Imagine the Lord’s Love
A survey was recently taken. It was centered on the question, “What are the five best toys of all time?” One person responded with the list a stick, a box, string, a cardboard tube, and dirt.
Shat makes those toys so good. Each one is readily available. Each one is versatile. They are appropriate for all ages. They fit every budget.
And this. No batteries are required because they are all powered by imagination.
It is imagination we are going to concentrate on in this message, which is the gist of a passage written by the apostle Paul. The passage is the last part of Ephesians 3. We are going to consider some of the ideas presented in the passage. From time to time, there will be a pause to give us time to imagine the wonder of each idea about Jesus.
A special point is made at the end of the passage. It will be the last thought of this message. But let’s exercise our imaginations, not with a stick or a box or string or a cardboard tube or dirt, but with the Lord’s love.
In the last part of Ephesians 3, Paul expressed his devotion to God. In verse 14, he wrote that he bowed his knees before the Father. In verses 16 and 17, he shared three prayer requests. They were that those to whom he wrote would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit, that Christ would dwell in their hearts, and that they would be rooted and grounded in love.
Paul wanted those three things. He prayed for those things so those people [Paul wanted all the saints - all the believers to join together in this] would have the spiritual power to comprehend to comprehend [to imagine] a number of things.
Including the breadth of the Lord’s love.
What was Paul thinking about when he wrote about the breadth of the Lord’s love?
I imagine he had two thoughts in mind, one being the physical expanse of the Lord’s love.
I think that was on Paul’s mind because he was familiar with an Old Testament passage that speaks of that. A passage in Psalm 139, where, in verses 7 though 12, there is the proclamation of God being everywhere.
Remember Jesus and God are one. Remember God is love, so if He is everywhere - since He is everywhere - His love is everywhere. His being everywhere is expressed in the question of God, “Where can I go to flee from Your presence?” That was not a wish for the Psalmist David to flee. The point is there is nowhere anyone can go to be away from the Lord, which is to be a comforting promise.
Where is everywhere? According to Psalm 139, everywhere is Heaven. We know the Lord is there. It is Sheol, which here refers to the depths of the earth. No matter how far down we dig, the Lord is there. It is the uttermost parts of the sea. In the middle of any ocean, on the water or on some deserted island, Jesus is there. Even there His love is available. Wherever we are day or night, the Lord is there. His love continues all day and every night.
Psalm 139 refers to the physical width of the Lord’s love. Paul wrote about the breadth of that love in his first letter to Timothy, a young preacher Paul encouraged. In I Timothy, Paul wrote about the Lord’s love in terms of its reach to cover all people. His love is as wide as the entire human family. In I Timothy 2:4, Paul wrote, “God desires all men [men in a generic sense - God desires all people] to be saved and to come to the knowledge of spiritual truth.”
A couple weeks ago one of the choruses we sang was Jesus Loves the Little Children. Remember the words.
Jesus loves the little children.
All the children of the world.
Red, brown, yellow, black, and white,
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children
[all the little children - all the people] of the world.
The same thought was expressed by Jesus.I am thinking of John 3:16 which states that whoever believes in Jesus - whoever accepts Jesus as Savior - will have everlasting life. The word “whoever,” and, in I Timothy, the words “all people,” indicate the breadth of God’s love. His love covers all people everywhere.
Of course, those who accept Jesus are the ones who have the privilege of benefitting from His love, but there is nowhere anyone can go to escape His love.
For a moment, pause and imagine the breadth of the Lord’s love. Think what it means to you that He loves you. Imagine what you can do to show your appreciation for His love. For a moment, let your imagination work about the breadth of the Lord’s love.
In the main passage for today, which is Ephesians 3, Paul wrote he prayed that the Christians who would read his words would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit. He prayed that Christ would dwell in their hearts and that they would be rooted and grounded in love so they would be able to comprehend the breadth - and the length - of the Lord’s love.
What was Paul thinking about when he referred to the length of the Lord’s love?
I imagine he might have been thinking of another part of Psalm 139.
A moment ago we considered verses 7 through 12, which tell of the width the Lord’s love. In verses 13 through 16 there is reference to the length of that love.
Length that began for each of us before we were born
Listen to Psalm 139:13-16. “LORD, You formed my inward parts. You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. You made me very well.”
Of course, there are plenty of illnesses that attack us, but what a wonder our bodies are - the bones and the brain and the eyes and the ears and the nerves and the digestive system and our skin. As the Psalm proclaims, how wonderfully we have each been made. God’s love is seen in His attention to every detail of our bodies.
The passage in Psalm 139 continues. “Before I was born, I was not hidden from God. God’s eyes saw me before anyone else saw me.”
And it is not just before birth that the Lord loved us. He still does love us. That will continue as long as we live. According to v.16 of Psalm 139, God knows each of the days of our lives. How amazing is that?
And it goes even beyond that. According to Psalm 136, which Paul would have known as well - it must also have been on his mind - there is a recurring set of words. “For His steadfast love endures forever.”
How long is the Lord’s is? It extends from before we were born through all the days of our earthly lives and it continues forever.
Again, those who accept Jesus as Savior are the ones who have the privilege of benefitting from His love, but His love is long. Even if someone rejects Him, He still loves that one. There is no time anyone can be away from the Lord’s love.
For a moment, pause and imagine the length of the Lord’s love. During this moment, think how He has loved and always will love you. Think about examples of that, including how wonderfully He made you. Imagine what you can do to show your appreciation for His love. For a moment, quietly let your imagination work about the length of the Lord’s love.
In the main passage for today, which is Ephesians 3, Paul wrote he prayed that the Christians who would read his words would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit. He prayed that Christ would dwell in their hearts and that they would be rooted and grounded in love so they would be able to comprehend the breadth, the length - and the height - of the Lord’s love.
Paul wrote elsewhere about that. One such place is in Philippians 2, where Paul wrote not just about height as we think of it, but the great distance between where Jesus had been, which was Heaven, and where He was during His life on earth, which included being born in a barn, having a ministry that was fraught with danger, then dieing a horribly cruel, painful, humiliating death on a cross.
You know what that represents? Think of this. Imagine this. And remember, we are told in the Bible that God loved the world so much He gave Jesus. Imagine this. Since Jesus started in Heaven, no one can claim to be too high or too important for Jesus. Since Jesus was so humble during His physical presence on earth, no one should ever think of himself or herself as being too low for God’s love.
The point is there is no position of importance or non-importance that will make us ineligible to know the Lord’s love.
The non-important part of that was very clearly displayed in something Jesus did during His ministry. Something Paul at least knew about. Something recorded in Mark 10:13-16.
In those verses, some parents had taken their children to Jesus so He would bless them. There was apparently nothing special about the parents, meaning they were common people rather than leaders of some sort. And they had their children with them. At that time, children were not considered the most important people alive.
Common parents had taken their children to Jesus, which upset the disciples of Jesus. They were upset because they wanted Jesus to have some time to rest.
The disciples knew Jesus was tired and needed to rest. And remember, Jesus had been in Heaven. In addition, He was involved in the creation of the universe. How important He was and is. Despite all that, Jesus’ love extended even to the children.
Jesus told His disciples to step aside. He told the disciples to let the little children approach Him. He then blessed them, which was indeed proof that the height of Jesus’ love extended all the way from Heaven to where Jesus was when He blessed the children.
For a moment, pause and imagine the height of the Lord’s love. During this moment, remember that no matter how important you are, no matter how unimportant you might feel, God’s love is available to you. Maybe pray to be able to feel it if you do not already feel it. Imagine what you can do to show your appreciation for His love. For a moment, quietly let your imagination work about the height of the Lord’s love.
In the main passage for today, which is Ephesians 3, Paul wrote he prayed that the Christians who would read his words would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit. He prayed that Christ would dwell in their hearts and that they would be rooted and grounded in love so they would be able to comprehend the breadth, the length, the height - and the depth - of the Lord’s love.
What was Paul thinking about concerning the depth of the Lord’s love?
I imagine he thought about how deeply into our souls that love extends. For that, I imagine he one more time thought of Psalm 139, this time verses 1 through 6. A passage that tells us the Lord knows everything about us - when we sit down and when we rise up, when we are out walking and when we are lying down, what we are thinking, what we are going to say before we say it.
I hope we are not frightened by that. And actually, it can be scary to know the Lord is aware of everything that crosses our minds. But I hope we will each use His knowledge as an incentive to make sure that where we are and where we go and what we are thinking about and what we will say are pleasing to God.
Beyond that, the point is that even in the everyday things of life, Jesus knows us, including what is inside us. The point is that if we will let Him, His love will cause us to be and go and think and say what is good, even to the point of being among those referred to as “whoever” believes in Jesus.
If that has not yet happened in your life - if you have not accepted Jesus - He will help you to know and accept Him. For those of us who already believe in Jesus, He will help us maintain and grow our faith. That is the depth of the Lord’s love.
One more time, in the main passage for today, which is Ephesians 3, Paul wrote he prayed that the Christians who would read his words would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit. He prayed that Christ would dwell in their hearts and that they would be rooted and grounded in love so they would be able to comprehend the breadth, the length, the height, and the depth of the Lord’s love.
Paul encouraged his original audience - and us - to imagine the wonder of the love Jesus has for us, which is important to do. It is important to think how great the Lord’s love is, which is why we have taken time to do that in this message.
However, in verse 20 of Ephesians 3 is a very interesting thing. It is that no matter how skilled we are at imagining, no matter how vivid our imaginations, “God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,” which means no matter how much we appreciate the Lord’s love, it is beyond our human minds to understand it.
How great that is. So great, pause for a moment to imagine what it means that the breadth, length, height, and depth of the Lord’s love is beyond our imagining.
Again, let’s pray for the wisdom to accept His love, either for the first time or to keep accepting His love. Imagine what you can do to show your appreciation for His love. Even though none of us can imagine the full extent of His love, let your imagination work.
The closing song for this service is the hymn God of the Ages, History’s Maker. The words are a reminder that God - and Jesus - were present in the past, they are present now, they will be present in the future. We know from the Bible passages we have considered that a big part of their presence is love. Let’s sing the hymn with the Lord’s love in mind, including, in the final verse, the challenge to share His love with others.
God of the ages, history’s Maker,
Planning our pathway, holding us fast,
Shaping in mercy all that concerns us:
Father, we praise You, Lord of the past.
God of this morning, gladly Your children
Worship before You, trustingly bow:
Teach us to know You always among us,
Quietly sovereign - Lord of our now.
God of tomorrow, strong Overcomer,
Princes of darkness own Your command:
What then can harm us? We are Your people,
Now and forever kept by Your hand.
Lord of past ages, Lord of this morning,
Lord of the future, help us, we pray:
Teach us to trust You, love and obey You,
Crown You each moment, Lord of today.
I found this illustration about the Lord’s love. It is that Jesus is like a Little League parent. Every time we, His people, have any kind of victory, He cheers and throws His hat up in the air. Every time we lose, He is sad and tries to console us. If we are picked on, He is ready to defend us.
Those are examples of the breadth, the length, the height, and the depth of His love for us.
May we remember His love is wider and longer and higher and deeper than our imaginations, but even with that, let’s allow our imaginations to run wild. Not about how to play with sticks, boxes, string, cardboard tubes, and dirt, but to feel good - spiritually good - that His deep love is everywhere all the time with whoever, both inside and out. With everyone. Let’s be thankful for His love. Let’s display our thankfulness by helping others to know it.