Thursday, May 25, 2006

Banner Conference 2006 -- Session #1 Matt Kingswood

The first session of the conference was an excellent sermon by Matt Kingswood. I met Matt the first time I came to the Banner and have gotten to know him a little, but have never had the privilege to sit under his preaching. I was in for a treat. Matt preached on Ephesians 3:14-21. This passage if found between the opening section of Ephesians which focuses mainly on doctrine, and the next section of Ephesians that focuses mainly on application. In it we find the doctrine that Paul had just expounded moving him to prayer, and in that prayer Paul has this statement, "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us." It is this statement that the message revolved around. First, it was noted that when Paul looks to himself he sees that he is disabled. Usually when we think of someone who is disabled we think of physical things, and that is part of what Paul may have seen. We know he had a thorn in the flesh, but his disability goes further. It is found in his weakness and he realizing that he is not sufficient in himself for the gospel ministry (2 Corinithians 3). We also are disabled when we look at ourselves, and Paul here wants us to redirect our attention away from ourselves to God. In doing this he speaks of God's ability in such a way that it is not specific, but at the same time he states the truth of God abundant ability that is covers everything. The call is first to realize the power of God. God does far more abundantly in the power that is at work in us. Consider this power. It is the power that spoke at creation and brought all things into being. Even more than that, it is the power that is spoken of in Ephesians 1:19-20 were it speaks of this power as, "the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places" The power of God at work in those who believe, is the power of the resurrection, of the empty tomb. In this great power God answers prayer. Notice that means that whatever we ask in prayer, even more, whatever we can even imagine, God can and will do more. This is a rebuke to our prayers. It calls us to look at our prayers and ask if we are praying with this great power of God in mind. Or, do we have small expectations. Our are expectations of God unworthy of his great and abundant power. For, small expectations lead to small blessings. Are not our prayers often too timid? Now we need to be clear here, for some name it and claim it teachers look to this passage as proof of their gospel of prosperity. One web site even sub-titles this verse as as "extreme prosperity." As if it is speaking of God providing our physical needs beyond what we ask or imagine. With this misuse, it would be tempting to avoid a passage like this, but just because it is misused, does not mean we should not properly use it. For this text is a great encouragement to prayer, if it is understood in the context in which it was given. The boundaries for this verse are found in its context, particularly verse 21. First we find that God does far more abundantly than we ask or imagine in the context of being in Christ. There is no reason for those who are not Christians to expect God to hear their prayers at all. This is not a blanket promise to all men. It is a promise to the children of God. Second, we find the context of God doing far more abundantly than we ask or imagine is in the church. Jesus promised to build his church, so we must ask whether what we are asking is something that promotes the health, growth and well being of the church. Third, we find the context of God doing far more abundantly than we ask or imagine is that it is to the glory of God. Is what we are asking something for the glory of God. As James taught, ". You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." We must always remember that the context for God power is his glory. In all this we are reminded that God can do exceedingly more than we ask or imagine. The limits are not what we think. The limits are not even what we imagine. They are what God will do. This means that our prayers must acknowledge the infinite power of God in these three areas. From the abstract we must move to how this is realized in our lives for God's abundant working is according to the power at work in us. It is not only realized out in the abstract, but as he works in us. God seeks to strengthen us in the inner man (3:16). He works at making us something. Think of all the things called for in the application section--that we maintain the unity of the Spirit, that we speak the truth in love, that we make the most of the time, and all the rest. Think how that would change us if we were like that all the time. Can you even imagine that, or does it seem beyond imagining? Now realize that God can do exceedingly more than we ask or imagine. God is able to do it. You do not need to stay where you are. Looking to the actualities of life, if you examine how God works in your life, thankfully doesn't he do more than you ask or imagine already. What we receive is not in keeping with what we pray for, thanks be to God. It is far more. God does more than we ask or imagine already. Often in spite of us God works. Our prayers may be small, but God's grace is big. Yet, there is one more thing we need to acknowledge--sometimes God does things that we would not want to imagine. Matt gave the example of a man whose wife was pregnant. She went to bed with flu like symtoms, and never woke up. Both her and the baby died from a rare blood infection, and at the funeral he said he could not imagine that she was gone. He was left alone to take care of three children. We must remember that even there God's power is active, and it is directed by is perfect wisdom. On the last day we shall count it a great mercy that we didn't have our way (JC Ryle) Even these things we would never want to imagine are for our good. For the God who does for more abundantly than we ask or imagine, is the God who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. And as verse 19 reminds us, his love is also far greater than we really know. These are my notes on this talk.


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