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JESUS CHRIST OUR GIFT OF LOVE (PART II)

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

8 DECEMBER 1991

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Proverbs 10:12
Malachi 3:1-4
Matthew 6:10
1 Corinthians 15: 21- 24
Philippians 1:3-11

Preparation Verse: (Proverbs 10:12)

Hatred stirs up strife,
But love covers all transgressions.

Last week we looked at the celebration of Advent as being the anticipation of Christ's second coming, and not that of His birth 2,000 years ago.

We looked at our celebration of Christmas as the celebration of God's love for us and the rest of creation, for Jesus Christ is our gift of love.

And with this gift came a very interesting change of events. Death was conquered.

Please turn to 1 Corinthians 15:21-24, and note this confirmation:

21. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.

22. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

23. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming,

24. then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.

Every time I think about the fact that Jesus Christ is our gift of love, and that He conquered death, I keep asking the question: Then shouldn't we be doing everything in our power to eliminate as much death as possible from our lives, and spread His love far an wide?

But then we look at the world around us, and we see all the suffering and death inflected upon millions of our fellow human being and billions of other animals every year, and we come to the conclusion that we aren't doing a very good job.

This is why I'm constantly praying for Jesus to return and the end to come.

Our celebration of Advent is pointing to this very day, the day when Christ returns.

But something must take place first. He must abolish all of the satanic rule from the earth.

Aren't we Christians supposed to be the followers of Jesus Christ?

Then why do most Christians support the satanic rule on this earth that causes so much suffering and death?

Satan induced Adam to sin, and with his sin came death.

Even though Adam made the mistake of eating of the fruit of death, we can choose not to eat death; we can choose life.

Following Christ's second coming, death of all kinds will be abolished.

But even with His first coming, a portion of death was removed.

Let's turn back to our Malachi verses (3:1-4), and note what this prophet of God says about the coming of Jesus Christ, 400 years before His coming, and about the elimination of the need for any further death.

1. "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the Lord of hosts.

John the Baptist came proclaiming the way of the coming of the Lord Jesus.

John didn't call people to confess their sins and bring a sin offering, a blood sacrifice, to the priest so that their sins would be forgiven.

He didn't do this, even though it was the traditional way of supposedly fulfilling the Law.

But John did call them to confess their sins and be baptized.

John was proclaiming the new covenant: repentance and forgiveness through faith, and not through the death of an innocent animal.

And think about how most people just celebrated Thanksgiving...wasn't it through the death of an innocent animal?

As a Christian society, we're not living the way we should be, and we need to change before it's too late.

2. "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.

As I challenged everyone on Thanksgiving eve, "Do we really want what we pray for in the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:10)?"

10. Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.

Do we really want this?

This is exactly what Malachi has been asking us for the past 2,400 years.

Can people give up the sins they play with? Or perhaps a better way of putting it is to ask: Are people willing to give up the sins they play with?

God has told us that there should be one man with one woman; yet people still play around.

And because there is this playing around, there is also much disease which is easily spread.

And almost all of our viral and chronic diseases come from the breeding (raping) and killing of the other animals that God gave us to be our companions.

And with the diseases comes death.

And with this playing around, there is unwanted pregnancy and many abortions, which is basically the only form of death that Christians take a stand against.

But are people willing to stop these forms of death by stopping what they do to cause them?

For in Christ, death is to stop.

Most of these same diseases are carried in the blood, and people use drugs with common needles, spreading these diseases and death even further.

And because of the money involved in drug dealing, there is also murder.

Jesus Christ came to stop this death, also.

People celebrate with alcohol, and then they get into their motor vehicles and kill someone.

Are people willing to give up this cause of death, also?

For in Christ this, also, is to stop.

And what about the death on people's plates, are they willing to give up this cause of death, too?

For in Christ this death is to also stop.

If people are not willing to do these things of their own free will, then God will remove them from His presence and from His love, for He must stop the death that is caused among His people.

Note what Malachi says next (verses 3-4):

3. "And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.

4. "Then the offering [grain offering] of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord, as in the days of old and as in former years."

The Lord begins with the religious leaders, so that they will not lead their flocks astray; but those who are born again are also considered as priests, for they, too, can approach God.

In fact, since Jesus came, the pathway to God is open to everyone.

Thus, everyone will pass through the smelter and be refined.

After the refining, after the removal of the sin in our lives, there is no further need of an animal sacrifice.

Our offerings before the Lord will be thank offerings of grain and fruit of the earth.

Our communion service of last week could be considered such an offering.

Thus, even the animals are spared from death.

True peace can be here on the earth now, if we are willing to have it; and the Christmas greeting of "peace on earth and good will to men" can become a reality.

The words of another of Paul's “Christmas cards” are found in Philippians 1:3-11. As we listen to his words, listen carefully concerning his attitude of peace and life.

3. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,

4. always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,

5. in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

Paul is thanking God for these people and the work that the Lord has done in their lives, for they reflect the presence of Jesus Christ in their lives.

Do we cause other people to thank God for us?

Do other people cause us to thank God for them?

We should, shouldn't we?

Perhaps we should all be more willing to be refined further, for even the Philippians needed this:

6. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Here again is the anticipation of Christ's second coming.

And like the Philippians, until He comes again, we are all in need of being refined over and over again, so that more and more of heaven and God's will would be present upon the earth today.

7. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.

8. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Can you sense the love that is lighting every other emotion in Paul's being?

Can you sense that he has no ill feelings toward those who have him in prison?

He considers himself in a state of grace, and thus should we all, no matter in what circumstances we find ourselves.

9. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,

10. so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;

11. having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Paul's Christmas cards are filled with thanksgiving and prayers for continued spiritual growth.

We, as Christians and people of this community and of the world, are being challenged to bring the fruits of righteousness, the fruits of life, the fruits of the Spirit of God, to the forefront of our lives.

We must constantly strive to remove the sin from our own lives, and the death it brings.

We are to strive to be the living examples of Jesus Christ, so that others would seek to be like us, or even better, to be like Jesus.

Then we would truly have a merry Christmas, wouldn't we?

Amen.

Merry Christmas.

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