
They have laid siege against us;
With a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek.

If we are warlike people, then we are often called upon to muster ourselves for battle.

And the longer we stay in this state of mind, the harder of heart we become, because in order to kill another living being, we must first lose our compassion and empathy for them.

Some become so hard that they will even strike the judge of Israel, or the Prince of Peace Himself, upon the cheek; for they no longer feel that they are accountable to anyone, even God.

This is much like the condition of our world.

But their evilness is a facade to cover up their own fears.

And in their pride they walk before these facades, these fake store fronts of the western movie sets, hoping that no one will see behind their falseness.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union is a perfect example of this. The strength of the leadership was in the illusion of fear that they created.

So, when the people began to look behind the facade, everything began to fall apart.

But because they had let their society deteriorate for such a long time, everything behind the falseness had also come to ruin, so that everything must be rebuilt.

This is what happened to Israel, and this is what is happening to the Church.

But there is hope in the Lord. As we continue, listen to what Micah says for the Lord:

2. "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity."

Israel wasn't fully prepared to receive their Messiah and the peace He offered them. Many still believed in the false work that was set up before them.

Do you think our little church is prepared to receive the Lord Jesus and to truly let Him reign in our lives?

Are we truly ready to throw away the false facade we have allowed our society to place before our eyes and, instead, to live in the truth and peace that God always wanted for us?

Or are we going to live as Israel did?

3. Therefore, He will give them up until the time
When she who is in labor has borne a child.
Then the remainder of His brethren
Will return to the sons of Israel.

How much further do we have to let our society and our own minds and hearts be cluttered with the deception that we don't need the Lord our God, and that we can do everything on our own?

It hasn't worked, and it will never work, no matter how convincing the sellers of these lies may be, or how spectacular their special effects are. It's all fake, just like a movie set, but in this case, the truth will eventually come to light.

4. And He will arise and shepherd His flock
In the strength of the Lord,
In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God.
And they will remain,
Because at that time He will be great
To the ends of the earth.

5. And this One will be our peace.

True peace and the Prince of Peace Himself have been here since the beginning of creation; but our sin has blocked our vision of Him and His love.

The vast majority of the people didn't even recognize Him when He came in person.

It's time we receive our Christmas gift, as Paul describes it in Galatians 5:22-23.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

These aren't separate gifts; they come as a package to all true believers who receive the gift.

It's time we begin to look behind the facades of our own sin and those of our society, and know the truth.

It's time we start believing the truth and not the lies.

It's time we reject the lies of the unholy spirit, and start to live by the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

It's time we begin to call upon the Lord our God to save us, as the psalmist tells us in Psalm 80:1-3.

1. Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, Thou who dost lead Joseph like a flock;
Thou who art enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth!

2. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up Thy power,
And come to save us!

3. O God, restore us,
And cause Thy face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

In this cry for salvation is the key to peace.

The Northern tribes of Israel had turned away from God almost completely, and in praying for the remnant of believers, the psalmist is also offering up a prayer for those who have turned away.

We also need to pray for those who have turned away, so that the Lord would stir them up, too.

And then the psalmist remembers something else: that we must recognize the reason for our past and present judgments and problems.

Listen to what he says in verses 4-7.

4. O Lord God of hosts,
How long wilt Thou be angry with the prayer of Thy people?

5. Thou hast fed them with the bread of tears,
And Thou hast made them to drink tears in large measure.

6. Thou dost make us an object of contention to our neighbors;
And our enemies laugh among themselves.

7. O God of hosts, restore us,
And cause Thy face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

This is all true, and we are living very much this way today.

We suffer the tears of depression and misfortune, and those of loneliness, because we cause these same tears for others.

We may not do this intentionally at first, but then we become accustomed to it, because so many others are doing it.

And we think, "What can I do about it?"

We convince ourselves that we really can't do anything.

But this isn't true.

All the evil in the world started with someone, and every one of us who sins adds to this evilness.

And every one of us, who goes along with this evilness and refuses to stand against it, helps to multiply it.

And everyone of us, who have the fruit of the Spirit and fails to exercise it publicly, also encourages the evilness to continue.

Likewise, we all have the power to reverse it.

That is, if we are willing to do so.

It all begins with our receiving God's gift of love in our hearts and minds.

If we want joy in our hearts, we must ignite it with God's love and then share it with others.

If we truly want Christmas peace all year long, then we must be willing to have the Prince of Peace, our gift of love, as our constant companion, and live in peace ourselves, and be willing to let others see it, too.

This love will give us the patience we all need to see beyond the sins of each other, so that we ourselves will not lose our peace and begin to fight.

If we are kind to others, even when they are not kind to us, they, too, will be touched by God's love; but how much better if we were all kind to each other.

Then the true goodness of God's love, manifested in the being of Jesus Christ, would be seen in each of us.

And above all, we must be faithful; for it is in our faithfulness that we receive the fullness of God's love.

In this love we can afford to be gentle and compassionate toward others and, in fact, toward all of God's creation (our fellow human being, the other animals, and the world we all live in).

With true love in our hearts, we really can't abuse or take advantage of anything or anyone.

And with all of this love within us, we will also find that we have learned self-control, which is our best outward expression that we are truly at peace.

Beloved, it's time to put our fears aside, look behind the facades of falseness, and know the truth.

It's time we truly and wholly receive the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, God's gift of love, and live that changed life.

We can all make a difference.

We can all have what we truly want.

We can all have a merry Christmas.

Amen.

Merry Christmas.

Your Comments are welcome

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