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New Year Sermon

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Ephesians 3: 1-21

I have vague New Year thoughts concerning physical fitness and regular exercise, seeing old friends and getting a better caravan in time for the summer…

But I have much more specific New Year thoughts concerning my own spiritual life and the life of our Church. I long to continue to grow in my relationship with God – both in terms of knowledge and experience… and that is at the heart of Paul’s famous prayer at the end of Ephesians ch3.

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles

Paul has been talking about what was to him the most extraordinary thing (to us it seems obvious but to him it was extraordinary)… the inclusion of the Gentiles, the fact that God wanted the message of Jesus proclaimed to all people and longed for people of every tribe and tongue to become his children and know him as their father in heaven.

He goes on,

2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.

4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

To those of us who do not have Jewish blood it seems obvious, after all why wouldn’t we be invited to the party… but to Paul and many Jews it was hard to grasp.

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

In the mind of the first century Jew, as in the minds of their forbears before them, the world was divided primarily into two halves: Jew & Gentile. This division had priority over all other divisions… divisions cause by sin and greed, pride and evil… but God was showing his wisdom.

10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The devil loves divisions, hatred, jealousy and war, but above all he loves to separate us from God because of sin and turn us against God because of suffering. Yet now,

12 In [Jesus] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

That is worth remembering this New Year, celebrating this New Year and putting into action this New Year! Where once we could not draw near to God we now can, because Jesus died in our place, Jesus shed his blood for us; Jesus took the punishment that was rightly ours that we might go free. The Son of God became a man that the sons and daughters of men might be the children of God… and run joyfully into their heavenly father’s presence.

There is nothing that can take the shine off that, not even being a prisoner of the Roman state – bound in chains – so

13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

And here comes the Prayer:

14 For this reason (the inclusion of the Gentiles) I kneel before the Father, (the Father who loves us to come to him in prayer and) 15 from whom every family (or all fatherhood) in heaven and on earth derives its name.

Even the orphan or most badly parented earthly child has some conception of what a good father is like and the best father’s give the tiniest glimpse of what God is like.

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

A great New Year prayer is “More Power please Lord” – power not just to live Christ’s way, but power to know him better that (literally) he may be “at home” in our hearts and lives.

Home should be the place where we are known and loved and Paul continues to pray for more power, that we,

being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, (He is talking here of the power of understanding, grasping with our minds and growing in our appreciation… but it is not just an intellectual exercise 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge (in other words to experience this love of God through the work of the Holy Spirit).

God wants us to have more than head knowledge about him, he wants us to have heart knowledge, experiential knowledge, real relationship that changes us… and why?

Well —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

We think, Oh if I were a bit more loving, or kinder, or more patient, or more faithful… that might be enough… but God says “No!” Our ambitions are too small – probably because we like to rely on our own resources – but God wants us to become as loving as he is, as kind as he is, as patient as he is , as faithful as he is… you get the point.

This won’t all happen in a day or a week or a year… and it will never happen I our own strength… but imagine what God could do in us… imagine what the Holy Spirit living in you could do? Ask yourself; have I let him in, am I getting in the way?

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.



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