First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, February 21, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Four Prayer Requests!” #4
Micah 7:18-20; Ephesians 3:14-19
We come this morning to the conclusion of our four-week sermon series titled, “Four Prayer Requests!” To refresh your memory, a few weeks back, we started looking at one of the most inspiring prayers of the Bible. It’s Paul’s prayer for his fellow Ephesian Christians found in Ephesians chapter 3. This is our fourth week working our way through this prayer and this morning we get to wrap up this study as we look at Paul’s fourth request for the believers in Ephesus. In Ephesians 3:17-18, Paul said, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.”
Grasping the vastness and completeness of the love of Christ, knowing the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, is the object of the last part of Paul’s prayer. I don’t know how often we pray for deep spiritual understanding. Paul doesn’t just pray that we might “get it.” He prays that we might grasp the full scope of God’s love -- width, length, height, and depth.
Today is the First Sunday in Lent and I think pondering the love of God in Christ is very appropriate. As I pointed out in our Ash Wednesday Service this week, Lent is known as a season of deep reflection; a time to ponder the basic and the most fundamental questions of life. So I invite you this morning to ponder with me the love of Christ; that love that led Him to offer His life at Golgotha. Two short observations for this morning; the first has to do with Christ’s love being the bedrock of our faith and the second will consider the dynamics of grasping the love of Christ.
First: The Bedrock Reality of our Faith
Often times I hear people say that our main problem today is that we don’t love God enough. I get it and I agree that we don’t love God enough. But I truly believe that our biggest and more serious problem is that we don’t know how much God loves us. His love is primary, our love is responsive. God’s love for us is the starting point; our love is just a response to His. Any spiritual formation, any spiritual awakening, begins with grasping God’s love.
Our lives are to be lived out of a deep awareness of how much we are loved by God. When we reflect on God’s love for us, we know that God doesn’t give us just enough to survive on, but He pours it out lavishly. Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus to grasp that love because when we fail to grasp it, our lives will not be rooted in love but in fear or guilt or shame or insecurity.
No wonder that in his short letter, Jude commanded the Church to always remember God’s love for them. He said in Jude 21, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” Don’t lose sight of it. Remain within the protective sphere of God’s never-ending love, Jude would say to us today. The bedrock reality of our lives of faith is that God loves us, and that Jesus is the evidence of this love. All else follows from this. Being loved is the rich soil from which all our fruitfulness and fulfilment grows. Gpd’s love is the bedrock reality of our faith.
Second: Comprehending Christ’s Love Must Happen in Community
Our culture fosters a personal and individualized spirituality without the trappings of community and the church. The power to comprehend and to grasp the love of Christ happens in community. In other words, you cannot know the length, width, height and depth of the love of Christ apart from the church. “Together” is a key word in Paul’s prayer here. “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.”
Faith is a journey that is not meant to be traveled alone. We travel this journey of faith with others. We are protected and encouraged when we travel together. This pandemic has taught us that we need each other. We need others to rejoice with us when we rejoice and to cry with us when we are broken. Many people ask today if the Church will ever be the same Church after the pandemic is over? Will people come back to the pews after being away for so long? It will for sure be a challenge that we need to deal with, but Paul reminds us today that having the power to grasp Christ’s love is something that happens “together with all the Lord’s holy people.” English theologian John Stott (1921-2011) once said, “It needs the whole people of God to understand the whole love of God.”
Friends, I encourage you this Lent to ponder Christ’s love. It is “wide” because it stretches more than we can ever imagine. It is “long” because it encompasses the length of our days, before and all beyond. It is “high” because it reaches to the highest heavens. It is “deep” because it extends to the deepest pit. His love never fails. Paul said that Christ’s love surpasses knowledge. We explore it now, but we will not fully understand the width, length, height, and depth until we see Jesus face to face in heaven.
Friends, we are free in God’s love. We are sheltered in God’s love. We belong in His love. We are redeemed in His love. We are forgiven in His love. We are people of purpose in His love. Our provision is in His love. Our past is overcome in His love. Our present makes sense in His love. Our future is certain in His love. “Who is like you?” asked the Prophet Micah in 7:18. There is no one like our loving God. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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