Advent Conspiracy 2009 part 4
Love All
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 20, 2009

VIDEO – What Kind of Christmas Will It Be?

Advent Conspiracy. This is our fourth week in this series, and all through the series we’ve been talking about battling back against what our society has turned Christmas into and instead get back to what it was meant to be. We’ve been talking about replacing consumerism with compassion. We’ve been talking about entering into the story and encountering the Baby in the manger.

And we’ve been trying to do that by learning to…
Worship fully
Spend less
Give more
Love all

The first week, we saw how for the people involved in the events of the first Christmas, it was all about worship, and expressing that worship by being humbly obedient to God, by seeking after Jesus to express gratitude and adoration to Him, by placing Him above their own self-interest, and ultimately by giving Him the best that they had – not of their stuff but of themselves.

The second week, we really explored how commercial Christmas has become… how we’ve come to equate the extent of our love for someone with the price of our gift. How there’s this never ending demand for us to spend spend spend on gifts… to the tune of half a billion dollars here in North America… to the point that it empties our bank accounts and maybe even puts you deep in debt. And so we talked about pushing back against this consumerism… to resist the gravitational pull of that vortex of holiday spending, to refuse to equate the price of our gift with the extent of our love for someone, to avoid the dangers and pitfalls of overspending… We talked about pulling back on the dollar amount and instead putting more thought and effort into our gifts… giving more meaningful gifts… and how that frees us up to give in more significant ways.

And that led us into what we talked about last week, giving more. Because I don’t want you to become all Scroogy… to go all bah-humbug over Christmas. I do want you to give and receive gifts. I just want you to do it with a proper balance. To give what you can afford, and not go to extremes. To give gifts that are meaningful, and not just expensive. To give less presents but more presence. To give out of a heart of generosity and not obligation.

And ultimately, we talked about how by spending less on meaningless gifts, we can spend more to meet real needs in our world… to give of our time, our talent, and our treasure to serve the poor, the marginalized, the needy.

Oh, and by the way, parents… why not talk about this stuff with your kids? This whole idea of spending less affects them, but I think you might be surprised at how much they understand it and how they want to be generous to the people that can really benefit from it.

And that brings us right up to today… loving all. Loving the people in our lives, loving the disadvantaged in our society, and loving the poor around the world. How do you sing “Skidamarinky Dink-a-dink – I love you” to our world?

After all, isn’t love the backdrop for everything that happened that first Christmas? Christmas is a recognition and celebration of the day that Jesus came into our world… when Jesus, who is God, decided to give up all His rights and privileges as God in order to enter into His own Creation. And why did He do that? Because of love.

You see, we as a race had rebelled against God. We had turned our backs on Him and decided to go our own way. And in so doing, we severed our relationship with Him. To the point that it was beyond anything we could do to repair it. That’s what we’re talking about we say we are lost in our sinfulness… it means our relationship with God is damaged beyond our ability to repair it. And that means we are destined for a Godless eternity.

But the thing is, God loved us too much to leave us in that kind of mess. We couldn’t do anything to fix our relationship with Him, but He could. And so, out of His love, He entered into His own Creation in the form of a baby, He grew up, and He died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sin, to offer us forgiveness and a restored relationship with Him, and He rose from the dead, conquering death in order to offer us eternal life with Him.

That’s really the message of Jesus. And it’s summarized so well in that famous verse from the New Testament…

John 3:16 (NLT)
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

And from what Karen read earlier…

1 John 4:9-10 (NLT)
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

That’s Christmas, isn’t it? God loved us so much that He gave His Son. He gave of Himself so that we wouldn’t have to be lost in our sinfulness anymore, but instead we could enjoy a new life with Him.

But again, it was all motivated by love. And so that’s what we’re talking about this Christmas. Being motivated by our love for others. Allowing the love of God to flow through us as we extend it to other people.

And what I want to do over the next several minutes, is talk about what it means for me to love others. And if you have your message notes, you can use them to follow along and fill in the blanks as we go.

What Does It Mean to Love Others?

1.    My love for others means I give of myself

This is really what we’ve been talking about over the past couple weeks. Instead of giving meaningless gifts at Christmas time or anytime of the year, how about giving of yourself? Invest your life in others. Invest yourself in your family and friends, and invest yourself in the poor, the marginalized, the underprivileged.

And yes, that will probably involve some money. But more than that, I’m talking about investing your time, your energies, your attention, your prayers, your abilities… I’m talking about loving people by investing yourself, and not just tossing a few bucks in their general direction then forgetting about them.

Because love is not just an emotion. It’s not just expressed through random gestures. It’s an attitude of the heart that leads us to give of ourselves and serve others. You can see that in 1 John 3…

1 John 3:17-18 (NLT)
If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

Okay, so that passage is talking about giving money to people in need. But what I want you to notice here is the motivation behind it. It’s an heart of love, it’s an attitude of compassion, that propels you to action. It’s giving to meet a need, but giving because you have already become invested through your compassion.

Now, in talking about love, there’s a classic definition of love that you hear at weddings all the time comes from the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians. And it says…

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Isn’t that a great definition? But you know what? If you go to that passage and you read it in context, what you discover is that when the Apostle Paul wrote those words, He was talking about how we are to serve each other. He was talking about investing our lives in others.

Love… Real love… means that we give of ourselves.

2.    My love for others compels me to give sacrificially

The love that God had for us led Him to make the ultimate sacrifice…

1 John 4:10 (NLT)
This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

The love that God has for us cost Him personally. We’re not going to get into a big discussion of the Trinity this morning… we’ve done that before and we’ll do it again. But not this morning. But basically, we understand that Jesus is God, and so really, He sacrificed Himself.

He started by giving up the comforts of Heaven to be born as a Baby. And His sacrifice culminated when He died a very painful death on a cross, executed as a common criminal.

That’s what it meant for Him to give sacrificially. Odds are, you’re not going to give sacrificially in that same way.

But if God Himself was willing to give so sacrificially because of His love for you and for me, can’t we give sacrificially for one another, too?

Remember the rich man who came to Jesus one day and asked Him how he could inherit eternal life? This man had lived a good life, had obeyed the Ten Commandments, and from everything we know was an all-right guy. But Jesus recognized the one thing that was holding him back. He was addicted to his possession. His stuff was more important to him than his relationship with God. And so Jesus told Him…

Mark 10:21-22 (NLT)
“Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

This rich man had a messed up perspective of his possessions. They were all-important to him. Just like they can become for you and for me.

That’s why I think it’s so important for us to learn to give sacrificially, because it helps us keep our possession in perspective. Sacrificial giving keeps our stuff from gaining control over our lives.

Besides, real love is going to compel us to give sacrificially. Real love means that we don’t have to force ourselves to give… it means we just can’t help ourselves. We’re compelled to give… sacrificially.

3.    My love for others follows the example of Jesus

Those of us who consider ourselves to be Christ-followers… who look at the way that Jesus lived and who try to apply His teachings to our lives… well, love has to be part of the equation. Jesus loved others purely and freely, and if we’re going to follow Him, then we need to love, too. We need to do good and give of ourselves because that’s precisely what Jesus did.

1 Peter 2:21 (NLT)
For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

And if you look at 1 John 3:16, you read basically the same thing…

1 John 3:16 (NLT)
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.

So again, Jesus is our example. He’s our model. He showed us what it means to really love others. His love meant that He gave freely and generously of Himself. And if we’re going to live like Jesus lived, we need to allow that same kind of love to flow through us.

Going back to what Karen read earlier, we can read about the end result of living and loving like Jesus did…

1 John 4:17 (NLT)
And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

When we love, we live like Jesus. When love for others motivates us to action, we are living like Jesus. When we are even willing to sacrifice and give of ourselves… give out of our time, our talents, our resources… we are living like Jesus.

4.    My love for others is the evidence of the work of God in my life

Can you love others without the presence of God in your life? Sure you can. All people, even devout atheists, have the ability to express love and compassion toward others. But for the Christ-follower, our ability to love grows exponentially as our relationship with Him grows.

1 John 4:11-12 (NLT)
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other… But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

If God is at work in your life, an ever-increasing love for others is going to be the result… a love for people you know, and even for people you’ll never meet. You’re going to have a greater capacity for compassion for people all over the world, because of the work of God in your life.

1 John 4:7-8, 16-17 (NLT)
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. …
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.

You know, it’s kind of funny. A lot of people in the world today seem to have the impression that the evidence of the work of God in your life is that you start to think you’re better than others, that you start to talk funny, that you tend to dress in polyester, and that you become out of touch with the real world.

But that’s not the evidence of the work of God. That just seems to come naturally for some people. No, the evidence of the work of God is love.

Remember that clip from How the Grinch Stole Christmas? Where the Grinch’s heart grew 3 sizes? Well, that’s the work of God. Your capacity to love grows 3 sizes and keeps growing from there.

Romans 5:5 (NLT)
For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

God loved the world so much that He gave His Son. Jesus loved us so much that He gave Himself. It was love for us that motivated Jesus to come to earth… to love the poor, the forgotten, the marginalized. And it’s His love working through us that can motivate us, as well.

What are you going to do this Christmas to make a difference in this world? How are you going to love all? Even beyond the circle of your own family and friends, how can you love all?

One of the things we’ve been suggesting here is that you participate in our Christmas Eve Offering. Our Christmas Eve Offering this year is going to go toward providing access to a source of clean water for villages in Sierra Leone. So we’ve been talking about how there are close to a billion people on this planet that don’t have clean water. And that just leads to all kinds of diseases and poverty.

So in spending less on meaningless gifts, we’ve been encouraging you to give toward this significant offering that can literally save lives. If you’re not going to be here Christmas Eve but would still like to participate, you can use one of these “My Christmas Offering” envelopes, put your gift inside, and place it in the Offering Box.

Motivated by compassion for all the people who are suffering because of the lack of clean water, I think this is a very practical and important way to express the love of God to our world.

Take a look at this video…

VIDEO – Living Water Christmas Promo




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