We live in a society that continually measures the depth of love based on the pleasure and comfort that someone or something brings.
I love chocolate.
I love this mattress.
I love this movie.
I love my spouse (until I don’t).
I love my job.
Love is an emotion for many of us, and by using love this way, we have lost the “choice” of love. We have lost the understanding of love as “action” versus love as “benefit.”
When love is an action, love is based on merit. When love is a benefit, love is based on feeling.
This faulty, feeling-based notion of love creates a serious issue in our theology as it relates to God. Too many of us are wondering if God loves us because we do not see him providing every benefit to us. Constantly, I hear people ask: "Why did God make this happen to me?" or "Why is God punishing me?"
In these comments, we realize that we have a faulty view of:
- God: God is not a genie in a bottle to serve us. We exist to serve him, manifest his glory, and reach people with the gospel.
- Jesus: Jesus came to rescue us from eternal judgment, not make our physical lives luxurious. Matter of fact, sometimes he asks us to give everything away and warns that we will be persecuted as his followers.
- Sin: Sin has left a destructive wake whereby no one is exempt from being caught in the wake of its shrapnel.
- Discipleship: Disciples have a real enemy called the devil who seeks to make our lives horrible for following Christ.
- Testimony: Which brings greater public credence to our faith: when we live for Christ in the midst of difficulty or ease?
Imagine how easy it would be to reach people if coming to Jesus automatically made everything in life work out? Also, think of the false, self-centered, sinful motives for coming to Christ? That is not the gospel. The gospel is about surrender to Christ not self-glorification. God’s love is not determined by his temporal benefits to us, but his actions on our behalf that results in an eternal benefit for all who believe.
So, as we enter into the holiday season, let us turn to the birth of Jesus as described in John 1 as evidence of God’s love for us.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1–3, 14)
Jesus is the eternal “Word.” He existed before creation. He was with God. Not only is Jesus co-existent with God, but He, himself, is Creator. Despite all of the glory belonging to who he is and all that he had, Jesus still came and dwelt among us bringing God’s presence to us so that we could one day dwell in God’s presence permanently.
In October 2015, my mother passed away in Birmingham, AL. A visitation time was held on a Wednesday night. As I was standing and talking with people, I looked up and saw two members of our congregation who drove 530 miles to be with me. It was amazing. When I saw them, I began to cry over the gesture of love they showed me. It was truly moving.
In a much greater way, Jesus sacrificed. When we talk about Jesus’ sacrifice, we often just reference his death on the cross, we must also understand that his sacrifice began with his coming into this world. He came to be with us and provide a path to eternal life.
The Creator connected himself intimately with his creation.
The one who fashioned all we see knowingly subjected himself to the confines of human flesh.
The light of the world dwelling in the glory of all of heaven encased himself in a dark lightless womb.
The one who would make room for all who believe in him came into a world that had no room for him.
The one who ruled on a throne slept in a filthy feeding trough.
The one with all the riches of heaven lived in the poverty of earth.
The eternal Word manifested himself to his humanity.
The uniquely begotten Son of God stepped out of the glory of heaven to bring the glory of the Father to us.
Does his birth not demonstrate his love for us?
So, this holiday season, with every cry of a baby, every stroller, every manger scene, every Christmas carol, let us put to rest any doubt of God’s love for us and give him praise.