Four Gifts of Christmas – LOVE

AUDIO:

Pastor Dan Borgelt (Transcription):
“Well as we said from the outset here at Kirkmont, for our Advent Series we’ve been introducing various topics. A few weeks ago we address the topic of PEACE; and then a couple weeks ago we address the topic of JOY; and then last week we addressed the topic of HOPE.

And now we come to the topic of LOVE.

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But what we’ve been doing is addressing those topics, at least a little different through the beginning of our message.  So what I’ve been doing for my introduction is taking the time to share with you a part of my testimony… and by that word what I mean is just my story about how I’ve come to faith in Jesus Christ.

And I shared a part of my testimony to bring us into each of the various topics PEACE, JOY, HOPE, and now LOVE.

And so to recap, for those of you who might not have been here with us the last few weeks, the things that we’ve talked about so far…

I shared with you guys, that I like maybe many of you, did not grow up in the Christian home, in fact in many ways I grew up in a home that was very opposite of a Christian home.

I grew up in and a house where at an early age I became aware that my father was being abusive towards my mother…  physically abusive towards her.

And then when I was in fifth grade, my life really changed when it came out that my two older sisters shared that my father was abusing them is well, in a different more private way.

And so my mother separated from my father upon hearing that news.  But it was in that dark time that I received the greatest news that I had ever heard, and that was my mom sat me down one night, and she told me about God’s love for me and His desire to have a relationship with me; and how Jesus Christ is the one that made that possible.

By the end of the night we kneeled beside each other and I prayed to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.

And then as the story continued, a few months later my mother decided to bring my father back into the house.

But before she brought him back into the house, the abuse that my sisters experienced with my father, I experienced with him as well–he’d used me in the same way.

And so as you can imagine my sisters and I were not excited about the idea of my dad coming back into the home.  But nonetheless he did.

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Last week we ended on the note of HOPE.

We ended on a note of HOPE because someone invited our family to start going to church.  And it was a church that was designed for people just like our family situation–broken, far from God, really seeking in many ways….

And God used the church particularly the pastor to really speak to me and help me grow in my relationship with him.

And then a couple years later when I was in high school, the physical abuse between my father and mother did not stop and so eventually, my mom divorced my dad, and like maybe some people here in this room I did the back and forth thing.  I spent two weeks with my mom, and then two weeks with my dad, and two weeks with my mom, and then two weeks with my dad.

And I was allowed to continue to see my dad because at that point I had not shared about the abuse with anyone.  And so they continued to let me see him.

LOVE candle- Pastor Dan & Amanda

But today we come to the topic of LOVE.  Now how do we wrap “Love” up in all of this?

Well I’ll begin by telling you about my relationship with Christ personally… it began to grow when I was in high school.

As I said, I was I was at a church where God was using the minister to speak to me.  And it’s probably where I first sort of caught the vision of the idea of going into the ministry, because God was using this pastor to speak to me about my relationship with Jesus Christ.

And my relationship with Christ was growing and maturing.  And I was experiencing a love through my relationship with Christ like I had never experienced before–in my family or otherwise.

But I also discovered that not only does God have this wonderful way of showing us his love for us through our personal relationship with him, and in reading our Bible and spending time in prayer… but He also shows us his love through other people as well.

And I think the first time that I really experienced that was my senior year of high school.  I had a guy who worked with an organization called Young Life

…which is a ministry to teenagers in public schools.  And he started connecting with some of the kids at my school, and in senior year of high school he connected with me.

He was a young man himself, a college student, and just developed a friendship with me.  And it was the first time that I had someone walk beside me and show me, in a relational way what it was like to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

And he began just living the love of God, and the love of Christ out in our relationship on a regular basis.

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I think the next person who really showed me the love of God and the love of Christ in a personal, relational way… I’d have to fast forward a few years to my college years.

And I’m not just saying this because she happens to be in the room, but my wife Amanda. 

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I had never, maybe like some of you, I had never seen a healthy relationship unfold.  And I had been in many unhealthy relationships throughout my high school years.

And Amanda was the first person who had the Christian maturity to demand that our relationship was healthier than what I had done in the past.  And also to show me the love of Christ and to bring our relationship to a Christ-centered relationship like I hadn’t experience before.

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And so God really used my young life leader and her to show me the love of Christ in a different way than I had been shown before.

And through all of those experiences, God kept reassuring me that he was calling me into the ministry.

And at the end of the day I think the simple way of lighting the Advent Candle of Love this morning is about saying that I just became aware that because God had loved me so much….  and had shown me his love so abundantly.

(Pastor Dan prepares to light the Candle of LOVE)

I was excited and enthusiastic about the opportunity to be able to talk about that LOVE as my calling… as my job.

And so we’ve litten the Candle of Peace… and Joy… and Hope… and now we light the Candle of LOVE.

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And I’m excited to be able to talk to you this morning about the Love of Christ that is found in the Christmas story for you and I.

I want to open up a passage of Scripture with you together this morning.

Now in the past, in the last few weeks, we’ve been all over the Bible with all kinds of different Scriptures; but this morning, we’re going to open up to one passage and we’re going to walk through the passage together.

So I’d love to have you take the time to consider opening up a Bible that’s in the pew or one that you have with you and walk through it with me.

If not though that’s all right we will have it on the screen behind us.  It’s going to be the Book of First John.

Transcriber’s Note: 
Pastor Dan is an educator… notice how he invites (and has invited) those unfamiliar with the Bible to embrace it… notice how he teaches where the ‘Book’ is…  and so HUMOROUSLY too.

Now here’s the thing I need to tell you about the Book of 1st John as you’re trying to find First John.

It’s not the first John that you come to. (LAUGHTER after a second of silence of silence till we get it 🙂 )

That’s John.

First John’s the second John; second John’s the third John; and third John’s the fourth John. (laughter)

John is somewhere you know near the end but not really close to the end… but First John is really near the end, right before the Book of Revelation.

So go to the end and then start to work your way back; and you’ll see first, second, and third John, and we are in FIRST JOHN, the 2nd John, chapter four… starting in verse seven.

(Guarded LAUGHTER… because not only are they turning the pages, they are humbled by his eloquence). Now wasn’t that both funny and GOOD?

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OK… the other thing I want to share with you is you’re trying to find first John, is that John is writing after Jesus… not that there’s really such thing as “after Jesus”… but Jesus at this point in time has arrived on the scene, he’s been born, a Christmas story has happened, he’s lived his life; He’s been crucified, dead, buried, ROSE FROM THE DEAD…. seen by many other people, and then ascended into heaven.

That has all happened now.  And now John is writing to some of the early Christians, he’s encouraging them in their faith in Jesus Christ.

And here’s what he has to say about the topic of LOVE.

GOD IS LOVE

1 John 4:7,8
Dear friends.  Let us love one another, for love_comes_from_God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God….

All right let’s pause there.

So John begins by telling us that God and love are so connected to each other that one of the ways we can tell about whether someone actually loves God or has a relationship with God is whether or not there are loving person.

And he says “Listen, if someone’s able to love someone in a Biblical way, then they must have a relationship with God because God and love are that connected to each other.

But if someone is un-loving to people, then they cannot have a relationship with God… that’s how much of God and love are connected to each other .

And his rationale for all this… the very next line…

Because God is love.

Because God is Love.

Notice what he doesn’t say... he doesn’t say:

  • Because your spouse is love.
  • Because your husband as love
  • Because your wife is love
  • Because your kids are love…

It doesn’t say any of those things.

  • Because your co-workers are love…

To some of you that’s just silly and far out there. (LAUGHTER)

Because, you know, “whatever it might be is love…”; he doesn’t say any of these other things,  he says,

“Because God is love”.

God doesn’t choose to be loving at times.  He is love.

If we were to assess our life, we would find there are times when we are loving and times when we aren’t loving.

But if we evaluate and look at God’s life we discover in his existence, all of his actions, all of his thoughts, all of his decrees… everything about him_is_loving.

Everything he does, he defines love, because God doesn’t choose to be loving.  He is love.

Notice what else it doesn’t say.  It doesn’t say that love is God.  And it also doesn’t say that God is only love.

It says God is Love

This is an important thing for us to realize.  God is not only love.  He is also many other things as well:

  • He’s Holy
  • He’s Just
  • He’s Forgiving  
  • He’s Sovereign
  • He’s Eternal

I mean we could go on and on.  God as many other things as well.  And those things all co-exist together at the same time. He doesn’t say,

  • You know what I think I’m going to be LOVING to Mitch. 
  • …and I think I’m going to be…ahhh, JUST to Ben.  You know.

He doesn’t choose like that because he is always loving and always just. He’s all things at the same time; he’s immutable, unchangeable, unmoving.

His character doesn’t waver back and forth. God is ALWAYS love, IF HE IS LOVE.

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And then the Scripture goes on and it tells us this.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. v9

This is how God showed his love among us.

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Now I get nervous when we read a passage of Scripture like this because this is the season for us showing our love for each other… right?

How many of you went out shopping yesterday and you bought something so you could show someone your love for them… right?

I mean this is the season of gift giving where we show our love for each other through our gifts.

And, we might, unfortunately, end up reducing Jesus as sort of being a gift of God who is just merely showing us His love for us.

We often speak of Jesus’s birth like that as a gift from God, and it truly is a gift from God, but we must understand that it is not merely a display… Jesus’s birth is not merely a display of God’s affection for you and I–it’s far more than that.

If it is a display of his affection, and at one level it is… it must be clear that it is the pinnacle of his display of affection for us.

All the things that God has done to show his people in human history in the past…  this is the pinnacle of his display for his love for us. 

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But it’s more than just a display.  It’s more than some husband who goes out and buys a dozen roses and says “Here honey.  I love you.”

That doesn’t meet a need it’s merely a display of of one’s affection for the other. 

But the birth of Christ is more than just a display of God’s love for you because it meets a need of ours… and that is the real profound part of the loving act. 

Now we don’t know yet what the need is… it doesn’t say this in the passage.  But it does give us this indication. 

He has shown his love among us; He has sent his one and only Son into the world so (so that what? …  that what we might live through him.  We don’t know what the need that Christ met is yet… but we might, without even being a Bible scholar, conclude that had Christ not come, Had God not acted in this loving way… we might not have the HOPE for a life of some kind.

Then he goes on and he says this now… more specifically…  

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us… v 10a

We need to pause there.  Because this is the exact opposite thought process as to how many people come into a relationship with God.  This is love; not that we love God but that he loved us.

Most people operate in relationship to God by saying, “Here’s the thing… if I can love God with my life enough… and do enough of the right things and avoid enough of the wrong things… if I can love God with enough of my life.  Then he will love me back and accept me and receive me”

I think that’s the most common  worldly thought process behind how we are to gain access to a relationship with God.  It’s certainly what most other religions teach as well. “This is love… that we love God and if we do so faithfully, he will love us back“.

But the Bible says the exact opposite … we must be reminded this morning or told for the very first time, that what the Bible says… that,

THIS IS LOVE… Not that we love God but that God loved us.

That is the heart of the Christian message.

Christmas is not about our giving to God.  It’s about God coming to us.  The Emmanuel… God among us.

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And then he says this… not only is it not about us loving God but that he loved us and now here’s the Christmas story more specifically.

and He sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. v 10b

And he sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 

You see the way that Jesus’s birth gives us the hope of LIFE is because he comes to ATONE_for_our_sins

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The word ATONE as a word that maybe many of us are unfamiliar with.  Let me give you an idea…

While pastoring at my last church I received a two hundred dollar speeding ticket… you can do the math, look it up, how fast I had to have been going (LAUGHTER).

But I was in “Christian conversation” in the car and I lost track of my speed (LAUGHTER).

And I shared that with the congregation… I was making some point, I don’t really remember what the point was, but I was making a point, and the next day I got to the office, and there was an envelope on my desk and there was two hundred dollars in it. 

Someone from the church had… this is sort of a hint for future purposes (LOUD LAUGHTER)…

But someone in the church, if you will, had decided to ATONE for my mistakes. I deserved the ticket. I deserved to pay the price.  But someone decided to ATONE for, they were going to pay the price for it.

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And here’s John saying, ~“this is the power of Jesus’s coming and being born… is that he was here to ATONE for our sins;  to pay the price on the cross for our sins”.

People often ask me, “What’s more important Christmas or Easter?

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Friends, that’s really a silly question.  You can’t have one without the other.  Christmas is not significant without Easter, and Easter could not have happened without Christmas… I mean they go together.  Right?  

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Maybe ATONEMENT might be described in and a different way. 

for example

When I was young my mother tells me that, while still in diapers, that one time… I don’t know how to say this… (Laughter), I reached my hand into my diaper and I took the mess that was in there and I covered myself in it and everything around me… has anyone? … not… Has anyone had a kid do that (LAUGHTER).  OK… All right.  OK, so you can relate. 

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And here’s the thing… my mom of course had no interest in holding me in that state (Laughter continues). 

And we must be reminded that God is Holy and we are covered and tainted in sin. 

Now…  out of her affection and love for me she wants to hold me and be relationship with me…  but the more significant part of all this is that… I need to be held by her as an infant!  I need her care!

And so she devised a plan to clean me up and reunite us together (Laughter). 

And I think John is saying here, this is it… OUR SIN HAS SEPARATED US FROM GOD.

Romans 6:23
“For the wages of sin is death.”

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But this is God, devising his plan saying.  Here’s how I’m going to clean you up.  I want to have a relationship with you.  You need to have a relationship with me.  Here’s how we’re going to make things right.  I’ll clean you up and we’ll do this

Alright, verse 11, this is a reference to all that he’s just said,

1 John 4:11
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Some of you are here this morning, and you only need to hear the part about God’s love for you. Don’t even listen to the challenge about loving others… you’re not there yet.  You showed up with lots of guilt and shame and confusion about how God feels about you… just hear that God loves you. 

But others of you have heard that… and you’ve shown up with that truth and that reality.  And now it’s time… it’s now time to take on the challenge, that if you embrace the idea that God loves you so much, we also ought to show each other the same measure of love.

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It’s time to embrace the reality that God’s love was never meant to stop with us.  It was meant to be shown by us to others as well. 

So he says in verse 11 (again)
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Alright verse 12,

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, …

Now let’s be clear… we might need to explain “no one has ever seen God”.  There are people in heaven who have seen God… and we might suggest that Adam and Eve have seen God.  But other than that I think John’s statement is safe and true.

No one has seen God , it’s not how he relates to us at this point.  Our sin is still separating us from being in that relationship. Someday we will see Him face to face.  But he says,

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another,
God lives in us

Now to be clear that sounds like maybe if we love one another, then God will live in us… that we have to sort of earn our way into a relationship with God. 

But remember we talked about this already…  the Scripture is clear:  It’s not that we love God first, but that He first loved us

But I do think what John is saying is pretty neat here.  He says,

… if we love one another, God lives in us and (and what happens?)... his love is made complete in us.

What that means is, I think he’s saying, is that if God’s love is in us we have the ability to sort of cultivate that love by our actions, one way or the other. 

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Here’s a parallel that some of you in the church are accustomed to hearing… when it comes to this topic of GENEROSITY, some of you have heard the idea that if we open up our hand and are generous with others, we will actually not end up having sort of less necessarily, or receive less of God’s blessing…

But what we do is we sort of open up the door for God’s blessing to flow_through_us. 

So we have a greater sense of God’s care for us and his blessing us because we’ve opened up our hand and have been generous, and God flows through us in a way of generosity. 

And I think what John is doing is a similar thing only when it comes to the subject of LOVE…. that when we love one another His love in us is made complete.

By loving one another and being obedient in that way, we cultivate the love of God in our own life… our sense of his love and our assurance of our standing with him, is strengthened by caring for one another.

Vs 13, 14, and 15 now…

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

Now if we pause there, it sounds like we could just put a period.  We could end the chapter; we could close the book, and we could say Look Jesus came to save the world We’re all good let’s go home.  Jesus is the Savior of the world. 

But there’s a qualifier here in verse fifteen the Scripture says,

15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.

 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God. 

This is the qualification to all this.  If  we want to experience the love of Christ and a relationship with a God who_is_loveHere’s what it all boils down to… to pause and to acknowledge in the humility of our hearts that Jesus is the Son of God

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And there’s some things that come with that… right?  We can’t just check a box and expect to experience the love of God. We can’t just say it, and expect that that would transform everything.  It has to be real, it has to be a part of our true deep conviction. 

We don’t have to be intellectual geniuses… when I was in fifth grade, as I shared with you, I acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God.  I didn’t have all the theological answers.  But I meant what I was saying. 

And as a result, it stuck !!!

I mean if Jesus is the Son of God, that also makes him our Lord, right?.  What he says has to go in our life.  He’s the one we look to for all of our peace.  All of our joy.  All of our comfort.  All of our hope, and all of our love… if he is the Son of God. 

He’s the one we look to for all of our provision  All of our hopes and dreams and aspirations for the future are run through his will.  If he is the Son of God, it all must point, to Him. 

And then finally. 

16 And so we know and we rely on the love of God, the love God has for us. God is love.

And so we know and we rely on the love that God has for us.

There is much more in this passage, but we’re going to pause with that last verse.  “We know and we rely upon the love that God has for us.”

There are many people here this morning, who know about the love that God has for them… but have yet to reach the place where they’re actually relying upon God’s love

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We as humans, we have a certain need and desire to be loved… and let’s just say that’s sort of like a meter or a “pie chart”... most of us, as followers of Christ, have allowed God to sort of be like… 

“OK God

  • You can be twenty five percent of the source of the love that I need…
  • My spouse will be another twenty five percent of the source of the love that I need.
  • My children will be another part of the equation. 
  • My job and the affirmation I get out of work will be another part of the equation…”

And we build up a whole repertoire of the sources of love and affirmation.  And hopefully between all of them we might have enough to really rely upon (or so we think). 

But do you hear what the Scripture’s saying… is that because God_is_ love–the source of true love, that we can actually get to a place in our relationship with Jesus Christ, where we can rely upon his love and only his love.

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That makes us wonderful people to be in a relationship with.  Because we don’t need love from other people.  We are free to give it because we’re getting all the love that we need from our relationship with Jesus Christ. 

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You’re in great shape if you get to the point where,

  • “You know what… I have all the love that I need from Christ and if my spouse gives me any more love than that’s just icing on the cake.”
  • “I have all the love I need from Jesus Christ and if they affirm me at work… that’s just icing on the cake.”

 To get to the point where we can say,  I rely upon the Love of God–that’s the promise that we have... (he looks at Candle)… in the Love Candle… in the love of Christ, that is found at Christmas.

Let’s Pray.

Heavenly Father, as always, we thank you for this passage of Scripture.  The fact that you did not leave us sort of orphaned or abandoned… but you have given us not only the written Word of God, but Your Spirit to help us understand and interpret it, and to use it to apply it to our life, and convict us, and encourage us of its meaning. 

And so now we pray humbly that we would just come before the truth of Your Word, and we thank you first and foremost for the reminder of the love that you have for us. 

We apologize to you and confess to you the times in our life… that we have tried to earn our way into your presence, instead of relying upon you. 

We apologize to you, and confess to you the times in our life that we have tried to earn our way into your presence, instead of relying upon you.

We apologize to you for the times that we have tried to rely on other people, and put too much burden on them to satisfy us. 

And we apologize for the times that we have walked around claiming to be recipients of God’s love and yet unwilling to share it with others.

In the next week Father, some people in this room will gather together with people who they do not naturally love… it’s not easy for.  And I pray now that the love of God would be so abundant in their life, that You would make it possible for them to show Christ’s Love to all who we gather around. 

We ask these things now in his name. 

Amen.

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  Link to Kirkmont Presbyterian Church Website
http://www.kirkmont.org/

Listen to recent sermons
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