Let Every Generation Glorify God!
O LORD God, my dear heavenly Father, You have by Your grace delivered my soul from sin, death, and the devil. Through Your Son You have redeemed me and made me Your own, giving me faith and instilling within my heart Your love. Be with me as I worship this day. May I ever praise Your name and by my life reflect Your love. Amen.
We are here encouraged to rejoice in the chastening of God, for His purpose is always to help us. He promises to be with us and to bless us both in life and in death!
Jesus demonstrated both His power and His compassion when He raised the widow’s son at Nain. The people of Nain glorified God believing a great prophet had arisen among them. Jesus is much more than a prophet—He is God’s Son and our Savior!
Text: Ephesians 3:14-21
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus, our precious Savior and Lord, dear fellow redeemed:
Last Sunday we celebrated our 140th Anniversary. Those of you present last Sunday were privileged to hear Pastor Radtke encourage us, as individuals and as a congregation, to give all glory to our Lord alone as we recalled the history of our congregation. Today, instead of having you think about the past, I would like you to think about the future. What lies ahead for Immanuel congregation and for each of us as individuals? How will we want to, as God’s people, approach tomorrow? After all, this world is truly wicked, and there are many challenges that will face us. Life can be difficult and at times very frightening. There will be many questions to answer and decisions to be made, for instance, as we together look forward to the expansion and possible relocation of our physical plant. There are a variety of challenging issues confronting many of us on a personal basis—matters of poor health, of strained finances, or of fractured relationships. Again—how will we want to, as God’s people, approach tomorrow?
In our text the apostle Paul provides the answer to our approach to the future. The believers in Ephesus to whom Paul was writing were frantically worried about Paul’s immediate future at this time, for he was in prison awaiting trial and possible execution. They certainly did not expect him to provide answers for them. Yet, the apostle with joy and confidence provided them, even as he does us, direction when he encourages us to LET EVERY GENERATION GLORIFY GOD! No matter what our challenges as a congregation—no matter what issues confront us as individuals, the solution begins with looking to God and giving Him the glory due His saving name! Why is that? Because God provides us the strength, the peace, and the confidence we need to approach tomorrow successfully! How does He do that? Paul, in our text, prays that we might understand that He strengthens us with might through His Spirit, He sends Christ to dwell within our hearts by faith, and He fills us with the fullness of His power and love!
Yes, God strengthens us with might through His Spirit! Paul writes, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.” With this prayer Paul ends the first half of his epistle—an epistle in which up to this point he had reviewed God’s gracious plan for our salvation. He spoke of our predestination in connection with Jesus Christ from eternity, our quickening from spiritual death to spiritual life, the fact that we are saved by grace through faith alone, and, finally, of the glorious future that awaits us as believers. Having reviewed such glorious information, he says he can only bow his knees in wonder and thanksgiving before God—God, who as our heavenly Father, has given us His name and adopted us into His family! But with what purpose has God brought us graciously into His family? Paul’s answer is—that we might “be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man!”
If we are to approach our tomorrows successfully as a Christian congregation and as individuals, we must possess inner strength! What is the nature and source of the strength we need? I go to a health center four times each week to exercise. At the center there are two weight rooms—one with weight machines and the other with free weights. I’ve noticed that those of us who are a bit more mature tend to stick to the weight machines where you just push or pull weights, whereas the young men and women tend to spend their time lifting the free weights. Most of the young men and women lifting weights are sleek and athletic—in today’s language they are buff! While there are definite benefits to good physical conditioning—physical strength among them--that is not the type of strength that we need most of all as we face tomorrow. We need the spiritual strength, which the Spirit of God alone can provide, for it is that spiritual strength that guides our use of physical strength, and it is that spiritual strength which will still be present and make us strong even when our physical strength fades!
The reality of our situation is that we are completely dependent upon the Holy Spirit for spiritual strength. Earlier in this epistle Paul points out that by nature every human being is spiritually “dead in trespasses and sins.” That is our natural state prior to conversion. I could be Mr. Universe physically and still be completely and utterly spiritually dead! But Paul writes, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (2:4-5). This He has done by the working of the Holy Spirit, who instills within our hearts faith through the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments.
This morning we baptized Sterling Pierce Boyer. The Holy Spirit planted the seeds of spiritual strength within his heart giving him faith in Jesus. Just as Jason and Sharla will want to take care of Sterling physically so that he will grow strong in body, so they have promised to exercise him spiritually. They will bring him up to know and love his Lord Jesus. It is that spiritual strength—that inner strength that only faith in Jesus can give, that will bring Sterling through life successfully and will guide him all the way to heaven! What will give him or any of the rest of us the strength to go on even when physically, mentally, or emotionally exhausted? Our individual strength is so very limited, but the strength of faith generated by the Holy Spirit and based upon the love God has for us in Christ Jesus will help us persevere! Consequently, LET EVERY GENERATION GLORIFY GOD, for He strengthens us with might through His Spirit in the inner man, and…
He sends Christ to dwell within our hearts by faith! Paul writes, “I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that He would grant…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” One of the great results and blessings that accompany God’s gift of our salvation is peace. Paul, in addressing the Ephesians at the very beginning of his epistle, writes, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2). Grace is God’s undeserved love lavishly poured out upon us through Jesus Christ. Grace moved God to send Jesus into this world. Grace moved Jesus to sacrifice Himself for us—first to serve us by keeping God’s law perfectly and then to serve us by sacrificing Himself upon Calvary’s cross to pay the penalty for our sins. With our sins removed and thereby all barriers between us and God broken down, we are at peace with Him. We have nothing to fear. We can approach Him; yes, we are encouraged to approach Him with boldness. That peace is enhanced, first of all, when we know that Jesus is present with us always—“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” He promised (cf. Matthew 28:20). It is enhanced, secondly, however, by knowing that Jesus not only is with us, but that He by faith dwells within us. We are not and never will be alone!
But what is involved in having Christ dwell in our hearts? We are not talking about mere sentimentality here, yet even then the rationalists sneer and suggest with skepticism that such talk is simply the figment of our imagination. One student of the Bible described Christ dwelling in our hearts in this way: “It starts with trusting in Jesus for forgiveness. It involves being happy always because of Jesus. It involves confidence in His shepherd care. It involves being motivated by love for Jesus in all that we think or say or do. It involves looking forward to His return. It involves total Christ-centeredness. But having said this much we realize that we have only begun to scratch the surface. But this much is evident. It is a choice blessing!” [Irwin Habeck, Ephesians, p. 71] If you and I are going to meet our futures with success, we need absolute inner peace—that understanding that our Savior is with us and in us and that, irrespective of what is going on around us, all will be well! LET EVERY GENERATION GLORIFY GOD, for He sends Christ to dwell within our hearts by faith, and…
He fills us with the fullness of His power and love! Paul writes, “I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that He would grant…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Satan’s goal is to destroy your soul and mine in hell! Let no one have any doubt about that fact. But Satan is not going to text-message us on the phone, or send us an e-mail, or walk up to us in person and tell us that. Rather, he will attempt to drive a wedge between us and God, causing us to question God’s love for us and doubt His ultimate good will. Satan will attempt to lead us to trust in ourselves, rather than in God. When troubles arise and we would naturally turn to God, Satan will attempt to narrow our vision to the point that we can see only the enormity of the problem and not the absolute and great ability of God to solve that problem.
Paul prays that we might be able to comprehend—that we might come to experience and, therefore, to know with certainty the comprehensiveness—“the width and length and depth and height” of God’s overall plan for us. It is rooted in His choice of you and me to be His children—a choice made in eternity in connection with Jesus Christ. It involves all of human history as God prepared and then sent His Son to rescue us. It involves God’s unique plan for each of our lives, which has involved everything He has done for us to the point where He has led us together today to contemplate it all. It involves a plan for every good work we will ever do as His servants in this world, and it will culminate with each of us singing His praises around His throne in heaven!
Do you understand what confidence knowing this should bring you? Your God does not want you to walk through life in a straight-jacket of fear. His full extent of His love should overwhelm you, as should the understanding of the fullness of God’s power, which should fill you! At the Youth Conference this summer I used a visual aid that Pastor Eichstadt first used in Sunday Bible Class last spring. It first compared the size of the earth to the other smaller planets in our solar system, but then went on to compare it to Jupiter and the Sun. The earth and we by comparison are but specks of matter. However, the illustration went on to show how the Sun is a mere dot in comparison to the other heavenly bodies God created, the point being that God is so immense, for He is greater than the universe He created, that we can hardly comprehend His power and glory. Yet in the midst of such power and glory, He has loved us…and claimed us…and saved us…and adopted us…and will ultimately take us, upon our completion of the tasks assigned us, to Himself in heaven! Yes, God can do so much more than we can ever think or ask! Let us place our confidence in Him! LET EVERY GENERATION GLORIFY GOD! We can successfully approach tomorrow because He will provide the strength, the peace, and the confidence necessary to do so! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting