Filled to the Brim with Jesus

Sermon 1785 Ephesians 3.14-21 January 16, 2022

We’ve all been there. Maybe it was way back when we were in high school. Maybe it was as recently as yesterday. We ordered a soft drink with our fast food hamburger and fries and now stand with our paper cup in front of the soft drink dispenser. After deciding which flavor (or mixture) we wanted, we hit the ice. We know the soft drink is going to come out room temperature. But we don’t want too much ice, because we paid for soda, not ice. Then, when we have just the right amount of ice (maybe even dumping a little bit out onto the tray), we hit the soda lever and fill the cup almost to the top. Then we stop. Then we tap it. Again. And again, until the level of the soft drink is just a little above the lip of the cup. Time to put on the lid, but if we push the lid down on the top of the cup, the soda will overflow and so. Well. We take a quick sip off the top, looking around to make sure the manager isn’t watching, put the lid on and be on our way. We want to get the most for our money.

Our God understands that. He wants us to get the most from his blessings. That’s why he wants us

Filled to the Brim with Jesus.

1. Strengthened with faith (14-17a).

2. Rooted in love (17-196).

3. Giving glory for generations (20-21).

Paul lets the Ephesians in on one of his prayers for them.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (14-17a).”

The Ephesians were the work horses, the Budweiser Clydesdales, of the New Testament churches. Paul had started their church, uncharacteristically spending over two years in town. Lots of other Christian churches sprang up in that southwestern corner of modern Tukey, churches like Laodicea and, well, they are the seven churches of Revelation—you can look them up. But my point is, Paul didn’t have to start these congregations. Work horse believers from Ephesus spread the message to the area around them. God richly answered Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians.

What is the strength of a Christian? What is his power? Some might say determination, conviction, the ability to take a licking and keep on ticking. To some extent we would agree. Christians display all of these tenacious virtues. Christianity, the Church on earth which derives its name from the Father of our Lord and Savior, has outlasted opposition and prospered in the midst of persecution because of its tenacity.

But the funny thing is, in the Bible, even when God is talking about the Church, all believers in Christ everywhere, he is also always talking about the individual believer. Generals might be willing to lose hundreds, even thousands of troops in a battle to achieve their objectives. God is not willing to lose one of his believers. Individual believers make up the Church, stone by stone, brick by brick. So no strength of the Church can be a strength if it does not benefit the individual believer. The strength of the Church is faith. The strength of a Christian is faith.

But remember, you don’t look at faith when you are looking for the source of faith’s strength. You look at what faith believes in. That’s where the strength is. Remember how Paul put it, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” That’s why Jesus once said if we had faith as small as a grain of mustard seed, one of the smallest of the vegetable garden seeds, we could move mountains. Christ, the object of that faith, is where the strength is. But let’s look at something less theoretical. Let’s look at the Gospel lesson today.

The not so-flush-with-cash newlyweds had run out of wine way early in their reception. Mary leans on Jesus to do something about it. Jesus tells the two helpers in the kitchen to fill these six water jars (holding about twenty or thirty gallons apiece) with water. They trust Jesus enough to do what he says. They fill them. To the brim. The jars are almost overflowing. Then he tells them to serve the guests. They trust Jesus. They ladle out water. By the time they get to the banquet hall it is wine, good wine. “You have saved the best for last,” the master of the ceremonies tells the proud and befuddled groom. Those servants didn’t believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world. They simply did what he said, trusting things would work out. Working through their weak faith Jesus performed a miracle. I am sure their trust was rewarded with something much better. When the day ended they understood that Mary’s son was more than a great religious teacher. They understood he was the Son of God himself, the Promised Savior.

Weak faith works wonders. Strong faith works wonders. It isn’t the faith which is doing the work, but that which faith lays hold of—the almighty Son of God. That’s power. Paul wanted the Ephesians, and all Christians, to be filled, filled to the brim with Jesus.

Filled to the brim with Jesus, we are rooted in love.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (17b-19).”

Now you see where I got that idea of filled to the brim! Filled. All the fullness of God. It seems impossible, as impossible as knowing how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. How much love did it take for Jesus to drag his cross to Calvary? At every step of the way he could have called a legion of angels to set himself free! How much love did it take for Jesus to take upon himself the sins of all the world, to receive only punishment from God the Father, suffering the torments of hell itself while he hung on the cross? How much love did it take to do all that, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, and still not lose his loving trust in God? “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

There is a power to love. It is immovable. Shakespeare gave it scant praise when he wrote,

“Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! it is an ever fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken.” Sonnet 116

“Rooted and established,” Paul put it. Every time I come to church and park outside, I see that stump of a pine tree which we cut down twenty years ago. Its roots went so deep into the desert landscaping you could easier pull this church off its foundations than pluck that pine tree stump and roots out of the ground. That’s the love of God for us. Unmovable. It goes beyond understanding. It is beyond reason. It is an unyielding, unrelenting force. Love never fails.

Paul prays that God’s love manifest itself more and more in the hearts of the Ephesians and in us. There is a power to love. It moves us to do the impossible.

Love moves us to give of ourselves when we most want to step back and take it easy. “You’ve done your time,” the world says, as if being a Christian is a forty hour punch the time clock job. “Let somebody else do it for a change.” Love moves us to sacrifice for a sick child. When I was in sixth grade my heart went crazy—had an infection of the heart lining. Back then all they had to treat it was penicillin. My dad joked I got so much my seat turned to stone so I could sit for hours and hours learning my Greek and Hebrew in college. I was in the hospital nine weeks. My dad was a plumber. No hospital insurance for us back in 1966. I don’t know how they paid off the bill. But they never let on we were hurting. They never let on I must have put the family in a terrible financial hole. It’s your kid. Of course you are going to do what you have to for him. You love the little bugger.

Starry-eyed teens confess to each other they want to grow old together. How romantic! And when you get old together you sit in the waiting room while they rip his chest apart for a bypass. You hold her hand after they bring her out of recovery for a surgery you can’t even pronounce, much less imagine. You are brave for them. You have to be. You stand by them. You want to. You put off, what?, bowling leagues, career aspirations, going back to school plans, vacations, retirements, you put off everything for them, because they are important, not you. That’s love, the power of love. And if everybody says you are crazy or difficult, that you had it easy but you took the hard way, well, pray that they be given the power to grasp the love of Christ. Knowledge without this love is just cowardice that talks a good game. This love will make you want to hang around with him or her a little bit in heaven, even though you don’t have to. That’s what happens when you are filled to the brim with Jesus. Paul prayed that we might have that kind of love in our hearts. Heroes and saints. Children of God. Christians. The Church. You. Me.

Filled to the brim with Jesus, giving glory for generations.

“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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (20-21).”

If there is a common sin to the last few generations of Americans it is selfishness. We think about the now, the “what have you done for me lately?” It shows in our business schools, educating future CEOs to prioritize the quarterly reports. It shows in our politics, aiming no higher than to dominate the next twenty-four hour news cycle. It shows in our lives as we grab for the bird in the hand without making an effort to get those two in the bush. We buy throw-away clothes and live throw-away lives. I always faulted King Hezekiah when Isaiah told him the nation he foolishly trusted would one day take his sons into captivity. “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good, for he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my lifetime (Isaiah 29.8).’” Shouldn’t we be making decisions that are beneficial for those who come after us?

Those filled to the brim with Jesus create the opportunities for coming generations to give glory to God. We could have met in homes and clubhouses. We could have put up banners directing people to this or that school gymnasium. But we wanted a permanent witness to our faith, a holy place removed from the whims of a landlord or changing school district policies. We built 1799 Wigwam Parkway, not once, but three times. First the church, then the preschool, then the educational addition. The Lord filled it once, almost without our effort. The road wasn’t even built when people came over the crest of Valle Verde and drove into our parking lot on that Grand Opening Easter Sunday. Already now, in the teeth of the COVID pandemic, the Lord is filling our preschool and educational wing. We’ve expanded to second grade—can we fit a third grade in? Yes, if we have someone from our church to teach it, because this is a ministry of ours and as surely as we want a preacher of the truth we can trust in the pulpit, we want a teacher of the truth we can trust in the classroom. This holy ground is not the place for remember when stories. This hallowed earth is the launch pad for prayers and hymns and testimonies of faith giving glory to God for ages to come.

These troubled times will surely pass. Look for what you can do, what we can do, to make everyone who comes here for years to come feel that they have been

Filled to the Brim with Jesus.

1. Strengthened with faith (14-17a).

2. Rooted in love (17-196).

3. Giving glory for generations (20-21).

Top it off. Fill our lives above the rim, running down on the side here and there. Fill our lives to the brim with Jesus. We will overflow for the blessing of others. And we will never thirst again.

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