by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
Keynote Speaker, CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries
Week 2 of Advent: Hope
Sacrificial love always gives so others can have more
During the Christmas season, children always hope to receive the gifts they want. Parents often sacrifice so that the kids can get the gifts they asked for. In today’s world, children don’t always recognize the sacrifices their parents make for them. We don’t always recognize the sacrifices our bosses make, or the ones our spouses make. We take it for granted, or we feel it’s their responsibility to sacrifice, or we feel entitled to receive. However, one little boy recognized through the lesson of fractions the sacrificial love his mother would make.
A teacher had been teaching fractions to her students and wanted to know how much they were understanding the concept. So she asked a boy in the class: “Suppose your mother baked a pie and there are six of you — your mother, your father, and four children. What percentage of the pie would you get?”
“One-fifth,” replied the boy.
Disappointed and wondering how she could explain fractions better, she said to the boy, “I’m afraid you don’t know your fractions. Remember, there are six of you.”
“I know,” said the boy, “but you don’t know my mother. She would say she didn’t want any pie so we could have more.”
Christ wanted us to have more
Christ also wanted us to have more. He wanted us to have hope for eternal life. He wanted us to have hope for redemption of sin. And He wanted us to have hope for a restored fellowship with God. That’s why He left heaven and came to earth.
Before He became our sacrificial-debt-settler, the people had to sacrifice animals over and over again to find redemption for their sins. But that method was a “temporary fix” to our sin problem. It was a representation of what Jesus would do when He came to earth. They only had the hope of the coming Messiah. But a baby changed everything. Christ was the permanent solution. He is our “more.” He is our hope.
Just as the mother’s love for her family is revealed by not wanting pie, so God’s love is revealed to us by sending His One and Only Son to earth as both God and man to live, die, and live again so that our sin debt is paid. So if you’ve ever wondered if God loves you, remember the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb. Because in these, we can have hope.
In 1 John 4:9-10 God reveals His love for us and we see what His love consists of.
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Actions without Words
A couple sat in a pastor’s office attempting marriage counseling as a last resort before divorce. The pastor asks the husband, “why do you want a divorce?”
“I don’t. I have no idea why she wants this.”
The pastor looked at the wife, “Mrs. Smith, why do you want a divorce?”
Angrily, she blurted, “He just doesn’t love me anymore.”
Shocked by her words, the husband said, “Doesn’t love you? How could you get that idea?”
“Because you never tell me you love me!”
“I say it every single day! I say it when I worked hard to provide for you and when I have been there for you. And I say it when I have stood up for you and defended you. I said it when I gave you children to make sure you would not be alone in your old age. I say it when I make sure your car runs properly so you don’t break down. And I say it every moment of every day because every single thing I do is because I love you!”
The wife burst into tears and ran into her husband’s arms. Instantly, he wrapped his arms around her and tenderly said, “Shh now. Don’t cry.”
The pastor then heard the weeping woman say, “I just needed to hear the words too.”
The husband chuckled and said, “I told you I loved you on our wedding day. If it ever changes, I’ll let you know.”
While the pastor understood the husband was teasing his wife, he cleared his throat and said, “Ummm Tom, I think if I were you I’d say it every day and as often as you can.”
Tom shook the pastor’s hand and said, “Thanks pastor. I got that message loud and clear.”
To know we are loved, we need both words and action
The husband was revealing his love for his wife, but never said the words. He assumed she understood his love for her through his action. After all, actions speak louder than words – right? And yet, she longed to hear the words. Without the words, the husband is just a good provider, protector, and husband. In her mind, for his actions to reveal love, the she needed to hear the words. Without the words, she felt little hope in his love for her and as a result she felt little hope in their marriage.
The opposite could also be true. Someone could tell us they love us but without the actions that reveal that love, we’d sooner or later begin to doubt the words. To know we are loved we need both the words and the actions that back up the words so that the truth of the words is revealed.
God tells us He loves us, but Jesus’ birth proves it
Over and over again in God’s Word, He tell us He loves us. In fact, the Bible is God’s love letter to us. And yet, we want to know the proof of His love. Have you ever said, “If God loves me, then why….” That’s a moment that you’re looking for the proof of His love. Or maybe you feel as if you have sinned too much and there is no hope that God could love you. Maybe you’ve been put down and rejected so often in life that you feel like you are not worthy enough for God’s love. Whatever it is that makes you doubt God’s love for you, then I want you to hear the words of 1 John 4:9-10 because God revealed His love to you in the most expressive and expensive way anyone ever could – He sent us Christ.
Christmas is a celebration of God’s revealed love that gives us hope
As we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating God’s revealed love to us. Verse 9 says: “God’s love was revealed among us in this way.” God’s love isn’t a mystery or secret or reserved for a few. He wanted us to know and understand His love for us. He wanted us to have the undeniable proof for when we are scared, feel alone, hurt, grieving, or we just don’t understand why something happened. So… He revealed it. Let’s see how He revealed His love to us, what He revealed, and why He revealed it.
God sent us a gift
Don’t you love to receive a gift from your spouse – especially an unexpected gift for no reason other than because of his/her love for you? God sent us a gift – for no other reason than because He loves us. He didn’t have to send it. If God were only a God of judgment he could look at each one of us and say, “Yup. Another broken, imperfect human. That one sinned too.” And then marks you down for the “doomed” list on the way to hell. But God isn’t a God of only judgment. He is also a God of love, grace, and mercy where we can find forgiveness of our sins because of the gift He sent. That’s what Christmas is all about. Celebrating God’s gift He sent to us. As you unwrap gifts this Christmas, I hope it will remind you of God’s gift to you.
God’s gift was His One and Only Son – and that’s our hope
After two miscarriages and nine long months of worry, on the day after Christmas (and the day before my birthday) I finally held in my arms a baby. A little boy, perfectly made. Healthy. The cutest little baby you ever saw. Three and a half years later God surprised with a baby girl who is the sweetest, lovable, and most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen. Today, my son is 24 and my daughter is 21. As they began their college years and then my son got his first apartment, I experienced the part of parenting where you send them out into the world. I thought as Rayce packed up his things and moving day came, how did we get here so quickly?
I remembered sitting on the couch with him as a brand new baby and marveling over his tiny fingers and toes. Then I thought the time when mommy was his world and he wanted to grow up to be an astronaut so he could pick the stars out of the sky and bring them home to mommy. Now, all of a sudden, I have to let him go – into the world. A place of sin and evil.
I spent the day helping Rayce move and settle into his apartment and as I drove away towards home, I felt as if I left part of my heart in that apartment. And I thought, did God feel this way sending Jesus into the world? When God sent us His One and Only Son into the world, He was sending us part of His heart. In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” Because God and Jesus are one – when Jesus was born, God literally sent a part of who He is to us.
God sent Jesus so that we could live
Why did He send his Son to us? So that we might live through Him. Because our brokenness and sin separated us from God and the just wages of our sin is death (Romans 6:23), God provided a way to restore our relationship with Him by sending Jesus to earth. Wages are what we are paid for what we do in life. If you work forty hours on your job, you receive wages for your work in the form of a paycheck. The wages we receive for our sin comes in the form of death and eternal separation from God. So God sent Jesus to us to pay the debt for us.
Jesus, who never sinned, took the punishment for our sins in our place. In John 15:13, Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” If you ever wonder about Christ’s love for you, then just take time to remember what He went through as part of the cross: the mocking, the hatred of the people, the betrayal of Judas, the crown of thorns, the beating that shredded his body, the nails piercing His hands and feet, the hours of hanging on the cross – just for you.
At any moment He could have said, “Nope – this is more than I bargained for. I didn’t imagine it would be this bad. I’m not doing this.” He could have instantly vanished and returned to heaven and leave us without any hope – but he stayed, humbly being obedient to His Father’s plan for our redemption and endured the torture of the cross and death – for you. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:8, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross.”
What is God’s love like?
John doesn’t just tell us how God revealed His love for us, but in verse 10, he tell us what is not consisted within His love, what is consisted within His love, and what it cost Him to love us.
God’s love is not based on our love for Him
First, God’s love does not consist of our love for Him. He doesn’t love us because we love Him – He loves us unconditionally – even while we were His enemy. Romans 5:8 says, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” If God only sent Jesus after we loved him, then Jesus would have never been sent. John wrote in 1 John 4:19, We love because He first loved us. It is because He loved us that He sent Jesus. He loves us whether we love Him or not. There is no part of God’s love for us that is dependent on whether we love Him or not.
God loves us even if we hate Him
Second, God’s love consists of His love for us. Even if you hate God – He still loves you enough that He sent Jesus to die for you in your place – and there is nothing that can change it. Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Psalms 136:26 says that God’s steadfast love endures forever. Lamentations 3:22 says that “steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” Isaiah 54:10 says, “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”
God’s love cost Him Something
Third, God’s love is both lavish and expensive. It cost him something – His Son. His love for us consists in Jesus being the propitiation for our sins. The Greek word for “propitiation” is hilasmos and basically it is God’s plan that satisfies the payment for our sins. Because God is a holy God, His anger and justice demands that be punished. When Jesus became our propitiation, he became the appeasement or satisfaction for our sin debt toward God.
He not only appeased God’s wrath, but also provided reconciliation to Him. He became our substitute, taking on himself all the sins of every person and paid the price through agony and blood that washes away sin. Because Christ willingly became our substitute, we can come to Him by faith, ask Him to forgive us our sins, and surrender our lives to Him as we ask Him to be our Savior. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift.”
As with every gift, you must choose to accept or reject God’s gift
With every gift offered, we have a choice to receive and accept the gift or we can decline and reject it. In order for Jesus to be the propitiation for your sins, you much choose to accept His gift through faith. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by me.” There is no other way. Only by faith.
You must believe that Jesus is who He said he was – the Son of God. You must recognize that you are a sinner, lost, and eternally separated from God. And You must acknowledge that the only way to receive God’s forgiveness is through the sacrificial, shed blood of Jesus who died on the cross for you, was buried, and then rose again three days later. Then you can ask Him to forgive you of your sins and invite Him to be your Lord and Savior. A Baby changes everything for us. What will you do with the gift God sent? Will Jesus be born in you this Christmas? Will He be your Hope for everlasting life and a relationship with the God who loves you?
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God, Love and Marshmallow Wars by Julia M. Bruce
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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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