When I was in high school, I made the realization that removing and replacing the screen on my bedroom window was a whole lot easier than I had been led to believe.
As a result, whenever I needed to “get away” and think, I would carefully lift my squawking window, loosen the screen, place it to the side, and crawl out onto the roof above the porch. The next step included stealthily sneaking past my parents’ two bedroom windows so I could crawl up to the peak of the garage and stare up at the stars, unbothered by anyone.
(Sorry, Mom and Dad).
I always had mixed emotions as I stared up at those pinholes in the Universe’s canvas–
On one hand, it was so incredibly humbling to look up and realize how tiny I am in respect to the Universe as a whole. . .I felt so insignificant.
Yet, on the other hand, I can’t tell you how comforting it is to know that the God who holds every star in place, the One who thoughtfully named every one of the billions of stars up there, knows my name and cares about me.
Living in the city for the past few years, I don’t have privilege of crawling out onto roofs as often as I’d like.
But I still appreciate the moments I’m able to look up and marvel at the starry masterpiece God has orchestrated in the sky.
Last week I had the privilege(?) of presenting a sermon to my peers as an assignment for one of my classes, Communicating God’s Word I.
Now, this project was a major source of anxiety to me for an entire month leading up to the actual presentation. I suffered horrible writer’s block, doubted my ability to understand the passage I had chosen to study and present, and questioned the theology I would be sharing in front of classmates who knew theology much better than I do.
But, by the grace of God, I did so well, the evaluation sheet my professor used to grade me is now hanging on my fridge because sometimes I get so proud of myself, my inner child comes out. (That’s just a fun fact, not actually relevant to the point I’m trying to make).
My actual point is, however, that I not only prepared well for the presentation, but I was passionate about and moved by the passage I chose:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
As I worked on my main points for this presentation, a quote I read over a year ago came to mind:
“If man really is fashioned, more than anything else, in the image of God, then clearly it follows that there is nothing on earth so near to God as a human being. The conclusion is inescapable, that to be in the presence of even the meanest, lowest, most repulsive specimen of humanity in the world is still to be closer to God than when looking up into a starry sky or at a beautiful sunset.”
Now, as someone who loves the sky, I don’t like this quote. Because, if what Mike Mason is saying is true, then this:
Are nowhere near as close to God’s beauty as this…
Now, all laughter and politics aside, Paul understood something that many people try to ignore. And that is that
People are hard to love.
Furthermore, family can be the hardest people to love, because we have the privilege of seeing their flaws up close and personal. We are well aware that Bob-is-a-slob, Jude-has-a-‘tude, and Betty Jane-loves-to-complain.
What’s sad, however, is that spiritual family can be even harder to love.
According to a survey conducted by Lifeway Research, only two of the top ten reasons people gave for leaving the Church were actual spiritual causes, and many of those who left blamed “hypocritical people” in the church.
Yet, because Paul understood this, he was able to describe to his readers how great God’s love is.
- “According to the riches of his glory“ in the above passage reminds us that God is a generous God who longs for us to know His abundant love.
- “Strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” reminds the reader that his or her body is a temple of the Lord; what’s more, however, is that, in this passage, Paul is talking in a collective sense, implying that the body of believers together is a temple for the Spirit.
- “The breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” is a testament to how big God’s love for His people is.
Let me put this in perspective for you:
If we were to count one star per second until we counted every single star in the Milky Way alone, it would take us 2,500 YEARS. YEARS.
Now, I tried doing the math to figure out how many stars that is (60 x 60 x 24 x 7 x 52 x 2500) and I ended up with a number on my calculator that I didn’t even know how to say.
Just know that it’s a lot.
And that is just a fraction of the size of God’s love for you.
Do you understand that?!?
God’s love for you is massive. It’s beyond comprehension.
Paul reiterates this by stating in verse 20, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”
We cannot even begin to understand all that God is or how far his love and power reach.
It’s a love more numerous than the stars.
A love more powerful than can be imagined.
A love big enough to bridge the widest canyons.
It’s not a big deal to us today, but in this time period, Jews and Gentiles being united was mindblowing. But God’s love made it happen.
Can you imagine the conversation over the breakfast table? You have one people group that has eaten bacon for breakfast their entire lives. And then you have another people group that has never even smelled bacon.
Jew (nudges Gentile to the left): Whatcha eatin’?
Jew: It sure smells good…
Gentile: Oh boy, is it! Wanna try some?
Our God loves us enough to bring bacon to all people. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. 😉
Jokes aside, Christian unity and love have to be intentional, and they come from an understanding of God’s great love for us.
Furthermore, we can’t be satisfied with simply knowing this love is big – we need to know this love intimately, and that means letting it affect every aspect of our lives. Appreciating the vastness of God’s magnificent love should compel us to be grounded in love and to love each other deeply (verse 17).
And how can we love each other deeply?
Well, some practical ways stem from the book of Ephesians:
- Bear with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2)
- Be gentle with one another (Ephesians 4:2)
- Be kind to one another so as to preserve unity (Ephesians 4:32)
- Speak truth to one another (Ephesians 4:25)
- Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
- Also, display the Fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, faithfulness)–this comes from the book of Galatians.
The main idea of Ephesians 3:14-21, then?
Even though people are difficult to love, God’s great love for us should compel us to love one another, despite differences, flaws, or annoyances.
Furthermore, even though we cannot possible understand how vast God’s love for us truly is, we can still appreciate this great love.
This is the Whirlpool Galaxy–it’s considered the darling of astronomy because it sits nearly perpendicular to the Earth, and we can see it almost head-on with the Hubble Telescope.
In this galaxy alone, there are over 300 billion stars.
And this is just one of the hundreds of galaxies in our Universe, most of whom haven’t even been discovered yet.
This galaxy of 300 billion stars represents just a fraction of God’s love for us.
Do you get that??
This God of ours holds all of these billions of stars. He is worshipped by a perfect and beautiful and incredible creation. And He loves us–
flawed, broken, sinful people who hurt Him and hurt each other.
And. He. Loves. Us.
One day, astronomers decided to zoom in and look at the black hole in the center of the Whirlpool Galaxy. What they discovered was shocking…
That’s not photoshopped. In the center of this black hole, there really is a cross.
Even creation understands and appreciates the magnitude of God’s love–that He would send His One and Only Son to die a brutal death on the cross to save a sinful world.
Don’t you think it’s time that we fully appreciate it, too?