So often Valentine’s Day and Lent fall in the same week, as they do this year. It almost seems like an oxymoron — should I enjoy my Valentine chocolates or get rid of them?
Here is what is most fascinating. The Reformers and the Puritans were opposed to the practice of Lent! Why? Because then (and sometimes today as well) it was seen as a means to earn favor with God through perpetual penitence, fasts, rituals, and indulgences. It went completely against the truth that had set them free. Rather than deeply refreshing their flock, Lent as observed then, and sometimes now, drained them dry. It was based on a lie, rather than the truth that sets us free.
So, we are going to view Christ through the lens of the Reformers and the Puritans and have a deeply refreshing lent. Subtract something from your life if it is going to give you more time to abide in the Vine, but don’t do it to gain His favor. You already have that!
Did you know that while today The Song of Songs is seen to be primarily a book to help you have a better marriage, that is not at all how the Reformers and Puritans saw it! They saw it as an expression of Christ’s deep and persistent love for them. They didn’t have any problem, as many do today, with God using marriage and the marriage bed to turn the light on to how deeply we are loved.
Do you know what verse helped Luther explain what he had come to believe (that we are saved by grace) to others? It was this one from The Song of Songs:
With the help of Michael Reeves (my favorite preacher, tying with Keller!) we are going to be deeply refreshed by learning what passages transformed men like Luther, Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Richard Sibbes and more. I will also be quoting from a new book based on the Puritans called Gentle and Lowly. I’d encourage you to get it, but it is optional for this study. Some of you will want it and have the time, others will want to just do the study. If you are in the latter group, you can skip the questions that refer to the book, but I will tell you it is a wonderful book.
There will be less Scripture to cover because I want you to marinate in it until God makes your heart tender with His love. The Puritans were known, as Dane Ortlund says, for taking “one verse and wringing it dry.” (Think Spurgeon!) I do not want Lent to be burdensome! There will be a sermon each week, but if you can concentrate while you walk or drive or multi-task, that’s fine! Then come back and jot down what stood out to you. However, I will tell you that Reeves is so animated, that when it is a video especially, you really may want to sit down and watch. This week’s introductory message is only 13 minutes, and many of you have already seen it because it’s my favorite sermon of all time. 🙂 Reeves graciously let me put it on our DVD that goes into prisons, for the women there need to know this truth so badly. Here it is, along with two other clips many of you have also already seen, but have truths we simply must marinate in!
Michael Reeves: Enjoying Christ Constantly
For those who want to download the homework for whatever reason, here it is. Some of our women are doing this with friends. Remind them to come here to do the opening and have access to videos and pictures.
You’ll need the following link for Wednesday and again Thursday for two different videos on that page.
- What stood out to you from the above and why?
Monday: Enjoying Christ Constantly
2. Listen to the message above from Michael Reeves and share your notes.
Tuesday: As A Bridegroom Rejoices Over His Bride
If you think the Puritans were rigid, and not given to the enjoyment of food, laughter, or the marriage bed, you’d be wrong. Even Yale, where Jonathan Edwards had a short presidency before his death, was reluctant to publish some of his “racy” sermons on The Song of Songs. I absolutely love it that the Reformers and the Puritans understood that the Song of Songs was not just about the earthly marriage bed, but about how Christ woos us, wins us, weds us, and yes, ravishes us! Oh, what our world has lost by pouring garbage on the marriage bed. The world, and many Christians as well, cannot even imagine how God might use marriage and the marriage bed, even though He created it, to convey how deeply He cherishes us as His Bride.
3. Isaiah 62:5 says “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” How does a bridegroom rejoice over his bride? Try to put yourself in the bridegoom’s shoes!
Watch the trailer for He Calls You Beautiful. You will see how profoundly Reeves impacted me!
4. How would you describe the main message of The Song of Songs with the help of the above? Any other comments?
Ash Wednesday: Death is The Destiny of Every Man
Ashes are put on the foreheads of many who observe Lent to remind them that from dust they came and from dust they will return. It is important to remember this so that we number our days and apply our hearts to wisdom.
5. Why does Ecclesiastes 7:2 tell us it is good to go into the house of mourning?
I am struck by the difference in tone between Ecclesiastes and The Song of Songs, both attributed to Solomon. In order to fully understand Ecclesiastes, you must realize that for most of the time the writer has blinders on, and views life only “under the sun.” He is like the secular man who does not look up because he doesn’t think anything is there! Solomon knows He is there and looks up occasionally, but even then, nothing of the deep love and grace of God is seen. Ecclesiastes has been called “the saddest song” in contrast to The Song of Songs, which has been called “the sweetest song,” for there we truly see the heart of Christ for His beloved.
6. Read the opening of each of these books, describe the tone of each, and then explain why you believe they are so different.
A. Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
B. Song of Songs 1:1-4
C. Why do you think the tone of these books is so different? What do you think God is communicating through this?
Thursday: How Jesus Sees His Own
The Song of Songs helps us understand just how tenderly Jesus sees us. The Shepherd/King keeps telling the Shulammite, despite her protestations, that she is altogether lovely, there is no flaw in her. He is gentle and oh so tender with her, the way an earthly bridegroom was meant to be with his bride.
7. Marinate in the following passages and ask God to help you believe this is how He sees you!
A. Songs of Songs 2:2
B. Song of Songs 2:10-13
8. Click on the following link again and scroll down to the 3rd video (I love Lucy) and watch. Share your thoughts.
Friday: Gentle and Lowly
In his book, Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund contends that many of us who know God loves us still “suspect we have deeply disappointed him.” But the Puritans knew the heart of Christ. Ortlund writes how Charles Spurgeon pointed out that there is only one passage in Scripture where Jesus describes his own heart.
9. Read Matthew 11:28-30.
A. What does Jesus tell us to do and why?
B. How does He describe His heart? Is this different than you sometimes think of Him?
C. What burden do you need to give Him right now — and leave with Him?
The word gentle is used three times in the New Testament. Translated “meek” in the meek will inherit the earth. “Humble” in that he came riding in on Palm Sunday on a donkey. “Gentle” as in Peter’s encouragement to wives to have a “gentle and quiet spirit,” the hidden person of the heart.
10, What does this tell you about Jesus’ heart toward you?
11. If you have the book, read the introduction and first chapter of Gentle and Lowly and share your
comments. (You can get the first few chapters for free on your Kindle from Amazon as a sample.)
12. What is your take-a-way this week — what do you believe God is saying to you for your life right now?