One of my most favourite things to do is travel. When I get the chance, I love to pack a bag, throw it on the back of my motorbike and explore this vast, beautiful country of Australia. Over the years I have been blessed to be able to travel along just about every major highway and a lot of secondary roads as well. It always amazes me how big and how beautiful this nation is. And there are still more roads I’m looking forward to riding in the future…
When I hear Paul’s prayer for God’s people in Ephesians 3:18, I think of exploring God’s love the way I’ve been able to explore Australia. Paul’s hope is that we will be able to grasp with both hands and our whole heart just how enormous God’s love is for us, especially in the person and work of Jesus. Like riding this nation’s highways and back-roads, God’s love is enormous and full of amazing beauty. Even though we might think that we have seen everything, we can turn another corner and be blown away by the majesty and grandeur of what we encounter. With each and every changing circumstance of life, we have the opportunity to gain a deeper and fuller understanding of how vast and truly awesome God’s love for us is in the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. As we connect God’s love for us in Jesus with every new situation we face in life, we explore the infinite width, length, height and depth of God’s perfect love for us.
This is important for us because God’s love changes us. I received an email on Friday morning with a link to an article entitled Why sometimes love is the best parenting solution. The author, who isn’t Christian as far as I can tell, wrote:
When you’re having a tough day with your child, one thing that can reduce everyone’s stress and overwhelm is to focus your mind on love…
Before deciding that’s too simple, remember the research on feeling loved being at the foundation of self confidence, happiness and resilience.
Next time your children are driving you mad… Stop thinking, steady your breathing, don’t worry about the next moment and make your next move an expression of LOVE.
Love reconnects. Love forgives. Love renews. Love energises…
How much greater is the possibility for us to be growing in love, to be changed by love, and to extend love to others when we have direct access to the infinite and perfect love of God in Jesus. I agree with the author that in all our relationships, not just between parents and children, the best solution is love. In our relationship with God through Jesus, we have access to love that is so wide, long, deep and high that we can spend our entire lives exploring its beauty and life-changing grandeur, and never reach its limits. Like riding the roads of Australia, we can spend our whole lives discovering it and there will still be more to see.
And I haven’t even started talking about traveling overseas yet!
A problem we can face as Christians is we can be like people who watch travel shows on TV or go to information events about different tours and think that we’ve seen what we wanted to see. There is a big difference between seeing a TV show about a destination and experiencing its sights, smells, tastes and its beauty for ourselves. Paul’s prayer is that we will ‘experience the love of Christ, even though it is too great to understand fully’ (v19a NLT) for ourselves. It’s not enough to sit on a couch or a pew, listening to someone else who has seen it or been there. Following Jesus is not a spectator sport! The life of faith is about getting off our metaphorical posteriors and exploring ‘how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love is’ for ourselves. It’s only when we are willing to get out of our comfort zones, open God’s word, listen to his promises of love in the Bible, and connect them with the realities of our lives that we start to explore the infinite goodness of God’s love for ourselves.
That is largely what our congregation’s Discipling Plan is about. In particular, when we talk about Growing we mean exploring how wide, long, high and deep God’s love is for us in Jesus so that we can grasp it with both hands and experience it’s life-changing reality for ourselves. Just about everything I do is geared towards this one hope: that by opening God’s word together, listening to his promises of love, praying together and being Christian community together, you might be able to encounter God’s love in a new way and grasp a little more how his love can make a difference in your life.
Paul’s promise is that, as we explore the width, length, height and depth of God’s love for us in Jesus, the Holy Spirit changes us. Paul writes that as we explore the vastness of God’s infinite love for us in Jesus, and as we experience the love of Christ, we ‘will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God’ (v19b). Try to imagine what that could be like: to be made complete with the fullness of God’s life and power. The NIV puts it a slightly different way: ‘that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ It boggles my mind to start thinking about the difference being filled with God’s fullness can make to our lives…
In all of life’s joy and challenges, difficulties or stresses, how would you like to be filled with ‘the fullness of God’s life and power’? Paul is saying this is possible when we are exploring how wide and long, how high and deep God’s love is for us in Jesus, and when we are experiencing the reality of that love in his word and in Christian community.
So, what kind of traveller are you? Do you like to watch travel shows in TV that give you a glimpse of a destination through someone else’s eyes? Or do you like to pack a bag and get out on the road to experience all of the joys, the challenges, the beauty and the wonder which come with exploring our country and the world? There is so much to explore within and beyond our borders. But that’s nothing compared to the life-changing beauty of the infinitely wide, long, high and deep love of God for us in Christ Jesus.
Don’t just sit on a pew on Sunday. Open your Bibles, hear what God promises us through Jesus, and come with me as we explore the width, length, height and depth of God’s love, so we can experience the life-changing reality of Jesus’ love for us and be filled with the fullness of God’s life and power together.