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My True Love Gave to Me…

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In the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” the writer enumerates the increasingly grand gifts received during the 12 days leading up to Christmas. Though the carol was written in England in the late 1700’s, many of us still sing it at Christmastime today. Do you remember the lyrics? “On the First day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, a partridge in a pear tree…”

This timeless and catchy song highlights the lengths to which one’s “true love” will go in order to express his or her love. But what is true love? Is it gifts that increase in grandeur with each passing day? Our world sends mixed and confusing messages about love, but what is God’s truth on the subject? We find the answers to lasting, loving relationships in the Bible, especially in the book of Ephesians.

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The Apostle Paul begins Ephesians 5:1-20 by instructing believers to “be imitators of God as dearly loved children.” In examining these verses, I noticed three important pillars that show us how we can decipher what true love is:

1.) True love. Verses one and two read, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” The word of “love” here in the original Greek is agape. It means unconditional love, and it conveys giving, not receiving. Jesus Christ showed us what true love is when He willingly gave Himself up for us—dying in our place for our sins and the sins of the world. First John 4:8 tell us that “God is love.”

2.) False love. In verses three through seven, Paul warns believers about false love. He is concerned about their purity and personal testimony. He wants to help prevent them from being deceived or from falling into such sins as sexual immorality, greed, and idolatry “because these are improper for God’s holy people” (v. 3). Paul’s words are a striking reminder that God has called us to be holy, not happy. Yes, there is much joy in the Christian walk, but the mistake many people make is believing that the end goal is happiness at any cost—when God’s goal is to make us holy. The pursuit of happiness over holiness leads to accept false forms of love.

3.) Savior love. Verses eight through 10 read, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” Our goal in life is to find and to do what pleases the Lord. Paul wants believers to wake up, “having nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness,” (v. 11) and allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine in and through them. Our Savior’s love is sacrificial. It is God-honoring. It shines a light on anything and everything it touches.

This is the standard of love that Christ set forth. I beg you not to accept any counterfeits or substitutions. If you would like to learn how to imitate God’s unconditional love and watch it overflow into worship and thankfulness, please join us for worship services at Shepherd Church!

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