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Sunday Night Live Sermons

GOD'S PURPOSE FOR YOU

Ephesians 1:15-19a
3rd August 2003

There is still much poverty among the people of our city. In Melbourne, my wife and I worked for eight years in one of the poorest inner suburban slum areas of Melbourne. We understand the poverty of that city as well as that of Sydney. When I look at people who constantly come to us for clothes and food, I realise how utterly materially poor are so many in our community. Women struggling on sole parent benefits, aged pensioners; people whose limited incomes are being eroded by rising inflation and costs. It is not just material poverty. I see poverty in attitude and spirit. I see spiritual poverty, psychological and emotional poverty.

Many of these people I know feel absolutely powerless. Little people for whom the bureaucracy grinds and the red tape is choking them to death. Like the man who spoke to me Thursday who has been struggling for six years to get his disabled son justice. Do you know people like that? People who are purposeless, poor, and powerless? I think of the unemployed, the addicted, the aged and infirm. How many people are like that, passive and paralysed like pawns in a great political game? A phrase occurred to me recently and I discovered it is true. The phrase was this: "Whether you say "I can" or "I can't" in either case you're right." In other words, if you say you can do a thing, you will be able to do it. If you say you cannot do it, you are right again, you never will be able to do it. There are many people who feel trapped in what they cannot do in society. But here is the good news. You can do something about it. You might say, "I tried to do something about it but I can't". Let me ask "Have you, plus God, tried to do something about it?"

The good news is you plus God make a majority and you can make it whatever your circumstances. In the letters to the Ephesians, Paul outlined doctrines of the faith, of your election, your call by God, the way He has redeemed you in Christ and v15 16 Paul says, "I have not stopped giving thanks for you." Then he says "I remember you always in my prayers." Paul constantly prayed for his friends and for the church members. Paul calls upon us to give thanks to God and to pray for one another. When people pray, great things begin to happen. Because of our prayers, you can receive:

1. THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD.

"I remember you in my prayers, and I ask that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father to give you the Spirit." It was the most prized gift within the New Testament. It was the last promise of Jesus. On the night Jesus was betrayed, He gave to His disciples guidance for the future and John 14:16 says "I will ask the Father and He will give you another helper who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit who reveals the truth about God. The world cannot receive Him because it cannot see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He remains with you and is in you." Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict people of the good news about Jesus. It will be the Holy Spirit who will convince people of their own sin and of judgment and of the coming of Jesus to earth. It will be the Holy Spirit who will convert people and win them to Jesus Christ. The early church that had known God as the great creator and judge and lawgiver, and the one who had spoken of old through the prophets, the priests and the kings, then knew God in a special way through Jesus of Nazareth, now knew God in a new way.

They now had God present with them as a Helper. That presence of God we call the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:17 "The Holy Spirit will make you wise." It does not say "The Holy Spirit is going to enable you to pass exams when you don't study." It is not saying the Holy Spirit will give you intellect or capacities you do not have, or give you what you do not learn, but that the Holy Spirit will give you a spiritual discernment, an understanding. "The Holy Spirit will make you wise".

I have known Christian young people who are wise beyond their years because the Holy Spirit has helped them understand who they are and what it is God wants them to do. I have met African people who know nothing of Western civilisation, nothing of our sophistication, who may not even know how to work a telephone, but who have a spiritual capacity to understand what it means to be a child of God. The Holy Spirit can help make you wise. The Scripture also says, "The Holy Spirit will reveal God to you." Not even the most clever men can find God by searching. You can read all 200 volumes of the largest encyclopaedia in the world and not find God, because finding God is not an act of intellect. The Holy Spirit reveals God to us. "The Spirit of God reveals God to you, so that you will know Him." The Holy Spirit enables you to know God in the closest manner. Perhaps you have absorbed some religious faith from your parents, relatives or friends. That is knowing about God. That is not knowing Him. It is the Holy Spirit who gives you a personal experience of knowing God. Paul prays for you that we might "receive the Spirit, who will make you wise and revealed God to you, so that you will know Him." That is a great prayer for any one of us.

2. THE GIFT OF ENLIGHTENMENT, HOPE AND POWER.

Then Paul further prays: "I ask that your minds might be open to see His light, so that you will know what is the hope to which He has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings He promises His people, and how very great is His power at work in us who believe."v18-19 When a person becomes a Christian she or he has a new mind, a new outlook and a new attitude. He sees things in a different way and in a different light. Can that gift of enlightenment, hope and power overcome the disadvantages of poverty, lack of education, a dysfunctional family, being shunted round from carer to carer, being the victim of abuse? How could you overcome all that?

I spoke at a friend's funeral this week, attended by hundreds of people. I had edited the autobiography of Dr G.D.James: "G.D.: A Legend In Our Times". His mother died when he was three. The family was dysfunctional. His father was an alcoholic who quickly remarried and the new wife was a wicked stepmother. He was cared for by his grandparents and others, floating from family to family. You would think he had little hope of making something of his life. But he was converted while a schoolboy by quietly reading the scriptures by himself. Upon reading Isaiah 53 he had a vivid impression of the sufferings of Jesus. On leaving school he discovered God's purpose for his life. It was telling others about Jesus. He immediately began work as an evangelist without church or financial support, income or salary, food, clothing or anything else. He went from village to village preaching the gospel with some remarkable conversions. He later went to Malaysia where his father and stepmother were working. They hated the Christian gospel as they were Hindus.

But every night for six months G.D. taught his family members from the Gospels and at the end of six months baptised 30 members of his family including his stepmother and father. During World War II, he and others took over from missionaries who had left because of the invasion and by the end of the war a strong indigenous church had been established. Fulfilling his purpose of teaching the truth about Jesus would take him to scores of countries around the world. As an evangelist he was heard by millions of people. He conducted major crusades throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, America, Australia and in a dozen Asian countries. His 'Love Sydney', 'Love Melbourne', 'Love Hobart' crusades drew large crowds and many converts. He was called "The Billy Graham of Asia".

With his wife for sixty years, Rose, and his six children all of whom are committed Christians involved in Christian service, are an example of a stable family. He encouraged people everywhere to trust Jesus by giving people in the streets, waitresses in cafes, nurses in hospitals a copy of his little pocket book 'The Man You Must Confront'. That booklet has been printed more than ten million times in 15 languages. All of his 25 books were designed to give people encouragement to trust and rely upon Jesus. From the simplest of educations he completed a Masters and Doctorate In Theology yet his books were written not for fellow theologians, but for the ordinary person who needed to know Jesus as Saviour. He broadcast regularly on the world's great missionary radio networks, was seen regularly on television in many different parts of the world. Literally millions heard his broadcasts. He spent himself in preparing others for missionary service.

Dr G D James became the greatest Asian missions administrator of the Twentieth Century. He was a member of a number of mission boards but in 1960 following a heart attack he established the Asia Evangelistic Fellowship that today has 200 national missionaries working in 9 Asian countries. This indigenous mission is committed to evangelisation of the people in Asia and around the world. The training programs of AEF, its widespread media and publishing ministry means that the gospel is taken to people in major urban areas and villages throughout Asia. He was responsible for organising significant missionary conferences and preaching on the missionary theme throughout both the Eastern and Western worlds. He was responsible personally for encouraging hundreds of people into fulltime Christian ministry and service. Throughout sixty-five years of ministry he received no regular salary, except for gifts from supportive Christians. The boy who started with nothing except an understanding of God's purpose for him, accomplished much. A new man with a new mind, because the Holy Spirit, had come into him. Paul writes "I ask that your minds might be opened to see His light." When the light of God shines into your life everything is seen in a new perspective.

When God comes into your life He lightens it so that you might know what is the hope to which you have been called. Too many people are living lives that have no purpose, no direction, and no aim. But when Christ comes into your life He lightens your mind and you are given hope. It is hope that gives people new purpose and direction. It is hope that gives meaning and enjoyment to life. It is hope that gives substance to life.

Once you have an endless hope, all things are possible. Paul's prayer continues that you will know: "how rich are the wonderful blessings He promises His people, and how very great is His power at work in us who believe." Paul frequently repeats the words that God has power for you in your life now. God has energy for you now for your life and for your work.

Do you remember for what he prayed? Enlightenment, hope, and power. Christ can give you power. It is resurrection power. It is dominion power. It is kingdom power. His power in your life. His power at work within you. Paul prayed that you might know the Spirit of God, that you might have hope ahead of you to give you purpose, that you might know the riches of His blessing in heaven; and that you might have the power of God at work within you to accomplish His purpose for you.

Paul closes with the words, "In us who believe". That is the key. It is those who believe who have God dwelling within. It is for us who believe who have the Holy Spirit. It is for us who believe who have the enlightenment, the hope, the power. Do you believe? You must believe you are a sinful person and apart from God. You must believe that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. You must believe that God sent His Son to save you from your sin and redeem you. And you must believe that in Jesus Christ you can have a new beginning right now, taking you through all eternity. If you believe in Jesus Christ like that, our prayer is that you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and the enlightenment, hope and power that will change your life forever.

Wesley Mission, Sydney.