How do we know anything for sure?
“That’s easy…you use reason and experience.”
Ok, it’s so easy to know something…that everyone agrees on important matters of knowledge such as public health, science, politics, moral issues.
Doesn’t seem easy to me.
So, how do we know anything for certain?
“Well, we can’t really know anything for certain.”
So, do you know that for certain?
That seems like a statement of certainty to me.
So how do we know anything?
“It doesn’t matter, what is true is relative to each person…you have your truth and I have mine.”
So, what if my truth says that your truth is not true.
Again, it seems like saying truth is relative is a statement of absolute truth.
So how do we know anything for certain?
Something is real…even for the relativist who believes that all truth is, well relative…they believe that is the way things really are…relative truth is absolute truth for them.
So…how do we know?
We can know things through reason and experience.
Reason: God has given us minds, that though they are darkened by sin, especially in regards to spiritual truth…they can discover real things…electricity, relativity, how to make sailboats, etc.
-But reason has its limits…it cannot get beyond the limits of human mental ability or imagination.
Experience: We can discover that fire is hot by studying thermodynamics in a book (reason) or by touching something hot (experience)
-Experience has its limits…people have come to wrong conclusions by relying too heavily on their experience.
-Human experience is limited because we can misinterpret our experience…and we have very limited access to reality as a whole.
We need, in addition to reason and experience…revelation.
Revelation: Is simply something revealed that could not be discovered…by reason or experience alone.
And what is most important to humans: why are we here, what is our destiny, what is most valuable to spend our lives on…cannot be discovered or reasoned out by us on our own.
God had to tell us those things…he needed to speak to us.
He has spoken…in his Word, the Bible, and through his Son, Jesus.
Ephesians 3 today: Two themes stand out in this chapter, both very important for our lives.
Revelation…God has told us what we desperately need to know but could never have discovered on our own.
Power…God has given us the ability to not just know, but to live in line with what is real and true.
As I read the chapter I’ll highlight these two themes:
- As you listen for the revelation theme:
Notice words like “mystery”, “unsearchable”, “hidden” and of course, “revealed.”
Be careful to not over spiritualize this in your mind and in so doing making in impractical in your life.
The Greek word that is translated revelation or reveal just means to “disclose” what was hidden.
We have this ominous sounding word “Apocalypse” (Greek transliteration of the word for something that is hidden and now revealed).
And it spawned a whole genre of movies and books…apocalyptic.
There is a famous Vietnam Movie…Apocalypse Now…a very dark, disturbing film.
But you could also call Christmas morning…Apocalypse Now.
As you watch a child unwrap a package and shout with excitement as what was hidden has now been revealed…that’s apocalyptic!
Not near as ominous, when you put it like that is it?
The gospel of Christ is Apocalypse Now…what was hidden, the good news…has been revealed.
- Look for words related to Power: But don’t over spiritualize this idea either.
“The Power of God in me”…wow, what does that even mean?
Spiritual X-man, God’s Avengers.
But what does it mean to have power in the real world?
It means you have ability…you are able to do something that you could not without it.
Power is simply ability.
God’s power means that we are able to do what we could not if he did not give us the ability.
-Power over sin, power to know, power to love, power to believe or understand, power to endure….this is all about “ability”
As we read the passage think about what power means in everyday usage.
“The power just went off”…what does that mean practically?
-You are unable to do certain things…you can’t use electric lights, a fridge, a drill.
Turn on a generator and you now have power…the ability to do those things.
Power is ability…you are able to do things if you have power, you are unable to do things if you do not.
So, to have power you need to access to a power source…electrical grid, battery, calories, gasoline…God.
I’m going to read this chapter…I’ll highlight our key terms and terms related to them as we go.
But first let me point out an important aspect of this chapter in terms of how it is organized.
Paul begins in verse 1…
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
“For this reason” …means all that he has just said in the prior chapters.
Then Paul stops mid-thought, and jumps to describing why he is a prisoner of Jesus for the Gentiles.
That’s found in Verses 2-13
Then, finally, in verse 14 he picks up where he started in verse 1…“For this reason…I kneel before the Father”
We will talk more about a possible reason why he begins then diverts then returns to where he began.
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation (apololypsis) as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery (mysterion) of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed (apocalypse) by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 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.
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace (gift and ability) was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 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, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
14…For this reason (back to verse 1) I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power (ability), together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (revelation and power together) according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
There is some helpful guidance online to tell you how to address someone with a disability.
Bottom line, you are supposed to avoid things like “the handicapped” or “The disabled” and use language like “people with disabilities”
“A person who has mental illness” not “He is mentally ill”
“A person who is deaf” not “He is deaf.”
This is good, because these things do not define a person in totality.
“Blind” is not who my mother in law is.
She is Farolyn, who has raised my wife…who has faithfully loved her husband, God and people for decades…who is also blind.
She has a disability…but it’s not who she is.
Dis is a prefix that gives a word it’s opposite meaning.
Ability=able to do something
Disability=unable to do something
To have a disability is to lack a power (ability)…the power to see, hear, walk.
But we are not just people with a spiritual disability…unlike physical disabilities…our disability does in fact define us.
We are not “persons who are blind” without the gospel.
We are “blind”…it is, in fact, who we are.
Yes, we still bear God’s image…but we are people who are “dissed” of the ability to truly know and follow God apart from God’s revelation and empowerment.
We are powerless…to know ultimate truth and powerless to live in line with those truths…apart from God’s Revelation and power.
Only the gospel can change our condition…deal with our disability.
We lack ability because of our inherent limitations as humans…we occupy small amounts of space and time and have small amounts of power.
We also lack ability because of the limitation of sin…it disables us.
Sin warps both our ability to understand and our ability to obey.
The gospel brings light to our understanding and power to our inner selves…we are able to know the truth of God and we are able to live our lives in line with that truth.
The application of this “ability” is of huge importance and impact our lives…in every conceivable way.
Let’s talk about those two things…revelation and power…that are really one thing…ability
God gives us the ability to know things that we desperately need to know but could not discover on our own.
God gives us the ability to do things we desperately need to do but could not do on our own.
- REVELATION: THE ABILITY TO KNOW GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE that is…TO FOLLOW CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD .
In this chapter Paul writes that the mystery revealed is that both Jews and Gentiles are members of one body, sharing together in the promise in Christ.
In Colossians Paul writes that the mystery revealed is that “Christ in us is our hope of glory.”
So, which is it Paul?
What is the mystery that has been revealed?
Is it that Christ alone redeems all people or is it that Christ dwelling in his people (not merely externally obeying rules) is our hope?
The answer, of course, is “yes”
The mystery that has been revealed is that Jesus…has always been the plan of God for the salvation of world.
That plan was for Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith and in so doing restore fellowship with God and with one another.
It’s not that no one knew anything about this plan before…the OT pointed towards Jesus, all of human history is centered around him from distant past to eternal future.
It is that what was “hinted at” “clouded in some secrecy” has now been fully disclosed and is able to be understood and enjoyed (applied)
For years the prophets “shook” the package, gave hints to what was inside…but at the incarnation…Christ born, lived, died, rose…the package is opened…mystery revealed.
In verse 8 Paul writes of the “unsearchable” riches of Christ…that Paul was given the grace to proclaim.
Unsearchable is a word that indicates a vast expanse…no way you could every work your way through it.
Like the trackless infinity of space…
Or an ocean so deep that soundings could never reach the bottom of it.
So, the mystery of Christ is revealed…he is our only hope and our reason for existence.
Yet, this doesn’t mean we will ever be able to plumb the depths of the treasure that is Christ.
We can know him truly, but we will never know him fully.
There are an estimated 4,300 religions in the world.
There are tens of thousands of Christian denominations in the world
A religion is a distinct worldview
A denomination is a branch of a worldview that holds to its own distinctives…within the larger view.
Some hear this and throw up their hands and say “It no use, how can we ever know the truth?”
Others say, as I mentioned several weeks ago “I’ll just be spiritual without being religious.”
As to the second point…religion is, by definition…faith practiced in a community.
So, biblically, there is no Christian spirituality without life in a faith community.
But as to the first point…we can know the truth because God has revealed it to us.
Start with Jesus, and end with Jesus…and you will be fine.
There are distinctions between those who follow him, but those distinctions between churches are often about things of less than ultimate importance.
“Well then why can’t we just all get along and agree?”
We often do get along and agree. In amazing ways.
Different groups of Christians work together for the gospel…they always have
But on issues of less than ultimate importance…people believe differently.
Because in spite of the smokescreen thrown up by those who claim “you Christians can’t agree”…the fact is we do agree…at least those who take the gospel seriously do.
Jesus, is the way, the truth, and the life…no one gets to the father except through him.
Don’t be over bothered by the differences…relish the commonality of Jesus as Lord.
Because Jesus is, as has been famously stated: Liar, Lunatic, Lord…there is no fourth option.
-He is unique in regards to everyone other human ever born.
God has revealed to us what we could not know on our own…and the center of God’s revelation is that Jesus, lived, died, rose…and we must choose to submit to him as Lord.
He is Lord…all of history…human history on the whole and human history individually only makes sense in light of the gospel of Jesus.
- LET’S TALK ABOUT POWER: THE ABILITY TO LIVE GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSES IN CHRIST NOW
- 16 “God’s power strengthens us in our inner being…so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.”
- 18 “God’s power gives us the ability to grasp, to a degree, the vast dimensions of the love of Christ…to know, more and more…what is not completely knowable.”
- 20 “God’s power at work in us is able to do more than we ask or imagine.”
What is this power?
Power is ability.
Here it is the ability to be strengthened on the inside…as we live trusting(by faith) in Christ.
This is living now, in line with what is eternally true…believing what has been revealed regardless of what I currently feel, or what others say or think that doesn’t align with what God has said.
Chuck Colson: “You aren’t changing anyone, why do you keep saying this?”
– “As long as I keep saying it, they aren’t changing me.”
*The fact is…many were changed by Colson’s consistent witness of the gospel…lived out in specific “good works” that God had called him to.
But Colson did not measure his life by externals… “What are they saying?” “What am I seeing or not seeing happen around?”
-He measured by faithfulness…he lived by God’s ability…strengthened inside out.
This power, that strengthens us on the inside…gives us the ability to do more than we currently imagine.
What is this power for?
*BE VERY CAREFUL HERE: What this often means to people is that I can… “Bend God, others, reality…to my own will and desires.”
But that is most certainly not what it means.
The power is so that God gains glory through our lives.
The power is primarily about you and me…living for the good of others.
Selfishness is powerlessness…being selfish doesn’t require anything from God, we can do that all by ourselves.
SelfLESSness is power…to live this way consistently requires ability from God.
The power is to endure more than we could on our own.
The power is to trust God when all around us is dark.
The power is to love others when we feel like holding a grudge, or hurting them back…or just taking care of ourselves.
Look at how Paul ties this together: the revelation(verses 2-12) and the power(verses 14-21)
“Don’t be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.”
Easy to miss this little verse as we get caught in all this grand language of God’s revelation and God’s power.
But it’s there like connective tissue…tying muscle to bone…
“Don’t be discouraged because of my suffering for you, which is for your glory” (they point you towards Christ)
Let’s imagine a scenario…it might not be true, but it could be.
A scenario that explains why Paul started like he did in verse 1…then takes a detour before picking up his thought in verse 14.
Maybe he began to write…or to dictate…
“I Paul…a prisoner for Christ and for you…”
And he is about to launch into his discourse on God’s power and how God can do immeasurable more than we can ask or imagine.
But then he looks around…maybe he scratches the place where has ankle chains on…he is on house arrest.
Maybe he sees a guard outside and remembers how he used to be able to move freely around the empire…now he misses movement, misses friends…
Maybe he thinks… “They will know I’m in prison as I write of God’s power…will this confuse them, trouble them?”
“Will they believe that God can really do immersible more than we can ask or imagine as they remember that I’m in prison?”
“Will they think Rome is more powerful than God?”
He knows better, that’s why he began “A prisoner of Christ” Not of Rome.
But will they understand what is real and true about God’s power…perhaps they need to understand God’s wisdom, his mind first.
So he writes next… not of God’s power…but of God’s wisdom in Christ.
The wisdom of Christ, the love of Christ…revealed in his suffering on the cross.
Now revealed in Paul’s sufferings for them.
So he writes…
“Don’t be discouraged because of my sufferings for you…they are for your glory (your ultimate good).”
Then he launches into the prayer of power for them.
So, this “God doing more than they can ask or imagine” is not.
“That all their wildest dreams would come true.”
But that they would:
Have power in their inner beings as Christ dwells there by faith.
That they have power to grasp the vast dimensions of the love of Christ and would be filled with the fullness of God
That they would have power, together as a church, to glorify God in everything.
That they would have power to endure in their faith and in their love…even in difficult times.
Lots of people chase selfish dreams…some achieve them.
None get to keep them…there is no power, no beauty, nothing lasting in that.
It take doesn’t take wisdom or power of God…to be selfish.
The realm of God’s will for my life is the realm of God’s power for my life.
Revelation, God has told us his will for us.
-It takes effort in community to understand it (we will talk about that more next week)…but we can.
Power, God enables us to live inside his will for us
-It also takes collaboration by us, in community…with God.
If we venture outside his will…we have unplugged from his power.
We can, depending on certain factors…operate on battery power for a bit.
It can feel, for a bit…like unplugging didn’t matter after all.
There is often a lag between unplugging and powering down…but the drain starts immediately.
1 John 1:9…mess up (unplug) fess us (plug back in) move on (obey)
The power of God is so that we can live in line with the will and ways of God.
We can unplug through overt rebellion.
We can unplug through slow passivity, spiritual neglect…the plug just sort of falls out…charging, not charging, charging…unplugged.
God in his mercy does not leave his kids alone…we can, however, get good at ignoring him.
Let’s pay attention…that is my ongoing prayer… “God, please, help me pay attention to you.”…help me stay plugged in.
*You know how when your phone is plugged in…it makes that little sound?
The tell tale sign for me that I am plugged back in…is I am considering others first…not me first
I am paying attention to God, when I am paying attention to others…seeing their needs, not just my own.
So, God’s power must not be envisioned as a comic book super hero power.
It is the ability to believe and live like Paul did…
“Don’t be discouraged because of my sufferings for you…they are for your glory.”
Do you see the power God had to give, in order for him to believe that?
-That is not mere human wisdom
Do you see the power God had to give, in order for him to live that?
-That is not mere human ability.