Plug In to the Power of Our Ascended Savior
A sermon based on Ephesians 1:16-23
Sunday, June 5, 2011 – Ascension A
DVDs, PDAs, and MP3s fill our homes. Microwaves and refrigerators, heater systems and entertainment systems all seem to be necessities at home. Computers, printers, fax machines, cell phones are necessary tools at work. And all these need a power source. Can you imagine living without batteries? Without electricity or natural gas?
Gas prices are on the rise and though we complain about the cost, yet we still drive our cars and SUVs wherever we want to go—the roads were still busy on Memorial Day weekend and the RV's were still out and the campers were still in tow. But can you imagine what it would be like without any fuel to power our vehicles? How would we get from point A to point B? (It's a long walk to Anchorage.)
In our way of life, we need fuel. We need power. Otherwise we can't really do that much. And the same is true of us spiritually. We need power. And we can't find it on our own. We can't fuel our own way to heaven. We can't even fuel our own way through the problems of this life.
But the good news is we don't have to. We have a power source that never runs out, never needs recharging, and the cost will never rise! In fact, our spiritual power source will always be free of charge. Our power source is Jesus—our Ascended Savior. This morning, as we plug in to him through the Word, we come to better know that power, and we become better equipped to use that power. Listen again to Ephesians 1:16-23…
16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
I. Know the Power
The congregation at Ephesus was a unique one. Unlike his letters to the Corinthians, or the Galatians, or the Romans, Paul doesn't take the Ephesians to task for any sins or correct any doctrinal errors. It seems that the three years Paul spent in Ephesus, instructing them in the Word had paid off. There were no internal fights, no misunderstandings. The church at Ephesus was a healthy congregation. No wonder Paul couldn't stop giving thanks for the Ephesians in his prayers.
But those healthy Ephesian smiles probably masked some real fears. Sure things were going well now, but who knew about tomorrow? When Paul left Ephesus he told the elders, "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:29-30) And only a few years later, the apostle John would take the Ephesians to task for their waning faith—for forsaking their first love. (Revelation 2:4)
There were plenty of things to worry about in Ephesus: the Roman threat as the Christians challenged the pantheistic beliefs of that society, the Jewish threat as they proclaimed that the law was fulfilled in Christ, the confusion of doctrine, the immorality that surrounded them, their own sinful natures… the list goes on and on.
But in spite of all the potential problems, Paul tells them not to worry. They didn't need to worry because they had the power that they needed to overcome. And that power didn't come from themselves, but from their source—Christ. The future safety of the church didn't depend on them or their power, but on Christ and the power he had.
That power was one they had already come to know. It was this power that brought them from spiritual death in their sins to life in Jesus. They felt that power when it smashed their stony hearts and brought them to repent of their sins. They felt that power when they learned of the peace they had with God through Christ's death on the cross in their place. They knew that power that was demonstrated in Jesus' ascension when God, "raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." And that power was theirs. Through the Word of God they were plugged in. And dear friends so are we…
Do you sometimes worry about the future? Do you worry about the future of Grace? Will our church grow? Or will it shrink? What sort of challenges will we face? Financial? Doctrinal? Do you worry about things in your personal life? Will I keep my job? Will the market crash and I go broke? Will I have enough saved to retire comfortably? Will I be able to retire at all? Will my family reconcile? Will we get back together? Will my health fail? Will I live past 70?
Dear friends, the outcome of tomorrow does not depend on you. But how tempting it is for us to think that, isn't it? If we give a little more, our church will thrive. If we do the right programs at Grace then we'll grow. If we invest a little here and a little there, then we'll be secure. If we exercise a little more, we'll be survive another five years. No, dear friends! Our security is not found in ourselves or anything we do, but in the continuous power supply that we have in Jesus. And what power it is!
"[God] seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."
How much control of the situation does Jesus have? How much control of the future? At his ascension Jesus went to sit at the right hand of God. He's God's right hand man with that position of total authority. All things are under his feet. He's head over everything. All glory, honor, power, and authority belong to him. And how does he use that power? "For the church."
He uses "his incomparably great power for us who believe." Christ has made us, the church, his body. So whatever belongs to him belongs to us. And our head will never leave us. Can a head survive without a body? Can a body survive without a head? No! They're inseparable—just like Christ and his church. Neither is complete without the other. And being so intimately connected to him, all that is his is ours. That power over all things is yours—and it's a power supply that you get for free, that will never ever run out!
Do we need to worry about the future then? No way! When he says, "Do not be afraid, little flock," we don't need to be afraid at all! Be Chicken Little and fear that the sky is falling sooner than think that Christ lacks the power to work all things for your good, to turn even pain into a blessing for you, to cleanse you of every sin through the waters of baptism, to grant you forgiveness of sins through the eating and drinking of his body and blood, to work through his Word in Law and Gospel to strengthen your faith and make you more than a conqueror through his power!
You have the power to overcome the challenges that face you. You have Jesus. Now use the power you have and stay plugged in…
II. Use the Power
Now some might challenge, if the Ephesians could have that kind of confidence, why pray? If we don't need to worry about overcoming the challenges of life because of God's power, why bother asking God for anything?
Well, it's certainly not because God would ever change that Paul prayed for the Ephesians, but because they might. The Ephesians were saints forgiven by God through Jesus' death on the cross in their place. But they were saints with a sinful nature. They would face temptations from within and from without, they would be persecuted and attacked, and tempted to become unplugged from Jesus their only source of power.
So Paul prayed for them. He prayed that they might know Jesus better. That's how they would stay plugged in to the power—through Jesus. He said, " I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. " As they had the Spirit of revelation—that is the Holy Spirit working through the Word that God had revealed to them—they would remain plugged in to Jesus and God would unleash his power in them.
Through that Word, plugged in to Jesus, they would grow in their faith to face the challenges that they encountered. They would have the strength they needed in time of temptation. They would have the courage to endure persecution and pain. They would have the courage needed to boldly share their faith throughout the world and build up the church.
And dear friends it's no different for us. We have the same power source, so we have the same power. But you know, it doesn't really matter how much power there is coming out of the outlet in the wall if the stereo's not plugged in to it. It won't work. The same is true of us. Stay plugged in to Jesus through the Word that "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better."
You already know that power—the power of his Law that smashed your stony heart brought you repentance. You know the power of his Gospel that brought you the comforting peace of knowing your every sin is forgiven in Jesus. You know the power that gives you his eternal inheritance as God's own child! Now, dear friends, learn to know him better.
Try to face the problems of this life on your own and you unplug yourself from Jesus the only real source of power. Realize your sin—your failure to stay connected to him, your apathy toward the power source of his Word, the times you've intentionally become unplugged to serve yourself—confess those sins to empty yourself of yourself. And then through God's revelation in his Word, know his forgiveness in Jesus even better. Know even more the peace you have with God through Jesus death in our place and be filled up with his power.
And then, you'll be equipped to use that power in your life. God will unleash his power in you. You will have power to face your troubles and hardships with joy. You will have the power to face your problems, viewing them as opportunities to serve Jesus more than as problems. You will have the power to give generously to support the gospel work that's taking place. You will have the power to share the gospel yourself in whatever way God allows you to be a part of his work. You will have the power to do all things through him who gives us strength. (Philippians 4:13)
Dear friends, it's not all about us and what we can do. It's all about him, what he's already done for us, and what he promises to do through us who believe. Before he went to glory, a wise pastor shared with me a piece of advice that really stuck. He told me, "If your plans are not so great that they cannot succeed without God blessing it, your plans are too small. You're only relying on what you can do." That man realized what power we have in our ascended Lord. Dear friends, plug in. Get that power that costs you nothing and that will never run out. Get charged up and see what great things he'll do through you. In the name of Jesus, our ascended Savior, and by his power, amen!