Today, we’re continuing in our message series Live Out God’s Purpose. In this series, we’re studying the book of Ephesians to understand God’s purpose for our lives and for the church.
How might we summarize God’s purpose for our lives? We’re going to be learning that God’s primary purpose for your life is spiritual growth. God main purpose for His church is spiritual growth. Now, there are many aspects to spiritual growth, but let’s turn to the book of Ephesians to help us better understand.
Ephesians 4:15 (ESV) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
This verse expresses what God’s purpose is for us on the personal level. We are to grow up in every way into Christ. In other words, we are to spiritually grow to become more and more like Jesus. The more we become like Jesus, the more we’re going to think like Him, talk like Him, act like Him and live like Him. The more we become like Jesus, the more we’re going to pray like Jesus, love like Jesus and sin less and less, as Jesus didn’t sin at all. The more like Jesus we become, we’re going to see more saved, more people healed and more people set free. I want to become more and more like Jesus. What about the church?
Ephesians 4:16 (ESV) from whom [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The church is called here the body of Christ. The church is made of individual believers, here called parts of the body. When each believer in the church is working properly, that is growing up into Christ, than the whole body is growing as well. We might summarize both spiritual growth for an individual believer or for the church as building itself up in love. We are each part of the local church here at Life Church.
In order to grow spiritually, a believer needs to be connected to a local church. Why? There are two main reasons to be connected to the local church. The first is that you can receive from God through a local church in a way that you can’t on your own. God has purposefully set things up so that a person cannot properly grow spiritually on their own, outside of a church. In church, you receive encouragement, teaching, prayer, fellowship, help and many other things. But simply receiving from the church and other believers is not the main reason to grow in a church.
The second reason to be connected to a local church is to have opportunities to give and minister to others within the church. The more that you learn to give, the more you will receive. Which is more important, receiving or giving? Most people would say receiving. What does Jesus say?
Acts 20:35b (ESV) … remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Spiritual growth comes as we put what we have received into practice through giving. So, today, we’re going to learn how to grow spiritually in power and love. And we’re going to give by helping others grow as well. Let’s get started and learn to …
Ephesians 1:16-17 (ESV) I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
Paul is writing out his prayer for the church at Ephesus and the believers there. We can learn how to pray both for ourselves and for others from this prayer. We are to give thanks for other believers that are in our circle of fellowship. Then Paul makes a profound request. He asks God to give these believers the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus. The Spirit that this verse is speaking of is the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal to us a deepening knowledge of Jesus.
What this prayer is about is not just knowing more about what the Bible says about Jesus. Paul is praying that these believers would grow in knowing Jesus personally through prayer. Prayer is two-way communication. Talking to God and listening to Him. Next he prays …
Ephesians 1:18 (ESV) having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
The eyes of our hearts are our spiritual eyes that need to be opened. The Bible speaks of Satan blinding the eyes of people to the truth of Jesus. The eyes of people have to be opened to the Gospel in order to be saved. Yet, even for believers, we still do not see everything clearly. We need the Spirit to open our eyes to better see the hope God has called us to.
God Himself has an inheritance in the saints, which are believers. When we better understand the great value of the believers that Jesus has died for, we will better appreciate the value of Jesus’ church. The three things that God desires for us to grow in are faith, hope and love. God desires for us to always have hope in His plan and purpose.
Ephesians 1:19 (ESV) and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
How can we have hope in a world that seems to be turning their backs on God? A world that persecutes Christians and runs toward ever more perverse sin? We can have hope because God’s power is so great that it can’t be measured. No power in the world is any match for God’s power.
And where is God’s power directed? It is directed toward believers. The passage goes on to say that the power of God toward us is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. That mighty power of God is therefore available to each and every believer. We must pray for God’s revelation.
Now, let’s think about Paul’s prayer as an example prayer for us. What is different about Paul’s prayer from the way that we usually pray? If you’re like me, many prayers are asking God for physical or temporal things, both for ourselves and others. We often pray for God’s help with our health, our finances, our relationship and so on. There’s nothing wrong with those prayers and we should pray for those things.
Yet, that’s not the type of prayer that Paul is praying here. Perhaps, we should include in our prayer life, prayers for our own and other’s spiritual growth. This prayer of Paul’s is included in the Bible, so it certainly is a good and effective prayer. Let’s pray for ourselves and others that God would send His Spirit to give us revelation of Jesus, of the hope He has for us and of the awesome power God directs toward us. Those are the kind of prayers that will lead to spiritual growth in ourselves and others.
Paul next writes in chapter three about the purpose that God called him to.
Ephesians 3:9 (ESV) and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,
After Jesus ascended into heaven and poured out the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the church as born. The understanding of the church as including believers of every tribe, nation and tongue was only hinted at in the Old Testament times. Through the writings of Paul and other apostles, God’s plan and purpose for His church was now being made known.
Ephesians 3:10 (ESV) so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
The church is not man-made institution, the church is God’s creation. This verse tells us that the purpose of the church is so that God’s great wisdom might be made known to spiritual rulers and authorities. The book of Ephesians makes it clear that there are both good and evil spiritual rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. These are the angels and the fallen angels or demons that are in continual warfare. The church is God’s showpiece of people saved from Satan’s grasp by the blood of Jesus. Believers are trophies of God’s grace and He is proud of them as they gather together to worship Him around the world in their local churches.
Ephesians 3:11-12 (ESV) This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
God’s purpose for each one of us and for His church is an eternal purpose, a purpose in place before the creation of the world. That purpose could only be fulfilled through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What has God’s purpose for the church accomplished? We, as members of Jesus’ church, now can boldly have access to God through prayer. We can have confidence that when we pray according to God’s will, He hears us and will answer us.
In fact, when we pray in agreement with others, there is even greater power in our prayers. That is another indication of the power that God has given to His church. God desires for us to realize the power of the church.
Now, how many people know that there is no perfect church. The reason is that even as believers, none of us is perfect and sinless like Jesus. We’re on a journey, but we all have a ways to go in our spiritual growth of becoming like Jesus. Yet, the Bible speaks of the church as the bride of Christ, whom He died for.
Some people point out the flaws in churches and want nothing to do with them. Yet, the Bible teaches us that every believer needs to be part of a Bible-believing and Spirit-filled church. That is the place where God’s power will protect and help you to grow. The very imperfections of other people are the catalysts for each one of us growing in love for one another.
Many people search for a church where there are a lot of people just like them, in age, in appearance, or in some other way. That is not the kind of church anyone should be looking for. A biblical church is a church where God’s Word is accurately taught, where the Spirit is moving and where a diverse group of believers are learning to love one another. The power of a church is not measured by how many people attend, but by the spiritual growth of those following Jesus there. Not only should we realize the power of the church, Paul now prays that we may …
Ephesians 3:16 (ESV) that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
We’ve talked about the power in the church, but now, the topic turns to each believer being strengthened with power. What’s the opposite of being strengthened with power, it being weak. When we are weak spiritually, we are sitting ducks for the enemy to attack. We need to be strengthened with power.
How does that happen? Power comes to believers through the work of the Holy Spirit within us. So, Paul is praying for the believers in Ephesus that the Holy Spirit would strengthen them with power. Power to withstand temptation, power to be bold in witnessing, power to serve others in love, power in prayer. As we are strengthened with the Spirit’s power, what happens?
Ephesians 3:17 (ESV) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
First of all, through faith, Jesus lives in our hearts. Doesn’t Jesus live in every believer’s heart? Yes, but in all of us there are secret places of sin in our hearts, places where Jesus does not dwell. As we spiritually grow, we turn over more and more of our hearts and make room for Jesus there. If Jesus had complete control to every corner of our hearts, we would never sin. I’m not there yet and neither is anyone else, so we continue to surrender our lives and hearts to Him as we grow spiritually. The more that Jesus controls our hearts, the more will we be rooted and grounded in His love.
Ephesians 3:18-19 (ESV) may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
The final revelation that Paul is praying for is that we may have a revelation and know the love of Jesus Christ. The love of Jesus for each one of us is so great that we will forever be learning more about it. But the more that we comprehend, Jesus’ love for us, the more we will live and dwell in that love. As we live in God’s love, we are being filled with the fullness of God. We are spiritually growing, becoming more and more like Jesus. You see, God is love and the more we comprehend His love, the more we know Him.
What happens as we grow in knowing the love of Christ for us? We begin to see ourselves as Jesus does, as someone that He loved so much that He died for. When we have a revelation of God’s love for us, there is no place for fear or worry. God’s Word says that perfect love casts out fear.
God’s desires for us to pray for ourselves that we would know the love of Christ in greater measure. As we comprehend in greater measure God’s incredible love, as we embrace His love, it enables us to love those around us as God does. Rather than viewing the sinner as disgusting, we will view them with God’s love. God’s love will motivate us to reach out to the lost and the suffering.
Not only should we pray for ourselves to know God’s love, we should also pray for others to know God’s love. We can pray for sinners to begin to see God’s love, which will draw them to Jesus. We can pray for other believers to experience God’s love in a fuller dimension. As God answers our prayers, the end result is that we grow spiritually, we become more like Jesus. Let’s watch a short video of the last two verses in the passage in Ephesians we’re studying this morning.
Isn’t that a wonderful conclusion to what God has been showing us this morning? God is able to do far more than we ask or think. As we pray for more of God’s revelation, more of His power, more of His love, God will answer our prayers in a deeper dimension than we’ve prayed for. God knows what we need more than we do ourselves. How is He able to do far more than we ask or think? Because the power of the Holy Spirit is working within us. The power of the Spirit is working in our individual lives and in our church. Let’s give God the glory for what He has done and what’s He’s going to do in us through His power and love.