Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lent: The Depths of God's Heart

We've been looking at what Lent is about, because like every part of the Christian year, Lent helps us better understand, and be moved further, into the heart of God as we live our lives in Christ. Here's another aspect of God's heart revealed in this season before Easter.

Luke 9 describes Jesus'  first announcement of his upcoming death (vv 21-22) the transfiguration (28-36) another prediction of his death (43-45) and
then in verse 51, "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem." Jesus resolutely set out to get to his appointment with the cross. Jesus was determined to fulfill the sacrifices he had seen at the temple, as lambs and bulls were killed for the offerings, all of them a portrait of his own death, with their display of blood and pain. But he didn't slow down, turn around, or flinch.

He also told his disciples in verses 23-25: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." He knew his disciples would face the same sacrifices, and some of them, persecution and death for following him. Down through the ages, it is still true.

The heart of God is giving, which always involves sacrificing something of ourselves:  there is no other path. Sometimes the loss is more dramatic than at others, but every act of giving is also an act of letting go. Not just for those first disciples, and not just in facing persecution: sacrifice of the self is an essential part of following Jesus, because the heart of God is about giving up the self in favor of the other. We see that in the Trinity, as each of the members of the Godhead shows honor and preference to the others, but also gives by receiving graciously. We can also see it in marriage, when each spouse must 'resolutely set out' to sacrifice comfort and convenience for the good of the other (and graciously receive what is given by the other). It can play out in many different parts of everyday life, so long as we 'resolutely set out' to live a life of giving. That's part of what Jesus meant when he said his disciples "must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."

The heart of God sacrifices self for the benefit of another. That's what John meant when he wrote "The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love" (1 John 4:8, The Message). As we journey through study, prayer, and meditation into the heart of God, we can receive a greater view of his love. We can ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with God's love, and by grace he will answer our prayer with love. We will find that God's love isn't just a warm feeling of knowing we are loved; we receive God's love, knowing it will lead us to sacrifice ourselves for others, over and over again. That's the depth of the heart of God. Are you moving into that deeper place?

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