Prayer Study Week 8 – Love

At the core of all we know about God, everything He is, and everything He has done – the creation of the universe, pursuit of the heart of His children, the cross, the resurrection, and the coming restoration of heaven and earth – is love.

Likewise, at the root of our separation from God, and all of the suffering and darkness we see prevailing in our lives and in the world around us today lies one, insidious deception: We simply do not know the love of our Heavenly Father.

“And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.'” Matthew 3:17

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us…” 1 John 4:16-17

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

Do we have any idea how much God loves us?

Whether or not we are consciously aware of it, this question is at the heart of everything we say and do. The oppressive, often overwhelming waves of deception and darkness in this world work to keep us distracted. We are often so deeply sold into the lies of our worthlessness, that we are unable to begin to grasp the significance of this question as it defines all we think and feel. But, in the end, this is everything.

In the end, love is everything.

Love is the definition of who we are – creatures loved by our Creator.

Love is the definition of what the Church is – quite simply, the community of individuals who have submitted to the blood of Jesus Christ, and in so doing have begun to consider the possibility that Almighty God might actually love them.

And reaching into the core of the countless attacks and deceptions of the enemy against the children of God, we find this one, pervasive lie: “God does not love you. You are unworthy of His love.”

As we consider the foundation and authority of love in our desire for God, and in His desire for us, we can go back to the words in Hebrews 10:19-24:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great Priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…

When, by the blood of Jesus Christ, we enter into the Most Holy Place – the very presence of our Heavenly Father God – it is there that we first encounter the truth of His love. Every part of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives stems from our seeing and believing this truth – that God our Father deeply and passionately loves us. We are naturally healed and set free as the reality of God’s love is made complete in us.

Remember the guidance of Jesus Christ in Matthew 22:37-40, when He said “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'”

Everything hangs on love. Everything.

Final Meditation – The Cross

Remember the prayer of Christ in the garden, just moments before his arrest in Luke 22:41-44:

(Jesus) withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

In those moments before the crucifixion, our Lord was in anguish, even asking the Father to take away the cup awaiting Him at the cross.

Why? Remember, we are talking about the same man who said to His disciples in John 15:18-21, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.”

Jesus Christ had always been aware of the persecution that was coming for Him and His followers from the world. So, why do we see Him on the eve of His crucifixion crying out to His Father in this way? What was in the “cup” awaiting Jesus Christ?

In Deuteronomy 21:22-23, we find a part of the old law, which says, “If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole, you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.”

“Under God’s curse…”

Jesus Christ knew that at the moment He was hung on the cross, He would fall under the curse of His Father God. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul says that in that moment, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us.”

At the moment of the crucifixion, Jesus Christ became sin. He fell under the curse of God. Hanging on the cross, for the very first time Jesus Christ became completely separated from the perfect love of His Father.

Let’s go back to the story of Abraham and Isaac, which we find in Genesis 22, for an illustration of this experience for Jesus. In Genesis 22:2, God said to Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

We remember that Abraham and Isaac walked together for three days to the mountain, where Abraham then bound his son, Isaac, to the altar.

Genesis 22:10-14 tells us, “Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”

Abraham and Isaac’s story has a happy ending, with Isaac’s life spared, and God’s provision of the ram to be sacrificed in his place.

But, let’s try to imagine for a moment that the angel of the Lord had never appeared, that the ram had not been provided. Imagine that Abraham had gone through with the sacrifice of his son, had put the knife into Isaac’s chest, had turned his back on him, and had walked away.

Now imagine that moment for Isaac, lying on the altar, the knife protruding from his chest, watching his father walk away and abandon him as he lay there, dying.

This was the experience of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Certainly, our Lord did not desire to be beaten, or to experience the excruciating physical pain of the nails as they were driven into His hands and feet. But, were these the things filling the “cup” which He asked the Father to take from Him?

On the cross, Jesus Christ became sin, took on Himself the curse of the filth of our wretched depravity. And in response to His anguish in those moments hanging there, for the very first time, His loving Father turned His back on Him.

In Romans 3:25 Paul writes that “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” Paul does not blame the religious leaders or the government officials of that time for the crucifixion of Christ, but says clearly that it was God Who offered Jesus Christ as a sacrifice that day.

In that moment, Jesus Christ became completely cut off from the love of His Father. He experienced total rejection and abandonment by Him for the very first time. We see a glimpse of this in His reaction in Matthew 27:46, when He cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

It is only as we begin to understand the cross, to understand the fullness of the penalty that Christ paid there on our behalf, that we can begin to comprehend the freedom we have in Him. We are no longer subjugated to the rejection and scorn of our Father God. We are no longer bound under the condemnation of the world and ourselves – no longer the  “mistake”, or the “unlovable”, or the “unsave-able”.

Why? Because Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, experienced every bit of that in our place on the cross. Our penalty is paid. We are free.

The cross is the ultimate display of perfect love. Because of Jesus Christ, because of the cross, we are welcomed into the Holy Throne Room of our Heavenly Father, He Who is perfect love. By the blood of Jesus Christ, we are free to walk out from under the oppression and weight of the darkness and deception reigning in this world, and to find ourselves and to find God our Father, in His love.

Week 8 Meditation

This week, try to find a whole day, or even a day and a night, which you can set aside to get away from home and work and regular responsibilities, for time alone in prayer with the Father. As you are preparing for your time with God, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the types of tools you might need to have with you, which will help you to maintain a focus on His presence. Some examples include a notebook or sketch pad, music, an instrument, or a blanket or exercise mat for sitting.

Scripture meditation:

– Romans 5:1-11

– 1 Corinthians 13

– The book of Hebrews

This week, in your time of prayer, ask God to help you hear His voice, and to give you the courage to honestly consider His one question for you:

“Do you truly know that I love you?”

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