BAPTIZED IN LOVE

Matt.3:16 – After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him.

Jesus was baptized in the Holy Spirit to begin His ministry. It’s as if the Father couldn’t contain His love for His Son as He proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son”. From this day Jesus began to move in a miracle anointing that lasted until His death. If you think about it, that’s really what miracles are, God’s love reaching out to hurting mankind. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes the love of God and the Holy Spirit.

“It further appears that the Holy Spirit is nothing but the infinite love and delight of God, by his symbol, a dove; which is the symbol of love, and which is a bird beyond all other irrational animals in the world is remarkable and wonderful for its love to its mate, both in expressions of it by billing together (rubbing bills- like a kiss) and the like while together, and for its mourning for the loss of its correlate.

And ’tis evident that the dove is used as a symbol of love in the Scriptures: Canticles 1:15, “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes”…

It was under this representation that the Holy [Spirit] descended on Christ at his baptism, signifying the infinite love of the Father to the Son, and that thereby is signified that infinite love that is between the Father and the Son; which is further illustrated by the voice which came with the dove, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:17].”

This gets to the reason why Jesus came. He created us to experience and display His love. The fall of man hasn’t deterred His love for us and His passion to display His glory. Because of the fall Jesus Himself became a man, a perfect man. He displayed His love when He died in our place as a sacrifice for our sin. Today, anyone who believes in Him not only has their sins forgiven, they also have access to the love Jesus has enjoyed with His Father from eternity. This is what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is all about. Just as Jesus was immersed in the Spirit we can be too. Then we will hear His sweet voice, “This is my beloved son”.

LOST FIRST LOVE

Rev.2:4 – But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

For John this was the dividing line, the love of God. John remembered well the words of Jesus in his gospel, John 13:34,35 – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus had taught that the world would see a distinct difference that would clearly mark His followers, they would walk in love. What was this love? It was supernatural in nature. It was born in the hearts of His followers. It was a love that came from God first, and was aimed back at God. It’s tendency was to spill over and effect everyone else in our world. Our love for God and our love for others would be the mark. That brings us back to this church in Ephesus. What had gone wrong? Everything! They had lost the passion of their first love. Here is how Gordon Fee describes it.

“The significance of this failure in terms of Johannine Christianity is to be found in the admonition, consider how far you have fallen!, which is followed by a warning that at the same time keeps the imagery intact: If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. This particular warning has created no end of trouble for later believers, who for the most part perceive the punishment to far exceed the crime. But that says more about us than it does about the author of the Johannine literature, since he perceived the whole of the Christian faith to be a matter of experiencing God’s love for us through Christ and then returning that love to him by loving others. From his perspective, to fail at this point is to fail exceedingly—if not altogether—which is why for him the “punishment” is precisely in keeping with the “crime.” And “love” for John is not simply a matter of attitude toward others; the only love worthy of the name from his perspective lies in their doing the things you did at first. Thus the only correct response to their current failure is to “repent.”

So just having correct doctrines or Christian ethics is not what marks us as followers of Jesus. We are marked by His love. This is the love that won us, satisfies us, and keeps us.

KISS, KISS, KISS

Lk. 15:20 – So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

I really thought I was through talking about this parable when I ran across a devotional by Dick Mills describing the Father’s kiss. It’s really hard to move on, after all, this is our story. Actually the word kiss in this verse is the greek word KATAPHILEO. The literal meaning is to kiss repeatedly and fervently. Jesus is focusing on the Father’s passion and love for His wayward sons and daughters. There is hardly a more moving picture in all the scripture as this one, the Father embracing and kissing His dirty, wayward son. Here is some of how Dick Mills describes this verse.

“The love the Father showered on the prodigal son when He fell on his neck and kissed him was intense. KATAPHILEO describes a great warmth the Father showered on His long lost son’s return…. The example of the Father welcoming His boy back home is described by Bible translators as “tenderly kissed him, fondly kissed him, affectionately kissed him, kissed him again and again.” The word was also used describing the woman who kissed the feet of Jesus and anointed them with ointment. A forgiven sinner, she lavished the KATAPHILEO on Jesus, kissing His feet affectionately and repeatedly.”

I think sometimes we get more technical and professional when it comes to spiritual things. I remember preaching for Steve Solomon several years ago and clearly heard the Lord say while I was speaking (He interrupts me quite often) that He is looking for lovers, not technicians. Many times we look for technical accuracy and miss the love part. Actually, I think that was one of the main things Jesus was communicating in this parable. His audience was common sinners and the Pharisees. There were liars, adulterers, and thieves having their lives impacted by the Lord’s message. The religious Pharisees had their noses up in the air, after all they had been “Living right” all of their lives. Here was Jesus showing us a better way, Christ died to save sinners. The Pharisees may have had all the technical stuff right on the outside but their hearts had never tasted the Father’s love. Prodigals and elder sons, we all have the same need. We are all in desperate need for the Father’s kiss.

TACKLED BY LOVE

Lk.15:20 – So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

This has to be one of the most moving passages in the Bible, the Father embracing His prodigal son. It’s hard to grasp the power of the story with just a casual reading, it has to be pondered. It starts with the rebellious son demanding his portion of his inheritance. Can you imagine the awkwardness of the moment? Inheritances are for when somebody dies. The son was so blinded by his sin that he would rather see his Father die, if that isn’t possible just give me mine now anyway. Of course we all know where that would go; one party and buying spree after another until every cent is gone. From there he becomes a hired laborer at the point of fighting the pigs for pig food. Anything familiar about this story? Maybe you didn’t act out the drama (or maybe you did) but we all have the nature of prodigals deep within us.

Finally the young man returned to his senses, turned toward home, and began to rehearse his lines of repentance. That’s when the story gets good. The Father was watching down the road, hoping to see His son. How many hours the Father must have spent, looking down that road until the day came when He saw His son. The Father ran to meet His son, tears in His eyes and compassion pounding in His chest. Without a lecture or even a moment for the son to explain the Father ‘fell on’ him in the middle of the road.

We need to stop here for a moment, the KJV Bible says the Father fell on the son’s neck. The word in greek is epipipto. It means to seize or fall upon with an embrace. The Father literally tackled His son. This word is used one other time in the New Testament. It was when Peter was trying to explain to the Jewish elders in Jerusalem what had happened when he preached to the gentiles. Peter said the Holy Spirit fell upon (epipipto) the gentiles just like He had fallen on them in the upper room. The gentiles had been tackled by the love of God, the Holy Spirit had fallen upon them too.

So maybe you feel a little stinky today. Maybe you got mixed up fighting with the pigs for their food. Take a turn toward home and you too will be tackled by love.

KISSED BY THE FATHER

LK.15:20 – And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.

I think many people get the wrong idea about religious people, especially the Puritans from long, long ago. They were often quite expressive about their love for the Lord and experienced spiritual intimacy rather than just an austere form of legalism. It was their passion for the Lord and their evangelistic zeal that brought seasons of persecution leading many of them to make their way to the New World. Our country is indebted to the legacy of these spiritual pioneers. In the 1600’s there was a member of the parliament in England by the name of Edward Leigh who had an evangelistic zeal and a passion for the Lord. Here are some of his comments on the parable of the Prodigal Son.

“Among all the parables of Christ, this is most excellent, full of affection and set forth in lively colors. The old father sees a long way off, for dim eyes can see a long distance when the son is the object. His heart moves within him, and he has compassion on him. “He runs.” It would have been sufficient for him to have stood, because he was old, and a father, and even more so an offended father. But love descends rather than ascends: the son goes to the father; the father runs to the son. Then, he does not stop and embrace him or take him by the hand, but rather he falls on him and incorporates himself into him. He speaks not a single word- his joy was too great to be uttered—but he puts his whole mouth forward and kisses him, giving him the badge of peace, love and reconciliation. Through this example is declared that great goodness of God, who most mercifully pardons the sins of the truly penitent.”

This parable touches on something that is basic to our need as a human. We need forgiveness, acceptance, and real love. Jesus pointed us to the Heavenly Father for all of that. The Heavenly Father has also been painted by many as demanding and harsh. Jesus set the record straight when He shared about the rebellious son smelling of pigs embraced in the Father’s love. There is a place in His arms for you too.

LETS GET THIS PARTY STARTED

Lk.15:22-24 – But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

What an amazing description of God’s love for fallen man. We went out and wasted our Father’s gifts on sinful living. Rather than judging us and banishing us from His home, He embraces us, kisses us and showers us with gifts, and throws us a party. Here are some thoughts from the People’s New Testament Commentary on the Father’s response in this parable of the prodigal son.

“Bring forth the best robe. He had returned in rags. The best robe is the white robe of the righteousness of Christ. A ring on his hand. A ring with a seal was a symbol of authority, of sonship. Shoes on his feet. Servants went barefoot, but the shoes were a symbol of freedom. Bring the fatted calf. For a feast of welcome. To make such preparations was common in the simple life of the East. For my son was dead, and is alive. It was a spiritual resurrection. They began to be merry. Gladness should be manifested by all saints at the repentance of sinners.”

What an amazing welcome, He took off our filthy rags marked with the stains of our sins, He put on us a beautiful robe welcoming us back home. The Lord clothes each of His returning prodigals with a beautiful robe, we are clothed in the righteous garments of Christ, justified by grace through faith. Next, He places the family ring on our finger. We are not outcast, we are welcomed into the very privileges and authority of Sonship. We are sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ. Then there were the shoes. Our previous shoes were long gone from the hard road we had chosen to walk. Now, our feet are covered with the shoes of the promises of God. We are freed from our life of slavery, God’s promises are now ours. He also killed the fatted calf reserved for the greatest of occasions. This calf also reminds us of the sin offering that made all of this possible, the blood of Jesus has washed away our sin. The joy finally began to break out into singing and dancing, “My son who was lost has now returned home”. Let’s get this party started.

HE LOVES US

Rom.5:3-5 – And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

This is the game changer, this is what changed everything for me and continues to change everything. He loves me. Not because of me or anything I bring to the table, it’s because of Him. He chooses to love me and all the other unlovelies He calls His own. That’s what grabbed my attention the day I was converted, His love and forgiveness extended to me in my miserable, rebellious condition. I was literally stopped in my tracks. The more I read the gospels the more I was completely won over. The finishing volley? The baptism in the Spirit totally finished me off. To me it was a total immersion into a substance only describable as liquid love. He loves me, He loves you; nothing else really matters. Here is how R C Sproul describes this passage.

“Here Paul is not talking about our love for God; he is talking about God’s love for us. The love of God is a love that the Holy Spirit sheds abroad. God’s love for the justified is no mere feeling; neither are the gifts that God gives us or the benefits that he pours upon us. It is God’s affection that God puts inside of us, his love for us. That is what fuels our hope and gives us confidence that we will not be ashamed. It is what enables us to persevere and endure tribulations and afflictions. The love God pours out is no small portion; it is an outpouring of divine love, lavished upon us.”

This love is what attracts us, this same love is what keeps us. When everything seems to be caving in and you are not sure what is going on in your life, His love is sufficient. He will keep you in the darkest night with His love. When morning dawns you will be stronger than before, strengthened by His love. So whatever you have done in your past and no matter who has hurt or betrayed you, God’s love for you is consistent and relentless. He will not give up until you are resting in His love.

THE KISSES OF HIS MOUTH

The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.

SOS 1:1,2 – May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine.

It’s funny what church people fight about.Our first church fight started when I put shells on our empty lot next to the church to make room for more parking. People actually left the church over that. Since then, people have fought about too loud music, too long services, preaching about God too much (that’s a true story). I guess many of us try to create church in our own image. The only solution for any of that is a move of the Spirit. That brings us to the funniest of all church offenses, this one was about kisses. When our church began to experience a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the 1990’s, our music, as well as most everything else, began to change. One of the songs we began to sing in those days was ‘True Love’ by David Ruis. In the song he sang about the kisses of the Lord. That was it for some folks. The audacity of singing about kisses, especially from the Lord in church. I decided then that I couldn’t worry about pleasing people, I just wanted to be pleasing to the Lord. Here are the words to David Ruis’s song, hopefully you won’t get your knickers in a twist.

‘Jesus I need to know true love

Deeper than the love found on earth

Take me into the King’s chamber

Cause my love to mature

▪ Let me know the kisses of Your mouth

▪ Let me feel Your warm embrace

▪ Let me smell the fragrance of Your touch

▪ Let me see Your lovely face

▪ Take me away with You

▪ Even so, Lord, come

▪ I love You Lord

▪ I love You more than life

My heart, my flesh yearn for You, Lord

To love You is all I can do

You have become my sole passion

Cause my love to be true’

At the end of the day we are all looking for love, we just want this love to be authentic. True love is what Solomon’s Song is all about, he sang about kisses, embracing in affection, and the beauty of His name. I believe the world has always longed for love, especially the love of God found in Jesus Christ. Authentic Christian worship moves us deeply, it effects the deepest springs of our affections. So don’t be afraid to express your deepest feelings and words on the Lord. People are always going to be offended by spiritual intimacy. So go ahead and read Song of Solomon again, set aside some time for intimate worship, let Him kiss you with the kisses of His mouth.

ETERNAL LOVE

Eph. 3:19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Have you ever thought about how much love plays a part in the lives of all God’s creatures? From the mama grizzly bear to the African lioness, mothers have a powerful love for their young. You see all kinds of love that is entrenched in all of our lives. The love smitten teenager, the grieving widow, all of us are effected by love every day. Creation reflects its Creator. Our Creator is the fountain of all love. His abode, the place called heaven, is pulsating with His supernatural love. The Father’s love is infinite and can be seen in His affection that pours out upon His only Son Jesus Christ. The good news is that we have been adopted into His family. In Christ, we also have become the object of the Father’s love. Heaven will be an endless adventure as we explore the height, the depth, the breadth and the width of God’s love. Jonathan Edwards preached a powerful sermon entitled ‘Heaven is a World of Love’. It is one of my two favorite sermons of all time. Here is a taste of Edwards’ world of love.

“Here is joy unspeakable indeed; here is humble, holy, divine joy in its perfection. Love is a sweet principle, especially divine love. It is a spring of sweetness. But here the spring shall become a river, and an ocean. All shall stand about the God of glory, the fountain of love, as it were opening their bosoms to be filled with those effusions of love which are poured forth from thence, as the flowers on the earth in a pleasant spring day open their bosoms to the sun to be filled with his warmth and light, and to flourish in beauty and fragrancy by his rays. Every saint is as a flower in the garden of God, and holy love is the fragrancy and sweet odor which they all send forth, and with which they fill that paradise….. And thus they will live and thus they will reign in love, and in that godlike joy which is the blessed fruit of it, such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath ever entered into the heart of any in this world to conceive [cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9]. And thus they will live and reign forever and ever.”

If you are born again you are clothed with Christ. In Christ you are the recipient of a limitless love. Open your heart today. The love of God is being poured out into your heart, it will change everything.

LOVE – VAST AS AN OCEAN

Eph.3:19 – and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

It was as if fire was falling simultaneously all over Wales in the early 1900’s. Starting with the youth, thousands of people began to be swept into the love of God. It was as if God had come down again like the Day of Pentecost, all of Wales seemed to be being powerfully effected by the Holy Spirit. One of the main characteristics of the Welch Revival was singing. Time seemed to stand still or become insignificant as the multitudes began to worship the Lord spontaneously. Somehow the meetings seemed to be gloriously ordered by God even though no one seemed to be leading. Supernatural worship is like nothing else. It’s as if the music and the voices are somehow alive. The sound carries the life of God and everyone present is powerfully influenced by the atmosphere. Actually, true worship originates from above. We can sing songs and play instruments but it is the very life of God that turns a song into worship. Here are the words to “HERE IS LOVE VAST AS THE OCEAN” which became known as the love song of the revival and comments from the Truth in History publication.

Here is love, vast as the ocean, loving kindness as the flood,

When the Prince of Life my ransom shed for me His precious blood,

Who His love will not remember, who can cease to sing His praise?

He shall never be forgotten through Heaven’s everlasting days.

On the mount of crucifixion fountains opened deep and wide

Through the floodgates of God’s mercy flowed the vast and gracious tide,

Grace and love like mighty rivers poured incessant from above

Heaven’s peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love.

INTRODUCTION

Just after eleven o’clock on a Wednesday evening a hundred years ago, a solo voice rang out with the beautiful Welsh hymn “Here Is Love Vast As The Ocean”. Maybe a thousand people were in the Chapel at the time, leaning over the galleries, packing every pew and squeezing into every spare corner. They’d been here for more than four hours, in a service of intense emotion.

All of our hearts long for this supernatural worship experience. Press in to the Lord. You too may be caught up in vastness of His love.