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Equal to the Opportunity pm Jan 2006

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Equal to the Opportunity

Ephesians 3:14-21

I remember an old story of a boy who fell into a barrel of molasses. A he was going under, he prayed, "Lord, make my tongue equal to t~ opportunity!"

 That is what Paul wanted for his Christian friends in Ephesus. He wanted them to be equal to the opportunity God placed before them. That was the essence of his prayer for them in our text.

Remember the context. Paul concluded the second chapter with a glorious description of the church. When the full impact of that picture gripped Paul's mind-the unparalleled potential within the Ephesian Christians and the unquestionable challenge before them-Paul burst into a prayer.

 Because of what God gave the church to do, Paul prayed the Ephesians would ~ equal to the opportunity before them

What would it take?

Courage (3:16)

What had to happen before these Ephesians were equal to the opportunity before them? They had to be strengthened.

They had to have power

 So Paul prayed they would "be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man."

Courage is a scarce commodity in today's world.

 Fear is more of the determining force in our lives.

For example, two men were hunting lion. They came to the tracks of what appeared to be the largest lion the jungle. One hunter said to the other, "You go that way to see where he went. I'll go this way to see where he came from!"

 That is our usual approach, to run away from the challenges of our life.

However, to be equal to the opportunity before us we must not be cowardly but courgeous, not timid but bold, not weak but strong.

We must be "strengthened with power."

 How can that happen? And where does it happen?

How?

 

This courage comes 'through His Spirit" (v. 16

We cannot face our opposition, we cannot fulfill our opportunity, without God's help. We cannot do it on our own. We must have God's strength.

Children always need assistance!!

As parents do for their children, our Heavenly Father does for us. He strengthens us by His Spirit. We simply cannot make it without His help. The sooner we realize and admit our dependence upon God and our need for Him, the sooner we will be able to realize the dreams placed before us and fulfill the destiny given to us.

Where?

Where does God strengthen us?

This strengthening comes "in the in­ner man (v. 16).

 What does this mean?

Þ    God strengthens our consciences so we can be more sensitive to His will and thus better able to discern between right and wrong

Þ    God strengthens our wills so we can have the inner courage to follow through on the things our reason and our conscience tell us to do.

By a daily dependence on God, we can know the reality

 Paul described in 2 Corin­thians 4:16: "Therefore we do not lost heart, but though the outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day."

Commitment (3:17)

Notice Paul's wonderful prayer for the Ephesians in verse I 7. He prayed that "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."


The Amphfled Bible translates the verse: "May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in you hearts!"

 Paul prayed that Christ will feel at home as He dwells in our lives.

Þ    When we become Christians, God in His Spirit indwells us.

Þ    Our live become the permanent dwelling place of our God.

 Jesus expressed this truth in John 14:23: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him."

To be adequate for the opportunities God gives to us, we need to allow the One who lives within us to settle down in our life.

 Is Christ comfortable in our life? Does He feel at home?

The Relationships

Does Christ feel at home with the relationships of our lives?

 The statement "no man is an island" is more than a cliche'. It is a truth about life No person can live apart from relationships with other people.

 The establishment of relationships with fellow human beings is a key element in every normal life. We all have a relationship hunger to be filled. However, we can have bad relationships as well as good relationships. Some relationships honor God, and other relationships are displeasing to God

Þ    Even in honorable relationships such as with our wives, children, and friends, we can carry these out in honorable or dishonorable ways.

Can Christ comfortably be part of all the relationships of our lives Can He feel at home with the way we treat other people?

 The answer will provide an accurate measure of the depth of our commitment.

The Attitudes

Does Christ feel at home with the attitudes of our lives?

The BibIe challenges us with this appeal: "Have this attitude in yourselves whic was also in Christ Jesus" Phil. 2:5).

 Do we have His attitude toward the work of God when Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to accomplish His work" (John 4:34)?

 Do we have His attitude toward others when He said, "The Son of Man did not come to be serve but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28)?

Do we have His attitude toward our enemies when He said, "Love your enimies and pray for those who persecute you" (5:44)?

The list can go on endlessly.

 Does Jesus feel comfortable with our language, with our leisure time, with the way we do our job, with the way we take care of ourself physically?

 Paul prayed that Jesus might dwell in our lives, but the only way He can do that is if He feels comfortable with the attitudes we exhibit.

Þ    Jesus dwells in the life of every believer.

Þ    That comes as the result of our conversion. The question which reveals the level of our commitment as Christians is simply this:

"Does Jesus feel at home in our lives?"

Comprehension (3:18-19a)

When a little boy found a dead squirrel in the street, the boy's father used this event to teach his son about safety. He used the dead squirrel to explain what could happen to him if he ran into the street when cars were coming. A few days later, his mother fastened his seat belt and then re­minded him it was for his own safety. A person could be killed in a car wreck. "I know," the little boy replied, "I don't want to do that because when you die, you turn into a squirrel!"

Many adults are equally confused about life and death.

 In fact, many of the shortcomings in the Christian life come because of our misunder­standing of God.

They also needed to have a full comprehension of God.

Paul used two key words. He wanted the Ephesians to comprehend the love of God (v.18).

 This word (katalabesthai) means to lay hold of, to seize, to take possession of. It means to understand something with the mind.

 Paul also wanted the Ephesians to know the love of Christ (v. 19).

This word (ginonaite) refers to knowledge gained by experience.

 Thus, Paul wanted the Ephesians to comprehend with their minds and experi­ence in their lives the full dimensions of the love of God. Paul then de­scribed the love of God they needed to comprehend.

Inescapable (3:18)

The love of God is an inescapable love. Paul spoke of "the breadth and length and height and depth" of God's love. What do these dimensions mean?

William Barclay made this suggestion. The length of God's love is its scope from eternity to eternity. The breadth of God's love refers to its inclusion of all people, Jew and Gentile alike. The height of God's love refers to where we are in Christ, risen to sit together with Him in heavenly places. The depth of God's love refers to the living death out of which God has called us.'

Paul was simply declaring the unlimited reach of God's love.

Þ    No place is outside the reach of God' love. Paul wanted the Ephesian Christians to understand that wherever they were, they were right in the middle of God's love, for it inescapable.

Inexhaustible (3:19)

The love of Christ "surpasses knowledge." This Greek word (hupe~ ballousan) means to throw over or beyond, to transcend or to exceed This does not mean the love of God cannot be known at all. No matter how much the Christian experiences the love of God, oceans of love in the great heart of God~ remain that we have not yet experienced. As the songwriter said, "The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell." It inexhaustible.

His love is inexhaustible.

To be equal to the opportunity God places before us we need to comprehend with our minds and experience in our lives the inescapable, inexhaustible dimensions of the love of God.



Completion (3:19b-21)

To be equal to the opportunity, we also need to experience the fullness which comes from Christ.

 Paul prayed for the Ephesians to "be filled up to all the fulness of God."

That might seem like an impossible attainment until we hear what Paul said about the resource which makes it possible.

The Resource (3:20)

God is the One who brings about this completion.

In one of the most remarkable statements in the New Testament, Paul expressed God's ade­quacy. With word stacked upon word Paul painted an incredible picture of God.

Paul began with the simple assertion: God is able.

That in itself would be sufficient to give us security. God is able.

Yet, Paul went further. God is able to provide everything we ask Him for. That is certainly a sufficient expression of the adequacy of God.

Nevertheless, Paul went further still.

He said God is not only able to provide that for which we ask, but also He can supply anything we even think about.

 All of us think about possibili­ties we are afraid to ask for. What a promise.

 All the dreams which ever pass through our minds, all the things we have thought of accomplishing for God in our wildest imagination God is able to do those things. God is able to supply everything we need, to respond to everything we ask, and to provide everything we have ever thought about.

 What a picture. Yet, there is more.

Paul said God is not only able to do those things, but He is also able to go beyond all of those things.

Our God is able! His power is beyond imagination. His resources ex­ceed our ability even to comprehend. And those resources are available to us.

Þ   Whatever we need, God is able to provide it.

Þ   Whatever we are called to do, God is able to help us accomplish it.

Þ   Whatever task we have before us, God will empower us to complete it.

Þ   Whatever we dream for our church or for our lives, God is able to help us realize our dreams. God is able.


The Result (3:21)

Why has this incredible resource been made available to us?

Paul gave the answer in verse 21: "To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever."

How can we glorify God?

By the way we worship.-

By the way we live.-

Jesus gave this challenge in the Sermon on the Mount: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).

We are not saved by our works but we are saved for works. As we live the

Christian life, we honor God.

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