We are in the second week of our series looking at the book of Ephesians. Last week we saw that on Easter Jesus adopted us into God’s family, and as a result we have lavish and free forgiveness and a new destiny. This week we’re moving the story along a little bit.
We know that Easter happened. We know that our destiny is fundamentally altered now. But what does it look like to live in a post-Easter reality?
15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
He Is Able
Last week I started off talking about Star Wars, this week I’m going to be way more mature and start off with a reference to the superhero Iron Man. There’s a scene in one of the recent movies where Iron Man is captured by the bad guys and he’s not in his armored suit – he’s just Regular Man at the moment. And the henchmen are laughing at him until he suddenly juts out his hand, expecting something to happen. The bad guys freeze, afraid that something’s going to happen. But it doesn’t. Gradually they loosen up and again mock the not so super-hero as he keeps thrusting his hand out. But after an interminable delay, the armored suit he built that he could summon by jutting his hand out breaks through the window to rescue its owner.
These henchmen had seen Iron Man in action. They knew what he was capable of. And even when they thought he was powerless, his waving arms scared them for a bit. And rightfully so, it turned out.
Or if you would like a less recent example, one of my favorite stories is Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Hank is a contemporary of Twain’s that gets transported to King Arthur’s time in England. He’s imprisoned in the castle and he realizes through his fortuitous knowledge of sixth century astronomy that there’s going to be a total solar eclipse soon. So he sends word to the king from prison that he will blot out the sun if he isn’t freed. The king of course responds by ordering his immediate execution, not believing his power but wanting to play it safe. Luckily for Hank the eclipse happens before he can be executed, so he gets to use the eclipse to show his immense power to the ancients.
Now in both of these stories, the question is power. Who has the power. How much power do they have? Are they able to exercise that power right now? Do others believe in their power?
These were apparently questions that the church in Ephesus was asking about Jesus, because Paul uses just about every word imaginable to describe Jesus’ power. He uses “power,” “rule,” “authority”, “dominion,” “all things are under his feet,” “head over all things.” Do you think Paul is trying to make a point here? It’s as if he found a thesaurus and just ran down all the synonyms for power.
But the main word he uses essentially means “to be able.” He’s telling the Ephesians in every way possible, “Christ is able.” Through God, “Christ is able.” Even in death, “Christ is able.” Seated in heaven, “Christ is able.” With the rulers and powers of this world, “Christ is able.” With all things in all ways, “Christ is able.”
Do you ever, like the Ephesians, need to be encouraged and reminded that Christ is able? Do you ever, like the Ephesians, stop praying about an issue? Do you ever, like the Ephesians, resign yourself to defeat? Paul would say with every synonym in the English language that “Christ is able.”
Of course saying “Christ is able” is both an incredible comfort but also a stumbling block. When you’re in times of trial, God’s power can be comforting – “I can’t see a way out, but Christ is able.” But that’s also when we can wonder why God isn’t doing anything – “Christ is able, but he’s so far choosing to do nothing. What gives, God?” Does saying “Christ is able” comfort you or trouble you right now?
So thanks to Easter, Christ gave us a new destiny. But that destiny mainly plays out at the end – at our destination. Here Paul says Christ is able – right now, not just at the end, right now – to do absolutely anything. It’s like what we heard in our first reading from Mark, Jesus’ first sermon – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near.” The post-Easter reality is that Jesus’ spiritual kingdom is established. That time is fulfilled. It’s today. It’s now. Not just our final destination. Right here and now.
Christ is the King – the all-powerful, “Christ is able” king – and we are citizen-soldiers. So what’s our role in the kingdom? I mean, even Alexander the Great needed generals and soldiers and stable boys and city administrators, right? Every king needs the citizens of the kingdom to do their part! What’s our part?
Paul writes that one of our most important roles in Christ’s Kingdom is to go to battle in prayer. Not just dabbling in prayer. Battling in prayer. What does that look like?
Paul says in v15 “I have heard of your faith.” The first step in going to battle in prayer is to be aware of the people around you. What do you hear? What do you see? This is why we did the prayer walk through the surrounding neighborhoods a month ago. We had more than 50 people walk or drive a block and I heard from so many of them, “I’ve driven by this a thousand times, but I hadn’t stopped to notice.” Be aware of the people around you.
Then in v16 Paul writes, “I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” The second step in going to battle in prayer is to increase your prayer frequency. This one gets me all the time – I realize I’ve been going through my day doing my best, using my God-given abilities to try to get around my God-given weaknesses, and then I realize I haven’t stopped to use my God-given open line of communication with the King. Increase your prayer frequency.
Third, Paul prays in v17 for “a spirit of wisdom and revelation.” He wants them to know who God is – that’s revelation – and how to live as a result – that’s wisdom. So the third step in going to battle in prayer is to pray for someone to know God better and know how to live in a God-honoring way. Pray for transformation.
Next, Paul prays in v18 that this transformation would allow them to “know what is the hope to which he has called you.” The fourth step in going to battle in prayer is to lift up those who are feeling defeated. Jesus says in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus doesn’t want us to feel useless and defeated – he wants us to have full life! Lift up the downtrodden and defeated.
After that in v18 he reminds the Ephesians of “God’s glorious inheritance among the saints.” Now this is an Old Testament reference getting a New Testament update from Paul. In the Old Testament, God’s inheritance are the people of Israel taken in sum – not individual people but the WHOLE people. And so Paul is reminded the Ephesians that when they are together they are mighty because of the King who works in them and through them. Adding your prayers with those of other people is another step in going to battle in prayer. That’s why we had the prayer guide for Holy Week.
Finally, Paul asks in v19 that they know, “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power.” There’s that power again. The last step in going to battle in prayer is to let God use his power through you. Let God use his power to make this world look more like the Kingdom. More like our destination.
Example: Community Dinner
Let me give you a tangible example. Back toward the end of last year, Lynda Kizer asked to meet with me because God had placed something on her heart. While helping with the Thanksgiving meal she became aware (step 1) of the need for meals in our community, and that need extended far beyond Thanksgiving. As a result of that awareness, she had been in frequent dialogue with God about it (step 2). Not wanting to just go gallivanting off on her own, she asked for wisdom and guidance – seeking my input and then getting a ton of info from other churches who offered meals more frequently (step 3).
As she started formulating a plan for offering a community meal maybe once a quarter rather than just at Thanksgiving, she circled around a vision for a welcoming home, a dignified meal on real honest-to-goodness you-matter-to-us plates rather than disposable. She wanted our meal to communicate that people matter, that there’s hope (step 4). With vision in hand, she met with Mission and Outreach and eventually all of Session to see if others felt the same passion (step 5). And now she’s putting together a leadership team AND volunteers to pull off a community meal here at our church once a quarter – starting Tuesday June 7 from 6-7pm (step 6).
I don’t know what God is going to do to show his power through the meal in June and the meal in September and our Thanksgiving meal. I don’t know how God will show that “Christ is able.” But I’m pretty sure he will show up and do something. Because whenever the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven go to battle in prayer, the King goes there too. If you have a passion for the hungry or the downtrodden or just for food – go to battle in prayer and maybe join Lynda and her team on June 7 or the next one in September.
Sisters and brothers, as a result of Easter we have a new destiny – a new destination. But the kingdom of heaven is at hand TODAY. The King is ready for his citizens to go to battle in prayer TODAY. What has he placed on your heart? What’s your battleground? And who might he be sending to join you there? Amen.