Gaudy Christmas - Gaudy Love
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (John 15:13-14 KJV)
These verses are quoted from evangelical pulpits across the land more often at the time we celebrate the resurrection, rather than the birth of Christ, and appropriately so since the timing of these verses was the last week prior to the crucifixion. Pastor used vs 13 in Sunday's message when describing God's love toward man in Christ as He gave Himself a sacrifice and this was somewhat of a culmination of the John 3:16 verse "God so loved" that he began his message with. Let's dig a little deeper.
Pastor Matt described Jesus' offering of Himself as the greatest act of sacrificial love to ever take place and then took us to the Ephesians 5 explanation of Christ's love of the church for further understanding. What we have in this chapter is perhaps an example we can better grasp as Paul gives us similarities which this love of Christ has to what the love of a man (a saved man) should have for his spouse and even love for himself. We understand from the teaching earlier in this same chapter that these things are only possible to us as we are filled with the Spirit!
Our concept of love is influenced by so many things (tremendous background noise from the world), but as believers, we were challenged on Sunday to understand, embrace and allow to manifest the love of God in our lives as it is taught in Scripture. In effect, the Romans 5:5 love that has been "shed abroad" in our hearts by the Holy Spirit is present in abundance for the purpose that we not only show it to the church, which is His Body but equally to a lost and dying world!!!! (that makes them curious!)
Matt went on to speak of the unsustainable nature of "human" love. You know whether it is an unbeliever "trying" to love his neighbor through a confused sense of doing right in sufficient quantity to please God and make it to Heaven; or if it is a person having believed in the finished work of Christ on the Cross and yet still attempting to "love God more" through a list of some type, there is eventual frustration at the end. Of course, one leads to eternal damnation (which our enemy delights in), and the other leads to a hamster wheel of perpetual works (which our enemy also delights in).
So what is the solution to living in a world that loves hate and hates love (pastor's words)? Let's go back to the verses we began with. Jesus said (in my words)"here is the greatest form of love that a man can generate, that he lays down his life for his friends". And yet we find something added in Romans 5 that desperately needs our attention:
For when we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6 KJV)
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 KJV)
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10 KJV)
Man can love enough to die for his friends, we are told, and yet God's love toward us is such that while we were yet without strength and ungodly, while we were yet sinners, even while we were still enemies (not friends), Christ died for us!!!! That's God's love in this age of grace!!!! And the more we read of it and study it, especially in the instructions He left for the Body of Christ through our Apostle Paul for this time, then the more we plumb the depths of something that is beyond understanding.
In Acts 13:33, Psalms 2:7, Hebrews 1:5, and again in Hebrews 5:5 we see God proclaiming to Christ the Son "this day have I begotten thee," all of these being references to the resurrection and not the birth of Christ. Christmas is a joyous celebration of God coming to earth to perform that which was promised to Israel (Luke 1:68-75). The path for Gentiles was yet to be revealed to man absent exalted Israel (at the time of the crucifixion and for some time after it was still through Israel according to prophecy). There was as yet no understanding that Jew and Gentile would be concluded in unbelief together (the revelation of the mystery: absent the Law, absent Israel, absent any covenant.......the blood of Christ was also sufficient). This was all yet to be revealed and taught at this point. But at this perfect time (Gal 4:4-5) and not a minute too soon or too late the love of God manifest that would eventually:
- Lead to the blood of the Cross, and then
- The preaching of the Cross, and then
- Would provide the opportunity for man to accept the finished work of Christ which would allow him to
- Be indwelt by God the Holy Spirit, and then
- Dwell here on this earth as an ambassador of that same grace,
All of this began in the moment (before the foundations of the world) that God the Son chose to humble Himself and come to earth in the likeness of man (Phil 2:2-11 that "same love" which we are let reside in us that Matt spoke of Sunday).
Seeing all of this and knowing it was in the mind/plan of God before the foundation of the world:
IT TWERN'T PLAN B!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That's the love of Christ which passeth knowledge!!!!!
Study it all your own self, ingest all you can; it is a feast that has no endpoint with depths that cannot be plumbed to the end.