Introduction: It is usually our experience that when we enter into the gate of the New Year, there is a special joy and happiness that we feel in our hearts. Some few hours more to go from now, the year 1969 will then be gone, and the year 1970 will then be with us.
For the text of our message tonight, I am using 2Cor. 5:17 which says, "therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold, the new has come."
The Apostle Paul brings to us in this verse a very timely idea on a new creation in Christ. I say timely idea because of the fact that, the old year 1969 is now passing away, and the New Year 1970 is fast approaching.
If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. I have been pondering so seriously on the idea of a new creation in Christ. And through the guidance of the power of the Holy Spirit, I have finally come to the idea, that if anyone is to be a new creation in Christ, he must receive the love of God. For anyone who has received the love of God is a new creation in Christ.
In my study of the Epistles of John, I found out that the word "love" is used as a verb and as a noun 51 times. In the first Epistle alone, it is used 44 times. In the second letter, 5 times, and in the third letter it is used 2 times.
The phrase "God is love" is used 2 times in the first Epistle, particularly in 1John 4:8, 16. Now, what did the author mean when he said, "God is love"? One writer says," to say that God is a love implies that all His activity is a loving activity. If He creates, He creates in love if He rules, He rules in love; if He judges, He judges in love." In other words, this writer is saying that the very nature and character of God is "love", so that whatever He does, He does it in love.
For instance, when He created the world, He created it out of His love. And we can say without hesitation that the world itself as created by God is an expression of His love.
When the Psalmist lifted up his voice and said, "create in me a clean heart, O God", I believe he was conscious of the fact, that his petition was based upon God's love. In other words, the Psalmist was asking God to create in him a clean heart because he knew that God's basis in creating a clean heart is His love.
When God creates in us a new being, a new creature, a new man, He creates on the basis of His gracious love. He creates in us a "new being" not because we are sinners, but He creates in us a "new being" because of His wonderful love. He is not motivated to create in us a "new being" on the ground that we are sinners, but on the ground that His very nature and character of God is "love'. And this nature and character of God is "love," has been manifested to us in His Son Jesus Christ. John says, "In this the love of God was manifested among us that God sent His only Son into the world, that we might die through him."
Even as a ruler, God rules in love. We are told from the story of creation, that, God is not only the Creator but also a Ruler of all what He has created. And this idea that God is the Ruler, is carried on in the Epistles of John when "one family" is mentioned, - the family of God, composed of His own children and He as the Father. Father here is referred to as the Ruler, for God is the Ruler of His own family. And He as the Ruler, rules in love, for He guides and direct His people to come into a closer fellowship with Him. This is how God rules- He rules on the basis of His holy love.
Even when He judges, He judges in love. He judges not on the basis of man's viewpoint of love, but He judges on the basis of His own "holy and just love".
Thus, when John advocated that "God is love", he was saying, I believe, that the very nature and character of God is "love". That whatever He does, He does it in love. But why is it that, God as love came to us in this sinful world? Why did He bother Himself bearing the Cross of Calvary?
To answer these questions, we are told from the Epistle of John that man has the capacity to love. He knows how to love. But this capacity to love is primarily directed toward the things that are for his own glory, for himself. He loves to exalt himself and be the king of himself.
This I believe is the very reason why God as "love" came to us in the flesh. He loves us so much, and so He came to liberate us from the bondage of self-centeredness. He wants our human selfish love to be transformed into His own divine love. And in the Epistle of John we are told that the only way by which our "human selfish love" can be converted into "God's divine love", is when we believe in His Son Jesus Christ. Believing in Jesus Christ does not mean just something in the mind, but it includes a complete surrender of ourselves to Him. For it is only as we truly commit ourselves to Him through faith in Jesus Christ, shall we receive God's love. An author says, "Only when a man surrenders that which has value for his own life in order to enrich the life of another does he love." God is willing to put His own love in our lives, had it is only when we truly give Him our lives, that His love would come upon us.
At this time, our capacity then to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, is God's love with which He has loved us. John says, "We love because He first loved us. "
And our love for God naturally carries with it, love for fellowmen. Dr. Dodd says, "love to God and love to man are so inseparable that the presence of either is the evidence of the other." Thus we cannot love our fellowmen from our own effort, but we can love God and fellowmen from the grace of love and faith in Jesus Christ.
Many times we have fallen into the temptation that we love only those who love us. Many times we fallen into the temptation that we should hate also those who hate us. Many times we have displayed in our lives the so-called "Pharisaic love."
Love, in the Epistle of John, does not mean a human love that seeks for a return. It is a love that has come from above having the power to transform our selfish love. And so, to love our fellowmen, according to John mean the following:
1. First, to love our fellowmen is to have a forgiving spirit. John says, "If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen." In other words, John is advocating that, it is not hard for a Christian to love even those who do not love him, because the love by which he shall love them is the love of God. And this love of God is constantly creating in him a forgiving spirit "See what manner of love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God."
2. Second, to love our fellowmen is to be concerned with their spiritual well being. The Lord Jesus Christ laid down His life just because He was very much concerned with our spiritual welfare. He laid down his life even to the point of death. John says, "By this we know love, which he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
3. Finally, to love our fellowmen means passing out of death into life. Again John says, "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love remains in death." To love our fellowmen is a sure indication that we already have life- eternal life Brethren, love is of God that came to us in Jesus Christ. We receive God's love only when we give Him ourselves and to have this love is to be a new creation in Jesus Christ. If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old have passed away, behold the new has come." (Read the Credo for a New Year.)
I wish you all a very prosperous and a happy New Year.
At the close of the year 1969, O God, we cannot help but come to you who are our Father and our God. You who know even the smallest thing in our souls and hearts, we ask you to clothe us with your mercy and love.
As we look back through the past days of the year, and as we look in the light of Your Fatherly love, we come to realize how sinful we are. We come to realize that we had been living in the midst of our selfish desire. We did not live fully in the light of your redeeming love.
And so at this moment of prayer, O heavenly God, as we enter into this coming New Year 1970, we beseech you to consecrate us to your will, and help us to rededicate once again our weak lives unto your care. Help us to see those things in our lives where we have fallen, and help us to arise with you as we begin this New Year
We humbly confess Almighty God that many times we have not done the things you would want us to do. We listen more to the whisper of our selfish desire. We laid aside the things that are for your glory, and many times we closed our hearts for you. Help us dear God to amend our lives, and renew our relationship with you. Help us to receive your divine love which is constantly offered for our healing. Heal us, we pray to you, for the spiritual illness that we feel in our hearts.
O God, we do not ask for easy task as we continue to live through this coming New Year; but we ask you to give us more strength and power from above, so that we shall be able to shoulder anything that you would like us to do. We pray for more visions from you, so that we shall see clearly our duties and responsibilities. This is our prayer in the name of the Lord, who is our Redeemer. Amen