During the four weeks prior to Christmas, the Hope Church Women’s Ministry offered an Advent Bible Study. As our Christmas gift to you, here is a summary of the four themes we reviewed. We learned that Advent is a season of expectation as we celebrate the first coming of the Son of God as Savior and Messiah. We ponder the mystery of the Incarnation, where “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14) and an Infinite and All-powerful God became fully human like us. We gratefully receive the gifts of Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love that Jesus offers “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17)
The world views Hope as wishful thinking. The Hope of God is much more than that – it is the “confidant expectation of good”. Hope is a gift from God and His Word defines faith as being “sure of what we hope for” (Hebrews 11:1.) Our hope rests in a Person. Our confident assurance of experiencing what has been promised but not yet received is based on who He is – His faithfulness, His goodness, His holiness, His unlimited power, His unchanging nature, His grace and mercy, His steadfast love.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.” (Romans 15:13 AMP)
The world defines Joy as a feeling of happiness or enjoyment. This feeling is circumstantial – when things are going well and we get what we want, we feel happy. When we encounter opposition to our plans, delay in what gratifies us, or adverse circumstances, the feelings of happiness and enjoyment dissipate like so much smoke in the wind. The Joy of God, on the other hand, is NOT circumstantial. It is a state of being that we can experience in any situation. We are exhorted to “Rejoice in the LORD always” (Philippians 4:4) because His steadfast love is the source of our joy, not external circumstances. No matter what we are going through, we can be joyful because God is with us (Matthew 1:23, Revelation 21:3), God is for us, (Romans 8:31) and God has promised to provide everything we need (Philippians 4:19, 2 Corinthians 9:8, Romans 8:32, Matthew 6: 25, 32 and 7:9-11, 1Timothy 6:17).
“Rejoice in the LORD always; I say again rejoice! . . . The LORD is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God.” (Philippians 4:4-6)
“Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11)
The world defines peace as the absence of conflict. Like Hope and Joy, experiencing the Peace of God is not dependent on our circumstance or situation. Our Peace rests in the person of Jesus Christ (John 16:33, 2 Thessalonians 3:16, 1 Peter 5:7 NIV). The Hebrew word for peace in the Bible is “Shalom” and it is translated as “completeness, to be whole or sound.” God intends His Peace to be much more than just the absence of external conflict. He offers peace that impacts every part of us – spiritually, relationally, emotionally, mentally, physically.
- Spiritual Peace – we have Peace with God because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross.
“It (righteousness) will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus, our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 4:24b-5:1)
- Relational Peace – the absence of discord, envy, hostility, anger, strife; being at ease and comfortable with someone; trust, harmony. (Matthew 5:9, Hebrews 12:14, Colossians 3:15, Proverbs 16:7)
- Peace of Mind – the absence of anxiety, worry, stress, fear; being calm, unconcerned, tranquil, serene, still. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3) “And the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NIV)
- Bodily Peace – the absence of violence, abuse, or neglect; being unharmed, unhurt; well-being, health, and physical soundness. “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV)
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid.” (Psalm 27:1)
“The LORD is with me, I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 188:6)
What the world views as “love” can be more accurately described as passion, infatuation, obsession, lust, or some other unfulfilled need. This kind of “love” is based primarily on emotion and physical attraction. It is self-centered because we are looking to each other, rather than God, to fill our hearts. Relationships built on this shaky foundation don’t last. The “love” expires once it no longer meets the needs, desires, or expectations of either person in the relationship.
The Love of God, as revealed to us in Jesus Christ, is beautifully described in John 15:9-17 and is completely the opposite of worldly “love.”
- Love lasts. In Psalm 118, the writer praises God because “His steadfast love endures forever.”
- Love is unconditional and does not wax or wane depending on His emotions or our behavior.
- Love motivates obedience. We demonstrate our love for God through trust and submission to His Will, His Way, and His Word.
- Love is personalized by friendship – our relationship is open, honest, and transparent – there are no secrets. We can be who we are with each other.
- Love is joyful – our relationship is enjoyable.
- Love is meant to be shared with others – we want others to receive and benefit from the gift we have been given.
- Love is sacrificial – we are to put the needs and concerns of others before our own comfort and convenience. The prime example of sacrificial love is Jesus’ crucifixion that secured our salvation.
- Love is a choice – a decision. We love God, others, and ourselves whether we feel like it or not.
- Love has a purpose – God expects our love relationship with Him to produce lasting fruit as we share the gospel, help others, and glorify His name.
- Love is a command, not an option. Love is the essential quality of a Christ follower.
Jesus loves us the way God, the Father, loves Him. God loves us (Christ followers) the same way He loves His Son Jesus (John 16:27, 17:23). We are to love as God loves us.
Another great description of Love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. . .”
As we celebrate Jesus’ first coming, don’t forget to envision His second coming (Revelation 19:11-20:15) and view your life today in light of the time when Hope will be fulfilled, Joy will reign, Peace will be permanent, and Love will be forever victorious.