Love This Christmas

1 Peter 1.22-25

Love is the greatest gift we can give and receive This Christmas.

For some of you, Love This Christmas starts with realizing God’s love for you. Faith comes before obedience. God has gone to the greatest links to prove His love for us by sending His Son Jesus to die for our sins. He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death on our behalf, and was raised the third day, so that by believing in Him we could have forgiveness of sins and eternal life, becoming a son or daughter of the King, having a living hope and inexpressible joy. [Trust]

For others of you, Love This Christmas starts with loving God more. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14.15). Obedience is active love. It’s the way we show our love for God and for others. If we believe that not only is God all-powerful and all-knowing, but that He also loves us in a way that only He can and that He desires our good, then we are fools when we refuse to obey. Obedience means doing what God says, but we can only do what He says if we know what He says. In other words, it’s impossible to obey if I don’t know what to obey. So how do we know what God wants us to do? You guessed it. Time spent in His Word. Time spent in prayer. Time with other believers. Learning, listening, dialoguing. No other way around it. But knowing’s not enough. I also have to apply what I’m learning. I have to do it. Good news…you don’t have to forge ahead on your own. The Spirit is the One who transforms us to live and love like Jesus…He’s the One who gives us the ability to do what God says to do. [Trust and obey]

For the rest, Love This Christmas continues with fervently loving one another from the heart. Loving others in active and practical ways is a natural consequence of obedience…a predictable outcome. What is the greatest commandment? Love God with all that we are and love our neighbor as ourself.

If other folks loved God the way you love God, and if they loved others the way you do, how would the world be different? If you practiced actively loving others this week, how would that impact your marriage? Your family? Your other relationships? What would that look like?

May we fervently love one another from the heart this Christmas season!

pro rege

This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series: This Christmas. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store.

Joy This Christmas

1 Peter 1.6-9

We can experience inexpressible joy even in the midst of trials when we see our lives from a kingdom perspective…because we have a living hope and an imperishable inheritance that is protected by God.

Everyone who walks this planet will suffer…guaranteed. It’s part of living in a fallen world. Death. Loss. Broken relationships. Disappointment. You name it. Some of that suffering is due to our own bad choices. Some of it’s due to the bad choices of others. Some of it’s a result of the fall. But everybody will suffer in some way at some time. But not all will suffer for their faith.

The picture that Jesus frequently uses for discipleship…for following Him…is taking up our cross. It’s a clear picture of suffering. Now why does suffering have to be a part of the deal? I mean if we’ve chosen to follow God, if we’ve been adopted into His family, if we’re kingdom citizens, then why doesn’t He keep us from suffering? If we are on the winning side, then why does it feel like we’re losing? It goes back to the fall…

When we rebelled against our Creator, it had a devastating effect not only on us but also on the good world that God had made. The benevolent rule that man was supposed to exercise over creation was forfeited to the enemy (Luke 4.6), who subsequently became “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4.4) , “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2.2). Before we trusted in Jesus, we were “sons (and daughters) of disobedience” (Ephesians 2.2), citizens of this world thoroughly committed to life in the kingdom of darkness.

When we trusted in Jesus another rebellion occurred, but this one was really a return. And while it is true that we are citizens of a new kingdom and children of God, we are still living in enemy territory. Because our allegiance has changed, we are at odds with the world around us. The more we look like Jesus…the more we live as kingdom citizens…the more at odds we will be. The more at odds, the more suffering. The more suffering, the more rejoicing. Why can we rejoice? Because our faith has been purified and strengthened. Because we know that our salvation is sure. Because we are becoming more like Jesus.

The counterfeit joy that this world offers is based on avoiding unpleasantness of any kind…forget about suffering. It’s a joy that is hollow, self-seeking and fleeting. It disappears when the storms of life come. Unfortunately that’s the only joy that many of us pursue. But true joy…inexpressible joy…comes only from following Jesus, taking up our cross and being willing to suffer with Him. Seems like an odd way to find joy…especially an inexpressible joy…but there it is. That kind of joy is independent of circumstance…good or bad, suffering or rejoicing…it remains unshaken.

It’s not that suffering in and of itself brings joy, but it’s our identification with Jesus…it’s the family resemblance. Suffering for my faith is the only suffering that I have some control over…I can avoid it by not living out my faith or I can embrace it when it comes while pursuing Jesus. The choice is up to you and me.

So what if I’m not distressed by various trials? What if I’m not suffering persecution of any kind for my faith? First question would be, have you trusted in Jesus? If not, today could be the day of salvation for you…the day that you are adopted into God’s family…a living hope, an imperishable inheritance, and an inexpressible joy can all be yours. You just have to recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance, believe that Jesus can save you and trust Him to do so.

If you have trusted in Jesus, then is it obvious to those around you? Does your life look any different than theirs? Actions…attitudes…language? Is there anything that would distinguish you from them? If the answer is “yes.” Then keep living out your faith. Trials will come…they may look different for you than for me…but they will come because we live in enemy territory. But if the answer is “no,” there’s a good chance that the folks around you are not mistaking you for being a Christian. You see, if you are living according to this world’s standards and behaving like everyone else…why would you be persecuted? But make no mistake…you will not experience the inexpressible joy that Peter is describing…only the counterfeit joy that disappears when hard times come.

This Christmas season I pray that you will experience the inexpressible joy that only Jesus can bring…the joy of knowing that He, your King is coming, the joy of knowing your salvation is secure, the joy of knowing Jesus.

pro rege

This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series: This Christmas. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store.