The Long Love of Christ
GraspPastor Jerry Gillis - March 6, 2016
Long love changes us. Short love just short changes us.
Community Group Study Notes
- What is the difference between short love and long love? If we ever want our relationships to look more Christlike, what will that require?
- In what ways has the long love of Christ changed you? Do you think people in your life could identify that change? How would you be able to share this love of Christ with those who do not yet know him?
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)
So, Father, we kneel before you, and we pray that we would have power together with all of your holy people - to be able to grasp just how wide and how long, how high and how deep is the love of Christ. And to know this love that surpasses knowledge so that we might be filled with all the measure of the fullness of God. I pray you would help us to do that today. In Jesus' name, amen.
Last week, we began a series talking about a prayer that Paul was praying in the book of Ephesians, specifically in chapter number three, and we basically started experiencing or talking about how we experience the ability to grasp the richness of the love of Christ. In fact, it's the prayer I just prayed kind of echoing that, but in Ephesians three just so that you see it again it says this: "And 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."
So we talked about, last week, that there's an architecture to Christ's love. That it's high and it's wide and it's deep and it's long. And that ultimately, this architecture of his love is building us into, as Paul described in chapter two, this holy temple or this dwelling place where Christ's Spirit will live in us. We noted that you can't exactly comprehend a love when Paul says that it is a love that surpasses knowledge, so we can't fully with our minds wrap ourselves around that and completely comprehend it but we can apprehend it. We can grasp it. We can lay hold of it. We can experience this kind of love and we talked about, last week, that this love of Christ is really wide. It's wide in the Church. It's wider than the Church because it covers the whole world. But it's actually wider than the whole world as well.
This week, we're actually giving attention to the second piece of this architecture of Christ's love, and that is his love is long. Now when we talk about the idea of long we are normally talking about either distance or time. So when we say how long was that road race that you just ran in? You might answer it was six miles long. O.k., great - that speaks to distance, right? You can actually do the same thing if you ask the same question relative to time. How long was the road race you just ran? The road race I just ran was an hour. So now you're speaking to time as opposed to just distance, right? But when we talk about this idea of long - you know we talk about it in both worlds, right? If I say, man, it's been a really long time since I talked to my college roommate. It's been like three years. We're speaking of time, not of distance. But length actually talks about both things - both length (distance) and time.
Now, the struggle with that is that when we're applying that word to Christ's love, it becomes challenging because Christ's love in terms of distance is longer than can be measured in miles or any other form of measurement. And it is so long that it actually transcends time, so we can't actually give it a completeness when we speak of time and speak of Christ's love. It's a staggering thing to think about, actually. And you and I understand that Christ's love is so long that it began in eternity past - that it runs through eternity present and runs into eternity future.
Let's pretend for just a minute. So we've got some curtains that are over here, right? Let's pretend that behind the curtain over on this side is eternity past. What's going on in eternity past is long before anything that ever was created or made there was God. And this is where ultimately everything comes from.
Just so you know, by the way, that when you start thinking about the idea of eternity past, most people in their mind go all the way back to however long they think creation was - right? Think about how long you think the earth is or how many years ago it was that the universe was formed - whatever it is that you think in regard to that. None of us were actually there so we may not know for sure, but whatever you think that that might be, usually you go one day before that and think about God. But that's a wrong way of thinking about it, because God is eternally existent in eternity past. So even if you said, you know what? I think the earth is 4.6 billion years old and that the universe is even older than that. O.k., even if you think that, o.k. Well, God's not 4.6 billion and a day. He's trillion times trillions times trillions in eternity past because he is the uncreated one that has always been. Now what's extraordinary about that is we know that God is love, and so when we know that God existed in eternity past, we know that love existed in eternity past, and we'll see that in just a moment.
But love was born from a place that we can't see, that we don't know. And then love appeared. Humanity was created. The world as we know it was created. And then all of a sudden there are more and more people and ultimately there becomes a people of God called Israel - a people that God chooses so that he can use them to glorify his name in the world. This people Israel did some wonderful things and worshiped God, and showed the world that there was a different kind of God than the ones that they had been worshiping. There was one true God over everything - the one who made everything, the one who's in charge of everything. But as you know, Israel had their kings and had their judges, but then they started falling into all kinds of idolatry and the prophets were raised up to say, hey, you need to come back to God.
And in the midst of a dark time where Israel was looking for something, God sent his son, the Lord Jesus Christ who came. And in the midst of time and space, in someone that we saw, he came and lived sinlessly and died on a cross to satisfy the justice of God and rose from the grave, and in his rising from the grave he gave birth to what was called the church - Jew and Gentile who put their faith in him, and now they become filled with his own Spirit. And in being filled with the Spirit of God, they are preaching the gospel all over the world. And the church begins to grow and expand and develop and people are being reached with the message of the gospel. What happens though is the church then begins to grow and develop and expand. It starts doing a bunch of wonderful things, and also then starts doing a bunch of terrible things - lots of things in the name of Jesus, and it gets corrupted and things get a mess, and God's love is still pouring through eternity present. And then as denominations form and people decide to be reformers and all of those kinds of things, it leads us to a place where we ultimately find ourselves in this day, in this age, at this place still experiencing in eternity present the real living love of Christ. And then we pass from the scene and things beyond our imagination happen and ultimately this love travels all the way into eternity future - into a place that we can't see.
Now, given that this is the idea - I just gave you a long history, by the way, super quick, kind of from the hip. This is the long love of Christ. And when we think about the long love of Christ, there is a lot that we have to think about, and I need to tell you that I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to lay some stuff on you today as we think about this, and you're going to have to put your big boy/big girl caps on for just a little bit of this, because to get to understanding the length of Christ's love - how long it is - I've got to get you to some places to understand why that's the case and why it matters. And what kind of love it is. All right?
So, when we think about these things, the struggle is in eternity past, when we look back, it's behind a curtain for us, right? Kind of in our imaginations. We weren't there. We don't know. What does that look like? What's eternity past all about? Well, here's the good news is that Paul actually gives us some idea in Ephesians chapter one, when he opens the letter, we actually get a little bit of idea of what was going on or something that we can grab hold of from eternity past that will help inform what we're talking about today. Listen beginning in verse number three it says this. Paul says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves."
Now, here's what we begin to understand when Paul opens up this letter. We begin to understand the role - listen to this - of the Father and the Son. If you were to run down just a little further in Ephesians chapter one in verses thirteen and fourteen you would see the reference to the Spirit as well. So in the first fourteen verses of Paul's opening of the letter of Ephesians, here's what we see: we see Father, Son, and Spirit. What Paul was reminding us of is the nature of God. That God is one God in essence and three in person. He is a tri-personal God who is one God in essence. Father, Son, and Spirit, yet one God. One in essence, but tri-personal.
But, why is that important for us? Because we need to understand this tri-personal God that exists before anything ever is created or made - you, me, the earth, the universe, anything - before any of that, going back trillions upon trillions of years in eternity past, long before we can even imagine there is God. God existing in his eternality. God existing in Father, Son and Spirit in eternity past, and what is the essence of their relationship? Listen to this - Paul helps us see it - love. He helps us see it. Here's what he says. He says Father, Son, and Spirit that are actively in relationship, in God's own essence, is a relationship of love within God himself. Because it is in love that God predestines us to be conformed to the image of the Son. In other words, before anything ever occurs, us being created, anything at all, God has already come up with what he wants to do and it is born in love. And in fact, he says he does all of this to the praise of his glorious grace because of the One whom he loves. It is talking about the love relationship of the Father and the Son at this point.
You see, when Jesus was on the earth he actually gave us a clue to this when he was praying his high priestly prayer in John seventeen before he went to the cross. He actually referenced what was going on with him prior to anything ever being made or him showing up into time and space or any of those things. Listen to what he said in John seventeen. He says, "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." And then in verse twenty-four: "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world."
In other words, within himself God was already in a self giving love relationship - Father, Son, and Spirit - prior to anything ever being actually made or created including us. Now that's important. You see, what theologians would describe this as, this pre-creation, pre-anything - just God existing - they would talk about the idea that there was a covenant that God made within himself. A covenant of redemption. In other words, that God formulated a plan knowing exactly what was going to befall humanity - what humanity was going to do - before ever making humanity. Before ever creating the world, God knew.
And God made promise - listen to this - the Father made a promise, the Son made a promise, the Spirit made a promise. It was a covenant of redemption. Something like this: the Father promised to the Son, I am going to give you a people as your inheritance. The Son promises I will carry out the full measure of what it takes to purchase them back and reconcile them to you even at the cost of my own flesh, my own blood, my own life. And the Spirit promises I will testify to Jesus and I will make application of what Jesus has done in the redemption to the hearts of everyone who believes. This is the covenant of redemption that happened in eternity past before anything was ever made anywhere at all and this speaks to God's eternal plan that was actually born in love.
Now why is this important for us? Well, because this love that we're looking at is a certain quality. It's a certain type of love and that type, or that quality of love is dependent upon from where the love comes. So in other words, because God is a certain way, God's love is a certain thing. I told you you're going to have to put your hats on. Here's what I'm referring to. In theological terms, we would say that God is immutable. Here's the easy definition: God does not change.
Listen to how the Scripture testifies to this idea and I want you to catch it. In Psalm 102 it says, "In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." Then it says in Malachi chapter three: God says, "I the Lord do not change." Can't be much clearer than that. And then you see in the book of James: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
You see, this is important because we're talking about what is happening in eternity past - that love comes from eternity past into or through eternity present into eternity future. And we need to know what type of love that is because of the nature of who God is. Now, Paul is specifically actually talking about Christ's love. He says to know the love of Christ which is wide and long and high and deep - the love of Christ. You see, that's where we need to understand in eternity past Christ existed. He didn't just show up in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. That's when he put on flesh, but he has always been. As a part of the nature of God - God as Father, God as Son, God as Spirit - he has always been. And when we understand that, we understand that Jesus himself is also immutable. He does not change. That's why the Scripture says in the book of Hebrews - "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." This is a statement about immutability. The fact that he does not change.
Even the apostles - by the way, even though they weren't using the term immutability (and we can leave that term alone) - but the idea of changing, fundamentally in essence changing, the apostles knew that even that was impossible for Jesus. Because when Jesus died and rose from the dead and ascended back to the Father and sent the Spirit, Peter the apostle began preaching at Pentecost. Do you remember that story in Acts chapter two? He began preaching. Listen to his words. He says, "Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death", - listen to this - "because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him."
David actually said about him: "I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay." He can't change. Therefore it's impossible that he stays dead. It is impossible for him not to have been resurrected from the dead because in essence he cannot change. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
So this is important for us to grab hold of because it begins to teach us about Christ's love. Listen to this: because Christ is unchanged from eternity past, his love is unchanging into eternity present. His love doesn't waver. It is constant. It is sure. And that comes from who he is. The same love that bore out redemption's plan - Father, Son and Spirit. The same love that Jesus said trillions of years ago in a covenant among God's own essence - the same love that said, I will do to the fullest degree what is necessary to rescue humanity and reconcile them to the Father - the same love from eternity past is the same love we experience now. It doesn't change.
You notice this is a straight line. There's no dips. There's no heights. It's not sagging anywhere. It is coming straight across. Why? Because it is constant, it is firm, it is sure, it is unchanging. This is the love of Christ and it is long. It's long. Aren't you glad - listen - aren't you glad that the love of Christ preceded you and is not dependent on you?
Man, when I was a kid growing up I would go to my grandparents house in Decatur, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. I called them my mimama and granddaddy. I'm from the south. And so at my granddaddy's house, he didn't have a garage. He had a carport. So he just had a covering where he pulled underneath and his car could be out of the rain or whatever. But above the carport there was an attic. And on occasion while I was there, me and my brother - we were only about 17 months apart - we would sometimes be there and my dad would be there. And my granddaddy would pull the steps down to the attic, and he would walk up into the attic and then my dad would come up. But me and my little brother weren't ever allowed to go up there. Maybe it was the, a lot of stairs and they were afraid we'd fall because we were little, you know. But I mean as little kids we were looking up the stairs like, I want to come up there! It's an attic full of dreams! Please. You're just thinking this is something in your imagination. It's incredible. What is up there? Is there magic things up there? What is up there? Well eventually as we got a little bit older, we would see my granddaddy go up there and my dad would go up there any my uncle, my dad's brother would go up there and they would all be laughing and carrying on and we're just down at the bottom going what about us? We want to come up there.
And eventually, when we could handle steps and do all that kind of stuff, you guys want to come up? Do we want to come up? Like I've spent the entire last seven years of my existence wanting to come up. I almost wanted to just start crying, Do you want to come up? Yes, I want to come up. And then you come up. And you look around and what's up there? Lots of photo albums. Looking at pictures of my dad when he was a little kid. Looking at pictures of my granddaddy when he was a little kid. Looking at my granddaddy's dad. Looking at my grandmother's mother. And my grandmother's mother's mother in these pictures. And do you know as I reflect back on that what I'm reminded of? There was a love that preceded us. We just got invited up into it. It lasted long before - it was going on long before I ever even showed up. Long before I was ever around, there was already a love, a line of love that existed, and I just got invited up into it and just got to experience it. It wasn't conditioned upon me. It was already there. I didn't do anything to make all of this happen. It was just there.
Think about that in terms of the nature of Christ's love. That it is without condition for us and it makes such a dramatic impact because what happened in eternity past has a net effect on eternity present, because it reminds us that his love is unconditioned to us.
In fact, when Paul says it, he says it this way in Romans chapter five. He says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." In other words, it wasn't conditional upon how awesome we were. He died for us in the midst of our sin, in the midst of our rebellion, in the midst of our saying we can do it better, in the midst of saying we're our own saviors, even though we're not saying that, we're living that way. But it wasn't conditioned upon us. It was unconditional. This is the nature of Christ's love. And it's long.
You see, Jesus showed us the nature of this unconditional love when he was with his own disciples, and he was preparing a last supper with them before he went to the cross. Here's how John said, the very opening statements of John chapter thirteen when it gives us the story. It says, "It was just before the Passover Feast (or Festival). Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." In other words, he loved them to the fullest measure of his love. In other words, he was going to love them until his finish line at the cross but he was actually going to love them beyond his finish line to their finish line. Because he would rise from the dead. And every person that is ever his, he is going to love to their finish line and beyond the finish line, because he is one by the nature of his very love who loves to the very end. Who loves to the fullest measure of love. And that is actually timeless with him.
This is an astonishing thing to think about, because it's not only timeless, but it's not conditioned upon what we do. Because this group of people that was with Jesus, that he's saying he's loving them until the end, there were people like Thomas in there. I don't know...I don't know if he really rose from the dead. I'm going to have to see the hands and the feet and the side. Did Jesus go, you idiot??!! No, he showed it to them. Why? He was loving him to the end. Guys like Peter were in that group. Who upon Jesus' being captured and ultimately brought to the cross, Peter is denying that he even knows him. He is cussing up a white storm, saying I don't even know who he is! And the relentless, unchanging love of Christ continued to love him, even to his own finish line and beyond.
This is staggering because in our world and in our cultural context, our struggle is that we've been conditioned to conditional love. That's how we've been conditioned. If you do good, you get loved more. If you don't do good, you get loved less. Maybe that happened to you growing up. If your grades were good, you got loved more. If they weren't good, you got loved less. I'm not talking about discipline in love. I'm not talking about parents doing their job, right? But I'm talking about loved less. Or, if you were pretty, you got loved more. But when the pretty started wearing off, you got loved less. When you were strong and athletic, you were loved more. And when that went away, you were loved less. We are conditioned to conditional love, and that can blow us up big time.
There's a young lady who's involved in - she's an athlete, a professional athlete. Her name's Ronda Rousey. Many of you have heard of her. She fights. She's a mixed martial arts fighter, and had never lost and was on magazine covers and was in movies and was like a superstar of the sport. And then she got knocked out. She just got knocked out. But she had banked everything on all the glory and all the love that she was getting when she was performing, and when she got knocked out, it got taken away. And do you know that it almost drove her to kill herself? Listen to her words. She said, "Honestly, I was, like, in the medical room, and I was down in the corner. I was sitting in the corner like, 'What am I anymore if I'm not this?' " she said through tears. "And I was literally sitting there and thinking about killing myself. In that exact second I'm like, 'I'm nothing, what do I do anymore? And no one gives a ____ about me anymore without this.' "
Do you know what she experienced? She experienced love given, love taken. Love given, love taken. Do you know what that's called? Short love. Short. Conditional. When you're performing you get it. When you're not, it's taken. Do you know how badly that can destroy your identity? That it actually rips away the humanity and rips away the identity of what you are supposed to be, and puts you on an emotional roller coaster with no seat belt. That's what happens. But you see, we're actually conditioned to conditional love.
But I don't know if you paid attention that I'm leaving this out in front of our mugs the whole time. It is unchanging, it is unmoving. It started in eternity past, Christ's love - it is running absolutely unchanged into eternity future and it's not moving a muscle. But some of us - we've been conditioned to think otherwise. I'm going to show you a microcosm of that.
I need a couple of volunteers that I've actually already drafted (since their last name is Gillis and they have no choice). All right. Nice sweater. Apparently the same woman in our life shops for both of us. Stand over there. Tanner stand over here. Hold on to that tight. Hold on to that tight. Stretch it out all the way. There you go. Keep it stretched just like that, o.k.? Now, here's how we're conditioned. Pretend this is a microcosm of what we view to be the love of Christ. O.k.? The struggle is that often we think that the love of Christ, if we do good then he loves us more. And if we do bad he loves us less. Watch what happens if I'm doing really good and his starts to rise - where are you guys coming? You coming? Right? Look. Loving more, what just happened? I shortened his love. Straighten it out. Now I'm doing bad, right? Now I'm doing bad. What's happening? Shortening it. Now I'm doing worse. What's happening? I'm shortening it. And then what happens ultimately - we think maybe we can run out of love based upon how we do or don't do. Thanks guys. We think that we can run out of love.
Now listen - it is a dangerous thing to think that the love of Christ can be shortened by bowing with your good stuff and sinking with your bad stuff. It is unchanged because he is unchanged. We've been conditioned to conditional, and the love of Christ is unconditional because it is long. It is unchanged. It doesn't move. It is constant. It is strong. It is never budging. It is never bowing. It is never rising. When you do good, he doesn't love you more. When you do bad, he doesn't love you less. The same love that formed in the heart of God, the purposes for redemption is the exact same love that's available to us right now. The exact same. Precisely because it is so long.
In fact it's so long, it's eternal in it's very nature. Listen to how the psalmist says it in Psalm 103. From - here it is - everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children. In Jeremiah, speaking to the people of Israel about the nature of God's love it says this: the Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness."
You see, this love that was born in eternity past that we have seen with our own eyes in eternity present is what will carry us into eternity future, and as you will note, eternity future also looks like it's behind a curtain. We can only see what we can see and experience. Eternity past we can't see, but we know where love came from. We see in eternity present the effects of that eternal redemption plan, and we can trust that that is going to carry us into places maybe that we haven't seen, maybe that we haven't been, but we can trust that his love is still running exactly the same line, the same constancy, the same steadfastness, the same strength, and it's unchanging all the while because it is long, it is long, it is long.
In fact, there is a little bit that we know about eternity future. We know that the Jesus who came and entered into time and space and died on a cross to satisfy the justice of God, taking upon himself our sin, rising from the dead. The one who ascended back to the Father, he said I'm going to come again. And he will. And when he does he is going to come again, and he is going to resurrect those who are his. They're going to have new bodies. I don't fully know what that's going to be like, but look at Jesus' resurrection body - could eat fish and walk through walls. Sign me up! It is where everything changes.
And in fact, he's going to make everything new. Listen to what it says in Revelation twenty-one. "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" The same one in eternity past who said I'm making everything - and he made it out of love - now says in eternity future, out of love I'm making everything new.
I just did a funeral Wednesday for a little girl named Mila. Mila was two and a half. Sweet little girl in a family in our church who was born with a terminal illness. The family knew from diagnosis that basically only gave her a lifespan of two years. She made it to two and a half, thank you very much. She couldn't talk and she couldn't walk and she would have seizures. Had to be cared for around the clock, couldn't develop. I read this verse at her funeral at the very beginning, because I was reminded that the same love into which she was born is the same love that will carry her into eternity future, because it's long. It's not two years. It's long. And it's strong. And it endures and it doesn't fail. And she is going to experience as we all are the change that occurs when love comes back. When love returns to earth. She too is going to change. I don't know what that's going to look like. What does a two year old who dies and who has a resurrected body look like? I don't know. I don't know exactly but I know that she'll be known for who she is because Paul says that we'll all be changed - those of us who are Christ's own - will be changed. That's the same word for metamorphosis. Here's what I know. A caterpillar doesn't look like the butterfly but there is a continuity. The acorn doesn't look like the oak tree but there is a continuity. And Mila's new body at the resurrection of Jesus won't look like the old one, but we'll know it's her. In love we were made and in love we will be remade, because his love is long.
You see, this should bring great comfort to those of you who have only lived in the world of conditional love. Maybe you had a parent or a spouse check out on you. Or maybe you had a boyfriend who said you're not just something enough and you have been and faced nothing but conditions on love. I'm here to tell you something. The long love of Jesus - it doesn't bend, it doesn't break, it doesn't bow. It's the same. It's unchanging because he's unchanging. And that ought to bring us incredible comfort to know a love that preceded us. It endures. It doesn't fail.
For others of us this long love of Christ is kind of a humbling reminder because here's what's happened in your life. There's been a time where you've legitimately and authentically surrendered your life to Jesus and you were born from above and you were changed. But life happened. You got sidetracked. Things got messed up and you walked into the pigpen, man. You decided you were going to run. You're going to leave it behind. And you got into the pigpen and you got muddy enough that you started not caring because you thought, well, I'm already in it. I might as well get as muddy as I can get because I'm in it. But then you woke up one day and you realized something. You can't outrun the long love of Jesus. No matter how fast you go, his love is always ahead of you because it's eternal. And no matter how far you look behind at all of your junk, his love has been behind you all the time. Whether you're coming or whether you're going, behind you or ahead of you, you can't outrun the love of Jesus. And so you finally just stopped running and started receiving. The love of Jesus started transforming you because you realize it is an enduring, sure, strong, long love, not a short one. It doesn't come with conditions. Because God doesn't change, his love doesn't change.
And so, you are a walking testimony to the long love of Jesus. There is story after story - in this room and all of our campuses - story after story of that happening. But for all of us, when we really begin to grasp this idea of the long love of Christ, it should change us. When we recognize in our hearts and in our minds how long his love is for us - that it was born - his love for you was born in eternity past. Trillions upon trillions of years ago, he set his affection on you. And even in your sin Christ died to rescue you, to save you because he loved you. This is a love that you've never understood, never are ever going to be able to wrap your mind around, but you've got to understand that when you understand and experience and grasp the long love of Christ it will change you.
You see - listen - long love changes you. Short love short changes you. The long love of Christ coming from a God who doesn't change, it will change you when you experience it. It will shape your very identity. You know why? Because you will be free to love others unconditionally. When you can experience unconditional love, you're now free to love other people just like that. You're now free when you experience the long love of Jesus. You can now willingly serve other people and you don't have to be the center of attention. You can now willing sacrifice for the gospel and the glory of God because you realize no matter how long or how short your life is, his love is long. It is eternal. And if our lives are taken from us because of being persecuted for our faith, and it means a short life or we live eighty years, it is a blip compared to the long love of Jesus that was born in eternity past, that runs through eternity present, and will carry us forward into eternity future - never ending world without end. This is the long love of Christ.
So, long love changes us. Short love just short changes us. We don't even experience love that way. There's only one true love. This is Jesus. The one who died, the one who rose from the dead, who bore out this plan in eternity past and entered in 2,000 years ago to history as we know it, put skin on, lived life, sinless, and took upon himself our sin and our shame and our guilt and our fear and died for us to satisfy the justice of a holy God. A plan born from the beginning. Acted out in real time. And the strength of it, by the Holy Spirit applying the truth of that to our hearts will carry us home into a promised future that will know nothing greater than the love of Christ. This is the hope that we have. His love is long. Would you bow your heads with me.
Before we walk out, there are some under the sound of my voice who have maybe never come to a place where you've fully surrendered your life - where you've turned from your sin and put your faith and trust in Jesus. Well I hope you saw today that no one's ever loved you like this. No one. An unconditional love that died for you before you knew him, that loved you before you were made, that wanted you before you knew what you wanted - that kind of love. Nobody's ever had that for you. Not this way. Not this perfect. Not this long. I want to encourage you if you're here and you've never come to a place where you've turned from sin and put your faith and trust in Jesus. You've turned from trying to do it your own way and put your faith and trust in him. I hope when we dismiss in a moment, you'll come by the Fireside Room and you'll let one of us pastors or prayer partners just talk to you for a few minutes about what that looks like - starting your journey of faith with Jesus. And I hope you won't even wait around a second - you'll just come. You know for those of us who've said, you know what? I've genuinely been born from above. I've been transformed by Jesus. I know in my heart that's happened. But maybe the world's just kind of creeped in on you and conditioned you to conditional love. And what's happened is you've struggled to experience the long love of Christ and because of that it's hard for you to give the kind of love that Jesus wants you to give. Well, I'm praying today for you and for me.
Father, that we would know that the love that was within your own person in eternity past is the same exact quality and steadfastness of love that we can experience now and forever because you don't change, neither does your love for your own. I pray that we would be able to receive that and it would wash over us in such a way that it changes everything for us. That the very view that we have about the nature of Christ's love would be changed radically by the reminder that your love is long. Because we don't want to be short changed by short love that this world offers us. If we perform, we get love. If we don't, we get it taken. Thank you, Jesus, that your love is bigger and stronger and longer than that. And we'll never run out of it. We can't shorten it. So free us now as we understand this, free us to be able to love people that way. Free us to be able to sacrifice freely, to be able to serve willingly. Free us to do that because your long love changes us and short love just short changes us. Write this on our hearts so we'll be shaped into your love. That in love you predestined us to be conformed to the image of your son who is love. May that happen in our hearts today - that we might be able to grasp how long is the love of Christ. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.
Bless you guys. Have a great week.