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THE GREAT EXCHANGE: Security for Love

Two Sundays ago we began the Advent season by talking about all the exchanges that will happen the days following Christmas. People will stand in long lines to take back something that they don’t want or something that doesn’t fit. This year we called you to contemplate the greatest exchange. It took place in what we refer to as the incarnation. When Christ exchanged His place in heaven with all His divine privileges for thirty three years on this earth as a human being in was an amazing exchange. 

The call of God for every one of us is to make a great exchange. We are called to empty ourselves of our selfish and self-centered ways to center our lives on Jesus Christ. To do that we emulate our Savior as we prepare our hearts to worship and adore Him during this Christmas season. We remember His advent to earth and think of it as the Greatest Exchange in history. We will endeavor to make some changes of our own.

1. We exchange power for humility  (week one) 

2. We exchange supremacy for servanthood (week two) 

3. We exchange security for love  (week three)

What is this security that Jesus Christ exchanged for love? 

Quote from two weeks ago: “The God who could order empires around like pawns on a chessboard showed up wearing a different kind of glory . . . the glory of weakness. This God emerged as a baby who couldn't speak or eat solid food or control his bladder, who depended on a teenage girl for shelter, food, and love.

And the question is why? Why would he come in that way? It's because that's the way God is. And two thousand years ago we learned that amazing lesson when the all-powerful God decided that the time had come to express his love in infinite fashion.

And in order to express his infinite love, the infinitely powerful God did the only thing he could do, because he understood that love increases as power decreases, and therefore the only way he could express infinite love was to set aside infinite power.” 

For centuries Philippians 2:6-11 has been referred to as the Christ hymn. I am going to read it once again and then today we are going to sing our faith together. I don’t think I have ever done this before but I have chosen three traditional hymns for us to sing during this sermon. Each of them in their own way call for us to understand the power of God’s love. 

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.  

 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,
 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”    
                                                                                                                    Philippians 2:5-11 NLT 

The Need: For us to be Christlike in our love for others. 

Humility and Servanthood! We have looked at both of these Christ qualities over the last two weeks. 

Humility:  “. . .He gave up His divine privileges”

Servanthood: “. . .He took the humble position of a slave.” 

He exchanged security for love. When Christ is at the center of our lives not only do we experience love for ourselves but we will love even the most unlovable. As Christfollowers we hate sin but love the sinners. As followers we love those who have more than we do and those who have less. We love those who treat us well and those who mistreat us. 

When Christ came to this earth on that holy night over 2000 years ago He came to bring demonstrate His willingness to accept us as brothers and sisters. He came to demonstrate that He longs to be in a daily relationship with us as the best friend we have. 

Most world religions view God with a great deal of fear and trepidation.
Hindus offer sacrifices at the temple. Kneeling Muslims bow down so low that their foreheads touch the ground. And Buddhists meditate to try and find a transcendental level on which to meet God. Even Jewish tradition was somewhat rooted in fear and came to believe, as did most religions of the time, that the only way to enter the presence of a holy God was with sacrifice in hand.

Let us practice acceptance: 

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
In trading our security for love we learn acceptance and practice loving like Christ loves. That’s our greatest need. What is God’s answer?
 
God’s Answer: Amazing Love

We are called to be followers of Jesus Christ. There is no where that see this modeled more than in the work of Christ on the cross. For us to love in this way we must come to truly understand what He did when He died for us.

His love was and is amazing! 

Everybody loves a good mystery. Our next hymn describes a great mystery. Charles Wesley wrote it soon after He came to Christ. As he looks back on his life, he sees himself as a prisoner in a dark dungeon, chained by the sins that he committed-and even more "made captive" by the sin that was a part of his very being.
One night, the gospel of Christ-the good news that Christ had died to meet his need-seemed to flood his own personal dungeon with light, breaking the chains and setting him free. The guilt was finally gone. For the first time, Wesley seemed to be really alive because he possessed the supernatural life of Jesus Christ!
Perhaps you may think that this hymn describes the dramatic experience of one who was rescued from the life of terrible sin and ruin... perhaps drugs, adultery, murder or who knows what? But at the time of his conversion, Charles Wesley had been a pastor in his church for over three years. And he had just returned from a "missionary" trip to America.

But in all of this religious activity, he had never experienced peace-the peace that only God can give. Peace cannot be manufactured or "faked". Christ had never come to dwell in his life. He looked good on the outside, but the mystery of a life committed to Christ was not to be found in him.

On May 20, 1738, around midnight, Charles Wesley was saved. Finally, he began to understand the great mystery of being "in Christ." It's a little like that night, 2000 years ago, when Jesus said to the Jewish religious leader: Nicodemus, "You must be born again." Nicodemus was a respected religious leader, but he wasn't born again. He had never experienced the "mystery."

Perhaps you heard, recently, of a 71 year old minister, who after spending fifty years in the service of the church, had just come to Jesus Christ. Like the experience Charles Wesley describes in his hymn, the old minister finally understood the "mystery" of being "in Christ." He realized, as we must also, that "doing good" means nothing to God. To accept Christ's love and sacrifice for himself was to find the source of eternal life. This, indeed, is the best-and greatest mystery of all.
Charles Wesley, founder of the movement known as Methodism with his brother, John, was ordained as a priest in the Church of England in 1735. However, three years later, the evening of May 21, 1738, reportedly after prolonged Bible reading he wrote:

"At midnight I gave myself to Christ, assured that I was safe, whether sleeping or waking. I had the continual experience of His power to overcome all temptation, and I confessed with joy and surprise that He was able to do exceedingly abundantly for me above what I can ask or think."

Another writer states that he recorded in his journal:

"I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ. I saw that by faith I stood."
Let us practice acknowledgement:

And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior's blood!
Died he for me? who caused his pain!
For me? who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

'Tis mystery all: th' Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
to sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.

He left his Father's throne above
(so free, so infinite his grace!),
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam's helpless race.
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature's night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine;
alive in him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach th' eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th' eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own

We are called to acceptance of others and to acknowledge what Christ has done for us in the great exchange now it is time for our response. 

Our Response: The true mark of a Christfollower is unselfish love. 

C.S. Lewis said that when most of us consider the love of God we think of a senile grandfather in heaven who "likes to see young people enjoying themselves," and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be said at the end of each day, "a good time was had by all." And as silly as that sounds, sometimes I'm afraid that that's our version of the love of God. That we see God as some kind of divine Santa Claus with a flowing white beard and a bag of presents to put under our tree.
It reminds me of the little boy who came into the living room wearing his pajamas and said to his parents: "I'm going to bed and I'm going to be praying. Anybody want anything?" But if Santa Claus is the extent of our version of God's love, there's no redemption in that! Sentimental love has no power to change a life!

If Santa Claus sentimentality isn't what God's love is, then how does God love us? 

The one who can answer that question most completely is Jesus himself. And what did Jesus have to say about the nature of God's love? Well, Jesus told stories to help us understand:

He said: "The love of God is like a shepherd who had 100 sheep. One of them got away leaving only 99. But the shepherd wasn't content wasn't content with 99 while one was still lost. And so he left the 99 and went out searching for the one that was lost. And when he finally found it he went crazy, threw it on his shoulders, and ran home. But he didn't stop there. Then he called all his friends together and threw a party!" Jesus said: That's the way God loves us!

He said: "The love of God is like a woman who lost her most valuable possession! What does she do? She tears through the house trying to find it. She leaves no stone unturned and won't rest until it's found. And when she does . . . she goes nuts and throws a party over that one lost possession!" Jesus said: That's the way God loves us!

He said: "The love of God is like a Father who waits on the porch for his wayward son to come home. And when he sees him coming down the road, he doesn't wait for him to get there. NO! He jumps up from where he's sitting, and runs like crazy to reach him, AND EVEN THOUGH THE SON DOESN'T DESERVE IT, he throws arms of forgiveness around him, and welcomes him back into the family. AND IF THAT WASN'T ENOUGH, guess what he does next? You guessed it! HE THROWS ANOTHER PARTY!!" Jesus said: That's the way God loves us!

From cover to cover the Bible drips with the love of a seeking, saving, celebrating God reckless with desire to get his family back. A God who will stop at nothing, short of forcing us to accept his love, even if it means sending his own Son as a baby to finally die on a cross for our sins! You see, Jesus not only told stories about God's love, he came and poured out his life to demonstrate God's love!
The cross of Jesus Christ is not a terrible blunder in human history. It is the ultimate expression of God's love. Not a sweet, sentimental love--but a suffering, sacrificial, self-giving love that does for us what we could never do for ourselves--bring us to God and pay the price for our redemption!

Everyone in this room that is a follower of Jesus Christ has their own version of these stories. Growing up I can’t tell you how much I didn’t fit in. I’m not looking for a pity party here at all but let me tell you I know and remember the pain of rejection as a kid. I don’t even like to think back on my elementary school days or even those days through my first two years of high school.  I didn’t fit in. I didn’t get good grades. I wasn’t allowed to go to school dances and parties. (Thankfully although I didn’t feel thankful at the time) I wore clothes that were purchased at second hand stores and they were bought if they fit and were clean not if they were trendy or the style that others were wearing. I recently found a picture of me from elementary school on picture day and I had the best pair of flood pants on you have ever seen.

For some reason I was just never cool enough or with it enough to achieve popularity. I spent from fourth grade all the way through High School in band and that didn’t win me any cool contests either. I played baseball through all those years but missed the cut for the eighth grade basketball team, lifted weights one winter and spring to play football my sophomore year of high school only to have my Dad move to another town so I just settled for band again. ƒº

It was into this world that Christ stepped one day. It was into my world of never fitting in or feeling accepted that I learned there was only one relationship that mattered more than any other. It was in Christ that I found a peace about who I was and what I looked like. It was in Christ that I came to accept myself as the most loved person on earth. Not by friends, teachers, coaches, neighbors or even family but by the Son of God who came to this earth and exchanged His greatness and the security of heaven for thirty three years so that I might find real life in Him.

By the way giving up the security of heaven cost Jesus Christ His life. It is for this reason that I call us to practice adoration today. 

Legend has it that a wealthy merchant traveling through the Mediterranean world looking for the Pharisee and Apostle, Paul encountered Timothy, who arranged a visit. Paul was, at the time, a prisoner in Rome. Stepping inside the cell, the merchant was surprised to find a rather old man, physically frail, but whose serenity and magnetism challenged the visitor. They talked for hours. Finally the merchant left with Paul’s blessing. Outside the prison, the concerned man inquired, "What is the secret of this man’s power? I have never seen anything like it before." "Did you not guess?" replied Timothy. "Paul is in love." The merchant looked bewildered. "In love?" "Yes," the missionary answered, "Paul is in love with Jesus Christ." The merchant looked even more bewildered. "Is that all?" Smiling, Timothy replied, "Sir, that is everything."

Let us practice adoration:

The last words of our final song call for us to respond to this message by walking out of here today with the mighty love of God in our souls.

“Mortals, join the mighty chorus which the morning stars began; love divine is reigning o'er us,
binding all within its span.  Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife; joyful music leads us sunward, in the triumph song of life.”

Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
opening to the sun above. 
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
drive the dark of doubt away. 
Giver of immortal gladness,
fill us with the light of day!

All thy works with joy surround thee,
earth and heaven reflect thy rays,
stars and angels sing around thee,
center of unbroken praise. 
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
flowery meadow, flashing sea,
chanting bird and flowing fountain,
call us to rejoice in thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
ever blessing, ever blest,
well-spring of the joy of living,
ocean depth of happy rest! 
Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
all who live in love are thine;
teach us how to love each other,
lift us to the joy divine.

 Mortals, join the mighty chorus
which the morning stars began;
love divine is reigning o'er us,
binding all within its span. 
Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife;
joyful music leads us sunward,
in the triumph song of life.

John Piper summed up our problem well with his statement, ‘The weakness of our hunger for God is not because he is unsavoury, but because we “keep ourselves stuffed with other things”’

There was a great theologian who came to the USA from England and was being interviewed by a group of seminary students. The question was asked, “What is the most profound thought that ever occupied your mind.” The answer was, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” You may go very, very deep in theology; you may become a scholar; you may become a philosopher, but you’ll never ever understand anything more profound than to understand that God loves you so much He gave His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Give us your power to make the exchanges in our life that are necessary to be able to live for you and like you. Give us the ability to love you with all of our soul mind and strength and our neighbors as ourselves. 

Benediction: “. . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NLT

 



2009/12/13