If you’ve been around Britton Christian Church any time you have heard us sing a song called, “Open The Eyes of My Heart, Lord.” It is a powerful song. It’s a catchy song. More than powerful or catchy, it is a plea for God to do within us what we can’t do ourselves. We are blind to the things of God. If our eyes are ever going to be opened to the wonders of God, the glory of God, the truth of God, then God is going to have to open them. God’s Word is very clear that our understanding is “darkened,” we are blind to the things of God. Later in our study of Ephesians we will see where Paul urged the folks in Ephesus to no longer live like the Gentiles, the unbelievers. Paul wrote, in Ephesians 4:17-18.
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. (Ephesians 4:17-18 NIV)
When Paul says, “Gentiles,” he is referring to unbelievers. He says that their thinking is “futile,” it is empty. He says they are “darkened in their understanding” and “separated from the life of God.” He says they are filled with ignorance because their “hearts are hardened,” hardened to the things of God. This is the natural state of every single person who is walking on the planet today. At the same time, this is a reality that is denied by most every person on the planet today. We are smart folks and getting smarter all the time. We are reasonable people, able to gather information and then make informed decisions. I wouldn’t deny any of that, God has given us an incredible ability to think, an insatiable curiosity which leads us to learn, but when it comes to the things of God our abilities have been marred, tainted, and scarred as a result of sin. Martyn Lloyd-Jones shares a great illustration in his commentary that hopefully will help you better understand what I am talking about. Dr. Jones writes,
There are certain people who have become blind, who cannot even see light. Their trouble is not that they have lost an eye; they still have the organ. The trouble may be that there is something wrong with the lens of their eye. But that does not mean that the lens has disappeared, but that a film has developed over it, an opacity which is called a cataract. The lens is there as it was when they could see quite normally, but because this opacity has developed they cannot see. The eye has become ‘darkened,’ a veil has come over it, so that it can no longer receive the light that is coming from the outside. The state of man’s mind by nature and ‘in sin’ is comparable to the defective eye. The blind person does not need a new eye; what he needs is that the opacity, the veil, the mist that has developed in his lens should be removed. The moment that occurs he will be able to appreciate the light and see things as he did before. Now that is the condition of man in sin; he has a natural understanding, he has the faculty, the ability, but he cannot use it in spiritual matters. It is blinded, it is darkened, this veil has come upon it, the shutter has fallen; and though the glorious light of God’s revelation is there shining before him in the Scriptures, and indeed even in nature, he cannot see it. Therefore it is necessary that this ‘eye of our understanding’ should be enlightened, that the opacity, the veil, should be taken away in order that the spiritual eye may be able to function as it did in man’s original creation. (Lloyd-Jones, Martin. God’s Ultimate Purpose: Ephesians 1. pg. 365-366)
This is our great need—that God would pull back the veil and give us understanding, His understanding. Without God opening the eyes of our hearts we have no ability to see His truth and know His will. It is my prayer that this morning the Lord will open the eyes of our hearts, that He will give us spiritual understanding about these important matters that we are studying, and that He will empower us by His power to live in the fullness of these truths. Let’s read our Scripture for this morning.
17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:17-23 NIV)
In studying this section of Scripture for the past few weeks I have come to realize that God’s power, the power that Paul wrote about in his letter to the folks in Ephesus, the very power that raised Jesus from the dead, seated Him at His right hand, and gave Him all authority over all things in heaven and earth, this is the power that is available to you and me. That is what Paul says. He writes,
18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18 NIV)
It is not a power that is available to the powerful. It is not a power that is available to the intelligent. It is not a power that is available to the wealthy or famous. It is a power that is available “for us who believe.” What kind of power is it that is available to us who believe? It is an “incomparably great power!”
I must tell you that this incomparably great power of God that is available for us who believe is not being experienced by the vast majority of Christians today. That is my opinion, but all you have to do is listen to most of the followers of Jesus today to find out that there is a lot of truth in my opinion. We spend more time talking about what we lack, rather than being amazed by what we have been given. We look at other Christians, those that we admire, as being some kind of “special” children of God who possess something that is reserved only for a select few, rather than realizing that God has “blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3 NIV) I hear some of Jesus’ followers talk about others as if they are wise sages who have been given a godly wisdom that is off limits to the general population of Jesus’ followers, and yet I read in James 1:5,
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5 NIV)
I hear whispers coming from the pews that God may love some of His followers more than He loves others of us, and yet I read in 1 John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1 NIV) Are you a child of God? Then God has lavished His love on you—you are His child. Like Abraham was His child—you are His child. Like Moses was His child—you are His child. Like Deborah was His child—you are His child. Like the Apostle Paul was His child—you are His child. If Jesus lives in your heart, if He is your Savior, then you are a child of God who has been lavished with His love. God does not play favorites. From time to time I’ve heard people say things like, “She was her daddy’s favorite.” God is not like that my friends. Moses told the Children of Israel,
17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. (Deuteronomy 10:17 NIV)
God has blessed us, all of His followers, with every spiritual blessing. He has lavished His love upon us. He is willing and waiting to give us wisdom that He possesses, but which we lack, if we will only ask. John MacArthur writes,
Yet today many Christians spend a great deal of time and effort vainly looking for blessings already available to them. They pray for God’s light, although He has already supplied light in abundance through His Word. Their need is to follow the light they already have. They pray for strength, although His Word tells them they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them (Phil 4:13). They pray for more love, although Paul says that God’s own love is already poured out within their hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). They pray for more grace, although the Lord says the grace He has already given is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9). They pray for peace, although the Lord has given them His own peace, ‘which surpasses all comprehension’ (Phil. 4:7). It is expected that we pray for such blessings if the tone of the prayer is one of seeking the grace to appropriate what is already given, rather than one of pleading for something we think is scarcely available or is reluctantly shared by God. (MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians. pg. 43)
For those who believe, for those who follow Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives, all of this and more is available for you and me. Paul is asking the Lord to enlighten the eyes of the hearts of the people in Ephesus about three specific things. I want us to spend the time we have left looking at these requests of Paul because we need to have our eyes opened to them as well.
The Hope of His Calling
First of all, Paul prays in verse 18, that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…” The “call” of God can sometimes be a very hard thing to get our arms around can’t it? I’ve been uncertain at different times in my life as to whether God was calling me to do “this” or “that?” Can you relate? People say that God called them to leave one place and go to another. That was certainly true for Abraham. God called him from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. (Genesis 11) I’ve heard others say, “I’m praying about whether God has called me to get involved with BritVil, the King’s Klinic, the Children’s Ministry, or the Choir.” Sometimes it is difficult to determine just what God is calling us to do.
At the same time there are some things that God has called us to that are very, very clear. Paul has already touched on some of these in the opening chapter of Ephesians. In Ephesians 1:4, we read that God chose us “to be holy and blameless in his sight.” In Ephesians 1:5, we read that God has called us “to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” In Ephesians 1:12, we read that we have been called “for the praise of his glory.” Did you notice that God’s call is God’s work in and through our lives? It is only by His grace that we are “holy and blameless.” It is only by His grace that we have been adopted as His children. It is only by His grace that we are “for the praise of his glory.”
Paul wants our eyes to be opened so that we may know the hope to which we have been called. Our “hope” is not the hope that the people of this world hold onto in life. We don’t cross our fingers and throw a penny in the Wishing Well hoping that things will work-out. We don’t fret and worry as we wonder and hope if we will get the promotion that we want. We don’t perform religious rituals and work at being “better” in hope that God will find favor with us and bless us. We have a much greater hope, our hope is certain and sure because it is based on God’s eternal promises to you and me. God’s calling upon your life and my life is His work in us. We know that God is at work. We know that God has a plan. We know that we are part of His plan. We know that He is working out His plan in our lives as well as in all of history. Paul told the people in Philippi,
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NIV)
Not only do we know that God is at work in our lives as individuals and in the world, but we know that He who began His work is faithful to complete it. What a glorious reality that is for those whose eyes have been opened! This is a life-changing reality. John MacArthur says,
Until we comprehend who we truly are in Jesus Christ, it is impossible to live an obedient and fulfilling life. Only when we know who we really are can we live like who we are. Only when we come to understand how our lives are anchored in eternity can we have the right perspective and motivation for living in time. Only when we come to understand our heavenly citizenship can we live obedient and productive lives as godly citizens on earth. (MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians. pg. 46.)
The Riches of His Glorious Inheritance
Let’s move on and take a look at Paul’s request once again. The second part of his request was so that they may know “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” This phrase has been interpreted in two different ways. It can either be taken as God’s inheritance of us or our inheritance of what He has given us in Christ. I think there is much for us to learn from taking both of these interpretations seriously. First of all, there is no doubt that in the Hebrew Bible, God’s people were His inheritance. Look at Deuteronomy 4:20 with me. Moses says,
20 But as for you, the LORD took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are. (Deuteronomy 4:20 NIV)
In 1 Kings 8:50-51, after Solomon had completed the temple and had all of the people gathered around, he prayed. In Solomon’s prayer we read,
50 And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their conquerors to show them mercy; 51 for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace. (1 Kings 8:50-51 NIV)
It is pretty startling to think that God sees us as His inheritance isn’t it? Almost sounds arrogant of us to think that doesn’t it? Yet, it is God who calls His people His inheritance. The Bible teaches that those who have trusted in Jesus Christ are God’s chosen people, they have been claimed by God as His portion, they are His inheritance. We are God’s treasured possession; we are the apple of His eye. You want to boost your self-esteem? Try meditating on those truths for the next week or so.
There are others who say that this phrase means that Paul is referring to our inheritance in Christ. Paul wrote to the church in Colosse and told them that God has qualified them to share in the inheritance of the saints. Let me read to you from Colossians 1:12.
12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:12 NIV)
It is so important for you and me to keep in mind that we have a glorious inheritance in Christ. We are reaping the benefits of our inheritance in some ways even now. We are children of God. We enjoy the benefits of our salvation, the security that comes to those who are His, but we cannot even begin to imagine the fullness of what is ours in Christ until that day when we are able to stand before the Father. In Romans 8:17-18, Paul writes,
17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:17-18 NIV)
There is a little boy named Colton Burpo who almost lost his life back in 2003 when his appendix burst. Colton was just four years old at the time. His folks prayed like crazy for him to live, but they could have never imagined what was going on while Colton was laying on the operating table.
Once Colton recovered from his surgery he began to tell his folks stories about when he went to heaven. He described God, he told about meeting his sister, who Colton’s mother had miscarried, and he told his dad that he met, “Pop,” his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was ever born. Colton also met Jesus and described Him in detail. It is an amazing story, a story that is the book, “Heaven Is For Real,” but let me tell you, as amazing as Colton’s experience was it doesn’t even begin to describe all that is waiting for Jesus’ followers when we receive our full inheritance as children of God. Paul told the people in Corinth,
9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”–(1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV)
His Incomparable Power to Us Who Believe
Let’s take a look at the third and final aspect of Paul’s request. Paul prays that the eyes of their hearts might be enlightened so they might know “his incomparably great power for us who believe.” What kind of power is that God possesses? Well, Paul describes it for us in verses 19-23. Let me list what His power has accomplished for us.
• It was God’s power that raised Jesus from the dead.
• It was God’s power that seated Jesus at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.
• It was God’s power that makes Jesus far superior to every “rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”
• It was God’s power that placed all things under Jesus’ feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.
Oh, my friend His power is more than enough, more than enough for you and me. His power is able to accomplish in us what we could never accomplish on our own. What is it you lack? I hope you will answer that question differently now than you would have before we began this study. In 2 Peter 1:3 we read,
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)
God has given us everything we need for life and for walking in His will for our lives. We don’t lack one thing. You and I are not second class Christians, we are His children, filled with His grace, empowered by His divine power, and secure in His promises. It is so important that you and I remember, always remember, that this life is not to be lived in our power. In Philippians 2:13, Paul reminded the people in Philippi,
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13 NIV)
God is working in us. God is working in us with purpose. In Ephesians 2, Paul told the people that God was using them to show the incomparable riches of His grace to the world. God’s desire is to work in us, through us, to show His glory and grace, but the truth is that far too many of His followers just don’t understand. We think that we need Jesus to go to heaven, but Jesus wants us for more than heaven—He wants to use us to storm the gates of hell, to bring release to the captives, to restore the sight of those who have blinded by the temptations of this world. For this to happen we need to have our eyes opened. Let me close with another prayer of Paul.
17 … And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV)
It is my prayer that this morning the Lord will open your eyes to your need for Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life. It is my prayer that the Lord will open your eyes to His infinite love for you. His love is a love that will never let you down, never abandon you, and will carry you through this life. Our greatest need is met in Him. Won’t you invite Him into your heart this morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
December 4, 2011