“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4.9-19)
He Loves Us First.
“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)
If love is demonstrated in sacrifice, in the manger is perfect love.
Have you ever had an argument with someone you love? Sometimes people become very quiet with one another in the long winter of a big disagreement. Who is going to speak first? Who is going to give the first hug? Who is going to be the first to break the silence? How will they first show that there is, once again, love among us?
It is very hard to be the first one to open up and offer your love to someone who has been cruel to you.
And yet, this is exactly what God did. In the incarnation, He took all the risk and offered first love. He embraced first. He was first to kill the fatted calf of pride. He was first to invite you to Christmas dinner. He was first to come to you, first to set foot on your turf, first to knock on the door to your heart, and first to come into your crib. He is the host, He is the provider, He is the benefactor of the first supper, the last supper, and every supper in between. And He always tops every feast off with Christmas pie.
Christmastime reminds us that winter might forever be broken, the winter between you and God -- not because you ended the fight, but because He did. He ends all wars -- within and without. He breaks every chain -- on your hands and your heart. In His name all oppression shall cease -- in heaven and on earth… and in you.
Always remember who finished it -- God did.
He loves you first.
He Loves Us Best.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (v10)
“...not that we loved God” Isn’t that an amazing thought? -- His love for you is not limited by your love for Him.
I know of a man who keeps a list. He checks it twice. He’s going to find out who’s naughty and nice. He has a beard that’s white and comes once a year on a special night. Beard that’s white? Special night? Must be Santa.
But Jesus and Santa are very different, you know. For one, Santa is Norwegian, and Jesus is Palestinian. Santa Claus likes cookies and cold milk from a cow. Jesus Christ would have probably preferred falafel and warm milk from a goat. Eew. But something else is very different, and it has to do with that list they keep. What happens to little boys and girls who are on Santa’s naughty list? They get a lump of ... peppermint rock candy? Bitcoin? They wish! No, they get a disgusting, dirty lump of coal!
But what happens to little boys and girls on Jesus’ naughty list? Up to their very last breath, they are offered the gift of love. They get a second chance. And a third chance. And a 490th chance to make better choices. God’s love -- God’s grace -- rains down on the just and the unjust, the naughty and nice, alike.
Doesn’t he have a list? Isn’t he checking it twice? Well, yes, of course, there is a list of names, written in the Lamb’s book of life. But you don’t get on the list by being nice; nobody could really be that good. In fact, I want to tell you a little secret. We all start out on the naughty list. Moms and dads are naughty. So are grandmas and grandpas and Mother Theresas and Pastor Steves. We all fall short of the glory of the nice list one way or another. So is there any hope for us to get on the nice list at all?
Praise be to God, He made a way where there seemed to be no way! This is going to sound strange, but it is the Gospel truth: While you were yet on the naughty list, God sent His Son -- the only One who was ever good enough to be on the nice list -- to be a sacrifice, to take the lump of coal you deserved, and to let you jump the line and join Him on the nice list. It is lavish and extravagant, but, in a very real sense, when we trust the Lord Jesus, we somehow share His name on the nice list. It is as though He is the only one with the golden ticket, and there we are beyond the gate, and then He calls out to us, “Hey, come cut in line and stand here with me. It’s ok. I want to share my ticket with you.”
Does He force anyone jump the line to be with Him? No. But He does invite everyone. You get on the nice list only one way -- by receiving His niceness. In that sense, the Lamb’s "nice list" is really nothing more than a list of people who have opened the present, accepted the gift He hung on your tree; people who have welcomed God’s love into their hearts by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
That is some kind of love! Your life -- all of it -- the good and the bad -- can neither start nor stop the love of God. This is not love as the world gives, but love as only a Holy God can give it.
Let there be no doubt: He loves you best.
His Love Overflows.
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (v11)
Love like this should not, cannot, be contained. When you allow His love to be real in your life -- so real, so supernaturally real -- you can't stop one very important thing from happening: that love is going to overflow. You are going to start loving people, not that way the world loves, but the way God loves. Not with cheap human love that runs out of batteries so easily, but with all-powerful Holy love that keeps going and going and going...
Because it is God's Holy love in you, you are going to love your neighbor first, just as He does. You will find yourself strangely compelled to reach out and forgive those people you have been fighting with for so long. You won't be able to help yourself, because that is what holy love does. It overflows!
Again, because it is God's Holy love in you, you are going to love your neighbor with the best love, just as He does. You will throw away your lists, naughty and nice, things so-and-so did to you fifty-eight years ago that your human love can't get past. Again, you will not be able to help yourself, because that is how holy love rolls. It overflows, to the sinners and the saints in equal measure, pressed down, shaken together, and like Christmas, spilling over with lavish extravagance.
This is the love God shows you. Do you show it to others? Holy love is the only thing that will break the cold of winter in our relationships with one another, and with Jesus.
“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, because God is love.” (vv7,8)
May the love of God abound in you -- and through you -- this Christmas!