At Gateway Church in Austin, we began a new series called God Likes You.
Ever wish someone would walk up to you, nudge you on the shoulder, and simply share what the point of your life is? Wouldn’t that change everything? Instead, we find ourselves giving life our best shot, slogging through, trying different things, and working to discover our purpose. We wander through life often unfilled and dissatisfied. How can we discover our purpose? What is our identity? What are we supposed to do in this life?
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
“How Are Your Roots?” by Ricky Echeona:
Message Notes from John Burke:
When you let your roots go down deep into God’s love, that changes everything.
At the Sundance Film Festival years ago there was a film called: “Three Seasons”
- It’s the story of a rickshaw driver who meets a beautiful woman, and he does her a favor and drives her home for free. The next few days, she kind of follows him around each day, until he finally figures out she’s a prostitute!
- So he gives her a free ride to and from the hotel she works at, and he kind of watches after her.
- Over time, he finds out that she hates the life she leads, and her dream is to earn enough money to not need to prostitute—to one day sleep in the hotel as a guest, and order room service, and not get kicked out in the morning by the men who use her and then despise her the next morning.
- Well the rickshaw driver finds out about a contest, a race for rickshaw drivers that has prize money – quite a bit of prize money. He enters it and wins.
But instead of spending the money on himself, he has started to fall in love with this woman. So he tells her what he wants to do with the money is spend the night in the hotel with her.
- And it’s a Sundance Film, so you’re getting ready for a steamy sex scene, and the camera angles and music are setting you up for this.
- She comes out dressed like a prostitute that night, and he’s sitting on the bed, and he says to her – “first I want you to go and put on this white dress, and take off all your caked on makeup, because I think you’re beautiful without it.”
- Then he serves her dinner, and they talk late into the night. Then he says – now I want you to lay down in the bed, and go to sleep.
- And he lays there awake, watching her sleep all night. They never touch physically at all.
- The next morning, he has room service bring her breakfast, then he takes her home.
- He doesn’t see her for a while, and when he finally does. She’s angry at him. She’s angry because she says, “You’ve ruined my life…You’ve ruined my life, because I cannot go back to living as I did and I don’t know what to do.”
She had tasted real love and it ruined her—she could not go back to that lessor life.
I believe we are all like this story to some degree. We all have this Deep desire for love.
Yet often we get manipulated into aiming our desire at the wrong target, and as a result, what promised us love and happiness, ends up robbing us of the very thing we desire. Ever had that happen?
When you had a deep desire, and you heard this promise in your head, if you just go this way, it will meet your deepest desires—yet it didn’t—and even worse, it ended up hurting you or others or destroying the life you were hoping for?
But just like the Sundance film, when we begin to experience the Love of God, it undoes us—it makes us realize what we longed for all along—that the Love of God IS our hearts greatest Desire—it’s the Identity you were created for.
Identity: Loved by God
God’s Mysterious Plan
But I bet most of us don’t really experience that fully—and that’s what I want to explore today as we continue through Ephesians! The Apostle Paul writes about this love to the Ephesian church and to us. God has a plan to change the world with His love, but that plan is mysterious.
This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Ephesians 3:6-11
God has a plan. God is doing something in this world. In that day, Jews and Gentiles were pitted against each other in one of the greatest racial/ethnic/religious/socioeconomic divides you can imagine.
- The Jews were an oppressed minority, under brutal Roman rule, at the crossroads of Greek civilization (Greek philosophy paired with mythological gods and immoral practices all which highly offended the Jews).
- Africans and Indians and Persians constantly traveled through Israel, which stood at the crossroads of commerce (the Jewish mind lumped all of them into the term ‘Gentiles’—a very “us/them” mentality had formed, especially among the more religious).
- The Jews refused to even eat with the Gentiles because they felt doing so would make them ritually unclean. (The Egyptians refused to eat with the Jews when they were in Egypt so there was a lot of animosity and division.)
So think of how this applies to us—think about possible divisions in our day–of race against race, Democrats against Republicans, Fox News disciples against MSNBC disciples, the poor and the rich set against, whatever divides you can imagine—these Jew/Gentiles walls were even higher. A common Jewish saying was “better a dog than a gentile.”
Yet God begins his mysterious plan of love by injecting Himself NOT into Rome and the Roman Government (the place of political power, prestige, and glory), no, God injects himself as the long foretold Messiah into the oppressed, hurting, outcast minority of Jews who hated the Roman Gentile oppressors.
God’s plan is to unite people—all His Children—under equal status.
Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. – Ephesians 3:6
That’s the Good News of God in Christ—you don’t have to earn it, deserve it, fight for it, prove yourself worthy of it, jump through religious hoops to attain it. You just have to receive it.
Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Greeks, Romans, Christians–God already wants to include you in it, but you can exclude yourself– Love won’t force you into His Plan.
But for all who want God’s forgiveness and leadership, they are included “In Christ.”
We’ve been talking about all that means—a new identity, a new standing before God. It changes the way we view ourselves .
Seeing ourselves as God sees us ruins us, in a good way, when you really sink roots deep into how much God likes you, He’s for you, you are loved already—when you really experience God’s love, you don’t want to go back to the old way of playing God and trying to run the universe by yourself. His love ruins us.
Paul says, then you share in equal status in God’s Kingdom, as God’s adopted son or daughter, equal inheritance of ALL God owns (do you know what God owns? Everything), equal blessings, endless treasures available to you “in Christ.”
That’s what God’s plan is—to unite us across all that divides us. Paul says it like this to the Galatian church:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28
All the categories used to divide us—ethnic, socio-economic, gender—when we choose to identify “In Christ” God’s plan is to make us One, a unity that Respects differences. Includes differences as created by God. But more importantly unites differences—instead of letting evil pit us against each other based on differences—Deep-rooted love from God teaches us to love across differences.
God’s plan is mysterious—it’s a plan to spread his love across the globe.
But it doesn’t work the way we would work a love-conquers-the-world-plan.
He uses Paul, a former hater of Gentiles, a hater of Christians—that’s why Paul calls himself “the least deserving” because he was killing Christians, hated Gentiles, yet God so changed his heart with his Love, Paul would even suffer to serve and love those he once hated.
That’s the mysterious way of God’s love—that’s how God’s love conquers, not by force, by suffering–even suffering personally for the good of people we once did not even like.
- What if both people in a struggling marriage had that kind of power to love—a love so strong it could suffer personally for the good of the other? (I’m not talking about withstanding abuse, I’m talking about laying down ourselves to put the other first). If both did that, we wouldn’t have a divorce epidemic.
- What if your company leadership was willing to give of themselves for the good of their employees our of love for God, and employees so loved God, they thought about how to sacrifice for the good of their boss and company—imagine how many office wars, politics, gossip and hurt would be replaced with a fun, supportive environment and greater productivity.
That’s actually God’s mysterious plan—to do that, and change society through his organization—the church.
The Mystery Revealed Through the Scriptures
Paul uses the term Mysterion—mystery–it doesn’t mean a riddle or secret; it refers to something partially understood, but not fully disclosed or comprehended all at once. The full story of the O.T. only makes full sense in light of the Messiah’s revelations (Jesus life, death, resurrection and teachings).
For instance, at the beginning of recorded history, 4000 years ago, God creates the Jewish people through Abraham and Sarah and reveals:
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:2-3
So God created the Jewish people for the purpose of blessing all nations, but no one knew how Abraham would be a blessing to all nations, until it was fulfilled in Jesus the Christ (or Messiah). In 780BC, God tells the Jewish people about the Messiah to come
“I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. – Isaiah 49:6
It was not clear what that meant until Jesus came saying “I am the Light of the World, and
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. – John 3:16-17
God’s mysterious plan was to spread his love to the whole world, through Jesus sacrificially paying for all our wrongs—so we would Reconnect, Re-root in the Source of Love—the only One who can meet our greatest desire. The Jewish nation prepared the way for God’s self-revelation of His love—it was for all nations. Which is why Jesus last words were…
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
And He summed up all he told them as Love God and Love people.
And the mystery of his plan is that the church would be His conveyor of this love message. Now that sends this glorious mysterious plan to a screeching halt—doesn’t it!? Anyone remember LP records—this beautiful music playing and then a bump and the needle scratches across the record and sets your nerves on edge.
The Church is God’s plan?!?
Yes–But what is the church?—it’s not this building, or any building. It’s not even this gathering of people—some of us are His church, some of us are not quite yet. The Church is made up those who follow Jesus.
It’s not always easy to tell from the outside looking in who is the Church and who isn’t. Cultural Christianity can make things confusing. Some people think they are Christians just because they grew up in America.
No one thought Judas was going to give way to the most horrific evil ever—to betray Jesus leading to His crucifixion and death. I don’t even think Judas thought he was doing anything wrong initially. I think Judas thought he was helping God’s plan—by forcing Jesus’ hand—but Judas wanted a political-conquering Messiah who did what Judas signed up for—overthrow my political adversaries the Roman oppressors.
Here’s the mystery of what God’s up to—sometimes people who claim to be Christians are not following Jesus at all, they’re not seeking a Love that will give them power to love—sacrificially—they’re using Jesus (or God) for their own god-like ends. It does great damage to the church, but God is still working his plan for good, just like he used Judas’ betrayal to forgive all evil for all time. God is using his church, despite the Judases among it—over the past 2000 years, the nations have been uniting in Christ.
We have over 65 nations represented in this church alone—the fastest growing church is in South America, China, and Africa.
Why do you think the message of Jesus is spreading so much in Africa, South America, and even remarkable moments of awakening in the Middle East? The Bible was written by the oppressed and the enslaved. Usually history is written by the winners, but that is not true of the Scriptures. It’s remarkable how the people of Israel and the early Church were able to keep these prophecies, histories, poetry, and the letters that make up the Bible intact and passed along from generation to generation. Oppressed people identity with the challenges, persecution and difficulties the people of Israel and the Church faced. They see that God is for the oppressed and will one day make all things right and that even in the midst of the worst of circumstances, He is with us.
So why would God do it this way?
God said it was his mysterious plan 4000 years ago to Abraham, Jesus revealed how God would conquer evil by sacrificial love, and we’re seeing the mystery of God’s love bringing the nations together right here at Gateway.
10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms… – Ephesians 3:10
Don’t forget that—what we are doing together is bigger than you, me, even us. You and I, his church in Christ are putting on a clinic for the spiritual world (unseen rulers and authorities, good and evil)—as God is taking diverse people, even enemies, and God’s Spirit wants to strengthen us by His power (and we need His power) to love and unite across all divides evil tries to forge. AMAZING!
So when you get into diverse community here, and people rub you wrong, or hurt you, or conflict arises over differences—good—all unity before that was superficial, easy, didn’t even need God’s power. Now you do! There are instances you need God’s help to love those you think are unlovable!
God is teaching us and the spiritual world, through these difficult-to-love, difficult-to-unite opportunities, how the Power of His love overcomes all of evil’s divisive, distrusting, destructive ways—in Christ.
So don’t think it’s just about you, or even them, it’s a far bigger story your life is telling. But you need God’s power to love like that.
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. – Ephesians 3:12
So Paul Prays this prayer I want to ask you to meditate on daily until it’s so rooted in you, it’s how you see yourself, it’s Central to who you are:
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
– Ephesians 3:16-19
You know, so much of our frantic, frenetic, stressed-out, hurried lives are a direct result of our insecurities—desiring to be loved deeply. Trying to get limited creatures to fill us up with Infinite Love. But without God’s Love we repel rather than attract the people we so desperately want to make deep connection with – our insecurities keep us lonely and isolated, but God wants to root you deep in His love.
So I want to get you started learning to meditate on this prayer, and sink your roots deep into how God feels about you.
We’re going to practice this together, then do it daily until you’re living it’s truth—that’s how you were meant to live—rooted in Love that will Ruin You, just Ruin you, for the better.
So let me invite you to try something— even if you don’t believe in God or Jesus as Messiah—I still want to challenge you to do this and see if it isn’t what you’re really longing for.
Personalize this prayer…
“I pray, God, that from Your glorious, unlimited resources”
Think about the Creator of the Universe—the resources available to God—He is able to give you all you need. God lacks nothing, and your are his deeply loved child who will inherit all He has. If that’s true, how does that change how I feel about myself? Ponder that.
“I pray…You will empower me with inner strength through Your Spirit.”
God wants to empower you—not to control or dominate out of insecurity…to Love with an inner strength that can’t be shaken. He’s promised his spirit lives in you if you’ve invited Christ in. Picture yourself in those hard to love, impatient, struggling moments—imagine tapping into a Power so great, He can give you the INNER strength to act lovingly, to have peace and patience, to overcome temptation. Lord help me not keep trying to do it with my own strength, it’s not enough to love as You love—help me lean into Your Power to Love when it gets hard.
“Christ, make Your home in my heart as I trust in you.”
Lord, I want you to feel at home in my heart—in my inner person, my thoughts, my motives, my desires—you already know all of them, I can’t hide from you anyway, so come live at Home in me. Help rearrange my Inner House to be full of the life, love, confidence You bring.
Picture that—picture your life like a house with many rooms—you invite Jesus into your home, but do you leaving standing in the entry way? Do you invite him into your kitchen—what you eat, drink, how you treat your body? See God is Love—He won’t go where He’s not invited. He gave you free will so He doesn’t often force His will. Will you invite him into the Rec room—where you go for entertainment. Let him speak into what’s healthy and what’s hurting you? What about the bedroom, where your sexuality and fantasy life resides? He loves you, He knows you, every thought already—do you let him be at home to show you how to Love yourself and others in a better way? How about your secret closet? Where you keep those secrets nobody knows about—is He welcome to open that closet with the rotting smell that keeps stinking up your whole house? See as you let God into every aspect of your home, your life, He will show you if you’re willing how to make it a Life full of God’s Love.
“God, help my roots grow down into Your love and keep me strong.”
God wants to replace all that inner insecurity with his love and strength, but if you never make time to be still and alone, you will never find this deep-rooted love and strength.
“May I have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep Your love is.”
Do you realize how God feels about you?
Imagine how wide, how long, how high, how deep human love can go.
A mother’s love for her child that protects, nurtures, feeds, provides, teaches, develops.
A father or grandparent who would invest in and even sacrifice themselves for the good of their family.
A Mother Theresa or MLK who would put themselves in harm’s way to show how love cares about the oppressed, outcast, forgotten.
What other examples can you imagine of how Great, how high or deep or wide love can go—well, that’s not even close to how God loves you.
“May I experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”
But try…God that’s how you feel about me? You really love me that much? Picture it—picture standing in the presence of a Love that fills you up so completely, you lack nothing, you need nothing, you want nothing because You have all your heart’s really desired.
God help me act on what You say is true—I am so special to you, if there had been no one else on earth but me, Jesus would have demonstrated Your love for me by dying on that cross—that’s how much You love me!
Show me how to remember that’s WHO I AM as I go into the world today. Remind me—I AM Loved beyond measure.
“Then I will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”
And I will spread your love to a world in need. Amen
Go and meditate daily on this until you’re living it’s reality.