In today’s Christmas sermon from 1 John 4:9-10, Pastor Babij teaches three astonishing truths demonstrated by the advent of Jesus Christ:
1) God’s initiative to save His people
2) The extent of God’s actions to bring eternal life
3) The extent of God’s sacrifice
Pastor Babij explains that the true message of Christmas is the amazing extent of God’s love for His people and how He sacrificed His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for them. Pastor Babij concludes by exhorting all to come to Jesus in repentance and faith.
We are going to be looking at 1 John 4:9-10, and I’ll be bringing other Scriptures in as we go along. Let’s pray:
Father, we thank You so much for bringing us here together. Lord, we’re here this morning, as we are every Sunday, to worship You. This Sunday is the first Sunday before we celebrate the birth of Christ, so I pray, Lord, as we look at the Scriptures, You would again astonish us by how deep Your love has been to humanity. I pray that we would see that today more than ever, and I pray that it would change us, draw us to Christ, and make us more faithful to serve Him with the short time we have on this Earth. For those who know Christ, we know we’re going to be spending an eternity with You, and that’s going to be a blessed and joyful time as we serve and worship You in all eternity. Thank You, Lord, for today. Bless us with listening ears and a receptive heart. I pray in Christ’s name, Amen.
What a blessed time of year is the Christmas season. Excitement fills the air. People are talking about meeting with family, friends, and enjoying their favorite foods. People are chatting about giving gifts and about time off from work and school. Often in all that commotion, there exists kind of a societal confusion or misinformation. The catchword of 2018 is "Fake News." Fake news about Christ, what He came to do, and who He was.
While there are no facts proving the reality of Santa Clause, elves, reindeer, or anything like these, every year they are all presented as realities, yet on a silent night in Bethlehem, Luke 2:11 tells us:
For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
So, this news that we find in the word of God is a historical fact, a prophetic fact, and a Scriptural fact, but each year, it is buried under a pile of fake news and is messaged purposely obscured. Now, you see signs in stores and on bumper stickers that read "Xmas." Then, you see people respond to these signs by saying, "We ought to put Christ back into Christmas," as a substitution for the letter X for the name of Christ.
What they may not know, since it’s not knowledge readily available, is that the idea of X is actually an abbreviation for the name Christ, which really came into use in our culture with no intent to show any disrespect to Jesus. In fact, the first letter of the Greek word "Christus" is translated in our alphabet as an X. It is the first letter in the Greek name for Christ, which is Christo. The letter X has come through church history to be a shorthand symbol for the name of Christ and has a long sacred history.
Also, notice that people have on the back of their car’s symbols of a fish, and sometimes those fish are eating Darwin theology or stuff like that. Historically, the church has used that symbol of fish because it’s an acronym. In Greek, fish is "ichthus" where it involved the use of the first letter of the Greek phrase, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior."
Thus, the early Christians would take the first letter of those words and put those letters together to spell the Greek word fish where the first one would be "Yaesu", which is "I owed it" in the Greek. Then, X would be "Cristo", which is "Christ." That’s how the symbol "fish" became the universal symbol of Christianity.
Historically, the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ from its origin has meant no disrespect. However, that doesn’t mean that when people of our day, who use the letter X, do intend to X out Christ from the holiday, from everything else, and use it in a derogatory matter. In the midst of all this confusion of this holiday season, let’s instead get lost in the facts of the astonishing things about God’s love.
From 1 John 4:9-10, there are three astonishing things about God’s love that I want to bring to your attention. The first astonishing thing is that God’s love is astonishing because God took the initiative to secure the salvation of sinners. 1 John 4:9 tells us:
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.
The term "world" is meant the world of mankind indefinitely ruined by Adam’s sin. Everybody born in the world is a sinner because it’s transmitted from Adam, and they will have their own sins that they will commit. If you are spiritually alert, you must conclude that God is active in salvation. In other words, God actually goes out after us and seeks after us. He is not a God who can be persuaded by our lives and actions into forgiving us because there was some good thing in us, but a God whose love is actually so great that He not only forgives, but He persuades us to be forgiven because He gives us the message on how to be forgiven.
If salvation is just something we earn, there’s no incentive to lift up our voices to praise God for His wonderful love and so great salvation. However, if salvation is entirely the result of something God has done, then praise and wonder must be a part of the astonishment of the saints who lift up praises to God for the great things that He has done. For so great and magnificent a Salvation He has delivered unto humanity.
In fact, in the book of Hebrews, it declares that if someone rejects the Salvation that is offered to them in the Heavenly father’s incentive to send the only one fit for such a mission, which is Jesus Christ, the one nominated and appointed by the Father to be the savior of the world, then glad tidings become bad tidings. Hebrews 2:3 says:
How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
Well, if you neglect what the Father has offered in His love to humanity, there is no escape. When Jesus showed up on the Earth, that is when God’s love appeared in visible form. Titus 3:4-5:
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5He saved us…
In other words, He brought that message of the prophets to the world, which is now being preached to all who will listen. By God’s initiation, He brought salvation to the world. Even when it came to Mary, the mother of Jesus, God initiated the announcement to Mary through the angel Gabriel of God’s promised plan of Salvation. The angel told Mary that she was going to bear a child and her response in Luke 1:34 was:
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
Now, this is not a question of doubt, but a question of wonder and design? Mary is asking about the mechanics:
How’s this going to work? How can such an impossible thing be fulfilled? Something like this has never ever happened before. This is unheard of. No one’s going to believe this.
Remember, people were not familiar with hearing from God. Not since Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, did God’s message come to the people? In fact, God did not speak through a prophet for 400 years after Malachi until John, the Baptizer, which was when the religious world was filled with hypocrisy and spiritual lethargy.
Mary, along with everyone else, was unaccustomed to supernatural appearances and miraculous promises. The Wonder of God was absent from the general population. However, it pointed to God doing something entirely new and Mary was sensing it. In fact, people were sensing something was going on. Mary’s question was stuck in the realm of human reasoning, so Gabriel answered her in Luke 1:35:
The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
Thus, God initiated Jesus virgin birth. Mary will conceive without an Earthly father. The Holy Spirit will overshadow her, which means surround and influence Mary’s womb with a creative power to produce a special child. The birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ, as a man is entirely the work of God. We had nothing to do with it. If we did, then we would mess it up.
He was not born of the will of man, nor of the energy of the flesh. The male human being did not enter into the question of conception. The man is put on one side and had nothing to do with it, which emphasizes the total inability of man to bring about his own salvation.
The initiative has to be entirely of God and His plan to rescue people from their sin, so Jesus will be conceived without sin. Unlike any other child, Jesus was holy, separated from any sin, and by Nature, the Son of God. The operation of the Holy Spirit was done in such a way that this human nature the son took unto Himself was sinless, free from pollution, and entirely free from the effects and the result of Adam’s fall.
He was like no other human being. He was like no one else. The reason why He was like no one else is because he was the one who could save us. Jesus incarnation was so unusual, so exceptional, so miraculous, and so mysterious. John 1:14 tells us:
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Everything about the Lord is mysterious. His coming into the world is mysterious. His going out of the world is mysterious. He did not enter life like anyone else. He did not go out like anyone else. The resurrection was as unique as the virgin birth. From beginning to the end, everything about Him is exceptional. According to God’s plan and design, it was done. It says in Luke 1:37:
“For nothing will be impossible with God.”
So, the answer to Mary’s design problem was that God is the designer. Don’t worry about it. Let’s realize and remember that it all happened so that we might be saved and that our sins might be forgiven. The Son of God became man, so that the children of men may become children of God. John 1:12-13 says:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
It was God’s will that initiated, accomplished, and planned salvation, so God was pleased to send His son to assume our nature and die for our many sins. The giving of the Redeemer was the work of God’s free Mercy. Instead of God giving the sinner what he deserved, God gave Jesus what He doesn’t deserve, which is the punishment of our sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Nothing moved God to do this but His own astonishing love. The point being that the story of Salvation is not the story of God waiting for us to do something, or for us to repent, turn to Him, and do good works. Neither is it just the story of God responding to what we have done and rewarding us by pardoning us, nor forgiving us.
God is active and actually goes out after us. It was God who sent His son to work out this great salvation. It was God, the Father that sent His willing son to the Cross. It was God who raised Him from the dead. It was God who does everything. All of it is of God. The bottom of all of that is God’s amazing love. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1:15:
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
Paul, the Apostle, is saying:
I’m the worst of the sinners because I persecuted the church. I was cohort to people’s beatings, imprisonment, and murder. I am a sinner, but Christ saves me.
If we ask the question: why does He love us? We will have no answer but because. Because He loved us. It was the same reason given to Moses concerning God’s choice of the nation of Israel. God said to Moses in Deuteronomy 7:7-8:
The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers…
If you are a believer in Christ today, the answer to the question insured: why does God love you? He loves you because He loves you. Because that’s who He is. He demonstrates His love towards you because of who He is. So, the first reason for the astonishing love of God is because of God’s initiative in Saving Sinners.
Secondly, God love is astonishing because of the extent He went to bring life to dead sinners. 1 John 4:9 says:
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.
This love shows up in all those who respond positively to the demonstration of God’s love by believing in the Son. Through faith in Christ, life has come to us through Jesus Christ. Then, the love of God is manifested in us once we’ve come to Christ. John 17:3 says:
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Real life, eternal life, and spiritual life involves knowing and having Jesus Christ himself. For life is all tied up in Him and in Him alone. How spiritually dead are human beings? At least spiritually. We’re walking around, but we were born into this world spiritually dead. So spiritually dead that, as our text says, humans are not suited to naturally love God. 1 John 4:10 says:
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us…
The notion to think that you and I have the ability to love God on our own is flatly a lie. It could not have ever entered our heart or have the ability to love God on our own. I have the desire to do it. Only by God’s grace, could you or I have imagined asking that the eternal Son of God should assume our flesh and be made sin and a curse for us.
We just would have never conceived it in our own spiritually dead and darkened minds. We would never have done it if God didn’t take the initiative or go to the extent, He went to give us life. When a person is made spiritually alive, they quickly come to know that God loves them and the first and greatest way the love of God becomes wonderfully known to the redeemed sinner is the Cross. How astonishing is God’s love? Let me answer that with Romans 5:8:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Think of it for a moment, the God you and I defied, the God you have ignored and disobeyed not only has not damned and destroyed us, but actually has sent His only begotten son to die for you and me and redeem us, buy us back, save us, and forgive us.
See, the way of Salvation and the way of heaven has been open to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How astonishing is that? The Lord has visited this Earth and has provided everything needed to redeem His people. That is, all those who would come and believe in Him. The love of God is made as conspicuous as the light by the death of Jesus Christ. Where the Bible says in 1 John 3:16:
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
That’s how we know love. However, there’s something else that we must become very aware of when we are reading Scripture and it is that of our unworthiness of the Son of God becoming human to die for our sake. Paul says in Romans 5:7:
For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.
In the past couple of years, I’ve read many books on military special forces, and I’ve come to notice a common thread that runs through those books. It is the comradery, the loyalty, and the brotherhood that exist among these men. They develop a deep respect and love for each other and a closeness to each other. Several of the books quoted John 15:13 several times:
Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
All of them have answered this question: would I give my life for the guy standing next to me, for the guy in the foxhole with me? Would I make the ultimate sacrifice for my noble comrades? If it came down to it, would I take the bullet for my fellow brother? They all answered in the affirmative. They all said I would do it.
Many who have gone down range, which means they went to a battle and they died, have paid the ultimate price for their brothers in arms. They took the bullet and gave their life, but if they were to be asked this question: would you lay down your life for the enemy? For the Taliban? For Al-Qaeda? For Isis? For the IAG, which is the Islamic Army group, a terrorist organization capable of training soldiers that would kill American soldiers? The answer would be: no way!
Their life is not worth giving my life. That’s not why I’m in this. The point being that the case is rare that one should die for another even if he or she was a good and righteous person. It is for the most part non-existent that one would willingly give his life for an enemy.
However, here is where the love of God takes on an astonishment of its own and is equal to no other. The demonstration of God’s mercy towered above the proportion that any friendly person could have ever displayed that God sent His son to die in the place not of those who were good or just, but for those who are not good, unjust, wicked, ungodly, haters of God, and in a damnable state.
He sent His son to die for us sinners, to rescue and free us from eternal death, and to make us partakers of eternal life. Romans 5:8 tells us:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Christ’s love goes to a level that no human being has ever come close to, and you can’t talk about Christ’s birth without talking about His death. Also, you can’t talk about His death without talking about His resurrection. You can’t even talk about His resurrection without talking about His ascension, His intersection, and His coming back again.
Jesus is coming back again. This heaven and earth are going to pass away. There’s going to be a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells, and we’re going to be with Him. All those who know Christ will be with Him. So, God’s love is astonishing because of the extent He went to save sinners and give them life, which is an extent that no human being, from Adam to the last person who dies, could ever accomplish.
Lastly, God’s love is astonishing because He spared no cost to save lost sinners. It says in 1 John 4:10:
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.
Meaning, to sacrifice. See, love is always to be understood in terms of God’s love for us, and never in terms of our love for God. That means love does not originate in man. Never has it and it never will. We only could love God once we understand His love towards us. Notice how striking God’s action is here in this passage:
…not that we loved God, but that He loved us…
Again, initiating the actions to send His son and atoning sacrifice with no immediate return or reciprocity at all. The Lord God knew when He sent His son, it would be for an atoning sacrifice for sin. His sacrifice would need to go beyond where any sacrifice had gone before.
We don’t live in a world that understands the reality or significance of the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament yet. Sacrifice is what the word of God means:
[He] sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
He sacrificed on our behalf. Meaning, Jesus is not just acting like a high priest to offer up sacrifices of animals on the altar before God on behalf of the people. In fact, the Greek word for "Mercy Seat" came to denote not only the mercy seat or the lid of the Ark of the Covenant inside the holy of holies, but also the propitiation or the reconciliation by the shedding of blood.
On the day of atonement, the high priests carried the blood of the sacrifice he offered for all for himself, for all the people, went inside the veil once a year, sprinkled it on the Mercy Seat, and he made propitiation for the people’s sin for that year.
There’s something much more that Christ did. Christ is not only the High Priest, the One making the offering, but He is the offering, which makes it completely different than any other offering that went before Him. 1 John 2:2 tells us:
and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins…
God, the Father, sent Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice to remove the guilt that we had incurred because of our sins, so that we may have eternal life. Jesus Christ and His death paid for our sins and satisfied God’s judgement on sin.
For all who come to Jesus Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior, two fundamental things happen right away. It is the removal of guilt because of their sin, which means they are cleansed and forgiven by God. Secondly, it is the removal of God’s anger toward that sinner. The death of Christ totally satisfied God’s justice, His righteousness, and His holy hatred of sin. In giving His son, God paid the greatest debt by paying the ultimate cost.
Brethren, I hope, and I pray that you never get bored of hearing about the true news about Christmas, of The Old Rugged Cross, and the love our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated there on Calvary’s Hill for those who confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior. When they read the word of God, they know this: their sins are forgiven, that all offenses are removed, that reconciliation to God is made, that they possessed now eternal life, they become partakers of the divine nature, they are born of God, and they pass out of condemnation into life. Oh, what a blessed stated it is to be actually saved and know it. To be delivered from the wrath of God.
So, may this message never be commonplace, but every time you think of how God saved you, if you are saved, you must think about the amazement of God’s love. Then, you would rejoice. So lastly, God’s love is astonishing because He spared no cost to save sinners. He gave his own life on behalf of those who don’t deserve it.
If you have not yet come to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you should. For sure, the invitation is what Jesus did on the cross is applicable to any person who comes to Him for salvation, and I pray for those who do not believe.
That today, you may come to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior. That He may become your advocate before the Father, and that you would come to know what Jesus has actually done and how He receives sinners.
So friends, Jesus is willing to take you just as you are. You don’t have to go back and change anything. That’s the whole point. He wants to wash you and make you whiter than snow. That is the great promise and the effect of the Cross of Jesus Christ. That’s why He came into the world and I would like to ask you today my friends: has this wonderful person been born in your heart? Jesus said in John 3:3:
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Christ is the King of the kingdom and He has emphatically said and communicated to us that you can in no wise enter the kingdom of God unless you are born again, born anew born from above, and born into God’s family. Have you been born into God’s family? That’s my question to you. A conversation with a young man went like this:
Young man, do you know you’re born from above?
The young man replies:
Well, I don’t know if I have or I haven’t.
The next question is this:
Have you ever been born physically?
Of course, I’ve been born physically. I know that.
Then the man said to him:
Young man, my friend, if you had been born again, you would know that as well. You would know that you’re in God’s family and you would know that you came to believe in Jesus Christ.
After you believed in Him, turned from your sin, and received Him, your life changed because He did that. Salvation is not about you or what we could do. It’s about what Christ has done and that we receive it as a free gift. So, I ask you again on this Sunday before Christmas Day, a day that we are celebrating the birth of a of our Savior, has he been born in your heart?
I would urge you to humble yourself to acknowledge your sin to look to Jesus, the Savior, and invite Him to come and be born in you, to cleanse you, to forgive you, and to transform you. If you don’t look to Jesus, you are still lost.
That’s the bottom line. You’re without Him, you’re not in His family, and you have no hope. My friends, when you leave this world and leap out into eternity, you will not be with Christ. It will not be a pleasant experience. So where will you be? With Christ in heaven or consigned forever to a punishment the Bible calls hell or the Lake of Fire? Remember what Scripture tells us in John 3:16-18:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Our inability to please God by ourselves means that the real change of Christian conversion must involve relying on Christ alone, which is the Father’s provision to sinful humanity. So yes, Jesus bears the name He well deserves and no one else – The Savior.
If you are in a place in your life that you realize that you have not come to believe in Jesus Christ, then today is the day to do it. This is what you must do. The Bible says that you have to repent of your sins and repent and it says and believe the Gospel. Repent means to turn away from the many individual sins by which you have offended God’s character and broken His law.
Turn away from any attempt or whatever it is to try to justify yourself before God by appealing to your own orthodox beliefs, your own acceptable behavior, or morality. Then, turn to God. Look to Him to pardon your sin, to give you a right standing before them, to bring you into His family and then have fellowship with Him.
You need to turn and Believe in Christ, but you also need to believe in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Leave everything alone and come to Christ alone.
Repentance towards God, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and true saving faith always responds with obedience:
Lord, what you say, I will do.
Repentance and belief mean to trust Jesus as God’s appointed provision for the forgiveness of your sins. It also means to trust Jesus to keep you in this saving belief until He takes you all the way to heaven where faith will become sight. We will drop off these old, decaying, aching bodies, and we will have resurrected bodies.
That is the promise of Scripture. So, where do you stand today? Is Christ born in your heart? Are you in the family of God? Have you come to a place in your life that you actually believed and trusted in Christ alone, and then followed Him, left your sinful life behind, opened up the Bible, started reading it, and studying it?
The Bible is big, but it is the mind and the will of God. When we find out what’s in it, it sets you free. There’s no fake news in Scripture. It’s all real, true, eternal, and it’ll never pass away because it comes from the very character and nature of God.
So, if you are a believer, praise God, continue to live for Him with your whole heart, with all your mind, with your soul, and with all your strength. Every day, seven days a week, and twenty-four hours a day, serve God. Don’t worry about your death, He’ll take you when He’s done. You just serve Him with all you got.
Yes, the love of God is truly astonishing. You all have a joyful holiday and a Christ-centered new year. You can, in 2019, have a Christ-centered new year. Come to Christ today if you don’t know Him. If you do know Him, continue to serve Him. Let’s pray:
Lord, thank You for the incredible love that you demonstrated on the Cross. Thank you, Father, for sending the Son. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for accomplishing everything that the Father gave You to do. Thank you, Holy Spirit, that now you make all that alive for us. You weld it upon our hearts our minds. You keep us from falling away from it. Thank You, Lord. If someone doesn’t know You today, I pray they would come speak with me, and that I might be able to share with them the word of God, how they can know Christ is our Lord and Savior and be saved today. For all those who believe in You, bless them exceedingly this year Lord with the sense of Your presence, with the further knowledge of the word of God, and of a deeper fellowship with Christ. I pray this in Your name, Amen.