The Church Has No Power…
WHO does God want us to be and WHAT does God wants us to do until Jesus returns?
1. To Know Him (John 17:3)(For more, please click HERE)
2. To Be Like Him In Our Character (Leviticus 19:2; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 4:23-24)
3. To Represent Him (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)
BUT HOW can we do this? HOW?
I have a hard enough time getting the laundry put away each week and the garbage put out to the curb on Tuesdays (and don’t even ASK me about flossing everyday—I feel like a 6 year old in the principal’s office when the dentist asks me if I floss!)—so how can I possibly become the person God made me to be!?!?!?!
I often listen to the Bible on CD as I drive in my car by myself; God often helps me to see Truth in His Word when I listen to it that I don’t see when I read it (and so doing both are very helpful to me!). As I listened through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians last Monday, chapter 3 literally stopped me in my tracks—I almost had to pull off to the side of the road! God was opening up my eyes to see how Ephesians chapter 3 teaches us what is arguably the most important way for us to become WHO God made us to be and thus to be able to DO what God made us to do…
Let’s dive in!
Ephesians 3 (NIV)
God’s Marvelous Plan for the Gentiles
3 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
Verse 1: Paul connects his suffering with his life-focus of telling/teaching others about JESUS! He suffers not because his life is focused on the wrong things but because he is dedicated to the BEST things! Would ANY of us be willing to be put in prison for Jesus, be willing to be put in prison to tell non-Christians about Jesus, be willing to be put in prison to teach other Christians about Jesus? What a powerful question to ask ourselves, and to ask Jesus to prepare us on the inside to be able to answer YES on the outside!
Verse 4: we can understand the mystery of Christ Jesus by (drumroll please!)… “READING THIS”! Reading the BIBLE!!! Friends, if we are reading the Bible minutes per week we are not going grow very close to God—it’s just simply not going to happen.
Verse 5: There are mysteries revealed in the Bible—answers RIGHT at our fingertips—that people in the Old Testament WISH they could have been taught, DEEPLY DESIRED that they could have understood!
Matthew 13:16-17: 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
Friends—do we have ANY IDEA how blessed we are to have the entire Bible translated accurately into our language and to be able to get full copies of the Bible easily and inexpensively!?!? Even the early church didn’t have this great blessing, and many Christians around the world today STILL don’t have this blessing! And we do, yet we often leave our Bibles on the shelf…we can quote lines from our favorite movies and t.v. shows yet cannot quote the Bible…
Did you know honey is one of the only foods on earth that never goes stale, that never spoils even without refrigeration/preservatives? Pretty cool! And how does the Bible describe itself? You guessed it—as HONEY! (Psalm 119:103; Ezekiel 3:3). Let’s ask God daily to help us realize that His Word is NEVER boring, that His Word never grows old/stale so that we can feast on IT more than we feast on T.V./the internet/pop culture.
Verse 6: The mystery that ANYONE—both Jews AND Gentiles—are invited into God’s family through faith in Jesus and that we are all CONNECTED to each other, we are all part of the same body and thus we need to learn to truly CARE for each other the way that we care for our own bodies. AMAZING!
Back to Ephesians 3…
7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
Verse 7: God’s GRACE—the unearnable/unconditional love & forgiveness of God through Jesus’ death on the Cross & return to life three days later—and God’s POWER—the only two ways that Paul can do what he is doing: sharing Jesus with EVERYONE despite great suffering and opposition. We will talk about this later in the post, but God’s POWER is the only way WE can become who God made us to be and do what He made us to do—we need His POWER daily. Not better programs, not more flat screen t.v.’s, not better coffee, not different worship songs—we need His POWER…
Verse 8a: What a relief to all of us who realize how bad each of us is—God STILL offers His grace and power to US! Paul calls himself the LEAST of God’s people, and look what the Holy Spirit did through Paul’s earthly life! There is hope for ALL OF US!!! 🙂
Verse 8b: And Paul’s mission is the same as ours—to use our WORDS (preach!) to tell others how much Jesus loves them & the free forgiveness He offers them—the BOUNDLESS RICHES OF CHRIST!!!
Verse 10: But maybe you disagree and think that preaching is just for Paul, is just for pastors? Please look at verse 10—How would God reveal His wisdom to angels and demons and everyone else? THROUGH THE CHURCH!!! YOU AND ME!!! YES US!!!
- We are God’s microphones through whom He speaks to those in the front rows and the nose-bleed upper-deck sections of life!
- We are God’s billboards through whom He speaks to those speeding/texting/sleeping/intoxicated on the highways of life!
- We are God’s moons—without Him, just hunks of rocks with craters going in circles, but with Him, dearly loved creatures that can beautifully reflect His love & Truth to a dark world. (Yeah, as crazy as this sounds, in a spiritual sense, God wants us to MOON the world everyday. THAT’S quite an image for ya!)
But we can’t brightly reflect Jesus if He is just a hobby for us, if we get around to Jesus when we have time leftover at the end of the week/month or when we feel like it, when it is exciting for us!
Sometimes the earth gets between the moon and the sun and causes an eclipse. Physically, this is beautiful! Spiritually, it is not…We allow ourselves to get ECLIPSED by so many things in life, things of earth that get between us and Jesus and block out His ability to shine on us, thus blocking His ability to shine through us to others! What are those eclipses in your life that aren’t rare but unfortunately are a daily/hourly occurrence? Let’s ask God to blast them out of the orbit of our lives and into outer space…
If the President were to call you and ask to send you to a foreign country to represent the United States and enter into discussions over treaties and so forth with that country, you’d probably say, “NO WAY! I am not qualified to do that!!!” And you’d be right—that’s why the President wouldn’t ask any of us to do such an important mission…
But that’s EXACTLY why Jesus asks us to do the same thing for Him everyday!!! We Christians represent Jesus—we are His ambassadors according to 2 Corinthians 5—on earth, a land that is NOT our home! We are to humbly but clearly and accurately and consistently share with others with our actions AND words how great Jesus is, how much He loves them, and how much they need Him.
He calls us, the unqualified, because people who know us will be amazed at how Jesus transforms us—it will be OBVIOUS that God is at work in us as we mature in Christ and have our character match HIS character more and more over time, as the Holy Spirit does things in & thru us that we could never have done on our own. Exercise equipment companies and weight loss companies know how effective before & after photos are…Well, the people who know us best know our BEFORE photos and so they are the ones who will be most amazed by our AFTER photos as we grow closer to Jesus and the Holy Spirit does His transforming work in us!!! God will get the credit!!!
Back to Ephesians 3…
A Prayer for the Ephesians
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 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, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Verse 16: For most of us, if God offered us ANYTHING out of His glorious riches, we’d be like Cuba Gooding Jr. & Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire—SHOW ME THE MONEY, GOD!!! THAT’s how we want God to bless us!!! We want Him to fill our bank accounts, but He wants to fill us with Himself…
But Paul prays for something MUCH BETTER—he prays for us to have the Holy Spirit’s POWER, not on the outside of us like a paintjob/hood ornament but from the INSIDE of us like a powerful engine under the hood. WE NEED GOD’S POWER to become who He made us to be and to DO what He made us to do…not just TRYING HARDER, but God’s POWER.
But God’s power for what purpose?
So Jesus can live in us—our hearts—through faith! We need God’s power to ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins and we need God’s power everyday to continue to have faith in Jesus when we face the challenges/temptations of life!
We don’t need:
These are the things we THINK we need, and that’s why we spend a huge chunk of our lives pursuing them.
Want to know what you believe in? Look at how you spend your MONEY & TIME—that will show you what you believe in, even if you have all the right answers with your words.
But Paul prayed for the Christians at Ephesus to have GOD’S POWER each day for two main reasons:
- Verse 16: to have faith in Jesus so that He can live in them & forgive them & transform them from the inside out
- Verse 18: to understand more fully how much God loves them!
The one thing we need from God is His POWER,
and the two things we need His power for are
to have faith in Him and to more fully understand just how amazing His love is.
Are ANY OF US seriously praying for this on a regular basis?
Are any of us WORKING with God, the Bible, prayer, the Holy Spirit, worship,
silence/solitude, and other Christians to get this from God?
Are any of us investing our time for THIS?
I believe that God’s power will not fill us with better techniques, better strategies, more money, better data…it will come through prayer. God says, “MY house will be called a house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7), not a house of programs. We don’t pray because we don’t “have time to pray,” but then we also don’t have time to have God’s power. Simple as that.
About 6 years ago God helped me sense something in my own life and, I believe, in the life of the American Church:
We are trying to row the boat harder—more people at the oars, longer hours, better strategies, better technique, more money, better data, better education, etc…
But the Church is not a row-boat—we are a sail boat; sail boats get NOWHERE via oars. We need to learn how to put down the oars and learn how to open our sails so that the Holy Spirit can power us…this is what I believe Paul is talking about in Ephesians 3.
Sparrows fly from tree to tree by flapping their wings FAST, but they never travel far. Eagles, however, don’t soar by flapping their wings but by catching currents of air—THAT’S how they soar high and far, and the Holy Spirit wants to teach us to do the same…Isaiah 40:31—“those who WAIT on the LORD will SOAR on wings like eagles.”
After a fierce rainstorm, I remember years ago walking up to a church I respect and seeing a sign on the front door that said, “The church has no power.” Now I know what it meant, but it literally stopped me in my tracks. I had my breath taken away—it was a powerful spiritual moment. The American Church has little power…because we are not asking God for His power—we are at best asking Him to give us more human power.
Friends, let’s step back a bit here—God did not create humans so that He could know us & not be lonely; He created us so that we could know Him & never be lonely again.
God lives to give—Himself, His love, His grace, His forgiveness, His Son, His Holy Spirit, His healing, His refreshment, His rest, His life.
Thus, He created us, primarily, to receive Him! Then, as we are filled up & overflowing with Him on a daily basis, we live out our secondary reason for existence—to give to others all that we have receive from Him.
Most of us would think that we need power from God to do more good deeds for God…but that’s NOT what Paul prays for! It’s power to have stronger faith in Jesus, it’s power to more fully be amazed by Jesus’ love for us! THEN we are able to do good deeds in the lives of others…but first things first!
I have always been drawn to Matthew 11:28—30, partly because being married, being a dad to five children, and being a pastor are beautifully tiring! But today the Holy Spirit has helped me to see something deep within this powerful passage: Jesus invites us to be filled up with Him so fully that we will…rest…be satisfied…be content…stop seeking fulfillment and start enjoying being filled with Jesus Himself.
How powerful is it to think that God wants us to ENJOY Him?!!!
How does this change the way we look at Jesus, the Bible, and the brief time He gives us on earth?
Like Thanksgiving: easily in my top three favorite days of the year. Thanksgiving Day typically doesn’t have three distinct meals but one meal that lasts all day—we graze throughout the day on an assortment of tantalizing appetizers, entrees, side dishes, desserts, beverages, and treats. And yet there inevitably comes a point in the day, in the feasting, when we literally can’t eat another bite, when we are truly full, when we sit back, loosen up our belts, and drift off into a sleepy food-coma of contentedness. The all-day enjoying causes us to need rest, but beautifully the same all-day enjoying enables us to have the rest we need, and many of us would agree that the Thanksgiving Day naps and eventual night-sleep are some of the soundest of the entire year.
This, I am now realizing, is the kind of rest that Jesus offers us for our weariness, for our burdens that we unnecessarily carry each day. As we learn to come to Him daily, as we learn to feast on Him not just once per week (or even three distinct times per day) but throughout each day, as we learn to “TASTE (!) and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8), every day can become a spiritual Thanksgiving Day, and we can thus enter into the spiritual food-coma of deep friendship with Christ Jesus, we can learn from Him to sit back, loosen our belts, and truly rest with Him in us and us in Him (“if anyone is IN CHRIST he is a new creation” [2 Corinthians 5:17]—he/she is RESTED and READY for the day, for the week, for the month, for the year, for the decade, for the century, for eternity!).
No wonder we are tired, weary, worn out, exhausted!!! We aren’t coming to Jesus by faith to feast on Him—in prayer, Bible reading, silence, quiet, praise—in a forgiven and forever friendship each day!
There is a beautiful tiredness that comes from feasting on and being filled with Christ that leads to real rest (like Thanksgiving Day & the l-trytophan food coma!) and joy towards others;
There is an oppressive weariness that comes from fasting from Christ (and gorging on the sweets of this world) that leads to crankiness towards others, an inability to think clearly/make good decisions, and reaching out for the caffeine of this world to artificially keep us going.
I sometimes picture God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as a Chef. They have relationally feasted on each other for eternity past (until they created the universe, for eternity they DID NOTHING other than BE WITH EACH OTHER!), and at some point say to each other, “Let’s make humans…in OUR image…male and female” (Genesis 1:26-27) so that they can relationally feast on us and enjoy us forever! AMAZING IDEA! LET’S DO THIS!!!
THUS, Paul’s primary prayer for His brothers and sisters in Christ at Ephesus is for power from God to understand, to feast on, to enjoy, to be filled with the love of God in Christ Jesus. It takes power from God—and not just human intelligence, college degrees, or effort—to believe in, ask for, feed on, and digest the love of God in Jesus so that His love, like food, can de distributed to our entire beings for energy, for health, for nourishment, for true rest, for life itself.
Paul doesn’t pray for us to have power from God to get the things most of us would want if we had an abundance of God’s power in our lives:
-better physical/external appearance
-getting revenge on those who have hurt us
-checking off all the items on our bucket lists
No, Paul prays for us to have power from God so that we can more deeply enjoy God’s love through Jesus…amazing.
Imagine if you could have the intelligence of Einstein in you—that’d be pretty cool!
Imagine if you could have the creativity of Mozart or Leonardo in you…
Imagine if you could have the talent of a world-class athlete in you…
Most of us will NEVER have those things in us…
But ALL of us can have, in us, full to the brim, not the leftover dregs at the bottom of the coffee pot at the end of the day but the fresh brew early in the morning, the same exact love that God the Father has for Jesus, God the Son (John 17:26). WOW!
Then, as God’s power helps us to be filled with Him, we will then be able to pour out Him (not just good deeds, but Jesus Himself!) to others!
Remember the moon—ONLY as it rises and puts itself in position each day to receive light from the sun is it then able to brightly and beautifully reflect that sunlight to the entire planet! Just as the moon needs the power of the sun to be more than just a rock and to give ANYTHING to anyone, so we need to put ourselves into position each day, by faith, to come to Jesus and be filled up with Him so that we can be a real and lasting blessing in the lives of others.
How do we get this power from God?
- Ask Him!!! (Luke 11:13—”How much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”)
- Remain in Jesus (John 15:4-5)—be still & know, like a phone being charged overnight—it simply sits/rests in the docking station! Like a hospital patient hooked up to an IV—he/she rests, is still, and stays close & securely hooked up to the IV so that it can do its work in them! To have God’s power we must learn to rest in Him daily, quietly being with Him in prayer, Bible reading, praise, and silence.
Look how Paul closes Ephesians 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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,for ever and ever! Amen.