It‘s Not Just a Starting Point, It IS the Point!
It’s Not Just a Starting Point, It IS the Point!
In 2010 I will have been a follower of Jesus for 40 years (not bragging, I’m just old!). As I think back on those early days in my journey, I recall a campus ministry that used a small yellow booklet to lead the reader through four truths that hopefully resulted in them giving their lives to Christ. The first of the four truths was, “God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life”. I am sure that many of us prayed a prayer similar to the one at the end of that booklet and we experienced God’s love for us in a personal and profound way. We were all off to a great start, but then I began to notice something.
After being in the church for a number of years, I began to notice that most of us had a better theology of God’s love than we did an experience of it. It was as if when the topic of God’s love was talked about the believers assented to it and truly appreciated it, but the life changing thrill of it all had begun to fade. It was as if the folks who needed to hear that message of God’s love were those who had never experienced it personally… you know, the “unsaved.” I have seen it in the eyes of sermon listeners and also in students being trained for ministry. It is as if they believed the topic of God’s love is elementary, “first step” stuff; but they wanted “the meat” of the Word, the heavy stuff.
Please realize, I am not pointing fingers. I admit to having seen similar internal responses in my own life over the years. But as I am entering the fourth decade of my journey with Christ, I am becoming more and more convinced of the foolishness of my past thinking.
I have posed the following question in a variety of settings: “Would you like your life to be complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God?” In all the times I have posed that question I have never had anyone respond with, “Nah, that sounds pretty boring” or, “that sounds like ‘first step’ stuff, not quite ‘meaty’ enough for me.” Everyone wants that sort of life! What we often fail to understand is that a life that is “complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God” IS available to us, and the pathway into that life is the ever deepening understanding and experience of God’s love for us.
Read the following prayerful words from Paul: 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.
18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.
19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)
This prayer of Paul is not foreign to most of us, but because it contains an element of seeming contradiction… “may you understand and experience God’s love, although it is so big you will never be able to fully do so”…we often fail to enter into long term engagement with this prayer.
As I read the words of this prayer a few things jump out at me:
1. If the Spirit inspired Paul to pray this prayer and include it in Scripture, then it is not only for the Ephesian believers of Paul’s day, it is also a prayer for us, and it is a prayer that God wants to see answered in our lives.
2. At one level this prayer being answered in our lives is totally out of our control. For these words to be incarnated in our lives, the work of God’s Spirit is absolutely necessary. We cannot make this happen on our own.
3. While we are utterly dependent on the Spirit, we still have a part to play in the process; we are to ask for this prayer to be made real in us.
4. Although we will never fully understand and experience God’s love in this life, we are invited to continually dive deeper and deeper into it.
5. The result of this prayer being incarnated in our lives is, “we will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”
Some who are reading this might even be questioning, as I have at points, whether this is even possible. Paul concludes Ephesians 3 by assuring us that it is: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Not only can this prayer be answered, God wants this prayer to be answered in each of us!
If all this is true, what might be our next steps of response?
1. Spend some time talking with God about your thoughts and feelings when you read Paul’s prayer. Do you see a need to more fully experience God’s love for you? Do you have a desire to? If so, are you able to open yourself to receive the width, length, height and depth of God’s love for you? If not, what might be the root of your resistance?
2. Make this prayer from Ephesians 3 your own. Insert your name into it. Insert personal pronouns into it as you pray. Make it YOUR petition to God.
3. Ask the Holy Spirit to release his power in your life, that this prayer might be fulfilled in you. Instead of reading your Bible or doing a “devo” tomorrow, ask God for an image of what it would look like for you to experience the love of Christ…for you to experience Christ showing his love to you. Try spending 20-30 minutes simply sitting in that image, letting God’s love for you seep to the core of your being. Journal about that experience. Explore with God any resistance to receiving God’s love that may arise within you while you are simply ‘being’ and not ‘doing.’ You may want to continue to do this daily for a week or even longer.
4. Take the long term view in relationship to this prayer. Make it your prayer for the next six to eight months. Sit with this prayer, ponder this prayer, meditate on this prayer, just be in God’s presence with this prayer on your heart.
5. If you have lurking doubts or resistance regarding this prayer actually being incarnated in YOUR life, bring your doubts and resistance to God. He knows they are in your heart and he loves you anyway. Enter into open and honest conversation about these things.
Over the forty years I have been attempting to follow Christ, I have earned a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degree (not bragging, just a glutton for punishment!). With all that theology under my belt, I am now convinced more than ever that the understanding and experience of the simple yet profound truth of God’s love for us is the most transformative reality in all of life.
God’s love for us is not just the starting point… it IS the point!
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