Sunday March 20, 2011
What would you say if I told you that when you leave here this morning you will leave with something that will put you on the road to solving all of the problems in life that you face? I'm serious- no kidding around.
In our text this morning the Apostle Paul is telling his brothers and sisters in Christ that he is praying that they would see God in a way that defies the normal. He wants them to see something of God that engages their spiritual eyes with their experience with God. He wants them not only to see God but to also know God. And in knowing God they- us as well- learn God's wisdom and understand God's revelation. I truly believe that these intuitive steps will lead you into a journey of spiritual power that you may not have realized was at your disposal.
The same holds true for us. And so this morning, in as best a form as I can share, I want us to consider the question: Am I living a life of power? To live this kind of life of power from the Holy Spirit calls for us to be clear about Paul's prayer for the Christians in and around Ephesus and that has been engaging Christians for numerous centuries; this is the same power that raised Christ from the dead is now at our disposal in order to live out Christ's life into a dark world.
POWER AT YOUR DISPOSAL:
BATMAN POWER ELECTRICITY HUMAN STRENGTH NOTHING RUNS LIKE A DEERE!
What kind of power are you dependent on? How about the Holy Spirit filling you with his power. How can this be pastor? Well, I've got good news for you today.
What was the Apostle Paul praying for? First, his prayer is that you and I would have…
The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation.
Something that we often forget is that the Holy Spirit has been at work long ago, especially in the Old Testament times. We know that the Spirit "hovered" over the waters of a formless and void earth- depicted in Genesis 1:2. We also know that the Spirit would come upon various people of the Old Testament such as Samson in order to give him special strength in a particular moment.
Isaiah 11:2 prophesies: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. (KJV)
According to the Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament there are few thoughts to be considered:
"The Spirit of Jehovah" is the Divine Spirit, as the communicative vehicle of the whole creative fulness of divine powers.
They also suggest that the Divine Spirit is composed of three characteristics: the first relates to the intellectual life, the second to the practical life, and the third to our direct relation to God. In their understanding the Hebrew word chocmâh which is translated wisdom is the power of discerning the nature of things through the appearance or what we perceive to see. And then the Hebrew word bı̄nâh which is translated understanding (or revelation) is one who possesses the power of discerning the differences of things in their appearance.
This is not a natural common sense that we might think of but rather a working of God's Spirit in our heart and mind.
Barnes May make you wise to understand the great doctrines of the religion of the Redeemer.
Here in Ephesians 1:17 Paul is expressing in his prayer that Christians everywhere reading this would know what the Holy Spirit's wisdom is for our lives. Not a common sense kind of thing or an intellectualism but a true wisdom that comes from God.
The writer of Proverbs depicts Wisdom in this manner (Proverbs 1:20-22): Wisdom calls aloud outside; she raises her voice in the open squares. She cries out in the chief concourses; at the openings of the gates of the city she speaks her words: "How long will simple ones love simplicity? For scorners delight in scorning and fools hate knowledge. Turn at my rebuke; surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words know to you." In the next several verses Wisdom responds to those who have refused the call to Wisdom as well as disdains the counsel that Wisdom offers. In verse 28 Wisdom then replies to rejection: "Then they will call on me but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently but they will not find me. [Why?] Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord… (33)But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure without fear of evil."
For us as followers of Jesus Christ we need God's Spirit of Wisdom in our everyday life. When we have his wisdom by which to live and operate our lives, something energetic happens within our spirit.
But we cannot stop with just having the wisdom or eyes of the Holy Spirit. We also need His revelation so that we can have understanding.
That is, revealing to you more and more of the character of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and of the nature and results of his work. The Holy Spirit is the Author of all wisdom, and the Revealer of all truth. Paul's prayer is that God would grant to every believer the Holy Spirit to make them wise, and to reveal his will to them. (Barnes Notes on the Bible)
This is critical to our lives as Christians.
Watchman Nee points out that so many Christians want to emphasize our personal problems and how these problems can be solved. We want answers to our personal prayers. This may be why so many Christians are so weak- they only pursue God so that he will solve their predicaments. What they want from God is having God do nothing but deliver them so that their life might be peaceful and happy. This is a self-centeredness that we must constantly battle against. (Watchman Nee The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation pp. 16-18)
Yes, we do need the Lord's help in solving our problems. Yes, we need his healing hand on our physical beings. Yes, we need him to help us figure out our money shortages and the like. However, this is getting the cart before the horse.
Even when it comes to spiritual issues we can become so self-centered in our pursuit of holiness and having victory over sin.
What Paul is pointing out is that the most important aspect of our lives is to know God himself personally. We can never reach where God wants to take us if we remain focused on what we want out of the relationship.
"Hey, I've got needs, Preacher. My kids won't behave. My fuel bill is past due. My spouse has health problems. I thought God was a loving God who would take care of me like a Father does his own children. What are you saying?"
I'm saying that when settle in your heart that you want to know Jesus first; when you are resolved to allow the Holy Spirit to give you His Spirit of wisdom and revelation; when you let Him have his way with your life and get to know God more and more, you'll discover a power for your life that you cannot believe you missed all this time.
This spirit of wisdom and revelation is so that you can know God better- not get all of your problems solved. However, I am very confident that when we know God better, our problems have a way of being dealt with in miraculous ways. (And not just in some kind virtual internet reality miraculous but a real-life happening.)
It's kind of like Neo in the movie "The Matrix." He looks at Morpheus and says, "What are you trying to tell me? That I'll be able to dodge bullets?" [I think some of you almost think I'm telling you that.] Morpheus looks at him and says, "No, Neo. I'm trying to tell you that when you're ready, you won't have to."
And if we could just get ourselves to wrap our thinking around this idea: get to know who God is. And the rest of Paul's prayer is all about what we do with this spirit of wisdom and revelation. How we allow this to take place in our lives will give us what we need to personify what God's intentions are for our lives. Regardless of who you are. Your prayers will have a power to move God in ways you never dreamed possible.
Remember it's all about putting God first and getting to know Him better. And when you do something dynamic happens that…
Opens the Eyes of Your Heart.
Some of you remember when this church was different. You remember when the platform was on the east side where the glass door entrance is now. You remember when there was a balcony and throngs of children and adults flocked to Sunday School.
Remember when the church was remodeled in the late 50's and early 60's that put preachers like me facing people like you in this manner? Remember when the church mortgage was burned? Remember when Pastor Rob Tripp hung over the north side roof to paint the eave?
Remember when we added the new entrance (now we're entering into my memories of the church)? Remember when we blacktopped the north parking lot?
The point I want to make is that so much of our memories are composed of our eyes- that which we have not only seen but experienced. We see a lot of things and are witnesses to a lot of activities in a given day but we don't always remember those things for various reasons and one of those reasons is that our experience hasn't been engaged with our eyes. But when our experiences become engaged with our eyes something within our being sees the event with internal eyes. And we don't so easily forget what we have witnessed.
The understanding is that power or faculty in the soul by which knowledge or information is received, and the recipient power is here termed the Eyes of the understanding; and we learn from this that Philo (a Jewish scholar who had some pretty Christian things to say during the rise of Christianity) once said, "What the eye is to the body, that is the mind to the soul." (Adam Clarke Commentary)
We have to resist the idea that we are dogs that are too old for new tricks or new knowledge.
Not only does Paul pray that you would receive the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened but he then proposes that each one of us can…
Know the Hope of God's Calling.
Our forefather, John Wesley, believed that this part of verse 18 was to remind us that we "may experimentally and delightfully know what are the blessings which God has called you to hope for by his word and his Spirit."
You exact hope in your life when you face a difficult circumstance and you simply believe that God will work out the problem for his glory. How do you know this? You might quote me:
Romans 5:5- "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
You may also have tucked in the back of your mind when you face all sorts of problems another verse: Romans 8:23- "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
And in those moments when you are not sure you can keep going on you remember that verse from Romans 8:28- "And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose."
We must be insistent that in our personal lives we choose to be hopeful in Christ Jesus. To know the hope we have in Christ calls for us to know him better. We cannot see what God has for us unless we know who He is and we cannot know the hope we have in our circumstances unless we know him in a very personal way.
This hope that we have in Christ Jesus moves us now to something that digs a wee bit deeper into our systems:
Experiencing the Riches of God's Inheritance.
We know from verse 11 that the saints- that's those of us who believe in and follow after Christ as Christians- that we are God's inheritance. So what does he mean here?
First, as Pastor Cooper's Pulpit Commentary informed me, this heritage includes our privileges in Christ. Consider this: if you were signed to a sports team you are issued the uniform of that team, given the game plan that this team has and you are on the team- an active participant belonging to that team. You no longer play for the enemy but you now play for God. Furthermore, all of your privileges as a player on that team come from you being a part of the team. As a Christian I now can approach God in prayer about all sorts of problems in my life. As a Christian I am given the privilege of growing more and more into the image of Christ. As a Christian I now possess the very life of Christ inside of me.
Second, the riches of this heritage includes "God's everlasting glory" bestowed upon us as Christ's followers. One day this body will be raised from "corrigible to "incorrigible." (I kind of like the ring of the old King James words on this.) In other words, this broken down body that requires care and surgeries and the like to keep going will one day be raised as a new body without the brokenness brought on by sin.
Third, this rich and glorious inheritance involves an eternal presence with God. When I die my spirit will be with God in his presence in paradise. Remember the thief on the cross? Jesus told him that "today you will be with me in paradise." I don't Jesus was lying to that man and I am certain that because of faith in him this promise holds true for every believer and follower of Christ who does so by faith.
A fourth idea I have about our riches of God's inheritance is our reward given by Christ to the faithful in Christ. "When the chief Shepherd appears you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Peter 5:4)
God's Incredible Power is for You.
Consider God's incredible power in the context of these Biblical truths for us to think about:
- Power is seen in Christ's resurrection. Jesus is risen and has ascended to heaven. This takes a power that goes beyond human ability.
- Power which raises us to new life in Christ. The new life we have by faith in Jesus Christ is because of the same kind of power that raised Christ from the dead. That power now raises you and me from being dead in our sins and transgressions. No human power can do this.
- Power that places us with Christ. We are now seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. (2:6) No human power could do this either.
- Power which works in us. We cannot do the things of holy living without God's incredible power working in and through us. No human power can live the kind of holy and blameless life that God is looking for. This comes only through Jesus Christ. This why the righteous will live by faith.
- Power that will one day resurrect these corruptible bodies. That second resurrection will be an incredible moment in human history. No power on earth can take the dead bones- dried out and dusty- and resurrect them into an incorruptible and perfect body like God's incredible power will do in the end of time. (I would love to preach more on this but I need to wait.)
The resurrection of the dead is a stupendous work of God; it requires his might in sovereign action: an action of power.
Every believer needs to realize the kind of power that changes your life.
God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and defeated sin and death in the process. This took incredible power. This is the power that changes your confessing heart from a sinner into a saint. And when this happens… well, I'll wait until next week before I talk about this part.
Christ in the heavenly realms:
Do we really know who we are claiming to be our Lord and Savior? Take a look at the last four verses:
Jesus is seated with God in the heavenly realms, "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also the one to come."
Have we figured out who we are messing with here and saying that we are Jesus' disciples? I wonder if sometimes we just throw around the very idea of Jesus and being a Christian without really considering who this man is and what he's all about.
"and God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."
Just when I think I've got it all figured out as the leader of this ship I begin to realize that this ship- this Church- belongs to Jesus Christ.
There is so much being said out there in the world about our bodies. Do you want the government telling you whether you can have a certain operation or not? Dude, it's my body, I'll do what I want.
How about Jesus? This is his body and we must allow him the leadership and shepherding of this ministry. We are only the stewards of what he has blessed us with.
Ephesians 3:20-21 20 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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.
Now go and live a life of Holy Spirit power by getting to know who God is in a very personal and real way. "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33