All Things New - 2015 Advent Message #6
Throughout the Advent season, we have thought about many of the people - and some
angels - involved with the birth of Jesus. We have thought about Mary and Joseph, the angel Gabriel who gave Mary the message of her role in the coming of Jesus, and the angel who talked Joseph into staying with Mary, despite the fact Mary’s baby was not his.
We have thought about the shepherds, the angel who told them the Savior had been
born, and the multitude of the Heavenly host who joined the angel in praising God and
celebrating Jesus’ birth.
And we have thought about some Wise Men who were attracted by a new star in the sky,
which hung over and eventually led them to where Jesus had been born. !
We have of course also talked about Jesus, but for today, a very important question.
What are we going to do because of the birth of Jesus?
As we know, Jesus grew up and eventually had a ministry of teaching and healing. A
ministry that ended with Him being crucified for our sins. But the question is, what are
we going to do because of Jesus, whose birth we have been celebrating this season? !
What we are supposed to do is summarized in two commandments Jesus gave during
His ministry. They are recorded in Matthew 22. “You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and you shall love your
neighbor as yourself.”
The setting is this. Jesus gave those two commandments very late in His ministry. In
fact, it was between the Sunday of His final entry into Jerusalem and the Friday of His
crucifixion that He spoke those words. It was on a day when Jesus was being confronted
by the religious leaders of the Jewish people. Remember the Jewish leaders were very upset at Jesus because of His teachings, His claims of divinity, and probably because He was so popular with the common people. Popularity not shown to the leaders. The leaders were still trying to get Jesus to say
something that would get Him into trouble so they could do whatever was necessary to
get rid of Him.
That is what was going on when a lawyer among the group of leaders known as
Pharisees asked Jesus to identify the greatest commandment in Jewish law. Jesus’
answer began with, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all
your soul and with all your mind,” which was a quote from the Old Testament verse
For our purposes today, as we relate Jesus’ words to the question of what we are to do
because of Jesus, let’s think about what it means to love the Lord our God and what can
be done to show we love Him. First of all, consider the significance of the words “the Lord our God.”
We know the Lord as Jesus, Lord referring to the fact He is to be our ruler. Our leader.
The one determining what we do and how we act and what we say and think about.
Of course, we all have free will. We are free to do and act and say and think whatever we
want. But there are proper ways to do those things. Righteous things that will help our lives to
be better personally, spiritually, and socially. But notice it is not just “the Lord.” It is
“the Lord our God,” which is a wonderful reminder that Jesus is God, which means He is
all-powerful, all-knowing, present everywhere, certainly strong enough to help us do
and act and say and think things that are pleasing to Him. The Lord our God is who we are to love? How can that be accomplished? How can it be displayed? I have these things to suggest.
How about worshiping Him? Taking time to do that. Putting forth the effort to do that.
Worshiping Him is one way to show our love for Him. Let me add this. I hope that when we worship, we are gaining something personally. But it goes beyond that. By joining together to worship, we are encouraging one another to know and follow the Lord. We are helping one another to celebrate the good times and get through the difficult times. As we have worshiped together in the past, may we make
it a priority to keep worshiping together.
How about studying God word? Tat is a wonderful way to show our love for Him. It is
proof we care what He taught in the Bible. That we care enough to learn what He taught.
That our learning is for the purpose of doing what He taught.
As it is with worship, we certainly can study on our own, but how encouraging we can be
to one another when we study together.
How about praying? Not to just share with God want you want, but to listen to Him so
you can know His will and His way. Then praying for the strength to do His will and
How about using God’s name properly, which leads to this, which comes from a recent
devotional in Our Daily Bread. It was written for December 16 by a man whose friend
and spiritual mentor recently challenged him to fully obey Exodus 20:7, which says,
“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” Or, as another translation
has it, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”
That, by the way, is the third of God’s ten commandments, which usually brings to mind
that we are not to attach God’s name to a swear word or use His name flippantly or
irreverently. But the author’s friend and mentor challenged him to think about other
ways God’s name might be profaned.
For example - using myself as an example - if I reject the advice of others and say, “God
told me to go this way,” I misuse His name if all I am doing is seeking approval for my
If I use Scripture out of context to try to support an idea I want to be true, I am using
God’s name in vain. That is the case because in the Bible, the word “name” refers to
much more than what a person is called. It goes on to include everything about the one
named. Every characteristic, including, thinking of God, what He teaches about how to
live. If I teach, write, or speak from Scripture carelessly, I misuse His name. I often pray that
I never do that. As the devotional adds, to use God’s name in vain means to empty His name. To empty
God of His glory and His significance.
The author’s friend and mentor challenged him to honor God’s name. To do that by
paying close attention to using His word carefully and accurately. Anything less
dishonors God, so let’s all be careful to use His name - His word - appropriately and
accurately. That will be an excellent way to love the LORD your God.
To do so with all your heart - with the center of your being and with all that gets you and
keeps you going. With all your soul - with all that is within you and with all that runs
your spiritual thought. With all your mind - with everything you think.
How are we to love God? How is our love to be displayed? Worship Him, fellowship with
His people, study, pray, and use His name in ways that will show its power and its
purity. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all
your mind. That, Jesus said, “is the great and first commandment.”
When Jesus said that, He was quoting an Old Testament Scripture that was familiar to
the lawyer who asked Him the question. Jesus then added another commandment. One
that was at least hinted at in Old Testament times, but put into direct teaching by Jesus.
He added, “And a second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Concerning that second commandment, it needs to be mentioned it is important to love
yourself. A side teaching of the commandment seems to be that you cannot love others
unless you love yourself.
A number of years ago I attended a men’s conference. I still remember one of the
speakers encouraging us to be ugly. “You need to be ugly,” he told us. Ugly, as in, You’ve
Gotta Love Yourself.
Again using myself as an example, I am not the tallest or the most athletic or the
smartest person around. I am not the richest or the wisest or the kindest person around.
I struggle to do much of anything with any kind of tool, which is kind of embarrassing.
Outside of this congregation and a few other people a few other places, who even knows
But Jesus knows me. He has forgiven me and continues to want to help me grow
spiritually. Because of Him - because of what He has done for me and what He will
continue to do for me - I can love myself.
But moving on from there, it is not to end there. As Jesus taught, when we love
ourselves, we are to love others as well. Again, we are to do that as a sign that Jesus
coming to us is affecting us as He wants to affect us. And what does that mean? How are we to display our love for others?
How about by having a willingness to fellowship with other believers? That has already
been mentioned. Remember? Fellowshipping with one another is to be an
encouragement for all in the group. It is to be an encouragement to study and pray and
learn and apply the teachings of God. An encouragement that will include celebrating
good days and getting each other through difficult days.
But speaking of teaching, let me mention what God said after the part of Deuteronomy
quoted by Jesus about loving God with all we are. Again to Deuteronomy 6. “You shall
love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” Going on, the word of God
“shall be upon your heart.” That means the word of God is to be part of us.
“And you shall teach it diligently to your children.” What a wonderful way to let Jesus’
coming affect us. What a wonderful way to display love to others, in this case children,
so they might early on learn the proper ways of living. “Diligently” means to be serious
about teaching children. To intend to do it.”
When? When you sit with them in your house and when you are out and about with
them. When you or they lie down and when you or they rise up. You are to keep God’s
word before you and before them all the time. How are we to love others? We are to be willing to fellowship with others. We are to know and then share God’s word.
And how about this? We can love others by helping them.
Again the question. What are we going to do - what are we doing - because of Jesus,
whose birth we have been celebrating this season? What we are to do is love God with all
we are and love others. As we have done both those things in the past, let’s continue to
do so in the future. But with that is this. May we never try to love God and others using our own power.
Instead, those things can be done effectively only through the power of the Lord. Power
that comes in only one way, which is by accepting Him as the Savior He was born to
For that, two more Bible verses.
The first is John 3:16. It is a verse in the midst of a conversation between Jesus and a
ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus. Nicodemus had gone to Jesus one night. So many other times, Jewish leaders confronted Jesus openly, doing so to try to ruin His ministry. Nicodemus, though, went
to Jesus one night one-on-one and quietly, which indicates he really was interested in
knowing what Jesus offered spiritually. In the conversation, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have
everlasting life.” How is anyone to be able to love God and others? There is only one way, and that is to
believe in Jesus. In our vernacular, to accept Jesus as Savior. It is only by having Jesus
in you that you can have the strength to have Jesus affect you. ! Did Nicodemus believe in Jesus? That information is not shared in John 3, but a few years later, following Jesus’ crucifixion, remember the name of the man who helped prepare the Lord’s body for burial? The name was Nicodemus, who provided the spices needed for the preparation. That tells me he believed in Jesus. Belief that gave him the ability to love the Lord with all He was. Much of what he had since the spices needed
What about you? Do you believe in Jesus. And did you hear the word “whosoever”? That
includes important people like Nicodemus and rich and educated people like the Wise
Men who visited Jesus. It also includes unimportant people like Mary and Joseph and
dirty, backward, unpopular people like the shepherds who were the first ones to hear
about and visit Jesus. It includes the disciples of Jesus, some timid, others boisterous,
some who tried to be peaceful and another who was a revolutionary.
What about you? Do you believe in Jesus. I hope so. And who cares what I hope. God
hopes you believe in Jesus because only if you do can He work with you to help you be
affected by Jesus to the point of loving God and others - and yourself.
If you do believe - if you are a Christian or when you become a believer in Jesus -
consider one more verse, this one written by the apostle Paul. II Corinthians 5:17, which
provides both hope and a challenge. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new
creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come.”
The challenge is to make sure the old has passed away and that new things have taken
the place of what is old. What is the old? I it refers to the old nature. It is anything that is displeasing to God. In other letters of Paul, there are lists of such things. Things like anger, wrath, malice,
slander, foul talk, lying. Those are some of the old things. The old ways of living. The
worldly ways of living that Christians are to put away.
The new? Those are things we are to put on. Things that are to be parts of the new
creation. What some translations describe as being “a new creature.” Included are
compassion, kindness, humility, patience, forgiveness, all of which are needed to love
the Lord your God with all you are. all of which are needed to love others as you love
The theme for today is “All Things New.” Are you a new creation? A new creature? You
are if you believe in Jesus, whose birth we just celebrated.
If you are, let Him help you display your newness. Your spiritual newness. To show it by
your love. If you are not a new creature - if you have not yet accepted Jesus - will you change that,
Jesus did come. He did teach by word and example. He did sacrifice to pay for our sins.
Be affected by Him. Make His coming worthwhile in your life. Accept Him so you, too,
can love God with all you are. So you, too, can love others as you love yourself.
Do not try to love on your own. Instead, may we all rely on Jesus and His strength to
accomplish that. What a wonderful post-Christmas present that will be for the Lord.
Today’s closing song and the benediction is the hymn Another Year is Dawning.
Another year is dawning: dear Father, let it be,
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee;
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.
Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace;
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.
Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning: dear Father, let it be,
On earth or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.