I think that many of us know what it feels like to be looked down upon by those who feel they are the true church. We are all Gentiles here. We have all been outsiders at some point in our lives, for one reason or another. Unfortunately many of us have had to deal with discrimination coming from church folks. You hear about this faith in Jesus. You hear His teachings and you begin to realize that a change needs to happen in your life, you finally realize that you’ve got some issues that are going to require the help of a higher power, some habits that need breaking and some wounds that need healing and you decide that you want to bring it to Jesus so you get up your nerve to come to the church to try to get help and the pastor tells you that you are not welcome? The church is supposed to be a shelter. It is supposed to be a safe space! Our pastor often refers to church as an emergency room. We call it The Potter’s House, where people get put back together again, but at some churches you can be told that your love is unholy, your family is not legit, your soul is not able to be saved, and there is no shelter here for you or your kind …
These are the kinds of wounds that can destroy a persons spiritual self esteem, and make us lose sight of God’s love. And we it’s not even just about being gay, it can also be rejection you feel because maybe the prophet never called you out and said you have a special gift or calling on your life, or maybe your voice wasn’t pretty enough to sing in the choir, or maybe you made a mistake and sister so-and-so heard about it and the rumor spread through the whole church and everybody has looked down on you ever since. Or maybe the wound didn’t even happen in church. Some times we just get used to being rejected. Circumstances in life leave us feeling like there is no place where we belong, and no one who will love us for who we are … whatever the reason, when you grow up under that kind of oppression, it can leave you feeling that even God doesn’t love you. It can leave you fearing God in the wrong way – it can leave you fearing that He hates you. It can leave you constantly second-guessing whether He loves you. It can leave you with shattered spiritual self-esteem. It’s true, we as LGBT believers have come a long way. Even our president now can say that He is a Christian, and yet supports gay rights. But consider how many of us have given up, because for whatever reason, we did not feel or know the love of God. For many people, this is still a very real problem. It may not be obvious, but it shows up in the way we’re afraid to pray in front of other people, because our prayers may not be as good as someone else’s. It can show up in the way that we are constantly afraid that God sees us as a failure and He’s going to kick us out of His presence. It can show up in the way we interpret scriptures, when we know that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, and Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing to do with being gay. It can show up in the way we don’t expect good things from God, because we think we aren’t worthy of them.
These feelings are a sign that we are not truly confident that God loves us. This prayer that Paul prays in Ephesians 3 is designed to give believers like us a tool for our spiritual tool-kit that can help us face this kind of challenge. It’s designed to restore “spiritual self-esteem.” It was “For this cause, that Paul bowed his knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” – because after having ministered to so many Gentiles and preached to so many young Christians trying to find their way in this faith, Paul realized that this is what we Christians need the most. It’s the most important thing we need in order to fully experience the presence of God in our lives. If the Apostle Paul were to walk in here today I believe he would still offer up the same prayer: For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, …. Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (that is Jews and Gentiles, everybody) That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
You Have a Right to This Love
Paul offered up this prayer because he wants us to be rooted and grounded in love – for what purpose – so that we may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length and depth and height of Christ’s love.. The scripture says “So that we can comprehend it with all the saints.” So that we – Gentiles, we, the ones who they never thought could get saved, we, the ones who’ve been looked down upon and discriminated against, need to know the love of God just as thoroughly as everybody else. That’s what’s going to sustain you when doubt creeps in. That’s what’s going to encourage you when people look down on you. Paul is using the love of God here to unify the church. God wants us to know today that His love now belongs to everyone, no matter where they come from or what they look like. There are no second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. We all belong here. Every one gets to know God. Every one gets access to Jesus. If I had to give this sermon a title, I would paraphrase what Paul is saying here and say to you today simply that “YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO THIS LOVE.”
When you become a Christian, there are just certain foundational truths that you need to know. And the first of these truths is that God loves you. It’s a simple fact, but it can be oh so very hard to truly understand and receive. The fact that God loves you is a truth that you need to know down in your bones and you can’t let anyone or anything take that knowledge away from you. If they teach you anything in Sunday school, they teach you “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” But as we get older, we don’t hear that message as often. Sometimes I think we don’t spend enough time teaching and preaching that God loves you. The world can be a cruel place filled with violence and anger and people who will criticize you and try to tear you down. Every once in a while you need a reminder that God loves you. Because of the shed blood of Jesus, which cleansed all of our sins and made us children of God, you have a seat at the table of God’s goodness. Everything that God is, is available to you, and you have a right to be blessed by the love of God.
So let’s ask the question – How deep is His love? How can we know the breadth, length, and height of it? Paul says that the love of Christ passes knowledge? In other words, it goes beyond anything that we could ever grasp with our mortal minds. It is (as Paul writes in the very next verse, Ephesians 3:20) one of those things that is “exceedingly and abundantly above all that we could ask or think.”
Today I’d like us to try to grasp at it. Or at least scratch the surface, of understanding God’s love for us. Because love is healing and somebody needs that healing power today. I want us to become explorers today. I want us to set out to explore the great frontier of God’s love. Somebody needs to know that not only has God welcomed you into this life of faith, He has longed for you to be with Him. He has desired you to know Him. He has loved you, and loved you immensely.
About God’s love: The Breadth
How immensely? Well, you have a right to the full breadth of God’s love. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This is a love that is broad enough to embrace the whole world — Jew and Gentile, New Yorkers and Ephesians, young and old, gay and straight, and yet God can still love you like you’re the most important person in the world. It is a demonstrative love. God SO loved the world that He gave His son. It is a love of abundance and extravagance. The love from one man named Christ, was sufficient to save the whole world. The love of one God, is sufficient to meet all of your needs. There is no need to pray to this spirit to fix that situation or call on any other god to assist you in some other area – the Great I AM, Jehovah God, has a love that is broad enough to resolve all of your situations and completely satisfy your soul.
The book of Deuteronomy speaks of the extent of God’s love for us, it says that not only does God love us, but His love is broad enough to expand to the things that we care about: “Deu 7:13 says that God “… will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you.” Ok so maybe we don’t have cattle and flocks – but God is saying here that He’ll not only love you, but He’ll spread His love on the stuff that pertains to you, Because He loves YOU, He’ll love-on your children. Because He loves YOU, He’ll bless your land – He’ll bless your household with His love, your grain and your new wine and your oil – that’s your stuff , that’s what’s in your cabinets and your pantry– because He loves YOU He’ll keep your cabinets full, He’ll be your provider and make sure that you have enough. In the old testament, how many cattle and flock you had was a measure of your wealth. So God is saying, He’ll multiply you financially, He’ll give you promotions and raises and cause you to inherit wealth and property. His love is broad enough to bless and multiply all of your stuff. If you look at your life, you can see where God has done this already. We come into this world with nothing. Everything we have, God blessed us with because He loved us. His love was broad enough to find somebody to feed you, somebody to clothe you and shelter you, somebody to make sure you went to school, His love was broad enough to locate a job for you, or a pension check, or a social security check or something!, and a place for you to live, God sends resources from the North South East and West into your life to bless and sustain you because that’s how broad His love is.
About God’s love: The Length
You have a right to explore the length of Christ’s love, When we think about length we can think about time, His love for you existed since before you were born, and will last until the end of eternity. think about a love that is everlasting.
God told Jeremiah, “”Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you.” How long has Christ loved you? I believe that when God made Adam, He knew you were coming. I believe when God first breathed life into man, He knew that one day Adam would have a child who would have a child who would be your great -great great- grandmother, and then one day, you would be born. Matthew 10:30 says the hairs on your head are all numbered.” If he has taken the time to count the hairs on your head, He has taken the time to plan out all of your tomorrows and organize all of your yesterdays. He loved you before you could speak, He’ll love you when you can’t speak any more. He’ll love you when you doubt Him, and He’ll love you until your faith is built up again. He’ll love you when you’re on the mountain top and when you’re in the valley. He’ll love you when you turn away from Him and He’ll love you until you come back. He loved you before you knew who He was – and He’ll love you if you can no longer remember who He is. He loved you before you were born into this earth, and He’ll love you when you come to live with Him in Heaven. His love lasts just that long. It extends into eternity. It will last forever and a day.
About God’s love: The Depth
You have a right to the full depth of Christ’s love– when I think about depth, I think about Christ loving us at our lowest points. King David wrote a Psalm where he asked the question where can I go from your presence – if I make my bed in Hell, you are there. It’s not hard to look back on our lives and find times when we’ve made our bed in places we should not have – either by bad choices, or things that were beyond our control. But even in these deep places, God loves us. When we hurt and abused our own bodies, God loved us. When others abused us, God loved us. It’s not to say that God approved of the situations, but His love was deep enough to reach into the situation and meet us where we were. His love was deep enough to meet us at the bottom of the pill bottle, in the shelter, at the clinic, on the side streets and in the backseat of the car and offer us a way of escape. It’s deep enough to still see the potential in us and make us over again until we become what He wants us to be. His love is deep enough to say I understand this kind of pain, and I know how to heal it. It’s deep enough to heal the deepest grief, it’s deep enough to find the root of the depression and the source of the anger and make it right again. It’s deep enough to fill every place of emptiness and every unfulfilled longing. It’s deep enough to go beneath scars and take away the pain of what they said about you and what they did to you. His love is deep enough to carry the burden just long enough for you to catch your breath and face another day. It’s deep enough to destroy demons for you. It’s deep enough to destroy yokes, for you. It’s deep enough to reach back to the root of every generational curse and break it. It’s deep enough to forgive and forget all of your mistakes. It’s deep enough to take the broken pieces and put us back together again.
Depth signifies an intimacy as well. God loves you deeply. He doesn’t just love the face that you show people in public, he also loves the you that nobody sees but Him. He loves your boldness – because He can use that to reach people for His kingdom. He loves your generosity, because He can use that to show others His love. He loves your passion and your determination, He gave you that mix of characteristics so that you can do all the things He’s chosen you to do.
Is your “spiritual self-esteem” feeling any stronger yet?
About God’s Love: The Height
You have a right to the highest heights of God’s love. When I think about the height – I think about Christ loving us as members of His Heavenly family. Think about how God counts us among the heavenly family – How he has loved us enough to set a place for us in the heavens. How he loves us UP into His presence. David said If I ascend into Heaven – you are there, ]God said He made us in His image. So when God looks at you He sees a little bit of Himself, God said He’s preparing a place for us in Heaven – and that there are many mansions God has prepared for us there. In the Bible, God says to His beloved in the Song of Solomon ; “rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” He lifts us in worship because He loves us, He called Moses up into the mountain and showed Moses His glory. God longs to bring us up to where He is. In the book of Revelations, God speaks to the prophets and revives them, raises them from the dead and says “Come up hither.” He calls us up to be with Him not just when we die, but during every day of our lives. He is always loving us into better situations, into more abundant life, into a higher understanding of who He is, and who we are in Him. Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” We are able to enter into the holiest heights because of the love of Christ, we can come up to the throne of grace because of the love of Christ.
This is who Christ is
This is the kind of love God has for us. And this is just the beginning, this is just scratching the surface. To know the love of God is an adventure that will last the extent of our eternal lives. And why is His love so great, so comprehensive, so thorough, because He knew that one day, His love would lead you here. Here to His house. Here to His presence, Here to a place where you would be inspired to reciprocate that love. God said in His word you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you - and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit. He chose us because He loves us. And if we should ever become unsure of that love, God will send up a prayer for us, just as Paul prayed for these Ephesians. When your faith wavers, know that God is praying for you to know that His love is there for you. Just as God sent Paul to the Ephesians, He sends me to you. For this cause I’lifted out this scripture for you today. For this cause I have presented you this word today.
I believe the Holy Spirit’s prayer for you today is that you would know that you have a RIGHT to THIS LOVE. I don’t care how many times you may have fallen before, you still have a right to this love. I don’t care what other people may think about you, you still have a right to this love. If you haven’t called Him in a long time, then call Him now, because the love of God lasts long enough to be there when you to reach out to Him. If you are in a place where you are uncertain whether you are worthy of God’s love, don’t worry, because His love is deep enough to meet you where you are. If you have cares and concerns that are too great for you to handle alone, the breadth of God’s love will reach out to you, to your family, to your situation, and find the resources you need to make it. If you want to know how much God loves you, consider that He is preparing a mansion for you in the heights of Heaven. Be encouraged. Let your spiritual self-esteem soar. Be bold in your walk with Christ, God’s got your back. Your Father loves you and He supports you. You have a right to all of His love. Pray with me.