Father God, You are very great. Open our hearts to Your great great love.
Recite the memory verse:
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.
As you heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
2 John 6 NIV
All God’s law. All He commands. Is love.
Does it feel like love? to follow His law?
Read John 15:13-14
In our homework, we talked about what it means to “lay down your life.” It’s a setting aside of your feelings, desires, affections and aversions. Letting go of our self-interest for someone else’s.
Was there a time you’ve laid down your life for another? put aside your wants or your way for someone else’s? Share your story.
There are many things I love(d) which I have laid down for my husband… many things. And I confess, it does not always feel like love — sometimes it stirs up resentment or a sense of foolishness on my part for the choice I made.
My motivation for laying down my wants was to please my husband. To not be apart from him in some instances — fear of creating two separate lives and damaging our relationship.
I have to continually remind myself I laid down some of my desires and even some aversions, as a choice… it was my decision to set them aside. Not his.
According to Jesus, this is love. But to my flesh and the world it seems foolish.
Let’s read what comes before and after these verses on greater love.
Read John 15:9-17
First, who is Jesus talking to?
He is talking to His disciples. This message is for His followers.
If we obey — keep His commandments — as His followers, what do we gain?
- John 15:9 – We will abide/remain in Jesus’s love.
- John 15:11—Complete joy.
- John 15:14-16 – We become Jesus’s friends.
Being Jesus’s friend through obedience means He shares with us what the Father tells Him. We are not called to simply obey like servants, He shares with us the why and what behind the call to obey.
Another aspect of friendship is being chosen. We do not get to choose the families we are born into. We choose who we marry, but even they come with family you probably wouldn’t choose. And the children born to us are not our choice either, except through adoption. Jesus chose us as His friends. This is a special relationship.
- John 15:16 – Our prayers will be answered.
- John 15:16 – We bear fruit for His Kingdom.
You’ve heard it said, “you can’t take it with you when you’re gone”. I asked God once: What will I take with me, Lord? I believe there is one thing we will take with us.
Jesus said when we abide in Him, keep His love commandment: we will bear fruit that lasts. We will take the fruit, the love we have for Him and for others, with us. It lasts forever!
What is His command?
Love one another (i.e. other followers) as He has loved us. (John 15:12, 17)
How did Jesus love us?
With great great love. He died for us.
Read Romans 5:8
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Revealing God’s great love for us.
Just the other day while watching a group walk a labyrinth a new image came to mind about how God calls us to love others.
Imagine for a moment seven people all walking on the same path toward God. The path twists and turns… some rest along the way… some get turned around. As I watched there was this beautiful moment when I realized this is a picture of how God loves us right where we are. A physical image of the words, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” His love continually draws each of us along the path to Him.
The love doesn’t stop because we get lost or stop along the way. Though we wander, His love doesn’t. It is never dependent on where we are in the journey. And I heard Spirit whisper… “This is how I’m calling you to love.”
Laying down our lives for the sake of another is choosing to love them right where they are in their journey.
This truth: Obedience – An Act of Love, is working its way into my spirit in a very deep new way. I don’t have words for it yet.
What I’m beginning to understand and see is EVERYTHING God calls us to do in His Word and in our personal lives is an act of love.
I had an experience on silent retreat where I was called to do something out of my comfort zone. My flesh cringed and I felt very vulnerable. But the thought that steadied me was: If obedience is an act of love, then this step He’s calling me to take will be received by someone as love. Love is what He calls me to. Obedience should be a joy… this should be a joy.
This was the first time I’d gone through that thought process when facing an uncomfortable call to obedience. And I look back on all the other steps of obedience I’ve taken in fear, dread, anxiety, and think: That was love… Love to the other people involved, but most importantly it revealed my love for Him to Him. Even though at the time it didn’t feel like love to me, He received it as love.
While on silent retreat last week, we sisters practiced a spiritual discipline new to both of us. Visio Divina.
We’ve talked about and practiced Lectio Divina, “Divine Reading.” Prayerful meditation of a passage of Scripture, inviting the Holy Spirit to speak through it on a personal level.
Visio Divina is “Divine Seeing.” Prayerful meditation on an image, inviting the Holy Spirit to speak to you through it.
At silent retreat we were given a choice of pictures and instructed to let the picture choose us. Today we are all going to use the same image.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been asking God what the picture of Obedience – An Act of Love looks like for an Instagram post. Saturday evening it simply appeared.
I was sitting in the den reading The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. In this book, she explores living life broken. Living a cruciform life as Jesus calls us to, which of course we now know is how He loved us greatly.
On my fireplace mantle, I have a crown of thorns I made several years ago. In front of it are letters spelling out the word: Believe. I kept looking up from my reading and then to the mantle. The thought of finding a picture for Obedience – An Act of Love came to mind.
I looked at the letters in Believe and realized all I needed was an “o.” My son was sitting with me when I said, I need an “o.” He said, What? I said, I need an o to turn Believe into love.
I got up and went to the mantle to remove and rearrange letters leaving space for an “o.” As I moved the letters, my son and I both saw it at the same time… the crown of thorns became the “o” in love.
This is the picture of Obedience – An Act of Love and this is the picture to prayerfully consider today. [You are welcome to print the picture.]
The hope behind this spiritual discipline is to help put words to this spiritual reality.
Practice Visio Divina:
Read John 9:1-6
Lord, we are all born spiritually blind. You alone make the way for us to see the way You do. As we enter into this spiritual discipline of Visio Divina open our eyes to Your truth.
Sit relaxed. Take a few deep breaths. Open your heart and mind to God.
Spend time gazing at the image. Notice colors, texture, lights, and shadows. Stay with the image for a couple of minutes. Notice any thoughts or feelings that emerge.
Take a second deeper look. As best as you can let the Spirit speak to you through the image.
Ask God what He wants you to know about obedience as an act of love.
What deeper meaning emerges?
Sit relaxed in quiet stillness. If you like, turn your inspired thoughts into a silent prayer.
Spend about 5 minutes in silence…
Close your time of silence with a prayer.
What did you experience? hear? see?
Jesus’s whole life on earth was a picture of obedience as an act of love. Everything He did and spoke was at the command of the Father. Every act. Every word. An act of love.
Do you agree with this thought? Can you think of a moment in the gospels where Jesus didn’t look or act very loving?
- Driving out money-changers with a whip and turning over tables in the temple. (John 2:14-15)
- Calling the Pharisees white-washed tombs. (Matthew 23:27)
- Letting Lazarus die. (John 11:5-14)
- Telling Peter: Get behind me Satan! (Mark 8:33)
Jesus calls His followers to love one another the same way He loves us. Sacrificially. Unselfishly. Righteously.
We cannot do this without Him. Greater love like His requires us to lay down our lives and put on His life instead.
Read Ephesians 4:17-5:2
Ephesians 4:22 calls us to put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts…
This is a picture of laying down your life. To put off the old self, is to lay down all the natural desires and wants we were born with. The natural self only grows increasingly corrupt. Nothing which comes from our flesh is anything near love.
We are called in Ephesians 4:23-24, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Obedience is a choice. Love is a choice. Laying down our lives for a new life in Christ is an obedient act of love. To put on Christ is to abide in Christ as we read in John 15:9-10.
Read through Ephesians 4:25-32 again. What are we to put off as associated with the old self? What are we to put on, abide in, as in Christ?
- Speak truth.
- Do not sin in your anger.
- Work to support yourself.
- Give/share with those in need.
- Speak what is good and imparts grace.
- Be kind to one another.
- Be tenderhearted.
- Forgive as Christ forgave you.
- Vengeful anger.
- Corrupting talk.
Do you see how obedience to God’s way is love?
What does Ephesians 5:1-2 call us to do?
Be imitators of God, as dear children imitate their fathers. Walk in love, as Christ loved us — as an offering and sacrifice to God. God is love. Therefore, to imitate Him, to walk like Him is to love.
Obedience to God’s Word is an act of love. It is an act of love we enter into by choice, at His invitation.
The last time we met we talked about Jewish wedding traditions at the time of Jesus’s ministry on earth. Here is how the proposal of a marriage covenant was given, according to an excerpt from Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way.
It had been on the eve of Passover when I’d heard a pastor tell the story of how he’d been in Jerusalem, sitting in an Orthodox Jewish classroom, when a Jewish rabbi started teaching the marriage customs of first-century Jews.
He’d up and said that when a man had decided whom he’d chosen to marry, his father would pour a cup of wine and pass it down to his son. The son would then turn to the young woman he loved, and with all the solemnity of an oath before Almighty YWHW Himself, the young man would hold out the cup of wine to the woman and ask for her hand in marriage. He would ask with these words: “This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which I offer to you.”
The pastor had told me how he’d sat back, a bit stunned. This Orthodox Jewish rabbi was describing first-century marriage customs, a marriage proposal — with the words Jesus had used that night: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which I offer to you.”
The Last Supper was a marriage covenant.
—Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way
Jesus, knowing He was about to leave His disciples, offered them a new covenant. An opportunity to enter into a love relationship with Him. Him showing His great love for us by laying down His life, and us receiving His love by taking on His life as ours, and choosing to obey as an act of love.
He commands us to remember His proposal of love. To join Him in thanksgiving for an opportunity to be broken for Him, drinking from the same cup He did, laying our lives down in love for Him and for others.
For the last few months I’ve come to recognize the intimacy of our relationship with God. We, the church, are His bride. And honestly in the beginning it left me a little squirmy. It felt sacrilegious in some way to consider marrying Jesus. I mean I know God KNOWS everything about me, but I had this habit of showing up in the prayer closet sort of glossing over my own reluctance to go deeper in my relationship with Him.
Ash Wednesday we gathered for worship. It’s a solemn time to consider your sin nailing Jesus to the cross. I watched the preacher draw black ash crosses on foreheads and the music began: “All to Jesus I surrender… All to Him I freely give.”
Imagine the groom, Jesus, standing there at the altar. Offering His bride, that’s you and me, His cup. “All to you I freely give,” He whispers. And in the moment I imagined taking His cup and responding… “I surrender all, I surrender all. All to you my blessed Savior… I surrender all.”
The next five weeks, we will go deeper into what this love looks like. Beginning with One Word for Love?
Close in prayer
Click here for the PDF of the homework for One Word for Love?: Going Deeper – Week 21 – One Word for Love – Homework