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Is Godly Love the True Spirit of Christmas?

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Is Godly Love the True Spirit of Christmas?
 
A Sermon Delivered to
The Compassion Internet Church
 
20 January 2013
 
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References:

Genesis 22:1-19
Deuteronomy 6:5
7:6-11
John 3:16
1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Preparation Verse: (Deuteronomy 6:5)

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

I don't suppose that many of us here are wondering what I'm going to be talking about today. That's probably because I've been emphasizing Christmas so much. Or, in particular, the true Spirit of Christmas, which is Jesus Christ born anew in our hearts and residing there.
 
Today, I believe we should center in on what this true Spirit of Christmas is all about. It is about a very special kind of love. It is the kind of love which God gives freely to us, and that which He desires us to share with others.
 
This is not the same kind of love that men and women have for each other.
 
It is also not the brotherly love that members of a family have for each other, or for that matter, that kind of affection that members of an organization have for each other.
 
No, the kind of love we are talking about is a very special Godly love.
 
There is hardly a child in Sunday school who doesn't know the verse that expresses this love more than any other. It is John 3:16.

16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."

We hope we all really listened to this verse, for it tells us why God gave us this Christmas gift of Jesus.
 
It’s because God deeply loved the world, the whole of creation, and not just us human beings, for He makes no distinction between His love for us, and all the other animals, and everything else He created and made.
 
This is the unconditional love we are talking about today.
 
Do you remember that very special Christmas present we have been talking about? Well, this is the love that is inside it.
 
But, as we said before, this present of God's love can only be opened by our willingness to accept that gift of God's love.
 
This is the kind of love that is expressed in our Old Testament lesson for today (Deuteronomy 7:6-11).

6. "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
 
7. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
 
8. but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
 
9. Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
 
10. but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face.
 
11. Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them.
NASB

God poured His love out upon Israel. He told them about the blessing they would receive if they accepted it, and He also told them the result of their non-acceptance of this love.
 
God is a holy and righteous God. He expects us to respect that, and believe Him when he says something. Our not believing Him is also our rejecting His love. Thus we make the choice of accepting the blessing or of accepting the curse.
 
Even though most Jewish people will not accept the concept, this Deuteronomy 7 scripture is a type of the Christmas story. It is a story of deliverance.
 
God's love sent us His Son on Christmas. We have that free will choice of accepting or rejecting His love and His Son, Jesus Christ.
 
Therefore, if we accept the love gift of John 3:16, with a repentant heart, we also get the added gift of forgiveness of our sins and yet a still more precious gift of eternal life; for when this happens, we are born again and gain new vision and understanding.
 
The most remarkable thing that happens when this occurs is that we are filled with so much love we hardly know what to do with it.
 
This love just seems to pour into us until it seems to overflow, and that is exactly the state God wants us in, for this love will grow cold unless we share it with others, all others, all other humans, all other animals, and the environment in which we all live.
 
And the more we seem to share with others, the more we seem to have to share. This is the true Spirit of Christmas that we have been talking about.
 
And who is the first one we are to share this love with? It is God Himself.
 
This is not so unusual for us to understand, for we normally do it anyway. When someone does something nice for us, we give them the gift of our thank you in return. When someone gives us a box of candy, don't we offer them back the first piece? So sharing God's love with Him should really be quite natural.
 
Our preparation Bible verse for today, Deuteronomy 6:5, says that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might. The Hebrew word for might, used here, means not only our physical strength but also the might of our physical possessions and the power of our mind. This last part means that it could cost us something to love God in return.
 
God doesn't really want us to give everything back to Him, does He? He most certainly does.
 
If He is willing to freely give us forgiveness of our sins when we don't deserve it, He expects us to freely accept His will, without reservations. That's really not so hard to understand. We just might not like the terms, for it could cost us everything.
 
The funny thing about this is that it costs even more not to accept these terms. I have never seen an armored car following a hearse to the cemetery so that we could take our possessions with us. So whether or not we accept God's terms, we cannot take our physical possessions with us; but if we reject His terms, we lose eternal life as well and, in its place, we get eternal death.
 
Another interesting thing about this is that God is more interested in our commitment than in our possessions.
 
Do you remember the account of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19)? Do you remember how God tested Abraham to see if he would truly trust Him, by telling him to offer up his son as a burnt offering?
 
God did not take Isaac; instead He provided a ram for Himself, but He could have taken Isaac. The key was that Abraham's love and trust in God was so strong that he knew that if God actually took the life of Isaac, He was also able to raise him from the dead.
 
We also need to remember that God does not want sacrifice, but He does want obedience, and since Abraham brought the pagan tradition of sacrifice to appease God, He used it to test Abraham.
 
This is the same kind of heart, soul, and might committed love that God wants from each of us. And in addition He wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Deuteronomy 19:18), which also requires us to love ourselves.
 
Wow! That is total commitment, isn't it?
 
It sure is! Particularly when we consider that it includes people we may not like, and the wild and domesticated animals.
 
And when we truly learn to commit totally to God, we will get a freedom from worry and stress that we never thought was possible.
 
Did you ever try parking two cars in a single car garage? It doesn't work very well, does it?
 
Well, this is exactly the same as our relationship with God. If we're all cluttered up inside, it doesn't give God any place to work in us. So God wants us to commit everything over to Him, so that there will be room for Him to work. Even this is His love, isn’t it?
 
We really only think we need the things we want. God knows what's best. When our little children say they need or want something, don’t we as loving parents make a determination of what is really best for them, as well as the rest of the family? Since we are created in the image of God, perhaps we got this concept from our heavenly Father.
 
What we have been talking about is that true love is not an over permissiveness, but is doing what is best for those we love, which is also to be unlimited. But there is a lot more to true love than this. And that brings us to our New Testament lesson for today, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

1. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
 
2. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
 
3. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
 
4. Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
 
5. does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
 
6. does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
 
7. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
 
8. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
 
9. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;
 
10. but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
 
11. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
 
12. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.
 
13. But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
NASB

What these verses are saying is that if we don't have love, unconditional Godly love, everything we do will appear to be nothing more than a lot of noise, and disturbing noise at that.
 
But with love, everything we do will be as soft music to sooth the souls of those we come in contact with. There is something about a loving approach that is appreciated even if the effort didn't work out as intended.
 
The act of this Godly love is more important than the act of work.
 
Have you ever been around someone who was in great pain or dying, and there wasn't anything that you could do for them?
 
Maybe you couldn't even think of anything to say. All you could do was to sit with them, and maybe hold them, as the only way you could say, "I love you."
 
In those times, that act of love probably meant more to that person than anything else you could do.
 
In those times do you know whose hand you were really holding? You were holding the hand of Jesus Christ. For what we do unto the least of the brethren, we do unto the Lord Himself, and we strongly believe that this concept also applies to all the animals.
 
Therefore, the way we show our love to each other, all others, is a direct reflection on what our true relationship is with God.
 
"Hey Frank," you may be saying; "That hurts! That's not fair!"
 
Yes, I know it hurts, for I am also preaching this message to myself; and while preparing it, several times I had tears fill my eyes. But it is fair, for God wants us off the fence and totally committed to Him.
 
That hurt we feel is God's love also. He's just pulling at a heart string. He's convicting us.
 
As long as we're convicted by these things, God is still able to mold us and remold us into the person He wants us to be. But if we harden ourselves as a piece of clay put into a kiln, then we cannot be reworked ever again. I pray that never happens to any of us.
 
See, if we have this Godly love within us, and overflowing from us:
 
We will be patient with each other.
 
We will be kind to one another.
 
We will not be jealous.
 
We will not brag or be arrogant.
 
We will not force our own desires on others, including other animals, but do what is becoming before the Lord.
 
We will not try to exalt ourselves over others.
 
We won't get provoked when others do things we don't like, and we won't hold it against them.
 
We will not rejoice in unrighteousness, but will rejoice in the truth.
 
And we will bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.
 
How can we ever hope to live this way?
 
We can if we believe all things that God has laid out before us.
 
We can if we put our hope and trust in God to accomplish what He says He will do, and then wait patiently for Him to accomplish it.
 
Have you ever truly listened to yourself saying the Lord's Prayer? "Forgive us our trespasses." How? "As we forgive those who trespass against us." Ouch! That hurts also, doesn't it?
 
If we can't love and forgive our enemies, then we are actually praying that God should not forgive us either. This one is almost like having a knife stuck in our hearts, isn't it? But this is what God desires.
 
Oh Lord! Forgive us for the hardness in our hearts. Please remove those hard places within us and make us pliable to your will.
 
Fill us to overflowing. Help us to truly love each other, as you love us.
 
Amen!