SO Loved …!
It is the truth of the Bible, in a single verse. And it is the message of Christmas. It is all about His love …and may the grace of God make it your experience in life, for it is a truth that needs to be assimilated and experienced to become flesh in the very core of your being. It may be a verse that is very familiar to you, one that you have heard time and time again. For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life. [John 3:16] But, looking afresh this day at this timeless truth, may grace take you from where you are to where God wants you to be, to experience and express it in your life, for the Lord Immanuel, the Prince of peace is with you today.
He so loved you, that He gave .. :
It is how God has expressed His love for you. He so greatly loved, dearly prized and valued you and I, and all of humanity, that He gave what He most dearly loved, His very own Son. It was, and still is, so great a love. His love for you, the greatness of it, has to be understood by what He has given to you. For, when you present a gift to your loved ones, how much you value them can be gauged by the thought, effort and value that you put into giving them what you think will bring much joy in their hearts. And also on the flip side, when you receive something that is not at all up to the potential of what is within the means of a person, then how much they value you becomes very plain.
But, with God, it could be an underestimating of the value that He places on you that can happen. It is when you become satisfied with just the material benefits that you receive from Him, the good things that are plainly seen, though of course it is not a diminishing of their worth in any way. It could be the house you live in, the transportation that you enjoy, the family in which you find your joy, the work that is fulfilling, and income that comes into your hand which are all a blessed gift from God. And, you could be thankful and satisfied with it all, to expect nothing that is higher, deeper and powerful. But, though you could be satisfied, God is not satisfied with material blessings alone ! He wants to give you something greater, as the full expression of His love for you. It can be compared in a very small way to a mother’s love for her son or daughter, and the attitude within her, when it comes to preparing a delectable meal for them. And, they may have eaten to their heart’s content, but the mother’s heart would not be satisfied, as she would urge them to eat some more ! It is the expression of her love that makes her go the extra mile when it comes to her children !
How much more would it be with your Father in heaven, when it comes to giving you so that His heart is satisfied, and not just yours, I love you so much, that I give to you what I love the most, is what God is inherently declaring to you, to establish in you the confidence with which you can align your mind with the words of the apostle Paul, to say,He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, will He not together with Christ, freely and graciously give us all things ? [Romans 8:32] If your greatest need, the need for a Savior, has been provided, how much more all your other needs, together with Him, is the truth that will set you free from all anxiety, to rest in the peace of God that is beyond understanding. Therefore, the knowledge of His love for you has to be understood in what He has given. He gave His only Begotten, His most precious Son. And, when by faith you believe and receive the Lord Jesus in your heart, it is then that you experience the fullness of God’s love for you.
Christmas needs to be Christ ‘must’ ! :
To know that God loves you, you need Jesus ! It is why Christ needs to be a ‘must’ in your Christmas. And, what the world considers to be an inseparable part of your Christmas celebration, the fancy gifts that you expect to receive, your adornment and attire, the rich feast that is laid out on the table, are all not wrong, but are secondary. For, without Christ you cannot experience God’s love, and as a sad consequence of it, you also will not be able to express real love towards any one. The Lord’s words make it clear, in His High Priestly prayer, that He offered unto His Father, knowing that His time had come , I in them and You in Me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent Me, and have loved them as you have loved Me. [John 17:23]
Cryptic they may appear to be, but not really so, as you scripturally approach it. And in the last portion of it, the Lord unravels and establishes a beautiful truth. It is in His love for you, that God gave Jesus. He sent Jesus for you. And, even more staggering is the truth that the world will know that God loves you, because He sent Jesus ! It is the greatest indicator of God’s love for you. Therefore, if you have not experienced Jesus in this manner, your perception of what real love remains limited and incomplete. But with God, who never gives up on you, there is always room for you to grow into the truth of the knowledge of His love for you. You may not always feel His love, or a warm happy emotion that you associate with the love of God. But, it is when you know the truth of His love, that feelings follow, and it is when your thoughts are right, that good emotions will follow. They are the background music to whatever your thoughts are. And hence, when your thoughts are joyful, as in a wedding scenario, the music of your emotions will be celebratory and happy. But when your thoughts are of doom and gloom, there will be funeral music running through your emotions ! Feelings are like vapor, and can be like a mirage that is a mere illusion, that will deceive you when you depend upon it.
It is the knowledge of the truth that is real, and sets you free, as you believe and declare it. ‘I know in whom I have believed, and put my trust’, are the words that the apostle Paul was able to declare, when it came to remaining without any anxiety concerning all that he entrusts to the Lord. It is the knowledge of the truth and receiving the truth rightly that revolutionizes your life to see restoration come. You need to know therefore that God loves you, and also declare it, though at times you may not feel that God loves you. And the Christmas story, is not a fairy tale, as those who question its veracity would like you to believe. It is undisputed truth that has divided history into two ! In fact, when you state the date of your birth, you are acknowledging the number of years that have elapsed since Christ was born into this world. You are attesting to a historical fact.
HIS Story and your story :
History is nothing but the truth of His Story, all the way from Genesis to Revelation. And unlike how some people perceive it to be, it is not cyclic, and does not repeat itself. Rather it is directional, and proceeding forward towards a specific and glorious climax that would be way beyond what you and I can ever imagine ! And, He can also change the direction of your life, for the moment Christ enters your life, when you receive Him as your personal Savior, He splits your life into two, as your life before Christ, and your life after Christ. For, at that point, you become a new creation in Christ, where all old things have passed away, and everything has become new. [2 Corinthians 5:17] It is then that Paul’s words become the truth in your life too declaring, And now, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [Romans 8:1]
What is condemnation ?
From a judicial point of view, you and I were condemned to die for we were sinners, and the wages of sin is death, or an eternal separation from God. To claim innocence would have been untrue. And, it is then that the Lord Jesus stepped down, to carry the punishment for your sin and mine and the sins of the whole world on the Cross. It was the one perfect sacrifice that perfected forever all those who draw near to Him in faith. And you are declared righteous, for the Lord has paid it all on Calvary. Condemnation also involves being rendered useless or worthless, for it is what the evil one does in your life. He comes to steal, kill and destroy. But, in the sight of God, you are of great value. He loves you. And, how can you know it ? He sent His Son for you !
And, the Son is now in you ! :
The Savior in His High Priestly prayer goes on to say unto His Father, ‘And I have declared to them Thy Name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them’. [John 17:26] The last portion of the verse is what clinches the argument and seals it, when the question is about how you can know that God loves you. It is a wonderful step by step progression that the Lord establishes, to settle you in His truth. Thus, you know that God loves you, because ,
a. He sent you His Son, Jesus Christ, b. He loves His Son, and He loves you with the same love. And, how does He show it ? c. The Son, Lord Jesus Himself is in you now.
And the love of God has been poured into your heart by Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ who has been given unto you. [Romans 5:5] It is all about His love, God so loved you that He gave His Only Begotten Son The Son so loved you, that He gave Himself for you, and, The Spirit so loves you that He is in you forever. He never leaves or forsakes you, though He is the Spirit of Truth, and can see through the mask and pretence with which you and I can sometimes delude the world !
And, God so loving you, has three wondrous aspects to it. It is unconditional, sacrificial and eternal.
1. LOVE – unconditional :
Human love is always conditional; terms and conditions apply will inevitably be a part of it ! Like mindedness too is similar, for it is a relationship that operates on the premise of having similar likes and interests in life. The members of a cricket club will naturally be people who are all interested in the game of cricket, in some way or the other. And in a marriage relationship that is purely based on such a principle, on what is popularly termed as ‘compatibility’, it can quite often turn out to be incompatibility ! For, the quiet nature of a person, that was attractive before marriage, and was the point of compatibility, could end up becoming the very point of irritating distraction after marriage !
But with God, His love is unconditional. He is love and love never fails, declares the word of God. [1 Corinthians 13:8] Therefore, a love that fails, or gives up, has only been revealed to be not love at all, in the first place ! And, what is real love can be gauged, only if you have a relationship with God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, you need Jesus ! You may say your need is something else. For, you could be at the end of your monetary resources, and need a financial breakthrough. It could be a crippling illness, for which you need healing. Your family relationships could be broken and splintered, needing reconciliation and restoration. But, the answer to it all is Jesus. For, it is together with Him that God has freely and graciously given to you, everything else you need in your life. [Romans 8:32] And once again, God never asks you to do something that He has not done for you already. It is as you experience His unconditional love for you, that you can express it toward others.
On the night that He was betrayed .. :
The scriptures make it so painfully clear. It was on the night that He was going to be betrayed, knowing well that His own disciples were not going to stand with him, that the Lord established His covenant of love and grace with them. What else could it be but sheer unconditional love ? He showed the full extent of His love, and loved them till the end, the scripture states. [John 13:1] Lord Jesus, on the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat, this is my body broken for you’. [1 Corinthians 11:24,25]
Along with the disciples, you and I also stand, for we were all sinners, and it was for the sins of the whole world, that the Savior, the sinless Son of God, went to the Cross. And, it is unconditional, for it is irrespective of your response, whether you choose to align yourself with Him or not. Likewise He also took the cup after supper saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you’. [Luke 22:20] It was a covenant and not a contract that declares, ‘If you do not keep your end of the bargain, I am under no compulsion to keep my side of it’ ! He knew that His disciples were going to desert Him a few hours later. It was a demonstration of His unconditional love. And in life, when people do evil and harm to you, go against you, expressing love towards them would be impossible when you do not have a relationship with God, and have not experienced His unconditional love. You will not know what love is !
The lepers whom the Lord touched and healed, had lost all feeling in their skin, owing to their disease. But, by the Lord’s act, the men who had no feelings, regained their sensitivity on the inside, to be healed and made whole. One can never forget the touch of the Lord, when with unconditional love He intervened in your life and mine ! His grace is not the liberty to sin, for God is not mocked, and a man reaps what he sows. But, having experienced His love, you will want to do what is pleasing in His sight. In your life’s happenings, meet hatred with love, for it is stronger. Do not wait for the one who has hurt you to come to you, before offering forgiveness.
It is conditional love which demands an apology, before forgiving. But, it is not what the Savior demonstrated on the Cross. For, He was mocked and bruised, insulted and put to shame, but chose to say, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’. And, it was that proclamation, which made the centurion, at the foot of the Cross, turn to Christ, acknowledging Him as the Son of God. Unconditional love offers unconditional forgiveness. If He had marked our transgressions, where would you and I be ? He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west. Sins that were scarlet, washed by the Blood of the Lamb, have been made as white as snow. And it is on offer even now, to the one who turns to Him. It is a demonstration of His unconditional love. And, in your relationships with others, you will find that, offering and receiving forgiveness is freedom, a wondrous release that sets you free.
2. LOVE – sacrificial :
Greater love has no one than this; than to lay down one’s life for his friends. [John 15:13] It was a prophetic utterance of the Lord, concerning Himself. For, just a few days later, He would lay down His life very voluntarily on the Cross, as a demonstration of His love for His friends, the disciples who were gathered around Him. It connects also with the truth of God’s word in Paul’s epistle to the Romans that declares , But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8] ‘I am the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep’ was how He had described His identity and what He was going to do earlier. [John 10:11] He then clearly established what He was not. He was not the hireling, who worked for money, and looked out for his own selfish interests, at the cost of the well being of the sheep. In a much lesser level, when it comes to raising funds, you will that there are people who may be very good at getting others to contribute towards a worthy cause. But, how much of it was their personal contribution could be a question best left unasked !
And, how can you and I know what real love is ?
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. [1 John 3:16] It is the only kind of love there is; the God kind of love. God loves you, and voluntarily gave Himself for you. And, only this giving of Himself for you voluntarily, is sacrificial love. Anything else that you and I give unto Him in return is a privilege given unto us, to show our love for Him.
3. LOVE – eternal :
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8:38,39] God loves you. He loves you always. It is an eternal love that has no beginning or end. And, Paul writes out a long list therefore, of the inseparable nature of God’s love for you, because it is a love that is eternal. And, you experience His love by receiving it in faith. You cannot do anything to earn His love, just as you cannot do anything to earn your salvation. It is all a gift of God that you receive by faith in Him.
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, sums up the essence of his life therefore in these words , I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me. [Galatians 2:20] Paul’s declaration can be yours too, as a child of God. It is in knowing this truth that you are set free, the truth that He has ‘so loved you’. And therefore, you will overwhelmingly conquer through the One who loves you. Lifting up your cup of salvation therefore, offer your thanks unto Him, for He loves you; and He has forgiven you, shed all His Blood, gave up His life , to save you. May your heart be filled with the love of God by the Holy Spirit who has been given to you, for God so loved the world, has so loved you, unconditionally, sacrificially and eternally. Give thanks unto Him, for the glorious privilege that you now enjoy in being able to draw near His throne in joyous adoration; the privilege of being able to give unto Him, knowing the wondrous truth that all your needs are met according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
In the Name of Christ Jesus Amen.
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