For six weeks my church passionately studied two Scripture verses in preparation for our move into a much larger building. During final services in the old building we watched videos about the history of the church and how, by God’s grace, the congregation flourished in the early years and filled one small building, then closed that building and moved to a larger building and saw further blessings from God. After a while this growing church became stagnant, they lost their focus and struggled to fulfill the mission God called them to. Eight years ago God brought new vision and new passionate and humble leadership to the church to once again build Christ’s church.
Today this church is no longer stagnant but ALIVE in Christ. God has gifted our expanding congregation with a larger facility to further His kingdom, as lives are transformed through unashamed worship, preaching of the Word without apology, unceasing prayer and unafraid witness. Apathy has no place here and on our first Sunday together in the new building the pastor preached “if you are not interested in being transformed by God, this place is not for you.” Wow! How amazing to sit back as a pastor myself and rejoice at the sight of Christians in active pursuit of God, studying the Word, singing praises with hands lifted high bringing glory to God.
Throughout the transition from the old building to the new one, as our church studied those verses, God began to show me that there were lessons in these two verses that also apply to the work He is doing through Precept. He showed me much more than I had ever seen before in Ephesians 3:20-21:
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen
Powerful verses! But how do they apply to what is happening at Precept?
If I stand back and look at the ‘big picture’ of Precept Ministries in Canada for 2012 I see a few things:
- The number of training workshops over the past year has declined drastically. Trained leaders are essential to intentional disciple making. While we are thankful for the new leaders who have started classes this fall, most of these new leaders are untrained. Untrained leaders and students who are not properly equipped are more likely to become frustrated or overwhelmed and drop out of classes.
- Donations are down. As our donations decrease we are more cautious about which opportunities we can accept to establish people in God’s Word.
- Overall book sales have been in a steady decline over the past few years. There has been an increase in the number of people studying Precept Upon Precept but that has been offset by less people studying the “Lord,” NISS, 40 Minute and D4Y studies.
- The Transform Student Ministry has struggled this year. Attendance at the “Last Days” conferences was weak. We cancelled the one in Halifax, and will not return to Alberta using the current model in 2013. We will run a 2013 National Conference from Ontario and we will also provide Disciple Now to churches upon request. (www.transformcanada.com/disciplenow)
- Most troubling though, as I talk to our leaders at workshops and our Mission and Vision Days, I see discouraged people; discouraged by the apathy in the church and the overriding lack of concern for biblical literacy amongst believers. But, after attending the Mission and Vision Days, these same people, who are now witness to the vision of the Precept Network are excited to continue to serve beside us in establishing people in God’s Word.
From a distance it looks bleak. But here in the proverbial “eye of the storm” there is an unwavering calm filled with massive expectancy as we meditate on Ephesians 3:20-21.
We need to believe God for ‘way more.’ As we serve together to establish people in God’s Word we need to look and act differently. We need to believe verse 20 as it is an incredible doxology that speaks of the glory of God. The context of this verse comes from the preceding verses (16-19) that speak of Jesus Himself dwelling in our hearts through faith, to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge and being filled up to all fullness of God. Simply put, when the conditions of vs. 16-19 are met, God’s power working in and through believers is unlimited and far beyond all comprehension. How amazing! Spiritual power is a mark of every Christian who submits to God’s Word and Spirit. It’s not reserved for a Super Christian, but for all those who discipline their minds to study the Word, understand it and live by it. Even though our physical body weakens with age a power surge from the Holy Spirit energizes and revitalizes the obedient submissive Christian.
Looking at the conditions of verses 16-19 we see that God’s Word plays a vital role in shaping our mind-set for believing God for way more. Easy to grasp for Bible Study lovers like us who study inductively, right? We’ve got a handle on verse 20 don’t we? We look with great anticipation to the future of the ministry knowing that God can do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. Yet our flesh tugs on us to focus on the “from a distance list” which is so negative that it could consume us. We could look to faults or mistakes, grumble at the, “What could have been” or “What should be,” “What I would do” and have that take over our lives.
You and I have a few things in common and hopefully one of them is how Precept Inductive Bible Study has changed our lives. I want to challenge you (me included) to be filled to the fullness of God, knowing the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge, and to be in active pursuit of the One who died for our sins. In every study we need to move WAY beyond the knowledge gained and have the Word of God pierce our hearts bringing mighty transformation!
Let’s dig deeper into understanding the terminology “far more abundantly.” Doing a text comparison of that phrase sheds light on what Paul is talking about. The NIV describes far more abundant as “immeasurably more,” the NRSV “abundantly far more,” NLT “infinitely more,” Amplified “superabundantly,” Holman “far above and beyond,” and the KJV “exceeding abundantly above.” In the Greek language there is no single word that can be used to describe what Paul is talking about when describing what God can do in and through us. There are two words that describe God in this way; the first is hyper (pronounced hu-pear). This characterizes God as one who is able to do above all things, in measure exceeding all things, beyond all things. This first word characterizes God Himself.
The second Greek word has to do with believers, the word is hyperekperissou (pronounced hü-per-ek-pe-rēs-sü’). This word is made up of two words perissos meaning “exceeding some number or measure over and above, more than necessary.” The word speaks of the ability of God to do something, that ability having more than enough potential power, this power exhaustless, and then some on top of that. Paul is saying that God is able to do super-abundantly above and beyond what we ask or think, and then some on top of that.
The word “ask” is the key here aiteō. How often do we put a limit when we ask, thinking God will not do some particular thing for us? He is able to do far more than we can ask, indeed more than we could ever imagine. And He does it according to the power that works within us.
This is by no means a prosperity message where we can ask for a Ferrari and God will give us 5 Ferrari’s. As we are filled up to all the fullness of God our desires change from the things of this world to the desires of His will. We pray “Thy will be done, Thy kingdom come,” “Lord I must decrease, You must increase.”
The power that is working within us is the operation of the Holy Spirit in His work of sanctification. God is able to do for us and answer our prayers according to the efficiency, richness and power of the working of the Spirit in our lives. All of this is determined by the submission of believers to the Holy Spirit. Think about it. . .the more submissive we are to the working of the Holy Spirit the further we open ourselves to determine what God is able to do for us. There is no limit to what God can do through us, but in contrast, when we limit our submission we limit the working of God in our lives.
Verse 21 continues the doxology and shows us the key factor in submission “to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen”. What Paul is saying here is this; we must give HIM the glory. This is not about us, what we can accomplish. There is no greater purpose in life than the glory of God. God’s glory is the manifestation of His presence in His people. My pastor described God’s glory in this way “As wet is to water so is glory to God.” Paul summarizes our purpose as believers in this way “But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed in the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 3:18)
At Precept we are “Believing God for more.” We are laying everything down before the Lord as we move forward. We are thankful for the past. God has done much through Precept in Canada over the years but we are expectant for the future. Looking at the “from a distance list” we could ask “Is God advancing His Kingdom through Precept?” I would respond with this, “It is not a matter of if He is advancing, but it is a matter of when.”
2012 has been a year of transition or evaluation. We have realigned ourselves to the Mission and Vision that God gave Jack and Kay Arthur more than 40 years ago. We are more committed than ever to Establishing People in God’s Word. We have a clear picture in our minds of what God can do in and through us as a ministry but we are also submissive to the knowledge that what we see is a small glimpse of what God will do in 2013 and beyond. The future is brighter than ever as we lay it all before the Lord and believe in Him to do far more than we could ever ask or think.
My prayer is that as you read all the articles from the November Plumbline, you will see that we are of one mind—whether front line Bible study leader, staff or ministry directors. Our greatest desire and our purpose is to bring God glory in all we do, our focus is Him, “To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
Watch and pray for God to do abundantly more in the following areas in 2013:
Precept Network: support, training and mobilization
Precept Online Community: a place for leaders to connect and encourage one another (official launch November 13, watch your in-box)
New Workshop Trainers: strategically situated to train leaders and students across the country (check out the application here–>>> Workshop Trainer Application
Fast Track Training: A 4-hour workshop using any 40 Minute and any New Inductive Study. The host church chooses the studies. –>> FastTrack Workshop Page
View the latest Plumbline Newsletter with articles and news from all corners of the Ministry. —>> Click here