Sitting at my dining room table with my Bibles and study books and coffee, I flip among the pages of my Bible, searching for favorite, underlined or highlighted texts that have been important to me over the years. God speaks to our minds and hearts and circumstances through the words of, for instance, John 3:16, or Psalm 23, or Romans 8:31-39.
If God is for us, who is against us?… I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:31, 38-39).
I actually prefer these words to John 3:16 because of Paul’s greater specificity. If you like to witness at a ball game, make yourself a sign that ROMANS 8:38-39. The first time I studied Romans in detail, chapter 8 in particular filled me with joy and relief. Paul’s words built and built with such force: can anything possibly separate us from God’s love? Does anything in our life stand in the way of God’s tremendous blessings reserved for us? Only our hardheadedness, I suppose, but if we’ve embarked on a life of faith, as I had, we become heirs of such riches.
Speaking of riches, some of my all-time favorite passages come from Ephesians. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us (Eph. 1:7-8)… the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints … the immeasurable greatness of his power … the working of his great power (Eph. 1:18-19) … the boundless riches of Christ (3:8)… the wisdom of God in its rich variety… (3:10). Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (3:20-21).
I’ve noted beside 3:10 that the original Greek word for “manifold” (poluroikilos) means “many-colored.” I also love that word “lavish”: imagine God pouring his grace, ladling his grace to us in huge, generous servings, and we come back for more and more! Alternately, imagine God splashing us, splattering us with great colorful heaps of wisdom and blessing. Psalm 23 provides a similar image of abundance: the overflowing cup. What a relief that was to discover: God’s grace is so much more than a warm feeling, so much more than rules to keep. Grace is more than even the help that we seek when we’re desperate: God’s grace is abundance, riches, and excess.
Jesus promised us abundant life: excessive life, outpouring life. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). The Greek word perisseia means “abundance” and “overflow.” The word alludes to the feeding of the multitudes, a story which, interestingly, is the only miracle (besides the resurrection) that is told in all four gospels (Matt. 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-13). Other important stories—the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the raising of Lazarus, the angelic appearance to the shepherds, and others—are not similarly repeated in all four. But the prevalence of this miracle alerts us to its importance; the life Jesus bestows is never stingy and grudging, and is certainly never earned.
There are many other signs of God’s abundance: the way Jesus socializes with people we’d avoid, the way God’s Holy Spirit was given freely to Jews and Gentiles alike, the way people found power, fellowship, and liberation in Christian fellowship, the way social barriers and distinctions dropped within the early church’s fellowship (e.g. Gal. 3:28). That poses a question: how can we ourselves, today, display God’s many-colored, heaping, overflowing lavishness?