Live

I live Christ in my everyday ordinary by loving other Christians

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Read: 1 John 2:3-11

But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:5-6)

Reflect:

To live in Christ is to live as Jesus did. This is a huge undertaking: to obey Jesus’ word and to love God completely (2:5); and to love fellow believers (2:10). So what does it look like, in my everyday ordinary, to ‘live Christ,’ as I put it in my blog tagline?

It means to obey Jesus’ word: In 1 John 1:5 I read “the message” John and the other apostles “heard form him” and have “declare[d] to you”; this message is that “God is light.” To obey Jesus’ words (in this context) thus means to “live in the light” (2:10) because “the true light is already shining” (2:8).

To live in the light is to “love [my] brother and sister” (2:10): not specifically my biological brothers and sister-in-law, but to love my fellow Christians, my local church brethren.

I live Christ in my everyday ordinary Christian life by loving other Christians; loving them “as Jesus did” (2:6). I must love others joyfully and willingly, continuously and sacrificially, according to their need and not necessarily according to their wishes.

Crux:

I live Christ in my everyday ordinary by loving other Christians.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are light and truth. In the person and work of your Son Jesus Christ, the true light is shining forth, a brilliant blaze of glory.

May you be forever praised, forever loved, forever obeyed. May I praise you always, love you always, obey you always.

Please help me to live in Christ by living as Jesus Christ lived. Please help me to love my fellow Christians in acts of everyday ordinary sacrifice.

Thank you for helping me, in response to yesterday’s prayer, to be up and receiving and reflecting upon and responding to your word in the quiet peace of the early morning today. May I remember throughout this day your command to love my neighbour as I love myself.

Please help me to proactively love my son who is going through an unsettled time at the moment and my friend who has asked for my assistance with transport. Please keep me from being selfish with my time and talents, my money and means today LORD.

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.

Kisses

The love between a wife and her husband is delightful

Read: Song of Songs 1

[She] Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth –
for your love is more delightful than wine. (Songs 1:2)

Reflect:

According to my Bible’s brief introductory notes, the songs in Song of Songs “are arranged to tell the courtship story of a man and a woman, of their marriage (described as a royal wedding) and its consummation, and of the beginning of their new life together.” A series of songs authored by or for Solomon, these are songs which celebrate the particular expression of love in the context of marriage. With the newest laws of my country conferring the right to ‘marriage’ upon same-sex couples, it seems prudent to me to re-read Song of Songs to learn or re-learn God’s ideal for marital love.

Songs begins with the woman seeking kisses! This is a shock to me, because somewhere along the way I caught the thought that the man must always be the initiator of intimacy. Hmm. I guess maybe that’s a cultural standard that isn’t necessary biblical.

I am thinking I need to memorise this verse to quote to my kids when they’re all “Ick, Gross!” because Jeff and I are kissing in the kitchen…

Crux:

The love between a wife and her husband is delightful.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for including Solomon’s Song of Songs in the Scriptures so I might learn better how to love my husband rightly. Please help me to understand, interpret and apply the words in your book wisely to my own life and to our marriage.

Please also use your words to give me words to explain righteous Christian marital relationships to others: to our children, to the women in my Bible study small group, to others with whom you grant me an opportunity to converse on this topic.

Please make me wise on the topic of marital and sexual love.

LORD, I also ask that you continue to grant me delight in the kisses of my husband. May our children see our affection and be inspired to seek godly spouses when your time for that comes to pass.

Amen.

One

We are one in Christ so that others may be won by Christ

Read: John 17

“I will remain in the world no longer, but they [the disciples] are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11)

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

Reflect:

Jesus prayed for his disciples and he prayed for me. He prayed aloud, so his disciples could overhear and witness his prayer. Jesus prayed for me and for all the Christians through the ages to today. He prayed for all who believe that Jesus was sent by God the Father, for all who believe this because Jesus’ disciples were faithful in their witness to speak about Jesus and write about him so we might know these things to be true (John 20:31 and 21:24).

In his prayer to his Father, Jesus made the same request for his disciples as he made for later Christians, including me: Jesus asked that we may be one, in the same way the Father and the Son are one. Jesus asked that we be united together.

Then, our unity in the Church, in Christ, will be a witness to others that Jesus was indeed sent by God.

People will ask, “How can you possibly get along with him?” They will say, “How can you put up with her?” They will want to know, “Why do you spend time with them?”

The answer is: “Because Jesus has made us one.”

We are one body, the body of Christ. We are one family, the sons and daughters of God the Father, sisters and brothers of Jesus the Son. We are one in spirit, because we have the One Spirit in us.

Christians are one because we have been won by our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and so that others may be drawn to faith in Christ also.

Crux:

We are one in Christ so that others may be won by Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the Holy Father, the Righteous Father, perfect and pure as you reign in heaven.

You are my Father, my Father in heaven, gloriously gracious as you sent your Son to earth.

Thank you for sending Jesus to redeem me from my past life of meaninglessness and wandering. Thank you for setting my feet upon the Rock.

Thank you for giving me a new family, my church family, that we might be one in love for you and for each other. Thank you for my dear friends in the church, friends that I would never have met if it had not been for your desire to win each of us for your kingdom. Thank you for our fellowship together, whereby we love each other, edify and encourage each other, offer mercy and grace to each other, and minister to each others’ needs.

May we be truly one, demonstrating your unity in the Trinity to the world through our love for one another. May others see our unity and be amazed and moved by your Spirit to seek out the source of this unity in Jesus, the one whom you sent.

May our church be especially and particularly united as they meet for their quarterly business meeting tonight. May our church members be loving to one another, putting each other’s needs before their own, considering each other more worthy than themselves. May we magnify your glory by our unity as the locally gathered church.

Amen.

Loved

God’s love for me grows in response to my growing love for Jesus

Read: John 16

“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22)

“In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26-27)

Reflect:

Jesus is talking here about the immediate future: what will happen after the Last Supper sermon is ended. “Now” is their time of grief because Jesus is about to die by crucifixion, an ugly painful death during which the disciples will be scattered and leave Jesus alone while he bears their sins in his body on the cross. But the disciples “will” rejoice and “will” ask “in that day”, once Jesus has been raised again to life. The disciples will rejoice because Jesus has won their forgiveness and granted them righteousness, admitting them to the family of God, indwelling them by God’s Spirit.

Then, Jesus Christ will no longer be a physically present intermediary who will relay their requests to the Father so that the Father may display his love for Jesus by answering Jesus’ prayers (as, for example, was necessary when healing a boy suffering convulsions, Mark 9:14-29). Instead, the Father will love Jesus’ disciples directly and in a different manner to his general love for “the world” (John 3:16). God’s love will now be amplified in response to the disciples’ love for Jesus and belief in him, and their prayers will be answered generously and completely.

This is complicated, but basically what it means is this:

God’s love for us, which began in eternity past when he chose us in Jesus before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), is now expanded in response to our love for Jesus, which his Spirit enables.

God loves us, so we love Jesus. And God loves us all the more, because we love Jesus. As Christians respond to the Spirit and love the Son, the Father witnesses our love and loves us more.

Crux:

God’s love for me grows in response to my growing love for Jesus.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are love: You are the origin and source of love. You instigate love, magnify love, exemplify love, amplify love. You enable and expand my love for Jesus. You also respond and reply to my love with your own love for me. You build my love for Christ and you bless my love with your own for me.

How glorious are your ways, O God,
your paths beyond searching out!

You have chosen to bless me with full and complete joy, unending and everlasting joy, found in seeing and knowing and loving and believing in Jesus, whom you sent as a gift of love to me.

O LORD, how wonderful is your will,
your gifts above all treasures.

Please continue to bless me by building my love for Jesus. Keep my eyes focussed on Jesus and not on myself, nor my family, nor my community, nor my country. May I see Jesus and not my situation, not my suffering, not my opinions, not my preferences. May I love Jesus all the more, and may your love for me abound in response.

Thank you for your loving kindness to me. May I find my delight in you, so you may delight in me.

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.