January 3, 2016
Text: Jeremiah 31:7-14
I can’t believe Christmas has come and a new year is well on its way. What I want to share with you this morning is not new- although it is made new every morning- new in the middle of a sleepless night- and new amid the struggles of the day. It is the message we dare not forget. It is the message of God’s love made known to us through His son- Jesus Christ come to save us. Pray
God knows us- and wants us to know Him- not just intellectually, but personally- not just with our heads- but with our hearts .Although we can learn facts in a classroom without knowing the professor- we cannot know the heart and motive of the professor unless we know him on a personal level.
For centuries, a holy and righteous and all powerful God was unapproachable-someone only a high priest could dare come close to- and then only once a year through the shed blood of an innocent lamb. They worshipped a holy and powerful God who was to be feared. But God wanted us to know more- to understand the motives of His heart. Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, God said: “I will give you a heart to know me- that I am the Lord.” And one cold night in an obscure village of Bethlehem- God fulfilled His promise and sent his own son into the world- to make it possible for us to know Him first hand.
Of all the things there are for us to know about God-all things God wants us to know- if there is one thing God wants us to know about Him above all else first- what do you think that one thing would be?
While you are thinking about that- may I ask you a second question that is like it- of all the things you wished your children would know about you- what would you as a parent want them to know above all else first?
May I suggest you would want them to know that you love them. That despite our imperfect attempts- they would know they are loved by us. Wouldn’t that be our highest hope and desire?
In the same way- only in a perfect way- I believe the one thing God wants us to know above all else first is that He loves us-and has made known his love through Jesus-shown to us- born to us- to suffer and die on the cross for us. God wants us to know with all assurance that nothing can separate us from His love- nothing- not what we have done or not done- that His love for us is perfect- complete and unchanging. And knowing that-we can trust God with our lives now and for eternity.
God’s love is the most powerful, life-changing gift the world has ever witnessed- and yet the world doesn’t understand it- has cheapened and stripped it of its power and understanding to mean that because God is love- He is somehow obligated to love us.
The problem is, the world does not know Him- and we who do- don’t know Him well enough. An almighty, holy, and just God is under no obligation to love us. The amazing thing we too often take for granted is that He does. The good news of the gospel is that while we were yet sinners, God so loved the world that He sent His only son, the perfect lamb of God to die in our place so that all can approach his throne with confidence as His children- an unheard of concept in the old Testament- not just by a priest one day once a year- but every moment. It is a gift bought for us at a great price- yet offered freely to all. We only have to receive it by grace through faith to make it our own.
God gives us that promise in the gospel of John. “but to all who received Him, who believed in His name, he gave power to become children of God- who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” And the Word became flesh- full of grace and truth- and dwelt among us.” God has made known to us His love.
Think about that- if you were hearing this for the first time, what do you think your response would be? To know God’s love to be true -wouldn’t it- shouldn’t it cause every word we speak and everything we do be done as witness and response to knowing His love? Wouldn’t we then eagerly come to God with all our burdens and fears and simply lay them down and rest in His love? Wouldn’t we sit at His feet to learn all we can about him- reading His word- anticipating the Holy Spirit’s promptings, ready to go and tell others of God’s amazing love. But unfortunately, the reality is we too often don’t- receiving His love but taking it for granted.
Janie shared with me a touching video someone had posted on face book this week. In short, it was a video of a father’s love for his daughter. His daughter is, I’m guessing, 4 or five years old and is confined to a wheel chair because of a muscular disease that will only become progressively worse. But she has a dream – a dream of dancing effortlessly around the floor. As the music begins- her father reaches down- picks her up in his arms -and enfolding her in his arms of love- begins to dance around the room- twirling around the room in a dance of total love. And as they swooped and twirled around the room, you could see that little girls face beaming with love for her father, held in his arms.
That is a picture of God’s love for you and I- God making known His love to us- as He holds us in his arms and makes possible what is impossible for us to do on our own.
There are maybe some here this morning that need to hear that message more than others- but the truth is- we are all in desperate need of not only hearing it- but receiving it as our own. Life is too harsh to go through life alone. We are invited to know the good shepherd who wants to guide us- to know his love for us- to know and trust him to bring us through the dark valleys of life and make us lay down in green pastures.
We have a Father God who is good- and we are loved by Him. Amen.