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10-06-2013 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

We believe God’s supernatural power is available to us ordinary people — God wants us to live extraordinary lives.

The problem is: We live in a broken world. And the brokenness all around us affects us. We are touched daily by sin, death, discouragement, hopelessness, toxic attitudes.

The challenge we face: brokenness works to undermine our faith and confidence. Unless we deal with it, the brokenness that touches us all can sabotage our victory.

When your child goes outside to play, you know he’s going to get dirty. The longer he’s outside, the dirtier he will get. He might splash in mud puddles, or fall and get grass stains, or catch a frog…any of a hundred things. The world is full of dirt, and some of it will rub off on your kid. It’s the same with us! The brokenness of the world rubs off on us. We are affected by it.

Still, God calls us to live extraordinary lives! Jesus said he came to give us life — abundant life, to the full (John 10:10). We are called to live extraordinary lives even while we have to deal with the ordinary stuff of this world — the brokenness, the sin, the trials, the temptations.

We want to live above it all. We want to live lives of grace, victory, and power. But we live in the midst of it all — and so we often struggle. We feel pain, illness, and frustration. Living in the midst of it all, we often fall short.

The question is: If God offers us “all-surpassing power,” how can put it to work in less-than adequate lives? How do we grow in grace and power?

How can we connect with God’s power today so it will help us find our way through the week?

Eph 1:17-21. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every namethat is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

These words were written around AD 60 — over 1,950 years ago — to new believers in the city of Ephesus (now part of Turkey). And yet these are timeless words! They are as true for us today as when they were first read.

The apostle Paul wrote this letter to help believers see themselves in a new light — to help them understand the extent of God’s work in them. They were inclined (as we often are) to dwell on the past and see things from an old way of thinking. Paul wanted them instead to see themselves in a whole new way — not defined by their past but defined by their new identity in Christ, a whole new perspective.

BEFORE they had worshiped idols; they were addicted to sensual pleasures (2:3); they caught up in worldly philosophies and occultic practices (Acts 19:19). But that was BEFORE!

Paul wanted them to see the miraculous, supernatural things God had done so they could see themselves differently. Common pots could hold incredible power. Thorns in the flesh could open the way for grace. BEFORE they were dead in their transgressions and sins (2:1), but NOW they were made alive in Christ (2:5).

When people repent and receive grace and forgiveness through Christ, they are instantly justified. But their thinking — their though process and understanding — is not instantly sanctified. They still have old habits and old ways etched in their minds. The past still lingers. They do not instantly shed their old ways of thinking.

When a baby duck emerges from its shell, the first large moving object it sees is “imprinted” upon its tiny brain. Usually it’s the mother duck — and that duckling will follow mom anywhere. Into the water, across the pond, over a highway. It doesn’t matter. It can’t get mom out of its head.
Scientists have experimented with this phenomenon by messing with mother nature, removing the mother duck and pulling something on a string — a football, for instance — past the newly hatched duckling. So the football becomes “imprinted” on the duckling’s brain, and it will follow that football anywhere.

Before we come to Christ, we have had the world “imprinted” on our thinking. Our nature is to follow the way of the world. We can’t get it out of our heads. So when we come to Christ, we need a “brain washing.” We need to reprogram our thinking pattern.

So the Bible tells us as believers that we must not be conformed to the pattern of this world but rather be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). It tells us we should not live in the futility of worldly thinking (Eph 4:17). Later in this same letter, Paul writes that we should be made new in the attitude of our minds (Eph 4:23).

You’ve heard stories about people who get stuck (emotionally, mentally, or spiritually) — unable to escape from or move beyond the pattern of their upbringing. The old ways are “imprinted” in their thinking — hard-wired. Their natural reflex or instinct is to act in a certain way — that is, until they can be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

If you grew up in an abusive home, for instance, and someone near you lifts a hand, you may instinctively flinch — it’s an automatic reflex to protect yourself. Your past hard wires you to react in a certain way, even if the hand was raised to give a tender touch or a hug.

Painful experiences from the past often linger, influencing or even haunting our present.

  • If you lost a parent through death or divorce, you carry those wounds or scars…

  • If you were the victim of prejudice or injustice, you learn to live looking over your shoulder, nervous, scared, on guard…

  • If you were bullied on the school playground… if you lost your job or became homeless… Past hurts can lead to present hang-ups.

Marvin Stewart, 76, had been lonely ever since he was released from prison, unable to adapt to his freedom. So one day he stopped by the People’s National Bank in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and handed a note to a teller demanding $100. After he completed his robbery, he told bank employees he would be waiting in his car. When the police arrived a few minutes later, they found him in his car smoking a cigarette. He told the officers he had no family and wanted to be sent to federal prison. “It is a little odd,” a police spokesman offered. (Reuters, via This Is True [10/7/00])

So how do we move on? let go of the past? renew our minds? How do we acquire a new way of thinking? Paul starts by praying. He prays for the Ephesian believers — that God would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation to know God better.

He prays that the “eyes” of their hearts would be “enlightened” — that is, that God’s light would shine deep into their innermost being, that the darkness left by past hurts would give way to new light.

NLT: “that your hearts will be flooded with light”; GW: “you will have deeper insight”; TEV: “that your minds may be opened to see his light”; NIRV: “your mind might see more clearly.”

Quite a contrast to the condition we read a couple of weeks ago: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel” (2 Cor 4:4)

So once the eyes of our heart have been enlightened, what really changes? What will we see differently? What will we know, not just with our heads but by our experience?

1. Hope. God has called us to hope…to anticipate and desire better things to come.

With hope, we will be forward-looking — not looking in the rear-view mirror of our past, but looking ahead to where God wants to take us and to what God wants to do in us.

2. Riches. To know God has written you into his “will” — so we can anticipate an incredible inheritance…

…to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (1 Pet 1:4, NASB)

Mark Twain’s story Puddin’ Head Wilson tells about two infants switched at birth during the plantation and slave days of the south. One was the child of the plantation owner; the other was a very light-complected slave baby. So the two grew up in very different circumstances. One was privileged; the other was trapped in slavery. Years later, when the mix-up was finally discovered after the death of the owner, the rightful heir to the plantation estate could not comprehend what belonged to him. He continued to act like the slave he’d been raised as. How many have a spiritual inheritance, but still live and act like slaves (to the world, to sin, to their old way of thinking)?

3. Power. God wants to empower us. He doesn’t want us to live in defeat.

This power is for us — but it’s the same power he used to raise Christ from the dead. We have resurrection power within us, whether we know it or not. Paul prays that we will know it!

Resurrection power means that death is transformed to life; despair is replaced by hope; defeat gives way to victory; sin is replaced by righteousness.

Sin is a killer. Sin sucks the life out of a person. But Eph 2:1,5 says we were dead…but now we have been made alive. We need to KNOW IT.

We are called to be “resurrection” people, but we need to know it! If we live under the shadow of the past, defined by sin and defeat and discouragement, then we are headed down a dead end road. People often choose death instead of life. Their lack of knowledge leads them down the wrong path.Last year, a 33-year-old Canadian woman Shriya Shah-Klorfine hoped to live out a dream climbing to top of Mount Everest, to achieve the ultimate challenge, to live life to the full.
She was inexperienced, however, and the lead Sherpa in her group changed his mind about guiding her to the summit. He told her she could kill herself and her Sherpas if she attempted to climb Everest,
When the day came, there were too many trying to get to the top. There was a “traffic jam,” and delays. The lead guide met her coming up as he was going down. He warned her shed didn’t have enough oxygen, but she refused his advice. She said, “No, I spent my money and my goal it to reach the summit. I will go.”
She refused to turn around, so the Sherpa gave her one last bottle of oxygen and let her keep climbing. But she didn’t make In the end she (and six others) died on the mountain that day.
Chasing the dream of a full life can lead to death if you make the wrong choices. Shriya’s last words, whispered to her guide after she collapsed and lay next to the trail as she was headed back down the mountain were, “Save me.” But the guide couldn’t save her; he couldn’t undo the bad choices that had been made.  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/exclusive-canadian-everest-victim-used-inexperienced-company-lacked-oxygen-1.1195149
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/save-me-last-words-of-mount-everest-climber-1.1182656

This happens all the time — people who try to find life to the full but choose to go down the wrong road.

The only road that leads to life is Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” All other roads are “Dead Ends.”

As “resurrection people” we are to bring life into this world — life in our relationships, life in our thinking, life in our actions. Life should transform us. We are not defined by death, but by life (hope, riches, power).

God gives us the power to choose life, the power to live. Let’s pray that we will know it.