First John 4:7-21
God Is Love

Authored by Rev. Shigeru Matsubara, Assistant Pastor, Osaka, Japan

1. The scriptures say this about Christmas, "God sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this, the love of God is shown to us," (4:9).  I would like for us to direct our attention to these words.

2. God sent his son into the world and by that the love of God for us is made evident (it became visible to the eye.) It is a sign of the love of God so full of comfort, which shines brightly in our gloominess (the world of darkness).  In this world there is no need to give up or be without true hope because God doesn't give up on us.  There is no need for us to give up after we judge others or ourselves included. "For God is greater than hearts," (First John 3:20).

3.  So, the message of Christmas is that God loves us eternally.  God has never once taken his eyes off us.  But, we have gotten away from God and quit looking at him.  That's where the origin of our misery and misfortune lies.  Christmas has revealed that the love of God is constant.  Christmas is a message of "You guys should not misunderstand.  Don't lose sight of who you are, or get depressed inside and get lost in doubt."

4. Who in the world is Jesus Christ?  He was a person exactly the same as us.  He was born a person, experienced joy and sadness in every day life and toil, and died as a human being.  He was truly a person with the same flesh and blood as us and he came in among us.  We saw him, touched him, spoke and trusted him, and came to love him.

5.  But, when it said that he became the same as us, we must know that he had a character that was different on all counts from ours.  He did not have a nature that was impure like we have and he was the owner of a spirit that was not estranged from God or that would not participate in the wretched hearts of humanity.  He had a spirit that the only thing we could say is that it was totally one with God.  He could say about himself, (John 10:30), that "I and my father are one."  That was not conceit, but the truth.  He did not have the thoughts of a man, but had the thoughts of God.  The winds of a pure spirit with no impurities blew richly on him.  His will did not get sick [with sin] as our will did or turn its back on God.  He made his own will follow joyfully in God's will, and he attained it.  God lived and worked in him.  His thoughts and actions were always in response to what the eternal God was wanting.  He was the son of God.  He showed the father a loyal obedience which only a son could have for his father, and he was equal with the father which only the son could be like that. [If ever] a person was truly one with God, it was Jesus.

6. In the walk of his life dark stains had no presence at all.  His life was in caring for the sheep as the good shepherd (John 10:11).

7. Well, everyone, what is he to us?  What is produced out of when we are shown the truth of the love of God for us in this message of Christmas that "Christ is born!"?  What has been built out of the fact that God has sent his only son into the world?  With the essential elements in the Christmas message has a religion better than the many other religions been added?  That's not what it's about.  By calling it a religion, we will not be set free from the disasters of the human element.

8. What are the words in verse nine saying?  So that we might live through him! He is greater than a thing called religion and is filled far more with fascination for us than religion.  He is the way, he is the truth, and he is the life.  He lives!  What does it mean that he lives?  We have not understood these words yet in the way they really are and in the fullness and power which those words have.  God is satisfied by having sent us Christ as the only son of God and in having said that he gave us proof of his love for us.  Some add more to that and have said that let's be joyous from the heart, truly give thanks and continue to believe that Christ is truly the savior of this world.  But, the most important thing, the words added on that "So that we might live 'for ever' through him" are forgotten. Or we should resay it like this, that some people have only understood half of these words.  That is, some have only understood these words in regard to our situation as a simple type of encouragement or as just a simple kind of feeling of relief for the mind.  It is a little more than that.  Living is much bigger than either encouragement or peace of mind.  Living means deliverance from our dissatisfied pathetic mental state.  Living means being set free from the chains which we suffer from. It is an actual liberation which is not just in appearances.  "So that we might live" through him.  The meaning of this, the message of Christmas in God's love, if we accept it, will dynamically cause in us immediate transformation and change.  It is a mighty intervention of God into our most inner life.  If we have never sensed an intervention of this kind, we have not heard the message of Christmas.  Divine intervention means that by the Spirit of God a movement and an order penetrates into the depressing and dissatisfied confusion of our inner life.  The love of God is not only simply shown to us, but it is put to work within us.  Life means that it is not a perfect state that has been all completed and ready.  The life we experience is a battle as long as we are in the world; it is hard work; it is suffering.

9.  Even in Jesus we see all of that.  When God granted us "life" because of his only son what happened in us was that by his divine mercy and grace he put out sickness, hopelessness, the things we could never ever satisfy.  I am given the assurance that "My sins are forgiven. My sins are no longer a heavy burden of mine, and I am released from reasons to give up. Of course, I must take my sins seriously.  But, one thing for sure is that the power of God is greater than the evil in me."  That's the kind of feeling of thanksgiving to God we are filled with.  At first we know God from a distance. But we don't get discouraged over that.  There is an inner mental stability in us.  Our offenses no longer separate us from God.  We have unloaded the burden of our sins into God.  Filled with his great mercy and promises we heard his voice [say], "that doesn't matter anymore!"

10.*  We might hope that all of the difficulties that involve interaction with people will go away, but we will not be released from that.  In truth, even Jesus had a lot of difficulties.  But, in those times we ought to maintain an inner calm.  That is what "living" is about.  It should no longer be that we don't understand the countless numbers and great majority of others.  Instead, we are opened to the fact that we are one with countless others.  At least [we can feel] like that in the bottom of our heart.  In spite of all the differences superficially, we are one in faith for goodness.  We are one in hope for the victory of the good.  We are one in good will that wants to work towards that purpose.  A response of thanksgiving for that is given to us.  In being able to acknowledge the bonds of this union [we have], [even with] the difficulties which treat us impartially and even if many divisions or even worse than that extinction must cross over into our lives, bridge building is not always impossible. At the least in our hearts the facts [of existence] always divide us from others. [But with God] we begin to postpone personal things, very small things, individual things [for the sake of others]. At the least we are given the spirit of joy and hoping that we become a person who thinks with freedom with a broad perspective in seeking the benefit for other persons (First Corinthians 10:24) and to sacrifice ourselves using all our power. That's what it's about: Living with such a hope for others and in such joy! It's about getting past every kind of human opposition, hate, and coldheartedness and living at the place where we have heard the great "that doesn't even matter" of God.

11. A Swiss pastor in his younger days said [something like], Life's emptiness, worries, and puzzles don't go out all at once. But, we won't be at lost ends about what to do, all agitated and loose our presence of mind. We will come to learn how to look squarely at the obstacles that dangle before our lives. We will learn how to be strong even when situations are at a bad time. We will learn to be happy even when many things thwart what we do, hurt them and would make us discontented and grumble. We will be able to see that the difficulties, the burdens and the bad things that life brings our way are not final in what God is telling us and that God does not let us suffer but will break through it all and pull us out of them (John 12:32). We learn to understand that the dark valleys that we have to walk in are truly blessings for us. It doesn't get that way all at once. Learning doesn't mean we have learned it all. To grasp something mentally doesn't mean we have arrived intellectually. We are in a process of getting a new attitude towards the bad in our lives and having a new understanding towards it. We are on the way to victory against it. Being in process and on a journey towards this is what it means to live.

12. "We ought to live through him!" That's what Christmas tells us. "Through him" is all about how that through Christ the love of God was revealed in him. God has shown us in him a part of the highest world. And there is more yet beyond that. God is giving it to us as a gift that is in him and through him. God constructs our lives through Christ in our lives. He has reconctructed an eternal life.

13.

Look, he is lieing in a manger,
[He] calls you and me out to him,
He speaks to us with sweet lips,
Beloved brethren, cast off whatever afflicts you,
Whatever gives you pain.
I will redeem it all.

14. This is what the bells of Christmas are saying to us. It is this historical [proof] of God's love. God is love. The God who granted us his only son is love.

End Note

*This paragraph was hard to translate; I didn't understand it clearly enough, but I think the gist of it has gotten through.

 
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