(Randy writing) This final of four Christmas devotionals is by our dear church friend Bill Kesecker. We thank him for these deep insights upon Scripture that dig into our souls. It is such a blessing for a church to have such wonderful servants as Bill — a guy who would be your top draft pick on your Bible trivia team, but who also humbly serves well with children and teens. Do thank him when you see him.
“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)
You probably noticed that I switched “deep” with “high.” I have followed John Stott’s reflections on what these four words mean in the context of Paul’s prayer, or considered whether they simply express the sweeping vastness of the love of Christ by building noun upon noun. I think both are true; either/or just doesn’t really account for the big Gospel that Paul sees in Jesus Christ. I think that Stott saw the flow of deep and high fitting his reasoning and sensibilities, for, if the love of Christ reaches the depths for a degraded sinner, so also the love of Christ exalts to the heights that sinner who is declared righteous in Jesus and who will be glorified for all eternity. Well, let’s dive once more into the wonder of the love of Christ.
That’s an interesting word, glorify! Glorification is “the final step in the application of redemption” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, p. 829). What’s particularly interesting is the grammar of Romans 8:29-30: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Every one of the verbs bolded is in the aorist, or past, tense in the Greek New Testament. But clearly, if “glorified” is the FINAL step in the application of redemption, is it not yet future? And, the answer is “Yes.” So, how can Paul speak of a future event as past completed?! Paul did not fail Greek class. He knew what he was asserting.
Paul was affirming to the believers at Rome and to us that the salvation we have in Jesus Christ rests on God’s plan and work, not ours. God can guarantee that the work that he has accomplished in Jesus could be completed, would be completed, was completed, has been completed, and will be completed. Paul can speak of that work of salvation in us who trust in Jesus as totally completed. Salvation rests one hundred percent on the finished, sufficient, and accomplished work of Jesus Christ! God does go deep to find a sinner and will go high to exalt him to his very presence now and forever.
I would like to make an observation here about sinners. I know that I have referred to the degraded sinner in these devotions. I want to take care to note that the Gospel of Jesus puts me in every list of sins in the Bible. It doesn’t make any difference what your or my perceptions may be about how good I am. Bill Kesecker is not good enough to be accepted by God as righteous. My hope is in Jesus Christ alone. My heavenly welcome will be the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ whom I trust as my Savior and only Righteousness. If you are measuring your life by me or by some other man or woman, STOP IT! The comparison is empty, futile, and worthless. Find your hope in Jesus Christ! And, he’s looking for you right now, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10 NIV).
Frederick M. Lehman penned “The Love of God” in 1917, capturing something of Paul’s vision of the love of Christ Jesus.
Let me give William Cowper one more word. Scriptures tell us, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4 NIV). In his terrible struggles in life, Cowper learned the fragility and unfaithfulness of human needs, senses, and emotions. Hear his advice:
God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform; he plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines, of never-failing skill; he fashions up his bright designs, and works his sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, the clouds that you much dread, are big with mercy and will break in blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace; behind a frowning providence, he hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour; the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain; God is his own interpreter, and he will make it plain.
–“God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” by William Cowper
Well, Friends, we’re on a journey if we are following Jesus. It’s long, sometimes hard. We need prayer, and this week we have looked at one of the most extraordinary prayers ever: “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.”