|Photo from Raynie Peavy|
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.