The Spirit's Strength to Trust Jesus and Know Jesus' Love
August 18, 2019 Speaker: Mitchel Kirchmeyer Series: With Us: Enjoying God's Presence through the Spirit
Passage: Ephesians 3:14–3:21
Ask the Father for the Spirit's strength to give Jesus limitless trust and to know Jesus' limitless love.
Every day we are asking people to do things. You might ask your spouse to take out the trash or wash the dishes or schedule an oil change. You might ask your siblings to bring a side or dessert to the family get together. You might ask your kids to pick up their rooms or to feed the cat. You might ask your neighbor to not blow their grass clippings onto your pavement. You might ask someone at work to complete a task. We ask people to do things all the time.
But sometimes, we can become upset and disappointed with the people we are asking to do things. I’m sure many of us have reached a point of frustration when we have asked someone to do something over and over again and they just never do it. So we might determine, “Well if it’s going to get done, I will just have to do it myself.”
Sometimes I can have this same feeling and attitude when it comes to asking God for things. God invites us to ask him for things - to make our requests known to him. He invites us to cast all of our anxieties on him because he cares. Jesus said we don’t have to use many words in our prayers to convince God or impress God but that he already knows what we need before we ask. We are told God loves us and cares for us and so we should go to him to seek what we need.
And yet, I have had many requests unanswered. I’ve asked God to do things and they haven’t been done. So I can start thinking to myself, “I don’t have time to stop for ten minutes and ask God to do this. He isn’t going to do it anyway. If it’s going to get done, I have to do it myself.”
How many of you have ever felt this way in prayer?
We have been in a series on the Holy Spirit. In the first part of our series, we were focused on becoming more aware of who the Spirit is and what he does to change us. For the rest of the series, we are learning how to rely on the Spirit in our everyday lives.
Prayer - talking with God and listening to God - is the primary practice for relying on the Spirit. Prayer is the primary practice for relying on the Spirit. But if you are like me, prayer can be a struggle. We feel like we are too busy and rarely take time to slow down enough to pray. In his book on Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders said that if you want to humble anyone, ask them about their prayer life, and there’s a reason for that. If I were to ask each of you whether you pray enough, I’m sure no one would answer “yes.”
Prayer is vital to our relationship with God and yet we have such trouble with it. And perhaps that is because we are fee feeling like prayer doesn’t do anything, so what’s the point? We know that we need to pray if we want to have a deep, thriving, life-transforming relationship with God, but sometimes it just feels like prayer doesn’t do anything.
Imagine asking your dad over and over again for something they are never going to give to you and over and over again he says, “No.” You’d be pretty frustrated eventually and could conclude, “It’s pointless to ask dad for things because he never gives it to me so why bother.”
But that would be the wrong conclusion. The right conclusion would be, “This is not something my dad wants me to have.” If you trusted him, you’d conclude, “This must not be good for me.” Your dad has told you that this is not in his will for you. You are not asking according to his will. Now if you knew what your dad wants to give you and you asked for that, it would be an incredible positive experience. You are asking according to his will.
One of the things I have found helpful the past several years is using the prayers in the Bible as a model for my own prayers. God is ultimately the author of the Bible so if I want to know how to pray according to God’s will - according to his desires, wants, and purposes - the prayers in the Bible are a great place to start. As we saw last week, in our weakness we don’t always know how we ought to pray and the Spirit helps us. The Spirit has provided help by inspiring the prayers we find in the Bible. Today, we are looking at one of my favorites in Ephesians chapter 3 verses 14 through 19.
The apostle Paul sent this letter to a church in the city of Ephesus and in the first three chapters, Paul reminds them of the good news of what God has done in their lives. He preaches the gospel to them, telling them: you’ve been adopted by the Father, you’ve been forgiven by Jesus, you’ve been marked as God’s by the Spirit, you have a new hope, you are loved by God, you have God’s power in you, you have been brought from death to life in Christ, you have been brought near to God. At the end of chapter 2 in verses 21 and 22 he tells them that as a community they are growing into a holy temple in the Lord and are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
It’s all the gospel truths, but especially this one, that leads Paul to pray what he does at the end of chapter 3. It’s the truth that the Ephesians as a church, as the people of God, are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit, that leads Paul to pray for them. He starts the prayer in chapter 3 verse 1 with “for this reason” but then goes on a detour to explain the job God has given him to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the non-Jewish world. Then he resumes the prayer in chapter 3 verse 14 with “for this reason.”
After hearing all of these amazing gospel truths about who they are because of what God has done, you almost feel out of breath. They are so big and so deep that it’s hard to even take them all in or understand them, much less live a life that is worthy of them. So Paul pauses to pray. He knows the truths are big and the calling is big, so he prays for them.
We need this prayer too. Paul is teaching us how to get the gospel into our heads, down into our hearts, and out into our lives through how we live. We need the Spirit. We need to pray.
Our big idea for today is this: Ask the Father for the Spirit’s strength to give Jesus limitless trust and to know Jesus’ limitless love. Ask the Father for the Spirit’s strength to give Jesus limitless trust and to know Jesus’ limitless love.
There are two requests in this prayer leading to one result. Let’s start with the first request from verse 14 to the first part of verse 17.
Ask the Father for the Spirit’s strength to give Jesus limitless trust (3:14-17a)
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, (Ephesians 3:14-15)
Because of the good news of who God is and how he has worked in their lives, Paul gets on his knees before God the Father and prayers. In everything that comes before this, Paul has emphasized how God’s plan of salvation and redemption is for everybody - not just the Jewish people. And in the first half of chapter 3, he has been explaining his role in God’s plan to bring the news of this salvation to the non-Jewish world. Verse 15 reflects the bigness of this God and his plan: he is not only the Creator of Jews but of non-Jews as well. Everyone and everything owes its existence and origin to him.
Paul bows his knees before the Father and in verse 16 asks “that according to the riches of his glory” he do something. When we come to God asking for something, we aren’t begging a stingy Father to please for once do something kind for us. No, we are praying to our Father who is bigger and more glorious than we can imagine. His “glory” speaks to who he is - the weightiness of his character. The weightiness of his grace, goodness, love, mercy, and kindness. He praying that according to the riches of his glorious character that he work.
Paul has begun his prayer seeing God as the Creator of all things who is gloriously good, gracious, and great. This is the view of God that inspires his prayer. What view of God do you have when you pray?
And what does Paul ask him to do?
16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, (Ephesians 3:16)
Paul prays to the Father and asks that he do something in the lives of the Ephesians through the Spirit. What he asks the Father to do through the Spirit is strengthen them with power. Strengthen them how? “In their inner being.” He gets more specific in verse 17:
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17a)
In your inner being you will find your heart, which is a very important part of you. In the Bible, the heart is the center of your being. Your heart is like the control center of your person. Whatever is in your heart drives what you do. Proverbs 4:31 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23).
But God promised to give his people a new heart and we have seen that the Holy Spirit is the one who does this. We who have trusted in Christ no longer have a hard heart that is resistant to God but one that is beholding the beauty, worthy, and majesty of God in Jesus.
Picture the heart like the driver’s seat in a car. Whoever is in the driver’s seat, controls where the car goes and what it does. The heart is the driver’s seat of a person’s life. And someone or something is always in the driver’s seat. Whatever you value most in your life will be in the driver’s seat. Whatever you see as most important, as highest priority, and as your greatest treasure. That is the thing you will trust. So whatever that is will be in the driver’s seat of your life, steering your life in the direction it wants you to go. It controls where you are going in life and what you do.
The Spirit is already there in these believers and Paul is praying that they would be strengthened through the Spirit’s power so that Christ would dwell in their hearts. That’s how they will be built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Eph 2:22). Jesus is present in our lives through the Spirit when we believe, but what Paul is praying for here is that Jesus would have greater presence and access in the lives of these believers. And how does that happen? Through faith. Through trust. We give Jesus greater access in our lives and we welcome him into more parts of it by trusting him to dwell there, to enter those places, to be present there. We let him be in the driver’s seat in those situations. We let him control and influence how we think, what we do, and what we say in every part of our lives.
Our big idea for today is this: Ask the Father for the Spirit’s strength to give Jesus limitless trust and to know Jesus’ limitless love. Paul’s first prayer is for strength to give Jesus limitless trust.
The image of Jesus “dwelling” in our hearts is a powerful one. That Jesus would occupy every part of our inner bring is Paul’s prayer. But often, we can leave Jesus in one specific room in the house of our lives. We stop in to see Jesus when we go to a worship service or are with church people or sit down to read our Bible in the morning then we close the door and go to every other room without him. We limit our trust of him. We don’t bring him to dwell in every room.
Let’s imagine our life is a house and there are various rooms in the house. Think about your schedule. As you think through your day, your week, your month, your year, what rooms are there? Imagine walking through your daily routine: getting up, breakfast, working out, driving to work, work or school or taking care of kids, dinner time, evening. Is Jesus in the driver’s seat in all aspects of your day? Are you trusting him with what happens in all of those times? Are you giving him access? Are you asking him to use you and guide you and do his will in all of those rooms? Or are there some blank spots? You can think through the week or the month or the year - are there times in your life where you give no thought to Jesus and what he wants?
Think about the places you go: home, work, the gym, the coffee shop, the car, the store, the doctor, the park, school, family get togethers. If these are each a room in the house of your life, does Jesus go with you into each of them? Of course the Spirit is with you so Jesus is with you, but do you walk into those rooms trusting in Jesus and surrendering your life to him? Or are there rooms where you don’t think about him and his will for you?
Lastly, think about your relationships as rooms in the house of your life: are there relationships where you aren’t trusting in Jesus? Are there people you interact with where you aren’t thinking about trusting Jesus? Honoring Jesus? Following Jesus? Is there anyone you lack love for?
If work is what we value most, then work will determine how we act in each of those rooms. We will treat the people in those rooms as less important than our work, we’ll be thinking about work, and we will go in those rooms less because of work.
Our desire should be for Jesus to have full access to every area of our lives. Our desire should be to give him limitless trust and let him have his way in every room of our lives. We want him to be in the driver’s seat everywhere, all the time.
But trust requires strength. It’s easier and takes less effort to remain in control, to do it our way, and to not let someone else in the driver’s seat. And when we have been white-knuckling the steering wheel of our lives for so long, it takes a lot of strength to let go and let Jesus in the driver’s seat. And so we need to ask the Father for the Spirit’s strength to give Jesus limitless trust.
Sometimes we are aware of God’s presence in every room of our lives and so we do pray before we enter those rooms. But so often our requests to God are for him to make things easier for us when we go into those rooms. We want him to make our lives easier - to remove obstacles, to make our days go well, to make our surgeries go well. It’s fine to bring those things to God, but if our only prayers are for God to use his strength and power to do our will, then we shouldn’t be surprised to not feel much spiritual strength in our lives. What if instead we prayed for his strength in us to go through our lives with limitless trust in Jesus so that we are bringing the presence of Christ into every situation?
Why would we give Jesus limitless trust? The second request Paul makes speaks to this. It starts in the second half of verse 17.
Ask the Father for the Spirit’s strength to know Jesus’ limitless love (3:17b-19)
that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19)
Paul uses two metaphors: rooted and grounded. “Rooted” is a gardening metaphor. The Ephesians have been planted in Christ’s love. “Grounded” is a word meaning to “lay a foundation” or establish. It’s a building metaphor. The Ephesians have had a foundation of love laid beneath them.
So what is Paul’s prayer? That they’d have strength to comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of this love. This request has to do with mental comprehension. The NIV translation says “grasp”: he wants them to be able to grasp the dimensions of God’s love for them. Verse 19 seems to go into the realm of experiential knowing. He not only wants them to grasp and comprehend Christ’s love but, as verse 19 says, to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.
Jesus’ love for us, by definition, is beyond our completely knowing. You will never hit the edge of it or the limit of it. It’s like you are swimming in a pool that has breadth, length, height and depth, but no matter how long or how far or how deep you swim, you won’t hit the edge or the bottom of it. Jesus’ love for us is limitless - it is unending, unrestrained, unconditional, and will never run out. You can never ask for too much. It is unearned and undeserved so you never hit the limit of how much you are allowed to have and you will never lose it. You will never swim to the edge of the pool of Jesus’ love for you. You will never exhaust it. It is given unrestrained always and forever.
Paul prays that the Ephesians would grasp it and feel it. They’ve been rooted in that love and he wants to know how rich that soil is. They’ve been set on that foundation and he wants them to know how solid it is. Our big idea for today is this: Ask the Father for the Spirit’s strength to give Jesus limitless trust and to know Jesus’ limitless love. Paul’s second prayer request is for strength to know Jesus’ limitless love.
What would ever lead us to give Jesus limitless trust? Why would we let him into the driver’s seat of our lives to take us where he wants to go and to lead us to do what he wants us to do? It is knowing his limitless love for us that loosens our grip on our own lives to let him have the steering wheel. The limitless love he has already given leads us to give him limitless trust. Jesus gives limitless love. We give limitless trust. The best person to trust without limits is the person who loves you the most. And Jesus actually loves you more and better than you love yourself.
And it takes strength to allow someone to love us. It’s easier to say, “No, I don’t need other people” and to wall ourselves off. But it takes strength to open up and say, “Yes, I need Jesus’ love. I need his care. I need him.” The Spirit gives that strength to us.
Make it personal
What’s one room where you usually aren’t making yourself available and attentive to Jesus?
What or who is usually in the driver’s seat when you enter those rooms? Maybe you enter those rooms trying to please the people in them. Maybe you enter those rooms trying to get what you need or get people to do what you want and follow your agenda. Maybe you enter those rooms thinking about someone or something in other rooms.
We tend to treat either like a genie or a Magic 8 Ball. We come to him as a genie, when we want something and we ask him to do our will. Or we come to him as a Magic 8 Ball when we want direction, hoping he will tell us what to do.
Begin praying these two requests when you enter that room.
- Ask the Father for the Spirit’s strength to give Jesus limitless trust.
- Ask the Father for the Spirit’s strength to know Jesus’ limitless love.
This is how we can begin to cultivate a lifestyle of constant reliance on the Spirit. Many times our communication with God is very infrequent, short, one-sided, and pretty self-focused. We pause before a meal to thank God for it and that is great but isn’t enough and can easily become an empty ritual. Before we go to sleep, we make sure to get all our to-do list sent off to God. That’s fine to cast our anxieties on him, but that’s short, one-sided, and self-focused. We aren’t aligning ourselves with God’s will but instead are asking him to do ours.
Years ago, I invested in rechargeable batteries to save money over the long haul. They can get recharged over and over again but they get drained over time. And when they need to get recharged, I can’t just put them in for five minutes then take them out again. They have to sit in the charger for long periods of time to be filled with power again.
Paul says in verse 19 that he prays all this so that they may be filled with all the fullness of God. We want our lives to be full of God. We want to look like Jesus. We want every room of our lives to be filled with Jesus’s presence and Jesus’ love. We don’t want to be spiritually weak and empty. We want to have spiritual strength and to be filled up!
To do that, we need to visit the charger. We need strength and power to live for God. We need to be filled up with his strength if we are going to reflect what he is like. We can’t just stop in for a quick charge. It takes time. Ideally, we would always be in the charger - always connected to God’s power and strength. Billy Graham once said that a prayerless Christian is a powerless Christian. We need to be in prayer in order to have power to live the Christian life.
One way to begin prayer more regularly is to think about triggers and transitions. Many of us automatically pray before eating a meal. This is a trigger - sitting down to eat triggers in your mind a reminder to pray. You can create more and more triggers in your life so that you are praying throughout the day: when you lay down for bed, when you get in your car for your commute, and so on.
You can also think about transitions - when you are transitioning from one room of your life to another. When you go from home to work, you can pray. When you go from work to home you can pray. When you go from home to the gym, you can pray. If you create more triggers for prayer in your life and pray during the transitions, then you will begin filling your life with reliance on the Spirit.
Let’s close where Paul closes in verses 20 and 21.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Paul in this prayer is praying for a church community. We as the church, as God’s people, are being built together into God’s dwelling place. A temple is where people go to meet God because God’s presence is there. Each of us is a stone in that temple, joined together and being built together into God’s dwelling place by the Spirit.
Billy Graham’s quote could easily be changed to, “A prayerless church is a powerless church.” The reason we are doing this series is because I felt that we could grow in our community practice of Relying on the Spirit because I need to grow in that! We each as individuals need to ask God for the Spirit’s strength, but the power of God and the love of God can only be fully experienced in the family of God. God has called us as a community to be his temple and dwelling place by his Spirit. The Spirit is most powerfully present when we are together.
God is able to do far more in us and through us as a church than we can possibly imagine. He will do it for his glory in the church and in Christ Jesus. He will do it to display his greatness, his goodness, and his grace through us and in us.