This sermon was preached on Sunday, February 20, 2011.
Amen. I hope you are resting in Him today, but hopefully not sleeping. I’ve healed a lot of people of amnesia through the years, er, ah, not amnesia. What’s the word I’m looking for? [Someone in the congregation speaks and he says] Insomnia, yeah. [congregation chuckles] Gotta get it right.
Ephesians, chapter 3, as we continue in our series from this book: Following Jesus In A Spiritually Hostile World. While we are praying about where to go when this is done, I don’t know, it may change directions. I’ve said to you all these years, I’d not done a series on Ephesus, or Ephesians. In all these years, I’ve not done a full series on Revelation, and I’m kind of thinking that’s where things may go after this. There’s so much happening right now that speaks of end times, but let’s turn together, Ephesians 3:16-19. Would you stand with me, please, as we look together to God’s Word?
I pray that out of His glorious riches He—that’s the Heavenly Father—He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
[Prayer] Father, we thank You for Your Word today. Lord, I pray that when we leave this place we will be more full of You–Your goodness, Your power, Your essence—than we were when we came in. Lord, it’s Your desire to fill us with You. I pray You would open our hearts right now. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, speak to my heart, change my life, in Your precious Name. Amen, amen. You may be seated.
A couple weeks ago, we were in our membership class, going over the doctrines of our church. One of the most difficult ones, though it’s been around for ages, is understanding the Trinity. One of the people in the class said, “Yes, it’s like”—I think Pastor Tom was talking about the Trinity at that moment in the class—and someone said the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is like ice in a frying pan. You have all three at the same time. They are of the same essence but you have ice, you have water, and you have steam, and that’s probably about the best we can do to illustrate the Trinity. We see the Trinity here in these first two verses, verses 16 and 17: I pray that out of His glorious riches He—the Father–may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
Well, of the three members of the Trinity, the one that is probably neglected the most is the third. We speak of the Father and the Son often, and we should, but the Holy Spirit, there are many churches, many Christians, who find it very uncomfortable to talk about the Holy Spirit. And yet, the Holy Spirit is God’s presence on the Earth today. The Father is not here, residing here. Jesus said, “I go to the Father” [John 14:12]. Jesus may make appearances now and then to individuals as He desires, and those are spectacular things but by and large, it is the Holy Spirit’s presence that is here. So if we are uncomfortable with the Holy Spirit, we are uncomfortable with God on Earth because that’s it, that’s what we have.
And the Holy Spirit is a person. It’s okay to talk to Him. Yes, we’re told to pray to the Father but you can talk to the Holy Spirit. You can welcome Him. It’s okay to talk about His presence. He’s in us, but He’s with us when we gather. And there’s a special presence, a manifest presence, when we are worshiping God together, for He is here in a very special way. And it’s very important to talk about His fullness in us because Jesus said that we would be filled with the Spirit, and we would do works like He had done. Let me say again that I think it’s important to note that Jesus did His miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. He did no miracles before His baptism, and the Holy Spirit came on Him. He was water baptized and the Spirit came on Him, and from then on He did His miracles by the power of the Spirit. In fact, in Matthew 12 [verse 24], one of the times where the Pharisees are saying, “You’re casting out demons, but You’re doing it by the power of the devil.” And He [Jesus] tells them in verse 28 that, “If I do this by the Spirit of God, then the work of God is among you.” God is at work here. He said He was doing it by the Spirit of God. John said that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit, and here again, baptism is not sprinkling. He is not going to sprinkle us with the Holy Spirit. Baptism means immersion, immersion.
Now, the bit of tension in this passage is between love and knowledge, and we’re going to get there in a second. He says in verse 19, and you may wonder, “What does this have to do with the power of the Spirit?” Well, we’ll see in just a moment. [Verse 19] to know this love that surpasses knowledge. We live in a community that emphasizes knowledge, and knowledge is a good thing. [State College Assembly of God is in State College, Pennsylvania, which surrounds University Park, home of Penn State University.] And I’m not anti-intellectual, I’m not anti-education. But I’ll tell you what, again, there’s more that we don’t know than what we do know, and if you limit your life to what you understand, if you won’t drive a car until you understand how, exactly, it works, that engine works, if you won’t use a computer until you understand the software, you’re not going to do much in life, you with me?
It’s the same thing with God. If you won’t enter in to more of God until you understand it, you’re not going to experience very much of God. And so, knowledge, as good as it is, doesn’t take us where we need to go. It doesn’t. And the Ephesian church was an established congregation, it was solid, and they knew their doctrine; they had to. They’re in a city that is the center of pagan goddess worship for the Greco-Roman Empire and so they had their doctrine down, and even here we see an indicator of what we see in Revelation, chapter 2, the very first letter of the seven letters to the churches–these are letters from Jesus Himself–commends the church of Ephesus for their doctrine, for knowing who’s an apostle and who is not, so you are solid, you’re good but you have left your first what? Love. You got it in your head right–that’s good–but 18 inches below your head, something’s lacking. You’ve left your first love. You’ve left your first love.
The power of God is linked to the love of God in ways that very few texts illustrate as good as this one. Let’s go back over it, starting in verse 16: I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being–we as Pentecostals understand God’s power, miraculous power, healing power, saving power, all those good things–so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Let’s stop there. Verse 18, you may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Well, I started meditating on this, because sometimes we separate power from love, doing the work of God and people being healed and so forth, and then over here we have love and compassion, and the two are joined together. I’ve got to tell you that when I’ve had my most dramatic encounters with God, when I’ve gotten overwhelmed by His presence, when He’s taken me into a new dimension in Him, that with that comes a love for people that is just amazing. Not just a love of God, but a love of people because it’s both—love God and love people. And some years ago when I was in Florida, the first time I was ever drunk in the Spirit–and we’ll come back to this concept in Ephesians 5:18—but the first time I was ever drunk in the Spirit, I just loved everybody. I was like a good drunk, not a bad drunk. I just, I had more love for people than I could possibly articulate. And every time, when I’m filled with Him, I become more like Him. Isn’t that the whole idea?
So a lot of times, we teach, being like Jesus, just do it, you know. Just discipline yourself and–discipline is a good thing, but–do the things that Jesus would do. What would Jesus do? And be like Him, be like Him, be like Him. But here the key in verse 18 of being like Him, of grasping how high, wide, deep, how long is His love, is by the power of the Spirit. When you are immersed in the Spirit and lost in Him, you are going to be immersed in His love, because God is love. But that takes us out of our comfort zone. And let me say, for you to be full of the Spirit, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone.
Some of you may remember your first date or two when you were a teenager, and you went out with someone that you were attracted to, and you wanted to see if it might go anywhere. And I don’t know, maybe I was the only one—no, not the only one—but I remember one of the first dates, [pause] I got over most of this before I met Arline. Fortunately I didn’t blow it with her too much [and he laughs]. But I went out on one date with a girl who was Homecoming Queen, very smart girl in our high school, and my leg was—I was so nervous, and my leg wouldn’t stop doing this [his leg is twitching, knee bouncing up and down]. Who was that comedian, years ago, “can’t stop my leg”. [I think he is referring to American comedian Robert Klein.] It really was, I couldn’t stop my leg and I know, this is bad. It must not be God’s will. My mom didn’t think it was a good idea anyhow [and the congregation laughs]. Well, the point is that many times, in those first dates, you are out of your comfort zone, right? You know, we transition from thinking girls have cooties to [he pauses] we can deal with the cooties, you know? In fact, I’m kind of attracted to the whole cootie idea. Tell me more about those cooties.
So, you get out of your comfort zone, right? So too with God. It is a relationship, it’s a love relationship and to have, to experience the love of God, you’ve got to, you have to, you must, there’s no other way: get out of your comfort zone to be immersed in Him. We don’t like—the whole idea of immersion can be scary. You know, with water baptism, some people—and the word in the New Testament, the most common word for this is baptism–the whole idea of being immersed scares some people and we try to reassure them, we haven’t lost anybody yet. But you take this jar [he demonstrates using an aquarium filled with water and a glass jar with a lid on it] and you put it down in water, and immerse it, it gets wet, and you take it up [he pulls the jar out] but it hasn’t been filled, right? You can be in a church service where God is moving in a wonderful way, the Holy Spirit. We say moving, if you’re new to the faith, the Holy Spirit, Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit is like wind that blows. That’s why when we say God is moving, we’re not saying He’s leaving Pennsylvania and going to Iowa. That’s not what we mean by “God is moving”. You may wonder, “What? God’s moving?!” Anyhow, you can be immersed but not filled, you with me? And of course, it’s also possible you can be filled and not immersed with water, but the whole idea is for you to take the lid off [and he does] because the only way this [jar] is going to get filled when it is immersed is if the lid is off. And taking the lid off is sometimes where we really get out of our comfort zone. And some of us will poke a little hole in the lid, “okay, I’ll let a little bit in”, but if you do that, it takes a lot longer to fill up, doesn’t it, than taking the lid off.
Back to the membership class, we talked about speaking in tongues as initial physical evidence of being baptized in the Spirit. Why do we do that? Because, again and again and again in the book of Acts, that’s the pattern. You are baptized in the Spirit, they speak in tongues, and this is not a message about why that is and the beauty of spiritual language and how when you want to talk to God you can use a language that you haven’t learned. You can communicate with Him in that way—it’s a wonderful thing. But I always wondered about that when I was growing up because there was a man in our congregation and he led the singing back then—we called him the song leader, not worship leader—and he was admired by everybody. The fruit of the Spirit was evident in his life and he would seek God, but he never seemed to have that experience and never spoke in tongues. And all through the years, when addressing that question, I think we’ve all often asked, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”
I’m going to propose something today that maybe the question is, “What’s right about that person?” And that is that it takes longer to fill a high capacity person than a low capacity person, and a lot of the people who have difficulty getting way out of their comfort zone and staying there until they’re filled to the brim are high capacity people. And I think that man was a high capacity person. Some of us–and God loves us all, but some of us–are thimble fulls. It doesn’t take long to fill us up, doesn’t take long to empty us either [and he laughs a hearty laugh], about somewhere in the parking lot [and he laughs again]. Boy, you were full in here and it’s gone out there. Didn’t take long, did it? But high capacity people, it takes longer; the immersion process takes longer to be totally, totally filled. So it’s what’s right about them, not what’s wrong at all. So I encourage you, if you are one of those people who have a challenge really getting lost—totally immersed, lost—in His love and His power, in His Spirit, don’t expect it to happen in five minutes. Sometimes we say it’s easy. Well, I guess it’s easy when you fall into the ocean to get immersed and baptized but some people have a lot of buoyancy and they don’t go under easily. You are a high capacity person, so get out of that comfort zone to experience love, to experience love.
Verse 19: to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Wow, this love that surpasses knowledge. If you’ve ever been in love you know that love surpasses knowledge. It goes beyond what you know about that person, how you describe them. It’s something that you can’t really articulate. Same thing with God, same thing with His Spirit.
This last verse: you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. The words “to the measure” are not really in the original. In the original Greek, it really says, “be filled to all the fullness of God”. Well, I can see why the translators would think, “Surely that’s not what Paul meant, that you can have all the fullness of God. That would be arrogant. God is so much greater than us.” So they put in “to the measure” and it has the same essence but it means that you are full. But many times when I pray for people, I pray that God will increase their capacity. I mean, they’re already full. But let’s get beyond the thimble. Let’s at least move up to a mason jar, you know, and increase our capacity for the fullness of the Spirit so that our life is lived, day by day, we walk in the Spirit. Love and knowledge.
In I Corinthians, Paul writes to the Corinthian church and they were big on knowledge and he said knowledge puffs up [I Cor. 8:1]. And he says in chapter 1 that Christ is the wisdom and the power of God. He came to destroy the wisdom of the wise, the intelligence of the intelligent, I will frustrate [I Cor. 1:19, and Paul is quoting Is. 29:14]. And then Paul says, in chapter 2 [verses 1-5]: When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaim to you the testimony about God. For I resolve to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom but on God’s power. [This is very close to NIV but not exact, so he may have been using a different translation of the Bible for this passage.] He goes on in chapter 2 to talk about that wisdom by the Holy Spirit. The closer you are to God, the more you are going to be filled with His love, for Him and for everybody else. May the power of the Spirit take you into a new level of love today, a new level of love.
Would you stand with me please? This Holy Spirit is available to all. It’s the Holy Spirit that regenerates us, and changes us. If you don’t know the Lord today, if you’ve not committed your life to Him, you can become a disciple of His. If you already know Him, I encourage you to seek the fullness of His Spirit. We’re just going to take a moment to worship Him today and then I’m going to invite you to respond to what God wants to do in your life today, His Spirit and His power, His might, His goodness. Let’s sing together.
[Singing] Pour out Your Spirit, pour out Your Spirit, pour out Your Spirit on me. Pour out Your Spirit, pour out Your Spirit, pour out Your Spirit on me. [“Oh, Lord, I Love You Forever”, Words and Music by Bob Baker, copyright 1994 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing]
In just a moment, I’m going to invite you to come. If you don’t know Christ, and you want to become a follower of His today, I want you to go to my right and to your left, over here. Pastor Buck Fetzer is over here. A couple of the pastors will be happy to pray with you, they’ll give you some literature to help you in those initial steps of following Jesus. The rest of you, I want to invite you to come forward today and seek more of His power. You say, “I’ve already been baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Well, we leak, right? And Ephesians 5:18 says, to be being filled. We constantly need to be filled because we leak. We do. So does anyone have everything that God has to offer today? No, I don’t either. I encourage you to come and seek Him. Let Him do in you what He desires to do. Let Him immerse you in His Spirit, let Him fill you with His love. May you encounter Him today, and when you leave this place, like God, you love everybody. You love everybody with the fullness of His love through the power of His Spirit. Let’s sing it again: [singing] Pour out Your Spirit, pour out Your Spirit, pour out Your Spirit on me.
[Worship teams sings the verse below as Pastor continues] Would you come? Would you respond to Him, take a step of faith? Come and stand, seek Him this morning. Thank the Lord, we need more of You. Thank the Lord. We bless You, Lord. More of Your power, more of Your Spirit in our life, come Holy Spirit, baptize us in Your presence. Fill us with You, Lord, fill us to overflowing, I pray. Fill us with more of You. Just seek Him this morning.
[Singing] Oh, Lord, I love You forever for you have always been my friend. Oh, Lord, I love You forever. I’ll follow You to the end. Pour out Your Spirit, pour out Your Spirit, pour out Your Spirit on me. Pour out Your Spirit, pour out Your Spirit, pour out Your Spirit on me.
We’re not going to pray for a dismissal because I want to encourage you to take this time. I’ve not been long today. Take this time to seek Him. Go after Him! His presence is here today, and it’s more than just to make us feel good for a little while. It is to fill us and empower us that we can be His witnesses, Acts 1:8, to be His witnesses, not just to talk about Him. Sometimes we talk about the Holy Spirit, and somehow we say Jesus is alive with a little more vibrancy, maybe, in our voice. It’s more than that! We are His witnesses because we confirm in us, people see Jesus in us, by His Holy Spirit. Let’s seek Him this morning. God bless you when you have to go, God bless you, but let’s seek Him today. [The worship team continues to sing and many people go forward to worship and be filled with the Holy Spirit.]