Thursday, April 9, 2009

How Great is Your Love?

Last Sunday my pastor, in good pastorly fashion gave a sermon about Jesus' death on the cross. It was actually the third of a four part sermon that has been following the last seven words of Jesus on the cross. This last one spoke about Jesus' word "It is Finished" (John 19:30.) Part of what he had to say was to how Jesus spoke it. With what emotion he said it. It wasn't a cry of relief, "Thank god this is over!" It wasn't a cry of exhaustion, "I can't believe I made it, I'm going to keel over and die now." It wasn't a cry of quitting, "I can't go, I can't take this anymore, on so now I'm finished."
The cry that he gave was a cry that said, Mission Accomplished. I have finished what I came to do. And as my pastor explained, Jesus didn't actually say three words. "It is Finished" he spoke one word in the Hebrew language, which was not the common word for saying you have finished something. The word he used is a word that was found written across the scrolls carrying billing information. The word Jesus said literally means, "Paid in full".

Jesus didn't say on the cross, Ahah, this is the end, I'm done. He said, I have paid the debt in full. Now, Father, now that I have paid the debt, now I commit my spirit into your hands. (Luke 23:46)

This is such a big deal. People like to say that Jesus was crucified like a common criminal, but he wasn't. Crucifixion was saved for the worst of the worst. the utterly lowest of criminals. That is how terrible, how awful crucifixion was. It was the worst sentence a criminal could receive. That alone would be enough for any of us to cry out for our God to save us... but Jesus didn't do that, he said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) As he hung in excruciating pain, being mocked and screamed at, he pleaded and begged for THIER lives, not his own even though with one word, one breath he could have saved himself and condemned us all. Knowing that, he begged for our lives, and did not save himself because he knew that only he could pay this debt. That is how great his love
is, and even beyond that. Because when you think about all the troubles we face in our lives, no matter what we always have a God and Savior, a comforter to turn to for strength. We have someone to lean on. But when Jesus was on that Cross and God turned his face away ("My God my God, why have you forsaken me?") Jesus no longer had anyone to receive strength and encouragement from. He was all alone. At that moment, he didn't say say "God come back, I can't do this on my own." He didn't say that because in order to save us, he couldn't say that, he loved us so much that he faced what he faced all alone.

But Jesus' love for us was far greater than just (as if crucifixion wasn't enough) being crucified for all of our sins over every generation. Jesus' love for us started years before that. Jesus' love for us can be seen simply by agreeing to come to this world.

Before Jesus could Pay Our Debt In Full he first had to lead a sinless life. Contemplate that for a moment. It is so hard for us to lead just a sinless day, let alone a sinless life! Jesus didn't just live a single day as a perfect and sinless man. He lived his whole life as a sinless and perfect man. Well we live in a fallen world, well we're not the son of god, well... Does not the bible say that Jesus became a man? As a man, Jesus was subject to all of the temptations to sin as we ourselves are. Jesus was not exempt, Jesus had to CHOOSE to lead a perfect life.

That a lone is such a difficult task that NO ONE else has been or ever will accomplish it. As it has been said before, becoming a Christian is easy, living as a Christian is hard. But Jesus lived the perfect, sinless life. He "fought the good fight" he accomplished what no one else could. That is how great his love is for us. When you think about it. Love has to have been the key. How could anyone possibly accomplish that task unless his love was so great, that his top priority was not for himself, ever, not for a single day, it was how to save a nation of people. He loved us so much that he lived the perfect life because he knew we could not, and unless someone did, we would all be doomed. As a man He loved God so much that his every desire was to fulfill God's will for him, and to share the joy he received from obeying God with us.

Jesus' prayer in the Garden before his death really shows his love for God and for us. Found in John 17

"Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
Jesus Prays for His Disciples

6 "I have revealed you [a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of [b] your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by [c] that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

13 "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by [d] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
Jesus Prays for All Believers

20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

25 "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

Love is the key. I do not think that we can fully appreciate what God has done until we fully appreciate the scope and depth of his love. This is a concept that is so huge, that I think our gratitude for Jesus' sacrifice will continually grow forever.

I think to that when we begin to appreciate how great Jesus' love for us was, and is, then our own love for others will grow. As our love grows, so too will we in God's love and in our christian life. The more we let Love take hold in our heart, the more that we can begin to see its fruit in our lives, forgiveness comes easier, denying ourselves and helping others becomes the desire of your heart, not just something that you should do. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 spectacularly sums up what love does for us and in our lives.

"If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

Love really is the key.