Monday, July 04, 2011
Ephesians 3:1-13 The Mysterious Value of the Church
For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles --- if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory. (Ephesians 3:1-13)
1. Value The Presence Of The Church
2. Value The Preaching In The Church
3. Value The Purpose Of The Church
Ephesians 3:14-21 PRAYING FOR THE POWER
14For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
You May Come Boldly to God Because
1. Because God is now approachable.
2. Because we are apart of His family.
3. Because we understand what is most essential.
A. The Strength we need internally
B. The Source from which it (this power) comes.
C. The Spirit through whom this power comes.
D. The Sphere in which it operates. *Reason. *Conscience *Will.
4. Because we know the secret of our strength.
A. The Person of Christ dwelling within.
B. The Prominence of His strong Love.
C. The Practice of His full presence.
5. Because we believe nothing is too difficult for God. vv.20-21
Ephesians 3:1-13 The Mysterious Value of the Church
Secrets fascinate us. All of us want to be privy to secrets. Have you ever gotten interested in thoe old mummy movies set in the Egyptian desert, where the hero discovers…the Secret of the Lost Ark” or something like that. I recall an old television show called “I've Got A Secret.” No doubt the producers of that show picked that format because they thought people would not be able to resist watching it. Secrets are fascinating.
Did you know that God has a secret which He kept for thousands of years? It's true. In the passage of Scripture under consideration, Paul calls this secret a mystery. It was a mystery which was once hidden but is now revealed. In other words, the secret which God kept hidden for thousands of years has now been fully communicated. Simply put, the secret which has now been revealed is the centrality of the Church in God's plan.
Do you really know what Church is? Do you understand the place of Church in the plan of God? Do you know what place Church ought to have in your life? These are important questions for which every Christian ought to have answers. The way we answer these questions will determine the extent to which we fully enter into God's plan for our lives. It is possible to come to know Christ as your Saviour and miss the plan of God for your life. The church is central to God’s plan for your life. Today many denigrate the role of the church. They have a low view of God’s people gathering together in a given place. They feel that it is optional. That it is up to where they can best get what they want to have their selfish needs fulfilled. The Church is far more than that. If you ever make the church subject to your selfish whims, then you have destroyed church for yourself and for all others that are gathered there. Church is not about your ego. Sadly, we seem to have come to a place of biblical illiteracy in our world today. There is very little understanding of the great doctrines of the Bible. And, unfortunately, this is even true in our churches. It is somewhat ironic to have to say that in the Church there is little understanding of Church. I'm not talking about the elementary things like understanding that the Church is not merely buildings and holy furniture. Most of us understand that. We understand that the Church is not the structure located at the corner of Laman and Dawson Streets. We have come far enough to know that the Church is people. But that may be the extent of our understanding.
Among many people the Church is viewed as an organization like a small business or large corporation depending upon it's size. You see, to say the Church is people is to say too little. Some people therefore assume the Church is to be run like a business where everyone is a general partner. They reduce the Church to a democratic society where the least offensive course of action is pursued --- assuring the lowest common denominator of spirituality to prevail. The Church is reduced to a social institution where the needs and preferences of the members are its focus. But that is not Church!
The Church is a living organism of God's people --- placed together by God's wisdom --- led by spiritual leaders of God's choosing --- committed to doing God's will --- living out its life together in community --- submitting to one another and God's authority in its midst --- and revealing God's grace and wisdom to all around.
The Church is central to what God is doing in the earth today. It is true that God deals with individuals, but generally God chooses to deal with them through the Church. And unless we come to this understanding of the Church as central to what God is doing in the earth today and in our own individual lives, then we will never understand why God does things the way He does. So let's look together at the mystery of Christ which is His Church.
There is a progressive presentation of this mystery. The word Paul uses for mystery is the Greek word musterion. The word mystery in English is used to translate this Greek word. But our English word mystery sometimes gives us an incorrect idea of what Paul is talking about here. Sometimes we view a mystery as being an enigma --- something that we cannot understand or figure out. But the word musterion referred to a secret hidden from all but those who were initiated into it. Those who had the secret knowledge could understand the mystery. Those who did not could not. In Paul's day there were many “mystery religions.” They were much the same as the Masonic Lodge is today. Only the initiates, those inducted into the mysteries of the Lodge, understand them. So when Paul uses the word musterion, he is referring to a secret which was hidden that is now made known.
Paul says that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery. He goes on to say, in verse 4-5, that it is the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit. In other words, the secret which God is revealing has not always been plain. God had always intended to reveal His plan, but until this time He could not reveal it. Throughout all the Old Testament, God was bringing His people to this place. Now He has reached the point where the mystery can be unveiled. It is a progressive presentation through His holy apostles and prophets.
And what is it? In verse 6 he says, to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Is he saying that the mystery is that now Jews and Gentiles are both blessed together? Is that the mystery? It might help us to look at what the mystery is not. The mystery is not simply that the Gentiles were blessed. God had already revealed that throughout the Old Testament. The mystery was not that the Kingdom of God would include the Gentiles. God begins the Old Covenant with His promise to Abraham that “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). So that is not the mystery. Neither is the mystery the sufferings of Christ. In Isaiah 53 we read in great detail about how Christ would come and suffer and die for our sins. These are not the mystery.
MOST OF US IDENTIFY NAPOLEON BONAPARTE AS THE WOULD-BE CONQUEROR OF EUROPE. BUT NOT MANY WOULD NAME HIM AS A PATRON OF ARTS AND SCIENCES. YET HE WAS. IN JULY 1798, NAPOLEON BEGAN TO OCCUPY EGYPT, BUT BY SEPTEMBER 1801, HE WAS FORCED TO GET OUT. THOSE THREE YEARS MEANT FAILURE AS FAR AS HIS MILITARY AND POLITICAL PLANS WERE CONCERNED, BUT THEY MEANT SUCCESS IN ONE AREA THAT GREATLY INTERESTED HIM, ARCHAEOLGY. IN AUGUST 1799, A FRENCHMAN NAMED BOUSSAND DISCOVERED THE ROSETTA STONE ABOUT THIRTY MILES FROM ALEXANDRIA. THIS DISCOVERY GAVE TO ARCHAEOLOGISTS THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPHICS. IT OPENED THE DOOR TO MODERN EGYPTIAN STUDIES. 1 THIS MYSTERY IS GOD'S 'ROSETTA STONE.' IT IS THE KEY TO WHAT HE PROMISED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, WHAT CHRIST DID IN THE GOSPEL, WHAT THE EARLYCHURCH DID IN THE BOOK OF ACTS, WHAT PAUL TAUGHT IN THE EPISTLES, AND WHAT GOD WILL DO AS RECORDED IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION.
1. Value The Presence Of The Church
The mystery is that through Christ's death both Jews and Gentiles can be brought together into a new entity. Both are fellow members of the body. The body refers to the body of Christ, the Church. The mystery is that God inaugurated a New Covenant --- a unity of all peoples formed together into a new entity, which is the Church. God has inaugurated a new age in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” God has established a new society on the basis of a New Covenant. The church is the only place you will find where there is no class structure, where there is no pecking order, where the whole is unified in common bond of love and care, where the commitment to Christ outshines personal agendas and overshadows divisions intrinsic in human nature.
At Babel, the peoples were divided through the division of the world into language groups. Only in the church is there than common fellowship that transcends earthly barriers of language, political viewpoint, socio economic status and cultural difference. This morning, although we may not be familiar with the languages of those present here today, we know there is that common love for the Lord Jesus Christ born from a common experience of His grace and mercy.
This is the revelation of the Church. And until the time when God could bring the Church into existence, He chose not to reveal that mystery. It is the mystery of the called out ones. In Greek, the term translated “church” is ecclesia. It literally means “called out ones.” And for hundreds of years church was called ecclesia --- called out ones. Then the Emperor Constantine was converted and built many gorgeous temples. The term was changed from ecclesia to kuriakos --- lordly house. Over the years and through the languages kuriakos became kirkus which became kirk which eventually became church. But a church is not a lordly house made with hands. A church is a gathering of called out ones who know the Lord and are placed together by Christ. It is a living organism known as the body of Christ. And the Church is central to God's plan.
IT IS A TRUTH THATWAS PREVIOUSLY CONCEALED, AND IS NOW POWERFULLY REVEALED. THROUGH THE BLOOD OF CHRIST, GOD NO LONGER SEES JEW OR GENTILE; HE SEEMS THE THRONG OF THE REDEEMED. IT IS HIS BEST-KEPT SECRET, IT IS THE CHURCH. THAT IS THE MYSTERY THAT THE CHURCH BEARS!
2. Value The Preaching In The Church
. . . of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things . . . (3:7-9)
Paul says that God revealed to His holy apostles and prophets this mystery. God made the apostle Paul a minister of this mystery according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. Isn't this amazing? I have always been fascinated and awestruck by the fact that God has entrusted the preaching of His mysteries to mere mortals. It seems that we are so ill-equipped for the task. In fact, Paul echoes this very sentiment when he says to me, the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things. Paul senses his own inadequacy to preach this glorious mystery.
It seems to me that an angel could better preach this mystery. If Michael or Gabriel would suddenly appear in the clouds proclaiming in a thunderous voice the truth concerning Jesus Christ, I would certainly be impressed. But God has not chosen angels to proclaim this message. In fact, angels can't even understand this mystery first hand. Angels are not redeemed creatures. Insofar as our salvation is concerned, angels have no first hand experience. Peter refers to God's marvellous redemptive salvation in 1 Peter 1:12 where he says that these are “things into which angels long to look.” And as we will see in just a moment, the angels actually learn about God's grace and wisdom through the Church. So God has chosen redeemed humanity to preach the mystery.
Jerome D. Engle, the famous Baptist preacher, was once vacationing at a well-known shore resort. One of the local churches had expected to have its pulpit filled on Sunday morning by a "supply" or visiting minister. At the last minute, the visitor was unable to appear, and the church found itself with no one to conduct services. The leaders of the church scurried around distractedly in search of a preacher, and were unable to find anyone. At last, chancing to hear of the presence in town of an eminent divine, one of the church leaders sought out Engel and begged for his services. Graciously, the minister consented. Delighted and relieved, the committeeman said, "You know, Dr. Engel, we'd have been willing to accept a poorer preacher, but it was impossible to find one."
This mystery centres around Jesus Christ. All of God's redemptive purposes centre in Christ. Paul calls this the unfathomable riches of Christ. JOHN CALVIN REFERRED TO IT AS, "THE ASTONISHING AND BOUNDLESS TREASURES OF GRACE!" 3 THAT IS THE GOSPEL IN A NUTSHELL. IT IS GOD'S MAZE. IT IS HIS HIDDEN TREASURE. IT IS SOMETHING WHICH THE MOST RE-KNOWNED MIND IN THE WORLD COULD NOT TRACE, OR FIGURE OUT. IT IS PAST FINDING OUT. IT IS THE GRACE OF GOD MANIFESTED IN THE GOSPEL OF GOD. This new humanity based on the New Covenant reveals the unfathomable riches of Christ's grace and God's wisdom. This new community is based on Christ living in you and in us corporately. This coming together of all people under the banner of the Cross and living out God's purposes through the life of the Church has it's focus in the person of Christ. Christ's riches are revealed. We see that He is rich in His love for us. We see that He is rich in His mercy toward us. We see that He is rich in His grace. And we also see the riches of His presence within us, His power in us, and His plan for us. And now we have the privilege to share that mystery with others.
SOME TEND TO BELIEVE THAT IN OUR SOCIETY, TODAY, WHAT WE NEED IS MORE 'SEEKER-SENSITIVE' METHODS TO ATTRACT THE MASSES. AND, MAY I SAY, I BELIEVE THAT IS WHY WE HAVE SUCH A WATERED DOWN GOSPEL TODAY. WE ARE MORE INTERESTED IN APPEALING TO PEOPLE'S PREFERENCE THAN IN APPEALING TO THEIR CONSCIENCE. I BELIEVE WILLIAM BOOTH WAS RIGHT WHEN HE DESCRIBED PREACHING TODAY AS BEING, "RELIGION WITHOUT REPENTANCE, SALVATION WITHOUT SUBMISSION, HEAVEN WITHOUT HELL, CHRIST WITHOUT THE DEVIL, AND CONVENIENCE WITHOUT COMMITMENT." FRIEND, WHILE OUR METHOD MAY CHANGE, OUR MESSAGE NEVER CHANGES. IT HAS STOOD THE TEST OF TIME, AND IT IS STILL THE SAME. IT IS THE DEATH, THE BURIAL, AND THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. IT IS HIS BLOOD, WHICH WILL SAVE A WRETCHED SOUL. IT IS HIS LOVE, GRACE, AND MERCY, WHICH WILL DO OUR WORLD WHAT HUMANISM, COULD NEVER DO.
3. Value The Purpose of the Church
. . . in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory. (3:10-13) Here we see the present purpose of this mystery. We find that the Church, Christ's body, is in itself a revelation of the manifold wisdom of God. We see here again that the Church is central to God's purposes in redemption. The mystery of the Church is that God has established an age of grace in which He is working out His purposes through a new community in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. In other words, in the Church God teaches heavenly beings. The angels of God learn to understand the manifold wisdom of God as it is made known through the church. What an amazing statement! Let me quote W. A. Criswell on this point:
What an exalted conception and idea of the Church this is! What the angelic beings did not learn in the presence of Deity, and what they have not learned in all the providences of God through the centuries, they learn in how God saves man, and in how God's redemptive grace is building this new creation, the Church, the body of the Lord. The angels didn't learn of God's wisdom in creation. They didn't learn of God's wisdom in His dealings with man in the Old Testament. In all of God's covenants, they didn't learn of His wisdom. But through the saving work of Christ to call the Church together, they see His wisdom. In the establishing of a new humanity based on a New Covenant whereby Christ's very life is imparted to people made new by His grace, we see a wisdom unequalled anywhere in the universe.
The Church is God's enterprise. This is why it cannot be run like a human organization. This new way of living calls us to deny self and to operate out of a different mentality. It calls us to lay down our lives. It calls us to do things which are not simply hard to do, they are impossible to do without the power of God. In the Church we are called to live in community, where our actions or inaction impacts the lives of all others. We are called to lay down our individual preferences, not simply for the preferences of the majority, but for the will of God. We're called to respect and submit to the spiritual authority of the leaders God has placed in the Church, as well as to submit to one another in the Lord. We are called to forgive one another, to love one another, to serve one another, to support one another, and to encourage one another. And that runs both ways. None of this can be done by our power, or wisdom, and it certainly cannot be done by employing worldly strategies. It is only as God is present in every aspect of the life of the Church that we see the wisdom of God revealed. But when He is allowed to be in charge, then we see what He had in mind.
We must see that through the Church God reveals His manifold wisdom and unsearchable riches in Christ, and we must commit ourselves to be the Church --- those who have entered into a New Covenant of grace and into a new relationship with one another. As we do, then God will reveal His plan through the Church to us, to others, and even to angelic beings. Valuing the Purpos of the church gives strength to stay enthsiatic even when the going is tough. When the world gets worse and the Christian is downcast, knowing what the final purpose is all about brings enthusiams and purpose to hardhip and disillusionment.
IN THE MID-17TH CENTURY, THE RULE OF OLIVER CROMWELL IN GREAT BRITAIN BEGAN WITH THE EXECUTION OF CHARLES I, AND CONTINUED WITH A CAMPAIGN TO RID ENGLAND OF ANY VESTIGE OF THE MONARCHY. TARGETED IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE CIVIL WAR WERE THE ANGLICANS, WHO WERE TIED CLOSELY TO THE KING, WHO SERVED AS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH. CROMWELL EMPTIED THE MONASTERIES, REMOVED BAPTISMAL FONTS FROM THECHURCHES, DEFAMED THE CLERGY, AND DID EVERYTHING IN HIS POWER TO DISENGAGE THEIR PLACE AND INFLUENCE IN THE CULTURE. IN THE FACE OF SUCH TIMES, SOME WERE YET UNDAUNTED. ONE DAY, SOMEONE FOUND AN INSPIRING, BUT LITTLE-KNOWN INSCRIPTION HIDDEN AWAY IN HAROLD CHURCH, STAUNTON, ENGLAND, THAT READ, "IN THE YEAR OF 1653, WHEN ALL THINGS SACRED WERE THROUGHOUT THIS NATION DESTROYED OR PROFANED, THIS CHURCH WAS BUILT TO THE GLORY OF GOD BY SIR ROBERT SHIRLEY, WHOSE SINGULAR PRAISE IT WAS TO HAVE DONE THE BEST OF THINGS IN THE WORST OF TIMES!" 5
Elbert Hubbard, said, "Nothing great has ever been accomplished without enthusiasm."
A positive attitude will have positive results because attitudes are contagious. - Zig Ziglar
Be a self-starter and you won't need a crank to get you going.
In 1520 one man brought small pox to Mexico, where it cost three and one half million deaths. Another man, who landed in England in 1348, was responsible for spreading the black death, "Bubonic Plague," the greatest killer Great Britain has ever known.
Likewise, one inconsistent or disloyal church member can hurt the whole church. Listen to Paul: "Whether one member suffer, all members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all themselves rejoice with it" (1 cor. 12:26). It does not take many bullets from a rifle to kill a man. One bullet can kill. It does not take many deadly diseases to bring death to the human body. One deadly disease can bring death. It does not take the breakage of many bones to cripple the hand. One broken bone can cripple.
The Bible teaches, "One sinner destroyeth much good" (Ecc. 9:18).
Most church members live so far below the standard that you'd have to backslide to be in fellowship! - Vance Havner
"On Sunday a meeting is held of all who live in the cities and villages, and a section is read from the memoirs of the Apostles and the writings of the Prophets, as long as time permits. When the reading is finished, the president, in a discourse, gives the admonition and exhortation to imitate these noble things. After this we all arise and offer a common prayer. At the close of the prayer, as we have before described, wine and bread and thanks for them according to his ability, and the congregation answers, 'Amen.' Then the consecrated elements are distributed to each one and partaken of, and are carried by the deacons to the houses of the absent. The wealthy and the willing then give contributions according to their freewill; and this collection is deposited with the president, who therewith supplies orphans, widows, prisoners, strangers, and all who are in want." Justin Martyr
Dear Church Member,
Don't wait until the hearse hauls you to church. If you do:
1. You will go, regardless of the weather.
2. You will go, regardless of the condition of your body.
3. There will be beautiful flowers there, but you won't enjoy them.
4. You will go, regardless of how your family feels.
5. The minister may say many good things, but they will do you no good.
6. There will be beautiful music, but you won't hear it.
7. There will be heartfelt prayers, but they will not touch your heart.
8. There will be friends and relatives there, but you won't worship with them.
9. You will go, no matter how many hypocrites are there.
10. You will go, no matter how much you are needed at home or work.
11. You will receive no blessing from the service.
12. You won't feel concerned about your clothes.
13. You will never have to decide about attending church again.
Aren't you glad to be alive and well and full of zest and able to choose to go to church? Our churches are in serious trouble today. There is virtually no difference between the average church member and the person who is not a Christian. God meant for the Christian to be different, to live a different kind of life, and to be on a different moral level from those who are not Christians. And yet, there is practically no difference in lifestyle. We will never become a church that effectively reaches out to those who are missing out if we shoot our wounded and major on the minuses. Instead of being fishers of men, as Christ has called us, we will be keepers of an ever shrinking aquarium. Next fall when you see geese heading south for the winter, flying along in V formation, you might be interested in knowing what science has discovered about why they fly that way. It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. (Christians who share a common direction and a sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier, because they are traveling on the thrust on one another.) Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. (If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed the same way we are going.) When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.) It pays to take turns doing hard jobs - with people at church or with geese flying south.) The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. (What do we say when we honk from behind?) Finally, when a goose gets sick, or is wounded by a shot and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly, or until he is dead, and then they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with their original group. (If people know we would stand by them like that in church, they would push down these walls to get in.) You see, all we have to do in order to attract those who are missing back to church is to demonstrate to the world that we have as much sense as geese here in church. That seems little enough price to pay to win the lost and minister to one another. Even geese have sense enough to know it works every time. "
A black church in Kansas City has as its slogan:
WAKE UP, SING UP, PREACH UP, PRAY UP AND PAY UP - BUT NEVER GIVE UP OR LET UP OR BACK UP OR SHUT UP UNTIL THE CAUSE OF CHRIST IN THIS CHURCH AND IN THIS WORLD IS BUILT UP."
Ephesians 3:14-21 PRAYING FOR THE POWER
"But I can still pray For this cause"
What is the cause that moves Paul to pray? As you look at the letter of Ephesians, I want you to see it as an artist's canvas on which Paul, held as the Holy Spirit's brush, is painting a beautiful picture of the Church-the body of Christ. The background of this picture is a divided world with chaos everywhere. Nation against nation, tribe against tribe, man against wife, and children against parents, and even in the inner life there is disintegration and discord. God's purpose is that all the instruments that are in discord and off key will be brought together into one in the Lord Jesus Christ. But unless the church takes the message of Jesus Christ and the Love of God to every person, it cannot be done. It is for this reason that Paul prays. Don't lose the picture of where Paul is in prison (probably in Rome). The important thing for all of us to grasp is that though he is imprisoned, despite being in confinement, unable to travel and preach to people in person--there is one thing the enemy cannot stop him from doing. He cannot prevent him from praying. Paul can still pray! Have you learned that truth? The enemy can put you in a place you don't want to be. He can steal your freedom, he can put bars on the windows of access, he can hem you in and confine you physically, but he can never obstruct the path from the heart of a humble believer to the heart of the Eternal God. Think of what this means to thousands of believers all over this world at this very moment. Some are being persecuted for their faith. Some are experiencing unimaginable sufferings, but they can still pray. Perhaps I'm speaking to someone confined to a sickbed, or because of your age, you simply are no longer free to go where you want to go. You are not useless.
Your life need not be fruitless. Like Paul you can enter into the ministry of intercession. You can still go on praying. Paul was exercising a powerful ministry while in prison-- and you can do the same. Paul knew that he could help people by praying for them. So can you. --5 truths that God reveals to us--that will enable us to pray with confidence.--
1. Because God is now approachable.
"I bow my knees before The Father" The normal Jewish posture in prayer was standing with hands stretched out and the palms upwards. Paul's prayer for the Church is so intense that he prostrates himself before God in a deep heart-felt cry. This must have been quite an experience for the Roman soldier chained to Paul! It is through prayer that we lay hold of God's riches that enable us to behave like Christians and battle like Christians. Whether we actually bow our knees is not as important as bowing our hearts and wills to the Lord and asking Him for what we need. Before whom did Paul prostrate himself? The Father. God is the father to whom Jesus Christ has now given us access. Cf. 2:18; 3:12. In the OT God is the person to whom access is forbidden because of our sin. But in the NT, the essence of the Christian faith is unrestricted access to the presence of God. God is an approachable father. Cf. Hebrews 4:16
2. Because we are apart of His family from whom every family ( the whole family-nkjv) in heaven and earth derives its name.
Here we have two important words-- Father and family. The word family can be translated "fatherhood." All fatherhood in heaven and on earth gets its origin and name from God the Father. He is the great Originator; every other fatherhood is but a copy. God is the father of the whole family. What family? The family of the redeemed. Of this family, some are in heaven already and some are still on earth, but they all belong to the same family. All men are not children of God by nature. Instead, they are children of disobedience and children of wrath (Eph. 2:2-3). As Creator, God is the Father of each person; but as Saviour, He is only the Father of those who believe. There is no such thing in Scripture as the universal fatherhood of God that saves all men. Jesus said, "You must be born again" (John 3:7) Paul wants us to know how to look at ourselves. In his mind it was clear. It doesn't matter if you are Jewish or Gentile. If we are in Christ, we are brothers and sisters and God is the Father of us all. The colour of your skin, your particular language, culture or economic status cannot divide us in the body of Christ. We are not to think of ourselves as Jewish or Gentiles, Irish or Spanish but we are to think of ourselves now as the children of God; we belong to God's great family. Cf. 2:19. Do you know what it is to be proud of the "family name"? If you know how to be proud of your school or your country or your team- do you know how to be proud of the name? As Christians we must always remember that the Name that is on us is the Name of God. And we are to live in this world as those who wear His family name. My Father's name is on me-- may I never bring shame to the name! In every family there are privileges and responsibilities. Paul begins to pray that God would give us the power to appreciate our privileges and live up to our responsibilities.
3. Because we understand what is most essential.
"...that He would grant you..." Before we look at the significant requests that Paul makes in his prayer, it is extremely meaningful to see what he does not request. Have you ever wondered how to pray effectively for others? What Christian hasn't? When we know that others are facing difficulty and trouble, what is the nature of our prayers for them? Please note--Paul does not pray for a change of circumstances. Here is a man in prison who prays not in a general way that God may be good to them, but extremely specific. When you pray that God will bless someone, you can have more confidence if you will pray as Paul did. When we talk about praying a blessing on our neighbours how are we to pray? We pray for their felt needs, but when we pray for one another we also need to pray for our real needs. What is our real need? What is essential? "...that He would grant you..."
*The Strength we need internally. "to be strengthened with power"
Paul's prayer reveals the essential need for power in the Christian life; if Christianity is in fact a source of power, it is completely different from other religions. Builders talk of reinforced concrete, reinforced fibro, reinforced blocks. When new buildings are erected, something strong is needed to shore them up and provide stability. Before you build a concrete wall, if you want it to be really strong, you put into it rods of steel to strengthen it from within. When you pray for yourself or others, are you most concerned about the external matters or the internal matters: External = circumstances, pain? Internal = spiritual growth, development, your knowledge, relationship and experiencing God.
The first priority in the face of any difficulty is to deal with our own spiritual ability to receive power from God.
*The Source from which it (this power) comes. "...according to the riches of His glory... ' God never runs out of His supply. This lake will never run dry. The resources of this storehouse are limitless. Paul prays that God will give them "according to" not "out of" His riches. If a wealthy person gives you something out of his riches- it could be as little as a dime. But if he gives you according to his riches, it will be more than adequate. Paul was praying for a generous measure.
*The Spirit through whom this power comes. "...strengthened with might through His Spirit" The Holy Spirit is the channel through whom this power is available. We are the channels through whom this power will be manifested. The filling and control of the Holy Spirit is so practical. Gal. 5:22
*The Sphere in which it operates. "in the inner man" This is where our greatest needs are. What's the inner man? What's the outer man- the physical body? Literally it is into the inside man--this seems to suggest a penetration of spiritual power into the very core of the believer's being. Do you know about the inside man? The "hidden person of the heart?" Our secret as Christians ever since we received Christ, a new man has been put inside us and that inner man is built up and strengthened. The winds and storms that blow around us and upon us are not so important. But what makes up the inner man? Three primary parts:
*Reason. It has been estimated that you and I have around 50,000 thoughts each day. That's a lot of thoughts. We are constantly using our reasoning ability. But the question is how many of my thoughts are thoughts of fear, anger, lust, worry, and unbelief? We need His strength when our reasoning is about to create a mental avalanche that isn't going anywhere good, and we need to dismiss it. Have you become aware of the mental dynamic? There is a direct relationship between what you think and how you feel! Try feeling angry without angry thoughts. Try feeling discouraged without discouraging thoughts. Or anxiety without anxious thoughts. Guess what- you can't do it! God has made us so that to experience a feeling, we must first use our reason. Some of us are very weak in the inner person. Sometimes we are conscious of a dullness - a spirit of distraction - an inability to think clearly. Some of you have no difficulty at all picking up a John Grisham novel or a newspaper, but when you try to read the Bible your mind wanders and you cannot concentrate. Our ability to reason needs help to be better able to discern between right and wrong, from what is wise and foolish, from what is impure and hurtful. And then when we discern wrong thoughts to treat them like flies at a picnic- shoo them away and get on with our day.
*Conscience. That our conscience becomes sensitive and tender to the nudging of the Spirit. It's possible to disregard our conscience to the point where it becomes dulled. We lose our alertness. Carlyle said, "The deadliest sin is the consciousness of no sin". This would be a helpful way to pray for others.
*Will. Often we know what is right, and want to do it, but our will is not strong enough to enable us to carry out our intentions. If the inner man is weak, sin takes over and a believer seems helpless to resist it. There are many commands in the NT; "Walk in the Spirit" ; love your wives" ; "Submit to one another" ; "Obey your parents". The essence of Christianity is in the will. As a result of sin and the fall our wills are weak. We resolve to do certain things and determine not to do others- and that really is our desire. Then when the time comes, we fold like a deck of cards. What is most essential in our prayers is the strengthening of our inner man! And the strength comes as Jesus Christ takes up his permanent residence in our hearts.
4. Because we know the secret of our strength.
A. The Person of Christ dwelling within. "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" even as Jesus promised in John 14:23: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." There are two Greek words to convey the idea of "to live in"; one has the idea of living in a place as a stranger, and the other has the idea of settling down in a place to make it your permanent home. "Dwell" (house + down) is the Greek word for a permanent home; Jesus wants to settle down in your heart, not just visit as a guest or a stranger. -Hymn "Abide with Me" Christ will gladly come into your life- but he will not force his way in. He knocks and then waits for our invitation to come and bring us His strength. By the way, this prayer is offered for believers. Christ is already present in their lives, but is he dwelling there? Rev. 3:20- Laodiceans were believers but in an extremely weak condition spiritually. There is a sense in which they knew the Lord Jesus, but in a deeper personal sense they do not know Him. They were in a relationship with Him, but he did not control them. He had not settled down in their hearts. If this is where you are today, we thank God for what has happened to you, but there is so much more. There is a difference between being a believer in Christ and having Christ dwelling in your heart. To believe in the Lord Jesus is not the end, it's only the beginning.
B. The Prominence of His strong Love. "rooted and grounded in love" When the Lord Jesus lives in us His love becomes the predominant factor in our lives. The picture is of a tree that has a great root system. The roots are firmly down into the soil of God's love. This gives a believer stability and durability. Love is the soil in which our Christian life grows best. We are to be rooted in it. The real strength of a believer's life is love. I Cor. 13:1-3. Love is not something weak and flabby- it is strong and powerful. There is nothing stronger than true love. It is the greatest influence in the world. Paul asks that they may be able (strengthened) to comprehend with all the saints (together, in community) every dimension of the love of Jesus; that they would know it by experience, and not just in words. 4 dimensional love. The cross pointed in four ways; in every direction. Its breadth- God's love is wide enough to include every human being
Its length- God's love is long enough to last through all eternity
Its depth- God's love is deep enough to reach the most guilty sinner
Its height- God's love is high enough to take us to heaven
C. The Practice of His full presence.
"and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled" Paul asks that they may be filled unto all the fullness of God; and that they may be filled to their capacity with Jesus, even as God is filled to His own capacity with His own character and attributes. It is logical to ask how this can ever be; how can something so far above us ever become reality?
5. Because we believe nothing is too difficult for God. vv.20-21
"Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond" The key is His ability- it is only through Him. Who is able to bring these blessings and privileges to pass in our lives? Only God! These things (spiritual strength, the indwelling Jesus, experiential knowledge of God's love, and the fullness of God) are ours as birthrights in Jesus; however, they must be received by prayer and can be furthered in the lives of others by our prayers for them. Too many Christians have never "read the bank book" to find out the vast spiritual wealth that God has put to their account through Jesus Christ.
His power is unlimited. "all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us" His ability to do exceeds our ability to ask. How much can you ask for? What are the outer limits of what you can imagine? He can do exceeding abundantly beyond all of it! Is your God too small? A little child can paddle at the edge of the ocean; they bob around. But out in the middle of the ocean, even a huge ocean liner bobs around like a cork. We enter into the Christian life as little children and begin to paddle-but we must go on out into the depths and learn the limitless greatness of God.
His praise is unending. " to Him be the glory forever and ever." The only fitting response to this great God is to give Him glory - especially in the church, the company of His redeemed, and that He receive that glory throughout all ages, world without end - Amen! Can you say "Amen" to this? Do you enjoy conscious fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ? He is standing and knocking at the door of the heart of Christians and He says "I would like you to know me." If you will open the door to your inner self I will come in and I will show you myself- I will sit down and become your best friend. You can know me with an intimacy you have never experienced. I will come into you. But you must first open the door.
How do I open the door? By faith. Only faith reveals this possibility to you. You can read the scriptures with much intellectual understanding but without faith you cannot truly comprehend them. It is also faith that enables us to believe that Christ has settled down in my heart. Faith says this is reality for me. It is possible for me to walk and talk with the Lord Jesus in an intimate manner. Faith takes hold of God's promises. If you believe it then you will pray for it. And if you pray for it you will experience it.
Perhaps you need to Christ in this experiential way? You could pray in this way today:
*"I do not know Christ in this intimate manner- and I truly want to get to know Him. I believe it is possible and I am going to ask for it. So now God, with faith in your word and with confidence that this does not depend on me, I pray that you will strengthen me with your might in my inner man. I ask you Lord Jesus to come into my heart, to show yourself to me, to speak to me, to live in me. I want to know you. I want you to live in me and control my whole life."