February 12, 2023

Surpassing Our Understanding

Passage: Ephesians 3:14-21

Julies Verne, a famous writer in the late eighteen hundreds was known for his science fiction and his ability to envision things Surpassing Our Understanding. In a world before flight, Verne wrote of space travel and a trip to the moon. Ships were just converting from sail to steam, but Verne wrote of a submarine that was powered by a strange force - he foretold nuclear power. The people of Julies Verne’s day didn't believe that any of the things he wrote about would ever happen, because they were far fetched. I believe that in Paul’s time people must have had the same thoughts when they read the things he wrote about. They were surpassing understanding in a time when people thought Christianity would cease not long after it started. Perhaps it was the escape hatch Paul used to deal with his depression and disappointments. Remember that he wrote to the Corinthians in his second letter chapter 12 about the thorn in his flesh, which was depression. But we have to understand – Paul wasn't escaping into a different world when wrote his letters to different churches. He wrote about the grace of God that reaches far beyond our human understanding.

To the Ephesians his letter can be described as the riches of God in believers inner being that will give them an understanding that in the end, they will receive the crown of righteousness just like he did. His second prayer for the Ephesians and us in the 21st century was prayed that we shouldn’t fall in with the choir of nihilism, the movement that says – “Everything will end in a black hole. There is no hope, no God and no destiny.” No with this prayer, Paul wanted to say, “You won’t believe what God is capable of doing in your live – not just in the end, but now while you live life.” From Ephesians 3: 14-21 the apostle first expressed thoughts about 1 Inner Renewal. We read in verse 16, “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.” Our modern society is made up of people who want to be rejuvenated. They pay thousands of dollars for weight control programs, plastic surgery, personal trainers and fitness machines. They buy clothes cut in the latest style and made with the most fashionable fabric. We have to agree – outward appearance is very important. To some it’s crucial to make the outward transformation, to be acknowledged. But that was just the opposite the apostle was thinking about. He couldn't care less about how people looked. Think about it – beauty parlours didn't exist in Paul's time. It was to him about what was inside a person's heart. The transformation that takes place in a Christian’s life goes beyond surface changes and looks. Christians are changed inwardly. The first thing that Paul prayed about and imagined for the Christians in Ephesus was that they would have the inner strength of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, Christians have a core strength that can withstand and overcome all of the opposing forces they may encounter. Think of Helen Keller. Despite her disabilities of being blind and mute, she still had the presence of the Holy Spirit from within that enabled her to be God’s instrument.
In his prayer, Paul envisions Jesus Christ in the heart of every believer. God no longer dwells on the fringes of the universe. He has pitched his tent in the hearts and lives of every Christian. Isn’t it wonderful to read Galatians 4: 6 over and over again, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father”. We, who have received Jesus in our lives by God’s grace, have Him as our Companion. We are never alone in our trials and difficulties. And each day we can have a renewal – can we say, our spiritual homes can be cleaned out if we just allow Jesus to help us? O my friends, His presence gave martyrs peace when they gave their lives for Christianity. His presence can give each one of us comfort under any circumstance of life. Haven’t we all witnessed this truth so many times – at a graveside or deathbed or any tragic event? Perhaps we feel like saying, “There isn’t much on the outside I can show in this life.” Then God says, “It’s more the inward treasures that you are to show”.

The next thing Paul reached his mountain top about was 2 Unimaginable Love. Listen again to the words Christians want to hear again and again – “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Paul always had trouble fully comprehending God’s love. He identified himself as the chief of sinners and couldn’t understand why God would love him and so dramatically invite him into His family of God. Let's think about Paul's situation. We can use an analogy. Let's say that there is a man who harassed a family. He went to far ends to spread bad news about the family. He even plotted to kill some of the family members. The greatest harm he could bring to the family, he wanted to put in place. And then the head of the family invited that man to become a part of the family. We all would say to this – “ridiculous, impossible! That can never happen.” But you see, it did happen for Paul. After he persecuted Jesus Christ and killed followers of Jesus, he was transformed through the love of Jesus and made a part of God's people. We too have experienced the unimaginable love of God in our lives...and we still experience that more than what we can think. Yes, the love of God Surpasses Our Understanding.
God loved us when we were still His enemies.
God loves us when we like Judas betray him, or like Peter, deny him.
God loves and forgives us before we even ask forgiveness.
God accepts us for who we are, and where we are at. Neither of those are qualifications for God’s love.
God’s love fills us with the fullness of life, and enables us to experience the abundant life in a manner that is truly beyond our expectations. This morning we woke with the understanding, the God of heaven and earth cares about us and wants to bless us again when we gather as His people. That was one of our reasons of coming here to worship. Paul described God’s love as wide and long and high and deep. There is no boundary you can put around God’s love. A father was once interrupted by his little girl at his desk. She asked him to describe God’s love to her. He took her in his car up a hill. He made her to look up and down and backwards and said, “What you just see, is God’s love.” He felt so satisfied with the lesson he gave his daughter, but then she said, “Daddy, think about it, we are always in the middle of God’s love.” That, my friends is true, but the question is, “Do we really believe that or do we doubt God when something happens we don’t like?” God is love, no matter what. His whole being and character is all about His love.

The apostle Paul concluded his thoughts about Surpassing Our Understanding. He expressed thoughts about 3 Unimaginable Power. Again the words, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people...” Paul envisioned that there would be surprises in store for his Ephesian readers – and also for all future generations that were going to read this letter. God’s power is Surpassing Understanding. He will continue to pour out His blessings in our lives in overflowing proportions. If we ever harboured the idea of keeping God’s blessings for ourselves, we would discover that we can’t because they are coming in too fast and furious. The phrase, “that you may have power...” from the Greek literally means “you might do out of facultative control.” How can we explain this in simple English? You will do this without being restricted. Paul wanted to make the point – “the power given by God will flow from your life and you will never be able to stop it.”

Paul prayed for an understanding in our lives of power together with all the saints of how God’s network of grace and love was going to expand above our comprehension. God will move in a greater manner and more powerfully than we can ever imagine. In the words of a Josh Groban song, “You lift me up to be more than I can be.” What is this power in the lives of Christians? We have so many testimonies written down about how it all started with one person who God picked up as an instrument and how it just grew and grew. Billy Graham didn’t begin his ministry to be a world famous Evangelist. He was a hometown boy who was called to ministry and thought he would preach to a group of people, not the millions around the world. Perhaps we should think large too, not that we want to have a large church, with a large budget and large events for ourselves, but that we can do large things for God with the influence we can have in one person’s life or the time we give to God’s kingdom work. Earlier in his letter to the Ephesians Paul wrote in chapter 1 verse 19 that the same power God used to raise His Son from the dead, is the power that is at work in our lives. Isn’t that incredible? We are capable to do many things – we just have to be close to the power source.

Paul’s second prayer to the Ephesians portrays things Surpassing Our Understanding. But it’s different from the things that we wish for that never come true. God’s blessings are real – He is actively at work. We are called to follow In the footsteps of Jesus, to make them known to the world. Let’s be available – always!