The Golden Door to the Bible, Part 1:
Swimming in the Ocean of God’s Love

July 12, 2009

 

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

Ephesians 1:3-14


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our title and our topic today is “The Golden Door to the Bible, Part 1: Swimming in the Ocean of God’s Love.”

 

What is the golden door to the Bible? If you are new to the Bible or if you are coming back to it after a while, where should you start reading?

 

I have a suggestion for you today. There is one book – there is one section in the Bible – that I think is like the Bible in miniature. Would you like to know what it is? I’m going to tell you in a minute.

 

There is a preacher whom I admire begins his sermons by having his congregation raise their Bibles and say, “This is my Bible. I am who it says I am. I have what it says I have. I can do what it says I can do.”

 

But the question is ‘where’. Where do you look?

 

Well, I’ve kept you in suspense long enough. I believe that the golden door to the Bible is the book of Ephesians. Now, it’s most of the way through the Bible, toward the back. It’s a great book. It’s short. It is extremely affirming. It is an absolute mountaintop of Biblical literature. I invite you to read the entire book of Ephesians - St. Paul's letter of encouragement to the congregation at Ephesus, Greece - as we pursue this series over the next few weeks.

 

 (One aside: if you are looking to begin reading in the Bible, Ephesians is the golden door, but the gospel to begin with is Luke. I recommend that as parallel reading to Ephesians to get into the Bible. And of course, stay with us here in church. We have consecutive readings, so over the course of three years you’ll read through the main themes of the whole Bible.)

 

One important question the book of Ephesians answers is, "How does God feel about me?" Is God an angry God, as perceived in the Old Testament much of the time? Is God a withholding God?  Is God a punishing God? How does God feel about us? Well, let’s look through the golden door and see what we find.

 

Ephesians 1: “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.”

 

That’s what God is doing. That’s how God feels about us. He wants to bless us with every spiritual blessing. Is God a withholding God? No. Is God a judgmental God? No. God is overflowing with love. He is out to bless us with every spiritual blessing.  Paul tells us we are swimming in an ocean of God's love.

 

Take a look at verse 4. How long has He been loving us? Ever since we were born?

 

“He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.”

 

Check this out: the love of God for you personally has been around since the birth of the stars, since before the formation of planet earth. In the stuff of the stars from which the earth was born, there was still within it the concept of you. And God’s love for you was around even then. You are no accident. You were loved before you knew who you were. You were loved before you knew your own name. You were loved before the formation of the earth. That is what the book of Ephesians tells us about God’s feelings toward you and me.

 

He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world as someone holy and blameless before Him in love.”

 

That’s how God feels about you and me. Holy and blameless because of Jesus' saving grace - That’s how God thinks of us. That is His original thought of us.

 

“He destined us for adoption as His own children.”

 

I believe that every relationship is adoptive, essentially, whether there is blood relatedness involved or not. What counts is the adoption of love in our spirit and consciousness. What counts is the acceptance. What counts is the unconditional surrounding and embrace. And that’s how God feels about you and me.

 

"He adopts us with His everlasting love… according to the good pleasure of His will.”

We’re getting to the flavor of the feeling of God toward us, not withholding, not just a little bit of love, not just the crumbs, but the good pleasure of His good will. The very heart of God rejoices in loving you. That is His will toward you.

 

“He freely bestowed upon us His own beloved Son.”

 

What do we have? We have the gift of redemption, the gift of the setting free of the soul. We have the gift of forgiveness; even if we make mistakes, we have the gift of God’s cleansing forgiveness because of what Jesus has done for us.

 

“According to the riches of His grace.”

 

What’s another word for grace? Love! Whenever you see the word ‘grace’, you can always read ‘love’, God’s love. “According to the riches of His grace” doesn’t mean that He gives a little bit at a time, sparingly. No, He gives lavishly! Scripture says that God is a lavish God. He gives His love in abundance, with enormous gestures of generosity. That’s what the Bible says.

 

That’s how God feels about you. So, dear friend, if you have been feeling down, if you have been wondering how good life is or whether it is good or whether God cares, take heart from the Holy Scripture! God’s love for you is from everlasting to everlasting, since before the formation of the stars. And it is not just grudging or withholding. It is lavish. God is a lavish God. He is bestowing His love on us with enormous abandon and graciousness.

 

So, we are loved before we know our own name, and we are loved with lavish blessing. We are swimming in an ocean of God’s love. That’s the truth of it. That’s the picture that Paul is trying to draw for us of the love of God. It is as infinite as the eye can see.

 

One of the things that I love about going to the ocean is that you can stand on the boardwalk and look from one end of the horizon across the sky to the other and see the entire canopy of heaven above you. That’s the way it is with God’s love. From one end of eternity to the other – that’s how much He loves you. And everything in between is done with a gesture of lavishness. As you see ocean waves crashing in to shore, there is that constant motion of the waves coming in. There is nothing we can do to stop it; it is always there. And that symbolizes the waves of blessing that God has for you. Not only can you see the ocean as far as the eye can see, but the waves that come in are the symbols of His lavish generosity constantly flowing.

 

In other words, God always has another wave of blessing coming your way, even if you experience some lag or some heartache or some disappointment. Remember, God has more waves of blessing coming your way. Just be open to them.

 

Our third point this morning -- what is our response to all this remarkable love? There’s one verse here that we just can’t ignore today, verse 12: “So that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of His glory.”

 

That’s our job: to sing praise, to celebrate His goodness! To sing and to praise!

 

I love to hear you sing. I love when we make music together in church, because that’s what we’re intended to do. Whether it’s Dylan and me, singing and playing hymns of praise in the sanctuary late in the evening, or whether it’s the entire congregation together on a Sunday morning, I love it! When we are touched by the notion of God’s love, by the spirit of His presence, we are moved to sing His praise - to "live for the praise of His glory".

 

You and I were meant for worship. You and I were meant for God’s love. You and I were meant to sing His praise. And so, my dear friends, here’s my invitation to you this week. Open this golden door to the Bible, the book of Ephesians, and know that God’s love is as remarkable and infinite as the sea, and that the lavish waves of blessing are coming toward you, this day and every day. And sing praise! Sing praise, with a grateful heart. Sing praise, and lift up your voice. 

 

As a matter of fact, before we close, let’s sing praise together. Dylan, will you play the drums? Let’s sing praise together, because that’s what we were meant to do. [Pastor Tony at the piano. Ed. Note: Go ahead, sing out loud as you read this! If you know the melody, fine. If not, make one up. Sing!]

 

Give thanks, with a grateful heart

Give thanks, to the Holy One       

Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.

 

Give thanks, with a grateful heart

Give thanks, to the Holy One       

Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.

 

And now let the weak say ‘I am strong’

Let the poor say ‘I am rich’

Because of what the Lord has done for us.

 

And now let the weak say ‘I am strong’

Let the poor say ‘I am rich’

Because of what the Lord has done for us.

 

Give thanks. Give thanks.

 

God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.

 

© 2009 Anthony J. Godlefski