All

I am forgiven and cleansed because Jesus atoned for all my sins

Read: 1 John 1:8-2:2

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

Reflect:

1 John 1:9 is the verse that converted me to Christian faith. I saw clearly for the first time (though this was certainly not the first time it had been shown to me) that Jesus Christ had done all that was required by God for the forgiveness of my sin.

I saw that I did not have to be perfectly righteous on my own; Jesus Christ was able to do all that was necessary to cleanse and purify me.

This verse showed me the glory of the gospel and – thanks be to God – I grasped this glorious gospel firmly and clung thereafter to Christ.

Now, as I go on in my everyday ordinary Christian life, I struggle with the Spirit’s help to keep from sin. But I do so in the knowledge that Jesus Christ is my heavenly lawyer; pleading my case, interceding and advocating on my behalf though his own perfect righteousness. He has atoned for all my sins.

Crux:

I am forgiven and cleansed because Jesus atoned for all my sins.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Jesus Christ, you are the Righteous One:
perfect keeper of God’s law;
perfect fulfilment of God’s promises;
perfect sacrifice for my sins;
perfect advocate for my forgiveness.
Jesus Christ, you are faithful and just.

I confess I am a sinner. I am lazy and again today I did not get up early to converse with you, but stayed in bed and did not think upon your word until the opposite end of the day.

I am sorry. Thank you for forgiving me.

Please purify me from my unrighteousness, whereby I do not seek fellowship with you but would prefer “a little sleep, a little slumber” even though this means I spend my day in spiritual poverty. Please cleanse me of my lazy selfishness that is so short-sighted.

Please make me eager again to meet with you and meditate on your word.

Amen.

Fellowship

I have fellowship with Christ and his Church through John’s words

Read: 1 John 1:1-7

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)

If we walk in the light, as he [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

Reflect:

John, together with the other apostles, was an eyewitness to Jesus Christ. John names him “Word of Life… the life… the eternal life.” John and the other apostles proclaimed what they had seen and heard, testifying about Jesus just as Jesus had predicted they would with the Spirit’s help (John 15:27).

It is through hearing/reading and believing John’s proclamation that I and other Christians have fellowship with John. We have become fellows, sharing something in common; or rather, sharing someone in common. Through John’s witness I have fellowship with God the Father and with God the Son, a truly amazing thought.

This fellowship extends to the whole church as we “walk in the light.” 1 John 1:5 tells me, “God is light” so this gracious fellowship extends to the church as we live godly lives. Yet it is not my godly life that makes me pure and sin-free; this is what the blood of Jesus, shed for me, has achieved: to cleanse me from my sin.

Crux:

I have fellowship with Christ and his Church through John’s faithful proclamation of what he saw and heard.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

It continues to amaze me that you should choose to make a way for there to be fellowship between us, for plain ordinary me to have a relationship with you, the God of the Universe. Especially on days like today, when it has been almost a week since I last spent time privately meditating on your word in a deliberate effort to deepen our relationship. You never went away from me, waiting patiently for me to open the covers of my Bible and listen again to your word. Forgive me for only meeting with you in public, with your people, and not in private, just the two of us.

Thank you for choosing me and calling me, for making a way for us to have fellowship through the incarnation of your Son and through the apostles’ faithful proclamation of the truth about what they saw and heard: Jesus Christ.

Thank you for revealing yourself: God, you are light and in you there is no darkness! Thank you for relaying this through the apostles.

LORD, You are light: truth, beauty, purity, perfection, excellence, illumination, instruction. You are wondrous in all of your ways.

May I walk in your light all my days. Thank you for the blood of Jesus, which purifies me and sanctifies me from all my sin.

Amen.

Surrender

All I am and have must be surrendered to Christ

Read: Song of Songs 8

[She] Solomon had a vineyard in Baal Hamon;
he let out his vineyard to tenants.
Each was to bring for its fruit
a thousand shekels of silver.
But my own vineyard is mine to give;
the thousand shekels are for you, Solomon,
and two hundred are for those who tend its fruit. (Songs 8:11-12)

Reflect:

Throughout Songs, the bride and groom have talked of her body figuratively as a vineyard. So as I thought about these two verses, I thought I should read them as a comparison between the taxes citizens pay and the voluntary giving over of herself to her husband which a wife does – even if that wife be a royal princess married to a king.

As well as royal brides, however, the vineyard stands in Scripture for all Israel, in the prophetic literature (Isaiah 5:7) for example.

Furthermore, Jesus expounded upon this idea in a parable of a rented vineyard (Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12 and Luke 20:9-19). Jesus applied it not to carnal generosity but from the position of one who saw the rightful rents being refused to the landowner’s messengers, even to the point of the landowner’s son being murdered.

Jesus turned this metaphor of a rented vineyard into a parable that prophesied his own death.

The Jews didn’t want to submit to the King, so they killed him. And, through a miracle of God, the death of King Jesus made it possible for his chosen Bride (the church) to respond willingly to him.

Christians may own their own ‘vineyards’ as Christ’s gift to us, but we should – nay, must – surrender all to Christ: “In view of God’s mercy, offer yourselves as a living sacrifice,” Paul wrote in Romans 12:1.

Crux:

All I am and have must be surrendered to Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Worthy, worthy, worthy,
is the LORD God Almighty,
to receive praise and honour and glory –
may the whole earth be full of your glory!

LORD, you created everything and it was all subject to you, yet you handed authority over to Adam and Eve to care for the Garden of Eden, despite knowing they would sin.

You created the vineyard that was your people Israel and they were subject to your law, yet you allowed them to ask for Moses to be their mediator and to appoint Saul as their king, despite knowing Moses would stumble and Saul would fall.

You have granted me authority over the limited sphere of my own body, despite knowing I too would stumble and fall into sin. Wretch that I am!

Yet you have done this so I might be redeemed by your Son and granted his righteousness. You have called me to surrender all that I am and have to you. You call me to live as a sacrifice to you – wholly given over to your will and into your service.

I owe all that I am and have to you. Please allow me grace to serve you in all that I do, with all that I have: my skills and passion, my intellect and education, my heart and soul, my hands and feet, my ears and mouth. May all of me be submitted to you, my King.

Amen.

Open

Jesus seeks entry into the lives of all who will welcome him in

Read: Song of Songs 5

[She] I slept but my heart was awake.
Listen! My beloved is knocking:
“Open to me, my sister, my darling,
my dove, my flawless one.” (Songs 5:2)

I have taken off my robe –
must I put it on again? (Songs 5:3)

I opened the door for my beloved,
But my beloved had left; he was gone.
My heart sank at his departure,
I looked for him but did not find him.
I called for him but he did not answer. (Songs 5:6)

Reflect:

At first glimpse, this chapter seems out of place in a book of courtship and marriage. The bride is visited by her groom at night but she is unready to receive him when he knocks. After dithering around putting on clothes and washing her hands in perfume, she finds he has left by the time she opens the door. Looking for him in the streets, she is set upon and her wedding robe is stolen by policemen. Yet she still searches for her beloved and entreats others to join her in the search.

In order to understand this passage, I contemplate several allusions to this story and amplifications of it in the New Testament. Jesus himself takes up the idea of a groom/master knocking at the door and an unready bride/servants several times, in Matthew 22 and Matthew 25 and also in Luke 12. In his letter to the church at Laodicea, transcribed by John (Revelation 3:20) Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Jesus is ready to enter in to the lives of those who are willing and ready to receive him. The question is, are we ready to receive this royal guest?

Many will be taken by surprise when Jesus returns in glory and they find themselves unprepared – without the robe or wedding clothes necessary for the Bride of Christ. Over-reliance on religious rites will be of no benefit either, just as washing her hands until they dripped with myrrh did not help the bride in Songs to be ready.

If we try to force our way into his presence, we will find ourselves excluded completely. Unready people shall be like the Jews to whom Jesus said (John 7:34, in a paraphrase of a line from Songs 5:6), “You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”

How many hearts will sink on that day! How many faces will be downcast at the coming of the King! By the grace of God I shall be ready, willing and waiting for Jesus when he returns and knocks once more.

Crux:

Jesus seeks entry into the lives of all who will welcome him in.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I recognise Jesus Christ as the King who stood at the door of my life knocking for many years. Thank you for your grace in opening my ears to hear Jesus’ request to enter in to my life. Thank you for prompting me to open that door. May it remain wide open all the days of my life!

LORD, I pray for those who are not yet ready to open their door to Jesus. Please open their ears to hear his words. Open their eyes to see his majesty. Open their hearts to receive him.

I pray also for the workers who go in Jesus’ name as his ambassadors to ‘knock on doors’ for the sake of your glory in the gospel. I pray especially for Suichi & Elaine, Nathan & Shawna, Ben & Bec, Glen & Liz, Ross & Jill & Hazeen. Give them words to speak. Open doors to them. Allow them to share the blessings of Christ’s wedding banquet with many.

Amen.

Flawless

Jesus is sanctifying me, making me his flawless bride

Read: Song of Songs 4

[He] You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you. (Songs 4:7)

You are a garden fountain,
a well of flowing water
streaming down from Lebanon. (Songs 4:15)

Reflect:

Flawless beauty. Absolute perfection. That is what this groom sees when he looks at his bride. It’s what every bride wants her groom to see on their wedding day. It’s certainly not what my husband sees when he looks at me.

Our marriage is almost 18 years old (I joke it’s almost a mature adult) and over that time my physical beauty, such as it was, has deteriorated. More significantly, no-one can hide their sinful nature from a spouse for 18 years, and so Jeff is now far more aware of my lack of spiritual beauty than he was when we married. I’m more aware of my spiritual ugliness as well. My need for Jesus Christ is plain to both of us.

Yet Jeff loves me despite all this, and he persists in drawing water from my fountain, as I am delighted for him to do – and as Scripture advises him to do (in Proverbs 5 and 1st Corinthians 7, for example).

As with Songs 3, I am drawn to consider this passage also in a different light: the light of Christ. I can see in this passage hints and a foretaste of the marriage of Christ and his bride, the Church. Now the Church (like me) is certainly not flawless at present; news headlines tell us that. But one day, the day Christ returns to claim her, he will make her entirely perfect, without blemish, sanctified. Even now, streams of living water flow from her (from me!) because Jesus Christ made his Spirit dwell within his bride, as Jesus promised in John 4 and John 7.

Crux:

Jesus is sanctifying me, making me his flawless bride.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for washing me clean, cleansing me from within with your living water which you have made to well up within me as if I were your fountain.

Please sanctify me. Please continue to strip away my spiritual ugliness.

Please take my selfishness, my lack of compassion, my pride and vainglory, my lust, my sloth and laziness, my dissatisfaction, my wilfulness, my self-aggrandisement, my competitive spirit, my ignorance, my disorganisation, my quick tongue and quicker temper.

Please remake me until I form a clearer image of your Son. Please make me flawless, full of your attributes which are true beauty.

Please make me loving, kind, gentle, peaceful, caring, patient, humble, submissive, joyous, self-controlled, diligent, disciplined, winsome, good. Please make me like my Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Regrets

Do not walk willingly into immorality

Read: Song of Songs 2

[She] Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not awaken or arouse love
until it so desires. (Songs 2:7)

Reflect:

Although Jeff and I weren’t Christians when we met and married, I chose to read the first seven verses of Songs 2 aloud as part of our wedding service.* Songs 2:7 challenges me now as then: “Do not awaken or arouse love…”

When we married, I looked back on my previous relationships with regret, remorse and a certain amount of shame – though not yet with repentance at that time. I have long since repented of all my sexual immorality, and I know that I am forgiven by the grace of God. But I still wish I had learnt the lesson of Songs 2:7 long before my wedding day.

Sexual sin – whether in thought or deed – is no different to any other sin in that I need to not do it! And since I didn’t avoid this sin, I needed Christ to atone for this sin (along with many, many others) through his death on the cross.

For my present and future, I need to keep away from sexual immorality. I need to “not awaken” ungodly love. Since I’m now married, the only valid, godly expression of sexual love for me is shared with my husband. I need to flee inappropriate arousal, and whatever might feed it in me. I need Christ to purify my love.

Crux:

Do not walk willingly into immorality.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I thank you once again for the forgiveness and freedom you have given me in Jesus Christ. Please keep me from dwelling on the regret I feel for my past sin and instead help me to enjoy the peace and purity you have given me when you made me a new creation in Christ Jesus.

LORD, please help me to stand firm against sexual temptation and against any temptation to form inappropriately intimate relationships. Please protect me from Satan’s snares. Please counsel me and guide me by your Spirit so I do not ever willingly walk into immorality.

Please help me to teach my daughters especially – and also my ‘daughters in the faith’ – to not walk willingly into immorality. Please help me to show them the value and virtue of purity and fidelity, modesty and morality.

Amen.

* Songs 2 begins with a reference to my namesake, the fertile pasturelands of Sharon.

King

Jesus is King and his throne is a Cross

Read: John 19

It was the day of Preparation for Passover; it was about noon.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. (John 19:14-16)

Reflect:

Every single time I read this true story, I am shocked anew at the boldness of the Jewish chief priests in declaring, “We have no king but Caesar!”

The Jews did have a king: the LORD, the Almighty God was their king. But in this instant, it seemed to them that they would achieve their own ends faster and better if they denied God their heavenly king and proclaimed someone else, the Roman caesar, to be their king. What blasphemy!

Even if you take into account that these Jews did not believe Jesus was sent by God to be their king, it was still total hypocrisy to condemn one man to death for “claim[ing] to be king of the Jews” (John 19:21) while proclaiming another mere human man to be their only king.

I call it shocking, but I shouldn’t be shocked. I, too, often seek to enthrone someone other than Jesus as king over my life. All too often, I want to establish myself as my own king. This is my sin.

This is why Jesus died: He was king, not only of the Jews, but of me, of all people. And the throne upon which he was crowned was a Roman cross.

Christ on the Cross
Illustration copyright Chrissie D.
Permission to print this image is granted to families or churches for use in teaching about Jesus Christ. This image must NOT be sold or used for any commercial reason. Please do NOT copy it to your website or blog.

Crux:

Jesus is King and his throne is a Cross.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I declare Jesus of Nazareth is King – not just King of the Jews, as Pilate listed on his crucifixion notice. Jesus of Nazareth is King of all the universe, and Jesus of Nazareth is King of me. May it ever be so!

May I always, in every moment of my everyday ordinary Christian life, humbly submit to my sovereign king: Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus your Anointed One, Jesus of Nazareth who died on a cross for me.

May I be a willing and obedient citizen of Jesus’ kingdom. May I never seek to subvert Jesus’ rule or overthrow his reign in my life. May I submit and find joy and satisfaction in Jesus my king.

LORD, I don’t want to be a hypocrite. Please help me to submit to Jesus, through the voice and work of your Holy Spirit in my heart. Please help me to exalt you as King in my life.

Help me to submit in a righteous and holy way to those human authorities you have set over me: my pastor-husband Jeff, our church elders Dawson and David, my bosses at work, my nation’s elected government and its officials.

Amen.

Willing

Knowing he was going to his death, Jesus went willingly

Read: John 18

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) (John 18:4-5)

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11)

Reflect:

Jesus knew what was going to happen to him and faced it resolutely and even willingly. He was determined to obey his Father all the way to death.

When I think of how disobedient I was to my (human) parents, how disobedient my children can be at times, it seems particularly remarkable to me how obedient Jesus was to his Father’s command. Of course, Jesus’ obedience is founded on the essential unity of the Trinity, the oneness of the Godhead. This is the same oneness that Jesus prayed would be a distinguishing feature of his followers.

What a pale imitation I am, we are! Yet glimmers of glory do shine through. Sometimes I obey my heavenly Father willingly and freely. Sadly, not nearly enough. This is why I need Jesus so much.

First Easter 1-1

Illustration copyright Chrissie D.
Permission to print this image is granted to families or churches for use in teaching about Jesus Christ. This image must NOT be sold or used for any commercial reason. Please do NOT copy it to your website or blog.

Crux:

Knowing he was going to his death, Jesus went willingly.

Reflect:

LORD God Almighty,

Please forgive my disobedience to you. Please show me my sin and lead me to repentance. Please forgive me and lead me to righteousness.

May I always walk in the Light of your Son, on the narrow way that leads to life. May I enter through your Son, the Gate, and come to your presence and be nourished as a sheep in fresh pasture.

May I find my joy and satisfaction in you and in obedience to you. May I remember that disobedience leads to death.

I honour you, Jesus, for your full and complete obedience to our Father. You are holy and righteous, blameless and pure. You are everything I am not. I desperately need and rely upon your righteousness imputed to me for my justification. Thank you for willingly facing the cross for my sake.

Amen.

Vine

Jesus commands his disciples to love each other and so glorify God

Read: John 15

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” (John 15:1)

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:7-8)

Reflect:

Jesus and his disciples have left the room where they ate the Last Supper, and are now probably wandering among the fruit orchards somewhere on the Mount of Olives. I can imagine Jesus running his hand carefully over a few green vine leaves, dark now in the deep of evening, using their surroundings as stimulus for another illustration of the relationships between Jesus, his Father and his followers.

Jesus = the True Vine

Jesus’ Father = the Gardener

The Disciples = Branches

John 15v1-17 1
Illustration copyright Chrissie D.
Permission to print this image is granted to families or churches for use in teaching about Jesus Christ. This image must NOT be sold or used for any commercial reason. Please do NOT copy it to your website or blog.

A vine does not exist without a gardener to plant it and tend it, growing it where and in what shape the gardener desires. A branch does not produce fruit unless it is connected strongly to the vine, else it withers and weakens, or the gardener cuts it off entirely.

Again, God the Father is shown to be greater than God the Son, and infinitely greater than the Son’s disciples.

Jesus’ disciples are told to remain in the Jesus-Vine in order to bear fruit. How do they remain in Jesus Christ and he in them? Jesus said his words will remain in them, by the power and work of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father and testifies of the Son (v26). Jesus said they will remain in his love by keeping his commands. Most notable and relevant is Jesus’ most recent command (John 13:34) for the disciples to love each other, as Jesus loved them: sacrificially, with their very lives.

Then, Jesus says, because his disciples are connected so strongly vitally to him, they may ask for what they want and will certainly receive it. Does a grape vine wish to grow figs? Does a pear tree desire to bear plums? Neither would the disciples ask to bear fruit that is not in keeping with their connection to the true vine, Jesus. So of course “it will be done”!

When the disciples ask to bear fruit, they will: the fruit of love for one another. Their love demonstrates their connectedness to their vine, their discipleship to their Rabbi. Through their love, the disciples give glory to God the Father. This is true joy!

Crux:

Jesus commands his disciples to love each other and so glorify God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are both Gardener and Vine and only in you may I have fullness of life.

Because I am joined to Jesus, his Spirit in my spirit, I am truly alive and able to bear the fruit you desire me to grow: love for others.

As I pray this I remember Jesus’ assertion that he will never lose me (John 6:39) so I don’t fear being cut off from him. I do earnestly desire to grow into a strong branch, able to bear the weight of much fruit without cracking or toppling. I confess that ofttimes I feel like I will break under the weight of loving those you have brought into my life, so please grant me your strength to continue. Keep your Holy Spirit sap flowing into me, nourishing me, LORD!

May this branch be much like the Branch of Jesse, the True Vine, Jesus Christ. May I love as Jesus loves, being willing to lay down my life for those I call “friends”, the other branches of the true vine. Whatever, whenever, however, may I show myself a true disciple of my Rabbi Jesus by loving as he loved, in my everyday ordinary life, so you may be glorified.

Amen.

Commanded

Read: John 14

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happened. so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince off this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. (John 14:28-31)

Reflect:

The greatest act of love the world has ever witnessed was Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. His death was not compelled by this world’s prince (ie, the devil); it could not be, because the devil has no power over Jesus (v30). Rather, Jesus’ death was an act of obedience to his Father’s command (v31).

Jesus’ words in this passage reveal anew three key things about Jesus’ nature:

  1. Jesus has the ability to foretell truth (v29).
  2. The Father is greater (even) than the Son (v28).
  3. The Son willingly obeys the Father (v31).

Even though Jesus said seeing him was the same as seeing the Father, in some sense God the Father is, has always been and will always be greater than God the Son. There is complete harmony between the members of the Trinity, yet their is also hierarchy and subordination. And this does not mean that there is a lack of love, nor is there any disobedience. This loving obedience allows Jesus to be completely calm and assured for his future, even though he is very aware he is going to his death.

Crux:

Jesus loved me to the cross because his Father commanded him to.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for Jesus’ act of love on the cross. Thank you for your love within the Trinity for each other, and for your love for me.

Please help me to love others in the way Jesus loved. Please help me to know others are greater, and that’s okay. Please help me to obey Jesus’ commands and teaching because I love him.

Please help me to understand what Jesus teaches me, with the help of the Advocate’s teaching. Please disciple me, be my Rabbi, through the voice of the Holy Spirit, so I am reminded of all I know to be true about Jesus.

Make me mature in my faith. I know this will mean disciplining me when I am disobedient. I submit to you in that as in all things. Please conform my spirit, my soul and my self to the image of your Son Jesus Christ.

Amen.