“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe ….” (Ephesians 1:15-19)
“[And]that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith- that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 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, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Read Paul’s prayers for you, me and the Church in Ephesians 1 and 3. When you are finished, pray, and read them again.
Then join me in a heart-felt confession of how dismally low our 21st century American expectations of God and His people have been. God invites us to be filled with all the fullness of God, but far too many of us concentrate instead on using good music, entertaining sermons and easy invitations to keep people in our pews. We truly deserve to be the ones Jesus addresses as “O, ye of little faith”. (Matthew 6:30, 8:6;16:8)
Ephesians is, of all Paul’s letters, the one most focused on the Church: her identity, her purpose, and her Spirit-empowered abilities. It was written when Christian men and women were a very small minority in the powerful, pagan Roman empire. In the face of constant political, religious, and demonic persecution, those Christians changed the world.
Contrast this with today. As one example, according to Pew Research Center, 56% of Americans believe in the God described in the Bible – a disturbing historical decrease, but still much greater than the 4.5% of Americans who identify as LGBTQ. Yet, during the last decade, which group has brought about the greatest changes in our culture.
The gay lobby has experienced incredible “success” because they are committed, prioritized, united and proactive in embracing their “identity” and purpose. As Bible-believing Christians, we know God loves them, but we also know God is not on their side when it comes to sexuality and marriage. God is on our side, but we are nevertheless losing the culture war because we are not committed, prioritized, united and proactive in embracing our identity in Christ and our Kingdom mission.
There are some steps being taken in the right direction. Last Saturday’s Unashamed Prayer Rally and March brought between 1,000-2,000 Christians together downtown for earnest prayer. This has never happened before in the history of Kingsport!
Recent tent revivals have led over 1,000 people to Christ in Bristol, Greeneville, Chuckey and, now, Rogersville. Adoration 2019 will bring hundreds of churches together for worship at the ETSU Mini-Dome on September 28. The Will Graham Celebration in 2018 also brought churches together and hundreds of souls to Jesus.
However, these are just initial steps toward where the Lord is directing us. We are called to spread His Kingdom by making disciples of all nations. Yet 60% of millennials raised in our own churches have dropped out, and the statistics for Generation Z will be even worse. Our existing wineskins are not working! We must change our ways!
Christians are more than just sinners saved by grace or humans trying to be better humans. We are God’s chosen race and holy nation; His royal priesthood and house of prayer; His blood-bought, born again, newly created children, both indwelt and divinely empowered by the Holy Spirit. We are the Body of Christ, with the ever-victorious King Jesus as our Head and the keys of His Kingdom in our possession. God loves us beyond measure and is for us, so who can stand against us? Nothing is impossible for those who truly believe.
It is time to get committed, prioritized, united and proactive. Pastors and other spiritual leaders: equip and exhort the saints for ministry. Let’s start living out who we really are and what we are really called to do! (2 Chronicles 7:14; Isaiah 60:1-3; Matthew 16:15-19)
God bless you, and God bless our community.