by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
Keynote Speaker, CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries
Week 4 of Advent: Love
Reflecting on God’s love
Christmas is, of course a time of joy and celebration of the birth of our Savior. When we celebrate birthdays with cake, balloons, streamers, games, and ice cream. It’s a party. Wouldn’t you find it odd if your friends threw you a birthday party and as you walked into the room all your friends and family whispered, “surprise!” And then they spent the next 30 minutes singing soft songs about your life and quietly, reverently, and respectfully discussed your good qualities? However, if you attend a Christmas Eve service at your church, you will likely spend the evening holding a lit candle, singing some Christmas carols and your pastor will have a message that reflects on the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of our Savior.
It is good to take time to reflect on the love of God that made a way through the birth of Jesus for us to have the gift of salvation. We need to take some time away from the hustle and bustle of shopping, cooking, wrapping gifts, attending concerts and parties and just be still and quiet. But it seems odd to celebrate a birthday in such a way.
Love often doesn’t make sense
If we think about it, love often doesn’t make sense. We see this in the very reason that Jesus was born.
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
God knew what was going to happen to His Son. God knows how evil and perverted this world is. He didn’t create the world this way. Our sinful nature takes everything God made and perverts it. As a mother, it can be hard to understand how God would allow Jesus to endure the cross. It’s the most well known statement in the world, but, as a parent, it is difficult to process. How could God do that to his own Son? I wouldn’t willingly put my kids in a dangerous place and let thugs beat the crap out of them and kill them. No sane parent would do that. On the surface this doesn’t make sense.
Love is foolish to those headed for destruction
But God explains Himself throughout the Bible for why He sent Jesus to us. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the vey power of God.” For those who do not believe in Jesus this is all foolish and silly. Love does not make sense to those who do not know and understand the perfect love of God. 1 John 1:9 says, “God is love.” So for those of us who know Love (God), it is not silly and foolish. It is power. Power over sin, death, and hell. It is power of Satan and this world. Why? Paul tell us in Romans 8, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus form the dead, lives in you.”
So, Jesus coming into the world as God in the flesh may seem foolish to the disbeliever, but to me, He is the power that drives my life.
Love is always sacrificial
John 3:16 teaches us a second thing about love. It is always sacrificial.
Just because I obey the law does not mean I love the law. I obey the law because it honors God and I would prefer to not face the consequences of breaking the law. Many Christians misunderstand this concept in their Spiritual life. They think if they tithe a few dollars, go to church when they can, get baptized, and sign up a few times a year on the volunteer list then they are OK with God. But that’s not love. It isn’t sacrifice.
God love the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. God is love. He shows us what love is. Love is sacrifice. Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to you life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
Love is sacrifice. A genuine follower of Jesus does not decide what part of their life to give to God, they give their all. We all make mistakes. We all sin. Not a single person is perfect, so it is a struggle. I can claim to love God, but, love isn’t defined by what I say, or even what I do. I can do religious stuff and not sacrifice a thing. Love is sacrifice. This is the message Jesus teaches.
Have I sold out my life for Jesus?
It is easy to accept things the way they are and maintain a status quo. Most of us have problems with change. So, We do church the way we always do it and we get stuck in a rut in our relationship with Jesus because we do not take the time to intentionally invest in our relationship with Him by identifying the areas of spiritual growth that need attention. We allow the kids, careers, hobbies, and relationships become more important.
The sad result is that we do not have the intimate relationship with Jesus that He longs to have with us. Getting stuck in a rut isn’t love. Love is sacrifice. A great place to start evaluating your relationship with God is to reflect on the question: “Have I sold out my life for Jesus?” And what better time to reflect on this question than on Christmas Eve as we reflect on His birth. God simply gave you His Son because He loves you. But we cannot assume for a moment that God will allow us to abuse His great sacrifice by living the same way we’ve always lived. Love is sacrifice. Jesus demands your life in exchange for His. But when we think about that, it isn’t even a bargain. It’s a rip off for Him because while we take on his righteousness, he took on our sins as He bore them on the cross.
A Christmas Revolution Challenge
So this Christmas Eve, as you pause the celebration of Christ’s birth, I want to challenge you to ask the Holy Spirit what you are sacrificing. As a part of our human nature we have a tendency to slip into the comfortable and the routine. There is not sacrifice in the routine. There is no sacrifice in comfort. It is spiritually necessary for us to contemplate our journey with God and ask on simple question with huge implications: “Have I sold out my life for Jesus?” I want to challenge you to not set a resolution to sell out to Jesus – but instead have a revolution. There is no turning back in a revolution. A resolution is simply a stated desire or opinion. A revolution, however, is a change in thinking and a complete replacement of what you are. Revolutions take a crowd and if we have a spiritual revolution, we would see the revival our world so desperately needs.
Give Jesus your life. Everything you are. Everything you own. Ask God to use it all for His purpose and for His glory. Have you sold out your life for Jesus? What do you need to sacrifice today?
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God, Love and Marshmallow Wars by Julia M. Bruce
What’s Inside God, Love and Marshmallow Wars?
God, Love and Marshmallow Wars is a book that includes 365 daily activities and takes you on a guided journey through Biblical principles about Godly marriage that you can then apply to your marriage, as well as helping you talk through concepts that can help you develop a solid relationship. Inside you will find simple, quick activities that include:
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