Sermon Date: May 28, 2017
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Scripture: Ephesians 1:16-23
Our Brother Is Our Ascended Lord!
And now let’s look at the arguments for saying the glass is half full. Our country has survived wars and threats that were much worse than anything that’s going on today. As for earthquakes and famines and other natural disasters, we’re still here! And even when there’s been a Katrina, life goes on – things get back to normal. As for the increase of sin Jesus warned about, there is more than when we were growing up. On the other hand, there are still a lot of good people, who are doing a lot of good things. Likewise, a lot of churches aren’t preaching the Gospel the way they used to. Yet thanks to the internet, there’s more good preaching and Gospel resources available than ever before. And just a side note on that, our own website, NewHopeLutheran.net, is averaging 200 visits per day. Isn’t that amazing? So, how do you see it? Is the glass half empty or half full?
In our text this morning Paul had been sitting in Roman prison for two years. He knew he’d eventually be released or executed. He was thinking this time around he’d be released, but he couldn’t be sure till it happened. So, as Paul’s waiting there in prison, did he see his glass as half empty or half full? Neither! Paul saw his glass as overflowing. That’s how God wants us to look at things too, because: Our Brother Is Our Ascended Lord. 1. Let’s Pray that we may the fullness of His blessings. 2. Let’s Trust His Power to make those blessings happen.
We read in our text: I never stop giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep praying that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, will give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in knowing Christ fully. – Ephesians 1:16-17. We can only imagine what it was like for those early Christians. Yet notice how Paul begins his prayers for them. He wasn’t scared for them. Rather he was thankful for their faith and for the love they showed.
We can say the same about New Hope. Your faith shows in your coming to worship and in your telling others what God has done for you. Your love is also showing. I’m not the only one who does work around here. Our staff puts in long hours every week, so do our volunteers. And your willingness to come to one of our special Giving Thanks meetings this week or next is another you’re showing love.
Now, while there’s much to be thankful for among us, there’s still a lot to pray about. Paul prayed for the Ephesians with absolute confidence. You see, he based his prayers on the Father’s greatest glory, which was the gift of His Son to die for sinners. Having given us that gift, would God ever deny us when we bring ours or someone else’s needs to His throne of grace? He can’t! He won’t! But what kind of needs are talking about? That so and so get a better job? That so and so figure out their marriage? Certainly, we may pray for the big things and for little things too! But let’s see from Paul’s example what should be at the top of our prayer list.
We read on in our text: I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope to which he has called you, just how rich his glorious inheritance among the saints is, and just how surpassingly great his power is for us who believe. – Ephesians 1:18-19 This is a long sentence. But if we break it down, we see that the first thing we need to pray for is that the eyes of our heart be enlightened. Paul doesn’t want us to just know the facts of the Bible intellectually. He wants us to know Jesus with our whole hearts the way He knows us. Now, that isn’t going to happen fully until we’re in heaven. But we are to keep praying for one another’s growth in knowledge. Why? Because living things grow, and through faith we are alive in Christ!
The next item on Paul’s prayer list was that we know the hope to which we are called. Now, we already have some knowledge of this. But given the way things are these days, we could use some more hope. Also, our head knowledge hope needs to become heart knowledge hope. For example, if you’re fighting cancer, it’s one thing to know with our heads that everything’s going to be okay. It’s quite another to feel it here. Briefly, then, this is our hope. When we die, God will receive our soul to Himself. On the last day, He will raise up our body and when we ascend body and soul to meet Jesus in the air, He will say to us, “Come, blessed by my Father, receive the inheritance prepared for you since the creation of the world.” It’s also our hope that there will be no more sickness, pain, or death on the new earth He will create for us, and we will have a perfect relationship with Him, and with all our brothers and sisters in Christ FOREVER.
Unfortunately, sometimes getting all this hope into our hearts isn’t easy. So, the next thing on Paul’s prayer list is that we thoroughly know the POWER God use to make our hope a reality. We read on in our text: It is as great as the working of his mighty strength, which God worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 1:20 The “It” is the power it took God to bring us to faith. Raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life requires just as much power on God’s part as it took to raise Jesus from the dead. That’s a lot of power, isn’t it.
Now what this means for us is if there are times when we “want” to believe that everything’s going to be okay, but deep down we can’t make ourselves believe that, that’s a good sign! We’re growing in our understanding! We can’t make ourselves believe, or we can’t make ourselves believe more firmly, any more than we could we raise Jesus from the dead. Only God can do these things. And so, if we want more heart knowledge and more certainty of our hope, we need to be in the power of God’s Word. That means reading it at home and hearing it here in church. But if what we are, and we’re still not seeing or feeling His power. Well, that’s when we need to keep praying thankfully and confidently like Paul did, for our prayers will be answered! Also at such times, we need to go a little deeper into our knowledge of God’s power. You see, not only is the power God uses for our faith like the power He used for raising Jesus from death. It’s also like the power He used when our brother ascended into heaven and was seated at His right hand.
Reading on in our text: ... far above all rule, authority, power, and dominion, and above every name that is given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. God also placed all things under his feet and made him head over everything for the church. The church is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. – Ephesians 1:21-23 What is Jesus using His power for in heaven, which again is the same power God uses for our faith? To rule over everything! He rules over the nations! He rules over nature! He rules over the devil and his followers. Especially He rules over His church, which is His body, and now ALL of His ruling has only one goal. It’s for the good of each part of His body, which is you and me!
Do you see now why Paul prayed thankfully and confidently for the Ephesians? With Jesus ruling, they couldn’t lose. With Jesus, our brother, ruling, we can’t lose either, unless we leave Jesus or give up on Him, which this brings us back to that whole glass half empty or half full thing. A danger in seeing the glass half empty is depression. What do we do when we’re feeling depressed? Often nothing. Or maybe we push ourselves a little and then end up feeling even more depressed. In the same way, if we view the glass of God’s blessings to His church as half empty, and then He sends some new difficulty or challenge, what are we likely to do with that difficulty or challenge? Be depressed!
And now let’s consider the dangers of seeing the glass half full. One danger might be complacency or lack of focus. And so, when God sends another difficulty or challenge our way, and our response is, “Ah, yeah, God will work this out too.” Yes, God will, which is why He keeps sending us new difficulties or challenges. He does this, for our sake’s, so that we’ll keep on getting stronger, and that we may know his love for us better and better. And then we won’t see our glass as half empty or half full anymore. We’ll see it the way it really is. It’s overflowing! And finally, once we see our glass as overflowing, how will we respond when faced with new difficulties or challenges? We won’t panic, and we won’t be complacent. But we’ll thankfully, confidently pray about it, and then we’ll joyfully determine what our part is in the body of Christ, and then with His power and blessing, our glass will be overflowing even more! May God grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
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