Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ascension Day - Ephesians 1:16-23 "The Greatness of the Power of God"

Text: Ephesians 1:16-23
- Worked in Christ
- At work in us

In the name of Jesus, who has gone up with a shout, and ascended to the right hand of God the Father, almighty, grace and peace to you in His name!
How powerful is God? Some have posed the silly question if God could use His power to make a rock so big that not even He could move it. I call it silly, because God doesn’t use His power for such silly demonstrations.

None of us would deny the power of God. We see it all around us in the world and universe He created. But how does the power of God impact our lives? How does the power of God affect us personally?

Sometimes we loose sight of God’s power. Though we know in our head that God is all-powerful, we often forget with our heart. We have a problem in our lives, whether it be with our health, our family, our finances, or our personal life, and we don’t go to God first in prayer with our problem. We try ever other avenue to take care of our problem, rather than casting our care on Him first. Sometimes we might even go so far as to think that we don’t want to bother God with our problem. When we do this, we are making God smaller than He really is. It amounts to thinking that God is so busy with the affairs of this world that He either doesn’t have the time or, even worse, the ability to help you with your problem.

But when doubting or forgetting about the power of God really affects us, is when we begin to doubt our salvation. We wonder whether God has really forgiven all of our sins. We wonder whether we are really going to heaven. After all, our conscience keeps reminding us of those dirty, filthy, embarrassing, and secret sins. And if we know about them, God, who tests the heart of man, knows about those sins too. And if God knows about them, how could we ever expect Him to allow us into heaven?!

This is one of the tremendous blessings of Ascension Day. Ascension Day is a day in which we see the greatness of God’s power. We see it at work first of all in Jesus and are reminded that the same great power is at work in each one of us! Let us therefore turn our attention to the Word of God as recorded in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1. Verses sixteen through twenty-three are included in the text to give us some context, but tonight we will be especially focusing in on verses nineteen through twenty-three.

(I) do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

So far the Word of God.

The power of God is so great that the Apostle Paul has trouble describing it. Take a look at verse 19 again. How many different words for power or strength does he use in that one verse? He writes of the “exceeding greatness of His power” and of His “mighty power.” Even the word “working,” from which we get our English word “energy,” implies power. In verse 19, Paul heaps synonym upon synonym to describe the power of Almighty God. The point we take away from this is that the power of God is so great that there really aren’t enough words in the human vocabulary to describe it.

To help us see the greatness of God’s power, Paul points us to two specific events in Jesus’ life. First is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. “According to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.” Could there be any greater evidence of God’s power than the resurrection of Jesus from the dead? After all, death is the one thing that no man has power over. No medicine, be it ever so strong; no doctor, be he ever so wise, can stop or over come death. Only the mighty power of God could give life to the dead.

For 40 days after His resurrection from the dead, we read in Acts that Jesus gave many “infallible proofs” that He was truly alive. He wanted there to be no doubt in the mind of His disciples that He had truly risen from the dead. He showed them His hands and His feet. He let them feel His body, that He was not just a ghost or a spirit, but a living human being with flesh and bones. Though He did not need it, He ate food in their presence to give further proof that He was living. The disciples had a hard time believing He had really risen from the dead because it seemed impossible. But Jesus used those 40 days from Easter to Ascension to show them the greatness of God’s power.

Today we find ourselves 40 days from Easter. It was on this day that we see once again the greatness of the power of God as Jesus ascended from the earth to the right hand of God the Father almighty. Again we read verses 19 and 20, “According to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” Who do you know who has the power to overcome the laws of gravity? Certainly we can strap jet engines or rockets onto something and we are able to ascend from the earth. But no one has the power in and of themselves to do what Jesus did and physically ascend from the ground into the clouds.

But the greatness of the power of God isn’t just seen in Jesus’ physical ascension off of this planet. The greatness of His power is seen where Jesus went when He ascended. He left this universe to heaven itself, the dwelling place of God - “the heavenly places,” Paul calls it. And there Jesus was given a position of power at the right hand of the Father. Now the Father has placed everything under the feet of His Son. As powerful as some of this world’s rulers might be, Jesus is more powerful and He rules over them. None shall rise to the greatness of Jesus. All in the past, in the present, or in the future are under the feet of Jesus and are subject to Him, whether they want to be or not.

Think of the great power it took for Jesus to leave the world of time and enter eternity. Consider how He left the realm of the finite and entered the infinite. How He left the physical and entered the spiritual. Jesus went from being in one place at one time, to being all places all the time as He now fills “all in all.” Truly, on Ascension Day, we see the greatness of the power of God which He worked in Christ.

But what does any of this have to do with us? This has everything to do with and our salvation! As Paul offers up his prayer of thanksgiving for the Christians in Ephesus, he makes mention of the specific thing he prays for them. One of the things he prays for them is that they may know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ.” Paul says that the same great power that brought lift to Jesus dead body on the third day, the same great power by which Jesus ascended from earth to God’s right hand in heaven, is the same exact great power that is at work in every single believer!

It does indeed take great power to give life to the dead. And that is what God did in each of us when He brought us to faith. He gave spiritual life to a spiritual corpse. Paul goes on to write in Ephesians 2, “But 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) By faith in Christ we are united with Him. The same great power that raised Jesus on the third day, raised us to spiritual life as well. He made us believers in Christ. He adopted us as His children and made us heirs of eternal life. What amazing power our God has!

But the greatness of His power at work in us does not end there. On Ascension Day we see a clear demonstration of God’s mighty power as we hear how Jesus ascended from the earth to the right hand of God in heaven. Do we doubt His power on Ascension Day? Of course not! Paul writes in our text that Christ is our head, and we the church is His body. And where the head is there the body will be also. Even so by His great power God has “made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (2:6) By the great power of God we are connected with Christ and in Christ. Heaven is our home. Christ has gone to prepare a place for us in heaven, and will return to take us to be with Him forever. This is all the great power of God at work in us to save us and make us His own forever!

So you see, dear Christians, the power for your salvation is not in your hands, but was in the hands of almighty God! Almighty God who showed us how powerful He was when He raised Jesus from the dead. Almighty God who shows us on this day, the greatness of His power as Jesus ascended to His right hand in the heavenly places. It is this same Almighty God who has done everything necessary for you to be saved. He put all of your sins - even those secret sins - to death in the body of Jesus. He raised you up to new life in Christ and made you alive together with Him. He chose you from eternity to be His child and worked faith in your heart by the greatness of His power. You are His own dear child and whatever the problem might be in your life, it cannot be bigger than rising from the dead. God has the power to do that and God has the power to aid you in every situation in life. May the power of Ascension Day ever cause you to rejoice knowing that it was the same mighty power of God that is at work to save you! In the name of our Ascended Lord, Amen.

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