Matthew 1:21: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (NIV).
Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (NIV).
John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV).
I was born and raised in a home where God was number one. I grew up going to church twice on Sundays and every Wednesday. I learned how to pray early on and accepted Jesus Christ into my heart from a very young age. I learned how to grow as a Christ follower and obey His Word from my earliest memories.
However, despite the wonderful upbringing I was blessed with, I still struggled with feeling loved by God throughout my life. Really loved. Whether I deliberately chose to sin or inadvertently struggled with some form of temptation and failed, I had an underlying fear that God was mad at me and would somehow punish me for my failure. Only as I have gotten older and started to fully understand God’s Word, claiming the promises in the Bible as written for me personally, have I started to understand the freedom that comes with truly accepting (not just acknowledging in my head but believing in my heart) that the love God promises in the Bible is for all of His children, not just those who have it more together than I do.
I want to let that sink in for a minute. Does God’s love excuse our sin? No, but it does cover over all our sins when we acknowledge them and ask for forgiveness. That was a concept that was really hard for me believe for my own life.
I could tell this concept was starting to reach my heart earlier this month. You see, the more I realize how much God loves me and wants the best for me, the more I want to obey His commands. The less I want to hurt Him by deliberately sinning and the quicker I want to make things right when I do mess up. Fear that He is going to punish me has been replaced by the close relationship we share and not wanting to hurt the One I love.
One particular time this past month when I messed up stands out. Nothing life shattering, but it was a flaw in my character. Not my finest moment…not my worst, but certainly not my best. I had planned on ignoring it and “doing better next time” since no one would find out, especially not the person I sinned against. However, God gently nudged me, making me uncomfortable until I made things right.
First, I confessed to God my sin and then I knew I needed to come clean with whom I had offended. That’s a lot harder than confessing to God, especially since I knew that person would never have found out otherwise since I wasn’t walking around talking about it. Anyway, I did the right thing, confessed, and moved on. In the past when I would screw up (even with things less important than this particular example), I would harbor fear of God “getting me” and walk around as though I had been convicted of murder when I had only “jaywalked.”
This time, however, I was secure in God’s love, knowing that He lovingly prompted me to confess, unaware of the results, but resting in peace that I was doing the right thing. I was able to let go of my self-imposed guilt and move on, going about my day as the forgiven, and loved, person that I was. I still don’t know the reaction of the person I wronged (whether or not they will forgive me), but I am secure in the fact that my Father doesn’t love me any less because of my mistake and I am motivated to change my actions so I don’t repeat it again in the future.
The above truth helps me to reflect on Christmas, my favorite holiday. I have always loved celebrating this holiday, largely in part because of envisioning that first Holy Night when Jesus was born, thinking about Him as a baby, the animals, the shepherds, and the angels singing. What a beautiful vision. However, since grasping just how much God truly loves me, I can’t think about Christmas without thinking about the reason behind why Jesus came to earth, as an infant. Yes, He came to experience life in human form so that we know He understands our pain, our temptations, our problems. But, the most important reason why Jesus came to Earth was to fulfill the work of his Father, to die on the cross for our sins because of God’s amazing love for us. The more I feel God’s love on a daily basis, the more I stand amazed that Jesus would willingly come to Earth knowing what He had to go through just so we could have eternal life.
Not only is He willing to do that for me, but He has also done it for you. If you don’t already belong to God’s family, the only thing standing in your way is you. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, down to Earth in human form so that He would take our sins upon Himself. He died a painful death so that we wouldn’t have to, and by accepting His gift, we are privileged to spend eternity in Heaven. God presented His Son as the Ultimate gift, which can only be used if received, and that happens simply by accepting Him into your heart as Lord and Savior. So, when people ask me how much does God really love me (and you and them), my answer is, “This much.”
During this holiday season, if you haven’t already, may you and your family accept the best gift that will ever be offered, Jesus Christ as your Savior. God is a gentleman. He wants you to accept the gift He is offering, but will never force Himself on you.