A Displayed and Demonstrated Power!
Reading: Ephesians Ch. 1v19b-23.
Let me take a moment in this message to go back over ground already covered, namely, the power of God. For many years now I have wrestled with this amazing power of God and yet, to be absolutely honest, have never truly felt I was experiencing the full thrust of this wonderful power Paul speaks of here in this particular passage. As I revisited this amazing truth it really did give me a whole new prospective on God’s wonderful power. So with that thought in mind I want as it were, perhaps from a different angle from our last message take a second bite of this cherry.
On May 18, 1980, there was an incredible explosion which was estimated at 500 times more powerful than the force of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima during World War II. This explosion occurred in the state of Washington, and it was so powerful that it ripped 1,200 feet off the top of a 9,700 foot volcano known as Mount St. Helens. Although the mountain had been dormant for 123 years, within minutes incredible power was unleashed. Thousands of tons of volcanic ash were thrust into the atmosphere. The cloud of ash literally turned day into night in the surrounding communities. Communities were virtually immobilized as from 4 to 6 inches of the powdery substance fell like a winter snowstorm. What was once considered prime hunting and fishing country was decimated. Sports Illustrated reported that 26 lakes, 154 miles of trout streams, and 195 square miles of wildlife habitat were destroyed.
But Mount St. Helens was not very powerful compared to a volcano which erupted in 1883. Mount Krakatoa, in Indonesia, erupted with a force that was equal to 30 hydrogen bombs. The power from Mount St. Helens was estimated at 500 atomic bombs. One hydrogen bomb is equal to 1,000 atomic bombs. So, Mount Krakatoa was equal to 30,000 atomic bombs. Mount Krakatoa was 60 times more powerful than Mount St. Helens.
During the eruption of Mount Krakatoa, tidal waves killed 36,000 people in Java and Sumatra, and a cloud of ash cooled the earth's climate for almost two years.
What we have seen in natural eruptions of power is but a small example of greater forces at work in the universe. Although we have come a long way in our understanding of those forces, which shape our world, we still haven't graduated from preschool. From the time dynamite, was first produced in 1867 by Alfred Nobel until the time of the discovery of the power contained in the atom, we have learned much. But all that knowledge combined only gives us a clue to what the real power behind this universe is like.
Attempts are made from time to time to describe the power contained in this universe. But the "Force" described in Star Wars is but a pale and inaccurate depiction of the powerful God who is in charge. The truth is that man hasn't begun to comprehend the limitless power of God. But we see a display of His power in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This power is not destructive power as in an earthquake or the eruption of a volcano. It is creative power. And it may be unlike any power you have ever experienced. The release of this power in Christ's resurrection has implications for us today. One of its implications is that the power that caused Christ to rise from the dead can impact our lives as well. And if there is a power like that available to us, it would be a tragedy not to be aware of it and most importantly, appropriate it.
1. The Power Of God Demonstrated!
And what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead" (Eph.Ch.1v19b-20a).
We pick our text up with the close of Paul's prayer for us as believers. Paul is praying that we might know God's power. He then describes this power as the power, which raised Christ from the dead. In other words, in Christ's resurrection we see the power of God demonstrated.
The resurrection of Christ, which we celebrate every Easter, is the fundamental issue upon which Christianity either rises or falls. Our faith is based on it. Romans Ch.1v4 says that Jesus "was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead." The power of God demonstrated in Christ's resurrection is the key issue of Christianity. If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then He was a fake, and we might as well believe something else.
The great apostle Paul said without the reality of the resurrection, our preaching is vain, and our faith is vain. If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then we are, believing a myth. The validity of Christianity rises or falls on the veracity of the resurrection. The truth of Christianity is verified by God's power.
To many, we Christians make an amazing claim. We claim that Christianity is the only true way to God. Some think we are quite arrogant to make such a claim. But we do not make that claim out of arrogance; we make it out of assurance.
Our assurance comes from the evidence of Christ's resurrection from the dead. It is this resurrection that sets Him apart from all others. Many have come before Christ, and some have come after. But only Christ has died and come back to life by the power of God.
The resurrection power demonstrated on that first Easter was simply the culmination of the plan of God for the redemption of this world. In fact, the entire life of Christ was a demonstration of the power of God. We see the power of God in his birth. A virgin conceived by the supernatural power of God. By this supernatural power of God we see a sinless man brought into the world. We also see the supernatural power of God as Jesus stretched forth His hands to heal. He opened blind eyes, cleansed lepers, cast out demons, and raised the dead by the supernatural power of God. As he went to the Cross we see the power of God manifested. His suffering and death was a dramatic demonstration of God's power working in Him. >From the Cross, He prayed, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." And then on the third day, God reached down from heaven and with His mighty right arm rolled away the stone. By the power of God Christ rose from the dead. This is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions. This is why we say that Christianity is the only true way to God.
When we see what God did by His mighty power in the resurrection of Christ, something begins to stir in us. Such a power in this universe cannot help but capture our fascination. What would it be like to experience that power in our own selves? How would such a power touching our lives revolutionize our existence? What would it be like to know such a power on a personal and intimate level?
The apostle Paul was caught up in these same emotions when he said in Philippians Ch.3v10, "that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection." We, like Paul, not only want but desperately need to experience that power. And the implication of Christ's resurrection is that we can. You see beloved, Paul was aware even if we are not, this power or dominion as it was called in Genesis was first Graciously Given to Adam.
Secondly, this power or dominion was legally lost to Satan. Satan deceived Eve who in turn persuaded Adam to hand on a plate the dominion or power given by God to him over to Satan. And because that power; or dominion was lost by a man there had one day to come a man who could Rightfully Regain That Power and that man was none other that the man Christ Jesus.
We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key of the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank, and told to help himself, and comes out with one penny, whose fault is it that he is poor? Whose fault is it that Christian people generally have such scanty portions of the free riches of God?
Alexander MacLaren, quoted in Streams in the Desert.
We leave our places of worship, and no deep and inexpressible wonder sits upon our faces. We can sing these lilting melodies, and when we go out into the streets our faces are one with the faces of those who have left the theaters and the music halls. There is nothing about us to suggest that we have been looking at anything stupendous and overwhelming. ... And what is the explanation of the loss? Preeminently our impoverished conception of God.
John Henry Jowett in "The Ministry of a Transfigured Church."
2. The Position of Christ Described!
"When He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians Ch.1v20b-23).
In the resurrection of Christ from the dead we see The Power of God Demonstrated. Now we see The Position of Christ Described.
The reason God raised Him from the dead was so that Christ could be seated at God's right hand in the heavenly places. Christ was raised in power so that He could be given a position of power and authority. This is what it means to be seated at God's right hand. The position of being at the right hand of God in the heavenly places is further described in verse 21. This position is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. In other words, nothing is above Christ. No one, who exercises rule, or authority, or power or dominion, can rival the authority and power of Christ in His position at God's right hand.
Christ is also above every name that is named. There is no name or "title" (as the N.I.V. has it) that is above the name of Jesus Christ. His title now is Lord. Neither will any be above Him in this age, nor in the one to come. God, in His power, has exalted Christ above all. God has put all things in subjection under His feet.
Human authorities may command great power, but all, pale in comparison to Christ.
When the funeral of Louis XIV was held, the cathedral was packed with mourners who were paying their final tribute to the king. They considered him to be a great king. The room was darkened, except for one solitary candle. That candle illuminated the great casket holding the mortal remains of the king. As the court preacher, Massillon, stood to address the assembled audience, he reached over the pulpit and snuffed out that lone candle which was there to symbolize the greatness of the king. The room was darkened, and from the darkness came four words: "God only is great."
Not only is Christ Lord over all creation, but Christ is also Lord over all the church. God not only put all things in subjection under His feet, but God gave Him as head over all things to the church. The Lordship of Jesus Christ means that He is in charge. And the church is not an institution of man but an institution of God. Christ is the Lord, or head of the church. Because of the power of God unleashed in His resurrection, Jesus Christ is alive and in charge of His church.
This means that the power of God was not only unleashed in the resurrection of Christ, but it is also unleashed in the church, which He founded. The church of Jesus Christ should be a living demonstration of the power of God. And indeed it is. The true church of God has been on a forward march since its founding.
In the classic book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon wrote about the power of the church:
"While that great body the Roman Empire was invaded by open violence, or undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion gently insinuated itself into the minds of men, grew up in silence and obscurity, derived new vigor from opposition, and finally erected the triumphant banner of the Cross on the ruins of the Capital. Nor was the influence of Christianity confined to the period or to the limits of the Roman Empire. After a revolution of thirteen or fourteen centuries, that religion is still professed by the nations of Europe the most distinguished portions of humankind in arts and learning as well as in arms. By the industry and zeal of the Europeans it has been widely diffused to the most distant shores of Asia and Africa; and by the means of their colonies has been firmly established from Canada to Chile, in a world unknown to the ancients." End Quote!
The church has been steadily marching forward against all odds because of the power of the resurrected Christ in her midst. Jesus Christ is alive and in charge.
Consider then the implications of His resurrection for your life.
How would you define those implications? What does it really mean to be tapped-in to the resurrected Christ? The Apostle Paul's prayer was that we might know; what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
The power which was operative in Christ when God raised Him from the dead can make an immediate difference in our lives as well.
One implication is that Christianity is true. Because of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, we know that Christ is who He said He was. And we know that the faith we follow is not a myth, but is the true way to God. We can be confident because of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, that all of the rest of the promises of God are true. When we pick up this Bible we can know that God's Word is sure.
Another obvious implication of the resurrection of Christ is that Jesus is now alive. Because the power of God was demonstrated in Christ’s resurrection, we serve a living Christ. Christianity then is all about a relationship with a living Lord. We do not worship the memory of a dead prophet; we worship and serve a living God. And the power with which we come into contact is the power of the living Lord Jesus Christ. He's alive! He has risen from the dead, and He's alive! Wonderful!
A further implication is that He is in charge. Because Christ is now seated at the right hand of God, we know that He's in charge of this universe. He's in charge of the church. He's calling the shots. Be careful what you do in and with the church of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, another implication is that we can trust Him in any situation. Because Christ is in charge, and because He is the living God, we can place our lives in His care knowing that He will take care of us. Because we know that He is in charge and that He will do what is right, we can trust Him even in the midst of difficult circumstances. When the hard times come, we can trust in His wisdom to handle the situation. And even when He allows us to go through the hard times, we can be confident that He is in control.
And finally, an implication of His resurrection is that His power is available to us. Paul prayed that he might "know the power of His resurrection." The power of His resurrection is available to us today, if we will just tap-in to it.
"Just before World War II in the town of Itasca, Texas, a school fire took the lives of 263 children. There was scarcely a family in town which, was not touched by this horrifying tragedy. During the war Itasca remained without school facilities. But when the war ended, the town, like many others, began to expand and in fact built a new school, which featured what was called `the finest sprinkler system in the world.' Civic pride ran high. Honor students were selected to guide citizens and visitors on tours of the new facilities to show them the finest, the most advanced sprinkler system technology could supply and money could buy. Never again would Itasca be visited by such a tragedy. With the postwar boom the town continued to grow, and seven years later it was necessary to enlarge the school --- and in adding the new wing it was discovered that the sprinkler system had never been connected. "
What a tragedy it is when we fail to hook up to the power of God available to us. It is a double tragedy when we consider that all we need to do to hook up to the power of God is to surrender to Christ. May we surrender today and begin to enjoy the resurrection power of God.
Now notice, I said surrender not commit. What's the difference? Well, when you commit you are still in control, you make the decision how far that commitment goes and how long that commitment lasts. When you surrender, you surrender all. No military leader will accept the war is over until the opposing general surrenders his sword. I must surrender all to Jesus Christ before he can permit the power of God to flow through me.
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
All to Jesus I surrender,
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power,
Let thy blessing fall on me.
May that be the heartbeat of all of us today and every day!