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Friday, January 16, 2009

Jesus’ Heart for His Bride (Introduction)

Some of my favorite passages of Scripture are in John 13-17, during the time Jesus spends with His disciples after the last supper. In these sections, we get an intimate glimpse into the heart of Jesus for His disciples and for His Bride (His Bride is His Church--in other words, all who belong to Him by faith and who love and worship Him as God and King). In John 13-17, Jesus speaks openly to His disciples about who He is, His relationship with the Father, the point of His life and death, His heart for His Church, and the love of God.

To me, this section of Scripture speaks volumes about the Glory of God. In these passages, I see that our God is most glorified in love. I see the glorious, beautiful, magnificent love between God the Father and God the Son. (Jonathan Edwards would say the love between God the Father and God the Son is the person of the Holy Spirit. See his unpublished essay on the trinity: ).

This love is nothing like the diluted, self-interested, sappy, inconsistent, wavering, mortal state we so often pathetically call “love”. In fact, the love I see in John 13-15 is out of this world. We will talk more of its incredible characteristics in upcoming posts. This love is like a river that originates between the Father and the Son and overflows to us and back to Him and from us to others and back to Him. This river is the power source of the Christian life. I see this in Ephesians 3:14-21:

“14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

This love is the very fuel required to live the Christian life depicted in the rest of Ephesians. Without being rooted and established in God’s love, we cannot live the life He intends for us. This is where Jesus’ vision for His Bride begins.

I have never learned so much about Biblical love as I have in this past year. God is opening my eyes in increasing measure to show me the nature of the love between the Father and the Son and the nature of His love for me and what that means as far as how He wants me to love Him and others. God is opening my eyes to how flawed my conception of love is when it is rooted in my fleshly desires and in the values of this world. His Word contains the true definition of love. I need to be in His Word to renew my mind and to discern what flesh and world induced lies have corrupted the way I view love, give love, and receive love. In His Word, I read about His desires, motivations, and actions and they reveal to me how He wants me to understand love and live out love for Him and for others in my desires, motivations, and actions. As I read His Word, He is gradually transforming my concept of love into His. I know this will be a life-long process.

God’s love is the major theme I see in John 13-17 (and really in all of Scripture). I want to grow in my understanding of it. It astounds me how much His love is so deep (as in profound) and deep (as without measure) and yet so real and practical in the largest and smallest details of my life. I see His love in the scandal of substitutionary atonement,[1] knowing that Jesus underwent the death penalty for my sin so that I could have a relationship with my Triune God! I see His love in the incarnation--where Jesus left the highest of thrones with the Father and came on a rescue mission for humanity, being born to an unwed teenager in a barn in the middle of nowhere. Yet, I also see His love in the way the other day I cried out to God the Father with tears of despair and loneliness only to get a phone call moments later from my husband (who had no idea how badly I was doing) who told me that God burdened his heart suddenly to end his long workday to come home and take care of me. I see God's love in the way that Kristian prayed specifically to be reminded of God's love today in the weariness of his schedule these days (14 plus hour work days, 7 days per week for the past month), and shortly afterward received an e-mail from a dear family member who wrote to him out of the blue to tell him that she was praying for him and proud of the sacrificial love he is demonstrating to provide for his family. These acts are meaningful and practical extensions of God's love to us!

Come with me as we look at John 13-17 in some upcoming posts, examining how God is glorified in love. Let us behold the Glory of God in love and see how it relates to Jesus’ heart for us.

Dear Heavenly Father, Help us to behold you glory in increasing measure. We know that the light of the knowledge of your glory is in Jesus Christ. Help us through the Spirit to see Jesus more clearly in John 13-17. May it cause us to marvel and wonder at your character. May it produce joyful and grateful worship in our hearts for Your Name! May our beholding beget transformation in our lives, from one degree of glory to another. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

[1] Here’s a mini definition of “substitutionary atonement” from Wikipedia: “Substitutionary atonement is a doctrine in Christian theology which states that Jesus of Nazareth died – intentionally and willingly – on the cross as a propitiation, or substitute, for sinners. This doctrine presents Jesus' death as a supreme act of love for mankind, in order to bring people into a relationship with God. It stresses the vicarious nature of the crucifixion as being "instead of us". This vicarious and substitutionary nature of the atonement is expressed in Scripture verses such as "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness," (1 Pet. 2:24) and "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God," (1 Peter 3:18).”

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