Open the Eyes of Your Heart – June 14, 2020 Sermon

Open the Eyes of Your Heart – June 14, 2020
Ephesians 1:15-23
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 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. I pray 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 his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 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.

Who can tell me what the tagline of Flora First Christian Church is? (Come and See. Go and Tell.) Exactly…Come and See – Go and Tell!

It has been said that Paul, in verse 15, is stating “the characteristics of a true church.”1 Paul is celebrating the great job the church at Ephesus has been doing. And in his praise for their efforts he names these two characteristics. First, he says that they have faith in the Lord. The church at Ephesus was loyal to Christ and their tremendous faith has been reported to Paul. Second, they have love for all God’s people. Their love for their neighbors has exceeded expectations.

Paul was in prison at the time that he wrote this letter. Yet, even in prison, Paul was receiving word of the great works that those in Ephesus were doing. Now we know how word travels around Flora, but for the word to travel from Ephesus to Paul in Rome was pretty impressive considering it was more than 5000 miles apart and Facebook had not yet been invented.

When he got the news, Paul was proud of them. It was like a father receiving a good report on his children…a report that says they not only behaved while the father was away on business, but they had been going the extra mile to care for others as well. Paul was a proud Papa and was sure to tell the Ephesians how well they had been doing.

This morning, I stand before you and say that I give thanks for you all. The reputation of Flora First Christian Church goes before it and you all are well-known for fulfilling the tagline that was previously adopted…Come and See – Go and Tell. You do just as those who were part of the church at Ephesus did. You have a great faith in the Lord, and you love your neighbors.

But Paul doesn’t stop at giving accolades to the Church in Ephesus. He continues by telling the Ephesians that he wants more for them. His prayer is that they will grow in wisdom and revelation. Paul prayed for the believers to know God better.

This has always been and continues to be my prayer for this congregation. We should never stop growing in our relationship with God. We will never learn everything there is to know on this side of Calvary. Only God is omniscient. Only God knows everything. If we ever reach the point that we feel like we “have arrived,” then we need to hit our knees, ask for forgiveness, and recalculate.

But how do we grow in wisdom and revelation? We do so by learning more about God. We study the history of Christianity, the history of the church, the history of this congregation, and the history of Christ’s life on this earth. This will give us surface level knowledge. This will help us to know a lot about the person of Jesus. This will help us to see what mistakes and accomplishments have been made through historical data. But doing these things is only the beginning. It is not until we really get to know Christ that we will fully begin to grow in wisdom and revelation.

We must spend time with God – there is no shortcut. We must spend time in prayer. We must spend time basking in God’s glory. We must allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and speak to us. The difference in our lives will come when we allow Him to have more of our lives.

Over the past couple of months, I have been part of a Bible study with other pastors across the country. One of the things we have spent a lot of time on is discussing Sabbath. How God gives us the gift of Sabbath so that we can rest from our busy lives and so that we can soak in His presence. We ALL need more of Sabbath! We need it so we can continue through life and we need it so we can more clearly hear what the Lord is saying to us. We need it so we can grow in wisdom and revelation.

In the passage we are studying this morning, my favorite line is: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.”

As Christians, when we accept Christ, we say we have Christ in us. We find this in the scriptures. Romans 8:10…“But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness.” 2 Corinthians 4:6…“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” Galatians 2:20…“I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” And let’s not forget Ephesians 3:17…“That Christ may make His home in your hearts through faith.” We say we give our hearts to Christ. But then we also say we “hide” Christ in our hearts…and therein lies a problem.
Robert Buchanan wrote a book titled, Shadow of the Sword, in which he describes the Chapel of Hate in Brittany, France.2 The structure was in ruins and covered in slime from over the centuries. Above the doorway of the chapel was its name dedicating it to Our Lady of Hate.3 He writes, “Hither still, in hours of passion and pain, came men and women to cry curses on their enemies: the maiden on her false lover, the lover on his false mistress, the husband on his false wife; praying, one and all, that Our Lady of Hate might hearken, and that the hated one might die ‘within the year.’ And then the novelist adds: ‘So bright and so deep had the gentle Christian light shone within their souls!’”4

Regarding this story, Barclay says, “A chapel of hate is a grim concept; and yet – are we always so very far away from it? We hate the liberals or the radicals; we hate the fundamentalists or the conservatives; we hate those whose theology is different from our own; we hate the Roman Catholic or the Protestant as the case may be. We make pronouncements which are characterized not by Christian charity but by a kind of condemning bitterness. We would do well to remember every now and then that love of Christ and love of our neighbors cannot exist without each other. Our tragedy is that it is so often true, as the great satirist Jonathan Swift one said, that ‘We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.’”5

We cannot have Christ all to ourselves. We don’t get to accept Christ and then not share Him with others. When we let Christ into our hearts, we must let Him have the entirety of our heart. We must stop looking through our eyes and our minds…we must stop looking at what only works on paper…what we think is right or proper or what others should do or how things should be. We must start looking through the eyes of our heart…because if we have truly let Christ in…if our heart is filled with Christ, then it will be Christ’s eyes – the eyes of our heart – through which we will be seeing others and the world around us. Stop using these eyes (point to eyes) and start using these (point to heart).

When we use the eyes of our heart, we will see the world as Christ does. It will be easier to know the hope for which He has called us. This “hope we have is not a vague feeling that the future will be positive, but it is complete assurance of certain victory through God. This complete certainty comes to us through the Holy Spirit who is working in us.”6 Grow in wisdom…allow the Holy Spirit to work…open the eyes of our heart…experience hope in Christ…feel the power of God!

When Paul wrote this letter, it was not only for the church leaders in Ephesus who would receive and read it. It was written to the church as a whole. The entire church at Ephesus, as a single unit, was to look through the eyes of its heart and feel the power of God.

In verses 22 & 23, Paul said, “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.” If the church is the body of Christ, then quite literally, the heart of the church IS Christ’s heart and it is through the eyes of Christ’s heart that the church should see the world.

The “fullness” that is spoken of in verse 23 “refers to Christ filling the church with gifts and blessings. The church should be the full expression of Christ, who himself fills everything. Christ is the head and we are the body of his church. The image of the body shows the church’s unity. Each member is involved with all the others as they go about doing Christ’s work on earth. We should not attempt to work, serve, or worship merely on our own. We need the entire body.”7

We know enough about biology to know that all the parts of our body rely on the proper function of the remainder of the body. The heart can’t beat without the brain telling it to; the brain can’t function properly without the oxygen the lungs provide; and the lungs can’t provide oxygen without the oxygen being inhaled either through the nose or mouth. If the nose gets clogged up, we all know how difficult it becomes to get the necessary oxygen to the lungs. This small part of the body can cause quite the disturbance in how we feel because things aren’t working to their full capacity. The same holds true for the body of Christ…for the church. When one small portion is not working properly, the whole system suffers.

The hope the church has been called to is that of fulfilling the Great Commission…to go forth into all the earth. The church cannot fulfill that call if it is not working to its full capacity. By working to its full capacity, it means that all areas of the church…all areas of ministry…are seen as equally valuable. It’s not about the youth ministry, the women’s ministry, the men’s ministry, missions, stewardship, or any other committee or group. It IS about the education of ALL people regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, or other status. There is no single ministry that is more important than another in the body of Christ.

In fullness, Christ has filled the church with the gifts and blessings necessary to answer the call of hope placed upon it. Different members have different talents and passions which make them effective in differing areas but no single one is more valuable than another. There will be different times to focus on each area of ministry in the church – each committee or ministry has its own focus and its own activities, but they are all for the well-being of the WHOLE congregation. Each part of the body has its own assigned role, but the function of one portion of the body is not more important than another. All the ministries make up the church…all the ministries make up the body of Christ…whose sole purpose is to love Christ and others. Each group must respect, appreciate, and see the value in the others. When this happens, there will be unity in the church and Christ will be served with our whole being. When there is not unity or there are power struggles between groups, the church may as well be called the Chapel of Hate because the ministry has become a hindrance to the body of Christ and its work.

And Paul knows this. He wrote to the Ephesians to tell them how proud he is of them for their faith and love that they are demonstrating, but also to say…this isn’t enough. He prayed for more for them…for them individually and as a church. He writes to them and prays for them because he loves them enough to want more for them. He is praying for wisdom for the church…that the church may go deeper and deeper in its understanding of God, His Word, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

There’s more to church than meetings, planning, administration, and problem-solving…our Christian education must be greater than these things. Paul prays for a fuller revelation and knowledge of God for the church. The church must grow in relationship with God. Just like our relationships with our family and friends, if we do not work on remaining in close relationship with God, we will grow AWAY from God. This is not what Paul wanted for the Ephesians and it’s not what he would want for us either. Paul prayed for a new realization of Christian hope.

Negativity and pessimism is all around us…just turn on the evening news or open up your social media newsfeed. We need to reclaim the church’s promised hope in Christ and promised power of God! “[The resurrection] proved that God’s purpose cannot be stopped by any human action.”8 In essence, Paul’s prayer was that the Ephesians…and that we…should realize the greatness of the Savior that God has given to us.
We need to open the eyes of our heart in order to fully realize the potential in which Christ has instilled in us.

We need to open the eyes of our heart in order to see others as Christ sees them. We need to open the eyes of our heart in order to work side-by-side as the body of Christ. And we need to open the eyes of our heart so that we may be enlightened so that we may know the hope to which He has called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.

Footnotes:

  1. Barclay, William. The New Daily Study Bible: The Letter to the Galatians and Ephesians. “Ephesians.” 101.
  2. Ibid., 102.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., 103.
  6. New International Bible. “Notes.” 1977.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Barclay, 105.