JESUS CHRIST OUR GIFT OF LOVE (PART I)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
1 DECEMBER 1991
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Corinthians 8:2-3
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
1 John 4:18
Preparation Verse: (1 Corinthians 8:2-3)
If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent and, on the surface, it speaks to us of the coming of the birth of Jesus Christ.
But He already came 2,000 years ago.
Then why do we celebrate Advent?
Because we are not waiting for His first coming, but His second coming.
We have confused this season with all the commercialism.
We have a tendency to spend more than we can afford and, often, we expect to receive more than we deserve.
All of this puts us on an unequal footing, for the amount of money we spend
can quite easily be misunderstood as the amount of love we are expressing.
And the two have nothing in common; in fact, they may express just the opposite true feelings.
Jesus Christ is God the Father's gift of love to us and the rest of the the world, and our celebration of His birth is really to be a celebration of God's love for each and every one of us.
Ho! Ho! Ho!
Tis the season to be jolly.
All of this may be true, but it lacks the main message.
What we all really want is love; a true and undying love; a love that isn't
just for the season, but a love that will last throughout the year and well
beyond, even to the end of time.
Paul sent such a message of love to the Thessalonian church (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13).
We don't know what season it was sent in, but it nevertheless is a “Christmas card.” Let's turn to these verses and hear what he says.
9. For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account,
10. as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?
Doesn't it give you a wonderful feeling just to know that we bring joy to the
heart of someone else, and that the person just continues to thank God for us,
just because of who we are?
And when we have a problem, isn't it also a nice feeling to know that others are praying for us?
Paul is saying all of this to the Thessalonians; but at the same time, he is saying that he and the others with him want to complete what is lacking in their faith.
How dare someone say that there is something wrong with our faith?
It's all right if they tell us that they are sorry that we are sick, and wish they could come to comfort us, and bring us medicine to heal us; but don't talk about our faith – that's personal, or so people say.
Our physical bodies are only for this lifetime, and then they die.
Our bodies get sick, and they get injured, and they are most often healed; but there will come a time for all of us when we can no longer be healed, and we will die.
How much better it is to put at least as much effort into healing our spirits, which will never die.
Put your hand up if you would like to grow in faith, so that you would truly have the faith of the apostles, and even of Jesus Himself.
If your hand was up, you are also admitting that you are lacking in some aspects of your faith.
If you had someone give you a neatly wrapped package containing what you are lacking, wouldn't you be happy and joyful?
Well, that is exactly what Paul is saying he wants to do for the Thessalonians.
To want to help someone is an expression of love.
To want to help them spiritually is even a greater expression of love; for to do this, we must give of ourselves, and sometimes a great amount.
But to receive such a gift also requires love; a love that surpasses our pride; a love that understands our own weaknesses and understands the love that is reaching out to us.
We cannot place a price upon such a gift of love, for even all the money in the world couldn't buy it; but it is a gift that everyone can afford to give.
Then Paul continues with his Christmas card.
11. Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you;
What a nice way of saying, "We miss you! We wish we were with you." and that,
"We will do everything we can to come to see you."
But the key to the sincerity of their love is that they are placing their hope and trust in the Lord to accomplish this:
12. and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you;
13. so that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
Love is the basic ingredient to make us unblamable in holiness; for, as we have said before, if we love someone – truly love them – we wouldn't do anything to hurt them.
Thus, we fulfill all the laws of God concerning our relationship.
But as Paul is saying, we need to expand our love beyond those who are close to us. We need to have a true love for all people – even those we don't like – for this is pleasing to God.
And remember this is only the second greatest commandment. The greatest commandment is that we love God.
Our expression of this love is through our doing what is pleasing to the Lord, which includes loving others and all of His creation, which includes the animals and the environment in which we all live.
Let's look at an example of how limiting our love is an expression of how we limit our faith:
We often hear people say that they are an animal lover, but what they are really saying, is that they love their "pets", for at the same time, they are eating other animals, which is an expression of their lack of love for those animals.
Others see no problem with hunting and boasting about their exploits to others.
However, their are others who truly love all animals and would never think of harming any of them, and thus they don't eat them, and do everything they can to protect all animals from harm.
And these sensitive people are emotionally hurt by the lack of love and indifference of other when it comes to the suffering of billions of animals, and by so doing, they are saying that they really don't love these sensitive people, either.
There isn't one of us here who doesn't need to grow in love in some aspect of our lives.
So, like Paul, I am sending you this same Christmas prayer: that each and every one of us will be ready for the coming of the Lord.
And hopefully, because we love, others will come seeking the Lord, so that they, too, may be ready.
In Luke 21:25-28, Jesus tells us something about His second coming, and why
our love is so important now.
25. "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves,
26. men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
27. "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
Do you know why so many people in the world will have such fear?
It's because they lack love, the perfect love of God, as we are told in 1 John 4:18.
18. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
People fear the unknown because they lack in faith, but as we increase in love, the more we will find our faith increasing until we no longer have any fear.
If we have this perfect love of God within us, then Luke 21:28 is for us:
28. "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
I believe that these things are beginning to take place.
So Christians, straighten up! Lift up your heads! Show the love of Christ within you to those who fear.
Show your love to those who are abused and fearful, so that their fear will disappear.
And likewise, show your love toward the oppressors of this world, so that their fear will also disappear; for what they do is also because they fear.
God's love has no limits and neither should ours.
Give the gift of love this year, and every day of the years to come.
And the world will be a little better because of you.
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