How do we view ourselves as our Faith in Jesus begins to rise?Taking an analogy with courtship (a concept not commonly used in these days, but the process of getting to know and becoming known by someone you would like to spend your life with), at first there may be a challenge (remember Pride and Prejudice, Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, and the sparks flying!) or may be curiosity, an attraction of a friendship nature, or respect or admiration or physical, which over time produces a desire to know them better. You may think better and better of this person as courtship gets underway, or after a time you may realise they are not what you thought, and the relationship diminishes and resolves back to just a friendship. How important it is to let love grow and flower. This has nothing to do with lust.
Once a courtship is underway and minds engage with speculation about where this might be going, romantic thought begin, even thoughts of engagement and marriage become factors as the depth of feeling, honour and respect grows. At just over 50 I recall meeting a lady who was something very special, and in the coming year or so I re-experienced all the fullness of deep, lovesick passion as we journey towards our decision to marry a little while later. What shocked me was the power of the depth of feelings of this kind of love! Wow! ‘Love sick’ is a good and accurate description of what I experience. By now all I wanted to do was be married to her, and to take this wonderful lady for my wife and come to know her in that special way reserved for those who are married.
I was also struck by the parallel of my life coming to faith in Jesus. I’d been an atheist since age 22 and came to faith at 47. It’s a bit of a shock to realise that as a follower of Jesus, I am part of what he describes as his Bride! Now those of you who are ladies will not have to much of a problem with this, but some of the guys may be struggling at this point. Putting those things which do not apply here to one side, the whole of Scripture is about a people created by God for his family, who went off and pursued other lovers, eventually realising that He is still desiring to woo us back to himself as a body which we call the church (not to be mistaken for on of those things on the corner of the street) The Church, is his Bride and that this is both a collective description and an individual description, but it only ever talks about people, not buildings. So as a guy I’m faced with getting used to the idea of my relationship with Jesus becoming so close and beloved that I can truly quote the song we all sing at Christmas time “Oh come let us (me) adore Him!” I have learned over the last 25 years since coming to faith that my love for him is still growing, I long to be with him, to be where he is. He even promises if I love him and obey him He and His Father will come and make their dwelling place within me! How close can a relationship be!
It’s also important to realise just how central the Biblical institution of marriage, Brides and Bridegrooms are to the whole message of the Bible! We should not tinker with the things of God, and get involved with redefining such pivotal words as marriage. It’s far too important a thing. I would even say a sacred thing.
So what’s all this about the Bride making herself ready?
I would like to give two groups of scriptures although there are hundreds to chose from, as this is what the Bible is all about from the beginning to the end. It’s the GREATEST LOVE STORY EVER TOLD! And you, all of you are the beloved! He loves you with an everlasting love. He writes poetry about you. He sings songs over you. He dances at the thought of you. You are the apple of His eye. He’s always so close to you, so great is his love for you. He will fight your cause. He will defend your back. His ever loving arms are beneath you and his banner over you is LOVE! All scripture.
Scripture 1 Ephesians 5 where it defines the role of a husband and at the same time using the same words to define Jesus’ role as the Bridegroom of The Church ( again not one of those building, but the people who love Him).
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – 30 for we are members of his body. 31 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ 32 This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33
Husbands are called to stand in the gap for their wives, to help them by loving them to become blameless, holy, without stain, blemish, or wrinkle. Husband; this is your duty to your wife, and love and sacrifice of self is your means of doing it. Does this sound familiar. It’s a bit like the story of Jesus’ pursuit of each one of us. Could it be the Bridegroom in pursuit of His Bride?
Scripture 2 Revelation 19 and 22
19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God.”
22:16 ‘I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.’ 17 The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
Can this be true? Jesus’ love for us is so great it is a parallel or the example he set us as human being of true marriage where the bridegroom gets the bride in the end. To God be the Glory. One day those who believe will swept up into Jesus’ arms of love and he will take us back to His place where we may even meet our Father though Jesus who gave his life that we might live.
So once again back to the opening statement ‘for the Bride has made herself ready’.
Jesus has done everything it is within his chosen right to do. He gave you free will and he respects that gift. The only thing that remains to be done for this amazing story to reach it’s climax, is the only think Jesus can not do. He can not make you love Him. He wants you to come to that decision in your own heart by your own free will, and that it be a decision rooted and grounded in truth of your love of him.
If you love him , you will obey him, and he will come and make his dwelling within you.
If you are like me, you are probably aware that there are some areas of how you think, things you do, and things you don’t do that are not right yet. These are the stains, blemishes, wrinkles and the like that Ephesians and Revelation talks about.
It is because of my love of Jesus that I do not want to come to him with stains and blemishes on my wedding gown. I need to be cleaning up my act. Making myself ready to the best of my ability and will, because of my love for the Bridegroom. I also need to know that no mater how well I do, I will still need the robes he has sent me, the robes of His righteousness he gave me to wear when I gave my life to him. All of us are in the part of our existence when we can chose Him or not! If we chose Him, we need to get to KNOW him and his ways. Remember ‘O come let us adore Him’. When I meet him at that wedding feast of the Lamb, I would like to be the best I can be for him.
Let’s get ready. He is coming back for us, he promised, and soon.
Then as he prayed on the night before he died recoded by John in chapter 17 of the Gospel.
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.
May God bless you and keep you.