Love That Changes Us - Then and Now
July 31, 2014 by Benny Phillips 0 comments
Ephesians 5:23-30 is a familiar passage to most of us. (It’s the one about husbands and wives relating to one another as Christ and the church do.) While it’s a great passage about husbands and wives, it carries far greater significance. There are many different images in the Bible to describe the church, but none more clearly communicate the way God binds Himself in love to His people as does marriage.
If you’re married, how long did it take after the wedding to realize that any expectations you had about changing your spouse has a fatal flaw – and that flaw was you? (If you’re not married, make a note of that.) Pastor Skip Ryan says, “With the marriage covenant of Christ and His bride, the church, the covenant itself calls for the bride to be changed.” This isn’t my way of hinting to wives that you’re the ones who are in the most need of change. Rather, my point is that you and I as the bride of Christ are in desperate need of change.
We at Redeemer Church put a premium on caring for one another, loving one another and seeking to help each other grow and change. But the reality is: change must happen in the heart and no one can change a heart but Christ Himself. This begs the question, “But how does love bring change?” This passage helps us immensely with that question.
Verse 25 declares the simple but profound truth that “Christ loved the church.” The marriage analogy doesn’t mean Jesus “fell in love” with us because we’re just that loveable and desirable. Rather, Christ purposed to love us. Earlier in Ephesians it states that God’s love caused Him to set His love on us before the foundation of the world. There is nothing that influences God to love you and me: He simply does. We all know God loves us, right? But what does that love mean? What does it look like? How does the love of God produce change in us? According to this passage this transformation happens in three ways.
Verse 25 teaches us that the love of God isn’t so much a sentiment as it is action. We recognize love by what it does. “Christ gave Himself up” for us. The eternal Son of God didn’t have to choose to die. He did so out of love so we might be declared not guilty for our many sins (Romans 5:8). Even human love – in marriage, friendship and family – changes us to the extent that sacrifice is involved. You know what I mean. Think of someone who has really sacrificed himself or herself for you in some tangible way. Their sacrifice says “I love you!” loud and clear. The self-giving of Christ’s love, from throne to cross, is the compelling power that softens our hard hearts and breaks through the pride and self-sufficiency that enslaves us.
Christ not only “gave Himself” but also loved us to salvation. His breaks through the unloveliest thing about us -- our in-your-face active rebellion against God – and then allowed Himself to be hung on the cross we deserved. Sin, as we know, is a condition that results in living at odds with God. Our sin has the power to separate us from God and all His goodness. Christ saves us from this perilous condition by providing a Savior (verse 23). Those of you who heard my message a couple of weeks back about my and my daughter Janelle’s near drowning experience in 1997 know the details, but I want to be clear: I didn’t know I was about to risk my life for her when I ran out into the ocean that day. (Had I known I would have grabbed one of the many boogie boards laying around the beach!) My imperfect love for my little girl pointed her to the perfect love of the One who with full knowledge of His peril and awareness of His certain death “from the waters rescued…” all of us. The extent to which love is willing to go is the measure of its ability to transform.
The last way this passage proclaims God’s transforming love is how His love causes us to actually live and think like those who have been rescued from sin. Verses 25 and 26 are some of the most encouraging statements about God’s ability to change us in all of scripture.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”
Think about it. If Jesus loves me and saves us at such an unfathomable cost, then will He not accomplish the much smaller task of changing our inner motivations as well? Will He not change our attitudes and transform the very often hidden inner motivations -- the habits and addictions of my heart -- to become more like Him? The amazing thing about this is that He does not first change us and then love us! He loved us first then stirs the compelling power of that love to change us. Titus 2 puts it this way; “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions.” Love to save. Grace to ignite holiness. Truly amazing.
Let’s make this personal. Are you weighed down by the habits and patterns of sin? Do financial worries or broken relationships or temptations that keep grabbing your heart make you wonder “What’s the use?” Is the seeming snails pace at which you are growing cause discouragement or hopelessness? Please allow the love of Christ to overwhelm you. Let the power of His grace change you. Verse 26 promises that Christ washes us with the water of His word. His great love for us cannot and will not leave us in our current condition. Jesus love compels our hearts to desire transformation; transformation that is real and sure but is also slow.
There will be a Wedding Day where the Groom won’t be thinking He’s going to change the bride. Rather, she will have already been changed. No spots. No wrinkles. No sins, flaws, blemishes or even irritating habits. That bride, my friends, is you and me. He’s getting us ready for that Day. And His love will insure that each day between now and then is a part of that process.
So lift your eyes
To the things as yet unseen,
That will remain now
For all eternity.
Though trouble's hard,
It's only momentary
And it's achieving
Our future glory - Lou Fellingham, "There Is A Day."
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