Flawless Bride

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:8‬

The Christ was born to die. He knew how He would die. He prophesied the manner of His death. He knew He would be forsaken. He knew the pain that He was to endure. Knowing all this, He refused to turn away. Instead, He walked on to face His death. Love lead Him there. Love for His bride. Love for His unfaithful bride.

The joy of Christmas. The victory at Easter. They can never be complete without the love that flowed from the cross, in the form of His blood, on that day nearly 2000 years ago. The Good Friday. The day when God displayed the depths of His goodness. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We wandered far. We loved sin more than we loved Him. But still.. He chose to die for us, so that in Him we may live.

And Jesus, having finished His work, must have seen us wayward sinners, and the brokenness that lay within us. As He hung on the cross, broken for our sins, He must have seen the sin inflicted wounds and the scars in our souls that only His blood could heal. And on that day – that Good Friday – even as He had lost all His beauty through the brutality of the crucifixion, He must have longed for the day to come, when He would set His loving gaze upon us – His broken bride, made whole by His blood – and say,

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.

‭‭The Song of Solomon‬ ‭4:7‬

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For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

‭‭Romans‬ ‭13:9-10‬

Building Strength

The Bible, from the Book of Genesis to the Apocalypse of John is.. quite diverse. But ultimately, if you could condense the purpose, you could say that the Bible is an invitation. An invitation firstly, to enjoy an intimate fellowship with God, despite our sins, through Christ Jesus, now and forever. Secondly, an invitation to walk in His Way. An invitation to trace His footsteps, as we walk through the days of our life.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

‭‭John‬ ‭15:12‬

In His final message, mere hours before His arrest and crucifixion, and knowing fully well all that was awaiting Him, the Lord leaves those who follow Him with a ‘commandment.’ Jesus commands, “love one another as I have loved you.” We’re commanded to live like Jesus. We’re commanded to love like Jesus. And most of us in Christ, know this.

WWJD..? What would Jesus do..? That’s a question we often find that we ask ourselves in situations that confront us. And that perhaps is a good start, but.. how many times do we find that we know what Jesus would’ve done, yet find ourselves unable to do the same..?

Love the unlovable, He said and He did. Forgive the unforgivable, He said and He did. We know that Jesus loved, and that He forgave. But how many times, do we fall short of His standards..? At times, knowing what we are to do, and at times even desiring to do, but still.. unable to find the strength within to be like Him. While our minds know all we are to do, the strength to live like Jesus, comes not from the mind, but from our hearts…

..for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

Nehemiah 8:10

Is the joy of the LORD reigning in your heart..? Striving to be like Christ, is a noble pursuit, but.. we will only weary ourselves undertaking the impossible, without the strength of His joy. We may strive to keep ourselves pure and free from sin as He is, only to end up in frustration. We may desperately will ourselves to be more loving people, and maybe, just maybe.. we can turn our ways around to the eyes of those around us. But when we haven’t truly changed in places where the eyes of people cannot see.. in our hearts, it’ll only remain a sapping yet vain endeavour.

Joy though, does something that our meticulous efforts could never do. When we abide in His joy, the command to live like the Christ, no longer has to be seen as something that needs to be worked on, but instead as something that flows from within…

Have you ever noticed how in our moments of mirth, all that the Bible commands us becomes a little easier..? When we’re in a mood to celebrate, loving one another seems like the logical thing to do, doesn’t it..? We’re quick to give. We’re even quick to forgive. We’ve all had such moments in life, haven’t we..? Now joy is similar to mirth, except.. it is ever in our reach, even when the lights of our life have seemingly gone out, and all we could see around is darkness. Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

In your presence there is fullness of joy;

Psalm 16:11

There is fullness of joy in His presence. And to all who desire to enter, in search of that ever available joy, the Holy One says, “Do not be afraid.” He says, “Come As You Are.” Through His work on the cross, the Lord has made a Way, where even the worst of sinners can enter into His presence and delight in His joy, taking away the yoke that was upon us. The unrighteous are freely welcome into His presence, for only His joy can lead us into a life of righteousness. And this is where the ‘command’ to live like Jesus, becomes an ‘invitation’ to live like Him. Nowhere is this message more apparent than in the tale of the Christ and a man named Zacchaeus, from Luke 19:1-10

Zacchaeus – the man who is remembered for climbing a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus – was a tax collector. To most of us, the term would hardly ring a bell. But to people in the New Testament times, those words spoke too much about the moral standing of a person. People held a tax collector in the same regard as a prostitute. They were commonly referred to as sinners…

When Jesus saw Zacchaeus perched on a branch, He calls him by name and tells him that He will be staying at his house. People around Jesus expected the righteous to avoid the presence of sinners. They grumbled among themselves, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner,” as though the Lord who can look into our hearts, hadn’t a clue. But Jesus was here with one purpose. To seek out a man lost in sin…

So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.

‭‭Luke‬ ‭19:6‬

..and Zacchaeus received Him joyfully. The crowd could only see his past. They had no clue as to the heart of this man. Within him there was something new. Within him there was a heart filled with joy. Like the people in the crowd Zacchaeus must have expected Jesus to seek out the righteous, but to his surprise, he realised, “The Lord has come in search of a sinner like me…”

And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭19:8

And the joy that flooded his heart, produced something so beyond the belief of the people who branded him a sinner. Zacchaeus, who until now had extorted money from his people, no longer desired unrighteous wealth. He not only ventured to repay those whom he had defrauded, but even that which was rightfully his, he chose to share with the poor…

The message, “Come As You Are,” once again repeats itself over here, doesn’t it..? The Christ did not wait for Zacchaeus to make atonement for his sins before He welcomed him into His presence. Zacchaeus was welcomed as a sinner. But more importantly, this sinner no longer remained a slave to his sin. And how did that happen..? Was it the fear of the fire of hell to lead him into righteousness..? Nay, it was joy that did what fear could never do. Joy in Christ set Zacchaeus free from his sin…

Are you filled with the desire to be righteous..? Does the pursuit leave you feeling worn out, without the strength to take another step..? Remember, this was never something to be done in our own strength. Remember Zacchaeus. Remember the Lord who comes in search of those lost in sin, to welcome them into His presence. Remember the joy in His presence. Remember the strength to be changed that that joy does produce. Look to Him. His arms are open wide…

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

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