Ephesians 3:20, 21 NKJV:
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, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever, amen.
Here is a fundamental question. Can Jesus do as much for us as we think He can? Can He do as much for us as we theorize?
More specifically: can He help us with an overeating problem? A smoking problem? With a dispute between family or neighbors? With anger in the home? Can He help us in living-out biblical marriage? Can He keep us if we are not eligible for biblical remarriage, or if we have a problem with sexual purity?
If you go back and read all of Ephesians chapter two and all of Ephesians chapter three, you find what? That a key issue for society in the time of Christ was prejudice between ethnicities. And the key point made by Paul in two and three is that, through Christ, the separation between ethnicities is broken. Whether Jew or Gentile, Christ makes all people new people. He heals the separations of ethnicities between all people.
Things that are not right in the society are remedied among God's people. They model before the world a different kingdom altogether. But it is more than modeling in the sense of anything artificial. Rather, they model by living out the real thing.
One of the very hardest things experienced in Paul's culture was this ethnic separationism. But because Jesus died for everyone and then rose from the dead for everyone willing to be remade, ethnic divisions were able to be healed. This doesn't mean they didn't have to strive to receive that healing, or to be available to God for different thinking and different doing. It means that the power of God was available for whomever would lay hold of it. And so, as long as they were willing to have a big God, the largest issue of that day, was remedied. Before Jesus came, there was hardly even the dream of healing this division. After, it became the norm. In other words, what did God do for them through the gospel? He did exceedingly abundantly above all that they could ask or think.
When the people of God embraced His help, His power, they turned the world upside down. Their witness changed planet earth. Their witness testified to all, that He is, not was, but is, able to change us.
If He could do that for them in their deepest problems, what can He do for us in ours?
Join me in quickly considering five points in this text. First, "we think."
What do we think that God can do? There are different sources for answering this question. One is our imagination. What can we imagine God doing for us? Can we imagine Him giving us victory over key besetments? Those things which have dogged us for years but which we still haven't resolved with Him? If we don't imagine that He can give us the victory, we won't anticipate that victory. Then we are not sure how big God is. Then He may not be big enough to give us victory over that besetting sin.
We recognize that the human imagination is undependable. It is insufficient. It is often wrong. Go further. You can take a godly imagination and mis-educate it. When it has been mis-educated (as everyone's has been) your imagination is even less reliable.
Because our imagination is unreliable, God has given us a rationality, an ability to add two plus two and understand that it comes out as being four. We are able to put two and two together with an addition operator (the plus sign) and compute that the result of such a mathematical operation is the number four.
And yet, here again we come up against a roadblock. Not only our imaginative faculty but our rational faculty have been perverted. And so, someone has been trained to think that there can be no such thing as miracles, no possible suspensions of apparent natural laws as today we observe them in operation. So when the Bible says something that we do not evaluate, do not calculate out to be rational, we have a disagreement with the Bible. We are adamant that two plus two, which actually does equal four, cannot possibly equal four, because we are certain that two plus two equals three.
Our mind is made up. We cannot see this any other way than the way that we see it. And so we make our reason the judge and we judge the Word. The Word is wrong, we think.
And so, our imagination and our rational thought can fail us, their mental products can shape us so that we argue with the Bible. We try to make place for our sins. We shrink God because it is inconvenient to have such a big God.
Which brings us to "more than." However big we think God is, He is bigger. However large and infinite we imagine God is, He is larger, more infinite.
Jesus can do more for us than we think or imagine. If He's too big for us in the Bible, and we "shrink" Him, by refusing to believe Him, the answer is still that He can do "more than." He is the God of "more than." And if He is the God of "more than," and if we are His people, then we are the people of what? Of "more than."
Go further. Another question. It goes beyond thinking, imagining, even beyond "more than." It is a question about free will.
When God made you in His image, He made you with something godlike: your free will. Notice, I did not say "the" free will, but "your" free will. He made you. He gave you the characteristic of free will. You can choose. You can choose to restrain your impulses or fulfill them. You have choice.
I was behind a fellow in the store in Bonners Ferry a few years ago. He was buying a case of beer. He was very conversational. He would say something not particularly funny, and laugh. When he leaned over next to me to make one of these remarks, I could smell the liquor on his breath. Under the influence of intoxicants, he was in a very uninhibited mood.
He had exercised his free choice and here he was, not in full self-control, buying more intoxicants. At that moment he was not so much a free agent because he had chosen to render himself unfree. But before he rendered himself unfree, he was indeed a free agent. He had free will. At some point he misused his free will.
People are able to suppress their impulses in public places, and if they can suppress in public they can suppress in private. And so, they suppress. I'm talking about unbelievers now. If an unbeliever hates his boss, he is able to bite his tongue and smile and speak nicely to his supervisor, at least until payday rolls around, or as long as that is his only wage-earning situation. Purely out of self-interest he can control himself.
We see the same when people are courting. They show their warmest, sweetest side while courting. It is in their best interest; it is the bait on the hook. But down inside are they moral? Are they really interested? Do they really love you or do they really do what they do for their own fleshly purposes? People have free will and they can exercise self-control when it suits their purpose. I'm talking about fallen people.
So then what about you and I? If we are converted, if we have the Holy Spirit inside, if we are living on God's side of the question, if we are surrounded by holy angels, then we can overcome. We can be victorious not only for our self-interest, but in the purpose of being faithful to others. You can be victorious for the sake of your children, for the example you set them. You can be victorious for the sake of your spouse. You can be victorious for the sake of your God. It is a case of being "more than" people. You are persons of "more than" self-interest. You have a stake in the kingdom. Jesus died on the cross for you. His blood was shed to make you free. How then can you not choose His interest over your own?
The Power That is Working in You
The next thought in our passage is the power that is working in you.
What power is working in you and how well is it working? Here in Ephesians Paul reminds us that we used to be darkness but now we are light. We used to be children of disobedience, wrath; now we are sons of light. It is all because of what Jesus did.
He purchased pardon for your sins, yes. He sent the Holy Spirit from heaven. He reconnected heaven and earth; He sewed them together again. He sent us a power out of and beyond us to work in us and to change us.
Notice in our text the power and where it is working so effectually. "In us." Not next to you, or over in Colorado, but here, right here, here, in your skin. Jesus lived in human skin and He lived in it successfully. You are living in human skin and God wants to live in you successfully, suppressing all darkness, expressing all light, echoing all power through the name of Jesus.
He is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Not the pretend glory, not the fake light. This is not a special effect or a parlor trick by Industrial Light and Magic. This is the power of the Planetmaker making your heart anew. And why does our Father do this? In order that there might be glory for Him in a particular place.
In the church.
Why in the church? Because He has purchased the Church by the blood of Jesus. The onlooking universe needs to know whether God can change hearts. Can He turn rebels into voluntarily-imaged creatures? Can He bring us back? from the edge, whatever edge we are on?
Can He give victory? Can we be overcomers?
The answer I present to you, my conviction, and that of Seventh-day Adventist Christians around the world, is that this doxology by Paul is not illusion, no mock play, no tall tale. It is a true Word. It is a peek beyond the line, across the river, a look beyond the veil, a Word of hope in a world of despair.
One might offer much more explanation, but I suggest you accept simply that He who makes planets can remake your heart. Hear the Bible writer, hear the Holy Spirit, hear Paul testify when he says:
"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, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever, amen."
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