Read: Ephesians 3:14-21
“How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed,” sings John Newton’s popular hymn, Amazing Grace. However, the hour I first believed is not the hour I finally understood the weight of the Gospel. I did not fully understand what it meant to have forgiveness. I made the choice to follow Jesus at the age of 13, but three years later I came to a point in my sin where I couldn’t understand how or why I could be loved by such a holy God. It made absolutely no sense.
I’m not alone in this. Time and time again, Israel abandoned God and ran to idolatry. She was supposed to be God’s chosen people, yet she went astray. As the prophet Isaiah puts it, she had forgotten the God of her salvation (Isa. 17:10). She did not call on the Lord. She became weary of Him, burdening Him with her sins (Isa. 43:22,24). How could God’s beloved people know Him deeply, abandon Him, and yet still be forgiven?
Isaiah first condemns Israel for her rebellion and then prophecies of the coming Messiah who will make atonement for her. It is in this context that we find Isaiah 55:8-9: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways, for as the heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
It’s a verse not often quoted in this context of the incomprehensible love that God has towards us. The Bible calls it justice, but it feels like getting away with murder. The human mind doesn’t know what to do with such an expression of love, but God says not to worry about this mystery. It is understood in His mind alone.
Even so, Paul prays in Ephesians 3:14-21 that we might understand this incomprehensible love of God through none other than the Messiah who came and dwells in our hearts. Part of the beauty of Jesus’s advent is that this overpowering love has a visible expression in a divine God who would step into our shoes and carry our sins to the grave in our place.
At 13, I believed in Christ because it felt like the right thing to do. At 16, I shared with an older Christian that I believed God could not love me. I believe what he said next was spoken directly by the Holy Spirit: “I don’t want to ever hear you doubt your salvation again.” In that moment, I understood not only the extent of God’s love, but that I was forgiven.
So now, as did Paul in Ephesians 3:17-21, I pray “that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
What imaginary barriers have you built between God’s love and you? Write those barriers down and find places in Scripture that speak truth that will chip away at those walls.