Daily Update #190

Pause:  As we prepare to look at God’s Word let us quieten our minds, so that His Holy Spirit may speak to us today.
Readings:  1 John 4 : 7 – 10;    Psalm 147;    Luke 5 : 12 – 16
Psalm 147 : 11  “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
This week we have been looking at part of the first Epistle of John, in particular his wonderful teaching about love, and the short passage set for today concludes the theme, including those wonderful three words, “God is love.”  Of course, the love that John is writing about here is far removed from the Hollywood picture of love; there is nothing sloppy or sentimental about the love of God.  Before the days of Wikipedia, I browsed through my dictionaries (yes, more than one) to see what the definition of love was.  I was somewhat disappointed because all they came up with was, “a strong liking, affection, goodwill,” and sentiments such as those.  A children’s dictionary had a much better offering, which defined love as, “the highest form of devotion.” 
The word John uses for love is “agape” which Wikipedia defines as “unconditional love.”  I also found “agape” described as “pure, wilful, sacrificial, love” and all of these definitions come closer to the love that John is writing about.  God’s love is unconditional; we know that because, as Ian reminded us yesterday, God loved us first, before we came to love Him, whenever that came to pass.  His love is pure, because of course He is pure and holy, and, as I mention below, God’s love is sacrificial.  “God is love” as John says in verse 8; His character is summed up in that one word, LOVE.
After reminding us that God is love, John then goes on to remind us of how God showed His love for us.  “He sent His one and only Son into the world,” and of course we have been celebrating that amazing gift over the past few weeks.  Again, it is perhaps easy to get sentimental about the baby in the manger, but that amazing gift was born out of God’s pure, sacrificial love for each one of us.  Make no mistake, that was costly, God sending His beloved Son into a sinful fallen world, but there was no other way.
Since the fall, in the Garden of Eden, there has been a barrier between God, who is holy, and mankind; each one of us is an inheritor of the sinful nature of Adam.  However, from the fall onwards God intended to restore the relationship that was broken, and to that end He sent Jesus so that, as John writes in verse 9, we might live through Him.  There needed to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins, and only the perfect Son of God could effect that sacrifice.  Through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus the relationship between God and mankind has been restored, but we cannot enjoy the benefits of our salvation by doing nothing.  We are called to live lives worthy of the Son of God, who gave Himself for us, and that is a challenge.  However, our gracious God does not leave us to face that challenge in our own strength, He has given us His Holy Spirit to be in us and with us, to guide us, to teach us, and to lead us on in our daily walk with Him.
As I was writing this I was reminded of an oft-quoted poem by John Oxenham, who lived in Worthing in the 20s and 30s:
                   Love ever gives.  Forgives.  Outlives.
                   Love ever stands with open hands.
                   And while it lives, it gives.
                   For this is love’s prerogative,
                   To give, and give, and give.
I’ve long given up the idea of New Year Resolutions, but as we are still in the first few days of this year I’d like to suggest that we all determine to draw closer to Jesus this year, both rejoicing in, and sharing, this wonderful love of God.  Living every day with Him is about being re-filled with His Holy Spirit, spending time with Him in prayer and in reading His word, and spending time in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ so that we can encourage each other and support each other.  Of course, under the present restrictions that is limited to telephone calls, Zoom meetings and the like, and even snail-mail.  What we need to remember is that our Lord is not restricted even if we are!
A prayer:  O Lord our God, you call us in the depths of our being, you have a purpose for us; open our ears to your call, open our hearts to your love, open our minds to your purpose, that we may know you and give ourselves fully in your service, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.