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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Matt's Messages "Love Has Come"

“Love Has Come”
Learning to Love
December 21, 2008
Matthew 1:18-25, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, Romans 8:35-39

I want to encourage all of you to make a plan now to read through your Bible in 2009. 2009 will be here in just 10 days, and so now is the time to make your plan to read through the Bible in the New Year.

The bulletin indicates that there are new reading plans in the back on the Bible resource table. This year, there are two main ones. Both a printed on purple paper.

The thicker one is one that we’ve put out on the table for several years. If you use that one, you actually go through the whole Bible once and the New Testament and Psalm twice. So it’s more than one time through the Bible and it’s divided up into 4 daily readings. It goes along with the companion books “For the Love of God” that also out there on the table. I highly recommend them.

The thinner plan is a great plan, too. It goes through the Bible once in a year, but I like how it’s laid out. It plans in time each week for reflection and catching-up. So, there’s built-in time in the plan for getting a little behind and then being able to still catch up. I highly recommend that plan, too. It’s called the “Book at a Time Bible Reading Plan.”

There is also One-Year Bibles out there that divide the Bible up into readings for you. And a book by Gordon Addington that helps you Discover the Bible as well.

Now, I say this every year at this time and we make these reading plans available.

This year, I want to up the ante and issue a challenge to encourage everyone here to read through their Bible in 2009.

I’m offering a pancake breakfast to everyone here who reads through the Bible in 2009.

In January 2010, Heather and I will make a pancake breakfast for anyone and everyone who brings me one of those purple reading plans with all of the boxes checked that you have read them. A completed purple reading plan will be your ticket.

How’s that? I know that January 2010 is a long way off, but now’s the time to get ready for it by planning to read your Bible.

The Bible is God’s own Word to us. What a gift! Let’s read it together in 2009!

Have you found Matthew chapter 1?

This is a very familiar passage. Let’s read it. Starting in verse 18.

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’--which means, ‘God with us.’ When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

“Love Has Come.”

Today’s message is the last in the long series that we’ve been in all Fall.

Since September, we’ve been “Learning to Love.”

We’ve been in the “School of Love” with God as our Teacher and 1 Corinthians 13 as our textbook.

We’ve learned what love looks like when it’s in action. What love looks like when love is “doing its thing.”

We’ve learned that love is a wonderful, powerful thing–hard to do but awesome and effective when it’s truly practiced.

Today, as we celebrate Christmas together, we go one step further.

We rejoice in the fact that love has come in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Not just that we should love others but that God has loved us.

The Bible says that God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son.

Jesus is God’s love-gift, His Christmas present, love-in-the-flesh, for you and for me.

There is so much in Matthew chapter 1.

I’d love to spend time on the genealogy with you. Or talk about Joseph and Mary and their surprise at Mary’s holy pregnancy.

But what I want to focus on today in this passage is what the Angel of the Lord told Joseph to name the baby boy.

One name is “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” V.23

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him ‘Immanuel’–which means ‘God with us.’”

What have we learned about God and love? 1 John 4:8? “God IS love.”

So if God is now with us? Then Love Has Come.

#1. Love Has Come TO SAVE US FROM OUR SINS.

I get that from the other name that the angel told Joseph to give to the baby boy.

Look at verse 21:

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Now, we are familiar with that name “Jesus.” But we don’t always think about what it actually means. If you have the NIV, you’ll notice a footnote for verse 21 that says, “Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the LORD saves.”

We’re going to be learning a lot about the Old Testament Joshua in 2009. 2009 is a odd numbered year where we take up the next chronological book in the Big Story of the Old Testament. We’ve done Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers. In 2009, we’ll pick up Joshua.

Joshua’s name reminds us of deliverance. Rescue. Salvation.

“The LORD saves.”

And Jesus is the Greek form of that name.

Jesus’ name means “the LORD Saves.” The angel said (v.21), “Joe, give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Love has come to save us from our sins.

We’ve all heard that before. We say it every week. But it’s truly amazing–especially when we realize how sinful our sin really is.

You and I are, by nature, sinners. We’re rebels against a holy God.

And God would be just to send us to Hell forever.

We’ve sinned against God! He’s perfect and holy and lovely and beautiful and glorious and creator and sustainer and awesome in every way.

But we’ve all turned away from Him and turned against Him.

But the good news is, the gospel is, that Jesus is God with us to save us from our sins.

Love has come to save us from our sins.

He did it by means of the Cross.

The baby in Bethlehem grew up to be the man of sorrows crucified on a Roman cross.

Taking our sin, our shame, our guilt, our punishment, our place.

He died for our sins, the just for the unjust to bring us to God.

That’s how much He loves His people!

Do you know Him as Savior today?

Do you know Him as your Rescuer?

Does Jesus mean “the LORD has saved” you?

If you are not yet a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, saved by His grace and His work on the cross on your behalf, we invite you today to trust Him and be saved.

You need rescuing! We all do.

You are, by nature, in the burning building of God’s wrath.

But Love Has Come to the rescue!

Like a great firefighter bursting through the flames, God has sent His Son Jesus to die in your place and grab you out of sin and into His arms.

I invite you turn from your sins and trust in the Savior today.

Love Has Come to Save Us From Our Sins.

If you are saved today, what a great time of year it is to celebrate our Savior!

Joe and I sang this morning:

We Once Were Slaves in Misery
Till You Appeared and Set Us Free!
Alleluia! Hope Has Come.

Love Has Come to Save Us From Our Sins!

#2. Love Has Come TO SHOW US HOW IT’S DONE.

Jesus is God’s love come to us.

And one of the reasons why He came was to show us how to love.

To show us how it’s done.

Nobody ever loved like Jesus!

When Jesus wept over Lazarus’ death, the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

They were amazed at His love.

And the more we get to know Jesus, the more we’ll be amazed at how He loved others.

Now, first and foremost, He came to love us by dying in our place.

But His love is also an example for us.

How many times this Fall, have I said, “Can you imagine Jesus envying?” or “Can you imagine Jesus being “self-seeking?” Or “Can you imagine Jesus delighting in evil?”

Of course not. Jesus was the prime and perfect example of love.

In fact, let’s do this.

Let’s say our memory work today (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) and subtitute in Jesus’ name for love. And “He” instead of “it.”

Okay?

“Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. He is not rude, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.”

Love has come to show us how it’s done.

Do you remember how Jesus washed His disciple’s feet?

It was the night before the crucifixion and the gospel of John tells us that Jesus had loved His disciples, but now He was going to show them the full extent of His love.

He loved them to the fullest.

And wrapped a towel around his waist and bent down and did the most menial of all tasks–He washed their feet.

And when He was done, He said, “Do you understand what I have done for you? ... Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you...[And He also said] Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men wil know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”

Love Has Come to Show Us How It’s Done

So that we will love, too!

Is there someone that you are struggling to love?

Is there someone in your life right now that you know that God is calling you to love, and maybe it’s difficult.

We’ve talked about love all Fall.

In all of our relationships–we, as Christ’s followers, are to be characterized by biblical, Christ-like love.

Patient, Kind, Content, Encouraging, Humble, Respectful, Others-Focused, Joyful, Gracious, and Holy, and Tenacious.

Jesus shows us how it’s done so that we will turn around and do it for others.

Can I suggest a resource to help in our ongoing education?

This book is called “Love Walked Among Us” and I read it this Summer for my CCEF classes. It is excellent. It was one of if not the best book that I read this Summer. In fact, it was one of the chief reasons that I picked this theme for our Fall sermon series.

All of our Link Groups are going to be reading and discussing “Love Walked Among Us” this Winter. They’ll all do it on their own pace in their own way, but it’s going to be the main book that folks will be reading in our church.

If you’re in a Link Group already, there should be a copy of the book in your box in the foyer.

But we want everyone to get into a Link Group, so there are more books on the table in the back. Grab one today and join a group.

Right now, we have 3 groups: I lead one, Blair leads one, and Bob Gisewhite leads one. Talk with one of us about joining a group.

If you can’t join a group, talk with me about starting one. I’d love to train you in how to do that.

Or if you can’t do that at this time, I still recommend that you get a book. They are free if you’re in a Link Group. They;re only $7.00 if you’re not.

And if 7 bucks is a problem, let me know, and we’ll get you scholarship for one.

Here’s why we’re reading this book next:

It picks up where 1 Corinthians 13 has left off.

It is a study of the person of Jesus and how Jesus loved others.

It’s a study of the Gospels and how Jesus loved people. And we’re going to learn, as we read it, how to love other people like Jesus did.

Sound good? It is. Get a book. Join a group.

Because Love Has Come To Show Us How It’s Done.

Here at Christmas time, God is calling us to love other people.

Not just to have a warm fuzzy feeling about people.

But to love people in our relationships like Jesus loved people.

Love Has Come to Show Us How It’s Done.

#3. Love Has Come TO STAY WITH US FOREVER.

Love Has Come to Save Us From Our Sins
Love Has Come to Show Us How It’s Done
And Love Has Come to Stay With Us Forever.

Turn in your Bibles with me to the book of Romans chapter 8. The last few verses.

In this awesome passage, the Apostle Paul connects again the love of God with Jesus Christ.

And his main point is this: if we are in Christ, we will never be separated from the love God.

Let’s read it. Romans 8:35. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Love Has Come and Has Come to Stay!

Paul says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”

You might think that those things would prove that we are separated from the love of Christ.

Are you going through any of those yourself this Christmas Season?

Christmas can be really tough time for people.

“Trouble or hardship or [the economy or relational difficulties or worries about work or about family or about your health? Or] persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword...”

Can true believers go through those?

You bet. Paul expects it. He quotes Psalm 44. “As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’”

But do trials at Christmas separate from God’s love?

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, [or in case you can come up with something not in those categories!] nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Love has come to stay with us forever.

I would imagine that some of us need to hear that today.

You might feel abandoned.

Maybe like verse 38 says, “death” has threatened. Or death has shown up.

Many of us grieve loved ones who have died during the holiday season.

Or maybe you’re depressed. Christmas is a time when many get the holiday blues.

You need hope.

Jesus is the hope you need.

And He is not going anywhere.

Love has come and has come to stay.

Love will never leave you nor forsake you.

It may feel like it sometimes!

But this is what is true.

“Nothing in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The little baby born in Bethlehem is the inseparable, insuperable love of God for you and me.

Love Has Come!

Love Has Come to Save Us From Our Sins.
I invite you to trust Jesus as Your Savior. The LORD saves you.

Love Has Come to Show Us How It’s Done.
Love other people like Jesus! Jesus is patient. Jesus is kind. So can you be.

Love Has Come to Stay With Us Forever.
Jesus is our Great Hope! And He’s here to stay. Trust in Him.

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