************ Sermon on Ephesians 3:14-19 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 6, 2001
"My Prayer for You ..."
"Survivor: the Australian Outback." Who was going to be the ultimate survivor? Would it be Keith, the 40-year old chef from Michigan? Would it be Tina, the 40-year old nurse from Tennessee? Would it be Colby, the 26-year old custom auto designer from Texas? This past Thursday we learned that the ultimate survivor and winner of one million dollars is Tina.
Now, young people, I have a prayer for you. And your parents and youth leaders have a prayer for you. And the elders have a prayer for you. Do you think we pray that you are the next Tina and win one million dollars in "Survivor: Africa"? Do you think we pray that one of you girls become the next Niki Taylor, super-model, and that one of you guys become the next Michael Jordan of basketball?
In our Scripture passage for this evening Paul has a prayer for young believers. His prayer for the Ephesians is our prayer for you, young people. We can break down what Paul says into three distinct petitions. As we go through this passage you will see that Paul prays that you will grasp or measure God's love, know God's love, and contain God's love.
But Paul adds a twist to this. Paul prays that you will measure the immeasurable, know the unknowable, and contain the uncontainable. Among Greek philosophers any such statement is called an oxymoron. Paul makes a seemingly absurd combination of opposites. After all, how can you know something that surpasses knowledge? Likewise, how can you measure something that is measureless? And, how can you contain what is uncontainable? Yet, that is what Paul prays for.
I Grasp the Extent of God's Love
A First, the Apostle Paul prays that you may grasp or measure "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ."
There are many things that parents and elders and pastors and youth leaders pray about when it comes to the young people in their care. We pray that you may be popular, that you get good grades, that you get prepared for college or a career, that you drive safely to and from school and when you go out on weekends, that you keep away from drugs and alcohol and pre-marital sex, that you meet the right Christian guy or girl. All of these are important. But do you know what is even more important – or maybe I should say most important? That you may grasp or measure "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." That's the most important thing any of us can ever pray for you. We want each of you to grasp or measure the love of Christ.
B Now, we can ask and should ask how wide, how long, how high, and how deep is the love of Christ?
Topic: LoveThe parents in this story are not unlike many of us. We find it easy to love those who are good-looking or fun to have around, but we don't like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable. We would rather stay away from people who aren't as healthy, beautiful, or smart as we are. Thankfully, Christ doesn't treat us that way. Christ's love is so "wide and long and high and deep" that He is willing to accept us, regardless of how messed up we are. Young People, it is this love of Christ that I pray you grasp or measure.
Subtopic: Of God
Title: Coming Home
A story is told about a soldier who was finally coming home after having fought in Vietnam. He called his parents from San Francisco.
"Mom and Dad, I'm coming home, but I've a favor to ask. I have a friend I'd like to bring home with me."
"Sure," they replied, "we'd love to meet him."
"There's something you should know," the son continued, "he was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mine and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us." "I'm sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live."
"No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us."
"Son," said the father, "you don't know what you're asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden to us. We have our own lives to live, and we can't let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come on home and forget about this guy. He'll find a way to live on his own."
At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was suicide.
The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn't know, their son had only one arm and one leg.
How wide, how long, how high, how deep is the love of Christ? Think of the cross of Christ. I'm not talking about what happened on the cross. I'm talking about the actual cross. It points up to the heavens, and it points down to the depths. It points to the east, and it points to the west. The love of Christ is like the cross – it points to all points of the compass and to all corners of the universe.
Subtopic: Of God
One day C. H. Spurgeon was walking through the English countryside with a friend. As they strolled along, the evangelist noticed a barn with a weather vane on its roof. At the top of the vane were these words: GOD IS LOVE. Spurgeon remarked to his companion that he thought this was a rather inappropriate place for such a message. "Weather vanes are changeable," he said, "but God's love is constant." "I don't agree with you about those words, Charles," replied his friend. "You misunderstood the meaning. That sign is indicating a truth: Regardless of which way the wind blows, God is love."
How wide, how long, how high, how deep is the love of Christ? Think of the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile, between man and God. The love of Christ broke down, smashed down, and destroyed the wall that separated Jew from Gentile and man from God (Eph 2:14f). It is this same love which purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation; a love which broke down the wall between people of different races and cultures and languages (Rev 5:9; Rev 7:9).
How wide, how long, how high, how deep is the love of Christ? As the eternal Son of God, Christ in heaven had glory and majesty. He was very God of very God. By Him were the heavens and the earth and everything in them made. His almighty arm held up the sun and moon and stars. The praises of the cherubim and seraphim perpetually surrounded Him. The full chorus of the hallelujahs of the universe unceasingly flowed to the foot of His throne. He reigned supreme over all creatures. He was God over all, blessed and exalted forever. Out of love what did Christ do? Christ took on our flesh and emptied Himself of all of this pomp and glory. In its place He took on our sin and our shame, our misery and our grief, our fallenness and our depravity. He made Himself nothing. He took on the nature of a servant. He humbled Himself. He emptied Himself out of love (Phil 2:5f).
How wide, how long, how high, how deep is the love of Christ? Think of what happened on the cross. He Who was King of the universe became obedient to death. He Who was the Son of God became a man of sorrows. He suffered, He bled, He died. He was forsaken by the Father. He endured the torments of hell. He suffered all of this out of love.
How wide, how long, how high, how deep is the love of Christ:
-the width of God's love is immense; it extends to every tribe and language and people and nation; it covers every sin and need and care and situation.
-the length of God's love is eternal; it existed before time, it is never ending, it is unconditional, and it is boundless.
-the depth of God's love is unfathomable; it caused God to stoop as low as a man is, to reach down to our level.
-the height of God's love is infinite; it extends to the highest heaven and to the very throne of God.
Grasping or measuring God's love is impossible. We are attempting to measure the immeasurable.
And yet, Young People, our prayer is that you begin to grasp or measure how much Jesus loves you. We – as parents and elders and teachers and youth leaders – want you to begin to understand the greatness of Christ's love.
II Personally Know God's Love
A Paul's second petition is that you "know this love" (vs 19) – that is, that you taste and experience it personally in your hearts and lives. Paul prays that you will make the love of Christ your love.
It is not enough, you see, to realize how immense the love of Christ for you is. We want you to get past this point and personally taste and experience and know this wondrous love.
B There is a reason for this petition. You see, it is only the love of Christ – a love which is so wide and long and high and deep – that bars the way to hell. If you don't know that love, if you don't personally experience that love, if you ignore and reject and refuse that love, then there is no barrier between you and the eternal fires of hell. So Paul prays – and we pray with Paul – that you may know and taste and experience this love.
Ask any Christian parent about the worst thing than can happen to one of their children. They will tell you that the worst thing that can happen to their child is NOT cancer or leukemia or teen-aged pregnancy or even AIDS – those these are all bad and awful and horrible. As far as any Christian parent is concerned, the worst thing that can possibly happen to any of their children is that they do not know and taste and experience the love of Christ.
C There is another reason for this petition too. Once you know the love of Christ you can stand up to any emotional earthquake, storm, or discouragement. No matter what happens or has happened, if you know the love of Christ you are able to keep on going. Your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you, or you can't seem to get a boyfriend or girlfriend, or you aren't the star of the baseball or track team, or your grades aren't as good as you want them to be, or your parents can't or won't give you the car or truck that you want, or there is sin in your life that you keep struggling with – in all of these trials it is knowing the love of Christ that keeps you from giving up. Once you know that Christ loves you, that He loves you so much, nothing else really matters.
D I can mention one last reason for this petition. Once you know and taste and experience the love of Christ it becomes a witness, a lure, a light to those who do not yet have it.
Subtopic: Of Christ for Men
Title: Charming Compassion
A teaching hospital found one of its young resident students had a marvelous effect on little children. The children responded to him with delight. They would do things for him and yield to his ministrations in a way that they wouldn't do for any other person on the staff. The hospital assigned a nurse to discover what the secret of this young resident was. It wasn't until the second week, when she was on night duty, that she found out the secret. It was simply this: Every night on his last round he would kiss, and hug, and tuck in every one of the children. It was in that act of compassion, you see, in that act of sympathy, that he made his contact. He reflected the love of Christ and the little children responded.
E I want you to notice Paul prays that you know the unknowable. He wants you to know a love that "surpasses knowledge" (vs 19). You see, once you know and personally experience the love of God you come to realize it is indescribable and utterly amazing. Young People, my hope and my prayer is that you know this unsurpassing love.
III Filled with God's Love
A Paul's third petition is that you "be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Paul is praying that you be filled with the God of love and the love of God.
Paul doesn't pray that you be filled with God's attributes. He doesn't pray that you be filled with God's knowledge or strength or wisdom or goodness or justice. He doesn't pray that you be filled with the gifts of God. No, he prays for something far, far more than this. He prays that you be filled with the loving God Himself.
B I want you to notice Paul prays here that you contain the uncontainable. When Solomon built and dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem, he had to admit:
(1Ki 8:27) "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!"The God of love and the love of God is too big and too awesome to be contained in this building or in any single person. And yet, my hope and my prayer is that you are filled with all the fullness of the God of love.
What happens when you contain the uncontainable? Think, for a moment, about an empty drinking glass being filled from a full pitcher of water. The full pitcher not only fills the glass, but fills it to overflowing. That's what happens when you are filled with the God of love. Not only are you filled, but you are filled to overflowing.
IV A Relationship
Paul prays that you will grasp God's love, know God's love, and contain God's love.
The Apostle Paul also tells you what needs to happen in your life for this to happen. He prays that you may be "rooted and established in love" (vs 17b), he prays that "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (vs 17a), and he prays that God "may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being" (vs 16b). These are three different ways of saying the same thing: you need to have a relationship with Christ. For God's love and Christ's love to be your love you need to have a relationship with Christ.
For you to measure and know and contain God's love you need to have Christ at the center of your life; you need to live for Him Who died for you; you need to spend time with Him every day in prayer; you need to read and study His Word in daily devotions, in family devotions, and in the company of other believers; you need to worship Him every Sunday. And, as you find yourselves being drawn closer and closer to Him, you will also find yourselves growing in His love – in His love which is so wide and long and high and deep – and knowing His love and being filled with His love.
Young People, Paul prays that you grasp God's love, know God's love, and contain God's love. Paul prays that you
(Eph 3:18-19) may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, (19) and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.This is my payer for you, the prayer of the elders, the prayer of your parents, the prayer of your teachers, the prayer of your youth leaders.
Now, let me ask, is that your prayer for yourself?
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