Statistics
1566 sermons as of December 13, 2018.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

   
Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
 send email...
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:A Prayer for Every Growing Believer
Text:Ephesians 3:14-21 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-12-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 63:1,2                                                                               

Ps 1:1,2

Reading – Ephesians 3

Ps 16:1,3,5

Sermon – Ephesians 3:14-21

Hy 63:1,2,8

Hy 13:1,2,3,4,5 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in our Lord Jesus Christ, I hope that we’re all growing. Some of us won’t get much taller than we are today, and our frame might fill out only a little more in coming years—but I hope that we’ll still grow, that we’ll grow in what our text calls “the inner man.” Growing in heart and mind!

Over the years, we’ve gained some knowledge about the Lord and his Word. We’ve increased in confidence and in the fruits of faith. We’ve grown, and I hope that we are growing. That’s a life-long activity, for there’s always more work to do, more room to improve, and many areas to progress.

We see that in our text, which comes at the end of the first half of Ephesians. The previous three chapters have been full of theology, about election and redemption and renewal, with focus put on Christ our cornerstone and the church as the new temple of God. Now Paul will change gears and explain how God wants us to respond. How do you put all this good theology into practice? How do you make your faith work?

In a sense, that’s the same question posed to all of us. Now that we’ve been granted the gift of salvation, what are we going to do with it? Now that we know Christ our Cornerstone, how do we build on him? And as Paul gets ready to explain these things to the Ephesians, he wants to pray. He prays for their strengthening, for their increasing, for their filling. Before growing, there must be praying. We join him in this prayer, praying it for each other, praying it for ourselves. This is our theme from Ephesians 3:14-21,

A prayer for every growing believer:

  1. that you would be strengthened with might
  2. that you would know the love of Christ
  3. that you would be filled with God’s fullness

 

1) that you would be strengthened with might: Our text begins with a phrase that we can see earlier in this chapter, “For this reason…” (v 14). If you look back at verse 1, that’s how Paul started the chapter—he wanted to pray but then he interrupted himself to talk about God’s amazing revelation of the gospel, and the humbling privilege of ministry. Finally, Paul is coming back to the thought of verse 1: “This is what I want to pray about.”

“For this reason I bow my knees…” And the reason is the good work that God was doing among the Ephesians. Paul was so thankful that they’d accepted the gospel of Christ. He knew not everyone believes—it’s a miracle, every time. And this brings him to his knees.

For a Jew like Paul, this kneeling is actually unexpected. We know that the more common posture for prayer at his time was standing. But here Paul kneels. Our posture in prayer certainly isn’t the most important thing, but it can send a message. Kneeling speaks of Paul’s reverence and submission, it marks the earnestness of his prayer to God. He’s very intense as he intercedes for these believers.

He’s praying “to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (vv 14-15). This is the address of Paul’s prayer; he’s speaking to God the Father. And Paul says that it’s through the Father that all believers are “named,” which means that through the Father we have a new identity: we are no longer children of wrath, descendants of the devil, but we are members of the household of God.

Paul prays to the Father, and notice that God the Son is close behind: God is the Father “of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s hard to mention the Father without acknowledging the Son, for the reason that Jesus reveals the Father to us. If it wasn’t for Christ, God wouldn’t be our Father. But for Jesus’ sake, God has opened up a constant stream of blessing.

And that should give great confidence to all our prayers. When we pray—also when we pray for spiritual growth and maturity—we’re not making our request to a God who doesn’t care about us, a God who might not answer. No, He is our Father, the one who has given us a new name in Christ.

Remember too, what Jesus said about asking our earthly fathers for the things we need—of course they’ll give you a sandwich if you’re hungry, or a glass of milk if you’re thirsty! “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:11).

So what does Paul boldly ask from the Father? “That He would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man” (v 16). In short, Paul wants the Ephesians to be strong, just as we want to be strong. For God’s children to increase in endurance and improve in fortitude.

Now, we live in an age that touts physical strength. Nobody wants to appear weak, so you work hard at getting fit and capable. But this isn’t a prayer about physical strength. We pray to be strengthened with might “in the inner man.” More than anything, much more than your level of physical fitness, God is concerned with what lives within: what is the strength of your heart and the resolve of your will? Your life is led from the command centre of the inner man. So we pray for internal transformation.

We too, need to grow in spiritual muscle. Most of us might look reasonably strong in body, but we’re facing formidable forces of evil. Sin has a nearly irresistible lure. There are moments of temptation when we can feel so incredibly weak. Our own hearts can easily be deceived, such that if just the right temptation came along—at the right time, with us in the right mood—we’re bound to give in. So what can we possibly do? How can we ever stand?

Rely on the greatness of God’s power. And realize how great it is! Notice how it’s put, “That [God] would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened” (v 16). God is a wealthy God. In the “riches of his glory,” He has sufficient resources to supply your needs. Pray that when you’re at your weakest, you’ll know his power.

And when God shares the riches of his glory, it is for this purpose: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (v 17). It’s the Father’s purpose that his Son would be completely at home with us, living in our hearts every day.

The Greek word that Paul uses for “dwell” refers to a permanent residence, not a temporary one—like the difference between “residing” somewhere and just “camping.” Christ doesn’t want to camp with you, where He’s near for a week or two at a time, and then you pack up and go your separate ways. Sometimes that’s what our faith feels like, that we’re close to the Lord for a little while and then distant and removed for the next few weeks or even more. It’s not that Christ leaves us in those weeks. But this is a sign of growth: when you more and more experience Christ’s presence with you, day after day, week by week.

And the marvellous thing is that when you live somewhere for a while, your presence begins to make a mark. Think of moving into your first home: maybe the house was a bit run-down, and the gardens were overgrown, and a lot of things needed updating. But you lived there for a year or two, and then for five, and you did some renovating and you worked on the gardens and you added your own touches to the place. The longer you lived there, the more it showed the signs of being yours. You made your mark.

That’s how it is with Christ residing in us. The longer He dwells in our hearts through faith, the more He changes us. He starts to restore what is broken and to renew what is corrupted. He helps us to grow, so that it becomes noticeable—“Christ in you” has made his mark, because you’re more content, and more patient with other people, and you’ve become a little more dependent on God.

It’s true that spiritual growth is hard to see at times. From last month to today, can you see a change in your faith? Can you say that there’s been an increase of knowledge or a strengthening of love? Probably not. But what about when you take a longer view, and consider where you are today, compared to two years ago? Or five years ago? Can you see the effects of Christ strengthening your inner man—changing your heart and renewing your mind? Can you see that He’s been living with you for a while?

Later we’ll talk about our own involvement in this process. Spiritual growth doesn’t happen just because we want it to, like a home renovation doesn’t happen just because we once read a home improvement magazine. This is going to take effort and determination. But for now I want to emphasize that our text is a prayer. If we will grow, we must pray. If you want to increase in spiritual fortitude so that you’re able to resist and persevere, then you have to ask for this. We must bow our knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and ask that He would strengthen us with might through his Spirit.

 

2) that you would know the love of Christ: Paul’s first petition is for strength, and his second petition is for love. He prays that believers would be “rooted and grounded in love” (v 17). Notice how Paul uses a couple different images to talk about God’s love. One image is botanical, the other is architectural.

First, he says, “be rooted.” If the plant in your garden is well-rooted, it’s going to stand fast and thrive—it’ll even endure the hottest days of summer. Roots connect a plant to the ground and provide it with access to the moisture and minerals of the soil. So it’s obvious, isn’t it? If a Christian will grow, he needs roots! In what? “In love.” You need to be deeply rooted in the soil of Christ’s love for sinners.

“Be rooted and be grounded.” Paul now uses a word that describes the laying of a foundation. When you build a house, before you start putting up the walls and ceilings and roof, you have to make sure the foundation is level and solid. Christ’s love is the foundation on which we need to be established. If you’re going to withstand any storms or any quaking, be based firmly on him.

So how can we do this, being rooted and grounded? Beloved, there’s only one way. We have to go right to the source and get connected to the love of Jesus Christ, knowing it better and treasuring it more. This is why Paul prays that believers “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height” (v 18).

We need to “comprehend” Christ’s love. That can sound like an intellectual activity, like when teachers test “reading comprehension,” see whether the students get the meaning of a story. The kind of “comprehending” in our text is more like an earnest grasping, a clutching at something without letting go. For that’s how precious is Christ’s love!

Now, the Ephesians already knew about God’s love in Christ. Read chapter 1, and you’ll see that salvation depends on it completely: God chose us “in love”—this has always been the unchanging basis. The Ephesians knew about God’s love, just like we all know about it. We already have God’s love—we don’t need to buy it, or look for it, or earn it.

But what we must do is to appreciate it more and more: to learn what it means, and how much it cost, and where it’s bringing us. It’s this gospel-love that God wants us to greatly prize, comprehending it in four dimensions: the width and length, depth and height.

When the Spirit talks about these dimensions, does He mean that Christ’s love can really be measured or quantified? Is it like an engineer who gets the dimensions of a holding tank so he can calculate the volume? Is Christ’s love like something you can weigh on a scale? No—even human language isn’t adequate to describe how great is his love and power.

But if you tried, you might put it this way. We have to know that Christ’s love is so wide, wide enough to embrace people from every tribe and nation and people, even us.

To understand the length of his love, consider the lengths to which Christ was willing to go to save sinners like us—even dying on the cross and descending into hell.

And Christ’s love is deep, so deep that it can reach even the lowest sinner and can rescue the person who has sunk into the darkest place of sadness and despair.

Christ’s love is immeasurably high, because He lives in heaven and intercedes for us there, and soon He will even exalt us to the presence of God himself.

Christ’s love is wide and long and deep and high—the point is, there’s no person who’s able to be outside the love of Christ, there’s no place outside his reach. It’s as if Paul invites us to ponder the universe, to look at the limitless sky above, the infinite horizons on every side, the depth of the earth and seas beneath us, and say, “That’s what the love of Christ is like.” It’s bigger than our guilt, bigger than our worries, bigger than our sadness, bigger than all our fears. If by faith you are rooted and founded on Christ, then you are completely secure and eternally secure. We are secure, if faith is real. What an unspeakably beautiful gift!

But don’t miss the homework assignment included in this verse. Paul is praying that we would be able to comprehend the love of God in Christ, that we would know this love. That takes attention. In the first place, we won’t know it without praying. Remember, our text is a prayer. So ask God often to teach you about his love, to help you to see how rich it is, to experience how reliable it is. Pray to God that He would make this your treasure, that it would be this gift that gives you joy and security.

In the second place, we won’t know it without studying. And I don’t mean that in the sense of trying to cram for a test, but through the careful, deliberate reading of God’s Holy Word: every day opening Scripture and taking enough time to let the words penetrate, where later in the day you can actually remind yourself, “What was it that God said to me? What was his truth for today?” We need to grow in this knowledge, to open our arms and try wrap them around the immensity of Christ’s love.

So how does Scripture help us get a sense of these dimensions? When we’re working with Scripture, it’s impossible not to see with how little we deserve from God, and how much we deserve his wrath. Yet Scripture is a book full of hope, because it also unveils God’s life-changing love in Christ. As Jesus once put it, “All of Scripture testifies to me”—so to know Christ’s love better, know his Word better.

Let’s all admit that we’re not diligent in this task. That’s why growing in Christ’s love should never be done on your own. See how the Paul puts it, praying that we may be able to comprehend this love “with all the saints” (v 18). The best setting in which to experience God’s love is with God’s people. When we profess our faith, we do it publicly. When we worship, we do it communally. When we study Scripture, it’s good to do it jointly.

It’s in the fellowship of the church that we learn about Christ’s love. As someone once said, “It needs the whole people of God to understand the whole love of God.” If you will grow in faith and knowledge, make sure that you surround yourself with those who can help you in this. Seek out godly friends. Be a living part of this community so that we can support you.

I’ve been exhorting you to grow in the knowledge of Christ’s love. Yet as Paul says, it’s also beyond us: it’s a love that “passes knowledge” (v 19). After all our prayer and study and reflection, Christ’s love is too great to be fully known. That might discourage us, but it actually inspires us. For no matter how much we know the love of Christ, no matter how fully we enter his grace, there’s always more—it keeps going.

That’s because God’s love is never limited by circumstance. It’s different from our own love, which tends to be pathetically conditional and uncertain. For instance, if you’ve had a bad day at work, it’s really hard to come home and feel like loving your family. And it can be doubly hard to feel like loving if someone else is having a bad day—or even a bad year. Our love quickly fades, but God’s love always flourishes.

In fact, it’s when we’re struggling that we actually experience new depths of his love. In the sorrows and trials and sufferings of life, we come to know how close God is. In ways that are too deep for our mind to grasp, we experience new dimensions of his grace. We see every earthly thing falling away, while what remains is truly important and valuable: the love of God in Christ. And you’ll never be able to exhaust or deplete this gift.

Brothers and sisters, make it your aim to know this love. When you’re rooted and founded on Christ’s love, your life changes. For you know that God loves you, more than you can say. You know that his love is greater than any trial you will face, stronger than any of Satan’s temptations, more durable than life itself.

 

3) that you would be filled with God’s fullness: Time for the last petition, a prayer “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (v 19). Now, if you heard someone pray that, wouldn’t you raise an eyebrow? “Lord, I want to be filled with all your fullness.” Are we allowed to ask this? What does it even mean?

To understand it, think about how the temple used to be filled with God’s glory. When the tabernacle was just built, or when Solomon dedicated the temple at Jerusalem, there was an overwhelming display of the LORD’s greatness as a great cloud filled his house. Now think about what God calls us as believers, and as church: “a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2:21). And yes, God fills us—He dwells in us through the Spirit of Christ.

What happens when a person is filled with the fullness of God? They are changed. They become more and more like him. We discover more of his goodness, more of his truth, more of his compassion, and this transforms us.

It’s our prayer that this knowledge will fill us: “that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (v 19). And this isn’t optional—we need this. Everyone knows you don’t start a road trip on an empty tank, because you won’t get very far. Likewise, you won’t get anywhere in the Christian life without being filled with God’s power and Christ’s love. “Be filled,” says Paul, “with all the fullness of God.” Because when you’re filled, you can keep going. Your own tank will run dry, but God never will.

Now, Paul’s prayer has already been immensely bold. He has prayed in grand terms, even asking for things that seem out of reach and impossible. Yet he says that God can do even more than this. Listen to verse 20, “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” He can do more than we imagine, more than we dare to request.

This is something for us to learn, when we come to see that there really is no limit to God’s power. Just when you think God can do no more and you don’t dare ask for help again, trust that his love can exceed your expectations. He can do immeasurably more not only because He has immense power, but also because He is richly generous; remember, He’s the Father who loves to give good gifts to his children!

So if you will grow, make sure you ask him. He wants you to grow, for this purpose: so that you can live for his glory. That’s the doxology in verse 21: “To him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.” That’s the ultimate goal of our existence, the real reason that we desire to strengthen and increase and mature. We want God to be glorified.

Brothers and sisters, I pray that you will grow. I pray that God would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; and I pray that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster


bottom corner