“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
How can we measure the love God has for us? In a logical world, sometimes it appears that God doesn’t love us at all. God is totally illogical in how He works with us. But the Apostle John here describes the measure of God’s love for us: that He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the death penalty on our behalf.
When our sins secured for us the death penalty, Jesus came into this world and paid the price for us. Jesus was the “Sacrificial Lamb” that satisfied God’s demands. His death atoned (satisfied the just demands) for our sins. This is love, not that you love God, but that He loved you.
New Year’s Resolution: I will remember how much God loves me everyday, even when it doesn’t look like it.
“Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other, and in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).
Here are three things to learn from this passage. First, God Himself teaches each believer to love the brothers and sisters in the church. This isn’t something that needs to be taught. A true believer has this sense that we are connected to the body of Christ, and we serve one another. Serving one another is the definition of Christian love, not “feelings”.
Secondly, the church in Macedonia (a Province, or state) practiced Christian love on a regular basis. When the saints act out the love of Christ, everyone wins and the Kingdom advances. Although they didn’t even know some of the believers in that state, they still acted in love.
Thirdly, Paul felt it important to challenge the believers to grow or increase loving one another. Sometimes we become weary in well doing, and get careless. If a Spirit of Apathy sets into the church, its love dries up and people don’t care about one another. Paul urged them to keep focusing on the main thing. New Year’s Resolution: I will be determined in loving my brothers and sisters.
“Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in His kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again” (Romans 11:18).
Here we read about the dual nature of God. He is both kind to those who repent and respond to Him, and also stern toward those who stubbornly rebel against Him.
But also note that God’s kindness is dependent upon our continuing to trust Him. And that His sternness will be turned away for those who repent.
In other words, God, who cannot change, does change His working with us dependent upon how we believe in Him. The unchanging God always ready to change based upon our faith.
New Year’s Resolution: I will always seek God’s will for my life and stay on His good side.
“But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray Him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:4).
Mary and Martha were single sisters who lived a life of ease. They were financially secure and were friends of Jesus. On this occasion, Mary, who owned the home where Jesus and His disciples were staying, broke open a new bottle of perfume and poured it on His feet, wiping them with her hair. This extravagant worship upset Judas, the Treasurer of the group. We observe a couple of mistakes from which we can learn:
- Judas thought he knew better than his Master. That’s a danger for each of us. Who is your Master?
- Judas second-guessed his hostess, Mary. How can you or I judge another’s expression of worship?
- As Treasurer, Judas assumed control of the money donors had supplied to Jesus’ ministry. Its always a struggle to manage what is someone’s else’s without their heart. Treasurers have killed many churches.
- Judas’s final mistake was that he spoke his opinion out loud in front of others. Jesus therefore had to publicly correct Judas, bringing embarrassment to him.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus rebuked. And He will rebuke any of us who get in the way of someone’s clumsy journey of faith.
Christmas is now over! Its time to send the family packing, recycle the Christmas wrap wadded in shreds, and take down the decorations. Its time to decide what to do with the unappreciated gifts and take back what doesn’t fit. Its time to take the lights down and make those New Year’s Resolutions about never eating that much again.
Christmas comes on slowly over a month, and then its over in the twinkling of the Natal Star. Does all that excitement bring on a depression in your house when its over?
Christmas is supposed to be the beginning, not the ending. Christmas is about the light of God shining into our hearts so we can have His peace. Sit down and reflect on what you know Christmas is supposed to mean. New Year’s Resolution: I will remember what Christmas means all year long!
“Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matthew 2:11b).
These wise men from the East had traveled all this way to find the Messiah who was supposed to have been born. God had spread the word out all over that part of the world to a person here, another person there. There was expectation in the air. The time was right.
When they finally discovered the baby lying in the manger, they presented Him with gifts.
- These were gifts from their own treasuries; it cost them something to worship Jesus.
- These were gifts that had a purpose; they helped to finance the birth family’s trip to Egypt coming up just verses later.
- These were unilateral gifts; they only went one way, without any expectation of anything in return.
Are you giving any gift at all this Christmas that you don’t expect a gift in return? That is the Christian thing to do. New Year’s Resolution: I will find ways to give gifts from the treasury I have been given.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:8-9).
I wonder why it is that the Lord reveals Himself to people of humble status in the beginning? Here in the Christmas story the angel revealed the birth of Christ to poor shepherds living in the fields with their sheep. 30+ years later, after Jesus was resurrected, He revealed that first to Mary Magdalene and some other unsuspecting women. And all were terrified and told not to be afraid.
For whatever God’s reasoning, the pattern has been set: He reveals Himself first to people in humble status, not the rich, powerful or influential. That’s us! Let’s follow God’s lead and pass the Good News on to others. That’s the message of Christmas.
New Year’s Resolution: Tell someone else about what Jesus has done for me every week.