Think Bigger (8/27/17)
A rare event happened to parts of our nation on Monday, August 21, 2017. They experienced a total solar eclipse. According to astronomy.com, it was the first total eclipse in the U.S. since February 26, 1979. That one covered only 5 states in the northwest and the weather was bleak. As we all know from the news coverage, solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the earth and the sun. The moon then blocks the sun’s rays from hitting the earth.
The sun is 400 times bigger than the moon but coincidentally, it’s 400 times further away from the earth than the moon. This means both the sun and the moon appear to be approximately the same size when the eclipse happens.
It’s not that big of a deal to us when the sun gets eclipsed by a much smaller moon. But, for us Christians, what happens when our understanding of God gets eclipsed by small thinking?
The church has been doing this from its inception.
The first two chapters of Ephesians explains that God the Father send God the Son to bring redemption to us through his shed blood and the forgiveness of sins. We can have these things not because we earn them but because God gives them to us through his grace.
In Ephesians 3:1-13, the Apostle Paul continues building on this theological foundation. He writes, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 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. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.”
There are some main points in this passage we need to recognize. The first one is the Mystery of Jesus.
The problem with mysteries is we don’t always know what we don’t know. Several years ago, I participated in a disaster relief mission trip to McComb, Mississippi to help repair houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina. At one house we saw, the storm knocked a hole in a shingled roof. This let rainwater in. When repairing a damaged shingle, you need to loosen a couple of layers of shingles above the damaged one. Then replace the damaged shingle and refasten the other layers of shingles on top of it.
Some well-intentioned person came by and attempted to repair the roof of the house in McComb. However, this person didn’t understand how to replace shingles. He just nailed a new shingle on top of the hole. Guess what happened when it rained? The roof still leaked.
The Jews were waiting for a Messiah when Jesus arrived. They knew what the layers of the Old Testament -Pentateuch, Historical books, Wisdom Literature and Prophets – said about him. The problem is they couldn’t see how the layers should fit together. They didn’t know what they didn’t know.
According to their understanding, he was going to be a Messiah only for those who were Jews or who converted to the Jewish faith. The Jews couldn’t see anywhere in the Old Testament where God was going to save the Gentiles too. After all, the empires of the Gentiles had mercilessly persecuted and oppressed God’s chosen people for centuries. When the Messiah did arrive, the Gentiles would face the wrath of God and there would be hell to pay for what they had done.
Because the Jews didn’t understand the mystery of God, their application of the layers of writings in the Old Testament couldn’t hold water. Their interpretation had holes in it. God had other plans. The Messiah wasn’t for the Jews only. The fact God planned on including Gentiles in his plans for salvation was a mystery to everyone, including Paul. Now, through Jesus, this mystery was revealed.
Paul also discusses the Power of God. Power is necessary to make things run properly. Food gives our bodies power to move. Gasoline powers our vehicles. Electricity powers our modern appliances and electronics.
Several months ago, when I was working on my cell phone at home, I realized I was using data instead of Wi-Fi. I checked my settings and saw the phone wasn’t connected to my router. A close look at the router revealed it was unplugged from the power cord. There was nothing wrong with the router. It was ready to do everything is was designed to do. The problem was it would never work as long as it was disconnected from its power source.
It’s through God’s power that Jesus saves us and gives us life. It’s because of God’s power the Holy Spirit works in us and guides us. God’s power draws us closer to Jesus. However, none of this will happen if we’re unplugged from the Power Source.
Sure, we can go through the motions. We can go to “church.” We can do good deeds in our community. We can even put some money in the offering. The simple truth is we’ll never be all that we can be in Christ unless we stay connected to the power of God. Paul also said in Ephesians 3 that the church is called to make God’s mystery and power known to rulers on earth and authorities in the heavenly realms. We need to embrace who we are and what we have in Christ.
Since God’s mystery and power are greater than our human minds can truly understand, we have a tendency to pull God down closer to our level instead of asking God to elevate us up closer to his level. We’ve trained ourselves to think God is smaller than he really is and that he has less power than he really does. We put God in a box.
There’s comfort in having a “small” God. A small God doesn’t ask us to step out in faith as much or be uncomfortable too often. He doesn’t ask us be truly devoted to him because he doesn’t expect much from us. He allows us to go to worship or serve Christ when we don’t have anything better to do.
The Bible is clear that God isn’t “small.” He can’t be put in a box. God doesn’t call us to be either safe or comfortable. He calls us to be devoted and faithful.
We have to think big when it comes to God and his unfolding kingdom on earth. We’ve got to accept there are many other mysterious things about God we simply can’t understand. Our human minds and spirits simply aren’t able to comprehend how big he really is.
We need to long for more of God’s power in our lives. Many times, we limit how much power God can unleash in our lives because we have such a small view of him.
All of this sounds well and good but how do we do this? After all, if we could do it on our own, we’d be doing it now. The answer to our dilemma is rather simple. We admit the only one who can help us think bigger about God is God himself. However, there’s one thing we have to do for this to happen.
Psalm 40:1-8 says,” 1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
4 Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. 5 Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.
6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— but my ears you have opened— burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. 7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll. 8 I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”
What do we need to do in order for God to hear our cries, lift us out of the pit, plant our feet on solid rock, give us a new song and hymn of praise so we can be a witness for him?
Is it to make the right sacrifices in our life and give the proper offerings? No!
The only thing we need to do to see the power of God revealed in our lives is to have a willing heart to do God’s will.
Even though the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon, the moon can eclipse it because it’s much closer to us. God is much bigger than we realize but, unfortunately, we hold our small views of him much too close to us. They make him seem much smaller than he really is.
Over the next few weeks, we’re doing a sermon series on thinking bigger about God. Please spend time in prayer asking God to give us a willing heart to do his will so we can see how bright his mystery and power really are.