Scripture Focus- Ephesians 3:14-21
7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America, Kelly Shattuck
- Less than 20 percent of Americans regularly attend church- half of what the pollsters report.
- American church attendance is steadily declining.
- Established churches from 40 to 190 years old are declining.
- The increase in churches is only 1/4th of what is needed to keep up with the population.
- By 2050 the percentage of the American population attending church will be almost half of what it was in 1990.
10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Church Less Often by Carey Nieuwhof- Greater affluence, higher focus on kids’ activities, increased travel, blended and single families, self-directed spirituality, attendance valued over engagement, a massive culture shift
What is Christianity?
One definition- Christianity is the world’s largest religion, based on the teachings of Jesus Christ who lived in the Holy Land 2000 years ago.
Another definition- Christianity is the religion based on the person and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, or its beliefs and practices.
Religion is defined as the belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers, regarded as creating and governing the universe. Or, a set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
I think one of the problems is many do not understand what the Christian faith is, and it seems complicated, or unnecessary. Many do not understand the significance of the church as the Body of Christ.
Jesus said- John 17:3 This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent- Jesus Christ.
Our goal is to understand what it means to know God, experience his fullness, and make him known.
V19 . . . so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
The fullness of God is a theme in Ephesians. To be filled with the fullness of God is to be emptied of self.
The Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome under house arrest because of his missionary efforts to the Gentiles. During the day he was free to move around the house with supervision of soldiers but every night he was chained to a soldier while awaiting trial before Caesar. Ultimately he knew he was a prisoner of Jesus not the Roman Government.
He had a revelation for the church in Ephesus from God of the unsearchable riches found in him. He transitions in verse 14 to a prayer. Paul kneeled before God in prayer.
Kneeling before God is a sign of humility: Solomon prayed on his knees. Ezra prayed on his knees. Daniel prayed on his knees. Stephen prayed on his knees. Peter prayed on his knees. Jesus prayed on his knees.
Addressing God the Father in prayer is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. He is our gracious, merciful, caring, providing Father. He invites us as his children to come before him with confidence. Every family in heaven and on earth is the spiritual family of God, those who know him.
If we know God through his Son Jesus Christ, what will we experience in his fullness?
In the fullness of God you will experience his abundance.
V16 I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory
God’s riches are astounding. Ephesians 1 outlines some of the blessings of God’s riches.
V3 Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.
V7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
V9 He made known to us the mystery of his will.
V11 In him we have also received an inheritance.
V16. . .to be strengthened with power. . .
God grants us salvation, shows us his will, and promises a great future and a hope.
V16. . . to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit.
We are physical, and we are spiritual beings. Our physical aspect is temporary, and houses the spiritual which is eternal.
People are obsessed with the physical. U.S. Health Care spending is around $3.4 trillion a year, more than $10,000 per person. 1/6 dollars we spend in our total economy is on healthcare.
2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not give up. Even though the outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.
God’s primary work in your life is in the spiritual aspect, the inner person.
The Holy Spirit indwells you as a believer. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body.
We have spiritual life, growth, and strength through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
V17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
Jesus enters our hearts at the moment of salvation so he dwells in us through the Spirit. Two ancient words communicate the idea “to live in.” One has the idea of a more temporary guest and the other of making it your permanent home.
“Dwell” here is the idea more related to Jesus being “at home” in our hearts. If you have a guest to your house that you welcome you may say- “Make yourself at home” and you mean it.
My Heart Christ’s Home- Robert Munger pictures the Christian life as a house, through which Jesus goes from room to room. In the library, which is the mind, Jesus finds trash and all sorts of worthless things, which he proceeds to throw out and replace with his Word. In the dining room of appetite he finds many sinful desires listed on a worldly menu. In the place of such things as prestige, materialism, and lust he puts humility, meekness, love, and all other virtues which Christians are to hunger and thirst for. He goes through the living room of fellowship, where he finds many worldly companions and activities, through the workshop, where only toys are being made, into the closet, where hidden sins are kept, and so on through the entire house. Only when he had cleaned every room, closet, and corner of sin and foolishness could he settle down and be at home.
Is Jesus at home in your heart?
In the fullness of God you will experience his love.
Vv17 . . .rooted and firmly established in love
When the Spirit indwells you, and Jesus is at home in your heart, it makes for a life that is rooted and established in love, on a strong foundation. Love is the first fruit of the Spirit.
V18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.
God’s love is immense.
V19 and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge
Jesus love me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so; little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong. Yes, Jesus love me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.
This is the first Christian song most children learn. It began as part of a best-selling novel in the 1860s. Anna Warner lived with her father and sister on Constitution Island next door to the US Military Academy at West Point. Every Sunday Anna taught Bible classes to the cadets. She knew many of the boys could be killed or wounded in the war that was on the horizon between the states. She knew the importance of leading them to Jesus. She wrote several novels with her sister Susan using a pseudonym Amy Lothrop.
They wrote a best-selling fiction novel. In one of the chapters a child lay dying. Nothing could be done for him. The novel’s main character Mr. Linden sought to console him and “Jesus Loves Me” sprang from the pages. William Bradbury memorized the poem, a music teacher. He wrote Sweet Hour of Prayer, On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand and more. So he put the poem- Jesus Loves Me, to music.
The essence of Christianity is that God loves us, so we in turn love God, and love our neighbors as ourselves.
In the fullness of God you will experience his glory.
V21 to him be glory in the church. . .
The glory of God is the beauty of his character and the manifest presence of his holiness.
God is infinitely great, infinitely perfect, and infinitely worthy.
Isaiah 60:1-3 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines over you. For look, darkness covers the earth, and total darkness the peoples; but the Lord will shine over you, and His glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your radiance.
The glory of God is experienced in salvation.
What could be more exciting than coming out of the darkness and into light? Or to be rescued from death and delivered to life?
The glory of God is experienced in life faithfulness.
1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
The glory of God is experienced through the church. The church is the Bride of Christ. God carries out his work through the church.
I Timothy 3:15 the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.
The gathered local church as the Bride of Christ is the visible expression of who is a part of the family of God. The church is the place of instruction in the Word of God, growth in your faith in God, accountability with others, and encouragement and fellowship.
The Disciples Path- John 15:5
Small Group (Gather)
God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.
“Therefore he is able to do all things, and able to do superabundantly above the greatest abundance.” (Clarke)
You can know God, experience his fullness, and make him known.