Let’s go to the Letter to the Ephesians, you know, that we’re studying this letter as we go and I’ve been out of the scene for about three weeks, three Saturdays.
I know Stephen covered two of those Saturdays, and what was the last passage that you covered on? What was the…. One, fourteen or so? That’s what I thought. I wasn’t sure if you’d gone any further than that, but in any case, I decided, this is such a good passage, I’ve loved this passage for so many years, beginning actually on verse 15, that I thought ‘well, if he’s preached on it, probably I didn’t get to hear what you had preached so we’ll probably, either reinforce some really good things or I’ll preach on something very different and then, you’ll get a different perspective.
So, verse 15, Ephesians chapter 1, verse 15, and it says here, and again this is the Apostle Paul speaking. He has been going over all of this discussion about what God has been doing in eternity, how he’s been…he’s chosen the church, he’s elected us to be part of the Kingdom of God. He has downloaded into our lives and into the church all the blessings of heaven. We have received this wonderful inheritance. We have received wisdom and grace and understanding. We have been made participants in the mystery of what God has been holding back on for centuries and centuries, about the fact that Jesus Christ has been called to be a blessing, not just to Jews but also to gentiles and that he has been chosen by God to be sort of the unifying element of all creation.
He is the one who brings everything together, every theme of humanity, every conflictive aspect of the universe, all the things that were put into conflict as a result of the fall and of the sinfulness of man, and all the rending of creation that took place as a result of that first sin, Jesus Christ has been designated as the unifying element to bring together male and female, Jew and Greek, and gentile and Jew, and all the different things that have been….. man within himself to be reconciled as well. And all the powers wherever they might be to be forced, if they are rebellious to acknowledge that Jesus Christ was the Lord, all these different things, Jesus has been designated, and in the end of times in that what the Apostle Paul calls the fullness of time, Jesus has been determined to finally be acknowledged.
Right now in the mind of God, and God has declared him to be so, and the church here is working toward that realization. But, one day it will no longer be something that is just in the mind of God or the some that we are working toward, but it will be a reality and so all things will be united in him.
And so we spoke about, also, and I’m sure Steve touched that, about the inheritance that we have received, that zeal that has been placed on us and that deposit which is the Holy Spirit of God, that has been given to us as a foretaste, as a beginning sense of all the great things that God has for us.
So, all of this stuff is verses 1 through 14, and so then in verse 15, Paul says: “….for this reason, in the light of all of these different things that, you know, have been taking place in that heavenly, that spiritual realm, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”
Now, this is one little sort of erudite scholarly detail here. This is why some commentators of Ephesians think that the Apostle Paul didn’t write this epistle, which I don’t agree with at all. I think it’s very much in the style of Paul and reveals his way of thinking and all kinds of other things.
But here it says, “since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love….”
Some people say, ‘well, he had heard about it and supposedly Paul had spent time, he had founded the church in Ephesus and had spent, I think, a couple of years in Ephesus, so some say, among other things, ‘well, why would he be saying since I heard? Well, it could have been, you know, you plant a church, you leave, you stay in touch with it. People come, give you reports and as a pastor who founded that church, you’re delighted to hear, ‘hey, the church is doing great. It’s growing, people are full of the spirit, they love each other, you know, just…..’ and you delight in the fact that there is progress in that place that God used you to found.
So I think that this is the way that he is using that expression ‘since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus’, in other words the strength of your faith, the power of your faith.
And you know, I’m impacted with this idea of “….your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints”. This combination here that Paul always uses, I mean, he acknowledges number one: faith in the Lord Jesus, but then he brings it down to kind of the ethical realm, the realm of behavior, the realm of relationships, and your love for all the saints. It’s so important that as believers we combine these two things.
How many of you know people who are very spiritual, they love the Lord, they have passion, they are in touch with the spirit. I mean, they would give their lives for the kingdom, God speaks to them, they move in the supernatural realm, they have communion with the Holy Spirit, but somehow in the relational aspect of things they’re not as, sort of, proficient, if you will. You know, I have met many prophetic people, many highly anointed individuals, and it’s almost like an inverse relationship, the more anointing sometime, the more neurosis there is. That’s really unfortunate. You know, I think as believers we are called to take the anointing of God and turn it into the spirit of Jesus Christ.
You know, there’s always this balance that I think we need to have between anointing and relationship. Between, what the Bible speaks of as power of the Holy Spirit, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and what?, and the fruit of the spirit; which really if you look at all attributes of the fruit of the spirit, it speaks about relationships, love, the tolerance, the benevolence, the kindness, all these different attributes, because really they have no meaning except in relationship.
And I think sometimes it’s very easy to become so enamored and so focused on the gifts and churches can tend to do that as well. Many charismatic churches, and of course I identify myself with the charismatic movement and with all the gifts and the passion for all the supernatural outlook, but I see many times in all honesty that many times even as we see that passion and that commitment to the supernatural moving of the Holy Spirit, there’s a lot of deficiency in understanding human nature, in relationships, so much conflict at times, so much breakups, so much beginning and all of a sudden stopping and beginning again, and that kind of stuff because there’s not a balanced outlook.
And I like when the Apostle Paul you know, in passing and he does that all the time. You’ll see that time and time again and even in the letter to the Ephesians, as we have said, in chapters 4 on, it’s about relationships. Even as chapters 1, 2, 3 are more about the spiritual revelation, and about the mysteries of the Christian walk.
But here, “ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints….”. I pray to the Lord for a balanced community, even as we began here, as we were beginning this church. You know, I’ve been declaring this and you know this, time and time again. We want a congregation, we want a community of people that can really move well in both realms: a church that is characterized by love for the Holy Spirit, openness to the Holy Spirit, the gifts in full manifestation, worship, all the things that characterize a spiritual church, but also a church that relates well to each other, that has good ethical relationships, and has transparency, sincerity, love for each other, supporting each other. I think that’s what makes for a strong church and that’s what makes also for a strong human being, for a strong Christian.
Let us always place an equal emphasis on both; the anointing, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, but then using that dynamite, that energy, that fuel to turn it into beautiful relationships, healing for our emotions. Because you know that’s the problem many times in our relationships is emotions that are not healed; wounds that have not been addressed; attitudes that have not been acknowledged; things hat have not been yielded to the Lord. And so that’s where all the lack of love, the conflict comes in.
So let’s praise to the Lord that we’ll be balanced human beings, balanced believers, always seeking the character of Christ and the power of Christ. Without the other, the other one is totally distorted. And Paul made allusion to that in First Corinthians 13 when he spoke about having all the gifts, all the power, all the anointing. If you don’t have love, forget it, you’re not going anywhere. God is only touched by that quality. He is not impressed by your gifts. I mean, he has so much more than you anyway, so are you going to impress by any display of power? No, he’s touched by agape, by that quality that characterized Jesus Christ.
So, as he hears of the faith in the Lord Jesus and the love for all the saints in that community, he has not stopped giving thanks for them. You know, he has been touched and I think that’s the way God reacts also. When he sees his people in that kind of attitude, he delights in them and his heart is made glad.
So, he hasn’t stopped giving thanks for them and remembers them in his prayers. By the way, just as verses 1 through 14 in the original Greek are once sentence, which is by the way one of the things that convinces me of Paul’s authorship. Paul loved to write like that, really long sentences with dependent clauses and sub dependent clauses. You know, his mind’s just one stream, holding things and just a cascade of thoughts.
So, in the original Greek verses 1 through 14 in chapter 1, are just one big sentence. And verses 15 through 23 are also one sentence. Now, the NIV which is the one that I’m reading from and maybe many of you are using, breaks it down , for clarity’s sake. And I think sometimes what is lost in that kind of translation is that sense of the integral unity of the thinking, all these different pieces are one unit in the spirit’s mind and they’re inter related, they emanate one from the other. It’s very hard to separate one from the other. God has made them as one piece and so out of one feeling of God comes out another thing, and out of one attitude or one outlook that we’re supposed to embody and incorporate into our lives, also another one.
So, let’s not loose that sense of organic unity in all these differences that we’re going to be mentioning here. So he says, you know, “….as I see your progress in the kingdom, as I see the balanced nature of your spirituality, I am moved to give thanks for you and to remember in my prayers, and those prayers include the following things”.
“….I keep asking, verse 17, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father…..” and when I hear that kind of terminology from Paul, I know that something big is coming. What he’s doing, you know, he’s sort of dressing up. He wants to provide a sublime context, something serious, something magnificent, something very significant is going up. You know, his spirit all of a sudden starts rising in terms of the seriousness, the magnitude of what he’s about to reveal.
So, “…..he keeps asking the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, what? …. may give you the following things….”. So in his prayer, whatever is going to happen is going to be very important, remember that this is an extension of us, this wasn’t just written for…. You know, we’re not sort of being on lookers, watching you know, Paul pray for the Ephesians. The Holy Spirit left this for us to include ourselves in that process.
What he prays, what the Holy Spirit is praying for the Ephesians is being prayed for us as well. This is the wish of God, the desire of God for each other of us as well. And if it is a desire of God then you can be sure that you can get it. I mean, can you say amen to that? Can you receive that? I mean, there’s no ‘oh, I wish I had that….. my God, if I could really make a big effort, whatever…. No, this is what God wants for you and for me.
So, he keeps asking, which is interesting by the way, what Bethany was saying about insistence, keep praying, you know, don’t…. don’t…. these things are God’s intention. So, he keeps asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ would give us, you, the Ephesians, first of all the spirit of wisdom and revelation. Wisdom and revelation.
You know, it’s very easy to look at these two words and to kind of think, well, it’s just parallel thinking, they’re the same thing and let’s not dwell too much on that. But you see that Paul often, when he chooses his words, of course, the Holy Spirit chooses his words very carefully, just as before in verse 8 he says that God has lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And we spoke about these two words that had so much importance: wisdom and understanding.
So, here this pair of words also has, they’re kind of work off of each other and they nuance each other. The spirit of wisdom and revelation. Wisdom we know, sofia is that deeper knowledge of God, the knowledge of the deeper things of God, all those things that you know, that have been being revealed to us in Paul’s writing; and of revelation. Apocalupsus, where the word apocalypse comes from, of that unveiling, that insight into something that has been hidden.
And I think that what Paul is doing, I mean, he is putting whatever that spirit is in other words, it is an insight into the deeper things, into the hidden things of God, into the supernatural.
You know, we have to ask the Lord, ‘Father, give us understanding of the supernatural realm’. So many Christians we just dwell, the realm of time and space, you know, lots of good theology, lots of reading good books on leadership and on character building. That’s all great! But, you know, I think that the favored dwelling place for a spirit-filled believer should be that realm of the spirit of God, the spirit of revelation. We need to ask the Lord for understanding. You know, it’s that spirit that characterized the prophets that we see in the Old Testament: Elijah telling the king where the Syrians were going to be planting their next trap. That prophet that we saw last Sunday coming to king Acab and saying “Prepare yourself because next year that king of Syria is going to come back at you again’. And before that giving him strategy as to how to go about doing things.
I think that in this time the moving of the spirit of God in a different way, the church of Jesus Christ needs to be asking the Lord ‘Father, gives us a prophetic spirit, give us understanding, give us an ability to dwell in the spirit realm, give us….
We must have a hunger for a revelation. We must have a hunger for dreams, for visions, for words of the spirit. I mean, when you have that hunger in you and you know that God wants you to have that, things begin to happen. You have to ask the Holy Spirit. You have to desire. The Bible says desire the gift, desire the better gifts. You know, if you don’t have that hunger, if you don’t ask for you will not receive it, but if you know that God wants it, you’re going to go and pray and intercede because you know that you’re going to be flowing in God’s intended will for your life.
So, you know, he says ‘I’m asking that the God of Jesus Christ give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation’. I pray for that spirit every day in my life, more and more. Father, let me dwell, let me have insight into that deeper level.
Give you a little illustration of that. I was able to, with Meche just recently to go to Cancun and do a little bit of snorkeling, and you know, I’m always impacted
But you know, you put on that mask and you, all of a sudden, hit below the surface of the water and a whole world opens before you: beautiful fish, all kinds of formations deep in the water. I mean things that are not available to you when you are dwelling on the surface, all of a sudden, as you put your eyes under the surface, that whole world opens up and all of a sudden you see a hidden dimension that was there. I think that’s the kind of thing that we need to ask the Holy Spirit, ability to dwell in the under side of reality.
But you know, this is not a gratuitous thing, it’s not something to have and display and say ‘hey, look how cool I am, look how realized I am spiritually.’ There’s a reason, there’s a purpose, so that you may know him better. Guau! That is really the ultimate reason why we need to desire the gifts: to know God, to know Jesus Christ better.
If I know the character of God, if I know the spirit of God, if I know the way God moves, if I know the things that God loves, the things that he hates, if I know his modus operandi, then I can move in sync with him, I can flow in life with him, I can love him more, I can please him more. It is so important, people that we have hunger for knowledge of God. If we have the knowledge of God then we have everything. That is what we need to know, we need to know God. I mean, all the other things are great: theology is great, all the other goodies of the …. The Christian walk is wonderful, but I want to know my Father. This is why we need to read the word.
The Bible reveals God’s heart. Just like you know an author, I mean, how do I know what Shakespeare’s personality was like? Well, I read his works. I never knew him, I never had the privilege of knowing him, but you know an author through the themes, through …. how he touches things, how he sees the world. Well, we know God’s heart and God’s personality through his word.
If you want to know the Lord, no better way than to just delve deep into the word of God and as you read different stories, different texts, you begin to get a sense of who he is.
“… that the spirit of God may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation that you know him better, and I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…..”, and again you know, in the NIV there’s like a new sentence. I pray also, but no, it really is …..
…. May give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you know him better and that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know three things: the hope, the riches and the power.
Again, the eyes of your heart, there’s another alternative version that says, the eyes of your mind, either one, there are some Greek texts that say mind, others that say heart. In any case the Apostle Paul again is saying, stay in the realm, stay in the spiritual realm with me. Stay in the spiritual realm.
You know, there’s something….. these three things hope, power and riches, all pertain to that beautiful inheritance that God has promised us and I ….. times to really go into that but let me just…. I mean, you know, that ….
When you come into the Kingdom of God, when you become a Christian, I mean, you receive such a package of promises, of potentiality, of possibility, of richness of life, and this is unfortunate that so many believers, we dwell in the Christian life and we have not become possessed by this understanding that when we step into the realm of Jesus Christ all the power of Satan, his inevitable control of our lives and of sin, all of that is taken away judicially, and then we are ushered into a realm of extreme wealth, richness and possibility.
I think that this is what Jesus said when he spoke about ‘I have come that you might have life and that you may have it more abundantly’. People, it all begins here in the mind. It all begins in the outlook. It all begins in the spirit, what you expect, what you believe, what you think you have a right to is what you will receive. Most Christians have come into the kingdom and they think, ‘oh, so I’ll go to church and I’ll be given enough grace to suffer until the Lord takes me home’. That is such a poor, poor way of looking at what you have received.
I mean, you have received an incredible promise. You have been brought into the fullness of the Kingdom of God. I mean, you are walking potentiality. Yes, there will be struggles. Yes, there will be battles. Yes, there will be moments of extreme suffering and all of those things, but, man, the normative, the what would you call it, the typical dimension of your life is one of availability, of prosperity, of abundance, of access to the power of God, to the resources of the Kingdom of God. Isn’t this the same Paul that said that God has blessed with all blessings in the heavenly realms?
So, you know, I just have to continue next Saturday. But, what the Apostle Paul is saying for us, for any of us to be really able to understand what God has given us, it requires wisdom, it requires divine skill, a divine gifting.
We cannot understand really what God has given us just with our mind, with our brain, with our normal resources. It requires that God endow us with the spirit of wisdom and revelation for us to be really able to understand what it is that we have access to, because if not we’re going to miss it and we’re going to be just eking our existence, taking a little tea spoon when God wants us to take a big bowl and just kind of slather things all over ourselves and just enjoy and rejoice and swim in all the blessings that he has given us.
So, Paul says, you know, what you have received is so great that I am praying that God will bring a spirit of revelation and wisdom into you so that you might be able to understand all that he has endowed you with, the huge inheritance that you have been given.
Imagine a poor boy who has lived 14, 13 years, you know, being abused and begging, and dirty and not knowing where the next plate of food is going to come from and somebody comes and says ‘you know what, you are really a prince, you were stolen from your king father when you were a baby and we’ve been looking for you for the past 13, 14 years and now we have found you and you have billions of dollars at your disposal and we’re just waiting to take you right back to the king to take over.’ Imagine, this guy is going to think, you know, ‘impossible!’. He has been living so often, so long in poverty and in absolute need that it’s going to take huge education, it’s going to take huge reprogramming for him to be able to have access and to enjoy, and to dispose or to move….. yes, Sharon you can begin if you like it, just for a moment.
It’s going to take a transformation, it’s going to take years of indoctrination and of teaching and reprogramming until he can start moving like a king, speaking like a king, expecting like a king, enjoying. The first few week he’s going to be you know, just a couple of spoons of cornflakes, that’s too much. You know, and it is like that.
I think when we come into the kingdom we need to say ‘Father, now teach me to increase and amplify the proportions that I use in everything. Teach me to expect big things. Teach me to move with huge confidence. Teach me to move with the confidence of a prince who can have access to you.
I really believe that that’s the problem with so many of us, our mind is still small. We cannot believe that God can be so good that you know, he can. I was speaking to some young Dominican girls who’re just coming to the church, they’ve just arrived from Dominican Republic. They come from a poor family in the Dominican Republic. And they’re in high school and I was telling them ‘hey, you can do whatever you want because you are believers, you have the power of Jesus Christ in your life. You can go to college. Don’t worry about the fact that you don’t have any money, your Father has all the money in the world, in the universe. As a matter of fact he has the atoms that make up gold and silver.’
It’s just that you need to believe and then you need to work hard, you need to invest, you need to stay close to the father and to the principles of the kingdom, you need to expect great things. You need to be ambitious and believe that….. yes, don’t … you know, if you en up going into a community college, that’s great. That’s wonderful. But why not Harvard? Why not Yale or Princeton or whatever? You know, expect great things, expect great things from the father and then work, work a lot. But work in the knowledge that your work is going to be blessed. There’s no way that you can fail.
You see, when I work, when I undertake something I expect that it’s going to cost me, I’m going to have to work my behind because it’s going to be hard. Yes, I know that. Because God wants to form a warrior, just like he wants to form a warrior in you. God has never given me anything easily. I mean, just say, like here, have it. He’s always made me sweat for everything that I’ve got, but I know that it’s from him. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s come from him. And many times he’s been so generous that I couldn’t believe ‘no, God…. it’s impossible, he cannot be like that’.
It’s like David when God told him ‘you know, I have decided to make your lineage permanent, forever. I’m going to bless and your line go all the way to eternity and it’s your son. Your son is going to build me a house’, and David said ‘is that the way God deals with people?’. He couldn’t believe it, he was humbled. He was absolutely floored by the magnitude of God’s gift in intention for his life.
And I think we experience that many times. When I see sometimes God’s details in my life, I mean, down to a pastel colored polo shirt that I had been asking and finding it or somebody giving it to me, and I say ‘Father, is that how minute you are in your care for me’.
Also when he spanks me, when he disciplines me, or when he shuts off something that I wanted and I know it was he who shut it off. I experience a sense of delight in my spirit because when I know that it is he who took it away, I have no doubt that it was for good. And then I’m overcome by a sense of gratitude. ‘Father, thank you for the …. You know, you don’t have to spend your glorious, incredible power and diluted into this little laser point of my life and invest your energy. Why? I mean, why did you have to do that?
But that’s the God that we have, people. And I want you tonight to be filled with that sense of having been chosen by a loving father who has control of your life, who has good things for you. As he says in that beautiful passage in Jeremiah, chapter 29 “…for I know the thoughts that I have for you”, thoughts of good and not of evil to give you good end and hope and the life that you desire.
You know, that is the heart of God. You have to believe that though. You have to believe that. If you don’t believe, if you think you’re out there, you know, sort of flowing to see if something hits you, that’s not the way. No, I mean, you have to cultivate. And I’m going to talk about….. I will talk about those three things, about the hope, about the riches and about the power. But, you know, you have to be specific. You have to live. You have to cultivate that sense of entitlement in the best sense of the word.
Entitlement not because of anything good in you, but because of Jesus Christ in you. He has made you deserving of all the beauty of God. God has good things for you, for your marriage, for your children. Don’t be afraid. Is he going to be a nice guy or a criminal? You know, if God is giving him to you, it’s because he has good things. Expect that, move in that, don’t expect the terrible twos, don’t expect the terrible 13, 14. expect beauty. Expect great things. Expect good old age. Expect a prosperous profession. You know, expect life, expect goodness in your life.
Cultivate that. Cultivate that. God has been giving that to you. So I pray tonight that God will give a spirit of wisdom and of revelation. Give me a spirit of wisdom and of revelation, so that I can believe that that’s for me, that the Jesus who came to give me abundant life, if I believe and if I open my heart right now, that abundant life is going to come into my life.
Yes, Lord we receive it. Why don’t you stand for a moment. Just welcome that. Welcome, pray that the eyes of your mind will be opened. And I don’t know if we can change, we can sing that song ‘Open the eyes of my heart’, Lord.
You know, let’s us ‘Lord, open the eyes of my heart, open the eyes of my mind because I want to see you in your good intentions for me. I want to see you in what you have promised me. I want to see you in your magnificent good will for my life. Take away the negativity. Take away the pessimism. Take away the bad memories of life that didn’t go very well, of that traumatic situation that killed my dreams and made me fearful and timid and now I’m not sure that God has anything good for me.
Take away the remembrance of that failure that now makes me think that I’m not worthy anymore. God has nothing for me. And open the eyes of my mind. Open the eyes of my heart. Open the eyes of my spirit. Lord, that I may just open my mouth and receive, and live life in the expectation of all the good things that you have for me. Amen. Amen. Amen. Yes, lord we receive that right now.