Exceeding Your Wildest Dreams

Bible Book: Ephesians  3 : 14-19
Subject: God, Love of; Jesus, Greatness of Love in; Love of God

We were discussing the great drama "Romeo and Juliet" in my college English class, and everything was going along just fine, that is until the English professor called on me. He said, "Mr. White, would you please define for the class the word "Love". The professor enjoyed asking the question because he knew he was putting me on the spot. He also enjoyed the responsive laughter from my classmates. I struggled and stammered as I tried to express what turned out to be a pitiful definition of love.

All of us have experienced love in one form or another and yet as we come to consider the love of God we discuss a love that exceeds our wildest dreams. In the midst of beautiful intercessory prayer Paul prayed that the Ephesians might be gripped as never before by the excitement of what God has done for them by coming incarnate in Jesus Christ. He wants them to comprehend the greatness of his love. As he speaks to Ephesians, he also speaks to us and tells us about something that far exceeds our wildest dreams. Paul says, "Oh that you may know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, its breadth, its length, its depth, its height!"

I. Breadth

First, Paul says, "I want you to know the breadth of the love of Jesus." The breadth of it: what is the significance of the symbolism? Surely, it is that God's love in Christ is as wide as the universe. One day as one of my daughters was trying to describe in a physical way, to the best of her ability, how much she loved me. She said, "Daddy, I love you this much!" As she said it, she spread her arms out as widely as they would go.

Jesus fell beneath the weight of that terrible cross as He walked on the road to Calvary's Hill. He was stretched out upon the cross and then hanged between heaven and earth. With arms stretched out upon the cross it seems that He was saying, "God loves you this much." As you visualize in your mind the scene of Christ upon the cross it seems as if His arms are reaching out further and further until they encircle the whole creation in a passionate embrace. This is the breadth of the love of Jesus! It breaks so many man-made barriers down-things, which we consider very important. The New Testament itself speaks of that fact.

In Jesus' day the sacred precincts of the Temple in Jerusalem were surrounded by an enormous square and right across that square from side to side there ran a wall, and on the wall there was a notice declaring it was strictly forbidden for any Gentile to penetrate beyond that wall. The plaque contained these words: "Whoever, being a Gentile, passes this point, will himself be responsible for the death that overtakes him." Surely Jesus felt shame and hurt in His own heart when he visited the Temple and read that notice. In this same letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells us that Christ tore down that wall of partition. (Read Eph 2:14) By His death and resurrection He smashed the wall to dust. No longer was there Jew and Gentile, male and female, free man and slave, but all were made one in Christ. The love of God is far wider in its reach and grasp than our poor fumbling imaginations have ever dared to conceive exceeding our wildest dreams.

Paul said, "Oh that you may know the breadth of the love of Jesus!" Today you have learned that the breadth of that love included the outstretched arms of Jesus dying upon the cross in payment for your own sins. Can you really deny Him your life when you know the breadth of His love nailed Him to the cross to die for you? Can you really come into this service not having confessed Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, discover that the breadth of His love includes Jesus dying on the cross for you, and then leave the service today without Christ as your Savior? Will you dare to ask God to give you something of the quality of the breadth of love? Suppose you had Christlike love of that breadth in your life. Think of the frictions that would eliminated, the difficulties that would be overcome, the wrong relationships that would be made right, the static churches that would be made alive. Paul says, "Oh that you may know the breadth of the love of Jesus!"

II. Length

Second, Paul says, "I want you to know the length of the love of Jesus." The length of it: what is significance of that symbolism? It certainly means that this is a love which goes to all lengths, stopping at nothing to give of itself unselfishly, irrevocably and forever. It means that no road is too long or too difficult or too barren for this love to travel. Jesus meant it when He said: "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

It is true that the greatness of one's love can be measured by its length? There were those who wanted to follow Jesus. They wanted to love Him and yet they were not willing to go to the length required of them. (Read Luke 9:57-62). We also remember the rich young ruler who learned in sorrow that his love was not willing to go to the length demanded for discipleship. John 6:64 speaks of the turning away of multitudes unwilling to go to necessary lengths to follow Jesus.

The real test of love is the length to which it will go. It is the men of a West Virginia coal mine battling underground for days and nights on end through the most dangerous of conditions in order t reach and save their fellow workers trapped underground. It is two missionaries who lost their daughter from leprosy, and who, instead of being embittered by the loss, resolved to go back to the very place where she died and established a leper colony. It is that person in our congregation today who is bearing a burden for someone else and is happy for the opportunity to lighten someone's load.

Love's test is love's length! If that is true on the human level, how much more true it is of the love divine all loves excelling. One of the greatest sentences that John ever penned is in 1 John 3:16: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down His life for us." There are so many other expressions of God's love in the Bible. God expressed His love for man, His creation, when He placed him in a beautiful world with everything that he would ever need. God expressed His love when He saved humanity by means of Noah and his family. God expressed His love through long- suffering with the children of Israel in their wilderness wonderings. God expressed His love through sending the prophets to His wayward people. God expressed His love by sending His only Son into the world. God expressed His love through the wonderful healing miracles. God expressed his love through the compassion of Jesus. But length of God's love was never perceived until Jesus went to the cross to die. Paul says, "Oh that you may know the length of the love of Jesus!"

III. Depth

Third, the Apostle says, "I want you to know the depth of the love of Jesus." The depth of it; what do you think that symbolizes? From the heights of heaven, out of the infinite serenity of the eternal world, God in Christ came down to our level, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, and not only down to the level of humanity at its noblest and best, but far, far lower than that down into the ugliness and shame of man's most horrible sin; as the Psalmist puts it, to the fearful pit and the miry clay. When you stand gazing at Calvary there is something which assures you, not only that the top of that redeeming cross reaches upward to heaven, not only that the two arms of it embraced the entire world, but also that the shaft of it reaches down to every poor pathetic creature who has ever made his bed in hell! The depth of the love of Jesus!

It was the depth to which Jesus was willing to go that was used by His accusers to discredit Him. He was called the, "friend of publicans and sinners." They sneered at Him disdainfully as this man of Nazareth passed down the streets. And then no doubt they would talk among themselves: "What a pity that He should have lowered Himself like this! He might have done something worthwhile if only He had looked after his reputation better. He might have been a real religious force in Judaism. But now - well, you know how it is - a man is recognized by the company he keeps, and of course that finishes Him!" And then another would take up the tale. "Yes," he would say, "and did you hear about last night? It was outside Zacchaeus' house. You know the kind of man he is-the less said about his character the better. All these tax gatherers are alike, renegades, rogues, extortioners. Well, I was passing his house, and there were people going in - it was rumored they were Zacchaeus' friends, invited to a supper party to meet this Jesus; so I stood and watched, and I tell you the very dregs of the town were there, foul things that creep about under cover of the dark. By and by Jesus came and prepared to enter, I touched Him on the arm as He passed and said, 'Don't go in there! It's not safe, the company is terrible. It's not worth it!' But He just looked at me and said, 'The Son of Man has come to seek and to save.' He went in, and the doors were shut." And of course the group listening to the tale would lift their voices in horror, "Oh the utter abasement of it!" They would cry, "The lowering, the degradation, the depth of it!"

Yes, "the depth of it!" Where would you, where would I, where would any of us, be if it were not for the depth of the love of Jesus? We have felt what Psalmist felt in Psalm 130:1: "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, Oh Lord." No one ever cried from the depths like that and was ever unanswered.

Deep as your need is, the grace of Jesus Christ is deeper. The Psalmist testifies: "He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord" (Read Psalms 40:2-3) It is at the level of our greatest need that His greatest work is done and it is better, far better, than our wildest dreams. "Oh that you may know the depth of the love of Jesus!"

IV. Height

Finally, Paul says, "I want you to know the height of the love of Jesus." The height of it - what do you think that symbolizes? Surely it symbolizes that Christ has opened to us the Gates of Heaven, that He has taken our lowly lives and bound them with bonds of love to our Heavenly Father.

(Read 1 John 3:1-2) John cries, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us. Behold, what an unearthly love it is, that we should be called the sons of God." It is the height of the love of Jesus that you and I, knowing ourselves as we are, should be lifted up and treated by Christ on the level of a Son of God!

But that is not even the crowning achievement of the height of the love of Jesus. John goes on! "Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be:  but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." Now, that is incredible! We will be, not like saints, not like angels, but like Jesus Christ Himself! God's ultimate plan for us as His Christian children is that we will be like Jesus. Some that we have known and loved here have already entered that special experience. That is the height of the love of Jesus!

"Oh that you might be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Song: "The Love of God"