FRIEND OF GOD

Jn.11:3 – So his sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, our brother Lazarus, the one you love, is very sick. Please come!”

This has to be the greatest assurance we can have, I am one whom He loves. Notice, the sisters didn’t mention their love for Him or their faith, they didn’t even mention how Lazarus loved Jesus; what they were hanging all their hopes and prayers on was His love for Lazarus. That’s where everything starts for all of us. My love for Him was birthed from His love for me. He has loved me from before time began. This eternal love is very intentional, not casual. He has fixed His affections on me before I was ever born. This is how Paul describes this love.

Eph.1:5,6 – “For it was always in his perfect plan to adopt us as his delightful children, through our union with Jesus, the Anointed One, so that his tremendous love that cascades over us would glorify his grace —for the same love he has for his Beloved One, Jesus, he has for us. And this unfolding plan brings him great pleasure!”

So my trust and faith hinges on His love for me. That’s why Martha and Mary could ask for the unthinkable, they knew Jesus loved Lazarus. This is how Matthew Henry describes this.

“Though God knows all our wants, and griefs, and cares, he will know them from us, and is honored by our laying them before him. The message they sent was very short, not petitioning, much less prescribing or pressing, but barely relating the case with the tender insinuation of a powerful plea, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. They do not say, He whom we love, but he whom thou lovest. Our greatest encouragements in prayer are fetched from God himself and from his grace. They do not say, Lord, behold, he who loveth thee, but he whom thou lovest; for herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us. Our love to him is not worth speaking of, but his to us can never be enough spoken of.”

This love is what grabbed me in the beginning, it has been why I have followed Him all these years, and it is why I can depend on Him no matter what I face. He loves me, that settles everything.

JESUS LOVES YOU

John:11:3,5 – So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

“Jesus loves you and has a plan for your life”. Those were the words that finally broke through the hard, callous heart that had resisted the gospel for so long. I thought it would have to be something profound or some austere spiritual discipline that I would have to endure. Jesus loves you. Really! That’s all there is to it? Those Jesus freaks at the Lakefront in New Orleans were convinced, Jesus loved them and that strange love was somehow getting all over me. My heart was won that night by the precious love of Jesus. In today’s verse we see Martha and Mary, friends of Jesus, basing their future hopes on His love. The sisters had used the word phileo for love, the Greek word for friendship. When John wrote in down in verse 5 he used the word agape, the Greek word for supernatural love. Jesus loved them with the love of God, much more profound than human love or emotion. This is the love that draws us and surrounds us and gives us total confidence in our prayers. Here is how Adam Clarke describes their simple request.

“Nothing could be more simple, nor more modest, than this prayer: they do not say, Come and heal him: or, Command the disease to depart even where thou art, and it will obey thee: – they content themselves with simply stating the case, and using an indirect but a most forcible argument, to induce our Lord to show forth his power and goodness: – He is sick, and thou lovest him; therefore thou canst neither abandon him, not us.”

When you taste God’s love for you, you are done. You know that no matter what obstacles you face or enemies try to hinder you the Lord will see you through. The sisters had no idea what was going on when Jesus took four days to answer their appeal. They knew that when everything was said and done that Jesus loved them and that would be enough. It is always enough. His love is enough when you are facing sickness and death. It is enough when you are facing temptation. It is enough when bills seem to be piling up with no visible solution. Just remember, Jesus loves you and has a plan for your life.

Effected by Love

Rom. 5:5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

We are all effected by the things we experience everyday. We are effected by kisses and hugs, and encouragement; the acts of endearment can carry us far in our daily grind. Being accepted and loved is a huge factor in our ability to be effective from day to day. But there is a totally different kind of love that goes way beyond what human encouragement can afford us. What might that be? Why it is the love of God of course. His love is lavishly poured on us through the refreshing and renewing of the Holy Spirit. When you experience His words of encouragement, His hugs that hold us tight and close in the darkest of days, and His kisses that will catch us totally off guard; then you will really know what it means to be loved. This love will arrest you, satisfy you, heal and deliver you, empower you, and change you into a different kind of person. Adam Clarke talks about this love in his comments on today’s verse.

“We have the most solid and convincing testimony of God’s love to us, by that measure of it which he has communicated to our hearts. It is poured out, and diffused abroad; filling, quickening, and invigorating all our powers and faculties. This love is the spring of all our actions; it is the motive of our obedience; the principle through which we love God, we love him because he first loved us; and we love him with a love worthy of himself, because it springs from him: it is his own; and every flame that rises from this pure and vigorous fire must be pleasing in his sight: it consumes what is unholy; refines every passion and appetite; sublimes the whole, and assimilates all to itself. And we know that this is the love of God; it differs widely from all that is earthly and sensual.”

So have you been stopped in your tracks by love recently? Have you awakened to His kisses in the morning or been held close when the storms of life begin to encircle you? This love is not a just a doctrine but it is very real. It was demonstrated at the cross and poured on us today by the precious Holy Spirit. Stop for a moment and look to the Lord for true love. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you. You too can be enveloped in His arms of love.

LOVE

1 Jn.4:8 – Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

The simplest truths in the Bible actually open up bottomless oceans of revelation. To put it bluntly, it is impossible to understand the One who is eternal. Take the last part of today’s verse for example, “God is love”. Now the natural man may think that love is God in some metaphysical way but that is not the case. Love that originates from a human is created and limited at best. Others may take this to mean that God will overlook our sins and accept us like we are. That is only partially true. He doesn’t overlook our sins He cleanses them by the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross. Being holy He cannot overlook sin, He had to deal with it. That was the whole point of Calvary. So what is this God is love thing? The Lord loves His uncreated Son. He has loved Him from eternity. This love between the Father and the Son is actually so profound that it is actually a person, the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus is the Word of God the Holy Spirit is the love of God. Here are some thoughts from Dane Ortlund describing Jonathan Edwards view on the love of God.

“For Jonathan Edwards, the fountain for all Christian loving is the love of God himself. This love has existed within the Godhead from all eternity, ultimately spilling out in the divine act of creation, an act that filled no need on God’s part but was simply the natural overflow of God’s own joyous intratrinitarian refulgence….. Reflecting on the two places in 1 John where we are told that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), Edwards argues that this assertion “shows that there are more persons than one in the Deity: for it shows love to be essential and necessary to the Deity, so that his nature consists in it.” Love is who God is. For God to love is for God to be God. “The very nature of God is love. If it should be enquired what God is, it might be answered that he is an infinite and incomprehensible fountain of love.”

God loves His Son. How does that impact me? If I am a purchased son of God, Christ is in me and I am in Him. The love that the Father has for His only Son is now focused directly on me. This love is beyond imagination. This is that bottomless ocean.

BAPTIZED IN LOVE

Matt.3:16 – After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him.

Jesus was baptized in the Holy Spirit to begin His ministry. It’s as if the Father couldn’t contain His love for His Son as He proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son”. From this day Jesus began to move in a miracle anointing that lasted until His death. If you think about it, that’s really what miracles are, God’s love reaching out to hurting mankind. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes the love of God and the Holy Spirit.

“It further appears that the Holy Spirit is nothing but the infinite love and delight of God, by his symbol, a dove; which is the symbol of love, and which is a bird beyond all other irrational animals in the world is remarkable and wonderful for its love to its mate, both in expressions of it by billing together (rubbing bills- like a kiss) and the like while together, and for its mourning for the loss of its correlate.

And ’tis evident that the dove is used as a symbol of love in the Scriptures: Canticles 1:15, “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes”…

It was under this representation that the Holy [Spirit] descended on Christ at his baptism, signifying the infinite love of the Father to the Son, and that thereby is signified that infinite love that is between the Father and the Son; which is further illustrated by the voice which came with the dove, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:17].”

This gets to the reason why Jesus came. He created us to experience and display His love. The fall of man hasn’t deterred His love for us and His passion to display His glory. Because of the fall Jesus Himself became a man, a perfect man. He displayed His love when He died in our place as a sacrifice for our sin. Today, anyone who believes in Him not only has their sins forgiven, they also have access to the love Jesus has enjoyed with His Father from eternity. This is what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is all about. Just as Jesus was immersed in the Spirit we can be too. Then we will hear His sweet voice, “This is my beloved son”.

LOST FIRST LOVE

Rev.2:4 – But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

For John this was the dividing line, the love of God. John remembered well the words of Jesus in his gospel, John 13:34,35 – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus had taught that the world would see a distinct difference that would clearly mark His followers, they would walk in love. What was this love? It was supernatural in nature. It was born in the hearts of His followers. It was a love that came from God first, and was aimed back at God. It’s tendency was to spill over and effect everyone else in our world. Our love for God and our love for others would be the mark. That brings us back to this church in Ephesus. What had gone wrong? Everything! They had lost the passion of their first love. Here is how Gordon Fee describes it.

“The significance of this failure in terms of Johannine Christianity is to be found in the admonition, consider how far you have fallen!, which is followed by a warning that at the same time keeps the imagery intact: If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. This particular warning has created no end of trouble for later believers, who for the most part perceive the punishment to far exceed the crime. But that says more about us than it does about the author of the Johannine literature, since he perceived the whole of the Christian faith to be a matter of experiencing God’s love for us through Christ and then returning that love to him by loving others. From his perspective, to fail at this point is to fail exceedingly—if not altogether—which is why for him the “punishment” is precisely in keeping with the “crime.” And “love” for John is not simply a matter of attitude toward others; the only love worthy of the name from his perspective lies in their doing the things you did at first. Thus the only correct response to their current failure is to “repent.”

So just having correct doctrines or Christian ethics is not what marks us as followers of Jesus. We are marked by His love. This is the love that won us, satisfies us, and keeps us.

KISS, KISS, KISS

Lk. 15:20 – So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

I really thought I was through talking about this parable when I ran across a devotional by Dick Mills describing the Father’s kiss. It’s really hard to move on, after all, this is our story. Actually the word kiss in this verse is the greek word KATAPHILEO. The literal meaning is to kiss repeatedly and fervently. Jesus is focusing on the Father’s passion and love for His wayward sons and daughters. There is hardly a more moving picture in all the scripture as this one, the Father embracing and kissing His dirty, wayward son. Here is some of how Dick Mills describes this verse.

“The love the Father showered on the prodigal son when He fell on his neck and kissed him was intense. KATAPHILEO describes a great warmth the Father showered on His long lost son’s return…. The example of the Father welcoming His boy back home is described by Bible translators as “tenderly kissed him, fondly kissed him, affectionately kissed him, kissed him again and again.” The word was also used describing the woman who kissed the feet of Jesus and anointed them with ointment. A forgiven sinner, she lavished the KATAPHILEO on Jesus, kissing His feet affectionately and repeatedly.”

I think sometimes we get more technical and professional when it comes to spiritual things. I remember preaching for Steve Solomon several years ago and clearly heard the Lord say while I was speaking (He interrupts me quite often) that He is looking for lovers, not technicians. Many times we look for technical accuracy and miss the love part. Actually, I think that was one of the main things Jesus was communicating in this parable. His audience was common sinners and the Pharisees. There were liars, adulterers, and thieves having their lives impacted by the Lord’s message. The religious Pharisees had their noses up in the air, after all they had been “Living right” all of their lives. Here was Jesus showing us a better way, Christ died to save sinners. The Pharisees may have had all the technical stuff right on the outside but their hearts had never tasted the Father’s love. Prodigals and elder sons, we all have the same need. We are all in desperate need for the Father’s kiss.

TACKLED BY LOVE

Lk.15:20 – So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

This has to be one of the most moving passages in the Bible, the Father embracing His prodigal son. It’s hard to grasp the power of the story with just a casual reading, it has to be pondered. It starts with the rebellious son demanding his portion of his inheritance. Can you imagine the awkwardness of the moment? Inheritances are for when somebody dies. The son was so blinded by his sin that he would rather see his Father die, if that isn’t possible just give me mine now anyway. Of course we all know where that would go; one party and buying spree after another until every cent is gone. From there he becomes a hired laborer at the point of fighting the pigs for pig food. Anything familiar about this story? Maybe you didn’t act out the drama (or maybe you did) but we all have the nature of prodigals deep within us.

Finally the young man returned to his senses, turned toward home, and began to rehearse his lines of repentance. That’s when the story gets good. The Father was watching down the road, hoping to see His son. How many hours the Father must have spent, looking down that road until the day came when He saw His son. The Father ran to meet His son, tears in His eyes and compassion pounding in His chest. Without a lecture or even a moment for the son to explain the Father ‘fell on’ him in the middle of the road.

We need to stop here for a moment, the KJV Bible says the Father fell on the son’s neck. The word in greek is epipipto. It means to seize or fall upon with an embrace. The Father literally tackled His son. This word is used one other time in the New Testament. It was when Peter was trying to explain to the Jewish elders in Jerusalem what had happened when he preached to the gentiles. Peter said the Holy Spirit fell upon (epipipto) the gentiles just like He had fallen on them in the upper room. The gentiles had been tackled by the love of God, the Holy Spirit had fallen upon them too.

So maybe you feel a little stinky today. Maybe you got mixed up fighting with the pigs for their food. Take a turn toward home and you too will be tackled by love.

KISSED BY THE FATHER

LK.15:20 – And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.

I think many people get the wrong idea about religious people, especially the Puritans from long, long ago. They were often quite expressive about their love for the Lord and experienced spiritual intimacy rather than just an austere form of legalism. It was their passion for the Lord and their evangelistic zeal that brought seasons of persecution leading many of them to make their way to the New World. Our country is indebted to the legacy of these spiritual pioneers. In the 1600’s there was a member of the parliament in England by the name of Edward Leigh who had an evangelistic zeal and a passion for the Lord. Here are some of his comments on the parable of the Prodigal Son.

“Among all the parables of Christ, this is most excellent, full of affection and set forth in lively colors. The old father sees a long way off, for dim eyes can see a long distance when the son is the object. His heart moves within him, and he has compassion on him. “He runs.” It would have been sufficient for him to have stood, because he was old, and a father, and even more so an offended father. But love descends rather than ascends: the son goes to the father; the father runs to the son. Then, he does not stop and embrace him or take him by the hand, but rather he falls on him and incorporates himself into him. He speaks not a single word- his joy was too great to be uttered—but he puts his whole mouth forward and kisses him, giving him the badge of peace, love and reconciliation. Through this example is declared that great goodness of God, who most mercifully pardons the sins of the truly penitent.”

This parable touches on something that is basic to our need as a human. We need forgiveness, acceptance, and real love. Jesus pointed us to the Heavenly Father for all of that. The Heavenly Father has also been painted by many as demanding and harsh. Jesus set the record straight when He shared about the rebellious son smelling of pigs embraced in the Father’s love. There is a place in His arms for you too.

LETS GET THIS PARTY STARTED

Lk.15:22-24 – But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

What an amazing description of God’s love for fallen man. We went out and wasted our Father’s gifts on sinful living. Rather than judging us and banishing us from His home, He embraces us, kisses us and showers us with gifts, and throws us a party. Here are some thoughts from the People’s New Testament Commentary on the Father’s response in this parable of the prodigal son.

“Bring forth the best robe. He had returned in rags. The best robe is the white robe of the righteousness of Christ. A ring on his hand. A ring with a seal was a symbol of authority, of sonship. Shoes on his feet. Servants went barefoot, but the shoes were a symbol of freedom. Bring the fatted calf. For a feast of welcome. To make such preparations was common in the simple life of the East. For my son was dead, and is alive. It was a spiritual resurrection. They began to be merry. Gladness should be manifested by all saints at the repentance of sinners.”

What an amazing welcome, He took off our filthy rags marked with the stains of our sins, He put on us a beautiful robe welcoming us back home. The Lord clothes each of His returning prodigals with a beautiful robe, we are clothed in the righteous garments of Christ, justified by grace through faith. Next, He places the family ring on our finger. We are not outcast, we are welcomed into the very privileges and authority of Sonship. We are sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ. Then there were the shoes. Our previous shoes were long gone from the hard road we had chosen to walk. Now, our feet are covered with the shoes of the promises of God. We are freed from our life of slavery, God’s promises are now ours. He also killed the fatted calf reserved for the greatest of occasions. This calf also reminds us of the sin offering that made all of this possible, the blood of Jesus has washed away our sin. The joy finally began to break out into singing and dancing, “My son who was lost has now returned home”. Let’s get this party started.