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Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Love Of Advent

This is the manuscript of the sermon preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles, CA on Sunday
December 30, 2018.
God’s love for us is so great, so powerful; so perfect and unconditional that He sent Jesus to bridge the gap that was caused by sin.

John 3:16-17 NKJV For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

To hear the audio click on the YouTube image at the end of the manuscript.

This is the fourth and final sermon in our Advent series. When we started we said that Advent is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,”.  During Advent, we’re reminded of how much we need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we celebrate his first coming at Christmas.

Our first week we talked about the hope of Advent.

Hope is the feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.  Advent teaches us to not only to expect hope for eternity, but we can expect hope for today.

The next week we talked about peace.  Peace that is not just a psychological state of mind; this peace is spiritual peace.   This is the peace of people whose sins are forgiven

Last week it was joy.  A joy that rises above circumstances.   This joy is not produced by something external that makes me feel happy. It is the  supernatural result of a life filled with the Holy Spirit of the living God.

Love of Advent

This Sunday I want to talk about the love of Advent.  This love is a gift that originates with God and is Undeserving, Unlimited, and often Unclaimed.

In the fourth century, Saint Augustine wrote, “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.”

Undeserving Unlimited Love

Advent gives us time to step back and love. By taking the focus off ourselves we are able to see the needs of others.

Jesus said this to his disciples;
John 13:34-35 (HCSB)34  “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.35  By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This was a different kind of love because it was to be   exercised toward others not because they belonged to the same nation as the disciples, but because they belonged to Christ, and it was to be the expression of the love of Christ, which the disciples had seen in life and would see also in death..

God’s love for us is so great, so powerful; so perfect and unconditional that He sent Jesus to bridge the gap that was caused by sin. 

John 3:16-17 NKJV For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

He knew that we were powerless, without hope apart from Him. The Lord knew that there was no way we could ever enter into His presence on our own merit, so He who knew no sin became sin for us.

2 Corinthians 5:21 HCSB He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

After the disobedience of Adam all of mankind was under the curse of sin which is death, eternal separation from God. 

Genesis 2:15-17 HCSB The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden,  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”

Well he and his wife Eve did eat;

Genesis 3:17-19 HCSB And He said to Adam, “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’: The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.”

Because of that all of mankind was doomed to suffer the consequences of Adam's sin.

Romans 5:12 HCSB Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.
But all praise to God He loved mankind so much that it compelled Him to pay the ultimate price on the cross in order to bring us back to Him. 

This is the kind of love that the Greeks called agape which when translated from the modern Greek is the highest form of love, the love of God for man and of man for God.  It's unconditional love.  The kind of love that a parent has for  child, a spouse has for their mate, that you have for your best friend.

It's the kind of love that Paul described when he wrote;

Romans 8:38-39 (HCSB)38  For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, ⌊hostile⌋ powers,39  height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

In these two verses Paul broadens out the experiences, and the things that confront us to include really everything; death or life, angels, man, anything above the earth or below it, animate or inanimate objects, anything at all. Then he emphatically declares that none of these things shall be able to separate us from the love God has for us, this love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The power of God's love can never be exhausted it never ends. It's unlimited.

This is 1 John 4:7-10 from the Amplified Bible

1 JOHN 4:7-10 AMP Beloved, let us [unselfishly] love and seek the best for one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves [others] is born of God and knows God [through personal experience]. The one who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love. [He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature.] By this the love of God was displayed in us, in that God has sent His [One and] only begotten Son [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind] into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [that is, the atoning sacrifice, and the satisfying offering] for our sins [fulfilling God’s requirement for justice against sin and placating His wrath].
That is unlimited and undeserving love.

Jesus Christ laid down His life once, and we ought to lay down our lives repeatedly in self-sacrificing love.  We may not have the opportunity to save anybody's life by dying in their place.  However we can and should do the next best thing, namely, sustaining them when they have needs. When you give to another who is  in need you have followed the Lord Jesus' example of self-sacrificing love.  The evidence of genuine love is deeds rather than words.

That’s the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13

Paul had written to them earlier in his letter about the gifts  the Holy Spirit had given each of them so that they could bless each other and the church could operate as God intended it to witness to the world the love of Christ and be the ambassadors that would bring others to Him.

2 Corinthians 5:20 HCSB Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.”

It's pretty apparent in chapter 13 though that those gifts were not being shared in love.

The first three verses of this chapter talk about the absence of love 13:1-3

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (HCSB)1  If I speak human or angelic languages but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.2  If I have ⌊the gift of⌋ prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.3  And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

It didn’t matter if they were talking in a language that others could understand or what we call an unknown tongue. Without love, their speech would be only a noise.

Then he goes on to say that the person with the deepest knowledge and the greatest faith is worth nothing without love.

The most generous act to help poor people would be of no use without love.

Then he writes in first part of verse 4 that love is patient and kind.  Patience and kindness show God’s attitude to us

2 Peter 3:9 (HCSB)9  The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

That's love.
The second half of verse 4 through verse 7 tell us what people with love don’t do.

1 Corinthians 13:4b-5 (HCSB)4b Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited,5  does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs.6  ⌊Love⌋ finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.7  ⌊It⌋ bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

People who love unconditionally

1. Are not jealous of others.

JAMES 3:16 AMP For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder [unrest, rebellion] and every evil thing and morally degrading practice.

2. They do not brag about themselves.

Luke 18:9-12 (HCSB)9  He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else:10  “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11  The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.12  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’

3. They are not proud thinking about how important they are.

Proverbs 16:18-19 HCSB Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly of spirit with the humble  than to divide plunder with the proud.

4. They are not selfish.

Philippians 2:3-5 NLT Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6. They don’t  become angry easily.

James 1:19-20 HCSB My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger,  for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.

7. They don’t keep a record of how people have hurt them.

Matthew 18:21-22 HCSB Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times? ” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.

8. A loving Christian does not try to find fault in other people.

Matthew 7:1-2 HCSB “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with the judgment you use,   you will be judged, and with the measure you use,   it will be measured to you.

The kind of love Paul just described never changes

1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (HCSB)8  Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.9  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.10  But when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end.11  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.12  For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.13  Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.  

1 John 4:10 (HCSB)10  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.  

If you want to know how to love one another, look at the love that sent Jesus to earth to live a life of love and pay the price for all of our sins. It's all about love. This isn't a love of fancy words and impossible tasks. This is a love that says, "I am willing to love you no matter what."

We can love because He first loved us and because He loved us He sent His Son so that He could save us and give us another gift which is His Holy Spirit and if we allow Him to operate in us and fill us His fruit will be evident in us and we can love unconditionally.

Galatians 5:22-23 HCSB But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,  gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

That fruit is activated by the love that we celebrate during Advent as we celebrate Jesus’ first coming as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and as we look forward to to His second coming in the clouds.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 HCSB For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout,  with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.

Let’s Pray,

Heavenly Father

The whole meaning of Christmas can be explained in one little four letter word…LOVE. You sent your gift of pure love to us that first Christmas. Love descended from heaven to be born of a virgin. Love lay in the scratchy hay of a manger in a meager barn in Bethlehem. All of your love, God, was robed in the delicate skin of a baby and wrapped in swaddling clothes. This final week of Advent, help us to reflect on the magnitude of love that was made manifest in Jesus.
Your word became flesh and you made your dwelling among us when Jesus was born. You set aside all of the glory and splendor of heaven and chose the most humble way to enter into your kingdom. Beneath the stars, surrounded by all of the hosts of heaven, Love came. Welcomed by an earthly mother and father, shepherds and wise men, Love came.
You are King and King and Lord of Lords, Messiah and Ruler of All, yet you came not as a lion but as a lamb. You came as an innocent baby whose purpose was walk this earth in complete love, and then to sacrificially give his life as an atonement for the sins of His children. Emmanuel. God with us. Love in the form of a man.
That was your plan. From beginning to end, you knew every minute of Jesus life. You knew that the cross of Calvary was waiting for Jesus, yet you still sent your only Son so that our sin debt could be paid and we could walk blameless because of the shed blood of Jesus.
There is no greater gift then this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends. You willing gave the gift of your life because of your love. Your righteous blood covered our sin. You redeem and restore us when we confess you as Lord and Savior of our life. In that moment you give us the gift of your love for all eternity. We receive grace upon grace and mercy upon mercy in that moment.
The greatest gift of all came that first Christmas. It wasn’t wrapped in a beautiful package and set under a decorated tree. The greatest gift came wrapped in the flesh of baby Jesus and laid in the rough wood of a manger. Our perfect gift would later be rewrapped in the scars of our sin and nailed to the rugged wood of a cross on Calvary, all because of love.
Father, this final week of Advent, fill our hearts and minds with the sign

Unclaimed Love

At the very beginning I said that this love that we celebrate at Advent often goes unclaimed.

How would you feel if you had spent hours and lots of money looking for a gift for a loved one. I'm not talking about for your boss or an acquaintance I'm talking about someone you really care for, and that person opens all the other gifts and thanks the giver and leaves your gift under the tree and walks off.  The gift goes unclaimed.

Well that's what happens so often to God.  He loves mankind so much that He sent us a gift that we didn't deserve, an unlimited gift everybody everywhere can claim it but many don't. They don't claim the gift because they think they need to do something to earn it. They don't claim it because they think they have to reciprocate in some way but all they have to do is accept it and the gift itself will cause you to love the One that gave it.  It goes unclaimed because those of us who did accept the gift don't tell others about the giver.

Father, I realize that your mission is all about love. You love us so much that you gave us the most precious One in the universe, your Son Jesus Christ. This season is the season of giving, but it can also be tainted by selfishness, greed, and despair. Keep us away from the thieves that would steal the message and joy of Christmas. Surely you taught us to love one another!

Sermon Audio

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