As we have spent time together over the last few weeks, we have had opportunity to reflect and meditate on some wonderful truths in God’s Word. We have looked at the believer’s identity and resources in Christ, where we find the basis for our hope and our understanding of who, and whose, we are. We have looked at the richness of Jesus’ love for us and all that He has provided for us. We have taken note of the ongoing war for dominance that takes place in our inner man…that struggle between our old nature and our new one. And we find, in Paul’s prayer, the way to win that war…the plan of God to bring us to sanctification…to becoming like Jesus.We see that the process starts with a willingness to yield our old nature’s desires and habits to those of our redeemed nature and our Redeemer. It results in the Spirit of God energizing and strengthening our resolve…our hearts…our “inner man”… so that our thoughts, practices, and desires become more like Christ’s. It continues as we grow in fellowship with Jesus as he takes up residence in our hearts and becomes more and more “at home” there. Jesus, in cooperation with us, works to transform every aspect of our life into ones that reflect His heart and passions…so that our hearts become fit dwelling places…homes… for His Spirit.
Can you think about what it is like when we envision having Jesus as a roommate? I suppose, if we are being honest, that most of us would find it somewhat intimidating…more than a little scary. It would be so easy to see ourselves as unworthy of His presence and attention. We would be aware that His ways are far above our ways. We could easily see ourselves as a source of constant disappointment to Him…never measuring up. And we would not find ourselves alone in that thinking. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah, after having a vision of the Lord on His throne, says “ Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
The Apostle John, recording his vision of Christ on the island of Patmos, says, “I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. 14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15 His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. 16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
Or Psalms 8:3ff “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; 4 What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?” These are appropriate responses to being in the presence of the Lord. We should approach the throne of God with an awareness of His majesty…with a sense of awe and humility and reverence.
But you know what else we would come to see? That as we spent time in His company, we would find deep comfort and joy in His presence…a place of safety and belonging…a place of peace and refreshment…a place where we find ourselves deeply loved. In this, too, we would find ourselves not alone. It was the experience of those with whom He walked and fellowshipped.
In John 6 we find Jesus talking to those following Him of His impending death and their need to partake of that death; to metaphorically “eat His flesh” and “drink His blood”. We see their response in vs 60, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it” Then in vs 66 we read, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” The twelve disciples, having spent intimate time with Jesus, had come to know Him…to know His goodness, His godliness, His trustworthiness, and most of all, His love for them. And that brings us to the next step in the process of becoming like Jesus; of becoming filled up with all the fullness of God. Let’s look again at Paul’s prayer in Eph3 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 in order that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; in order that that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, in order that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
So what does it mean to be “rooted and grounded in love”? Both words speak of setting a foundation…a support structure…upon which to build and grow. As a foundation supports the building above it, or the root structure supports the tree and branches that grow from it, so the love of God is the foundation for our growth in Christ. And the greater our appreciation and understanding of God’s love for us is, the more we become like Him. Our foundations…our root structures…are those that are set when we understand God’s love for us enough to be drawn to to that love and rely and that love for our redemption…to entrust our very lives, futures, and souls to Jesus. Paul then prays that, upon that foundation…that rooting and grounding in love…that we are to grow in our understanding of that love. A love that is incomprehensible in its totality…that surpasses knowledge. Yet still knowable. Paul prays that we, in so far as possible, come to expand our understanding of Christ’s love for us…to “comprehend… what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ” And when Paul speaks of “comprehending” the love of Christ, he uses a very interesting Greek word. It is “katalambano” which has the thought of taking up strongly…of seizing for ones self and not letting go. It speaks of an intense clinging. Picture a drowning man, at the end of his strength, clinging to the life preserver just thrown to him. It becomes, in that moment, everything! Such is the intensity of of his “seizing”…it is clinging to that which will take him from death unto life. That is what Paul has in mind when he prays that we would come to see the love of Christ that way.
The overall imagery presented in this part of the prayer is that of a great building rising up from its foundation, or a great tree rising up from its roots. It is something that dominates the skyline. It is like standing before the twin towers in New York or the giant redwoods in California. As our understanding of Christ’s love for us grows, it becomes the dominant feature in our skylines…our lives. Everything we do…everything we say…everything we think…everything we feel…is controlled and influenced by our understanding of God’s great love for us.
It is the love that was demonstrated when, while we were yet sinners…rebellious…without hope in the world… He died for us. Rom 5:8 It is the same love that is pictured in the parable of the prodigal son, where we see the father, having been abandoned and treated shamefully by his rebellious and pleasure-seeking son, still anxiously hoping and waiting for his eventual return. Can we take some time and look at the scene of his return? In Luke 15:17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.
And it is that perfect love that casts out fear. Hear the words of John in John 4:15ff, “15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” John’s words here also show that the one who abides in love is perfected in and through that love.
So why does Paul pray this prayer? You see, he had very personal experience in understanding these truths. In 2 Cor 4 Paul writes, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” It was his “clinging” to the truths of God’s love for him and seeing that love played out in his life…afflicted, but not crushed…confused, but not in despair…persecuted, but not forsaken…struck, but not destroyed.
In Phil 3 he writes about this same truth from a different perspective. After recounting his “resume”…circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. “ he writes’ “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.
Finally, in 2 Cor 5:14 he makes a simple statement… “For the love of Christ controls us”… it constrained him…directed him…it was the central focus of his life. It was the single dominant feature in the landscape of his life. And he prays that it would become so in ours. Can we pray the same thing? Let us pray.