The message of Jesus birth given by angels to the shepherds near Bethlehem has always amazed me, specifically the last line of Luke 2:14;
13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
How did God become “pleased” with men? What had they done to please Him? By all Biblical accounts the people of Israel were under Roman rule, the Jewish culture was being directed by religious hypocrites, the priests were insensitive to God’s purpose in the Law of Moses and the hearts of the people were far from Him! How could He be pleased with a people who didn’t know, obey, or in effect love Him?
The birth of Christ and the day of His death were pivotal moments in God’s relationship with man. Jesus was born into a world that was totally ignorant of divine purpose and was then rejected and crucified by the very people that he came to save. He suffered the cruelty of a Roman cross because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). Not that we deserved His love – He loved us because that is His divine nature. The following verses say it so well; He IS love and for that reason He sent Christ so that we might live through His sacrifice. Not that we loved Him… He loved us.
1 John 4:8-11 (NASB Strong’s)
…. God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Jesus said that the great commandment of Moses Law was:“ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22:36-37 Comp Deut 6:5) Yet God knew that obeying that commandment depended on man first receving a NEW HEART. The Adamic nature that we were born with says “do what is best for you” – “serve your own desire” “you are your own master”
That is why we must be “born again”… we need a regeneration to take place in the heart in order to receive His love and to love Him in return.
Titus 3:5 (NASB Strong’s)
5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
By His unconditional love God was “well pleased” with men who were living without Him in the world.
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
“WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS”
The propitiatory sacrifice of Christ took place while we were without God and ignorant of His presence or eternal purpose. Jesus made His ultimate sacrifice without any cooperation on our part. He paid the price for our redemption so that we could become righteous before God THROUGH HIM. We did nothing. Even the faith that we exercised believing in Him came to us by His Word.
There is nothing more humbling than to understand that we are the unworthy beneficiaries of a love that is totally selfless and pure. It leaves us entirely defenseless to reject it and without excuse to not respond to it.
DIVINE LOVE is demonstrated to us in an indescribable way. It reaches out when we are running away — it includes us even though we exclude IT – it penetrates the hardened heart and disarms our efforts to reject it.
In His love He may ordain situations that are meant to weaken us, to bring us to the end our own resources, ability or wisdom. Yes, he may weaken us in the way (Psa 102:23) but with the purpose of making us strong.
Realizing and accepting our weakness is part of the dynamic of walking with God. He may greatly bless us and then leave us to ourselves so that we realize that we are powerless to live for him by ourselves. In those moments, instead of finding that our weaknesses have alienated us from God’s love, we find that He is always willing to accept the repentant failure. God loved us “while we were yet sinners”, therefore His love is not prevented from reaching us in our times of failure. When we confess our need, He is there to lift us up.
The example that Jesus gave in His parable of the Prodigal Son is clear:
- The sinful son “came to his senses” and realized his state
- He understood that his father would not reject him
- He confessed “I have sinned”
- He admitted “I am not worthy to even be a son”
- HIS FATHER’S LOVE EMBRACED AND RESTORED HIM
So what about our “Lost Years”? Those empty, lonely, aching, self-centered, confusing years? What about the time we spent as lukewarm and inactive Christians?
Well my friend, God is not in the business of eternal punishment – He is the author of ETERNAL LIFE and the blessing that comes with His presence.
While our disobedience may cost us dearly for a time, our genuine repentance brings a restoration that is just as amazing as God’s love!
Jeremiah 29:13-15 (NASB Strong’s)
13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’
“This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you…”
…. I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
Ezekiel 36:33-36 (NASB Strong’s)
33 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. 35 They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden;
God promised to restore the fortunes of His people 15 times in the Old Testament!
His love is a quality of His divine nature and does not consist or function as a return in kind because of our goodness.
Remember, Christ died for us “WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS”.
His love precedes and transcends our past, present and future. I believe that this was the reason for Paul’s words to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 3:17-19 (NASB Strong’s)
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Paul’s revelation of God’s love caused him to become a living sacrifice, dedicated to the God’s purpose rather than his own.
Galatians 2:20 (NASB Strong’s)
20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
We cannot go very far in this life because of a sense of duty or because of the fear of judgement. LOVE is the motivator and it is the power to live in victory.
His love is so great that:
- He sent His only begotten Son as the sacrifice for the sins of the world (Jn 3:16)
- We have been given the title “Sons of God” (1Jn 3;1)
- He loved us without our love in return (1 Jn 4:10; Rom 5:8)
- He poured out his love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5) and
- NOTHING can separate us from His love (Rom 8:39)
- It surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:19)
1 John 2:2 (NASB Strong’s)
and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
God’s love go beyond the limits of human frailty…
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
4 Love is patient, it does not seek its own, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails;…
We are recipients of a love that we don’t deserve, we can’t earn it, it is beyond our comprehension and we can never give it back in the same measure that it has given to us.
The only thing that we have to give in return for this great gift, is a heart that is willing to fulfill His eternal purpose.
2 Corinthians 9:15
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!