From the start of his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul has been drawing us deep into the wonders of God’s love for us. He’s piled on metaphors and images, one on top of the other, to help us understand what astonishingly good news the gospel of Jesus is. And as he does that, he’s establishing the conditions in which we learn to live life in step with Jesus, as his apprentices or (the more churchy word) disciples, learning to live in God’s good will on earth as it is in heaven.
And that really is the goal: to live God’s good will, in the company of Jesus. Jesus is how we know most clearly what God’s will is. Our verses for today say this: “With all wisdom and insight God has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” We’re just going to look at the first half, and we’ll consider the second half tomorrow.
In the Church, we hear all the time that we are supposed to live in God’s will. But to say simply, “Live God’s will” is a pretty nebulous instruction. How can we know the mind of God? How can we figure out how to do, in our little realm, on this tiny planet, what the Maker of galaxies wants?
Paul’s answer to that is that God, in God’s wisdom, made the mystery of his will known in Jesus. And more, it was God’s good pleasure to make that mystery known. We need to understand that. It’s a remarkable thing that this God, who made the heavens and the earth, every quark and quasar, is pleased to be known. This God isn’t content to stay aloof, at a safe heavenly distance.
This God gets right down with us. In the beginning, we saw God playing in the dirt in the Garden of Eden; in Jesus we see God with that same dirt on his feet. If we want to know what God wants for the world, what God is like in the world, we look to Jesus.
The most straightforward way to do that is to read our Bibles. In particular, the first four books of the New Testament, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, tell us the story of Jesus’ ministry. If we want to know what Jesus is like, what he expects of his followers, how he moves through the world, we should start there.
But what we’ll find pretty quickly is that the gospels don’t give us answers to every situation, there’s not nearly enough instructions to tell us what to do all the time. Fortunately, that’s not the point. The point is to introduce us to a person. The point of reading our Bibles, and meditating on what we read, the point of praying (we’ll talk more about prayer in a couple of episodes), the point of any Christian spiritual discipline is to come to know Jesus better. To know God’s heart, to know the mystery of God’s love in Christ, for us and for all things.
In John’s gospel, Jesus says “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” We are made for intimacy with God. We’re not made simply to follow religious rules—though, Jesus has some expectations for his followers—we’re made to be caught up in the love of the Trinity, the love between the Father, Son and Spirit. That’s how we learn to navigate the world faithfully. We’re invited to know the heart of God.
And we’re invited to make the heart of God known. Later in John’s gospel, Jesus says that those who love him will do what he does and—get this—even greater things! That’s hard for me to imagine, but I love that it’s what Jesus thinks of me. What he thinks of you.
I’d invite you today to start a Bible reading plan, if you don’t have one already, and read through the gospels. I always recommend the great videos at bibleproject.com, especially if reading the Bible is new to you. They also have a great app that will lead you through the whole Bible, if that’s something you want to do. It’s called simply, “read scripture”.
My prayer today is that we would know God’s heart more and more—know the love that is before the beginning and stretches past the end—and that everyone we meet would experience God’s heart through us.
May it be so.