Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Come away with me … "

Day #362:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - December 25th

Scripture Reading:  Song of Songs 7 - 8 …

The marriage of Christ and His Church awaits its consummation as the preparations of the wedding supper of the Lamb and His Bride near their completion.  Those who belong to Christ long for His return, watching the signs and waiting for the sounds of trumpets!!  With the Apostle Paul and those who have gone before us who have believed in Jesus Christ we say with confidence, "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing" (II Timothy 4:8).  While we trust our Father in heaven and live to serve Him in this present world, we agree that "if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (I Corinthians 15:19).

Our friends, those closest to us, watch our interactions with the Bridegroom.  Those around us need hope that love can be found, that it can be experienced, that it is real!  Where will they see love in its purest form on the earth except in Christ's Bride, the Church?  After washing the disciples' feet, Jesus says, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).  As we who are brothers and sisters in Christ love one another, the world sees the love we have for Christ and His love for us.  Much of the world today languishes in hatred and bitterness because there is no love to be found.  Many have even given up on finding such love, even in the Body of Christ!

Yet it is of this love that Solomon writes.  The "Lover" and the "Beloved" ARE Christ and His Church, and the intimacy expressed exceeds that of mere physical intimacy.  For so long we have failed to understand the longing and desire God has for US, whom He has chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).  The "beloved" declares, "I belong to my love, and His desire is for me" (7:10). She speaks of going away and giving her love to her "lover" (7:12).  Our love for Christ can only be the response of hearts moved by His love for us.  It is because "God SO loved" us that He gave His Son and because Jesus so loves His sheep that He gave His life for us on the cross.  If you miss LOVE as the motivating factor in God's love for you, you have missed Christ and His Spirit is not within you.

Obedience flows out of love and where love is absent obedience becomes a job, a task, a chore, a burden to be avoided, but this is not the description of the love of the "beloved" for her "lover."  There is desire, there is longing, there is the willing and complete giving of oneself.  Such love is the love that has been aroused by the love that has first been received.  The "beloved" has done nothing to earn or deserve the love of her "lover."  "If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned" (8:7).  What could you or I possibly do to earn God's love for us in Christ Jesus?

Paul expresses the truth of our situation in Romans 5:6-8:  "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

The verses we have looked at before from Ephesians 5:22-33 explain the love of the Church for Christ and the love of Christ for the Church:  "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (5:25-27).  Oh, what a beautiful and moving picture!  And it is this Bride that Jesus longs for as He awaits His return for her, His beloved.

"Thus I have become in His eyes like one bringing contentment" (8:10).  Can you possibly imagine this?  That Jesus Christ receives joy, contentment, satisfaction from His Bride … from you and from me?  Yet this is also what John wrote about in his letter to the churches:  "This is how God showed His love among us:  He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us" (I John 4:9-12).

God's love is made complete in us as the circle of His love flows through Christ to us and then back to Him, bringing joy and satisfaction and contentment.  As someone has said, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him," and when we are satisfied in HIM, God finds joy and satisfaction in US!!  Once you have experienced this love, it takes precedence over everything else in your life.  Your love for God is shown in your love for your spouse, family, friends in the Body of Christ and even those around you.  God's love is like a well that overflows with living water and touches the lives of those with whom you come in contact.  Still, it is in that intimate, personal relationship with Christ that you discover true joy and intimacy.

While in this world, we can only begin to understand and to experience such love.  We know there is more.  "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (I Corinthians 13:12).  Paul would write to the Philippians, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.  Yet what shall I choose?  I do not know!  I am torn between the two:  I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far …" (Philippians 1:20-23).  Do you possess such a desire for Christ?  Or are your thoughts and desires tied to the things of this world?

The beauty of the intimacy portrayed in Solomon's "Song of Songs" reveals the beauty of what we who believe will experience when Christ comes to take us away.  Perhaps the closing words of the song are meant to be like the closing words of John's Revelation.  Here the beloved says, "Come away, my lover …"  (8:14), and in Revelation 22:20, the Bride responds to Jesus' promise to come soon by saying, "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!"

So now, "the Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" (Revelation 22:17).  By His Spirit and Word God is calling to His children, His chosen ones, those who are part of the Bride.  Those who are given ears to hear respond in love and thanksgiving as we live in this world with longing and desire, awaiting the sounding of trumpets announcing the Bridegroom's return.  We know that our passion for Christ is exceeded by His passion and desire for us and so we persevere, we endure, we serve and we love, pointing others to Him and finding joy in His presence even now.

May the hope and joy of His birth and the knowledge of His love overwhelm and amaze you and give you joy and peace as you look to the new year … watching and waiting … and listening for the sound of trumpets!!

"My heavenly Father, I come to You in the love of Christ … His love for me and my love for Him.  Awaken within me the passion and desire and longing for Christ that transforms my heart and my mind and pulls me away from the things of this world.  Give me grace to love as I am loved by You and to share the love of Christ with those around me, especially in my family and in YOUR family, the remnant, the true Body of Christ, the Church, the 'called-out ones.'  Let the light of Your love that You have placed within me shine to all the world until I see my Savior face to face and love reaches its fullness.  To You, my Lord and my God, I give my love.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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