Summary: This sermon concludes part one of a series on who we are in Christ based on Ephesians 1-3. It focuses on the magnitude of God’s love for us and Paul’s prayer that we be filled to overflowing with the knowledge of this love.
“Empty” or “Full”? Which would describe you this morning? Perhaps that’s not fair. You may feel half-full and are quite fine with that. I thought my tank was better than half full this week until I realized it was nearly empty.
My Dad instilled in me a quirky habit which actually fits my cautious personality. He taught me to always fill up my car’s fuel tank when it got down to a quarter tank. Never let the tank go down to empty, you never know when you will need a full tank, he always said. And to this day I faithfully watch the level of my fuel gauge. But doesn’t everybody?
No, I found out that not everyone does, especially my wife. Whenever we switch vehicles I have trained myself to ask, “Is there gas in your car?” “Yeah, I’m pretty sure you’ll have enough,” she replies. And every time I climb into her car I have to yell – she’s taken off already in my van – because, sure enough, the needle is on “E” and I never know if it will make it to the 216 highway, never mind the church.
But we’re not talking about gas here. We are talking about our spiritual tanks. We are concerned about the level of spiritual fervor, passion, and motivation for living the Christian life. You people who are like me, gas-gauge watchers, we care about not letting our cars go empty. Why don’t we have the same concern for our spiritual vitality? For one thing, it’s not as easy to measure. You feel like everything is fine between you and the Lord, your prayer life has never been better, you know he’s close by, everything’s great spiritually. Then, Pow!!, the next day or week you feel like “What happened to that wave of power I was riding?” When did the tank go dry?
You know what happened? You lost heart. You got discouraged and in all likelihood, you don’t know why. Or you do. Someone came along and ripped the spirit out of you with some harsh words. Some unsettling event sucked the wind out of your sails. Suddenly you are discouraged. You have lost heart. Your spiritual tank is on ‘empty.’
Prologue: “For This Reason…”
If you feel like this, or even if your tank is still half-full, Paul has a prayer for you. Paul sensed that the Christians in Ephesus were losing heart and that they needed a reason to keep living for the Lord. We see some of this discouragement in v. 13 where Paul’s suffering has seemingly dampened their resolve to follow Christ. They needed some motivation to spur them past the temporal troubles of daily life.
“For this reason…” Paul writes. He wrote this before and didn’t finish his point in 3:1, but now he returns to his purpose. Think of what Paul has told them already: he has revealed to them their identity as children of God; he has explained to them the purpose of the Holy Spirit in their lives; he has revealed the power of God at work in them; God’s grace has never been clearer to them; and he has shown how the walls of hostility no longer divide them. Has it sunk in?
“For this reason…” Paul now writes – all the truth in the world will not sink in unless God wills it – “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from who his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name…” Praying on one’s knees was not usual. Jews stood to pray with arms outstretched. To pray on one’s knees is to be driven there by some deep, intense concern. Abe Lincoln once said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of those about me seemed insufficient for the day.” I have found that on my knees is the only appropriate place to cry out to God.