Once, we were all lost: without God and without hope in the world. There was no possibility at all that we would ever move towards God in order to find him. Nevertheless, the God of grace moves towards us in Jesus in order to find us when we could never find him. And he is full of joy as he finds us. This is the joy of the Shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the one that was lost. We, in turn, respond joyfully as we are found by God. We don’t rejoice in our own ability to find. No! Through Jesus, the God of grace has found us and so we rejoice with him.
Jesus, the Shepherd, finds us through the Spirit. He brings Jesus to us as the Shepherd who is joyful in finding us. He brings us to Jesus as the sheep who are joyful in being found. And so, the Spirit shares in our joy and the joy of heaven over one lost sinner who is found. This joy in the Spirit is to mark the flock of Jesus that is moved to ongoing seeking. We want to enter ever deeper into the joyful love that seeks and finds us.
As we do so, we discover that God is a triune circle of joyful love. In sheer delight, we know the joy of the Shepherd who leaves all to find us and who is joyful in finding us. In gladness, we know the joy of the Father who runs to embrace the one who was lost and is now found. And we know all this in the overflowing joy of the Spirit who draws us into the joy of the Father and Son who find us.
Jesus is alive and he encounters us personally by his Spirit. In this encounter, we are aware of the fullness of his love and our own lack of love. For the more the sun of divine love shines within us the more we feel our own inability to truly love. And yet, fully exposed before him, we know that he wants us. Yes, we are sure that we belong to him as those deeply loved by him and that nothing can ever separate us from him. Aware of our lack of love, we are amazed that he still wants us.
As those who belong, we continually seek him as the One who has already loved us.We seek him that we know more of his love. With Paul, we kneel before our Father asking that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen us with power through his Spirit in our inner being… together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
As we prayerfully seek him, we are aware that it is only he whom we seek who has again and again made us seekers. So we rest in the love of God in Jesus and yet also reach out evermore to know, ever deeper and ever fuller, the love that is beyond knowing.
We are called to love our Lord Jesus as we love no other. We are to love him as those who are deeply loved by him. We give ourselves to be with him as the one who is always with us in love. We give ourselves to be for him as the one who is always for us. We give ourselves to serve this Lord who has served us. We give ourselves to obey the Lord who works within us all that is pleasing to him.
Of course, we always fall short in these attempts to love our Lord. We cannot even dream about offering our own love as an adequate response to his love. Nevertheless, God’s Spirit brings Jesus to us as the one who never stops loving us. Even though our love for him fails, again and again, he goes on loving us and giving himself for us and to us. The Spirit also points us to Jesus now exalted in the Father’s presence as the one who always sympathizes with us in our weaknesses. Before his Father, he constantly intercedes for us as the man who truly loves God and us. And so, by the Spirit, we are assured that Jesus goes on loving us even though we can never be anything but unworthy and therefore undeserving of his love. We are sure that we are fully accepted and grasped by his true love. And this love for the undeserving draws us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices and holds us there.
Karl Barth points us to the Lord as Servant. He was in the form of God but made himself nothing taking the form of a servant. As a servant, he was obedient even to death on the cross. And it was in that death that he served us bringing an end to the old age in which we once lived as slaves under the dominion of darkness. Therefore, God highly exalted him giving him the name above every name. He did so, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend confessing him as Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, Barth also points us to the servant as Lord. As this Lord, he freely encounters us by his Spirit. And in the encounter, we confess him, Lord, by the Spirit. Now we are free from all the “lords” that once reigned over us. We are free to no longer serve sin. We are free to no longer live in bondage to Satan’s wiles. We are free to live for our true Lord serving only him in the Spirit to the glory of his Father. This is true freedom and true life.
The Lord who became servant is now the servant who is highly exalted as Lord. Nevertheless, he still serves us as he lives in us by his Spirit. He came into the world, not to be served, but to serve giving his life for us that we might live. And now he wants to transform us into his own cross-shaped likeness. He does so as the Lord who still serves.
Jesus, our Lord, set us free from all the dark powers that once ruled over us. He rescued us to live under him and with him and for him as our one true Lord. As our only Lord, he wants us to love. Following his resurrection, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” He asks us the same question. He wants to know if we love him as those he has rescued to live under him. He also wants to know if we love one another as he has loved us. He is the risen Lord who now reigns supremely over all and what he wants to know is do you love me? Think what that means.
However, our Lord Jesus doesn’t simply stand over us giving external orders. We are in Jesus and he is in us. He lives in us as the one who rules over us. In this way, he works in us what he requires from us. An external “law,” would result in driving us into duty so that we become “weary and heavy-laden.” But when we live in Jesus as he lives in us, we are not burdened by the fact that love is now demanded of us. We are glad to walk in love under, with and for the one who has loved us. And we are glad that he now gives himself to us living his own way of love in and through us. As we walk with him in his way of love we know that we have no future apart from him, and therefore no future without love.
Jesus is Lord. As Lord, he has set us free from all the other powers that once were lords over us. Now we are truly free to live for Jesus as our Lord. And because he set us free at great cost to himself we are now moved to love him in response to his love. However, the Lord who is love does not simply move us to love, he also commands us to love. The One who loves us is our Lord. We live under his reign. He commands us as our Lord who now rules over us. And his command is that we love him by loving as he has loved us. And he has set us free to live and love his way. Love to our Lord is the only possibility that is open to us. We abide in his love keeping his command to love just as he kept his Father’s command to love abiding in his love
However, this Lord of love gives to us what he commands from us. He liberated us from the reign of sin freeing us for himself. And now, he carries on the good work he began in us. He gladly works in us what is pleasing to himself. We obey our Lord’s command to love knowing we are loved and that he is always for us as he lives in us. Therefore, we always cling to him finding rest for our souls in him. And, as we continue clinging to him, our experience is that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
When we look at Jesus, we see that God wants to be with us. He comes to us wanting to be with us as one of us. Jesus also shows us that God wants us to be with him responding to his love. Jesus gathered fellow humans simply to be with him. And he always wanted to know if they truly loved him. That’s what God always wants.
But how can we love him? Naturally, we are always turned in on ourselves if left to ourselves. It is impossible for us to respond freely to God’s love. However, by his Spirit, Jesus lives his own life of love in and through us. Each one can now say, “I no longer live but Christ lives in me.” God doesn’t give himself to us in love then say, now you must respond to my love out of yourselves. No! He takes us up into the fellowship that he has in himself. Through Jesus and by the Spirit, he moves towards us to create fellowship with us. And by his Spirit, through Jesus, he enables us to love in response to his love. We actually join in the fellowship of life and love that God is. In this way, God is with us in love and we are with God in love.
Within this fellowship, God has what he wants and he gives what he wants. Now we can say, there is no greater good outside of our fellowship that we still have to discover. There is no greater good arising out of our fellowship that is even better than the fellowship. In loving us into this fellowship God gives us everything.
The God of love wants to be ours and he wants us to be his. He wants us to belong together as we share in his communal life. God’s giving is always the giving of HIMSELF as he opens himself to us. And in opening himself to us he shares his own life with us-the life of love in communion. Thomas Torrance writes, “God has opened himself to us…and established an intimate two-way relation between himself and us and us and himself, making himself accessible to us and giving us entry into the inner fellowship of God’s own life”.
God has always lived in relationship. He has never been a solitary being; he has always lived as relationship. At the centre of the universe is not cosmic power or force, but rather relationship. The living God has always been the communion of three persons mutually indwelling one another in love. And the three have always wanted to include us within their own communion of joyful love.
God’s Spirit brings us into union with Jesus so that we actually share in this circle of love as Abba’s children. Within this communion, we now see that this is the very reason for our existence and for every other person who lives or has ever lived on this planet. There is nothing more for which we need to strive. For within this fellowship we are at rest enjoying the life for which we were created.
As dearly loved children, we are called to walk in love. We may think that we already know what love is. But do we really? Karl Barth tells us we can never know the real meaning of love from some chosen master-concept of love in general. We must rather turn our eyes on Jesus as the revelation of God’s love. For through Jesus, God opens himself to us showing his love for us and the kind of love he calls for in response. Therefore, when defining true love, we can only look at Jesus. Only he shows us what true love is.
How can we walk in such love? We cannot naturally love this way. Where does this love come from? In spite of our natural lack of love, we are met by Jesus in the Spirit. In that living encounter, Jesus comes to us as the one who loved us and gave himself for us. And, in that same encounter, the love of God is poured freely into our hearts by his Spirit. Now we know that we are deeply loved and called to walk in love as the Spirit of love works the love of God within us. We work out the love in our daily walk, but only as the God who is love works his own love within us. We must always remember that it is as dearly loved children that we are called to walk in love. And so we never turn our eyes on our own love, but only on the love that God is for us and in us
Through Jesus, God opens his own loving heart to us. He also pours his love into our hearts by his Spirit. Now we know for sure that we are deeply loved. Being loved by God we can, as it were, look into His heart. As we do so, we are aware that we only gaze into the loving heart of God through Jesus and by his Spirit. For God has opened his heart to us only in Jesus.
As we look into this loving heart, we see that God’s love for us moves in fullness towards us from the fountain of love that God is within himself. So we know for sure, that God is love in himself before his loving us, and without being forced to love us. Truly, we cannot say anything higher or better of the inner life of God than this: God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a communion of self-giving love.
We say all this only in the light of the outward expression of his love in Jesus. This love is demonstrated in all of Jesus’ encounters with others as the man for others. And ultimately in the cross where God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. God has no need to love us, and we have no claim upon His love. Nevertheless, he is simply the one who loves us.