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Clothed with Power

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Clothed with Power

August 5, 2007

Ephesians 3:14-21

 

God gives special power, extraordinary power, for the extraordinary challenges of an expanding witness to Christ. We see this in Scripture. Throughout Jesus’ ministry and beyond, He made promises to empower His people (that’s us) with the same resurrection power He had while on earth. When Jesus came to earth 2000 years ago, He brought His power with Him. When He left this earth, He gave His glorious power to us: First, He clothed us in power to be witnesses, as it states in Luke 24:48-49, "You are witnesses . . . but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high." Power from on high will be essential for the expanding witness of world missions.

Let’s look at Acts 1:8, "And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." This power Jesus speaks of – Holy Spirit power - is essential for the challenges of an ever expanding witness to Christ. Let’s take a lok at the history of this power.

This extraordinary power fell upon the Christians at Pentecost. It says in Acts 2:4 that they were "filled with the Holy Spirit." And this Holy Spirit power, this unusual fullness came upon the church and its messengers again and again in the early church for the special challenges of witnessing for Christ. First it was given to the Apostles. As it says in Acts 4:8, "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke" to the rulers of the people. And they saw the boldness with which he spoke (v. 13).

Acts 4:31 emphasizes the dramatic signs which came with the infilling of this power – the power of the Holy Spirit: "And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken and they were all filled with the Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness."

In Acts 6:5,10, Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and faith and the Jews could not withstand the wisdom with which he spoke. This power God gives when we become believers is for our witness and our strength and ability to comprehend things of God. If we are clothed with His power, we, like Stephen, will have extraordinary wisdom through the Spirit. Do you have this power? this wisdom to understand things of God? If you do not, ask! God’s wisdom is available to all believers. The “full” knowledge is waiting for us to access through this power we are clothed with. Colossians 1:9-11 tells us more about this power: “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously “

 The whole book of Acts testifies to the coming and the early work of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 7:55, "Stephen filled with Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God."

And, in Acts 11:24, “Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit and faith; and a large company was added to the Lord.”

And, Acts 13:9, "Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at Elymas and said . . ."

And not only the book of Acts, the letters of Paul talk of this same extraordinary power available to Christians. Let’s look now at our key passage in Ephesians for this morning. Here in Ephesians 3:16 Paul prays that "according to the riches of his glory he might grant you to be strengthened (empowered!) with might through his Spirit in the inner man . . ." And in verse 19 he prays that we would be "filled with all the fullness of God." And in verse 21 he says that God "by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think."

In other words there is an extraordinary power available to believers, a power that can accomplish far more than we ordinarily think or imagine. It comes by the Spirit. It accords with the riches of God's glory. It is the very fullness of God, as unimaginable as that sounds.

So, let’s read today’s Scripture. It’s from Ephesians chapter 3 and verses 14 through 21: For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. “

When God sovereignly pours that kind of power out on a church we call it revival. And God's purpose in such a revival is that our witness to Christ will have more conviction, more courage, more wisdom, and more effect, so that God is greatly glorified as more and more people are reached and more and more people are added to the Lord’s kingdom.

Now the question is: what should we do? Does the Bible teach us the way to seek this power, or the way to receive it? The answer is yes and in the few minutes we have I want to show you four ways to seek this power.

SCRIPTURE SPEAKS OF AT LEAST FOUR WAYS TO SEEK THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

First, Immerse yourself in the Word of God, the Bible.

It is almost certain that you will not be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit if you are not filled with the word of God.

Why do I think this?

1. As we already saw, Acts 1:8 and Luke 24:48 teach that the power is given for effective witness. And we witness primarily with the word of God. There is no reason to think that God will ignite the powder of his Spirit if you don't load your rifle with the bullet of the Word.

The second reason I believe we need to seek power through God’s word is found in Luke 4:14 where it says that Jesus returned from the wilderness full of the Holy Spirit. And how had he fought the devil with power in the wilderness? Every time he was attacked he answered, "It is written." And he quoted Scripture. Jesus was full of the Spirit because he was full of the Word of God.

Another reason I know there’s power in the Word is found in what Jesus said about the words of God. In John 6:63 Jesus said, "It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and life." The words of Jesus are the voice and life-giving power of the Spirit. If we don't hear his words, we don't receive his power.

In Ephesians 6:17 Paul says that we should put on the whole armor of God including the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. If you want the Spirit to come mightily upon you so that you can defeat the principalities and powers then you must take his sword, the word of God. He will not fight without his sword. It is our only offensive weapon against the enemy of our soul. All other pieces of armor Paul mentions are defensive. You want to fight this battle called life? You need the sword – His Holy Word!

John affirms this truth, that our enemy can be defeated by the words of God. Look at 1 John 2:14. In it John says, "I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have conquered the evil one." The Words of God are strong, powerful; they have conquered the most powerful enemy, Satan. How? The word of God abides in believers. If you don't lay up the word of God within you, there will be no power, and no victory. (See also Hebrews 4:12 and Jeremiah 23:29 and 2 Timothy 3:16 in your bulletin insert.)

If you want the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, if you are tired of being a weak replica of a Christian, then change your routine and immerse yourself in the Word of God. Read it, think about it, memorize it, use it.

I remember reading about a seminary teacher who said he was ashamed when he saw Muslims memorizing page after page of the Koran while he tossed off his devotions with ten minutes of superficial reading.

The first way to seek the power of the Holy Spirit is to immerse yourself in the word of God.

The second way to seek power is to believe the word of God.

Let me be more specific. Trust that God intends to do wonderful things for his glory through you because that is what the Bible teaches. Be expectant that the Holy Spirit within you will give you power according to God's word.

Now why do I think that faith is the way to seek the power of the Holy Spirit?

2.1 In Galatians 3:5 Paul says, "Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?" Answer: by the hearing with faith. Hearing what? The word of God. The promises of God. The good guidance of God.

For example, you change your routine and set aside an hour to be with God in the word before work. You get alone and immerse yourself in the book of Ephesians for an hour. The Lord impresses on your mind especially 1:12 that we who first hoped in Christ have destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. And 3:20 that by the power at work in us he is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.

Then you head off to work. During the day the natural occasion arises to speak a word of testimony to the praise of God's glory. But you feel weak. Two things can now happen.

One, the word of God comes back to you—this is what you are alive for—the praise of his glory—and he is not weak, he can do far more than I can dream. It's his power at work in me.

The other thing that can happen is that in this critical moment you can believe the word of God. Trust that God intends to do something wonderful for his glory through you. Be expectant that the Holy Spirit within you will give you power according to God's word.

And when you believe, you become the channel of God's Spirit. God supplies the Spirit and works miracles among you by the hearing of faith . . . when you believe the word of God with eager expectation.

In Romans 15:13 Paul says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Notice the phrase "IN BELIEVING". May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace IN BELIEVING . . . In other words by believing in God and his word we are filled with joy and peace. And then it says, "so that by the power of the Spirit you may abound in hope." In other words, the power of the Spirit is the result of the believing or the faith that begets joy and peace.

We could paraphrase it like this: Put your confidence and your trust in God's word so fully that joy and peace abound and the Holy Spirit is released in your life with extraordinary power and hope.

In Acts 6:5 and 11:24 Stephen and Barnabas are described as full of the Holy Spirit and faith. The two have to go together. To be filled with faith is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with faith. What is faith without the Holy Spirit – blind hope; what is the Holy Spirit without faith – an untapped resource.

Picture yourself drinking ice water with a straw. The water is the Holy Spirit. The air in the straw is doubt and unbelief. Faith is the vacuum you create when you suck on the straw. And what happens when the vacuum of faith is created? The water of the Spirit comes in immediately. And if the straw is full of the vacuum of faith the straw will also be full of the water of the Spirit. So Stephen and Barnabas were full of the Holy Spirit and faith.

So the first way to seek the power of the Spirit is to immerse yourself in God's word, and the second way is to believe that word. To be confident and expectant that God aims to do wonderful things through you for his glory.

3. The third way to seek the power of the Holy Spirit is to pray for it earnestly and sometimes with fasting. Let’s look at some verses which verify this:

According to Acts 1:13 this is what the disciples devoted themselves to in Jerusalem during the ten days of waiting for Pentecost. "All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer."

This is what the disciples were doing in Acts 4:24-31 when (verse 31 says) they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the world with boldness. They were praying. And they were saturating their prayer with Old Testament scripture, and they were confident in God's sovereign power.

In Luke 11:13 Jesus says to his disciples, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

The Holy Spirit is given to those who ask the Father. Now, since these men already had a measure of the Holy Spirit in their ministry, I take Jesus to mean that we should ask for more of the Spirit, —that he reveals himself and stirs himself up in varying measures. And we should pray for the fullest measure of the Spirit. Romans 12:3 says we all have a measure of faith. Pray God will increase your measure. What does Matthew 7:7 say: "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.”

In our key passage this morning, Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul is praying for the Ephesians and what he prays is that they might be strengthened with might through the Spirit and that they might be filled with all the fullness of God. He must believe then that Christians might receive this power and this fullness if he prays that they will.

We should ask God for the power of his Spirit. And sometimes we should do this with fasting. Luke 4:14 says that Jesus came from his forty day fast full of the Holy Spirit. It may be that God reserves his extraordinary power for those who long for it in extraordinary ways—and show that longing by extended fasting and prayer.

So we seek the fullness of the Spirit's power by immersing our selves in God's word, and by believing its promises with expectant faith, and by praying earnestly sometimes with fasting that God would give us our heart's desire, his power.

The fourth way to seek the power of the Holy Spirit is to obey him even before you feel his power.

I often struggle with why it is that we see so few people come to Christ. Why do we not have more power in soul-winning? Is it because we have resisted the Holy Spirit so often when he was calling us to bear witness to Christ that we are unfit for the flow of his power? Have our channels  become so clogged with fear and self-consciousness or doubt or rationalization or worldly preoccupation that we barely trickle God's love.

And I believe that once we have begun to immerse ourselves in God's word and battle the unbelief of our hearts and pray and fast for his power, we may have to simply step out with very little advance power and do what we know we ought to do. Take that step of faith! And I believe that in taking steps of faith, little by little the old clogged channels will be cleared and we will begin to feel the power flow through us. It’s there! The power of God is in us! God gave it to us the moment we believed and asked Him to come into our lives and become our Lord and Savior. If you are a Christian, you have the indwelling Holy Spirit – your source of power, God’s power!

It’s like this story: Behind the scenes of an Arizona circus, Bobb Biehl started chatting with a man who trains animals for Hollywood movies:

“ ‘How is it that you can stake down a ten-ton elephant with the same size stake that you use for this little fellow?’ I asked, pointing to a baby elephant who weighed three hundred pounds.

“ ‘It’s easy … ’ the trainer said. ‘When they are babies, we stake them down. They try to tug away from the stake maybe ten thousand times before they realize that they can’t possibly get away. At that point, their ‘elephant memory’ takes over and they remember for the rest of their lives that they can’t get away from the stake.’

“Humans are sometimes like elephants. When we are teenagers, some unthinking, insensitive, unwise person says, ‘He’s not very good at planning,’ or ‘She’s not a leader,’ or ‘Their team will never make it,’ and zap, we drive a mental stake into our minds. Often when we become mature adults, we are still held back by some inaccurate one-sentence ‘stake’ put in our minds when we were young.

“Today you are an adult capable of much more than you realize. You are far more capable than you were even twelve months ago, and next year you will be able to do things you can’t imagine doing today.”

How do I know this? Because I know God. He loves you and me so much, He doesn’t want us o stay where we are. He wants us to grow in grace and knowledge of His Son, Jesus. As it says in 2 Peter 3:18: “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

But you won’t be able to do that if you stay the way you are! The question for each of you t answer is this: Do you want to live lives that are pleasing to God? If you do, you will surrender your life to Him and allow Him complete freedom to change you so that you are fully conformed to His will. Then, by the power of the Holy Spirit living in you, you will lead a life clothed in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Or, are you content to live a life marked by disobedience; a life in which you don’t grow but simply stay the same, living in mediocrity, accomplishing little or nothing of spiritual significance, wondering why God has passed you by. He hasn’t! You are where you are because of your own choices! Please, do not be content leading a life of mediocrity. Do not be content with merely doing church on Sunday. Get out of your rut; surrender our life to Christ; and let Him mold and shape you until you are the vibrant, Spirit-filled believer He created you to be! Today is a great day to start.

Let’s pray.

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