Sunday, September 27, 2015

Glorifying of the adopting grace

Photo from Living Grace Fellowship
I'm still thinking about Ephesians 1:4-6.  

God loves all humanity so much that He made us the focus of His love.  God loves me so much that I am the focus of His love.

What affect does, or should, that have on me?

I read a compelling post on this very topic by John Piper over at Desiring God. I want to look at 3 quotes from that post here:

"I think, if you said to the average American student that “being loved” is not an experience that terminates on you, they would look at you with perplexity and wonder: Where else would it terminate? I’m the one being loved. How could it not finally be about me? That’s why it feels so good — someone finally took notice of me. Cared for me. Valued me. And that sense is so strong and so natural and so obvious to most people that the thought that there might be a better way to be loved, a more satisfying way to be loved, a stronger way, is simply inconceivable."

"God loved us in eternity before we were created, and he planned to make us his children by adoption. And the aim of this love was “the praise of the glory of his grace.” He loved us this way that we might praise his grace. The ultimate aim of our adoption is the glorifying of adopting grace. A regenerate person loves to praise God’s grace in our adoption. A nominal Christian simply loves the natural benefits of adoption."

"The final decisive question is: Why does God, who loves us so much, and who makes much of us so extremely, remind us again and again that he does all this for his own glory? Why does God remind us over and over that he makes much of us in a way that is designed ultimately to make much of him?
The answer is this: Loving us this way is a greater love. God’s love for us, that makes much of us for his glory, is a greater love than if he ended by making us our greatest treasure, rather than himself. Making himself our end is a greater love than making us his end. The reason this is greater love is that self, no matter how glorified by God (Romans 8:30), will never satisfy a heart that is made for God. God loves you infinitely. He sent his Son to die that he might have you, and that you might have him (1 Peter 3:18). He will not let you settle for wonderful and happy thoughts of self. Not even a saved, glorified self. He will not let your glory, which he himself creates and delights in, replace his glory as your supreme treasure. That would not be love."

2 Corinthians 5:14 notes that: For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. (NIV)

Roy Allen notes that this word compel "means to powerfully urge along a line of conduct. Force is not involved, but some impulse is so great that it evokes a strong intellectual and emotional inclination to respond appropriately. In this case, the impulse is the love of Christ, which is so immense that it demands a response as complete and radical as His love for us."

So, what does a complete and radical response to this great love look like?

 Matthew 22:34-40 records when a lawyer asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment and was told that the first is for us to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is for us to love our neighbor like ourselves.

Jason Rouchie makes the point that "From the heart “flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23), and without one’s will, desires, passions, affections, perceptions, and thoughts rightly aligned, the life of love is impossible"

How do I align my will, desires, passions, affections, perceptions, and thoughts?

The only way I know if through prayer, reading the Word, and gratitude. By taking time each day to bare my heart before the Lord, to be quiet, and lean in to Him.  By reading His Word and thinking about it.  When I watch a movie, scenes from it will play over in my mind.  When I become entrenched in the Word, it changes the way I think.  Living a life a gratitude causes me to look at things differently.  Gratitude causes me to be on the look out for ways God is blessing me each day and to express my appreciation.

Loving people rides on the heels of loving God because God loves people.

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 tell me that I am to have a ministry of reconciliation.  To reconcile means to win over to friendliness, to bring into agreement or harmony, to restore.  

I adore the way Peterson paraphrases some of the word in Philippians 4:4-5 by saying that we're to Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.

These are the kinds of activities my life should be about. As I'm thinking of this some very specific life situations come to my mind:
  • My medical director at work who's always trying to pull me into his alliances against other doctors or my DON.  I need to stop speaking poorly about him.  I need to speak words to him of ways we can work together.
  • I need to not get upset at my husband when he does little things that I find irritating.  I need to pray for God's strength in me to over look offenses and work to be strongly united.
  • I need to seek to work together with my DON at work and leave the many problems with her integrity, manipulations and lying to God.
  • I need to ask the Holy Spirit to make me aware of when I'm getting an attitude toward people or looking down on them. To quicken a desire in me to want everyone's good.
Oh Father, help me be completely Yours.  May my will, desire, passions, affections, perceptions and thoughts be rightly aligned.  Oh Father produce in me the fruit of self discipline.  Help me be able to get up earlier each day so I can spend more than 5 minutes with You.  Help my heart to be stayed on You all day long.  Give me Your love for others.  Give me Your grace that I will get into work together with people instead of alliances against them.  Help me never to enter into the sin of other people but always to love them and show them that I am on their side as a human being.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What does it mean to be the focus of His love?

Photo from Raynie Peavy
I'm still looking at Ephesians 1:3-14.

Today what stands out to me is best represented verses 4-6. I read these verses in 5 different versions, but the way Peterson paraphrases it in The Message delights me most:

Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

God really loves humanity, and me too.

My head knows this but it doesn't really reach my heart every day in every way.  I'm fascinated by the fact that later in this letter Paul prays that the Ephesians would be able to comprehend and experience God's love:

Ephesians 3:17B-18 (NIV)
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

Paul obviously thinks it is important that we grasp the immensity of God's love for us.

Why is that? 

Joyce Meyers in an article over at the Christian Post voiced my thoughts on this issue with these words:

"many people don't really know how much He loves them, because if they did, they would act a lot differently than they do"

Somehow I know, deep down in my spirit, that it is understanding God's love in an experiential way that will change the way I live.  I don't think that guilt, fear, or shame will do it.  Only love.
Just last week our pastor spoke about "cheap grace".  He emphasized how God loves us so much and we can not cheapen his love by living in sin.  The pastor was talking about people who accept Christ just to avoid hell and then live as they want. I think part of the problem is the whole hell thing.  I believe that our church has it all wrong.  I don't believe this God Who loves us so much just cuts us off the moment we die and shuts the gates of heaven.  I believe that His love is so great that the gates of heaven are always open.  If we reject him here in this life, then when we're separated from Him after death. But we're still able to come to Him.  That love is so great that the need to focus on being good is gone.
Proverbs 23:7 says that as we think in our hearts so we are.  I believe that when I truly know I am loved, then I will experience the freedom from the bondage of sin.  My response to this great love of God's for me will be to more than gladly live my life as He wants.  My response will be to reach out and seek His Holy Spirit's power within me to change me and give me power over temptation and sin.

Brennan Manning, in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, shares this account:

"Over a hundred years ago in the Deep South, a phrase so common in our Christian culture today, born again, was seldom or never used. Rather, the phrase used to describe the break though into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ was "I was seized by the power of a great affection". These words described both the initiative of God and explosion within the heart when Jesus, instead of being a face on a holy card with long hair and a robe with many folds, became real, alive and Lord of one's personal and professional life."
I adore that phrase Seized by the power of a great affection. 
May I be seized by the power of His great affection, His love, for me. 
Oh heavenly father, thank You. May Your Holy Spirit in me increase my understanding and experience of Your love for me.  May I be seized by Your great love for me.  May this love change the way I live.  May I be ever constantly shedding selfishness and self centered-ness.  May I see other people as You do.  May my actions toward everyone in my day be those of love.


Monday, September 7, 2015

The mystery of the church

Photo from A God-Man in Christ
Ephesians 1:3-14 has many themes.

Today I'm looking at this mystery referred to verse 9 (NIV):

 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,

There are two main aspects to this mystery that I see.

The first aspect of the mystery is that God allows everyone to be part of His churchJohn Mac Arthur explains this part of the mystery this way:  

"In Ephesians 3:3 Paul expresses a key thought relative to the church, "By revelation he [God] made known to me the mystery" The mystery 'in other ages was not make known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" (v.5). Verse 6 identifies the mystery: "That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, the partakers of his promie in Christ by the gospel." A mystery in the biblical sense is something that had been hidden in the past but is now revealed in the New Testament. the book of Ephesians presents the mystery of the church. The hidden secret of the past (v.5), revealed to Paul in the present (v.3), was that jew and Gentile alike would be one in Christ's body - the church."

 Throughout the Old Testament we see the nation of Israel as God's people. In Genesis 13:1-3 we see that Abraham encountered God who promised Abraham that He would make a great nation from him. Then we read in Exodus 6:6-8 about how God considered the Israelites to be His people and delivered them from Pharaoh in Egypt. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament we see Israel turning from God, and God loving them and bringing them back to Himself.  In the New Testament we have the writers revealing that this great God doesn't only love Israel, but He also loves everyone else.

Ephesians 1:10 says (JKJV):

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

These verses tell me that God is going to gather all things together in Christ.  Andrew Womack presents the common Evangelical thought on this verse:

"The thought is that God is bringing everything together under the headship or Lordship of Jesus. That has always been God’s purpose and plan, and it will be accomplished. Those who do not make Jesus Christ preeminent and Lord over their lives are entirely out of focus with the eternal purpose of God."

But I question this because the text says ALL things.  It does not say only those who make Jesus Lord. To me it seems that these verses are saying that God always had a plan for humanity to be His. That there will be a time to come when God will get what He wants and ALL  things will be gathered to Him.

Ephesians 1:12 says (KJV):

That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

A second aspect of this mystery is that the church will be to the praise and glory of God.  Ephesians has this theme throughout the book.  In Ephesians 2:6-7 we see it again (NIV):

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

So the church, those who first trusted in Christ, will be to His praise and glory and used to show His grace. Who will the church show God's glory and grace to? 

This is such a big question that I'm going to save that as a separate study.

What does the mystery of the church mean to me?

Right away two things come to mind:
  • Since Christ died for everyone, then everyone is important. If God sees everyone as important, than I need to as well.
  • Since the Church is to show God's glory, grace, and kindness, then I need to live in such a way that my life shows these things.

Oh Heavenly Father, help me see people the way You do.  Help me be aware of how my actions affect others. May Your Holy Spirit in me cause me to be more considerate of my husband and not think it's OK to be a little selfish or rude since we live together in daily life.  Help me to notice the people at the store, or gas station, or where ever else I go and see ways I can practice Your grace and kindness. Help me to go through my day at work completing those tasks that I need to complete, but also help me to really see people and treat them as important.  Holy Spirit please convict me when I'm getting it wrong.  Please send people in my life to help me see when I'm not making people important or showing your glory, grace, and kindness.  Please send people in my life who do this really well that I can learn from. May I show Your glory, grace, and kindness in my life.