E18: The love of Christ can be personal for you!
PODCAST: If someone were to ask you “Who is Jesus?,” what would you answer?
It’s one week to Christmas, and this week Milenko and Eunice together with a guest from Norway, Harald Kronstad, chat about the importance of having a personal conviction of Christ’s love to us and what it means to love Him back. What would you say if someone asked you who Jesus is?
Transcript: “Living the Gospel” podcast, Episode 18: The love of Christ can be personal for you!
This is ActiveChristianity’s “Living the Gospel” podcast. Join us as we explore the different aspects of the gospel according to the Bible, and how we can put it into practice in daily life.
Eunice: Welcome to Episode 18, it’s December 18th and its exactly one week to Christmas. I’m Eunice.
Milenko: And I’m Milenko. With us today, we have Harald Kronstad from Brunstad Christian Church in Norway.
Eunice: Welcome Harald.
Harald: Hi, good to be together with you.
Eunice: So, Milenko, how was Christmas like for you growing up?
Milenko: Well, I grew up in Australia, so for us, Christmas meant the start of summer holidays actually.
Eunice: Warm Christmas?
Milenko: It was a hot Christmas and we loved it! But we still got the traditional Christmas atmosphere by closing the windows and lighting the candles, even though they would bend over in the heat. But Christmas, that was real highlight for us as kids and of course it was the presents, it was the visits. My grandmother would come, and it was a lot of excitement. Christmas dinner, but we always grew up with the central part of Christmas, that’s Jesus, and for me, that has always been what’s made it special, that we have a friend in heaven. This was His birthday that we celebrated together, and I got presents on His birthday, what could be better?
Eunice: It sounds like an awesome children’s Christmas.
Milenko: Yes, definitely.
Eunice: So that’s kind of what we are actually thinking about today, to talk a little bit more about the main point of Christmas and we have Harald here with us. I was just wondering, we know that Jesus loves mankind and He came to earth and died for us, but how do we actually know that He loves me, personally? You know, little me?
Harald: I think it’s important that we understand that Jesus, He loves His whole creation. I think it was a great sorrow to Him to see how mankind developed after the fall of sin and He saw all these dysfunctional, broken homes and everything that took place, right from the first generation here on earth. I think that created a strong longing in His heart to save mankind, I mean, that was the crown of His creation, the very most important thing to Him. We know when He was in heaven, it’s written that He was a craftsman with God; He was a heavenly designer when God created heaven and earth. We know that mankind, that was really where His interest was. His love and His longing were with the sons of men. So, if Jesus did not have a personal interest in each single one, that He was just loving mankind in general, that’s not really love. I mean, if you love your kids, your children just in general, I love them, but you don’t even know the names of them – that seems to be very “special” to a loving father or mother.
Without the love of Christ being something personal, we miss out on the very point, I think. So, for me personally and also when I speak with other people, the personal conviction of Jesus’ love to us is crucial and without that, Jesus becomes so distant, He doesn’t really apply to my life, to my decisions and choices during everyday life. The truth is, that He is at my right-hand side, so He has a personal interest in each single one, and life will be turned upside down when you really start to believe that, and believe it in such a way that you act like that, you behave like that, your everyday life is like that – that I’m actually engaged to this very precious, most precious person. As Milenko spoke about, the real center of Christmas and not only on Christmas day but the whole year, He is the central person. If we don’t believe that that’s a very personal thing, we miss a point.
Milenko: Right. When we get that understanding of His love for me personally, the response should be to love Him in return. I don’t think it’s always necessarily the natural response from most people.
Harald: No, I guess most people get a picture of who God is, and who Jesus is from the example they have gotten from their own parents. A father figure, God, and my dad, or adults in general will form that picture and the concept of God in our mind.
Milenko: As a father?
Harald: As a father. And many times, they’ve grown up with a very strict, demanding father who can easily see my mistakes of course, my shortcomings … But this love that He has to instruct me, teach me, you get a strong conviction that He wants the very best for me. That’s not everyone that has that experience in their childhood. But those who have had loving, caring, God-fearing parents, they know at least something about the love of Christ because the love of Christ had been manifested in them as well. But many have to learn that. Maybe they grew up in a very legalistic home, rules and regulations, and how to behave were very important in their upbringing.
I think many have a wrong concept of God and Jesus. God and Jesus are so distant, it’s unapproachable. So, you don’t get this personal connection in your everyday life. When we read about Jesus in the gospels for example, it’s very evident that He wants a very close relationship with us; He wants fellowship with us. So, He wants to speak to me, and He wants me to speak to Him. He wants this very natural, close relationship. He wants to know what’s on my heart, He wants to dine with me, He wants to have fellowship and eat together with me; we share. I think this very child-like confidence in a loving dad is a relationship that we really should appreciate and look forward to and try to teach our children and ourselves.
Milenko: Right. I know I got that as a child, really, I got this feeling of, “Jesus is my friend and God is my personal friend who cares for me,” and that really is something I’ve held on my whole life. And it’s been of great help in times when I’ve had problems, and doubts and so on. That child-like faith that I remember and that I had, that has been a preserving thing. So, I think that what you’re saying there is so important, and for us to think about too, when we talk to others, that we speak of God in this way, that He is our friend, and Jesus is my friend and my Savior who did this for me. Just to have this loving relationship, that should come out in everything that I do.
Eunice: What if it’s someone, who for them it’s not natural, or didn’t experience that kind of home that you grew up in, Milenko, would you say that the first thing, like what you’re saying, what I get from that, is the first thing you have to do is to just believe, I have to trust, and then I have to just start talking to Jesus, start bringing my small situations to him. How do I begin this relationship with Him?
Harald: Good question! I think, the most important thing is actually to get to know Jesus as He is portrayed in His own Word – the Word of God. That’s where we get the right picture. It doesn’t really help just to think and to meditate if what I think and meditate upon is not related to the Word of God, because the Word of God gives a true description of who Jesus was. And by that, I can learn to know a very loving, kind, generous person who has a specific care for each single one. He didn’t chase anyone away. Some decided not to follow Him; they decided not to love Him, but His heart was wide open for everyone. So that’s what He said, you know, “If anyone wants to follow me …” It was an invitation to everyone. It was not just some specific people, but those who listened and understood, “This is a man; I’m called to follow Him!” And who doesn’t want to be together with a person who is so fantastic in His love and care, and one who prays for us. And He wants us to pray to Him and even promised, “Ask of Me …” And everyone who does that, not just a few people, but everyone who prays and asks, they will receive.
So that simple child-like relationship to Him is what He wants. “Knock, and it will be opened to you. Seek, and you will find!” I mean, God is behind His Word. This is Jesus’ Word and we know He will not cheat anyone. He will not say something and not keep His promises. So, to take God by His own Word, and get to know Him through the Word, I think that’s the key. Because we all have a picture in our head. If I ask you, “Who is God? Who is Jesus?” everyone can answer something, or maybe they will say, “I don’t know.” But then that’s their answer. But we can get to know Him in His own Word, and I would absolutely recommend to replace the picture that you can have in your mind with the picture that the Word of God portrays.
Milenko: And then you really get to know God as He is, the real God. And I think each one, no matter what picture you have from before, whether you have this loving God picture or you don’t know God at all, I think everyone will be very happily surprised by what they experience. And come into awe as well, that we have to do with this God and Jesus, His Son what He did for us. If we get to know Him, I think we will really have our eyes opened to something with eternal value.
Harald: Yes, I think really that it will turn your life upside down. I mean, because of the fall of sin, the relationship between mankind and God was destroyed. Everything turned out to be the opposite way around, from what God really had in mind and what His intention was. We know Adam, before the fall of sin, he spoke with God and God spoke with him. They were living there in this blessed atmosphere. I mean, they didn’t have to work; they could eat, they could drink; everything was just perfect! But then sin, by mankind, turning away from God’s commandments. Then the curse came! And Jesus came to restore that relationship with God. So, He turns everything upside down again; that means, it becomes right. Then we can have this right connection with God, and Jesus is the Mediator in this, who has made all this possible. And that should create a tremendous love in return on a personal level to Him.
Milenko: But Harald, we have this relationship with Jesus and we’ve come into this, that we see Him as our Friend, our Savior, and we have a love for Him … Jesus Himself talks about, that in tribulations and trials, the love of many will grow cold. It’s also written in Revelation that “You have left your first love.” That’s a very serious thing we hear about, that you can have this enthusiasm, this love, this burning desire to please Him but in the situations of life, that tapers off, it becomes cold. What would you say, how do we preserve that love? It is one thing that the love of Christ for us is warm and hot and everlasting, but what about our love for Christ? How do we keep that burning?
Harald: We know in today’s society a lot of relationships break up. Many split up because there is a lack of communication, they stopped to communicate, they stopped doing things together. We can say, they grow away from one another. If I don’t cultivate that relationship with Jesus, if I don’t pray to Him, if I don’t talk with Him, if I don’t read about Him and have that fellowship with Him, it’s absolutely because of the fall of sin, we have tendencies that makes us separate ourselves from Him. Everything in the kingdom of heaven is voluntary, so He doesn’t force us. He calls on us, He speaks to us in our hearts, but I have to tune in and listen to what He says. And if I come away from that, that is the most sorrowful thing you can do. I mean, to turn away from such possibilities that He has given us, that’s utter foolishness. But it’s close at hand if you don’t watch and pray.
Milenko: So, this is an active life we’re living. Communication, responding to His …
Eunice: He also tells you what is right in the little situations according to His Word. And that’s even more of a way to get to know Him, isn’t it?
Milenko: That we follow Him in His footsteps too, then we get to know Him as He is. I think we appreciate it to a degree that you can never appreciate if you just think about what He did for us.
Harald: Jesus Himself says, “If anyone loves Me, He keeps My commandments.” So, that’s a way to be preserved in the first love for Jesus, is to keep His commandments. And then I have to watch out for them. What are they? Where are they written? Does He speak to me in my heart about His own commandments? And that’s not heavy stuff. I mean, it’s a help to live a fulfilling life! So, that is a proof that I love Him, that I keep His commandments. It’s not just a nice feeling or something emotional; keeping His commandments also brings sufferings. I follow in His footsteps. That brings also sufferings but that’s the way to be liberated and set free from sin, not only outwardly but also the sin that can bind me inwardly in my thought life. I think Jesus says that very clearly in John 14, so that’s a good test.
Milenko: Another thing that Jesus speaks about that, “No one has greater love than this, than that he lays down his life for his friends.” And we see that of course, that’s what Jesus did to us to the greatest degree, and we, if we love Jesus, we also lay down our life for His sake. But it also speaks about “his friends,” and how would you say that the love of Christ translates into love for the others?
Harald: Our calling is to partake of the same love that He had. The verse you mentioned, and also when you read in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in chapter 13, they’re well-known and quoted verses, but when you think about that and read it with that concept in your mind, this should be my life! Then it speaks about unconditional love. No matter how other people behave, if I think they deserve it or not, that’s not the question. You find your great joy in loving others, no matter. And actually, the greater the challenge is to love them, the greater love you need! Who doesn’t become happy …? It’s the person who has the most love in his heart!
“You’re not restricted by us,” Paul said. He had enlarged His heart. He says that to the Corinthians, but then he says, “You are limited by your own affections.” So that’s what limits us, but with Paul, he had enlarged his heart. I have seen that picture in my head that Paul had such a great love that all these different people that he served and wanted to give the Gospel to; he wanted to bring them the good news … They could behave in many different ways, but they never came out of his heart and his love and his care and his prayers. And think what a fantastic life to live!
Milenko: It’s amazing to think the fruits of Jesus, that He came to earth. We can have that full salvation we can get through Him, and that relationship – a hope for eternal life. The love of Christ also makes it that we have love to one another, it becomes heaven on earth! Despite the situations and no matter how the others are, that we actually can experience that. If you think of Jesus, He died for the whole world. There wasn’t a sin that He didn’t die for, or a sinner that He didn’t die for. And then how I can have it in my heart, you know? That it’s so easy to become bitter and offended, but if we’re driven by the love of Christ and the love He has given me, then I owe it to Him to love the others as well.
Harald: Absolutely! Paul, he writes that Jesus, He died for us when we were still sinners, when we were ungodly, when we were unrighteous, when we were enemies. So, that is the measure and the standard of the love of Christ. John, he writes that, “If you say you love God, that you don’t see, but you don’t love your brother that you do see.” He mocks that kind of faith! It’s fake! It has no value. I can say I love my “neighbor” who lives in a totally different country, but when it’s put to the test, that really shows if I love him. So, we have to have that relationship to our fellow man. That’s what makes life so exciting, that I can partake of more love of Christ. Those who live the most fulfilling life, are those who have the greatest content of love in their hearts.
Eunice: Then people see the love of Christ through us and maybe that will also make them want to have the same love in return and seek a relationship with Jesus?
Milenko: It’s actually a work, that you … In that way it’s outreach as well, that extends through us to the others. So I think this is really a good theme to think about at Christmas now, when we think about what we’re really celebrating and that this love of Christ that He had for us, that that can come into our own lives and spread its warmth and its goodness and its blessing where we are. Then this will really be a blessed season. So, thank you Harald, this has been a really edifying and uplifting conversation.
Harald: Yes, likewise, a pleasure.
Milenko: It will give us a lot to think about, I think. I think it will make our Christmas even more special when we really think about it like this.
Eunice: Thank you for listening today and the next episode will be out on Monday, December 23rd, instead of Wednesday which would be Christmas day.
Milenko: Next week, we are going to have another special guest, so don’t miss out on that one. Thanks for listening and good luck with the rest of your Christmas preparations wherever in the world you are listening from, whether it’s summer in Australia or cold in Norway and everything in between!
Eunice: Have a good week! Bye!
Harald: Bye bye!