13 December 2006

The Love Shack

by Jolly Fat Man

OK -- you have 13 shopping days until Christmas, and I'm not even going to link to the Pawn Shop. That's just too obvious -- and besides: I'll bet you can't get your stuff in time now anyway. CafePress is fine and all that, but their fulfillment runs at about the speed that old men golf. The chatty ones.

Anyway, I had this 6-part series at my blog about Christmas which you'll have to read for yourself if you're interested because this is a blog for original stuff -- not recycled trash. Recycled Spurgeon, maybe -- but not trash. My point is that I took 6 parts to finish that series and I didn't get to say something. I couldn't figure out how to work it in, so I brought it over here. And it works in nicely with Dan's post from yesterday, so it's all gravy -- it's like we planned it.

I was on a bit about how the wrath of God is a sort of necessity in Christmas, and I got to the place where I was saying that we ought to love the incarnate Jesus to the degree that we have been spared the wrath of God -- that this is what Christmas ought to be all about.

So far, so good, right?

Listen: I couldn't figure out how to work in what it means to love the incarnate Christ. is that stupid? So that's the topic here -- loving Christ.

The first thing to say about that is, a real Jesus requires real love. One of the gripes I hear from non-believers (and nearly non-believers -- you know who you are) is that Christians are real emotional and relational clods. We don't really have a lot of emotional range -- we can get indignation out real good, and maybe stoic fortitude, but things like happy, compassionate, friendly in a non-salesman-like way, and all the upside of human emotional pitch seems to be someplace outside our repertoire. And honestly -- they have a small point. Even Bono -- who they might call a believer -- doesn't seem very happy even when he's doing whatever it is he says nobody else is doing.

But here's the thing: while loving Christ produces a real love for people, it must produce a real love and not merely an emotional love for people. Because it must itself be a real love for Christ and not merely a zinger-and-Code-red rush of emotional sugar for Jesus.

You know: Christ died for our sins. He was born and allowed himself to be birthed in a stable -- a cave or a shack -- and slept his first night in the air of Jerusalem Bethlehem (sorry -- that's what I get for being up late) in a feeding trough. They weren't expecting Him, and they didn't clean up the barn before he showed up -- it was a dirty place in a barn-like sort of way. And Jesus did that in order to die for our sins.

Think about what Christ gave up to then die for our sins. He gave up the throne of Heaven where he was only worshipped for the sake of growing up the son of a carpenter. He gave up having no needs to be was hungry from time to time. He gave up eternal perfection and beauty to smell like a person who didn't have any deodorant ever, and lived among people who were exactly like that. And he loved these people.

He loved them! He loved John the crazy baptizer who, after being thrown in prison, had his doubts about whether Jesus was the Christ, who even asked if he and his disciples should look for another Messiah. He loved Peter, and Peter was quite a pill -- one of those friends who was always making promises and not keeping them. He loved his mother who, even though she saw the angel and gave a virgin birth, doubted that Jesus was sane and pleaded with him to stop what he was doing. He loved Mary who had demons, and Martha who worked too hard, and Lazarus their brother.

Who do we love? I mean besides out spouses and our kids: who do we love in a way that is more than a wish of good luck to that person? Do you love anybody in an active and obvious way?

Would they agree with you that you do this?

Listen: in this way -- this Christmas way -- God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son. Gave His son! God did something about love at Christmas which people could see and hear and touch with their own hands. And we are called by His name to be a people like that given Son.

So this Christmas, with 13 shopping days left, take your mind off the cookies and the wrapping paper and the fake tree with the lights burned out, and think about the love that is manifest in the baby in the manger. Because that Love is not just a greeting card kind of love, and it's not a cue-the-orchestra kind of emotional state: that love is a working love, a living love which overcomes the world.

Be part of that love. And not just at Christmas, but maybe you could start at Christmas -- like a present to your conscience or something. I don't have any practical suggestions about how to do that because you people are all over the planet. But get off your KBs and pull yourself away from the blogs for a half hour and love someone the way Christ loves you -- that is, in a way which they do not deserve and that you can pay out lavishly.

There is no law against that kind of love.










15 comments:

Beth said...

I was just talking to my son last night about how important it is for him to understand what exactly it was that Jesus did for us. I went through all of the scriptures in God's word that talk about the atoning work of Jesus' death. How God requires blood for the atonement of the soul. How it is Jesus' blood that cleanses us from sin. That His sacrifice of Himself is the only sacrifice that God would ever accept for the taking away of sins. I asked my son if God had required each one of us to sacrifice ourselves, in the same manner that Jesus was sacrificed, in order to spend eternity in heaven would we be willing to do that? Of course he said he didn't know if he would be able to do that. So I went on to tell him that because God loves us He has not required that we suffer that kind of punishment. I then asked him if the Lord said that He would accept the sacrifice of my son in order that I would be able to spend eternity in heaven, would my son give his life for me? Of course my son said that he wasn't sure he would be able to do that. I said that was a perfectly normal response and to thank God that He does not require us to make those kind of decisions. That when we picture God asking us to do what Jesus did, and us realizing that it would be very hard to do if not impossible in our human falleness, then that alone should drive us to our knees in thankfulness and love for God and His son. That is an illustration of God's mercy. I'm not sure that we fully understand the substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross. Another thing the Lord showed me as well was not only the fact that we would not want to have to suffer crucifixion to have our sins removed, but let's say that it was what God required. Would we go willingly, all the while praising God and thanking Him that we were having to go through that? Would we still want to spend eternity in heaven? I wonder. At what cost would we be willing to do the Father's will. It's very easy to say we are thankful to Jesus but do we really understand what it is that He did for us? How can we not love our Savior with all our heart and soul?

centuri0n said...

Beth:

This is exactly right. If we -- and I would include "me" in "we" -- understood and were really considering the work of Christ on the cross, for example, when somebody at work was being a bit of bone in our gravy, so to speak, our first reaction probably wouldn't be to call them a "bone in our gravy".

It's like what Paul said about the Macedonians: in severe tests of affliction, our abundance of joy and our extreme poverty ought to overflow in a wealth of generosity -- not fear and stinginess.

Amen, sister.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Good word, Frank - although I love practical suggestions.

Nathan Davis said...

"And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel..." Luke 2:6

Excellent post, but as a point of correction:
"You know: Christ died for our sins. He was born and allowed himself to be birthed in a stable -- a cave or a shack -- and slept his first night in the air of Jerusalem in a feeding trough..."

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and that first night, breathed the air of Bethlehem and not Jerusalem.

Never the less, your words are true. Behold what manner of love the father has given unto us that we should be called the sons of God...(1Jn 3:1)

Phil Johnson said...

Bethlehem is just downwind from Jerusalem.

centuri0n said...

Apparently I am downwind of Jerusalem -- selling too many John Hagee books or something. Correction noted and accepted.

centuri0n said...

BTW, Phil is blogging while sick. Don't hold him accountable for things the NyQuil has obviously said.

:-)

Don Fields said...

Excellent encouragement! One of your better posts. Thanks.

Pastor Mike said...

"But here's the thing: while loving Christ produces a real love for people, it must produce a real love and not merely an emotional love for people. Because it must itself be a real love for Christ and not merely a zinger-and-Code-red rush of emotional sugar for Jesus."

Very good handle on the English language and on junk food analogies!

May I throw in here that we also must not fall into the trap of "we love Jesus" like we love our girlfriend? Some of our "worship songs" are simply reconstituted romantic love songs.

It's not a syruppy sweet valentine's Day Hallmark moment (strike one) and it's not a one night rendevouz with our little honey (although there is something to the bride of Christ image -- foul tip, strike two). We had better think about the practical application of this truth quickly or risk striking out!

donsands said...

"That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown"

Thanks for the excellent thoughts.

Even So... said...

by Jolly Fat Man

When I saw that I thought, hey when did I do a guest post for Pryos? Then I saw your signature, cent, and my Christmas dream came to an end...

Catez said...

Great post! Thankyou.

ylmurph said...

good stuff...I'm with Moorhead on the practicals...can't beat a good application

Asaph said...

Centurian,

Are you feeling convicted on the graphic with the incorrect scripture reference? The only reason I noticed it was I bought my wife an IPOD for Christmas and requested Jeremiah 23:29 to be engraved on the back, she is going to use it to listen to podcasts by Macarthur, Piper, Adrian Rogers, Alistair Begg and Way of the Master. So next time get it right will you, I don't like editing your errors. :-)
Your entire series has been a blessing. Thank you for your work.

David

centuri0n said...

Jeez -- Jer 26:23 is the one which is wrong -- not Jer 23:29.

That whole controversy leaves me a little cross-eyed, and not in the "my eyes are on the cross" sense.