Print this article


  FACING REALITY ROMANS 8:28-39: “We are assured and know that [[a]God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.” (v28)

Can you hear that, that the Word of God says if we should try and live our lives in accordance with the will, plan and purpose of God being a partner in all our labour it is assured or in other words we have God’s assurance that all we do in life will fit perfectly into God’s aim and plan for our creation (why He brought us into life on earth through our mother’s womb) without failure or distortion to the extent that the Lord God’s aims in our life will always be fulfilled in such a way that people will see God’s glorious manifestations of all His promises in our life and they will be forced to call us blessed in the Lord God. At first glance, the second beatitude, “4Blessed and enviably happy [with a [a]happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted!” as seen in Matthew 5:4, seems somewhat strange and difficult to understand because people have not known how this principle plays out which is why they ask such question like: How can someone who mourns be contended and blessed? For us to understand this word of God in Matthew verse four even though it is happening to us everyday yet we have not comprehended its import; first you have to critically study the verse by picking out such vital phrases like ‘...happiness produced by the experience of God’s favour called His matchless grace’ which He manifests or brings to people whom He loves and wants to show His mercy ‘...especially or specially conditioned grace by revelation or in other words God’s timely intervention or involvement to save His people with an act called His matchless grace, that enabling of His Holy Spirit to intervene or get involved on behalf of the mourner to save (remember that God’s matchless saving grace is always manifesting in diverse form) His Child and thus display His comfort to them who mourn’. Is the Lord God not showing us His matchless grace every day? Think of all the things that you got involved in which would have ruined or destroyed you and take good notice of how the Lord God saved you through all of them, can you or have you forgotten a lot of them simply because you feel some of them are too disgraceful and dehumanizing to be retained or remembered in your mind? This is why we sing the song, count your blessings name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done! Blessings in this regard that we ought to count are not limited to only the good exciting and gladding blessings; it also includes those heinous ones we do not want to remember because they are too embarrassing. Let’s reflect on this together: Most commentators say that what Lord Jesus is alluding to here is the need to mourn over our sin or our erroneous actions, to face up to its pain and consequences, and then to find comfort in Lord Jesus grace, that His merciful intervention or involvements on our behalf in other to bring comfort and encouragement to us to still live on without losing faith in life. But I wonder, did Lord Jesus have something else in mind as well as this? I am thinking of the need to face, feel and process the pain and agony that arises within us when we meet with difficult and distressing circumstances. Mourning is the process of grieving and grieving involves coming to terms with loss and all its attendant emotional heart aches. Our unwillingness to face the pain that comes from our losses and the hurts and injuries that occur in our heart in lives, and mourn because of them, is a major cause of our psychological problematic breakdown called mourning. In life Reality must be faced. A psychiatrist once said: ‘People can’t take in too much reality so they run down the convenient road of denial. And that road that always leads an individual away from life reality because he or she does not want or have the courage and ability to face reality is a crowded highway. As a psychiatrist, I should know because that road is where I have to travel to find most of my patients.’ Do you hear that, does it describe to an extent how you try to throw away or shout down anybody who is telling you the raw truth called reality? Yes once again Reality must be faced because any individual who is not sincerely ready to face reality does not have any chance to receive the much needed divine truth, wisdom and knowledge of the Lord Jesus gospel of good tidings to the meek; the poor and afflicted; and as a broken-hearted person or a captive you cannot receive the Lord’s proclaimed liberty and the opening of the prison and of your eyes and as such your year of His favour or grace and the day of vengeance of the Lord our God unto all your enemies who have been making you to mourn and holding you in bondage cannot be proclaimed or made known to you because you cannot face reality, you cannot receive truth and thus you will remain uncomforted in your mourning state or condition because you have not allowed nor received the functions and duties for which God sent Lord Jesus Christ came to your earth as given by Isaiah 61! Life and life actions and decisions can be very difficult. For instance an unfaithful spouse lets you down, a son or daughter is suspected of being on drugs, somebody disappoints you and let down your trust...all these things, and many others, affect our emotions. Being willing and ready to accept that life is difficult will save us from unrealistic expectations which can trigger anxiety and depression in us. Then, when troubles come, we are not surprised, but face it realistically in the confidence that no matter what happens to us, God can graciously turn it all around to good in other to comfort us. That comfort or gracious intervention of God (God’s unmerited favour called grace) can come to us in diverse ways not necessarily the way we want and expect, God brings it in the way He sees fit! It is our responsibility to accept it as God gives it and be sincerely happy in it with praises to His Holy Name!

  Who Shall Separate Us from the Love of Christ? Romans 8:28-39:

This chapter explains the following, 1. The freedom of believers from condemnation as seen in v.1-9. 2. Their privileges as being the children of God as seen in v. 10-17. 3. Their hopeful prospects under tribulations as seen in v. 18-25. 4. Their gracious assistance from the Spirit in prayer as seen in v. 26, 27. 5. Their interest in the love of God as seen in v. 28-31. 6. Their final triumph, through Christ as seen in v. 32-39. Verses 28-31, Realization of that which is good for the saints which does their souls good. Every divine providence of the Lord God tends to the spiritual good of those that love God; in breaking them off from sin, bringing them nearer to God, weaning or stopping them from being of the world and its worldliness, and fitting them or making them fit for heaven. When the saints act out of character or display a wrong non heavenly character, divine corrections as judgment will be employed to bring them back again on course. And here is the order of the causes of our salvation, a golden chain, one which cannot be broken. 1. Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestine to be conformed to the image of His Son. Can you get that, an individual is foreknown by the Lord God; somehow that individual is carried away by the love of or the frivolities of the world and deviates or go off God’s course, when this going off God’s way happens to any God’s child in his or her process of living in the world the Lord God through the elements in predestination shoves the individual through circumstances or events some very hard and harsh, some very soft, slow and subtle to drive or force the individual back on course making him or her to conform back to the image of His Son which worldliness had wanted to deprive him of or kill in him because God does not want to lose any of His child. All of these God designed for glory and happiness as the end, God decreed to grace and holiness as the way; in other words God applies or uses grace, righteousness and holiness as means or way of achieving and winning of a lost soul or individual back to glory and happiness as the end. As a matter of the Lord God’s justice, the whole human race deserved destruction; but for reasons not perfectly known to us humans, God determined to recover some individual persons or souls just as He did during the Noah’s Ark by regeneration and the power of His grace. So God predestinated, or before decreed from before the beginning, that these people whom He had determined to recover should anything happen be made or forced by the elements of predestination which He implanted in them be made to conform to the image of His Son. In this life such people are in part renewed by their daily living the gospel of Jesus Christ, and walking in His steps. So now we can understand those whom He foreknew! But the unfortunate side of it is that we don’t allow all the things we suffer to change or transform us to be Christ like! 2. Whom He did predestinate, them He also called. It is an effectual call, a call from self, from worldliness and earth to God, and our gaining Christ, and our gaining heaven, as our end; a call from sin and vanity to grace and holiness, as our way. Effectual means something that is successful in producing a desired or intended result; effective; so the effectual call of God to us is meant to produce the desired and intended result of taking us from our sinfulness and vanity in worldliness which is from self and earthly by way of mercy, grace and holiness to gaining Christ and gaining heaven as our end. This is the gospel call. The love of God, ruling in the hearts of those who once were enemies to the Lord God through worldliness, proves that they have been called according to His purpose. 3. Whom He called, them He also justified. All things being equal, judging from the perspective of all humans being sinful; none are thus justified but those that are effectually called in Christ because Christ justification is imputed for them. Those who stand out against the gospel call, abide under guilt and wrath, so allow Christ to bring you out of this situation by answering His call to be justified. 4. Whom He justified, them He also glorified. The power of corruption being broken in effectual calling, and the guilt of sin removed in justification, there is nothing anymore that can come between that soul and glory. Do you now see the sequence by which this principle works; being called; you are justified having being freed from your sin guiltiness by God’s mercy and His grace saves you from God’s wrath through your living the Lord’s gospel; then your soul is saved and God’s glory would be manifested in bringing God’s promises to you. This encourages our faith and hope; for, as for God, His way, His work, is perfect. The apostle speaks as one amazed, and swallowed up in admiration, wondering at the height and depth, and length and breadth, of this great love of Christ, which passeth knowledge or understanding. The more we know of other things, the less we wonder; but the further we are led into the true knowledge of gospel mysteries, the more we are affected by them. While God is for us, and we keep in His love, we may with holy boldness defy all the powers of darkness. Verses 32-39: All things whatever, in heaven and earth, are not so great a display of God's free love, as the gift of His coequal Son to be the atonement on the cross for the sin of man; and all the rest follows upon union with Him, and interest in Him. Did you hear that; many people use to think that things in heaven and things on earth are enough to declare and display God’s glory and love but here today we learn that they do not as much declare and display God’s glory as does the Gift of God’s coequal Son as an atonement on the cross for the sin of man. In All things, all which can be the causes or means of any real good to the faithful Christian; He the Lord God has prepared a crown and a kingdom for us, and will give us all what we need in the way to it in His providence. Men may justify themselves, though the accusations are in full force against them; but if God calls and justifies (acquitted or put them in right standing with God), that answers all. By Christ we are thus secured. By the merit of His death being sinless He paid our sinful debt. Yea, rather that He is risen again. This is convincing evidence that Divine justice and requirement was satisfied. We have such a Friend at the right hand of God; all power is given to Him. He is there, making intercession. Believer! Does your soul say within you, Oh that He were mine! And oh that I were His; that I could please Him and live to Him as He desires of me! Then do not toss your spirit, your heart, your soul-war and perplex your thought-chains in fruitless, endless doubtings, but as you are convinced of your ungodliness through His gospel, then believe in Lord Jesus Christ who justifies the ungodly by His sinless sacrificial death. You are condemned by your sinfulness, yet you know and have heard Christ is dead and risen. Flee to Him as such; in other words surrender to Jesus Christ and live His gospel. God having manifested His love in giving His own Son for us, can we think that anything should turn us aside or make us do away with such love? Troubles neither cause nor show any abatement, reduction or decrease of His love. Whatever believers may be separated from, always know that enough remains. None can take Christ from the believer: none can take the believer from Christ; and that is enough. All other hazards signify nothing. Alas, poor sinners! Though you abound with the possessions of this world, what vain things are the possessions of this world! Can you say of any of your possessions, Who shall separate us? You may be removed or separated from pleasant dwellings, from money and wealth, and friends, and from estates and other material possessions. You may even live to see and seek your parting away from this world. At last you must part, for you must die. Then you bid farewell, to all this things that the world accounts most valuable. When you bid farewell at parting death to all this things that the world accounts and hold dear; then ask yourself what hast thou left or in other words what do you now have left with you, only your poor soul is now left with you, your poor soul who hast not Christ is the only thing left with you, but that which thou wouldest gladly part with, and canst not; is the condemning guilt of all thy sins! Did you hear that, that the only thing you cannot part with at your departing death is your heart or soul filled with condemning guilt of sin caused by your atrocities, your sinful deeds and actions, which is all your whole life error? This is why the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to do everything we can to confess and empty our soul of our sin-guiltiness before we die otherwise the summation of all your sin-guiltiness will separate you from being where Christ and those freed from sin who believe in Lord Jesus atoning sacrifice are. But the soul that is in Christ, when other things are pulled away by death separation, cleaves to Christ, and these separations pain Him not. Yea, when death comes, that breaks all other unions, even that which separates of the soul and body, it carries the believer's soul into the nearest union with its beloved Lord Jesus, and the full enjoyment of Him forever. So from all these; you discover or learn the principle of death separation, at the end or at your parting –death, you will be separated from everything even your body will be separated from your soul and in your soul one out of two things depending on the choice you made while still alive is the only thing that remain or that will be with you and these two things are:- a. Your sin-guiltiness that will remain in your soul tormenting you if you fail to allow the Scripture and the Gospel to assist you become penitent whereby you are convicted of it, accept and confess it and have it cleared for you through Christ in forgiveness and be remission (the cancellation of a debt, charge, or penalty) so that the space created in your soul by its clearance; b. Will be reoccupied or filled by Christ reactivating your dwarfed personal spirit rendered passive by your sin-guiltiness that is now cleared so that at your parting–death, as your soul parts or gets separated from your body and you are separated from everything the only thing that now remain with you in your soul is your gained –Christ while you were on earth and with your Christ as the only thing now left with you as you are separated from every other thing else, Christ will now move you to reunite with your Saviour and the rest saved souls that are with Him in the place where He is, which is that place where He promised He is going to prepare for you in His kingdom. Let us read Romans 8:28-39, 28 We are assured and know that [[a]God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew [of whom He was [b]aware and [c]loved beforehand], He also destined from the beginning [foreordaining them] to be molded into the image of His Son [and share inwardly His likeness], that He might become the firstborn among many brethren. 30 And those whom He thus foreordained, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified (acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself). And those whom He justified, He also glorified [raising them to a heavenly dignity and condition or state of being]. 31 What then shall we say to [all] this? If God is for us, who [can be] against us? [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?] 32 He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect [when it is] God Who justifies [that is, Who puts us in right relation to Himself? Who shall come forward and accuse or impeach those whom God has chosen? Will God, Who acquits us?] 34 Who is there to condemn [us]? Will Christ Jesus (the Messiah), Who died, or rather Who was raised from the dead, Who is at the right hand of God actually pleading as He intercedes for us? 35 Who shall ever separate us from Christ’s love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword? 36 Even as it is written, For Thy sake we are put to death all the day long; we are regarded and counted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors [d]and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things [e]impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, 39 Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  Introduction:

I begin this day with two questions. I won’t ask you to raise your hand. But you must answer these before God. Speak a quiet answer to God to each question. The reason I do this is because how you answer these questions determines whether the rest of this message is true of you now, or is only an invitation for you to come to the banquet of faith. Two Diagnostic Questions: The questions are based on Romans 8:28 which says “28 We are assured and know that [[a]God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose”. This is one of the greatest assurances of God’s love in all the Bible. But it has two qualifications attached to it. It is not true for everyone. It is true for people described in this verse: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good (1) to those who love God, (2) to those who are called according to His purpose.” So here are my questions: but before you answer first are you one of those that loves Him, second are you one of those whom He called according to His purpose? Do you love God? No one loves God perfectly in this life. That is not the question. We all know there can be a real uniting love with a wife or husband or mother or father or dear friend, without that love being perfect. In fact the greater and more authentic or genuine the love, the more keenly it feels its own imperfections. The question is not about perfection. The question is: Is God your treasure or valuable to you? Lord Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart or soul be also” as seen in Luke 12:34. That is, there will your love be. He was trying to persuade us to have our treasure in heaven, not earth. He was calling us to treasure God above all things. Because what you count as your treasure something you greatly valued is what your heart embraces and loves. So “Do you love God?” means “Is He God your treasure?” Is God the most valuable reality in your life? You have to be very sincere in answering this question, ‘is God your treasure’? Have you been called? This does not mean, “Have you ever heard the gospel?” or “Have you ever heard an invitation calling you to repent and believe?” Verse 30 makes plain what the call is we are talking about here: “And those whom He thus foreordained, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified (acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself). And those whom He justified, He also glorified [raising them to a heavenly dignity and condition or state of being]. Or [Those] whom [God] predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” All those who are called are justified. So this calling from God is not a mere invitation, but a powerful and effective summons or orders that woke you up from the slumber of ignorance and rebellion, so that you see Lord Jesus and gladly submit or surrender to Him and Him alone. Called by Christ: An Illustration: Let me put it in a picture. But first consider 1 Corinthians 1:23-24: We preach Christ (the Messiah) crucified, [preaching which] to the Jews is a scandal and an offensive stumbling block [that springs a snare or trap], and to the Gentiles it is absurd and utterly unphilosophical nonsense. 24 But to those who are called, whether Jew or Greek (Gentile), Christ [is] the Power of God and the Wisdom of God. Did you now understand why you are asked if you love God or if you are called by God? Because if you love God and you are called by the Lord God; preaching the gospel or preaching Christ the Messiah crucified will not be a scandal or an offensive stumbling block as it was to the Jews and it will not be utterly unphilosophical nonsense to you as it was to the Gentles rather it will be to you Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Which one is it to you? That is what determines if you love God and you are called by God! Many regard Christ crucified as foolishness. But those who are called see in Him the power and the wisdom of God. For those who are called; they see Christ crucified as the Power and the Wisdom of God, because a transformation, a change, a rebirth in Christ has taken place in their life due to the vicissitude of live they have passed through. Something has happened to them. They’ve been called. Picture it this way: before you were called by God, you were in real sense asleep in your bed. Into your bedroom came Jesus Christ. He stood there in the glory of His Calvary love and His resurrection power. But you were asleep. In fact, you were dreaming in that sleep. And in the dream (which is your ordinary life) you saw Jesus Christ. Only in the dream He looked foolish. He wasn’t attractive. You wondered why others made such a big deal out of Him. What did I say? That it is only in a dream would you look at Lord Jesus being foolish because it is only in the dream that, your television become more valuable and exciting. In the dream is where your boyfriend becomes more real and a treasure to you than Lord Jesus. It is only in your dream that your job become more satisfying and important to you than Lord Jesus Christ. Think about it, and be very sincere to yourself! Then God’s Spirit — the Holy Spirit — came into the bedroom where Lord Jesus was standing in the glory of His Calvary love and resurrection power. And the Holy Spirit hovered over your dreaming head and called, in a voice, just loud enough, to “Wake you up!” And it shook you and jolted you up awake. And you quickly opened your eyes. And there before you stood the real Jesus Christ. And His glory was unmistakable. And you knew now that (all your life) you’d been dreaming—that all your thoughts about His being foolish and unreal and unattractive were mere fantasies and empty false images of a sleeping mind. But now the veil of slumber was lifted and “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” was irresistibly true now to you. Christ crucified was now for you what it really is: the power of God and the wisdom of God. That is what it means to be called; to have an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ in its reality. Something supernaturally experienced involving you and Lord Jesus Christ must take place in your life to indicate you’re being called. “God’s love is so powerfully for us, at all times.” So now I ask, “Have you been called by God?” Is Christ, in His death for sinners, wisdom and power to you? Have you had an encounter with Him in an amazing supernatural way that brings His reality to your understanding? Or are you still asleep in the fantasy world of dreams and illusions where Lord Jesus is unimportant, unexciting, and unattractive? Where He is stupidity, nonsense and a stumbling block to people? Can you say honestly today, “Christ crucified is true power and Christ crucified is true wisdom”? Now, if you have honestly answered Yes, to these two questions, then the rest of this message is gloriously true for you. And if you couldn’t answer Yes, then this message may be even more relevant, because it is the coming into your bedroom of Christ and the drawing near of His Spirit to you, make haste and allow Him to wake you up from your slumber!

  No One and Nothing Can Separate Us from Christ’s Love:

The main point I want us to see today is in verse 35 which says, “35 Who shall ever separate us from Christ’s love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword?” The answer to that question is: No one and nothing. My aim today is to remind you and to awaken you afresh to the unshakable love that Christ has for you — you who answered yes to those two questions. Who shall separate you from the love of Christ? “Shall tribulation [or any pressure or trouble], distress [or any difficulty or crisis], persecution [or any opposition or ridicule], famine [or any suffering or scarcity], nakedness [or any assault or shame], peril [or any danger or threat], sword [or any injury or violence or death]?” Shall any of that separate you from the love of Christ? Paul answers, No, on the contrary, as verse 37 says, “Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors [d]and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us.” Not only can we not be separated from the love that Christ has for us, but that love is so powerfully for us, at all times, that it turns every circumstance into a triumph if you are really called. “In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” So my aim this day is to remind you of this and show it to you that if you are really called you will always conquer, and I pray with you that you will grasp this truth. And that this truth will in turn grasp you. The Love of Christ: The Root of Our Love for One Another; The way this truth fits into the overall series on “The Greatest of These Is Love” is that again and again in the Bible the love of God for us is the root of our love for each other. The reality is that if we do not rest in the love of God for us, we will not be able to love each other. For example, Lord Jesus said in John 13:34, “I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another.” His love for us is first, and ours is an echo of it as seen in John 15:12-13, This is My commandment: that you love one another [just] as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends. His love for us is before and under our love for each other. And it is a deep, deep, unshakable Calvary love as seen in Ephesians 4:32 -5:1, 432And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you. 51Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]”. All true love begins with this: God in Christ loved us and forgave us. Then He adopted us so that we are called His children. Then He lavished His ongoing love on us in the family. And now—and only now, on the basis of all that—He says, “Imitate Me.” Be imitators of God “as loved children.” And mark this! Be an imitator of God—not as a peon admirer in the audience. Not as an insecure little kid ogling at a ball player’s baggy shorts. Not as a beginning musician listening to the CD of her favourite, but unknown, maestro. Maestro means a ‘master’ or ‘teacher’ of respect. But, “as loved children.” “Be imitators of God as loved children.” It’s the love of God in Christ for us that draws out and empowers our imitating God’s love ability for each other. It’s because we love the way our Father is that makes us want to be that way. Or again in 1 John 3:16, “316By this we come to know (progressively to recognize, to perceive, to understand) the [essential] love: that He laid down His [own] life for us; and we ought to lay [our] lives down for [those who are our] brothers [[a]in Him].” “All true love begins with this: God in Christ loved us and forgave us.” We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for our brethren. I love to talk about radical Christianity—Christianity that lays down its life for others, and show how radically secure we are in the love of God.” But it all begins with Him, not us as seen in 1 John 4:10-11, “10 In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God loved us so [very much], we also ought to love one another”. So that’s the reason for today’s focus: If God so loved us, we ought to love each other. Discovering New Depths of Love for God and Love for Neighbour: And so we need to see that God did so love us—and does so love us. Because, unless I am badly mistaken, there is an immense longing in this congregation to discover new depths of love for each other and to visitors and the most difficult to love associates. Would not the tears come to our eyes to read more letters like this one to me from now hence from our Reverend in HOJ? Two weeks ago while on vacation I returned to Bethlehem said a narrator. I was full of joy because of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It was manifested in ways that I have never sensed before at Bethlehem. Since about 1988 and every year thereafter I’ve worshipped with you and sat under your ministry. While your preaching has always fed my soul, the congregation seemed unfriendly; we were never greeted or made welcome in all the times we visited and a chill surrounded the worship service. But two Sunday’s ago it was different. Both my wife and I had people come and welcome us. A fellow by the name of John Fast spent a great deal of time visiting with me and thanked me for coming. The worship service and worship team were God-glorifying with little focus upon man. I can only imagine the darkness you’ve experienced this past year, yet I see God doing an even greater work through you and the church. I heard it in the preaching of the Word. I experienced it in the God-centred worship. I enjoyed it in the radiance and warmth of the congregation. The providence of God has ordained a time of darkness for the sake of purification. The greater glory of God is now being revealed. I receive that with a deep sense of the love of God rather than any sense of self-satisfaction. I do not doubt that there is plenty in me that still needs purification. And so I take it for myself first. It’s the only way we will be what God is calling us to be—like in a marriage: if I constantly focus on what I think needs to be changed in my spouse rather than on the ways I can love her better, I will make both of us miserable for decades. What is precious to me about this letter is the combination. He spoke of God-centeredness in our worship (“with little focus upon man”) in the same breath with “the radiance and warmth of the congregation.” This is our heart’s cry, isn’t it? “They will know you are Christians by your love.” This is what I was yearning for in all our week’s messages when I said we long for a fresh biblical combination and balance of the holiness of God and the love of God. We Must First Be Gripped by Christ’s Love for Us: The point today is that, if we are to grow in our love to one another, we must experience being loved by Christ with a deep, unshakable love—the love of Romans 8:35, “Who shall ever separate us from Christ’s love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword?” We must be wonderstruck that the love of Christ holds us. That He holds us firmly in the grip of His love. The profound wonder—that Christ, the Son of God loves us—must grip us and hold us and fill our minds. We must put it before our minds at the beginning of the day (He loves me), and then again at midmorning (He loves me), and then at noon (He loves me), and then at mid-afternoon (He loves me), and then at supper time (He loves me), and then before bed (He loves me). And as we take the Scriptures like Romans 8:35, we must pray about this. This is what I will call the “Fasting Forty” we have to focus on as we move from week to week. To pray that this sense of being loved by Christ would fill us and overflow from us!

  How Crucial Love Was in Paul’s Prayers:

Let’s turn to one of Paul’s prayers to see how crucial this issue of love was for Paul as he prayed for the church in Ephesians 3:14–19 which reads, “14 For this reason [[a]seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 For Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named [that Father from Whom all fatherhood takes its title and derives its name]. 16 May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality]. 17 May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, 18 That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; 19 [That you may really come] to know [practically, [b]through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses [c]mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] [d]unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and [e]become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!”. The reason I want you to look at this as we close is because I saw in a new way how this passage takes us into the meaning of Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” 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 fullness of God. Notice what the goal of this prayer is in verse 18: “That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]”. What Paul wanted for the Ephesians is what I want for us this day: power to comprehend how high and deep and wide and long is the love of Christ for us. He admits it is beyond human comprehension. We will never get to the top or bottom or end of it in any direction. There will always be more of it to discover and enjoy as seen in Ephesians 2:7 “7 He did this that He might clearly demonstrate through the ages to come the immeasurable (limitless, surpassing) riches of His free grace (His unmerited favor) in [His] kindness and goodness of heart toward us in Christ Jesus.” But he wants us to prove the inexhaustibility of Christ’s love by experience, not just say it as a doctrine but as a thing we practice as we live and experience in our day to day living. “The roots of our life are firmly held by the depths of Christ’s love”: But how does He mean for us to “be able [literally: be strong enough] to comprehend” this love? Do we stand outside it and look at it the way we would a building so that we can measure how tall and wide it is? No. Move backward into verse 17 for the answer: “That you, being rooted and grounded in love,” may have power to comprehend the love of Christ. The word for “grounded” here is “rested on a foundation.” So Paul uses two metaphors: one of a tree with roots, the other one of a building with a foundation. He says that, to comprehend the love of Christ and prove the height and depth of it we should be rooted in it. That is, the roots of our lives should be sinking down ever more deeply into the love of Christ. That’s in Christ is where we get all our life nourishments and you know that the more a tree sends its roots deep into the soil the more nourishments it get, so that is how deep we must allow the roots of our life to sink deep in Christ so that we can get enough nourishment from Him. And He said we should be founded on it. That is, the foundation of our lives should be spread out on the solid rock of the love of Christ for us. Our Roots Never Get to the Bottom of Christ’s Love: This is how we prove in experience that the depth and breadth of the love of Christ are endless. Our roots never get to the bottom of it and our broadening foundation never run out of rock to build on. I think these two images are meant to show us the same things as Romans 8:35, “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.” The roots of our life are firmly held by the depths of Christ’s love. And the foundation of our life is firmly supported by the rock of Christ’s love. We cannot be plucked up or blown over. That is the point of Romans 8:35, “Who shall ever separate us from Christ’s love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword?” God is calling us to new depths of love for each other and for those outside. If that is going to happen (and it is happening), something else must happen first (which is happening). Paul’s prayer must be answered: [May God grant that we], 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 or understanding. Would you join me, and make it a matter of earnest prayer that all of us grasp more and more what it is to be loved by Christ—nothing can separate us from His love. Then the power to love each other will flow freely.
Father Lord, help me face reality in the knowledge that there is nothing to fear when You Jesus Christ are near and in me. Thank You Lord Jesus for Your ever promised presence in my every situation. May the wonderful truth of Your love for me hold me in times of pain and loss. Teach and help me Lord Jesus to also love You in return and to love my fellow human with Your love that You have planted in me. In Your name Lord Jesus I pray. Amen!