… That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height; to know the Love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:17-19
The breadth of God’s love towards us is boundless; the length of His love is endless; the depth of it is simply fathomless and exhaustless and the height of His love is measureless.All that is included in the breadth, length, depth and height is submerged in the immensity of the love of God which comprehends all that is above, below and past, present and future.It encompasses the universe, time and eternity. It reaches to the depth of sin and infamy, and to the height of the infinite divinity. It passes all knowledge and wisdom.God’s gift to man is the measure of His love. The death of Christ is the measure of His love.
It is imperative to be established in the Love and Faithfulness of God towards us against the backdrop of being easily blinded by the forceful imperative of our pressing needs and challenges. Part of the present realities of the last days we are now in are crisis and chaos. The bible also talked about ‘perilous times’ that are hard to deal with setting in and we are not completely immune from them. You are either directly going through one form of difficult challenge the situations in our country or region is throwing up at us or you are indirectly sharing the pain of a close relative, sibling or a community person who is undergoing one. In any case there is no way our godly spirits can be rejoicing with all the traumatic experiences of human beings all around us even if we are not directly affected!
I learnt from one of my pastors many years ago that if any believer becomes the target of the devil’s attack, the first place he starts will be to undermine God’s love and faithfulness in the believer’s heart. That assault is always anchored in unpalatable circumstances in our lives. I remember that truth so impacted me in 1992 that I wrote my resolve in my Dake’s bible in the words of Job, ‘Even though he slay me, yet I will trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.’ ‘Till I die I would not remove my integrity from me, my righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go. My heart shall not reproach me so long as I live’. Much later in life, I came up with another personal cliché, ‘the devil can never blackmail God to me.’ Talk about midnight hours, I had plenty of it and there is no way that could left me the same person. I had to learn some deep but tough lessons about God that I could not otherwise have learnt.
Pursuit of intimacy will not be possible if we are not firmly established in the love and faithfulness of God. God’s love for me as a person (not in a generic sense) should become a non-negotiable truth buried deep in my soul that no earthly circumstance can challenge. It should become a given that I am deeply loved by God irrespective of what happens or refuses to happen. Fortunately or unfortunately, this level of knowing or conviction does not come by praying and fasting or through plenty study of the bible, even though these spiritual exercises are very important and helpful. They come from experiences and lessons garnered from the crucible of fire.
God is not emotional! God has emotions though, but He is not emotional. He is truthfully a zillion times better than the best earthly father; yet I don’t know of any earthly father that can allow his only ‘loved son’ to go and die a shameful death on behalf of others. Yet that was God demonstrating how much He loves us. Well, I guess that puts Abraham in a different class of humans too. Has it ever occur to you that some of the pains you had to go through that caused you so much anguish was actually induced out of love? Every action of God is borne out of love, and every motivation of God is a motivation of love. God does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men; He has no pleasure in troubling and causing grief to the children of men. (Lamentation 3:33)
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?Hebrews 12:5-7
“You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you.Deut. 8:5
My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction; for whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.Proverbs 3:11-12.
The passage in Hebrews chapter twelve went further to say that, ‘for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.’ Discipline is not necessarily induced by sin, and so it is not punishment. Discipline is designed for those whom He loves and have accepted. It is called pruning in another connection and the objective of pruning is for greater productivity. This is a very important truth that we must understand and relate with in order to advance more into God. Discipline does not come in packages that we could choose from, it is not a menu of options. Secondly, it does not come when we feel or think we are ready for it. Therefore it becomes a very major indicator of where we are and how we stand with God. We have to be discerning of the opportunities for growth and development God lovingly sends our way in the guise of difficulties and setbacks. I said discerning because the devil could equally orchestrate difficulties for us and again, we could be resisting God and think it is the devil. This package from God could be a failed business deal, it could be ill health, it could be difficult children or a difficult child, and it could be betrayal or anything. If you faint in the day of adversity, then your strength was small. Therefore adversity offers you the opportunity to assess and build your strength.
Our opening scripture passage for this chapter says that access into the fullness of God that mortals can come into is hinged on comprehending the love of God that transcends rational knowledge of the mind. How do I comprehend that which transcends the human mind? I have to become rooted and grounded in love; or put in another word, I have to accept the fact by faith that God loves me. Nothing must shift me from that position. It is from this positioning that the immensity of the love of God which comprehends all that is above, below, past, present and future;that encompasses the universe, time and eternity will begin to impact our minds deeply. It is from this positioning that God ordained pain can become the route to deeper levels of intimacy and fellowship. Naturally, mortals will be willing to pray and study much to access all the fullness of God so long as discipline and pruning is out of the equation. Nonetheless, being rooted and grounded in the love of God that frees Him to prune us the way He sees fit is the access to His best for our lives.
The new face of an old lie!
So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!”Job 1:9-11
The devil posited that human beings can only serve God for what they stand to gain from God in mortality; he claims that man cannot serve God in complete loyalty and out of response to the love of God if nothing earthly is attached to it. The flip side of this worn out lie is that if we patronize God, He will make us very comfortable on earth or to sustain the loyalty of man God must make sure He provides for man’s every wish. This is the implication of, ‘does Job fear God for nothing?’ It also implies that if we serve God, we can never experience any kind of pain or difficulties. Job’s friends were equally strong believers of this position and they harassed the hell out of Job because they were convinced he had sinned against God to attract such blasting from God. The disciples of Jesus saw a man born blind and they asked him whether it was as a result of his sins or his father’s sin that he was born blind? Jesus answered that neither was it because of his sins or his father’s sin.
A greater percentage of professed believers today came to God either because something is pursuing them or they are pursuing something using God. They are not necessarily being driven to God or are they pursuing God. I don’t have a problem with discomforting circumstances driving anybody to God; it should drive us to God or it will drive us to the devil. In this broken and fallen world, a lot of people will turn their attention to God only when circumstances compel them to. God do use pain most times to arrest the attention of His deaf and disobedient children and drag them to Himself. Unfortunately, most times we do not see the endgame of these set of circumstances, all we see is the means of getting us out of the discomfort. And so we come patronizing God which others misconstrue to mean a genuine turning of the heart towards God in repentance. Soon as we start getting some relief from our pain we continue with business as usual, only that by now we have acquired a religious slant to our way of life. This is the birth place of the craze for the excessive pursuit of miracles which the ‘blind guide of the blind’ have massively exploited. This is exactly what we need to put our finger upon; the plank of the much distorted multimillion merchandizing of the (another) gospel.
If you take a walk through any major town or city in our country and you deliberately want to check out religious posters, banners and huge bill boards; you will be pleasantly surprised at how numerous there are but you will be even more shocked at the titles of the various religious shows that are campaigning for your attention. Some of them have absolutely no resemblance of anything that has to do with God. What is the meaning of ‘Next level of overflow’? Or ‘Who stopped my destiny’? Or ‘Prophecy and comedy’? Or ‘Leave me alone’ or ‘Who is after me” Hand and feet washing service? The list is unending and absolutely ridiculous.
If I am established in the love of God what will I be doing in a program that tells me I am next in line to be remembered by God? Were we in a line? Was I ever forgotten by God? What makes you think God forgot me? When did the trappings of the rich and famous become the yardstick of the ‘with-you-ness’ of God? Why will somebody who has been faithfully following and serving God over twenty years be told God has not accepted him simply because when he was a baby forty five years ago his parents dedicated him to some deity and no special deliverance has been conducted for him since then? Why will some believer be told that because his grandfather whom he never knew or saw committed some serious sins and therefore he cannot go forward in life until some special self-styled prophet conducts special deliverance for them? Why will some persons be asked to pray stark naked in the middle of the night before their cry for the fruit of the womb is heard? I am sure I could fill up pages asking these kind of questions. Unfortunately, folks have so believed in these Christianised African religious practises that some people will even be pissed with these kind of probing questions.
If we grasped the height, depth, breadth and length of God’s love towards us, we will see through these religious larceny for what they truly are. If this year is my ‘year of uncommon favour’ or my ‘year of supernatural lifting’; what were my previous years? What went wrong before and what will I do differently now that will usher me into the realm of the purported uncommon favour? What will uncommon favour look like outside of material blessings? We keep dangling these carrots before the people every year that if we sit back and check what we have said in the last five to ten years about what each year will bring; then this defective ‘hearing from God system’ of men of God will become very obvious for what they are.
We are brain washed to believe that some person is responsible for our not getting ahead in life. Well, stuff like that happens in Africa; but how about ‘Curse causeless doesn’t alight’? What about the series of wrong calls we make in life, wrong patterns of behaviours, negative attitudes and lack of self-application, lack of discipline and thoroughness. We do not repent of these issues and yet we believe we could do some other religious things and circumvent their negative consequences. Well, doing the same things and expecting different results is the definition of madness. We are pointed to different root causes of our problems except to ourselves and our unrepentant heart.
The old lie that says ‘does Job fears God for nothing?’ has actually become the basic operating system that modern Pentecostalism runs on. Their high priests are specialist in removing every discomfort in the lives of their clients with no adjustment of lifestyles. The only requirement will be to patronize these servants of ‘god’ with good offerings. However, the weekly circus goes on, designed to perpetually keep their clients either running from something imaginary that is pursuing them or pursuing new levels of breakthrough that are crafted for them through the man of god. This operating system does not set God as the attractor core of our pursuit, but it sets financial success, super stardom, protection and comfort as the attractor core. And my people love it so!
The depth and the height of the love of God!
Some folks are deceived to perpetually live under the burden of the guilt of some past sins which ‘God can never forgive’. They are perennially doing penance via servicing some special anointed men of god with gifts and regular attendance of deliverance services that never really get them ever delivered. Salvation was conceived by God and its process and requirement superbly executed by Him without the input of man. Salvation is from the Greek word ‘soteria’; it means, deliverance, health, rescue, safety, salvation etc. It is the reversal of everything by means of God’s grace that made life impossible for us within the context of how God designed life to function. It is not necessarily the removal of every discomfort and the challenges of life. But ability to say no to the lies of the devil and live a godly and purposeful life whatever our earthly circumstances might be per time. It is the ability to live (a fulfilled life) in defiance to the intimidation and harassment of the devil to the glory of God.
(69) And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, (74) to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, (75) in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. Luke 1:69/74/75.
There is no sin that is too much for God to forgive and there is no sinner that is beyond the reach of God’s love. God offered us forgiveness in Christ Jesus before we were born and before we even committed sins. The sins we will yet commit had already been forgiven if we accept the terms of God for forgiveness. This is not licence but an attempt to fathom the depth of His love. A contemporary psalmist said in one of his songs, ‘a thousand times I have failed, still His mercies remain; should I stumble again, I am caught in His grace’. Another one captured it this way, ‘nothing can separate me, even if I ran away; your love never fails. I know I still make mistakes but, you have new mercy for me every day. Your love never fails, you stay the same through the ages, your love never changes …
To be established in God’s love produces a great measure of stability and resilience to overcome in life. To be living under the burden of guilt and the suspicion of someone diabolically working against us makes us extremely vulnerable and causes us to be disempowered. The devil’s job is to be permanently against us and he could use whatever means or agents at his disposal to work towards his end. But the good news is that we are never left at the mercy of the devil; for greater is the ‘One that lives in us than he that is in the world’. My soteria is in the greater one who lives in me and not in ‘my great man of god’. So I am not living my life looking out for who is against me or not; I live my life concerned with only the state of my affairs with HE who lives inside of me.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:31-39
Relationship produces proximity and intimacy while religious activities engender remoteness and a patronizing mentality of works. Relationship makes it easy to accept the love of God and respond to Him from that positioning while religion puts us under the burden of ever trying to please God and never ever so sure of Him being pleased with us. This is what causes us to become victims of the wolves in sheep clothing we have everywhere as men of god. Religion is what we do to please God or receive His approval; but unfortunately, we can never please God even by our best efforts. Religion has no power to transform who we are from the inside; it can only slant our activities towards church programs and perhaps reduce some of our more visible vices. But when push comes to shoving, we come alive to who we truly are. The whole thrust of these treatise is to highlight the nobility of our call into a functional relationship with God that starts in time but will continue beyond time as God’s eternal friends. This relationship is accessible to even babes and sucklings.
I will like to end this chapter by considering two short scriptures that explains to us the root cause of our slant towards a dysfunctional relationship with God.
… And with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.2nd Thess. 2:10
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings.2nd Timothy 4:3
Truth is ennobling, empowering, liberating but confrontational and transformational. Those who want an empowering and liberating life courageously embrace the confrontation of truth and therefore get transformed. Those who hate truth because they don’t like the self-confrontation that produces transformation resist and reject truth. Rejection of truth produces the inevitable outcome of embracing delusion and a reprobate mindset. It is this lack of love for the truth that foster the activities of false teachers and false prophets. These agents of darkness can do so many things that look like God but isn’t God; they will give you a form of godliness but never the power of godliness (inner transformation); they will give you all kinds of panacea to your problems but they can never stabilize your soul through the love of God. From such, you are exhorted to turn away from and become established in the love and faithfulness of GOD. His love desires your ultimate best which sometimes comes in the guise of challenges. See through the obscuring of circumstances, receive the love for truth and be established in the Love of God.
The time is already here when people are very bold and assertive of the kind of (another) gospel they want to hear. Our spiritual and/or religious environment is also riffed with preachers who are fitted for the itching ears of those who have no love for the truth. From the transcendent (occultist preachers) to the ridiculous (comic pastors); their ranks and followership keep swelling by the day and have become so pervasive that even the ‘Elect’ find themselves being sucked in as these preachers are now ‘definers of spiritual operations’ in the church. Only love for the truth and a genuine search for the truth will keep us safe from the deceitful web. Being established in the love God has for you is your only safe nest in these perilous days.