Father God, You are Love. Open our hearts to know You as Love.
This is our final session of Going Deeper into Sister Talk: Resuscitate Your Faith I. It’s been a long journey, but it seems as if we’ve still only touched the surface of what it means to exercise our faith through: Believe, Pray, Trust, Obey, and Love.
We wrap up love with the whole of the law reduced to its heart: Love God, Love Others.
Read 1John 4:19
Why do we love?
We love because He first loved us.
Is love something we can manufacture or stir up in ourselves?
According to this verse, apart from recognizing and receiving God’s love for us we are unable to love as He created us to. As He calls us to.
How did God love us?
John 3:16 comes to mind: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.
Let’s read what this giving of His Son out of love looked like.
Read Matthew 27:1-50
We learned from our study on The Spirit of Love, love bears all things (1Corinthians 13:7). What do we see Jesus bear in the name of love in these verses?
- The plotting of His creatures to kill Him. (27:1)
- The binding of Himself by His creatures. (27:2)
- The Judge of all bore unjust judgment by those He created. (27:3, 13, 22-26)
- He bore the betrayal of a close friend. (27:3)
- He bore the reason of fools. (27:6)
- He bore scourging. (27:26)
- He was spat on and mocked by those He loved. (27:27-31)
- He was counted among the condemned. (27:38)
- He bore death. (27:50)
God gave His Son to show His love for us. How did this bearing of betrayal, persecution, and death reveal His love for us?
John 3:17 reveals the heart of this giving of His Son: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.
On the cross, Jesus bore the sins of the entire history of the world. There is not one sin He did not pay for on the cross. Much forgiveness goes unclaimed, because we refuse to recognize His love for us, and therefore we do not receive His loving grace and the ability to love.
We love, because He first loved us.
We cannot love Him until we recognize and receive His love. Where do we recognize His love for us?
- In creation. The second day of our study asked us to go outside and look for God’s extravagant love through creation. What did He reveal to you about Himself and His love for you?
I sat out on my porch the afternoon it was rainy and breezy. The verse I considered as I sat was Romans 1:20, For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in all things that have been made.
I asked Him how creation revealed His eternal power and divine nature. I saw His power in the rain watering as far as I could see, something we are wholly unable to do. The growth of plants, new leaves budding out and flowers blooming. He alone makes things grow. It was muggy and overcast. I felt His power in the weight of the air around me, His ability to completely cover the blue sky, and in the light breeze brushing across my face.
I saw His divinity glorified through the magnificent diversity of colors, sounds, scents. The trees bending and swaying at the wind He stirred. The flowers blooming not for me, but to glorify Him as Creator. His brilliance in the complexity and vastness of creation itself. Nothing we could ever come up with on our own.
Such extravagance for those whom He loves. He trusted us with the care of it all. We rebelled. Broke it. And then He sent His Son to suffer and make the way for restoration. I just sat and enjoyed His love.
It was a fun day. We spent it with our oldest daughter hanging out at a local music and art festival, spending time with her roommate, and seeing new places she likes around the city. We said our goodbyes and headed home.
The sky looked dark as we drove. Lightening flashed. Clouds seemed so heavy they almost touched the ground. Basically, we drove right into a severe storm. Cars stopped under overpasses and in every place of cover along the way. Hazard lights flashing and emergency vehicles zoomed by us. At one point as my husband and I crossed a bridge, he became very anxious telling the cars in front of us, as if they could hear, “Don’t stop right here… not on the bridge.”
Though we arrived home safely, many in the area lost everything due to the powerful wind of several tornadoes. The wind we experienced while driving was strong enough to bend highway signs’ metal poles and push the truck over. It left large tree trunks sticking out of the ground like sharpened pencils, houses littered across fields, and cars toppled like a child’s toy. This was a fierce, mighty wind easily moving things I consider hard to move… impossible for me to move.
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)
God’s love is a force to be reckoned with. It is mighty and powerful. It literally moves the things I think are immovable without much effort or time. There are times the wind of His Spirit is gentle and soothing. Other times it blows in like a tornado destroying the enemy’s plans in minutes.
I find comfort in the thought His love is fierce… willing to go great lengths to protect me, save me, and show me how much I mean to Him.
- On the cross. When we embrace our own sinful nature, we recognize our need for a Savior and see His love on the cross. Without a clear understanding of our own sin, we are unable to receive His forgiveness and love. Without His love, we remain unable to love – Him or others.
Sometimes it’s hard for us to receive His love through forgiveness. Why?
- We must see our need for forgiveness.
I’d read the parable many times, Matthew 18:27-35, the one about the ungrateful servant who had been forgiven a huge debt by the king. The servant then went out and demanded repayment from someone who owed him much less than he had owed.
But this time was different, as I read it, I realized… I’m that ungrateful servant! I owe a debt I could never pay! I need the King’s forgiveness. It was a stunning revelation. Humbling. A realization I could never rightfully hold a debt against anyone.
Have you come to the point of knowing you are that servant, too?
- Thinking we don’t deserve forgiveness. Don’t deserve His love. Also, a form of pride.
I never struggled with the idea my sin nailed Jesus to the cross. I knew me and my sin… I knew how wretched the real me was. So. Did. God.
What I couldn’t wrap my heart around was the forgiveness His crucifixion brought to my life. I believed it for other people, no matter their transgression. I would speak with boldness about God’s love for them. How nothing could separate them from His love. But me, now that was another matter.
Living not enough has a form of pride under girding it. A framework whispering, your sins are too much for Him… there’s no way He’ll forgive You… you’ll be the one who breaks the mold… you’ll be the one separated forever because His sacrifice is not enough for your sin.
I didn’t see it then, but I do now. What made me think my sin was worse than others, new under the sun? It’s a twisted form of pride I can still fall into even today. Someone said, “you cannot out sin God’s grace.” When I recognize my prideful thinking I often say this to myself. Because if I could out sin God’s grace then His work on the cross really means nothing. It means He’s not powerful enough or good enough or big enough. And that my friends is a lie I refuse to believe any longer!
- Trust. It takes vulnerability to receive love.
- Fear. Fear of getting hurt or being taken advantage of also makes it hard to receive love.
Letting yourself be loved is an act of terrifying vulnerability and surrender. Letting yourself be loved is its own kind of givenness. Letting yourself be loved gives you over to someone’s mercy and leaves you trusting that they will keep loving you, that they will love you the way you want to be loved, that they won’t break your given heart. …
And to let yourself be loved means breaking down your walls of self-sufficiency and letting yourself need and opening your hands to receive. Letting yourself receive love means trusting you will be loved in your vulnerable need; it means believing you are worthy of being loved. Why can that be so heartbreakingly hard?
–Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way
What keeps you from receiving His love through forgiveness?
Sometimes in our pride, we try to undo our sin. Fix it on our own.
Reread Matthew 27:3-5
What did Judas try to do? Why?
Judas changed his mind. When Jesus was condemned, guilt and shame took hold. He tried to undo what he did, but we can’t. It’s impossible to take back sin, even when it’s unintentional.
Judas couldn’t get past his guilt and shame. Because he could not receive, he killed himself.
Do you believe Jesus’s sacrifice covered Judas’s sin? Do you believe he could’ve been forgiven?
We cannot undo sin. We cannot fix what we broke. We cannot pay the price of sin without dying. When we attempt to save ourselves, restore a trespass, we end up dead. Just like Judas.
Getting past our pride, lack of trust, and fear is essential to receiving His love. If we cannot receive His love through forgiveness, we will never be free to love others.
We love, because He first loved us.
Read Galatians 5:13-15
What are we set free for through forgiveness?
We are set free to love others. By loving others, we fulfill the entire law.
Through Judas we see how we can self-destruct when we don’t receive his love. What is the warning in these verses? What else can destroy us?
Not loving one another, leads to devouring one another.
What are ways we bite, devour, or consume others?
Through our words. Sarcasm comes to mind. This English word comes from the Greek sarkezein, which means to tear the flesh. Sarcasm is a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed.).
The entertainment industry has turned sarcasm into a national pastime. It’s a form of humor we hear every day. We may even use it ourselves. But at its heart it is using others for our own amusement. Biting remarks can be deadly to our relationships, especially marriage.
Besides sarcasm, what are other ways we “consume” people for our enjoyment or entertainment? without concern for the damage being done to them?
Gossip. Another destructive use of words.
Sarcasm. Gossip. Pornography. All forms of spiritual cannibalism where we consume others for our enjoyment. We feed our flesh on the lives of others.
All of these, according to Galatians, can come back to bite us. Has sarcasm or gossip come back to bite you?
There is a cure.
Read Galatians 5:16-24
What is the cure for this flesh-eating behavior?
Walking with the Spirit. The Spirit and flesh at are odds with each other. They never desire the same thing.
What does it mean that those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh?
This takes us back to receiving His forgiveness and work on the cross. When we receive His love and forgiveness, our flesh has been crucified with His (Galatians 2:20).
He sets us free to love one another by surrendering to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives and recognizing our flesh is dead.
We love because God first loved us.
Once we have the ability to love, what is our first step in loving God?
Living by faith through action: Believe, Pray, Trust, Obey, and Love. The very things we have been going deeper into are first steps in loving God.
Our week’s memory verses gave us the most important commandment. Recite the verses:
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Only by loving Him and receiving His love do we become equipped to love others (John 17:26, 1John 4:7).
The spiritual discipline this week was practicing a morning and evening prayer based on part of the traditional Jewish Shema prayer.
Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Was it difficult to make these verses a personal prayer? What was the gist of your prayer? What was your experience praying the prayer? If you didn’t do it, what kept you from trying this discipline?
As God grows us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we are enabled to pour out His love on others.
In our study, we looked at verses describing the love God grows in our heart.
What are we called to do when we love as He does?
The Romans verse tells us to honor one another. The Greek translated as outdo, or give preference, or take delight in literally means to take the lead. We are to take the lead in honoring others. Be a leader in showing honor to others (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). Honor means to value or respect. We are called to be leaders in respecting and valuing our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Matthew tells us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, do good to those who hate us. When we love our enemies, we emulate the Father’s love.
Besides the recognition and receiving of God’s love in our lives, what attitude do we need to love others in the ways described?
Remembering and regarding everyone as one for whom Christ died helps us put people in a position of honor. If Jesus died for them, they are very valuable to Him, and therefore they should be valued by us.
Read 1John 4:7
Loving others is evidence of being born again and knowing God’s love in our lives.
The wondrous order of Christianity isn’t “go and sin no more and Jesus won’t condemn you.” The order of Christ and Christianity is “neither do I condemn you – go and sin no more.” This grace reorders everything in His radically gentle way. Just as God didn’t give His commandments and then see if the people were worthy of freedom from captivity, Jesus frees us with His love and then captures our hearts with His new order. It’s the experience of being daily touched by His willingness to save us first that moves us to be daily broken and given ourselves. It’s His beautiful, relentless love that makes our lives relentlessly beautiful, not any striving to measure up or work to follow any commandments.
– Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way
This whole process of loving God and loving others takes time. It does not happen in our own power but by His grace and in His time.
Loving Him by faith. Receiving His forgiveness. Living a life of trust and obedience. Will move us toward the freedom needed to love others.
We hope you will continue to exercise your faith daily, moment by moment. It is the way of love. It is the fulfilling of the law.
We will be taking a break for the summer. We have plans to continue our faith journey by writing the second part to Sister Talk: Resuscitate Your Faith and be prepared to offer it in the fall.
How will your exercise your faith during the break?
If you receive our blog posts via email, don’t be surprised if you hear from us over the summer. We plan to check in with you and encourage you.
Thanks for being a part of the journey and helping us grow.
Father God, Your whole law is wrapped up in love. Continue to grow me in fully receiving Your love, and willingly pouring out on others.