Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Hope of Glory

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.  Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever!  Amen.   Ephesians 3:14-21(NLT)
Considering the number of times my parents had to have some of my limbs and extremities X-Rayed, I’m not entirely certain what the final count was of bones broken, or not broken.  I do know there were prayers being offered.  Some of the prayers were petitions that God might spare me further agony; some were that the cost of a cast or surgery might not keep us from having Christmas presents (those were from my brother), and I’m sure there were a few that I might have more sense about playing football next year!
It makes a difference how you get along if you’re not broken. 
Now, what’s true in the physical world is often true of spiritual issues.  In Ephesians 2:14 Paul held-up Jesus as “our peace”.  Peace is the opposite of chaos, when things are broken. 
Peace is putting back together that which was broken. 
It’s the Humpty Dumpty reality of every child of God.  We come to God all broken and pulled apart by our sin; we hold ourselves up like a toddler comes to Mom with her broken doll, and He fixes our brokenness.
If we could look at our inside brokenness on a spiritual X-Ray, we might understand that we don’t really know how to fix ourselves, and all the things we try only break us more.  Stuff like drugs, material things, bad relationships and sexual experimentation are no way to fix the brokenness we experience.
This is the essence of Paul’s prayers for the folks at Ephesus.  He reminds them (Chap 2) that they were far from God, broken and pulled apart.  But God healed their brokenness in Jesus Christ; he brought them into the kingdom and drew them close like chicks gathered into the safety of a mother hen’s embrace.
And now God wants them strong, overflowing with his grace by the power of His Holy Spirit, overwhelmed with love from Christ dwelling in their hearts, and experiencing every possible measure of what it means to be loved by God, so that they can love others the same way. 
It’s unimaginable, but Paul prays big for people he loves.  And Paul believes it will show up in their lives.
Let’s unpack that prayer a bit; here’s what Paul (and God) want for you and me, and every person on earth:

He Wants Us Whole and Strong

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  v.16
 Empowered is the word “dunamis”; we hear the word dynamite.  Paul wants the overwhelming, dynamic strength of God’s glory to be active in our lives.  But he prays for it to be on the inside, the inner being…spiritual strength.
In our world it seems everything is based upon the outward appearance, not inner.  Young girls jump through all the latest fad “hoops” just to look attractive.  That’s anything but authentic. 
When you ignore the inner self in favor of presenting a sensuous, lust-creating appearance, you’re prostituting away the best part of you; you exchange real life for an existence built on sand.
To be strengthened in the inner being is to be integrated, congruent, and whole; it’s when the inner character is so “together” that it shows through to the outside. 
It means you’re authentic; what you see is what you get!
God is that way – He’s authentic.  Scripture says He is the same yesterday, today and forever.[2] 
Authentic means you’re living into who God created you to be, because you are allowing God’s Spirit to control your life.  You’re the same on the inside as the outside.

He Wants Us Loved by Christ on the Inside

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.  Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  v.17
Christ dwelling in our hearts – how in the world do you explain that to a five year old?  You may have seen that email story a few years ago about the small boy who has to have heart surgery.  He is a faith-filled little guy, but the doctor is something of a skeptic. 
The night before the surgery the doctor tries to assure the boy by describing the operation.  The doc says “when I open your heart”, at which point the boy finishes the sentence… you’ll find Jesus there.
Well…is he there or not?  Yes AND no are the correct answers.  He may not be there physically, but his presence comes to unite with who you are on the inside, your spirit, soul – all that which makes you who and what you are – and his influence changes you from inside out.
What kind of influence?  Christ is dwelling, making himself at home in us, rooting us in him and building a strong foundation under us…Paul piles up methaphors[3] of how Jesus makes himself known to us on the inside, fitting us for living the kind of life a strong Christian can experience.
I became a Christian at a young age, but walked away from the faith in my teen years.  For a long time, more than a dozen years I was like the prodigal son – away from my Father.  Then I came home; God began (through a relationship of faith with Him in Christ) to change my wanter.  What is a wanterIt’s the source of most of our troubles.  It’s the inner craving for all the kinds of stuff, habits and activities that can either separate us from God, or join us to God. 
Can a Christian sin after he gets saved?  And do we?  Yes!  My answer is:  I sin all I want to; but when Jesus came and took up residence in my life, soul and spirit he changed my wanter.  I still have the ability to sin, but I want-to much less each year; He changes our wanter!

He Wants Us Living it and Loving Others

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. v.18-19
To know in the Biblical sense is to experience by relationship. 
Knowing Christ’s love leads to the filling of the fullness of God.  To describe this is like telling a person what transcendent love means; words fail!  You might tell what you felt like in the presence of God’s transcendent love, but you have a tough time describing the love. 
How do you describe the wind? 
How do you describe the birth of a baby? 
You know what happened, but you’re awe struck at the magnitude of the event.
But let’s take a stab at it.  Imagine you’re in a fishing boat; you let down a net and pull it up again.  The catch is so tremendous that the net is breaking.  What will you do?  Will you keep this little occurrence to yourself, or tell the first eighteen thousand people you meet about your great prowess as a fisherman?
This is what it means to live the Christian life, and experience or know His transcendent love; this is what it is to know Christ Jesus, to be in the presence of Almighty God, and share with others, as best you can, what He has done for you.

He Wants Us to NOT Miss the Best Part

The dying words of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement are recorded as the best of all is, God is with us.[4] 
There is something of that in what Paul has said to us about not being broken.
In Paul’s text he says he prays for us to be
·  strengthened in the inner being,
·  that Christ would be dwelling in us,
·  and that we would know him and be filled.
In each case the words (strengthened, dwelling, know and filled) are in the infinitive…no ending.
Paul is saying,
·  we are strengthened and continuing to grow stronger
·  Christ is dwelling in us, and never leaving us
·  knowing Him and His filling are increasing and unending.
This is what is in store for a child of God who stays close to the Father through Jesus Christ. 
The “not broken” part is for keeps!
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Amen!

[1] Title Image: See page for author, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] Hebrews 13:8
[3] A.T. Robertson, WORD PICTURES IN THE N.T., Vol. 4: Epistles, (IA, Parsons, 2007) Quickverse.
[4] James Gilchrist Lawson, Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians John Wesley – Edited by Albert C. Outler, , The Works of John Wesley (13 Volumes) Baker Books, Wesley Center Online

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