The Love of God Poured Out (Romans Sermon 28 of 120)
May 20, 2001 | Andrew Davis
The Holy Spirit, Life in the Spirit, Assurance of Salvation
I. Precious in the Sight of the Lord
Take your Bibles please and open to Romans 5. This morning, we're going to focus on one verse, Romans 5:5. And what does it mean, when it says that, "Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." This is the first mention of the Holy Spirit. As we've been unfolding the doctrine of salvation, this is the first time the Spirit has been mentioned. And what does it mean, that, "The love of God has been poured out into our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us"? That is the purpose of my sermon today, but I want to go far beyond it. I want the love of God to be poured out into your hearts, by the Holy Spirit. And it's something that can't be put into words.
Well, how do I know it can't be put into words? Well, last week, I read Paul's experience. In 2 Corinthians Chapter 12, Paul says, "I know a man in Christ, who, fourteen years ago, was caught up to the Third Heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body, I do not know. God knows. And I know that this man, whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not know, but God knows, was caught up to Paradise. [Now, listen] He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell." Those are two different things, aren't they? "Inexpressible," means you can't put it into words. "Things that man is not permitted to tell," means you're not allowed to try.
Now, what was Paul talking about? What did he see? What happened to him? Has anything like that ever happened to you? Anything even remotely like that? Has the love of God been poured out into your heart, by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us? Well, Scripture says, "Yes." But to what degree? My perception is, that most of us walk along satisfied with a much lower level of experience in our Christian lives, than God intends for us. We're dryer, more fruitless, more patterned after legal requirements, satisfied with far less than God intends for us. And I want to just open up your heart today, and have the Holy Spirit pour out God's love into you. I want you to experience His love in a way you never had before.
Richard Robarts, Nineteenth-Century Minister
Now, Richard Robarts, a minister of God in the early 19th century, early 1800s, died of consumption, (tuberculosis), when he was 36 years old. That's a young man. And he writes about his experiences toward the end of his life in a journal. And this is what he says, "Frequently, all around me, thought me about to expire. My cough was so dreadful, and so were the pains I felt in my chest inside. And above all, the languor, which oppressed me for a while, seemed almost overwhelming. But while I was thus sinking, I felt more of the consolations and supports of religion, than I ever had experienced before. Oh, with what strong and assured confidence, was I enabled to look upon my Redeemer, and how gladly would I have resigned my soul into His hands."
Assurance of salvation carried that man right to the end of his life. All of us are going to die. If the Lord doesn't return in our generation, we will face the day of our death. This man came into it, knowing he was soon to die, with an incredible assurance of his own salvation. "Oh, with what strong and assured confidence, was I enabled to look upon my Redeemer, and how gladly would I have resigned my soul into His hands." Gladly. Glad to go. Glad to go across the river and see Jesus face to face. Not sad, saying, "I've lived a good life." Glad to go. The best things are yet to come. I can't wait to see Him. For me, to live is Christ and to die is what? Gain. What could be more than Christ? Nothing's more than Christ. More Christ then. Face to face, not through a glass darkly. Seeing Him face to face. "Oh, I would be glad to go."
"What glorious manifestations of His love and mercy did He make to my soul? And how did I rejoice to believe that, in a few days more, I should be with Him in glory eternal. For the sake of my dear wife and friends, I was willing to live, and I saw it my duty to use all proper means to promote my recovery. I need to get better and I'm praying for it. I'm going to take my medicine, but let me tell you what's in my heart. For my own sake, I had a desire to be with Christ. And thus, I lay in sweet suspense, as it were, between Earth and Heaven, somewhere in between. And indeed, so I have remained, in general, ever since." This is a great journal entry, isn't it? Do you write journal entries like this?
Later on, a friend said to him, "I should be glad to enjoy your happiness." He was standing by his death bed, observing him. He's basically saying, "What is your secret? How do you do it?" At this point, Robarts couldn't speak, but he wrote this on a slate, "Believe constantly on the Lord Jesus Christ and you may be much happier than you are. Had I been more faithful in this respect, I should have enjoyed more consolation," and listen, "And done more for the glory of God."
The account continues: "In the course of this day, he experienced an ecstasy of Heavenly joy. His eyes were bathed in tears, and he uttered words of praise, consolation, and triumph. It appeared as if he were transported into Paradise. It was evident that he experienced a foretaste of Heaven. He said, 'Oh, I am happy in my God, in His love. I'm going to possess Him forever. I shall enter into that city whose streets are a fine gold. Yes, the New Jerusalem, from above the city of the living God.' "
And then the final journal entry, he wrote this, "Since my last attack, three weeks ago, the Lord has been near, and has manifested His love to my soul in an uncommon degree. I have been deeply humbled under a sense of my unworthiness and past unfaithfulness, but I have felt myself firmly fixed upon the rock of ages, and have been enabled to anticipate my departure from the body with unspeakable delight. One thing has much occupied my mind, mainly, the great proneness I have ever felt to rest short of all the fullness of God." What is he saying there? "I was too easily satisfied. I stopped short."
"Often, it seemed within my grasp. Often, has my soul seemed to take possession of it, but never did I enjoy a constant sense of it, of all the great salvation of God. However, I never gave up the hope of possessing it fully, and I trust that I shall now obtain my heart's desire." He's saying, "God had something for me, but I fell short of it. I didn't take it all in and I regret that. I would have done more for God, if I had. But now, I'm going to get it. I'll get the full amount now. I'm certain of it. No question about it."
My question to you today is, what is Robarts talking about? What is this? What was Paul talking about in 2 Corinthians 12? And do you experience this? Is this part of your Christian experience? If not, I want to point the way. I want to point the way today. "God has poured out His love into our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." Now, by way of review, this fits in somewhere. It's not just out of nowhere. Paul has been talking to us about what we were, apart from Jesus Christ. We were, it says in Ephesians, "Dead in the transgressions and sins." In the language of Romans, it says, "There is no one righteous. No, not one. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God." Let me say that again, "No one who seeks God." We don't naturally want God. We want anything else, but not God. "There is no one who does good. No, not one."
Alright, is there any salvation for people like us? Yes, there is. "For all have sinned, and lack the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Free justification. A free declaration from the Judge of all the universe. You are forgiven, because Jesus died for you. His righteousness has become your righteousness. The gift of righteousness has been given to you and I have declared you not guilty on that basis. How do we receive it? Well, Romans 4 tells us, simply by faith, apart from works of the law. Abraham heard a promise from God. He believed God and it was justified. He was declared not guilty, because He believed a promise from God. And so, also, all of you who have been justified, if you have been justified... If you have been justified, it's because you heard a promise, you believed it, and God declared you not guilty, because of Christ's righteousness. That's what we've been getting to now.
In Romans 5, he unfolds the benefits that come to you. Look at it: Romans 5, beginning at verse 1, "Since we have now been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace, in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that our suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely, will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man, someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through Him? For if when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life? Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."
Do you know what Paul's doing here in these 11 verses? He wants you certain of your justification. He wants you to know that you're saved, and that no power in Heaven, or on Earth, or under the Earth, can take that away from you. You're going to Heaven when you die, if you've been justified. That's was he's laboring for here. He's working that you may be assured. He's giving you an assurance.
Assurance of Salvation
Now, last week, I gave you the categories of assurance, and I've given you the same diagram again. It's on the cover of your worship bulletin. These are the three types of assurance that God measures out to us. And what are they? First, an assurance that's reasoned out in the mind. That's the lowest level. It basically works this way: God has made you a promise. You believe it, you trust that it's yours, and therefore, you know you're forgiven. Lowest level. "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tell me so." Period. That's the lowest level of assurance. Then the next level, worked out in the life, that talks about proven character. Remember, trials result in proven character, and proven character is the basis of hope. What's another word for hope? Assurance. Okay, so the basis of your assurance, in this case, is proven character. You are a Christian. Why? Because God is doing things in your life, things that only He could do. You don't take credit for them. Jesus Christ has changed you. He's working in you.
What's this third one? "Poured out into the heart." And what is this strange looking swoosh on top of it? Well, that's the purpose of the sermon today. God pours out His love into your hearts. It means He just tells you, "You're a child of God." He just assures you in truths that words can't express. And He can do this so much, that you will feel as if you've been swooshed up to Heaven. He can take you as high as He wants to take you here. Paul went up to Third Heaven, Paradise, whatever that is. Now, you can't work your way to this. It's not like, "Well, if I do this or do that, then I'll get higher... " This is something God does. It's something God does. But every Christian's somewhere along this swoosh at different times in their life. A certain elevation comes, a certain sense of God's presence, a certain sense of His love. That's what we're talking about today.
Now, I want to give you a few words about assurance, so you'll understand it. First of all, assurance is worked by the Holy Spirit. All three flavors of assurance, three types, the Holy Spirit does all three. We'll talk about that in a minute. All of them are a direct result of faith, interconnected with faith. Faith and hope go together. They're totally related. Without faith, there's no hope. These are all just really out-workings of justifying faith. Thirdly, this assurance is not required for salvation. It's true. It's possible to have salvation and not be fully assured. I think many of you, frankly, are in that category, and that's why I'm preaching on this today, that you may be assured, but it's not the same as salvation. And it's not equally strong for all Christians, nor is it equally strong within the life of one Christian all the time. It kind of comes and goes. And why is that? Because it's tied to how you're living. It's related to sin, isn't it? You can sin your assurance away. You can't sin your salvation away. You can't sin your justification away, but you can sin your assurance away. And some of you know what I'm talking about. Those are the things I want to say about assurance, in general.
II. The Gift of the Holy Spirit: Poured Out
But now, I want to zero in on the gift of the Holy Spirit, who has been poured out on us. The Holy Spirit is universally given to all justified people. I am not, today, talking about a "second work" of a Baptism in the Spirit or any of those things. I am talking about a filling of the Spirit. But I'm not saying that you do not have the Holy Spirit if you are justified. That, I believe, is doctrinally impossible. If you have been justified, you have the Holy Spirit already. Well, you know that from our verse, it says, "Through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." "Whom He has given us." So He's already given us the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:9 says, "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, He does not belong to Christ." "He does not belong to Christ." And Romans 8:16 says, "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirits, that we are God's children." Isn't that sweet? As soon as you're justified, what happens? The Holy Spirit comes into your heart and He begins to tell you, "Child of God, you're a child of God. I love you. You're a child of God." And so, if you look at our verse, Romans 5:5, what is the verb tense? "The love of God has been poured out into our hearts, by the Holy Spirit." You've already experienced it. You're somewhere on the swoosh, maybe a low one. You haven't been swooshed up as high as Paul, but you're somewhere there. He's already poured out His love into your hearts, but He has more to give you. That's all I'm telling you today. He has more love to pour out into your heart.
From the moment you're born again, you have the Holy Spirit. Now, I want to stop just a minute. There's kind of a danger in preaching on assurance to a huge mixed group. Now, what is the danger? Some of you may not be regenerate. Some of you may not be born again. I don't want to give you any assurance of salvation. I want you to seek Christ, if you're not born again. If you have not yet been justified, the Scripture says that you're under condemnation, under the wrath of God, heading for hell. That's a clear teaching of Scripture. So I don't want to give you any assurance at all. None. Because I want you to seek justification through faith in Christ. I want you to know this, but you can't depart from entering through the narrow gate, Jesus Christ. Through faith in Jesus Christ, all your sins can be forgiven.
But those of you who have received this, I want to give you a full and healthy, full body, muscular assurance of your salvation. These are the people I'm talking to now. I want you to have assurance of your salvation, if you already trusted in Jesus Christ. Now, what happens at the moment of justification? The Holy Spirit comes in and Ephesians it says He is a deposit, guaranteeing a full inheritance. Well, how does this work? Well, suppose one of you were underage and you had wealthy parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Gates. He has a daughter, I think, isn't that true? She stands to inherit a lot of money, billions and billions of dollars, but she's underage. And so, if they should tragically die, and leave her all that money, they're not going to give it all to her at once. It's going to be put in trust, to be held against her maturity. When she comes into her maturity, she will come into her inheritance. But how will she live in the meantime? That's the question. There's going to be a certain amount coming out of that sum, a small amount coming toward that inheritor, toward that heir, to support her. A down payment, a deposit guaranteeing the full amount, and it'll come to her at the right time. You see? And so that is what the Holy Spirit is for us. We have a full inheritance coming and what is it? What is it?
Face to face fellowship with God for all eternity. Is there anything better than that? Is there something you would trade? "Well, I've got face to face... But I'd rather have... " No. There's nothing better than face to face fellowship with God for all eternity. Are you experiencing that now? No. You haven't come into your inheritance, but you're getting a down payment, a deposit, "I love you. You're my child. Stay with me. Walk with me." The down payment, the experience, it's coming. You feel it? You know what I'm saying? The Spirit testifies that you're a child of God, and you feed off that, and it keeps you going, but it's not the full amount. No. "We see through a glass darkly, then we shall see face to face."
Now, the indwelling Spirit is responsible for the other forms of assurance too. He does all of this. None of this is done, except by the Holy Spirit. For example, reason out in the mind, it says in 1 Corinthians 2:12-13, "We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us." The Spirit tells us what God's given us, as we read the Scripture. We open up the Bible and the Spirit illuminates it, lights the Scripture to us. If you don't have the Spirit, the Scripture will make no sense to you.
But, if you do have the Spirit, you will understand, and these things come as a form of testimony to you. The Holy Spirit also works it out in your life. Those changes I was talking about last week, the proven character, the action fruit, and attitude fruit? It comes by the Holy Spirit, doesn't it? And no other place. It comes as we're grafted in the vine, Jesus Christ, and by His Spirit, He produces good fruit in us. The Holy Spirit works holiness in us. Highest form of assurance, in terms of your practical everyday working out, is that you're putting sin to death. We'll talk about that in Romans Eight. If you're not putting sin to death in your life, if you're not following, keeping step with the Spirit, you're not a child of God. This is what it means to be a child of God. I didn't say, "If you sin, you're not a child of God," we know that. 1 John 1 says, "If anyone says, 'I have not sinned,' he's a liar." All of us have sinned. But there's a relentless urge to put sin to death in the life of a child of God.
Now, where did the Holy Spirit come from? Well, He was poured out on us. Pentecost, right? It says that, "The love of God has been poured out." What is this pouring out? Well, it's similar language from Acts 2 The Day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and quoted Joel chapter 2, it says, "'In the last days,' God says, 'I will pour out my Spirit on all people.'" The Holy Spirit poured out on all people... And as He pours out the Holy Spirit onto you, and you receive the Holy Spirit, at the moment of justification, He opens a channel, a conduit, through which He pours out the love of God into your life, day by day. That's how it works.
Now, what is this experience? What are we talking about? Thomas Goodwin, a Puritan, put it in these words: Suppose a father and a son are walking along a road. Let's say they're walking through the woods. It's a beautiful day. It's fall, let's say. The leaves are beautiful, the breeze is blowing, and they're holding hands. Father and five-year-old son, let's say, walking along, and the son knows he's the son of his father. And he knows that his father loves him, and he knows that his father will provide for all of his needs. He's always done that. He knows those things, and he's happy they're having a walk together through the woods, when all of a sudden, from some sudden impulse within, the father picks up the son, and squeezes him, and speaks into his ear, 'I love you. You're my son.' And twirls him around a little, maybe throws him up in the air, catches him, and sets him back down, holds his hand, and they continue walking.
Is there a difference in the son after that, as before? Is there a cognitive difference? No. You try to write it down, there's no difference. It's the same stuff, right? The same truth. But they're on fire now, you see? There's a love. They've been filled in. They were black and white; now, they're color. There's a vividness to the love. Have you ever experienced that? Has God ever picked you up, and squeezed you, and said, "You're my child," in that way? And you went higher up on the swoosh, than you've ever been before? Has that ever happened to you?
The Experience of Blaise Pascal
There are testimonies about this from church history. Blaise Pascal, 17th century philosopher and mathematician, something happened to him one day. Something happened and he never forgot it. It changed the rest of his life. Up to that time, he'd been doing his mathematics, and his philosophy, and all. From this day on, he concentrated totally on theology. Something happened...
When he died, they found his coat, and they opened it up, and there was a piece of paper sewn inside the lining of his coat. What is this? And they took the paper off, and written on it were these words, "This day of grace, 1654, from about half past 10 at night, to about half past midnight. [Two hours] Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the wise. Security. Security." What's another word for security? Assurance. "Security. Security. Feeling. Joy. Peace. God of Jesus Christ. Thy God shall be my God. Forgetfulness of the world in all except God. He can be found only in ways taught in the Gospel. Greatness of the human soul. Oh, righteous Father, the world hath not known thee, but I have known thee. Joy. Joy. Joy. Tears of joy. I have separated myself from Him. My God, why has thou forsaken me? That I be not separated from thee eternally. This is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and whom who now has sent Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. I have separated myself from Him. I have fled, renounced, crucified Him. May I never be separated from Him. He maintains Himself in me, only in ways taught in the Gospel. Renunciation, total and sweet."
What was going on there? That's a hug, isn't it? He gets swooshed up and he hugs. And he's hugged, and he feels that love in a passionate way. And you know what? He wrote it out on a piece of paper and sewed it in his coat. And when the coat wore out, he sewed it in the next coat. And when that coat wore out, he sewed it in the next coat. He never forgot.
The Experience of Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards. Who's Jonathan Edwards? "Oh, he's one of those dry, dusty, theologian types." Don't you believe it. But I want to tell you about a quiet time he experienced one day:
"As I rode out into the woods for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that was, for me, extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God, as mediator between God and man, and His wonderful, great, full, pure, and sweet love, and grace, and meek and gentle condescension. This grace that appeared so calm and sweet, appeared also great above the Heavens. The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thoughts and conceptions, which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour."
What is going on here? "About an hour, such as to keep me, the greater part of the time, in a flood of tears and weeping aloud. I felt such an ardency of soul, to be what I know not otherwise, how to express emptied and annihilated? To lie in the dust, and to be full of Christ alone, and to love Him with a wholly and pure love. To trust in Him, to live upon Him, to serve Him, and to be perfectly sanctified, and made pure with a Heavenly purity." And then he picks himself up, off the dust out of the ground, and dusts himself off, and keeps walking with his father, but it's never the same, is it, after that?
The Experience of D.L. Moody
D.L. Moody, heard of him? 19th century evangelist. He'd been a Christian, a minister in charge of a mission. He was seeing people converted, but he was unsatisfied. He wanted more. And this is what he says, "I began to cry, as never before, for a greater blessing from God. The hunger increased. I felt that I did not want to live any longer. I kept on crying all the time, that God would fill me with His Spirit. Well, one day, in the city of New York, oh, what a day. I cannot describe it. I seldom refer to it. It is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for 14 years. I can only say God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love, that I had to ask Him to stay His hand." Stop. I can't take anymore. It's too much.
Have you ever experienced anything like that? When God does it in one life, it's one thing. When He does it to a group of people, it's called a revival. Isn't that true? It's called a revival. Now, let's understand that word, Southern Baptists. A revival is not something you can schedule. It's not something you can advertise. You don't know when it's going to come and you know why? Because a revival is a miracle. Finney had it wrong. You can't manipulate and maneuver people. You can manipulate, maneuver them to do many things, walking aisles, singing songs, and to jumping up, but you cannot manipulate or maneuver, so that they're born again by the Spirit. That's something God does. Also, He gives a revival, and only He gives a revival, the only one.
John Wesley talked about it, 1734 journal entry, "Mr Hall, Ingham, Whitefield, Hutchins, and my brother, Charles, were present at a love-feast at Fetter Lane with about 60 of our brethren, about three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer." What time was it? Three in the morning. What were they doing praying at three in the morning? Well, they wanted to be there. There was a group prayer time. Three in the morning, they were praying. Maybe revival doesn't come at convenient hours, I don't know. But at three in the morning, they were praying. "And as they were continuing, instant in prayer," it says, "The power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exalting joy and many fell to the ground. As soon as we recovered a little, from the awe and amazement at the presence of His Majesty, we broke out with one voice, 'We praise thee, oh, God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.' "
Now, lest you think this is unbiblical, you ought to read Acts chapter 4, After Peter and John were released, they went back, and they prayed together, and they continued in prayer. "And after they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the Word of God boldly." I'm quoting Scripture. This happens in the Bible. It happens in church history. Has it happened at First Baptist? Will you pray with me that it will?
III. Seeking the Filling
Well, what are we to do? Can I urge you to seek this feeling, to hunger for it, to yearn for it, to not be satisfied with Christian mediocrity any longer, to want more? I'm going to give you some invitations, an invitation from Jesus Christ. John Chapter 7:37 and following, "On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and called out in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.'" Are you thirsty or are you satisfied? "It's enough. Enough, God. I have enough God." "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me," as the Scripture has said, "Streams of living water will flow from within him. By this, He meant the Holy Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that point, the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." I've just quoted John 7:37-39. By this, He meant the Spirit, "Streams of living water flowing from within," out to who? Well, we'll talk about that in a minute. To others? That's an invitation. Are you thirsty or are you satisfied? If you're thirsty, come to Jesus. Come and drink.
Or He invites us to pray. In Luke 11:9 and following. "So, I say to you, ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if a son asked for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or, if he asks for an egg, will he give him a scorpion? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit, to those who ask Him!"
Now, wait a minute. I thought we already had the Holy Spirit? Well, if He's your Heavenly Father, you do have the Holy Spirit. What is Jesus talking about? He's talking about the love of God poured out into your hearts, by the Holy Spirit. He's talking about that hug. He's talking about a power, which cannot be explained humanly.
I'm going to skip the benedictions and I'm going to go right to Ephesians 3. It's printed out there. I believe that Ephesians 3 is Paul's prayer exposition of Romans 5:5. We don't have time to fully develop this. I would urge you to take Ephesians 3:14-21, and break it apart, and see. But let's see what Paul prays for his people. It's printed out in your bulletin, if you want to read it, or just look in your own Bible. "For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in Heaven and on Earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit, in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide, and long, and high, and deep is the love of Christ, and to know that love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Does that characterize your present Christian experience? "Filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." If not, can I urge you to begin asking for it?
Paul prays for it here for the Ephesians. He prays for them. He gets on his knees and asks that God, that they might know the dimensions of the love of Jesus Christ. I get the picture of the Grand Canyon, how wide, and long, and high, and deep is the love of God. And that you may know that love that surpasses knowledge. That doesn't make sense. Know something that can't be known? Speak of something that can't be put in words? It's an experience of God's love that can't be put into words.
Do you know this love? Do you know what I'm talking about? Are you somewhere in the swoosh? Would you like to be higher? Would you like to know more of God's love? You say, "Wait a minute, I don't want to experience now." Well, I'm not really talking about experience, I'm talking about God, that you may know God, that you may know Jesus, that He may be enough for you. All of the experiences that I've read are not empty-headed nirvana-type things. They're filled with truth. Look at what Blaise Pascal wrote. It's just saturated with biblical truth, and ideas, and quotes, and it's just flowing in some fire. It's not an empty-headed drifting thing. No. It's a fullness of the person of Jesus Christ, who is truth incarnate. Well, if you've never experienced anything like this, ask Him for it, and keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking, until He gives it to you.
Thomas Goodwin said, "Sue Him for it. Sue Him for it. Ask Him for it. Don't give up." Now, the Puritans meant 'sue' differently. We're not going to take God to court. What we're going to do, is we're going to pursue Him, until He gives it. I'll get very practical: Begin setting aside specific time every day, simply to ask God for a deeper experience of His love. Instead of watching the ballgame today, do this instead. Say, "It's not enough. I've been drinking out of my own cisterns. I want the living water. I am thirsty, Jesus. I don't want the ballgame. I don't want nine holes on the links. I've done that so many times before. I don't want this. I want Jesus today." Ask Him to work His Holiness in you. He's not going to do it to... He's not going to assure a rebellious child. He'll convict you and try to fix those things, but He's not going to assure you. He's not going to pick you up that way. He's going to fix the sin problem first. If you've got sin problem, repent, turn to Him, allow Him to change you, and then start lifting those hands. And say, "God, please give me that hug."
Put aside earthly pursuits. Seek God diligently. Take Ephesians 3:14-21 and pray through it line by line, until it becomes yours. And look around you, and realize that there's other brothers and sisters. Want it for them too. That's what Paul's praying. He gets on his knees for his brothers and sisters. Pray for First Baptist Church, that we may be pipes or conduits of the love of God. Jesus said, "If anyone comes to me, as it is written, streams of living water will flow from... " The Greek is 'ek.' "From within and out to others." To who? To other Christians, other believers who need it, who are parched, and need love from Jesus Christ. To unbelievers, to a world that's not yet been justified, and a great outpouring for missions.
Remember Acts chapter 4? "After they prayed, the place they were meeting was shaken, and they are all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the Word of God boldly." What do you think happened after they spoke the Word of God boldly? People got saved, as a result. I want to challenge you to begin asking for this. I want to challenge lay people to start praying for it. Don't wait for the staff to organize that prayer meeting on Friday or whatever. You be thirsty for it. You organize it. You get together, and pray, and ask that God would pour out His love into our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. Why don't you close with me in prayer?
Father, I thank you for the time that we've had to understand and experience your Word. Father, I pray that we would also experience your love, that we may know that love that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Father, I pray for any here who have not yet trusted in you, who are not born again. Father, I pray that you would bring them to personal faith in Jesus Christ, that they might also know this love that surpasses knowledge. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.