Boundless Love

heart-cross-12673094Happy Valentine’s Day! A few months ago, I came across these thoughtful lyrics written by the Lutheran pastor and hymn writer, Paulus Gerhardt (1607-1676).  The words of “Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me” reveal a heart that desires Christ to reign without rival.  It is a prayer asking for Christ’s boundless love to possess, comfort, and control one’s heart and life.  I sense Gerhardt dearly loved his Savior and had a deep confidence in Jesus’ unshakable love for him.  On this day when we celebrate love, is this your prayer, too?

 

Jesus, Thy boundless love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
Unite my thankful heart with Thee
And reign without a rival there.
To Thee alone, dear Lord, I live;
Myself to Thee, dear Lord, I give.

O, grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell but Thy pure love alone!
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown!
All coldness from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought, be love.

O love, how cheering is thy ray!
All pain before thy presence flies;
Care, anguish, sorrow, melt away
Wherever thy healing beams arise.
O Jesus, nothing may I see,
Nothing desire or seek, but Thee!

Still let Thy love point out my way;
How wondrous things Thy love hath wrought!
Still lead me, lest I go astray;
Direct my word, inspire my thought;
And if I fall, soon may I hear
Thy voice, and know that love is near.

In suffering be Thy love my peace,
In weakness be Thy love my power;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
Jesus, in that important hour,
In death as life be Thou my guide,
And save me, who for me hast died.

 

Christmas is Forever

incarnation 1“Mommy, wouldn’t it be great if Christmas was every day of the year?” asked one of my twins.

I couldn’t just go with the flow in the moment, now could I?  Nope.  I just had to be Miss Reasonable and explain to my wide-eyed, cherub-faced child that what makes Christmas so special is that we celebrate it only once a year and then pack it away into deep storage.  Would’t we get tired of the Christmas tree if we left it up all year? Wouldn’t we get sick of candy canes if we ate them every day?  Wouldn’t Christmas carols lose their appeal if we listened to it all them time?  Way to go, spoiling the wonder, Mom.

Later, as I thought about it, I realized that what we celebrate at Christmas is every day of the year—and forever.  Christmas is the celebration of the  Incarnation of the Savior, and that reality never ends.  What makes Christmas so special is that the Incarnation is forever.  It is never-ending.

The second person of the Trinity, God the Son, was born of a woman, taking to himself a human nature, body, mind, soul, and experience.   He is “one who is all that God is and at the same time all that man is” (B.B. Warfield).  And He is so forever.  Wayne Grudem writes, “Jesus did not temporarily become man . . . His divine nature was permanently united to his human nature, and he lives forever not just as the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, but also as Jesus, the man who was born of Mary, and as Christ, the Messiah and Savior of his people.  Jesus will remain fully God and fully man, yet one person, forever.”

Have you ever taken a few minutes to ponder that?  Jesus not only was born, lived, and died as a human, He also resurrected and ascended to heaven as a human!  When Jesus ascended to heaven forty days after his resurrection, He did so in a glorified human body, declaring the mind-blowing reality that humanity is forever welcomed and received into the very presence of God!

Because the Incarnation is Forever, You are Forever Forgiven

Paid stampThe incarnation had a purpose.  The angel said to Joseph, ” . . . you shall call his name Jesus for He wills save His people from their sins.”  Jesus came to save us.  From what?  Sin.  You and I have broken God’s perfect, holy law in heart, thought, word, and deed.  The punishment for sin is physical, spiritual, and eternal death away from the presence of God.  We needed a Savior who could die in our place to pay the penalty of death that our sin deserves.  So, Jesus was made like us; He became human to be our substitute.  “Since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same . . . He had to be made like his brethren in all things, to that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation (payment) for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:14, 17). Now, the Father looks upon Jesus’ sacrifice for us and is completely satisfied.  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).  Jesus bodily rose from the dead proving his victory over sin and death.  If you are in Christ by faith, that victory also belongs to you!  “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks to to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Cor. 15:57).  Jesus’ payment for sin, his risen life, and his victory over sin is yours!  Because of the incarnation, you have a Savior who died for you.  And because of the ongoing incarnation of your risen Savior, you are assured that the debt for your sin is fully paid and forgiveness is complete—forever!

Because the Incarnation is Forever, You are Forever Righteous

gavelGod gives grace upon grace, blessing upon blessing, gift upon gift!  Not only does He forgive our sins, He actually does something more!  He gives us righteousness, perfect righteousness.  Righteousness is the condition of perfectly conforming to God’s law and holy character.  We lack righteousness of our own; in Adam, our righteousness was lost, but in Jesus our righteousness is found!  “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19).  Adam, the first man, was our representative in the Garden (whether you like it or not!), and when he sinned he passed sin and its consequences down to us.  From Adam, we inherited both the condemnation of sin and a sin nature.  Yet, in Jesus, we find the righteousness that God requires.  As our new representative, Jesus accomplished righteousness for us through his perfect obedience to the Father throughout His incarnation.  Throughout His time on earth, Jesus obeyed for you—His every thought, action, and attitude was in complete conformity to the law and character of God.  In the Romans 5 passage just mentioned, we see that Jesus’ complete righteousness leads to our acquittal of wrongdoing, and His obedience leads to our righteousness.  On the cross, Jesus exchanged his righteousness for our sinfulness.  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21).  How do we receive this righteousness?  By faith!  The apostle Paul explains, ” . . . that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:8-9).  By faith in Christ as your only Savior and not by your own works, God declares Jesus’ righteousness to your credit, to your account.  This is justification: by the work of Christ, God declares you forever righteous.  For all time, He sees and receives you just as if you had never sinned, and just as if you had always obeyed, for that is how He sees his Son. “For by a single offering He, has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 2:11).  And if that weren’t enough, you will then reign with Him in righteousness forever!  “There will no longer be any curse . . . and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face . . . and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5). Oh, what grace upon grace upon grace!

Because the Incarnation is Forever, You are Forever Loved

forever lovedWhat is the love of God?  God’s love means that He eternally gives of himself to bring about blessing and good for others.  Have you ever considered that the essence of God’s love is that He gives of Himself for your good and blessing?  Sometimes we struggle believing that God truly loves us, but I want you to see that God’s love for you is complete and everlasting because of your relationship with His Incarnate Son.

God Loves You by Giving to You:  “If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32).  God has lavishly loved you by giving you His Son who accomplished forgiveness and righteousness for you.  Since God has provided for your greatest need, salvation from the power and penalty of sin, then He will certainly give to meet all your lesser needs!  God is not stingy; He is infinitely generous.  He loves you enough to give you His Son, and He will not withhold anything else He knows you need. “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  If you truly need, He promises to give.

God Loves You by Accepting You:  “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?  God is the one who justifies, who is the one who condemns?  Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:33-34).  If you are in Christ, who can condemn you to judgement for your sin?  No one . . . not even yourself.  Through faith in Jesus, you are completely received and accepted by the Father.  He does not hold you at a distance, but rather welcomes you into relationship with Him.  How can this be?  Only by the work of One—Jesus.  Jesus died the sinner’s death, Jesus resurrected to life in victory over sin, Jesus ascended to heaven, and Jesus intercedes for you today.  There is only one mediator between God and man, the God-Man Jesus Christ, and because of all this He has done on your behalf, you are fully welcomed by the Father.

God Loves You by Binding Himself to You:  “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor thins to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).  The cords of God’s love for you will never be broken.  There is no person, power, or place that can sever the infinite bond of love between you and the Father.  That bond is Jesus Christ Himself.  He has forever secured the Father’s love for you through his life and death . . . and life again!  Will you rest in that?  Will you truly believe?

We celebrate a never-ending Incarnation.  This is our Savior . . . eternal, born, obeying, suffering, dying, rising, ascending, living!  Because of Him, you are forever forgiven, forever righteous, and forever loved.

Merry, Merry Christmas.