The love of Christ

Freshwater Staff   -  

In the latest message in our series on Identity in Ephesians, Jamey Codding explored Ephesians 3:14-21. In this passage, Paul prays for supernatural empowerment from the Spirit so the Ephesians could grasp all the dimensions – the width, the length, the height and the depth – of God’s love for them.

Why did they need the Spirit’s power? Because moving beyond simply an intellectual knowledge of God’s love was crucial for the Ephesians, just as it’s crucial for us. And Paul knew how difficult that could be for some of us.

Jamey posed a question:

On a scale of 1 (not difficult at all) to 10 (extremely difficult): How difficult is it for you to truly believe that God loves you unconditionally?

What would your number be?

As he prepared his message, Jamey asked this question to a group of people from the church and received a wide variety of answers – from 1’s and 2’s to some much higher numbers. The lower numbers pointed to the truth of Scripture as all the proof they needed that they were loved, but while many of the higher numbers also said they knew that God loved them unconditionally because of what they read in the Bible, they still struggled to live from the truth of that love.

“If belief means it affects my life,” someone replied, “I would say between 3-5.”

If most believers would agree, intellectually, that God loves them unconditionally because that’s what we read in Scripture, why does that intellectual understanding translate to certainty in daily life for some of us, but not for all of us?

We all read the same Bible and we all worship the same God on Sunday mornings. So how can our experience of God’s unconditional love be so different?

Cognitive Dissonance is a psychological term defined as, “the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs or values.”

Here’s a quick example:

You know that eating junk food or smoking cigarettes negatively impacts your health. But you also know that doing those things will make you feel better in the moment by temporarily alleviating your stress.

That resulting tension from those two conflicting beliefs can lead to anxiety, shame, low self-worth, regret and anger.

So you may believe that God loves you unconditionally, but if that belief doesn’t deeply affect the way you live, could it be that, somewhere deep down, you hold a conflicting belief that you’re unworthy of being loved?

If your number is a 4, or a 6, or even higher, what’s preventing you from being able to grasp the width, length, height and depth of your Father’s love? Identifying and dealing with those things can be very difficult, but if we don’t address those conflicting beliefs, we can stay stuck, living from a broken identity.

Jesus gives us a promise in John 10:10:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Do you have the abundant life that Jesus came to give you? If not, is there a competing thought that eclipses the reality of His love for you?

Maybe you need to come out of hiding and clear the air with God, to get honest about how you really feel. Or maybe you need to clear away something else. When unconfessed sin clutters up our lives, His presence feels elusive, which can then make His love feel unavailable to us. Doubt and shame set in.

The thief – Satan – tries to use our insecurities to steal our rightful identity as beloved children of God. He wants to weaponize what’s in your past to kill your trust in your Creator and destroy your intimacy with your Savior.

Don’t let him.

In his gospel, John calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Not from a place of arrogance but from a place of unrestrained acceptance. He was certain of it.

You are the one whom Jesus loves.

Those of us with those higher numbers must learn to choose the absolute fact of God’s love – to set our minds on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5-6) – in those moments when our fraudulent flesh tells us we’re unworthy of love.

And through that renewing of our mind, we’ll experience what Paul describes in Romans 12: transformation that allows us to discern God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will.”

We’ll learn to trust in His love, even when we don’t feel particularly lovable.

Reflection Questions
  1. How does Ephesians 3:14-19 challenge you to expand your comprehension of the dimensions of God’s love? In what ways can you actively seek to grasp the width, length, height and depth of His love in your life?
  2. What was your number of the scale of 1-10? Do you have any conflicting beliefs that may be interfering with your ability to embrace the truth of God’s unconditional love for you? How can you begin to address those and move forward in truth and victory?
  3. In what ways do you currently seek affirmation of love and worthiness apart from God? How might recognizing and rejecting these false beliefs about your worth impact your ability to experience God’s unconditional love?
  4. Consider Paul’s encouragement to set our minds on the things of the Spirit versus the things of the flesh (Romans 8:5-6). How can you cultivate a mindset focused on God’s love and truth, rather than succumbing to negative self-perceptions or worldly influences?
  5. What does it look like for you to pray for an even deeper revelation of God’s love and abundance in your life, no matter your number?
Watch the Message
Worship Songs from February 11
  • “God Really Loves Us” by Crowder
  • “Goodness of God” by Bethel Music
  • “Out of Hiding (Father’s Song)” by Steffany Gretzinger (after the message)
  • “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan (after the message)