God Is In Us
In 2004, I moved my family from just up the Hudson River near New York City in a little town called Nyack down to the very foreign land of Chesterfield, VA.
When we moved to VA, we had 4 small kids. Four years later in 2008, we had slightly larger kids and decided it was time to move to a bigger house.
When we moved to a bigger house, we made some budget cuts and one of those was to get rid of cable tv.
That Christmas and every Christmas since, we noticed that our children had a difficult time telling us what they wanted for Christmas. It didn’t take a genius to figure out they didn’t know because the commercials on television were no longer telling them what they wanted.
We’re conditioned for discontentment and Jesus resolves every level of discontentment our hearts and minds can find. To me, that’s perhaps the thesis statement of why I celebrate Christmas.
Let me suggest to you right off the bat that the thing you are currently chasing may not be the thing that will ultimately satisfy your soul.
Young people, you’re making a decision to impress a group of people you’ll likely never see again in a few short years. Don’t do that.
Young adults, you’re thinking that if you can only find the perfect job, the perfect car, and the perfect partner, you’ll find happiness. Don’t do that.
Parents with kids, you think if you can create just the right environment of activities for your kids to participate in, they’ll learn all they need to know and end up well rounded, productive members of society. Don’t do that.
Older folks, you think that if we could just go back in time to the way things were, things would all be better. Don’t do that.
Many today are falling for Satan’s “If only…” lies. If only you had a bigger paycheck, if only your kid wasn’t disrespectful, if only the coach put them in more, if only your spouse was more like that co-worker you’ve gotten to know so well, if only you had more time in a day, if only that preacher stopped 20 minutes before he actually stops, if only the music weren’t so loud, if only my in-laws would learn how to keep their nose out of our marriage, If only I was thinner, smarter, funnier.
So many of us find ourselves in this pursuit of the elusive because all around us tells us that once we get _______, we’ll have what we want and that will bring peace. But the miracle of Jesus is that He came to supply you and me with the very thing we know our soul needs but had no clue how to grasp, and could have never ever found on our own.
Today is going to be a day of new beginning for many of you, I’ve prayed that to be true and I believe God is going to work in dynamic ways as we dig into God’s Word and allow His Spirit to teach us, call us, and change us.
We’re in the third week of our “The Gift” series. We’ve looked at God “for” us, God “with” us, and today we consider the life-changing truth of God “in” us. My desire for you is that you come away from our time today with a fresh understanding of the Holy Spirit’s role in our daily lives.
We’re going to dig into 1 John 4:9-10 today. Let’s read it first and then let’s dive into some powerful truths.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
I’m gonna stop there first, not to be overly simplistic or to drag this thing out, but we need to understand something. John is being as direct and clear as he possibly can be. It’s a written finger-point; As in “What I’m about to say next is the very thing you need to pay attention to!” or “I’m about to drop knowledge on you so don’t miss it!”
“This is” is the clap, the shout, the attention-getter that what follows it calls for! And when he says what “This is…”, he is in no way being ambiguous. It’s a crystal clear, ain’t-no-doubt, fool-proof, miss-this-and-you’ve-missed-it-all kind of pointing.
“how God showed his love among us:”
When you know the love of God and you simply stop striving for any other love, dear ones you will find that His love is more than you can ever need. When you stop striving, stop trying to prove yourself to a world that demands so much from you but moves the target every 9 seconds, when you understand that no other love will heal you, complete you, ease you, and empower you, that’s when life gets good. Do you know that love today?
What do you think are the most frequently run commercials?
The three most frequently run types of commercials are car commercials, medication commercials, and insurance commercials. Have you ever noticed that?
And what are the underlying messages?
That you don’t have what you really want. Get it and you’ll be living.
That you have something you don’t want and you need to get rid of it. Get rid of that and you’ll be living.
That you aren’t secure enough and you need more security. Once you have paid for more coverage/protection, you’ll be at peace and can finally enjoy life.
It’s no wonder we’re a mess! It’s no wonder we’re so restless, so wanting, so worn out from chasing a fog that can’t be caught.
Okay, let’s look at what John says next:
“He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”
That word “through” means that is it by no other means. It is Jesus alone that makes our lives possible and because of that our lives are to be reflections of that dependence. I think we all show our dependencies, don’t we?
You show your dependency on coffee when you’re grumpy cuz you didn’t get it.
You show your dependency on gaming when you can’t interact with a human person in conversation for any length of time.
You show your dependency on money and stuff when finding your life’s joy in the Amazon cart.
You show your dependency on other’s opinions of you when you change your character to please them.
But do we show our dependence on Christ to those around us? Those words “through him” identifies Jesus as the source, the cause, the “instrument or means” of our very lives. The literal meaning is “by reason of, because of, for the sake of.”
I wonder if you and I could peel back the layers of stress, the issues we’re facing at work, at home, with your spouse, with your spouse’s family, with your siblings, with your inner voice that won’t stop pushing you down. I wonder if even for a moment we can peel all that back and simply come back to the reason we are breathing in and out right now: To know, accept, embrace, live in, and share the very love of the only God. You see, I believe Christmas isn’t about anything as much as it’s about calibration and recalibration of our hearts, and our minds, and our priorities so that we reflect the love of the Savior.
What if the miracle of Jesus’ birth was first in the manger, but now repeats itself daily in your home, with your family, in your friendships—what greater love can God show than to send us the only thing we need, and what greater love can we show than to reflect the love of that Savior to the world around us?
But then that ad pops up and interrupts our rest and reminds us that we need to get back to chasing the fog, right?
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us.”
I’m not sure why some Christians act like they’re better than anyone else. And we must because we get this reputation of being “holier than thou” and “judgemental” and “self-righteous”. I know these are stereotypes, but I’ve found that on some level most stereotypes are earned. There are high school students in our ministry right now who’ve come here recently after being pushed away from another church because of judgmental Christians.
Here’s a profound truth: Jesus came to us.” Say that: “Jesus came to us.” You didn’t figure anything out. You didn’t crack the code, you didn’t earn your badge, you didn’t find—you were FOUND. The love of God through circumstances all your own, and yet so very similar to millions of others, CAME TO YOU. God CAME…TO…YOU.
Let me be clear: Its been God’s Spirit all along that has been calling you, prompting you, convicting you, inviting you closer to Him. There might be one here who can’t wait for the end of this sermon because you feel God’s Spirit so strongly you want to run to the altar and talk with Him. I say, don’t wait!
The one your rebellious heart was running from chased you down and loved you first. And he came in flesh in the most disarming way he possibly could-- in the form of a tiny, fragile, magnificent baby, he came to you.
“and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
The word here I want us to understand is “atoning”. Your translation might say “to be the propitiation for our sins.”
But the meaning is the same: “a means of appeasing” There was no other way to satisfy the holiness and righteousness of God than with the very blood of God. There was a gaping chasm, a divide between sinful humanity and sinless God that had to be reconciled. And we as humanity didn’t have a snowball’s chance to save ourselves. So God did what only God could do: God SENT God to satisfy what God required.
Now, as we consider what all this means and what we do with this, I want to introduce you to the Holy Spirit who is also God. It is by His Holy Spirit that God is present today. And let’s not tiptoe around the fact that God IS present. Right here. Right now.
And here’s what I’ve seen over the years when the Holy Spirit is brought up: The cynic says “show me” but the sinner says “shape me”. So, check your heart and be honest about where you are at this moment.
As we do that, I want to give you a crash course of the Holy Spirit. If you want to learn more, can I suggest you read “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan?
Okay, here are just a few of ways the Holy Spirit is identified:
The Holy Spirit is:
- God / God’s presence
- Greivable: Ephesians 4:20
- Helping: Romans 8:26-27
- Gift Giver: 1 Cor. 12:11
- Genesis 1:2 & Mark 1:10
- Romans 8:11
- Acts 1:8
- John 14:16-17
- Free to those who ask
- Luke 11:13
We’ve learned that God is FOR you and that God is WITH you, but today we have to come face to face with the truth that if you’re willing, God by His Holy Spirit can be IN you.
And how do we know that the Holy Spirit is at work within us?
- Is your heart’s cry “shape me” today?
- Are you made aware of your need for help and healing?
- Are you convicted of the things you choose and yet you know aren’t God’s best for you?
- Have you received the forgiveness that Jesus alone has the authority to offer?
- Is your desire to grow closer to Jesus and therefore grow more into the type of person that reflects His character?
- Do you see the fruits of the Spirit outlined in Galatians growing incrementally in your life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control?
If you have attempted to parcel God out, taking only the forgiveness of Jesus without the indwelling of the Spirit, let me invite you to receive all of who God is. If you’ve tried in your own strength to live up to some set of man-made religious rules and have forgotten about the intimacy Jesus desires with you through the power of His Holy Spirit, let me invite you to draw near to Him today, for the first or millionth time. All you need is freely available right now.
Oil lamp illustration:
As a young boy, I remember an oil lamp sitting on a shelf, among other trinkets. It wasn’t until I got older and began to really desire to better understand the Holy Spirit IN us that I thought back to that oil lamp. All the fuel, all the power for holy living, all we need to shine brightly for Jesus is found in who God is. Our decision that we each must make is if we are going to allow that wick to be lit and how brightly we are willing to shine once it is lit.
Bring someone with you as you come and pray.