Thursday, April 30, 2009

You've Already Got It: Living in what Christ has Purchased

William Randolph Hearst was a wealthy and successful newspaper tycoon in the early 1900’s. If you have ever seen or heard of the movie Citizen Kane it is loosely based on the life of Hearst. Hearst was also an avid collector of art work. On one occasion he read of an extremely valuable piece of art, which he decided he must add to his collection. He demanded that his agent hunt this piece down. The agent went to numerous galleries throughout the world to find the masterpiece. Hearst assured the agent that he was willing to pay any price for this extremely valuable painting. Months went by of agonizing search for this painting and it was no where to be found. Finally, one day the agent found the painting. It was owned by one William Randolph Hearst—and had been stored away in his warehouse for years. He already owned this valuable painting and did not even know it.

Is it not sad that many Christians spend their life searching for that “something more” when we already possess everything in Jesus Christ? We are like Hearst. We scour the world to find the thing that we already possess. If we would but stop and enjoy that which we already possess how different our lives would be.

This is not how we were created to be. If you look back at the beginning of Creation you see man how he was intended to be: walking in intimate fellowship with God, enjoying God’s creation in unhindered community, living lives that are fulfilling and passionate, and all the while they are happily reflecting and rejoicing in God’s revealed glory. And then the second (perhaps third) most catastrophic event happens in history—Adam and Eve rebelled against God. And the effects of that touch us even today. In Adam all die. Now, we are born not walking in intimate fellowship with God but instead guilty and as we will learn next week as children of wrath. Instead of being in unhindered community our relationships are shallow, broken, self-protective, and often non-existent. Community is shattered. Our work—both for man and woman—is no longer fulfilling and done with passion but it is subjected to futility. We now are confined to asking the question—“what’s it all about”. Now, rather than happily reflecting and rejoicing in the glory of God we pursue our own glory.

Really the key question for us—not only in this sermon but in all of life—is this: Is God enough? That is the same question that was put before Adam and Eve. There was nothing mystical or magical about that piece of fruit. What was the issue in the garden of Eden is the same core issue that we face today—Is God enough? Is what you already have enough to sustain you?

And the truth is many of us live lives that say with our lips God is enough but our actions reveal something different. The truth is we all live with gaping holes between what we believe and what we practice. This is what some have called the “gospel gap”. The problem is that we do not believe strongly enough what we say we believe. Tonight as we look at this in Ephesians Paul is revealing his prayer for the Ephesians. At its core what Paul is doing is praying that the Ephesians might “get” everything that God has done in verse 3-14. His prayer is that they might get the gospel—or to put that another way his prayer is that the gospel gap might shorten more and more each day. Listen now to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, again it is one long breath-taking sentence in the original language.


Sermon Introduction:

Why would someone, particularly in our case, Paul, tell somebody what they are praying? Let’s imagine that I take one of you aside and let you know that I have been praying for you specifically that God might take all conflicting passions out of your heart and give you a single-minded focus on Jesus Christ. What would that stir in you? I wonder what the Ephesians thought when Paul said, “I’ve been praying for you”.
As they listened to Paul’s prayer did they get all defensive? “What, Paul, you think your better than us? You think you’ve got it all together? You think we need to work on all this stuff, huh? Well, you don’t preach too well. You need to work on your eloquence.” I doubt this was their response.

More than likely their response was one of encouragement. It is kind of a messed up way of thinking but there are some people when they say they are praying for you it causes you to pause. First, because you know that they really are praying for you. They are not those typical people that speak in Christian code where “I’ll pray for you” is synonymous with “Ok, stop talking about this now and lets move on to something I feel more comfortable with—I really don’t want to deal with this issue right now”. Secondly, there are some people that you assume have a better hearing with God. Now this is the part that is messed up. All believers have a hearing with God, and I would say that all believers have an equal hearing with God through Jesus Christ. But, you have to admit there’d be certain coolness to Paul praying for you. It’d almost have to be heard wouldn’t it? And I think Paul’s prayers were heard because they were so gospel focused. I think this prayer would serve as an encouragement to the Ephesians.

If you remember anything about Paul’s letter to the Colossians you might remember the historical situation. The culture at Colossae as it is here in Ephesus was one that was inundated with magical practices, fear of all these demonic power, big powerful gods, and little gods, and cults, and spirits, and all of this weirdness controlled their every day life. How comforting it must have been to know that Paul was praying for them that they would understand that God is enough; but underlying that prayer is a question and a declaration that we need help. Sometimes God is not enough. That age old question was being asked of the Ephesians and it is being asked of us today—is God enough?

Paul’s hope in this prayer is that the eyes of the Ephesians hearts might be opened so that they can see the gospel. That the gospel might penetrate so deep into their lives that it shouts through every aspect of their lives that God is enough! God’s intention is the same for us tonight. He is enough! We will now make this song by Jeremy Camp our prayer. As you are singing this song think about the words and make them your prayer to God. Acknowledge the truth of the words and pray that this truth might go deeper.


Tonight we will look at the three areas where the gospel proclaims God is enough. But before we do that, let’s try to paint a picture of what happens when we have a gospel gap in our life. Or to put that another way what does it look like when God is not enough?

The truth is it will be tough to distinguish this because we often live our lives with a huge gospel gap. Perhaps we should rewind again to the garden of Eden and see how Adam and Eve were. We see four prominent things in Genesis 1 and 2 that are radically altered in Genesis 3 and in our experience today.

1) walking in intimate fellowship with God,
2) enjoying God’s creation in unhindered community,
3) living lives that are fulfilling and passionate,
4) and all the while they are happily reflecting and rejoicing in God’s revealed glory.

That is what our lives should look like and that is what the gospel has come to restore. When God saved us he began the process of restoring us to those four things. Whenever we are not experiencing the fullness of those four it is because we are living in that gospel gap. It is because the gospel has not yet fully changed us. The gospel is not quite as deep as it should be. So rather than those four things what do we often see.

1) hiding from God, pursuing lovers less wild, rebelling from God,
2) shallow and superficial community that is marked by self-protecting, self-advancement, and creature worship. Anger, bitterness, blame, slander, gossip, murder, lust, greed, covetousness, lying, stealing, sexual sin, envy, enmity, jealousy, rivalries, etc. comes from our rejection of God and because of that we are changed and our community is changed. Whenever you do not believe the gospel this will be what it looks like.
3) not only is our relationship with God and others marred but our relationship with creation is messed up. Work is no longer passionate and fulfilling it is draining, boring, and a four-letter word that we hate. We live lives without purpose and wander around with a nag inside of us of not being fulfilled.
4) And rather than happily reflecting and rejoicing in God’s revealed glory our lives are marred with all sorts of sin. We live for ourselves and the works of the flesh become obvious in our lives. We do not reflect the beauty of God and we certainly do not rejoice in the beauty of God.

This is painting probably the ugliest picture possible and moving downward. You can probably relate to a few of those and if you would be really honest with yourself you could see all of those (at least seeds of them) present in your life. But permit me to make a few pointed statements that might help us to see that the gospel has not gone as deep as it needs to:

When I am more concerned with fixing the outside, noticeable, and easier to fix sins than I am about fixing the deep, inward, painful, and personal things I do not believe the gospel.
When I hide my sin and constantly defend myself with others I do not believe the gospel.
When criticism crushes me and I get defensive I do not believe the gospel.
When I am frequently worried, anxious, and fearful I do not believe the gospel.
If I am more worried about my bank account, my clothes, or a pimple than I am worried about whether or not my neighbor will be in hell in 100 years I do not believe the gospel.
When the buttons on your cell phone are more worn than the pages of your Bible you do not believe the gospel.
When I am wasting my life on a bunch of trivial junk I do not believe the gospel.
When I choose fleeting pleasures over temporary discomfort that comes from the gospel I do not believe the gospel. What I mean is when the fleeting pleasure of safety trumps the momentary discomfort of sharing the gospel I do not believe the gospel. When the fleeting pleasure of pornography trumps the temporary discomfort of turning off the computer and squelching those desires I do not believe the gospel.
When I get angry I do not believe the gospel
When I refuse to forgive someone I do not believe the gospel.

This problem will continue to plague us. Until we stand before Jesus we will be tempted to forget the gospel. Many times we will succumb to that temptation and live lives that do not reflect the gospel. This is why Paul is praying what he is. Because Paul needed it, the church at Ephesus needed it, and we need it. Lord, may the gospel go deep into our hearts. Or as Paul prayed, “Lord, open the eyes of our hearts.”

You know what I really like about this passage. Paul is not praying that they will do these things to merit favor with God. He is not saying do all of these things so that you will attain everything in verses 3-14. He is not saying I pray that you might know your calling so that God will adopt you. He is not saying I pray that you know the riches of your inheritance so that God will be sealed with the Holy Spirit. He is not saying I pray that you know God’s power so that he might redeem and forgive you. No, he is praying that we realize what God has already done. God has done these things! You do not earn them. Whether this prayer is answered in your life or not does not dictate your standing before God….it does not dictate whether you receive verses 3-14…it does dictate your experience of it. And that is what Paul is praying: that we might “get” what has already happened to us.

This is the way Paul starts his prayer. He says in verse 15, because I have seen the fruit in your lives I know that verses 3-14 have happened to you. And because of this I give thanks to God—He is doing this great work in your life. And I pray that God might give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. What does that mean? It means I pray that the Spirit might show you who God really is. I pray that the Lord might show himself to you in such a mighty way—and that this knowledge of God is not just pie-in-the sky but actually works its way out into your everyday life.

And then he restates it in verse 18, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened”. The heart is the wellspring of life. If our heart is “enlightened” then all of us will be. This is the core of your being. And Paul’s prayer is that God might open up the eyes of your heart so that you can see Jesus. Now that we know that God is often not enough lets cry out to God with another song. Let’s pray as Paul did—open the eyes of our heart. We want the gospel to go deep.


As Paul is praying that the eyes of our heart might be opened to see Jesus—that the gospel goes deep, he gets specific. There are three things that he prays.

1) Pray that God will enlighten our hearts so that we know the hope to which we are called

This looks back at the calling of God and it looks forward to the hope to which he has called us. Specifically, Paul is saying that he prays that the eyes of our hearts might get a glimpse of our destination—that we might know where we are going. One commentator put it this way, Paul is praying that, “we may know in happy experience the expectation which God’s saving calling of us has [created] in our souls; and that we may know also what that calling has secured for us and reserves for us in the heavenly life which awaits us.”

As we look at Scripture there are many things that God has called us to. He has called us to belong to Jesus. He has called us to holiness. He has called us to freedom. He has called us to fellowship and peace with one another. He has called us to suffering. He has called us into his kingdom and to share in His glory. In reality what he has called us to is a radically new life here in preparation for a radically new life that awaits us.

We have looked at this in the past couple of weeks because Paul has already dealt with where we are going. He has already opened up for us what God is doing in verses 3-14, so remember some of those things. Think again upon the heavenly scene of Revelation 7 or Revelation 21. Think again about what it means to be redeemed. Think about that God’s global purpose chart.

Knowing where we are going begins to restore those four things that we saw in the garden. It stirs in us passionate worship as we wait for that blessed day when we will know God more fully. And again if you are not stirred to worship thinking about heaven then something is radically wrong, because worship is what you will be doing in heaven. Knowing where we are going transforms are relationships with others as well. It helps us to see what is significant. It creates in us forgiveness. When we get a glimpse of heaven and realize we will not be the only ones there it changes us. It reminds us that community is not optional but that it is our destination. So it motivates us to work on relationships. It motivates us to fight for love instead of loving to fight. Knowing where you are going also transforms your passions and your pursuits. Instead of living for the trivial you begin living for that which really matters. Our mandate becomes the one in my office, “so live and so study and so serve and so preach and so write that Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen God, be the only boast of this generation.” And more than anything knowing our destination stirs in us a passion to reflect and rejoice in the glory of God. We want to be holy because we have seen God. We want rejoice in His glory and in the spread of His glory to the nations because His glory has captivated us. We see this big picture and it changes us. So, let’s pray that the gospel might go deeper and that we know the hope to which he has called us.

2) Pray that God will enlighten our hearts so that we know the riches of His glorious inheritance.

Again we have the same issues that we had a couple of weeks ago with translation. Is this saying that we are God’s inheritance or that we get an inheritance from God? Either way I think it does not matter, the end is the same glorifying and enjoying God Himself. Paul’s first prayer is that we might know where we are going. This prayer is kind of like Paul praying that we will know what it is like once we get there.

Let’s say that Paul is saying that we get an inheritance. As we look at Scripture we see various pictures of this. We see this inheritance called eternal life. We see it called sharing glory with Christ. It is called immortality and it is called the kingdom of Christ. Furthermore, we see a picture of this in Revelation 21:2-7 as it describes the heavenly city. What Paul would then be saying is I pray that you might get the beauty of what will be yours. But notice how he says “yours”. this glorious inheritance is not something that we have individually it is something that we have together with all of the saints. I think we should probably drop the mental picture of streets of gold with a million different personal mansions. I would say it is probably more like one big mansion where we all hang out in the family room.

What if Paul is saying that we are the inheritance? Well, then he is saying that I pray that you might know how amazing it is the position you are in. I pray that you get the glory, honor, and wonder of this privileged status. Does it not absolutely transform your life and way of thinking when you realize that you are God’s treasured possession? That in a very real sense God has determined that His joy in heaven is intimately tied up with your joy in heaven.

This too changes our perspective on life. It makes forgiveness easier. It makes anger stupid. It helps us to realize that really the only things we take to heaven are the things that we have given away. When we get a glimpse of heaven we get a glimpse of what really matters.

Catch a glimpse of heaven—Be Unto Your Name

3) Pray that God will enlighten our hearts so that we know the immeasurable greatness of his power.

Paul spends the most time on this third point and I think that is intentional. It is one thing to know where the gospel is taking you as well as to know what it will be like when you get there. That has a huge implication on the way we live our everyday lives. But it is quite another to be informed of the power that is at work to get you there. What Paul is saying is this—I pray that you might come to know that it is the very power of Almighty God that is at work in you to accomplish His grand purpose.

Do you get the idea that Paul is straining for words here to describe God’s power. He stars by using a word like “immeasurable”. So it is huge and so huge that you cannot measure it. You cannot weigh it because it cannot be confined by weight. You cannot measure it with a ruler because it cannot be confined by height. You cannot try to decipher it’s volume, or barometric pressure, you cannot put it to a theory like E=MC2. It cannot be measured. His power off the scales and is more powerful than any scale that could be created. But, that does not quite get to describe the power of God.

This power is great. Does this mean that it is good? Or does it mean that is beautiful? Well, whatever great means that is God’s power. It is great. And notice what it is directed toward…”us who believe”. Are you serious? God’s immeasurable, great, awesome, holy, magnificent, wondrous, glorious, power is directed toward me.

Well what does that mean, what does that look like? Again Paul is stretching for words because at the tail end of verse 19 he uses more big words, “the working of his great might”. He intentionally uses words that convey the idea of power in action. It is not just power that he could use if he wanted to, but it is power that is actually at work to accomplish His purpose. And it is the exact same power that is working in us that raised Jesus from the dead.

Who is the most powerful person you can think of? You can think of someone with big muscles or you can think of someone with great intellectual power. You can think of a political leader you can think of a star athlete; even if you think of the most powerful doctor. No matter how powerful they are there is one thing they cannot do—raise somebody from the dead. Oh, sure we can muster CPR but you have not overcome the principle of death. Raising someone from life in this way is only delaying the inevitable. When this says that God “raised him from the dead” it is saying something far more significant. It is saying that the very principle of death has been conquered in Christ. He is immortal. Death has lots its sting. Death cannot hold him in the grave, because death is not the all-powerful, God is.

No, something amazing is happening here. It is the power of God that takes Jesus from the grave and not only resurrects him but also seats him at the right hand of the Father. He places him over everything. Do not get tripped up over the language about God “putting him” above all things. It is not that God the Father is giving something to God the Son that he has not always had. He has always had the blessing of being at the Father’s right hand. He has always been above all things. But there is something unique that is taking place here. Psalm 8 is being fulfilled where the Son is being exalted.

It is always scary dealing with Christology and trying to understand how Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. Trying to answer this question has caused people to fall into numerous heresies throughout the ages. So, I will cautiously walk on very holy ground. This chart kind of helps to explain what is taking place here.


Paul is pointing in this text to the exaltation of Christ. Christ has not only been raised from the dead but he has been put in a position over everything. And this too is for our great benefit. This is why it is important for us to get the gospel on this point. Jesus is our captain. But our captain is also in charge of the entire world. Our captain has all the power in the world. When we know this oh, the difference it makes.

Verses 22 and 23 are kind of strange. What do they mean? I like what Bible commentator Peter O’Brien says, “Christ is the one who completely fills everything, that is, the whole of creation, the earthly and the heavenly, comprising all of humanity as well as the entire angelic realm, especially the rebellious powers. The nature of this filling is not to be explained in a physical or spatial sense: Christ pervades all things with his sovereign rule, directing all things to their appointed end (cf. Heb. 1:3), and this entails his functioning as the powerful ruler over against the principalities (1:21) and giving grace and strength to his people, the church (4:13,15-16) (151)."

Now, what is the point of all of this? If the power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at the right hand of God above everything…if that power is at work in you and for you…what do you think is going to happen? You are going to arrive at your intended destination. So, believer this text ought to create in you deep passionate worship. Again, catch the beauty of this passage. It is a prayer. Do not look at this passage as a list of things to do—look at it as a cry of the heart. God help me to see, feel, get, adore, treasure, enjoy, be consumed by, everything that you have done in the gospel. Help me to reflect that in a life of worship. Help me to reflect your glory and rejoice in your glory. Look at what God has done and stand amazed that this is not something that is a possibility—this is reality. Everything that God has done for us he has actually done for us and we will be brought to our destination.

Now, there is also another way to look at his power. If the power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at the right hand of God above everything…if that power is standing in judgment against you…what do you think is going to happen? This is why the Bible cries out, “behold the kindness and severity of God.” God is kind and God is merciful and God accomplishes his purposes. What should your response be if you stand apart from Christ?

One, look back at God’s creation. He has created you and He cares for you, yet you stand accountable to him. He created you for His glory. He created you for worship. He created you for community. He created you for meaning. He created you to reflect and rejoice in His glory. Yet, you have chosen to rebel. You stand against the all-powerful God. Your hope is not to try better, your hope is to plead for mercy. Your hope is to repent—believe what God says about your sin. Stand in agreement with God about your rebellion. And you need to believe—believe what God says about Jesus.

May the gospel go deep in every heart that is here tonight.

No comments: