I grew in my gift of preaching while working at St Andrew’s Church, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Every week I listened to some amazing preachers but I was frustrated that I couldn’t partake as I was a female working in a conservative church. Therefore, when I arrived back in the UK and preached for the first time, I realised that preaching is a passion of mine: sharing the Good News so that others can know and understand the love of God. This sermon was written at a very difficult time in the hope that God would use this dark season for his glory.
The Power of Love: God the great surgeon (Romans 5:5-8) by Emma Ash
What’s your biggest fear? Mine? Not being loved. In a world where I have learnt to put up barriers so that I can reject others before they reject me; God tells me love must be recovered. Desperate for love, the soul craves healing.
God the great surgeon looks within and knows that as our wounds lay open upon his table; there in pain, unable to move; he is the only skilled surgeon able to bring life up out of the grave. The pain we bear from the violation of not being loved has caused our hearts to close down every shutter in the hope that we can silence the screaming inside.
Yet the great surgeon will not rest. Face sharp, head strong, hands steady. He knows that we would avoid surgery at all costs but we lay there hopeless in need of fresh blood to pulse through our veins. The God of love, takes his knife and cuts into the deep so that we may find our God-given purpose: life to the full; a life of love.
The pain we feel, becomes worse as the great surgeon moves his knife. Removing each blockage so that life can flood in; he sees the wounds and he responds with grace. To heal, we must be brave. Confronted by the past, we must eliminate the pain. God in his great love, cuts away the scar tissue and there in surgery he rebuilds our souls.
Conflicted inside as the surgeon does his work; the heart wants to stop but his plans must prevail. Nothing can stop the love of God. The surgeon, there with his knife; and in his hands laying bare all my pride; we trust in vulnerability; we hope that we will survive. This is a last resort. This is the only way to be free. God the great surgeon, at his table with me.
The power of love is the power that saves lives. The power of love is the power to conquer the grave. The power of love is the power that God wants to place inside of both you and me. The power of love is a free gift and is available today.
Jesus Christ the Son of God, so loved the world, that he bore our sin and shame so that we might know the power of his love.
You see shame is a terrible curse. Right there at the start of creation we see it crippling the hearts of mankind. What did Adam and Eve do after eating from the tree in the middle of the garden? They became afraid, afraid of their nakedness, and hid. As we read on, shame appears again this time with Jacob. What did Jacob do after stealing his brother’s birth right? He became afraid, so afraid that he ran away and hid. Turn over to the next book in the Bible and shame continues to affect the souls of mankind; this time with Moses. What did Moses do after he killed the Egyptian? He hid the Egyptian in the sand and when confronted, he became afraid of Pharaoh, so afraid that he fled to Midian and hid.
Friends, the shame we hold inside from the effects of sin, makes us want to hide. How crippling shame becomes to those who have been abused; how devastating shame becomes when it rips through the lives of those who feel they have not met their parents’ expectations; how soul destroying shame is when relationships become increasingly difficult, making intimacy impossible.
Shame holds us back from knowing and experiencing the powerful love of God. And it is why the Apostle Paul hammers the message of love onto a wooden post so hard; it is because love is the one thing that will liberate us from the hell that is our shame.
Now some of you might be thinking, that’s all great, but I really don’t have a problem with shame. But ask yourself this, are there areas in your life that you hide from others? Areas you would never wish to be vulnerable in because it would make people see you differently? Are there areas in which you are longing for the love of God to be poured out into your hearts? For the great surgeon to heal? If so, then know that we have a God who is able to do more than we can possibly ask or imagine through the power of his great love.
This year I was asked ‘if you could grow in one area in your walk with God, what would it be?’ My response: Hope. Why? Because as Paul writes in verse five: ‘Hope does not put us to shame.’ If shame stops us from knowing the powerful love of God; hope opens us up to experiencing love, which has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a seal telling us that we no longer have to walk in shame but can experience the power of God’s love that is living inside of us.
Why is this possible? Verse six tells us that at the right time, when we were still powerless, that is unable to save ourselves from the sin and shame that has destroyed our souls; Christ came and died for the ungodly: for sinners: for Adam, for Eve, for Jacob, for Moses, for You, for Me. When we were powerless. When we were afraid. When we were hiding. When we were lying on the surgeon’s table. Christ came to save.
Rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly die. Someone might die taking a bullet for a friend they loved but rarely would anyone die taking a bullet for an enemy. I know I couldn’t; could you?
Yet here Paul tells us that if Christ died once and for all, if he did that for us when we were at enmity with God. How much more will God fulfil his promise to us that is to heal the wounds inside each of us and fill us with the power of his love? How much more will he fulfil the promise that is to give us eternal life, where one day he will wipe away every tear from our eyes? As heirs to his throne we are princes and princesses, children, dearly loved, accepted, and held by him. We are the workmanship of his hands.
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. There on the cross, Jesus gave his life so that we might find it. He felt the pain as he bore the weight of our sin and shame. Jesus was so distressed that he cried out to God ‘Abba, father, why have you forsaken me?’ The loneliness, the abandonment, the rejection; he felt it. Jesus the perfect sacrifice, lay there helpless, unable to move. There was no surgeon’s table. Jesus had to die. Why? So that we might rise again from the prisms of death that knock on our door. The open heart surgery of shame can only be healed through the power of love. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, receiving his love through the Holy Spirit which lives in us.
God the great surgeon wants us to know how long, and how high, and how wide, and how deep is the love of God; he wants us to know this love that surpasses knowledge so that we can be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. All we have to do is welcome Christ into our hearts, being vulnerable, open to his love, changing us from the inside out. When we welcome in the love of God, choosing not to hide and run away, it is then that we find the peace and the rest that our souls crave.
Recently, I’ve been through a real hard time to the extent that I have been depressed to the point of considering ending my life. During this time family and friends have gathered around me to pray and to stay with me through the dark nights. God the great surgeon was healing a wounded soul. The most powerful thing during this painful time has been to know that I am loved. The power of love heals the soul in such a way that nothing else can. It brings a joy so unfathomable that one can only rejoice. It brings a hope that something greater is possible. That depression is not perpetual but that love is.
Friends, pray to know the love of God. Pray for God to break down the walls which have kept his love from embracing you. Pray for God to take away the shame that you have inside and ask him to fill you with his hope so that you may be rooted and established in love.
God, the great surgeon loves you, receive his love today. Amen.