Fixing Our Hearts on LOVE…
Every time the season of Lent comes around, I ask myself what it is I want to get out of this season. Maybe it’s because of all I’ve been through in the past year, but I don’t want to waste another season, another day, or another moment, of this life frivolously. I want my life to count for something—for God. And so, I have to ask myself, what is this season going to be all about for me … and for you? So, as I was getting ready for this time—even during my convalescence, I was convinced I needed to be re-introduced to Jesus—getting to know him in a way that I’ve never known him before…
And this is also the season of the cross; that was on my mind, too. So, how does being re-introduced to Jesus and the cross fit in with significance in this season? As I thought about this, all I could think of was LOVE. That was the motivation behind the cross … and Jesus was the one who loved us enough to go there. Folks, what hit me was this—that JESUS IS … LOVE PERSONIFIED. He was walking and talking LOVE! If we were to picture LOVE in human form, Jesus would be it!
It’s true that the world gives us a variety of examples of LOVE, but I’m convinced that the only true LOVE is found in getting to know Christ. And if we begin today—at the beginning of this season of Lent—to fix our eyes on him, then we’ll come to know LOVE like never before. Folks, I want you to know LOVE; I want you to see LOVE; I want you to experience LOVE like never before … that your JOY may be full!
So, there it is … LOVE PERSONIFIED. And that’s who I want you (and me) to come to know during Lent. Why? Because I believe that … LOVE KNOWN … RESULTS IN LOVE SHOWN! (Repeat) The more we come to know and experience real LOVE, the more our lives will exude that LOVE … and everyone around us will be affected in positive ways. Listen to Jesus’ prayer tonight (John 17, NLT) and you’ll understand where I’m coming from…
After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 4 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.
6 “I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, 8 for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me. 9 “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. 10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them [italics mine] by the power of your name so that they will be united [italics mine] just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold. 13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth [italics mine]. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.
20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! 25 “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. 26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”
So, folks, here’s Jesus just prior to finishing up his mission here on earth, preparing himself for what was ahead, by taking care of some of the most important business yet to be dealt with—the most important things on his heart at that time. Just listen again to what Jesus prayed… First,
JESUS PRAYED FOR HIMSELF. Verses 4-5 tell us, “I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.” Jesus was unselfishly committing to finishing the mission that God had given him. He was praying for himself, yes, but he was praying to be able to complete the mission God had set before him … going up to Jerusalem, being arrested, being taken through a mock trial, sentenced to death, beaten before he even got to Golgotha, then stripped and hung on a cross for all the world to see … absolutely humiliated … for our sake; only LOVE could do this! Then, Jesus asked God to restore him to the Glory he knew before coming to live on this earth; Jesus knew what was coming … and he went to Jerusalem anyway … because that’s what LOVE does…
NEXT, JESUS PRAYED FOR HIS DISCIPLES. And what did Jesus pray for his disciples? He prayed for their protection (v. 11) … that they might be protected from the evil one … the one who motivates unsuspecting folks (if they’re not careful) to work against God’s plans. He prayed for their unity—that they might love one another (v. 11) … and be an example of LOVE like this world has never seen. And he prayed for them to be made holy (‘set apart’ as Christ-like) … and to know God’s word (v. 17), which will help them in that process…
Years ago, there was a study out in the Church called ‘Becoming a Contagious Christian’ (Bill Hybels). And in this study, it was determined that Christians were contagious … when they LOVE like Jesus’ loved! It was that intense LOVE, like Jesus showed when he was here with us, that was a game-changer…
So, Jesus was really praying for us to become contagious on his behalf… But, not everyone is open to being loved, however, so…
Jesus prayed for our protection … from one who could harm us eternally…
Jesus prayed for our unity—that we might love as he did…
And Jesus prayed for us to be made holy—people who LOVE like Jesus loved—a love that could change this world! And…
FINALLY, JESUS PRAYED FOR US… Verses 20-21 shows Jesus praying this: “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” Here, Jesus prays—above all else—for us to be ONE, not only with him but with each other!
What hurts me the most, as a pastor and a disciple of Jesus Christ, is when I see those who claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ treating one another as if they’d never met Jesus! Yet, Jesus said … that’s the way the world will know that I am real … and that what I said was true … by the way you LOVE…
Folks, the balls in our court. We are the answer. We have to be the answer to Jesus’ prayer! I don’t think Jesus would have prayed a prayer he didn’t believe could be answered. Do you? I believe Jesus, through this prayer (John 17), then his life, death, and resurrection, has done his part. It’s up to us now. So, as we enter into another season of Lent … know this: WE HAVE TO BE THE ANSWER TO JESUS’ PRAYER! We can be, but it’s up to us to invite Jesus to live in us, and love through us…
So, what’s keeping you from doing that? What’s keeping you from being the answer to Jesus’ prayer? Where’s the roadblock that keeps you from loving your brothers & sisters in Christ like you should? Sometimes it’s our need to be in control. Sometimes, it’s our fear of submission—to Christ (which is kind of the same thing). It’s at the point of letting go … that LOVE begins … and that’s where we need to begin, too!
In the book of James, the Apostle tells us that we should be ‘doers of God’s word’ (James 1:22-25, NLT) when he says:
“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”
How many of you get up in the morning, take a look in the mirror, don’t do anything about what you see … and you go off to work or school or church or wherever, not really caring about what the mirror told you? (Mirror, mirror, on the wall…) Why bother looking into the mirror, right … if that’s what we’re going to do?
That’s what James was saying about God’s word. And you’ve heard God’s word tonight. Jesus has prayed for us, in particular THAT WE MIGHT BE ONE! Are we now being intentional about being the answer to Jesus’ prayer?
‘All good questions to ask, as we begin this season of Lent together… I want you to get all you can out of Lent 2014! But, we have to submit to Jesus … and to God’s word if that’s going to happen. We have to commit to being the answer to Jesus’ prayer … ‘that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you.’ Have you surrendered yourself to LOVE God’s way? Have you truly fixed your heart on LOVE? REMEMBER: LOVE KNOWN … RESULTS IN LOVE SHOWN! Determine to get to know Jesus, and his love will not only live in you … but will also be lived through you! LOVE KNOWN … RESULTS IN LOVE SHOWN!
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