Thursday, March 18, 2010

Can you be over affected by the gospel? (Ephesians 3)

I had the joy on Tuesday night of preaching Ephesians 3:14-21 for Exeter ECU.
Download mp3: Getting caught up in the love of God - Ephesians 3:14-21 (35mins)

On his knees before the Father to pray for, v16, a strengthening, a heartening, an invigorating of God’s people. Keep in mind as we look at this prayer: what is prayed for and what would it mean for this prayer to be answered? Paul prays for the Ephesians v14-16 that they’d be:
  • WHAT? Strengthened with power. With God’s power. What does God’s power do? Not oppress or control. What does the pinnacle of divine power look like? We might think of making the world, but Paul looks higher: 1v19-20: “the immeasurable greatest of his power… according to the working of his great might… in Christ, when he raised him from the dead”.  The power of God in a person does resurrection. Taking what was dead and making it alive.
  • FROM WHERE? When I give a gift I give according to, or out of, what I have. What does the Father draw on? “the riches of his glory” which is a way of saying: Christ the very radiance of the glory of God whose glory never shone brighter than when he hung on the tree for us.
  • HOW? “through his Spirit” – See a Triune moment: the Father, Son and Spirit working to strengthen the believers!.
  • WHERE? In the human heart – the very core of your inner being. The seat of your thinking, your feeling, your deciding – of your affections, that which move you to anything you ever do. Once the the bitter root of sin’s poison in us, now by the gospel, you have a new heart, the wellspring of new life as the Spirit lives in you!
People say “nothing happens without prayer”. Others say that the size of a church or CU is the size of it’s prayer meeting, and I think with the odd caveat I agree (in a church it’d take something for the whole church to come to a prayer meeting, unless we get the pagans babysitting for us… which is an idea! But that doesn’t really apply to a CU…)

We don’t pray though because prayer changes things, the people of God can be beaten down by the importance of prayer. We pray because the Triune God changes things, and he invites us to pray. It’s his gospel by which the Father freely strengthens your heart with his Son by his Spirit. That’s how things change. That’s something to pray about.

Praying in the implications and applications of the gospel for you and your University that’ll make a difference. If you lack the motivation for mission, if you lack the drive for the Christian life then don’t try harder – turn to the gospel again for grace. You don’t need more prayer or more Bible in your life. You need more of the Tirune God. You need that which is already freely given to you the gospel.

A racing driver doesn’t aim to stay on the track, he aims to win the race, for which staying on the road is necessary. So it is with prayer and Bible reading. To speak in prayer and listen from the Scriptures are part of being in relationship with the Triune God – the aim then is not pray and read the Bible, the aim is God!

If you guys aren’t thrilled with the Triune God will get no where in mission. You can know the right answers and be able to speak articulately, but moving the cold hearted is like pushing a boulder up hill. Even if you do it what is there to say? What is there to commend? Unaffectionate telling of the good news is boring, but when hearts are transformed by the gospel they move relatively easily into the kind of gospelling that the most resistant minds will find themselves drawn to.

I’m not here to flog you with the gospel – God forbid! - but I trust to see the gospel warm your heart. With this ambition it’s no wonder then that the corporate life of the Christian Unions has always been threefold:
1. Gathering around the Scriptures to have our hearts strengthened by the Triune God through his gospel as his word dwells richly in us.
2. Using our gospel privilege of access in prayer to intercede for the salvation of the University by the gospel, and for the warming of our own hearts with the same gospel.
3. Creatively proclaiming the gospel of the Triune God to those who have yet to taste it.

Some Christians are thrilling company – you ask them what God is doing in their life and they’re like fresh air to your soul. Others, and I see myself there too often, can speak accurately of hell without weeping sorrowfully and of the Lord without tears of joy. Such company is disheartening and draining. And I know how commonly my own heart is so cold to my Saviour.

The answer to Paul’s prayer is the strengthening of your heart by the gospel. Ask God to affect your heart with his gospel, to win your heart afresh by the immeasurable riches of his grace which makes praise resound in your heart. When you read the Scriptures – worship – behold the riches of his grace, the bank account from which “redemption through his blood” and “the forgiveness of our tresspasses” are completely purchased (1v7).

"Oh we don’t want to get carried away and emotional!"
I hear you, but given the choice between being under-affected by the gospel and over-affected by the gospel, I choose the latter. You can rein in excess and its exceedingly dubious that you could even begin to be over-affected if you’re feeding your heart on the gospel. 

What if you’re under-affected? I know that in myself too often - get on your knees holding on to nothing but the promises of the gospel, with your eyes open to behold the riches of God’s glory in Jesus. What to pray?

Follow Paul, he has three requests which really amount to asking for the same thing in three ways.



  1. I think part of the issue is we British are very cynical about people who get emotional. The other issue is being overly wary of reacting emotionally so that we can try and process everything with our heads before it hits our hearts.

    I have found myself in the past speaking factually of hell and then half way through thinking, 'wait, this is really serious...'. We need our heads connected to our hearts so that when the facts come out, especially about topics like hell, our heart is broken for the lost.

    Good post.

  2. Can I sue for a photo used without permission? ;)