The Breathtaking Love We Tend to Forget
(article by Trillia Newbell, Guest Contributor)
The Christian life can be lived in valleys and on mountaintops, but it’s mostly walked out on the flat plains. Most of our days are spent in the mundane, the ordinary, the routine. Such monotony can produce a sense of complacency or apathy toward the Lord. He can become yet another thing on our to-do list rather than the delight and joy of our existence.
You and I have a proneness to forget the greatest love in the world. It’s a love we cannot fully comprehend or imagine, and yet, practically, we forget that he loves us, he pursues us, and we are his. As Robert Robertson put it in his great hymn “Come Thou Fount,” we are “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.”
The danger in our forgetfulness is that we can begin to think that our life is about us. We can begin to think that we’ve earned God’s favor through our goodness rather than by his grace. Or we can eventually forget the Lord altogether and live as if there isn’t One who is sustaining us; we can begin to live self-sufficiently.
Each day, each hour is a worthy fight to remember our greatest love in the world. One way for you and me to fight our temptation to wander toward lesser things is to remember the love and pursuit of God. The love and the pursuit of any human pales in comparison to the love and pursuit of God. And one of the clearest demonstrations of God’s pursuing character is written for us to see in Paul’s praise in Ephesians 1:3–14.
If there is an ocean of grace available to us — and there is — we find much of it proclaimed by the apostle Paul in the opening of Ephesians. The Greek translation of Ephesians 1:3–14 is one long sentence — and for good reason! Paul is astounded by the goodness of God to sinful people. We did not pursue God; he pursued us. And we would never be able to imagine, let alone earn, the spiritual blessings that the Lord bestows upon us: redemption through the blood of Christ, forgiveness of sin, adoption as sons, everlasting love, an imperishable inheritance, grace upon grace, and so much more.
At least seven times, Paul references God’s pursuit of us. The opening praise sets the stage: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). All the promises of God are Yes and Amen in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). God is not withholding anything from you that is not for your absolute best.
There is only one person qualified to give us access to these spiritual blessings: Jesus Christ. Paul mentions Jesus at least fifteen times in the first fourteen verses of Ephesians. Paul reminds us again later in Ephesians that our salvation is not our own doing — it is a gift of God in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4–9). In Christ and because of Christ, we have the gift of redemption and all that comes with that amazing gift. The cosmic reality of our union with Christ is worthy of our every praise.
So, what are these blessings? The verses that follow Ephesians 1:3 tell us.
You Are Chosen
God chose us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). When we think about a mountain like Everest or a sea like the Mediterranean, we should join in the song of the psalmist:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3–4)
God set the world in motion. The sky proclaims his awesomeness; creation points to his holiness. And yet he is mindful of sinful men? Yes! Before he created the heavens, he chose you. Holy, majestic, awesome God was mindful of sinful man. He wasn’t surprised when Adam and Eve sinned. He knew that one day we’d fall, and that we would continually sin against him. Still, he chose us. God’s character is just, holy, and oh so merciful.
You Are Loved
Paul goes on to say that Jesus has also secured our righteousness, and we will one day be presented as blameless before the Father (Ephesians 1:4). Jesus accomplished something we could never do on our own. To be blameless is to be free from guilt, free from all blame. No one walking this earth is actually blameless. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Yet in Christ we are indeed blameless. Our sins are forgiven and washed away. In Christ we will be presented as blameless on the final day, and even now Jesus is interceding for us. We are covered with his righteousness.
In Christ, you are infinitely loved (Ephesians 1:4–5). God has bestowed all of these spiritual blessings on us out of his love for us. God’s love is incomprehensible; we can’t fathom it. When we try to compare our love to God’s love, we fall awfully short. God is love (1 John 4:8). Everything we know about God and every action we see from God is bound up in his love. God cannot act apart from his love. The greatest display of his love is through the blood of Christ: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
This is a love that we could never fully understand with our finite minds and limited ability to extend love. God’s love is incomparable, and it is reserved for you in Christ.
You Are Adopted
God could have stopped there, but he didn’t. If we are in Christ, we are also adopted sons and daughters of God (Ephesians 1:5). This is an inseparable adoption (Romans 8:35–39). As Christians, we are God’s children, and heirs of all he has (Romans 8:32) — fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16–17).
Before the foundation of the world, God had us in mind and determined to create us and then adopt us as his very own children. We get to approach our majestic God boldly (Hebrews 4:16) as our Abba Father (Romans 8:15). There is nothing sweeter than to know that you are secure, safe, and loved by God in such an intimate way. In Christ, we have open access to our almighty heavenly Father.
More Than We Can Imagine
The riches of what it means to be in Christ are far greater than anything we could ask or imagine. We’ve only scratched the surface! God chose us, predestined us, adopted us, and lavished us with grace and with an inheritance beyond our wildest dreams — all to the praise of his glory.
When we are tempted to think that we must somehow be good enough to deserve God’s love, we need to bathe in Ephesians 1:3–14. These verses tell us a different story — a much better one. The God of the universe thought of us, created us, sought us out, sent his Son to die for us, and forgave us — and we didn’t do anything but receive it.
Remembering these great truths helps us fight our complacency toward the Lord. It makes us eager to know him, to love and obey him, not because of anything we can earn, but because of all that he has done. Because he first pursued us, we can pursue him.
Trillia Newbell (@trillianewbell) is the author of numerous books, including a six-week Bible study on Romans 8, If God Is for Us: The Everlasting Truth of Our Great Salvation. You can find her at trillianewbell.com.