Full of the Love of Christ
Topic: Jesus Christ Passage: Ephesians 3:14–3:19
There are some places in scripture (perhaps many), where we aren’t sufficiently stunned by what is being said or described. It could be because we are so used to hyperbole OR it just sounds like highfalutin spiritual talk. Either way, we read right past something that should grab us by the collar and shake us. This is one of those passages. The words of our text are so big, so wonderful, we wonder if they can be true. The very best news in the world is not too good to be true. It is so good... and absolutely true!
This is an inspired prayer (explain bible is inspired) so it's one you have permission to pray for and expect God to answer in his mercy. So we can have confidence as believers in Jesus Christ that this is what He wants for us.
A Spirit-filled church is a church full of the love of Christ!
Threefold prayer with three requests and each request builds upon the previous ones: 1) That you would receive deep inner strength by the Spirit. 2) That you would experience the incomprehensible love of Christ in community. 3) That you would be filled with all of God’s fullness.
Deep Inner Strength
The first request is that you would be given deep, inner strength through the Holy Spirit.
Verse 16 says that the Father “may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” Strengthened with power, but not just any power. It is God’s power. It is through, or by means of the Holy Spirit. He is not part of the backup team. The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity and is FULLY God!
Notice where we need this strength. Deep within, in our inner being. We need strength at the deepest level. Physical strength won’t cut it. Even incredible hulk size strength will not cut it for what God wants to give. Strength at the heart level is what God wants to give.
Notice why we need this strength. The purpose for this deep inner empowering through the Spirit is seen in verse 17:
So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…
We cannot handle the risen Christ on our own. We need deep strengthening. Jesus is not some little, insignificant god who can fit in our back pocket or in the corner of our heart. He is the risen, sovereign, victorious LORD who wants to make his dwelling in us as his temple. And when he wants to bring a new sense of how wonderful and real beyond all this world offers into our tiny hearts, we need strength. Ray Ortlund said,
Picture it this way: if I drop a piece of white-hot nuclear fuel into a paper bag, that paper bag needs to be strengthened in order to hold that fuel.
We are the paper bag, Christ is the white-hot nuclear fuel. We need the power of the Spirit so Christ can dwell within.
Experience of Incomprehensible Love
The second request is that you would experience the incomprehensible love of Christ in community. Paul prays for strength again. This time it is strength to comprehend the love of Christ. Or to know Christ’s love which is beyond knowing. Paul prays that we would comprehend the incomprehensible and know what surpasses knowledge. Clearly for Paul this experience is not a mindless, unconscious thing that happens. There is comprehending. There is knowing. But equally clear, this experience takes us beyond our capacities of comprehending.
Paul is not done. He prays for comprehension of the “breadth, and length, and height, and depth” of the love of Christ. The measurements or dimensions are immeasurable… because it surpasses our knowledge. Now, just to do a little exercise, the Milky Way - 100,000 light years wide. 1 light year = 5.9 trillion miles. The love of Christ - immeasurable!
I said this is to be experienced in community. Why did I say that? Because Paul says, “that you may have strength to comprehend with all the saints…” This experience is in community, when we exalt in the mighty love of Christ together. Which leads to the last request of this prayer - which is the result of experiencing the incomprehensible love of Christ.
Filled With All God's Fullness
The third request is that you would be filled with all the fullness of God.
How can this even be described? Filled with God sounds amazing. Filled with the fullness of God - sounds stupendous beyond words. Filled with all the fullness of God takes us beyond what we can even imagine. We can say this though. If you are filled with all the fullness of God; so full of Christ’s love, come what may - calamity or prosperity - you are ready for it!
Now, these three prayers build upon each other, but what seems central is comprehending the incomprehensible love of Christ. It is why we need to be “strengthened with the Spirit’s power” and results in being “filled with all the fullness of God”. So what I want to do, with all the Spirit’s help, is to heap upon you grenade after grenade of the love of Christ, praying all the while that you may comprehend this incomprehensible love and be filled with all the fullness of God. I think Paul intended for his readers to think about these dimensions (no throw away words): breadth, length, height, and depth.
The love of Christ is boundless in its breadth. We should be very careful we don’t think of Christ’s love as narrow and restrictive, barely touching anyone, but as boundless and free! Listen to Charles Spurgeon,
I know a certain school of Christians who have need to study this point, for they have a very narrow idea of the Lord's loving kindness. They conceive of Divine love as a very narrow stream, they have never seen it to be a mighty, flowing, abounding, and rejoicing river, such as it really is. The love of Jesus Christ does not surround our favoured island alone, but, like the ocean, it washes every shore. The love of Jesus Christ has been extended to kings upon their thrones, but with equal and more frequent bounty to the slaves in their dungeons.
The love of Christ is immense and generous in its breadth. Consider the woman of Luke 7. She was called a “woman of the city who was a sinner…” (go through story). She heard Jesus was at a Pharisee’s home for dinner and came. She knew Jesus was a Friend of sinners. Her story is our story. For it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us (Romans 5:6). More, while we were enemies! Are you a Christian? Well, you are because he loved you while an enemy.
2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” The love of Christ is “vast, unmeasured, boundless, free. It is an ocean vast of blessing!”
The love of Christ is all-forgiving in its length. Length - Gk. Mekos, which is akin to megas where we get our word mega as in “megaton”. Do you know how much a megaton is in explosives? 1 million tons of TNT. The love of Christ is mega, surpassing our worst, most inexcusable sins. Jesus said, “Greater has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And this was not a walk in the park for Jesus - remember the Garden of Gethsemane? Ps. 103:11-12.
Parents, what lengths would you go to rescue a 4 year old son or daughter? You know that old classic soul song “Ain’t no mountain high, ain’t no valley low, ain’t no river wide enough baby… to keep me from getting to you.” It’s a nice sentiment for human beings, but we have severe limitations, not Christ! He overcame the obstacle of our sin in his great love for us!
The love of Christ is eternal in its height. Lifts us from being slaves to sons and daughters of God. But it reaches higher than that. In fact, the height will not be fully seen until we are with the Lord forever. When in his mighty love for us he will “present us to himself radiant, without spot or blemish.”
This will be in fulfillment of the prayer of Jesus who prayed for us when he said, “Father, I desire that those you have given me may be with me…” At my dad's funeral, Luke and Alissa played and sang O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus and this line took on new, powerful meaning: “And it [the love of Christ] lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee.”
The love of Christ is intense in depth. How deep is the love of Christ? Deeper than your darkest secret. Deeper than your deepest pain.
Corrie ten Boom and Betsy ten Boom were Christians who lived in the Netherlands during World War II. They hid Jews in their home to protect them from the Nazis. When they were discovered, not only were the Jews taken to the concentration camp but Corrie and Betsy were taken as well, and they spent the rest of the war there. After watching one atrocity after another, Corrie told Betsy, "This place is the pit of hell!" Betsy replied, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper.” Betsy died in that pit of a concentration camp. But Christ’s love was deeper! And Corrie always remembered those words of her sister… and so should we.
The love of Christ is deep. The moment you wonder if Jesus has abandoned you, he is loving you most. The depth of his love us underneath you, holding you. You know the words of Romans 8,
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37)
O the deep, deep love of Jesus! When the mighty, nuclear powered love of Christ fills your heart, you are filled with all the fullness of God. And when this mighty love of Christ fills you, you are fully equipped to love and serve others in his name. DL Moody experienced what we are talking about here. Listen to his account of what happened:
one day, in the city of New York—oh, what a day!—I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name.... I can only say that God revealed himself to me, and I had such an experience of his love that I had to ask him to stay his hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world—it would be small dust in the balance.