Ephesians 3:14-21 Changing World, Changing Church

Sermon preached on 26th February 2012

Changing World, Changing Church

We are living in a rapidly changing world, and as Church we need to a) recognise the changes, and b) respond positively.  In general, change can be exciting.  It breaks the routine and new things are happening.  For example, it is exciting when starting a new job; or going to a new school; or getting married etc. But change can also be scary because we have to let go of our old securities.  The same is true when we think about Church changing to meet needs in our changing world.

A recent paper produced by a Baptist Union of Great Britain group states:

“Our world is in a state of unprecedented change at the moment; many accepted certainties and ways of doing things are becoming increasingly questioned.  As Baptists we cannot expect to be immune from that, and it is vital to re-examine how we engage in mission and sustain our shared life in the light of this.”                      

Times of change are always challenging, yet they should bring us back to our calling and to what is really important.  It is also a time to keep our eyes on the Lord.  Hebrews 12:2 says,

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.”

In these days we need a fresh vision of God: of who He is, what He is doing, and the possibilities for the future.  In Ephesians 3:14-21 we see that Paul has just this kind of vision.

First, v14 Paul kneels before the Father in prayer.  He has a great vision of God as the heavenly Father, who is over all things, and as Father He cares for you.  This revelation of God is also found in the Old Testament:

“For as the heavens are above the earth so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed; he remembers that we are dust.”  [Psalm 103:11-13]

In times of change and challenge knowledge of God as your heavenly Father will enable you to walk even the darkest path.  As the well-known hymn goes,

BE THOU MY VISION, O Lord of my heart,

Be all else but naught to me, save that Thou art;

Be Thou my best thought in the day and the night,

Both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Second, v16-19 we see God’s purpose for those who have remained faithful.  Let’s face it, Church has been in decline, and it hasn’t always been easy for you to be faithful.  However, God’s plan now is to strengthen you out of his glorious heavenly riches with power through his Spirit.  This is God’s purpose for the church at this time.  You need it to face greater trials in the future, but also so God can use you.

In v17 we see God’s purpose is to establish and ground you in His love.  Then, together with all the saints, you will be able to grasp / understand / comprehend how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.  God wants every child of God to know the extent of His love, not only in theory, but also in your inner being and emotions.

This foundation of love in your life will give you stability in changing and challenging times.

Third, in v20-21 we catch a vision of what God is able to do in the future.  It is likely to catch us by surprise since it is “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.”

God’s plan is to bring fruitfulness and a harvest of souls into his Church.

So, how is the world changing?  In many ways, but here are just a few, with the briefest of comments.  Each one has implications for the church.

  1. Economic changes – we are living in times of austerity and cuts while the country is trying (unsuccessfully) to pay off massive debts.  This will impact education, the NHS and many other local services.  Having less money is already impacting Christian ministries as well.
  2. Political changes – We have been witnessing massive political changes in the Middle East; it is uncertain how long the Euro will survive; it is uncertain even if the United Kingdom will survive much longer.
  3. Communications revolution – mobile phones, PC’s, internet, email, facebook, skype, msn, twitter – at the click of a button we can communicate with people anywhere round the world.   For the younger generation this is normal.  But at the same time there is a real need for real flesh and blood relationships, and an authentic spirituality.
  4. Change at work – with more people working on Sunday the Church has to be more flexible to meet people’s needs, and many Churches are.
  5. Moral collapse – the sexual revolution which started in the 1960’s has produced social instability with an unprecedented divorce rate, abortions and rebellious children.  People coming to Church will be in a very different place from even a decade ago.

Each of these changes, and more, has an impact on the church, and this morning I can only mention them.

As Christians, we can be prepared, as Paul says in v17, by being rooted and established in love.  Paul is using two metaphors here.  The first is of a plant, perhaps a tree being rooted into the ground.  Psalm 1:3 uses the same metaphor for the person who meditates on God’s word day and night,

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.”  [Psalm 1:3]

You need to allow your spiritual roots to go down deep into the goodness of God’s word so you come to understand the great love of the Lord.

The second metaphor Paul uses is that of a building, with good foundations.

In the previous chapter, in Ephesians 2:20, Paul shows that the Church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ himself as the chief cornerstone.”

I was trying to build a greenhouse yesterday.  As I was beginning to put it together (I have never done this before) I realised I had to get one corner in the right position for the whole greenhouse to be in the right position.  In the Church, Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone: He gives the shape to the rest of the building.  Then there is the rest of the foundation, a foundation of apostolic and prophetic teaching which we find in the Bible. We are to be built on this.

In a changing and challenging world, you need to be rooted and grounded on this secure foundation.  Listen to Ps 46:1-7,

God is our refuge and strength,

An ever present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

And the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

Though its waters roar and foam

And the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

The holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;

He lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The LORD Almighty is with us;

The God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46:1-7

Another very significant change which has occurred in the UK in recent years is the place of the Church in society.  This was illustrated clearly two weeks ago when Bideford Council lost a court case brought against them by an Atheist, so they could no longer say Christian prayers before the council meeting.  Although the government is reversing this ruling, but the point is that the laws of the land no longer favour the Christian religion.  Just before Christmas Mr Cameron said in a speech “this is a Christian country.”  But the reality is that the Church has been marginalised, and its influence has been in decline.  The voice of the church is just one voice among many, and for many people it is an increasingly irrelevant voice.  The Church is no longer at the center of power, but on the margins. (NB Not that Baptist Churches have ever been are the center of power in the UK, but Christianity used to be the prevailing belief system.)

However this is not a bad thing.  A Church on the margins often has much more potential to be used by God than a Church at the center of power.  There is a very good example of this in the Old Testament.

The Israelites had been taken into exile to Babylon.  Daniel and his three friends were Jewish believers in the LORD, and were given privileged training in the King’s palace.  One night King Nebuchadnezzar had a terrifying dream. He asked his magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners to interpret the dream, but they couldn’t do it.  So then he calls Daniel.  God give Daniel the interpretation, and Daniel gets promoted!  The dream comes true, and (eventually) the king is converted (after 7 years.)

This provides a very good example of the Church on the margins (or we might say, ‘in exile’).  Daniel (who represents the Church) was not the first to be asked, but God was able to use him in a mighty way, I’m sure immeasurably more than Daniel could have asked or imagined.  Who knows what God can do in your family, your place of work, or in this Church, if we start asking and believing God?

God’s plan is not just for the Church (that is YOU) to survive changing and challenging times.  God’s plan is for the Church to thrive, and to be used by Him in new and unexpected ways to bring spiritual transformation to our communities and to our nation.

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2 Responses to Ephesians 3:14-21 Changing World, Changing Church

  1. Pingback: » Calculate and take part of heavenly bank- with Arch-Bishop ROSENKRANZ, RMI

  2. Pingback: Walking on Water… | GrannyMa's

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