The Power of Love
Love is the most amazing confidence booster. Especially the love of a parent or a partner or a friend. When you know that you are loved, you feel that courage, that boost that comes from knowing somebody’s got your back, someone loves you enough to support you in all of your efforts. Love finds a way to make things happen. It allows you to say “I know I’m going to be successful because I’ve got you in my corner.”
When you know that God loves you, it boosts your “spiritual self-esteem.” What do I mean by your “spiritual self-esteem?” It is that confidence that encourages you to grow and pursue the blessings made available to you by the Spirit of God. When your spiritual self-esteem is high, you can say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I know I can fulfill my potential, because Jesus loves me. I can be brave, I can share my testimony with my coworkers and my friends at the social hall because Jesus loves me. I can help out a friend in need and share my resources, because I know God’s got my back. I can walk in my calling, I can use my spiritual gifts, I can step out into the deep, on the spiritual level, I can lay hands on the sick, I can be filled with the Holy Spirit, I can speak with new tongues, I can be bold for God knowing that no matter what happens, and even if I make a mistake, I don’t have to worry because Jesus LOVES me. Knowing God has that kind of love for you gives your spiritual self esteem a boost.
Your Spiritual Self-Esteem
I believe the Lord wants to boost our spiritual self-esteem this morning. Too many of us struggle with feelings of being rejected by God. Too many times we wonder, does He love me? Does He care?.
Too many times we feel as if we are one cigarette or one “bad-attitude moment” away from being banished forever from the presence of God and forced to live a cold dark existence, never to feel God’s love, never to hear His voice, never to know the sweet presence of His Spirit again because we fell short, or we didn’t try hard enough or we tried and we failed. You know how you feel when you think you’ve failed God – there’s that feeling that comes over you of WHY did I do that? Why do I keep refusing to listen when I know that was God trying to help me? Why do I have to be so weak? Why do I keep putting myself in situations that I know are going to lead to trouble? Why is it so easy to do wrong, and so hard to do right? And then the guilt sets in which leads to a dark place that says, “I am such a big mistake, God can’t possibly love me, I barely love myself.”
I think part of the challenge is too many of us grow up with the wrong kind of “Fear of God.” There is fear of God which is a sign of respect for God’s authority and power, and then there is a fear of God which exists because you’re constantly dreading God’s punishment. One fear is rooted in love, the other fear is rooted in low spiritual self-esteem.
This doesn’t mean that God will never correct us. God disciplines His children, but He doesn’t do it to cause pain, He disciplines us because He loves us. We need to follow God at all times, but we should serve Him because we love Him, not because we’re afraid of what He’ll do to us if we don’t. God wants us to come to Him like children, not like people who are scared to death.You’re a believer now. God loves you.
Learn about Christ
Psalm 111:10 says – “The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom” When the word fear is used here in reference to God it means to be in awe of, to have profound respect or reverence for. In other words, if you want to have wisdom, if you want to walk in God’s will, than you need to begin by fearing the Lord. Respect His ways, respect His authority. Know that He’s telling you to make a left because He knows where He’s taking you and He knows the best way to get there. God’s telling you to hold your peace because He knows what could happen if you say what you’re trying to say. God’s telling you to step up because He knows what’s inside of you. He’s giving you this challenge because He knows that you can handle it. God doesn’t just do things willy nilly. He doesn’t doing anything randomly. Every sunset is a carefully designed work of art, and so are you. He knows what colors to put on the canvas, He knows how much pain and how long to make the trials so that when this season is over you will be stronger and more deeply rooted in Him. We’ve got to respect that, we’ve got to have a level of awe for that amazing amount of power, that allows God to know how to guide each one of us. And the more we respect that, the easier it will be to follow God’s leading. Our carnal mind will try to convince us that our own ways are better, more efficient, less painful and faster. These days, everyone is trying to make us believe that the faster option is the better option. But the best option is always to choose God’s way. The more we fear God, the more we respect Him, the more we will cast aside our own ways and simply say, “Yes Lord, however you want it done, because I know you know what’s best.”
This kind of respectful fear makes our love for God deeper. Because the more we are obedient to His ways, the more easily He can flow through us. The more easily He can flow through us, the more we begin to learn about Him. And the more you know about Jesus, the more you love Him.
It’s the same in the natural. They say it’s love at first sight – but I really think it’s more like attraction at first sight. Attraction is what makes you want to get to know somebody. But it’s the more you get to know the person, that you begin to love them even more. From day one I was attracted to you, but after two, three, 10, 15 years, I know so much more about who you are. I’ve seen your character, I’ve watched you respond to challenges, I’ve seen how you handle your business and how you do what you do, and for that I love you now more than I did when I met you.
That’s how our love for God deepens, because as our relationship with Him grows, we come to know so much more about who He is. We come to respect and stand in awe of the way He handles His business.It’s the way He delivers you., That phone call out of the blue that made everything change – that way that door opened up when previously you were staring at a stone wall – it’s the way the doctor said I don’t know how it happened but you’re getting stronger and you’re getting better – it’s the way God does what He does. It’s how you wake up one morning and that whole burden is lifted, you turn around and the person that was troubling you is moved out of the way. It’s the way their words don’t hurt you any more and the temptation doesn’t tempt you any more. You can’t explain how God did it, but you stand in awe of it. There’s an old spiritual song that says – “sometimes it causes me to tremble.”That’s the kind of fear God’s looking for. It causes you to bow down, it causes you to reverence Him. It causes you to sing and to worship. It causes a lifting of the hands, It causes your soul to look back and wonder how you got over. It makes you love Him more and gives you confidence that whatever the situation, God’s got your back.
Faulty Fear of God
But how do we uproot that other fear? That fear that comes from lack of confidence in God’s love for you? How do we break that cycle of despair that comes from always feeling like God’s about to kick us out of His presence. How do we uproot the fear of God that causes us to feel like we’re step-children in the Kingdom of God. Not quite fully accepted, not quite fully loved, just kind of tolerated. Just sitting in the church because somebody told us we should come. Feeling like we’ve used up all of God’s everlasting mercy and He’s finally given up and declared us to be a loser and a hopeless case? Feeling like we’ve broken the one condition for God’s unconditional love. We’ve got to get at the root of the problem. And I believe the root of the problem is low-spiritual self esteem. It’s at these low moments when we need some reassurance, we need a better understanding of the kind of love God has for us – the breadth of it, the length of it, the width and the height. It’s at these moments that we need to be real honest and just turn our eyes towards Heaven and ask God, How deep is your love?
Let’s look at our scripture passage in the book of Ephesians more closely because I believe that the Ephesians Paul was talking to here, were in a similar sort of situation.
For those of you interested in Bible study, let’s study this passage for a little bit. The city of Ephesus was a major trade and commerce capital in the ancient Mediterranean world, it was a Gentile province – Gentile is the term for anyone who isn’t Jewish. The temple of Diana was there, there were many craftsmen who made there money creating idols of Diana for sale. Today we’d call them tchotchkes. Pilgrims traveled from all over the area to come worship at the temple of Diana, it was a major landmark. And the population was very large for the time – almost 250,000 people. These were not people who knew about the God of Israel. The Ephesian culture was based on idol worship.
This book of Ephesians is a letter that was written to a church of believers in Jesus Christ that had started in Ephesus. The book of Ephesians was written by the great Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul wrote at least 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament. He wrote more of the New Testament than any other person. As many of you know, Paul was born a Jew but his letters were mostly written to Gentiles. Paul was proud of his Jewish heritage. So proud that before Paul got saved, he did everything he could to stop the Christian faith from taking root in the holy Jewish city of Jerusalem. He considered Jews who came to believe in this Crazy prophet named Jesus to be traitors. He hunted them down, imprisoned them and did all he could to stop the spread of this new religion until one day on the road to Damascus he had a personal encounter with Christ, (how many know everything changes once you meet Him for yourself?) God let Paul know that this Jesus was God’s son, and every Jew, and every Gentile needed to believe in Him. In fact at the name of Jesus every knee was going to bow, and every tongue would confess that He is Lord. Jesus converted Paul’s heart and directed hm to preach to the gentiles about this new gospel. Thanks to Jesus, the Jewish God now belonged to the Gentiles as well. IN Ephesians 2 Paul talks about how the wall of partition between the Jews and Gentiles has been broken down and now those who were strangers to God have been brought close to Him because of the blood that Jesus shed on Calvary. The next thing we know Paul is calling himself the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” He says in Ephesians 3 that he is “the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,” then in verse 8 “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;”
So Paul had his work cut out for him. He needed to boost the self-esteem of these new believers. He needed to let them know that there was now a place for them in the kingdom. He needed to teach them about their new identity as Christians. He was sent to preach to Gentile people who were not all that familiar with the Jews and their customs- or their God. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be a Gentile coming to Christ during the early years of Christianity. It was difficult for many Jewish Christians to accept that Gentiles were now part of the faith. The Jewish faith had been for Jewish people since the beginning and now comes Jesus came saying “whosoever believes in me can have eternal life.” we were going to have to let everybody into the faith, including all of these Gentiles – and they don’t know how to wash their hands in the proper Jewish ways, they don’t know how to speak Hebrew, or read our Torah, or how to behave themselves in the temple. It was a clash of cultures – it was the old Jewish faith clashing with this new “everybody’s welcome” Christianity. But, the Gentiles, they’re not like us, they don’t know the stories of our ancestors, they don’t come from the royal bloodline of David, they don’t even know how to cook Kosher. Jews and Gentiles were so separate that Jews were not even allowed to go into Gentile houses. The Jewish people felt the commandments were given to us, God revealed Himself to us Jews, but these Gentiles, they are idol worshipers. Why am I spending so much time on this point, because it just goes to show that Christianity has always struggled to welcome people who are “different.” When Christianity first started, the Gentiles were the outsiders. Many Jewish people thought they were the only ones who really knew God – and the Gentiles were, well, heathens. They didn’t know how to treat these new believers, they didn’t know how to accept them into the faith. As a result, Paul knew that Gentiles who joined this faith were going to need to have a strong spiritual self-esteem. Paul sensed they were going to have to have some confidence in their walk with Christ in order to withstand all the challenges they would face as new believers. They were going to need to be rooted and grounded in the love of God.
This Sermon was delivered by Minister Aimee Simpierre, founder of NuWine Press and minister at The Potter’s House Church of the Living God in Brooklyn, NYC.