greatest love

today our pastor johnny talked about prayer in the context of gospel intercession. click the link and listen to it, because it’s a good sermon. there’s a lot in there i need to go back and listen to again — a running theme was how self-focus gets in the way of everything. i am self-absorbed more than my self-absorbed pride would like to admit.

(so here i am, blogging.)

(this does have a point other than me, however.)

the main scripture text was Jesus’ high priestly prayer in john 17. toward the end, Jesus prays for those God has given Him, the ones immediate to His time on earth and all those to come. and He says this, in verses 22-23 and then 26:

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. … I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (ESV)

God loves us the way He loves Jesus. Jesus died for us so this could be possible.

how do you picture the way God loves you?

i think i subconsciously picture it as the love that “endures all things” from 1 corinthians 13, patiently holding on like a parent holding onto a child throwing a hissy fit — a “grin and bear it” sort of love. my understanding of God’s love for me personally doesn’t stop there — as shakespeare says, “love is a many splendored thing,” and so it is that God’s love has so many facets and unfathomable depths as to be dizzying — but i can slip into this mode of quietly believing that God loves me as a sorry little snot-nosed wretch, filthy and undeserving and often ungrateful for who He is.

while that description of me (or, rather, of my heart) is not even extensive enough in its sad disgustingness, it sells short the kind of love with which God loves Jesus — and, through Jesus, loves each of us individually. here’s what johnny said about it:

“God doesn’t just love Jesus with a merciful love or a forgiving love, because Jesus had no sin to forgive. It’s a love for a beautiful person, a flawless person.”

Jesus died for our sins, once, for everybody and everything we have done against God — His perfection for our corruption — so that He could bring us to God. so that we could experience, personally, the type of love God has for His perfect, flawless, beautiful Son.

Jesus did it. He paid it. He completed it. He destroyed every particle of our sin. it doesn’t stick to us anymore when we are His. we are not perfect and flawless in ourselves — we never can be. it’s completely impossible. it is only because Jesus joyfully gave up everything He had so we could gain everything that was His. and now we are His. we have Him. we have the Father. we have the Holy Spirit. He promises He’ll never leave us or turn His back on us. and He never does. we’re the ones who turn our backs on Him and turn inside ourselves, fretting about all the thousand and one ways we’re not good enough.

yes but no. why this constant obsession with being good? it is so idiotic, and so easy to fall into, and so depressing when i fail. which i always do when i’m focused and relying on me. why do we do this, though, as Christians? why do we insist on clinging to “pride” and saying “i must do this. i must be good. it is all up to me“?

when we know it’s not. that’s the whole point of the gospel. we can’t; Jesus did.

and now, because He did, God loves us as perfect, flawless, beautiful, beloved sons and daughters. Jesus loves us as His radiant, spotless bride.

we love because He loved us first.

we are in love — because He is Love.