Echo continued our conversation about strengthening the roots of our faith with a reality that Jesus identified as the center of Kingdom ethics – Love. Strong, enduring, Christ-centered faith must be rooted in Love. Jesus prayed that love would be the defining characteristic of His new community. Jesus taught that the root of all the commandments is love. Jesus helped us imagine a different sort of humanity, one where selfish and hateful attitudes are replaced with selfless love as we allow the life of Christ to grow within us. He talked about being connected to the Vine, the source of life. As we learn to abide in Him, we have life. Apart from the Vine we can do nothing. This kind of love has very little to do with our culture’s definition of the term. What if our love was rooted not in our emotions or in our feelings, but in our connection to Jesus? Think about the beauty that would be built in our world if we loved like God loves. Look at what Paul prayed for the community of faith in Ephesus:
Ephesians 3:14-21 – “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may have power, together will 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 the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Paul prays that the Ephesians would receive specific knowledge – the knowledge of the Love of Christ. Paul prays that through the Spirit the glorious riches of God’s power will strengthen God’s people in their “inner being.” Don’t miss this. This is not a shallow intellectual understanding, like you know this trivial fact or that. Paul prays for the Spirit of God to impart something wonderful deep in the hearts of His people. This is phrase, the “inner being,” in the Greek language refers to the personal core of each individual. It is the seat of the will, the center of belief, and the conscience. Paul is praying that the Holy Spirit would impart truth so deep down in them it would change their instincts and impact the way they see everything. We use the phrase “change of heart” to describe this kind of internal transformation. This is about the core, our true selves, and our deepest held beliefs. Think about the way that you know your name, your family relationships, or the loyalty of your best friend. This is the kind of knowledge Paul has in mind. It is about Jesus coming and dwelling in our hearts through faith.
This transformation, this impartation has us rooted and well founded in love (agape). Paul’s prayer is that through the Spirit, these people would experience the love of Christ at the core of their being. Paul is talking here about a power from within – that power comes from the knowing and experiencing the crazy-big Love of Christ! I invite you: get ROOTED in the LOVE of Christ. Let your roots grow down deep into the soil of His Love for you.
This love is inexhaustible. I love the poetry of Paul’s dimensional description of Christ’s love. When Paul prays that they would understand how wide, long, high and deep the love of Christ is for them, he is inviting them to wonder at the expanse of Christ’s love. It is wide enough to include every individual of every kind in every age in every world. There was no limit to the length that Christ would go to reach us with His love, going even to the cross. In depth, Christ descended to the humility and poverty of the human condition, accepting even death. In its height, the love of Christ raises us higher than we could ever reach on our own, seating us in Heaven with our Father as His children and heirs. No one is outside the love of Christ, no place is beyond its reach. Every time we learn something new about the Love of God, there is yet more to learn. It is inexhaustible. We learn this truth, according to Paul, together with all the saints. It binds us one to another in unity. Here is something that we need to wrestle with: we enjoy the limitless love of God for us…but we do not always easily accept the limitless and sweeping love for other people. We struggle with the idea of God making no distinction between “us” and “them.” We like to think of ourselves as worthy of the love of God, while others maybe not so much.
This love surpasses understanding. This is a huge point for you to consider. We sometimes treat the love of God as a simple thing that we can easily understand. The love of Jesus is the subject of simple nursery songs and slogans. I think teaching children the love of Jesus is a great idea, but I also want people to experience the power and depth and magnitude of God’s love. Paul is talking here about something so vast and expansive that we have yet to wrap our understanding around its measure. Paul himself talks about struggling to grasp the mystery of God’s Love. Paul is saying here that comprehending the love of God is a spiritual exercise that can keep them busy for the rest of their lives. This is a little paradoxical, talking about “knowing what surpasses knowledge.”
This love is unconditional. We spend so much time looking for affirmation on the outside. We wonder if we are enough and we ask that question in every relationship and in every moment. We endure nagging little voices, disgusting voices, lying voices, that tell us we are no good, that we do not matter, that we are not enough. We are in constant search from the world around us for affirmation that we matter. We ache in our emptiness, longing for approval and for affirmation. Paul is describing something completely different here. Paul describes affirmation and truth that come from within. They come from the overflow of the love of Christ in our “inner being.” Jesus fills our hearts with mind-blowing reality-defining truth-amplifying love. One of the most powerful realities in scripture is the way that God loved us before we met any criteria or performed in some certain way or established the right conditions. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While we were enemies of God in our minds, God reached for us. There are no conditions that we need to meet to establish this love; God loves us because we are His. I believe this – if you can get this truth down in your core, so much that tempts you and distracts you will be rendered powerless. You will find the kind of strength that David rested in when he wrote: “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me.” You will enjoy the confidence of Paul that wrote: “If God is for me than who can be against me?” You will find the unshakable truth that we are more than conquerors and that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
If you get the love of God into your soul, into your inner being, everything will change. Everything else will fall into place. If you can get how much God loves you and cares for you and longs to be near you past your doubts, past your fears, past your rationalizations and into your core – if you know deep down in your DNA that God loves you and YOU ARE HIS, if the love of God sinks deep into your core, no lie can affect you. No suggestion or insinuation can distract you. No temptation can destroy you. You will be rooted in the love of God. Your identity will be secure; your confidence will be unassailable. This is the core of rock solid faith. God is FOR you. God adores you. The love of Jesus empowers and transforms you. Love will change you. Love will transform you. Love will perfect you. If you accept it.