|THE FULLNESS OF GRACE
Series: A Letter of Grace and Life - Part Six
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
March 22, 2020
We are continuing in our study of Paul’s letter to the church of... Ephesus. Which is “a letter of… grace and life.”
This morning we are at Ephesians 3:14 - which comes at the end of the “grace” part of Paul’s letter - chapters 1 to 3. Paul writing about what God has graciously done for us in Jesus Christ.
The passage we’re looking at this morning is Paul’s pulling all that together and giving us the bottom line of why all that graciousness. Let me read for us the passage and then we’ll do some unpacking.
Ephesians 3 - starting at verse 14:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breath and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
In order to help us get into what Paul is pulling together here about God’s grace toward us we need to take a moment and think about the purpose of life and specifically to think about the purpose of our lives.
More than likely if we asked different people that question: What is the purpose of life? We’d get a variety of answers. Right?
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Someone once said: “Of course you have purpose in life. You pay taxes.”
According to the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition: “A man is only worth the sum of his possessions.”
The only real value to our lives - the only valuable part of life - is measured in what we gain for ourselves. He who dies with the most toys… wins. Grab all you can while you can because that’s all there is. There’s purpose in that. Life is about me.
William Randolph Hearst - who amassed one of the great fortunes of recent history - ended his days amidst all the opulence and splendor of Hearst Castle. Many of us have been there. Hearst ended his life sitting in a basement - playing over and over again the movies of his Hollywood studio - in an effort to capture a degree of enjoyment from the past.
Solomon summarizing his research on life - Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:6, Solomon writes symbolically that there comes a day when the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was…”
There comes a day when life has no enjoyment. The productive years of our life come to an end. We no longer have a spirit of adventure. Our bodies stop working. Our consciousness ends. Dust to dust, earth to earth, ashes to ashes.
Ecclesiastes 12:8 - a familiar verses - “Vanity of vanities,” says the preacher, “all is vanity.” Life is futile - empty - hopeless. Life is because life is.
In the nutsoness and uncertainty and brevity of where and when we do life - there’s got to be a greater purpose for our lives than there is no purpose. Just get what you can for yourself and maybe share a little love along the way.
Thank God that there is purpose to our lives. Yes?
Which is where Paul is going when he wraps up his opening up about God’s grace with God’s purpose for His grace towards us.
Starting in verse 14 - Paul shares that he’s praying for the Ephesians. He begins with what motivates him to be praying. Can we say this together: “What Motivates Paul.”
What gets Paul going - moves him - impassions him - knocks him off his feet and down to his knees - to pray for the Ephesian Christians?
Paul begins: “For this reason.” Which prompts our question - for what reason?
Do you remember the words to “We are the family of God”?
I realize that we’re doing this remote. So there’s peer pressure involved here. You don’t have to stand and do the kick. But at least you all can sing. Don’t leave me hanging.
We are the family of God - YES!
We are the family of God.
And He’s brought us together
To be one in Him,
That we might bring light to the world.
That truth is what’s motivates Paul.
Since chapter 1 Paul has been writing about God ‘s grace - poured out on us. Blessings of His grace that go above and beyond our wildest imaginations. Blessings that touch the core of who we are and touch our deepest needs.
What God - by His grace - has done for us that we need to marinate in and meditate on and keep coming back to especially in times like these.
God choosing us to know Him and to have relationship with Him.
God buying us back - setting us free from the crud of this world - the clutches of Satan and his minions. Setting us free from bondage to sin and ultimately eternal death. Buying us back through the broken body and shed blood of His Son Jesus.
God making us to be inheritors of the riches of His kingdom - life with God now - and life unimaginable - way better than here - life with God that goes on forever.
Life in which we can right now daily - even in the worst of our circumstances - the world shutting down and self-isolating with uncertainty and fear - we can know with 100% certainty that God is with us. That God has purpose for our lives - that He uses us - US! - in His awesome working together of history according to His will and purpose.
And God - Himself - by His grace - gives us His Spirit.
When we come to Jesus as our Savior, God the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. What assures us that God will fulfill His promises to us. And that is God making His power available to us to live life as its designed by God to be lived.
And Paul has opened up that God does all of that regardless of whether we are a Jew or a Gentile or whatever the animosity or hatred or prejudice or distancing or whatever is messed up between us as people and us and God.
Paul wrote about Jews and Gentiles - which was racial and spiritual distancing. The Jews distancing themselves from the Gentiles which had the effect of pushing the Gentiles away from God’s promises and keeping the Gentiles in seemingly hopeless separation from God.
Paul writes that Jesus - in His work on the cross - has broken down the dividing wall between God and us - and us and us. God takes Jews and Gentiles like us and puts them together - creating the oneness of the Body of Christ - spiritually without distinction - the Church.
Meaning that, by God’s grace we’re not a parenthetical afterthought - runners up in a spiritual contest.
But you and I are God’s people - with all the rights and privileges and promises and hope and purpose and inheritance and relationship and future of that oneness of God and His people that God has purposed from Adam and Abraham until today and forever into the future.
By God’s grace - in Jesus - that all is ours.
Isn’t it astounding to think about all that? Overwhelming? But in times like these hang onto what God - by His grace - has done for you.
So “for this reason...” - Paul writes in verse 1 - for all that God by His grace has done for us - what should drop us to our knees as it did Paul - Paul writes: For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
When Paul writes - in verse 14 - that he bows his knees before the Father - the Greek word is “patera”.
Then in verse 15 - the word he chooses to use for “family” is “patria.”
It’s a play on words in the Greek that shows us that Paul is focused on one family before one Father. Our Father who is in Heaven.
By God’s choice and work - we are the family of God. And God has brought us together to be one in Him that we might bring His light to the world.
That amazing reality motivates Paul - drops him to his knees before God - in prayer for the Ephesians.
Coming to verses 16 to 19 - are what Paul prays: The Specifics of Paul’s Prayer. Let’s say that together. “The specifics of Paul’s prayer.”
Paul prays: that according to the riches of His glory [all that God is and all of what God graciously done for us] He [God] may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breath and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Unpacking Paul - there are three specifics here that Paul prays for that we want to focus on. First: Paul prays for strength. Let’s say that together. “Strength.”
Imagine going to Costco. When you get there they tell you that you’ve one a contest and you can have as much of whatever you want from Costco. Think about all the stuff that’s at Costco. All yours. As much of it and all of it. It’s yours.
What we walk out with is a one family size package of Kirkland toilet paper. And that’s it. But we’re thinking we’ve scored good.
Paul is praying that we’ll open ourselves up to all of God strengthening us - strengthened according to the riches of God’s glory - the whole enchilada con salsa verde - Costco - everything.
How rich is God? A whole lot more than Jeff Bezos - founder of Amazon - richest man in the world with 117 plus billion. Maybe a tad less these days.
Unimaginable - the full measure of God’s riches poured into our lives.
Paul prays that we’ll be “strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being.” That’s the very presence of God being the inner fortitude - the inner strength by which our lives are lived.
Then, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” So that we will experience the reality of what it means to know Jesus - a relationship with Him - at the heart level.
Those two images are closely related. The “inner man” - “the heart” - the core of what makes us us - who we are deep inside - what moves us and drives us.
“Dwell” has the idea of permanent residence. Someone who comes - and takes up residence in our homes - in our hearts - takes over - and never leaves.
Are we seeing what Paul is getting at here?
When we come to God - by faith in Jesus - giving God control of the core of who we are - the unimaginable resources of God - the incredible strength of God - His strength - not ours - His strength becomes the strength that enables us to do life.
Pause and think about how awesome that is.
As we surrender our lives to God - God gives to us His strength to have patience with our spouse - to put up with that “person” at work - to deal with whatever the challenges of life. God gives us His strength to respond to unrighteousness - to endure ridicule - persecution - ungodliness - to go through what by our own strength is impossible.
Paul’s second specific is comprehension. Let’s say that together. “Comprehension.”
Paul writes that we would be “rooted and grounded in love...” Which is a mixed metaphor. Plants are rooted. Buildings are grounded.
The idea is a plant with strong roots and a building with an immovable foundation. Put together - immovable stability. Stability cultivated by love.
Love which is not an easy thing. Love not always being a stable foundation that’s been cultivated in our lives.
Especially when the example of love that we’ve had is abuse coming from someone who was suppose to love us - like a mother or father. When the example of love around us is the world’s love - focused on self - getting our needs met at the expense of others. Us - getting shredded in the name of love.
The Apostle John - in 1 John 4:10 - John writes, “This is what love is - if we want to know what love really is - This is what love is, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the means by which are sins are forgiven.” (1 John 4:10 GNT)
God - knowing everything there is to know about us - the worst of the worst - when there was no possible gain for Himself - no possible selfish motivation to do so - God still loved us so much that He sent Jesus to the cross to die in our place.
That’s God’s unselfish - commitment - love. Which is totally opposite to the self-focused - gain all you can for yourself - abusive thing the world tries to pass off as love.
God’s love is why John can write later in chapter 4 - verse 18: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.”
No matter how chaotic our lives are - no matter what the background - what level of abuse - or what our struggles - when we begin to realize that God really does love us - US - His love demonstrated in Christ and continually poured out into our lives - that He will never leave us - abuse us - abandon us - that His love is safe - when we begin to realize that God really does love us there’s stability in that. A secure foundation to build our lives on.
Then Paul writes, that when we have this stability - begin to trust that God loves us - that we may have strength - that we’ll be able to “comprehend with all the saints what is the breath and length and height and depth”
“Comprehend” is a military term used of chasing down an enemy and capturing them. Until we open ourselves up to God - to receive what He desires to place within us - we’re not able to capture - to get our lives around - to comprehend just how greatly God loves us.
Meaning that when we open ourselves up to God - to allow Him to strengthen us at the core of who we are - to supply us with inner strength - when we begin to trust that He really does love us - even if it’s only toddler steps of trust - it’s like God gives our lives an upgrade.
An upgrade to our operating system that allows us to process - to comprehend - the - breadth - length - height - and depth - to process the unimaginable unlimited expanse - the boundarylessness - of God’s love without a complete shut down of our operating system.
Put simply - the more we see God at work in our lives the more we realize it’s safe to trust that He really does love us. That God is rooting for us. And that we’re loveable.
That it really is safe to trust His love.
Pausing to think about that.
Without the upgrade we can’t handle the possibilities of God’s love. But, with Him in control of our lives there’s the beginning of a whole new foundation for understanding and living life.
We begin to see ourselves as those who are loved with the love Christ - a love that goes beyond our wildest imaginations - beyond anything that we’ve experienced in this life.
Rather than living in fear - especially in uncertain times - we learn to live with boldness and confidence. To engage life as children of the Creator of all this - our Father - the Almighty God who’s got all this under His sovereign authority and will.
Then - Paul says - we experience all that with “all the saints.”
All of us together - the family of God - experiencing God’s love. Not just super spiritual people who are holy and pious. But us normal people - some of us more normal than others.
God - by His grace - has drawn us together to form this awesome community - the church - Creekside - an upgrade of community beyond the limits of what this world offers or what might separate us this morning physically. To lavish His love on us. For us to be channels of His love to each other and to those around us.
Imagine relationships without fear. With openness and trust. Imagine being able to experience and celebrate together His healing and growth and the possibilities of community that go way beyond anything we could have imagined or ever achieved on our own.
Pulling all that together: Paul’s second specific is that we will comprehend life differently. By God’s grace - because He loves us - we will have a totally new perspective of life. A new vision and understanding of life. A stable foundation for doing life that comes upon those who begin to see themselves as the beloved of God.
Paul’s third specific is fullness. Let’s say that together, “Fullness.”
Would you agree with this? Ultimately - the best part of a pie is the filling. I know that some people are crust people. But the whole point of the crust is to have some place to put the filling.
Opening ourselves to God’s strength within and seeing ourselves as the beloved of God - that all is like crust.
Once we have all that - what we get is the fullness of God. God pouring all that He is into our lives - giving us all that He is - in order for us to be all that He desires for us to be.
Now we need to be careful.
Sometimes we think of filling like we go to the gas station and get our tank filled with gas and then we have what we need to go on tootling down the road.
Filling isn’t God filling us up so we can do whatever we want. Filling is fullness. Our lives lived out according to God’s power and God’s purpose for our lives.
The fullness of God is like spring around here. “M” street with all those white blossoms. The almond orchards around here with all those almond trees looking like they’re covered in snow.
Are we tracking? The inner life of the tree bursting out with blossoms.
Meaning God so filling our lives that His life bursts out in how we live life. So that what’s lived - in the day to day stuff of our lives - in the legacy that we leave behind in our children and families and work places - in the ways we serve Him in His congregation - in every experience and dimension of our lives - what blooms out - what’s lived - is His holiness - His character - what He intends for our lives to be.
Pulling together those three specifics:
Strength - God’s resources - God’s inner strength - enabling us to do life.
Comprehension - realizing that we’re loved by God.
And third - fullness - living Godly - holy - from the core of who we are - in every circumstance.
Pulling those together.
Sometimes we Christians want Christianity 101 - 5 easy steps to a wonderful Christian life or 4 steps to having a Godly marriage or 3 ways God wants you to do your taxes so you won’t get audited.
Download an FAQ - watch and online tutorial - hear a sermon - that holds the key to whatever we’re going through at the time. So many Christians are looking for easy solutions - quick fixes - to the hard realities of life.
There’s a place for all that.
But the bottom line is that when we come up against the hard realities of life - as we are these days - or just in the doing of life day-by-day - when we come up against stuff - we don’t have time to do research on Wikipedia or Google through what someone else thinks is the answer to our lives.
And despite what we may be tempted to believe the latest Meme on Facebook may not have the answer we need. Chances are the 5 principles or 6 keys that we learned won’t exactly fit the situation we’re in anyway.
Sometimes there are no quick fix easy answers. Probably most of the time there are no quick fix easy answers.
What Paul is praying for is so much more crucial for our lives. Paul sees the reality of what God by His grace has done for us and it knocks him off his feet. Drives him to his knees. In prayer.
Praying that the Ephesians - that we - will understand - realize - trust - open ourselves up to the awesomeness of what it means to live life strengthened and loved and filled by the living God.
Whatever the circumstance - living life as Paul prays that we would live life - we will always have what we need to live life as our lives need to be lived in the fluid and challenging and uncertain circumstances of our lives.
Verses 20 and 21 are Paul’s Application. Let’s say that together. “Paul’s application.”
After three chapters focused on God’s grace, what’s Paul’s bottom line?
We started off by talking about… purpose. For life. For our lives. What is the purpose of our lives?
Paul writes: Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Question: By a show of hands: How many of us asked God - before God created creation - before we were alive and kicking on planet Earth - did any one of us ask God to include you in His great purposes to send Jesus to the cross to die for you?
Or to make it possible for Him to strengthen you at the core of who you are - His power working within you - to love you with everlasting love - to fill you with the fullness of who He is - to open up to you eternity with Him?
What Paul writes about here goes beyond the scope of where we live our lives. Beyond our ability to think. And - beyond that - Paul gives us the assurance that what we understand now is only a fraction of what God intends for us in the days and years and eternity to come.
Point being: Number one: Paul’s application is first that we’ll realize just how awesome God is and just how incredible what God has done for us really is. How just over the top - undeserved - is God’s grace towards us.
Paul writes - to Him - God - be the glory - in the church - the testimony of the church is of God. And in Christ Jesus. The work of the Son is to glorify - to testify of the Father - to all generations - all God’s people - forever and ever. May God alone be glorified.
Processing all that:
All of what is and how all of what is unfolds in history - all of God’s creation ultimately brings glory to God.
Either were living by that purpose or not. Either way - in submission or rebellion, God will be glorified.
But Paul is opening up to us what God - by His grace - offers to us - to experience what it means to live choosing to live yielded to God and transformed by God’s purpose for our lives.
There’s a choice that each one of us makes. That’s before each one of us - today - and every day of our lives. No matter what the circumstances.
It is the fundamental choice of life.
Here’s the choice: Glorify self. Or, glorify God.
Glorify self means living by our own strength. By our own self-love. Our own wisdom and understanding of life. It is the purpose which is empty of purpose. A pretty lonely - hopeless - uncertain - fearful life to live. Glorify self means that I get the credit for my life.
To live glorifying God means learning to live by His strength. Realizing that He loves you and me and that you are loveable. Living life by the wisdom and understanding of the One who has designed life.
Glorifying God means living by the purpose for which you and I were created and living within the blessings of that purpose. Glorify God means that God gets the credit because He is my life.
God by His grace gives us that opportunity and purpose.
Bottom line: What is the purpose of your life?
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.