************ Sermon on Ephesians 3:20-21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 3, 2001
"Glory to Him Who Does More"
Oxymoron. That is a statement or a phrase that combines seemingly absurd opposites. The English language has a whole host of these:
-a "legal brief," for instance, is anything but brief
-a "graduate student" is either a graduate or a student and not both
-by definition "gunboat diplomacy" is anything but diplomatic
-a "rap song" is neither sung nor a song
-scientists talk of "random order" – if it is random it is not order
-we talk of people as being "awfully nice" – make up your mind – they are either awful or nice and not both
-an "industrial park" does not look like any park I would care to have a picnic in
-you can go to the restaurant and order "jumbo shrimp" – but how can something be jumbo and shrimp at the same time
In the passage in front of us Paul has a host of oxymora. Paul prays three petitions for the Ephesian Church and – by extension – for us. First, Paul prays that you may grasp or measure "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." But to measure Christ's love is to measure the immeasurable. Second, Paul prays that you "know this love" (vs 19) – that is, that you taste and experience it personally in your hearts and lives. But to know this love is to know the unknowable. Third, Paul prays that you "be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." But to be filled with God is to contain the uncontainable. Paul prays that the Ephesian Christians – and we with them – will measure the immeasurable, know the unknowable, and contain the uncontainable.
When Paul prays this prayer is he dreaming an impossible dream? Is he being a fool? Is he kidding himself? Are each one of these petitions an oxymoron with an absurd combination of opposites?
Paul answers this in our text for this evening.
I God's Great Power
A Why is it that we can measure the immeasurable, know the unknowable, and contain the uncontainable? Why is that we can join Paul in praying that our children and youth measure and know and contain the love of Jesus?
The answer lies in the power of God which "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine."
Paul's main point here is that the power of God is beyond measure. It is a great and awesome power.
It is the power which made heaven and earth and everything in them. It is the power which sets the stars and planets and galaxies in place. It is the power which determines the boundaries for land and sea.
It is the power which made a virgin conceive and give birth to a son. It is the power by which the second person of the Triune Godhead took on our flesh. It is the power which allowed Him to endure the pain and agony of the cross. It is the power which raised Him from the dead and brought Him into heaven.
It is the power used by Jesus so that the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor (Mt 11:5).
It is the power used to make people born again. It is the power that gives light to those who walk in darkness. It is the power that plants new life in hearts of stone.
And, at the end of time, it is the power by which God makes a new heaven and a new earth.
What a great and awesome power!
B I want you to notice something important about God's great and awesome power. I want you to notice it is a power "that is at work within us."
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ then the very power of God is at work in you. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ then God's great power is at your disposal.
Topic: GodAn Hyundai Excel with a jet engine. That's what it is like with the power of God at work within us.
Subtopic: Power of
Title: Jet Engine in Hyundai Excel
Imagine a Hyundai Excel. You are next to it at the stoplight in your Dodge Viper. The Hyundai driver races his engine and looks over at you with a challenging stare. "Piece of cake," you think to yourself. "My car will beat him in idle." The light turns green, tires burn, and much to your astonishment the Excel races ahead of you and leaves you in its dust. Later you discover the Excel has a jet engine.
The power of God that created heaven and earth and raised Jesus from the dead is at work within us. This means that we are more than able to do God's work within the church and kingdom. This means we can do anything. This means no goal is too high. This means nothing is impossible or beyond reach. Remember the words of Paul:
(Phil 4:13) I can do everything through him who gives me strength.This reminds me of a story told about Mother Theresa:
Subtopic: Power of
Mother Theresa once wanted to build an orphanage, but she had only three shillings, and someone jeeringly said to her, "What can you do to build an orphanage with only three shillings?"
"Theresa with three shillings," was the answer, "can do nothing, but with three shillings and with God to help her there is nothing that Theresa cannot do!"
We can do great things for God, this church can do great things for God, in this building we can do great things for God – but only by God's strength "at work within us."
C Think of what this power "at work within us" can do. I want you to stretch your mind for a moment about this church and our ministry. What is the greatest thing you think this church should be doing? What is the wildest dream that you have about our congregation?
Paul says God can do immeasurably more than we have asked Him to do and immeasurably more than we have even thought of asking Him to do.
(Eph 3:20) Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us ...Do you know what Paul is saying? Paul is telling us to take our hopes and dreams and multiply them by ten, and then by one hundred, and then by one thousand.
We tend to think small. And, we make God small like us. But God is BIG and He wants us to think BIG.
For instance, I have a dream that when our building is paid for next February we use our resources to build one Habitat for Humanity home every year. But you know what God says? He says, "I can do more!" "I want you to build 3 or 4 or 5 Habitat for Humanity homes every year."
Or, you might have a dream that five years from now this church has 150 member families. But you know what God says? He says, "I can do more!" "My plan is that you have 250 member families and start a daughter church."
Our Youth Pastor Search Committee has a dream that before September we have a youth pastor – and right now that really seems like a dream. But you know what God says? He says, "I can do more!" "My plan is that you have a Youth Pastor and a full-time Evangelist and a Minister of Music and three people doing the job that Amy now does by herself."
Our Evangelism Committee and others have been thinking about some kind of Hispanic ministry. So we repainted an Hispanic church in Farmersville on last year's SERVE and this year we are repainting Love Song Church in Fresno. But you know what God says? He says, "I can do more!" "I want you to start a Spanish-speaking church on the north-end of town and put a good Reformed Hispanic preacher in the pulpit there."
We start a neighborhood prayer watch. God says, "I can do more!" We adopt a church budget. God says, "I can do more!" We start a new adult-single ministry. And God says, "I can do more!" We support 13 missionaries through Faith Promise. And God says, "I can do more." No matter how much we stretch ourselves in faith, God says back, "I CAN DO MORE!" Even when we stretch ourselves beyond what we think is possible, the response of God is still the same: "I can do more, more, more, more ..." In fact, there are no boundaries, no limits, to what God can and does do within us.
So far I have only mentioned goals or dreams concerning the church. But what if we were to also apply this to individual spiritual goals and dreams.
You have some vague notion of serving the Lord by faithfully attending worship. But God says, "I can do more!" "I want you to be a Sunday School teacher or Youth leader or GEMS counselor."
You have a family member or friend who is disabled. You pray that their life is free of pain. But God says, "I can do more!" "My will is that they get up and walk."
You want your business or career to prosper so you can pay your share of the church budget and support Kingdom causes. But God says, "I can do more!" And He so blesses you that you can afford to give 80% of your income to His work.
Or, let's go back to Paul's three petitions that we measure the immeasurable, know the unknowable, and contain the uncontainable. So we pray that our son or daughter profess their faith. We pray that someone living in sin will repent. We pray that someone struggling with drug or alcohol abuse will lead an alcohol-free or drug-free life. But God says, "I can do more!" "No only will they repent and profess my name but I'm calling them to full-time Kingdom work. I'm calling them to be a pastor or a missionary or a Christian School teacher."
Our minds can't stretch far enough to accommodate what God is able to do. Our prayers can't ask enough to accommodate what God is able to do.
My brothers and sisters, don't think small because our God is NOT small. Don't think small because our God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
Topic: FaithWe, like those city fathers, sometimes set the boundaries too close, too small, in our spiritual expectations. But our God can always do more.
Evangelist Billy Walker told a story about the city fathers of New York as they contemplated the future growth of the city. They laid out the streets and numbered them from the center outward. When they began, there were only six or seven streets. In their planning maps, they projected how large they thought the city might grow.
Reaching beyond their wildest imagination, they drew streets on the map all the way out to 19th Street. They called it "Boundary Street" because they were sure that's all the larger New York City would become. But history has proven them to be shortsighted. At last count, the city had reached 284th Street -- far exceeding their expectations!
What a great and awesome God!
D God "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." Think of what this says about our asking, about our prayers. Paul says our prayers are NOT big enough. God wants us to pray BIG prayers. God wants us to pray life-transforming prayers. God wants us to pray community-transforming prayers. God wants us to pray nation-transforming prayers. But we are not praying those prayers.
Billy Graham once said something along the lines that heaven is full of answers to prayers we have never prayed. Don't you just see it? A big huge room full of answers to prayers waiting to be prayed.
We need to expand our vision of Who God is and what His purposes are and what He wants us to pray for. We need to stop thinking small and praying small and we need to start thinking big and praying big.
II God's Glory
A Now we need to ask why. Why does God work in us with His great power? Why does God want us to think big and pray big? Why does God do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine? The answer is found in verse 21:
(Eph 3:21) to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
"To him be glory ..." The glory of God is the weight of God, the worthiness of God, the honor and reputation of God. "Glory" is the sum total of all the honor, praise, and majesty that belongs to God.
Men and angels do not give this "glory" to God. It is already His and will always be His from eternity to eternity. But what we can do is recognize His glory for what it is.
B "To him be glory in the church ..." We give glory to Randy Moss on the football field. To Mario Lemieux in the hockey rink. To George W Bush in the White House. To Britney Spears at the Grammy Awards. To Julia Roberts at the Academy Awards. But to God be glory in the church. We say that all the world is a stage; but when it comes to the glory of God, the church is not only the stage, it is also the spotlight to focus attention on God's glory.
God wants to do great things in us and through us and among us – things we cannot possibly do by ourselves. When we the church, by God's great power, do great things and pray great things it is God Who is glorified. People may look at us but it is the work of God they are seeing.
C "To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus ..." It is Jesus Who especially shows the power of God. God's power is fully at work in Him and through Him: think of the fish and loaves multiplied, a storm stilled, water turned into wine, a blind man seeing, a lame man walking, a dead man raised. Jesus said and Jesus prayed, "Father, glorify your name!" (Jn 12:28). And it was by the power of God within Him.
D "To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations for ever and ever. Amen." Glory on earth has been equated with 15 minutes of fame. The most admirable of men and women are but meteors flashing across the sky. But God, His glory is like that of the sun – burning forever. Generation after generation has experienced His love and His power and bring Him the praise, honor, and glory due His name.
(Eph 3:20-21) Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, (21) to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
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