Welcome, this morning I’m excited to be sharing with you from Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. And I’m certain that God has great things in store for us, great things for the Church, because Christ’s Church is a powerful Church. His Church was literally chosen before the foundation of the world, redeemed by the riches of his grace, blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, given an eternal inheritance, and brought into the family of God. That’s our positioning as the Church, as the body of Christ… that’s our identity corporately in Christ.
Now this great book of Ephesians was written by the apostle Paul from prison, but as you might expect, it’s not discouraging, he’s not depressed, as a matter of fact, it’s full of encouragement. Paul even says, “Don’t be discouraged because of my sufferings for you.” (Ephesians 3:13) as he goes on to tell us of our worth in Christ. So it’s a very encouraging letter and even though he is in prison, his jail cell has become a church, he is worshiping, and this is where we pick up this morning in verses 14 through 21, as he falls to his knees and begins to pray this amazing prayer for the people of God.
Ephesians 3:14-21: “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, 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. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” NIV
I believe that most everything good that has ever happened in our lives has happened as a result, an effect, of the work of Christ through his Church. For example, I actually started attending church with my parents 9 months before I was born and I’m grateful for my Christian heritage growing up. I was birthed into the church, I came to know of Christ, because of the ministry of the church, because of teachers teaching me the Word of God. And so I learned early about Jesus, but I never knew our Risen Savior personally, until one day as a teenager Jesus called me into the ministry of pastor/teacher. I will never forget that day. I was 14 years old, my parents had “dragged” me to a Friday night prayer meeting at St. John’s Catholic Church in Frederick Maryland, where I encountered Jesus and the Spirit of God dealt with me and my rebellious heart.
The greatest decision I ever made was to submit to Christ and the call of God on my life, but that’s where God’s grace comes in, because I resisted the call as a teenager. I guess I was about 15 when I resisted and like Jonah I went in the opposite direction, but the Bible says, “God's gifts and his call are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29), and 20 years later the Holy Spirit was still tugging on my heart and whispering in my ear. It was 1999, when I finally gave up the fight, repented of my sin and rebellious ways, and was filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Even though I had been disobedient and rebellious, I received God’s mercy and was able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
After 20 years of wandering in the wilderness, I humbled myself before Christ as Lord, receiving him as my Savior, and that’s the amazing thing about the love of Christ; it doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, God’s grace is for our sins past, present, and future. It’s not just a new start, it’s a new birth, and a new life. Every sin is forgiven, because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. That is the power in his blood.
Remember, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Jesus entered the most Holy Place once for all by his own blood (Hebrews 9:12). Jesus appeared once for all to do away with sin (Hebrews 9:26). Jesus was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people (Hebrews 9:28). Jesus Christ through the eternal Spirit, offered himself unblemished to God, cleansing our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14). And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10). That’s what’s so amazing about the width, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ. His grace is for our sins past, present, and future. His blood cleanses us from all sin past, present, and future. And that’s why we sing praise to him for his blood and his amazing grace.
And so, it’s in response to this prayer of Paul’s and the Church throughout the generations, that Christ moved into my heart through faith, and I was welcomed into his family. This is what Paul prays for, for the family of God, the riches of God, the power of God, and the fullness of God to be revealed in the Church, in the body of Christ, throughout all generations. And that’s what God has for us today, he has designed us to be a glorious church, full of grace, and full of his glory. He actually gives us more and more grace so that we might receive more and more of his glory. Verse 20 tells us, He is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” and that is great to know isn’t it?
As we’re meeting here, it’s more than just you and I, it’s greater than the resources that we bring, it’s not just a building, but its believers bonded together in faith, in Christ, in the Church, as the temple of God. We’re united in Christ, we’re connected, and one day we’ll all be together in heaven, people from every nation, tribe, and language. We’ll be together in Christ who said, “I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:18).
You see, we’re his Church, God’s Church, and God’s people are everywhere, right? His Church is in multiple locations, it’s local, but it’s also global, its denominations and networks, it’s powerful and perpetual, because Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Notice he didn’t say, “You will build my church” or he didn’t say, “I will build your church.” The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is his planting, his building, and his Church. We are his, we belong to him, and he has given us the privilege of being a part of his family.
John’s gospel says it this way, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom” and the Church is the bride of Christ “from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (John 3:29, Ephesians 3:15). And so when the apostle Paul was praying in verse 17, for you to be rooted and established in love, for you to grasp the immensity of the love of Christ, and for you to know this love that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:17-19), his prayer was that you would love Christ, that you would love what Christ loves, and that you would love the Church, praying for and supporting the fellowship of his Church. And that’s what makes this a powerful Church. It’s a Church that’s focused on the love of Christ. It’s a Church that’s focused on making the name of Jesus large. Where it’s not about a building, it’s not about our ministries, and it’s not about you or me, but it’s all about him, about Christ who is able. And verse 21 says, “To him be the glory in the church” (Ephesians 3:21). It’s all about his glory.
And I love that about the Church. It’s not about me, it’s about him. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (vs 31). So there are ministries to you and I, different services within the body of Christ, opportunities to reach out into the world with the love of Christ, and all this is so more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15). The ultimate purpose of God for his Church is to exalt Jesus Christ for who he is and what he’s done.
In other words, for you and I at Christ’s Community Church, everything we do is full of Jesus, the focus is on Jesus, our plan and purpose is to glorify Jesus. And so as Hebrews chapter 12 says, we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), we throw off everything that hinders, lay aside every distraction that would divert us from our primary goal of giving him glory in his Church. And you are that Church. I love the fact that the Church is Jesus’ Church. I love the fact that it’s built on the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. The foundation is Christ and you are the living stones being built into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5). “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20). You are that Church, loving God, and loving one another. You are witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You’re investing in the kingdom of God and advancing the work of Jesus Christ in Emmitsburg and around the world. You’re local, you’re global, and it’s all about Jesus. It’s for his glory and that is glorious!
Yet one day soon, Christ is coming for his Church, he’s coming for his bride, he says, “Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20). And so those same nail scarred hands that opened the doors of salvation will open the gates of glory and with the apostle John and the Church we cry out, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). The glory of God is about to be revealed and the Church is filled with anticipation. The day is coming soon when we’ll be caught up to be with him in the Rapture, we’ll meet the Lord face-to-face, and we’ll be with him and his Church forever. Until that day, “The gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18), because it’s a powerful Church, it’s full of Jesus, it’s full of his people, and it’s full of his glory. Day by day and week by week we’re making him large, we’re magnifying Christ, we’re exalting him, and lifting him up so the whole world can declare his glory; so “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God” (Philippians 2:10-11).
Church you are a powerful Church, keep your focus on Jesus, keep your faith in Jesus “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). You see, God wants to do so much more in our lives, he wants to break through this morning, and this is the mighty power of God.
Ephesians chapter 1, verse 19, describes it this way, “His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:19-21).
This is the power of Jesus, he’s been given all authority and he has given that same authority to us. And I pray with Paul, that the Church, that we, would understand who we are in Christ, the authority that we have in Christ, and the kind of power that’s at work within us. It’s the kind of power that enables us to overcome the powers of the devil. It’s that wonder-working power that overcomes every enemy. It’s that resurrection power that crushes any power that would rise up against us. It’s that same power that raised Jesus Christ out of the grave that is living in us. And the Bible says, “God placed all things under (Christ’s) feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:22-23).
That’s the power that Paul is praising God about, the power at work within us, because God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. He’s able to meet any challenge you face, more than able to meet any need that you have, he’s able to save, to keep, to strengthen, and sustain, because our God is able.
Unfortunately, some of us profess to trust Christ to get us into heaven, but we don’t have the strength and the power of Christ in our lives today. Some of you know his salvation, but you don’t know the power of God the Holy Spirit. And so Paul prays that, “He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 3:16). You see, the Christian life is impossible in your own strength, you need the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). And so, maybe today, you’re here and you’re struggling to live the Christian life, you’re struggling to walk the walk? Or maybe you’re afraid to do great things for God? You’re afraid of failing and so you never attempt to do much, because you haven’t trusted God who is able to do immeasurably more than you ask or imagine?
But here’s the promise of God, after Jesus was raised from the dead on that first Easter morning, and before he ascended into heaven to go to prepare a place for us, Jesus spent 40 days walking and talking and eating with his disciples. And this statement was among the last things that Jesus said to his followers, they’re important words, they’re absolutely essential for every believer to hear and to believe, because without receiving the promise that Jesus gave his followers you cannot successfully live the Christian life.
One day, Jesus appeared to his disciples in Jerusalem. They saw him, they ate fish with him, they believed he was the Son of God, the Messiah, and here’s what he said to them. It’s recorded in the final paragraphs of the gospel of Luke and part of it in the first chapter of Acts.
"I am going to send to you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49)
And then... Acts chapter 1…
"Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father has promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.... You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:4-5, 8).
He promised power, and as we receive and respond to the Holy Spirit we can live out the presence of Christ in the power of Christ, because our God is able. He’s able to do immeasurably more than you ask or imagine. But, if we only do those things that we can handle ourselves, if we only do those things we can do in our own power, how are we ever going to experience the power of God in our lives? How many of you know, that when you’re at your weakest, when you have nothing else to give, that is the exact point when and where the power of God shows up? You see, that’s how we access the power of God, it’s through faith and prayer, its crying out to our God who is so able. He’s beyond able. He’s able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. And it’s just as Peter says in his second letter, “God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).
Now how much is everything? It’s everything right? So this morning as we close in worship I want you to trust God, to believe in his promises, and cry out for his power. You see, God’s power is available to accomplish everything that is before you. You have what it takes. Let’s go out as a powerful Church today. We’re not just warriors, we’re an army, and we’re a powerful Church. Amen?
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
September 27, 2015