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Sermon 9/9/2018 - “God’s Love is Greater than the Unknown!” Ephesians 3:7-10

[This sermon was delivered at Mt. Hope Congregational Church, Livonia Michigan, Sunday September 9, 2018 by Dr. Chris Surber. This manuscript served as the basis of the sermon, from which several extemporaneous thoughts were also shared, at the leading of the Holy Spirit.]

“God’s Love is Greater than the Unknown!”
Ephesians 3:7-10

Series Intro: Niagara Falls Video

That waterfall is impressive! Strangely, the whole time I was there I kept kind of waiting for somebody to turn the valve off! How can that much water keep flowing? God’s love is even greater and more unending…

God’s love is greater than the unknown, our sin, weakness, and doubts.

Several generations ago a spy was captured and sentenced to death by a Persian General. The general, a man of intelligence and compassion, had adopted a strange and unusual custom of permitting a condemned person to make a choice. The prisoner could either face a firing squad or pass through the Black Door. On a particular occasion, he asked his prisoner: “What shall it be – the firing squad or the Black Door?”

The prisoner hesitated, but soon made it known that he much preferred the firing squad to the unknown horrors that might await him behind the ominous and mysterious door. Not long thereafter, a volley of shots in the courtyard announced that the grim sentence had been fulfilled. The general, staring at his boots, turned to his aide and said, “You see how it is with men; they will always prefer the known to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the undefined. Yet I gave him his choice.” “What lies beyond the Black Door?" asked the aide. “Freedom,” replied the general, “and I've known only a few brave enough to take it.”


Let’s simply discover who we are in Christ – our gifts – and just press further into Christ in ways consistent with our specific calling…

II Corinthians 5:7 “We live by faith, not by sight.” (NIV84) I broke when upon reading this. It has been my experience as well that, while God’s love is greater than the unknown, few are those who choose faith in the dark that could bring them into the light. We usually choose a known evil over anything unknown. Let’s decide today to face the unknown in faith!

God’s love is greater than the unknown! There is nothing in the undefined darkness of future possibilities that has or ever will find our Lord unprepared or surprised! That’s what sovereignty means practically…

CIT/CIS: God is at work in us in new ways to take us into new days.

Let’s deal this morning with the two chief ideas in this text, and then apply them. (1) God uses broken people. (2) God keeps and reveals mysteries.

1. (vv.7-8) Take note of the man. His humility! The flower of richest fragrance is the lowly violet. So humility is the fairest of Christian graces. And what is humility if only the right assessment of oneself in light of Christ!

God uses unsavory characters, selfish sinners, lost degenerates, slanderers, Pharisees, religious idolaters… prideful, accomplished, and confused, me and you…  

Paul’s growth in this. He calls himself successively
1. The least of the apostles (1Co_15:9).
2. Less than the least of all saints (Eph_3:8).
3. The chief of sinners (1Ti_1:15).

The ministry he had received. Its excellence in contrast with his own conscious unworthiness. A great treasure in an the earthen vessel.

All work for Christ should be so regarded. Accepted as a privilege it ceases to be a task. Don’t fear the unknown. Mystery, it is a grace that beckons us to into a life of humility and faith! The unknown is faith’s fountain.

Paul was a missionary to the Gentiles. And what are the mission and the message of Christ’s missionary church? It is to share the good news of…

he wonder of the Gospel is the riches of Christ in us! Our only hope! Our only message!

1. Christ: the substance and life of all true preaching.
2. Paul’s expression: Riches of Christ’s grace! Riches of Christ’s glory![2]  
3. Unsearchable riches. Impossible to trace-out (Greek); now revealed.

2. (vv. 9-10) The Lord keeps many mysteries but makes them known at the right the time, in just the right ways, so as to bring about redemption, healing, and hope. We serve a majestic and mysterious and marvelous Lord!
But why would an all knowing all powerful God choose to reveal Himself in the biblical manner; progressively demonstrating Himself, His plan, His grace, so as to unfold these things a little at a time, keeping the mystery?

He knew that His creatures could not see the natural and moral excellency of His nature, unless He actually displayed Himself in His works.

God chose the work of redemption, because it was the only one in which He could display all His perfections before the minds of His intelligent creatures. Redeemed suffering. Pain is the ever present pallet upon which God shifts and turns the paints of pain, doubt, and fear into beauty. And we, like the bird in this painting, cling in winter, in the unknown, knowing that God’s love is greater than the storm and doubts. Spring is coming! 

This is how God displays His perfections in their highest beauty and glory.
There is a kind of parallel found in this regard, between our pain and redemption and the Cross and Resurrection. In suffering we identify with Christ even as in His passion He identified with His creation. In redemption we are rescued from sin and the present state, even as in Resurrection He broke the chains of slavery which held us. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15:22 NIV84)

He saw it was necessary, not only to display all His perfections, and to display them all in the clearest manner to prepare the minds of all moral beings to view them with the greatest attention and sensibility. God’s love was greater than the unknown darkness of the Cross and through it we are redeemed. God’s plan, God’s grace, God’s love is greater than the unknown!

A concluding passage of Scripture and a thought as we depart.

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:21-25 NIV84)

Don’t fear the unknown! Regardless of the pain, regardless of the process; God is always bringing redemption and beauty to bear from our circumstances. God through the unknown door led by the maker of the door who is making all things new in Christ! Amen.

[1] Outline Adapted from the Biblical Illustrator, accessed via eSword Bible Software.
[2] Eph_1:7, Eph_3:16.

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