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Love Is

s I x

L e s s o n s

o n

W h at

Love

L o oks

L I k e

Jenna lucado Bishop

Love Is s I x L e s s o n s o n W h

© 2013 by Jenna Lucado Bishop

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® , NIV ® . Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc. TM Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com

Scripture quotations marked msg are taken from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.

© 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. All

rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked nasb are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ® , © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked nlt are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation.

© 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189.

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4016-7856-2 ISBN: 978-1-4016-7857-9 (ebook)

13 14 15 16 17 QG 5 4 3 2 1

1 WWEEKEEK PP DDayay 1—Love1—Love Is:Is: AA SomeoneSomeone Eric was my first love. Yes, Eric.
1
WWEEKEEK
PP DDayay 1—Love1—Love Is:Is: AA SomeoneSomeone
Eric was my first love.
Yes, Eric. Just Eric.
Don’t ask me what his last name was. I didn’t know then, and I don’t
know now. But were last names important as a kindergartner? Abso-
lutely not! The only requirements I had to fall in love as a five year old
were the following:
He had to be cute.
He had to be nice.
Oh, and if he gave me presents, like a cherry Ring Pop, that meant
he was really “the one” for.ev.er. (Or at least until recess was over.)
Eric was cute. Check.
Eric was nice. Check.
Did he give me ring pops? No. Which leads me to the problems
with this first love of mine.
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You see, Eric was a prince. And though my plastic, pink, princess

crown my mom bought me at Toys-R-Us qualified me as royalty in my little mind, Eric’s royal status was of a different level.

On top of the prince thing getting in the way, Eric was

well

a cartoon. That was somewhat of a hurdle in our relationship. And the

icing on the cake? He was taken by my favorite Disney princess (and best friend), Ariel. So prince, plus cartoon, plus dating my BF, equaled unrequited love.

DDefinitionefinition ofof UnrequitedUnrequited A cccordingcording ttoo MMerriamerriam WWebster’sebster’s
DDefinitionefinition ofof UnrequitedUnrequited
A cccordingcording ttoo MMerriamerriam WWebster’sebster’s
ddictionary,ictionary, uunrequitednrequited mmeanseans ““notnot rrecipro-ecipro-
ccatedated oorr rreturnedeturned iinn kkind.”ind.” 1
1 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unrequited

What about you? Take a minute and write down whom your first “love” was. What qualities did he have that gave you the butterflies?

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Okay, maybe my love for Prince Eric wasn’t necessarily love as much as it was a five-year-old crush. So what does real love look like? In order to answer that question, we have to go to the book that defines true love. It’s not one of Shakespeare’s plays or a Jane Austen novel. No, the great- est book about love, the source on love, the definition of love is the Bible. Read 1 John 4:16 and 1 John 4:8. What are the similarities between these two verses?

Did you catch this: both verses contain the phrase “God is love”? If that were a math problem what would it look like? (You didn’t think math would ever be used in a Bible study, did ya?)

Did your answer look something like mine? God = Love. This equation means the more you know God, the more you will know not only what Love is but who Love is. Because God IS love. Okay, press pause on that thought, and now read John 14:9–10. Write down what Jesus was telling His followers, the disciples.

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Jesus was telling His followers that He and the Father (aka God) were one. So how can knowing this help our quest to find what real love is? Well, to know more about what love acts like, sounds like, lives like, we look at the life of Jesus. Going back to our mathematic equation, it would look something like this:

God = Love

God = Jesus

Jesus = Love

Love isn’t just a verb, a feeling, a choice, a phase, a noun. Love is a Someone. And this Someone loves you. Yes, Love loves you! In fact, He cannot help but love you because He IS love. Write down some initial characteristics, images or adjectives that come to mind when you hear the name Jesus (i.e., a man in sandals, gentle, miracles).

Did you happen to include the word love in your answer? I don’t know how you picture Jesus. I don’t know what your relation- ship with Him looks like. Maybe the concept of a relationship with Him

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sounds kind of weird, or maybe it’s a relationship you have known all your life. But for today and over the next handful of weeks we are going to spend together, I want you to learn to associate the word love immedi- ately with Jesus. That means when you are listening to a love song on the radio, think of Jesus. That means when you are watching a romantic chick-flick, think of Jesus. When you read the word love, hear the word love, sing the word love, express love, receive love, think of Jesus. Maybe you have heard that famous Sunday school song over and over: “Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so.” But do you know? Really know? No matter how old we become, we can never fully grasp the love God has for us. But does that mean we shouldn’t try? No! I’d rather spend my life discovering new treasures about God’s love than never going on the adventure. Let’s dive into God’s love deeper than ever before! The Bible is our map on this treasure hunt. We are going to get more acquainted with God’s Word and His love for us. So let’s continue looking closely at this “treasure map” by reading these famous verses below. Circle all the characteristics of love in the verses below.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4–8)

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Okay, now reread those verses and anytime you read the word love, or a pronoun representing love (the word it), cross it out and replace it with Jesus. The more we know Love as a Someone, the more we know about what love really is, how to love others, and how to see ourselves as loved. Let’s spend a moment talking to Love. Your prayer can look like mine if you’d like, or you might want to come up with your own. Regardless, just spend some time with Jesus asking Him to help you know what love is.

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J eesus,sus, tthankhank YYouou thatthat YYouou camecame toto earthearth ssoo tthathat wwee ccouldould

sseeee whatwhat truetrue lloveove reallyreally lookslooks like.like. HelpHelp usus learnlearn toto associateassociate

llove,ove, firstfirst andand foremost,foremost, withwith You,You, becausebecause YouYou areare Love.Love. ThankThank YYouou forfor lovingloving mme.e. WouldWould YYouou hholdold mmyy hhearteart aass II ddoo tthishis BBibleible sstudy?tudy? ShapeShape mmyy hheart,eart, mmoldold iitt ttoo llookook mmoreore aandnd mmoreore llikeike YYou.ou. II wwantant ttoo kknownow You,You, Jesus,Jesus, ssoo oopenpen mmyy hhearteart ttoo wwhathat YYouou wwantant ttoo showshow me.me. AndAnd maymay II bebe foreverforever changedchanged throughthrough thisthis jjourneyourney II’m’m aboutabout toto gogo onon toto learnlearn mmoreore aaboutbout YYourour llove.ove.

PP DDayay 2—Love2—Love IIs:s: TTie-Dyeie-Dye

I’ve confused the meaning of the word love, a lot in life. Beginning with that five-year-old little crush, bleeding into the way I treated my sisters, leaking over into my dramatic “friendships” in middle school, and run- ning into my high school dating life

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I haven’t loved others well, and I’ve settled for relationships with

those who don’t love me in return.

I can remember my first boyfriend saying the three little-in-size, yet

profound-in-meaning words I had dreamed of hearing my entire life, “I love you.” We were sitting in the Sonic parking lot, sophomores in high school, sipping on some slushies. “Really?” I thought. “This is when you are going to tell me the words I have dreamed of hearing my entire life?” To me, slushies and fast food don’t make for the most romantic setting. He was moving the very next day from my hometown of San Anto- nio, Texas, all the way to New Jersey. New Jersey! So I thought, “Well,

maybe I should say the words back. After all, he’s moving. I’d be a jerk if I didn’t say it in return. And I do really like him. Maybe it’s love.” So what do you think I did? Yep. I said it. “I love you too” came out of my mouth, and his face turned bright red. “Wow, he’s blushing!” I thought. Then I realized it. Nope. Just the reflection from the neon, glowing, red Sonic Drive-In sign.

I didn’t know what those words meant when I said them. Maybe you

can relate. You don’t know exactly what love should look like in a friend- ship, with family, or maybe even with a guy. Does the word love ever confuse you? If so, why do you think that word can be unclear? Write down your thoughts.

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I think love can be confusing because the world tosses out so many different definitions, examples, and advice about what it is. It’s like a tie-dye t-shirt. All of these opinions, pieces of advice, and beliefs swirl- ing around, bleeding into each other, leaving us dizzy and wondering, “What in the world is love?”

TToooo MManyany DDefinitionsefinitions ooff LLoveove

Merriam-Webster defines love as the following: 2

1. Love is strong affection for another arising out of kinship or per- sonal ties

2. attraction based on sexual desire: affection and tenderness felt by lovers

3. affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests

The famous definition, “Love is blind,” originated from the most historically renowned love author, William Shakespeare. The Beatles said love is all you need. Martin Luther King said, “Love is the only force capable of trans- forming an enemy into a friend.” 3 Now it’s your turn. Write your definition of love in the space below.

2 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/love

3 Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” in A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings (Boston: Beacon, 2012), 50.

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TToooo MManyany EExamplesxamples ooff LLoveove

Maybe it’s the influence of your parents or grandparents. Maybe it’s watching your friend navigate through her first dating relationship or seeing an older sibling struggle through a friendship. Maybe it’s all the romantic comedies you have watched or seeing a friend you look up to fight with her parents. The relationships you watch influence your definition of love. No matter how healthy or unhealthy they are, these relationships will leave a thumbprint on your heart. They have set an example. List some relationships you have watched (good and bad) that have influenced the way you see love.

TToooo MMuchuch AdviceAdvice aboutabout LoveLove

Our friends, our family, the television, magazines, books, doctors, Web

sites

“answers” to our questions about love. For me, growing up I typically turned to my friends for love advice. But what about you? Who or what has given you love advice, or who/what do you turn to for answers about love? (Again, this can be love in friendship, with fam- ily, a boy, whatever.)

no matter where we turn, different people or mediums hand us

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WWorldorld LoveLove VVersusersus GGodod LLoveove

There are love languages, love bugs, love letters, love novels, love poems, love spells, love handles. You can want love, fall in love, be in love, hate love, lose love, love love. If every definition, example, and piece of advice were a different color, we would have a tie-dye masterpiece. Thousands of colors swirling around, running into the other. What a confusing mess! Amidst the world’s messages about love, God’s message becomes faint. Compare and contrast the verses between the world and God. Write down the differences you see between them based on the verse provided.

SScripturecripture

CCharacteristicharacteristic

Proverbs 20:6

Man:

Psalm 130:7

God:

1 Peter 1:24–25

Man:

God:

1 Samuel 16:7

Man:

God:

Mark 7:21–23

Man:

1

Peter 2:22

God:

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Overall, what did you learn about the characteristics of man versus the characteristics of God?

What does this teach you about listening to the world’s messages about love versus listening to God’s message of love?

To know what real love is, we have to turn to Jesus. Does this mean we should never listen to other people to receive counsel on love? Well, you tell me. Read these verses and write down your thoughts.

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. (Prov. 19:20 NIV 2011)

The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps. (Prov. 14:15 NASB)

Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are con- sumed by their own lips. (Eccl. 10:12 NIV 2011)

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Listening to wise counsel is good, but remember that not all advice is wise. So what do we do? We filter the words of others through the Word of God. God’s words are always flawless (Prov. 30:5–6). So everything you hear about love, read about love, see about love should be filtered through what the Bible says about love. Jesus is our definition of love, our example of love, and our primary advice-giver on love. Will we still struggle with love and make wrong decisions in the name of love? Absolutely. And that’s okay. We will never have it all figured out. But thankfully we have a God who does. So let’s keep looking to Him. The Author of love. The Source of love. The Love above all loves. Jesus = Love. No confusing tie-dye about that.

PPrayray

Let’s close by thanking Jesus for being our guide on this love journey. Pray along with me, and then feel free to make your chat with Jesus more personal with a prayer of your own.

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J eesus,sus, lloveove cancan bebe soso confusing.confusing. FForgiveorgive mmee fforor llisteningistening ttoo tthehe wworld’sorld’s iideadea ooff lloveove mmoreore tthanhan YYourour iideadea ooff llove.ove. II wwantant ttoo llookook

ttoo YouYou forfor guidance,guidance, ssoo tthathat II ccanan lloveove oothersthers bbetter,etter, lloveove mmyselfyself bbetteretter aandnd lloveove YYouou mmore.ore. WWillill yyouou hhelpelp mme?e? WWillill YouYou showshow mmee thethe wwayay ttoo lloveove llikeike YYou?ou? PPleaselease mmakeake mmyy hhearteart mmoreore ssensi-ensi-

ttiveive toto wwhathat YYouou wwantant ttoo tteacheach meme aboutabout llove.ove. Amen.Amen.

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PP DDayay 3—Love3—Love IIs:s: AA Bull’s-EyeBull’s-Eye

I’ve misused it, misunderstood it, misrepresented it. Insert any word you can think of that starts with mis, and I’ve done it to love. How do I know I’ve messed up love? Because I’ve compared my heart to Jesus’ heart. Yesterday we said that we always use Jesus and His Word as our definer of love, example of love, and advice-giver on love. But we also need to look at Jesus as our standard of love. If I compare myself to His standard of love, this is what I find:

I’ve missed the love target. (There’s another mis word.) But I don’t think I’m the only one. In fact, I know I’m not the only

one.

We’ve all messed up love, all missed the love mark. Why? Well, sure, one of our answers could be what we learned yesterday. We mess up love because the world has confused its definition. But there’s a deeper answer. A three-little-letter answer that has caused a whole lot of problems. It is the problem. Sin. Our reaction to the word love is a little different from our reaction to the word sin, isn’t it? Love draws a smile. Sin draws a frown. Love is a common conver- sation topic, but I doubt you ever sit around with your friends and say, “Let’s talk about sin!” Love makes your stomach flutter. Sin makes your stomach sick. So why am I bringing up sin if this is a study on love? Because To understand how beautiful the love of Jesus is, we have to understand how ugly our sin is.

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To begin our chat about sin, I’m going to give you a simple defi ni- tion. But before I give you a definition, write down your own. What is sin?

Everyone typically has his or her own way of defining sin. So let’s look at a simple definition that will put us on the same page.

DDefinitionefinition ofof SinSin S iinn mmeanseans “to“to missmiss tthehe mmark.”ark.” Let’s say we’re
DDefinitionefinition ofof SinSin
S iinn mmeanseans “to“to missmiss tthehe mmark.”ark.”
Let’s say we’re looking at a target, and the bull’s-
eye represents acting rightly, then sinning is making
any decision outside of that red, round bull’s-eye. It’s a
choice to do anything outside of what God wants for us.
To give you some extra education, the New Testa-
ment of the Bible was originally written in Greek. The
writers of the New Testament used multiple Greek
words for sin, but the one they most frequently used
was hamartia, which means “missing the mark.” 4
4 Lehman Strauss, “The Doctrine of Sin,” http://bible.org/article/doctrine-sin.

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Let’s travel back in time. Farther back than your grandparents’ “good ’ole days,” farther back than Abraham Lincoln’s tall hat or Cleopatra’s gold bangles. Open up your Bible to the first page. That’s how far back we are going—to the very beginning. The creation of the world. In the first couple of pages of your Bible, we see the life God origi- nally made us for. We see Adam and Eve living in the Bull’s Eye—a perfect place, and an up-close-and-personal relationship with Perfect Love, with their Creator. Could you imagine? A place with no drama, no insecurity, no jealousy. Wow. Read Genesis 2:25. What does this verse mean to you?

When we know no shame, we know no sin. Shame is the result of sin. Adam and Eve knew a life without sin. They experienced the free- ing life God called us to live. So what happened? Well, if you know the story, Adam and Eve were enticed by the serpent—otherwise known as the enemy of God, the devil—to disobey God. Instead of living within God’s perfect love and perfect way of liv- ing, they chose to go outside of it. They chose to live for themselves over their Creator.

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The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting your- self first—wanting to be the centre—wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race.

—C. S. Lewis 5

You are welcome to read the story for yourself in Genesis 3. But for now, we will focus on the fact that Adam and Eve decided to dishonor God by doing what they wanted to do instead of what God asked them to do. They decided to go outside the bull’s-eye, to miss the mark. This sin separated them from being in a perfect relationship with a perfect God. Read Isaiah 59:2. What does this verse say sin does to God and His people?

We have all missed the mark, stepping outside God’s plan for us. This means we all have a gap between us and God, a separation between us and Perfect Love. Read Romans 3:23. Based on this verse, who has sinned? Who has fallen short?

5 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2000), 64-65.

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So because we have sinned, we have tainted love.

The heart is deceitful above all things. (Jer. 17:9)

As humans, we don’t have the capability to love purely, because love comes from the heart, and what are our hearts like? Well, as we see in Jeremiah, our hearts have sin in them. They are messy. Full of junk. And because of that, the way we love can be pretty messy too. That’s why we have misused love, misinterpreted love, misunderstood love, missed the mark on love. That’s why our idea of love is so messed up. He said he “loved” you, but then he abused you. They said they “loved” you, but then they excluded you. Dad said he “loved” you, but then he left you. Mom said she “loved” you, but then she hurt you. I know this isn’t fun, but write down a time when you were hurt by someone you thought loved you:

Okay, to continue with the “not fun” activity, write down times when you have hurt others that you loved:

Remember: we have all sinned. I know it’s unfair that he hurt you, or she betrayed you. But our hearts are all messy. It’s in our nature.

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We have all fallen from God and are separated from God. We are all outside of the bull’s-eye. If God is love, and we have separated ourselves from Him, then that means we have separated ourselves from true love. So what do we do? If sin separates us from God, how can we step back into a relation- ship with Him, like Adam and Eve had in the garden? How can we step back inside the bull’s-eye, where we live inside perfect love? Is it even possible? We will answer those questions tomorrow. But for now, let’s talk to God and tell Him how sorry we are about the sin in our lives and the way we have missed the mark on His idea of love. I will start the prayer, and then spend some time getting personal with God about the sin in your heart. Remember, He loves you. He already sees your heart. So don’t be afraid to share it with Him.

PPrayray

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ttoo do.do. II havehave mademade poorpoor choices,choices, hhurtingurting oothersthers iinsteadnstead ooff llovingoving tthem.hem. II hhaveave eevenven bbeeneen uunkindnkind toto myself.myself. Lord,Lord, thoughthough tthishis iiss aa llittleittle uuncomfortablencomfortable fforor mme,e, wwillill YYouou sshowhow mmee ssomeome ssinin iissuesssues tthathat II havehave inin mymy heartheart thatthat areare keepingkeeping mmee ffromrom llovingoving oothers,thers, mmyselfyself oorr YYouou mmore?ore? ((AskAsk GGodod toto rrevealeveal thethe sinsin inin youryour heart.heart. ItIt mmayay bbee llackack ooff fforgiveness,orgiveness, aa ppatienceatience pproblem,roblem, aa ggossipingossiping ttongueongue oorr ddisrespectisrespect

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ttowardsowards aauthorityuthority

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PP DDayay 4—Love4—Love Is:Is: TheThe CCrossross

I’ve stared at a blank page for an hour now, asking God how in the world I’m supposed to open up the lesson for today. How do I begin to express my thoughts about the story that split our calendar, the story that redeemed humanity, the story that bridged the eternal separation that sin caused, the story that brought man into the presence of Perfect Love again, back into the bull’s-eye—the story of Christ’s death on the cross? And so I’ve decided that no illustration, no gimmick, no story, no joke is necessary. Anything I add will only take away. The cross stands alone. Let’s just read it. John 19. Go for it. What you just read? Yeah, that’s love. The greatest love story ever told. It far outweighs the famous love of Queen Victoria for her husband Albert. Do you know that love story? For twenty-one years, Queen Victoria of England was married to the love of her life, Prince Albert. They had nine children. He died tragically of typhoid fever, and Queen Victoria never stopped mourning. The rest of her forty-year life she wore black signifying her devotion to him. She traveled with his portrait wherever she went so that she could wake up to his face. 6

6 “Berkshire’s Greatest Royal Love Story,” http://www.bbc.co.uk/berkshire/content/

articles/2009/02/09/queen_victoria_albert_windsor_feature.shtml.

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Wow. That is faithfulness. But when comparing it to the love of

Jesus for us, it is like a lightening bug to the sun. Nothing can outshine His love for you. The greatest demonstration of love was not Juliette drinking the vile of poison to die beside Romeo. The greatest demonstration of love is not

a Disney fairytale, a Nicolas Sparks romance, or even the day you say “I do.”

No, the greatest demonstration of love happened on a Friday afternoon two thousand years ago on a hill outside of Jerusalem called Golgatha.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)

Why did it have to happen? Why did Jesus have to die? Write down your initial thoughts, and I’ll chime in below.

In our last lesson, we talked about how our sin separates us from

a holy, good God. And not only does our sin separate us from God, it

deserves a penalty. Read Romans 6:23. What does this verse say is our penalty for sin? Write your answer in the blank:

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Does this death penalty seem harsh to you? Be honest in your answer below.

There was a time when I thought God was a mean God. Why would He give such a steep punishment for sin? Death? Really? But the more I learned about the heart of God—the more I learned about His love for me—the more I understood the penalty of sin. Let’s look at three discoveries that shed light on why God has to punish sin.

1. A just and fair God must be just and fair.

a. If a murderer stood before a judge, and the judge released him on account of “love.” Is that real love? I don’t believe it is. True love is fair. If a parent allows a child’s disobedience to go unpunished, is that true “love”?

b. “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deut. 32:4).

2. He desires that all men be saved.

a. God is just in nature, but that doesn’t mean He desires punish- ment to fall on us.

b. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine).

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DDefinitionefinition ofof RepentanceRepentance R eepentancepentance iiss wwhenhen ssomeoneomeone ffeelseels
DDefinitionefinition ofof RepentanceRepentance
R eepentancepentance iiss wwhenhen ssomeoneomeone ffeelseels
rremorseemorse forfor sinsin andand thereforetherefore ddecidesecides toto
cchangehange hhisis oorr hherer llifestyleifestyle ttoo ffollowollow GGod.od.

3. He, in His merciful sovereignty, has made a way out.

a. From the beginning of time God has been fair to judge evil. And from the beginning of time He has offered mercy to those who seek Him. There has always been and will always be a way out from our death sentence.

b. What is that way out? Let’s talk about it more.

Instead of penalizing us for the sin in our hearts, God, out of His love for us, sent Jesus, His one and only Son, to take on the punishment for us. The famous words of John 3:16 are famous for a reason:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” (emphasis mine)

Put a heart around that word love. The cross shows us the perfect example of love. So why did Jesus have to die? Because on the cross, Jesus took on the punishment of every sin ever committed, so that we would not have to. That means that through Jesus there is a way out of being eternally separated from God and a way into His presence. Through Jesus there is a way out of receiving the wrath of God and a

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way into His forgiveness. Through Jesus, there is a way out of death and into eternal life. Jesus made a way. This is love. Tomorrow we will chat more about the gift of the cross. But for now, let’s pause and thank Jesus for taking our place. Spend some time with Love, expressing your gratitude.

PPrayray

For your prayer time, use the words of 1 John 4:10 (below), and say them out loud. I’ve replaced any of the second person pronouns to first person pronouns in order to personalize the verse. (Remember that from Eng- lish class?) Focus on it. Sit on it. God loves you so much.

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T hhisis isis llove:ove: nnotot tthathat II llovedoved God,God, butbut tthathat hhee llovedoved MEME andand ssentent hhisis SSonon aass aann aatoningtoning ssacrificeacrifice fforor MMYY ssins.ins.

PP DDayay 5—Love5—Love Is:Is: AliveAlive

Mary Magdalene. We don’t know much about her. The Bible doesn’t give many details. But we know a few things. She was demon-possessed. Jesus healed her of her demons. She was a follower of Jesus. She financially contributed to Jesus’ ministry.

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And she was the first person to see the empty tomb and the risen Savior. Read what she saw in Matthew 28:1–10. List some major events that take place in these ten verses.

Mary knew sin. I don’t know what her life looked like before Jesus, but we know it was dark. She was a prisoner to her own body taken over by demonic powers. We get a glimpse of her life after meeting Jesus. It’s a life healed and transformed by Jesus. It’s a life so committed to Him that she was the first to His gravesite that early Sunday morning. And it’s a life that physically witnessed the hope that Love is not dead. He’s alive. We will look at our girl Mary Magdalene a little more in depth later on in our Bible study, but for now I want us to focus on what she saw that early Sunday morning—a Love no longer dead, but alive.

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PPromisesromises ofof thethe ResurrectionResurrection

Because Jesus rose from the dead, you and I have two primary promises we can count on.

PPromiseromise ##1—A1—A fforeverorever rrelationshipelationship wwithith GodGod inin heavenheaven

Read Philippians 3:20–21 and write down what this verse says our prom- ise is because of the resurrection.

Through Jesus’ victory over death, we also receive victory over death! Through Love’s sacrifice and resurrection, when someone asks you what your address is, you can say, “Heaven, baby! I’m a citizen of heaven!” (Okay. That’s cheesy. You don’t have to say that.) How can you be assured of this gift? Well, let’s read the rest of John 3:16, which we started yesterday.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Underline the word believes. Belief, or faith, is the answer. Faith in Jesus and what He did on the cross. Faith in His resurrection. It is by faith and through God’s grace that we receive the promise of eternal life, an eternal relationship with Perfect Love. And it is through this faith that we also receive the second primary promise of the resurrection

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PPromiseromise ##2—A2—A rrelationshipelationship wwithith PPerfecterfect LLoveove rrightight NNOW,OW, herehere onon eearth.arth.

Check out this verse below and write down its promise in your own words.

I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. (Ezekiel 36:26–27 MSG)

When we put our faith in Jesus, we hand him our nasty, sinful heart, and He gives us a new heart—a clean heart, forgiven by the cross. And this new heart desires to live like Jesus, make decisions like Jesus, love like Jesus. And it is in this new heart that Jesus, Himself, dwells. Like we just read in Ezekiel 36, Jesus, by His Spirit (otherwise known as the Holy Spirit), moves inside of us, helping us live and love like He does. This means we have an up-close-and-personal God living in us, talking to us, listening to us. It’s the sweetest love relationship you will ever know. And as you get to know this roommate of your heart, living inside of you, you slowly start to look more and more like Him. Have you ever had a close friend rub off on you? You start to dress like her, say things at the same time, even laugh alike. Similarly, the more you spend time with Jesus, the more you allow Him to influence you. You begin to talk like Him, think like Him, act like Him, even love like Him.

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This is important, so read these words carefully: if you have never put your faith in Jesus, then you do not have the capability of loving as you were created to love. And, more importantly, you are not living in the big promises we are talking about today—the promise of the best relationship you will ever know, now and forever. So, this is the time to tell Jesus you trust in Him. If you have already done this, let’s do it again to remember its impor- tance. The proclamation never gets old. It’s a reminder of who we are and who we live for. I’m going to do it with you. It’s a good reminder for me as well. Let’s talk to God together.

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J eesus,sus, II’m’m ssorry.orry. II’m’m ssorryorry fforor mmyy ssin.in. AAndnd II tthankhank YYouou fforor tthehe promisepromise ooff fforgivenessorgiveness bbecauseecause ooff tthehe ccross.ross.

RRightight nownow II wantwant toto proclaimproclaim tthathat II bbelieveelieve iinn YYou.ou. II believebelieve tthathat YYouou aarere tthehe SSonon ooff GGod,od, tthathat YYouou ddiedied oonn tthehe ccrossross toto taketake onon allall mymy sin,sin, andand thatthat YouYou defeateddefeated tthehe ggraverave ssoo tthathat thosethose sinssins couldcould bebe forgiven.forgiven. SoSo thatthat II couldcould havehave thethe promisepromise ooff aann eeternalternal rrelationshipelationship withwith YouYou inin heavenheaven aandnd aa rrelationshipelationship iinn wwhichhich YouYou livelive insideinside mmee hhereere oonn eearth.arth.

PPleaselease ggiveive meme aa newnew heart.heart. LiveLive inin me.me. II wantwant toto followfollow YYou,ou, bbutut II rrealizeealize II can’tcan’t dodo thatthat alone.alone. It’sIt’s onlyonly throughthrough YourYour SSpiritpirit iinsidenside ooff mmee tthathat II ccanan lloveove tthehe wwayay II wwasas ddesignedesigned ttoo llove.ove. TThankhank YYouou fforor llovingoving mme.e. HHelpelp meme growgrow inin thisthis rrelation-elation- sshiphip wwithith YYou.ou. II wwantant ttoo kknownow YouYou moremore andand YourYour lovelove more.more. AAmen.men.

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Once you have told God you believe in Him, you can know without

a doubt that you have the promise of heaven and a relationship with true Love. If Jesus is love And Jesus is alive in you Then you have perfect love alive inside of you!

Wait

I think you need to read that again. This is a big deal.

Don’t glaze over it. The Creator of Love lives in you! This means you can, by Him who lives in you, love anyone! Even that really annoying creeper friend who won’t ever leave you alone. You can even learn (and this may sound impossible to you) to love yourself. Why? Because you have supernatural love power inside of you. It’s not you loving; it’s Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). What good news! What a promise! So let’s learn more about this Love alive inside of us by looking at Jesus. The next five weeks are all about discovering how Jesus loved others by looking at the interactions and relationships He had while on earth. By the end of this book, my prayer is that we will get to know this indwelling Jesus more and more, know that we are loved by Jesus, and know how to love like Jesus.

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PPrayray

So let’s thank God for His promises and ask Him to prepare our hearts for the lessons to come.

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J eesus,sus, thankthank YouYou forfor defeatingdefeating tthehe ggrave!rave! BBecauseecause ooff YYourour

vvictory,ictory, mmyy ssinin iiss cconquered,onquered, II aamm fforgiven,orgiven, II hhaveave aa nnewew hhearteart

aandnd II cancan bebe inin relationshiprelationship withwith YouYou herehere onon earthearth andand foreverforever iinn hheaven.eaven. JJesus,esus, II wwantant ttoo kknownow YYouou mmore.ore. DDrawraw mmee ccloserloser ttoo YYou.ou. DDeepeneepen mmyy rrelationshipelationship withwith You.You. II askask thatthat youyou wouldwould ppreparerepare mmyy hhearteart fforor tthehe llessonsessons aaboutbout lloveove ttoo ccome.ome. AAndnd II aasksk tthathat tthesehese llessonsessons wwouldould hhelpelp mmee kknownow YYouou aandnd YYourour lloveove iinn aa wwayay thatthat changeschanges mme.e. Amen.Amen.

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