As you know, last Lord’s day we finished our study of the book of Titus. What a wonderful and rewarding time that was. And I have found myself this summer preaching in a lot of different places around the world and am about to go off in the month of September to a very special pastors’ conference in the Midwest. And I’ll be teaching some of the things out of Titus because there’s so much on my heart.
And as the Lord would have it, when I go to Russia in the month of October they have asked me if I would do an exposition of the book of Titus. So I’m going to get the privilege of going back through it several more times in the next couple of months and following that will no doubt engage myself in doing the commentary on Titus. And that will give me another trip through, and each one of them more rewarding than the one before. So we reluctantly leave our friend Titus and the epistle from Paul to him.
Our next book is going to be 2 Corinthians. And we’re not going to begin that for a few weeks because I – I will be gone in September and then I will be gone to Russia, the Ukraine and Rumania in early October. And I don’t want to start that new book until I get back and I’m uninterrupted. So sometime in October we’ll start into 2 Corinthians. And in the meantime, that leaves us a – a little bit of open opportunity to share some things that are not associated with an ongoing study of a book.
And as I was meditating and thinking about that and even as I was seeking some counsel from those close to me, I think, sort of unanimously, our hearts were all drawn to the fact that we need to hear again some of the wonderful realities of our resources in Jesus Christ. As you well know, going through Titus exposes us to a lot of exhortation and a lot of emphasis on our duty as Christians and our responsibilities before God and the mandate we have with regard to how we live in the world and how we live in the church.
We – we deal, of course, in Titus as you remember, with false teachers and all their errors and heresy and there’s much about duty in terms of confronting them and silencing them. And maybe after all of those discussions for months and months regarding our duty, it’s time to turn the corner a little bit and talk about our privileges. Talking about our responsibilities so much gives us, I think, a desire to talk about our blessings. Not so much what we do in obedience to God but what the Lord does in love toward us. And so, I want to talk about our resources, our provision in Jesus Christ. Not an unfamiliar subject to us.
As you know, I wrote a book called Our Sufficiency in Christ. And through the years at Grace Church we’ve really camped on this. In fact, I believe in the early years of our church, at the time I really didn’t know enough to know how important it was, I guess. But in the early years of our church I started teaching the book of Ephesians. And it laid a tremendous foundation in terms of the believer’s position, a tremendous foundation in terms of understanding who we are in Christ and understanding the greatness of our resources in Christ.
We’ve studied the book of Philippians where we learned about the surpassing value of knowing Christ. We studied Colossians, learning about what it means to have our affection set on things above and not on things on the earth. We – we’ve gone through so many things that talk about our heavenly resources. But perhaps none is more definitive and more graphic and more comprehensive than the epistle to the Ephesians.
And so, this Sunday and next Sunday I want to touch two of the high points in Ephesians. The first one for this morning in chapter 1, and the second one next time in chapter 3. They come in two prayers of the apostle Paul. In both chapter 3 starting at – rather in both chapter 1 starting at verse 15 and chapter 3 starting at verse 14, Paul prays two very significant prayers. And they are prayers that God would enable believers to understand their resources in Christ. That is such a very essential and basic reality and yet seems to me to be lost, for the most part, to the church and to Christians today.
I don’t believe that people understand what is really fully theirs in Christ. If they did, they would spend more time, much more time, more effort, much more effort cultivating their relationship with Jesus Christ Himself than they do. In fact, I would have to say on a broad classification level that probably that which plagued the Ephesus church in Revelation 2 plagues the church in general today and that is we have left our first love. We are no longer absorbed with Christ. We are no longer preoccupied with Christ. We are no longer enamored fully and singularly with Christ. We no longer understand what it is to cultivate the relationship with Him and we are chasing after all kinds of other things.
In Colossians 3:11 Paul said, “Christ is all and in all.” Christ is everything. That is a monumental truth that affirms the utter sufficiency of Jesus Christ for every spiritual issue in the life of every believer. He is all that is necessary for salvation and spiritual life. The church I think today is not ready and willing to admit that. And that is simply because they have a shallow relationship with the living Christ and aren’t even aware of the resources that are available to Him.
A few years ago I was asked by my wife, this is a rare occasion because she knows I’m not very good at it, to replace a switch in the dining room, a rheostat to make the lights adjustable over the table so we can have romantic light when we want it, or whatever, and full light when we need it. And as I was putting it in, and from time to time as I use it, it appears to me to be somewhat of analogy of most Christians. They – they barely get passed the “on” part in terms of output. And they have no idea the remaining power that can bring such tremendous light. It seems like most of the church today has the rheostat at the lowest position possible, doesn’t even understand what yet is available to them.
Paul prays that we would comprehend this. Look with me at verse 15. “For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
“These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He wrought about in – brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
Back in verse 18 there’s a little phrase in the middle of the verse, “that you may know.” Paul says I’m praying for you that you may know. I want you to grasp what is yours in Christ. Now what we’ve just read is an immense statement really on the resources that are ours in Christ and certainly needs to be coupled with the prior text from chapter 1 verse 3 down through verse 14, which lays out the listing of all of the lavish blessings that Christ has provided for us.
That marvelous text from verse 3 and following talks about the fact that we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, we are chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless. We are loved and thus predestined to be adopted as sons. We are to be to the praise of the glory of His grace freely bestowed on us in the beloved. We have redemption through His blood. We have the forgiveness of our trespasses and we have received the riches of His grace lavished on us. We have the mystery of His will. And he goes on to talk about our inheritance, what is to come for us in the future. We have the Holy Spirit who seals us. We have the pledge then of our inheritance with the view to the redemption of God’s own possession to the praise of His glory, verse 14. And then into 15 he prays that you’ll understand all of that.
You know, one of the things that keeps coming through in the New Testament as you study it is this emphasis on our resources in Christ. In John 1, for example, in verses 14 and 16, we are told that Jesus Christ is God’s glory incarnate and that He is full of grace and full of truth and of that fullness have all we received and grace upon grace. What an amazing statement. Christ is the fullness of the grace and truth of God, and of that fullness have all we received in Christ.
John 7:37 reminds us that Jesus Christ is the spiritual water to quench fully every thirsty soul. John 15:5 tells us that apart from Jesus Christ we can do absolutely nothing and Philippians 4, on the other hand, tells us that in Christ there’s nothing we can’t do. Romans 13:14 informs us that living triumphantly over sin and victoriously over temptation in this dark world is not coming from some complex difficult approach but rather simply means putting on the Lord Jesus Christ.
First Corinthians 1:24 says that Jesus Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. And verse 30 adds that He is to us righteousness and sanctification and redemption. First Corinthians 3:21 to 23 says that to Christians all things belong. Why? Because they belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, we are promised that the power of Christ dwells in us. In Philippians 1:11, we are assured that in Christ we possess the fruit of righteousness to the glory and the praise of God. Philippians 3:8 informs us that compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord, everything else in the world is manure. In Christ we have righteousness, relationship, power, sympathy, eternal life and glory, says Paul in that text.
And then there is that very significant text in Colossians 2 that reminds us that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and anyone who tells you differently is labeled a deceiver. And that in him all the fullness of deity dwells and, therefore, in Him we have been made complete. And then verse 6 says, “So walk in Him.” Hebrews 2:18 promises that He can come to our aid in every trial with just what is needed. And 2 Peter 1:3 says that in Him we have everything that pertains to life and godliness.
When we talk about a sufficient Christ, we are only echoing what Scripture says. And if this is true, and it is, then why does not the church and why do not individual Christians pursue the knowledge of Christ and the trust in the resources that are in Him? Everything is ours in Christ. Christ is all and in all. Why then is He not the focus of our lives? Why is He not the object of our affections? Why does He not draw the attention of our waking moments and the occupation even of our dreaming hours? Why is He not the heart of our life? Why is He not the very soul of our ministry?
Few books focus on Jesus Christ anymore. Most of the hot selling books are about self-esteem or financial independence or success in relationships, or even quote/unquote “Christian novels about love.” And all of these are designed for people who are desperate to feel good about themselves. Those kinds of things can never provide the true satisfaction that comes only in the pursuit of a deep and loving relationship with the living Christ. It’s a sad thing to say but true; modern evangelicalism really is more concerned about self-love than the love of Christ.
And it isn’t new. Again it’s the same old disease that plagued the very church to which this letter was written, the church at Ephesus against whom the indictment came, “You have left your first love.” This is my concern. And this is the bottom line in the Christian faith. No matter how long we minister together – it’s now been nearly 25 years – we have to keep going back to the point where we say, “Look, Christian life is all about loving Christ. It’s all about knowing Him deeply and tapping into the resources and when you know all that He’s done for you, it’s going to elicit love.”
And I don’t mean by that some giddy feeling, I mean devotion that says I trust You, I lean on You, I seek Your face, I commit myself to You, I’m devoted to You. I want to do nothing to dishonor You or be disloyal to you. I want to find in You all my needs met. I want to find in You the mercy and grace for the hour of sin. I want to find in You the strength for the hour of trial and temptation. I want to find in You the understanding and the learning and the knowledge to lead me through the maze of life’s confusing circumstances.
The whole goal of Christian living is to pursue Christ. That’s why Paul in Philippians 3 says that he pressed toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, which was simply being like Christ. That’s the prize and that’s the goal. And to pursue being like Christ means to gaze at His glory until you’re transformed from what you are into what He is, 2 Corinthians 3:18 puts it.
A noble Puritan pastor certainly had this in his heart, a man by the name of Thomas Vincent who lived in the mid 1600’s. And he wrote a wonderful little book which I read this week for the second time. The title of it is The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ. What a magnificent thought. The true Christian’s love to the unseen Christ. And he – he built it on Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 1:8, “Whom having not seen you love.”
Listen to some of the things he said. “The life of Christianity consists very much in our love to Christ. Without love to Christ we are as much without spiritual life as a carcass when the soul is fled from it is without natural life. Faith without love to Christ is a dead faith. And a Christian without love to Christ is a dead Christian, dead in sins and trespasses. Without love to Christ we may have the name of Christians but we are holy without the nature. We may have the form of godliness but are holy without the power.”
Then he went on to say this. “If Christ has their love, their desires will be chiefly after Him. Their delights will be cheaply – chiefly in Him. Their hopes and expectations will be chiefly from Him. Their hatred, fear, grief, anger will be carried forth chiefly unto sin as it is offensive unto Him. He knows that love will engage and employ for him all the powers and faculties of their souls. Their thoughts will be brought into captivity and obedience unto Him. Their understandings will be employed in seeking and finding out His truths. Their memories will be receptacles to retain them. Their consciences will be ready to accuse and excuse as His faithful deputies. Their wills will choose and refuse according to His direction and revealed pleasure.
“All their senses and the members of their bodies will be His servants. Their eyes will see for Him, their ears will hear for Him. Their tongues will speak for Him. Their hands will work for Him. Their feet will walk for Him. All their gifts and talents will be at His devotion and service. If He has their love, they will be ready to do for Him what He requires. They will suffer for Him whatever He calls them to. If they have much love to Him, they will not think much of denying themselves taking up his cross and following Him wherever He leads them,” End quote.
Loving Christ, knowing Christ, that’s what Christian living is all about. It’s all about that relationship. This is what Paul, I believe, wants to stir up in the – in the Ephesian believers and in all those who read this epistle. He wants us to comprehend the magnanimity of God’s grace in Christ. He wants us to understand that in this magnanimity, in this massive surpassing richness of gifts is everything we need. And to tap into it is simply to cultivate deeply the relationship with Jesus Christ.
You remember in 2 Corinthians chapter 12 when Paul had a thorn in the flesh that had taken him, I think, to the low point in his – in his life and ministry, he says, “I sought the Lord three times.” He knew exactly where to go. He knew exactly who to go to. He knew exactly where the resource was. And when he sought the Lord, you remember, he was given grace and grace that was sufficient. I believe what Paul is praying here is that Christians would so pursue Christ that they would come to the realization of what is really there for them.
Let’s look at how he introduces this section by the prayer itself as it frames up, starting in verse 15. “For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers.” He says I know you’re really saved, I know you have a real faith and I know you demonstrate Christian love for each other, and I continually, without ceasing, thank God for you. I thank God for saving you. I thank God that what has been wrought in you is eternal. But at the same time, he says, I am also making mention of you in my prayers with regard to something else. I’m glad you’re saved. I’m glad you believe. I’m glad your faith is real. I’m glad your love is evident. But there’s something else I pray for you.
What is it? Is it something more? Is he praying for some additional gift? Is he praying for some additional resource, some additional provision? No. Verse 17, This is what I pray, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who is the Father of glory may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” What is he saying? I pray that God will grant you an attitude that will allow you to comprehend what you have in Christ.
That’s what he’s saying. I want the Father to show you what is in Christ at your disposal. I want you to have a disposition – when he talks about a spirit here he’s not talking about the Holy Spirit or a human spirit. We already have both. Believers have a human spirit and the Holy Spirit – but he’s talking about an attitude or a disposition, a frame of mind, one that is connected to divine wisdom and divine revelation so that it yields to you all the knowledge of what is in Christ, that you would really comprehend what is there.
And when you come along in our day today – and I know because we – we’ve all experienced it – and you say, “Christ is sufficient, Christ is all, Christ is everything. All we need is in Christ, everything that we need for life and godliness is there,” people in the church attack you and say that’s too narrow minded. That doesn’t take into consideration cultural advancement. Certainly, many things that we need are in Christ and available to us in the Word of God, but there’s a lot of other stuff on the outside that is necessary as well. Well, of course, the evidence of Scripture is on the side of those who find their sufficiency in Christ, so we’re comfortable staying there no matter what anybody says.
It’s a sad thing when so many people in the church who name the name of Christ seem to be unable to cope with the realities of life and instead of pursuing the solutions in the knowledge of Christ are chasing all over everywhere for answers that aren’t available elsewhere. In Christ is everything. And he says my prayer for you is that you’ll come to grips with that, that you’ll have an attitude with regard to divine wisdom and divine revelation that will yield to you a full knowledge of what is available in Christ. I mean, if you know what is there for you, then you’re going to pursue that relationship.
If I know there is someone – and I knew this as a young man growing up – who would leave a tremendous spiritual impact on my life, I’d pursue that person. I’d pursue that person strongly. I can remember that in the early years when I was training for the ministry when I would identify a man of God, a man of God who would provide for me spiritual instruction and modeling and example and insight and wisdom in the Scripture, I did everything I could within reason to pursue the knowledge of that man because I wanted – I wanted the – the richness of his life. I wanted all I could draw from him.
I think you would assume that that would be true in any area of life. 23;5U --- if you were a teacher and you wanted to be good at it and you were devoted to the process of teaching, whether it’s a public school or whatever it might be, and you ran across somebody who in your mind was the master teacher of all master teachers, if you were serious about being a good teacher you would want to pursue a relationship with that person to extract out of him everything that was there.
If you were to be an engineer and you had the opportunity to be mentored either on the job of in your training in the university by some very gifted and capable engineer, you would want to extract everything you could from that individual to make you what you wanted to be. The same would be true whatever it might be. A godly woman who wants to be a godly wife and a mother, no doubt, wants to plug into some mature godly woman who has passed through where she’s going to go and done so with great blessing and success, and to draw out of that relationship all that is there.
And that’s basically the same kind of thing that should come into our minds as we think about Christ, with the exception that Christ has everything flawlessly. There never will be a disappointment. But the pursuit of our life should be the pursuit of that knowledge of Christ which will yield for us a comprehension of what is available in Him. That comes, of course, by the Word of God but it also comes by that knowledge of Christ that is revealed through the experience, when He pours out His resources upon us and we learn to trust Him in the difficult times.
So Paul says what I pray for you is that you might comprehend what is really yours in Christ. It’s just immense, absolutely immense. Now having said that initially, he focuses on three great realities that are available in Christ, three great realities that belong to us because we belong to Christ. The first is the greatness of His plan; the second is the greatness of His power, and the third is the greatness of His person. Once you understand these and once you commune with these and once you experience these in your relationship with Christ, it will elicit such love toward Christ, such devotion, such submission, such trust, such confidence, such security that you will live life at the plain that God wants you to live it.
Let’s look, first of all, at the greatness of His plan. Paul prays that you would understand the greatness of God’s plan. Verse 18, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” Now stop there for a moment. The word “heart” here really has to do with mind. Heart to the Hebrew was the seat of thought; as a man thinks in his heart so is he, the Bible says. Heart is not an emotion. We use it as more of a romantic emotional kind of thing. We – we talk about the heart as the seat of love or emotional feeling.
But to the Hebrew, while there were emotions connected and occasionally in Scripture even you see an emotional aspect to the use of the term “heart,” heart has to do with the mind, where the will acts in response to truth. So he says I want your mind to be enlightened. I – I want the light to go on in your mind. I want you to see what is really yours in Christ. And – and that regards, particularly, His plan for you. I want your mind to comprehend this immense plan. Look at it there. “So that you may know what is the hope of His calling.” Stop there for a moment.
Through the years we have studied this from all different angles and I just briefly remind you of it. What he’s talking about here is that you would understand what God has called you to. In other words, if you would get a grip on this great plan of God and unfolding from eternity to eternity, that you would comprehend how you fit into this thing. Remember a few weeks ago we were discussing the fact that God made a promise long ago. Titus 1 says that as the epistle opens, that God made a promise long ago to redeem. And we started to track that promise through. It’s really the eternal covenant, according to the writer of Hebrews. And it was made between the Father and the Son. And the Father promised the Son to give Him a redeemed humanity.
This is what He promised or purposed in Jesus Christ before the world began, says Paul to Timothy. God, because He loved the Son, said I want to give you a love gift. I want to express My love to You and I’m going to give you a redeemed humanity. And He elected that humanity in eternity past. And then He asked the Son to play the part of coming into the world to do the redeeming act to gather that humanity. But it was the Father’s love gift to the Son to redeem humanity, the elect, give them to Christ so that forever and ever through all eternity they would praise and glorify Him.
We’re a part of that. In eternity past, the Father chooses the elect. In time, He redeems them through the provision of Jesus Christ on the cross. In eternity, He gathers them together as that redeemed humanity and gives them in toto to the Son as those who will glorify Him forever and ever, at which point the Son having received this gift turns around and gives it back to the Father that God may be all and all, says Paul in 1 Corinthians 15.
We are all caught up in this unfathomable and eternal covenant between the Father and the Son as they express their love to one another. And we’re simply the players in that scenario by the mercy and grace of God who have been collected, as it were, so that the Father can express His love to the Son and vice versa. Do you understand that that’s why you are called to eternity, so that you might be a part of an elect redeemed humanity to glorify the Son out of the love of the Father? You need to understand the full range of the hope of your calling. You didn’t stumble into this deal because of your own intelligence. You didn’t become a Christian because you just decided it was a good thing to do. It wasn’t some little whimsical deal that happened on the spur of the moment somewhere down the line.
This is something planned from eternity past to bring its fruition into eternity future. You need to get a comprehension of what this whole thing is about and need to understand that God has a purpose and a process going on all the time which His sovereignty works to His own glory in the end. And what comes and goes in life and what happens and doesn’t happen in life and what rises and falls in life and what hurts and what helps in life all fits in to the ultimate goal of God to bring you to the calling which He intended from eternity past.
To understand, says Paul, the breadth and the range of this is to be secure, is to be filled with hope, is to say with Paul, “The sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us in the days to come.” He says I want your mind to come to grips with the immensity of the calling and the hope of that calling is that you will be like Christ someday. The Father couldn’t think of any greater gift to give the Son than to conform a whole redeemed humanity to His very image.
And that was His plan, according to Romans 8:29, that we might be “conformed to the image of His Son.” First John 3, that we might be made “like Him” when we see Him as He is. The Father – the best way the Father could possibly express His love to the Son was to create a whole redeemed humanity that would bear the very image of the Son. That’s the ultimate glory. You are so perfect, I’m going to make a whole redeemed humanity like You. And that was His gift and you’re a part of that. And you didn’t just stumble into it and you can’t just stumble out of it.
Do you comprehend that? Do you comprehend that from eternity past you’ve been in the mind and the heart of God from before you were ever born? This whole thing is all laid out. You’re not just bumping and bouncing your way through the world trying to grab the right skyhook. You’re not fumbling and bumbling your way through life trying to figure it out without any help. And whatever may come into your life by way of joy, God will use. Whatever comes into your life by way of pain, He will use. After you’ve suffered a while, the Lord will perfect you. Count it all joy when you fall into various trials cause those things have their perfecting work, says James.
Everything going on in our life is in the plan. It’s all in the plan. No room for panic. This too shall pass. This life is brief. This candle is short. Eternity is everything. Paul says I just pray that you’ll have that eternal perspective. It will make you love Christ. It will drive you to love Him. It’s unfathomable that He would have chosen you, that God would have chosen you, that Christ would have borne your sins on the cross that someday He’ll bring you to Himself and make you like Him that you might be a part of the fullness of what He is, but it’s true.
When that understanding fully dawns on you, when it fully explodes on your mind, then you’re going to find in that some rich resource for every issue of life. And when things in life become unbearable and – and you don’t know exactly what is coming and you don’t know what to expect, the bottom line is you have no fear because you are secure in the eternal hope of your calling. Then he adds to that, verse 18, a second kind of component of it, really part of the same, when he says, “I also want you to know what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”
I not only want you to know about the inheritance but I want you know – to know about how rich an inheritance it is. I want you to know what’s in it for you. I want you to know the – the specific things. His inheritance he calls it. I want you to know what belongs to Christ but is being shared with you, the riches of this thing. Its magnitude is beyond our ability to conceive. No matter how deeply you dive into the resources available in Christ, you never hit the bottom. I want you to know how – how rich your inheritance is. I want you to know how far reaching and vast your resources are.
That gives security. That gives confidence. That gives hope and joy and calls us to love Christ. Here we are undeserving – undeserving sinners. We have been made, due to nothing of our own, part of a great sovereign plan by a loving, forgiving, and gracious God, this high calling, this holy calling, this heavenly calling we don’t deserve. And inherent in it is richness beyond imagination. So whatever we may suffer in this life, whatever slings and arrows and darts and difficulties, what does it matter? I continually am amazed, frankly, at how people get so upset about a whole lot of trivial human stuff. It boggles my mind. Why do you want to bother with all of that passing triviality? You are so immensely rich. Whatever might fail you in human relationships will never fail you in a relationship to Christ, so pursue that one.
Secondly, Paul wants us to understand not only the greatness of His plan but the greatness of His power. Look at verse 19. He wants the eyes of our heart to be enlightened so that we may know also what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Power, he says, in accordance with the working of the strength of His might. By the way, he uses four words for power in that one verse, and that’s a pretty short verse. But it has four words for power. It has the word “power” in English. Then it has the word “working.” Then it has the word “strength.” And then it has the word “might.” The translators wanted to let us know that there were four different words used here so they used synonyms in English to help us with that.
There is power, that’s dunamis, inherent power. There is working, that’s energeia, from which we get energy, operative power. Kratos, that’s mighty, that’s ultimate power. And the last word, power, ischus, some say is the idea of endowed power. But all of them are really synonyms, talking about God’s power provided for us. In fact, back in 2 Corinthians 12 Paul says God’s power is perfected in our what? In our weakness. Christians going around saying, “Well I don’t know if I’m adequate, I don’t know if I can triumph over sin. I don’t know if I can be victorious over temptation. I don’t know if I can be effective in ministry. I don’t know if I can be useful to the Lord. I mean, I don’t know if I can – if I can witness and have people really believe it. I don’t know if I can call on God in the midst of my trials and know He’ll answer.
Listen, there is so much power available to you that the – the apostle Paul grasping here certainly the will and mind of the Holy Spirit pulls up every word he can think of to stack up the comprehension of power. And if that’s not enough he adds at the beginning of verse 19, “Thus surpassing greatness of His power.” Power for what? Power to evangelize. “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you shall be witnesses unto Me.” Power to suffer victoriously.
Paul says that my – my outer man is being destroyed and failing but the inner man is renewed every day in power. Power to change our lives. Power to conquer sin. Power to overcome temptation. Power to do God’s will. Power to serve. Power to speak. Power to work. Power so great we can exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think. Mighty power is ours. And just to illustrate the level of that power, verse 20. He says, It’s the power that brought about – was brought about in Christ, when God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”
It’s resurrection and ascension power. It’s the same power that lifted Christ out of the grave and took Him to heaven. That’s beyond any human source. Christ went into the grave and out the other side. Sin couldn’t hold Him, death couldn’t hold Him, hell couldn’t hold Him, Satan couldn’t hold Him, the demons couldn’t hold Him. He went into the grave and out the other side. And didn’t stop there. After 40 days, you remember, He ascended to the right hand of the Father, was coronated and sits there interceding for us. The very same power, Paul says, that took Jesus through the grave and out the other side and to the throne of God is working in your behalf.
And by the way, beloved, someday it will do for us what it did for Christ. Is that not so? Someday that same power will cause our resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of the throne of God where we will sit on the very throne of Christ as He sits in the Father’s throne, says Revelation. For us, the chains of death will be shattered. For us the bonds of Satan will be shattered. For us the shackles of sin will be broken. For us we will be freed from every foe that would hold us, just as was Jesus Christ. There’s nothing in this world that can waylay the plan of God, that can halt it, that can thwart it.
That same power operates on our behalf. And not just at the point of our death and resurrection or our ascension to the glory of the Father, not just at the point say of the Rapture, but now, even now, we have that power, it is surpassingly great power toward us who believe. It works operatively in our lives even now. But we don’t use it. We don’t tap into it. We live in the shallows and never get to the depths, chasing around for all of the easy formulas and never pursuing the deep knowledge of Jesus Christ that comes through time spent with Him and through the Word.
And then there’s a third and last element that he wants us to understand. That’s the greatness of His person, the greatness of his person. Just to cap it all off, he says in verse 21 that Christ as a person is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
The last part of this wonderful prayer is that people would understand how great Christ is. I mean, you don’t have to fear anything. There isn’t any rule, there isn’t any authority, there isn’t any power and there isn’t any dominion and there isn’t any name in the universe that is over Jesus Christ. Therefore, whatever it is that He deems to do for you cannot be thwarted. His power in your behalf cannot be gainsaid. Nothing can hinder Him because no one surpasses Him in power or equals Him.
He’s not just above, He is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. And most likely those terms are meant to indicate angels and, certainly, they would encompass Satan himself, that fallen angel, and the rest of his demon hosts. There is no force, there is no spiritual force or spiritual being or entity in the universe that can match the power of Jesus Christ. Certainly, that would also include human beings. So why would we go to men whose power is certainly suspect when we could go to Christ whose power is infinite in our behalf? My, how foolish it is.
From time to time someone will come to me and people often ask me to pray, of course, every week of my life, to pray for them. And someone will say, “I want you to pray because I know you have a direct pipeline.” I appreciate the compliment and I appreciate the thought, but the fact of the matter is the Lord says no to me, too, a lot because it’s not particularly His will. And I don’t have any greater pipeline than you do because the Christ who is my Savior is yours too. And there isn’t any secret pipeline. And sometimes someone will call the church and say I have a – I have a real problem and I need to talk to John. And someone will say, “Well, John’s not available but there’s someone else can speak with you.”
“No, I have to talk to him because he knows, he’ll understand.” And the truth of the matter is occasionally I have the opportunity to talk to such people and they are amazed at how difficult it is for me to unscramble the omelet of their life because I’m not omniscient and I don’t fully understand and the best service that I can render to them is to send them to the one who can. I can’t tell you how many times someone has come in and unfolded an impossible scenario to which I have simply replied, “I would like to suggest that – that we go to the person who knows more about this than anybody in the world.” And they’ll say, “Oh, that’s fine, who is that?” And I’ll say, “The Lord.” And we’ll just pray and place our self at His disposal.
There isn’t any human being that can offer to you the resources that Christ has. You say, “Well what are you for then?” That’s a fair question. I’m here to direct you away from me to Him. That’s why I’m here. That’s why all of us are here. That’s why all who minister and teach do what they do. Not to call you to us but to call you to Him, to direct you to Him. The greatest lesson that we can teach is that you’re not going to find in us the resource you’re going to find it in Him. His might matches His majesty. He is superior to every ruler, every authority, every being, whether human and angelic, now and forever.
Why wouldn’t you go to Him? Why wouldn’t you cast your care on Him? All your care? And so, he says Christ is all, Christ is everything. If you would understand the greatness of His plan and the greatness of His power and the greatness of His person, you certainly would go to Him. He is, according to verse 23, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. He’s it. He’s the fullness. He’s the everything. He’s the source of everything. It’s only in Him that we find our needs met. We need to understand this, particularly in a day like today when Christianity has created its own culture which is a non-Christ-centered culture.
We’ve got all of our own little things, trappings and accoutrements that have accumulated like barnacles on the ship of the church. And they hinder it as it moves through the water to its destiny. They encumber it, they slow it down, they retard it, they provide no benefit. They only affect it with their own decay. How can we strip away all of this stuff that has accumulated and get back to Colossians 3:11, Christ is all? Get back to the place where we love Christ so singularly and so devotedly and so totally that everything falls in line behind that?
It should be true that since the greatness of His plan and the greatness of His power and the greatness of His person is known to us, we would pursue that. Pursuing that means courting and cultivating a love relationship with Jesus Christ that is deep and profound and it is in that kind of pursuit that we find all of the security and all of the confidence and all of the satisfaction and all of the joy and peace and hope that we could ever expect and more.
Father, we thank You this morning that You have given us some time to stop and just to think about the Lord Jesus Christ. We remember how the Scripture says, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus, let him be accursed,” and we’ve come to You and we’ve expressed our love for Christ. And He is our Savior and yet our love is not what it ought to be. It’s so easy to fall into that sin of the Ephesian church and leave your first love, that fiery, warm love, that exhilarating passionate love that caused us to long to pursue Christ for everything.
Forgive Your church for the sins of self-centeredness and a man-centered focus and give us back the centrality of Jesus Christ. God, may these dear people, Your people called by Your name, redeemed by Your blood, may they have the spirit, the attitude, the disposition of wisdom and revelation in the true and full knowledge of Your Son. May they understand the greatness of the plan that – that unfolds, the greatness of the power that is available to them, the greatness of the person who is their friend, their resource.
And in that understanding, may they pursue the knowledge of Christ so that they cultivate a love relationship that leads them to deep devotion, the fruit of which is living in confidence and strength and security and joy and peace and hope. Give us back in Your church the love for the unseen Christ. May we be able to say with Peter, “Whom having not seen we love,” may He be the preoccupation of our hearts. We confess Christ is everything. In Him is all we need. Give us a heart to pursue the knowledge of Him. And this we ask for His glory, Amen.
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