The most important way to think of ourselves is that I am loved by God. God is crazy about you. He thinks you are awesome.
A common way of thinking: “If people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me.” There are a 100 variations: nobody cares… God uses other Christians in ways that are more important than me… I’m boring… I’m selfish… I’m inferior… /we mask our true feelings by acting self-confident, or withdraw and hope nobody notices…
A fresh start ~ Let God in. Quit feeling sorry for yourself and invite God to remove the mask and live the truth that God loves you beyond measure. I read a long time ago some advice that makes so much sense: the best way to mature in your faith is to study the attributes of God. I.e. find out who God is… I would add to that wisdom: let God know who you are. That exchange is called relationship. Your best friends are those that know who you really are and love you anyway. It’s no different in a relationship with God.
Today’s scripture is a powerful expression of who God is and how much he loves us. You might be surprised to learn that Ephesians 1:3-14, in the original Greek, is single long sentence of about 215 words (distribute handout) . The NIV not only breaks it up into many sentences, but it even has it in two paragraphs. This is the longest sentence in the Bible!
This most amazing longest sentence of the Bible begins, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
PRAISE… be amazed by God, be astounded by Him… The thrust of this very long sentence is to gain an awareness of God. PRAISE HIM… the avalanche of words that follows is meant to evoke PRAISE. To praise God, to be amazed by Him is the Fresh Start so many people desperately need. This is why worship is so important, songs, testimonies… You will rediscover JOY, the weight of life is lifted, as we practice the PRAISE of God. This sentence is less about teaching, and more about being urged to experience more of God, to be more aware.
IN the book Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis he has a chapter titled “A Word about Praising” in which he wrestled with the idea of God demanding to be praised, “When I first began to draw near to a belief in God … I found a stumbling block in the demand so clamorously made by all religious people that we should ‘praise’ God; still more in the suggestion that God Himself demanded it, We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence, or delightfulness; we despise still more the crowd of people round every dictator, every millionaire, every celebrity, who gratify this demand….”
As Lewis wrestled with the idea of praise, he came to a greater understanding: “we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of complement that lovers keep telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to discover a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is…to hear a good joke and find no-one to share it with…”
Praise is not one sided. The word I’ve circled the heaviest in this long sentence is my favorite word: lavished (Eph. 1:8). God lavished his grace on you… PRAISE is the completion of God excessive over the top grace. We are divided from God through sin, but in his amazing love for us, he found a way to reconcile with us through Jesus Christ on the cross and the forgiveness of sins. PRAISE completes the relationship. Praise is the fresh start of faith because it cements the relationship with God. Praise is not a command, it is an invitation. Praise is not about God’s vanity, but because he loves us.
Three more times in this long sentence Paul speaks of Praising God: 6: to the Praise of his glorious grace, 12 for the praise of his glory… 14 to the praise of his glory.
What is God’s glory? To see God as he truly is, to know him… GLORY can be translated Magnified… to look through a magnifying glass at a bug is fun, to see the details. To glorify God is to put a magnifying glass on God. Why do we praise God? Because you held up a magnifying glass and see some of the amazing details…that’s what this sentence is… The very long sentence begins by telling us the purpose of this sentence is to urge us to Praise God because he is amazing… three more times it says to the praise of His glory. Why three times? …
This longest sentence is, IMHO, the greatest expression of the TRINITY in the Bible. The Trinity is our human word describing the nature of God which we can never fully fathom. 3-6 is about the Father, 7-12 the Son and 13-14 the Holy Spirit… ~ to hold up a magnifying glass to see God in His triune nature! Wow… That’s why we are compelled to praise God and glorify Him… This very long sentence is a breathtaking magnified look at the very essence of God. A renewed magnified vision of God is a fresh start, consummated with Praise… The Triune God wants to know you and for you to return the love to Him through praise. This sentence compels us to make a renewed commitment to the Lord!
The opening words of the sentence are about what God the Father has done (3-6a). He is the source of every spiritual blessing. God initiates. Your life is no mistake. So many important words in 3-5, you could spend a day praying over a half dozen words: circle “heavenly realms” I don’t think he’s talking about a place, or heaven, but I think this wonderful phrase is emphasizing that we are primarily spiritual beings living in a flesh and blood world. Let that be your identity!
He chose us… before creation… to be Holy, blameless… God has a vision for who we are… often we are given the wise advice that we need to believe in our children if they are to have a healthy self awareness. Adults need the same encouragement. Vv. 3-6 is God’s vision of who you can be… Holy and blameless. More words in these first verses: Predestined… adoption… sonship. Circle/Meditate on each of the key words…
The words predestined is interesting (controversial?) I come from the school of thought that every person is predestined and chosen by God; he gives us a choice to accept or reject him…You don’t have to PRAISE God. It’s an invitation. The fact that he predestined us is a beautiful truth that none of us are accidents and our worthiness is based on God’s plans for us. His desire is to have an amazing relationship with us.
Jesus the Son. 6-12. The father freely gave us the One He Loves… circle redemption, blood, forgiveness. “Lavished” is an astounding word, God’s generosity, like the woman that poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, how much more did God lavish us in his grace and love through Jesus Christ. “Made known” it says in 9. (Sidenote: If I had several lifetimes to preach, I would love to do a series of sermons simply using these amazing truths as the outline, like preachers often do with the Fruit of the Spirit or the Armor of God…) The life of Christ is the visible expression of God ~ Jesus took the form of man, and went to the cross… the great desire of God: to be known.
Circle in this section: his will, purposed, at just the right time (all part of a future series I’ll never get to…) More phrases to circle: predestined, works out everything, conformity, unity… these are amazing ideas that are true in Christ. Paul is putting a magnifying glass on God so that we will PRAISE the Father, Praise the Son… “for the Praise of His glory.”
The Holy Spirit. 13-14. I’ve been around a long time. Over the years, every now and then, somebody will be compelled to tell me if I want a more complete experience of living as a Christian then I need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I’m old enough, confident enough, stubborn enough, that I can smile. I sure appreciate the intention. I don’t know how to speak in tongues or go into a state of euphoria. God bless those that practice more overt expressions of the Holy Spirit… but I refuse to take a back seat to anybody in terms of my salvation and my joy of the Lord. 13-14 speaks of the present reality of God in your life through the Holy Spirit. The H.S. dwells within… this scripture speaks of a seal. What is the seal? The seal is the H.S. within, a divine sense of God’s presence, a confidence, an acceptance of goodness and rightness, the word “guarantee” adds to the truth… to the Praise of His glory… to Praise is confidence. You cannot be a Christian without the H.S. the presence of the H.S. is the divine seal of your faith…
Christians are Trinitarians: The father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. The father laid the foundation of a relationship with him even before creation, setting us apart for the purpose of knowing us… the plan of salvation is made possible through Jesus Christ, the cross and forgiveness. The H.S. is the sign of God’s presence. To know God is to praise God. Just look at what he has done for you and how crazy he is about you. To praise God is to know him more. To know God is to praise him more. It’s a wonderful never-ending circle.
In my imagination, this sentence is far longer than the avalanche of 215 words…. It’s a never ending sentence…. I’ve drawn an arrow from the last “to the Praise of His Glory” back to the beginning… If it’s a never ending sentence then jump in anywhere… Praise Him/Know him as Father, son, spirit. Lot’s of amazing words/ideas sprinkled through-out to study/consider…. To meditate on these words is to glorify Him.
If you are struggling in your faith, hard on yourself, feeling unworthy, believing nobody really cares (including God), then you need a fresh start of faith. Praise the Lord which will lead to knowing him. To praise God is to complete the relationship recognizing how much God has lavished his grace and love on you. Hold up a magnifying glass to consider the details of what God has done for you through his very nature as God the Father, the Son and the H.S. which will lead to praise. God has provided for us an amazingly long unending sentence which holds the promise of a fresh start of faith. Amen.