FOR THIS REASON THE CHURCH PRAYS
On Monday I was going through my Facebook feed and I came across a post by the Gospel Coalition and prayer one of their distributors written out about the tragedy from last Sunday’s Church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Here is what he wrote…“Heavenly Father, not again. Not another unthinkable act of wickedness . . . so soon, too soon. We begin this day with heavy hearts, fearful hearts, and angry hearts. Our hearts break for the family of believers at First Baptist Church, the community of Sutherland Springs, and those living in the greater San Antonio area. We share their shock; we enter their pain. Father, show us how to love in the place of so much loss. Show us how to pray in the face of such great evil.
We grieve for families who lost children and siblings, parents and friends. We grieve for a small town subjected to such a huge tragedy. We grieve for a church whose worship of Jesus was violated with gunfire and death. We grieve for ourselves; and we own our feelings of vulnerability and confusion. And we hope. Evil doesn’t get the last word; Jesus does. His cross defeated evil. His resurrection routed death. His love trumps hate. His reign anchors our hope. His peace centers our hearts. His compassion moves us forward. His return will complete the Story. Hallelujah.
Father, with tears on our cheeks and hands raised in praise, we trust you. Lead us in these coming hours and days. May we grieve with hope, lament with peace, and love with abandon.
So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’s triumphant and tender name.”
It is times like this the church is stirred but not shaken by such evil and wickedness. It is times like this the church is tested, tired and stretched out of our comfort zones. It is times like this we are reminded to pray without ceasing for others over ourselves. The universal cry of the true church is prayer! Prayer is a vital support system for the church locally and globally. Prayer plays a huge part in the church whether we like the outcome or not. Prayer drives the body of Christ into unity and submission, praying for those affected. Prayer is powerful and life changing that the world mocks at and no nothing of or about the power of prayer.
As one young lady twitted after the shooting “Yeah prayer really helped all those people in CHURCH.” Did prayer help? Does it help the church? Answer: Yes it does, because it drives the true church to stand together and support one another around the globe for people that you and I don’t know. As Paul said “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Eph 4:4-6.
Can you imagine the universal cry of the church Sunday afternoon? Imagine if you could hear what God heard that Sunday afternoon by His children around the globe in sorrow of this tragic and senseless act of hate. The essence of this passage is a great reminder for us to go deeper and grow deeper in our love for Christ and this is Paul’s prayer. A prayer that should be universal of the true church as the prayer I read to you at the beginning of my message.
Think about it! We are plugged into the very power of God by virtue of our faith in Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit found in the gospel. (v15) As we come to this passage there is something we can see at first glance! Paul says “that you may know” (v18) It’s like they are missing something! They have what they need, but there is something missing. Paul expresses through his prayer they would get to the next level or stage in their Christian life. See, they had the basics truth of the gospel down pat, by what we read in the opening remarks here in this passage. “I heard of your…” But if we look carefully we see something else…. Paul’s desire for them to grow deeper in love with Christ, his desire to see them discover the amazing beauty and intimacy that found in Christ alone. His prayer is a selfless prayer which in essence should be a universal prayer of the church! Paul prays that they would come to fully understand and appreciate those blessing that they received in the previous passage.
Eph 1:3-13 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He chose us….He predestined us …He has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness….He lavished upon us….we have obtained an inheritance…In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”
That’s why Paul starts his sentence in (v15) with “for this reason”
It’s for this reason I hear of your love for Christ
It’s for this reason I hear of your love for one another
It’s for this reason I hear of your love for the church
It’s an amazing to stop once and while and reflect upon the beauty of the gospel,
And the implications of the transforming work it does to individuals and the church as a whole.
Paul writes this prayer to encourage them as a church as they begin their pilgrimage walk home into the Kingdom. Paul finds great joy in this because there change displays a genuine transforming work found in the gospel. Not only are they exercising faith in Christ, but they are also displaying that love towards one another. This is evidence of saving faith and transformed hearts. R C Sproul said this in his commentary of Ephesians “throughout the ages the church has understood that the most significant manifestation of true faith is love. Faith without love is not faith, only speculation or knowledge or more intellectual assent.”
Where have we seen this in the gospels? Jesus said “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;” Matt 15:7-8. Paul saw the evidence of change these dear people and it filled his heart with joy…….a change that he himself could relate to! Remember he was a man who once hated and killed Christians, but God got a hold of his heart and changed him into a man who loved and wept over souls for Christ. The fruit of authentic faith is always displayed by love! Paul is expressing his joy and delight as he writes this prayer to the believers of Ephesus. He writes them to remind them that this is only the beginning to something amazing! You’re on the right path, so keep going. But, he prays, that the Lord would reveal more of Himself to them as they make their pilgrims walk. This prayer is a great minder to all of us! And something we should be praying as a family for one another.
FOR THIS REASON THE CHURCH IS A LIFELONG PURSUIT OF FALLING IN LOVE WITH CHRIST. (v17-v18)
It will take you the remainder of this life into the next [eternity] to grasp the supreme excellence found in the God who loved us and gave us His Son to die for our sin. But it’s a pursuit that is not wasted and it something we need to be praying about for one another. Ask yourself this question! What does it mean to know someone more personal or intimate? Joshua Harris wrote a book “Dug Down Deep” and this portion of scripture reminds me of this book! Joshua said “digging down and building on the rock isn’t a picture of being nominally religious or knowing Jesus from a distance. Being a Christian means being a person who labors to establish his beliefs, his dreams, his choices, his very view of the world on the truth of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished—a Christian who cares about truth, cares about sound doctrine.”
This is and should be an ongoing process for every believer. As the Apostle Paul said “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death,” Phil 3:10. Look again what Paul prays for (v17-v18) “having the eyes of your heart enlightened that you may know” (v18) Emotions have a significant place in the Christian life, but they are reliable only as they are guided and controlled by God’s truth. We can only come to that understanding when we know and understand that through His word.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Col 3:16
This is required in order to fall deeper in love with Him and to have openness to His truth. As Sproul said “the whole Christian life involves an unfolding and enlarging of the heart’s openness to the things of God.”
Paul wants them to know the wonderful truth of……
Sealing of the Holy Spirit
The more you know who God is… the more you fall deep in love with Him! Remember the encounter that Jesus had with the 2 people on the road to Emmaus? “They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" Luke 24:32. The true depth of our love begins when God is the object of our devotion, adoration and reverence. The gospel of our salvation is the beginning to an intimate relationship with Christ through the written word. For the purpose of knowing Him more not only as Saviour, but as a loving God and Father who adopted you and me into His family.
FOR THIS REASON THE CHURCH IS LIFELONG CALLING TO UNDERSTAND THE KEEPING POWER FOUND IN CHRIST. (v19-v20)
The word Paul uses here is “power” a word from which we get the word “dynamite” and we all know what dynamite can do. It’s explosive upon impact! This is the same thing that came upon you, through the gospel and the keeping power of God in your life. God’s sustaining grace will always keep you and never let go. This power is only for Christians, for those who believe. The surpassing greatness of God’s power is given to every believer. IT’S NOT SOME…. super power so we can have some mystical experience, second blessing or some additional work of grace. When we were saved, we received all of God’s grace and all of His power, and that assures us of the realization of our eternal hope.
This is the point! Our eternal hope…is why we pray and most of all why we are getting ready to be with Christ for all eternity. As an illustration of this power of God, Paul points to the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. We all know that dead people don’t come back to life. Yet, the power of God not only raised Christ from the dead, but also seated Him at the right hand of the Father. The position of power and authority, high over all rulers and authority and power etc. As Paul said “that every knee will bow before Him because of this great power!” This is the power of God that is working in you and for you, for us who are called to His hope, and receiving His inheritance among His saints. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that sustains you throughout your Christian walk and throughout eternity. This same power will raise you up and delivery you into glory to be with Christ, which is far better. Perhaps we, like the people in the church of Ephesus, we need to be reminded of these truths. Maybe you’re someone who right at the start, and need to begin with that faith in the Lord Jesus. Or maybe your love for God and His church has been weakening by your own tragedy, sin or lack of faith and you need to be encouraged and strengthened. That’s the power of prayer! So be encouraged and be reminded of this power that lives inside of you!
FOR THIS REASON THE CHURCH IS A LIFELONG DISCOVERY OF THE AWESOMENESS OF GOD. (v21-v23)
How amazing is God? Words can’t describe the awesomeness of God. The scriptures declare “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Ps 8:1-9
Paul declares to us that the supremacy of Christ, the glorious One, is completely worthy of all our adoration and praise. To sit back and reflect that Christ fills the universe because He Himself is the “fullness of God”. Christ gets the pre-immense in our lives! To realize and find comfort that Jesus is supreme over your life and that he will bring it to completion one day because he is the all sustaining one. By definition supreme means? Highest in authority; holding the highest place in government or power. In the United States, the congress is supreme in regulating commerce and in making war and peace. In Canada we have our House of Parliament who governs over us. In the universe, God only is the supreme ruler and judge. His commands are supreme, and binding on all his creatures.
Christ reigns supreme over Heaven, earth, authorities, power and lords. Christ reigns supreme over kings, princes, ministers, presidents, angels, over the good and bad. Christ reigns supreme over pastors/elders, deacons, church staff, lay person in the church
King Jesus upholds everything under His power! And that should cause us or make us fall down in fear and reverence for Him. This should cause the church to wake up and realize who the head of the church is and why we exist as a body of believers in this lost generation. This should stir the church to get on their knees and pray for one another. That should cause us to stop and say personally “Who is really in control of my life?” Answer: It’s Jesus Christ our Supreme Lord!
I like what John MacArthur said about Jesus “He never founded a college, yet all the schools together cannot boast of as many students as He has. He never practiced medicine, and yet He healed more broken hearts than the doctors have healed broken bodies. This Jesus Christ is the star of astronomy, the rock of geology, the lion and the lamb of zoology, the harmonizer of all discords, and the healer of all diseases. And throughout history great men have come and gone yet He lives on. Herod could not kill Him. Satan could not seduce Him. Death could not destroy Him, and the grave could not hold Him. This is our Christ the preeminent one.”
Make Christ supreme in your life! Which means….
First place in our families
First place in our marriages
First place in our professions
First place in our missions and ministries
First place in matter of the intellect
First place in time
First place in love
First place in conversation
First place in pleasures
First place in eating
First in play
First place in what we watch
First place in worship
First place in this church
A man and his wife were travelling through northern Texas on Interstate 40, and we pulled off at a rest stop. On a sign was a description of the area. One sentence caught the man’s attention. It read, "Traveling the high plains of Texas is an experience in immensity." How true it was for him! Stretching out as far as the eye could see was the vast open space of land and sky. Getting to know the infinite God can also be described as an experience in immensity. His love for sinners and the salvation He provides truly surpasses all knowledge and we will be forever be trying to get the foot hills of His presence to know him more. According to the bible it’s going to take a really long time! The bible calls it “eternity” but one thing for sure; it will be well worth it. So praise Him, grow in Him, trust in Him and love Him and worship Him. He is alive and sitting at the right hand of God with all power and authority and will one day come in great glory. Its God desire that every believer one day conforms to the image of the Son. “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Rom 8:29. That Christ would be supreme in our lives that he would get the glory though me and know as we grow in wisdom of our amazing LORD.
This is my prayer for you and me and this was Paul’s prayer some two thousand years ago for the church.