This devotional today is the second of four written by Bill Kesecker…
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” –Ephesians 3:16-21 (New International Version)
Paul’s vision of the love of Christ is massive, compared to that of which we are accustomed. I mean he prays that God will strengthen believers with power through God’s Spirit so that Christ may dwell in believers by faith. He prays that we may grow and be founded in love and have enough power even to grasp the nature of the love of Christ and to know his love that surpasses the accumulation of knowledge that would help us to see its shape and dimensions. Paul doesn’t want us to “think” it, but to know intimately and personally the love of Christ and be filled full forever with Jesus and his love!
Jesus showed his disciples and the Syro-Phoenician woman that love was wide enough to bring Jew and Gentile together as one people under the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus. John’s Gospel gives us one of, if not, the best definition of God’s love when he declares, “For God loved the world in this way: he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (3:16, modified to reflect the Greek text). John doesn’t present the love of God in terms of emotion, but of action: “he gave his one and only Son.” This kind of love surpasses knowledge. It is something more that what you think or reason about. We can massively mount up vocabulary and polysyllables to capture the essence. But, bottom line, God gave his Son for sinners. You and me kind of sinners. Nice ones, polite ones, likeable ones, pretty ones, lying ones, profane ones, multiple offender ones, hypocrite ones, religious ones, pagan ones, pious ones, humble ones, disturbed ones. The list of descriptors could never end! And God loves us in Jesus. And we don’t even get any credit for being appealing enough to capture his attention.
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10 NIV).
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV).
If the love of Christ is wide enough to embrace Jew and Gentile and make them one holy people, fellow citizens, and members of his household (Ephesians 2:14-22 NIV), the Gospel of Jesus declares the love of Christ long enough to reach back into eternity past to purpose to treat us graciously and to stretch out completely for all eternity present and future to fill us to the measure of all the fullness of God.
William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”), a contemporary of John Newton of “Amazing Grace” fame, would have despaired of those words, however, being consumed with paralyzing bouts of depression throughout his lifetime. Reflecting on Isaiah 57:15, Cowper penned,
The Lord will happiness divine / On contrite hearts bestow;
Then tell me, gracious God, is mine / A contrite heart or no?
I hear, but seem to hear in vain, / Insensible as steel;
If aught is felt, ’tis only pain, / To find I cannot feel.
I sometimes think myself inclined / To love Thee if I could;
But often feel another mind, / Averse to all that’s good.
My best desires are faint and few, / I fain would strive for more;
But when I cry, “My strength renew!” / Seem weaker than before.
–“The Contrite Heart”
Cowper’s despair derived from the mountainous burden to generate such a love and to silence the loud fears of enough. Is my heart contrite enough? Is my spirit lowly enough? How can we factor such intangibles that even the Lord will not lay on his sons and daughters?
Not all of us despair, however, but we may just back off a few or more steps from Christ, when we think of such love as a commitment we should, or must, or have to keep. But, is Paul’s love of Christ the effort of a super Christian? How in the world can I love with an eternity-spanning love that has only once been seen manifested in the whole of human history, and that in Jesus Christ himself? Where do I, by myself, come up with that mammoth perfection of loving actions, every time, every moment, every day, all my life? I’m exhausted! Flat out exhausted by the thought!
“Give me some help, Paul! Come on! Are they just words, Paul?! Just beautiful, calligraphic words with scrolls and flourishes, beautiful to behold; death-giving to attempt!”
“Wait, Bill! Look at Ephesians again! ‘For this reason I kneel’ (3:1, thought interrupted and picked up again at 3:14a NIV).”
“Bill, relax, rest in Jesus, son! Ask, ask gently and humbly, ask in faith, ask your Father, knowing he loves that prayer for you, even ask for the strength and will to ask, and ask again! God didn’t save you because you had potential to live the Christian life all by yourself. Remember? “While. . .still sinners. . . .”
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:16-17a NIV, emphasis added).
I believe Mary, mother of Jesus, gives us a sense of the balance here: not my intense exertion, Lord, but “I am the Lord’s servant. . . . May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38 NIV).
“Dear Father, for your mercy and forgiveness I come by faith in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, Lord, how I fall short of the love of your Son Jesus in my actions and thoughts and words and attitudes. I am not worthy of your love, and I fail to live out the love of Christ. I don’t even know how to try sometimes. And at other times I don’t even want to try. But, Lord God, I trust you! I bow my knees to you like Paul did. I ask you to supply what I don’t have and can never give. I offer myself to you. I love you, though I feel ashamed to say it. I love you by faith, Father. May you make true in me what you are as my Father. By your Son’s intercession and your Spirit’s power may Christ’s life and love dwell in me now and forevermore. In Jesus’ name, I come to you. Amen.”