Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"The passion of love given and returned!"

Day #348:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - December 11th

Scripture Reading:  Song of Songs 3 - 4 …

As we began to examine Solomon's "Song of Songs," I noted that while many today have interpreted Solomon's words to refer to the beauty of love between a husband and wife, the imagery throughout the eight chapters presents another picture that is more profound and that speaks of the beauty of the relationship of love that exists between God and His people, between Christ and His Church.  It is here that you discover the passion of God's love for YOU and His call to you to love Him back!

Chapter 3 begins by expressing the longing of the heart of believers for Christ:  "All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves …" (3:1).  The question immediately arises:  "Do I long for Christ?  Do I seek after God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?"  We read verses in the Psalms … but do we FEEL this way ourselves??

"O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory.  Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You" (Psalm 63:1-3).

The "Beloved" in Solomon's song pursues, seeks, searches for the one she loves.  She goes by the "watchmen" and then finds Him.  Ezekiel talks about the "watchman" who watches over God's people and warns when the enemy is coming (Ezekiel 33).  Christ appoints the leaders of the Church to be the "watchmen" today and perhaps Solomon is referring to those who can point others to Christ.  The beloved one says, "Scarcely had I passed them when I found the One my heart loves.  I held Him and would not let Him go" (3:4).  And then she speaks to the "Daughters of Jerusalem" and says, "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires" (3:5).

You and I need to understand that God desires our love!  He alone is worthy of our love!!  This is "the first and greatest commandment:"  "LOVE the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength!"  Picture the passion of the "beloved," and translate that passion as passion for God.  The angel of God speaks to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:4:  "I hold this against you:  You have forsaken your first love!"  Arousing love or awakening love before it "finds"  this ONE is a picture of idolatry, of spiritual adultery, of giving your love to anyone but the KING!

LOVING God is so rare today that it seems almost impossible … perhaps because it IS, without the work of the Holy Spirit.  The world cries out as the adulteress in Proverbs, seducing those who are "looking for love in all the wrong places!"  John writes, "Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (I John 2:15-17).

The "fruit of the Spirit is LOVE …" (Galatians 5:22).  In I Corinthians 13 this passionate, God-centered, Christ-focused love is the greatest spiritual gift anyone can receive … the ability to receive God's love and to return His love with passion and zeal and hope and trust and all the rest.  God's love has the power to transform us and to pull our hearts and minds from the things of the world, setting them on things above where Jesus is seated at the Father's right hand (Colossians 3:1-2).  To be loved and to respond to love is the desire of every heart … but such love is found only in relationship with the One who created us for Himself.

The "Beloved's" description of Solomon's splendor in Chapter 3:9-11 is a description of Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, the Bridegroom.  He is ultimately the One who wears the crown!  Some people get caught up in all the details of the picture Solomon presents and I don't have time to go into every point, yet Revelation 19:6-9 presents the Lamb and His wedding with His Church, the saints, those who have been made holy by His blood, who have been washed and made ready!  Surely these words of the beloved express the awe and wonder of the Church for our Lord and Savior, our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ!

Chapter 4 takes us to the next picture:  the love of Christ for His Church!  How seldom do we think of how MUCH Christ loves us?  I will share again Paul's prayer for us as those who know Jesus as our Savior:  "I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:17-19).  Christ's love for US is beyond limit.  The detailed description of His beloved one's body in verses 1-7 remind me of Paul's description of the Body of Christ in I Corinthians 12:14-26.  Christ knows the Body intimately and His love and passion for His Bride is pictured here in the love of the "Lover" for his "Beloved."

It may seem strange for you to interpret these feelings and expressions to refer to Christ's love for us, but this is precisely why I believe this song of Solomon is included in the Scriptures of God's Word.  Has not Jesus given His life for His Bride?  It was His love for us that drove Jesus to the cross to glorify His Father and to gather us to Himself.  Is there not passion in His love?  Have we simply considered this as a theological truth without understanding the heart of God?  "You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart!" (4:9).  Such is Christ's love for the true Church, for those who have been born again by His Spirit and who are now enabled and spurred on to return His love.

And as deeply and passionately as Christ loves US, He desires and delights in our love for Him.  You and I can go through our whole lives and claim to believe in Jesus and live for Him, but until we LOVE Him our actions are just that … empty behavior that leaves behind an outward obedience described in the words of Isaiah concerning the people of Israel:  "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" (Isaiah 29:13).  Going through the motions of "religion" or "church" does not please God and is not a worthy offering to our King, our "Lover," the One who has purchased us with His own blood!

The "beloved,"  the "Bride of Christ," is described as "a garden fountain, a well of flowing water" (4:15).  We are HIS garden and the "fruit" we produce is for HIS glory!  Do you see the passion that lies in this relationship between the "Lover" and the "Beloved"??  This is the passion of the love that God calls US to receive and to return.  To believers God says, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11).  Zeal and fervor go beyond mere mental commitment to the emotions that lie beneath.  These are the "streams of living water" that the Spirit produces within the hearts of those who know Jesus as their "Lover."

Do not settle for anything less than true love!  Ask God to give you wisdom to understand the urgency and passion of His love for you that sent His own Son into this world and led Him to the cross.  And then, receiving His love for you by faith, respond to His love with passion and zeal for HIM!!  We often talk about having passion for the work of God's kingdom and for the Church and for other people, but BEFORE you will be passionate about doing what God has called you to do and being what God has called you to be, you must be passionate about GOD!  You must LOVE Him, because you know that He FIRST loved you.  Our love is always a response to His love.

Have you received His love?  Have you understood that "God SO loved … that He gave His one and only Son"?  Stop right now and consider these things and as God moves within your heart through His Word and by His Spirit, may streams of living water flow out from you to His throne and then to a world that so desperately needs to know this love that surpasses knowledge!

"Heavenly Father, to You I come with a heart bursting to express my love for You!!  In Jesus, my Savior, I have experienced Your love and I rejoice in Your amazing grace.  Surely, I cannot know the depth of Your love for me, but by Your Spirit and Your Word I have learned the truth that has set me free from the love of self and the things of this world.  I love You!!  I praise You and I thank You for being my God and my Father in Jesus.  Continue Your work in me, teach me how to love and produce in me the zeal and passion of true love, that You may receive glory and I may be an instrument of grace to lead others to You.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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