Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Ephesians chapter 3 as we look at the prayer of Paul for the Ephesian believers, and truly for you and me. As you are turning there listen to this story regarding prayer. We are told:
A friend of Pastor Jack Lewiss was enrolled as a student at Central Washington University. He was a devout Muslim and prayed 5 times daily toward Mecca. He and some other Muslim friends were together one day. His other friends werent as devout, and were kidding him about his devotion to religious duty. One asked which direction he prayed in, and he pointed north. Then a horrified expression crept over his face as it dawned on him that now Mecca wasnt north, as it was in his home town in Arabia, but east. For months all his prayers had been misdirected.
- Jack Lewis, Spokane, WA
Folks, it didnt matter what direction he was praying in for he was praying to an idol, something that is not a god! It is not the direction you are praying towards that counts but the person you are praying to. In John 14:12-14 Jesus said, Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
There are two key points here in regards to prayer. First you have to be saved, you have to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ He must be your Lord and Savior, He alone is the true God, there is no other! Does that mean God never hears or answers the prayer of the unsaved person? I dont believe so; He is just not under any obligation to do so. In John chapter 5 Jesus healed a man who was paralyzed, couldnt walk for 38 years and he wasnt saved and I am sure he prayed that God would heal him. In fact he was at the pool of Bethesda waiting for the waters to be stirred by the angel of God and they believed that the first person in those waters God would heal. I dont know how this man thought he would get into the water let alone be the first one in when the waters were stirred, but he was there and he had an encounter with Jesus who healed him instantaneously. And so I do believe that God does answer some prayers of unbelievers and the reason is so they may get saved, as happened with this man.
The second key point is that it must be according to Gods will. You see, when we pray to our heavenly Father we are asking in the name of Jesus or we are standing in His place and asking what He would be asking. It is as John tells us in I John 5:14-15, Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
Here in Ephesians chapter 3, starting in verse 14, Paul is picking up where he left off back in verse 1, a prayer for the Ephesian believers. But before he gets to it, he tells us in verses 2-13 that God has united Jew and Gentile together into one body, a mystery that was once hidden but has now been revealed to Paul by God.
Now, in this section we are going to be looking at this morning, Paul is praying for God to help the Ephesians grasp, by faith, what God has for them and to make it a vital part of their lives. Back in Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul prayed for God to open their eyes and hearts to the things of God, that they would be sensitive to the calling of God in their lives and understand the infinite riches they have in Christ.
Now we must take what we know and apply them to our lives, we must begin to use it. So with that said, lets begin reading in verse 14 of Ephesians chapter 3 and see what the Lord has for us this morning.
Paul falls down on his knees before the Father because of all that the Father has blessed us with, has blessed all believers with, not just some.
In verses 16-19 we come to 4 petitions that Paul brings before God for the Ephesian believers. He is asking God to make these petitions part of their life. To continue to grow and become more like Him, more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
The interesting aspect of these requests is not only are they linked together but also they are progressive. Paul asks the Father that the inner man by be spiritually strong. This spiritual strength leads us to a deeper relationship with Christ. And as the depth of that relationship with Christ grows we can grab hold of Gods great love for us. This great love that we have brings us into the fullness of God.
Now, do we ever obtain the fullness of these requests? Well, yes and no. Yes, on the positional side, they are at our disposal. We have obtained all the blessings of God and the Father sees us as being perfect. No, on the practical side. We blow it all the time, we dont have because we dont ask. We flesh out, become unloving at times and are still reaching for that fullness. The thing we need to remember as Christians is that we are to be moving in the direction towards God, even though we blow it at times, we need to move on.
Think of a football game and you are the quarterback. You may loose some yardage at times but you know that you must move forward, you must not give up. You may even get discouraged at times but the coach is on the sidelines sending in the plays that will move you towards the goal.
Jesus is sending in the plays, He is guiding your life. And even if you lose some ground from time-to-time, lose some yardage, He still will be there to encourage and lead you to the goal of perfection in Him. We will obtain this perfection when we receive our glorified bodies, when we go to be with the Lord.
Now we are going to spend the rest of our time this morning looking at these 4 petitions of Paul for our lives. If you notice in Ephesians 3:16a that Paul is asking that God . . .would grant you, according to the riches of His glory . . . This phrase should be familiar to us because back in Ephesians 1:7 we read that In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
Notice that it is not out of His riches but according to His riches. For example, if Donald Trump came and gave you a check for $5 million dollars that would be out of his riches. Not bad, that is nothing to complain about, but if he came and gave you a signed blank check that would be all of his riches and we have seen in our study in Ephesians that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ!
Let me give you this lesson on how God is not broke, He does not need companies to beg for money for Him. We are told:
In its early days, Dallas Theological Seminary was in critical need of $10,000 to keep the work going. During a prayer meeting, renowned Bible teacher Harry Ironside, a lecturer at the school, prayed, Lord, you own the cattle on a thousand hills. Please sell some of those cattle to help us meet this need. Shortly after the prayer meeting, a check for $10,000 arrived at the school, sent days earlier by a friend who had no idea of the urgent need or of Ironsides prayer. The man simply said that the money came from the sale of some of his cattle!
- Today in the Word, MBI, January, 1990, p. 36
I think God not only answers prayers, but He has a great sense of humor! And folks, we dont have part of Gods grace in our lives. It is not that some of our sins are forgiven. We dont have some of Gods strength through the Holy Spirit. We have all of Gods grace, all of His forgiveness and all of His strength.
Now Paul is praying that God would grant us these petitions according to His glory. That we might obtain that power needed for the work of God that He has called us to do. But remember it is for His glory and not for ours! So lets look at these four petitions and see what we can learn from them.
1. STRENGTHED THROUGH HIS SPRIIT EPHESIANS 3:16
Notice that Paul goes right to the heart of the matter. He goes to the inner man. That is the spiritual part of man, which God dwells in. You see, as far as Paul is concerned, physically you can be as healthy and strong as Charles Atlas and yet be spiritually powerless. Paul is not talking to the unbeliever here. He has already taken us from those dead spiritual lives and made us alive in Christ back in Ephesians chapter 2. Now we must obtain the power for the ministry. In Zechariah 4:6 we are told, . . . Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, Says the LORD of hosts.
What is spiritual might? It is not going around beating people up in the name of the Lord. It is a maturity that comes from a trust and that trust can only develop as we come into fellowship with the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ and these things are made known to us by His Spirit. You see, the Spirit of God is not an impersonal force as some might think. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity. He is an actual being, He is God! Now some say that is polytheistic, believing in more than one God, not at all. One God manifested in three distinct persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and even though the Scriptures dont use the word Trinity the Scriptures clearly speak of the Holy Trinity!
The Holy Spirit teaches us the deep things of God; He opens our eyes and hearts to them. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 2:9-12, But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. The Holy Spirit empowers us for service as Acts 1:8 tells us, But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us as II Thessalonians 2:13 tells us, But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. The Holy Spirit guides us as Jesus said in John 16:13, However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. And so much more the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives so that we can grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Yes, the outward man is in a continual decaying process. But the inward man needs to continue to grow and become mature. Why? So that we may grow in a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ! Paul put it this way in II Corinthians 4:16-18, Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
The outward man is dying, decaying, falling apart, going back to the dust of the earth, which would be very discouraging if that is all Paul said. But Paul says that there is something better, the inner man, his soul and spirit that is growing and one day will be received up in glory to be forever with the Lord! So we are strengthened through His Spirit.
2. DEPTH IN CHRIST EPHESIANS 3:17a
Paul is not speaking of salvation here, where Jesus Christ enters our heart at the time we are saved. Remember, he is speaking to believers. The word dwell implies the idea of settling down and feeling at home. Paul wants Christ to settle into our hearts and not to have just a superficial relationship with Him. The problem comes when we refuse to give God our entire life. We only give Him what we want and most of the time it is not the best we give Him but what is left over; the second best is what we give to our Lord and Savior.
Maybe you heard of the story of the man whose cow was pregnant and she gave birth to twin calves. He was so excited that he ran home to tell his wife and he was going to give one of these calves to the Lord. His wife asked which one he was going to give to the Lord and he said that it didnt matter, what a blessing this was. One day the man returned home, very sad and his wife wanted to know what was wrong and he said to her, The Lords calf died! We laugh at that but many times that is what we give to the Lord, the left overs!
In a book called My Heart Christs Home Robert Munger describes the cleaning up of his life as he goes through the different rooms that are inside of him. One of the rooms in particular caught my attention; he called it the rumpus room or the playroom. Listen to what he had to say regarding this room:
But there came an evening when I was leaving to join some companions I was in college at the time and as I was about to cross the threshold, he stopped me with a glance. Are you going out? I answered yes! Good, he said, I would like to go with you. Oh, I replied rather awkwardly. I dont think, Lord, that you would really want to go with us. Lets go out tomorrow night. Tomorrow night we will go to a prayer meeting, but tonight I have another appointment! He said, Thats all right. Only I thought when I came into your home we were going to do everything together. We were going to be partners. I want you to know that I am willing to go with you.
- Robert Munger, My Heart Christs Home, p. 15
Dont make your relationship with Jesus Christ a superficial one. Give Him your entire life. In whatever you do, take Jesus with you! May our depth in regards to our relationship with Jesus continue to grow!
3. COMPREHENSION OF HIS LOVE EPHESIANS 3:17b-19a
Now Paul goes on to say that as Christ settles down in you His love will also be made known to you. Gods love is so vast Paul says that it is more than 3 dimensional, it has a fourth dimension to it.
He starts out by saying we need to be rooted and it is a term that speaks of life as we sink our roots deep into Jesus Christ. Being in Christ gives us nourishment and stability in our lives.
Turn to Jeremiah 17:5-10 and you will see the comparison of a man who trusts in the world and one who trusts in the Lord. We are told, Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited. Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.
The word grounded is an architectural term that refers to the foundations in which we build. Warren W. Wiersbe in his commentary on Ephesians tells of a story about a building program that he was involved in. He says, In my second building program, we had to spend several thousand dollars taking soil tests because we were building over an old lake bed. For weeks, the men were laying out and pouring the footings. One day I complained to the architect, and he replied, Pastor, the most important part of this building is the foundation. If you dont go deep, you cant go high.
If you dont have a solid foundation and vital nourishment, then there is no way you can see the love of God as you go through trials and tribulations. That is why when the world looks at trials they say how can a God of love do this. Sin has brought these things upon us, sometimes our own sin and sometimes it is just the sin that is in this world but God will use it for His glory. He loves us and wants us to grow deeper in Him and thus, He allows these things to occur in our lives. It is because He will use these to draw people to Himself. Dont be superficial with your relationship with Him.
In fact, Paul wants us to grasp the richness and the vastness of Christs love for us. You see, it is more than just mentally understanding this love; it is laying hold of this truth for yourself, taking hold of it and applying it to your own life.
What is the love of Christ? As I said on Thursday, it is seen in the cross His love for us pointed in four directions:
· WIDTH: The width speaks of the world, that Gods love is wide enough to include every person if they would receive Him as their Lord and Savior. In John 3:16-17 Jesus said, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. His arms are outstretched for all!
· LENGTH: Gods love is long enough to last through all of eternity, it will never end, it will last forever! It is as Paul said in I Corinthians 13:4-8a, Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails . . .
· DEPTH: Gods love is so deep that it can reach down to the worst sinner and rescue him, save him. Remember the thief on the cross next to Jesus, a murderer, many would look at that man today and say that he could never be saved and yet he cried out to Jesus to forgive him and Jesus said to this man, Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise. Luke 23:43. Folks, thank God that His love is so deep that it can save sinners; it can save you and me! Paul said in Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
· HEIGHT: Gods love is high enough to take us to heaven, we wont fall short for He will bring us to the very throne of God, not because we are so good, but because He is so good and loves us that much. Again, as Jesus said in Luke 23:43, Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.
We can never fully understand the richness of Gods love for us but every time we look to the cross we do get a glimpse of it. It is as Paul tells us in Romans 5:5, Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Dont put a cover over your life, but allow His love to be poured out into it for then you can allow that love to flow from your life to touch the lives of others. If we ever begin to lose sight of Gods love for us, if we are not able to comprehend it like we should, then go to the cross for there we can clearly see His great love for us as His arms are opened wide to receive all who would come to Him! May we comprehend the love of God for us!
4. FULLNESS OF GOD EPHESIANS 3:19b
We have now become spiritually strong, grown deeper in our relationship with Christ, have taken hold of the great love of God and now we move to a fullness of God. God wants us to experience His fullness.
Paul expounds on this in Colossians 2:8-10- when he says, Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. You see, we are not complete in the world, following what the world has for us, but we are complete in Christ, we need nothing more than Him in our lives.
The thing is, let us not become a reservoir to contain God but let us be a channel for God to flow through and touch the live of others. But before you can have those waters flowing through your life, you must be full of God, overflowing with God and it is not impossible, just walk with Him; fill yourself up with the Lord. Think about it, at Thanksgiving we ate, and ate, and ate and ate, and then we had dessert and ate some more! We glutton ourselves with food at times, how about with the Lord which is far better! The fullness of God in our lives!
Now, as we looked at these four points: STRENGTHED THROUGH HIS SPRIIT, DEPTH IN CHRIST, COMPREHENSION OF HIS LOVE, and the FULLNESS OF GOD, we may become discouraged. How can God accomplish this in me? I am so far from that right now! What can I do? Why do we give up so easily? Listen carefully how Paul concludes this chapter. He says beginning in verse 20, Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. The Amplified Bible puts these verses like this, Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams] To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it). And The Living Bible says, Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of-infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. May he be given glory forever and ever through endless ages because of his master plan of salvation for the Church through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 3:20-21.
God is more than able, are we willing to surrender to Him is the bigger question? Folks, this prayer that Paul was praying for the Ephesians is also for us and God is able, He can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think and all we have to do is surrender to Him, place our lives on the altar of sacrifice and let it be a sweet smelling sacrifice unto Him. That are lives would be used for His glory and as we surrender to Him, we grow in the Lord also, we are learning to trust Him no matter what we are going through. Gods desire is to make us complete and what may seem impossible by mans standards, is very possible with God and it is not just possible, it will happen for God will complete the work He has started in us but let us not wait till the end before we surrender, let us surrender now and see what God can do in us and through us for His glory! We are complete in Him!