Friday, June 27, 2008

Knowing Love

"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power, together with all the saints, 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 to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Eph 3:17-19)

Often, when I'm praying at the beginning of my preparation of a sermon, I will be aware of the Spirit of God whispering to me, "tell my people I love them." It seems such a basic truth - the Lord Jesus loves us. Yet as I talk with fellow believers it is becoming increasingly clear to me that a significant number of Christians don't actually know that God loves them.

Hearts and Minds
It is quite simple to give mental assent to the idea that Jesus loves us. We see the evidence in His sacrifice at Golgotha. But there is a difference between knowing that someone loves us and knowing their love. In this passage we see that Paul's desire was for Christians not simply to understand that they are loved, but to experience it. John tells us that God is love (1 Jn 4:8) so to be filled with the fullness of God as Paul prays, is to be filled with love, to know Christ is to experience love.

The love of Jesus for His people is completely unconditional. Paul uses language of physical dimension to try to describe the endless, infinite quality of His love. Earlier, in verse 9, he talks about the "unsearchable riches of Christ." In verse 19 he says that the love of Christ, "surpasses knowledge." He even invents words in His attempt to convey to his readers the immensity of the Lord's love for us.

In Love With Jesus
Twice in the past week I've heard testimonies in which people have described their relationship with the Lord as "falling in love with Jesus." Some would wince at that kind of language for relationship with a holy God but I am reminded of something someone said to me many years ago, "a fanatic is just someone who loves Jesus more than I do."

Sometimes believers get stuck in the growth of their relationship with the Lord. They receive salvation with great gratitude but can't quite get past the idea that they are sinners saved by grace. But there is so much more to being brought into the Kingdom of God. We are meant to have life in abundance (Jn 10:10), we don't have to wait until we get to heaven, our eternal life starts now (Jn 3:36). Jesus made it clear that He loves us so much that He wants us to share His home in heaven (Jn 14:2-3), but also that He can't wait until then so He comes to us now (Jn 14:23).

In Eph 5:21-33 Paul talks about the marriage relationship. We often focus on the role of the husband and wife, but Paul says something astonishing, "this is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the church," (v32).

"The Bride of Christ" is a term that falls rather glibly from our lips at times, but it is an awesome concept. Paul indicates that human marriage is meant to be lived as an illustration of the love relationship of Jesus with His people. "It is not good for the man to be alone," (Gen 2:18) was God's view of humanity from the beginning. The idea of marriage came from the heart of the Father because He knew He wanted to prepare a bride for His Son.

Whatever feelings of love and desire we may have felt for a marriage partner, they pale into insignificance in comparison with the love and desire which the Lord Jesus has for each of His people.

Song of Songs
Sometimes people wonder what the Song of Songs is doing in their Bible. It is a passionate love poem, far more erotic than most English translations of it permit themselves to be. But like the marriage it describes, it has two purposes. One is to give God's seal of approval on the joy and pleasure of physical intimacy within marriage. The other, as many believers have discovered, is to serve as an illustration of the relationship between the Lord and His church.

Some interpretations are too allegorical and find hidden meanings behind the words. But there is enough in the plain meaning to delight the heart of someone who loves Jesus. Who, who has found themselves whispering the name of Jesus during prayer or worship, would not agree that, "your name is like perfume poured out," (SoS 1:3)? Who would not rejoice to say, "his banner over me is love," (SoS 2:4)? Many hymns and worship songs have incorporated concepts from the Song.

Human love is never meant to surpass the love we have for the Lord. No human love, even that expressed by the lover in the Song, can come close to the love of the Lord Jesus for us. But it takes a revelation for us to begin to grasp this in a way which makes a difference to our lives, which is why Paul prays this amazing prayer for the believers. If we could get deep into our soul some heart understanding of this vast love, our concern would be less about whether we were putting a frown on God's face and more about looking for ways to put a smile there.

Prayer College Assignment
The love of the Lord Jesus is beyond measure. However much you've experienced, there is more. Pray this prayer in Ephesians for yourself and for others, especially those who are experiencing challenging times.

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