Filled to the Measure of All the Fullness of God (Ephesians Sermon 21 of 54)
December 06, 2015 | Andy Davis
Prayer, Holiness, Fullness in Christ
The Summit of Christian Experience
Turn in your Bibles, if you would, to Ephesians chapter 3. We're going to be looking at the very end of this chapter now, as Kyle mentioned, for the fourth week, looking at this remarkable prayer that the Apostle Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians, and I believe for us, and that we can learn from it. And three weeks ago, I put a slide up, as you may remember, of the City of Kathmandu, which is in somewhat of a bowl, and you can see the city in the slide, the picture, and then above it a layer of smog and air pollution and cloud, and then above that, majestic mountains, the Himalayan mountain range, and a desire to set that image in your mind as somewhat of a parable of the ordinary Christian experience of how we Christians can live our lives in a smog covered haze with our head down, drizzled on all the time, and not aware of the mountain of majestic experience, of a sense of the “love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” that is available for all of us. And that if we would just exert ourselves and believe that there is a better kind of experience of Christ's love available for us through the Holy Spirit, “the deposit guaranteeing our future inheritance” in Christ, then we will begin to climb. And by the power of God, we will start moving up higher and higher a mountain of Christian experience to some rarefied air that we didn't even know existed, and begin to breathe healthier, in this parable that I'm using this illustration, and have sights of the world that's coming in ways that will empower us for the mission God still has for us to do. And so, this is my fourth and final week preaching, and I think for many of you this whole theme has been new and unusual. Others have told me you've had these kinds of experiences, and that's been amazing for me. But you can see step-by-step Paul just taking the Ephesians and lifting them higher and higher and higher as he goes through this text.
A Magnificent Unfolding, Step by Step
Look at verses 14 and 15, Ephesians 3, Paul's prayer for the Ephesian Christians, he prays to the Father on their behalf. "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in Heaven and earth derives its name." So, he has a view of the whole church of God here, not just the Ephesian Christians, but he's kneeling and praying for them. Step two, that God would, strengthen the inner man of these Christian people, the inner being, “out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.” So there's this sense of strengthening through the Holy Spirit inside you. Step three, so that Christ would, “settle down in your hearts through faith,” that you would have a daily powerful experience of feasting with Christ, that you would just live with Christ and He would settle down in your hearts through faith, verse 17. Step four, that they would be “rooted and established in love.” You see that again in verse 17, “you, being rooted and established in love.” When I preached that, a different picture of an oak tree and of a vast building, both of them a sense of rootedness, stability, strength, not being easily moved. But one of them more of a living picture of an oak tree with deep root systems sucking nutrients and moisture from the subterranean areas there, and then growing and just flourishing like a mighty oak tree, or then a building, like Jesus said, built on a solid rock as we sang earlier, immovable. “Rooted and established in love, that you would have power,” some translations just say "be able," but I think the whole theme of power just pervades this text, “so that you would have power together with all the saints.”
This was something that could happen to all Christians all over the world, all generations. We'll talk about that in a minute. But all Christians could have this kind of power, that you would be able to grasp, to comprehend the infinite dimensions of Christ's love for you. That you'd actually have a sense of it, and that you would actually in some ways, through your reading of the Scripture, through the power of the Holy Spirit, be able to travel in your minds to see the limits, and there are none, of Christ's love for you, how wide and long and high and deep. And to know that love that surpasses knowledge, something that goes beyond anything you've ever experienced or could know. Knowledge is part of it. It's not contrary to knowledge, it's just beyond knowledge. This love of Christ “poured into your heart by the Holy Spirit,” Romans 5:5. that you would have power to grasp that, to know that love that surpasses knowledge. And here's the summit now of Christian experience that we're going to begin looking at today, along with the doxology; that you would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God, that being the summit of Christian experience, the best you can have in this world, a foretaste of Heaven.
And Paul concludes this prayer with an astounding doxology, a beautiful doxology. Which proves that we're not going too far in this analysis, we're not going over the top. “Maybe pastor, you know, pushing this just a little too far.” You can't push this too far. When you look at the doxology in verse 20 and 21, however high you think that God can bring you in Christian experience, He can actually do immeasurably more than that. Verse 20, look at it, "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us." And then, the only way we can finish this is just to worship. To that God, to this God who can do immeasurably more, "To Him, be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations forever and ever, Amen."
What Kind of Experience is Paul Talking About Here?
So now, what kind of experience is Paul talking about here? What does he mean? What does he want to happen for these Ephesian Christians? I think his own experience that he describes in 2 Corinthians 12, is a sense of it, a picture of it. We're not necessarily going to have exactly what happened to Paul, he clearly thought his experience, the visions, was different than the norm, that set him apart as an Apostle. But still, dear friends, brothers and sisters, less than we'll all have in Heaven. Amen. So God can elevate us to this level. He says, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, he says, "I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago was caught up to the third Heaven. Whether he was in the body or out of the body, I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man, whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not know, God knows, was caught up to paradise. And he heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to talk about." It was just such an overwhelming experience of Heaven, a foretaste of Heaven, that he heard some things that he's not allowed to talk about with everyone else and you can't put it into words and he's not even allowed to try. That's what is waiting for all of us in Heaven.
So that's an experience Paul had this side of death. Or again, we have the experience of Stephen as he was dying, as he was being martyred, as the stones were killing him, he was being stoned to death, it said, "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to Heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'And look,' he said, 'I see Heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'" That's an experience just before death that he had of what it's going to be like for him when he is escorted into Heaven.
Should We Seek Such an Experience?
Now, we've looked week after week, this is our fourth week looking at this, at various testimonies of brothers and sisters in Christ who have had these kinds of experiences. One of the most moving that I read was written by Pastor John Flavel, who lived in the 17th Century, around the time of John Bunyan, the Puritan pastor. He's not talking about himself, but another pastor friend that he knew. And that pastor friend was on a journey, he was traveling from point A to point B. And as he was traveling in England, this is the account:
"Thus going on his way, his thoughts began to swell and rise higher and higher, like the waters of Ezekiel's vision, until at last, they became an overwhelming flood, such was the intentness of his mind, such were the ravishing tastes of heavenly joys and the full assurance of his own future guarantee in them, that he utterly lost all sight and sense of the world, and all the concerns thereof. And for some hours knew no more where he was than if he had been in a deep sleep upon his bed. Arriving in great exhaustion at a certain spring, he sat down and washed and drank and earnestly desiring at that point, that if it was God's pleasure that might be his departing place from the world. Death had the most amiable face he could have imagined, except the face of Jesus, which made it so. And he does not remember, though he believed himself dying, that he ever even thought of his dear wife or of his children or frankly, any other earthly concernment. On reaching the inn, this influence still continued banishing sleep, still the joy of the Lord overflowed him, and he seemed to be an inhabitant of the other world."
Now, he writes in that account, it's not written here in my sermon, but how, at some point, he felt the influence abating, like an ocean tide going out, and he never felt it again, never happened again. But years later, as he looked back, he said, it seemed to him to have been one of the days of Heaven. Wow, has anything like that ever happened to you, honestly? Is that even part of the salvation package? Is that something we could ask God for? Well, that's the very point of these four sermons, that you would have a yearning for something like this. Maybe it would just happen once. Maybe frankly, it would never happen. But still a greater elevation of your sense of the joys of Heaven than you've ever had before. Still, that is worth pursuing. Many other testimonies. I read one about Sarah Edwards, I've read from this pulpit before, how she felt like a dust speck floating in a beam of light, and that whole night she aid, "I can't put it into words, but it seemed to me that one moment of that experience that night was greater than all the pleasure I'd ever experienced in my body in my entire life up to that point, it was just pure pleasure.
This time of year at Christmas time, some of us who like classical music love Handel's Messiah. Perhaps you've heard the story about how it was composed in, I think, about three weeks. It was about an hour-and-a-half of music that's still being played centuries later, composed in a very, very short amount of time. And the story goes that he locked himself in his apartment and was just focused on this to the point that his servant who was bringing food would come back and most of the food wasn't touched, and this just kept happening day after day for these several weeks.
Finally, the servant became so concerned that he kind of bashed in the door, didn't care if he got fired or whatever would happen, and saw Handel on his knees with tears coming down his face, streaming down his face. You know, he's the one that wrote the Hallelujah course, all that, it's all part of the Messiah. Streaming down his face, and this is what he said, "I think I did see all Heaven before me and the great God Himself." And he later added these words, "Whether in the body or out of the body, I don't know." So, I'm not saying that members of our church might write the next Handel's Messiah or whatever is coming next, that was a gifting of God. But God gave him a vision of Heaven, a vision of the greatness of God. Now, the question that's in front of us is, "Should we seek such experiences?" Again, John Flavel, the one who gave us that testimony of his pastor friend, said this, "Ecstasy and delight are essential to the believer's soul, and they promote sanctification, they promote growth in Christ. We are not meant to live without spiritual exhilaration. And the Christian who goes for a long time without the experience of heart-warming will soon find himself tempted to have his emotions satisfied from earthly things and not as he ought from the Spirit of God."
You're going to go after some thrill, you're going to go after some exhilaration, some ecstasy, and if you're not seeking it in Christ, you're going to seek it from the world. And so, therefore, he says, "Because the Lord has made Himself accessible to us in the means of grace, it is our duty and privilege to seek this experience from Him in these means till we are made joyful partakers of it." Now, notice that he makes a distinction between ecstasy and delight. Let me just say plainly, I don't know that most of us, if any of us in this room here will ever have the ecstasy, on this side. It seems to be rare. But you can have the delight. And you might say, "Well, what's the difference between ecstasy and delight?" I would say it's the difference, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, between a feast and a meal. Now, I say, you can't live without the meal. You can live without the feast, but if God wants to give you a feast, why would you refuse? If He wants to greatly expand your sense of what heavenly joys will be like, why would you say no to that? And wouldn't it be worth seeking? It's first comment. And he says that they're essential. You're going to seek some kind of exhilaration in something. If not in Christ, you're going to seek it in some worldly thing.
When I shared some of these things at the men's retreat, I gave the illustration from the movie Hunt for Red October. I don't know if some of you have seen that submarine movie years ago. And there's this submarine called the Red October, and he's defecting to the West, it's a very powerful weapon, and Sean Connery plays a Russian. Americans can't tell the difference between a Scottish accent or Russian accent, so we're good.
And you just listened to that, and it works fine. And he's the Russian captain, and he's defecting. Well, the Russian navy mobilizes to sink the Red October, and there's an attack sub, at a climatic part of the movie, that launches a torpedo right at the Red October. And they are able, through some maneuvering, to escape that torpedo, which is now active and acquiring, seeking something in the water to blow up. Now, that torpedo, homing, seeking, like yearning for some big hunk of metal, is a picture of our souls. You can't stop that, that's how God made you, He made you for Himself, to seek Him. And if you're not going to seek exhilaration in Christ, you're going to find it somewhere else, in some idols, that's the point. So let's look at carefully at the verses. We've been moving slowly through it. This is the last sermon perhaps that I'll ever preach on Ephesians 3. And so, I know we have marinated in this text, but it was intentional. Because these themes are unusual to us.
The Overflowing Fullness of God (vs. 19)
“Filled to the Measure of all the Fullness of God”
These are things that we're not used to, and you can just read through, it's like, "Oh, Paul's praying for the Ephesian Christians, chapter 4." But instead, I think for us to go carefully looking at it, and then, we're pretty much at verse 19, “that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Now, what does that mean, that you would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God? Well, first of all, the NIV is the only one that uses this word "measure". Most of the translation just say, "filled with the fullness of God." But I think the grammar and the Greek implies a certain proportionality, implies that, and so “you would be filled proportionally as God is filled,” or as the NIV puts it, I think, well, to the measure of the fullness of God. Alright, so what does this mean?
What it Does Not Mean
Well, let me start with what it doesn't mean. This doesn't mean that we reach some kind of empty, floating Nirvana in which we finally come to realize that all of life is an illusion, and that we are an illusion, and that pain and pleasure are illusions, and this is achieved by meditation on weird things, like what's the sound of one hand clapping, and things like that. That's Eastern meditation and mysticism, that's not what we're talking about. Neither are we talking about some Christian versions of that that seem to be atheological, contratextual, not looking for anything from the Bible, just want an experience. It's not that. And being “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” does not mean we become gods and goddesses ourselves. It doesn't mean that. The Mormons teach about Jesus. Listen to this, “What we are he once was, what he is, we may become.” Friends, that's a heresy. There's an infinite gap between us and Jesus, essentially. He is God, and we will never be gods and goddesses, that's not what it means to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
There are incommunicable attributes of God. There are things that are true of God, and will never be true of us. Theologians call them incommunicable, that we can't share these with God, He can't share these attributes with us. For example, God is eternal, He had no beginning, will have no end. We had a definite beginning. God is immutable, He never changes. We are changing all the time, our sanctification is essential, constant change in us that we become transformed, and made more like Christ. God is self-existent. He can say, "I am who I am," and all existence derives its existence from God. Of us, we can say, as it says in Acts 17, "In Him we live and move and have our being." So God is self-existent, God is omnipresent. That means, throughout the vast universe, God is fully everywhere there is a location. Also, it seemed to be the immensity of God, God's omnipresence and immensity are the same, really, I think, and we are not immense, and we're not omnipresent, and never will be. And God is omnipotent, all power in the universe is His, and we're going to talk about this in a moment, but we will never be omnipotent. So for Christians to be filled to the measure of the fullness of God does not mean these extremes. Neither is it mere kind of literary rhetoric where he's kind of going exaggeration going over the top to kind of make a point, not at all. Frankly, the implication is anything you're thinking is undershooting the mark. It doesn't matter what you've understood about what Paul wrote in Ephesians 3, it's less than the experience he's talking about.
God is a “Full" Being
Alright, so what does it mean? Well, first, let's just ponder the fullness of God. How full a being is God? Don't misunderstand why God created the universe. God didn't create the universe out of emptiness and loneliness. The Triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit wasn't lonely at all, but rather out of fullness, a display of fullness. So I love what it says in Psalm 115:3, "Our God is in Heaven He does whatever pleases Him." He's a very full, pleased, happy being. God is filled with love, He is filled with joy, He's filled with power, filled with compassion.
Do you remember that encounter that Moses had on the top of the mountain? And he said, "Now show me your glory." He just wanted an encounter with God. Now show me your glory. Exodus 34:6. “And He,” God, “passed in front of Moses proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger,’” now listen to these words, "abounding in love and faithfulness." What does abounding mean to you? How about full of? Overflowing with love and faithfulness? That's our God. A river flows from God.
Actually, there are two pictures in the Scriptures, of a throne and a river flowing from the throne. One is in Daniel 7. And in Daniel 7, there's this image, this vision of four terrifying beasts, godless beasts that represent world empires coming one after the other, and in the center of it, there's this horn, defying God, representing ultimately, I think, the antichrist, in Daniel 7. And then in the middle of it, there's this vision of God on His throne, high above all of that. And it says in Daniel 7:9-10, "His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze." Daniel 7:10, "A river of fire was flowing from the throne." That is a picture of terrifying wrath and judgment by God on the Earth. But then you have a radically different picture at the end of the Bible. In Revelation 22:1-2, it says, "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life flowing clear as crystal from the throne of God and of the Lamb." So here's His throne and there's this river flowing from the throne. A river of life down the middle of the street of the city.
So Paul is praying for us to have an overwhelming sense of the fullness of God and be filled ourselves with it. Filled with the joy that comes from being in His presence. Wouldn't you like that? Wouldn't you just love to stand in the presence of God and be filled with joy? Greater joy than you've ever had in your life. Psalm 16:11 says, "In your presence is the fullness of joy, eternal pleasures forever more at your right hand." Wouldn't you just love that, to be in the presence of God and to be filled with pleasure and joy? Fullness of God. Isaiah 6:3, “the Seraphim are crying to one another ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty, the whole earth is full of His glory.’" Fullness, shining, radiant with His glory, the New Heaven and the New Earth will be shining with the radiant glory of God. And so, then for us, it would be to be filled with the Spirit like it says in Galatians 5. Yeah, Galatians 5, the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control,” these things filling us like a balloon, just completely full. And you're like, "I didn't think I could ever be this full," but you could be even fuller. If somebody with like powerful lungs blew even more air in, then you could be completely full, and even be more full. And God can fill us to overflowing with the fullness of God. That's what he's praying for.
The Key to this Fullness: Christ in Us
Now, I think the key to all of this is union with Christ. If you're not a Christian, you can't know this. It's only by union with Christ that we can experience this fullness. Why do we say that? Because it says in Colossians that “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Jesus.” And it says in Colossians 2, “we have received fullness in Him,” our fullness comes from union with Christ. He's the vine, we're the branch. And that fullness can only come from union with Christ. So let me just stop and ask, is this true of you? Are you united with Christ by faith? Have you repented of your sins? Have you trusted in Christ as your Savior? And having had that, do you experience fullness in Christ? This is meant for self-evaluation as we read this prayer.
The Doxology: Finishing With Worship, As We Must! (vs. 20-21)
Astounding Doxology: A Word of Praise
Now, he finishes here with this magnificent doxology, finishing with worship, as we must. Look at verses 20 and 21, "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that's at work within us, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever, Amen." It's an astounding doxology, and it's the only appropriate way to finish this amazing prayer. He's praying for the Ephesian Christians to have an amazing experience of the dimensions of Christ's love for them. The ultimate purpose of that is that we'll return it back to God in worship. We'll be filled and say, "Oh God, what a good God you are." And praise Him and worship Him. That's what we were made to do. And he's praying this for the Ephesian Christians, and by extension he's praying for every generation of Christians there has ever been since that first generation of Christians. “Throughout all generations,” so that includes us, we're included in all generations. And so he's praying that we would have this sense of the fullness of God, and not just once, but for ever and ever.
When God Overwhelms Us, We Worship
When God overwhelms us, we worship. This past Wednesday, 30 of us, I guess, gathered for prayer, 6:00 AM. We're going to do it throughout December and throughout January. And if you couldn't make it last week, please come this week. If you can't make it at all, your schedule doesn't allow you to, I understand that, but if you can, please come. And it was a wonderful time. Wasn't one of those extraordinary times, but it was a sweet time of fellowship. And so, I'll talk at the end of the sermon on the ordinary and extraordinary workings of the Spirit.
But John Wesley writes in his journal, January 1st, 1739, listen to this: "Mr. Hall, Ingham, Whitefield, Hutchins, and my brother Charles, were present at our love feast in Fetter Lane with about 60 of our brethren. About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer," listen to this, "The power of God came mightily upon us, in so much that many cried out for exulting joy and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from the awe and amazement at the presence of His Majesty, we broke out with one voice, 'We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.'" You see what happened? The love of God was poured out in power on a group of people praying, and they were knocked to the ground, many of them, and then they immediately returned it back up to God in worship.
The Immeasurable Power of God (vs. 20)
Praise to the Omnipotent God
Now, I'm not promising anything like that will happen this Wednesday, but it might. And why couldn't we ask for God to do something like that? But even that's not ultimately the point. Ultimately, the point is that we will be filled with the sense of the power of God. And so he wants to praise God. I mean, the doxology is simple; to God, the one who does all these great things, “to God be the glory, both in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever.” That's what he's saying, to God be glory for all of this. Look what he does though, specifically. "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." This is a clear statement of the omnipotence of God, isn't it? Look at it again, "Now to Him,” to God, “who is able to do immeasurably, infinitely more than anything you ask or imagine." So this is praise to the omnipotent God. Now, in verses 18 and 19, he was focusing on the immeasurable love of Christ, the infinite dimensions of the love of Christ
God is Able to Do Immeasurably More...
But now in verse 20, the infinite dimensions of the power of God, “and God is able to do immeasurably more than anything you could ask.” You can't limit what God could do with your own brain. There's no limits to it. Many verses assert this. I'm not going to read them all, but one is very familiar, around this time at Christmas, we think about it. You remember how the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary? Remember? And told her an astounding thing, that she was going to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Though she was a virgin, she would be pregnant and give birth to a son, and he would be the son of David and the son of God. Mary didn't know how that was possible. "How can this be? Since I am a virgin." And the angel said this, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth, your relative, is going to have a child in her old age, and she who is said to be barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."
Isn't that awesome? A great statement. Nothing is impossible with God. Jesus said the same thing when a man came, bringing his demon-possessed son, and he brought him to His disciples. They couldn't do anything and he said to Jesus, "If you can do anything, could you please help us?" Do you remember what Jesus said? "If you can? All things are possible to him who believe.” “Do you not know who I am? Nothing is impossible for me." So the omnipotence of God is this: Anything that can be done by power, God can do. No, God can't make two plus two equal five. Don't waste my time with that kind of stuff. Or, no, God can't make a rock so big that even God can't pick it up. Have you ever heard these kind of things? Who comes up with these? They have too much time on their hands to be thinking. They should be worshipping God. No, power can't do those things. Anything, however, the power can do, God can do that, and immeasurably more than anything you think He can do. And the great obvious measure of the power of God is creation around us, right? “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the starry host, who created all these? He calls out the starry hosts one by one and gives them each a name, because of His great power and His mighty understanding, not one of them is missing.” That's a display of the power of God. Now, the text says He can do immeasurably more, infinitely more. Paul is actually stretching the Greek language here, finding words to say, infinitely, immeasurably, super-abundantly more than anything you can ask or think, more than you can ask.
Immeasurably More Than All We Ask or Imagine
We're always tempted to worry about over asking, think about that. But actually the problem with us is we under-ask, amen? We ask less than we should, because we forget how powerful God is, and “He's able to do immeasurably more than all you can think” or “imagine.” We hold back the request because we think that the person who might be giving to us will be offended by the size of the request. I think about maybe a missionary, or a church planner, or Christian worker, he's going and he's meeting with a wealthy Christian businessman, and they're having lunch together and having a good time. But then the business man says, "Okay, I know we're not just here to have a good time. Did you have something you wanted to ask me?" "Well, yes, I was hoping you would partner with our church planning effort." "Okay, what did you have in mind?" Interesting moment. At that moment, you might be thinking this, but you're going to ask for this, because you're afraid of offending and over asking. You can't over-ask with God. And I like what it says that He's able to do immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine, the NIV says. All the other translations say "think", and that's the right translation for the word. But NIV stretches a little bit, and I think in this case, it's fine. Look, all imagining is thinking, but not all thinking is imagining. So what then is imagination? What is it when you're imagining? You're stretching your mind to the limit, like a fantasy author or something like that, thinking of a whole new world that no one's ever thought of before, imagination, using their imagination. “Our children, children use imagination. We adults don't need it as much anymore, so they're…” No! Use your imagination. “Whatever you can imagine God can do, He can do immeasurably more than all of that.” So I like the NIV translation here.
God’s Omnipotence: Useful Outside the Context of Ephesians
Now, this verse, verse 20, can be taken out of context with no harm. What do I mean by that? Well, you can attach it to anything you could ever ask God to do, ever. So what? Well, perhaps there's a loved one in a hospital with a very serious illness. As a matter of fact, the diagnosis is very dire. You're able to take Ephesians 3:20 and say, "God, you are able to do immeasurably more than anything I could ask or even imagine. Please heal my loved one." Now, we know God may not heal, but we're stretching our mind to think of His omnipotence. God can do anything. Or you might have a situation that you're in financial trouble, or you need a job, or a company you own is struggling. It could be some kind of an economic issue and you're able to bring that back to God and say, "God, I know that you're able to do immeasurably more than anything I could ask or imagine. Would you please meet our need?" You can do that. There's nothing wrong with that. Usually, you want to take verses in context, I'll talk about that in a moment. But perhaps you're in imminent danger, maybe you're out boating and the boat overturns and you feel like you're drowning, and you've got very little strength, and you can call out, "God, I know you can do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine." You might just want to, at that point say, "Help! Saved me." Because you don't have time to quote Ephesian 3:20, but you know what I mean. It's in the back of your mind. God can do it. Or maybe there's a tornado bearing down on your community or a hurricane, or some other thing, and you're saying, "God, deliver us." Or perhaps the call is, you're a missionary living in a city and you're seeking to reach them, several million people with the Gospel. And you're able to gather together those that are laboring with you and say, "God, you're able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, please reach the city, even use us to do it."
Powerful in Context As Well
So all of that's fine, but in context, it's very powerful too. We've been talking about the Ephesian Christians having a sense of Christ's love for them, poured out in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. A sense so great that it gets to this level of being filled to the measure of all the fullness of God, and actually, God can do immeasurably more than anything you could ask in this area of experiencing Christ's love for you. That's the verse in context. And he ends up with praise, "to God be the glory." Verse 21, "To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever." This God, His power brought to bear according to his power that's at work within us, that power brought to bear so that he would get the glory in the church," That's the point of all of this, that God would be glorified in the Church, that we would be “living stones” that radiate with a glow from with inside. That really having learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, we're actually buoyantly hope-filled saying, "Heaven is infinitely better than anything I'm going through now. I consider that my present sufferings aren't even worth comparing with what's going to come to me." You're so radiant-ly filled with hope in Christ. “To God be glory in the Church, that the Church would shine with light in this dark world, and in Christ Jesus, because all glory comes through Christ.” That's what he's praying for.
Trust in Christ
So, what application can we take for this? Well, the application would be that we would seek this experience, that we would seek a sense of the goodness and the glory of God. I've already mentioned, if you're not a Christian, if you're not a believer, I yearn that you would come to Christ. That's what the purpose of this season is, that's what the purpose of the sermon is, that you would know the forgiveness of sins that only Christ can give. Jesus shed His blood on the cross for sinners like you and me. Trusting in Christ, not by works, but by simple trust, all forgiveness of sins for you.
Christians, Seek This Experience Diligently
But if you are a Christian, I'm asking that you would seek a far greater experience of God's love poured into your heart than you've ever had before. It's something that God would do to you. It's not something you can earn. I think there are ways that we can prepare for it. This is my fourth week saying it, through personal holiness, putting sin to death, because God is jealous and He will not come and bless us if we're willfully sinning. And then even setting aside some things that are good pleasures for a time, it's called fasting, it could be from food, could be from electronic entertainment, could be from the big game, it could be from a hobby that you love, and you say, "I want Christ more, I want to know Him. I'm going to set those things aside because I'm going to seek Him." And you see it through persistence. You don't give God twenty hours, and if He doesn't answer, then that's it, but you're going to persistently seek Him.
And you're not seeking it like a disembodied experience, but you're seeking Christ, you want to know Christ, and Him better than you ever have before. And you seek it, as the Bible said, by the means of grace, by Scripture, by meditation on Scripture, and by seeking God in prayer. And you can just say, "Lord, what you did for Sarah Edwards, do that for me. I want to be a speck floating in a sunbeam. I would love to be able to see Heaven open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, if you wanted to do that for me. I would love to have a foretaste of Heaven at whatever level you give me. I would love that. And I want to have the ordinary workings of the Spirit, but I'm asking for the extraordinary working, too."
Persevere in this Pursuit
So I would say that, I want to emphasize that He may never do any ecstatic thing in any of our lives, but we can seek it. But the ordinary ministry of the Spirit is delightful. And what He will do is, He will give you peace and joy and confidence in your Christian life. A sense of security that you are His, a greater sense of assurance, a greater sense of mission in the world, of works He wants you to do, greater power in doing them. Those are things that He promises for us, those are the ordinary workings of the Spirit. And that may be all we get, and that's infinitely amplified. Or He may give us vastly beyond that. So I would say, seek Him. And if you can, come to prayer on Wednesday morning at 6:00 AM. Close with me in prayer.
Lord, we thank you for the study that we've had these four weeks in Ephesians 3:14-21. Lord, it's been magnificent, it's been challenging. Father, I pray that you give us strength for the journey, give us strength to pursue you and seek you as we've never done before. Give us strength to experience the love of Christ poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Help us to know that. And give us power to reach our community with the Gospel, give us power to reach lost people with the good news of Jesus Christ. We pray this in His name, and for His glory. Amen.