Part three of our series, "ADVENT REDUX," looking at Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy in the Psalms.
1. A) Reflect on your thought-life. On a normal day, from when you wake up to when you go to sleep, do you do more preaching to yourself or listening to your thoughts preaching to you?
B) What kind of things do you preach to yourself on a daily basis? What kinds of things does your mind, if left unchecked, preach to you throughout the day?
C) How does this self-preaching affect our heart and how we live or fail to live a life of praise?
2. A) What are the personal benefits you experience in relationship with God?
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. -Ps.103:2-5
B) What are the practical benefits you experience in relationship with God?
The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. -Ps.103:6-7
C) What are the pardoning benefits you experience in relationship with God?
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. -Ps.103:8-12
D) What are the paternal benefits you experience in relationship with God?
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. -Ps.103:13
3. A) Think about your own story of salvation or where you are with belief right now. How did God move toward you in pursuit of your heart?
B) How has God worked through the people and circumstances in your life to show you His love for you/your need for him?
C) Are there areas of our lives where we love with sentiment and words where action is needed? What stops us from taking action and loving in deed?
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. -Luke 19:10
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. -1 John 3:18
4. A) How does the world typically define and portray love?
B) How might we understand and live-out a version of love that is transactional?
C) In what way is God’s love different?
D) What does it mean that God “does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Ps.103:10)?
E) How does God’s self-giving love free us to love others in a way that is costly and sacrificial?
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. -Romans 5:7-8
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. -Psalm 103:8-10
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide… -John 15:12-13,16
5. A) How does God’s love through the finished work of Jesus satisfy the deepest longing in us for love?
B) What does it mean that we have every spiritual blessing in Christ?
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. -1 John 4:18
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. -Ephesians 1:3-6
6. A) What is the response of your heart when you dwell on these realities put forth in this Psalm?:
Bless the Lord...who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…So great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us…the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him. -Psalm 103:2-5, 11-12
B) What does it mean for you to respond by living a life of praise?
Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul! -Ps.103:20-22
For final reflection: Does my love for people reflect the type of love that God has graciously shown to me? When I look at my life, relationships, and how I use what I have, is it evident that there has been real transformation in my heart? Does my life show that I am truly born of God? In what ways do I walk like my heavenly Father? How does praise to the glory of the Lord for who He is and all He has done overflow from my heart into my life? What areas do I need to bring before Him in confession and repentance, and ask Him for help in loving others? Have I been looking to other things to satisfy the longing in my heart that only the love of God can satisfy? Who in my life needs to experience God’s love right now? How can I move toward them and tangibly love them with an active, self-giving love? Spend some time reflecting on the perfect love of God. Reflect on who he is, all of the ways he has poured out his love on you, even when you are not lovable. Reflect on his love for you displayed most clearly in the gospel and sending his Son who gave his life that you might live and know him. Let your heart be captivated and encouraged by the perfect love of our God.
A Puritan prayer from the Valley of Vision:
Give me to love thee, to embrace thee, though I once took lust and sin in my arms. Thou didst love me before I loved thee, an enemy, a sinner, a loathsome worm. Thou didst own me when I disclaimed myself; Thou dost love me as a son, and weep over me as over Jerusalem. Love brought thee from heaven to earth, from earth to the cross, from the cross to the grave. Love caused thee to be weary, hungry, tempted, scorned, scourged, buffeted, spat upon, crucified, and pierced. Love led thee to bow thy head in death. My salvation is the point where perfect created love and the most perfect uncreated love meet together; for thou dost welcome me, not like Joseph and his brothers, loving and sorrowing, but loving and rejoicing. This love is not intermittent, cold, changeable; it does not cease or abate for all my enmity. Holiness is a spark from thy love kindled to a flame in my heart by thy Spirit, and so it ever turns to the place from which it comes. Let me see thy love everywhere, not only in the cross, but in the fellowship of believers and in the world around me. When I feel the warmth of the sun may I praise thee who art the Sun of righteousness with healing power. When I feel the tender rain may I think of the gospel showers that water my soul. When I walk by the river side may I praise thee for that stream that makes the eternal city glad, and washes white my robes that I may have the right to the tree of life. Thy infinite love is a mystery of mysteries, and my eternal rest lies in the eternal enjoyment of it.