Paul prays that his readers will be much more concerned about the inner man rather than the outer man, even though culture places a high value on outward appearances. He prays that our hearts will become Christ?s home, that He will dwell there and take up residence, and that He will transform every area of our lives. He further prays that we will know the breadth, length, height, and depth of God's love - not only intellectually but also experientially.
Believed the Truth? Received the Life? Then Walk in the Way.
Getting a Grip on What it Means to Love God
Believe What He Has Done, Be Living Like He Has Done It
The Blueprint of the Church, part 2
The Blueprint of the Church, part 1
A Reasonable and Right Response to His Radical, Redemptive Love
The Divine Dimension of Love
The Breadth, Depth, Width and Height of Puppy Love
A Suffering Steward in a Cell: What was True of Paul Ought to be True of Us
Things into Which Angels Long to Look
I told you last week as we reflected on chapter 3 and read it together that this really has become one of my favorite passages in Scripture, one of my favorite little sections, because it's nothing but an encouragement. We laugh a lot in here that there are two purposes to Scripture. Sometimes God's Word is there to comfort the afflicted, and sometimes it is there to afflict the comforted. Tonight is a time when God's Word is going to invite you to be comforted in what we have called the love of God.
Think back with me to last week where we read through this together and where we studied a right response to this incredible work God has done for us, which Paul has described up to this point in Ephesians, chapters 1, 2, and now 3. What you're going to find here is a prayer. There are five different prayers the apostle Paul lists in Scripture that we should take note and remind each other of before going to times of prayer together. Most of them are no more than four to five verses. Even the priestly prayer of Christ you can read from start to finish in three minutes.
Sometimes you go and sit to pray with somebody, and about 20 minutes into their introduction you hope they start to pray somewhere in there. God loves it when we come right to him. We certainly enter his gates with praise and thanksgiving. We're not so bold and brash to think we can just jump right into his lap, yet the epistle to the Hebrews encourages us in that way. It says, "Therefore, since we have such a Great High Priest, let us boldly go before the throne of grace." So we can do that. Paul is going to do that here.
You can always tell what a guy thinks he just taught on by what he prays for. As I reflected last week, I said at the end of that message that you're going to hear me pray for three things: the fact that we would respond to that right love God has offered us by submitting ourselves to him and enjoying all the protection that comes from it; that as a result of our return of love to him our Father in heaven would be praised; and finally, that others, then, through our show of love and our relationship, God to me and me to God, would be prompted to enter into that same relationship themselves. So I prayed even what I thought I had just taught.
You're going to find that Paul is doing the exact same thing. In chapter 1, verses 15-23, Paul prays for the people for the first time, and he doesn't pray that they would receive anything. He just prays that their eyes would be opened that they might know all they already have. He just spent 14 verses going over and over again, "This is how incredibly blessed you have been, Christian, and I pray you'd come to know what has already been deposited into your account, that you would get somebody who could help you understand your balance sheet, if you will, and that you might know the incredible wealth you have as a believer."
In Ephesians 1:15-23, the prayer from Paul is for enlightenment. In Ephesians, chapter 3, verse 14, down to the very end, verse 21, it is not a prayer for enlightenment but a prayer for enablement, if you will, that you would be enabled to move forward to respond correctly to this truth you've already received. Let's take a look at it together. In fact, let's read it from start to finish.
"For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God."
On a first pass through, you might go, "So what's up with that? What's the big deal about that prayer? There are a lot of words there. What do any of them mean?" Well, we're going to study that together tonight. I think this will become one of your favorite passages in Scripture. I think you'll begin to pray this very prayer for yourself. I think you'll begin to go, "Lord, I pray that this would indeed be true to me, that the apostle knew what I needed to be enabled to look right, to respond rightly, to be one who reflects the irresistible love you've offered me."
He finishes it by saying, "Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." Which is just simply a word which means "So be it" or "Let it happen" or "Let it be," the Beatles would sing. Look at verse 14: "For this reason…" Again, when you read that, you're going to go, "For what reason?" and you'll immediately be reflected back to what he just got through pouring his heart out about.
For this reason: for the incredible love he first poured out on all mankind (Ephesians 2:1-10); that you who were formerly dead in your sins have been made alive in Christ Jesus; that you have been freed from your former masters of the world, Satan, and the flesh and now have a new Master who cares for you and loves you; that you were children of wrath, sons of disobedience, but God, by grace, has done a work in your life so that you have become not a scar on the face of the earth but a masterpiece, a poem God has crafted, a thing of beauty which rolls off the lips, and all who hear it and all who see it adore the Creator and the majesty of that which is created. That's what you've become.
Then he says not only has that happened to all men, but in verse 11 he goes on to say, "And you, specifically, you Gentiles; you ignorant people who formerly were wandering around looking for truth, observing the stars, wondering if their shape and the lines you could draw to connect dots in heaven would direct you in the way you should conduct your affairs; you ignorant people who used to roll dice, cast lots, pick numbers, go into darkened rooms, look into balls, and find instruction; you folks who were clueless now have a clue.
You who formerly were without instruction have been tutored. You've been brought near. More than tutored; you've been taught, and you have attained the fullness of knowledge. You are now not aliens but citizens, not just citizens but sons, and not just sons but fellow heirs." Paul says, "This is an incredible thing," not that the Gentile would be saved but that he would be saved in this manner, that there would be no distinction between Jew and Greek.
I didn't get a chance to share this when I taught through it because we ran out of time, but I had a paper up here that I got from a friend who's a missionary right now in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Croats and the Serbs who are at each other's throats… The only thing which is bringing those mortal enemies together are those in those races who have trusted Christ.
There are churches with Croat pastors shepherding Serb people and Serb people who are ministering and supporting churches back in Croatia…a mystery, a miracle, an unexplainable phenomenon that there could be that kind of love. Back in the 1800s, there were all kinds of abuse and injustice going on between the races in this country, and we know a lot of that has continued, as sad as it seems.
Even then it was condoned that you could own another person, but Christians were treating others differently, and there were godly men and godly women. There were godly slaves who did incredible things because of their love of the Savior, and they understood what a real love relationship was about. They were doing kind things to people who were doing awful things to them. They were serving others even though they were being beaten themselves.
There were white people who risked their lives that others of the hated race might find life and freedom. Christians were doing that. Paul is saying that's a mystery, that these others-centered people who are divided by race, who are divided by sex, who are divided by everything have been brought together, first in Christ and then with each other. A mystery.
He starts in chapter 3 and simply says, "For this reason I, Paul…" He gets ready to pray, but he's so excited about what he's about to pray about that he has to tell you about it all over again. So for 13 verses, Paul trips all over himself. He says, "I'm a prisoner of this Jesus I serve who has done this incredible thing. I am a steward of the mystery of the grace of God, which I'm now telling you about, which beforehand men did not understand, which angels longed to look into.
They couldn't figure out how God was going to reconcile this horrible world to himself, but he did it. Angels were going, 'How is he going to do it?' Wonder of wonders, horror of horrors, he was going to do it by humbling himself and walking on this earth and dying on a cross." He said he was a prisoner of that love, he was a steward of the mystery of grace, and finally, that he was one who suffered greatly for it and the fact that he suffered as greatly as he did was a cause for you to rejoice.
He said in verse 13, "My tribulations are your glory, that God would allow one he loves as much as me to suffer for your sake that you might know his love for you." Even as we then went into Communion; that God would allow one he loves as much as his own Son to suffer the way he did for your glory; that he intended to take you, children of wrath, us, sons of disobedience, and make us citizens, sons, and heirs. "For this reason I pray," he says.
I will tell you the greatest gifts I've ever received… I can tell you the woman's name to this day. She came up to me on July 5, about eight years ago, and she gave me a little poem she had written. She said, "Todd, for your birthday this year, I want to commit to pray for you every single day until next year." The greatest gift I've ever received. She came back to me the next year and said, "I want to pray for you every day for the next year."
When my wife and I got married, she said, "For your wedding gift, I'm going to pray for you as a family and as a couple every day until your next anniversary." Patty continues to be one, I'm sure, who intercedes for me. Do you know what happens? I cannot help but pray for her. Every time I think of her, every time I think of gifts, I think of what Patty gave me, the greatest gift I've ever received.
You can do no greater favor for a man than to pray for him, Spurgeon said, and I personally believe that. You want to do me a favor? Pray for me. You pray earnestly for me. You pray earnestly for one another. That is the greatest gift you can do for a man. The greatest wonder we will find in heaven is the prayerlessness we see here on earth. When we get to heaven, the one thing that will shock us more than anything else is the absolute lack of our prayer.
It has also been said that if you want to make people feel uncomfortable, if you want to make people feel shame, you go to any Christian and ask them about the condition of their prayer life. There is not a single one I know who is happy with it. Whatever you can say about prayer, Paul says here, "I pray, and I pray this, and I bow my knees in humble submission before the Father, that he would do certain things."
He says, "…I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name…" If he just said "every family on earth," you can say that every family on earth derives its name from two men. We all come from Noah, either Ham, Shem, or Japheth, and we all come from Adam. You can trace every single one of our seed back to one of those two men, and you can trace every single one of us back to the fact that we all come from a singular Creator.
God is Father of every man and every woman in the sense that he is Creator. He is Father of every created and intelligent being, both on earth, who can be traced back to Noah and Adam, but also in the heavenly places. He is Father of everything in the sense that he created them. As Paul preached to the Athenians in Acts 17… He said, "For we are all God's offspring." As I talked about with the children, while we're all God's offspring, we are not all God's children. That only comes by grace through faith.
We know that because we are tied into Noah and we are tied in, specifically, to Adam, though we are God's offspring made in his image and he is our Creator Father, we are not his children. We are indeed children of wrath and sons of disobedience unless God does a work in our lives. So he prays to this God who wants to do that work and become not just our Creator Father but our Abba, our Daddy Father who we're rightly related to again.
He prays that he would grant, according to the riches of his glory… Do you remember when we talked about that? That idea of "according to the riches of his glory" simply means that he wouldn't just give you out of a portion of his wealth but that he would give you according to his wealth. A great billionaire used to tip his caddies with dimes. That is out of his wealth. It is not according to his wealth.
According to his wealth would be that he tips them in Benjamin Franklins. He tips them in hundreds. He tips them in thousands. He tips them with checks with eight zeroes. That is according to the wealth of a billionaire. He prays that God would give you not out of his great riches but according to his great riches, in proportion to; in fact, beyond that, he'd give you everything he has, that you would receive that. That's what Paul is praying for us.
Look at what he says. "…to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man…" Let's just take a minute and talk about the inner man. We are consumed, typically, in our society with the outer man. It is not unusual in our society to see people spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding, because people judge you by your wedding.
We have all kinds of chaos that surrounds weddings. We have flowers that are paid for. We have bridesmaid dresses that are cut that are horrible that will never be worn again that women shell out hundreds of dollars for. We have wedding consultants who come in. They tell you where to stand. You rehearse it. You walk through it. There is great care that is taken.
You have guys who rent tuxes, and they look as good as they're going to look. There are a lot of people who will tell you, "Make sure you pick this wedding music. You have to do this music. Make sure the musicians sing well." You don't want anything to ruin your wedding. We value that which society values. But God is not really concerned about a wedding; he's concerned about a marriage.
Isn't it amazing how many beautiful weddings you see and how few beautiful marriages you see? It's not a coincidence that you see so many women wearing beautiful diamond rings on their hand and so few wives treated as precious jewels on the hands of their husband. Our world values what kind of investment you're going to make to put on a woman's hand. They go, "Wow! That's a serious ring. That guy must love you a lot."
I've never met a woman who would not rather trade that diamond in for time, for being cherished and truly honored like her husband said he would, but we value the exterior. We value what the public adores. We value what people see. That is why there are tons of people in this room who are disciplined in the things which glorify them, but they are not disciplined in the things which glorify God.
God is not concerned with your outward man, because that is perishing. That is decaying. That is rotting away, but there is an inner man that is being renewed day by day. Do you know in the Scripture your inner man can see, it can hear, it can taste, it needs to be cleansed, it needs to be worked out? Those are all things your inner man or inner woman needs.
How many of you spend as much time on your inner man as you do on your outer person? How many of you have signed a lifetime commitment to be discipled, that you can walk into a guy's office anytime day or night that he might spend 45 minutes working you out spiritually? But, boy, a lot of us have signed big checks to Bally's that our outer man might not be done away with.
Now, Paul says that bodily discipline is of some good, but it says godly discipline is of great gain, for this life and eternity also. Paul says he's not going to pray that you're a pretty people. I'm not going to pray that you guys have a clear complexion and that when you take your shirt off people do a double look. I'm not going to pray that you have abs of steel and buns of steel. I'm going to pray that you guys have a heart of gold, that you have the heart of Christ.
Which one are you more committed to? Which one are you more concerned with? Which one would your Day-Timer point in the direction toward? That which is fading away, that which is deteriorating, or that which is eternal, your inner man? Paul wants God's abundant riches to minister to your inner man, not to your outer person. Bodily discipline is of great gain, but not nearly the gain that spiritual discipline is.
How are you doing? Where is the balance in your life? If you guys were half as careful about taking in your fat grams in your spiritual life as you were in your physical life, you'd be doing fine. How many fat grams are in one episode of Friends? How many spiritual fat grams are in one episode of Seinfeld when they talk about ménage a trois and make a joke of masturbation? It gets kind of quiet when you talk about those things.
Ask yourself this. You wouldn't just shove all kinds of stuff in your mouth before you go to bed and sit there and let it rot in your gut. You know it's going to show up. It eventually will bear fruit you don't want to see it bear. Think through the spiritual fat grams that are going into your life. Care for your inner man.
Look at what it says. Verse 16: "…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts…" Now we're going to spend some time here. The word that's written down there where it says "so that Christ may dwell" is not the word which normally means to live in as a home, which is enoikeo in the Greek. It's a different word. It is katoikeo,which means something more.
The word kata in Greek is down. When you join that with oikeo, which means to live in as a home, it means something completely different. My wife and I are in the process right now of looking for a home. We are looking to buy. We have been renting since we have been married. We are living in a place as a home, but we have never dwelt there. We have never settled there. We have never done things, because it's not our home. We're renting.
When you come over to our house, you will see that we don't have grass; we have dirt. You'll see that there are no bushes. It goes right up to the base of the house, and you have about two feet of foundation, and then it goes to brick, which drives my wife crazy every time we're there. I say, "Honey, we are not dwelling here. This is not our home to do all that stuff with. We are living here as in a home."
What she's really saying is that she wants to katoikeo. "I want to dwell in there deeply." The word literally means, "I want to settle down and be at home. I don't want to live in as at home; I want to settle down and be at home." One guy translated this thing like this: "That Christ might settle down and feel completely at home in your heart."
Let's read it again. Paul is praying that you would be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner man so that Christ may settle down and be completely at home in your heart through faith. How many of you out there is Christ renting space in? Do you guys know any Christians who are like that, who he's just renting some time in?
He gets every Sunday evening from 6:30 to 8:00. That's his time. He gets a few Sunday mornings, a few Wednesday evenings. In fact, if you're in a small group, he may even get a certain part of that, but he doesn't get to be there at other times. He has to be in and out on your terms. He is not completely at home. There is another landlord who is there who is dictating to him what he can do and what he cannot do.
There's a guy named Robert Munger who wrote a little booklet. It costs you 75 cents. Every single one of you ought to get it. It is called My Heart, Christ's Home, which comes from this little verse right here. My Heart, Christ's Home talks about a guy who says he did the very first thing you have to do in order for Christ to dwell with you; that is, he heard him knocking at the door and he opened the door and invited him in. Some of us aren't even at that point.
He invited him into his house, and he said, "I want you to dwell here." He used the word dwell, which meant, "I want you to be completely at home here. I don't want you to live in as if it were your house; I want you to make it your home." It says they walked in. As they were walking through the house, Christ and this guy stumbled in first to the study, the place where things are entered into, his mind.
It says he walked in there for the first time with his new friend, and he realized there were some books that were on his shelf, there were some magazines lying on his table he no longer felt really comfortable with. There were some pictures, if you will, the thoughts and impressions on his mind, that were hanging in his study, and he got kind of embarrassed.
He looked at his friend Jesus who was now with him for the first time, and he said, "You know, Jesus, I don't think this room is one you're going to feel really comfortable in. The things I study, the things that are making an impression on me and my inner man." Christ said, "To be honest with you, I probably won't spend a lot of time in this room." He said, "But I really want you to. I want you to make yourself completely at home, to settle down here. I want this to be your abiding place."
He said, "Would you help me redecorate this room?" Christ said, "Absolutely. Let's take this. Let's take away some of those books you've been reading, some of those novels you've been setting a standard with in your mind, and let's only replace it with things that are true, honorable, right, pure, and lovely, only with things that are of good repute. If there's anything of any excellence, let's let your mind dwell on those things."
He said, "Let's take down some of those other books that are up on your shelf. Let's replace them, and let's let this Book of the Law be something that is dear to you, and let's meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. Let's just rearrange the study and the habits of your life in terms of what you're putting into your mind."
So they left the study, and they walked on down and got to the living room, a very comfortable room. Christ saw the soft couch and the big fireplace, and he said, "You know, I like this room. This is a place that I think I could enjoy spending a lot of time in." The man who invited Christ into his home said, "Oh, that's good, Jesus, because this is the room I really like too. In fact, this is where I sit to talk to my friends. Do you want to meet here on a regular basis?"
He said, "Yeah, that would be great." Christ said, "I'll be here every morning. I'll be up before you. I'll be waiting for you. Come down and spend some good time with me." Early on as roommates, as roommates often are excited, they did. It says in the book that he would go there and they'd spend some good time.
Eventually, not on purpose, his schedule got a little bit crazier until one day he was rushing out of the house to go to a meeting, and over his shoulder he looked, and there was Jesus sitting in the living room. He ran out, and he goes, "Oh my goodness! What kind of host am I? What kind of friend am I to leave him just sitting there? I wonder how many mornings he has been there."
He walked in. "Have you been here every morning?" Christ said, "I've been here every morning, just like I told you I would be." He went over and sat down with him, and he said, "Jesus, I've not been spending much time with you in my living room. We haven't been communing together. We haven't been reflecting on the things that are in my life together." So they talked about how to rearrange his living room, his priorities.
The book goes on. It talks about his bedroom and the things Christ said to change in his bedroom. They talked about his rec room, the things he did for fellowship and for fun. Christ went in there, and there were a lot of games this guy did and played and people he brought in to play with him who were not people Christ really felt comfortable making his inner core fellowship, so that part of his life was rearranged.
That book, My Heart, Christ's Home… All that Robert Munger does for 30 short pages is help you think through, as a Christian, what your life ought to be like, that Christ would not just live there as if he were in his own home but that he completely settles down and is at home. The way the book ends, and it's completely appropriate, is he realized there were certain things in his life he really wanted to avoid, that he didn't want Christ to see.
In fact, he said he let Christ in every area of his house, but one day he was leaving and Christ said, "Can I talk to you? We've done a lot of work in this house, but there's something that really smells in here. I have to tell you that something needs to be done about it, because if I'm going to stay here, we need to get this straightened out."
The guy knew right away exactly what he was talking about, and you know what it would be if Christ said the same thing to you. Christ said, "Let's go upstairs. I think I know where it is. There's this closet that's locked that I don't have a key to, and there's something in there you're not telling me about that needs to be cleaned out. There's something dead in there."
That guy walked upstairs and said, "Christ, I don't want to let you in here. This is horrifying to me. Nobody knows what's in this closet. I can't let you know what's in there." Christ said, "That's all right. You don't have to show me, but I will not live amidst the stench. I'm going to take my blanket and I'm going to go out and sit on the back porch. I just cannot live amidst this kind of thing."
So the guy said, "Let me ask you a question. Would you go in there? Would you have the courage to clean that out for me? Will you deal with that which I cannot deal with?" Christ said, "That's why I'm here. I'm a better interior designer, a better redecorator than you can find anywhere else in your little yellow pages. Let me come do a work in your heart."
It talks about how that guy realized Christ wasn't there just to be a roommate, that he wanted to give him the title to his home. Have you given Christ the title to your home? Does he own it? Does he dwell in your heart completely because it is his place or is he renting a room? Is he renting the basement?
Does he get a certain number of hours a week where he can do what he wants and that you know he can pop in on you and you're going to make sure only certain things around there are going on? Is your heart Christ's home? What this word means is that Paul is going to pray that your heart would be Christ's home. Look at what it says. "I want Christ to make his home completely in your heart and that he would feel completely at home in your heart."
It says then, "…and that you, being rooted and grounded in love…" It has been well said if Paul was taking this deal and turning it in to his English teacher, he would have been marked off right here because he has a mixed metaphor. He uses an agricultural and an architectural metaphor in the exact same sentence. He uses rooted, which is agricultural, and grounded, which talks about a foundation. What that simply means is that you would be deeply seated, deeply embedded in that first one, that you would be rooted in the love of Christ.
The picture comes out of Psalm 1. It simply says, "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the way of the wicked, who does not stand in the pathway of sinners, who does not sit in the seat of scoffers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in that law he meditates day and night. For he [that person] will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water that will produce its fruit in season; its leaf will not wither, and in all that he does he prospers."
What it's saying is that is one tree that is never going to suffer. That is one tree that is deeply rooted by a stream. Its leaf will not wither. Do you know what that's a picture of? It means during a time of drought, when other trees are losing their leaves and the fruit that goes with them, that are waiting and destined to die, the tree that is planted…
If you ever go canoeing down by a river in the summer, you're going to see sometimes in the middle of a major drought trees that are planted by the hundreds and maybe a half mile away from the river. There are fire warnings and trees that are beginning to wither, but the one that is planted by a stream of water, that's not so. Those trees are going to be deeply rooted in rich soil. Paul prays that you'd be that.
The other one he prays is that you would be grounded in his love, that you would be deeply founded. On Friday, I got to go and play golf with a friend out at Cottonwood Valley Country Club. We were out there, and there is this one hole that takes you up to the highest point in Las Colinas by the Four Seasons Resort.
At the very top of that hole, you could look over and see a lot of both courses. It was a beautiful home. I just looked and went, "What did the guy do to be able to build a house like that?" It was amazing to look at. The guy said, "That house right there cost over six million dollars." He goes, "The foundation alone cost three million dollars."
He said they sat and did nothing but pour cement for three days, just kept it coming. As soon as one truck would leave, another one would come. You could see that this thing was built on a hill. He could have a beautiful three to four million-dollar home, but if he didn't have two to three million dollars' worth of foundation, it wasn't going to stand.
So Paul prays not only would you be a tree that is deeply rooted by a nourishing source but that you would be deeply founded by that which cannot be shaken, that your house would stand. There are all kinds of people who are going to build up beauty in the exterior world, but if they are not founded in the one thing that will not be shaken, the rock that will not fail, then it matters not how beautiful your home is.
"So I pray that you have a beautiful home. I pray that it's fruitful, that it continues to produce its fruit in season because it's deeply rooted, and I pray that it's deeply founded." He goes on. He says, "I want you guys to be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, length, height, and depth of his love."
If you ever went to a zoo and read one of those little plaques in front of the monkeys, you would see that a monkey has what is called a prehensile tail. The word in Latin for grasp is prehendere, and it means simply that: to grasp. We in the English get comprehend and apprehend from the Latin prehendere, which means to grasp. When we comprehend, we grasp something mentally. A monkey with a prehensile tail can grasp a twig and swing from it with his tail. He has a prehensile tail. He can grasp with it.
I think the NIV in this one little text does a better job. What it says in the NAS in verse 18 is that you would be able to comprehend the love he's going to go into about Christ. I like what it says in the NIV here better: that you might be able to grasp. That's the idea: that you would deeply take in. Lambano is the word to take in Greek, to seize. The word kata, which is what we combined earlier to house that made it your home… When you katalambano something, you don't just take it; you deeply ingest it.
Not only do you understand, but you understand the fullness of the implication, and then you move forward with it. It's one thing if I told you that you had a million dollars in your bank account if you were formerly poverty-stricken, and you could sit there intellectually with me and go, "Yeah, I understand that; I comprehend it," but you would not apprehend that. You would not fully grasp that truth until you went and wrote a check on that million dollars I just put into your account.
That is what Paul is praying for you right here, that you would be able to grasp. Not just understand, not just intellectually nod for me out there, but that you would begin to experience and personally take for yourself, seize, and go forward with the full understanding and all of the implications that come with that understanding of, it says, first of all, what is available to all of the saints. By that he means this is not some special knowledge only Billy Graham has after 60 years of service.
If you trust in Christ this morning, 30 minutes later you can understand and grasp God's love for you, even as a guy who has been preaching for years can understand. It's available to all of the saints. This is not just some special blessing for those who have been faithful for a long time; that you would comprehend or grasp the love to all of the saints, what is the breadth, the length, the height, and the depth.
Now let's talk about the breadth of the love of God. The breadth of the love of God is such that there would be individuals who would come to him… It says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever…" Not simply certain individuals he liked or who were of a certain race, not just the Jews, but whosoever. Christ said, "I am the gate, I am the door, and all who come to me can pass into life."
He said another place, "Whoever comes to me I will in no wise cast out." That means a Croat. That means a Serb. That means a black. That means a white. That means a Jew. That means a Gentile. That means an Indian. That's the breadth of the love of God. I heard a guy say one time…I thought it was good…that non-Christians don't really have a hard time with denominations. They understand that we differentiate some of the little doctrines and little nuances in the way we worship and the way we express our love for God.
They don't get really hung up on the denominations, but what they really have a problem with is that all people who worship the God of the Bible tend to make God look just like them. Do you know God is not a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant? Do you guys know he's a Jew? This guy laughingly went through, and I heard him say, simply, one day you're going to be raptured, and you're going to get halfway to heaven, and you're going to look over, and there's going to be Jesus. You're going to go, "Jesus, you're a Jew. I thought you were from Fort Worth."
It offends them that we keep thinking he's our God, that he looks like us. He doesn't. We've been grafted in. The breadth of God's love is that he would take Paul, a murderer, a terrorist, and he would accept him; he would take Mary Magdalene, a prostitute, and he would accept her; he would take Naaman, a godless leper, and bring him in. That's the breadth of God's love.
Look at the next one. That you might know not just the breadth but the length. It says in Ephesians, chapter 1, that you have been chosen before the foundation of the world. The length of God's love is from eternity past to eternity future. The length of God's love speaks about his incredible patience. It talks about his incredible kindness toward you, his longsuffering.
How many of us out there rejected God, used his name in vain day in and day out, time after time, scoffing at him, but God in his incredible not just broad love but the length and the longsuffering he has, that he waited, and though some of you were adulterers and some of you were drunkards and some of you were materialists, he continued to sow truth before you until one day you responded to it. The length of God's love.
Martin Luther said, "If the world had treated me as it treated God, I would have kicked the vile, wretched thing to pieces." Not so with the length of the love of our God. It is broad. It is long. It is high. What's the height of God's love? That it would not just cover you here on earth but it would take you to heaven. You went from the graveyard of sin to the throne room of grace. You are not just somebody who inhabits the blessed land but a citizen, not just a citizen but a son, not just a son but a fellow heir. You are seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.
What kind of love is that? You're going to be loved in the heavenly places. When you get to heaven, he's not going to say, "Hey, listen. You did well when you were there on earth, and we had a good relationship there, but this is heaven, baby. You are in the officer's quarters. Wait outside." That's not it. His love, no matter how high you go, is going to be there to meet you.
The one I saved for last (and there's a reason for it) is the one that touches me the most. It's the depth of his love. We sang a song about this at the beginning. He came from heaven to earth. He went from earth to the cross, and then he went from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky. Do you understand that idea, that he came from heaven? What is the depth? How much does God love you? How low would he go to redeem you?
I'll tell you how low he would go. He would come from heaven to earth. That's low. He'd go beyond that. He'd go from earth to the cross. Have you thought about the cross lately? That he was whipped, mocked at, spit upon, that a crown of thorns was pressed upon his brow, that a lance pierced his side, that he stood there and was rejected by God, that he stood there and got so turned away that the full weight of your sin and my sin was put on him, that he cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Have you thought about the depth of God's love, that he would go to that length that you might experience a personal relationship with him? When he suffered the way he did, it says, 12 legions of angels, 72,000 angels, drew their swords and were ready to come and fight, and God held his hand back and said, "No." When Christ cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" he could have answered with your name. "Because of Todd Wagner. That is why you're forsaken right now."
I'll tell you why God forsook Jesus: for you. He would go to that depth that you might know his love. Gang, when you talk about the height, the width, the length, and the depth of Christ's love, it talks about perfect symmetry. In the tabernacle, you used to go in there, and the Holy of Holies was 10x10x10. It was perfect. In fact, it was a cube. In the temple of David, the exact same thing: 20x20x20.
It was the idea that the perfect embodiment… There was no flaw. Everywhere you went, you could be completely met and ministered to. That is what Psalm 139 is all about. "Where can I go that I might hide from thee? If I go to sheol, even there you are. If I go to the heavens, you're there. When I sit down, when I stand up, even before the words are on my lips, beloved, you are there." There's no way you can outrun the height, the depth, the breadth, and the length of God's love.
Look at what he says. "I pray that you would not only know this but that you would know the love of Christ." That word for love is the idea that you would experience it. When it says to know biblically… People kid around that. "Do you know her in a biblical sense? Hubba, hubba." It is relationship both experienced and acknowledged.
What he is saying is not that you can just give me good doctrine but that you would experience God's love. Not that you could just talk about the doctrine of the atonement, not that you could just talk about inerrancy, not that you could just talk about the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, but that you might say, "I can tell you I know about the love of Christ. I felt it myself."
There are individuals in this room who have tasted and have been through the love of Christ. The Darbys right now are experiencing the love of Christ. They're a family of people who have lost four of their five children. It's the only thing that's keeping them alive. There are individuals in this room who have buried parents, who have buried siblings, who have buried children, who have buried spouses, who know of the love of Christ. They've experienced it.
Look at what it says. "That you would know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge." Do you know what that has in mind? That not only would you experience it, but the truth is that you could begin to experience it day after day after day and you would never begin to tap out all there is to know. It is beyond anything you can truly experience. For me, I know right now the love of Alex Watts Wagner, but it's surpassing of what I can really experience.
There is not a day when Alex is finally going to go, "You know what? That's it. When I took a vow, I said I'd wash 4,363 pairs of your underwear, and we are already there. You have now surpassed the love of Alex Wagner. I told you I'd make you this many meals. You have now surpassed it. I told you I would be patient with you unless you raised your voice at me X number of times, and you've gone over X plus one, so we have a problem."
That's not the case in our marriage. Her love is a surpassing love. I could never meet it if it's a biblical love, if it's a love she will fulfill in her vow to me. If my love is the love for her that I promised to her, she could never exhaust it. That's the love of Christ for you; that you would know that and you would know you can never tap it out. You'll never be able to fully grasp it all and experience it all.
"That you might be filled up to all the fullness of God," it says. That is an amazing thing he asks right there. In fact, if you went back and looked at Psalm 19:1, it says simply, "The heavens are teaching of the glory of God; the expanse is pouring forth his praise day after day." The idea there is that what God has created is giving off a symbol of his glory.
What Paul is praying is that in your state, as it were, as Christ dwells in your hearts, as you know all of his love that you can know and begin to experience it personally, people could look at you and begin to see the glory of God in your life. What that means is that you would begin to be conformed to his image. If God hates sin, that you would hate sin; if he loves sinners, that you'd begin to love sinners; if God is patient, that you would become patient; if God loves truth, that you would begin to love truth.
What Paul is praying there is that you would begin to look like him, and somebody could go, "Do you want to know what the love of God is? Take a look at this," and he'd plop them right into a church and go, "Look here. This is what God looks like." Is that a horrifying thought? It has been well said that you might be the only Bible somebody ever reads. That is a biblical message. We ought to be that as a church. Paul is praying that, people, you'd respond to that love relationship.
I'll tell you this. If you don't understand this, if you don't really have a relationship with God that's based simply on this love, then you're going to be a person who eventually is going to abandon the Christian life, or it would be a favor to us if you did, because you will not have a love relationship. You will have a legalistic, religious relationship where you will be performing. You'll be like a guy who pays taxes.
You'll be paying spiritual taxes to God, hoping that after he makes the demands on you he must make as God there would be enough leftover you could eventually do what you wanted to do when you wanted to do it. Eventually, in that kind of system, you'll become very sick and tired of paying taxes, and you'll eventually revolt and rebel and walk away from him and say, "If he wants to come get me, he can get me, but I'm not paying any more taxes. I'm sick and tired of it."
Or you'll continue to pay taxes, but you'll have such a sour look on your face it would be better off if you just remained selfish in the first place. See, what he prays is that you would respond to that love relationship. If you will let me indulge, like Caleb last week, that when you do things, you do it with a wag in your tail. It's the joy of your life. There's no leash on your neck. You're not paying spiritual taxes; you're in a love relationship, that people could look at you and see a picture of their God.
Now that is an impossible prayer, is it not? Think about what Paul just prayed; that people could walk in here and go, "Do you want to see what God looks like? Take a look over here. Here's Scott Polk. Take a look at him. Here's Jay Reinke. Here's Kevin Ainsworth. Here's Robin Baker. This is who God looks like." Paul makes that prayer.
He says, "Well, I'll tell you why I can pray that impossible prayer." In his doxology he says, "I have an impossible God." He says, "Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think…" He doesn't say that God would be able to do all that we ask, all that we personally would request of him. No. He says our God is able to not just do all we request of him; he is able to do all we request of him or even consider to request of him, that we ask or think.
Is that what it says? No. It goes more than that. He is able to go beyond what you would request or consider. In fact, that's not even all it says. That he would do abundantly beyond what you ask or think. Is that what it says? No. It says that our God, as great as he is, this impossible God, can do exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we ask or think.
I have to read you what this one guy said, because it's really good. He simply said that what this speaks of here… Some people say this is the most amazing little Greek sentence in our Bible. What Paul wrote here is that you would come to know the ability of God to do something, and in that ability, you need to know he has more than enough potential power to pull it off. In fact, that more than enough potential power to do the ability he has is an inexhaustible power, and then there's beyond that sum.
So, how are you going to do this impossible thing? By being rightly related to that impossible God. Do you see what he's praying here? "I'm going to pray for you the impossible, and do you know why I'm going to pray for it with confidence? Because I have an impossible God. For with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Do you know who he said that to? To the rich young ruler who wanted to know how a man like him could earn his way into heaven.
He said, "You can't. It's impossible, but with God it's possible." He said it to Abraham. "How can a man my age bear children?" "You can't. It's impossible, but with me it's possible." He said it to Mary. "How can I, being a virgin, bring forth a child?" "Well, you can't, Mary. It's impossible, but with me it's possible." Do you want to have a miracle in your life? Pray this prayer. "God, I don't know how I can begin to look like you."
He said, "I'm going to tell you how. That you would know my love, that you would experience it personally, that you would grasp it, that you would realize the greatness of it, that you would rely on me." Then the last thing it says is that you would know the power that works within you, because that's the secret to it. Remember, it gets right back to the beginning, that you would deal with your inner man.
Let's read it. It says, "…according to the power that works within us…" The specific word there… A better way to say it is the power that is operative within us. You see, you don't need more of the Holy Spirit. If you've trusted Christ, the miracle of the New Testament is that he dwells in your heart, that he will never leave you or forsake you. He is there.
So it's not just the power that works within us. It is the power that you, as a Christian, are yielding your heart to be his home. That is the power that is operative within you. First Thessalonians 5:18 simply says, "Do not quench the Spirit," because the way you're going to begin to look like God is when you let God live through you, and the way you do that is by not quenching the Spirit.
What he's coming at here is this God, with all this incredible power, beyond all you can ask or think… The only reason you're not experiencing that power in your life is because you're controlling it. You're quenching it. The only thing that is limiting God is that you're not giving him a vessel to fill up, letting him dwell richly in your house, that he might give you according to his riches, that you might be able to experience the depth, the length, the height, the breadth of his love, and that you'd begin to look like him, miracle of miracles.
I'll close with this little story. There was a plaque beneath a picture at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, and the inscription read, "James Butler Bonham. No picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for their freedom."
"There's no picture which truly exists of God. God is spirit. But it is said that this man, this woman greatly resembles him. This man was left here that you might see a picture of the one who died so you might know freedom." I've seen some paintings of Jesus, if you will, and they all look different ways, but we really don't know exactly what Jesus looked like.
Do you know what I should be able to do? Parade you up here one by one and go, "This is what Jesus looked like. Not because he had a double chin and a potbelly but because he had a heart like this. Not because he was 6'2" or 5'10" but because he had a joy like this. He had a patience like this. He had a love like this." Can we hang that around your neck? Paul prays that he could. He says it's possible. He said it should happen. Let's close.
Father, we are just amazed at the breadth of your love; that you would not cast out any man; that there is not a single one of us who could ever have done anything or been anything that would violate us from being able to become not just one who is your offspring but one who could become your child; that you have an incredible love that all who come to you, you will in no way cast out.
We thank you for the incredible length of your love, your longsuffering. In fact, the reason you've not already judged the world and judged each one of us is because of your kindness, your patience, which it says should lead us to respond, to change our thoughts about you, to realize that you are indeed a good and great Savior.
We thank you, Lord, for the incredible height of your love; that you don't want to just save us to make us JV but you take us right to the top; that, Lord, you would call us into your presence and make us sons, that you would make us fellow heirs, seated at the right hand of God in Jesus Christ.
Lord, we admit that that knowledge is too wonderful for us to attain to and that as we praise you for it, we will never run out of fodder for our praises, yea, through all eternity. When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days, and the Scripture here says that we have no less means and no less objects to praise you with. We agree with the one who wrote:
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
You are indeed a good God. So we are moved by your love now to have a relationship, which as we respond to it and yield to it, we are, in fact, protected by it. Lord, as we respond to it properly, may we do it with a wag in our tail that folks would say, "You must have a great Master to serve him with such joy," and that you would be praised.
Then, as people see the joy we have in this love relationship with you, they would be prompted to know that God and we might call them to you and they might come and begin to let you dwell in their hearts as well, not as one who rents but one who owns title, lock, stock, and barrel. Father, do a work in our lives, that we may go from here and people say, "Do you want to see God? Take a look at those people, and you will see his love, you will see his kindness, you will see his joy, you will see his peace." May that miracle be true. In Christ's name, amen.
Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ. Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 3:1 through Ephesians 4:32.