St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Beyond Imagination!

Sermon on Ephesians 3:14-21

Text: For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Can you imagine what a person who lived one hundred years ago would think about how we live today? For example, think about the way that we communicate. Back then, there were a few telephones. Usually, you would have to write a letter or, if something needed to be communicated quicker, there was the telegram. Now we can text, email, facetime, as well as a host of other media. If you wanted to buy something, you would go to the local general goods store or perhaps use a catalogue to order something. Now, we merely open Amazon and order what we want, and it can be here that same day, in some places. The things that we take for granted would have been beyond a person who lived one hundred years ago’s imagination. This morning in our text, the apostle Paul reminds us of something that is truly BEYOND IMAGINATION! It is 1. God’s Love For Us and 2. God’s Power At Work In And For Us.

The Christians in the city of Ephesus may have been having problems believing that God loved them. That tends to happen to Christians when they let their relationship with God be based on their feelings. They may have been feeling a little “empty,” depressed, wondering about God’s love for them. They lived in a big city. Ephesus was a large city on the west coast of modern-day Turkey. It likely had all the problems we associate with big cities, such a being impersonal, crime, and violence. It was a heathen city. It was the center of worship for Greek and Roman religion with temples dedicated to various false gods. Along with this came sexual immorality. The beliefs and attitudes of this heathen religion were all around them.

In addition to that, the Roman government was beginning to persecute Christians. Inside the congregation, there appears that there was some sort of a split occurring. The congregation was a mix of Jews and Gentiles. Apparently, the Jewish segment of the congregation were bothered by the reception of Gentiles into their congregation. They weren’t part of the “chosen” people of God and had not lived under the same ceremonial laws that the Jews had. There was tension. Finally, they may have been questioning God’s love when they heard that Paul was being held as a prisoner for simply proclaiming the peace of God that came through Jesus.

As we said earlier, the questioning of God’s love and care arises when we base our relationship with God on our feelings that arise from the various difficult situations of life that we encounter. We think we don’t see any evidence of God’s love for us. Such questions and doubts may arise within us, too. We live in a big, increasingly non-Christian nation. For whatever reason, usually sinful, splits occur in some of our relationships. We sometimes disagree on things within the congregation that cause tension. We experience physical struggles and financial challenges. Skeletons of guilt rise from a past sin. If we base our understanding and relationship with God on our feelings that arise as a result of our circumstances, we question. We feel “empty.”

Paul used the entire first half of his letter to the Ephesians to address this. Listen to just a few of the statements he makes in the first part of this letter to drive home the point that God loves us and what, in love, he has done for us:
• [He] who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (1:3)
• He chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (1:4)
• He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ. (1:5)
• In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. (1:7)
• He made known to us the mystery of his will . . . in Christ, (1:9)
• In [Christ] we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. (1:11)
• You were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession. (1:13,14)
• It is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (2:8)

In the concluding verses of our text for this morning, Paul wrote, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Verses 20&21) What our God has done and continues to do is beyond our imagination! When I reflect on my behavior, I can’t imagine that God would love me. When I reflect on what is necessary to have peace with God, I can’t imagine that love that Christ would have for me, that he would take on human flesh and blood. Jesus was willing to take on every temptation to sin that was set before him, and to overcome every one of them. It is beyond my imagination that he would endure God’s anger over my sins that so offend God on the cross. It is beyond my imagination that he would rise from the dead so that I would receive all those blessings that Paul mentioned earlier.

Paul wrote that as he regularly got down on his knees before God, he would pray the Ephesians might grow in knowing the greatness of this love, the love that God has for them. It is evidenced in what Christ does for us so that we might enjoy forever with God in all his goodness. Paul wrote all this so that those believers might have what he wanted for them, as he expressed in the verse before our text: “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you.” (Eph. 3:13)

In this section of the letter, Paul went on to tell them that he prayed that as the Ephesians think about what God does for us eternally, that they might be “rooted and established” (v. 17) in the love that God has for us. He would often pray that they might understand a little more each day and, in each situation, how great God’s love is for us. To be rooted and established equals sinking our hearts and minds into the fertile message of his love.

God can make that happen! “[He] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Verse 20) He is able to make us know that he loves us no matter what is going on in our lives. He is able to make that same love flow through and out of our lives in every situation. When he convinces us that he loves us, and that everything in our lives works for our eternal benefit, he makes us more powerful for loving others, so that we strive more and more to do what is eternally good for them, too. How does that play out in our lives? Perhaps, you have been in those situations in which you said, “I’m so angry with them that I can’t ever talking to them again!” When we’re at odds with someone, we can’t imagine ever making peace with them. Maybe, there have been times in our lives that we’ve dug holes for ourselves through our words or actions, we can’t imagine how we’ll get out of them. However, when God’s love has overpowered us, his power takes over within us. His power that has worked through us and now works in us reveals to us and can fill us with his love that does the unimaginable! Look at what Christ did for you. It was all done so that we would have the forgiveness of sins that we need to be at peace with God and to have perfect and never-ending life with him. He can do more that we can imagine! He has worked in us that power. He puts it in his Spirit’s work through the assuring word of forgiveness in Christ.

Perhaps this is the reason that this section from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was paired with the Gospel reading that we heard earlier (John 2:1-11). Jesus did the UNIMAGINABLE! He made wine in a way that is beyond our imagination. He overruled the laws of nature that he established at creation. He made wine out of water. What power! What love for that newlywed couple who may have been a little embarrassed by running out of wine for their guests. The demonstration of his divine power and love combined with what he had been teaching his disciples about himself and his work of love for sinners led his disciples to put their faith in him. They would see more of that power and more of Jesus’ life of love for sinners over the next three years. Then, they would see the ultimate act of love beyond all imagination. They would see Jesus offering his life on the cross to make peace with God. This Jesus would take back life from death. All of this was for them and for all people. After Jesus’ resurrection, they would see something beyond their imagination when 3,000 people were brought to faith in Jesus on Pentecost.

God’s power at work for us and in us is also beyond our imagination. That fact that you and I have faith in Christ for eternal life with God is beyond our imagination. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins.” To be raised from spiritual death and unbelief to faith, life, and peace with God is beyond our imagination or ability. But he has done this for us and in us. The fact that you and I still have faith and trust in the face of struggles that we mentioned earlier is beyond our imagination and ability. Being still able to love and praise our God even in the face of struggles and sorrows is also beyond our own ability and imagination. Yet, God has done it! He can do in and through us those things that we think are undoable and unimaginable – such as forgiving and making peace with others. God’s love for us and his power at work in us and for us is beyond our imagination! However, it is not impossible! Our powerful Savior himself said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) We praise our God who has made those things that are beyond our imagination into our reality. Amen.