<--- back to sermon list

Download: MP3

First Presbyterian Church, Nashville
Dr. Todd B. Jones
July 29, 2012

Doxology Is Life
2 Kings 4:42-44
Ephesians 3:14-21

John Keats, in one of his letters, used a wonderful, vivid expression about the language and literature of England during the time of Shakespeare, which was also the time of so many other literary giants.  It was literally when English as a language came of age.  Keats speaks of “the indescribable gusto of the Elizabethan voice.” In an even deeper sense this saying could be used to describe those who wrote the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.  We could easily speak of “the indescribable gusto of the New Testament voice,” for if one thing strikes you about these writers of the early Church, it is the fact that they are possessed by an amazing awareness of God’s power and immensity.  They are intensely, magnificently alive.  And if you read the New Testament fairly and openly, you cannot help but to feel the “indescribable gusto” of the early Christian voice.

We are often not so sure of God in our own age.  And events like the tragic killings in Aurora last week leave us badly shaken, wondering where God is in this dark and deeply troubled world.  But on every page of the New Testament you meet with a wonderful sense of energy, an exhilaration, an overpowering vitality.  In a word, you encounter life!

And it is very important to notice their own explanation of this.  They never attribute it to anything in themselves.  You do not find the New Testament writers strutting about, taken with themselves, crying, “We are able!” And you never hear them crying, “I am able!” No, the constant watchword of the New Testament is not turned in upon us, or focused upon how adequate we are.  What you do find over and over again is the utter confidence that God is able.  And when they say, “He is able,” they are looking away from themselves and toward the greatness of the Living God.  In point of fact, when they say, “He is able,” they are looking directly at Jesus Christ.  And on this basis, they proceed to make the most staggering claims and express the most triumphant faith.  A thousand difficulties may cross our paths: He is able to overcome!  The whole world may seem to be falling apart: He is able to triumph and to hold it together and make it whole. 

This morning’s text in Ephesians is no isolated example of this utter confidence in the power of God to prevail.  It comes out at the end of Paul’s prayer for the young church in Ephesus.  Paul starts his prayer for the believers in Ephesus by “bowing his knees” before “the Father from whom every family in heaven and earth takes its name.” But Paul ends his prayer with a doxology, a word of praise to God that goes like this: “Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.” Note the center of these vibrant, powerful words of praise.  “He is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine….”

Here is the confidence, “the indescribable gusto” of the New Testament voice!  He is able!

Is this not the essence of life-giving worship?  To look away from ourselves, away from our own inadequacies and our dubious resources, away from our dreary frustrations and broken dreams – and to look toward a cross that towers over the wrecks of time, and toward a love that has borne our sins in its body on a tree, and toward a Living Lord who promises “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them?” 

This doxology that “He is able!” is no isolated comment in the New Testament.  This affirmation appears again and again.  The author of the letter to the Hebrews uses it twice.  In Hebrews 2:18 he says, “For because He himself has suffered and been tempted, He is able to help those who have been tempted.”  I agree with Mark Twain, who said, “I can withstand anything, except temptation.” And because we are all of us poor, tempted creatures, this is a word right on the mark for us.  Jesus himself “has suffered and been tempted.” He is no Savior and Redeemer aloof from our struggles.  “He is able to help those who have been tempted.”

But that is not all Christ is able to do.  Hebrews 7:25 tells us, “He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” There is no such thing as a sin too large for Christ to defeat, no wounds so deep that they will not yield to the Great Physician’s healing touch.  “He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through Him.” But that is still not all.

Jude offers a doxology of his own at the conclusion of his one chapter letter.  He bursts forth, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of His glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever.”  He is “able to keep you from falling.”  Who doesn’t know what it is to fall?  And who doesn’t need Christ’s support?

Yesterday we took our grandsons, ages three-and-a-half and two, to the tree house exhibit at Cheekwood.  Our two-year-old tried to do everything his older cousin did, and we followed him everywhere, with our hands up in case he fell.  “He is able to keep you from falling…”

And then one more place, in Paul’s second letter to young Timothy, the first chapter, the twelfth verse: “I am sure He is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.”  Paul’s life was almost over when he wrote these confident words.  Even with death staring him in the face, Paul knew that God was able to guard until the last day the treasure of the Gospel and the life of the Church.

This is the inexhaustible source of vitality and power in the life of the New Testament Church – an unbounded confidence in the ability of God to save and redeem the world.  Paul prays that the church in Ephesus, small and terribly young, would “be filled with all the fullness of God.”  This is a prayer of abundance and of adequacy.  In the 1950’s at the Parade of Roses in Pasadena, a huge float ran out of gas and stalled, holding up the whole parade until they could refill it.  Ironically, the float was sponsored by the Standard Oil Company, the gasoline we called Esso in those days.  Paul prays that they will be filled with all the fullness of God, and I cannot think of a more apt prayer for our lives as well.

The heart of the Gospel in this broken, violent, often brutal and frightening world is all about healing and peace and reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5 says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our sins against us, and entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation.”  Christians, when they are at their best, take this message to heart and seek to be reconcilers, peacemakers, healers.  This text was the basis for the Presbyterian Church’s Confession of 1967.  It was a call for reconciliation when our nation was torn apart by conflict over race and an unpopular war.  But it is a message that is eternally relevant.  The human family stands always in dire need of reconciliation and healing.  But what I noticed this week that had never really grabbed my attention before was how the Confession of 1967, written by the PCUSA’s best theologians of the 1960’s, ends.  This proclamation and plea for reconciliation ends with our doxology this morning in Ephesians. 

We hope.  We dream.  We anticipate.  I put my grandson to bed last night and then snuck back in to see him asleep in the bed.  And I said another prayer as I did so.  But our best dreams are but a fraction of God’s promised glory.  So hear these words of life: “Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”

© 2022 First Presbyterian Church | 4815 Franklin Pike, Nashville, TN 37220 | (615) 383-1815
Website By Worship Times