The entire Christian experience is an experience of love. The longer we walk with Jesus, and the deeper our relationship grows with the Father, the more we realize this. It’s not that God loves us more over the course of time; it’s that we have an ever-increasing awareness of that love. This is what Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus:
I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:18-19).
We are indeed rooted and firmly established in the love of God, for God has not left His love in doubt. No matter what might happen to us or around us circumstantially, God has demonstrated His love for us in that Christ has died. This case is closed.
But the love of God is not only the foundation upon which we built the Christian life; it is the continual experience of the Christian life. We are meant, having been rooted and established in the firm love of God to continue to grow in our knowledge of this love.
This is an amazing thing – so amazing that Paul actually prayed that we would be able to comprehend the length, width, height and depth of God’s love. But that’s the thing about the love of God – just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, you are overwhelmed again and again. You might say, as Paul did, that this love is not the stuff of intellectual pursuit, but instead of experience. This is knowing God’s love that surpasses knowledge. And knowing beyond knowing that we are, once and for all, rooted and established in the love of God changes us in any number of ways. Here are five of them:
The Christian possesses a unique kind of confidence. It’s not the arrogant, blustering, boastfulness of the world which is marked by self-reliance. No – our confidence is more ironic than that. It comes from the fact that we have been released from the compulsion to validate ourselves. To prove ourselves. To justify ourselves. We are self-assured because we have nothing left to prove to anyone around us because Jesus has already done all the justifying we will ever need. We can walk in the freedom of those who aren’t constantly trying to validate their existence because God has already shown us how valuable we are through the cross.
When we are rooted and established in the love of God, we are also free to be ourselves. And this is indeed a special kind of freedom given how much time, energy, and effort we spend in image-protection. It seems that we, and the rest of the world, live with a nearly paralyzing fear of being “found out.” We are afraid that someone will discover we’re actually not that smart. Or that clever. Or that fun to be around. Or that happy. But God knows us – the real us – and loves us anyway. And if we are rooted and established in that love, then we are free to be the real us because we don’t have anything left to prove.
Being rooted and established in God’s love also allows us to live with an increasing amount of self-forgetfulness. We don’t have to try and make sure our rights are taken into account, that we get what’s coming to us, or that we are recognized for our ongoing contributions to the world. We can actually focus on the needs of other people because we are living in the confidence that God will actually take care of us. He is working all things to our good, and because we’re confident He is, we can actually take our eyes off ourselves and put them first on Jesus, and then on others.
Glorious peace. This is what comes when we are rooted and established in God’s love. It’s the love of God that can drive away our anxiety and our worry. It’s not, though, that God’s love promises us that none of the things we are worried about will happen – they actually might. But God’s love helps us to embrace the future with peace, because we know that when and if the worst does happen, it does not happen outside the will and plan of the God who loved us enough to send His Son to Calvary in our stead. We can look to the future not with trepidation, but with peace, knowing that God will in His time make everything bad into good.
So we pray along with Paul this morning, friends. We pray and thank God that in Christ, we are rooted and established in God’s love, and that today might be a day when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes more widely to the love that will not let us go and has already been fully given.