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Immeasurably more (Motto 2003) 29 Dec 02 am

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Immeasurably more … in Jesus Christ

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.

                                                                Ephesians 3 20,21

Paul offers us an answer to a question that Jesus asked many times. Well – it wasn’t so much an ordinary question as a rhetorical question – a question that begs a particular answer.

Jesus said:

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

HOW MUCH MORE…

Jesus flings wide the door of access to the Father, the way into the treasure house of the Most High with a memorable passage:

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

And yet – for all that He offers us we live in comparative poverty of spirit, and seldom if ever draw on the reserves of “His riches in glory”.

And as we stand on the threshold of a New Year full of much uncertainty and peering out into the gloom I offer you a motto text for 2003 that suggests we need to do some serious spending, some serious asking and some serious trusting.

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.

It is of course a Doxology – an outburst of praise at the end of one of Paul’s great prayers: 

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family 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 saints, 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.

Certainly not a conventional prayer eh?

Paul sets us this wonderful example which is based upon the clear teaching of Jesus about HOW TO ASK – and his prayer on behalf of the Ephesian believers is full in every sense of the word.

So let’s balance the two texts:

Jesus:   “How much more…”

and

Paul:        “immeasurably more … in the church and in Christ Jesus”

As if in response to the “blank cheque” that Jesus offered His disciples Paul sets out his requests for this church:

(a)    A prayer addressed as Jesus had decreed to “The Father of all”

I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

(b)    A prayer involving the whole Godhead : 14, 6 and 17 Father, Spirit and Son

(c)    A prayer that is entirely unselfish

(d)    A prayer that draws upon all the resources of God

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

(e)    A prayer whose main request is for the indwelling of Christ and of His love

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 saints, 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.

(f)     A prayer that embraces eternity:

in heaven and on earth  v 15

throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  v 21

Jesus encourages His followers to ASK … SEEK … and KNOCK

and Paul takes up that challenge.

Notice too how Paul is here and elsewhere in this letter preoccupied with the idea of MEASUREMENT :

We saw in our earlier Bible Study in the letter his use of Great in Chapter 2

Great change, love, grace, workmanship

We saw too how he describes a BUILDING whose dimensions can be measured

an organic living thing that INCREASES – GROWS and whose growth can be demonstrated.

Later on in the letter he will write using the analogy of a bride made perfect for her husband,  a slave who works more than is demanded of him, a soldier who can stand up to the fierce onslaught of Satan

And here in the prayer itself Paul uses words that demand  a scale – and yet exceed the scope of measurement:

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.

What kind of measure will you need?  something that measures in light years rather than miles :

IMMEASURABLY MORE….

So let’s look at the text in these ways:

    How much more?

    More of what?

    More for whom?

A.  How much more?     (cp. Luke 11 v 13)

(a)    MORE THAN ALL WE ASK

That may not seem very much at times: times when we feign independence and “ask not so that our joy is not full”.

But it also means more than enough for all our asking

and

More than enough for the asking of all the saints  (v18)

and

in all generations  (v21)

(b)    MORE THAN ALL WE IMAGINE

Paul does not say “more than we know..” for that must be always growing – but

I like the advert that uses the maths symbol: More Th<n.

more than we imagine

 

more than we think

Think for a moment of the world of nature in all its vastness and greatness and variety – GOD HAS MORE

Think of the wonder of His works in history – more still more

Think of the wonders of His works of Grace – more still more “grace abounding”

“grace super-abounding”

Think of those who you know who have experienced Him in their lives – He offers MORE

B.  MORE OF WHAT?

(a)    MORE OF GOD HIMSELF

 

A deeper knowledge of God. This is the measure that charts our progress in the Christian life – How well do we know HIM?

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,

or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?

Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,

or weighed the mountains on the scales

and the hills in a balance?

13 Who has understood the minda of the Lord,

or instructed him as his counsellor?

Isaiah 40

14 Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,

and who taught him the right way?

Who was it that taught him knowledge

or showed him the path of understanding?

15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;

they are regarded as dust on the scales;

he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.



18 To whom, then, will you compare God?

What image will you compare him to?



21 Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,

and its people are like grasshoppers.

He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,

and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

To grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love

(b)    MORE OF HIS LOVE

 

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may  ….  grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

(c)    MORE OF HIS POWER

v 16  “strengthen you with His power”

v18  “may have power … to understand”

v20  “to know Him who is able to do more…”

(d)    MORE OF GOD and LESS OF SELF

that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.     v 19

I’m sure you know the line about the mug or the container that is both “half full” and “half empty” - 

In the spiritual life the more we know Him the more our selfish desires and expectations are diminished

Less of me

More of His Spirit

More of Jesus

and also:-

More room for His people     “with all the saints”  v 18

                                        “in the church”  v 21

IMMEASURABLY MORE!

This thought leads us on to our final point:

C.  MORE FOR WHOM?

(a)    YOU

 

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,

 

If we are going to respond to this challenge – for it is a great challenge to prayer – to exploration – to expenditure – to trust – to progress – then it is to be directed away from ourselves and towards one another.

(b)    US

according to his power that is at work within us,

This comes out of the phrase “immeasurably more than all WE ask”

There is a real sense of community here.

And that is of course something that is at the heart of the whole letter – a plea for unity in the church of Jesus Christ

21 to him be glory in the church …

As we approach a Week of Prayer in January we need to reflect that this promise, this challenge, this assurance is to be realised by THE BODY OF CHRIST PRAYING TOGETHER

What he calls His family             v 15

                        the saints        v 18

                        the church       v 21

Paul’s words run counter to the general expectation in the world – in which there is a sense of ENTROPY – a running down of expectations, and resources and hopes.

Paul offers us a DEVELOPING, GROWING, EXPONENTIAL CURVE of a text

IMMEASURABLY MORE…..

Are we “up for this”? 

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