28 January 2018

GOD’S GREATNESS AND OUR HUMAN NEED


Eph 3:14-17

When you think of God’s greatness or goodness……What comes to mind? We sing about it and we say it often. But do we fully understand this attribute of God? Before we get into what Paul wants us to know this morning let’s take a few minutes to talk about the goodness of God. The Bible defines God's goodness in two ways. One has to do with His character; the other focuses on His actionsThe goodness of God also refers to His perfections and His nature. “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5 Its part of God’s eternal character “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” Nahum 1:7. God’s goodness is declared to be universal “The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” Psalm 145:9. God’s goodness is manifested in His people “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!” Psalm 31:19

A W Pink says “God is not only the greatest of all beings, but the BEST.” Pink went on to say “There is such an absolute perfection in God’s nature and being nothing is wanting to it or defective in it, and nothing can be added to it to make it better. He is originally good, good of Himself, which nothing else is; for all creatures are good only by participation and communication from God.

God is essentially good, not only good but goodness itself. He is eternally good for he cannot be less good than He is. Any goodness that we have has been imparted to us through Him. God’s goodness is an essence of His eternal nature.

“Essence” referring to……

They are the qualities of the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
They are permanent qualities of the Godhead.
They are inseparable from the being or the core of God.
They belong to His nature and that outwardly reveals His essential qualities.
They are His permanent qualities of His nature which He has made known to us in His Word.

Paul’s prayer in this portion of his letter is for God to empower the Ephesian believers and grant them a greater knowledge of His extraordinary love for them. We come to transition in Paul’s letter where he has explained it’s all about His glory, goodness and His great/perfect plan of redemption and His love for redeemed sinners. His amazing plan to reconcile lost/rebellious sinners back to Him and to reconcile sinners together in what we call the institution of the church or as the scriptures say “The Bride of Christ.” “Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready;” Rev 19:7

The first three chapters explain the mystery of who we are in Christ and Paul is transitioning us to apply those wonderful doctrinal truths into our daily life. This reminds us that we must have God’s power to do God’s will. This is God’s greatness and our human need and Paul expresses this need from his knees. What does Paul demonstrate for us about the importance of praying with a high view of God?

A HIGH VIEW OF GOD PRAYS WITH HUMILITY BEFORE THE FATHER OF GLORY (V14-v15).

Why do I say that? Look at the opening statement that Paul makes here is (v14) “For this reason I bow my knee before the Father.” Kneeling is and was not a common practice for the Jews, but it was for those whose lives were transformed by God’s goodness. It’s recognizing who we are praying to, it’s a high view of God and that is something we all must recognize when we approach His sovereign eternal throne. The Bible describes humility as meekness, lowliness and absence of self. This literally means “lowliness of mind,” so humility is a heart attitude, not merely an outward behavior.

What do I mean by that? One may put on an outward show of humility but still have a heart full of pride and arrogance. See, Jesus said that those who are “poor in spirit” would have the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:3. Being poor in spirit means those who admit to absolute bankruptcy of spiritual worth will inherit eternal life. Therefore, humility is a prerequisite for the Christian. The typical posture for a Jewish person was of standing….we see this demonstration today at the Wailing Wall. Whenever you read of someone kneeling in prayer it indicates a deep modesty and deep emotion before God. 

Take Daniel for an example: “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, What was signed “Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, "O King Darius, live forever! All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.” Dan 6:6-7

We read Daniels response “he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Dan 6:10

This is an example of a man who had such a high view of God and wasn’t ashamed to show it, even if it cost him his life. Its heart of gratitude and confidence that we have in the gospel that makes this all possible. Paul does this by his reflection and pondering his own testimony. It is safe to say that Paul took a “rabbit trail” in his prayer that began in verse 1 and came back in verse 14 to continue and finish his prayer. Perhaps you have done the same thing when you’ve prayed? You start of really good, things and people are coming to mind, you’re praying and about half way through you wander off thinking about Cujo during the playoffs building that wall against the Sens a few years back and before you know it, you’re taking a stroll down memory lane that has nothing to do with your prayer. Or you never finish your prayer because you thought I will do in bed when everyone is asleep and then what happens“And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Matt 26:40-41. We have read that Paul was stunned at God’s grace in saving sinners individually and at His grace in uniting them together corporately.

When each and every one of us reflex on God’s amazing grace it should lead us to get on our knees before a holy God. By His grace called us, adopted us, redeemed us and forgave us. How? Through His Son who died for us, the Spirit sealed us. God has brought us from death to life. God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with His Son. We receive the same blessings as His children and He has made us part of His church. Think about that in light of these realities that we’ve seen since chapter one…… The reason that Paul kneels is that he sees the church is made up of living stones from every kind of people and indwelt as by the Shekinah glory with the Spirt of God. Eph 2:21-22 says “in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Paul is so thankful to a holy God because he sees the spiritual temple is made up of all races, tribes and nations rising to Heaven on the foundation of the Word, with Jesus Christ as the pillar or grounds in which the church is able to stand at all.

Think about it! Paul kneels humbly before the glory of God, and yet his spirit rises to rejoice to call Him “father” Although Paul and like ourselves, we have no personal right to even approach Him, yet because God has demonstrated His love to us though His gospel that we are able to approach Him. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” Eph 2:19. When a child of God is kneeing before a holy God, what they are doing is recognizing their position in light of His glory.

We are saints, citizens and members of the household of God. We, as Paul, understand that prayer is serious business and we see here that Paul isn’t asking God for goodies and things. Look what Paul prays about for the children of God (v17-v19) which we will break down and look at much closer next Sunday. Prayer, just like our singing, and meditating on the word of God, is an act of humble worship.

This is what Paul is doing here, he is worshipping. Paul loved God because God had called sinners to Himself, dressed them in the robes of Christ’s righteousness and said “There is no second class citizen in the kingdom.” Did God do this because we are good? No, God did this because God is good.

Let me ask you! When was the last time you bowed down before God in humble worship like this? Maybe, like myself we have a lot of thinking to do when it comes to this avenue of prayer in our lives as we leave here today. I hope in time all of us will be able to do as the Psalmist said…. “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” Psalm 95:7-8. It’s for this reason Paul knelt before the Father and so should we. He had a high view of God and His goodness over a sinner saved by grace. But Paul also recognized something else.


PRAYER IS FOR A DIVINE EXPRESSION OF POWER IN THE TRIUNE GOD (v16- v17)

Our source, power and confidence are only found in the sustaining God of the universe who gives us the ability and access to this gift. Paul prays for a divine expression of power in God’s children. Paul begins with “In order that” God may give from the riches of His glory. What this literally means is this “In order that you may have the strength to comprehend and to know the love surpassing knowledge.” Spiritual power is the mark of every Christian who submits to God’s word and the Spirit. Paul says to strengthen “your inner being”

Why would he pray for this? The outer man or woman is growing older and weaker by each passing day, but the inner man or woman should grow stronger each day through the Spirit. It’s like what Paul refereed to the Church in Corinth….“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Cor 4:16-18
The “body” needs to be strengthened every day. In like manner the soul needs constant supplies of grace. We need to understand that the power to overcome sins is from above and the Apostle Paul refers to the Trinity to do His work in the hearts of His people. Where do we see this?

The Father to provide His riches (v16a)

The riches of God are those that cancel spiritual debt. This was made clear in Paul’s statement earlier…..“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Eph 2:4-7. God’s riches are and have been revealed in and through His mercy. This is something that God has lavished upon in Christ. This is something that has been provided through the shedding blood of His Son. This has redeemed us from the debt of our sin. Brian Chapell said in his commentary “The riches do not merely cancel debt; they also are so vast as to provide us rights and privileges of the household of Heaven. We may even call our God “our Father”
  
The Spirit to provide His power (v16b)

The same power that brought Jesus from the grave is the same Spirit that also makes us alive who were once dead in our sins and transgressions. To possess such power to obtain the hope that sin no longer holds us captive as it once did before the gospel transformed our hearts. Paul in his prayer is very concerned for the church and he know and so should we… that only God can reach and cure the inner man or woman, and this is where God most wants to work. Only God’s Spirit can strengthen our spirits, He is the only one who can energize, rejuvenate and empowers us. We know that to be true when we read Romans 7 and the battle we all face against our flesh and our desires. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” Romans 7:18 

But we also understand the victory and where we receive power in Sprit when we read…..“Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Rom 8:8-11. The Christian life, family life, church life and relationships are only made possible through the power of the Spirit.

The Son to provide His life (v17)

With everything that Paul has said this far he summarizes his prayer that Christ would dwell in the hearts of His people. Our union we have with Christ is the reason we have this power of the Father’s riches and the Spirit to give us strength in due season of the inner man. This privilege we have when it comes to prayer is only made possible through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The power of the new spiritual life that is ours is not because of our strength or wills…it’s by the sole power of trusting in what Jesus provided when he died in our place. We tend to forget that we have been robed in His righteousness “For our sake he made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21. We need to remind ourselves this every day…if you are genuinely born again your clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

How could one forget this truth? Maybe this help! 

It was a bright Sunday morning in 28th century London, a man named Robert Robinson’s mood was anything but sunny. All along the street there were people hurrying to church. The sound of church bells reminded him of years past when his faith in God was strong and the church was an integral part of his life. It had been years since he set foot in a church—years of wandering, disillusionment, and gradual defection from the God he once loved. That love for God that was once fiery and passionate, had slowly burned out within him, leaving him dark and cold inside.
Robinson heard the horse-drawn cab approaching behind him. Turning, he lifted his hand to hail the driver. But then he saw that the cab was occupied by a young woman dressed in attire for the Lord’s Day. He waved the driver on, but the woman in the carriage ordered the carriage to be stopped.
“Sir, I’d be happy to share this carriage with you,” she said to Robinson. “Are you going to church?” Robinson was about to decline, then he paused. “Yes,” he said at last. “I am going to church.” He stepped into the carriage and sat down beside the young woman.
As the carriage rolled forward Mr. Robinson and the woman exchanged introductions. There was a flash of recognition in her eyes when he stated his name.
“That’s an interesting twist of fate,” she said, reaching into her purse. She withdrew a small book of inspirational verse, opened it to a ribbon-bookmark, and handed the book to him. “I was just reading a verse by a poet named Robert Robinson. Could it be…?” He took the book, nodding. “Yes, I wrote these words years ago.” “Oh, how wonderful!” she exclaimed. “Imagine! I’m sharing a carriage with the author of these very lines!” But Robinson barely heard her. He was absorbed in the words he was reading.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace’
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.

His eyes slipped to the bottom of the page where he read:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it—
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

He could barely read the last few lines through the tears that brimmed in his eyes. “I wrote these words—and I’ve lived these words. ‘Prone to wander…prone to leave the God I love.’”
The woman suddenly understood. “You also wrote, ‘Here’s my heart, O take and seal it.’ You can offer your heart again to God, Mr. Robinson. It’s not too late.” And it wasn’t too late for Robert Robinson. In that moment he turned his heart back to God and walked with him the rest of his days.
  
Paul repeats these basic truths because he knows that until they sink into the depths of our souls, we will continue to rely on our own power and strength to battle sin and the outward man or woman. Remember what Jesus said in John’s gospel? “Apart from God we can do nothing.” John 15:5. We can do many things apart from God but for true spiritual growth and understanding that have any eternal value is only found in Christ alone. The goodness of God is what produces the power in us and the ability to live our lives for the glory of His name. When you understand where the power comes from and truly believe that God is good all the time, it calms the heart to know that it’s not what I bring but what is available to me through the gospel. Have you ever been given a gift that you could have never gotten for yourself? Has anyone ever sacrificed a huge amount for you without getting anything in return?
  
I can think of one! His name is Jesus Christ. When you have a high view of God…..you will have a high view of His goodness and power that we have at our availability each and every day.
  
To the Father, by the Spirit, through the Son.

1 comment:

Joanne said...

This message and your others are a real encouragement for me as I read them Thanks for taking the time to post them