You have seen the title before. It is the title of our latest CD. Our Christmas CD. So, it has been marketed, e-mailed and e-mailed, posted on webpages, plastered on posters, and made its presence known in various retail locations across upstate NY and various other locales in the good ol’ US of A.
But they are not just catchy commercialism. Not simply marketing genius.
They aren’t even really my ideas. 🙂
Yes, I wrote the song “God Came” way back in 1994. And yes, we recorded the CD this year, and it is AWESOME (one more shameless plug there…)
But that’s neither the beginning, nor the end of this wonderful story.
All month long, we presented the amazing truth of how God loved us so much that he decided to give up his role as King of the universe and be born as a baby, grow up and give his life for us. We should have died, but instead, our King gave his life. Incredbile. Too amazing. Incomprehensible.
And it is. But, Paul prayed this:
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.
Attainable, yet unattainable. A goal within reach that we will never fully reach. How can that be? Paradox. But paradise. A love that goes beyond what we could ever experience from anyone else.
Let me try to reveal it further.
Eph 1:4-5 says, “Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.”
Before he even made the world, God had planned to be born in a barn. Before he spoke the cosmos into existence, he was thinking of YOU. He knew that we would leave him. He knew we would choose our own way, that we would need help to break free from the bondage of sin. He knew that we couldn’t do it on our own.
So, he emptied himself (Phil 2) of all his rights as God and became like a servant. Like one of us. So that through his sinless life, and his victory of sin and death, we could live the life that He had planned for us… even before he made the world.
The part we most often miss in all of that is how God did it. I don’t mean the deep theological discourse on the propitiatory ramifications of the salvific events on Golgotha. (I did learn SOMETHING at Bible college…) I mean we miss his joy! He actually WANTED to come. He wanted to be held in a young mother’s arms. To be fed by her. To have his diapers changed by her. To grow up in the awkward body of a adolescent. To hear the taunts of the other kids. To feel the pain of a scraped knee. To know the hurt of words thrown carelessly around. To even know the sting of death. (Some think he lost his father, Joseph, at a fairly early age.)
Knowing all of that… it says that this plan, “gave him great pleasure.”
That blows me away.
We all know John 3:16. It’s at all the football games. It’s graffitied on overpass bridge supports on the highway. It’s memorized by anyone who’s ever been near a Bible.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.
But what does verse 17 say? Something rather important, wouldn’t you think? Following the verse that sums up all of human history? It has to be at least close in significance. Yet, when I ask the question of any group of believers, the hands are much more sparse than for the previous verse. 🙂
God did not send his son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.
How often do we thank God in amazement for his gift of salvation, our ticket to heaven, but then as we continue in our life, we begin to fear failing him. We feel we must continue to improve, or risk losing his love. Perhaps in some sort of celestial dog house. On God’s bad side.
But Romans assures us this is not the case. God’s love toward us – his non-condemnation – is not a once, so-we-can-get-in-and-turned-around kind of love. It is constant. It is for all time. It was long before the world was formed. It was even while we were still his enemies. Listen to the following lines from Paul’s letter to the Romans…
For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grave through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (NIV)
Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for someone who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s judgment. For since we were restored to friendship with God through the death of his son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God – all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
What can we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
Romans 8 continues to say that we can never lose God’s love. We never did anything to earn it. God doesn’t love me because I am such a good songwriter. Or a singer. Or a web-page builder. Or a good husband, father, son, brother, neighbor…
That’s not why he loves us.
God loves me just because he made me. I was messed up. I still am. But he knew he could fix it. He came. And it gave him great pleasure.
That is the story of Christmas. God became man. The eternal lived in the temporal. He lived just like we did, yet was faultless. And in that way, he paid our way to eternal life.
Jesus said, “And this is the way to have eternal life, to know you the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
That’s it. His offer is good to any who would accept it. Life like it oughta be. With the one who invented it.. Made right by that same one. Made perfect.
The bumps will still come. Death still has a limp grasp on us. Just look at the catastrophic death that people are dealing with in Asia from the tsunami disasters. People will still lose their jobs, their spouses, their houses. But God came. He proved once and for all that he loves us, by not only coming to endure life in a messed up world, but by willingly dying for me. For you.
If God is for you, then who – or what – could ever be against you?
Think about these things as we close 2004. Think about his love that surpasses understanding.
When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen.