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$185 AUD ($185 USD), 77 cm x 56.5 cm (30.5″ x 22″), Pen and Ink on Watercolor Paper, Prints Available
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:29-39)
The story of Christ and his Bride (Ephesians 5:22-32) is a love story that takes place throughout eternity.
This love story began when God elected us believers before the foundation of the world to be his very own (2 Timothy 1:8-12; Revelation 17:8; Romans 8:29-30).
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves…In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12)
This love story continued through Calvary, when Jesus demonstrated the fullness of his love for us.
“Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” (John 13:1)
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
Each of us can remember the day in this love story when he washed our sins away and betrothed us to himself as his Bride:
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)
“...when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.” (Ezekiel 16:8)
Just as Jesus suffered on account of his love for us in this love story, so we also continue the love story today by suffering on account of our love for him.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me…Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:9, 12-13
This love story will finally be consummated when we are spiritually wed to him in heaven…but it will never end…
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”‘ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.'” (Revelation 19:6-9).
Scripture says that love is not self-seeking and that it suffers long (1 Corinthinans 13:4-5). To the measure one is willing to suffer for a loved one’s sake demonstrates the depth, strength and quality of such love. To die for a Beloved is to show the fullest extent of love possible (John 15:13).
Jesus warned his Bride that suffering on account of our love for him would be an intrinsic part of our experience here on earth.
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him…” (Philippians 1:29)
“But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (2 Peter 2:20-21)
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
So long as we tread this earth, unbelievers will not and can not understand our love story with Jesus. Because of their hardened, sinful hearts, they will respond to it by fighting against us and even seeking to destroy us (1 John 3:12-14). Jesus warned us of this very thing:
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last…If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you.” (John 15:18-16:3).
Jesus said all this so that we would not go astray (John 16:1), for our love and fidelity to him are tested whenever we suffer. Oftentimes when we endure suffering from evil men, we must also undergo an additional test, for the devil usually accompanies their assaults on us.
One of the greatest deceptions of the enemy is to trick us into thinking our suffering has come because God does not love us anymore and that he has abandoned us in the midst of it (but see Hebrews 13:5-6, Romans 8:28-39). The devil taunts us by saying, “If God were really loving, then he wouldn’t make you suffer like this”. But the unchangeable fact is (James 1:17, Malachi 3:16), God is loving (1 John 4:16, Exodus 34:6-7), and all his ways toward us are loving and faithful (Psalm 25:10).
Furthermore, we must remember that he himself chose to suffer on account of love’s sake. He could have chosen a pain-free plan of salvation that cost him nothing, but he did not. For love’s sake, he chose to allow and endure excruciating torture and death for us. Will we continue to love him through our own suffering also?
Just as deep darkness amplifies the brightness of light, is it possible that God allowed the immensity of his suffering to amplify the greatness of his love for us (Romans 5:6-11)? Are we also given the opportunity, in the deep darkness of our own suffering, to let it amplify the brightness of our love for him all the more? Could God actually be turning darkness against itself by using it to amplify his own glory, love and goodness?
“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (Ephesians 6:24)
As we keep God’s love in the forefront of our minds (especially in context of his own suffering and death), it powerfully strengthens our hearts to endure suffering for his sake. We also rest in his embrace, for we know that none of our sufferings can separate us from his love (Romans 8:35-39). May God keep us faithful to him through all our sufferings.
“The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.” (Hebrews 13:11-15)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
On the timeline of eternity, the length of our lives here on earth are hardly measurable. All the suffering, pain and death we must endure here on earth is only for a moment and will soon be done away with (Revelation 21:1-5). How small our suffering is in comparison to the greatness of God’s eternal love for us! What a small duration it lasts in comparison to the length of this eternal love story! The various events, circumstances and problems of our lives, which seem so all-consuming to us now, are in reality, small and irrelevant compared to the grandeur of this eternal love story.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
My drawing features the love story between Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride, who is clothed in a Jewish wedding dress. Though our love story with Jesus endures throughout eternity, I have chosen to illustrate it at the particular point in time where it occurs in this world of suffering. The world behind them symbolizes that point in time. The world also represents believers from all over the earth who make up Christ’s Bride, who are suffering on account of his name.
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10)
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4:12-16)
(See also “The Fellowship of Sharing in Christ’s Sufferings” (Believer’s Road Series); “The Martyr” (John the Baptist Artworks Series), “Follow Me” (John the Baptist Artworks Series) and “The Overcoming Love of God (Love Your Enemies)” (Believer’s Road Series 2)).