The Depth of Christ’s Love
GraspPastor Jerry Gillis - March 20, 2016
We can't fully comprehend the depth of Christ's love because we can't fully comprehend the depth of our sin.
Community Group Study Notes
- Think about the following: the cost of Christ’s love, the substitution that He was for us, and the wrath that He took in our place. How do each of these inform our view of God's love for us? How do they inform our understanding of how much God hates sin?
- If God hates sin so much, what should our response be when we see it in our lives? What connection is there between Christ's love and purifying us of sin (see 1 John 3:1-3)?
Follow Gods example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. -Ephesians 5:1-2
So we are finishing up a study that we've been diving into for a month - for a month we've spent time on four words, basically. Really one word - we've spent on love. Christ's love, that's two words, Jerry, thanks. Christ's love - that we've spent a month studying the nature of that and trying to grasp - which is what Paul's prayer teaches us to do - to grasp the love of Christ. We already established that it's very difficult for us to comprehend that which is beyond knowledge. To know something that surpasses knowledge is a very difficult thing for us. And so comprehending the love of Christ is a little challenging, but we can apprehend it. We can grasp it, we can learn to experience it in some ways, even if we can't fully get our minds around that idea.
And so, we've been studying a prayer that Paul has been praying in Ephesians three that he's praying for the church at Ephesus, and that prayer is focused in on knowing and understanding and experiencing and grasping the love of Christ. And that's what we've been reflecting on and studying, but it's also something that I have been praying consistently through the last month for our church. This isn't just something for us to study to know, this is something for us to embrace and to pray about and to experience. That's really the content of what we want to understand with the Scripture itself.
Now to remind us about what prayer we're talking about and what Paul has been sharing with us, in Ephesians three it says these words beginning in verse seventeen: (Paul prays) "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 - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
We've already studied the fact that Christ's love is so wide that it is actually wider than the world and the universe itself. We've understood Christ's love to be so long that it is longer than time itself. And we've understood it to be so high that it is higher than the heavens themselves and it's so high that it can't help but raise us up.
So what do we do when we get to the idea of the depth of Christ's love? I don't know. It's kind of hard if I'm being honest. I've almost said everything that I know in the last three weeks. Some of you are going, I think you've said some things even you didn't know because I think you made some stuff up. It's possible. But trying to dive into this and explore the depths of Christ's love is a remarkable journey, and it's very hard to get our hands around a little bit, particularly for people like me. Let me explain.
When I was a little kid, I took swimming lessons as many of you did. How many people took swimming lessons? Alright, good. How many of your parents just threw you in and said "good luck", I mean that's possible too, right? You didn't actually have to raise your hand but we should stop and pray for all of you that did because you need counseling probably at this point. So, I got some swimming lessons and the way that we did it where I was growing up and the community pool that I was taking these lessons in, is that the life guard/instructor would give us these things that we called kickboards. Does anybody remember kickboards? Yeah, right. All the younger people are going, nope I have no idea what that is. I swim with my phone. Right? Probably at this point, you know, it's like yeah, my iPad turns into a kickboard, I don't know what you're talking about, this is crazy.
So we had these little styrofoam kickboards, right? And you kind of extended yourself out on them and held them and you pretended like you put your face in the water because you were supposed to do that but you really didn't. And then you just kicked and acted like you were swimming. Look I'm swimming. I'm kicking and that's what I'm doing. And you stayed in the shallow end the whole time, that's just what you did. The good news was, if you ever got tired or it really wasn't working out good, or the instructor wasn't looking, you could just stop and stand up. No problem, right? That was just like, man I'm swimming a lot and then you'd stop and stand up while the instructor is doing something with you know, little Jimmy over there, and then you get back to it, right?
One day, the lifeguard instructor person - she said, hey, today kids, we're going down to the deep end. It was like, you could have heard, duh, duh, duh, right after that. I think it was on the loud speaker that that happened? Duh, duh, duh. And so some are panicky, some are fired up and I was generally kind of like, okay, cool, we're going to the deep end, nice, because I'd been looking at it. It's down there, you know and I'd been paying attention, there's people in it, and of course it looks like it's 5,000 miles away when you're a little kid in the shallow end, it looks like, I've got to take a car, are we taking a bus to the deep end? Because it's a long drive to get out there.
So we make the track, right? We walk down to the deep end and we leave the paddle boards behind, the kick-boards behind and we get on the diving board which was very - you know this was the small one, they had a high one, but this was the small one - and you're just supposed to go to the end and jump off in the deep end. And there' some people, you know, wooo, wooo, wooo, wooo and I'm just like get out. Get out, let the man come up here and show you how this is done, right? I didn't say that. I was a little kid. I wasn't a man. So I'm looking at the deep end and I'm thinking to myself this is not really gonna' be that big of a problem, because it looks exactly like the shallow end. It's clear and I can see the bottom. There's a little thing down there, a little drain I can see, it's no problem. I can see the bottom just like I can in the shallow end. And so I jump off and I realized in that moment that I had vastly underestimated the depth of the pool. Because I was thinking, you know what, I'll jump in and kind of flap around like I'm swimming and then you know, the next person will be getting up there and I'll just stand up and walk to the side, you know. Because I could see the bottom, it was not a problem.
See, when you're a kid, you've got depth perception issues. It's just part of being a kid. I didn't have any experience in the deep end. I didn't know anything. So I've got this depth perception problem because I'm seeing the bottom just like I could in the shallow end and for me, I was thinking, this is not a problem, I'll jump in, swim around, if I'm tired, I'll just stand up. Not exactly working that way.
You would think that I would have learned that lesson. I didn't. Because a number of years ago while living here in Buffalo, I was actually training in a pool for a race that was going to go on in Lake Erie. In the pool it was great because I would swim laps, can see the bottom, had my goggles on, looked like you know, even have my cap on, I was just like I was cutting, I didn't shave, like you know, whatever. I'm just swimming you know, kind of doing, I didn't do the whole swimmer deal, but I was just swimming, having fun, you know, turn on the side, come back and I would do that like five million times, right? Kind of training.
Then I got to Lake Erie. First of all, just as a heads up, Lake Erie is cold. Lake Ontario is colder, but Lake Erie is cold. I mean it was like fifty-eight or something, so when you get in it, it takes all your breath away. It's very hard to swim with no air. If you have no air, no oxygen, no anything and you're panicky it's not a good time to swim.
So I get in there and I start out, man the gun goes off, we start swimming and it's like a crazy mess of humanity to start this thing and I'm thinking I'm, I'm, you know, I'm doing this, I'm swimming, because I'm scared I'm about to die. And so I'm swimming for a little while and then things start to straighten out a little bit but here's the problem. I start freaking out in my mind because I realize there are no sides to grab hold of, turn and push off and swim to the other side, and I can't see the bottom. At all. I don't even know what's in Lake Erie. I mean, there's maybe like the Loch Ness monster may have transferred. He may have gotten a promotion, left Scotland, come over here. I don't know. I don't know these things. Leviathan - that's in the Bible. And it could be in Lake Erie. I don't know these things and I can't see the bottom.
And here's the thing. The depth of Lake Erie averages about sixty-two feet deep. That's pretty deep, that's deeper than the deep end of my pool that was fifteen feet, right? And at it's deepest part it's like two hundred ten feet at the deepest part of Lake Erie. But all this is running through my head as I'm swimming, and I realized that I had vastly underestimated how scared I was of not being able to see the bottom. And so I'm starting to wig out in my head, and I'm thinking how do I get a hold of myself, and so I start the process of just kind of you know, breast stroking, I'm talking to myself because there's a voice in my head going you're going to die. There's no question, you're going to die. And so I'm having to do the breast stroke just so I can have a sane conversation with the voice that's in my head telling how I'm not gonna' die, yes you are, no, no, no, no, you're going die. No, no, no, no, that's what I'm doing.
I finally made it through, but I realized you know, I should have learned this when I was a little kid, right? My depth perception is a problem. And that's the funny thing about that - is that sometimes I need spatial figures, spatial relationships to represent depth for me sometimes with things like deep because it just doesn't, didn't make a whole lot of sense to me.
For instance, the deepest part of any ocean anywhere in the world - on the globe - is in a place called the Challenger Deep which is in the Mariana Trench which is in the Pacific Ocean. If you need a geographical reference it's near Guam, o.k.? The little island of Guam. Just for fun, here's how deep it is. Thirty-six thousand feet deep right there. Now in my head I was going I could probably touch the bottom. I've got no sense, man, of depth perception when it comes to some of this stuff, so I have to give myself spatial relationships to understand exactly how to wrap my head around that and so here's how you can do that. Here's the way that I did that: If you took Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world and dropped it into the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, you could stand on the very tip of Mt. Everest that is below you - you're standing on the summit - and still be one mile under water. That's craziness.
Now here's the good news for all of us. If you happen to actually be under Mt. Everest at the bottom of the Challenger Deep, which would be not good, but let's just say you were stuck, here's what I know. God's love would still be there. Here's how the psalmist said it, Psalm 139: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." You see, here's what I know. I know that there's nowhere you can go to escape God and that wherever God is, love is because God is love.
Now, this is a part of what for me, helps to get me oriented a little bit because when I start thinking about how deep the love of Christ is, it is very difficult for any of us to get our minds around. And do you know why it's difficult for us to get our minds around? Because everyone of us has a spiritual depth perception problem. Every single one of us has that. You know what it's called? Sin. And when you have a sin problem in terms of understanding sin, you've got a depth perception problem.
Let me say it this way. You can write this down if you want to. We can't fully comprehend the depth of Christ's love because we can't fully comprehend the depth of our sin. The reason that we can't fully wrap our minds around the depth of Christ's love is because we can't fully wrap our minds around the depth of our own sin.
You do understand what I'm saying when I'm talking about his idea of depth perception, right? Depth perception is simply our ability to see things in three dimensions so that we can understand distance and spatial relationships. O.k.? That's an easy way to define that. And if depth perception is our ability to see things in three dimensions, I think it would be helpful for us if maybe Paul who prayed this prayer that we might be able to experience and know the depth of the love of Christ, if maybe he helped us a little bit with our depth perception problem. By maybe opening up for us three dimensions that we might be able to help see.
I think Paul actually does that because a little bit later on in the text of Ephesians we read something in chapter five that I think is an extraordinary help to us. Here's what it says in chapter five beginning in verse one. It says: "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
Now, out of that, I want to give you three dimensions that will help us to see better the depth of Christ's love and also for us to better be able to see the depth of our sin. Because if it's true that we struggle to understand the depth of Christ's love because we can't understand the depth of our sin, then maybe if we begin to understand some of those things, we'll be able to see with a proper depth perception because we'll be able to see in three dimensions.
So here's the first dimension out of that verse that I want to mention to us: Cost. I'm going to explain this in just a second, but the idea of cost is significant when it comes to the idea of depth. You see cost is something that when we think about how deep someone's love is, we think about what that love cost them. That's a part of understanding depth of love.
Like it would be silly to say if your siding gets all blown off of your house, for you to say, you know what? Man, my insurance company loves me because they sent me a check for $10,000 to replace the siding because I have Homeowner's Insurance. Don't they love me? Not really. They would prefer that nothing ever happens to you and that you keep paying them for nothing. That's what they would prefer. So I don't know if it would be smart to say "Oh, the depth of my insurance company's love for me." Right? That seems kind of superficial. But when we know something costs something extraordinary - to be able to love - that changes everything.
So, maybe for our purposes let's move this from the realm of silly theory about insurance companies to the realm of real human relationships. The late Chuck Colson told a story about some American prisoners of war in WWII. There were twenty in this particular prison camp. There were more than that, but he was telling a story about twenty of them, and they were confined to hard labor. Each of them was assigned a shovel, so there were twenty shovels that were assigned to these twenty men. And they had to dig and to work and to do hard labor every day and at the end of every day they had to give an account for the work that they had done and they also had to account for their tool, their shovel. Had to turn it in every day and give an account for it.
One particular day, they all came and they turned in their shovels and the prison guard came over and he turned and he began to yell at all twenty of them and he said, there's only nineteen shovels here. Unless one of you comes forward and acknowledges who made the mistake, who's hiding the shovel or who lost the shovel or who broke the shovel - whatever it is - unless one of you owns up to this I'm going to kill five. So they all stood there in stunned silence, probably thinking to themselves I brought my shovel, right? But now it was on the line. If nobody comes forward five of them are going to be killed. After a few minutes of silence, one nineteen-year old young man walked forward with his head down. The guard said all right, come with me. He walked him over here just a number of yards, put a gun to his head and shot him. All of the others that were there began to be yelled at and warned, you'd better not forget your shovel ever again. Then the prison guard left. When he left, the nineteen guys that remained counted the shovels. There were twenty. The guard had miscounted.
This young nineteen year old man knew that he had brought his own shovel, and yet he could not stand to see that five of his comrades were going to be killed. So he made the decision in that moment to come and to take it for them. He went ahead and said, I'm probably never going to get married because I'm giving my life right now. Never going to have kids because I'm giving my life right now. I'm never going to see my loved ones because I'm giving my life right now. In that moment he had to have evaluated his future, but his depth of concern was so high that he was willing to pay an extraordinary cost.
Let me ask you a question. If that would have happened to you, you would have been one of the nineteen remaining prisoners of war, you would have never forgotten that young man, would you? Never. Because you would have known he did this for you and he wasn't at fault. That's a great reminder of how deep the cost is. But I want to make sure that you understand something. That is as extraordinary as that picture is, and knowing that we would never forget someone who would do something like that on our behalf, it does not even compare to the depth of love that Christ has for us.
For instance, if you begin to think about what it cost Jesus to be able to love us with the depth that he loved us, there's a few things that we could think about. I'm grateful to John Piper for a couple of insights here, by the way. One of the things that he says is this: Jesus was young.
Listen. How many in this room, because that nineteen year-old guy was young, but thirty three is young. How many in the room or in the East Worship Center or in any of our campuses, just as an exercise, just do it. How many of you are over thirty-three? Raise your hand. Hmm. How many of you are under thirty-three? Raise your hand. Yup. I can tell you this: Standing here as a forty-six year old man at this point in my life, thirty-three being well in my rear-view mirror - that's young, man. Thirty-three is young. Some of you are looking up the hill at thirty-three but none-the-less when you get there and you go by it you'll realize how young it is in the big scheme of things. All your life ahead of you still. I mean, I'm forty-six and still feel young and still feel I've got a ton of life left ahead of me if God graces me with it and there's a lot I'm thinking about in the future. I'm not to that point at this point where my memories outshine my dreams. I'm not there. I still feel young. Thirty-three is young. And that's when Jesus' life was cut short. Thirty- three.
But do you know what else? You want to think about the cost or the depth here? Jesus was also the oldest son of a widowed mother. You've got to understand in that cultural context how big a deal that is, because women didn't have the same opportunities, didn't have the same ability to make a living, to earn incomes and all of those kinds of things and so when you were an oldest son you carried a responsibility particularly if dad had died, now mom is alone so to speak and you as the oldest son bore a significant responsibility for caring for that widowed mother.
In fact, you see Jesus take that responsibility seriously, even when He's on the cross giving his life. Do you remember how that record goes about the Apostle John, the one that Jesus called the one whom he loved? It's written out for us in John chapter number nineteen. It says when Jesus saw his mother there, at the cross, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby (referring to John) Jesus said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son, and to the disciple, here is your mother. From that time on, this disciple took her into his home." Even on the cross Jesus was bearing the responsibility of what it meant to be the oldest son of a widowed mother and helping to make sure that she was going to be taken care of.
But it gets even broader than that when you start thinking about the cost relative to Jesus, because Jesus lived the most worthy life that has ever been lived. No one who has ever had skin on, called a human being, has ever lived a more noble or a more worthy life. There's certainly the chance that the nineteen year-old young man who gave his life for his friends may have been a good kid. Maybe he wasn't such a good kid. Maybe he had done a bunch of bad things, and he had to get straightened out by going in to the military. Maybe he went into the military as an act of his own volition and his own desire. I don't know the story behind it. I know this though, that he was flawed even though he made a beautiful choice and a sacrificial choice. But Jesus wasn't flawed. Jesus was sinless. Jesus was perfect. Jesus was spotless. If there was anyone ever in the history of humanity that wore skin, that should not have had to die, it was Jesus, the perfect one. He lived the most worthy life ever. Yet the cost was he gave his life.
He was also the Son of God. Now when you understand this, here's what you and I begin to understand. If every single life - every single human life - is worthy of value and dignity, it is simply because every single human life is created in the image of God. Our value and our dignity as human beings come in the fact that we have been created in the image of God. If being created in the image of God is of great value what do you think that says about the original? That Jesus the Son of God who is very God with skin on - he is of infinite worth and infinite value because he is not just a reflection of the image of God, but is God in human form. This is the depth of cost.
But not only that, he was loved by his Father. There's a bunch of places in the Scripture obviously we could reference. Certainly you could go to the time where Jesus was being baptized and the heavens opened and the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, and the Father speaks and says, this is my Son whom I love. Whom I love! With him I am well pleased. There's a number of places in the New Testament that tells about the Father's love for the Son.
But I want to back you up for just a second. Let's say that nineteen year old young man who gave his life for his fellow soldiers - let's say his father happened to have been the President of the United States. Such that this young man could have had the political resources to get out of that prison camp. He could have accessed whatever resource he needed to to get out. But he not only didn't get out, he gave his life. And guess what - once you found out that he was the President's son you also found out how much the President loved his son and that the President actually affirmed and approved his son dying for the rest of us.
But not only that. He loved his son so much he wanted to meet the very ones that the son died for. And upon meeting them he decided he would give them a portion of his son's inheritance. Could you imagine if that happened? Do you realize how unspeakably precious that nineteen year old young man's life would be to you if that occurred? You would figure out a way just about every day - instead of posting on social media about what you had for dinner - you would probably figure out a way to honor the life of that person. But that's what Jesus has done. The sinless one gave himself for the sinful ones and the Father so loved the Son that he wants to meet those he died for. And upon meeting them, He wants to give them a share of the inheritance of his Son. He affirmed and approved His Son dying for us.
But the cost continues to run deep, still, because Jesus came a long way. This wasn't a scenario where someone was transplanted from one state to another country fighting in a war. This was Jesus the Son of God who has always existed from eternity past, leaving the glory of eternity past in relationship with Father, Son, and Spirit that he has always enjoyed and putting on human flesh - being born of a virgin in a poor (reasonably poor) family and moving into the neighborhood and living among us and bearing our skin. This is what he did. He ended up coming from a long distance and descending here.
Paul even references that in chapter four when he says in verse seven: But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he took many captives and he gave gifts to people. What does he ascended mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? In other words Jesus descended to us. He came from glory to earth.
So when we begin to think about, ladies and gentlemen, the idea of the first dimension that can help us begin to have some depth perception on the depth of the love of Christ, we've got to think about what it cost the Son of God.
Secondly, we need to think about the idea of substitution. When Paul helps us see these dimensions in chapter five verses one and two, look at it again. It's highlighted for you. Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up - that's what we were talking about just a moment ago, the cost - but look: gave himself up for us.
That's the idea. Listen - for us. In place of us. It should have been us. He gave himself up for us. This is the idea of substitution. Jesus in our place. Think about it this way. We - because of our sin, because of our trespasses, because of our offense to God - we were undeserving of life but he, the sinless one, was undeserving of death. Yet the one who was undeserving of death died for the ones undeserving of life so that the ones undeserving of life might live through his death and his resurrection. This is the idea of substitution - that you and I should have born the wrath and the judgment and the condemnation of God because of our sin. And we will never begin to comprehend the depth of Christ's love until we understand the depth of our own sin. That it is worthy of judgment, it is worthy of condemnation yet Jesus, the sinless, perfect spotless one stood in our place taking upon himself our judgment and our condemnation that we deserved. He gave himself up for us.
In fact, Paul actually speaks about this in somewhat different terms in the book of Romans chapter number five. Listen to what he said. He says, "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 person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." You see, this is staggering because this reminds us of the substitution of Jesus taking our place - the spotless for the spotted - the one who was without question for the questionable - and he stood in our place and he was a substitute for us.
Now, there's a third dimension that I don't want us to miss and it's this: it's the dimension of wrath. If we're going to be able to see three dimensionally - in other words, we're going to be able to have depth perception when it comes to how deep Christ's love is for us - we've got to understand the idea of wrath. Look again, chapter five, verses one and two. I'll show it to you again. Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us - here it is - as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. A sacrifice to God.
You can't help but when you read this to have your mind run back - if you're a student of the Scripture at all - when you read the idea of a fragrant offering and a sacrifice, you can't help but run back in your mind to Old Testament Israel and the sacrificial system that God established. Now for our purposes today, I don't have time to unpack all of the ideas related to offerings, though we do know that when these offerings were made they would create an aroma that God said was fragrant to him. Of a spotless animal for instance. And the idea of sacrifice in Old Testament Israel is one that we need to wrestle with for just a second because we need to at least understand the big picture of what it was for.
You see we know, according to the writer of Hebrews, we know that the blood of goats and bulls and sheep don't save. That they were actually foreshadowing something. So what was the point of the Old Testament sacrificial system anyway? Well, the point of it was this: Israel is now in the wilderness and they are dwelling with a Holy God. A God who has revealed himself as completely and totally holy. And you know he would travel with them in the wilderness. He would be a pillar of cloud by day and would travel as a pillar of fire by night so that he could lead Israel. But the reason in part for the sacrificial system was so that Israel recognized how holy God was and that through this sacrifice of a fragrant offering to the nostrils of God, his holiness would not consume their un-holiness. That was the idea behind it. His holiness would not consume their un-holiness because of the sacrifices that were offered.
Now, we know this to be foreshadowing the reality. This was just a shadow but Christ is the reality. So what happened? Christ became the fragrant offering and the sacrifice when he died. And in dying - listen to this - here's what happened to him: he was consumed by the wrath of God. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Now, what does this have to do with wrath? It has everything to do with wrath because a holy God is always going to deal with sin. He's always going to deal with sin. Why? Listen - you say, Jerry, I thought we were talking about Christ's love. We are.
But here's what you have to understand completely and totally, particularly as Paul helps us see it in different dimensions. We can't understand the depth of Christ's love until we understand the depth of our sin and our sin must be judged by a holy God. Here's why: because God is love which means that the flip side of love is wrath. Any time you are looking at love this way you need to understand that the flip side of it is wrath because only - listen - the only way to deal with anything that rages against love is to deal with it in wrath because it is not supposed to be. The way that God is recreating everything, he is making everything in love and anything that is raging against love has to be dealt with by God. That is ultimately what he is remaking everything into. Why do you think Paul then is praying in his prayer that I am praying that you may have the strength to be rooted and established in love? Why? Because this is the way that Christ is remaking everything. And anything that rages against love will see wrath. It is the natural and necessary inseparable part of love that we don't need to miss.
Now listen - we see wrath and love at the cross. That's what we see there. If you want the best theology you can muster look to the cross and you will see the reality of love and its flipside. Why? Because it's inseparable. It's inseparable. Too often we talk about love and wrath as separated as if wrath is something that's really bad. Anything associated with God in his character is NOT bad. It's impossible. And God deals in wrath at the cross. It's impossible to separate that out from God's character, because to do so is to separate it from love and God is love.
Now let me explain this. When you look at the cross, you see wrath and you see love. You see God's wrath poured out on sin because Jesus became sin for us. And you see God dealing in justice and in wrath at the cross. Isn't it interesting, though, that we sometimes get so lopsided that whenever we talk about the cross - and we should say this, by the way, this is completely and totally true - when we look at the cross, here's what we say: Look how much God loves us. That couldn't be more true. That's as true as anything you've ever said in your whole life. It is absolutely unequivocally true. That when we look to the cross we can say look how God loves us. But what we sometimes fail to do is look to the cross and say look how much God hates sin! Because love and wrath are inseparable.
That's why, maybe - I thought about this week - that's why maybe for us we have a spiritual depth perception problem. We can't really understand the depth of Christ's love because we can't seem to get a hold of the depth of our sin. What it costs. The wrath involved. The substitute that was perfect for us.
You know, in the Scripture, there is a description of people who reject the love of Christ and what happens to them. And do you know there are a number of different descriptions for that but one of the descriptions that probably sticks in peoples' minds a lot is the idea of an abyss or the better translation really of that or what that means is a bottomless pit. Have you seen that in your Scripture before? It's a metaphor, a picture to help us understand something. It's real but it's really a picture. And it's a hard one sometimes because you think to yourself, why in the world would we choose a picture like a bottomless pit? Maybe because it's the only way to actually image the flip side which is bottomless love. You see the only natural response to rejecting bottomless love is a bottomless pit. Here's the good news. His love is deeper still. It's deeper still.
Now I'm going to tell you and give you a moment of hope in just a minute that I don't want you to miss. But what I want us to do is take a minute to respond to the awesomeness of his love. Here's why. Because when we begin to see the cross, we sometimes have tears. But the tears shouldn't be because we feel shamed by our sin. The tears should be that we feel shamed that Jesus was shamed for our sin. But through his death and his resurrection, we've got hope. This is the kind of deep, deep, deep love that Christ has shown for us. And until we get to a place where we can start to understand the depth of our sin and what it costs - once we start getting our minds around that a little bit - we'll start getting our minds and our hearts around how deep his love for us is.
So I want us to take a minute and I want us to respond in worship at how stunningly deep and wide and great is the love of Christ. And then I want to say something to you before you leave. Because I want you to leave with incredible hope.
So we find ourselves trying to describe the indescribable when we talk about the depth of the love of Christ. But the only way we're really going to be able to get to a place in our hearts and in our minds to understand the depth of the love of Christ is if in some sense we understand the depth of our sin because these are the lengths, these are the depths to which Christ has gone to rescue us. But whatever it is that you have found yourself in - listen - his love is deeper still. It is bottomless. His love is deeper than the bottom of that pill bottle. His love is deeper than the bottom of your liquor flask. His love is deeper than the emotional ditch you have found yourself in because of all of the relational carnage in your life. His love is deeper still. We begin to appreciate that when we grapple with what it cost, who exactly was our substitute, and that the wrath of God was poured out on Christ - consumed him so that it wouldn't consume us. Jesus got up from the dead, the one who gave himself up for us willingly, got up from the dead because of the power of God and the glory of God and the one who knew no sin became sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. You can be forgiven for your sin however deep it goes because his love is deeper still. You can be rescued. He came a long way. He gave a young life. And he didn't do anything wrong. Sinless. Spotless. Perfect.
So if you're here and you've never before turned from your sin and put your faith and trust in Jesus, I hope that you do that today. I'm not talking about how you've got a little bit of religious knowledge. Let me just park this car for a second. Jesus didn't come to establish a religion. He came to raise dead things to life. That's what he's come to do for us. This is about knowing the living God through his Son by the power of his Spirit. This is what this is about. Not about checking a few religious boxes to make your life a little more moral. There's going to be a lot of people who've checked a lot of moral boxes - listen to this - who are going to split hell wide open. You can't moral your way into the Kingdom. The one who was perfect died for the imperfect and unless we put our faith and trust in him we are saying no to a bottomless love and to reject the bottomless love gets us nothing more than a bottomless pit. God's heart, God's desire, God's love is demonstrated in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That is a love that initiated. That is a love that said I love you first. That is a love that wants to rescue you, to give you hope, to give you forgiveness , to give you a new life - not only in this life but in the one to come. It is a love that you've never known, that you've never experienced, that you'll never exhaust, that you could never comprehend and you'll be living with that love forever and ever eternity on end. That's what he's come to do. This kind of love - for you.
So if you're here and you've never turned from your sin and put your faith in Jesus then I implore you come by the Fireside Room in just a moment. Talk to one of our pastors, one of our friends that are in there. Just let them know you need Christ. Let him change you. Let him make everything new for you.
And Father, for those of us that are here and we claim to have been born from above - to have been changed, to have been redeemed - I pray in the name of Jesus that we would never let Christ's love get shallow. That we would never let Christ's love seem short. That we would never let Christ's love seem narrow or seem low. Because the love of Christ is high and wide and long and deep and it surpasses our ability to understand. But we know that when we can experience the depth of your love, sometimes it comes because we've seen the depth of our sin and realize your love goes deeper still. Thank you. May we live out of the reality that you've loved us so deeply and may we honor you every day of our lives because of the love you've shown to us and may that love flow out of our lives that we could love the world in the way that God has loved the world through Christ. Because the world needs to see that kind of love. They need to see the love of Christ. May they see that in us. May we love people the way you, God, have loved us in Christ. And we can't do that on our own. We know that you're the manufacturer of that love. We're just the distributor so would you love through us into the world. And maybe even this week as we have friends or family members who don't know you - may we show them the love of Jesus. Maybe over coffee or over a meal or inviting them to come to an Easter service or something. May you use us, God, for your glory to show the world the love of Jesus. We pray this in Christ's matchless name, thankful for how high and long and wide and deep is the love of Christ. And all God's people said, amen.
God bless you. Have a great week.