April 16th 2023: Jonny Raine

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Ephesians 3:14-21

“Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:

‘Please, sir, I want some more.’ The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupified astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder; the boys with fear.

‘What!’ said the master at length, in a faint voice.
‘Please, sir,’ replied Oliver, ‘I want some more.’”

God is the complete opposite of those men who ran the workhouse. When we ask for more, He gives willingly gives over and over again. Where are we landing in the Bible? We are three quarters of the way through the Bible, in Ephesians, a letter written by Paul, who encountered Jesus when He was trying to kill Christians and close down the church. Jesus sent him on to tell others about Jesus. The church also recognised him and sent him on to tell people about Jesus. When other people became Christians through Paul telling them about Jesus, they then started churches. Paul then went on to other places, to tell other people about Jesus.

Paul would often write back to new churches which had been formed, to encourage them in the gospel, and to teach them how they are to be as God’s people. That is what he’s doing in the letter of Ephesians. So far in the book, he has told them how God has worked in eternity and in time to make them His own people, and how this results in a growing Christian life (chapter 1). In chapter 2 Paul is explaining how God has made Christians spiritually alive, even though we were previously dead in our sins. He is spiritually drawing each believer to each other. So, regardless of whether our background was Jewish or Gentile, we are made one together as a church in Jesus. When we normally create divisions, as human beings, the gospel – the good news of Jesus, breaks them down.

Just as Paul is about to tell them how he prays for them and what his prayer is for them, he interrupts himself and explains God’s plan to unite Jews and Gentiles, what it means to be God’s people. For us, whatever our background or ethnicity, the message is that we are welcome to come to God in Jesus. Paul then goes back to speak about the prayer he prays for his people, then he goes on to explain what it means to live a Christian life because of the change that has been brought to us.

Paul’s prayer shows how he prays in light of all God has done in Jesus. Quite simply, it is a prayer for more. Before we come to the prayer itself, we see the approach to prayer; we need more and more humility, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Ephesians 3:14). I don’t know if you’ve ever knelt when praying, it’s not a requirement in the Bible. Another posture, which is mentioned in the Bible, is to pray with your hands raised.

Paul points out God’s greatness, His high position. Recapping God’s greatness leads to humility. Paul is not demanding of God, rather he comes humbly submitting to God. He refers to God as his Father. We might have had negative experiences of an earthly father, but God is our perfect Father. We need more humility.

Paul essentially has three requests. If we are asking for more, we already have had some. These are things Christians can never get enough of. God’s supplies are endless. He can keep giving more and more of Himself, “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,” (Ephesians 3:16).

  1. More Power.

The power Christians have access to has already been a theme of the book, especially at the end of chapter 1. It’s the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. That’s the power that we have access to. Here the focus is first on how this power is brought to us – through the Holy Spirit. Every Christian has God’s Spirit living within them. He is co-equal with God the Father and the Son. He is the means by which God’s power is available to us. Because He lives within us, we have the power of God available to us.

“May be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height,” (Ephesians 3:18). Paul speaks about how he might grasp the four dimensions: width, length, height and depth. This might refer to God’s love, but Paul leaves this thing of immense measurement unspecified – it might be the limitless of God’s power for us.

Why do we need such limitless power? In order to grasp the more of other things God has for us, we need the power of God for us to be able to do. In order to live the Christian life, we need the limitless power of God to do so, to live faithfully for Him. That power is made ours more and more.

  • More Closeness

That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,” (Ephesians 3:17). That’s intimate language. The Spirit lives in our hearts. The Spirit and Christ are so united together in oneness; as the Spirit lives in us, so Christ lives in us. The fulness of the Father lives in us, Christ dwells in our hearts and the Spirit within us. This is something we already have as Christians. As Christians, we already have a closeness with God. We have been made one with the Father through what Jesus has done for us, as the Spirit unites us to Christ.

It’s something we can have more and more of. The closeness we have in God, through Christ, in the Spirit, grows and grows. Sometimes, as Christians, our faith fluctuates, but He is always giving more and more. We can pray we can have more and more.

  • More Love.

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,” (Ephesians 3:17). The root and foundation of love is the beginning point of love. He loves us, so we can love Him. “To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19). This is a prayer that we would know this love that surpasses knowledge. We’ll never be able to explain the deepness of God’s love for us, but we can have more of it. Just as you think you might be able to understand the extent of God’s love, to begin to grasp it, you realise how vast and limitless His ocean of love for us is. God loves you.

When you realise He loved you even when you were sinful, you realise He loved you more. When you realise that He loved you even when you were an enemy of His and yet He still loved you, then you love Him more. When you realise that it cost Him the death of Son to show you the greatness of His love, you realise how much more He loves you.

When you realise that it took Jesus to take our sin upon Himself and endure the hell we deserved, you realise that He loved you more than you even realised before. When you realise that He holds you securely in His love and His love will not let you go, you realise that He loves you even more. When you realise He loves you despite your wavering faith and continued sin, you realise that He loves you more.

When we think we’ve grasped the fulness of God’s love, you realise something more of what God has done for you. He loves you more than you previously thought. As you see He loves you more, so you love Him more.

The result of this is more praise. When we realise all the ‘mores’ God has in store for us – more power, more closeness, more love for each one of us, we just have to tell Him how grateful we are, how much we love Him and appreciate what He has done for us. The final two verses are quite simply that, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Even in that overflow of praise, Paul can’t help but squeeze in whatever we think or imagine, God is bigger, God is more. Such is the awesome, infinite greatness of God who works in us, who has glory in His people, and in His Son, and whose glory continues from generation to generation, forever.

What difference does this actually make to us? What difference does this make if you’re not a Christian or if you’re not sure, or if you want to share something of this with people who aren’t Christians?

The question to ask is. ‘Is this the kind of God I would want to know?’ If I don’t know this God, is this the kind of God that I would want to know – a God who is generous, kind and ready to share all of His immense riches, all of His glory with His people, a God who empowers His people, a God who draws His people closer to Himself?

If that’s you and you’re not yet a Christian, or perhaps thinking about Him, you can come to Him today. He opens His arms to welcome you today, whatever our failings, whatever our sins, we bring them to Him. In Him we find complete and full forgiveness. In Him we are made His children so that we can call Him our Father. He has shown us His love in Jesus and He want to bring us all to Himself, to give us a life that we can then live for Him. If there is something you are not sure about, then why not start reading about Jesus’ life? Read about how He has revealed God to us. Come back to the church here. Keep coming back week by week and hear about the good news of Jesus.

If you are a Christian, no doubt you have a desire for more. We realise we don’t have it all.  So, we can pray for ourselves; we can ask God to give us more of Himself. As we come before Him humbly, we can ask Him to give us more power, more closeness and more love from Himself.

We can pray that for each other – that’s exactly what Paul is doing here, he is praying for other believers a long, long way away from him. He is praying that they would experience these ‘mores’ of God. As a church you can pray that for each other. You can pray for those who preach week by week. Even when we’re at the end of our capacity, He keeps on giving of Himself to us. He keeps giving out of His grace, out of His loving kindness to us. We keep leaning on Him, we keep looking to Him.

September 29th 2022: Adrian Brake

Harvest Service

Texts: Acts 14:8-18; Haggai 1:1-11; Genesis 8:20-22.

            God wants us to know Him. He has made Himself known clearly and wonderfully in three important ways. First, He has made Himself known in Scripture. The Scriptures are the “word of God” in which He manifests Himself. Secondly, He has made Himself known through the coming of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Word made flesh (John 1:14) who declared to us the Father (John 1:18; 14:7-11). But then, thirdly, He has made Himself known through creation.

            There are three things we can learn at this harvest time by looking at what God has done in and through creation.

[1] Harvest time tells us something about God’s love.

[2] Harvest time tells us something about God’s mercy.

[3] Harvest time tells us something about God’s faithfulness.

These three things are put on display in creation by God. The Lord loves humanity. He cares deeply for mankind. He is loving, merciful, and faithful.

[1] Harvest time tells us something about God’s love.

            1 John 3:18 tells us that we must not love in word only but in action and in truth. God loves in action! God expresses His love in ways which we can experience. He gives us gifts. Most people like to give gifts. Such a thing shows that we are made in the image of God which although fallen and marred is not completely lost. In that we give gifts we know also that God gives such to a greater degree. When a person gives another a gift it is a way of saying “I love you,” or “I care.” God has given to humanity certain gifts and these declare His love.

[a] Food.

            One of these gifts is food. Where does food come from? Sadly, many youth think it comes from the supermarkets! But we know that it comes from the miracle of God’s creative works. We could speak of the soil, the sun, the rain, the warmth and so on, but all of these are provided by God. He made the systems that enable the seeds to grow in the soil. He provides the water and sunlight to enable photosynthesis to occur. It is God who brings our food to the table. In Acts 14 we hear Paul speaking of the Lord’s witness to those of Lystra:

“Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17).

The people of Lystra did not have the law, the tabernacle, the prophets, nor the sacrifices, but they did have creation, (Psalm 19:1). God loves the cheerful or generous giver, for He is a very generous giver Himself. All of creation witnesses to this. Did He not make an abundance of creatures in the seas and on the land?

            A recent supermarket leaflet lamented the fact that in the UK we waste 6.4 million tons of food every year. This amounts to 730 lbs per household every year. There is a vast abundance of food in this land! God is a generous giver! God has provided. The problem of lack in different areas is not due to God’s lack of provision, but mankind’s greed and sinfulness.

[b] A more precious gift.

            We need food to survive and God has given this in abundance. But we need something else more desperately. Our greatest need is the forgiveness of sins. If we cannot survive bodily without food, then note that we will not survive eternally without the forgiveness of sins.

            God created us to know Him but we are unthankful and rebellious. If we do not know Him then the wrath of God abides on us (John 3:36). But God is so generous and kind that He has provided His only Son for us. Through His coming, His death, His resurrection, and His ascension we are given the gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins. This Person is the greatest gift that God has given to us (John 3:16).

            God has given us food that we may thrive bodily. And He has also given us the Lord Jesus Christ that we might have eternal life. Jesus referred to Himself as the “bread of life” (Genesis 6:35,48). In this manner God has loved us. The coming and sacrifice of Christ demonstrates God’s love to unholy men and women (Romans 5:8).

            In Luke’s gospel we read of the rich man and a beggar named Lazarus (Luke 16:19f). The rich man had plenty to eat in this world but in death he was cast into the torment and flames. The poor beggar, Lazarus, ate the crumbs from the rich man’s table and was taken to paradise. There is a great gulf between these two places where souls are delivered after death. If all we have in this world is an abundance of earthly food then we will end up in the same place as this rich man. If, however, we have little of this world’s fare but are rich in the knowledge of God, we have heaven to look forward to.  

            The apostle John wrote:

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1John 4:10).

If we trust in the Lord and in His provision through Christ Jesus, then we are highly favoured and greatly blessed. But if not then we need to see His provision of Christ afresh.

[2] Harvest time tells us something about God’s mercy.

            In Haggai 1:1-11 we read of a failed harvest. They sowed the seed but reaped little in the end. Why? Well, we read that God “blew it away” (Haggai 1:9). He did this because they had forgotten God’s house. Because they had rejected the Lord in their neglect. The exiles were those who returned from captivity and were enabled through Nehemiah and by God’s power to rebuild the walls. Having done this, they set about building themselves their “panelled houses” but they did not attend to the house of the Lord. They did not set themselves to rebuild the temple. They had no thought of the glory of God. So, God chastised is people by withholding the harvest.

            In our land the Lord has been good and gracious. We have been greatly favoured. We have a great history of God’s goodness so that by-and-large we enjoy happiness and peace in our land with an abundance of food. However, in general we do not think of God. In our rebellion and neglect are we any less guilty than the Israelites of Haggai’s day? Does not our land deserve the same chastisement? In all of this we see that God is merciful.

Mercy is when God does not give us what we deserve.

Grace is when God gives us those things we do not deserve.

What of those who have not? What of those who do in fact starve? Well in a recent supermarket magazine we are told that 29,000 tons of oranges and 6,000 tons of spring onions, all valued at £84 million, are thrown away every year. We do indeed have sufficient but we are grossly negligent in sharing this abundance. It is due to our sin and greed that some starve, not because God does not provide. Psalm 145 tells us something of God’s great provision:

The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. … 15 The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season. 16 You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:9,15,16).

God gives generously to all.

“He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45).

In Acts 14:17 we discovered that even though the unbelievers had no thought of God. Nevertheless, He gave them rain and fruitful seasons, food and gladness. Now this fact that we have an abundance of food is due to the mercy of God. At any moment He could justly and righteously consign our souls to hell. This is what we deserve. But He does not send us there even though we do deserve it, but rather He continues to give and provide for us. This is the mercy of God, withholding what we justly deserve. God spares us and He spares us, and He spares us. How long have you been spared the judgment you deserve? God is truly patient and long suffering (2Peter 3:9). Think of the multitudes alive at this moment who have no thought of God and who are rebelling in wicked ways. These are held back from the judgement they deserve. This is only on account of God’s great mercy.

            But there is a time limit for God’s mercy (Genesis 6:3). As day succeeds day, God withholds His judgement from us. He strives and bears with us. Do not presume on this mercy. God could take you at any moment (Hebrews 9:27) but He has enabled you to see this day in which He has graciously provided for you both food to eat for your body and food for your eternal soul. Why would you not take and eat of the Lord?

[3] Harvest time tells us something about God’s faithfulness.

            In Genesis 8:21 we learn that God promised Noah He would not destroy the world again with the waters of the flood. He promised this even though “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Man’s heart had not changed through the flood. He was wicked before the flood and man continues to be wicked after the flood (the Tower of Babel event in Genesis 11:1f declares this especially).  But God promised the entire world that seed sowing, the harvest, the seasons, and the order of day and night would continue unabated throughout the remainder of time (Genesis 8:22).

            God has kept this promise for the harvest has come. How many harvests have come throughout time? The Lord promises and He always does what He has said He will do. God is faithful. What of His many other promises in Scripture? Here are a selection:

[1] Whoever comes to the Lord Jesus He will never cast out (John 6:37). He will keep and preserve all who come to Jesus forever.

[2] Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

[3] My God shall supply all your need (Philippians 4:19).

[4] God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

[5] The Lord Jesus promised that He will come back for us (John 14:3; Acts 1:11).

We can build on such promises (and there are many more in Scripture) for God is faithful and what He has said He will most certainly do.

We are here to give thanks. We give thanks for:

The God of love – He is great, generous, and abundant in His love for He gives us food to eat and the bread of life for our souls.

The God of mercy – He has withheld that which we deserve in patience offering us the salvation and redemption which are found alone in Christ.

The God of faithfulness – He has promised so much for us, and He will keep this world going in its regular order until that day, and we can rely on all that He has said.