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Summary: LENT 4 - God does far more than we can ever ask or even imagine. Christ dwells in our hearts. Faith grasps God’s great love.

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GOD DOES MORE THAN WE ASK OR IMAGINE (Outline)

April 3, 2011 - Lent 4 - EPHESIANS 3:14-21

INTRO: People pray knowing what they want. Too often we may pray with only our own interests in mind. Too often we ask and ask and ask for more and more for ourselves. It would or could be a great disaster if God gave us everything that we wanted. Thankfully our loving Lord answers with what we need rather than what we want. Rejoice that our Lord God Almighty knows our needs and perfectly provides. "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (MATTHEW 7:11). We will examine a powerful prayer of the apostle Paul. We are reminded:

GOD DOES MORE THAN WE ASK OR IMAGINE.

I. Christ dwells in our hearts. II. Faith grasps God’s great love.

I. GOD DOES MORE THAN WE ASK BY HAVING CHRIST DWELL IN OUR HEARTS.

A. Paul is in Rome in prison. His prayer is not for himself but for others.

1. Verse 14. Paul uses God’s great power to help the believers in Ephesus and beyond.

2. Verse 15. The believers were called Christians, followers of Christ and of God.

B. Verse 17a. Paul prays that Christ would live in the hearts of every believer. This is their faith.

1. Verse 16. God’s riches for the believers are the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is strength.

2. Faith is the Holy Spirit’s gift to these believers. Faith is Christ dwelling in their hearts.

C. Verse 18a. Paul uses the word “saints”. This word refers to believers in Christ everywhere.

1. This was of a great comfort for Paul. He was alone in Rome separated by hundreds of miles.

2. Paul did not feel alone. He was united with these believers by faith. Christ lived in them all.

D. The apostle Paul learned of God’s great power in a very dramatic way. Paul was traveling to Damascus to persecute the followers of the Way. The Lord stopped Paul in his tracks. The Lord dramatically changed this persecutor Saul into the apostle Paul. This is the miraculous power of God to convert any unbeliever into a believer. Every Christian has been changed just as miraculously and powerfully. To have Christ dwell in our hearts takes the divine power of the Lord God Almighty. "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but be-cause of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit" (TITUS 3:4, 5). In baptism God washes us clean with the water and His Word. At baptism our gracious God snatches us from the grip of Satan and makes us members of his kingdom as his children.

E. Too many today try to make eternal salvation the crowning glory of ones’ efforts or works. Time and again God’s Word reminds us that left on our own we are lost and condemned creatures. Consider Adam and Eve. In their perfect world they made the wrong choice. They sinned. Eternity is so very important that God places this responsibility on himself. "To them (the saints) God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (COLOSSIANS 1:27). Christ dwells in our hearts . God’s glory mysteriously lives in us.

F. Only by grace alone, faith alone, and Scripture alone can anyone become a believer. Eternal salvation does not depend on our own desire or will. God gives each of us the gift of faith purely out of his divine, free grace. It is a mystery why God has saved us. We still sin. We still disobey. We still turn away from God. God still forgives. God still brings us back into his kingdom. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (EZEKIEL 36:26). Plant seed on a stone or rock and it will not grow. Birds of the air eat that seed. But plant the seed of the word of God in hearts of flesh and everything changes. Seed sown in hearts of flesh will take root, spring up, and bear abundant fruit.

GOD DOES MORE THAN WE ASK OR IMAGINE.

God’s grace and power works faith in hearts.

II. GOD DOES MORE THAN WE ASK WHEN FAITH GRASPS GOD’S GREAT LOVE

A. These verses of Ephesians are the heartfelt prayer of the prisoner, Paul. He prays for believers.

1. Paul does not pray for himself. He does not feel sorry for himself. He is innocent, yet in jail.

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