Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Ephesians 6:21-24, Revelation 2:3-4, Philippians 1:21-24 Downloads & Resources Undying Love Dr. Jon Morrissette - 6/26/2005 We have spent most of this year studying Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. This morning we come to the closing verses in Ephesians 6:21-24. As I read these verses, why not take a moment to find them in your Bible? In Ephesians 6:21-24 (NIV) Paul writes, "Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love." These verses allude to a personal crisis unfolding in the life of the apostle Paul. This crisis was a tremendous discouragement to the apostle Paul, and it didn’t just affect him alone. It was impacting the church at Ephesus. It was impacting the church at Philippi. It was touching the churches at Colossae and Galatia. In his wisdom, the apostle Paul chose not to confront this crisis alone or to isolate himself from those he was serving. He saw value in being transparent while sharing his inner thought life and while giving people a window into his soul. His goal wasn’t to solicit sympathies, nor was it to make himself the focus. He wanted their ministry. He wanted them to come alongside him in constant prayer. He wanted them to come together as a church and be strong. Tychicus was being sent to personally update the church about Paul’s situation and to offer them encouragement. The details of Paul’s personal crisis are revealed in his letter to the Church at Philippi. In Philippians 1:13 we discover that Paul is in chains in a Roman prison. John McRay in Christian History points out that the apostle Paul spent roughly one-quarter of his missionary career in prisons. He writes, "Roman imprisonment was preceded by being stripped naked and then flogged; a humiliating, painful, and bloody ordeal. The bleeding wounds went untreated as prisoners sat in painful leg or wrist chains. Mutilated, bloodstained clothing was not replaced, even in the cold of winter. Most cells were dark, especially the inner cells of a prison like the one Paul and Silas inhabited in Philippi. Unbearable cold, lack of water, cramped quarters, and sickening stench from few toilets made sleeping difficult and waking hours miserable. Because of the miserable conditions, many prisoners begged for a speedy death. Others simply committed suicide. In settings like this, Paul wrote encouraging, even joyful letters, and continued to speak of Jesus." I think we all agree that Paul’s circumstances constituted a personal crisis. Can you imagine a worse environment in which to find yourself? Can you imagine a worse group of people to find yourself with than murderers, rapists, thieves, and cons? Last year I went through the Sangamon County Citizens' Police Academy. On one particular night, we toured the Sangamon County Jail, which is a pretty humane place compared to a Roman prison. We could see the prisoners and they could see us. They were shouting at us, cursing at us, and trying to intimidate us. There was no restraint. I cannot imagine spending any amount of time in that environment. There is no dignity in prison, no privacy, no protection, no genuine concern, and no moral code. Paul's credibility was under attack. Another part of Paul’s personal crisis is that while he was in jail, people were stirring up trouble for him. In fact, it was Christian leaders who were stirring up trouble for him. In Philippians we never quite learn what they were doing. But we do understand quite clearly that Paul thought his credibility, his very character, was under attack. In Philippians 1:15-17 (NIV) Paul writes, "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The later do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains." If you can put yourself in Paul’s shoes for even one moment, you can feel his struggle. There were Christian people, people he baptized, people he loved, people he prayed for, people he had invested in, and leaders he had trained, exploiting his incarceration for selfish gain. I don’t know how you begin to sort through that while sitting in prison. Taking the hits, being unable to defend your own integrity, and watching others undo what you have built. I have a close family member who has been incarcerated. When I was in grade school, my teachers and fellow students were unmerciful. They took that information and rubbed it my face whenever they could. They would clip articles out of the newspaper and they would laugh. And I was powerless.Paul's Circumstances Wellbeing Paul’s situation was that his circumstances were spiraling out of control. His credibility was being undone and his character called into question by malicious slanderers. To not be in control of your circumstances and to not have any control over people’s perceptions are among the most difficult things we can face as human beings. To compound matters further, Paul’s health was also deteriorating. Paul was running through the "what-if" scenarios of walking through the valley of the shadow of death. In Philippians 1:21-24 (NIV) Paul says, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me." Last week I went to visit my grandmother, who has been in a nursing home. She only has a short time to live. She could decide to go at any time really, but holds on. Physically, she is just worn out. She’s tired of dialysis. She’s tired of being pricked with needles. She is tired of doctors and nurses messing around with her. She feels like she has had a long and good life. She is grateful. On her wall is a picture from when she was my age, and a picture of my grandpa. She talked about how her life is coming to an end. It's probably weeks or months, she said. But we started talking about Jesus Christ. Despite her suffering, despite her pain, despite her failing health, she loves Jesus Christ and wants to be with him. She desires to hang on, but she is ready to go and be with the Lord. I told her that she and grandpa were the reason I am a Christian and am serving Christ in ministry. I thanked her for her faith. She is an inspiration. Paul found himself in the middle of the perfect storm. Everything was disintegrating; his circumstances, his credibility, and his physical condition. You should read Philippians. In that dark moment Paul found the ability to speak of his love for Jesus Christ, to reaffirm his trust in God, to boldly declare his resurrection hope, and to celebrate the work God was doing.Paul's Extraordinary Perspective Tychicus was fixing to tell the church at Ephesus that Paul was at the top of his game. Paul was rejoicing in his circumstances in the midst of credibility attacks and in the midst of his declining condition. In Philippians 3:10 (NIV) Paul says, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead." In other words, "Yes, this is the darkest moment of my life. Yes, my circumstances are horrible. Yes, my character is under assault. Yes, my physical condition is bleak. But it is the exact spot Christ was in when he died on the cross for my sins. In this moment of darkness, I am sharing in Christ’s suffering. I am finding deeper fellowship with God and because of that, I rejoice." Paul wasn’t having a persecution complex or a messiah complex. He saw God working. The church at Ephesus knew what Paul was going through, but Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, was going to encourage them. What more encouraging words could they hear from Paul through Tychicus than what we read in Ephesians 6:23-24 (NIV)? "Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love." Ephesians 1:3 (NIV) says that we have been, "blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." Life is full of bad news. Life is full of ups and downs. Life is full of discouragement. But God gives us peace, love, faith, and grace. James 1:17 (NIV) says, "Every good and perfect gift comes from above." What more do we really need than what God gives us? He gives us every resource we need to continue on and to persevere to the very end. When I was looking at my grandma’s picture on the wall alongside my grandpa’s picture, I saw myself. And no, I wasn’t just being self-absorbed. I was trying to listen to what God’s Holy Spirit was saying to me in that moment. God’s spirit was reminding me that someday it will be my faded picture hanging on that wall. Someday it will be me who is tired and exhausted from living life. On that day the strength and vitality I enjoy now will only be a distant memory. As God impressed that upon my heart again this week, I have been wrestling with the final verse in Ephesians. Ephesians 6:24 (NIV) reads, "Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love." Just what does it mean to love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love? What are the limits of my love for Jesus Christ? What are the limits of your love? Will my love for Jesus Christ transcend whatever circumstance I find myself in? Will my love for Jesus Christ transcend whatever relational chaos I experience? Even the chaos caused by Christians? Will my love for Jesus Christ transcend whatever my physical condition may become? Will it be true of me, as it was of the apostle Paul, as it was of my grandpa when he passed away, as it is of my grandma as she holds on to these final months, that one day I will be loving my Lord Jesus Christ even more than I do now? In his book The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren tells us that everything that happens to us in this life is a test. And maybe that is true. At the very least, everything that happens in this life is preparation. The things that happen to us should deepen, and not just test our love for Jesus Christ. That circumstance, that conflict, that physical condition should be drawing you closer than ever to your Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Undying love for Jesus Christ is God’s will for your life, for your family, and for our church. In a bizarre turn of events, the Ephesians went on to persevere and endure hardship. In Revelation 2:3 (NIV), they were commended for not growing weary. "You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary." Yet in Revelation 2:4 (NIV), God held this against them: "You have forsaken your first love." Whatever happens in your life, family, or church, remember God’s will: undying love.