Last night I checked out Hope Centre Church’s Worship Together event. In many ways, it was everything I expected it to be (and that’s all I’m going to say about that) but I was deeply encouraged by the short sermon delivered by Pastor Nathan, and I want to share my brief – albeit slightly unrefined – notes in the hope that you too might be spurred on to pursue Christ more fervently.
Preaching on Ephesians 3:14-19, Pastor Nathan captured the thrust of this section of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus this way:
[Paul speaking] “I’m not going to pray for your specific life issue.
Rather, I’m going to pray that you encounter more of God’s love.”
Why Does Paul Pray That?
Because he knows where our priorities should be. Put simply, we need to seek Christ above every other pursuit and treasure him above every other thing. In his commentary on this passage, Martin Lloyd-Jones writes “Indeed, our chief defect as Christians is that we fail to realize Christ’s love to us.” Let that sink in for a moment. Do we really understand how much Jesus gave up for us in love? Do we fully grasp the extent of this love for us? Do we go about our lives every day in the confidence that nothing can separate us from that love?
Lloyd-Jones goes on to add
“How important it is that we should meditate upon this love and contemplate it! It is because we fail to do so that we tend to think at times that He has forgotten us, or that He has left us.”
If you’re a Christian (and frequently, even if you’re not), you know in some sense about God’s love for you; but Paul’s prayer is that you would know it. D. A. Carson in his A Call to Spiritual Reformation points out that just as a loving home is required for children to grow to personal maturity, so we must come into the knowledge of Christ’s great love for us, in His household, the church, if we are to grow to spiritual maturity.
There are three points worth unpacking from this idea:
1. Christian people find Jesus beautiful. Religious people find Jesus useful.
You don’t come away from worship with 3 points on how to fix your life; and if you do, you’re doing it wrong. Rather in finding Jesus beautiful, everything else fades from the foreground, and troubles fall into their rightful priority and place. Finding Jesus beautiful is actually the most useful thing you can do.
2. Paul calls us to pursue love in community.
Nobody graduates from the love of God. We must constantly strive to love better, love more completely, and in order to do this we must begin with knowing the One who loves us unceasingly and unconditionally. Paul prays specifically that the Ephesian Christians would experience God’s love together “with all the saints”; regardless of their personality or propensity towards a particular kind of Christian pursuit, we should go after more and more of God’s love unified with fellow believers in heart and mind. We do this together, because God’s love is expressed in community.
3. Seeking after God’s love is not (purely) an intellectual pursuit.
While a deeper relationship with God necessitates studying him, learning about him, and getting to know him through the community of saints, encountering God’s love surpasses knowledge; you’ve got to experience it. When you read Scripture, you do so to encounter the living God revealed in it’s pages. When you pray, you don’t simply recite religiously, but to seek God and grow into maturity. Rather than just knowing about his love, why not regularly re-calibrate your life by creating space to actually encounter God and be refreshed in his presence?
Karl Barth (acknowledged as the greatest theologian of his century) was asked by a student if he could summarize his whole life’s work in theology in a single sentence. Barth is said to have responded: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
Go hard after God’s love.
That’s all you need.