Good morning and welcome to Journey Church. Today we are going to be studying the book of Ephesians, chapter 3, verse 14-21.
We began studying this letter four weeks ago. It was written in about 62ad from a prison in Rome. This letter to the church in that met in the city of Ephesus was written by the early church leader who was called the Apostle Paul – who actually started the church about ten years before writing this letter.
He was driven out of town by a mob of idol makers who feared for their business as they watched people turning to Jesus in droves. And so – as he sits in jail on trumped up charges, he has time to write this beloved church and instruct them in the basics of the faith.
We noted that this letter – that we often call “the book of Ephesians” is broken into two halves. The first three chapters deal with the wealth of a believer. the second half – which we will begin studying next Sunday, deals with the walk of a believer and deals with, how now shall we live.
We noted that Paul begins this letter by praising God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing on earth and in heaven through faith in Jesus. Now that’s wealth. We lack nothing. And we fear nothing. We’ are already blessed beyond measure.
Then Paul prayed for his church. And he prayed that God would give us spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. And he prays that we will understand the hope he has given to those he called. And that we will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for those of us who believe…
Obviously – Paul is a teacher and he prays that we will grow in our understanding of all these things and more. He wants us to be intelligent and smart and study the Bible and know things…
And I bring this up because here in Chapter 3 Paul is going to pray for his church again. Except he is going to pray in a slightly different way. Instead of praying that we will grow in the knowledge of God – he is going to pray that we experience the power that comes from God’s love.
And – this is where our language fails us – because I’m using the same word but I want you to understand the difference between knowing something and Knowing something.
There is a difference between knowing something (head) and Knowing something in your heart. Acknowledging something and feeling something.
Have you ever felt like there was some kind of blockage between your head knowledge – that seems to keep it from making it’s way down into your heart – into your guts?
Paul wants us to feel God’s love in our guts. In our bones.
Let me read the entire section. Listen for the emotion in Paul’s words-
14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. Now just so you know – in Paul’s day is was typical to pray standing up – but Paul here is overcome with emotion. It’s buckling his knees – this is a sign of emotion.
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.
Now let me ask you – why is Paul praying for something he knows we who have placed our faith in Christ – already have? Aren’t we already empowered by the spirit when we step across the threshold of faith from the darkness of the Kingdom of ME and into the light of the right now Kingdom of Heaven?
Hasn’t Jesus already made his home in our hearts when we prayed to Jesus to rescue us from ourselves and bring us life?
Why is he praying it again? He wants to push that knowledge of God’s love from our head and into our heart through our hand and feet and thoughts and words.
He wants us to know God’s love, not just know it.
18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Pauls prayer is that his readers will experience the love of God. That we would be blown away by the width, and length and Height and depth of God’s love. That we would feel it in our bones.
Now this kind of talk sometimes makes people uncomfortable. In fact within Christianity there are many expressions of worship. And so some churches are more given to creating a worship experience that tries to help us feel the presence of God. It’s more geared toward creating an emotional response.
And other churches – and I’d say like Journey – are more geared toward understanding the bible and why it makes sense to follow Jesus. We spend quite a bit of time talking about intellectual objections to faith.
And so this passage is a difficult one for me – I spent most of the week tying to dissect it into a logical sequence in order to be able to preach it. Paul makes three points here.
And even trying to intellectually tear this passage into pieces to study is missing the point. There’s really only one point. It’s a prayer – that we will feel in our deepest parts of our soul – the matchless love of God as shown to us through Jesus.
The first half of the book of Ephesians is bookended by two prayers. The first is that we would know the love of God. The second is that we would KNOW it. We need both. We need the gospel to renovate our thinking, and we need it to renovate our feelings.
Blaise Paschal was a true renaissance man – a man who in the 1600’s invented a mechanical calculator, the hydraulic press – the syringe, a vacuum cleaner – he was a beyond brilliant mathematician – he was also a strong Christian. He wrote brilliantly about the faith.
When Blaise died they found a hand written document sewn into the inside of his jacket with these words. And I’m only reading a few excerpts…
The year of grace 1654,
Monday, 23 November,
From about half past ten at night until about half past midnight,
GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob
not of the philosophers and of the learned. Remember now – Blaise WAS a Philosopher – but for two hours that night – he experienced the love of God – he caught a glimpse and like Paul it buckled his knees.
Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
GOD of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
This is what Paul is praying for us. See – Paschal was brilliant. But he didn’t sew his formula into his jacket. Something happened to him at the soul level that he wanted to make sure he never forgot.
He experienced the love of God. And it radically changed him – it radically strengthened him and his faith.
Paul is praying that we will experience God’s love. Note how many times he speaks about power in this passage – three different times he talks about Power. Power. Power.
Back to verse 18…
18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.
There is power in experiencing the love of God. This entire passage is filled with power words… in fact – you know the phrase Paul uses here – when he prays that we might experience the width and length and height and depth of God’s love?
Well, these words, it is commonly known to people who studied the first century – were words used in spells. It was a common part of magical incantations.
We spoke about this in the first week – that Ephesus was very spiritual – they were in touch with the mystical part of life,
And in case you are thinking – how first century – witches? I read just last week on the front page of the NYTIMES online – an article about how witchcraft is growing as women seek more power…
In Acts 19 – part of what happened in Ephesus was a spiritual encounter between Paul and magicians who were using Paul’s words in chants and incantations. And s they watched Paul drive demons out in the name of Jesus – and so these magicians thought – we can do the same thing. And so they would speak to the demonic realm and they would say the same words as Paul – thinking Paul was a magician of some sort.
Well it didn’t go well for the magicians – because the demons respond by saying we know Jesus. And we know who Paul is. But we don’t know who you all are – and this demon possessed guy pounces on these seven magicians and beats the tarnation out of them.
And so word gets around – that there is REAL power – Paul knows where the real power is coming from. And these magicians – these in the spirit of Halloween – sorcerers and witches – they come to faith in Jesus – and spontaneously – of their own accord decide their book of spells is garbage and trash and maybe dangerous and so they burn them. Thousands of dollars worth of books of spells.
And each of them contained spells that include the words – by the breadth and length and height and depth of the cosmos – or whatever…
Paul brilliantly borrows their phraseology – knowing that the church in Ephesus would be filled with people who would catch the gist – real power is at hand – and real power comes from experiencing the width and length and height and depth of God’s love.
It’s brilliant. Real power is found in experiencing God’s love.
Now let me share two ways that experiencing God’s love brings power.
First – only by experiencing the love of God can we be transformed. Transformation of our own soul can only occur when we experience the power of the love of God.
What do I mean. I heard a great example of this from author and pastor Timothy Keller – who says – that – if you grew up in a house where one day your father looked at you and said to you – you are worthless and will never amount to anything. If you had the terrible misfortune of growing up in that kind of home.
Then you not only know that your father said it. But you know it. It seeped into your bones. And if that’s the case – then it is possible that you could read 66 books in the bible that said over and over again you are not worthless – you are worth everything to me – you are loved beyond measure. You are my beloved son and cherished daughter.
Until God’s words are felt in our heart with at least the same power as the words of a mean father – there will be little transformation. Will we ever change if we don’t let God’s love make it to our heart?
Secondly – experiencing the full measure of the love of God will change our world.
Last week – we talked about how the work of Jesus on the cross-eliminated those divisions within humanity that we contrive to elevate us and exclude others. We talked about how the gospel of Jesus – the good news of Jesus – levels all of humanity – we are all sinners and we are all hosed and hopeless unless Jesus does something to change our situation.
The gospel levels us but it also elevates us. No one is worthless. Jesus died for us all because of his love. What room does that leave us for contempt for another person?
We live in a world filled with contempt for others – and here’s the deal – the only solution for contempt is persistent love. Love is the only antidote for contempt.
Only when we experience God’s love for us – will we be able to put cease maiming people and scarring them with our contempt.
And only when we experience God’s love in our heart – will we be able to not be scarred by others contempt for us. We don’t need to be overly concerned with the applause of mankind – we already know God adores us.
The only solution to the problems of this world is God’s love – flooding out of our heads – into our hearts – and from there to our hands and feet and thoughts and words… The only hope we have is to experience the love of God.
So – and now here is the hardest part of this sermon. How? How do I experience the love of God? This is where the intellectual side of me wants to say – by following these three steps you too can feel the love of God down deep in your soul!
But there are really no steps. Because you don’t want to chase the experience. And the answer has to be – you have to continue to chase hard after Jesus himself.
And this is an admittedly clumsy comparison, but – You don’t chase the kiss you chase the girl.
Well – we want to experience the love of God but – we aren’t chasing the experience – We’re chasing the person.
Blaise Paschal wasn’t chasing the fire – he was chasing Jesus.
So we will want to chase Jesus.
That said – I think that we will want to do just what Paul tells us to do – which is to ask the Holy Spirit to help us comprehend the width and the length and the height and the depth of God’s love for us.
Where do we find the breadth of God’s love? Isn’t it by looking at the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross? Isn’t it by realizing that the forgiveness and new life available to all? Look at the cross to see Jesus outstretched arms to see the Width of God’s great love.
Where do we find the length of God’s love for us? Isn’t it on the cross, where the bible tells us in the book of revelation that the cross was planned before the foundations of the earth. Gods love for us goes back in time forever and it goes forward in time forever.
Where will we find the height of God’s love for us? As Jesus mother and friends did- look up at Jesus on that cross for us – no greater love is this – that a man lays down his life for his friends. Look up at Jesus on the cross and see – – Psalm 36:5 tells us Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
Meditate on the depths of the love of God. Look to the cross and see the grave – where they buried Jesus. And where on the third day he rose again from the tomb.
Look at the depths of God’s love for us at the cross and ask ourselves what did it cost God to show his love to us?
Oh the matchless love of God as shown to us through the cross.
I’ll close by praying over you Paul’s prayer for his brothers and sisters in Ephesus.
Stand with me and let me pray this over you. And then the band will come for two more songs where we can worship this kind of God.
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
That Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. That Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.